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old reliable vegetable enchiladas

April 11th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

There’s nothing, really, to making a pan of enchiladas. Tortillas, filling, sauce and cheese, a bit of time in a hot oven and you’ve got a dinner that should please just about anyone. I probably don’t even need to give you a recipe, do I? (but I will…..)


What enchiladas are though, is reliable. At least in my home they are. I know they’re something that all of us will eat without a shred of complaining. And we all need those types of meals in our homes, on our tables and in our back pockets, don’t we? The ones that no one whines over, or rolls their eyes. A meal that everyone will gobble down with reckless abandon. I know with a few peppers, canned beans, frozen corn, a pack of tortillas and a bit of time, that a meal will land in our midst and pull us together, drawing the day to a close. And long before we stopped eating meat, I could make Vegetable Enchiladas and Griffin wouldn’t care one whit about them. Thankfully, that’s still true.

We’ve slipped back to somewhat more normal weather these days, now that April has come and set her softly budding Spring on us. March’s heat wave gave us all a taste of warmth and summer and we all want it back, but these days, the nights come cold and brisk and for me, this past week of frost warnings and cold sunshine was enough to want the oven humming and a warming dish in our bellies. I know soon enough that it won’t feel like these comforting dishes will be necessary, so along with our old reliable Enchiladas, I wanted to have one last send off of a favorite meal before the heat comes and dinner plates are full of fresh and lighter meals.

 There’s really two ways you can make Enchiladas, outside of choosing between corn and flour tortillas; you can roll up the filling inside the tortillas, or you can layer the filling between the tortillas, creating a more ‘lasagna’ style dish that’s equally as good, and sometimes a bit easier to negotiate out of the pan. I like them both ways, and the ‘lasagna’ method is a bit less work, but if you’ve got willing hands to help, the rolling part happens pretty fast. The best part of this meal is having LOTS of good leftovers, and I think the flavor gets much better overnight.

And as for sauces….. I’ve never made an enchilada sauce from scratch that even came close to tasting like a few canned varieties I’ve found. My go-to brand of enchilada sauce is Carlita; it’s a deep, rich red sauce that’s got just the right amount of seasoning and spice. Las Palmas is another good option; they’ve got both red and green enchilada sauce, and have a Mild, Medium or Hot option. The Medium is plenty for us, and their green enchilada sauce is really amazing.

 (disclaimer: nobody paid me to say that, or gave me free products to say that. Just so you know)


Vegetable Enchiladas

2 bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced (any color you choose)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced  (like it spicier? make it a serrano)
2 small zucchini, peeled and diced
1 c. frozen corn kernels
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (can sub any kind, really)
1 15-oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 T. chili powder (can sub in canned chipotle in adobo if you have it on hand- it’s a wonderful flavor)
1 T. ground cumin
2 c. washed and finely chopped spinach, chard or beet greens (optional, but it adds a good amount of flavor and nutrition)
8-oz shred cheese of choice
1 15-oz can enchilada sauce of choice (you can use two if you like a lot of sauce)
Tortillas of choice (use the small 6″ corn, or the 8″ flour; you’ll need 12-15 corn, 10-12 flour)
Oil of choice for cooking

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. You may have enough filling to make more enchiladas, so have a smaller pan at the ready, like an 8×8. Heat the oven to 400°. Have your tortillas on the counter to warm slightly as they’ll roll better, but if you’re using corn tortillas, don’t leave them uncovered or they will dry out.

In a deep skillet with a cover, heat a bit of oil and add the onion. Cook about 10 minutes, or until softened and then add the bell pepper and jalapeno. Cook, stirring occasionally until the peppers begin to soften. Add in the garlic, zucchini, frozen corn and canned beans. Stir it all together and get it simmering. Cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the greens, cover and turn off the heat. Let stand for about five minutes.

Place a tortilla in the pan and drop a few tablespoons of shred cheese down the middle. Spoon some of the filling in (the amount depends on the size of your tortilla) and spread it to the edge. Gently roll the tortillas up, making sure the seam side is down. Repeat until the pan is full. The tortillas can be moved closer to one another as your roll. You want them pretty snug, but not crammed in the pan or it will be impossible to get them out.

Spoon the sauce down each tortilla, spreading it out as you go. They should be well covered. Sprinkle the top with cheese and cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes, then take the foil off and allow the cheese to brown just a bit more. Thirty minutes should be plenty of time. If you allow the Enchiladas to sit for 10-15 minutes, they are A LOT easier to get out of the pan.

These are delicious served with avocado, sour cream, or both.



KATE’S NOTES: To make Enchiladas ‘Lasagna’ style, lay the tortillas on the bottom of the baking pan. Spread some filling over them, then top with a bit of cheese and a drizzle of sauce. Layer more tortillas and repeat. You should be able to get at least three layers, finishing with sauce over the top, and cheese before baking. Allow this to also sit for a spell before cutting in to squares.

If you wish to add meat to the filling, please do so. I used to make these all the time with chicken, and once in a while with pork or beef. One pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts is perfect; dice them, and sear the meat in with the onions, then proceed with the remaining steps.

Any leftover filling is wonderful for breakfast. I had about 1-1/2 cups left from this meal, and for breakfast I heated it in a pan then cracked two eggs in it, covered the pan and cooked it for about five minutes. I scooped it on to a plate that had a handful of tortilla chips on it. It was the finest breakfast I’ve had in a long time.

roasted ratatouille with crispy chives

September 20th, 2011 | 6 Comments »

Summer ends when the season ends, some time in the midst of every September. The 22nd? 21st? The sun crosses a time line and the word ‘summer’ is an afterthought, yet for most people, Labor Day signals the official end of the best season Minnesota has to offer. I’m more optimistic. I like to step outside the box, and while others are saying ‘Fall’ when school buses roll down the streets again, I’m still crowing ‘Summer’. I will gracefully extend my white flag of surrender to that mentality, that a season can be marked by milestones instead of days on a calendar, while I straddle the seasons, try to push summer to extend just a bit farther.

It’s not hard to do when a plate of this Roasted Ratatouille is staring back at you, loaded with late summer tomatoes softened to a deeply flavorful mass, chunks of hearty zucchini and eggplants so perfectly round and unblemished that they look false and plastic, yet yield to a tender flesh so delicious it makes your eyes roll back. I can have my face in Summer, my cheeks enjoying the warmth of the days, while my head and heart charge towards Fall, cool air, a warm humming oven and a comforting meal when the air chills and sweatshirts come out.

This dish, once again as is the case with so many in my adult years, was not something I’ve loved forever, and maybe that’s part of it’s appeal. My Mom used to make Ratatouille when I was young, and my sisters ate it but it always turned me off completely. That which held ruby red tomato and a vegetable with the word ‘egg’ in it just sounded like it would be horrible. I was a picky child mostly due to texture issues, as I have learned; foods like mushrooms, tomato, squashes of all kinds and especially eggplant (an egg? a plant?) are now foods that sweep themselves across my plate on a regular basis, bursting with flavor when once they would make me shudder. I’m so glad to have grown up to learn of their wonder.

Roasting vegetables is quite possibly my most favorite way to eat them, except for right off the vine. With an enormous bounty of fresh from the Farmers Market zucchini and onions, and the aforementioned eggplants, along with the fattest and juiciest Black Krim heirloom tomatoes to come out of my tiny postage stamp garden, this dish was so loaded with flavor that it made my eyes water in joy. Tomato flavor intensified from the heat of the oven, while the eggplant and zucchini became tender-crisp and then just to make it more interesting, I mix everything together and let it sit overnight in the fridge, just to tease a bit more flavor out, a deeper marriage of September’s taste of the vine. The bowl needed nothing else; no salt or pepper, no added oil or seasoning. Topped with the amazing find of crisp strips of chive thrown on top of the vegetables on a whim, it was a dish that slowly spread a Cheshire grin over my face with each bite.

What a personality too. There’s no stodginess involved here, no set way to consume such a meal; we ate this mixed with pearl couscous (because I am, truly, having a love affair with those tiny grains of pasta) and we ate it atop heady and aromatic polenta studded with corn kernels and flecks of fresh herbs. It would be just at home too, stuffed inside a crisp and warm baguette, layered with provolone cheese for an incredible, messy delicious sandwich. Serve it on rice, or with a simple risotto. Warm it slightly and place it on garlicky crostini for a hearty appetizer or light meal. Or toss it, chilled, with greens and a shower of fresh grated asiago cheese for a salad unlike any other. Mix it with pasta, please; make sure you add a good turn of hard cheese. And if you find yourself late at night, in the kitchen with a fork in hand, a few dips in to the bowl while no one is watching is ok too.

And are you like every other gardener in the state- a pile of chives growing in your garden that you don’t know what to do with? I foolishly planted chives many years ago, which went to seed without me doing anything about it (big, BIG mistake)  and now, well now I am fighting off chives with a blowtorch practically, and did you know that if you pluck them they just grow faster? Neither did I, but I’m learning that the hard way. Another thing I learned about chives is that you can blast them to kingdom come with Round-Up, but the little buggers just come back, shiny green and taunting. I’ve learned to hate chives, but a handful of them tossed atop these roasting vegetables made for a crispy and delicious garnish that just might make me a bit softer towards this evil relentless herb. Surprise awaits in the strangest places, doesn’t it?


Roasted Ratatouille with Crispy Chives

2-3 medium tomatoes
1 large eggplant
3-4 small zucchini or yellow squash (2 if they’re larger)
1 large red onion
3 garlic cloves
A generous handful of fresh chives
Olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 400°. Slice the tomatoes into quarters and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with about a tablespoon of good olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Place pan in hot oven and roast, watching carefully, until the tomatoes begin to soften and the skins wrinkle. You want them to retain much of their shape, but release some of their luscious juices. I don’t roast them for more than 10-15 minutes at that temp. Remove the pan and allow them to cool, then slip the skins off.

Dice the zucchini and eggplant, slice the onion and crush the garlic, placing all of these on two baking sheets. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, add salt and pepper and roast until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Stir carefully, then return pan to oven for about 10 more minutes. Scatter chives over the top of the vegetables, then roast about 10 minutes more, or until the chives are crisp and toasty, but not black and charred. Remove pans and allow vegetables to cool.

In a large bowl, combine tomato (with any juice from the roasting pan), eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic and about a third of the crispy chives, reserving the rest for garnish. Gently mix together (I like to use my hands to avoid breaking everything down), taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. The ratatouille can be eaten as is, warm or at room temp. For deeper flavor, chill the mixture overnight, and allow to warm to room temp the next day before serving.

high summer hiking…. and eating

August 15th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

Not even five minutes into my Sunday morning hike and already my shoes are soaked from the dew. I have to make a split second decision as I feel cool, wet water seeping through my socks; turn back or keep going. There might be blisters at the end, surely some chafing from my hiking shoes, but it’s a glorious August morning and the sun is glaring down on me. I can’t go back. Ignoring my wet feet, I move on.

I’m in Otter Lake Regional Park and this is my glory place, my church of the great outdoors. Plopped in the middle of White Bear Township, it’s a tiny little park, with a very nice nature center and hiking trails that make you feel like you’re miles from the outer world. It’s where I cross country ski in the winter time, and for the other three seasons, I roam it’s trails and discover more and more every day to love about it. On this particularly beautiful morning, in the high season of summer, I take to the trails, dew and all to seek out something I can’t find among the concrete.

My favorite path is cut short by standing water; it’s unusually low in that area, and during the Spring thaw, the trail is often impassable, but it always dries out. But this summer, with it’s abundant rainfall, it’s a no-mans land. I keep on the path that leads me around the back of the newly constructed natural classroom and head in to the swamp. This trail will lead me to the northwest section of the park where the hardest challenge of my hike lies. In there, the path cuts through a sanctuary of birch and towering oak trees, dipping down sharply, then rising just as fast to offer a heart-pounding, blood racing interval that I love. I can’t even consider going on this trail in the wintertime, on my skis. It’s challenging enough on foot, but I can’t stay away. The majestic oak trees line the path, like sentries that silently watch me pass, breathing deep, as the smaller of the two lakes in the park wink it’s shimmer of blue through the tree line. I try to challenge myself to run hard up a few of these  short but steep hills. I’m ignoring my damp shoes.

Coming out on the other end, I’ve broken a sweat and wish I had my water bottle. The sun has rose high enough now to pound on my skin, and the wind swirls around me. It’s not strong enough to keep the flies at bay, and I impatiently swat away at them, mentally reminding myself to bring bug spray the next time I come here. This section of the path, through the heart of the park is high and open. No trees hide the sun out here and as I push on, beads of sweat slip down my temples.

The best part of being out here isn’t the nature. It isn’t hearing the hum of the highway along the western edge of the park, or the sound of the trains in the distance, blasting their whistles as they through the crossing. It isn’t the flash of deer, startled from their morning graze, leaping through the trees with white tails whipping, nor the fox, visible only by it’s bright red bushy tail twisting as it runs. It isn’t the small brown snake that lifts it’s head as I approach, watching me closely. “I’m no threat.” I murmur, slowing down to gaze at it’s tiny eyes. It doesn’t even flinch as I carefully step over it, and turning back as I move on, I see it’s watching me.

It isn’t any of these things, nor the rustle of the grass, or the continual droning hum of the insects. It isn’t the fluttering butterflies that skip along the path ahead of me, all shapes, sizes and colors. It’s isn’t any of it, and it’s all of it. Because out here, with the open skies and clean air, coupled with my footsteps and steady, hard breathing, it’s all of it at once that tames the voices inside, the swirl of life in my head that becomes a cadence of regular disruption. I come out here and it all disappears. My head clears, while the constant motion in it stops and I can breathe, relax, feel my blood pound and just let go. I am in sync with myself on this path, instead of at war with trying to figure out what’s next.

Then the trail dips down to the larger lake, and winds around to the north. It’s really uneven here, and now I am fully aware of my hiking shoe rubbing on my right ankle. The arthritis in my feet is apparent, but it will never stop me; it’s just more noticeable where the path is the least stable. The grass is tall and it tickles my legs. I swat the flies, wipe the sweat and keep going because soon, there will be the boardwalk leading me around the side of the lake, and at the other end is the thickest, densest trees and a hard packed dirt path that will take me back to the place I began. I’m on the last leg and those woods, with the tall maples and cool shadows will feel really, really good after the heat and sunshine. I feel the temperature drop as I enter here, and the slight chill rejuvenates me. Sunlight is dripping through the high tree canopy. And it’s glorious with bird song.

But the mosquitos in here are terrible. I can’t stop, or even slow down. I want to grab a few photographs to chronicle this morning, but I am swarmed with nibblers if I try to catch my breath. My feet feel better, but the rubbing on my ankle is a chronic annoyance. Because it’s cool in here though, the sweat slows down and I don’t have to wipe my face so much. My heart and lungs are on full power now; I’ve been hiking hard for 45 minutes by the time this trail leads me back out to the blacktop path that I started on. The nature center is in sight, and the parking lot, where my car and my water bottle await, is beyond that. My head feels soothed and I take a deep breath, once again. I’m back to the car, stripping off my soaking wet shoes and socks, wiping down my feet with the wipes I keep in my car and toweling off the sweat. My water bottle is half empty already. I stretch out the tension, drop in to a few yoga positions to re-focus and eventually climb in to my car to head home. In less than an hour I hiked nearly 4 miles.

And I’m so hungry now.

At home is waiting the simplest of simple summer salads, perfect for these heady days of heat and sun. The farmers markets are absolutely bursting with a mind-boggling bounty of fresh food and I am crazy in love with sweet corn, fresh tomato, zucchini for the grill, tiny purple eggplants and dark, dark greens. Every meal tastes like sunshine, each bite bursts with flavor. I snip handfuls of herbs from the garden to crush and sprinkle over everything and even after washing my hands I can still smell the thyme, the parsley and basil, the volunteer oregano that sprung up from last years plants.

And this salad…. this salad awaits my gnawing stomach, the hunger driven out of a vigorous hike, deep gulps of clean morning air and the need to still my mind. It’s simple, quick and so delightful; the snap of fresh tomato, fresh zucchini chunks, crunchy corn kernels that still taste like a farm field and lots and lots of tiny thyme leaves. A few scattered pieces of lemony goat cheese makes it complete.

My shoes are drying in the hot sun, outside on the patio and I need a shower. My ankle didn’t blister, thank goodness, and while my body is energized from it’s workout, my mind is at rest. This is a good place to be. Like August, with it’s wellspring of fresh vegetables.

What’s on your summer table these days??

(Notice anything new down below here?? There’s a print button for my recipes now!!)


Herbed Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad

4 ears sweet corn, shucked, cooked and stripped of kernels
4 medium tomatoes, or 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes, as ripe as you can find
2 small zucchini, diced
1/2 c. fresh chopped herbs, such as basil, thyme, parsley and oregano (use rosemary if you like it)
2 T. good quality olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper and sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes to combine flavors. Serve topped with goat cheese, if desired.

My Notes: I used half a pint of purple cherry tomato, and one good sized orange heirloom tomato for my version of this dish. I also diced up a fresh heirloom pepper that I had on hand. I think one of the best parts about this dish is how colorful it can be with the variations available now. As the salad stands, it will release plentiful juices which are delicious if you dip fresh toasted bread into them, then sprinkle a bit of sea salt over before eating.

getting back in the game

January 9th, 2011 | 6 Comments »

I know, I know…. there you all are, patiently waiting for me to get my caboose in gear and start posting the food posts again. Enough of the extraneous stuff! Bring on the food! Get cooking again, would you? I can hear you all, I promise. And it’s good too, because it’s tossing me head-long back into the kitchen to start these next 12 months off in style.

With Amazing Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

Honestly, I have no clue what happened to me between Christmas and New Years but I had ZERO desire to cook a thing. Nothing. Who was that girl? I get an extreme amount of pleasure in the kitchen; I love the act and the art of cooking, pulling something from the stovetop or oven that fills the room with incredible smells, moving tastes about on my tongue and delighting in the flavors within. This is who I am, it’s what I love. But there was that week, that flux week between holidays that always just feels odd, like the end of something when we’re not quite ready for the new thing to begin and everything in me just went swirling down the proverbial toilet. Good thing for a loving spouse who made a few meals and for copious amounts of leftovers.

But then, I came roaring back with an idea, a brainstorm that drove me to a creative new height. I wanted something light, healthy and easy to put together. I wanted to add a new line to my ever burgeoning arsenal of recipes, the list I go to time and again, options that fall into place in our dining repertoire with ease. What jumped out from under my hands was this Wild Rice Stuffed Pepper, that despite being completely meat-free, the Teen did eat part of his without one iota of complaint. There was no suspicious poking at it, no scowling or contempt.

Yeah, who was that kid, you say? Mine. The young man who seems to be changing every day that I look at him, the one approaching his 17th birthday. He’s become a bit more acceptable to new things, less rigid about what he won’t eat. I’m liking the results.

Really, the adjectives necessary to describe this dish are extravagant. Mind-boggling. Flavorful and light, but hearty and comforting as well. Mike and I loved these too, but then, I knew we would. We’d be meat-free more often if it weren’t for the Carnivore. This dish, once the lovely colored peppers were home from the market, came together entirely from my pantry and freezer. I love those types of meals. Opt in the fresh produce, fill the edges with staples and sit down to a lovely meal. This is the cooking I like.

Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

3 colored peppers of choice, sliced in half and cored
1 cup wild rice, washed and picked over
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can great northern beans, rinsed
1 c. frozen corn kernels
1/2 c. canned tomatoes, or 2 chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
1 c. shredded cheese of choice, plus more for topping (I used cheddar and pepper jack together)
1/3 c. shredded parmesan, with more for topping
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the wild rice, return to a simmer and cook, covered until the rice is tender 30-40 minutes. I used long grain, or regular wild rice so it took longer than if you use the cracked version. Adjust simmering time accordingly. Once rice is tender, drain excess water in a wire strainer and set aside.

Meanwhile, set your oven to Broil. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place prepared peppers on sheet, cut side up and broil for about 5-7 minutes, until edges are slightly browned and peppers are softened just a little. Remove from oven, set aside and set oven temperature to 400°.

In a deep skillet, saute shallot in oil for about 5 minutes, then add garlic and cook about a minute longer. Add the beans and corn, and heat through. Stir in the tomato and wild rice until just combined and remove from heat. Add the cheese and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When mixture is cool enough to handle, pick up a generous handful and press it together slightly, then mound it into a pepper half. Repeat with remaining peppers and filling, mounding the peppers full. You may not use all the filling but be generous. In a small bowl, place about a half cup of the shredded cheese and several tablespoons of shredded parmesan. Add two tablespoon of panko bread crumbs and toss to coat. Top the peppers with this and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the filling is hot and the cheese on top has melted. Serve immediately.

Look for good sturdy peppers that are heavy and full for this dish. They’ll hold the filling better. I like to find ones that have four ‘knobs’ on the bottom if I can. It makes for a more even cut. If you like to make stuffed peppers the regular way, by coring the entire pepper instead of cutting it in half, by all means do so. I like this method for the ease of eating them.

There is endless versatility in this recipe: use brown rice and black beans, or regular rice and red beans. Add frozen peas or even cooked cubes of squash. Add in a host of fresh herbs. Skip the panko to make them gluten-free. It helps to bind the ingredients but I will say that it’s not necessary at all. Change up your cheese, or add chopped leftover meat if you have it.

kitchen insight, and 3-Bean Chili

November 9th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

Here’s the thing about the works going on in my kitchen; they aren’t perfect or always balanced although I do strive for the most nutritional value I can find. We don’t dine exquisitely, sampling wonderful fare every night. I don’t pore through cookbook after cookbook stuffing pages with notes, markings, tabs and ratings. Sometimes I don’t cook at all. Sometimes we graze. Sometimes I just look at my husband and ask him to go get us a pizza. Sometimes he does.

This is a Calzone stuffed with veggies and cheese and made with scratch dough. Mike did not bring this home.

I make burgers from scratch, and lots of soup. We do make our own pizza including dough for the crust, so those pizza seeking forays I send Mike on are fairly uncommon. We eat a lot of chicken, and we eat fish and pork. Beef is rare in our house but on occasion I will splurge on a good steak dinner for The Carnivore and I. I stock a good pantry with lots of canned goods like beans, tomatoes, tuna, salmon, rice and grains and other items that can help me to put a good meal together if I get stuck. I get stuck a lot. My husband loves vegetables and doesn’t care for much meat. My Teen loves meat. Every day. He eats vegetables but only grudgingly. Making these two happy isn’t always the easiest feat. But I do the majority of the cooking so I make what I want. If they don’t want to eat it, it’s not my problem. I’m no one’s short order cook. It works for us. I understand that it doesn’t work that way for everyone. But please don’t ask me what to do about your picky eater because I probably will tell you and you probably won’t like it.

That’s a Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad. It was stellar.

Keeping a well-stocked kitchen, including pantry and freezer is vital to making dinnertime less of a hassle. Outside of a good stocked pantry, I keep my chest freezer full. I buy frozen vegetables like peas, green beans and corn (the only ones I think taste good from their frozen state). I keep lots of bread in the freezer, and hamburger buns, always stocking up when it’s on sale. I keep packages of frozen tilapia on hand. The brand I buy has individually wrapped filets in it that thaw quickly, making it a good option for last minute ideas. Like yesterday. At 4:00pm I had no clue what I was making for dinner. But by 5:30, we were eating Fish Tacos with rice and a Chipotle Corn Relish. And it all came out of the pantry or the freezer. On the plus side, I used up a few leftover items in the refrigerator from previous meals so there was utilization there as well. I’m not the type of cook that makes up two meals and freezes the second one, although sometimes I have. It’s nice when I do. I wish I was prone to do more of that.

This is version 1.0 of the Fish Taco. This is not last night’s Fish Taco,

I don’t write menu plans each week, opting instead to make a large list of foods that I wish to cook. These are ideas that are not regular occurrences in our kitchen, options that may require some ingredient to be on hand in order to make the dish. Like our favorite Healthy Sloppy Joes. Or Thai Thighs. Or Griffin’s favorite Indian Chicken, or the Jambalaya he loves. This list is where I try out new recipes and ideas. Some of them work. Some do not. If they’re wonderful and I think others would enjoy them too, then I will blog about them. I don’t blog about everything we eat or cook because that would be ridiculous. We have lots of repeats in our meals, and there are always food items on hand to make these repeats. The list is a guideline, and I shop from this list so I know what I can make based on what’s available.

That’s Roasted Rutabaga topped with Poached Eggs. Simple. Divine. Perfect.

And grocery shopping; we have a budget that we try to stick with. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. We don’t eat out much due to financial constraints. When we do eat out, I like it to be at places that make food I can’t make at home so often our choices for dining out run to ethnic restaurants. We don’t do fast food although Griffin will eat it. When I grocery shop I use a list 90% of the time and I stick to it, avoiding any aisles that I don’t need to wander down. I rarely buy on impulse although I will purchase items on sale if I find them and then I try to utilize them if they aren’t on my meal list. I look at grocery ads but I don’t use coupons because I rarely find any that are for foods we eat. If I see a good sale at the grocer, I will stock up. I will make a special trip for it too if it’s worth it. Boneless chicken breasts on sale 2-for-1 is worth a trip. Kleenex on sale is not.

Nutella Pound Cake anyone?

I bake too, although not as much as I wish because I think my thighs are already a bit too chunky. But I make muffins, scones, quick breads, cakes, cookies and all other manner of yummy sweet treats. Many of these are for special occasions, like the cakes. My favorite items to bake are the muffins and quick breads. Griffin is good at making cookies and enjoys it a lot.

And speaking of that boy, he’s really stepped up his game in the kitchen and lately has made us some incredible meals. His confidence is much, much better and his skill is increasing exponentially. I love it when he cooks. Love. It.

I have a cupboard of cookbooks and I love them all but I don’t utilize them as much as I should. I have some go-to books for everything and my most favorite one is the Cooks Illustrated Best New Recipe. It’s a freaking monster of a book but it’s loaded with CI’s anal and detail oriented works and I know that the recipes are fool-proof and perfect. I have books I use for adding healthier recipes to our diet; I have ones that steer me towards comfort foods that I crave on occasion and cookbooks that I turn to for fancier inspiration. I have a few reference books to help me with questions, like the Food Lovers Companion. I have a few books that help me figure out substitutions if I somehow run out of an ingredient. I have some ethnic cookbooks that make me sigh with delight. A great deal of the inspiration I find for our meals comes from my food magazines – I get Eating Well, Bon Appetit and Saveur – and of course, the amazing and varied talent of my fellow food blogging friends.

Like these ladies. Just a handful of the local crew- fom left to right: Kelli, Amanda, Shaina, Stephanie, me and Crystal.

The wealth of information about food and cooking is staggering out there, and there’s something for everyone. It’s both overwhelming, frustrating (because there is a lot of BAD stuff out there too, and plenty of misinformation) and yet it’s also wonderful, varied, engaging and encouraging. This post is just about what I do, and as I said, it doesn’t work for everyone but this is what works for us. Our kitchen is truly the hum that resonates throughout our entire home, and also out into the world via this blog.

And just for kicks, I’m passing along one of my favorite and quick pantry recipes for 3-Bean Chili.

I love this steaming and soothing pot of chili and it comes together so fast (well, if you have the items on hand) and yet it tastes like it simmered all day. Full of fresh peppers, along with three kinds of canned beans and a big can of tomatoes, it’s so satisfying and good for you. Skip the bacon if it isn’t your thing. We never use it in this recipe but I imagine it adds amazing flavor.

Quick Three Bean Chili

From Food and Wine magazine, April 2008

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 jalapeños, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chili powder
One 15-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped cilantro and sour cream, for serving

In a medium soup pot, heat the oil until hot. Add the bacon, onion, jalapeños and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until the onion is softened and the bacon fat has been rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the beans, tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer the chili over moderately low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with cilantro and sour cream.Kate’s Notes: I used a can of chili beans- pinto beans in chili spices, unrinsed! – in place of regular pinto beans; I had it on hand and it worked beautifully. I also reduced the chili powder to 2 tablespoons due to the presence of the chili spices in the beans.

3 peppers, 3 beans

October 11th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

The words ‘chili’ and ‘simple’ often aren’t used in the same sentence, and I’m sure chili purists would snort at a pot of smoky rich chili that’s ready in less than an hour, but while there can be a steadfast debate over what constitutes true chili- beans, no beans, the type of meat or none at all- chili is one of those subjective words that has as many meanings as there are cooks to pull it together.

I love a pot of chili that develops over time on my stove. The extra deep flavors, the rich tender chunks of beef and the warm smoky aroma that fills my house are one of the things I begin to crave as the daylight grows shorter each Fall. Be that as it may, I also love having something hearty, healthy and quick to pull together and offer to a gnawing stomach. Or a broken soul.

I found this quick chili recipe last year from an Eating Well magazine and it was an instant hit. It comes together so quickly that you might barely have time to bake a pan of cornbread before you are ready to indulge. You need canned beans and enough know-how to chop an onion; most anyone can manage that and yet it just begs for improvisation, for peppers or perhaps corn and some late season zucchini to add heft and health to an already stellar pot.

pepper pile 009

Soup. Chili. Stew. Chowder. These words have been ringing in my head this past month as we’ve waved off summer and started our reacquaintance with Autumn. Last year I was happily enmeshed in soup-making and found all sorts of good ideas for a steaming pot. This one is a good -and quick-  option for soup season.

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Quick and Easy Three Bean Chili
Adapted by Kate

1 medium red pepper, cored and diced
1 medium poblano pepper, cored and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored and diced (for more heat, use serrano)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can great northern beans
1 15-oz can black beans
1 15-oz can pinto beans
2 15-oz or 1 28-oz can fire roasted tomatoes
3 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
1-2 T. chipotle chili in adobo, if desired

Drain and rinse all canned beans, set aside. In a medium stockpot, cook onion and all the peppers in oil until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add in chili powder, cumin and garlic and cook about a minute, stirring continually. Add in tomato and all beans, and two quarts of water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Simmer to develop flavors, about 15 minutes. Add in chipotle for more flavor and heat if you wish. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

Can be topped with diced avocado, cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime. Additional ingredients to add if desired: diced zucchini or frozen corn.

Calabacitas con Crema

August 19th, 2007 | 7 Comments »



Calabacitas con Crema

From Tasting Spoons blog
Source: Rick Bayless, restaurateur, from his book Authentic Mexican
Servings: 8
1 lb zucchini — (about four small)
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh if possible
1/2 whole onion — thinly sliced
2/3 cup heavy cream (or use fat-free half and half) – optional
1 whole poblano pepper — roasted, seeded, peeled and cut in thin strips
1 tsp salt
1 Tb butter
1 Tb vegetable oil — or vegetable oil
1. Chop the zucchini in large chunks (about 3/4 inch to 1 inch) and set aside. Prepare onions ahead and set aside. Grill the poblano chile directly on a gas flame, cool, remove skin, then cut into small strips.

2. Using a very large skillet, heat butter and oil until very hot. Add zucchini and toss until tender. Remove the zucchini from the pan with a slotted spoon, allowing it to drain well. In the remaining oil and butter, fry the onion slices until soft and sweet, then add the corn and pepper slices. Add the zucchini and cream and cook until nice and hot. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe Notes: I recommend some fresh squeezed lime juice and perhaps a shake or two of chili powder just for notching up the flavor. Sour cream was my ‘crema’ of choice today and it was delicious. I did not use onion and didn’t miss it; it’s not my fave so please, if it’s yours, put it in. I used two poblano peppers, two ears of corn and three zucchini for this.