organicglory

simple nibbles of natural goodness

Pork in Citrus Sauce (plus, a tutorial on brining meat)

Here is the how-to on brining that I promised a couple posts back. It’s very easy! And it makes cooking potentially tough meats impossible to screw up. I’ve never had dry pork chops since learning to brine before cooking. 

I used to do this a lot back when we’d have dinner parties and I was a very strict vegetarian, and it always got rave reviews from our guests. So if you can make something good without even tasting it, it’s got to be a fairly decent method.

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How to: Brining

Brining is a process of soaking meat in brine, a.ka. salty water, often alongside onions and other vegetables or seasonings to draw in flavor, moisture and to tenderize cuts of meat that tend to dry out while cooking. Generally speaking, you can brine any meat using the following ratio: 4 TBSPs of salt for every 4 cups of water. You want to use enough water and salt to completely submerge your meat, so keep adding water and salt in a ratio of 1:1 (tbsp to cup) in whichever container you are going to use to brine. Since my fridge is small, I use a large plastic freezer bag sealed and nestled into a mixing bowl. Any container that closes will do. I brine overnight or while I’m away at work, but you can brine in as little as one hour! Just make sure you rinse off the meat between brining and cooking or the salt taste will be overwhelming. And as far as seasonings go, you can look to aromatics like fresh ginger, thyme, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, garlic, even sugar. If you are hoping to brine a holiday bird, like a large turkey, or a roast, definitely make sure you give it overnight to soak. For the following recipe, I used sliced red onions, since I was planning to use them in the finished dish as well.

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Pork Chops in Citrus Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Pork chops (double recipe for larger crowd)
  • 1 red onion, sliced (you can use the same one from brining)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • flour for dredging (I’m still using and loving TigerNut)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

If you’re brining, do that as early as the night before or as close to cooking time as one hour prior. Drain and rinse the meat and onions or whatever else you use to season the brine, reserving the pork chops and sliced onions.

Season the chops with salt and pepper on each side. Dredge in flour.

Heat a saute pan to medium-high and coat with olive oil. When the oil is hot, cook the chops until golden on each side, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pan you used to cook the chops, reduce the heat to medium and add another bit of olive oil. Add the red onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, quickly.

Add the lemon and orange juice and zest and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by a third, just two or three minutes. Return the pork to the pan and simmer until the sauce is thickened, 1 or 2 more minutes. Taste the sauce and if it’s too tangy, sweeten it with a pinch of sugar or maple syrup!

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I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart using what I had on hand.

When I sent Mark for pork chops at Trader Joe’s, he got the bone-in kind, which I don’t really eat because I’m not big on country-style cuts or rib meat and lots of fat. It did, however, come out just the same as when I use boneless loin chops, so you can get whatever you like! Here’s a good reference guide to pork cuts, which sometimes have non-intuitive names like “New York Chop.” 

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I hope you enjoy this one. I served it with a fennel & bean salad that could really be its own vegetarian main meal, which I’ll be blogging about next week! I always like to serve pork chops with mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes and applesauce. More often we have it in the fall, but I wanted to change things up a couple weeks ago and this was very light thanks to the citrus flavor profile! My family ate it up and I hope yours will, too.


Stop Melting Makeup (and get back to enjoying summer)

This is random, but it’s 90 today and it’s so stressful if you need to get dressed up for a baby shower, wedding, birthday party or — you know — WORK, in this kind of humidity. I don’t know what I’d do without these two items on days like this, one pretty cheapie and one more pricey, but both 100% worth it!

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I buy the Baby Skin primer at Target (but you can also find it at Ulta and Walmart) and the Urban Decay setting spray at Sephora in-store or online. I don’t like to wear lots of makeup any day, but when it’s steamy and you have no choice, you really can’t go wrong with these for preventing slide-off. Urban Decay also makes an amazing eye shadow primer and NYX makes the best knockoff version of it.

I used to think these kinds of items were a waste of money, but when I realized how much longer they make makeup last, it made sense — no more reapplying midday or wasting product, especially pricey ones you’ve invested your hard-earned money into.

These aren’t affiliate links, just a couple products I can’t do without in summer. Since nobody can think about cooking in this kind of weather, this is what I’m doing instead. And, if the heat is getting you down, a few inspiring images to remind you why summer in New England is worth waiting for all year: the Fourth of July, lobsters, fried clams, picnics, splash pads, and sparklers. Have a great week, everyone :)
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I made Caesar Salad the night before, and it came out OK!

I also made a new version of my usual Caesar dressing that added mayo and omitted anchovies, which is even further outside my comfort zone than potentially soggy salad — but I digress before I’ve even begun.

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Last night, Mark and a few other Boston-based artists were performing at an outdoor concert sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce. Wanting to prepare ahead and not to eat takeout junk one more time, I decided to make a hearty Caesar Salad with Baked Salmon the night before. So, after putting Georgia to bed, I got down to business cooking fish, chopping greens and oven-roasting bread for croutons, then packaged it all up to grab n’ go the next day. The results were surprisingly excellent! Here’s what I did.

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Make-Ahead Caesar Salad

Ingredients: one sourdough bread ball, two salmon fillets, two romaine hearts, two garlic gloves, 1 TBSP white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 lemon, grated Parmesan to taste. Makes two dinner-sized portions.

The key is to do all the prep but save the mixing until 5 minutes before you need to leave. Then, to assemble, you just toss grated Parmesan in the bottom of the bowl, add the salmon and the croutons on top, pour over the dressing, and squeeze the two lemon halves over top. Toss with your hands, and dig in! 

Prep the Lettuce: Wash, dry and rough chop two heads of romaine. Set aside in a stainless steel bowl that will keep the greens colder and fresher in the fridge overnight. I like Ikea’s compact salad spinner and stainless mixing/serving bowl, and this lettuce knife which are both easy to store in a small kitchen, to make quick work of this often-onerous aspect to preparing fresh salad. To store, seal with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Make the croutons: Pre-heat the oven to 350. Tear up a ball of sourdough bread by hand and place on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through. (In the past, I’ve just used English muffins or whatever old bread I had lying around to make croutons. Sourdough seemed very hard to me, but it actually works great once you cook it with olive oil! This was one idea gleaned from Blue Apron that I’ll be using over and over). Let cool and set aside in a plastic or glass storage container.

Cook the salmon: Dry off two salmon fillets, season with salt and pepper, and cook in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat with olive oil, starting skin-side down, for 8 minutes, then flip and cook another 4 minutes longer, adjusting to your level of desired doneness. Remove from the heat let cool then place in a storage container. Before storing, use a fork to flake into pieces and toss the skin.

Make the dressing: Mince two garlic cloves into a tablespoon of white wine (or other) vinegar. Zest one lemon’s peel into the mixture; slice the lemon into quarters and juice two of them into the dressing, reserving the others to squeeze over the salad just before you’re actually about to eat it. Stir in a quarter cup of mayonnaise and season with a bit of salt and pepper. This makes enough dressing for the two romaine heads, plus a little extra. I don’t love my Caesar swimming in dressing, but you can tailor to your preferences.

I stored each component in a plastic bag or glass storage dish, then assembled the salad in between coming home from work and going to the concert.

Possibly the biggest surprise of all was that Georgia tried it, ate some lettuce and croutons, but then said “mo’ fish??” And proceeded to steal all my salmon! 

Overall, this took very little time to prep the night before, and gave me a to-go dinner perfect for eating on the grass with my gal while listening to daddy sing. I’ll definitely do this again.

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The concert itself was also really fun. Mark did a great job and lots of his family were able to come. And there were balloons!
IMG_1257As my mother-in-law said, summer in America at its finest.
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Have a wonderful weekend everyone! We have a family reunion tomorrow and then it’s a Mommy and G day Sunday while Daddy works on the Freedom Trail. Our plans include church, checking out the new splash pad in town, and probably having a tea party. Summer is going by so fast!

Creamy Boursin Shells & Peas

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope you had a great weekend. We sure did (even though it was in the 90s and our old house barely has any AC!) Georgia and I kept cool with squirt guns, blowing bubbles in the shade, and taking our first boat ride on my dad’s paddle boat in New Hampshire.

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Thanks to Cup of Jo for this great, no-effort pasta recipe that’s perfect for hot/lazy nights when you just don’t have the wherewithal to cook something complicated. All you need is three ingredients: a package of Boursin cheese (the kind you might grab for a party appetizer), a box of medium shells, and fresh or frozen peas. Add a little lemon zest to enhance the complexity of the flavor, and grind as much fresh pepper on top as you like to really make it sing. Comes together super fast, tastes light yet is very filling, and easily feeds babies and toddlers, too. Enjoy!
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I chose to use a bag of frozen organic peas from Trader Joes because that’s what I had on hand. But I would imagine that fresh peas would taste amazing! To thaw this out, I ran the bag under hot water for a few minutes, broke up the frozen chunks in the package with the bottom of a drinking glass, and then added to the dish pretty cold so they could finish cooking in the pan.

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Creamy Boursin Shells & Peas

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. box of shells, medium or small
  • 1 bag of frozen peas (or fresh peas, if you can get them)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 package Garlic & Herb Boursin Cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: fresh basil and a bit of butter

DIRECTIONS

Put a pot of water on to boil. Add the shells and cook until al dente, as they’ll continue cooking in the pan with the sauce.

In a non-stick sauce pan, melt the boursin over medium-high until it turns liquidy. Zest one lemon into the pan and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Add the peas and cook for a couple minutes to blend flavors.

Drain the shells, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the cooking water to the sauce, stir until combined, then add the shells. Cook for a few more minutes and add seasonings as well as a bit of butter if the flavor or creaminess isn’t where you want it. Top with freshly-torn basil and serve warm.
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I added torn fresh basil on top for a bit of extra flourish and fresh flavor. You can include or omit as your tastes dictate. Buon Appetito! 

Georgia and Daddy Sing Show Tunes

This isn’t food related at all, except for the fact that Georgia is eating bread (so what else is new) throughout the entire video. The other night Mark started singing one of his go-to audition songs in preparation for a concert he had this week, and a little voice chimed in from the other room! It was so cute we whipped out the camera phone to take a video and she kept doing it, so I just had to share. I hope this brightens your week a little :)

If you’re interested (and have a life besides knowing musical theater standards), the song is “I Won’t Send Roses” from the musical Mack and Mabel, a Jerry Herman show from the 1970s.

Waste Not: tips for using up BBQ leftovers

I hate food waste. Mark (half-jokingly) says I’d eat around mold on leftovers rather than throw something out. He’s almost right! So parties can be my worst nightmare. I always buy enough food that there’s plenty of extra — I am part Italian, after all — but the next day that stresses me out, big-time. So what’s a hostess to do? Well, here are a few of my go-to recipes and alternate uses for the kind of leftovers you might have from a cookout or house party.

If you were grilling up burgers (veggie or otherwise), hot dogs, steak tips and chicken, then you probably have a hodge-podge of leftover meats, toppings and condiments, and possibly snacky things like chips, salsa, dip and crudites lying around, too. There are lots of ways to get rid of them.


Leftover chicken, and/or tortilla chips + salsa: Grilled poultry can get dry quickly, and leftovers are even worse. A great way to give these leftovers another life is to use them in soup, and what better way than a tasty tortilla soup that will also knock out the remainder of your almost-stale chips? I like this one from Allrecipes.com, since it has so few ingredients and comes together easily. Another great one: crockpot salsa chicken by Jo Cooks. This can use up any chicken you bought but never grilled, or you can buy new chicken and use this recipe to get rid of your leftover salsa and cheese (either slices from your burgers, or shredded cheese from your tossed salad).

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Leftover fruit salad: I had a TON of fruit salad left over from Georgia’s first birthday party because my aunt went to Costco and bought the place out. So, in that case, I always grab my pint-sized ziploc bags and make ready-to-go smoothie pouches. If you keep either coconut water/milk or juice around for your liquid, you can blend up a healthy and tasty breakfast or a snack in a jiff. As soon as Georgia could drink from a straw, I had her sucking down smoothies, too ~ they are a great way to sneak in some greens, from celery to kale or spinach! I did this a couple week’s ago after Mark’s 30th birthday party when I’d cut up 80% of some chard, kale and romaine stalks for a chopped salad and then had these little stumps left over. Also fun: smoothie bowls, which use a higher ratio of fruit-to-liquid than a drinkable smoothie, and feature fresh topped fruit, nuts, pomegranate seeds, you name it. Just blend frozen fruit to a thicker consistency with yogurt, or ice, or the liquid of your choice, and spoon it up. It’s like a cross between a smoothie and frozen yogurt.

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Leftover baked beans: Ladle into storage-safe plastic baggies and lay flat in your freezer. I use sandwich size bags because they stack neatly and hold just the right amount to thaw out later for dinner. A go-to weeknight meal for us is baked beans, butterflied kielbasa roasted on a baking sheet in the oven, and a salad or vegetable with hot buttered noodles. 

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Leftover hamburger rolls and hot dog buns: These will only stay fresh for about a week or so, so I try to prioritize using these for lunches before turning them over to stale-bread uses. I like to pick up some white fish salad at Costco, or make a tuna salad with mayo, dijon mustard and any leftover pickles or relish from the party, then serve them in extra hot dog rolls for lunch; failing that, you can always save old (non-moldy) bread in the fridge for use in soups or bread pudding later on, and as a last resort we keep a bag of old bread to bring to the pond to feed the ducks. (Although it’s actually better to toss them oats, corn, or peas, according to wildlife experts and conservationists). 

Leftover condiments: Use them for macaroni salad! With leftover condiments like pickles, sliced tomatoes and onions, just add mayonnaise and pasta and follow an easy recipe like The Pioneer Woman’s Best Macaroni Salad Ever. In my family, my mom always made macaroni salad with hard boiled eggs, finely chopped bell peppers, onions and Hellman’s mayonnaise, but I’ve had great versions that included pickles or relish or olives, and really you can customize this however you want for a nice picnic-ready dish. All you need to have on hand is a box of elbow pasta.

Leftover sliced or chopped onions that you used as burger and hot dog toppings: Already-diced onions can be the basis for a simple risotto, or to brine chicken or pork for dinner that week. I’ll be posting a how-to on brining very soon, but the basic idea is that you put your meat in the fridge in a bag or other container with water and salt in a ratio of 4:1 (4 cups of water per 1 tablespoon of salt) along with onions and any other seasonings you’d like to add (carrots, celery, garlic, nutmeg, the list is endless) for at least the entire work day or overnight, then rinse well before cooking. You can pan sauté the onions etc. right in with the meat after brining. Additionally, you can make a nice side dish by sauteeing up sliced onions with other items of your choosing (beans? garlic? Shallots? Zucchini? Fennel? Peppers?) until caramelized. Serve as a side, or use to top a pizza or pressed sandwich along with cheese and tomatoes, eggplant, even crumbled extra hamburger from your cookout.

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With leftover alcohol — which does happen, although not often — we use any opened bottles of wine in risotto and often make beer bread with any random bottles of beer we have left over that aren’t appealing for us to drink. I’ll be posting a simple beer bread recipe very soon, and a good staple to keep around is the boxed mix by Pampered Chef, if you know someone who sells their products. Using different kinds of beer really changes the flavor of this quick-to-make bread, so it’s fun to get creative with flavors the more you make it.

Got leftover Chex Mix, pretzels or mixed nuts? I like to grind these up very fine and use them to coat baked chicken or pork chops. (Nuts can also be used to make pesto). A new trick I just picked up from Blue Apron is to bread your cutlets in flour (I’ve been using Tiger Nut and loving it) then dip in a wash of mustard and water instead of egg, and finish with panko bread crumbs. As long as you let the excess drip off after each step, you’ll prevent gloppiness from resulting. I like to pan saute chicken or pork if I’ve breaded it this way, and the trick to making sure they are cooked through without getting soggy is to heat your oil or butter until you’re certain it’s very hot (test by tossing in a few panko pieces; if they sizzle, it’s hot enough) before adding the meat. Then, cook for about 3 minutes on each side, and let it get nice and brown before turning over. The result, as Georgia says: “yay!!”

Got any other good tips for using up leftover cookout food? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it! Funny, there never seems to be a problem getting rid of dessert, does there? :)

Happy Fourth of July!

This weekend is looking like a banner holiday weather-wise in Boston! I hope it is where you are, too, and that you get time to relax with family.

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a patriotic craft by georgia!

It’s no longer a  year of ‘firsts’ for Georgia, who’s become an official Independence Day veteran as of this year. Look at her patriotic self last year at 10 months old:

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This year, the nice thing about having a toddler instead of a baby is that we can do fun, festive things around the city for the Fourth of July. And Malden, where we live, has plenty going on!

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We went for pony rides, face painting and slush today while daddy worked on the Freedom Trail, and Sunday we are celebrating my brother’s birthday with a family dinner. I am going to use up the last of my rhubarb on one more crisp. I can’t get enough of it!!

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IMG_0683Stay safe this holiday weekend and enjoy yourselves! I’ll be back Monday :) 

DIY Tile & Grout Cleaner

I have a 100-year-old house with REALLY annoying tile flooring in the bathroom.

I have to clean it daily simply because I have a toddler and a cat who track fur and dirt everywhere, but it’s when we host a party or holiday — like last weekend — that I really start dreading the deep clean. Nothing I buy at the store has ever made these floors look acceptable, and no matter what I use, I have to get down on my hands and knees with a brush to scrub — hard. So, I set my mind to figuring out a way to clean it using things I have in my pantry, things that could sit on the floor for a while and really do half the hard work for me, before wasting more time scrubbing or more money on something store-bought, stinky, expensive and ineffective. Thus I created a homemade cleaning solution with lemon, baking soda, vinegar & water, and let it do half the hard work. Can I just say? WOW, did it ever work.

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Here’s the solution: 7 cups water, 1/2 cup baking soda, juice of 1 lemon (approximately 1/3 cup) and 1/4 cup vinegar. Spray onto the tile/grout you are looking to clean, let sit, and scrub with a brush after 5-10 minutes. Voila!

Yes, I still had to get down there with a brush to get every nook and cranny sparkling, but it was nothing compared to how long and hard I used to have to work to see anything resembling white between these tiles. You can see how well it worked in this somewhat gross, yet also uplifting photo:

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Interested in more homemade cleaning solutions? Lemons are a great all-around cleaning tool, and make an excellent substitute for bleach. I do not personally use any bleach in my home, and I never feel like I need to. Why would I, when you can do all the following with lemons?!

  • Squeeze into your laundry for brightening
  • Cut in half and shine chrome faucets & fixtures
  • Throw a used-up lemon into your disposal to freshen it up and keep it in good working order (ice will do the same)
  • Make a glass-cleaning spray by mixing 3 TBSP lemon juice with 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
  • Squeeze into your toilet bowl with your cleaner of choice for a freshening and deodorizing; use a cut-up lemon along the rim and on the seat for deep cleaning, then flush.

Get the most out of your lemon by rolling it on the counter for about 30 seconds, to draw out more juice; if you’re going to use the cut lemon to clean, remove the seeds with the top of a knife first so they don’t scratch your surfaces.

You can also use a paste of baking soda and water to remove wetness stains from hardwood, like from a pet’s accident or a beach towel or damp shoe left on the floor. Try 1 TBSP baking soda to 1 tsp water; rub in a circular motion until the water stain disappears. The trick is not to use too much water. This trick works for rings on a coffee table if you forgot to use a coaster, too. And if you use petroleum products, you can also remove water marks in wood by leaving Vaseline on them overnight then wiping away in the morning. (Got scratches? My go-to fix is rubbing a walnut on it. Yup, it really works).

Baking soda is great for removing pet odors from upholstery, too. Just sprinkle some on your couch, let sit for a little while, and vacuum up. Better than spraying with fabric refreshers all the time (dog and cat owners, I know you’re with me on that one!) This worked for us when some rogue milk stains (ugh) managed to escape our notice for several days, too. Thanks Georgia!

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so cute…such grubby little hands!

I hope you found these tips useful. This is now my go-to tile cleaning method for our old fashioned bathroom! Do you have any similar tricks to share? Whenever I don’t have to use store-bought cleaners with nasty ingredients that make fumes in my house, I’m all in. It’s amazing what you can do with hot water, vinegar and some reusable microfiber cloths or scrubbing brushes!

Psst — on an unrelated note, today is the last day to sign up for Mama Natural’s first-ever online natural childbirth class, which starts up tomorrow! I couldn’t get by without her blog, and what I like about this course is that it includes comprehensive breastfeeding support, a.k.a the information you need even more than preparation for labor and delivery. You’ll also get to be part of a community of crunchy moms with due dates around the same time as yours, and who wouldn’t love that? Check it out! 

Beef Arepas! (Cornmeal Flatbreads) with Pickled Jalapeños & Avocado

This post is dedicated to my adventurous husband and daughter who bravely tried something that they a) had never heard of, b) knew was a little spicy, and c) couldn’t slather with melted cheese, as is their typical preference. 

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This dish was super easy, and can be made both vegetarian and mild very easily.

(Or, you can go all-in and cook the jalapenos with their ribs and seeds and everything and get even MORE heat!)

What are Arepas? Similar to Polenta patties, they are like small pancakes made with pre-cooked white or yellow corn flour, available inexpensively in large grocery stores under the Goya brand or online. Pan-fried in a hot skillet with a little bit of oil, they are a fast foundation to several Central- and South-American dishes. They are very versatile and can be served at any time of day with eggs, vegetables, cheese or meat. All you need to do is mix the flour with water and form into palm-sized balls, then pat them flat and cook in a frying pan.

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Arepas with Pickled Jalapenos & Avocado

Time: Less than 40 minutes start to finish.

Quantity: The recipe below feeds about 2 1/2 people, which was exactly our size. Adjust accordingly! It doubles very easily and most people will be satisfied with one arepa, or maybe one and a half if you’re a growing boy like Mark ;)

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounces ground beef (1/2 pound)
  • 1 cup Masarepa (or corn flour) — see note above on where to buy
  • 2 radishes, ends removed, sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, de-stemmed
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (can sub jarred jalapeno slices)
  • seasonings, such as cumin & chili powder, to taste (I used carne molida blend)
  • 1 cup room-temperature water
  • olive oil, for cooking

DIRECTIONS

Start by washing, drying and preparing the produce: cut off the ends of the radishes, then slice them thinly into rounds; quarter the lime; pit, peel and slide the avocado to desired thickness; toss with the juice of 1 lime wedge to prevent browning; peel, halve and thinly slice the red onion; pick the cilantro leaves off the stems, discarding the stems; slice the jalapeno into rounds (or slice lengthwise and chop into smaller pieces, discarding ribs and seeds for less heat); end by washing your hands so you don’t transfer the heat of the pepper to other parts of the dish (or rub your eyes by accident — ouch!)

Next, pickle the jalapeno and onion. In a small pan, combine the jalapeno, sugar, vinegar and half the onion. Add 2 TBSP water and heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cook and stir occasionally for just a couple minutes, or until the liquid is mostly reduced. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Then, brown the beef. In a large non stick pan, heat 2 TBSP olive oil on medium-high until hot; add the beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, for 2-3 minutes or until it’s just cooked through (no more pink). Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside; wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

In the pan you just used to cook the beef, heat 2 TBSP olive oil on medium high until hot. Add the rest of the onion plus the spice blend to your taste (I did just the tiniest pinch because I was making this mild) plus salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, just a couple minutes or until fragrant; add the cooked beef and the juice of 1 lime wedge. Cook another two minutes, stirring, until just combined, then transfer to a bowl and wipe out the pan again for the arepas.

To form the arepas, combine the flour with a huge pinch of salt and 1 cup of lukewarm water. Stir until just combined; the dough should be damp and easy to work with. Using wet hands, divide the dough into four equal-sized balls, then flatten into 1/4 inch thin rounds on a clean work surface like a dry cutting board.

In the pan you just cleaned out, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over medium-hot until hot. Add the arepas all at one time, cooking 2-4 minutes per side, or until they are golden and cooked through.

Plate your food by placing the arepas in the bottom of each dish, topping them with the ground beef, then avocado. Garnish with the radishes, cilantro and as much pickled jalapeno and onion as appeals. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side. Yum!

TIPS

Carne Molida is a spice blend made up of 2 Parts Ancho Chile Powder, ​2 Parts Chipotle Chile Powder, ​2 Parts Garlic Powder, ​2 Parts Ground Cumin, ​2 Parts Ground Coriander, ​2 Parts Mexican Oregano, 1 Part Cocoa Powder, 1 Part Ground Nutmeg, and 1 Part Cornstarch. I barely used a pinch of this; you can decide what type of flavor you like and what heat level you desire and adjust accordingly. You could just as easily add a dash of cumin and chile powder and call it a day.

Masarepa is a quick-cooking flour. Its most popular use is in making arepas; the name “masarepa” is a combination of the words “masa” and “arepa,” meaning “dough” and “cornbread.” As I said above, you can buy it online here if you can’t find it locally.

Cooking Jalapeno with sugar and red wine balances out its heat a little, but you should only use a tiny amount of chopped jalapeno in this dish if you really hate spicy food. Adding in the ribs and seeds will intensify that level significantly. I cooked a little bit and then made sure Mark and Georgia didn’t get any actual Jalapeno chunks on their plate, which satisfied my desire to get the flavor into the dish while making sure they didn’t bite down into anything hot.

This can be easily doubled with one pound of ground beef and so on. You can also very easily sub in vegetarian ground crumbles or omit the meat entirely and insert cheese, eggs, or sturdy roasted vegetables with the same seasonings.

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The deconstructed toddler version:

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And no, she didn’t really go for the radishes. She did try them, though. 

Happily, avocados and carbs are already favorites of hers, so the patties and everything else went down the hatch. Like me, she never really eats red meat, so the hamburger she sort of picked at and gave a few courtesy nibbles. I’m not worried about her disliking ground beef, though. While it’s a rich source of iron, protein and zinc, no toddler needs to eat red meat to get those nutrients if they eat enough good fish like salmon, eggs and full-fat dairy products like cheese and whole milk, and she’s better off without all the unhealthy saturated fat in beef (to say nothing of the hormones and antibiotics found in most U.S. meat, which isn’t safe for anybody). If you do eat a fair amount of red meat, good tips for keeping it healthy enough for toddlers include purchasing higher-end cuts that have less fat; picking lean ground beef when buying it for hamburgers; and broiling instead of pan-frying, which reduces the amount of fat retained.

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the kind of fat you want to retain forever: those cheeks

I hope you enjoy this one. We tried it during our free trial of Blue Apron, which we’ve now decided to subscribe to this summer on a temporary basis to see how we like it. When pricing it out — $60 per delivery, which includes three meals that feed exactly two people — it made more sense than dropping $25 every other night on takeout when we don’t have enough time or ingredients in the house to make dinner. We always seem to have just enough extra to give Georgia a taste with her dinner, too, so it comes out to an economical $10 per person. I’ve decided to “skip” two weeks each month, so that we only get deliveries from Blue Apron every third week, and in between we rely on our old favorites, like pasta with meatballs, risotto, shepherd’s pie and spaghetti carbonara. Now that it’s summer and our garden is firing up, we’ll rotate this lemony pasta with sweet sausage in more frequently, as well as homemade pizza to use up all those peppers, tomatoes and basil. And, of course, there’s lots of fresh greens available at the farmer’s markets these days to go alongside any of these dishes to lighten them up and add some vegetables!

Happy Father’s Day!

What a weekend. I’ve been so derelict in posting lately because we had LOTS of stuff going on at home — in particular, we threw a big party this weekend to celebrate Mark’s 30th birthday, and then the next day of course it was Father’s Day! Mark (prepare your shocked face) had to work all day, so Georgia, my brother Brent and I met my dad for the “jazz brunch” at Johnny D’s, one of our old favorites from the years we lived in Somerville. To say Georgia enjoyed her cheesy grits, bacon, sliced bananas and fresh squeezed juice with a side of live music would be an understatement!

Every year we buy grampy new clothes, and this year was no different. As far daddy? We bought him a pair of nice work pants, which in his profession is this:

abc pant // lululemon.com

abc pant // lululemon.com

Designed to look like dress pants, they are in fact made of athletic material and are basically the most useful thing ever for someone who might need to read for a screen role in the morning, audition at a dance call in the afternoon, teach tap at night and follow an energetic toddler in between. There’s even a reflective strip on the inside seam so you can roll them up and ride your bike home safely.

mini helper!

mini helper!

I’m really dragging today after cleaning my whole house & yard to host 50 people (including 10 babies!) this weekend, shopping for gifts and entertaining G so Mark could relax on Father’s Day evening. Luckily, we have lots of leftovers from the party, which means cooking dinner is one thing I can check off my to-do list for a couple days. Luckily, I set aside a portion of my famous strawberry rhubarb crumble for MYSELF to eat tonight! And when I say famous, I mean it’s one of the only desserts I’m actually good at, so I bring it to everything. It’s worth the wait for the relatively short window that rhubarb is in season each year.

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We also had pudding pie, chocolate chip cookies, stuffed strawberries, sliced watermelon and vanilla ice cream for dessert. Mark fired up our charcoal grill and we had marinated steak tips, natural-casing dogs and burgers from Dom’s Sausage in Malden where we live. Georgia loved visiting the Piantedosi Baking Company next door to buy wholesale buns and to watch the production belt whizzing by overhead! They always give kids a free fresh roll to chew on, and she finished the whole thing :)

We also managed to get our new sandbox set up in the backyard for the kids to enjoy, plus Georgia’s new water table, bubbles, jump-rope and sidewalk chalk. We have a long driveway that deposits guests into our very tiny, somewhat sloped & terraced backyard, so we have to make the most of what we’ve got when we entertain!

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You know it was a good party when you were so busy having fun that the only photographic evidence left over is of half-deflated balloons and your child eating pizza and cookies simultaneously.

Instead of my usual all-romaine salad, I made one with kale, Swiss chard just a touch of romaine lettuce; the tougher greens can really stand up to strong or creamy dressings and well-seasoned croutons, so I think I’ll replicate that approach next time. It was pretty popular!

The biggest hit of the day, though, was hands-down the sweet cream-cheese stuffed strawberries my brother’s girlfriend Michelle made, so she’s agreed to share the recipe in another couple weeks when she makes it again! (You may remember her as having made these amazing Stuffed Mushrooms that you all demanded she guest blog about). Can’t wait to share the strawberries soon!

Hope all you dads, uncles, brothers, sons and grandfathers had a wonderful weekend and that you’ve got lots of plans to enjoy the summer months ahead. They’ll be gone before you know it :)

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