Green Taco Burger Wraps.

I love lettuce wraps – I think I even prefer when things are wrapped in lettuce to any tortilla or bun (excluding hot dogs, of course). The cool crunch and the light freshness of the lettuce just seems to pair well with a lot of the foods that we think of as bun-worthy. This recipe for what I’m calling “green taco burger wraps” combines the best of cheeseburgers and tacos and wraps the whole thing in nice crunchy lettuce. The burger meat is spiced with cumin and oregano to give it a bit of Mexican flavor, and the toppings are all my taco favorites (especially avocado….mmmm). They’re easy and healthy and so delicious!

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INGREDIENTS

about 3/4 lb ground meat (I used beef)
1 egg
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
red onion, diced
cheese, sliced (I used cheddar)
cilantro, rough chop
tomato, chopped
red pepper, raw or lightly sauteed
4 large lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
avocado, sliced
green onion, sliced
1 lime, sliced

Just the Recipe link: Green Taco Burger Wraps

DIRECTIONS

First, season the burger meat. In a large bowl, add meat, egg, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and red onion to taste. I set the rest of the red onion aside in a little ramekin to top the burgers with later. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.

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That’s the only cooking prep you’ll do in this recipe. At this point, I set the meat aside to let the flavors hang out a bit while I chopped up everything else and put all the amazing toppings into their own little bowls.

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When everything else is ready to go, cook the burgers. First, use your hands to form them into small patties (we made two little patties per person). I cooked them on my beautiful new Le Creuset grill pan from Williams-Sonoma, but a regular grill or a pan can do the trick as well. Put your pan over medium high heat and lightly grease before adding the burgers. Cook until browned on each side and medium-rare in the middle (or however you like your burgers cooked!). Set aside for 5 minutes to let the meat rest.

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The next step is just assembly!

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I started with the lettuce wrapper, then laid the burger on top and placed the cheese on top of that, so it would get a little melty. Then it’s only a matter of topping to your heart’s content – cilantro, red pepper, red onion, green onion, avocado, and a finishing squeeze of lime make these a perfect fresh and healthy lunch. Before you take a bite, just wrap the lettuce around your taco-topped burger. Then dig right in!

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Loaded Chili.

Garnishes. Goodies. Fixins’. At least half the reason I love chili is the toppings you get to put on it. Oh, my, the toppings. This recipe is about making an amazing chili that will eventually become an Ode to Toppings, and I want you to use them all: avocado, cheese, cilantro, tomato—whatever your heart desires. And you know what? You are a great cook and a wonderful person, and you deserve a beautiful meal. So thank yourself for making this by plating it up like a work of art and garnishing the heck out of it. Heidi at 101 Cookbooks is the master at this. Here are some of her most gorgeously garnished soups: Split Pea, Broccoli Cheddar, Yellow Split Pea, and Posole in broth. Let life imitate art and load up this chili!

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INGREDIENTS

for the chili:
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb ground meat (I used pork)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups stock (I used beef stock)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 16oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16 oz can corn, drained and rinsed

all the fixins’:
avocado, sliced
fresh cilantro, chopped
cheese, shredded
fresh tomato, chopped
onion or green onion, thinly sliced or minced
squeeze of lime

Just the Recipe link: Loaded Chili

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a pan and add onion and red pepper. Cook about 8 minutes, until softened.

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Add the garlic and the cayenne pepper, oregano, coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and yummy-smelling.

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Add the ground pork and use your spoon to break it up. Cook until browned, stirring occasionally.

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Once the meat is browned, pour in the canned tomatoes and the stock. Toss in a bay leaf for good measure. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes.

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After 45 minutes have gone by, add the cilantro, corn, and beans, and simmer for another 15 minutes.

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Taste for seasoning and your chili is good to go! Now dress it up. And make it look beautiful, for heaven’s sake! You’re worth it.

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Egg in the Pepper.

Red Pepper Egg in the Hole? Egg in the Red Pepper Hole? Actually it’s more like Egg in and Around the Hole. I wasn’t sure what to call these. Basically it’s your standard egg in the hole, only instead of being in a hole, they’re in slices of red pepper. I love the shape of red pepper slices, and I was just struck with the idea to do this while I was making breakfast over the weekend. Eggs in the Pepper are really good for breakfast, and here’s why: They’re easy. They don’t have a lot of ingredients. They’re fast. And they feel fancy. Happy eating.

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INGREDIENTS

1 red pepper
olive oil
2 slices of ham (or use some baby spinach instead, if you like)
6 eggs
cheese, for sprinkling (I used cheddar and mozzarella)
salt and pepper to taste

Just the Recipe link: Egg in the Pepper

DIRECTIONS

Lay the red pepper down horizontally and cut into 6 slices, cleaning out all the seeds and stuff inside.

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Heat oil in a pan and fry the peppers a few minutes on eat side, until tender and lightly browned. Work in two batches until they’re all cooked.

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Then fry up the ham (or spinach instead, if you like). Just give it a minute or two on each side, and remove it to a plate. This will be the base for the peppers and eggs.

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Now put 3 of the cooked pepper slices back into the pan with some more oil. Crack 3 of the eggs into the middle of the peppers – no worries if some of the egg spills out the sides; it probably won’t be perfect. Cover the pan with a lid.

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When the eggs are almost done, sprinkle some cheese on top and cover again to melt.

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Remove from heat and plate on top of ham or spinach. Repeat with the last 3 red pepper slices and eggs. We served these with hash browns – such a great breakfast!

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

This recipe is a tribute to a friend who so generously acted as beauty consultant / hair colorist for me yesterday. To thank her, I made these gluten-free pizzas, which are completely delicious whether g-free is your lifestyle (hers) or not (mine). Though gluten is fine by me, I’ve found that a lot of the things I love to cook (and eat) are already gluten-free. So when I find a recipe, like this one, that is totally dreamy and healthy AND fits in with the g-free life, I love to share it. This is one of those! I came upon essentially the same ingenious recipe on 3 of my favorite blogs, and this is my version of that awesomely tasty and healthy pizza. Yum! And thanks Jeni!

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INGREDIENTS

for crust:
2 cups cauliflower stems and florets, grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
oregano and granulated garlic to taste
1 egg
salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp cottage cheese, to hold it together

topping ideas:
1/2 cubed chicken breast, sauteed with salt, pepper, and paprika
shredded mozzarella
grape tomatoes, quartered
green onions, chopped

Just the Recipe link: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 F.

First, put the grated cauliflower into a bowl and microwave for 7 minutes, covered with a washcloth or paper towel. When it’s cooked, mix all the crust ingredients in a bowl. Use more or less cottage cheese, depending on how dry the mixture is and how it’s holding together.

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On a greased baking pan, shape the cauliflower mixture into two flat discs, as thick or thin as you like.

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Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top is flecked with bits of golden melted cheese. The thickness of the crusts will affect baking time, so make sure to keep an eye on them.

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Once the crusts come out of the oven, I use a spatula to loosen them from the bottom of the pan and make sure they come off in one piece, because this will be a lot harder to do once they’re topped with cheese and other wonderful things.

Before you start with the toppings, turn up your oven to broil (or to very, very hot!). The pizzas only have a few minutes left to cook, and we want to do it at a high heat.

On to the beautiful toppings. They can truly be whatever you want – we went with chicken, green onion, tomato, and cheese, and they were fantastic!

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Stick back in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and has started to turn a little golden. Sprinkle with some more green onion or some oregano and dig in!

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Stuffed Potato Skins.

Mmmmm. I love when amazing recipes are born of leftovers. What to do with leftover Christmas ham? This is a totally sumptuous and indulgent use of that holiday bounty, and it’s worth it in every way. My stuffed skins are the lovechild of a twice-baked potato and a potato skin, with the best of each coming together in this dish. It’s the steamy meatiness of a twice-baked, with the crispiness and the magical fillings/toppings of potato skins. Make this now or forever regret missing a wonderful food opportunity!

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INGREDIENTS

8 medium baking potatoes, washed
canola oil
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 tbsp butter
3-5 tbsp milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp seasoning salt (I used Bridgeport seasoning from the Spice House)
1 1/2 cups ham, diced (great for any holiday’s leftovers!!)
salt and pepper to taste
5 scallions, chopped

Just the Recipe link: Stuffed Potato Skins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Rub each potato lightly with oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until fork-tender, about 40 minutes.

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While the potatoes cook, get the toppings/fillings ready. Shred the cheese, dice up the ham, and chop the garlic and scallions.

When the potatoes are done, slice them in half long-ways and use an oven mitt hold them while you scoop out the middles. You want each potato to have enough room to stuff with filling, but enough potato remaining inside so that it still holds its shape. Put the potato meat that you scoop out into a large mixing bowl. Place the empty potato skins back in the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and put back in the oven to crisp up a bit more, about 10-15 minutes (or longer, if you want the skins really nice and crispy. I didn’t have the patience to wait!).

Now, mix up the filling. Stir together the potatoes with the sour cream, milk, butter, garlic, seasoning salt, ham, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese.

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Take the skins out of the oven and stuff with the filling.

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Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

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Bake until the cheese is melted and the skins are even crispier. Sprinkle with scallions. These go great with sour cream and/or ketchup. Enjoy!

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Baba Ganoush.

I’m no farmer and I don’t know anything about the seasonality of produce. Visiting most American grocery stores, the average shopper would have no idea when various fruits and veggies were in season, because stores sell pretty much everything, all year round. And while it can be nice to have fresh avocados in winter and apples in spring, there’s really nothing as good as in-season local produce, picked by farmers and eaten by me on the very same day! On Saturday morning at the farmers market, I saw more eggplants in more different varieties than I even knew existed, so my keen non-farmer Spidey Sense tells me it must be eggplant season in the midwest. I picked up a nice big one and made this classic Middle Eastern roasted eggplant spread. Go get your own before the season passes!

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplant
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
2 tsp lemon juice
fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 tsp hot paprika, plus more for dusting
salt and pepper to taste

A successful morning at the farmers market.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Pierce eggplant 8 times. Place on hot grill or directly on gas stove over medium high flame. Turn so that each side chars evenly.

When the skin is charred, remove from heat.

Stuff garlic cloves into the slits in the eggplant.

Roast on baking sheet for about 20 minutes, until eggplant is completely softened. Set aside to cool.

While eggplant cools, combine all other ingredients in a bowl.

When the eggplant has cooled enough to touch, cut off the stem and peel off as much of the skin as you can.

Cut into three pieces and add to a food processor along with all other ingredients.

Spoon into a bowl and dust with more paprika. I forgot to do it for the photo, but an extra drizzle of olive oil isn’t a bad idea either.