caprese grilled cheese

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I heard a rumor that April is apparently “National Grilled Cheese Month” (which is apparently a thing now). Since I had the whole month of April to hop on board with this theme, naturally I waited until the last (full) week to do so.

We’ll start with one of my favorite combos – caprese.

The bright flavor of the pesto with warm, creamy cheese, fresh ripe tomatoes, and crisp garlicky bread … Just trust me when I say that this combination is not one that you want to miss out on.

It’s basically spring inside of a sandwich.  Well, Spring inside of a warm, gooey grilled cheese sandwich. The hearty bread combined with the rich cheese and the burst of fresh ripe tomatoes makes this sandwich the perfect balance of filling and refreshing.

caprese grilled cheese

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Serving Size: 1 sandwich

Ingredients

    For the grilled cheese
  • 4 slices of hearty bread (I used Trader Joe's country white)
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese, halved if necessary
  • 2 slices provolone or fontina cheese, halved if necessary
  • 1 roma tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 basil leaves, torn
  • 2 Tablespoons pesto, homemade or storebought
  • Garlic butter (recipe below)
  • Garlic butter
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped or smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

    Make the garlic butter
  1. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a small pan. Add garlic and salt; continue cooking over low/medium-low until very fragrant and cloves are lightly-browned and the salt has dissolved. Keep an eye on the butter making sure not to burn either the butter or the garlic.
  2. Remove from heat and pour into heat-proof container, straining out the garlic cloves. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Make the grilled cheese
  4. Have your mise en place ready to go as this will go quickly.
  5. Heat your skillet on medium heat until warmed. Place bread slices inside-down on your skillet and brush the tops with the garlic butter.
  6. Once the insides are toasted, flip over and spread inside of bread with pesto sauce.
  7. Layer with cheeses, basil leaves, tomato and another slice of cheese (I like to cheese both sides of my grilled cheese).
  8. Tent with foil (or a lid if you're fancy enough to own one) until the cheese begins to melt.
  9. Close the sandwiches and continue cooking until completely heated through and cheese is melted, flipping if necessary.
http://wee-eats.com/2014/04/21/caprese-grilled-cheese/

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chipotle chicken tortilla soup

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There are a number of posts on this blog that follow a particular format. That format goes something like this:

I like ____. FH says he hates ____ and will not eat it. I tell FH that I’m making ___ and he should try it anyway. FH tries ___ and decides that he actually likes it and his whole life has been a lie.

This is one of those posts.

The item in question: tortilla soup.

FH was off to bad start on this one since his extremely weak original argument was that “chips have no place in soup” to which I replied that the chip gestapo was not going to close in on our home and force him to put chips inside of his soup. If he doesn’t like the ideas of chips in his soup, then leave them out!

Same argument goes for the cheese, cilantro, green onions, and lime. If you don’t want it in there, then don’t use it! I personally love the tortilla chip that the broth transforms into what is essentially a salty noodle, the bright flavors from the fresh cilantro and  bright lime, and the extra flavor from the cheddar cheese. If you don’t, though, by all means, leave them out!

chipotle chicken tortilla soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo, minced*
  • 1 tomato, chopped (or 8 oz diced tomatoes from a can)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced, other half sliced into wedges
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock or broth
  • 1 rotisserie chicken breast, shredded
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • For garnish:
  • Tortilla chips
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil until shimmering and saute onion, carrot, and celery until softened. Salt and pepper as desired.
  2. Add garlic, tomato, and chipotle and saute another 30 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Stir in chicken stock and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes, then add chicken and lime juice and simmer about 5 minutes more until chicken is warmed through. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Serve in bowls and top with desired garnishes

Notes

*You may use more or less chipotle depending on your personal preference. it adds a smoky depth of flavor and a bit of spice to the soup.

*You could easily make this soup vegetarian by leaving out the chicken (or replacing it with tofu) and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

http://wee-eats.com/2014/03/01/chipotle-chicken-tortilla-soup/

red lentil daal

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You know that whole “Meatless Monday” thing that’s been all the rage?  Well, we don’t do that in our house.

I’m all for the limited-meat movement, but FH has other things in mind when he thinks of dinner.  He’s more of a steak-and-potatoes or chicken-and-pasta kinda guy… So when I mentioned the idea of “maybe having one meatless meal a week” to him he was not excited about the idea.  He did eventually agree with one stipulation: “No tofu, OK?”

Ok. No tofu. Easy enough.

So when thinking of tofu-free vegetarian dishes with lots of flavor, Indian cuisine naturally came to mind.  I happened across this easy recipe for red lentil daal and thought it would be the perfect recipe to ease FH into the world of meat-free meals.

That being said, when I made this for our first official “meatless” meal, he still wanted to know where the meat was…

“Is there meat?” 

Me: “There isn’t any meat, it’s lentils”

He stared at me suspiciously, “But, where’s the meat?” 

I tried explaining that he already agreed to having one meatless meal and that lentils are super good for you.  I even tried to explain that we didn’t need meat because lentils are naturally high in protein and they’re better than meat because they have almost no fat, but in the end what won him over was…

“Um… I got you garlic naan?”

“OOH I LIKE NAAN”

Whew. Crisis averted.

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Three bowls later he wasn’t asking about the meat anymore.  So, all things considered, I would call this a success.

I’m sure you could halve the recipe (it makes a whopping 11 cups!) but I just put all of our leftovers in plastic baggies and froze them for future dinners that would require zero effort.  Zero is my favorite amount of effort to put into dinner when I get home from work.

In our two-person household I think I ended up with one freshly-cooked dinner for the night plus 4 quart-sized bags of leftover zero-effort dinners, for those of us who are into math this means I got a total of 5 2-person dinners from 45 minutes of work.

Next time I think I will start with only half of the coconut milk, since I feel like it muted the flavors a bit more than I’d have liked (which was fixable by kicking up the seasoning a bit after).  I also added lime juice and cilantro to brighten the flavor and served the cayenne on the side, since I tend to like things significantly spicier than FH.

red lentil daal

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 11 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dry red lentils
  • 1 32-oz container unsalted chicken stock*
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped; divided
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk*
  • 2 limes, 1 juiced and 1 sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a dutch oven combine lentils, half of the chopped onion, tomatoes, cayenne, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Add chicken stock and water and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook uncovered until lentils become tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then add cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Cover pan with foil or lid and cook a few minutes until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the chopped onion and stir, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking until onions are translucent. Add garilc and stir, continue to cook until onions are just starting to brown.
  3. Add onion mixture to lentils and stir in coconut milk, cilantro, and half of lime juice. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 5 minutes before serving, taste and adjust seasonings adding more salt, lime, or coconut milk as preferred. Serve on top of basmati rice or alongside naan.

Notes

* To make vegetarian, replace 32 oz of chicken stock with 4 cups of vegetable stock or water.

* I felt like the coconut milk muted the flavors a bit more than I'd have liked. I recommend starting by adding half of the coconut milk and simmering for 5 minutes, then tasting and adding more if desired.

* The lime juice and cilantro are optional, but recommended as they brightened up the flavor of the dish wonderfully.

* Serve with extra cayenne and slices of lime on the side to adjust taste to your preference.

http://wee-eats.com/2014/01/20/red-lentil-daal/

daal-DSC_0783 pin Recipe adapted from Food52

 

savory beef empanadas

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When we make Mexican food at our house, it’s usually tacos or fajitas.  Something fast and easy.  What I have failed to realize all this time, is that with a little bit of preparation, empanadas can be that fast and easy dinner.

You see, I’ve been working a little bit of a later shift lately, and so I’ve been looking for things that are not only quick and easy dinners, but that the BF can easily prepare as well.  These fit the bill perfectly.  With just about 30 minutes of work over the weekend, I can have 10 empanadas in the freezer waiting to be devoured.

This weekend, we devoured them as a midday snack.

To make the recipe even easier, I found frozen empanada dough in our grocer’s freezer.  Next to these curious creatures:

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Have you ever seen these?  I’d been eyeing these little guys for awhile, I have to admit that the idea of not wasting money by constantly buying fresh herbs “just in case” I need them is very appealing to me.

I try to keep fresh herbs around, in the fridge or on the windowsill, but I swear that 9 times out of 10 by the time I go to use them they are already wilted and dead (I’ve got parsley on the windowsill now, wilting away as we speak!).

All that money can really add up, so the thought of always having fresh herbs within an arm’s reach sounds like something out of a dream.

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My first thought when I popped out my cube of garlic, “What’s that funny smell?”  Am I the only person who smells all of their ingredients?  It can’t just be me.  A quick glance at the ingredients list and I saw it’s not just garlic, they are suspended in a cube of oil, salt, and lemon juice, I assume for freshness.

I would be lying if I if I said that I wasn’t at least a little worried that my empanadas were going to taste funny.

Luckily, making the filling is just about as easy as browning beef, so I figured if they tasted funny I would just make a new batch and life would go on.  The good thing about empanadas is that, unlike with baking, you can taste your filling as you go so you will have a pretty good idea of what your finished product is going to taste like.

That being said, I was relieved when I tasted the filling… no sign of that funny smell.  Maybe that’s just what frozen garlic smells like, I’m not a frozen garlic expert or anything.  The best part?  I didn’t even have to smell garlicky fingers all night long like I would if I had minced the garlic by hand.  Garlicky fingers are the worst.

Garlic cubes = Success! I also picked up a package of basil cubes that I think I will try in my next tomato sauce.

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I made these empanadas last week; I baked a few fresh and then we baked some from frozen this weekend as a snack.  I don’t know if the freezer works some sort of witchcraft on them, but the empanadas that we baked this weekend from frozen were even better than the ones baked from fresh!

So, that being said, I’m going to recommend you make yours ahead of time and bake them from frozen.  If you decide to bake them fresh, just know that the ones you freeze are going to taste even better!

In the recipe below, I stated both the cube amounts and the fresh amounts for the garlic and cilantro that I used.  If you’d like to make your empanada dough from scratch, you can find a recipe here and here, but I can’t vouch for either of them.  I can vouch for the frozen dough I used, as it was super easy and it baked up super crisp and flaky, and even stayed crisp after I had to stash some leftovers in the fridge.

Also, I can already see that you’re thinking about leaving out the cheese.  Trust me, you need the cheese, don’t leave it out!  You can substitute some of that pre-shredded Mexican cheese if you want but you better put some cheese in there!  I did half of my empanadas with cheese and half without and the ones with cheese were markedly better, even though they didn’t necessarily taste “cheesy.”

Also, if you’d like a little more “control” over the flavor, you could probably substitute tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (I’d recommend fire-roasted) for the “salsa” called for in the recipe.  The filling is entirely customizeable, so don’t be afraid to play around a bit to find the perfect mix for your tastes!

Savory Beef Empanadas

Makes 10 empanadas

Printable Recipe

  • 1 Tablespoon oil, olive or vegetable
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ medium onion (about ¼ cup finely chopped)
  • ½ medium bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup your favorite salsa
  • 2 cubes garlic (or 2 cloves garlic, minced)
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons adobo from can of chipotles
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, minced (optional)
  • 1 to 2 cubes cilantro (or 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, minced, more or less to taste) (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (I used ¼ cup sharp cheddar + ¼ cup monterey jack)
  • 10 empanada shells, I found frozen ones at my grocery store
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)

1.  Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add beef and cook until well-browned.  Add onion and bell pepper and continue cooking until just softened, about five minutes more.  Lower heat to medium low and add remaining ingredients except cheese and shells.  Simmer about ten minutes; set aside to cool.  Once cooled to room temperature, mix in cheese.

2.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  While working on empanadas, keep unused discs covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.  Fill each shell with 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling, then seal tightly by dampening the edge of the disc with water and folding the disc over to create a crescent shape.  Press tightly to seal, or use a fork to press closed.

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3.  To freeze:  Place empanadas in a single layer on baking sheet, put in freezer 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag for storage.

4.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F.  Brush empanada tops with egg wash, avoiding crimped edges, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before eating.

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[ I occasionally receive discounts or coupons to try products for you.  I received coupons to purchase Dorot spices, which I'd been eyeing for months at the grocery store and would have tried anyway.  All opinions about these spices and anything else on Wee Eats are always entirely my own. ]

curry chicken wraps

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Lunch tends to be a very boring meal in my life.  BF always teases me about how, despite much I enjoy cooking, I refuse to make myself lunch.  I won’t even make myself a sandwich.  Not even when I’m making the BF’s lunch.

During the work week, it’s usually some underwhelming Lean Cuisine, or a sad store-bought salad.  Most of the time I can’t even muster the will to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  And we all know how I feel about peanut butter.  On the weekends, I can hear the apprehension in his voice when he asks what we should have for lunch, knowing that I’m going to run down a list of the leftovers we have stashed in the fridge.

Then, in this month’s Bon Appetit, there was a recipe for a curried chicken sandwich.  I don’t know why, maybe it’s because of the BA’s stunning photography, but I just could not shake this chicken recipe from my head.  It planted its little curry seed in my brain and all I could think about was how I needed it in my belly.  STAT.

The original recipe was a little too bready for me, so I ditched the bread for a wrap.  Since I had maybe two of the ingredients required for the slaw, I made something closer to my usual slaw recipe for some crunch.  I added some dried cranberries for a touch of sweetness, but I think you could replace them with some julienned apple.

This chicken would also be great in non-wrap form, with some basmati rice, or even in a salad.  Finally, a decent lunch.

Curry Chicken Wraps

Printer-Friendly Recipe

For the chicken:

  • 4 large wraps
  • 1 pound thin-sliced boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

For the slaw:

  • ½ head red cabbage (or 1 10-oz size bag shredded red cabbage)
  • 1 medium shallot or ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (I think julienned apples would be good here too)
  • 1 Tablespoons mayo, more if desired
  • 1 Tablespoon yogurt or sour cream (or just an extra tablespoon of mayo)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (or vinegar, white or apple cider vinegars would work)
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine marinade ingredients (buttermilk through red pepper flakes) in a gallon-size ziploc bag.  Add chicken and toss to cover.  Marinate in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

2.  While chicken is marinating, make the slaw (I prefer to make mine no more than 1 hour before serving). Whisk all ingredients except cabbage, shallot, and cranberries in a large bowl.  Once combined, add cabbage, shallot, and cranberries; toss to coat.  Add additional mayo if you would like it creamier, salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate.

3.  Preheat grill to high heat.  Cook chicken until internal temp reaches 165°F about 4 minutes on each side for thinly-sliced chicken.  Remove from heat and tent with foil to rest until slightly cooled, 5 to 10 minutes.

4.  When ready to serve, slice chicken on the bias.  Spread slaw onto wraps and top with chicken.  Wrap tightly and cut in half.

* I used thin-sliced chicken because, in my head at least, it shouldn’t need to marinate as long as regular chicken breast and I needed to eat this stuff for lunch.  If you use regular chicken breast, make sure to marinate it at least 4 hours. 

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