kid-friendly · Recipes

Salsa Verde Enchiladas

Every year I swear I’m going to talk about the weather less on this blog, and then the first mildly warm week rolls around, and all I can think about is how amazing it is that the sun makes people so much happier.

My birthday is Monday, and it’s always a toss-up as to whether it’ll be pleasant or dreary. I never grew up having outdoor birthday parties! Too unpredictable, as anyone with a late April Boston baby can attest.

I have a few traditions for my birthday every year. Get a pedicure (alone), make Mark take the day off if it falls on a weekend, and drag the whole family out for Mexican food. This year, it falls on a week day, and I have to spend it at the DMV of all places, but after that … AFTER that, we shall eat Mexican food.

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I’m the only one who really loves Mexican food in our house, although I’m gradually converting Georgia with tortilla chips, cheese and soft taco bread. (Are there people alive who don’t love those things? I don’t want to meet them).

This year, a new restaurant opened near us called 3 Amigos that I can’t wait to try. I was heartbroken when the former restaurant in that space, Fuloon, closed its doors suddenly in August. It was such a well-kept secret for excellent, spicy Sichuan cuisine! But 3 Amigos has gotten rave reviews in the short few weeks since its grand opening, and the cocktails sound to-die-for. They call themselves a tequila infusion bar; I’m not sure what that even means, but I am willing to test it out. I’ll report back my review!

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Sometimes, like a few weeks ago, I had a hankering for something Mexican when it wasn’t my birthday, so I whipped together this simple enchilada recipe and literally ate the whole thing myself: first for dinner one night, then for lunch the next three days in a row. It’s too good! I never got sick of it.

If your family doesn’t mind a little kick, this has medium spice and comes together very quickly — perfect for a weeknight. It’s even simpler if you pick up a rotisserie chicken and use that instead of boiling and shredding two chicken breasts, as I did. You can always dial down the heat by choosing a “mild” salsa instead of the Pace Salsa Verde I used (which is surprisingly complex for a mass market salsa brand — lots of garlic, lime and tomatillo hints in there!) Or, you can cook up the chicken and shred it one night, then save for dinner the next day. Once you have shredded chicken ready to go, this comes together fast and cooks for less than half an hour.


Salsa Verde Enchiladas

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 24-oz. jar salsa verde
  • 3/4 cup light cream or half-and-half
  • 4 TBSP (1/4 cup) sour cream
  • 1 package corn or flour tortillas (about 8, size depending)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1.5 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the light cream and sour cream in a bowl with the salsa and stir to combine. Set aside 1 cup of this mixture to pour in the bottom of the baking dish later. To the remaining salsa/cream mixture, add the shredded chicken and stir until coated.

Start by pouring about half the reserved salsa mixture into the bottom of a your baking dish; spread into a thin, even layer. Set aside the rest for the top.

Taking a tortilla in your hand, scoop a spoonful of the chicken mixture in and roll to close, placing in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat until the dish is full.

Pour the rest of the reserved salsa mixture on top of the tortillas, then top with the shredded cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes until the cheese bubbles, or up to 5 minutes longer if it’s isn’t browning and crispy at the edges. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • I used Pace Salsa Verde, which is medium heat; you can substitute any green salsa. Pace is sold at Target, where I shop weekly, and their salsa comes in the right 24-ounce size I needed for this recipe. If you buy a smaller jar, buy two.
  • You can sub in 1 full cup of half and half if you don’t like sour cream.
  • You can use corn or flour tortillas, and they can be any size; I’ve made this with a dozen of the smaller rounds, and about 8-10 of the larger tortillas.
  • I boiled and shredded my own chicken breasts, but it’s even faster if you pick up a rotisserie chicken; or, you can buy packaged shredded chicken at Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s; or, you can hit a salad bar and buy already-shredded chicken, sold by the pound.
  • In these pictures, I had taco blend shredded cheese on hand, so that’s what I used. It looks and tastes even better if you grate a block of white Monterey Jack cheese. You can also buy this pre-shredded from Sargento at Target!
  • I haven’t tried doing it this way, but I bet these would taste good if you put some more of the cheese inside each tortilla as well as on top. If you try that, let me know! Sounds delectably gooey.

Recipe adapted from Everyday Reading.


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Notoriously hard to photograph, I promise you these enchiladas are more delicious to eat than they are to look at. I love having these with a heaping side of guacamole or sour cream, and topped with fresh cilantro (another thing nobody else in my house will eat!)

If you want to shred your own chicken, here’s how to do it. 

  1. Pat the chicken dry and then season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large stockpot (I used this one) place the chicken in the bottom and cover with an inch or two of water, then bring to a boil. Lower heat to a rolling simmer and cover.
  3. Cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes or no longer than 14 minutes; you can test the temperature with a meat thermometer, and they should read 165°F.
  4. Remove to a cutting board or clean plate and shred. I find this is easier to do when they are still hot, so I shred right away and then store in an airtight glass container for when I’m going to cook them, always within 24 to 48 hours. I use two forks and just tear in opposite directions, pulling the meat into shreds of whatever size I like to use.

Poaching chicken is a great way to keep the meat moist and full of flavor. The leftover poaching liquid can be re-purposed as a stock/base for soup, and you can add other aromatics to the water to complement the ultimate recipe you’re using the chicken in, such as onions, garlic, bay leaves, whole peppercorns, ginger, even wine.

Happy meal prepping this weekend, and let me know how you like this one!

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kid-friendly · Recipes

Trader Joe’s Tag: Teriyaki Steak Tips & Grilled Asparagus

For the latest installment in my not-frequent-enough series on Meals You Can Make Exclusively Using Trader Joe’s Products, I offer these delicious, grill-ready steak tips and sides. Made using things you can find 100% at Trader Joe’s, this meal comfortably fed our family of three with leftovers, and came together in half an hour on a weeknight after work and camp. It’s also pretty healthy, with just 240 calories per serving of beef, or a total of 10 Weight Watchers points if you eat a really big helping. We cooked this indoors because it was raining out, but these tips are made for the grill. You could also broil them to mimic that fresh-off-the-barbecue sear!

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Teriyaki Steak Tips & Grilled Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

All from Trader Joe’s:

  • 1 package refrigerated teriyaki steak tips (in the meat case)
  • 1 package frozen grilled asparagus spears
  • 1 packaged refrigerated scalloped potatoes or boxed potatoes au gratin*

*Or, substitute a similar potato side. Looking for different options, or rather make something from scratch? Check out my mashed potatoes, homemade scalloped potatoesroasted potatoes, or classic potato salad.


DIRECTIONS

Prepare potatoes following package directions (or use from-scratch recipes above) while heating up a grill pan/large cast iron skillet/Dutch oven to cook the steak tips. (Or grill ’em outside!) I used my large Le Creuset dish and it worked perfectly by giving all the tips room to brown without crowding on the bottom of the pan.

You can also stick these under the broiler for a few minutes and that would work great, too. You’ll be cooking them for about 7 minutes or to desired level of done-ness.

While the tips are cooking, heat the frozen asparagus either in the oven in a glass dish, or in the microwave in a safe dish, until cooked through, following package directions.

Serve the tips with some pan juices alongside the grilled asparagus and potatoes. Garnish with any additional steak sauce you like; Trader Joe’s island soyaki sauce might be nice here, as would any other sweet condiment that won’t fight the teriyaki marinade. Enjoy!

There’s no need to season these further, as they come already marinated in a sauce that you can just throw right into a hot pot with a little olive oil. This would also go really well with any type of rice side, as well as any other type of vegetable if you don’t like asparagus. I love these frozen asparagus because you can really taste the grilled parts, and they aren’t very mushy, which kind of tricks your taste buds into thinking that you cooked them fresh. Other awesome frozen sides at Trader Joe’s include their Organic Superfood Pilaf (tri-color quinoa with sweet potatoes, kale and carrots),  Fire Roasted Bell Peppers & Onions, and Misto Alla Griglia (marinated grilled eggplant, zucchini and red peppers). I also keep their boxed frozen rice on hand at all times, because you can just steam-heat a two-serving pouch in the microwave to go with dinner at the last minute, and they have a wide variety ranging from organic jasmine rice to organic brown rice to barley mix.

Looking for other Trader Joe’s meals? Check out:

Roasted Red Pepper & Tortellini Soup (vegetarian!)

Chimichurri Rice with Chicken Sausage

Lemon Pepper Pappardelle with Hummus Pesto

Soy Chorizo Chili (vegetarian!)

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

And, like most people who shop at Trader Joe’s, one of our top meals is their frozen orange chicken sauteed in a pan with TJ’s frozen vegetable fried rice. It’s our #1 takeout substitute for busy weeknight dinners and now even Georgia asks when we can have “OC” again! I make a big batch on a busy evening and she loves to share a plate with Daddy while watching a movie. What other Trader Joe’s foods do YOU love?

Have a great weekend everyone!

SPANX

Recipes

Cabbage-Arugula Salad with Sliced Beets, Grapes & Feta

Good Tuesday morning everyone! Hope you all had a restful Mother’s Day. We didn’t really do much — took Georgia for lunch and ice cream with both her grammies & her favorite Uncle Brent — and I’m already focused on the week ahead and the DAMN SUN COMING BACK OUT. Am I the only one losing their mind over last week’s seven-day stretch of rain? Weather that seemed charming and curious on my visit to the Pacific Northwest became alarming and anxiety-inducing when it overtook what’s supposed to be a sunny and mild season in New England. Thankfully, the nice weather seems to be back for this week (finally), and nothing says spring like a light, fresh salad. I created this one a couple weeks ago, and I can’t wait to share with you! I’m a sucker for any salad with beets in it, especially when they are set off with a flavorful cheese, and this one really hits the mark with a salty feta alongside grapes and beets. Plus, scroll to the end for an easy knockoff recipe for the Cosi Signature Salad — a weakness of mine when I buy lunch out! 

Cabbage-Arugula Salad with Sliced Beets, Grapes & Feta

INGREDIENTS

  • Greens: I used Napa Cabbage, Purple Cabbage and Arugula.
  • Toppings: Feta, crumbled; grapes, sliced in half; baby beets, sliced.
  • Optional Add-On: chicken for a little protein boost.
  • Dressing: Fig vinaigrette. Stonewall Kitchen makes an amazing one!


DIRECTIONS

Chop and toss salad together in a large bowl and serve. That’s it!

Don’t like feta? Try goat cheese, which always pairs awesomely with beets. Beets are actually not that difficult to peel and slice at home, as long as you use a plastic cutting board and wash it immediately afterward, and be careful not to touch anything with your hands covered in beet juice because it stains! Or, you can buy the canned/jarred kind, or snag some at a salad bar if you’re making this on the go.

Personally, I made this for the first time at a salad bar, and then recreated it at home later with great results. Now, it’s one of my new favorites! You can only order so much chicken Caesar for lunch before you want a change of pace.

What are your favorite salads? My other go-to orders for lunch and dinner are Panera’s Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, and the Cosi Signature Salad, which is easy to recreate at home with grapes, pears, pistachios (sold shelled at Trader Joe’s), dried cranberries, mixed greens, Gorgonzola and sherry shallot vinaigrette.

Sherry Vinegar is a specialty item, but lots of food bloggers have spent time trying to mimic its flavor with a copycat recipe, and I think Real Mom Nutrition has it down pat: you just need to whisk minced shallot, red wine vinegar, mustard, honey, and olive oil together until thoroughly combined, then add salt and pepper to taste, to recreate Cosi’s awesome house salad. The ratio is 1/2 a shallot, peeled & minced; 2 TBSP red wine vinegar; 1 TBSP each of honey and Dijon mustard; and a 1/2 cup of olive oil, finished with salt and pepper to taste.

The best part of the Panera salad is those crispy apple slices, if you ask me. I’m going to try my hand at drying apple rings into chips soon so that I can make a knock-off version of this awesome salad at home. These takeout salads run you almost $10 a pop, which is CRAY if you can easily make them at home! If I have any luck making dried apple rings, I’ll definitely post about it for you!

Well, that’s all for me today. I hope everyone has a great week!

Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Garden-Fresh Tomato Sauce

Georgia’s party was this past weekend! The weather was gorgeous, the party was a success, and mama is tired. This is a recipe I made last week, while trying to use up even more of our garden tomatoes, which are ripening at the rate of dozens per day (!!) I like a chunky sauce but in this heat I don’t want to simmer it for hours, so I use a base to get me started, then just add tomatoes, fresh basil and seasonings. This time, I decided to see how shallots in butter would taste as a foundation for a quick summer tomato sauce, and I really liked the way it turned out. Here’s the recipe!

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I chose to make it with frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s mixed into the sauce, with a side salad featuring additional tomatoes from our garden. Greens were just one head of romaine that I picked up at a sidewalk stand on my way home. The pasta pictured is penne, but you can use anything.

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Garden-Fresh Tomato Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 12-oz. (1 lb) can of crushed tomatoes as a base
  • 1 package frozen meatballs (or fresh) if using, such as Trader Joe’s
  • Handful of fresh basil, quantity to your taste, torn into smaller pieces (with stems removed)
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced, then soaked in water for at least 5 minutes
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • ~ half a dozen fresh tomatoes, sliced and seeds removed (scrape out with a spoon)
  • salt, pepper and any other seasonings to taste

DIRECTIONS

Place the frozen meatballs in a medium sauce pan if you are making this sauce with them included, then pour in the entire can of crushed tomatoes and heat over medium-low, covered, while you chop the tomatoes from your garden, farmer’s market or CSA. I used between 5 and 6 smaller tomatoes, but eyeball it. You always want to have more sauce than not enough.

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Roughly dice your shallot and let it rest in a cup of water that just covers it (yes, I used a baby food bowl!) which helps them to get a little less sharp. In a small skillet, heat a tablespoon (approximately) of butter (or your choice of a substitute spread, such as Smart Balance) over medium-low until melted. Add the shallot to the butter and cook for a few minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper, until translucent. Turn off the heat.

While the can of crushed tomatoes and meatballs simmer, add any seasonings to the  sauce pan and keep covered over low while you boil water to cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water so it stops cooking.

Add the shallots (including the butter) and freshly-torn basil to the sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and your choice of other spices such as garlic powder, oregano, sugar, etc. I used a hearty Italian-style blend. Cover again and let simmer a little while longer. If the sauce looks too thick, add a splash of water or olive oil; if it looks too watery/thin or there isn’t enough, you can do what I did — throw in some leftover pizza sauce, which I always keep on hand — or add more garden tomatoes to bulk it up. Really, this is a very flexible recipe and you can sort of play it by ear!

I like to add in some more freshly shredded basil right at the end, and then more on top of the plate when I serve it. But I REALLY like basil, and there is a LOT in Mark’s garden right now. Pretty much, once the meatballs are cooked through (aka fork tender), this is ready to eat! I don’t mix the pasta and sauce together in one pan, but rather plate the penne and pour some sauce and meatballs over it, and finish with my side of salad. As Georgia says, “deeee-licious!”

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Basil: It goes with everything.

You can serve this however you like, with or without a side, and I’d bet you could also add meat to the sauce as well if you wanted to brown some sausage or ground beef up with the shallot. I almost threw in some roasted eggplant, too, but it was so hot I didn’t really want to put on the oven to bake it. Penne was great but any pasta you prefer will do just fine! This came out tasting like I’d simmered it for hours, when in reality it is done as soon as the fresh tomatoes have broken down to your liking. The longer you cook it the more they will fall apart and liquify, but they taste good no matter how chunky you leave them. I myself prefer them to hold a little bit of form. I also added my favorite spaghetti sauce seasoning, the organic blend from Wildtree, which added so much flavor.

I hope you like this! Party photos and recap coming soon! 

I can’t believe we have a two year old…this feels like just yesterday (although this doesn’t). Here she is on her birthday, at two minutes, one year, and two: