This Week’s Menu: Quinoa, Ribs, Grilled Meat & More!

this weeks menu 7-6-15 I miss writing about food, you guys. I took all this time around Christmas to import my old food blog Monkeying Around The Kitchen over here and really haven’t taken advantage of the new digs. So, in an effort to get back on the horse, I figured I’d tip everyone off to the week’s upcoming menu on Monday and return to it either at the end of this week or early next. I also started writing the menu on this old chalkboard-painted pizza pan my mother-in-law gave me so we’ve got a nice visual.

A few weeks back I got all the ingredients for One Pan Mexican Quinoa from Damn Delicious. I’ve made this a few times before and it’s not just easy, but a great dinner that works well for a Meatless Monday if you’re down with that. I also appreciate how this one comes mostly from canned or boxed products meaning you can swing back around to it if you don’t get to it when planned. I will also be returning to the excellent Chicken Asiago Pasta from Chef Mickey.

Another pick-up for this week will be The Crockin’ Girls’ My Crock of Ribs using the St. Louis variety which were on sale last week. I’ll be doing this one on Thursday when I’m home along with the kids (if I remember to get them in the Crock Pot on time).

After I get everything ready for the quinoa dish tonight, I’m also going to work on the brine for Grilled Pork Chops with Corn, Tomatoes and Basil from Cooking Channel and grill that up tomorrow. Finally, as you can see, we will have some grilled beef. along with a vegetable. What kind? Not sure yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Cooking Bobby Flay’s Mole-Rubbed Steak and Eggs with Chocolate Stout Beurre Blanc

One of the many nice things about the new house is our far more robust cable package. With it comes Food Network subsidiary The Cooking Channel, which, as the name implies, features far more actual cooking shows. In addition to buying a new house, my mom also moved out to New York to join my dad who’s been here for a few months. She’s been coming over and watching the kids during the day which allows me to get my work done more efficiently and also start cooking dinner without as many interruptions. But, if we get lucky and both kids fall asleep at the same time, we like to watch food shows.

Last week we happened upon an episode of Brunch At Bobby’s that revolved around chocolate. I didn’t care for the most part, but then he got to his recipe for Mole-Rubbed Steak and Eggs with Chocolate Stout Beurre Blanc and I was all ears. It made it onto my menu the next week and turned out pretty swell.

Instead of using the variety of chili powders mentioned in the recipe, I used my mother-in-law’s chili powder concoction which is always on point. Aside from that, I followed the rub recipe and covered the steak, but I did forget to put the canola oil on first, so instead I cooked the steak in some (maybe a little too much, actually) oil after letting it sit for the 30 minutes.

In the meantime I got everything together for the sauce. Since I used a bit too much oil while cooking the steak, the sauce was a bit oilier than I think it should have been, but still turned out to have a really interesting flavor profile. Part of that came through because I used Shocktop’s Shockolate Wheat instead of a straight-ahead chocolate stout. While the citrus and wheat elements did come through, I don’t think the resulting sauce was as thick in consistency or flavor as the recipe as written. Next time I’ll try it Bobby’s way.

Bonus Food Pics From Yummy Taco, Handsome Devil & Fiddlestix

yummy taco chicken and beef burrito

One of the more frustrating things about where we live is that there’s not a great taco place that we can run into when we have that hankering. There’s a nice Mexican place, but it’s sit-down and sometimes I want to just call in a bag of tacos and have my wife pick them up on her way home from work. So, we got pretty excited when we were leaving Target one day and saw a new place called Yummy Taco opening up soon. Well, the other weekend it was actually in business, we gave it a shot and all had pretty delightful food. Above you can see the chicken and beef burrito I had which was more of a giant taco, but who’s counting? I will say that this is a rather interesting establishment because everything about it screams “Chinese food place” from the decorations and staff to the picture menu above the ordering station. But, none of that matters when you realize they’re making their own tortillas on the spot and making killer food. It’s still not super close, but it’s nice to know there’s a solid taco joint nearby we can hit up while running errands.

handsome devil bbq

About a month ago, my inlaws came into town and watched our daughter while my wife and I went out for a nice Italian dinner around Valentine’s Day. Meanwhile, they discovered a new barbecue joint we didn’t even know about called Handsome Devil that’s actually above an ice skating rink (that we also didn’t know about). We’ve actually got a lot of solid BBQ joints nearby, but I think this one will be tops on our list. Brothers has been so-so and Johnny D’s is a bit far away for more of a casual dinner, so Handsome Devil takes the top spot. I had the ribs and pulled pork along with some mac and cheese and onion rings, all of which were delightful. Plus, they’ve got a variety of local beers on tap which I always appreciate.

fiddlestix bangers and mash

And finally, I have to sing the praises of Fiddlestix once again. The above photo comes from their St. Patrick’s Day menu which, as always, was some of the best Irish food I’ve ever had. This is the bangers and mash which was so good I wish I could have it every day. The mashed potatoes had a healthy, but not overpowering dose of horseradish which made for a delightful side. Looking at this picture is actually making me hungry.

Recipe Roundup: Closet Cooking Part 2

Closet Cooking has become one of my major go-to sites when it comes to online recipe resources. I’ve made so many different meals based on author Kevin Lynch’s site that I’m thinking about picking up one or many of his cookbooks. Here’s a few of the recipes I’ve attempted and what I thought about them. For a similar Closet Cooking Recipe Roundup post, click here!

Taco Stuffed Shells

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I’ve been a stuffed shells fan for years, but never really thought about separating that delivery system for fillings from the Italian ingredients I’m used to. I was pretty excited to give this new version of an old classic a shot and it turned out really well. But, I did discover that my mouth and brain kept getting confused BECAUSE I’m so used to these kinds of shells being stuffed with Mexican flavors instead of Italian ones. It was a strange experience because that almost never happens. My brain just couldn’t get past the shape and the presentation the first time around. Maybe I’ll be more ready for it next time, though.

Thai Peanut Chicken Noodle Soup

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Lynch’s Thai Peanut Chicken Noodle Soup is actually very similar to the Thai Chicken Soup I’ve made several times from The Ultimate Soup Bible. I’m becoming a huge fan of Thai flavors and figured this one was different enough to try. The major differences are that you cook the chicken in the boiling soup, add in sweet potato (I used by box grater to shred it up good), there’s more curry paste and I used less lime.  This actually combined for a similar, but different enough dish to add to the collection. Sometimes if I eat too much of the version from the Bible, my stomach gets a little topsy turvy, but that wasn’t the case with this one.

Cauliflower Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

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I’ve had this particular recipe saved in my Pocket for quite a while and finally gave it a shot last week. There’s a version on the site that uses pasta instead of cauliflower, but I was trying to go for a healthier version. The only ingredient change I made came about because I forgot to buy black olives, but otherwise, I put this together pretty much by the book and thought it was a great little dish that combined the greatness of cheese and pepperoni with cauliflower, which I assume is healthy. Plus, it’s super easy to put together. Next time I’d like to make it with homemade sauce and maybe a better pepperoni to see if that makes it even better.

Recipe Roundup: Smitten Kitchen

baked-pasta-with-broccoli-rabe-and-sausage2As I said in a recent post compiling various recently attempted recipes from the site Closet Cooking, I’ve tried a lot of recipes in the past several months and done very little posting, so it’s time to go through the images, write down my spotty memories and get these things out there into the internet where they will hopefully jog my memory later on and encourage other people to give them a try. This batch of three all come from the cooking site I’ve been following the longest: Smitten Kitchen!

Chicken Tacos

I’m always interested in checking out a new recipe for tacos and this certainly fit the bill. I don’t think I’d ever made chicken ones before and the flavor on these were pretty solid if memory serves. I especially like the way you cook the chicken which is fairly hands-off and super easy. Combine all ingredients in a pan and boil for a half hour. This gives you plenty of time to chop up the rest of your taco fixins. I don’t quite remember why I didn’t make the salsa fresca that’s also mentioned in the post. Instead I whipped up a crema (sour cream combined with avocado, salt, oil, onion and some green Tabasco). One of these days I’d like to give this one a shot with bone-in chicken because I understand there’s more flavor there.

Baked Pasta With Broccoli Rabe & Sausage

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Apparently I only snapped a few pictures when I tried out this recipe. I remember this being a pretty easy thing to put together and the results being a kind of sausage-y, rabe-y mac and cheese and there’s nothing wrong with that. Actually, seeing this recipe again makes me want to give it another try in the next few weeks.

Pasta With White Beans

While I only snapped two pictures of the previous meal, I can’t seem to find a single image from either of the two times I made Pasta with White Beans (I skipped the rosemary oil because my wife is not a fan of that particular herb). Another easy meal to put together thanks to all the food processing, I really enjoyed the flavors combined for this recipe, but will note that all those beans can lead to some evenings punctuated by the most musical of fruits.

Recipe Roundup: Closet Cooking Part 1

As any regular readers will know, it’s been a looooong time since I’ve posted here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen. Unfortunately, with work and all kinds of other things going one — raising our two year old and prepping for a new little baby — MATK can fall to the wayside. But, I’m still cooking almost every night which means I have a huge backlog of meals to talk about going back to last fall. So, in an effort to try and document the good recipes I’ve tried out in the last few months, I figured I’d implement a new kind of a post called Recipe Roundup that will gather a bunch of meals from different places, throw in a few pics and do my best to remember how they turned out.

Today’s subject is one of my favorite new cooking sites, Closet Cooking which is great because there’s tons of older recipes on there and the site gets updated constantly. I also appreciate that Kevin Lynch seems to be cooking in a kitchen even smaller than mine which is no small feat. So, without further ado, hit the jump to check out the first batch of CC recipes I’ve tried out in the past few months!  Continue reading

Cooking Closet Cooking’s Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Picadillo Tacos

A few months back I was getting a little bored with my usual food blogs. They’re still great and all, but I needed an injection of newness. So, I did a bunch of looking around and came across one called Closet Cooking that I absolutely love. One of the best recipes I’ve made from this blog are the Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Picadillo Tacos which not only helped make tacos more interesting, but also added a lot more flavors into the kind of Mexican food I’m used to making. I’d never made picadillo before, so I followed this recipe to the letter. The veggies went into the pan while the quinoa cooked. Then, all that and the other ingredients went into a big bowl for mixing.

Since the avocados I picked up were a little funky looking, I decided to make a sauce with some leftover dill and buttermilk that were hanging out in the fridge as well as some tomato and onion. It was a little unusual, but certainly offered some more tang to the dish. In addition to that, I served the usual accoutrements: chopped tomatoes, torn lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheddar.

The two elements of this dish that really jumped out at me were the green olives and golden raisins which offered a nice sourness and sweetness to various bites during dinner. I’m a huge green olive fan, so I enjoy bringing them into play whenever it makes sense. I will definitely be making this recipe again and checking out some of the other picadillo recipes on Closet Cooking!

Cooking Tacos Al Pastor With Grilled Pineapple Salsa

I don’t quite remember how I came across the recipe for Tacos A Pastor With Grilled Pineapple Salsa on My Recipes, but I did. I think I was looking for something to make out of pork tenderloin because it was on sale at the grocery store. Anyway, the only change I made to the directions involved cooking the pork on a cast iron skillet instead of a grill because, well, I don’t have a grill. I also cut out the cilantro and the chipotle chili because they run a bit too hot for my liking.

The prep for this is pretty simple. Create a rub, cover the pork chops and throw them on the grill pan. Meanwhile, there’s the salsa. I grilled the pineapple before the meat so I’d be able to work on that while the meat cooked. Again, this was a super simple process. I also cut up some limes and shredded some cheddar cheese. With all that done, it was time to eat!

I enjoyed the tanginess of the pineapple salsa which bounced well off of the spicy-ish pork. Everything played well together, making this a pretty solid choice if you’re looking to mix things up with the taco portion of your menu.

Forgotten Food: Chile-Chicken Posole

Once again I have a post about a dish that I think was pretty good, but has been forgotten thanks to a lack of timely posting and lots and lots of meals between then and now. I think I was looking around for something chili-esque on Food Network’s website, came across this recipe for Chile-Chicken Posole and went with it.

It looks like the only changes I made were getting rid of the cilantro, which my wife isn’t a fan of, and using a poblano pepper instead of a jalapeno. I have no idea if that’s a swap that makes sense, but I don’t like a lot of heat, so I tend to avoid non-popper jalapenos.

Aside from that, it looks like the rest was business as usual: cook the chicken in olive oil, do the same with the onion and pepper, throw a bunch of stuff in the food processor and then put everything together in a big pot for a while.

Something in my brain tells me that we enjoyed this meal, which is the main reason I’m writing about it here. It’s basically like leaving a message for my future self:

“Dude, try the posole again and, this time, WRITE ABOUT IT!”

There, hopefully that will do the trick.

Cooking Homesick Texan’s Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes

While poking around trying to find meals to make that wouldn’t give the air conditioner even more heat-related problems, I stumbled upon a meal that fit in with my hankering for a fairly simple Mexican meal that wouldn’t require too, too much exposure to fire. As such, I decided to give Homesick Texan’s versions of Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes and Guacamole a try and was super happy with the results.

Thanks to lacking a few of the ingredients, I didn’t quite follow either recipe to the letter, but think I came out with some pretty good food. For the guacamole, I simple skipped the pepper, added onion and substituted parsley for cilantro. Aside from that, though, it’s the same basic prep: chop everything up and mix with a fork. I got this done in the early afternoon because I like when my guac has a chance to fraternize with itself.

For the sloppy joes the only change I made was skipping over the beer because I’d already drank all the ones I had. Plus, the last pack I bought was fairly bitter and I don’t think would have worked well with these flavors. Instead, I just added some water to make sure the beef didn’t brown too fast.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I went with a London broil steak that I froze for a few hours and then ground myself. After that I blended together the sauce as instructed. With everything prepped and ready to go, it was just a matter of cooking everything. The meat went in first soon joined by onion and bell pepper. Once that was nice and browned, you add the sauce and cook like you would taco meat. I tried adding some Thai Sweet Chili Sauce to see how that would play, but don’t think there was enough to really pop. I wound up having a little more liquid than I intended, so I just watched it as a it cooked down. Once I had it where I wanted, I moved the meat to a dish and set it out with some buns, guacamole and shredded cheddar cheese.

This recipe might sound like you’re basically putting taco meat on a burger and it is kind of along those lines, but I really liked how this particular batch of spices came together and worked with the meat. It was like a new take on an old idea that worked together very well, mixing a bit of heat and smokiness with the tomato-based acidity. You combine that with the sharp cheddar and sour-ish guac and you’ve got a party on your plate.

Cooking Ingrid Hoffmann’s Crackling Fish Tacos With Chipotle Tartar Sauce

I know a lot of people like to stick with a particular recipe when they realize how much they like it. I’m not of that school. Yes, I’ll take note of that particular recipe, but I’m always looking for new and different ways to prepare food. That can be a little disappointing when you’ve found a really solid way of making a dish and then only seem to come across lesser ones. I went into Ingrid Hoffman’s Food Network recipe for Crackling Fish Tacos with Chipotle Tartar Sauce which was fairly similar to the delightful Baja Fish Tacos I’ve made and enjoyed several times. And while I didn’t like this new recipe better than the old one, it was still a good dish that would have been all the better had I remembered to pick up a few tomatoes and cheese to serve along with the other sides.

Aside from those gaffs, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I forget what kind of white fish I used, but I want to say tilapia. As you can see I got the chipotle tartar sauce together first and then worked on cutting, dredging and frying the fish chunks. While the actual prep for cooking the fish wasn’t all that different between the two recipes, I’d say the garnishes were. I really like that this one uses cucumbers which have a really nice crunch, but also bring in some moisture. However, my wife and I both found the chipotle tartar sauce to be way too hot. It’s those canned chipotles in adobo sauce that always get me. I’ve got to come up with a good alterative for those guys because they’re way too hot.

Overall, this was a good recipe, but it didn’t knock the Baja Fish Tacos out of the top spot, but it did bring a few new add-ons into play that I think will work well in the future. One of the great things about trying all these different recipes and them turning out pretty well is that it’s creating a kind of knowledge repository in my brain (greatly aided by this blog which is essentially me external hard drive for food) that allows me to mix and match elements from different dishes. Heck, maybe I’ll be coming up with my own before too long!

Forgotten Food: Chicken Tacos With Tomatillos

Unfortunatley, I not only don’t remember how this recipe turned out — though I don’t remember it being bad — I also can’t seem to figure out where I got the recipe from! It looks like I cooked the chicken in some olive oil in one pan while grilling the tomatillos and chili in a cast iron grill skillet. From looking at the pictures, I think that red bell pepper was in there on accident.

Anyway, once the tomatillos and pepper were done being grilled it looks like they were boiled in a little bit of water. They then went into a food processor with some onion, garlic, honey and lime. That mixture was then cooked with the shredded chicken and that was the main thrust of the dish from the looks of it. I also shredded some cheddar cheese, cut some lime wedges, opened the sour cream and toasted a few tortillas on the oven. I want to say the results were good, but I really can’t remember. Luckily, I’ve made things like this enough that I think I could probably recreate it from the pictures!

*UPDATE* I think I found the recipe! Pretty sure it’s FoodNetwork.com’s Grilled Chicken Tostadas al Carbon With Grilled Tomatillos.

Cooking Chicken Tamale Pie

I’m a big fan of Mexican food and am always looking for a new way of cooking with those flavors, especially if it means I don’t have to muck around with wrapping food in tortillas over and over and over again. So, when I saw Food Network’s Chicken Tamale Pie recipe and saw that it looked pretty easy to put together, I was all over that one.

The beauty of this recipe is, in addition to being really good, I was able to make it after buying only one or two things at the store. I had some chicken breasts in the freezer and most of the other ingredients were hanging out in my fridge and pantry. I think I just needed the black beans and was good to go from there. It was also really simple to make, so thumbs up all around.

Since I didn’t have cooked chicken on hand, the first thing I did was coat the breasts in olive oil, salt and pepper and get them in a pan. While those cooked, I did the rest of the prep measuring out the corn meal and chicken broth, draining the beans and shredding the cheese.

After you get the chicken cooked and chopped up, you’re basically working with two pans, one cooking the beans, salsa and chicken, the other mixing the corn meal and other liquid ingredients. Once the latter is done, you mix in cheese and butter, then spread over the former before tossing the whole pan — I used cast iron — into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. I highly recommend serving with sour cream or maybe something a little fancier like Avocado Crema (might try that this week now that I think about it) just to add some moisture to the proceedings.

Forgotten Food: Bobby Flay’s Curry Marinated Fajitas With Avocado Crema & Pickled Roasted Peppers

It’s really a shame that I remember next to nothing about making this trio of Bobby Flay recipes I came across in Good Housekeeping: Red Curry-Marinated Skirt Steak Fajitas, Pickled Roasted Peppers and Acocado Crema. For one thing, they look pretty good — and I’m sure they were, I just can’t remember — but I do remember this meal taking a good deal of work to get made. From looking at the recipes again, I remember roasting the peppers and getting them in the pickling liquid and also getting the steak into the marinade so it could sit for a while. I want to say I did most of this the night before, but it’s more likely that I had a bit of a slow day at work and did all this around noon.

I didn’t want to let these photos go to waste because I like how colorful they are. It looks like I had a bit of trouble getting the steak to the right done-ness so I cut it into smaller pieces and cooked it in a pan separately. Not the most elegant fix, but it worked. I do remember the tangy pickled peppers being a lot of fun. While I’m bummed I don’t remember much of how this meal turned out, I’m glad I wrote this post because it reminded me of it so I can give it another try. Maybe this summer!

Bonus Food Pic: The Cool Ranch Dorito Taco From Taco Bell

cool ranch dorito taco For all the writing I do about grinding my own meat, trying to find more local sources for produce and protein and keeping an eye on my caloric intake with the Lose It! app, I’m still the kind of guy who dreams about heading to Taco Bell, throwing down a few bucks and scarfing down a small mountain of faux Mexican food. I like to think I come by it honestly. You see, Toledo, the town that I’m from actually has three T-Bells on one of the city’s major thoroughfares with the two furthest ones only about 20 minutes from each other. As a kid and young adult, we’d head there and get food and I kept that tradition alive into my adulthood our here in New York. Heck, I even stopped there the day I heard about a rash of Bell-based food poisoning outbreaks about five years back. After hearing the news on the radio I thought, “Mmm, Taco Bell. I’m sure I won’t get food poisoning (and I didn’t, at least that time).

There was even a part of me that was ashamed that it took me so long to actually taste a Dorito-flavored taco shell at the restaurant. It’s the same part of my brain that misses seeing big-time superhero movies in the theater on opening night. It’s just something the old me would have done in a heartbeat that older me can’t without lots of scheduling and worries of health and whatnot.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I both checked our points and decided to get some dinner at T-Bell while we were out running some errands. Of course, we both had to try the Cool Ranch version of the taco, something we were both excited about. Heck, much like the above commercial, I was one of the people who immediately said, “They should do Cool Ranch” as soon as I heard about the regular Dorito taco shell. As it happens, Cool Ranch is my favorite Dorito flavor, though much like Taco Bell, they’re not really a regular part of my life anymore because I will eat a ton of them in a single sitting and that’s not good for someone who counts going to the grocery store as exercise.

So, I should get to the main event. I tried the taco and it was pretty good, but definitely salty. My wife read some account that said the flavor of the heavily spiced meat tends to wash out the Cool Ranch flavor, so I went in making the conscious decision to put my tongue directly on the shell every time I bit. That way, I definitely got the flavor every single time. And it definitely worked. I’m still not one hundred perfect sure if this fits in with the “two great tastes that taste great together” category as one definitely seems to outdo the other, but I’d say it’s a fun experiment with pretty good results.

Cooking Homesick Texan Carnitas With Avocado Dressing & Asian Carrot Slaw

It seems like I just can’t recreate the success I had the first time I made Smitten Kitchen’s Homesick Texas Carnitas. It’s a super simple recipe that involves a few ingredients and a bunch of time, but the last time I did it I accidentally bought beef instead of pork and then this time I didn’t chop it up ahead of time. Both times the results were pretty good, I just want to nail the procedure again, you know?

Anyway, I’ve already talked about making that dish, so I want to write about a few of the accouterments I made to go along with it. For whatever reason I had a brain fart when planning the menu that week and didn’t plan on serving the carnitas with anything other than a tortilla. Scrambling, I used what I had at hand to make Paula Deen’s Avocado Dressing and Martha Stewart’s Asian Carrot Slaw. The latter might seem like kind of a strange choice, but the only veggies I had in the house were carrots and I thought the Asian flavorings would bring something interesting to the table.

The Avocado Dressing was alright, but it being a Paula Deen recipe, there’s a good deal of mayo in there which I thought threw the flavor off a little. Since then I’ve made an Avocado Crema that I’ll write about eventually that actually had no dairy or condiments involved and tasted a lot more avocado-y which is what I wanted. Still, it was an okay addition that worked well with everything else on the plate.

The Asian Carrot Slaw actually wound up working really well with the carnitas. I kind of figured this would be the case when I saw that lime was a main ingredient, which is also in the carnitas, of course. I liked the tang that the sesame seeds and vinegar brought to the table and think I might be onto a cool flavor combination here. Anyone want to start a food truck?

Cooking Steven’s Oven Baked Chimichangas With Homemade Taco Teasoning

My wife really wants me to join Pintrest. I’m still not exactly sure what that means and I don’t feel like joining another social network, so, for now, you won’t read about my pinning things. But, that doesn’t mean we all can’t reap the benefits of her interest in pins. She was looking around for recipes and came across Steven’s Oven Baked Chimichangas on Tasty Kitchen, sent me the recipe and now we can all talk about it.

Before actually working on the recipe itself, I decided to whip together some homemade taco seasoning. I wasn’t a big fan of the one I tried last time, so I did some searching and came across this one I did like over on All Recipes. It was just a simple matter of getting all the spices together, measuring them out, throwing them in a jar and giving the whole thing a good shake.

With that all set, I got to work on the chimichanga recipe itself. I got everything that was eventually going to be added to the meat in one bowl and then got the ground turkey cooking. After that was browned, in went the taco seasoning and then the bowl o’ ingredient. While that cooked, I shredded the cheese I’d need, then mixed part of that in with some sour cream and had my filling.

After that it was a simple matter of buttering both sides of the wraps, filling them with some of the mixture, wrapping them up and placing them on the baking dish. I’m not always the biggest fan of recipes like this because I find them somewhat tedious, but this one was just the right balance of work for me. When they came out of the oven, we were treated to some tasty chimichangas.

I’ll be honest, aside from burritos and tacos, I have a really hard time keeping track of what food is what when it comes to Mexican. You’ve basically got a lot of combinations of tortilla and meat with various cooking techniques. If I’m not mistaken, chimichangas as basically burritos cooked in an oven. Is that right? Whether it is or isn’t, I’m cool with the results.

I’m Thankful For Fiddlestix

 

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this Turkey Day. My folks have come in from Toledo to share a meal with Em, Lu and I so that’s great. But, since this is a food blog and there’s no way I’ll be able to turn around photos of our Thanksgiving prep until next week, I figured I would keep things on topic.

Regular readers will know that I love Fiddlestix. I’ve never had a bad meal there and love the variety of specials they present every week. Here you can see a collection of photos I’ve taken in the past few months. I can’t quite remember all the details. Up top is some kind of breakfast quesadilla. Then you’ve got a roast beef wrap above this paragraph followed by a double whammy of a sausage omelet and what I believe are raspberry and something pancakes.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about this, but even the sides at ‘Stix are something to talk about. At a lot of other places, breakfast potatoes feel like an add on, but theirs are always crisp and paprika-y. Better than that are the lunch sides which consist of homemade potato chips and what seems like a different pasta salad every time.

I hope you’ve found a great place like Fiddlestix and go there on a regular basis. It’s important to support local restaurants, especially when they’re awesome.

Cooking Tamale Pie

Since our oven’s still not working, I’ve been focusing my attention on meals that can be either cooked on the stove pot or in a crock pot. I actually made Tamale Pie from Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good’s Fix-It And Forget-It Cookbook (page 128) before the oven crapped out, but I figured I’ll be making it again in the near future. Actually, I’d make it again anyway because it was so simple, filling and tasty (I’ve got to think of better words than that when writing about food).

All you need to make this dish is 3/4 cup of cornmeal, 1.5 cups of milk, an egg, a pound of cooked ground beef, some chili mix, a 16 oz can of diced tomatoes, a 16 oz can of corn (or cut off the cob if you have it, like I happened to at the time) and a cup of cheddar cheese. While the beef was cooking, I cut the kernels off the corn cob and combined the cornmeal, milk and the beaten egg. You then combine that mixture with the cooked beef, corn and tomatoes, put it in the crock pot and cook either on high for one hour or low for three. At that point, sprinkle the cheese on top, let cook another five minutes and
you’ve got dinner.

I like this recipe because it was a different enough take on Mexican food without being too much of a pain to put together. I mean, I love taco night, but that can get kind of boring. I also like enchiladas, but those are kind of a pain in the butt to make. This was super easy and, thanks to the shorter cook time than most slow cooker recipes, it doesn’t really involve that much prep or cook time. I also like that you can do some tinkering with this recipe with different kinds of ground beef, cheese and, of course, using fresh ingredients instead of the canned ones suggested in the recipe.

Bonus Food Pics: Ruby Tuesday’s Black & Blue, Fish Tacos

As I snapped a picture of my food at Ruby Tuesday’s a week ago, my wife asked why I was bothering. I thought about it for a second and said that I should give chain restaurants the same opportunities on MATK as local ones. I’m actually a big fan of Ruby Tuesday’s and have been since one opened in Toledo as a kid. I’m a sucker for a good salad bar and think they’ve got a pretty good one.

Anyway, I started our meal off with a Black and Blue, which is a combination of Guinness and Blue Moon. I don’t think I’d ever had even a black and tan, but the combination was fun. I’m a big fan of combos, so this was up my alley, especially because they gave me the can of Guinness, so it was like getting two beers.

For dinner I went with the fish tacos which were alright. I’ve definitely had better, but I’ve also had worse. They were a bit spicy, but not too bad. Overall it was a good dinner with good service and the quality salad bar, so I left happy.

Food Truck Fun: The Lucky Cow

I’ve been sitting on these images for a while, but I still wanted to talk about what I believe is the only food truck local to Cornwall, New York. I’ve seen the the green Lucky Cow truck at the farmer’s market I attend on a mostly regular basis, but have only gotten food from them once and it was a great experience. The truck offers completely home made vegetarian dishes as well as smoothies and shakes and has different offerings all the time. The day we got food from Lucky Cow, they had three entrees and we got them all. In the first picture you can see a mushroom quesadilla and their zucchini “crab” cakes, below is their falafel wrap which I believe they have on a regular basis. The food took a bit longer to prepare than I expected, but it wound up being worth the wait. Fresh, flavorful and reasonably price, I’d order all three again and look forward to trying out new options with future visits. To find out what they’re serving and where they’ll be, check out the Lucky Cow Facebook page.

Vacation Bonus Food (& Beer) Pics: Salem Beer Works

Hey look, I happened upon a few more photos from vacation that I forgot to post. One day while in Massachusetts we went to the city my wife and I got married in back in 2006, Salem, MA. After walking around and seeing the familiar sites we stopped in at the Salem Beer Works for a couple appetizers and beers. The inlaws, wife, baby and I split a big plate of nachos and fried pickles while enjoying our own beverages of choice. I started off with one of their IPAs, can’t quite remember which one, but it was good and bitter, just the way I like it. I followed that up with the Pumpkin Works Ale which is one of the best pumpkin beers I’ve ever had and is also accompanied by some sugar and cinnamon on the rim of the glass. I’m a big fan of pumpkin flavor and like it when the beers supposedly sporting that flavor do it with gusto and that’s what the Beer Works does. Kudos to them for that, as well as producing some pretty great nachos and fried pickles. Definitely hit them up if you’re anywhere near the Salem area.

Cooking Burrito Pie

I’ve become a pretty big fan of AllRecipes.com, especially their app for the iPhone which has a spinner option that allows you to put in what kind of meal/dish you’re working on, the main ingredient and how long you want to cook it. I’ve come up with some really interesting recipes thanks to that like this one for Burrito Pie. It’s a really simple recipe that had pretty tasty results and most of the ingredients are canned which means the utensil you’ll be using the most is your can opener.

The recipe says to start the oven at 350 first, but I waited until I was further along with cooking the beef, onions and all the other canned stuff before getting to that step. No sense in wasting gas, right? So, I got to work on the beef and onions, then mixed in all the canned goods. While doing this I actually got my finger pretty bad on one of the lids, so watch out for that. That’s never happened to me, but I’ve also never had a toddler pushing me around while trying to cook, so it might not be as much of a problem for everyone else.

Anyway, as you can see in the pics, I used my high-sided pan, but I would probably ditch that in favor of my Dutch oven next time because it was hard to mix everything together without it spilling all over the place. While that was simmering for the allotted 20 minutes, I got the oven heating, shredded the cheddar cheese and got everything else ready for assembling. This is pretty much the same thing as putting a lasagna together where you’re layering the ingredients over and over. The recipe suggests using a high baking dish, but I decided to split it in half and use pie plates which I thought worked out well. Those went into the oven and boom, you’ve got a filling dinner that doesn’t take as much work as, say, enchiladas, which I like to eat out, but don’t like making.

I would imagine you could freeze a whole pie if you made this recipe the same way I did, though I’m not sure how long it would keep. We had a few tricky days after I made this, so we wound up eating both and it tasted great fresh and re-heated. All those classic Mexican ingredients mingled well together and didn’t get too spicy, so this will definitely be a keeper, especially for days when things are getting a little crazy and you don’t have time to do a ton of prep work.

Cooking Salsa Chicken

When I first saw the title for this Salsa Chicken recipe on All Recipes, I cringed just a bit. It doesn’t sound like it will be the greatest thing in the world, but you know what? It turned out to be pretty great, with potential to really knock it out of the park. Better yet, it’s amazingly simple to put together and only involves five ingredients. I also picked up a Goya Chicken Flavor Mexican Rice and made that to go along with it.

All you really need is chicken breasts, a jar of salsa, taco seasoning, cheese and sour cream. You get the oven going at 375, put the chicken in a baking dish and then mix in the seasoning and salsa. Pop that in the oven for 25-35 minutes, pull out to add cheese and then place back in the oven for a few more minutes. Pull out and serve with sour cream. Bingo bango.

The flavors really worked well together, didn’t take too much actual work and didn’t require me to stand in a hot kitchen during the summer heat. What I like even better is that you can really have some fun with this and make it even more homemade. I haven’t landed on a taco seasoning recipe I like just yet, but once I do, I’m going to switch over to that instead of buying stuff. I’m also looking to make my own salsa, which is another way to really mix up the flavors. In addition to just eating this as is, you could also shred it up and serve with tacos! I like that kind of versatility and intend to come back to this after finding a good salsa recipe.

Cooking Fantastic Taco Casserole

Last week wound up being super hot so I wanted to try and make dinners that wouldn’t heat up the house too much. I also decided to cook things at different times of the day than normal to try and avoid all that heat all at once. I stumbled across this recipe for Fantastic Taco Casserole on Food.com and while it still involved cooking with a 375 degree oven, it didn’t take too long. I also cooked the ground beef in the taco seasoning around noon while my daughter ate lunch. I just let it cool down and eventually popped it in the fridge and got it out later on when constructing the casserole.

The only big change I made to the recipe was using garbanzo beans instead of refried beans. I thought I had the latter in my pantry, but only had the former and decided to just go with it. How’d that work out? Gimme a paragraph and I’ll let you know.

So, you basically just put tortilla chips on the bottom of an oven safe bowl. You then mix the beans with half the cheese and a cup of salsa. Since I didn’t use refried, there was no cooking involved right there. Anyway, you basically just layer everything in the dish and then pop it in the oven. While that’s in there, I cut up the tomatoes and those went on top when it came out. Boom, you’re done. And you know what? It was great.

I loved how the chips got a little mushy and turned into an actual salty crust that I dug. Everything else is pure taco, but in a bowl and you don’t have to set up a whole huge spread just to make tacos. Don’t get me wrong, I like making tacos, but this is about a billion times earlier. Oh, and the garbanzo beans? I really liked them. My wife noted that using them actually kept the dish a little lighter than it would have been with the refried variety. I think she nailed it. While you get the added protein of a bean, it’s not the thick gooey kind you get with refried beans. And, hey, it only took a little bit of time and not a lot of heat, so I’m very cool with it.

A Few Thoughts On Giant Burritos

I first discovered the world of giant burritos in college. Actually, I really first discovered Mexican food in general in college, but that’s a story for another day. Up to that point, I’d really only had Taco Bell. Then I discovered a place about 30 minutes away from school (which was kind of in the middle of nowhere, though there was a Taco Bell fairly close) called Chipotle. The idea with this place was that you could choose various kinds of meat, rice, beans, salsa and a few other things to throw on the tortilla, fold it up origami style and shove into your face. Thus my fascination with giant burritos was born.

We ate at Chipotle whenever we could in college, but then I moved back to Toledo where we didn’t have giant burritos (a Chipotle moved in right around the time I moved out). As you’d expect, it was a sad time. Then, a few months later, I got a job at Wizard, moved out to New York and wound up eating lunch about once a week in the big Palisades mall nearby. What did they have there? A Qdoba!

Qdoba is very similar to Chipotle, but they also throw in other options like Queso (covering it in melted cheese) or mole and a variety of other flavors and sauces. For the longest time I actually had trouble keeping them separate in my head — it didn’t help that I had easy access to both when I worked down in New York City. But, after heading down to eat lunch at a new Chipotle with my wife and some of her friends I realized something, I like Qdoba better. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Chipotle and I quite enjoyed my giant burrito (steak with pinto beans, regular salsa, sour cream and cheese), but I just prefer variety and Qdoba has more of it. Now all I need is for a Qdoba to open up near us as we are in the land of no giant burritos currently. Sigh.

Bonus Food Pic: Tacos!

We have a lot of tacos in our house. Sometimes I try fancy ones like baja fish or carnitas or interesting ones that are Greek themed, but mostly I just whip up some good ol’ fashioned normal tacos with a kit, pound of ground beef, shredded cheese, sour cream and some veggies. I’ve posted about my methods before and did pretty much the same thing, but this time I used ground turkey, store-bought taco seasoning and hard shells. I also happened to have some verde salsa on hand. I thought they looked pretty colorful and figured sharing the picture wouldn’t hurt.

Cooking Jeff Mauro’s Greek Tacos

As anyone who read my early posts about Next Food Network Star, I was pulling for Jeff to win. I liked him as a person, he seemed to make good food and I didn’t want Penny to win. However, I’ve only seen a few episodes of his show and haven’t made any of his recipes just yet. Why’s that? Well, the show’s on at an odd time and I tend not to make sandwich type things for dinner. I worked in a sandwich shop for years and don’t find putting them together as relaxing as cooking more traditional meals. However, when I stumbled upon his recipe for Greek Tacos, I figured that was far enough away from my job and enough in my wheelhouse to give it a try.

As you can see from following the link, he breaks the meal down into three parts. You’ve got to cook the lamb and then also make the Feta Mint Tzatziki and the Cucumber Tomato Relish. In an effort to pace myself well, I decided to do them in reverse order of that, starting with the easiest part: making the relish. You’re basically just chopping up vegetables, putting them in a bowl and mixing with olive oil, red wine vinegar and pepper, so I got that done and put it in the fridge.

Next up, I tackled the tzatziki sauce which was a bit more labor intensive, but not by much. I’ve never grated cucumbers before, but that’s what the recipe said and that’s what I did. Once finished, those went into my pasta strainer and sat for the designated amount of time. While that dripped, I chopped the mint and garlic and put those in a bowl with the yogurt and feta. Once the cukes were a little more dry, then went in. Mixy mixy and you’re done.

Lastly, I went after the ground lamb. You cook it in a pan, then, once it’s brown, take it out and cook onions in the juices for five minutes before adding oregano and garlic. Follow that up with some tomato paste, let things caramelize and then put the meat back in the pan. Deglaze with red wine and you’re good to go.

I set the table up the same way I would for regular taco night which meant lots of bowls filled with lots of things. I also toasted the small non-pocket pitas on the fire and we had a really tasty meal. I think this might be a fun way to get kids who might be skeptical about trying new foods to try something new. It’s familiar (if taco night is a staple in your house like it has been in mine since I was a kid) but with some fun new elements. I’d never cooked ground lamb before but I thought it turned out well and my wife–who generally doesn’t like ground lamb–even like it, so there’s that.

Bonus Food Pic: Taco Salad

I don’t know about you guys, but we never finish off a taco kit. Last week I made the usual spread with ground beef, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese and some sour cream, but was left with all of the above. For lunch the next day, I warmed up the taco meat with a few broken-up taco shells and then dumped in all the sides with some added cheddar and a little sour cream. Were I making something like this from scratch, I wouldn’t bother with the shells, but I hate wasting them and figured it’d add some crunch to these leftovers.

Cooking Homesick Texan Carnitas With Avocado Salad & Grilled Onions & Peppers

A few weeks ago my wife sent me Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Homesick Texan Carnitas. It sounded both simple and tasty, so I decided to give it a whirl. I decided to add some grilled onions and peppers because I had both lying around and also an avocado salad that’s basically just chopped avocado, tomato, onion, basil and garlic. I also served them on small tortillas, but made the mistake of heating them up on a baking sheet instead of wrapping them up in foil. The problem with doing it the way I went was that you wind up with mostly crispy tortillas.

But, like I said, the actual carnitas recipe  was easy, so I didn’t mind adding a few more things to the process. The night before we had this for dinner, I made the orange juice/lime juice/cumin/garlic/salt sauce and butchered the butt. The recipe calls for a boneless pork butt, which I recommend because trying to get the meat off those curvy bones was not easy. Prepping this stuff ahead of time was a great way to go because it meant I could easily plop the meat into my Dutch oven, pour the liquid over and then add water to start the two hour simmer period.

While that simmered for the two hours, I went back to work, returning to the kitchen when the period was over. During the 45 minute higher heat portion of the cooking time, I got the rest of my stuff done. The peppers and onions were very simple. I just sliced them up and tossed them in a cast iron grill pan until they showed the familiar grill marks I’ve seen when I order fajitas in restaurants. I’d never done this before, but winging it worked pretty well. I also got the oven ready to heat the tortillas, but like I said, it makes more sense to wrap them in tin foil to stop them from getting crispy.

I also put the avocado salad together. As you can see from the picture, all you do is chop up some basil leaves (rolling them up and then using kitchen scissors is really the way to go), two plum tomatoes, an onion and two avocados, put them in a boll and stir in the juice from a pair of squeezed limes. You could easily throw this in a food processor and you’d have guacamole, but I wanted to try it this way and see how it worked out. I actually liked the larger chunks of onions and ate some of the leftovers with chips, chips made from the toasty tortillas, actually. As my wife mentioned to me, the basil in the mix really brought something new and interesting to the table.

With all that done, I shredded up some cheddar, took the kitchen scissors to some green onions and set laid everything out on the table. It looks pretty formidable when it’s all together, but it wasn’t really that big of a deal. I’ve made tacos a lot of times using different methods, but usually stick to the basic ingredients. It was nice to try something different and mostly succeed. Also, I’ve only had carnitas a time or two, but this mixture was fantastic and citrus-y, a wonderful combination that makes me want to make carnitas over and over again.

Cooking Tex Mex Chicken Taco Soup

For some reason while I was making this Food Network recipe for Tex Mex Chicken Taco Soup, I was under the impression that I was making chili. I should have known that it wasn’t when the recipe said it only takes 45 minutes to make…and by actually reading the title.

Anyway, I followed the recipe as it’s written with a few changes. I used low fat cream cheese to cut down on some of the calories. I also grilled the chicken on the George Foreman instead of boiling it. For what it’s worth, I used Old El Paso Mild Taco Seasoning and half a jar each of Pace Salsa Verde and Pace Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salsa that I had left over from various recipes and snack-fests.

I almost didn’t add the cream cheese mixture into the soup because I didn’t want it to get to thick or possibly screw up the good thing I had going, so I asked my wife. She said to pour it in and see how it came out. Good thing I listened to her because we wound up with a nice creamy, spicy soup with nice corn and hominy accents. You can really have fun with this recipe by playing around with different beans, meats and salsa.

Bonus Food Pic: The Big Eli Burrito At Taco Shack

Taco Shack
255 Main Street
New Paltz, New York
(next to K&E Beverage)
(845) 255-2366

This is how much I love burritos. A few weeks back, my wife and I went to New Paltz’s Taco Shack to get some food. On the menu I saw a burrito named after Eli Manning. Now, I don’t get into football talk much here on Monkeying Around The Kitchen, but I am a Steelers fan. Living in New York has been rough because I’ve heard the sports pundits go from absolutely hating Eli Manning to praising him as the second coming. Anyway, the burrito was packed with enough goodness that I was able to see past my dislike of NY sports teams and enjoy a delicious lunch. I wish I could remember what was in this one, but it’s been too long and I just dove in without thinking too much about what was happening to me. Needless to say, even if Taco Shack doesn’t still have the Big Eli, it’s absolutely worth heading there and getting Mexican. It looks exactly like what the name says, but the food never disappoints.

Wife Lessons: Nachos

I’ve loved nachos for a while now, but my wife is the real ninja when it comes to making them. I used to just throw shredded cheese on top of nacho chips, put them in the microwave and be done with it. But, she’s taught me how to really knock nachos out of the park. These particular nachos included beef cooked in taco seasoning and salsa, chopped up tomato, scallions, cheddar cheese I shredded and sour cream. I’ve also added chopped up banana peppers which are delightful, but I was looking for a simple nacho that day.

So, if you’re unfamiliar with the process, here’s what I do. I take the same approach for cooking the beef that I would for making tacos: cook it up in a cast iron pan until brown, drain,  then add salsa and taco seasoning. I went with Pace Salsa Verde salsa and Ortega 40% Less Sodium seasoning. I let that cook until the liquid comes off a bit and then let it cool.

Next, I laid the chips out on a pan, it’s important not to have your chips overlap too too much because then you wind up with a lot of cheese-less chips and who wants that? I also shredded the cheese and got to layering. I put the meat down first, then the cheese and chopped up some scallions. Those went into the oven on broil for a few minutes. I don’t really time it, but I keep an eye on the cheese to make sure it doesn’t get too brown. Once they looked done, I popped them out, added some sour cream and we were good to go.

What I like about nachos is that they’re so versatile. You can really put anything on them. We stick with Mexican themed ingredients, but there’s no reason you couldn’t make Italian, Chinese or any other kind of nachos. We need to start a nacho revolution!

Bonus Food Pic: Gordo’s Chorizo Quesadilla

I’ve bestowed the virtues of Gordo’s in New Hampshire already. Well, on our last visit to The Hampsh we went to Gordo’s and I tried something I’ve never had before, a chorizo quesadilla. It was the first time I’d had anything but a burrito there and the first time I’d ever had chorizo (Mexican sausage). While the meal was great as always, it probably wasn’t the best way to experience chorizo for the first time because the flavor worked itself in with all the cheese and salsa and whatnot. Man, that place is so good it makes me want to franchise them down the street just so I can have a good, cheap, easy Mexican place to hit up.

Cooking Turkey Chili

I love chili, but I haven’t quite landed on a recipe I love so much that I want to make it over and over again. The last one I tried was a Bobby Flay recipe that wound up being a bit too spicy. For Christmas, my mom got me a cookbook called (deep breath) Best Of The Best Recipe Hall Of Fame Fresh From The Farmer’s Market Cookbook. I figured it would be a good place to get a chili recipe from and decided on a pretty simple one for Turkey Chili (page 66).

I made a few deviations from the recipe including not being able to find a can of Rotel tomatoes (though I saw them on my next trip to the grocery store, of course), I also used up the taco seasoning I made that didn’t quite taste right and skipped the mushrooms. Aside from those things though, you basically brown a few pounds of ground turkey and put it in a pot with two diced onions, eight diced tomatoes, an 8-oz can of tomato sauce, two cups of canned kidney beans, a few cloves of minced garlic, splashes of tobasco sauce (green in our case) and Worcestershire sauce, the taco seasoning, one bell pepper, 16 oz of beer (they say “a 16 oz can” but I don’t think that exists) and a few tablespoons of chili powder and cook  for two hours on low and stirring every 20 minutes or so.

It was an alright recipe that tasted pretty good, but didn’t really wow either my wife or I. I think my chili quest is the kind of thing where I don’t really know what I want, but I’ll know it when I make it. Do you guys have any favorite chili recipes I should try out?

Bonus Food Pic: Avocado’s Carnitas Burrito

Avocado Mexican Restaurant
2576 Route 9W,
Cornwall NY 12518
(845) 534-3350

If you like Mexican food and live in the Orange County area, do yourself a favor and head over to Avocado. My wife and I have been fans of the place since it opened a year or two back and recently went there to celebrate a special occasion. As usual, we were not disappointed with the results and both walked away full and happy.

I’ll be honest, I tend to have a bad memory when it comes to exactly what combination of tortilla, meat, cheese and rice I’m ordering at any given Mexican restaurant is, but I love a good burrito and thankfully, they have awesome ones. This time, I tried the Carnitas version which is described on the menu as “Michoacan style pork carnitas, refired beans, rice, pico de gallo, cheese and chipotle sauce.” I wasn’t really sure what any of that meant ahead of time, but what I wound up with was a burrito packed with porky goodness and covered with a sweet sauce that I wish I had in my refrigerator at all times. I had eaten kind of a late lunch that day, so I took some of the burrito home and ate the leftovers the next day for lunch and it was just as good. So, there you have it. Eat burritos at Avocado and you’ll be happy.

Restaurant Review: Gordo’s Burritos & Tacos

Gordo’s Burritos & Tacos
64 Freetown Road
Raymond, NH 03077
(603) 244-3410

I don’t do a lot of Restaurant Reviews from outside of New York because, well, we don’t go a lot of places. But, we do travel to New Hampshire to see my wife’s parents quite a bit and they always know great restaurants to check out. Gordo’s in nearby Raymond, NH is a favorite of theirs–they go there once a week–and has quickly become a regular stop when we visit as well. I love huge burritos. It’s a love that goes back to college when I first discovered Chipotle and then to my Congers NY-based Wizard days when we frequented the Palisades Mall and I frequently got Qdoba for lunch. Unfortunately, neither of those chains are up where we live now, so I don’t get a lot of big burritos (which is probably for the best now that I think about it).

Anyway, that’s all a roundabout way to say that I like getting burritos and Gordo’s has excellent ones. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a picture because I figured it might be rude (we all met one of Em’s friends there for the holidays), but the last two times I’ve been there I had their Philly Cheesesteak burrito and IT IS AWESOME! The beef is great, the cheese is nice and creamy and the onions and peppers weren’t too hot and cafe just the right amount of goodness to complete the flavors. I know it’s not your traditional burrito filling, but it’s so tasty I have trouble getting anything else. My wife usually gets the nachos and those are great too.

The restaurant itself has a nice feel to it with lots of bright colors and hot sauce bottles around. They even have a stuffed monkey they hide throughout the place for kids to find. When they do, they get a treat of some kind (can’t remember what it is because I’m too old, even though I almost always find him;). The service is also great. Since my wife’s parents go there so often, they on a first name basis with the woman who works behind the counter who’s super nice. I think we’ve even met the owner a few times, though I don’t know for sure.

So, if you happen to be in New Hampshire (I have no idea where Raymond is, but you probably do if you’re from NH) do yourself a favor and check out Gordo’s. The food is spot on, the people are great and the margaritas are tasty too!

Bonus Food Pic: Take Out From Chapala Grill

Chapala Grill
335 Windsor Highway
New Windsor, NY 12553
845-391-3133

With the baby, I’ve found that, when I’m not cooking on weekdays, my wife and I tend to lean towards quick pick up, drive through or carry out options. A week or two back I didn’t feel like cooking or hadn’t gone to the grocery store (I don’t remember specifically, but either is highly likely) and we both thought Mexican food sounded good. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped that nearby Chapala Grill did carry out and we discovered that not only do they, but they also have their full menu online (that link up above).

As I mentioned in an earlier BFP, Chapala has really solid Mexican food. It’s not slap-you-in-the-tastebuds, blow-your-mind amazing, but it’s really good. And I can say the same for their carry out now too. The pic above is from the first time we used their services, but once again last night and it was still great. They not only give you rice and beans with your meal, but also chips and salsa which is a great bonus.

If you’re in the area and you want darn good Mexican, head on over to Chapala!

Turning Anne Burrell’s Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapenos Into Soup

As I said the other day, I made Anne Burrell’s Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapeno, but my wife wasn’t super into it and I wasn’t hungry, so I decided to just turn it into soup. It was actually super easy. I pulled the braised chicken out of the broth, added the rest of the chicken stock I had and added some celery (just because I had it). As the broth cooked, I pulled the meat off of the chicken, ripping it up into smaller pieces. Once that I was done, I popped the chicken in, tasted for salt and pepper and cooked down. It wound up being super, super tasty. I even added in some of the lime sour cream that’s also part of the original recipe to give it even more of a citrusy kick. I highly recommend this change to the recipe.

Cooking Anne Burrell’s Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapenos

I don’t watch a lot of actual cooking shows on Food Network, but I do like checking out Anne Burrell’s show when I stumble upon it. I like her because I know she’s legit, not only being a bad ass chef in her own right, but also because she was Mario Batali’s sous chef on Iron Chef America. I’ve cooked a few things I’ve either seen on FoodNetwork.com or on her show Secrets Of A Restaurant Chef. I stumbled upon her recipe for Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapenos the other day before heading to the grocery store for the first time after being sick. I liked the recipe because it was kind of involved and really wanted to jump in. I’m also a fan of the lime and tomatillo flavors involved.

I still haven’t made my own stock yet (this week hopefully!), so I went with store bought. That was really the only change I made to the recipe. Actually, now that I think about it, I couldn’t find a Spanish onion either, so I went with a yellow one. There might have been a lot of chopping and several different steps, but overall the recipe was really easy to follow. I also liked that you could do one part of the recipe and then move over and do something else, like putting the super simple and really tasty lime sour cream together.

This is usually the part of the post when I would talk about how the food tasted, but I didn’t actually eat any of it. I hadn’t eaten lunch that day, was feeling light headed and picked up a Whopper from Burger King on my way home. Those guys are bigger than I expected, so I was full by the time I finished cooking. My wife tried it and wasn’t a huge fan because of the chicken being on the bone and the fact that the sauce was really watery (probably should have boiled it down more). With so much extra liquid and chicken, I figured I’d turn the whole thing into a soup, but that’s a post for another day!

Inventing Beef & Black Bean Chili Omelets

One of my go-to ideas when it comes to leftovers is to turn whatever it is into an omelet. I love omelets and I think they’re super versatile and that’s without even getting into crepe territory, which I’m mostly unfamiliar with. Well, after making Bobby Flay’s Beef and Black Bean Chili last week, freezing some and eating some for lunch, I was looking for something new to do with it.

So, I ladled a few scoops of chili into a small pan just to heat it up. At the same time I heated some olive oil in a larger pan and cooked one clove of diced garlic. While both of those warmed, I whipped three eggs together and poured just a tiny bit of milk in there (I’m still figuring out these ratios, but the less the better). By this point, the chili was bubbling a little, so I took it off the heat. I then poured the eggs into the larger pan and let them cook for a minute or two.

Then I poured the warmed chili in there. I should have strained out more of the juice. All that liquid in there made things a little tricky. While the eggs cooked and the chili heated, I shredded some cheddar over it all. I let that cook for a few minutes, tried folding it over, but didn’t have luck until I put it on the plot. I topped it with a dollop of sour cream and was good to go! I gotta say, this was a pretty good little mash-up. I could see this working with pretty much any kind of chili and will hopefully used them when I start my restaurant/food truck called Nachos & Omelets (the two most versatile foods).

Cooking Beef and Black Bean Chili with Avocado Relish

I felt like chili last week because it’s been cold and rainy lately. So, I looked through the folder I have on my desktop filled with recipes, most of which are from the Food Network site. I stopped on the first one, which is Bobby Flay’s Beef and Black Bean Chili with Avocado Relish (the recipe also tells you how to make Toasted Cumin Crema, but I skipped that in favor of good, old fashioned sour cream). I’d made this recipe once before and, if memory serves, it turned out really spicy, though I didn’t remember that until much later. It called for pasilla chili which I didn’t have and didn’t buy, so I just went with ancho chili powder, cumin and a shake or two of cayenne. The only other change I made was not including the ancho chili paste because I don’t know what that is and therefore did not have any.

Before really getting started, I got all the spices together in a small bowl. I like to get as many things like this done ahead of time. I also chopped up the onion and garlic before getting to the beef. I made short work of two pounds of London broil, quickly turning it into cubes and popping them into a bowl. With everything ready, I put a stock pot–wasn’t sure if it would have fit in a Dutch oven, but it probably would have–got the oil warming and then dropped the cubes in.

Once the beef was browned and I sprinkled some salt and pepper in there (I should have done this earlier in the process, but it slipped my mind). I then drained out all of the grease and poured about three tablespoons back into the pot using a two cup measuring pourer. The onions and garlic went in next along with all the spices, which turned into a kind of roux. After the designated two minutes, I poured in the dark beer (we had a Saranac sampler pack in the house so I chose the Black Forest type) and continued the recipe as it’s written.

While the chili cooked, I put the Avocado Relish together which was super easy. You basically chop up some avocado (I had three, instead of the recommended two), red onion and the tiniest Jalapeno I could find and throw that into a bowl. Then I squeezed one and a half limes into the bowl, sprinkled some salt and pepper in, mixed and was done! My wife hates cilantro, so I skipped that.

I forgot to snap a picture of the bowl, but I also shredded some cheddar cheese and put out the sour cream. I’m not sure if people normally put sour cream on their chili, but I started doing it after going over to a party at my friend Jimmy’s parents’ house when I was a kid. They had a crock pot of chili going, cheese and some sour cream out along with all the other food, so I put it on top. I mentioned it to my parents and they’d never heard of it, so maybe I accidentally invented something, but I doubt it. This chili turned out to be pretty darn spicy, though not as bad as last time. The avocado relish and sour cream really cut down on the heat, which was nice. There was still a kick, but it wasn’t too overwhelming.

By the way, does anyone know about pasilla chili? Is it super-hot? I haven’t encountered other recipes with it, but I’m curious what flavors it adds. Thanks!

Cooking Tacos

While at the farm stand down the road on Monday I saw that they had tomatillos for about a buck a pound. That got the wheels turning. A while back I saved the link for Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19, a homemade version of that packets you buy at the store. I wanted to give that a try, so when I saw the tomatillos I immediately thought to make tacos along with an altered version of Tyler Florence’s Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa. I’ve made the full enchilada recipe that this sauce accompanied, but have been wanting to try it with just regular tacos and will also be taking the extra along with me next week when I make those awesome fish tacos for everyone on vacation next week.

This meal wound up taking a while because there were so many steps. I started off making the Taco Potion which was super easy. The “hardest” part was blending the coriander in the Magic Bullet and the only trouble there was reaching for the Bullet. You literally just throw everything in a jar and mix it up, so there’s no real work there. I didn’t even have to buy anything because we had all the ingredients in house.

After that I put together the altered Tomatillo Chile Salsa. I skipped the jalapenos and cilantro because I’m not a fan of heat and my wife despises cilantro. I also didn’t have any actual limes in the house, so I went with some of that stuff that comes in the lime-shaped bottle. Also, since our oven doesn’t work, I just cooked the tomatillos, onion and garlic in a large pan with olive oil. To keep the heat in, I put the lid on and let them go on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. When they got blackish, I took them off the heat and eventually blended them up in the Cuisinart along with the other ingredients. I honestly didn’t notice a difference in taste with the different cooking method.

While the sauce cooled, I started cooking the ground beef for tacos in an iron skillet. I’ve made tacos enough using the directions on the taco kit box to know the basics. You brown the meat, drain the fat, add the taco spices and water, cook down and you’re done! When we have it, I throw some salsa or V8 juice in there which adds even more flavor. As the meat cooked I got the other elements of the taco bar together. I cut up some green onions from the cup with kitchen scissors, chopped lettuce, put out the tomatillo sauce, sour cream and hot sauce (my wife likes red while I like green) and shredded the cheese. Once the tacos were done cooking (ie most of the liquid had cooked off or been absorbed), I put that on a plate and started lightly toasting the tortillas on the stove with some tongs.

I’m always a fan of taco bar night going back to when I was a kid and mom made them, so this meal was great for me. However, the taco potion was a little off. I don’t think I’m a huge fan of the smoked paprika in there. The taco meat wound up tasting almost like sausage with it’s smokey flavor. It was an interesting taste, but didn’t exactly scream “tacos!” The tomatillo sauce was a great mix of tangy and sour, which is what makes it such a good taco companion. I highly recommend giving either recipe a shot next time you feel like heading south of the border. On a personal note, I like that I’m getting to a place where I’ve cooked enough recipes to know which pieces of them might make sense with other flavors and how to switch up some methods and come out with something pretty similar. I’m starting to feel like an actual cook!

Bonus Food Pics: Texas Burrito & Mojito

Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to spell the name of the Mexican place my wife and I went to last week, so I can’t sufficiently plug them. It’s an alright place we’ve been to a few times that’s generally quick and has solid food. Not mindblowing by any means, but a good place to go if you just want some simple Mexican food. I got the above Texas Burrito which was good and a mojito that lacked a certain amount of sweetness which made it kind of bland. Even so, it was nice to get out of the house after all the Hurricane Irene nonsense. Also, don’t their tables look like they have monster faces burned into them?!

Making Baja Fish Taco Salad

A few days back, I made some awesome Baja Fish Tacos using this recipe posted on Food Network. As much as we dug the meal, we didn’t finish all of the fried fish, white sauce or use up all the chopped up cabbage. The next day I was trying to figure out what to do with all that and decided to go with a salad. So, that day, at the farmer’s market, I picked up some lettuce and a few ears of corn. I chopped up the lettuce and tossed it in a bowl with the cabbage. Then I shaved some carrots I had in the fridge (from the farmer’s market the previous week), mixed those in with the salad and cut up a lime into wedges. I had two small tortillas leftover and we almost never wind up eating those, so I cut them into strips and cooked them in a pan with some oil. I’m getting pretty good at that thing where you shove the pan forward in the air and flip its contents without using a utensil. I’m sure there’s a cool cooking term for it, but I’m not up on the lingo.

In the same pan, I dropped the remaining pieces of fried fish I had just to heat them through. Once they were nice and warm, I put them in a dish with some tin foil covering until my wife came home from work. Meanwhile, I steamed three ears of corn. When they were done, I plated two of the ears for the table and then cut the kernels off of one as a garnish for the salad. I added everything to the table and also got the white sauce out of the refrigerator to act as a kind of dressing and we were good to go.

I’m not really a recipe creator at this point in my cooking odyssey. I can follow a recipe and maybe toss a few things in here and there to add a little oomph, but I don’t create anything from scratch and I always use a recipe when cooking. I feel like this was a good step in the right direction though because I did it all in my head without writing anything down. Sure, I had done the hard part the previous day, but it was kind of fun to use that base and build something different. Now I just need to add a few things to make a killer salad to get rid of the rest of that lettuce!

Cooking Baja Fish Tacos

Last night I made Baja Fish Tacos using the Fisherman’s Market and Grill recipe posted on Food Network. I took step by step pictures as you can see above, but also wanted to add my two cents. Ingredients wise, I stuck to the recipe. For beer I used a Coors Light, I picked up some purple cabbage and went with cod for the fish. As always, I got all my non perishable ingredients together ahead of time. As I’m working in a pretty small kitchen, I scattered the ingredients around after taking that first picture. First up, I cut up the cabbage. I wound up using probably a third of the head, then gave it a spray and a whirl in the salad spinner. With that done, I moved on to put together the white sauce. I used what was left of the mayo in our refrigerator which might not have been a full cup and just whisked it all together. My wife said it tasted too much like mayonnaise, but I dug the tanginess brought out by the lemon. I popped that in the fridge and then moved on to the tempura batter. As the recipe says, I took one package and made it with water and beer in a baking dish, then poured the other one in another baking dish along with the salt and garlic powder. I moved those two containers to the side, started heating up some canola oil in a sauce pan with a candy thermometer to watch the temp. Meanwhile, I cut up the cod into small pieces. Of course, in the middle of all this, my daughter started hollering so I had to take a break to give her a bottle.

She fell asleep pretty soon and I got back to cutting. I wound up getting 1.75 pounds of fish which made a pretty big pile of cod bits. Once the oil got up to the right temp–I aimed for about 375 degrees–I started the process of dipping fish chunks in the wet dredge then into the dry tempura and dropping some in the pan with the oil letting it fry for a few minutes before moving it to a plate. I used a slotted claw spoon to fish the pieces out which worked out well. When she got home, my wife suggested I put it on a rack over an oven pan to keep the excess oil off the bottom pieces of fish. That’s a good call. This was the first time I ever fried anything. I was surprised at how easy it was. I would have used more oil and maybe a bigger pan, but I didn’t have a ton of oil and worked with what I had. Even though my fish-dunking hand turned into a huge clump of drying tempura, it all turned out great. I put the fish, white sauce, tortillas, lime slices, cabbage and some diced tommato (because I had one lying around left over from the other day) all on the table and it made a wonderfully colorful spread. My wife went down to our herb garden and grabbed some Thai basil which was a good addition.

Overall, I LOVED this dish. Man oh man, was the fried fish tasty. That batter is money. All the ingredients worked great together with the sourness of lime bouncing off the tangy white sauce and the ultra flavorful, kinda salty fried fish. We also had some hot sauce around and even though the recipe didn’t call for tomatoes, they were a great addition. I think I wound up eating five of these fantastic tacos. There were a few negatives though. All that frying stunk the house up pretty bad. Also, I wound up with a mountain of dishes I then had to clean. Ah well, I figured it was worth it because the dinner was just so damn good. This recipe will definitely become a regular fixture on my family menu!