Tag Archives: vegetarian option

Quick and Easy Fajitas

My husband Michael is a huge fan of Mexican food; he would eat it every day, every meal.  Yup.  I like to experiment with new things that don’t always end up hot and spicy.  So after a few days of not-Mexican food, it was time.  Leftover steak from Western Colorado Cheese Steak paninis was perfect for a big ol’ batch of fajitas.

Fajitas are super easy to make and come together quickly, especially if the meat you use is already cooked.

  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced, colors of your choice
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced, rings separated
  • 1 hot pepper of your choice, minced (This is a jalepeno and ended up WAY more spicy than usual!  Does it look threatening?  Not unusually so…)  
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • a shake or two of red pepper flakes (I opted out of these, as it became apparent that the jalapeno would be plenty, plenty hot enough!)
  • 1/2 pound meat of your choice, pre-cooked, thinly sliced.  Or tofu or mushrooms if you want to keep your fajitas vegetarian.
  • tortillas
  • toppings of your choice–the usual suspects–avocado, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, green onions, black olives,….

Clean and slice bell peppers into thin strips.

Peel and slice onions thinly, separating rings, mince the jalepeno.  (Look at those teeny, tiny pieces of jalapeno.  Look at the pile of them compared to the pile of everything else.  Really seemed reasonable at the time.)

 

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add veggies and saute until they start to caramelize.  This was when I discovered the jalapeno was uber-spicy-hot.  The evil vapor steam rising off the tiny, tiny jalapeno bits rose up and jumped down my throat.  By then it was too late to reduce the amount of jalapeno, but I did opt out of red pepper flakes.  Good decision.

Add meat, cumin (and red pepper flakes if using), and heat through. 

Warm tortillas.  Pile a healthy bunch of yummy, fragrant fajitas into tortillas and top as you wish.

I’m here to tell ya that these fajitas were yummy, but hot-hot-hot because of that jalapeno!  I had to get more sour cream.  And water.  And a tissue.  Michael was happy-happy-happy with the heat.  Happy hubby=a very good thing.

If you have leftover meat from something, fajitas are one of the quickest ways to get a yummy dinner on the table.  Perfect for anyone with a super busy schedule or anyone (like me) who forgets to plan something for dinner, then happily remembers, “Oh!  I can make fajitas!  Yummy!”  Feel free to leave out the jalapeno altogether.  🙂

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Butternut Squash Risotto

I’m not one for seconds, trying to vigilantly practice portion control blahblahblah, but I could NOT resist just a wee bit more of this of this dreamy-creamy, cheesy-salty, butternut-sweet risotto.  Make some for yourself and see if you can resist; especially if you have butternut squash left from last summer like I do. (Be watching for more butternut recipes to come!)  The original recipe just sounded so yummy, I had to try it.  So glad I did! 

Do not be afraid of the word “risotto.”  So not hard to do.  Really. 

  • 1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled, cleaned, cubed and roasted
  • 1 quart chicken stock  (use vegetable stock for a yummy vegetarian version!)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 TBSP olive oil, plus additional for roasting squash
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice (regular rice won’t get you the creaminess)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 TBSP fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 2 TBSP butter, room temp or cut into little pieces
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated nutmeg to taste (Optional–I totally forgot to add it in and the risotto was yummy anyway!  I really like nutmeg, though, so I’ll use it next time and probably stir some into the left overs.)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Clean and cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes.  Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with a TBSP or two of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste, toss and roast for 30 minutes or until tender.  Set aside.

Place chicken broth and water in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to hold at a simmer.

In a large skillet, heat 2 TBSP olive oil over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer or ripple.  Add onion and garlic.  Saute until transparent, 2-3 minutes.

Add rice and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add wine; cook, stirring occasionally until wine has been absorbed, another 2-3 minutes. (Seeing a pattern here?!)

Add 2 ladles of chicken broth, cook stirring occasionally until broth is absorbed, about 2-3 minutes.  Repeat, 2 ladles-fulls at a time, until all broth from the pot is absorbed.  This slow addition of liquid and the stirring is what develops the starchy creaminess of the risotto.  Total cooking time will be around 18 minutes.

Add the squash in with the last 2 ladles of chicken broth.

When last of the broth is absorbed, add butter, cheese,sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Stir to combine.

Ta-Da!  You made risotto!  Serve it up as a side dish to pork or poultry, or let it be a yummy meat-free main course like I did.  I think rosemary would be a yummy substitute for the sage.  If you don’t have fresh of either herb, use dried, but only half as much–dried herbs are much more potent!

I absolutely love-love-loved the combination of flavors and the overall texture of this dish.  Not Michael’s favorite since it is not Mexican food and does not contain meat, but he thought it was pretty good and thought he’d be good with having it again sometime.  A very good thing, since there are quite a few squash still lurking in the cellar…

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Breakfast Birdnests

Our favorite coffee shop closed last summer, and ever since we’ve been on the prowl for a new one.  Our current favorite (fairly close, small, good coffee, good food, friendly staff) is Coffee Crumbs and Cones.  They have an outstanding breakfast item called a birdnest.  It’s a jumbo muffin-sized parcel of eggy hash brown-sausage-jalepeno yumminess; I haven’t been able to order anything else when we go there. 

The other day I saw a recipe for something that looked similar to a birdnest, and BING! I knew I could adapt the recipe to try and mimic the yumminess of a CC&C birdnest.  Michael thinks I got pretty close!  They are super easy and reheat beautifully in the microwave. Here are a few fresh from the oven this morning.

Here’s how I made them, but you can vary the “mix-ins” to suit your taste.

  • 1/2 a 30 oz package frozen hash browns, thawed. (That’s around 3-4 cups)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups mix-in  (I used ground pork browned with bell peppers, onion and jalepeno)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese, divided (Again, your choice–I used Mexican blend)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 12 tsp (4TBSP) butter for the muffin tin

Preheat oven to 475F.  Place 1 tsp butter in each well of a 12-muffin tin.  

Place tin in the oven for a minute to melt the butter, and then use a paper towel to swirl the butter up the sides of each well, leaving the majority in the bottom.

In a bowl, place hash browns, mix-ins of your choice, 1/2 the cheese, and eggs.

Stir until combined.

Divide evenly among the prepared muffin wells.

Schmush them (technical cooking term meaning press down on the hash brown mixture) a bit and top each with cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and sizzling!  Voila!  Quick, easy and yummy!

Use a knife to cut around the edge of each and lift from the pan to a plate.

Mmmmmm.  Have a bite.

These birdnests could be made smaller (less hash brown mixture per muffin well), baked for half the time, topped with an egg and baked for the remainder of the time.  They could be completely vegetarian by mixing in your choice of sauteed or steamed veggies–think about the veggies you like in quiche.  You could mix in ham or steak or…..you get the idea!  Whatever you think is yummy!

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House Special Chicken Lo Mein

When we get Chinese take-out, we always get lo mein of some sort as a side to our usual Mu Shu Pork and steamed dumplings.  Michael likes the “house special” lo mein with chicken and beef and shrimp, but I like chicken lo mein.  The kind that gets ordered depends on who calls it in!  What to do if you have a lo mein craving and you’re too lazy to drive in to town to the Chinese place?  You just make it yourself! (And because I’m the cook here, the house special is a chicken lo mein!!!)

It does require a bit of pre-planning for ingredients, but most will keep in your pantry, fridge and freezer, waiting for the craving to strike!  I especially like to make this lo mein (based on Rachael Ray’s “No Pain Lo Mein” from the 30 Minute Meals cookbook)  in the spring when the snow peas are coming on in my garden.

You can find snow peas anytime of the year in your local grocery.  Pick some up next time you’re there, along with:

  • 1 pound spagetti, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2-1 pound chicken, cut into thin strips (Handy Hint: cut chicken when still partially frozen–it’s easier to cut!  Also, be careful to wash your hands before and after handling raw meat, as well as using a cutting board that can be sanitized in your dishwasher.)
  • 2 TBSP toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • a pinch or two (or more!) of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 lb snow peas
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 package fresh bean sprouts
  • 3 green onions, sliced at an angle
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce

Cook spagetti, drain, set aside. 

While pasta cooks, cut chicken into strips and brown it in a wok or large skillet in 1 TBSP of the sesame oil.

Remove chicken from pan.  Add vegetable oil, crushed red pepper, snow peas, onion and bean sprouts.  Stir fry for a minute or two.  Peas will be bright green and still crisp, onions will start to soften, becoming translucent.

Add chicken back to the wok, then cooked pasta and green onions.  Toss to combine.

Drizzle with soy sauce and remaining 1 TBSP sesame oil.  Toss through.

Serve with a sprinkling of sesame seeds….and chopsticks if you dare!

Mmmmmm!  I love this lo mein; it has a fresher flavor than take-out while still maintaining the tradition Chinese food flavors.  When you make it yourself like this, you can make your veggies as soft or crisp as you like.  I like to keep my veggies on the crisp side–I like the texture of crisp against the tender meat and noodles.  Add more soy sauce or red pepper flakes as you like.  Michael likes to add hot sauce to his. 

Want it vegetarian?  Leave out the chicken and substitute tofu or mushrooms.  Prefer red meat or sea food?  Go for it!  I like it just like it is.  Yummy!

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Comfort Food–Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

It seems the intersection of garden season, music performances and working at the greenhouse has put the kabosh on my blogging!  Take-out food has been a lifesaver lately, but I have had time to cook a bit.  The weather has been chilly here, and made me crave hot, creamy, cheesy scalloped potatoes and ham.  Mmmmm!

This is basically how my mom makes them, with a few changes–instant potato flakes instead of flour as a thickener, cream instead of milk, and cheese added to bring up the yummy factor.

  • 6 or 7 potatoes, peeled or not, thinly sliced
  • 3 TBSP butter, divided between layers
  • 1 1/2 cup instant potato flakes, divided between layers
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheese, divided between layers
  • 1-2 cups pre-cooked ham, cubed, divided between layers
  • salt (just a bit) and pepper
  • 2-3 cups cream or half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 7×12 inch pan.

Peel potatoes if desired.  I like to leave peels on for the nutritional and flavor value.  Slice thinly.

Make a layer of potatoes using 1/3 of the potatoes (enough to cover the bottom of the pan), then 1 TBSP butter (cut into little bits to divide it over the potatoes evenly-ish) 1/2 cup potato flakes, sprinkled evenly, 1/2 cup cheese, sprinkled evenly, 1/3 of the ham divided over the surface, salt and pepper and about 2/3 cup cream.  (Ham helps salt the potatoes, so you won’t need much more than a pinch per layer.  I like lots of pepper in scalloped potatoes–adjust pepper to your taste.)

 Make 2 more layers.  Place on the middle rack of the oven with a sheet pan on the rack underneath to catch any overflow.  (I have yet to get the cream just right so it doesn’t boil out of the pan!)  Bake 45-55 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender and entire pan is golden and bubbling.

Yummy!  Uber-creamy as any proper comfort food should be!  Leftover scalloped potatoes will wait in your fridge to welcome and comfort you the next day at lunch or dinner.  A quick turn in the microwave and they’re just as good (or maybe even better!) as the night before! 

Make them vegetarian by leaving out the ham.  Intensify the flavor by using a sharper cheese.

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