Slow-cooked carnitas tacos.

What a treat these tacos were. We’ve made fish tacos and bean burritos before, but I’ve never ventured into the pork or red meat category for these. I was surprised how juicy and delicious these turned out from the crock pot! You know I love a recipe that requires me dumping things in a pot and then coming back eight hours later to a ready made meal.

Here’s what you’ll need…

For the carnitas

2 pork tenderloins

1 onion, sliced

2 poblano peppers, quartered

2 tbsp Fajita seasoning

1/2 C water

For the tacos

Corn tortillas

Avocado

Fresh jalapeno

Cilantro

Lime

Get your crock pot out and set it to Low. Cut your tenderloins up into large chunks (about 4 pieces per tenderloin). Add the sliced onion and quartered peppers (make sure you removed the seeds from these) to the pot. Add a healthy covering of fajita seasoning and 1/2 C water (or enough to cover the items in the pot about 1/2 way). Now, go and do something fun while your crock pot does all the work. Come back about eight hours later and your pork will be juicy and ready for you to pull apart.

We like to eat our tacos with fresh avocado, jalapeno and lime juice squeezed on top. Amir loves fresh cilantro, too! Here’s a tip for warming your tortillas to make sure they’re soft and fresh tasting every time. We like to buy the big bags of corn tortillas and then freeze them so they don’t go bad before we eat all of them. Pull them out of the freezer (or refrigerator if that’s where they are stored) and put them on a plate. Wet a paper towel and lay it on top of your stack of tortillas. Heat in the microwave until warm enough. Remove the paper towel and you’ll have soft tortillas that don’t crack when you try to fill them – hate it when that happens!

 

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Turkey ragu with spaghetti.

So, we originally set out to make this a lamb ragu, but decided to go with a lighter, healthier option in ground turkey once we got to the grocery store. We both love a classic ragu and have made it with several types of meat before. This ground turkey version was delicious, but I’m a sucker for Amir’s ragu!

Here’s what you’ll need…

1 lb. ground turkey

2 tbsp olive oil

1 C finely chopped carrots

1 C finely chopped celery

1 C finely chopped onions

1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

1 4 oz. can of tomato paste

2 tbsp Italian seasoning

16 oz. fresh pasta (see our pasta recipe here!)

In a medium sauce pan, combine all of the finely chopped vegetables with olive oil and salt/pepper to taste. Let cook until tender and onions are translucent.

In a separate pan, brown the ground turkey and drain the juice. Add the turkey to the vegetables and let cook for a few more minutes.

At this point, add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste plus the Italian seasoning. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Serve a healthy scoop over your cooked pasta and top with parmesan if you like!

 

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Weird, right? But, it kind of makes perfect sense to try out a cookie using whole wheat flour. I mean, that makes it healthy, right? Of course it does. I started to make cookies to try to cover up the scent of the fish broth I was cooking earlier in the day. But, I realized I had no all purpose flour and instead found a bag of whole wheat flour in my cabinet. I was surprised at how moist and tasty this cookie is.

Here’s what you’ll need…

1/2 C white sugar

1/2 C brown sugar, packed

1/2 C butter (one stick), softened

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp hot water

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1.5 C whole wheat flour

1 C semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a cookie sheet.

We use our Kitchenaid mixer to cream the white sugar, brown sugar and butter until combine. Next, add the egg until combined, followed by the vanilla extract. Dissolve the baking soda into the hot water and add to the mixture until combine. Add the salt and then add the flour slowly until well combined. Lastly, add the chocolate chips.

Spoon out heaping teaspoons onto your greased cookie sheet, making sure not to cloud the cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the center of each cookie is firm.

Yum!

 

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Fessenjoon :: my Persian comfort food.

One great thing about being married to a Persian man – Persian food! Of course there are many other perks, but since I’m obsessed with food, we’ll focus on that one. A lot of Persian dishes center around a ‘Khoresh,’ or a sort of stew that is served over rice. This can be made with okra, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, etc. This one if quite different from most Khoresh dishes in that it is a stew of walnuts, pomegranate and chicken. Weird, right? It’s amazing. When my mother-in-law first made this dish I fell in love. Now, every time we visit I secretly say a little prayer in hopes that she is going to serve Fessenjoon for dinner. I finally decided it was time for me to learn to make this dish so I didn’t have to rely on her for my culinary happiness. On her last visit we did a Fessenjoon cooking session, and I’m excited to now have the recipe to share with you all! This is a unique dish with a mix of savory and sweet flavors, and it won’t be for everyone’s taste, but I think it’s amazing! Right now, I’m working with leftovers, and I’ve been rationing it out to myself to make sure I don’t run out too fast. It’s that good!

Here’s what you’ll need…

(Serves 6-8)

Fessenjoon Khoresh

4 C walnuts

3 C water

1 medium onion

2 chicken breast (this can be made with stew beef as well)

1/2 bottle of pomegranate molasses

2-4 tbsp sugar

Rice

4 C long grain, basmati rice

1/4 C vegetable oil

1/4 C water

Pinch of ground saffron

***Leave out the chicken and you could easily make this a vegetarian dish!

First off, this is what the pomegranate molasses looks like. It’s a little challenging to find unless your grocery store has a thorough international aisle or unless you have access to a middle eastern market.

Second, this is the best rice to use. As long as you find a long grain, basmati-style rice you should be fine, but we have the best luck with this kind. If it comes in one of these burlap looking bags, you’ve hit the jackpot. And, it’ll last you FOREVER!

Ok, now let’s cook. In a food processor, coarsely ground the walnuts being sure not to overground. If you see the oil from the walnuts surfacing, you’ve gone too far! Dump this into a large sauce pan and add roughly 3 C of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and continue to cook. You’ll be watching this mixture closely over this process and can add more liquid as you see fit. Watch the mixture constantly, stirring often and looking for the walnut sauce to get darker and darker, taking on the color of peanuts.

In a separate sauce pan, add your chopped onion. Take your boneless, skinless chicken breast and cut into about 6-8 pieces per breast. Add this to the onion as well about a 1/2 C of water. Cook this over medium heat until the onions and chicken have released lots of juices and the chicken is just about totally cooked.

As you are watching the walnut mixture, should it get too dry or start to stick to the bottom of the pan, add some of the juice from your onion/chicken mixture to continue to loosen it up. It should stay very fluid, but not as runny as water. Once you start to see the oil from the walnuts surfacing in the saucepan (about 20-30 mins probably), you’re ready to add the pomegranate molasses. Add about 1/2 of your bottle of molasses or until the mixture takes on a dark brown color. Add about 2 tbsp of sugar and taste the sauce to see if it is too tart. The molasses is very tart, so the sugar should even it out. Add more sugar, 1 tbsp at a time until it’s reach a sweeter, yet still tart flavor.

Lastly, add the chicken and onion mixture to the pomegranate/walnut sauce. Reduce heat and let simmer.

While this finishes up, let’s cook the rice. Choose a large sauce pan with a smaller circumference. We use this pot (minus the steamer)…not too wide, but still pretty large.

This is important to be sure you get a good tadeeg on the bottom of your rice (a crispy sheet of rice) while still reserving the majority of your rice to cook regularly and come out fluffy. Your tadeeg will look like this…

Photo credit: Turmeric and Saffron

So yum! So, before you start to cook the rice, be sure to thoroughly rinse it. We put it in a bowl, run water over it, mix around the rice and drain out the water until the water is clear. It will have a milky color in the beginning. Apparently rice is quite dirty!

Once the rice is clean, add to a pot with equal parts water and bring to a boil. It’s key here to pull the rice off the boil before it’s completely cooked. When the grains are soft, but still a little tough in the middle, pull from the stove and strain in a colander.

In a small bowl, combine your oil, water and saffron. Dump this into the same pot you used to boil the rice over high heat. When the mixture starts to bubble and pop, remove half of it and set aside. Drop the strained rice into the pot. Cover with the lid. Watch the rice and when the condensation on the lid starts to bead down the sides, remove the lid. Add the remaining oil/water/saffron liquid evenly over the rice. Take the end of the wooden spoon and create 4-5 holes in the rice (not going all the way to the base of the pot). Cover with the lid, but this time put a paper towel in between the pot and the lid being sure to seal it off, keeping all of the steam inside the pot.

The trick to knowing when Persian rice is ready is an old tradition. Run your hand under some tap water and either flick it onto the sides of the pot, or VERY quickly dab your hand on the side of the pot, making sure water reaches the pot. Once the water VERY quickly evaporates off and there is a clear ‘sizzle’ sound, the rice is ready. Fun, right?

To serve the rice, take the lid off and put your serving dish upside down on the rice pot. Grab the handles of the pot and the serving dish and flip the pot upside down, emptying the rice onto the dish. This way your tadeeg will be on top and will keep the rice completely in place! Divy out the tadeeg, for most people it’s their favorite part!

Now, remove your Fessenjoon from the simmer. Scoop some rice onto your plate and top with the Fessenjoon, being sure to get a couple pieces of chicken. Now eat up!

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Tomato pie :: a southern classic.

So, being a southern girl, Tomato Pie is an essential summer dish for me. This savory pie is definitely a little glutenous, so I’ve attempted here to slim it down a little bit, but not enough to call this a ‘healthy’ version. Regardless, the summer dish is so fresh and a great item for brunch, lunch or dinner!

Here’s what you’ll need…

One ready-to-bake, 9″ pie shell

1.5 C asiago cheese, grated

1/2 C crumbled feta cheese

1/4 C fresh basil, chopped

1/2 C low-fat mayonnaise

3-4 tomatoes, sliced into 1/4″-1/2″ rounds

1/2 medium vidalia onion, sliced

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 C parmesan

Salt and pepper, to taste

Before you do any cooking, this first step is crucial. Lay your tomato slices out on a couple paper towels, and cover with an additional couple paper towels. Lightly press the tomatoes to extract some of the juice. Let sit on the paper towels for at least 30 minutes and as long as possible to remove most of the juice. This will make sure you don’t have too much juice filling the pie shell and creating a soggy crust.

Preheat your oven to 350 and cook your pie shell until light golden brown.

Arrange the sliced onions in the bottom of the cooked pie shell. Next, layer your sliced tomatoes on top, sprinkle with the fresh basil and add salt/pepper to taste. In a separate bowl, combine mayo, asiago and feta. Spread this mixture on top of the pie being sure to cover as much of the tomatoes as possible. Then, top with the Italian seasoning. Lastly, sprinkle the pie with the grated parmesan to ensure a perfect, golden crust.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pie has a nice golden brown crust.

 

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Peach & Blackberry Pie.

A sweet summer treat with fresh local fruit. Yuuuuuum!

Here’s what you’ll need…

2 pie crusts

2 C fresh blackberries

4-5 small peaches, peeled and sliced

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/4 C brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 350 and pull your pie crusts out of the fridge. Let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, combined your blackberries, peaches, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour in a large bowl. Let sit in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

Press one of the pie crusts in a 9″ pie dish. Pour the chilled pie filling into the crust. Chop your butter into small cubes and dot the pie with the pieces. Then, prepare your lattice crust…here is a great how-to for that. It’s definitely not as hard as it may look!

After your crust is perfect and lattice-y, take a fork and press the edges of the pie crust together with the tip of the prongs, creating a texture around the edge and sealing the pieces of the crust together. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the crust is evenly golden brown and the pie filling is bubbling. You may need to cover the edges (or the entire pie) with foil if the crust is becoming too brown! Serve with vanilla ice cream on a hot summer evening – yes, please!

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Watermelon + Feta Salad.

So this doesn’t really need a recipe, but I more wanted to share our take on this fresh summer salad! We love eating this as a side item or just a fresh snack midday. Cold watermelon always cools me down on these hot summer days.

Here’s what you’ll need…

Fresh watermelon, sliced (we used about 1/4 of a whole watermelon)

Feta cheese

Fresh mint

Basically, for a 1/4 of a watermelon (our watermeon wasn’t huge either), I tossed in about 1/2 C feta cheese and a hand full of chiffonade fresh mint leaves. That’s it! Some people like to add olive oil or balsamic to this salad, but we really like to keep it fresh and simple. The flavors together really provide enough without having to add anything else! Enjoy.

 

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Summer Peach & Berry Smoothie

We’re back! Sorry for the long hiatus, but…we moved! We are now shakin’ and bakin’ in NC and loving it. First up on our list of posts this week is a nice summer treat. It’s felt like Texas up here in NC for the past week, so we needed to cool down and this smoothie did just the trick.

Here’s what you’ll need…

1 frozen banana, peeled

2 small fresh peaches, peeled and sliced

1 hand full of fresh blueberries

1 hand full of fresh blackberries

1 C Fage Greek Yogurt with peaches (use all the yogurt and the flavor packet)

1 C apple juice

Ice

Combine all ingredients into your blender and top with ice. Pulse (if your blender has an ‘ice crush’ function use that as well) until completely blended and smooth. Voila! Enjoy :).

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Filed under Breakfast, Drinks, Snacks, Vegetarian

Eating Out :: Chicken Scratch

On a random outing with sweet friend Lauren, we stopped in at Chicken Scratch at Lauren’s recommendation. This place, which is the newest venture from the geniuses behind Bolsa and Smoke,  is new and so fun. Even if the food weren’t spectacular (which it is), the atmosphere alone would be enough to get us coming back again and again. Chicken Scratch has a GIANT outdoor seating area including picnic tables and covered dining areas complete with bar games and vintage furniture. Chicken Scratch shares space with The Foundry bar and is a great place to catch live music. Now, let’s get to the food.

What we ordered…

Everything! Just kidding…kind of.

Fried chicken

Roasted chicken

Mac & cheese

Biscuits & honey

Mashed potatoes & gravy

French fries

Housemade popsicles *yum*

So, at Chicken Scratch you basically choose if you want your chicken fried or roasted and then go from there. We loved sitting outside and enjoying our delicious southern eats in the warm afternoon air. The only thing that would’ve made it better was a cold beer which apparently you’re only able to enjoy after 4pm as that’s when The Foundry opens. But, the sweet tea held us over just fine.

Why do we always order so much?!

Just for fun…

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Salmon Cakes.

We decided to make these the other night when we were in the mood for one of our favorite meals – Cooking Light’s salmon burgers. But, we misplaced the recipe and were missing some ingredients, so instead we winged a salmon cake! It had a lot of flavor and was a nice alternative to crab cakes!

Here’s what you’ll need…

(Makes four salmon cakes)

12 oz. salmon, skinned and deboned

1 egg

2 tbsp caramelized onions (ours were leftover from a dish we ate earlier in the week!)

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1.5 C panko bread crumbs

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Salt & pepper, to taste

Cut the salmon into 1″ cubes (doesn’t need to be perfect…you’re just making it easier to blend in the food processor). In a large food processor, combine the salmon, egg, onions, mustard, 1/2 C bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and all ingredients are incorporated. At this point, it should have the texture of a thick paste. Remove the salmon paste from the processor and place in a large mixing bowl. With your hands, form four equal-sized patties. Once the patties are formed, cover each with 1/4 C panko bread crumbs.

In a non-stick pan, heat enough oil (2-3 tbsp) to coat the bottom of the pan. To check to see if the oil is hot enough, take a wooden chopstick and dip the tip into the oil and hold it there. If the oil is hot enough, bubbles will start to form around the stick (this is a great tip when you’re pan frying anything). Once the oil is hot enough, place each pattie in the pan and let cook until nicely browned on both sides and until the salmon has cooked completely through (roughly 1.5 minutes on each side). Remove from the pan and enjoy! We paired our cakes with roasted potatoes and the bok choy and apple salad. Delish.


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Filed under Amir's Tips, Entree, Seafood