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Adam and I love Mexican food!  We were completely spoiled in Los Angeles with the abundance of great Mexican restaurants, and our wonderful friends cooking for us.  I honestly do not believe that I cooked any sort of Mexican food while in LA.  I didn’t have to, and how could I compete?  While my co-workers shared their homemade salsa, I baked a good ol’ apple pie.  I really should have taken advantage of the fresh California avocados, cilantro, tomatillos, etc., but, alas, I did not.  Now, I’m living in Brooklyn, NY, where places like California Burrito are packed, but the food is just not up to par.  I miss our burrito stand right around the corner from our house.  We could get a burrito for under $5 that would blow-your-mind!

Okay, enough about burritos and California.  Since I can’t find good Mexican food in Brooklyn, I decided I’d make it myself, and it took the form of Tortilla Pie.  I found a recipe on this really cute food blog, Pink Parsley.  I had the majority of ingredients, but had to send Adam out to the Bodega for the rest of the items to complete this dish – namely, the beer.  I love recipes that call for beer!   I love enjoying a nice cold beer with a warm, spicy meal.  This Black Bean and Tortilla Pie did not disappoint!  It was spicy, smokey, cheesy and satisfied my craving for Mexican food!

Black Bean and Tortilla Pie
adapted from Pink Parsley
Printable Recipe

4 (10-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
salt and pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10-ounce) bag frozen corn
1 12-ounce beer, or 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
8 ounces cheese, shredded (I used Mexican cheese blend)
salsa and sour cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Using the bottom of the pan as a guide, use a paring knife to trim the edges of the tortillas so that they fit in a 9-inch springform pan.

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.  Saute the onion until soft, 5-10 minutes.  Add the garlic, chipotle powder, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the beans and beer to the skillet, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, 8-10 minutes.  Mix in the corn, scallions, and cilantro, and remove from heat.

Lay one of the tortillas across the bottom of the springform pan.  Layer with 1/4 of the beans, and sprinkle with cheese.  Repeat 3 times, finishing with beans and cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted and the mixture is heated through, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and unmold the pie.  Garnish with remaining scallions and cilantro, and serve with your choice of topping (salsa, sour cream), or as is. Enjoy!

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is a cure-all, right?  It is commonly known for its cold-curing capabilities, and it’s ability to heal the soul.  We needed some soul-healing a few weeks ago.

At the end of January, Adam’s and my world was rocked when we found out our good friend, Karen, died after being struck by a car in Manhattan.

She had stopped to buy groceries on her way home from work.  1/2 a block from her apartment, she was crossing the street, when a getaway car speeding from a robbery at a CVS struck and killed her.   They had been driving the wrong way on a one-way street, with their lights off to elude the police who were chasing them.  The thieves stole non-prescription medications, and now the driver, a 25 year-old young man is being charged with second-degree murder, and our brilliant, kind, amazing friend has been taken from us.  It leaves me with this question:  How could this happen?

Karen was an award-winning film editor, a sister, a daughter, a co-worker, a friend.  She had so much left to do on this earth.  On her 40th birthday, instead of going on the trip her closest friends had planned as a surprise, we were honoring her life with a memorial service in Boston, this past weekend.

After we were delivered the terrible news, we had to deal with the fact that our lives go on even when someone dies.  It is unfair.  The lease to our new apartment had just been signed and we were moving.  Adam and I ate take-out for several days until I could unpack some of my kitchen things.  Chicken soup, is what I made first in our new place.

Chicken soup is comforting, easy to make, and only requires a few ingredients.  Perfect for having just moved & suffering a loss of a dear friend.  I knew it could not cure our feelings of grief, but there is something to eating a familiar dinner that “wraps its arms” around you while your hands hug the bowl.

Chicken Soup
by Anne with a little help from The Eclectic Cook
Printable Recipe

1 Whole Chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 medium onion, halved
2 cloves garlic, smashed
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1 bag of baby carrots (separated)
6-8 celery stalks (separated)
2 sprigs parsley
water
1/2 bag egg noodles (8 oz or so)

Place chicken, garlic cloves, parsley, bay leaf, 1/2 bag of baby carrots, 3-4 stalks of celery cut into 1 inch sections in a Dutch oven or other heavy stock pot.  Add water to completely cover the chicken and veggies.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and remove chicken from pot, and place in a baking dish.  Leave the vegetables in the stock.  Remove the chicken meat from the carcass and set it aside.  Return the carcass to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 ½ hours.  Allow stock to cool slightly, then set a strainer over a bowl, and strain out the veggies while collecting the stock.  Return stock to the pot and add diced chicken, the rest of the bag of baby carrots and 3-4 stalks of celery cut into small pieces.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes, then add the egg noodles to the pot.  Cook until noodles are tender (according to package directions). Remove from heat adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper, and add additional fresh parsley, if desired.


Finally, after a very long search (viewed almost 15 apartments), and temporarily living with friends, we have an apartment of our own!  Amos and Sadie apparently approve of our choice in residence, and are loving their new place.  Amos loves to look out onto our back porch, and is looking forward to us fulfilling the promise of someday taking him outside on it…

We are not quite done unpacking boxes, which makes for fun climbing and exploring for both of the kitties.  Sadie and Amos appreciate having our bed back, and usually retreat there during the day for napping.  Amos chooses to snuggle-in to our king size Laura Ashley pillows…

While Sadie sits like the princess that she is…

Sometimes, trying to figure out what to make for dinner is harder than actually making it.  There are endless possibilities!  I usually surf the web, or peruse my cookbooks.  I always try to make something that I’m “in the mood for”, but sometimes, I just don’t know what that is.  Then, there are times, when I find a recipe & just know I have to try it!  That is what happened when I found this recipe for Tex-Mex Chili Topped Sweet Potatoes.  I knew I had to make it.  Adam and I love chili and sweet potatoes, so how this not be love?  It was hearty, spicy, colorful, and tasty.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  Trouble is, we had leftovers…

It was so hearty and flavorful, we each only had one serving.  The problem being, I had two already cooked sweet potatoes on my hands, and a good amount of chili leftover. The next day I had sudden realization of what I was going to do!   Soup!  I cut up the leftover sweet potatoes, threw in the chili, added water, adjusted the spices, and the result was a delicious, comforting soup!

I, again, have succeeded in using up leftovers!  I am feeling pretty proud of myself.

Chili-Topped Sweet Potatoes
adapted from A Year in the Kitchen
Printable Recipe

4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, diced
Salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (with green chilis, lime, cilantro, etc. if preferred)
1 heaping tsp. chili powder
1 heaping tsp. cumin
1/2 heaping tsp. coriander
1/2 heaping tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 – 1/4 chipotle powder (or 1 chipotle pepper diced)
Sprinkle of cayenne powder
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used pepper jack)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Pierce potatoes with a fork all over and place directly on oven rack.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size.

Heat a pot over medium heat, add 1 TBS olive oil.  Add onion and red pepper, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, and saute for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add tomatoes, spices, cilantro, and kidney beans.  Bring to a simmer, stir and cook for about 20 minutes.  Taste, adjust seasonings.  Cut potatoes in half, plate, and top with chili, a sprinkle of cilantro, and cheese.  Enjoy!

Spicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup
by Anne
2 cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 recipe for chili (from Chili-Topped Sweet Potatoes)
1-2 cups water
Cut sweet potatoes into cubes.  Place sweet potatoes, chili, and water in a pot.  Cook until some of the liquid has cooked off.  Taste, adjust spices, and enjoy with cheese or a sprinkle of cilantro.

Spanish Tortilla…with a Twist

I have a confession to make…I’m terrible with using up leftovers.  I know, I know, this does not support my efforts of trying to “go green”, and is effectively increasing my carbon footprint.  I am proud of myself for reducing the number of plastic bags I take home by using my reusable canvas ones, and I recycle as much as I can.  Yes, I wash aluminum foil after cooking so that I can recycle it.  We’ve switched, for the most part, to compact florescent bulbs.   I even bought biodegradable cat waste bags (made out of corn), at one point, but found they were too cumbersome.  During the summer, it is fairly easy to shop locally for produce with the farmers markets on practically every street corner, and in the winter, I try to do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s.  Not only are the prices attractive at TJ’s, they source their food locally, where they can.

Back to leftovers…I try very hard to come up with ideas of how to make leftovers into a new dish.  I sometimes feel like MacGyver – averting some type of crisis with some twine and a handful of veggies.  I am not proud that I often find myself throwing away fresh herbs, and items that I forgot I had.  This time, though, I found a way to use up the leftover red chard from the Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin, half and onion, and two sweet potatoes!  Add some eggs, and presto, Spanish Tortilla!

This Spanish Tortilla was actually quite delicious.  It was a sweeter version of my previous Spanish Tortilla, but felt healthier with the sweet potatoes and chard.  I also used up some fresh herbs that I had kicking around.  Not only did it taste amazing, just look how pretty it was…

Spanish Tortilla with Sweet Potato and Red Chard
by Anne
Printable Recipe

2 TBS olive oil
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced into 1/4 inch half moons
half a bunch of red chard, stems and leaves separated, and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 onion
8 large eggs
salt and pepper
fresh thyme, fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350° F. Heat 1 TBS oil in an ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
In a second skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, and chard stems, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens.  Add the chard leaves, and cook until wilted.

Add the onion and chard mixture to the potatoes and mix to combine.  In a bowl, beat eggs, and add herbs.  Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes, chard and onion; stir to distribute the ingredients, and cook on stove top for 1 minute. Transfer the skillet to oven and bake until brown around the edges and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature, sliced into wedges, and sprinkled with fresh herbs.

This last week has been particularly crazy – we’ve been moving.  I haven’t cooked anything blog-worthy in a while, and I just unpacked our computer today.  There are boxes everywhere!  Oh, the joys of moving…

I made this Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin and Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken at our friend, Robert’s, house.  He described the gratin as “Potato Magic”.  I used red swiss chard which gave this dish an amazing color.  It was creamy, sweet, and packed with good vitamins and minerals!  The chicken was slightly less healthy, but incredibly flavorful, and scrumptious.

NOTES: I found this recipe for the gratin on Smitten Kitchen, and I ended up halving the recipe.  It worked just fine, except I also forgot to account for the decreased cooking time.  The cheese on top browned a little longer than I would have liked, but it did not affect the taste.  I will include the original recipe, and if you decide to halve it, like I did, decrease the cooking time to about 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin
from Smitten Kitchen
Printable Recipe

1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 pounds Swiss chard, leaves and stems separated and both cut into 1-inch pieces
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups heavy cream or whole milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 pounds medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

Prep greens: Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a wide 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add chard stems, pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender but not browned, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add chard leaves by large handfuls, stirring, until all greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper then transfer greens to a colander to drain well and press out liquid with back of a large spoon.

Make sauce: Combine cream or milk and garlic in small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in warm cream/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Assemble gratin: Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter deep 9×13 baking dish. Spread half of sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a quarter of the herbs and a 1/4 cup of the cheese. Distribute half of the greens mixture over the cheese, then sprinkle salt, pepper, a quarter of the herbs and 1/4 cup of the cheese over it. Pour half of béchamel sauce over the first two layers then continue with the remaining sweet potatoes, more salt, pepper, herbs and cheese and then the remaining greens, salt, pepper and herbs. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the gratin, pressing the vegetables slightly to ensure that they are as submerged as possible. Sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake gratin for about 1 hour until golden and bubbly, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken
adapted from Closet Cooking
Printable Recipe

4 -6 chicken breasts (pounded flat)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
4 tablespoons maple syrup
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon thyme (chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.  Set up dredging station – flour, egg, Panko.  Season all 3 with salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken in the flour, then the egg, then the Panko.  Heat the oil in a pan, add the chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Mix the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, whole grained mustard, brown sugar and thyme in a bowl.  Place the chicken on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and brush the maple mustard mixture onto it heavily.  Bake oven for 10-12 minutes.  Enjoy!

Amos and Sadie, our cats, are seriously the best!  They’ve adapted to, yet again, another temporary home and have complained very little.  They are troopers!   Sadie did moan and meow in protest on the car ride over, and they both hid and slinked around the new place for a day.  But now, they are strutting around like they own the place.  They especially love the winding staircase!

When we move the cats to a new home, Adam and I try to “cat proof” the place as best we can, and then we like to observe the cats intently to see what trouble they can get into.  Luckily, Sadie and Amos are not bad cats.  They like to play and explore, but are not completely destructive.  Amos particularly does not like closed doors and will push on them, try the door knob, and stick his paw under the door and rattle it.  On the first night, he managed to open Robert’s bedroom door, and both Amos and Sadie paid him a visit at 4 am.  How could you be mad waking up to those two staring at you?

The other day, as I was getting ready to leave the apartment, I could not find Sadie.  I looked everywhere – closets, cabinets, bathrooms, bedroom, under everything – no Sadie.  I started to freak out a little.  This is where I found her…

All snuggled up in a Whole Foods reusable grocery bag.  Sadie supports my efforts to “go green”, and doesn’t want me to forget about her when I go food shopping!