Hello! I know it’s been a bit heavy around here recently. The blog has reflected the pit in my stomach that’s been there since the election. I know I’ll write more about that soon.
But today is a break in our regularly scheduled programming. Two wonderful things to share:
Our house in North Carolina is officially under contrast as of TODAY!
I created a delicious popcorn topping recipe tonight that I just have to share with you all.
I absolutely love popcorn. It has long been one of my favorite snacks, and I’m always looking for new, interesting ways to eat it at home that don’t involve a lot of fake butter and salt.
Tonight I had the idea to combine parmesan cheese, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to make a Mexican-style popcorn topping. Lemon juice and cayenne pepper are seasonings common in authentic Mexican foods. I didn’t measure anything, but just threw it all together in a bowl with some microwave popcorn. (My new favorite popcorn is Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals–it is only lightly salted and doesn’t taste like microwave popcorn at all.) And it was so delicious – spicy, tangy and salty. You can customize the spiciness level to your preference based on how much cayenne you use. This will definitely be a common late-night snack for me from now on. I hope you enjoy!
A couple of weeks ago I shared the recipe for the white chili I was making that night, and a lot of people really liked it! So from now on I am planning to post one recipe a week–whatever I happen to be cooking that I think readers will like and be interested in.
Funny story about how I came to find this fusion taco recipe: Last week at work I was preparing for a children’s event when I discovered that I had forgotten to prepare a crucial component of one of the craft activities, thereby resulting in me needing to cut out 2,450 magazine pictures in 2.5 days. Yes. That happened.
So as I was in the midst of cutting out pictures from Better Homes and Gardens I came across this recipe for sesame garlic beef tacos. I was about to cut up the page when I looked again and decided to save it instead. I made it for dinner this past Tuesday. I’m so glad that I did, because it was really, really good. And easy. Even with a crying toddler clinging to your leg.
Here is the recipe:
Sesame Garlic Beef Tacos
These are beef tacos with a pickled slaw on top, topped with Siracha for extra heat.
Time start to finish: 30 minutes (*Note: This actually took 30 minutes, and it always takes me longer than what they say.)
8 white or yellow corn tortillas (I used corn.)
1 lb ground beef
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp. packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stack tortillas, wrap in foil. Heat 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a large skillet. Drain fat, set aside.
Add sesame oil to skillet. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds over medium heat or until lightly browned. Stir in soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, water and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to skillet, heat through.
To serve, spoon beef onto tortillas. Using a slotted spoon, top with Quick Pickled Cucumbers and Slaw (below). Serve with lime wedges and Siracha for extra heat if desired. Makes 4 servings.
Quick Pickled Cucumbers and Slaw:
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1 cup very thinly sliced cucumbers and 1 cup shredded red cabbage. Let stand 15 minutes or up to 6 hours.
1 taco: 250 calories
My whole family really liked this. I actually plan to make it again next week! (Gotta use up that whole head of cabbage now.) Next time I’m going to make it a little spicier as I thought the flavor was a little on the sweet side if you didn’t add Siracha. And I also overcooked the beef while making this due to the aforementioned crying toddler, so I’d like to see how much better it will be the second time.
Ease of making recipe while simultaneously caring for a young child: Difficulty level 1/5
Jonathan started his new, full-time, well-paying, one-year contract job with the Post Office today. (Praise the Lord!) This is such amazing news, y’all, and an answer to so many prayers.
Jonathan starting his new job means something else for me: I’m taking over dinner again. I had pretty much given over cooking to Jonathan since Jonah was born, because for most of the time I was working and he wasn’t. I like to cook, but it tends to be the first thing to fall by the wayside when life gets busy. But now I’ll be getting home earlier in the evening than the hubs, so I’ve offered to take this responsibility back over.
I like to think that I am a pretty good cook, though it’s in a very particular way: I am a good easy cook. Easy meaning that for the most part I use what is on hand, what saves time and money, what is simple to prepare, and what I already know will taste good. I’m an expert at finding substitutions for ingredients in a recipe that I discover I don’t have in the middle of cooking. Easy was already important for me in cooking, but now that Jonah’s in the picture it matters even more.
Anyway. Tonight I made an old favorite–White Chicken Chili in the crockpot. I’m somewhat of a chili fiend, and this is one of the types that I make regularly. I’ve been making this recipe for going on six years now. It comes from this old well-utilized classic, which was the first cookbook that I ever made anything from as a newlywed.
True to form, I made some adjustments based on what I had on hand, which I’ll note below.
Here is the recipe:
Crockpot White Chicken Chili
Makes 8 servings
3 15-oz cans Great Northern Beans (I used 2.)
8 oz. cooked and shredded chicken breast (pro tip: I’ve discovered that there is no reason to pre-cook chicken before putting it in the crockpot for a soup, so I don’t. Just put it in raw, and it cooks just fine. If anyone knows something I don’t about this, I’d love it if you would share.)
1 cup chopped onions (I didn’t have any onions.)
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow, green or red bell peppers (I used poblano peppers this time–they give a much better, smoky flavor.)
4 oz can green chilies or 2 jalapeño chili peppers, chopped (I used green chilies.)
2 garlic cloves, minced (jar of garlic for me)
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
31/2 cups chicken broth
Mix it all together in the crockpot, and cook on low for 8-10 hours. At the end of cooking time, shred the chicken. Serve with sour cream, tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese.
Jonathan and I added hot sauce to ours to make it spicier because that’s how we roll.
The poblano peppers and green chilies make this a bit spicy, and I was a little concerned that Jonah wouldn’t eat it, but he actually liked it!
So there you have it. Prep for this probably takes 15 minutes if you don’t pre-cook the chicken, and the crockpot does the rest (which is why it’s pretty much a working mom’s best friend). Doesn’t get much easier than that!
I didn’t have much experience cooking when I got married. We were straight out of college, so I can’t blame myself too much. Actually, the plan was for Jonathan to be the main one who cooked for us. You can probably guess what came of that–lots of fast food and me gaining 10 pounds our first year of marriage.
I’ve done better since then, and a large part of that has to do with keeping a stocked pantry. One thing that I eventually learned was that it was easier to keep certain things always on hand than to have to run to the store every single time I needed flour, chicken broth, oregano or onions. This is now one of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to newlyweds/recent graduates/those just starting to cook: If you always keep the basics on hand, it’s not that hard to throw something together when you have limited time/energy to prepare dinner.
So what do you keep on hand in your pantry? For me, it’s generally the following:
Baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, cornmeal, brown sugar, etc.)
You can tell what kind of a cook someone is by what they keep in their pantry. I like to make lots of different kinds of chili/tortilla soup/taco soup, thus the diced tomatoes. I typically cook in the crockpot about once a week, which tends to use creamed soups. You can tell that I’m not totally hung up on using fresh ingredients–though I do try to–because sometimes you just have to do what is easiest.
I’m interested to hear: What do you keep stocked in your pantry?