Turkey and kale taco pasta with avocado crema

Two of my kid’s favorite things in one dinner. Pasta and taco. The kale is just there so it can ‘healthify’ further this dish, that honestly, it’s pretty clean if I say so myself.

There’s very little prep involved and it can be done in less than one hour. It’s just making the taco meat, washing and chopping some veggies and whipping the avocado crema together. Now, this avocado crema is not optional. It truly brings the dish to another level– and you’ll want to keep it on hand for most things because it’s that good!

Start by cooking the turkey meat with the taco spices and diced tomatoes. Add the kale and lastly the onions+bell pepper+corn. The chopped vegetables go last so they keep their crunch and don’t overcook. The rest is easy. Toss the pasta and serve!

To keep with the taco tradition, I like to serve the pasta with toppings on the side such as shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, and–of course– the avocado crema.

I’m including two separates recipes bellow. One for the taco pasta and one for the, you know, avocado crema I’m raving about. Both are independently delicious but oh so much better together!

Turkey and kale taco pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey (chicken or beef)
  • 8 ounces small dry pasta shapes (about 3-4 cups dry)
  • 1 small red onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (I used mild)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 curly kale leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Add the taco seasoning and the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain the tomatoes.) Simmer over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the kale until wilted. Add the rest of the vegetables (onions, bell pepper and corn) and Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked and drained pasta a little at a time. Stir to coat.
  5. Top with Mexican mix shredded cheese (about 1 cup) while hot.
  6. Serve with a side of avocado crema (recipe below), chopped cilantro and chopped green onions to be added to the taco pasta to taste.

Avocado crema

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (can be replaced for sour cream if preferred)
  • 1 large very ripe avocado
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon light agave syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup prepared green salsa (such as Herdez salsa verde or Trader Joes tomatillo salsa)
  • 1 whole green onion (washed and ends trimmed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste (I used aprox. 1 tsp)

Instructions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process for 2 minutes until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl half way through.
  2. Transfer to a serving bowl or place in an airtight container for storing. Can be stored int the refrigerator up to 3 days. It will not lose it's vibrant green color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

White chocolate ginger snap truffles

It’s that time of year when everyone struts their baking stuff for the holiday parties. But not even the simplest cookie recipe can prevent me of an epic cookie fail. And I’ll be put in baker’s purgatory if I dare to make a batch of cookies from one of Betty’s cookie mixes.

My way around the non sense baking shenanigans that takes place in the holidays is to try new no bake treats recipes like this spicy gingersnap truffles. No bake. Very little margin for error. Deceptively easy treat. So good!

White chocolate drizzled truffles with a spicy ginger snap filling inside. So easy to make and eat. Here is the recipe.

White chocolate ginger snap truffles

Ingredients

  • 16oz ginger snaps packet
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 8oz condensed milk (half of a 14oz can plus a bit more)
  • 1 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil
Method
  1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or non-stick pastry mat.
  2. In a food processor, crumbs the ginger snaps. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Gradually pour in condensed milk and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is too dry add more condense milk. Mixture should be homogeneous and sticky to the touch.
  4. Using your hands, pick up approx. 1 tablespoon of mixture and roll into a ball. Keep your hands slightly wet so mixture doesn’t stick to hands and it’s easy to roll.
  5. Place ball onto prepared tray. Repeat this process until all the mixture is finished.
  6. Melt the white chocolate chips with the coconut oil in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Remove and mix. Microwave 30 more seconds and mix. Repeat in increments of 15 seconds after that until fully melted.
  7. Drizzle melted white chocolate over the truffle balls with a spoon, doing quick horizontal swings until truffles are covered.
  8. Enjoy!

 

One-pot French onion and mushroom pasta

Now that we’re done with Thanksgiving and in Christmas mode, I’m spending less time in the kitchen and more time shopping online and out there. Easy and quick dinners are a must no matter what time of the year, but for me, December is the winner month for all fast meals.

This one-pot French onion and mushroom pasta is one of the easiest and tastiest dishes to make—and eat! It’s just so good. The pasta, the caramelized onions, the mushrooms and the cheese. Love, love and love it! And because this is dealicious cooking, here’s the deal: everything gets started in one pot and ends in the same pot!

Confession alert! I’m not a one-pot pasta believer. I still think that pasta needs to be cooked separately, always al dente and finished in whatever sauce or juice it’s destined to be. But this recipe works better in one pot where most of the sauce is absorbed by the pasta and a little cream plus cheese help to wrap the flavors together.

One-pot French onion and mushroom pasta

  • Serves: 4
  • Category:

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small red onions thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 12 ounces pasta of your choice
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms (white button and/or crimini)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh oregano springs (optional and can be replaced with 1 tsp dry oregano)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add the OO. Add the onions and brown sugar. Cook about 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and brown. Toss the mushrooms+garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms are soft. Add the Worcestershire sauce and wine and let it cook into the onions.
  2. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add your pasta, bay leaves and oregano, cook covered, stirring often until most of the liquid has been soaked up by the pasta and the pasta is al dente. Taste the pasta for doneness. Allow to cook more (if still crunchy), or allow some of the liquid to cook off. The pasta will absorb more of the liquid as it sits.
  3. Stir in the sour cream+cream and half the gruyere cheese. Cook 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Top with the remaining cheese (gruyere and parmesan) Let it sit uncovered for 5 minutes before serving.

Chai White Russian

It’s almost Thanksgiving! I’m not going to bother you with side dish recipes or tips on how to make your turkey taste less like turkey. We know it’s all about the stuffing and the booze!

And this year, for dessert, I’m skipping the store bought pumpkin pie and drinking this Chai White Russian instead.

It’s a classic drink with a twist. Vodka, Kahlua and Chai milk tea.

For the milk tea I used almond coconut blend, but it can be replaced with regular milk or even heavy cream—which is more like the original White Russian. Bring one cup of milk or cream to a boil, mix a tablespoon of agave syrup, turn heat off, throw in a Chai tea bag, and let it sit covered for a while.  Keep the Chai milk tea in the refrigerator until cocktail time.

  

Before I got busy with the shaker I fancied my glass up with a graham cracker crumbs rim—but this is totally optional, and frankly, I only did it for the looks.

Chai White Russian deconstructed:

  • 2 generous ounces of vodka
  • 1 ounce of Kahlua Liquor
  • Mix it in a shaker (or tall glass) with lots of ice. Pour it on a ‘old fashioned’ glass filled with ice. Top it with 2 ounces of Chai milk tea. Garnish with ground nutmeg and a cinnamon stick for stirring.
  • Find a comfortable spot in the couch to enjoy it, count your blessings, and get ready for Christmas. Yikes!

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Real

I’ve been down. The more I look at food/cooking blogs out there, melting and sizzling media accounts, minute-videos of how to make the “best dishes ever”, the more I realize I can’t keep up. The fakeness is real! I’ve been self-duped by a bunch of images, videos and endless stories that made me almost believe that I ,too, can make perfectly perfect looking real food.

Sadly, I tried. Luckily, I realize that I’m just too real to be fake.

I’m disappointed. I don’t have as many Instagram followers as I thought I could have. It may be because I fucking suck at pictures, creative #hashtags, catchy post phrases, and who knows what else. I’m an Instalooser and I know it! But I love to cook, and I make good stuff. I’ve been doing it for a long time and for the right reasons.

I have 17 precious blog followers. Seventeen!!! Two of them are my kids. The rest are…not sure who they are because I still can’t figure out how to see who subscribed to this stupidly complicated WordPress blog. Maybe because I’m not tech savvy. Maybe because I don’t do ‘give aways’. Maybe because I can’t write, spell or know how to SEO. But I keep doing it so my kids–and whoever else thinks it’s worth it–can look back at some of these life moments and feel inspired to cook, eat, and share.

In the abstract—which is to say, if I had all the time in the world and I didn’t need to attend to all but those parts of human life I chose to handle myself– the walnuts would be perfectly aligned in the salad, my apron+hair+nails would be impeccable, and my posts would be shining with sparkles.

Unfortunately, I do not live in the abstract, but rather here in reality, where I am sorry to report that a perfectly fake portrait is kind of a pain in the ass to keep up. It requires a special set of behaviors, camera lenses, routines and energies. I cook. My kitchen is messy, my aprons constantly dirty, and my nails…what nails?

Don’t get me wrong here: A well ‘seasoned’ presence is great, and there are so many inspiring food/cooking blogs, vlogs, instas, and stories out there. But I do realize it takes time, money and a pinch of bullshit to make it work–all three I don’t have!

I’ve been down but I’m proud– proud of my cooking, my pictures and writing. I own them all. The successes and the failures. I cook. I share. I document it. It’s sort of my own legacy. It’s messy and unpopular, but it’s REAL!

Roasted Kabocha and kale salad

This salad is like fall in a plate. Hearty roasted Kabocha, sweet pomegranate seeds, and slightly wilted kale all combine for a filling salad.

But before we dive into this fall recipe, meet my favorite winter squash: The Kabocha. This super versatile squash is perfect for roasting, stuffing, and souping (not sure that’s a real verb.) It looks like pumpkin’s green stocky cousin but it doesn’t taste like pumpkin at all. It has an unique flavor and more of a sweet potato texture. If you haven’t taste it yet, give it a try!  You most likely to find it at Asian markets and it’ll be cheap–especially during fall and winter. Definitely ‘dealicious’! 

Oh, can we briefly discuss this sweet+tangy+warm dressing?!! So simple and so good. And you want it warm because it helps make the kale slightly softer, giving it the right texture for those of us turned off by the coarse greens. Top it all with some fresh-grated Pecorino to add a creamy spin to the salad and there you have it. Fall perfection!

Roasted Kabocha and Kale Salad

  • Serves: 4
  • Category:

Ingredients

  • 1 medium unpeeled kabocha squash (about 3-4 lb.), cut into 1/2-in.-thick wedges
  • 4 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch green curly kale
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut Kabocha in half. Remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch vertical slices. See pic for reference.
  2. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet. Place Kabocha slices, drizzle 2 tablespoon olive oil over it, sprinkle salt and pepper (aprox. 1/4 teaspoon of each). Toss it gently with hands to coat. Cover with foil. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Remove foil; bake 15 more minutes or until pumpkin is tender and browned, turning once.
  3. While the Kabocha roasts, thoroughly rinse the kale in cold water, soaking if necessary to remove grit. Tear the kale into chunks. Give it a good spin or shake to remove excess water and place it in a large salad bowl. Reserve.
  4. Remove Kabocha from the oven. Let it cool off slightly. Peel the skin and cut into small cubes. Reserve.
  5. Heat the remaining olive oil (2 tbsp) in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Season with some salt (1/2 tsp) and pepper. Remove from heat, add the balsamic vinegar, and poor over the kale in the salad bowl. Toss, and toss, and toss some more until kale is a fully coated and a bit wilted. Add the Kabocha cubes and pomegranate tossing it slightly.
  6. Finish by topping it with the Pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Serve it warm.

 

Brown butter butternut squash Alfredo

I’m not going to bore you with an elaborated blog story about how I ended up with too much butternut squash and how I’m now challenged with putting it on everything I’ll cook for the next couple of weeks. Simply put, fairly big butternut squashes were 99 cents EACH–great ‘deal’– so I bought a lot of them. Now, I have them all in my counter, looking at me as if they expect to become something more than soup!

I started downsizing my butternut squash stash with this brown butter butternut squash Alfredo recipe. Although I called it “Alfredo” this isn’t exactly the right name tag for this sauce. It’s not “real” Alfredo! The original stuff is much different than the Parmesan-heavy and delicious but pretty generic cream sauce normally described as Alfredo.

Tagliolini nests was the only pasta left in my pantry so that’s what I used, but you can use any kind of stringy pasta (fettuccini, spaghetti, even angel hair.) As long is cooked in water with loads of salt and ‘al dente’ it’s all good!

Roasted butternut squash always turns out sweeter and flavorful but it does take time. If you are in a hurry you can simply boil it for 15-20 minutes. Once your butternut squash is cooked, blend it with the milk and cream.

The last ingredient to be added to the sauce is the cheese. I used a mix of parmesan and Catamount Hills cheese–you can read more about it here) Parmesan and asiago can be a good combination too but if you only have Parmesan so be it! I transferred the pasta directly from the boiling pot to the sauce pan. Toss and twirl and lift and toss and twirl some more. Eventually the cheese will be melted and smoothly coating the pasta.

Serve it immediately!  Don’t wait. Plate it hot. Eat it hot. Even better with some chilled white wine!

Brown butter butternut squash Alfredo

This creamy brown butter butternut squash Alfredo is rich, sweet, and so autumn good!

  • Serves: 4
  • Category:

Ingredients

  • 1 medium size butternut squash (about 3 cups of roasted or boiled squash)
  • 16 ounces tagliolini nests (fettuccine, spaghetti, angel hair, any stringy pasta)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 cup 2% or whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Catamount Hills cheese (or swiss, sharp white cheddar, or parmesan)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper (white and black) to taste
  • 1 generous dash of fresh grounded nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Start by roasting the butternut squash (cut in half, drizzle olive oil, roast center side down.) If you choose to boil it, peel and cut the squash in small cubes and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Bring 6 quarts generously salted water to a boil.
  3. Once butternut squash is cooked, puree the pulp with milk and a full dash of salt. Reserve.
  4. Cook the pasta uncover according to package time. Approximately 3 minutes before pasta cooking time is complete start making the sauce.
  5. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Continue to cook butter until browned. Add garlic; saute until fragrant and sizzling, about 2 minutes. Lower the heat.
  6. Add the puree until into the garlic butter. Grate fresh nutmeg over sauce, add pepper and more salt if needed. Reduce heat to low; stir until hot but not boiling. Keep warm over low heat. Add cheese and mix slightly.
  7. Using tongues, transfer the pasta directly from the boiling pot to the sauce skillet. Toss and twirl and lift and toss and twirl some more until the cheese melts and the sauce coats the pasta. Use pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed.

Hard cider braised chicken tacos with avocado apple pomegranate salsa

Another Tuesday. Another taco dinner. But these ‘no ordinary tacos’ were by far one of the best I’ve ever prepared.

Ohhh the avocado pomegranate salsa! It’s like ” Hey Summer, meet fall.”  This gorgeous salsa (and I rarely use the word gorgeous) is great for dipping, topping, or just looking at!

Chicken loves hard apple cider, especially when braised in it. And the chicken turned out as tender as crockpot pulled chicken without having to let it sit in a crockpot overnight. In order to achieve all the gloriousness of braising,  you must deglaze the pan and scrape up all the browned bits. Don’t skip this step. The bits are full of flavor that you want to incorporate into the sauce.

Can we talk about this salsa some more? How can three ingredients get along so well? Avocado, apple, and pomegranate with a little help of Poblano pepper, green onions, cilantro and lime juice. That’s it! So simple and yet so frigging good. I don’t consider my kids picky eaters, but I totally thought this salsa was not going to impress. Boy was I wrong. We ended up fighting for the leftover on a epic tortilla chip battle where everyone won.

Hard cider braised chicken tacos with avocado apple pomegranate salsa

  • Serves: 4
  • Category:

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • 3 chicken breasts (aprox. 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt to taste (I used aprox 2 tsp)
  • 1 1/2 cups hard apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (optional)

For the salsa

  • 1 chopped apple of your choice (I used Fuji)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 chopped green onions (white and green part)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Poblano pepper (can substitute for green bell pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon or more of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • juice of 1 lime

Instructions

  1. Add the chicken to a bowl. Add the minced chipotle, smoked paprika, cumin, and salt. Toss and coat chicken with seasonings.
  2. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the chicken and sear on both sides until browned. Remove and reserve. Reduce the heat slightly and add the onions and garlic cooking it slightly.
  3. Pour in the hard cider. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, add the chicken breasts, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  4. As the chicken braises, make the salsa. Add all the ingredients to a bowl. Toss well to combine, taste and adjust if needed. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
  5. When the chicken is done cooking, remove it from the pot and shred it. Add the shredded chicken back to the sauce in the pot and toss.
  6. Add the shredded chicken to a warmed tortilla (I used corn tortilla and warmed it directly in the stove burner) and top with the salsa. Sprinkle chopped cilantro.

 

 

Chai pumpkin bread with Chai tea icing

While some wait all year for the warm tastes of nutmeg and pumpkin, I get exhausted by the pumpkin spice everything on fall everything, and everything food in fall. However, I too drank the pumpkin Kool-Aid and embraced the season I like the least–my ‘Making peace with fall’ entry explains.

This Chai pumpkin bread is my contribution to the pumpkin everything marathon 2017. It’s so good that I’ll consider baking this again…in summer. And this Chai tea icing is everything! Everything!

Pumpkin bread with Chai tea icing

Ingredients

For the bread

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup brewed chai tea (brew 2 bags on one cup of water to be concentrate)

For the icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brewed chai tea
  • 1 drop of vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Start by brewing 2 bags of Chai tea on 1 cup of water. Reserve.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter/baking spray a 9X5 loaf pan.
  3. Stir together sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and Chai tea in that order.
  4. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add dry ingredients into wet mixture slowly.
  5. Place batter in the loaf pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on baking rack.

For the icing

  1. In a bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, Chai tea, and vanilla. Add some milk to smooth mix up if necessary. Drizzle the glaze over the top, slice and serve.

 

 

7UP lemon cake recipe

Baking is usually not fun for me, but when my daughter asked to bake something fun together I caved in. It was her free afternoon Friday and she wanted to bake with me. No musical.ly. No YouTube. The kid wanted mom and daughter bake time!

So, I started scrolling the baking recipe index in that corner of my brain that I don’t normally go to very often. What was that soda cake? Fanta or Coke cake? She doesn’t like Coke. Or Fanta. Wait, was it 7Up? Yeah…it was. We are making 7Up cake! Fun enough, right?

Now, I’m not a big fan of making things ‘not from scratch’ but when it comes to baking, the easier the better. This recipe is definitely easy, quick and so tasty you forget all the artificial flavors and ‘who knows what’ ingredients in a cake box, pudding box and 7Up alone. But I figured we eat pretty healthy around here so opening a box once in a while won’t kill us. We did it. It was fun and pretty delicious.

7UP lemon cake

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 box of yellow cake (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 box of lemon pudding 4oz
  • 3/4 cup 7UP
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

For the icing

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar (for thicker icing use 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon 7UP
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees.
  2. Spray 10-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray (I used a bundt cake pan)
  3. Combine all the cake wet ingredients thoroughly than ad cake+pudding mix.
  4. Mix by hand or at low speed with a mixer until fully combined.
  5. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes
  6. Let it cool off completely before removing cake from the pan

Icing

  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar and 7UP. I made the icing a bit runny so it would further moist the cake. For thicker icing use an extra cup of confectioner's sugar.
  2. Add milk in little by little until you've reached desired consistency.
  3. Pour icing over cake and serve.