Monday, March 31, 2014

Family Favorite: Green Chile Soup

Dusty and I don't force our girls to eat all their dinner; we encourage them through bribery. It used to be that if the girls joined the Clean Plate Club, they would get dessert right afterward, but that meant they were getting a giant sugar rush right before bedtime. Yeah... No. So now 1 clean plate = 1 treat coupon. 

A treat coupon can be traded in for any treat starting after lunch the day after you earn the coupon. It's fascinating to watch how their asset management skills are developing. Tala will get a coupon and spend it as soon as she is able. Diana stockpiles her coupons and if she is not particularly fond of a dinner, she will ask to be excused so she can check on her coupon stash. If she has enough coupons to at least get a treat the next day, she decides not to finish dinner. This kid is going to build empires.

Some weeks are better than others, and each girl earns three or more coupons. Some weeks are not so good, though, and on those weeks I try to make at least one dinner that I know for sure will help them each earn a coupon. One of those meals is green chile soup.

Warm and yummy in my belly, like love in a bowl.

I'm sure some of you New Mexicans out there are 47 kinds of upset right now because I called it "soup" and not "stew", but in this house we call a spade a spade and liquid meals soup. Or a smoothie. Or beer.

Maybe I'll be forgiven if I tell you that I use freshly roasted pasilla chiles. YES WAY. I wish I had one of those awesome bingo-drum roasters that we see all over New Mexico in the autumn, but I don't, so I just broil my pasillas in the oven. It is a bit time-consuming, so I try to roast a bunch at a time and store the chile in the freezer. Here's what I do:

Broil them in high heat until they blister like this. Using tongs, turn them frequently to get even blistering on all sides.
Take them out of the oven and plunge them in an ice bath. 
Peel the skins off and remove most of the seeds inside. I leave a few seeds for THE HOTNESS. YASSS!!

There are three things you need to know about handling chiles:
1) Wear gloves. Do not touch chiles with bare hands.
2) Do not touch your eyes, mouth, or skin while you are handling chiles. The burn is hotter than the twin suns of Tattooine.
3) Seriously, wear gloves. And if you're particularly sensitive, maybe wear protective glasses.
Put the chiles in the food processor and wazz them up. Yes, I just totally made up that word.
If you do not have the time nor the inclination to roast your own chiles, Trader Joe's makes a passable canned version. 

Look how much prettier and yummier the freshly roasted chile is, though.
All righty! Let's make some soup!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Three Taco Tuesdays!

We LOVE tacos. They are easy, quick, cheap, and yummy. Sometimes we are major foodies, but sometimes we just gotta have tacos. And by "sometimes", I mean: every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday

Do you know the strange history of Taco Tuesday? Surprisingly, it was not invented by college kids and/or stoners. 

Here are our three Family Favorite Tacos. All of these recipes serve two adults and two small kids, so adjust accordingly. Generally, prep and cook time is about 30 minutes, but your mileage may vary, especially the first time you try any of these recipes.

"MEAT" TACOS
You can make these tacos with ground beef or turkey, but we've found that this is a cheaper, healthier alternative. 

Ingredients
1 package taco shells (usually about 10-12 shells)
12 oz ground "meat alternative" (We like Trader Joe's brand.)
2-3 tsp homemade taco seasoning (More if you like it spicy)
1/4 cup water
1 can refried beans
1 avocado - peeled, cored, cubed
1 roma tomato - seeded, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese blend (Again: Go Trader Joe's!)
your favorite salsa

Directions
  1. Heat taco shells according to package.
  2. Sprinkle seasoning onto ground "meat" in skillet and mix. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, then pour water into skillet. Mix thoroughly to create sauce and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  3. While "meat" is browning/simmering:
    1. Cook beans in second skillet over low-medium heat until warm.
    2. Prepare avocado, tomato, and cheese and put into bowls.
    3. Pour some of your favorite salsa into a bowl. (Sure! You can go ahead and dip a few tortilla chips in there while you wait for the "meat" to cook. I won't tell.) 
  4. When "meat" is done, put about 1 heaping spoonful each of "meat" and beans into the taco shells. Place 2-3 taco shells on each person's plate.
  5. Serve everything else in bowls for a build-your-own taco dinner. 

FISH TACOS
Our go-to taco fish is tilapia, but swai or basa are good alternates. I'm dying to try this recipe with barramundi, but it's one of the few dishes that the girls eat without fail, so I don't want to mess with what works. If you try this recipe with barramundi or some other fish not listed here, and it works for you, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Ingredients
6 medium flour tortillas (burrito size) OR 10 small corn tortillas (taco size)
12 oz white fish - cubed
1 tsp homemade taco seasoning (More if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup shredded cabbage (We like Napa cabbage best.)
1 cup loosely packed cilantro
1 avocado - peeled, cored, cubed
1 roma tomato - seeded, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrot (optional)

Sauce - Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl
1 tsp taco seasoning (More if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp cilantro stems - minced fine
1 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp sour cream or Greek yogurt

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 200F. Place tortillas on a baking sheet. When you start the fish cooking, place the baking sheet in the oven. The tortillas and the fish should get done at roughly the same time.
  2. Mix fish, seasoning, lemon juice, and olive oil in a small bowl and let sit.
  3. Prep cabbage, cilantro, avocado, tomato, and carrot into bowls.
  4. Dump fish with all the juices and seasoning into a skillet that's been preheated for 5 minutes. (Put the tortillas in the oven as soon as you dump the fish into the skillet.) Cook fish on medium heat until it is opaque. Put cooked fish in a bowl.
  5. Place tortillas in a bread basket covered with a napkin to keep them moist. Serve everything else in bowls for a build-your-own taco dinner. Dusty and I like to smear the sauce onto the tortillas and build the taco from there. Yum!

BREAKFAST TACOS
We rarely have breakfast tacos as our Taco Tuesday meal, but we are due for our quarterly menu review next week, so things might change. 

Ingredients
6 medium flour tortillas (burrito size) OR 10 small corn tortillas (taco size)
8-12 pieces of bacon or turkey bacon, cooked in the oven (YES WAY!)
4 eggs
splash of milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado - peeled, cored, cubed (It's not a taco unless there's avocado! Hey, that almost rhymed!)
your favorite salsa
Tabasco sauce (totally optional)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Place bacon strips onto the wire rack/baking sheet. Cook for 15-18 minutes until crisp and delicious.
  2. When the bacon is done, take it out of the oven and turn the heat down to 200F. Place the strips of bacon on a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Place tortillas on a baking sheet. When you start the eggs cooking, place the baking sheet in the oven. The tortillas and the eggs should get done at roughly the same time. 
  4. Prep avocado and salsa into bowls. Place tortillas in a bread basket covered with a napkin to keep them moist.
  5. Whisk together eggs, milk, and salt and pepper. Pour mixture into skillet and make scrambled eggs. (Put the tortillas in the oven as soon as you dump the egg mixture into the skillet.)
  6. When the eggs are done, put everything on the table for a build-your-own taco dinner. Enjoy!
Note: Bake your bacon. Seriously. It's easier and healthier than pan-frying. You don't even have to turn it! 


Use a wire rack placed on a baking sheet. Easy-peasy. You are going to love baked bacon!

Looks like I finished this post just in time to make fish tacos for dinner. Yay! Happy Taco Tuesday, y'all!