slow-cooker carnitas tacos with quick-pickled onions

taco 2

We skipped a season here and, although I’d like to say we went from Winter to Summer, I think we actually skipped Winter… which means All of “Winter” was actually Spring and now that the calendar claims that Spring has sprung, it’s actually Summer here.

Are you confused yet? Me too.   Continue reading

barbacoa steak salad with cumin-spiced sweet potatoes

whole 30 chipotle steak salad

Well, we’ve passed the halfway mark on this Whole30 thing and one thing I have been eating a lot of this month is salads.

So many salads. Like, all the salads.

This day in particular I wanted tacos. But, since I can’t eat tortillas, cheese, rice, or sour cream, I made a salad instead.

It’s basically the same thing (not really).

However, this recipe passed a very important test. The FH test. You see, at some point during this ordeal FH decided he was going to support me, stand by my side, and eat only what I could eat (at least, while I was around).

I mean, he saw the cruelty in pigging out on chips and cookies while I was chewing on lettuce on apples… If that’s not love then I don’t know what is.

This is probably one of our favorite Whole 30-compliant recipes that I’ve made so far (along with that delicious cauliflower soup).

As an added bonus, it’s super easy to make. Don’t let the mile-long recipe throw you off – You throw all the meat stuff together in a slow cooker and cook it on low for a bajillion hours until it’s fall-apart-tender.

While that’s cooking, you chop up some veggies ( I chose onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and roasted sweet potatoes), and then when you’re ready to eat just cook up some cilantro-lime cauliflower “rice” alongside so you can pretend like you’re eating rice.

As for the Whole 30?

17 days down, 13 more to go!

I haven’t gained any super powers yet (unless wanting to fall asleep while walking up a flight of stairs or being able to quickly find “sugar” in any of its numerous forms on an ingredient label count as super powers).

HOWEVER, my skin has cleared up significantly and is softer than a baby’s behind, my belly feels less gross and bloaty (generally speaking), I’m sleeping better than I have in ages, and I have the added benefit of just knowing that I”m doing something good for my body. That counts for something, right?

You can see what else I’ve been cooking up on Instagram.

barbacoa steak salad with cumin-spiced sweet potatoes

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 10 hours

Total Time: 10 hours, 50 minutes

Ingredients

    For the beef:
  • 1 small (3 pound) chuck roast (or other cut of meat that is good for cooking low and slow)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cups chicken or beef broth ( Imagine broth is whole 30 approved :) )
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon chipotle paste (or 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • For the sweet potatoes:
  • 1 or 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • For the cauliflower "rice"
  • 1/2 large head cauliflower (about 1 pound)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • For sauteed peppers
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • For the salad
  • Lettuce of your choice; washed,dried, and chopped (I used romaine)
  • Optional Add-ins
  • Avocado
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa

Instructions

    For the beef*:
  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat steak dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. Brown steak on both sides (don't cook it through, just get some good color on it). Then transfer to slow cooker.
  2. In same pan, add sliced onions and cook until softened but not browned. Add to slow cooker.
  3. Pour chicken or beef broth into pan and scrape off any browned bits remaining in the pan. Add remaining ingredients to broth and stir to combine. Pour over steak in slow cooker.
  4. Set slow cooker to "low" - Cook on low until meat is tender about 8 to 10 hours.
  5. When meat is finished cooking, shred and let sit in juices. Skim and remove fat, if necessary.
  6. For the sweet potatoes:
  7. Heat oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with foil and toss sweet potato chunks with melted coconut oil, salt, and spices.
  8. Roast 30 to 40 minutes until browned, tossing halfway through.
  9. For the "rice":
  10. Process cauliflower in food processor until pieces are about the size of grains of rice. Be sure not to over-process.
  11. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add coconut oil until melted. Add cauliflower rice and a healthy dash of salt and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover pan and allow cauliflower to "steam" for about 5 to 7 minutes.**
  12. Remove cover and stir cauliflower - I like to get my cauliflower nice and browned so it takes another 5 to 7 minutes or so, but you don't have to cook it that far.
  13. Add the lime juice and cilantro and stir to combine. Transfer cauliflower to another dish until ready to serve.
  14. (***See notes below for oven-method)
  15. For the peppers:
  16. Heat oil in saute pan until shimmering. Add peppers and onions and saute until softened. Salt and pepper to taste.
  17. For the salad:
  18. Assemble salad with lettuce, peppers, onions, etc and enjoy! Top with salsa or a simple dressing, if desired. (Try a vinaigrette with lime, olive oil, and paprika)

Notes

* I usually make my beef the day before and store it in the fridge until I'm ready to use it. When I start cooking everything else, I reheat the meat in a saucepan over low heat.

**Alternatively, you can give your rice a head-start in the microwave. Place cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high 2 to 3 minutes, covered with a microwave-safe plastic wrap. Continue with the rest of the steps as directed.

*** You can make your cauliflower rice more "hands off" by roasting it in the oven on a separate sheet pan while you roast your sweet potatoes, stirring occasionally. Add lime and cilantro before serving. (Thanks Shannon for turning me on to this method!)

Beef recipe adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

http://wee-eats.com/2014/06/17/whole-30-barbacoa-steak-salad-with-cumin-spiced-sweet-potatoes/

watermelon margarita

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This margarita was not supposed to be here today.

This margarita was supposed to be a different kind of margarita instead.

And then it was supposed to be a cake, but that’s another story for another day.

Today’s story is about my quest to make you a delightfully southwestern margarita full of prickly pear juice and limes and tequila.

Unfortunately, both prickly pears (also known as “cactus pears”) and limes were in short supply in my neighborhood.   Which is funny because I distinctly remember almost buying a bunch of them last week, but not knowing what I would do with them so deciding against it. As luck would have it, now that I wanted to use them, they were nowhere in sight.

I searched my store high and low for those same prickly pears that were piled high just last week and finally found two hiding underneath some mini bananas. I quickly grabbed them up and immediately regretted my decision.

To say they were “over-ripe” would be an understatement. They basically turned to mush in my hands. Those poor two prickly pears had probably been hiding under those bananas for weeks, months, or maybe even years… thinking they were safe… until I came along.

Ok, so maybe not years. But definitely for awhile. It probably doesn’t help that bananas tend to help things ripen. Did you know that? It’s a very helpful factoid when you are stuck with an underripe avocado and a craving for guacalmole.

Would you like to know another helpful factoid? Prickly pears are prickly, and not just in the way you might think.

Prickly_pear_cactus_beed

Stores often remove the fruit’s larger spines to help save their poor customers’ hands. What they do not always remove, however, are the super tiny, almost invisible, hairlike spines that grow on them as a secondary defense.

At least, my store doesn’t… So after I set down my prickly pear mush, I discovered that my hands were now covered in tiny, almost invisible, cactus needles.  My poor poor hands.

Have you ever tried grocery shopping or driving a car with thousands* of needles poking into your hand? It’s rather difficult.

*Ok, so maybe it was more like ten…

I grabbed the tweezers when I got home and immediately began my emergency surgery. Time spent holding prickly pears: approximately 6 seconds. Time spent looking for and removing tiny cacti needles out of my had: approximately 26 minutes.

Lesson learned – always wear gloves when touching cacti-related objects.  No matter how safe they look.

You know what’s not prickly? Watermelons.

watermelon margarita 3

Watermelons are quite smooth, actually.  In fact, watermelons may be one of the least prickly things on the planet.

I’m not sure if there have been scientific studies or not to back this up, but if there were I’m pretty sure they would uphold my hypothesis.

Unfortunately, watermelons are also not prickly pears.  They do, however, have a similar flavor profile. While I would say prickly pears are a bit sweeter than watermelons, Shannon aptly described them as, “A prickly pear is like if a watermelon and some bubble gum had a baby.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So, this Cinco de Mayo, I give to you a not-prickly-pear margarita. No gloves or tweezers necessary. Limes, however, are necessary. You do not want to be out running around to four different stores at the last minute because you realize that you are a big dummy and you forgot to get limes.

If you need more ideas for you Cinco de Mayo fiesta, you can check out this roundup.

watermelon margarita

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 6 minutes

Yield: 3 Margaritas

Serving Size: 8 oz

Ingredients

  • 1 cup watermelon, cubed
  • 1/4 cup tequila (I use Sauza blanco)
  • 2 Tablespoons simple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 1 Tablespoon Cointreau
  • 1 lime, sliced (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Process watermelon in a blender until liquified. Strain if necessary to remove any seeds.
  2. In a large cup or shaker, combine watermelon puree, tequila, cointreau, simple syrup, and juice of one lime. Shake or stir with ice to combine.
  3. Strain into ice-filled glass and garnish with lime slice to serve.
http://wee-eats.com/2014/05/03/watermelon-margarita/

watermelon margarita - wee-eats.com

 

chipotle chicken tortilla soup

tortilla soup 2351

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/

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.

 empanada pin 2 empanadas pin

[ 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. ]