Spinach-Tomato-Pesto Pita

This recipe is my default recipe for using up those last odds-and-ends vegetables in my fridge. When I’ve got an extra tomato, half an onion… I turn to this. It’s also a great Sunday night recipe to make for lunch the next week.

It’s healthy, flexible, and tasty – what’s not to love?

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Take the base recipe (originally from AllRecipes) & make it your own: use the leftovers in the fridge, your favorite veggies, or whatever your dinner-partner will tolerate.

4 whole wheat pitas
1 tub of sundried tomato pesto
1 bunch of spinach, rinsed well & dried
2 tomatoes
2 mushrooms
2 bell peppers
handful of basil leaves, rinsed & de-stemmed (parsley & oregano go well too, if you have those on hand)
olive oil
Parmesan cheese
feta or mozzarella cheese
salt & pepper

pre-cook

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toast pita for 5 minutes or until beginning to brown. (If you skip this step, the middle will be soggy from the pesto & olive oil at the end.)

2. While the pita is toasting, deseed and chop tomatos, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Toss together with olive oil. Coarsely chop spinach but keep separate.

3. Remove pita and spread with pesto. Top with a layer of spinach, then spoon out vegetable mixture. Tear basil leaves and sprinkle on top. Salt & pepper to taste. Grate Parmesan cheese and add mozzarella/feta.

4. Return pita bread to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the edges are crispy.

Serve hot!

Quick & Dirty: Black Bean Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce

I had intended to have leftovers for dinner, when I found myself paging through some truly delicious-looking Pinterest recipes. I was looking for something else, I promise! I just…got distracted by the recipes. As usual. It turned out to be a gain, though, because 20 minutes after I found this recipe online, it was sitting in front of me, ready to be eaten.

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As written, the recipe was a bit bland, but the addition of chili powder, oregano, and paprika made it easy to amp up the flavor.

Filling:
Olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cans black beans, well rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano, paprika, & garlic powder
1 cup salsa

Sauce:
1/2 avocado
3/4 cup cilantro (destemmed)
1 lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey (the original recipe calls for a whole teaspoon, but I found that too sweet)
pinch of salt, to taste

Toppings (diced tomato, more salsa, shredded lettuce, jalapenos, etc)
Corn tortillas

1. Saute onions in medium skillet until transparent (5 minutes), add spices. Add drained baked beans and mash with fork to desired consistency. Pour in salsa and heat through (another 5 minutes).

2. Warm tortillas for 5 minutes in a oven preheated to 300 degrees.

3. In a food processor, combine sauce ingredients & blend until smooth. Add a little water to thin, if desired. If you don’t have a food processor (or if all you have is an awful blender, like me), it’s still possible to make: chop the cilantro, mash the avocado, and mix everything together well.

4. And that’s it! Spoon filing into the tortilla, add toppings as desired, and generously pour on the sauce!

Original recipe, and some gorgeous pictures, here.

Tex-Mex: Now in Your Kitchen! (Chicken Enchiladas)

I make no secret about one of my favorite things about Houston: the delicious, incredible Tex-Mex. What’s not to love about it? Wonderful flavors, edges of heat and spiciness, a nearly endless variety of food, refreshing margaritas… It’s almost impossible to go wrong.

Until I try to make it myself. I can make a mean taco, but I’ve never had much success with much else. My food is never as flavorful; the meat never as moist.

Until now.

in pan

Red-chili-sauce-chicken enchiladas. They are, in a word, amazing.

Fair warning: my kitchen was a mess after this. It took about an hour & a half from first chop to taking out of the oven, so it’s not a quick & easy recipe.

But oh my. So worth it.

The original recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes book, with only slight modifications. I highly recommend the book. It’s easy to following, has interesting stories, and so far, delicious food.

enchilada

Sauce:
olive oil
1 small onion (or 1/2 medium)
2 cloves garlic
2 chopped jalapenos
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin, oregano, sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in 1/4″ strips
1 16-oz can of tomato sauce
3/4 cup water

Filling:
1 lime
1/2cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
8 small corn tortillas

Toppings:
1 cup cheddar cheese
sour cream, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, limes

1. Make the sauce: Finely chop onion & garlic, saute in a meduim/large skillet in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add chopped jalapenos & stir for several more minutes; then add spices, sugar, and salt. Stir constantly for 30 seconds.

2. Add chicken and stir until coated (about a minute). Add can of tomato sauce & water, bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove from heat, and strain chicken-sauce mixture, collecting the smooth sauce in a bowl. Strain as thoroughly as possible. Mix chicken/jalapeno/onion remainder with cilantro, cheese, and squeezed lime. Transfer chicken to freezer to cool until filling.

4. Prepare tortillas: Spray both sides of tortillas with cooking spray & lay on baking sheets. Warm in 300 degree pre-heated oven for 5 minutes  (don’t skip this! This will keep the tortillas from getting soggy & make it MUCH easier to fill), then remove & set out on countertop. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

5. Roll enchiladas: Cover bottom of 9×13 casserole dish with sauce. Place 1/2 cup filling in the center of each tortilla, roll tightly, and place (seam down) in the baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over the enchiladas, and top with cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, until heated thoroughly.

Remove, garnish with lime & other toppings, and serve immediately!

Growing Season (Stuffed Zucchini Balls)

One of the big advantages to the hot, humid, & sweaty Houston summer is the growing season that comes with it. When I came down here (in late August), I was astonished to see tomato plants & herbs still being sold. Combine that with the farmer’s market within walking distance of my apartment, and I’m in fresh fruit & vegetable heaven.

Going to the farmers market has been a learning experience in itself. I’ve always been a suburbanite, going to the grocery store and getting used to uniform size & colored produce all year long. The farmers market, though… all shapes & colors of peppers, differently colored tomatoes & eggplants, and, I discovered, zucchini balls. I had never never seen a zucchini ball before. Upon seeing my first, I thought, wow. Think of all the OTHER vegetables you could stuff inside!

That led to stuffed zucchini balls.

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They were easy and delicious. I altered several recipes to come up with this one, and it’s flexible – use what you have on hand! I made mine vegetarian, but it wouldn’t be hard to add ground turkey or beef – saute it with the onions at the beginning, making sure to cook thoroughly.

2 zucchini balls
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 med onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
handful of fresh basil & oregano
3 tomatoes, chopped & drained
roasted red pepper
1cup bread crumbs
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt & pepper to taste
3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

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1. Cut off the tops of the zucchini balls & scrape out the insides. Set aside the meaty part of the inside, toss the seeds. Make sure to drain it well, otherwise it’ll end up watery (same goes for tomatoes below) Cook in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for around 30-40 minutes, until tender.

2. Saute the onion & garlic in olive oil for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, then add chopped basil & oregano. Let cook for 2 more minutes, or until onion is transparent.

3. Combine chopped (drained!) tomatoes, roasted peppers, 1 c breadcrumbs, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper. Mix well, then add to onion mixture. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, then take off heat & transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

4. Chop mozzarella cheese & remaining basil, add to stuffing mixture, and mix well.

5. If you’re serving it later or planning on leftovers (and they keep well), save this step until you plan on serving it. Remove the zucchini balls from the oven and add stuffing. Make sure to fill it to the top – you want as much of the yummy insides as possible! Top with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted & insides warm through.

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Enjoy!