Category Archives: Main Dishes

Southwestern Pulled Pork

We make pulled pork frequently at our house. It’s great because it feeds a crowd, it’s cheap, it’s versatile, and everyone LOVES it. I almost always do it in the slow cooker which makes it great for hosting since it leaves the oven free to do other things.

Because we make pulled pork so often I’ve tried a number of different recipes to keep things fresh. Recipes for ribs work amazingly with pork shoulder as a substitute. (It’s also called “pork butt”. Shoulder/butt – it’s all the same thing here.)

Most recipes I’ve found when searching are for BBQ Pulled Pork. Which is all well and good if BBQ is what you’re looking for. And there are endless variations on BBQ but sometimes I want something a little different. I need a recipe that will go well with southwestern flavors – chiles and lime and cilantro and all that.

After a little digging online I created this dry rub. I’ve made it three times now, tweaking the ratios until I felt I had it right . And oh man it IS. This pulled pork could be used for sandwiches, on nachos, in tacos or burritos, wherever. It is soooo good and so easy.

My favorite way to serve this pulled pork is with Pioneer Woman’s Cilantro-Jalapeno Slaw.  The recipe as written below is slightly modified from hers but I’ve posted the link above if you want to check out the original.  She was the first food blogger I started following years ago and is one of the reasons I started this blog.  I have both of her cookbooks and love them to death.  I actually created this dry rub to go specifically with this slaw.  It’s that good.

Here’s what we need to start.  1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 1 Tbsp Black Pepper, 1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder, 1 Tbsp Ground Coriander, 1 tsp Ground Mustard, and 1 tsp Ground Cumin.  That’s our dry rub right there.  Just mix that all up in a small bowl…

…and rub it all over your well trimmed pork shoulder.  It’s okay if not all of it sticks, it will get picked up in the juices later on.

Now, this is half a pork shoulder.  About 3 1/2 to 4 lbs.  The ones you buy at the store are normally bone-in, 7-8 lb monsters.  I only ever do half at a time and put the other half in the freezer for later.  A whole shoulder never seems to cook up as well in the slow cooker, I don’t know why.  (Even half is still a ton of meat though!  Unless you’re serving guests you’re still probably gonna have leftovers.)

  Now, just set the crockpot on low if you want it to be done in about 8 hours.  Set it on high if you need it done in about 5.  The pork is done when you can stick a couple forks in there and easily shred the meat.  It should just fall apart.  (But not disintegrate.  That’s what will happen if you leave it in for MUCH longer than it needs.  You want to cook it long enough to break down most, but not all, of the connective tissue.)

Okay, you can totally tell this is not my shot because the photo quality is like 1000x better than any of my pictures.  No, this shot comes directly from thepioneerwoman.com  I make my slaw slightly differently from hers in that I use only the red cabbage (in the convenient bags) and I chop up my cilantro instead of leaving it pretty much whole like she does.

In about the time it takes to pull the meat and grab some buns out of the cupboard (gluten free or otherwise!), you can pull together your slaw.  That being said, cole slaw is really much better if you make it a couple hours in advance and let the flavors come together before you eat it.   So do that.  If you think of it.

Just mix up some mayonnaise, milk, white vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl (see recipe below for exact amounts).  In a larger bowl, empty out a 10oz bag of shredded red cabbage, add a chopped jalapeno, and two big handfuls of cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch – you want a lot this time) and toss.  Pour the dressing over and mix to coat.

Pile some pork and some slaw on a bun and you’re done.  I was so starving and going mad from the wonderful smell permeating the house that I couldn’t be bothered to take a picture before this moment.  Even that shot at the beginning was just taken from the other side of this half eaten sandwich.  Insanely delicious.  This pork would also be great in any number of southwest flavored dishes like tacos, burritos, nachos, you name it.  So so good.

So what are you waiting for?  Go make some!

And enjoy!

Southwest Pulled Pork Sandwiches

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp Kosher Salt

1 Tbsp Black Pepper

1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Pepper Powder

1 Tbsp Coriander

1 tsp Ground Mustard

1 tsp Ground Cumin

Half a pork shoulder, well trimmed (a little over 3 lbs after trimming)

Sandwich rolls (GF or regular)

Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw (recipe below)

Instructions:

Halve your pork shoulder and trim off any large sections of fat.  Don’t worry about the bone if you’re using that half.  You can remove it at the end when you pull the meat.  Wrap up the other half in plastic wrap, put in a ziplock and store in the freezer for future use.

Put prepared meat in the crockpot.

Combine first seven ingredients in a small bowl.  Rub all over meat until all surfaces are coated.  Set the crockpot to Low if you want to eat in about 8 hours, High if you need it sooner (about 5 hours).

After the requisite amount of time, remove the lid and try prying the meat apart with two forks.  If it shreds easily it’s done.  If not, put the lid back on and turn it up to High if it was on Low before.  (Crock pots are not opened until the food is done, ideally, because they don’t regain temperature quickly, hence the changing of the setting.)

Shred meat and serve on buns with Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw.

Cilantro Jalapeno Slaw

(adapted slightly from thepioneerwoman.com)

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

a dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 10oz bag Shredded Red Cabbage

1 jalapeno, chopped

2 large handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped (most of a bunch)

Instructions:

Combine milk, mayo, vinegar, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, jalapeno, and cilantro.  Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

Serve over top of pulled pork on buns (or any way you like!)

Serves a crowd (at least 8)

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Red Chile Beef Nachos

Some nights all you want is a huge plate of nachos to call it a day.

These nachos are not a last minute fix but they are not even comparable to the slop you’d get in the drive through at Taco Bell.

Ick.  Do you guys go there?  We went there in high school occasionally.  But now?  Now that I know what real food is supposed to taste like?  No, thanks.

The last two times I went there were when I was pregnant.  First trimester, sick as a dog, and it was the closest drive thru to Wegmans.  Why, I can hear you asking, if I had a car full of groceries did I not just park and grab something to eat out of the back?

Anyone who has ever been pregnant already knows the answer to this.  Because I was pregnant and if I didn’t eat something in the next few seconds  I was either going to vomit, pass out, or DIE.  I remember feeling like I couldn’t even breathe and if I didn’t eat something NOW I was going to have to pull the car over and lie down until whatsoever time I felt okay enough to drive again.

That is one aspect of pregnancy I do not miss.

So anyway, what were we talking about?  Oh yeah, really GREAT nachos.  Now, I have to give major credit to Bobby Flay on this one.  This recipe is a conversion of a conversion of a taco recipe of his that I’ve used and abused for a couple years now.  I’ve switched around a couple of the more expensive ingredients and made the whole process a bit less complicated.  I also usually use a pork shoulder for the meat but this night I had a chuck roast that needed to fulfill it’s destiny so beef it is.  (So if you have a 3 lb pork shoulder on hand you could totally use that)

Let’s start by browning a chuck roast on all sides.  I used my Dutch oven for this, the same one we’ll use again in a minute – that way we don’t have to make everything in the kitchen dirty.  Just a few minutes over medium-high heat will do it.

Next, chop up 6 cloves of garlic and a large sweet onion (like a Spanish or a Mayan).  These are actually shallots.  Because for some reason I had no onions.  Only shallots.  Who knows.  Anyway.

Now, using that same pot, over medium-high heat warm a couple tablespoons of canola oil and saute the onions until opaque (about 5 minutes).  This is when you get to scrape up all the little brown bits in the pan.  Mmmm.  Add the garlic and cook another minute more.  No longer or the garlic will burn and then you’d have to start over.

And cry.

Behold!  The world’s cheapest wine!

No, seriously, this bottle costs like $1.99.  I know they say you’re supposed to use wine that you would drink on it’s own but who can afford that???  And more to the point, I don’t even drink wine so Goya it is.  Pour a cup and a half of wine into the onions and let it reduce down almost completely.  I set a timer for 12 minutes.  Works every time.

Yum!

While that’s reducing down, grab a can of chipotle chile peppers in adobo and chop up two of them.  (Two peppers.  Not two cans worth.)

Add the chopped up chipotles and 1 Tablespoon Ancho Chile Powder to the wine-soaked onions.

This looks like I’m adding water.  I am.  And I’m not.  At this point we’re going to add 3 cups of chicken broth along with a teaspoon of dried thyme.  I use bouillon which is why we have a completely useless shot of me pouring water into the pot.  Bring it to a boil, add the meat back in, COVER IT, and stick it in the oven at 350 degrees.  We’re gonna leave it there for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is pull-apart tender.  (I’ve also done this in the crockpot a number of times.  In this case you only need about 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and 4 hours on high)

Meanwhile, we’re going to make our green chile salsa.

Pull out your food processor, we’re gonna use it a couple times here.  Grab a big handful of cilantro and pulse it until it’s chopped up evenly.

Then add in the can of Roasted Green Chiles, the juice of 1 lime, salt and pepper to taste, and about 10 cherry tomatoes (or equivalent amount of whatever kind of tomatoes you have on hand).  Pulse until your salsa looks something like this.

Remove the salsa from the food processor and wipe it down quickly.  Using the shredding attachment, shred 3 cups of cheese.  You could use Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Colby Jack, Colby, or Cheddar.  Pretty sure this was Colby.

Or you could just grab a bag of pre-shredded “Mexican” cheese out of your cheese drawer.  Whatev.

Now let’s make our cheese sauce.  Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan and whisk in 1 Tablespoon cornstarch.  Cook it for just a minute.

Next, gradually whisk in 1 1/4 cups whole milk, whisking continuously so you don’t end up with lumps.  This whole process goes so much faster and easier if you heat up the milk in the microwave first.

Bring it up to a full boil (still whisking) until it’s thick and glossy.

Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Okay, so it’s two and a half hours later and our beef is falling apart tender.  It’s on a plate right now, being shredded with my extra arms (don’t I wish).

Anyway, I have removed it from the pot and all this goodness is what’s left over.  Now, my roast was not terribly fatty so I found using a degreasing cup to be unnecessary but if you want to you can skim out the fat.  We’re gonna put this back on the burner over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, just letting it boil away until it’s reduced and thick and saucy and wonderful.  Taste it.  Give it what it needs (salt/pepper/nothing).

Oh, there’s the money shot.  Look at all that meat in our thick, rich sauce.  Heeeeeaven.

And here it is all together!  I put it on a baking sheet because…I don’t remember why.  I honestly have no idea.  Wait, I think maybe I warmed the chips in the oven for a minute first.  Maybe.  Anyway.  Layer of chips.  Layer of meat.  Drizzle of cheese sauce.  Scatterings of salsa.  To.  Die.  For.

Oh, and an electric blue Margarita on the side can’t hurt.

Enjoy!

Red Chile Beef Nachos

(adapted from Bobby Flay)

3 lb chuck roast, trimmed

2 Tbsp canola oil

1 large sweet onion (Spanish/Mayan), chopped

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 1/2 cups red wine

2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped

1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Powder

1 tsp dried thyme

3 cups chicken broth

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

tortilla chips

For the green chile salsa

1 (4.5 oz) can Roasted Green Chiles

10 cherry tomatoes

juice of 1 lime

large handful of fresh cilantro

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Cheese Sauce

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 1/4 cups whole milk

3 cups shredded cheese such as Monterrey Jack or Colby

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, brown the chuck roast on all sides (about 5 minutes).  Set aside.

In the same pan, still over medium-high heat, add canola oil and saute onions until opaque and soft (about 5 minutes).  Scrape up the brown bits during this time.  Add the garlic and cook one minute more.

Pour wine into onions and set a timer for 12 minutes.  Allow to reduce down almost completely.  There will be almost no freely moving liquid after 12 minutes.

Add chicken broth, chipotle chiles, ancho chile powder, and thyme and bring to a boil.  Add the meat back into the pot, cover, and place in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours or until meat is falling apart tender.  (Alternately, you can do this in the crockpot on high for 4 hours.  Just reduce the chicken broth to 1 1/2 cups)

While meat is cooking, make salsa and cheese sauce.  Add cilantro, tomatoes, green chiles, lime juice, salt, and pepper to food processor.  Pulse until your salsa is chunky.  This will not take long so don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with soup.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp butter.  Whisk in 1 Tbsp cornstarch.  Cook for a minute then gradually whisk in whole milk.  Bring to a full boil, whisking constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

When meat can be easily shredded with a fork remove it from the oven, set it on a platter and let it rest 10 minutes.  Shred.

Meanwhile, on the stovetop, set the meat juices over medium-high and bring to a boil.  Let it reduce down for about 15 minutes, until what’s left is thick and saucy.  Add the shredded meat and toss to coat.

Assemble.  Chips, meat, cheese, salsa.   If you like, you can warm the tortilla chips in the oven before assembling.

Eat.

Serves a crowd.

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Maple Dijon Pan Sauce

I’ve been in a dinner rut lately.

I know.  Crazy right?

It’s been busy at our house the past couple months.   Even more than usual, I guess.  It’s birthday season for us.  Following the holidays we have a slew of birthdays in our immediate and extended local family so I do a lot of prep for those.   Which really just means I get to think about decorating cakes all the time.

So anyway, after a few weeks of the same last minute dinners  I was determined to make something really great with just what I had in the house.

I’ll say it again – a well stocked pantry = happiness.

So last night we had this wonderful,  pan seared, then roasted, pork tenderloin with an intensely flavored sweet and savory pan sauce.  Best part is it’s all done in one pan so there’s less clean up.

Let’s grab our ingredients shall we?

Here’s what you need:  some olive oil, maple syrup, dijon mustard, whole grain dijon mustard, chicken broth, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, heavy cream, and two cloves of garlic.  Oh, and the pork tenderloin.  That’d be good.

First things first – pat down every square inch of the surface of the meat.  When you stick it in the pan you don’t want any excess moisture getting in the way of a beautiful brown sear.

Generously sprinkle the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper all over both sides of the pork.

Set your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a cast iron pan (or any oven safe pan) over Med-High to High heat until the oil faintly smokes.  Add the meat immediately and leave it there for a minute.  We want to get the bottom nice and brown.  Flip and keep searing in this way until the whole outside is golden brown and lovely.

Mmm.  Like that.  Once you’ve got the outside totally seared, pop the pan into the preheated 400 degree oven.  You want to cook it until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.  (If you don’t already have a digital probe thermometer I implore you – buy one for yourself.  They’re the coolest things ever!  You stick the probe into the meat before it goes in the oven and it’s connected by an oven safe cord to the digital readout device thingy that sits on your counter top.  You can see as your meat temp goes up degree by degree.  Essential to getting the timing right!  I will never go back!)

While the meat is cooking through, now would be a good time to prep your sides (if you’re having any, I assume you are).  We had some scratch mashed potatoes and green salads.  Simple stuff.

Here ’tis straight out of the oven.  I want to say that took about 15 minutes.  But do not go by the time – go by the temperature.  So important.

Now, the next step is the easiest and one of the most important ones but it’s the one we all forget (or choose not to follow) once in a while.  Let the meat REST.  10 minutes.  Go.  Get busy with your sauce.  You’ve got other stuff to do.

Mince your garlic…

And throw it in the pan with all the drippings from the meat.  Can you tell I let my pan get too cool?  Oops.  Your pan should be HOT.  Like, take it out of the oven and put it back on the burner over Med-High heat.  (Word of warning  – remember to use your oven mitts when you grab that pan out of the oven.  I know, it sounds like common sense.  But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at that pan handle in the oven and reached my bare hand out to grab it like usual.  ::Facepalm::  Don’t be like me.)  Cook it for just under a minute.

Next, pour in a cup of chicken broth…

…a tablespoon of each of the mustards…

…and a couple glugs of pure maple syrup (about 1/4 cup).  Let that simmer down until it’s reduced to about a half a cup.  Usually if we want a sauce thickened we turn to flour or cornstarch.  And those methods are fine and perfect for many applications.  But in this case, with a mild pork tenderloin, I wanted to amp up the flavor.  Reducing does that nicely.

Finally, we’re going to pour in just a little bit of cream to round out the flavor.  Not enough to make the sauce creamy, just a couple tablespoonfuls.  Taste your sauce now and add salt and pepper to taste.  Remember you salted the pork already so the drippings are salty to begin with.

Slice up your pork into 1/2 inch slices.

And pour that wonderful sauce all over the pork.  This pork is tender and juicy.  The sauce is savory and sweet.  Pair with some mashed potatoes and a green somethingorother and you’re good to go!  Restaurant quality dinner on the table in about half an hour (ehh…maybe 40 minutes)!

Enjoy!

Pork Tenderloin with Maple Dijon Pan Sauce

1 Pork Tenderloin

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

For the sauce:

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup chicken broth

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp Whole Grain Mustard

1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup

2 Tbsp Heavy Cream

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pat pork dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle all sides generously with salt and pepper.

Heat canola oil on Med-High heat in a cast iron (or other oven-safe) pan just until the oil faintly smokes.

Using tongs, place pork in pan and sear for at least one minute without moving it, or until bottom is golden brown.  Flip and repeat until all sides are seared.

If you have a probe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the pork.   Move pan into preheated oven.  Remove when thermometer reaches 155 degrees.  (Watch it as it’s getting close – the temp goes up really fast towards the end so being a minute or two off makes a big difference in the juiciness of the meat.)  If you don’t have a probe thermometer, check with the old fashioned kind after about 15 minutes.

Move the pork to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes without cutting into it.  Put the pan with all the drippings back onto the burner over Med-High heat.

Mince the garlic.   Add to drippings in pan and saute for 1 minute.

Add chicken broth, mustards, and maple syrup.  Allow to cook down until reduced to about 1/2 a cup.  Add the cream and taste before seasoning with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the pork into 1/2″ slices and pour sauce over the pork.

Serves 4.

 

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Steak Fajita Salad

So, it’s the middle of January which I’m guessing means most of you are either on a diet or a new exercise kick or both.  Sound about right?

Sigh.

I don’t get why January-March is the high season for the fitness industry and weight loss initiatives in general.  It’s January.  It’s cold and dark and we’re just trying to get through the winter until the real rebirth happens in the spring.  I mean, don’t get me wrong – as a fitness professional I’m always glad to see paying customers coming in our doors with determination on their faces and water bottles in hand.

What irks me is the annual eventishness of it. I mean, I think we all recognize this time of year as being the time we “get back on track” and join a gym and start eating healthy.  But all that enthusiasm goes hand in hand with the shrug and a laugh knowing all too well that it will be over in a few weeks and we will all go back to life as usual until next New Year’s resolutions roll around.

That being said, I’m still game for lighter entrees as long as they’re satisfying in the mental/emotional arena.  So today we have a salad – a filling, satisfying, not totally non-caloric salad.  It could be really light fare, if you really wanted it to be.  But take away the (really good for you) avocado, the (already lite) sour cream and the fried tortilla and you’ve lost the appeal of the salad.  And without the appeal you have lost the mental game entirely.  And the game IS mental.  Try to lose weight while feeling like you’re depriving yourself all the time.  It doesn’t work.

This salad is (relatively) healthy while still being completely mouth-wateringly awesome.  Can’t ask for more than that.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love a great taco salad?  No?  I didn’t think so.  This isn’t exactly taco salad.  Not what I think of as “traditional” taco salad anyway.  It’s so much better.

First we’re going to start with a marinade.  In a food processor combine 4 cloves of garlic (one of mine came from a jar – shhh!), 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (the kind you get in a can in the Latino aisle), a handful of fresh cilantro, 2 Tbsp lime juice, and 1/4 cup olive oil.

And puree.

Pour the marinade into a ziplock baggie with 1 lb of well trimmed sirloin steak.  Make sure the entire steak is covered in marinade and set in the refrigerator for  several hours or overnight.

I just had to show you.  I got a NEW KNIFE!!!  A genuine Wusthof!  This is really big exciting stuff (for me).  It’s soooo much sharper than my old knife it makes me giddy every time I use it.

Get your steak out of the fridge and let it sit while you prep your vegetables.  With your chef’s knife, chop up some green bell pepper and some onions.  I used cooking onions but Spanish Onions or any sweet onion would be awesome too.  I think I’ve got 2 peppers and 3 onions there.  I was going for equal parts of each.

Heat some oil in a large skillet over Medium-High heat.  When the oil shimmers add your vegetables and cook…

…until they look like this.  Soft and lovely.  Season with kosher salt and remove from the pan.

While the peppers and onions are cooking we can start prepping our other salad ingredients.  Roll up some romaine lettuce and slice it into thin ribbons.

Chop up some more cilantro.

And slice up an avocado.  Isn’t my avocado perfect?  I love it when I open them up on their perfect day.  To easily remove the pit, carefully whack your knife into the pit, exert a little pressure and rotate it out.  Then use a spoon to carve the avocado out of it’s skin.

Shred up some Monterrey Jack cheese.  Obviously don’t shred your cheese like this.  I need a third hand.

Add to the list some jarred salsa and lightly salted sour cream and our salad is almost ready to be assembled!

But of course we can’t forget our steak!  This is best done in a cast iron skillet if you have one.  They retain heat better than any other type of pan and are awesome for searing meats.  On Medium High heat, sear your steak for 3 minutes per side.  Turn off the heat and let it sit in the pan.  8 minutes will get you a perfect medium rare.  At least, in a cast iron pan it will.  If you’re cooking your steak on a different surface that time might need to be extended slightly.  And of course, if you prefer your steak more well done, leave it in longer.  Never cut into a steak to check for doneness, that causes all the juices to run out everywhere.  I always use the thumb test to test meat’s doneness.  Here is a video showing the technique.  Lastly, once you’re satisfied that your steak is done to your liking, leave it the heck alone!  For 10 minutes to rest that is.  Again, so all the juices don’t run out all over the place leaving you with a dry steak.

Now, while the steak is resting, grab a small pan and fill it with a puddle of oil.  I’m not sure how much I have in there.  Many several tablespoons, put it that way.  Enough to make a shallow pool.  Heat the oil over Medium High heat until shimmery.  Grab some corn tortillas and place one in the oil.  The oil should bubble excitedly when you introduce the tortilla.  If it doesn’t, the oil isn’t hot enough yet.  Fry each tortilla about 45 seconds to a side, or until it gets to be a nice golden brown.

Oops.  Don’t walk away and tend to children during this part.  It’s not difficult but you really can’t walk away for two minutes in the middle of it.

There, that’s better.

It’s been 10 minutes so I’m thinly slicing up my steak now.  Eeeee!  I left mine in for about 9 minutes and it came out somewhere between medium rare and medium.

To assemble, place some lettuce on a plate, then your fried tortilla…(or you could totally reverse these two and put the tortilla on the bottom…I just thought it looked cool this way)…

…then pile on some of the onions, the peppers, and the steak.  Eeeeeee!  Can you tell I LOVE steak?

Sprinkle on some of the cheese.

And top with a couple slices of avocado, a dollop  of sour cream and salsa, and some cilantro (if you’re not a zombie like me and forget to put it on).  An alternative to the sour cream and salsa is to mix the two and use that as your dressing.  Or mix ranch and salsa to make a southwest dressing.  All good options.  Mmm.  Just writing about this makes me want to fix it for dinner again tomorrow night!  Soooooo ridiculously yummy.  The garlic/chipotle/lime/cilantro marinade packs a punch and puts the whole thing over the top.

Enjoy!

Steak Fajita Salad

For the steak:

1 lb Sirlion Steak, well trimmed

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp lime juice

4 cloves garlic

1 handful fresh cilantro

2 chipotle peppers in adobo

For the salad:

1 Romaine heart, sliced into thin ribbons

1 avocado, sliced

1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

2 green bell peppers, sliced (about 2 cups)

3 cooking onions, sliced (about 2 cups)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup sour cream

1 cup jarred salsa

4 corn tortillas

Oil for frying

Instructions:

In a food processor puree garlic, chipotle peppers, the handful of fresh cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil until smooth.  Pour into a ziplock baggie and add sirloin.  Put in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Remove steak from refrigerator and set out while you prep your other ingredients.

Prepare onions and peppers.  In a cast iron pan, heat oil over Medium-High heat until the oil shimmers.  If it begins to smoke the oil is too hot.  Add peppers and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft (about 5 minutes).  Season with salt and set aside.  Wipe out pan.

On Medium-High heat, add steak to pan and sear on each side for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave steak in the pan 8 minutes longer for medium rare.  About 10 minutes for medium.  Use the thumb test to check for doneness.  Don’t cut into it yet!  When steak is done to your liking, remove it from the pan to a plate and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep the lettuce, cilantro, cheese, avocado, salsa, and sour cream.  You can mix the sour cream and salsa to make a dressing or just leave them separate.  Add a sprinkle of kosher salt to the sour cream (optional).

Heat a shallow pool of oil in a small pan over Medium-High heat.  When the oil shimmers, place a corn tortilla in the oil.  There should be just enough oil in the pan for the tortilla to float and the oil should bubble excitedly when you introduce the tortilla into it.  If it doesn’t get excited it’s not hot enough.  If you notice that your tortilla is getting very dark very quickly or you’re getting smoke the oil is too hot.    Cook for about 45 seconds on each side or until tortilla is a nice golden brown.  Repeat with the other 3 tortillas.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Slice up your steak thinly.

Assemble salad.  Lettuce, tortilla, peppers and onions, steak, cheese, avocado, and cilantro to garnish.  Serve dressing or salsa and sour cream on the side.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 main dish salads.

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Filed under Main Dishes, Salads

A Primer on Chili

This is not a recipe for chili.  That’s not even my chili up there.  It’s someone else’s chili.  But I liked the bowl so I stole the picture.  It makes me want a chile pepper covered bowl just for putting chili in.  Hmm.  I think I just got the inspiration for my next project at Claytopia…

Anyway, I made chili last night during the weirdly ferocious January thunderstorm we had here in NW PA last night.  (Global warming anyone???)  I wasn’t really planning on doing chili for the blog, ever.  I don’t have an exact “my chili” recipe.  I use whatever I have on hand, usually.  Chili is comfort food.  It’s easy.  Everybody loves it.  It’s even better the next day.  And there’s a million and one ways to make it.  Which makes it perfect for a guide like this.

For years I made my chili one way and one way only:  with a McCormick Chili spice packet.  Which is totally fine, especially if you’re not real confident in the kitchen.   But here’s the great thing about chili – it’s hard to screw up.  With a couple of basic guidelines you can make your chili however you like, top it with whatever you like, and throw it on top of whatever you want.

Last night I made my chili without consulting anything, without having to hover over a recipe.  It is such a great feeling and I want to share that with you all so here goes.

For a small pot of chili (4ish servings) you need these elements as your base:

1 lb Meat.  This can be ground beef, “stew meat” (small cubes of chuck roast), ground turkey, ground pork, cut up sirloin, whatever.  Or, you don’t even have to use meat and just make it a vegetarian chili.  If you’re not using meat, double the beans.

Beans.  One can.  I use the “seasoned chili beans” but you can use any kind of beans you like.  Keep in mind that canned beans are pretty salty so you probably won’t need to add much, if any, salt to your finished chili.  If you don’t like beans you don’t have to use ’em.  But you do have to admit to yourself that you like your chili “Texas style”.  Take that as you will.

Tomato.  One (15ish oz) can minimum.  You can use diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, whatever you have on hand.  I like to use one can each diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Or if you’re reading this in August and you have a bajillion tomatoes in your garden this is a good place to use them.

Onion.  One medium, diced.  Or you can use one onion’s worth of the dried onions you get in the spice aisleI think that’s like 1/4 cup.  Those are great in a pinch.   

Garlic.  Either a couple cloves, minced, or 1 tsp Garlic PowderAnd of course you can always use more or less to taste.  That goes for pretty much everything here, actually.

Chili Powder/Dried Chiles.  A good rule of thumb is 3 Tbsp Chili Powder per 1lb meat.  I’ve seen recipes with more so there’s room to add if you like.  Or you could decrease this amount if the flavor is more intense than you prefer.  But it is the primary flavor in chili so you really can’t go without it entirely.  I mean, you could.  But it really wouldn’t be chili then.  You can also use whole dried chiles for a more authentic southwest chili.  I don’t because it’s more expensive but whatever floats your boat.

Other things you can add but are not necessary:

Additional spices.  Start with 1 tsp of each.  That’s enough to give you a little taste without accidentally overpowering your chili with something that might not be something you end up liking that much.  I routinely add oregano (2 tsp) which is surprisingly nice with Tex-Mex stuff.  Cumin too, just a teaspoon.  I also now always add…wait for it…cocoa powder (1 tsp).  It’s the “secret ingredient” in Mexican moles (mow-lays) which gives them such an incredible depth of flavor without tasting chocolatey.  I’ve also seen chili recipes that use coffee to add a greater dimension of flavor.  If you throw in some cinnamon you’ve got Cincinnatti chili.  I could also totally see pouring in 1/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce.   This is where you get to play.  Have fun with it.

Diced green chiles.  Me likey.

Diced green bell pepper.  A very common addition.

Sliced jalapenos.  For those that like a lot of heat.

Corn flour.  Make a slurry with 2 parts corn flour to 1 part water and add it in at the end.  It will thicken up the chili if it’s on the thin side and also gives it a hearty, slightly corny taste.

Corn.  If you really like corn.

Method:

Heat a large skillet over Med-High heat.  Add meat and onions (and any other raw vegetables you might be adding), cooking until meat is browned and veggies are soft.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  If you have a lot of grease, you can carefully drain that off now.

(At this point, if you wanted to, you could transfer everything to your slow cooker, add everything else, and leave it on high for a couple hours or on low for the whole day.)   Or finish it on the stove as described below.

Add spices and toast for another minute until fragrant.  Add tomatoes, beans, and anything else from a can.  Bring up to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and let simmer at least 20 minutes.

Top with anything you like.

Toppings can include:

Shredded Cheese (Cheddar and Monterrey Jack are particularly good)

Sliced green onions/diced red onion

Fresh Cilantro

Sour Cream (my fave right there, particularly with a spicy chili)

Sliced Jalapenos (HEAT!)

Fried Tortilla strips/chips

Crumbled Bacon

Hot Sauce

Potential uses beyond the bowl:

Chili Cheese Nachos.  Everything you love about chili and nachos on one plate.  Perfect for the big game.

Chili Cheese Dogs.  Messy but awesome.

Chili Cheese Stuffed Baked Potatoes.  Need I say more???

Cincinnatti Chili.  Cinnamon infused chili served over spaghetti with a sprinkling of cheddar on the top.

Creamy Chili Cheese Dip.  Spread a block of softened cream cheese evenly over the bottom of a glass baking dish.  Cover with about a cup of (preferably beanless) chili , sprinkle with  1/2 cup cheddar cheese and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with freshly chopped cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.  Nom.  I could (and have) eaten a half recipe of this by myself.

My favorite presentation:  Served atop buttered white rice with cornbread and honey butter.  Perrrrrrrrrfect.

Now go make some chili people!

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Filed under Main Dishes, Soups

Breakfast for Dinner Pizza

At our house, we do pizza night once a week, every week.  We also do Breakfast for Dinner night once a week, pretty much every week, all year long.  So why not combine the two???  No reason!  This has been on my “to do” list for months.  Why I waited so long to make this I have no idea.

I was going to call this “Breakfast Pizza” and then thought, “Well, that doesn’t tell you anything.  I mean, who DOESN’T eat pizza for breakfast?”  I certainly ate it again for breakfast this morning.  So that name got scrapped.

And then I thought, “Let’s keep it simple and call it Bacon n Egg Pizza.”  But I know you.  Just hearing the words “egg” and “pizza” in the same sentence is gonna skeeve some of you out.  (My husband would be first in that line.)  Pictures are much better than words on this one wouldn’t you agree?

Because om nom nom this is soul-satisfying good food.  Bacon and eggs, garlic-infused olive oil, scallions, mozzarella, provolone, and freshly grated Parmesan???  Yes, please.

OH!  And I almost forgot to tell you!  I’ve been experimenting with GF pizza dough recipes at my husband’s request.  The recipe I have posted on here is lightly adapted from Gluten Free Girl’s Cookbook, “Gluten Free Girl and the Chef“.  It’s intended to be a thin crust pizza dough.  Actually, it was originally written as a recipe for crackers.  And it’s what we’ve been using for the past couple years for my husband’s pizzas.  You know… the ones I never actually photograph because he never wants anything besides cheese and pep.

So anyway, he wanted me to try out some new formulas that would rise better – that would make for a better thick pizza crust.  Something more similar to what you’d get at Papa John’s or something.  The recipe I’ve been using – it rolls out like  a dream.  It feels like real dough under your fingers.  Which is great for me – but much more important than the tactile pleasure of working with the dough is whether or not it’s pleasing to the person you’re serving it to.  And in this case it’s my husband and it’s not anymore.

I’m close.  I’m really close to giving you something I don’t feel like I need to keep modifying.   Soon, very soon, I’ll give you the new recipe.  I just need to go through the process a couple more times, make sure I’m not giving you the directions to make what was a happy fluke.

So let’s get going on our pizza already!  You’ll want to put your pizza stone/pan in the oven now and preheat it to 450 degrees.  If using a non-stick pan, put it in upside down.  I still don’t know why they tell you to do that.

First, cut six strips of bacon into one inch long strips and fry over medium heat until crisp.  Cutting the bacon up first makes cooking it in a pan so much easier.  Put your crispy bacon pieces on a paper towel lined plate to drain and set them aside.

Also, you’ll need dough.  You can make it from scratch like I do (GF and regular recipes here), or you can get a ball of dough from the prepared foods section of your grocery store.  Or use a pre-made crust.  Or use a mix.  Whatever!  The point is you need something to put your toppings on.

If you’re making dough from scratch, plan on starting it 2 hours before you plan to eat to allow time for the dough to rise.  You can also make the dough the night before, let it rise for an hour or so, punch it down, rub it with oil, cover it loosely, and store it in the fridge until an hour before you’re ready to use it.

Next, if you don’t already have garlic oil sitting in your fridge you’ll need to make some.  It’s quick, I promise.  This is one of my new fridge staples I love it so much.  To make garlic oil, simply warm 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 sliced cloves of garlic, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes over low heat until bubbling.  Let oil simmer for 10 minutes, keeping watch over it to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.  Allow to cool.

On a sheet of parchment paper, roll/pat out your dough into a 12″ circle.  Take some of your garlic oil (about 3 tablespoons should do), and spread that all over, leaving a rim around the edge.

Next, top your pizza with 8 oz shredded pizza cheese.  We get ours in tubs in the prepared foods section of our grocery store.  It’s just a mixture of mozzarella and provolone.  You could do all mozzarella or all provolone if you wanted to.  Or you could  throw in some cheddar or Monterrey Jack.  Or some pepper jack…oh the possibilities!  Whatever good melting cheeses you’ve got on hand and you like with your eggs would work here!

Just please no American.  Because that would just be wrong.

On top of that we’re going to add our bacon and one thinly sliced scallion.  Now slide your pizza carefully onto your hot stone (parchment paper and all), and set the timer for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes we’re going to slide out the oven rack and carefully crack a few eggs on top of our pizza.  I was able to get four on mine without fearing raw eggs were going to slide off onto the pizza below.  Looking at this shot now I’m thinking I might have gotten one more on there…maybe next time.  Anyway, if you want your eggs to come out over-easy, set the timer for another 8 minutes.  I erred on the side of caution and left mine in for 9 and my eggs came out over-medium.  For a first time that was okay.  Runny whites would have left me running for the hillsides.

Lastly, we’re going to grab a microplane zester and a wedge of good parmesan.  Or you could just sprinkle some out of the big ol’ Kraft container you have in your fridge.  But seriously guys?  This is soooo much better.

And we’re gonna chop up a small handful of fresh parsley.  Because we have it on hand.  And we’ve got a few minutes before the pizza’s out.  And it’s green and pretty and counts as a vegetable.  And we’re worth it baby.

Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle on the parsley, grate on the Parmesan, and grind a little black pepper over the top (which I did promptly after taking this picture :p)  And eat. (And eat and eat and eat.)

Enjoy!

Breakfast for Dinner Pizza

1 lb ball Pizza Dough (GF or regular)

3 Tbsp Garlic Oil (see instructions below)

8 oz shredded pizza cheese (mozzarella/provolone)

6 slices bacon, pre-cut into 1″ pieces

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1 oz freshly grated parmesan

1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

To make Garlic Oil:

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes over low heat until boiling.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Let cool.   Set aside until ready to use.  Refrigerate any leftover oil for later use.

Instructions:

Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.  If using a non-stick pizza pan do the same thing but put it in upside down.  I’m still not sure why we do this.

Fry bacon in a large pan over medium heat until crispy.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

On a sheet of parchment paper stretch or roll out your pizza dough to about 1/4″ thickness, about 12″ across.   Spread with 3 Tbsp of the cooled garlic oil, the pizza cheese, bacon, and scallions.  Slide onto hot pizza stone (or non-stick pan turned right side up), and bake for 5 minutes.

Slide oven rack out and crack 3-4 (or more if you can fit them) eggs onto pizza, being careful not to break the yolks.  Try to do this quickly so the oven doesn’t lose too much heat.  Bake another 8 minutes for over-easy eggs.  9 minutes for over-medium.  Any longer than that and you’ve got hard boiled eggs.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley, grated parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4.

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Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit this is one odd looking pizza.  Bear with me.

I’m starting to think if I ever get myself published in the way way distant future, it will be writing a pizza cookbook.  Just pizzas.  I have soooo many ideas.  Every week I am inspired with new ideas for specialty pizzas.  Not that probably all of them haven’t been done somewhere before…we are a pizza loving country after all.  But still…

This week’s pizza was inspired by my most favorite Olive Garden dish of all time – The Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo.  It’s fettuccine with Gorgonzola-laced Alfredo sauce, medium rare steak medallions, sun dried tomatoes, more crumbled Gorgonzola, finished with a drizzle of Balsamic Glaze.

(Insert Homer Simpson yummy food noise.  Haaaaauuuuuuuggghhh.)

We used to go to the Olive Garden fairly regularly years ago.  You know, before we had kids.  They actually have gluten free pasta options now so yay for the OG!  We would totally go more often if we ever went out to eat at all.  I’ve always loved it there… the breadsticks, the soups, the salad.  I’m not actually a huge pasta fan but there’s something there for everyone .

So anyway, if you know me you know I rarely order the same entree twice.  There is just so much gustatory wonderfulness to experience out there.  I am always  eager to try something new…except when it comes to the Olive Garden and this dish.  I have probably ordered it half a dozen times.  It’s just that good.

So why not make it into a pizza?  No reason – let’s go!

Let’s start out by rolling out our prepared dough on a sheet of parchment paper.  You can make it from scratch.  Or you can do it this way if you’re doing this GF.  Or you can pick up a ball of dough from the deli.  S’all good.

Onto our dough we are going to add this stuff – some of which I realize is not recognizable to anyone but me.  We’ve got half a sirloin steak, cooked medium rare (you do yours to your liking of course), garlic oil, Balsamic Glaze, some thinly sliced red onion, a wedge of Gorgonzola, a tub of pizza cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes.  (You can totally disregard that pumpkin which will probably be in the background of all my shots for the next two months.)

You still have garlic oil left over from the last time we made it, right???  I didn’t either.  But I was dying to make more so I did.  Just put 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes, and 4 sliced cloves of garlic over low heat until it’s bubbling.  Leave it bubbling for 10 minutes and set it aside to cool.

We’re gonna take about a quarter cup of that luxurious garlic oil and spread it all over our rolled/patted/stretched out dough.  Why not just use Alfredo sauce for the base?  Eh, because I didn’t want to.  Is that a good enough reason?

Next we’re gonna throw on some sun-dried tomatoes.  We’re putting them underneath everything else so as not to dry them out further in the oven.  Some of these I bought at the store.  Some I made myself from the 10 billion tomatoes I had in my garden over the summer.  Mine were way better.  Just sayin’.

On top of that we’re going to add 6 oz pizza cheese and the red onions.  You can use the whole 8 oz tub if you want.  I’m just a little neurotic about the “no more than 8 total ounces of cheese on my pizza” thing.  Now let’s slide our pizza onto a hot pizza stone/pan in our 450 degree pre-heated oven.

While the pizza is baking we’re going to slice our steak up as thinly as we can.  Just LOOK at that beautiful medium-rare goodness.  If we threw that in a super hot oven for 12 minutes our steak would turn into leather.  So we’re going to throw it on at the end.

Here is our pizza straight out of the oven!  But wait,  don’t turn off your oven just yet!  Now we’re gonna throw on the steak and the Gorgonzola.

Back into the oven for another 60 seconds.  No longer!  We just want our steak warmed, not further cooked.  Drizzle with the balsamic glaze to finish.  (I made my own glaze by reducing a whole bottle of balsamic vinegar on the stove down to half a cup.  You can also just buy a bottle of glaze at the store.  That’s what I’ve done for years.)

So many wonderful elements in this pizza.  The garlic and the balsamic, the Gorgonzola and the dried tomatoes.  And the STEAK.  Nom nom nom.  This pizza is a flavor powerhouse.

Enjoy!

Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza

1 lb ball prepared pizza dough (GF recipe here)

8 oz Sirlion Steak, cooked to your preferred doneness and sliced thinly

6 oz shredded pizza cheese (mozzarella/provolone)

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes

2 oz Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled

1 Tbsp Balsamic Glaze

Garlic Oil

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Instructions:

Prepare your pizza dough as directed (bringing to room temp first if it was in the fridge).

Make your garlic oil.  In a small saucepan, heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes over low heat until boiling.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use.

Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.  If using a non-stick pizza pan do the same thing but put it in upside down.  I don’t know why exactly but I’ve read that advice a million times.

On a sheet of parchment paper stretch or roll out your pizza dough to about 1/4″ thickness.  (Roughly the diameter of a large commercially baked pizza, about 12-14 inches across.)  If you’re using gluten free pizza dough you may want to go a little thicker as it does not rise nearly as much in the oven as a wheat-based dough will.

Spread garlic oil on dough, leaving a rim for the crust.

Top with pizza cheese, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Carefully slide pizza onto your hot pizza stone, parchment paper and all (or onto your non-stick pan making sure you turn it right side up first).  Bake 12 minutes.

Remove pizza from oven and top with steak and Gorgonzola.  Put back in oven for 1 minute.

Drizzle with Balsamic glaze and serve.

Serves 8.

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