Monday, April 23, 2018

Meatless Monday--Strawberry Cucumber Spinach Salad

It seems as if spring has finally come to Dallas...except on Saturdays.  Each of the last three Saturdays have been chilly and windy and drizzly.  The other six days of the week have, for the most part, gotten their business together.  I'll take it.

strawberry cucumber salad

To celebrate those days when the sun is shining and my windows are open, I've been making this light, colorful salad.  The ingredients all play nicely together--but make no mistake--the bright red spring strawberries are the star here.  As much as I like all the other ingredients here, this salad would be nothing without the strawberries.  Spring is here, friends.  Let's enjoy every minute.

strawberry cucumber salad

Bright red spring strawberries steal the show in this light salad just meant for sunnier spring days. 

Strawberry Cucumber Spinach Salad
adapted from Lemon Tree Dwelling


For the dressing:
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper

For the salad:
3 c. fresh spinach leaves, washed and chopped
1 c. chopped strawberries
1 c. chopped cucumbers
1/4 c. diced red onion
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted
1 TBSP fresh mint, minced

1.  To make the dressing, pour all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake to combine.

2.  Place spinach in a large serving bowl or four individual bowls.  Add equal amounts of the strawberries, cucumbers, and onion, then drizzle dressing over the top.  Sprinkle cheese, almonds, and mint on top.  Serve immediately.

yield: 2 servings       

Friday, April 20, 2018

Quick Pickled Onions

I wasn't even sure if I should post this.  These quick pickled onions are so unbelievably simple, they barely even count as a recipe.

pickled onions

But anyone who love tacos--real tacos--knows the pickled onions (and radishes, if you're lucky) are the most perfect garnish.  Just a few of these ultra-savory, pucker-worthy gems take your tacos (or salads, or bowls, or burgers, or grilled cheese sandwiches) to the next level.  Case in point, the carne deshebrada (Mexican shredded beef) tacos I shared earlier this week.  The meat was outstanding on its own--tender and full of flavor, but with the acidic punch and eye-popping color from these onions, they were out of this world!

pickled onions

Take your tacos to the next level with these super simple five-ingredient quick pickled onions.

Quick Pickled Onions
from Bon Appetít, June 2012 

1 c. water
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1.  Pour water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large mason jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake until sugar and salt are dissolved.  

2.  Add in sliced onion, secure lid, and shake to coat.  Let stand at room temperature at least one hour, shaking a couple of times if all onion slices are not submerged at first.  Can be kept, refrigerated, up to two weeks. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Carne Deshebrada (Mexican Shredded Beef)

I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but my mom bought me a really nice slow cooker several years ago.  And I let it sit in the box, unused, for months.  Shame.  Sad, sad, shame.

It's not that I ever intend to become the kind of person who sets the slow cooker every morning.  I enjoy the smells, sights, creativity, and processes of cooking too much.  But your slow cooker can be such a helpful tool and a gateway to rich, deeply savory dishes.  

carne deshebrada mexican shredded beef

Case in point, this carne deshebrada.  With minimal prep work the day before, cutting one onion, and stirring a few things together, you've got the filling for your favorite Mexican dishes ready to go.  Tacos, nachos, burritos, bowls--your imagination is the only limit.  Plus, shredded meat from the slow cooker freezes so well.  In fact, I doubled this recipe (which fit into my 7-quart slow cooker) and increased the cooking time to six hours to make sure I would have several servings the day of and a whole bunch more to freeze.

I'd say it was a good decision.   

slow cooker shredded beef

Let your slow cooker do the work with this savory, juicy, versatile, and completely satisfying carne deshebrada (Mexican shredded beef) recipe.  ¡Qué sabrosa! 

Carne Deshebrada (Mexican Shredded Beef)
adapted from The Little Epicurean

2 TBSP dried ancho chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1/2 tsp. dried cinnamon
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 lb. boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-in. cubes
12 oz. full-bodied lager or beer
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-in. thick rounds

1.  In a small bowl, mix together ancho powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper.  Pour over beef cubes and toss to coat evenly.  For best results, wrap meat up tightly in plastic wrap or in a plastic bag with the air pressed out and refrigerate at least two hours, up to overnight.

2.  In the bottom of a slow cooker, whisk together beer, vinegar, tomato paste, and garlic.  Scatter onion rounds into the slow cooker, creating a base to keep the beef from scorching on the bottom.  Layer the beef on top and push down slightly to make sure it is covered by the liquid.

3.  Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours, until beef easily shreds.

4.  Using tongs or two forks, shred beef into bite-sized pieces.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve in tacos, breakfast tacos, taco salad, nachos, quesadillas, burritos, or anything else your heart desires.

yield: 8 servings           

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blackberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel

I know it's not blackberry season yet (almost!), but I couldn't wait.  The fresh berries at the store just looked too good (though you can also use frozen) and I hadn't made muffins in a very long time.  Plus my mom was in town and I just couldn't let the chance to spend a little time in the kitchen with her pass me by.

We both agreed these muffins were winners.  They didn't have the heavy feel so many muffins can and, by cutting the sugar down a bit, the streusel and berries were able to stand out on their own while also balancing each other out.

Honestly, this may be my new favorite base recipe for straightforward breakfast muffins.  I think you'll like it too, especially since you could easily swap out the blackberries for your favorite fruit and use walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or whatever you'd prefer in place of the pecans.  I'm thinking a strawberry almond and peach almond combination might be especially tasty.  Good thing I have plenty of friends and coworkers who are always willing to chow down on baked goods!

blackberry muffins

With just a little time, some classic pantry staples, and your favorite fruit and nut combination, you'll be able to whip up a batch of these blackberry muffins with pecan streusel (or whatever combo you can imagine) in no time at all!

Blackberry Muffins with Pecan Streusel
from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book


For the streusel:

1/3 c. granulated sugar
3 TBSP all-purpose flour
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 c. pecans, finely chopped

For the muffins:
2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beten
5 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1 c. buttermilk
2. fresh blackberries or 2 1/2 c. frozen (unthawed) unsweetened blackberries

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Prepare a standard 12-cup muffin tin with liners, butter, or nonstick baking spray.

2.  Make the streusel by stirring together the sugar, flour, and lemon zest.  Stir in melted butter until the mixture is crumbly, then add in pecans.  Set aside.

3.  To make the muffins, in a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter, and buttermilk.  Stir just until the batter is slightly lumpy but evenly moistened.  Gently fold in blackberries, taking care not to break up the fruit.

4.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each to a bit above the rim of the cup.  Top each muffin with some of the streusel.  

5.  Bake until the muffins are golden and springy to the touch and the sugar in the streusel melts to produce a glaze effect, 25-30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick before removing from the oven and, when done, transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Unmold the muffins and serve warm or at room temperature.  Leftover keep in the refrigerator up to two days.

yield: 12 muffins

Friday, April 6, 2018

One-Skillet Creamy Chickpeas with Eggs and Prosciutto

We all thought spring was here.  Then many of you woke up to snow on April 1st.  That seems to me to be a particularly cruel April Fools' Day joke.

But try as we might, we cannot control the weather.  What we can control is the comfort we crank out of our kitchens while holed up inside with our sweaters on and our fireplaces going.  I recommend this one-skillet wonder.   

chickpeas with eggs and prosciutto

I'll be honest, there was something about chickpeas, eggs, and prosciutto all in one dish that intrigued me--mostly in the "I'm not sure about this" kind of way.  But I'm a sucker for eggs swimming in any kind of sauce--be it with beef, eggplant and Middle Eastern spices, Israeli-inspired shakshuka, or in deconstructed Swiss eggs--so the idea of that rich, velvety, creamy sauce enveloping all the other ingredients got me.  I'm so glad it did.

This dish came together in a snap; so quick, in fact, that I'll be sure to have all ingredients pre-measured and ready to go next time I make it.  I had it for a weekend lunch, but it would work for any meal of the day and would be especially fantastic for a cool weather brunch with plenty of crusty bread, hot tea, chai, or coffee to keep you warm, and as many glasses of bubbly as you'd like.  

You may be stuck inside desperately hoping for warmer days.  I can't change the weather for you, but at least I can help you and your family stay well fed.
creamy chickpeas with eggs and prosciutto

With smoky paprika, salty prosciutto, runny egg yolks, and a rich, creamy base, this one-skillet wonder makes for the perfect snow day brunch that feels luxurious but comes together in a pinch.

One-Skillet Creamy Chickpeas with Eggs and Prosciutto
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2018

2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. plain whole milk yogurt
3/4 c. whole milk
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
4 thin slices prosciutto
red pepper flakes, optional
French bread or flatbread, for serving


1.  Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Meanwhile, stir together yogurt and milk.

2.  Add garlic to skillet and cook until frgrant, about 1 minute.  Add in rosemary sprig and cook 30 seconds more, until it is slightly crisp but not brown.  Transfer rosemary to a plate.

3.  Add chickpeas, tomato paste, and paprika to skillet and cook, stirring often, until coated, about 1 minute.  Add in milk mixture, season lightly with salt and plenty of black pepper, and bring to a gentle simmer.  

4.  Crack eggs into mixture and season lightly with salt.  Cover (a baking sheet works well if your skillet doesn't have a matching lid) and cook until egg whites are set and yolks are still runny, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and drape prosciutto around the eggs.  

5.  Crumble rosemary and red pepper flakes, if desired, on top and serve family style with French bread or you choice of flatbread.

yield: 2 servings