Tag Archives: fresh ingredients

Summertime Shish Kebabs {on my plate}

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While the calendar still says it’s spring, the mercury’s rising around here to summertime temps. And school’s ending this week. And we just celebrated Memorial Day. So that summertime feel is definitely in the air. We welcomed it with a yummy dinner this week–shish kebabs. With the whole meal done on the grill, it was nice not to have to heat up the kitchen for a change. And they were delicious! Unfortunately, the kids’ taste buds weren’t as excited as ours were, but they did eat a little off the kebabs. I think had I done chicken or shrimp instead, with a few different veggies, they would’ve gobbled them right up. I’m keeping that in mind for later meals. To round off our summertime meal, we had grilled corn-on-the-cobb and watermelon. (Yes, the kids ate both of those items right up! Especially my son, who’s a big fruit eater.)

I used the great recipe here for my marinade, but had to make a few modifications because I was missing some ingredients. I think the recipe as written sounds great, too, so if you have everything on hand, go for it! I’m recreating the recipe below, except with my changes, for your convenience.

Summertime eats: shish kebabs, grilled corn and watermelon

Summertime eats: shish kebabs, grilled corn and watermelon

Beef Shish Kebabs

(serves 4)

About a pound (maybe a little less) of beef stew meat, cubed

onion, cherry tomatoes and zucchini, cut to the same diameter as the cubes of beef (your vegetables may vary)

metal or wooden skewers (soak the wooden skewers overnight in water* we didn’t do this and totally should have)

coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Marinade

1/3 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp. of honey (I just realized I accidentally omitted this; am leaving it so no one else makes the same mistake)

1 medium onion,  diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of water

Worcestershire sauce (not sure how much I used, I eyeballed it)

1 Tbsp. sweet paprika

4  Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or thyme leaves

1/2  tsp. of black pepper

salt to taste

Rinse and pat dry your beef. In a large container or sealable bag, add all of the marinade ingredients. Reserve some of the marinade for basting. Add beef to the marinade and seal. Ensure all the beef is covered and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove from the fridge an hour before grilling so as to allow the beef to return to room temperature. Prepare your vegetables for the kebabs. To make the kebabs, skewer a cube of beef, then alternate with a different vegetable between each cube of beef. Repeat until all your ingredients have been used and discard the marinade. Season kebabs with coarse sea salt and ground pepper. Cook for 5 minutes/side on a hot grill or until all sides are seared. Brush on reserved marinade and serve.

Spanish Paella {on my plate}

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So, we’re doing a small, mini-unit about Spain and Spanish vocabulary in our homeschool this month (more on that in a post coming soon), and when I discovered one of the vocabulary words was “paella,” I decided we would make that for supper one night. I’ve always wanted to make paella anyway, so this seemed like the perfect time. And then I discovered that saffron, a main spice in Spanish paella, was $17 a bottle at my local grocery store. I about fell over in the aisle when I saw that price, let me tell you! But I already had my heart and mind set on making this dish, so I told my grocery budget to shove it for the week and went ahead and bought the saffron.

In searching for a recipe, I discovered there are all kinds of variations on paella; people use different meats, seafood, vegetables and even grains (different types of rice, even quinoa). I made mine by following the gist of this recipe at the Global Table Adventure blog. I liked the tutorial she had (and she even warned readers about the cost of saffron, but I guess I just assumed high would be around $10. Live and learn.). My variations on content of paella include chicken rather than sausage, and lots more shrimp. I also didn’t have a lemon on hand, but would love to see how that flavor works out if we make this again. Oh, and in place of a paella pan, I just used the largest skillet we had. I think it’s a 10-inch.

Be warned, this recipe made a ton of paella. We had a lot left over after our family of four chowed down. Even though it was really good, this will basically go on my “company-only” list to make sure we don’t waste any of it. We did have leftovers one night a couple nights after our first meal, but I still had to toss out a good bit of rice/peas because I didn’t want to risk reheating again, and all the meat was eaten. By the way, for parents of young children: the first night, my two seemed less than thrilled with this meal, although my daughter ended up eating most of her portion. But on the leftovers night, we heated up tortillas and put some of the paella in it, and they both ate up two “burritos” of it that way. So, just a tip if you need help with getting your kids to eat this. Never mind that I’ve probably just insulted generations of Spaniards by just suggesting the idea. 😉

A big bowl full of shrimp-and-chicken Spanish paella

A big bowl full of shrimp-and-chicken Spanish paella

I’ll reprise the Global Table Adventure blog’s recipe here, modified with my adjustments. I think if we decide to make it again, I’ll probably try out the sausage in it instead of the chicken. I think the extra spice would do it good; my husband ended up adding some cayene pepper to his servings, as he likes food spicy.

Spanish Paella

Ingredients

4 cups chicken stock

1 large pinch saffron

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

4-5 cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 boneless chicken tenderloins

1 tsp paprika

salt & pepper

1 heaping cup frozen peas

2 cups long grain rice

1 bag frozen medium shrimp

Garnish

Parsley (from our tiered herb garden)

Directions

Add the stock, saffron, salt, and pepper to a pot and heat until very hot. Keep hot. Meanwhile, slice chicken tenderloins into about one-inch pieces and saute.

Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil, then add the paprika, cooked chicken and frozen peas. Stir in the rice and season with salt and pepper.

Add the hot broth and bring to a boil. Give it one last stir, then don’t touch it again! Reduce the heat and let simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Lightly saute shrimp, then add to the paella during the last 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover with a towel for a few minutes. This will help any straggler grains of rice cook through. Serve with a garnish of parsley.

Transform Corn Tortillas to Hard Shells {on my plate}

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After a mis-purchase at the grocery store recently, we ended up with corn tortillas instead of the flour ones we usually buy. We enjoy making fajitas, the kids love quesadillas, and flour tortillas make good wraps, too. I did quesadillas a couple times for the kids, but it just wasn’t working that well. But we still had corn tortillas left in the bag, and I didn’t want to be wasteful. So I wondered: can you make hard shells from corn tortillas, similar to what you’d buy in a store? The answer is yes! They look different, but they taste better, I think.

So, to transform those corn tortillas into hard shells, you need to warm them up, spray them with oil and lay them over 2 rungs in your oven rack. I found the directions at this site. It says bake at 375 F for seven to 10 minutes, but I didn’t keep track because we were right in the kitchen. This is one of those times you do need to keep an eye on things instead of just setting the timer and walking away. Also, I’m not sure how well they would keep, so I’m not sure whether you could bake up a bunch at once and store them, unfortunately. Some of the comments I’ve read say that if the hard shells sit too long, they won’t be crispy but will turn more chewy. We pretty much ate ours as they came out, so they were tasty.

Crispy corn shells fresh from the oven!

Crispy corn shells fresh from the oven!

While googling for the above directions, I also found a recipe to make corn tortilla bowls, and had to give that one a try, too. Especially because it used a muffin pan! This site gives the full directions, but basically you get the tortillas pliable, add a little water and salt and shape them in between the cups on an upside down (and greased!) muffin pan. Like so:

Create tortilla bowls from corn tortillas using a muffin pan.

Create tortilla bowls from corn tortillas using a muffin pan.

Bake them at 375 F for about 10 minutes and then you’re all set with cute and delicious mini taco bowls! Both of these processes were very simple, but a little time-consuming if you’ve got two little ones waiting impatiently at the table for dinner. 🙂  Who am I kidding, it’s time-consuming if you’ve got two hungry adults prepping everything and waiting for it all to get done! It was worth it, though. We had a great taco night and enjoyed the “homemade” crunchy shells a lot. It’s not something I could see us doing every time we wanted taco night, but it was fun to try and might make a reappearance sometime. Especially if we buy the wrong shells again! 🙂

Taco salad in a tortilla bowl.

Taco salad in a tortilla bowl.

Anybody up for taco night?!

Anybody up for taco night?!

So, what’s your favorite Mexican dish? My daughter loves refried beans, and my husband makes some mean fajitas. We definitely prefer our at-home taco nights than anything a restaurant can offer. Except I can’t get a handle on the queso dip yet. Give me time. Just give me time. 🙂

Macaroni Grill’s Rosemary Bread {on my plate}

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I’m a bit in denial that this is the last week of February. Two months of 2013 down already? I can feel a tug of spring fever pulling at me, especially after the beautiful day we had yesterday. It was the perfect day to be outside with the kids, especially after a couple of rainy, cool days prior. Looks like we’re back to cloudy, cool and rainy tomorrow. I’m okay with it, though, because it means we can still have soup and warm, toasty bread. Especially if it’s this Rosemary Bread–just like the kind served at Macaroni Grill. My husband and I went there for a belated Valentine’s dinner a week or so ago, and were reminded of that delicious bread. He searched out a recipe online and has made it a couple of times since then. Our bread machine’s been on the fritz, so it’s all by hand (which is why he is the one doing it right now :-)). But it’s totally worth it. This recipe makes two round loaves, perfect for a get together with friends or family, or just to have an extra one to freeze and use later. I believe the recipe came from this site, but I can’t be sure since it was my husband who found it and we copied it into our own recipe book.

Rosemary Bread

Ingredients
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
1 c. water
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp butter

Place yeast, sugar and water in bowl and allow it to get bubbly. Mix in 1 Tbsp butter, salt and 2 c. flour. Add 1 Tbsp rosemary. Knead in mixer for 10 minutes. Add more flour if needed.

Oil bowl, add dough, cover with towel and let rise for one hour. Punch down and divide in half. Let dough rest five minutes and spray baking sheet with spray. Shape dough into two rounded loaves. Sprinkle with remaining rosemary and press lightly into dough. Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 F and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Brush with butter and salt if desired. Dip warm bread into olive oil when served.

Fresh from the oven and ready to eat!

Fresh from the oven and ready to eat!

Baking this bread at home is not as easy as going out to eat at Macaroni Grill, but it’s definitely a lot cheaper and tastes just as yummy (if not more so!). Plus you have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what’s in your bread. I think we’ll have some with our potato soup this week, but I think it would also be yummy with our version of Panera Bread’s Broccoli Cheddar soup.

Comfort Food: Broccoli & Cheddar Soup {on my plate}

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Today was a pretty busy day. It was our second day back in the homeschool saddle, so we’re trying to get back on that track. It was also gymnastics class day, which falls right before lunch, so we were out of the house for awhile in the early afternoon. It wasn’t a super cold winter day here in NC, but it was a bit overcast and a little cool, so what with everything going on, I thought soup for dinner sounded pretty good. I’d pinned this recipe awhile back and have been wanting to try it, because we love Panera Bread’s broccoli cheddar soup, but we don’t much care for Panera’s price tag (or whatever unknown ingredients might be in their food).

I thought the prep for this recipe would take longer than it did, but it went surprisinglgy fast with a handheld chopper. If I’d used a knife, I’m sure it would’ve been a longer job. After you get all the veggie chopping done, though, everything comes together pretty quickly and smootly. In fact, my bread was still baking in the bread machine and my soup was done.

I’ll repost the original recipe below for convenience. The parentheticals are kept from the original post; they are not my comments. As an aside, apparently commenters at that blog mention ways to transform this into a crockpot recipe, which might be handy sometime. I will add that I omitted the potatoes, because we eat enough potatoes in other soups and I didn’t necessarily want another soup/stew with potatoes. I’m sure it would be delicious with them, but I thought it was just as tasty without. I also ended up adding 1-2 tablespoons more flour because I like this style soup to be pretty thick. Your mileage may vary on both of those changes, I’m sure.

I’m looking forward to making this again. It was a hit with three out of four of us, but my 4-year-old little man is not that fond of broccoli. My only complaint, and it is minor and easily fixed, is that it didn’t make as much as I expected. There is only maybe half of a bowlful left over for my husband to take to work, and I’d hoped for enough to have for leftovers one night, or maybe to freeze for another meal sometime. Again, this is pretty easily remedied, though, with just doubling the recipe. As it stands, it makes a perfectly fine light dinner for about four people, a good starter course, or a great lunch with bread or half of a sandwich.

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Cheesy Vegetable Chowder (Lulu the Baker)

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 celery stick, finely chopped (feel free to add more celery if you like celery; I don’t, so I don’t add much)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth (I usually use a mixture of low-sodium chicken broth and broth made with chicken soup base because it gives it such nice flavor)
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup milk
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 heaping cups shredded cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium heat until tender.  Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 additional minutes.  Add chicken broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender.  Mix flour with water, add, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened.  Add milk and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender and soup is heated through.  Stir in cheese, allow to melt, and serve.

Beat the Heat With Agua Fresca {on my plate}

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It’s going to get pretty hot here over the next few days. I mean, just look at this forecast.

Seven days of misery ahead.

Summer just started, right? Just checking.

Anyway, with heat like that, we need to stay cool and hydrated. (And indoors. But I digress.) I found a great summer drink on Pinterest (of course). I’ve made it a couple of times now, and it’s a tasty, cool treat in the morning: Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca. I’m not sure I would’ve thought to combine those two seasonal favorites, but they make a nice combo.

Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca, a perfect treat to beat the heat.


From Elise’s recipe on the site, here’s what you need to do.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound diced seedless or seeded watermelon (without rind), about 3-4 cups
  • 8 ounces strawberries, stems removed (about a pint)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water

Method

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.   If you want, you can strain the purée through a mesh sieve, to strain out any pulpy pieces that didn’t get broken up in the blender.  Adjust the ingredients to taste.

Makes 4 cups.

I used about a quarter of a seedless watermelon, which made about three cups, 16 oz (a pound) of strawberries, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of water. The original poster also mentioned making popsicles from this recipe, which sounded perfect to this mom of two young kids. Much better than the sugar-laden treats at the store, right? So I poured some of the agua fresca into an ice cube tray (I sooo need to invest in some cool little popsicle molds), put Saran Wrap over top and poked some mini craft sticks in. After a few hours of freezing, they turned out pretty cute–and totally tasty!

Strawberry Watermelon Popsicles–just the right size for a small snack

I enjoyed this drink so much, I’d love to find another recipe with different fruit. Or maybe I can figure one out on my own. I’ve also pinned some fruit-and-herb-flavored water recipes (no extra sugar added) that I’m looking forward to creating during this hot, hot summer.

Better-Than-CPK Homemade Pizza {on my plate}

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homemade margherita pizza

California Pizza Kitchen has nothing on us!

Friday nights around here are usually pizza-and-movie night–and by movie, I mean something for the kids off Netflix, like Thomas the Tank Engine or a Veggie Tales or something along those lines. I have to admit, I’ll be glad when the kids are more interested in movies not starring an animated character of some sort. But anyway. My point is not to talk about the movies. It’s to talk about the pizza.

We used to order out from a variety of places, usually Papa John’s or Pizza Hut, since they delivered to our home. But after awhile, we got tired of the same ol’ same old. And more often than not, the pizza would arrive lukewarm (and sometimes an *hour* after we’d placed the order. It’s a pepperoni pizza; how long could it take?). So, my husband started making our own pizza from scratch. We’re not talking a Chef Boyardee kit (which is what my family did growing up when we wanted to make pizza “from scratch”). Several years ago now, before we had kids, we saw this program on the Food Network (I think) all about making homemade pizzas. My husband took that guy’s ideas and made them his own, and we’ve experimented ever since. And over the past few months, he’s even been making his own homemade sauces. (I know, I’m really lucky. :-))

Here’s one version of our better-than-take-out pizza:

Dough (Breadman machine recipe)*

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast

Add ingredients to the machine in order shown and select pizza dough cycle. When finished, this 1-pound of dough is enough to make 2 thin crust pizzas, which is all our family needs right now (how this will change once the kids get a few years on them, I’m sure!).

*we mix this up in our bread machine; if you don’t have one, I’m sure you can find pizza dough recipes online

Sauce

In a food processor, puree 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 tsp sugar, 2-3 tbsp olive oil, fresh basil, fresh oregano, 2 cloves fresh garlic to combine flavors. Simmer in a sauce pot for about 20 to 30 minutes before using on pizza. Refrigerate leftovers.

homemade pizza toppings

Adding toppings on top of the homemade crust. This was a margherita pizza, so we used fresh Roma tomatoes rather than a sauce.

Pizza

Roll out your dough and brush on a light coat of olive oil (this helps brown and crisp the crust). Add sauce, toppings and cheese, and bake on a preheated pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is browned and bubbly and the crust is done.

homemade pizza in the oven

The preheated pizza stone helps ensure the crust becomes nice and crisp

No need to order take out or delivery when this comes piping hot right out of your own oven–and you know exactly what’s going in and on it, which makes it even better!

pizza slice

Time to dig in and enjoy!