some recipes to try…

I don’t post about food very often; but I realize that I should start, considering how much I love it! A few weeks ago, I finally got around to organizing my recipe binder….it was overflowing with recipes I’d torn out of magazines, copied from my mom, or that had been given to me by friends.  They’re much happier now, each in its own clear plastic sleeve and organized in color-coded tabs by type of dish.  The dividers are perfect because they have pockets–so I can stick loose recipes in there if I’m in a hurry.

I feel I need to issue a disclaimer–I am a big fan of semi-homemade meals (just call me Sandra Lee without the crazy themed kitchens).  When scanning a recipe, it rarely makes the cut if it has more than about three specialty ingredients.  I am just drawn to the stuff that looks good and practical to make, and builds on store-bought items!  I’ve had a few recipes turn out really nicely recently (isn’t that a rewarding feeling?), so I thought I would share with you.

Last weekend I had a few girlfriends over for wine and snacks while Jason was out of town.  I found this recipe for spinach lasagna rolls and thought I would give it a whirl!  Of course I don’t have a picture, but they looked very similar to these:

They were super easy to make, delicious, and the perfect meal for a get-together or weeknight dinner.

Here’s the recipe with my modifications: (I always laugh when brands are suggested…I mean I know why companies do it, but it comes off like “the meal will be completely different if you don’t buy Kraft!” And it never is.)

 

Adding the pesto (homemade by my mom using basil from her garden) was a great touch and I highly recommend it!  And these rolls make wonderful leftovers. : )  Also, you can make it healthier by using Neufchatel cheese (which is the same as cream cheese but with 1/3 less fat) and 2% milk mozzarella, which I did.

 

With Cinco de Mayo rapidly approaching, I just HAD to honor the holiday with a Mexican-themed dinner.  We had our good friends over for dinner and I made these AWESOME creamy spinach enchiladas! I was so proud of myself! For being able to follow a recipe!  Haha but seriously, you have to celebrate even the little achievements : )

I happened upon this recipe in January’s Real Simple issue, in an article about takeout foods ‘made over’.

Again, I didn’t think to snap a picture, but this is almost exactly how they turned out:

And how to make them (with my modifications):

Ingredients:

– 1 ten ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (frozen chopped spinach always takes longer to thaw than you think!)

-1 cup frozen corn thawed (although I’m sure you could use canned corn too)

-1 cup 2% milk grated Cheddar cheese

-2  4. 5 ounce cans chopped green chiles

-1 1/2 cups heavy cream (the recipe called for 1, but I made it ahead of time and the tortillas absorbed a lot of the cream, so I poured an additional 1/2 cup over top of them right before sticking in the oven)

-1 lb. ground pork (the recipe was meatless, but I wanted to add this for the guys. I must say it was a nice touch and made it more substantial)

– 6-inch corn tortillas (the small guys).  The recipe called for only 8, but I used so many more than that AND had a ton of filling left over (see instructions)!

-sea salt and black pepper

To-Do:

1. In a medium bowl, mix the spinach, corn, 1 cup of the Cheddar, and 1 can of the chiles.

2. In a frying pan, brown the ground pork and add this to the mixture.

3. In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup of the cream, the remaining can of chies, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.

4. Put one heaping spoonful of the meat and spinach mixture in the middle of each tortilla, spread it out going along the diameter of the tortilla, and roll them up.  The recipe said to warm the tortillas, but I found this made them split open. I think using cold ones (out of the fridge) worked better.  Place rolled tortillas seam-side down in a shallow baking dish. I sprayed the dish with Pam first, just in case.  Like I said, I filled up the whole dish with tortillas and there was still a ton of the meat and spinach mixture left. I saved this and served it mixed with black beans and brown rice for dinner earlier this week–also delish!

5. After you have lined up all the rolled tortillas, top with the cream sauce and another cup of the Cheddar.

6. Bake covered with foil in a 400-degree oven for 15-20 mins. Then uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 mins.  The tortillas should be golden brown and the cheese and sauce mixture should be bubbly!

I just thought these were so good…the enchilada filling was great, and the corn tortillas added a sweet, almost tamale-like flavor.  It was a nice departure from the usual red sauce and bean enchiladas.

On the side, I served a simple cabbage salad (also taken from Real Simple). I had never made a cabbage salad before and I have to say, I was skeptical about how it would turn out as I was preparing it. But I had no reason to be–it was great! And even better the longer it ‘sat’ in its dressing…I thought it was still wonderful the next day!

Ingredients:

-1/2 small red cabbage, thinly sliced (this makes enough for 4 and then plenty leftover!)

– 2 scallions, thinly sliced)

-1/2 cup pepitas (which are roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds…couldn’t find them at our regular grocery store so I got them at Trader Joe’s

– 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil

-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (or you can always use the bottled kind…I just happened to have fresh on hand from my cookies..read on for those!)

To-Do:

1. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage and scallions with the pepitas, oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  If you’re making this a little ahead of time, I would add the pepitas last so they don’t get soggy.

This was the perfect accompaniment to the enchiladas!

Now for the dessert, I am pretty proud of myself because I really went out of my comfort zone.  When I make cookies, they usually come from out of a tub or are of the ‘break-and-bake’ variety…usually because I am lazy in a hurry, or I can never get them chewy enough for my liking (although I read recently that substituting shortening and brown sugar in place of butter and white sugar helps achieve this?)

However, I recently caught an episode of Giada, in which she made a very quaint ‘boat picnic lunch’ for her and her family (sigh.)  One feature of the meal were Lime and Cornmeal Cookies with a Citrus Glaze.  They looked so scrumptious (and fitting for my pre-Cinco de Mayo meal) that I just had to attempt them.  They really were not complicated, just a little labor-intensive…which makes it all the more rewarding when they turn out well!

I actually do a have a picture of the cookies, or what is left of them!  The presentation was better when I served them though. 🙂

Once again, the recipe with my modifications:

Ingredients:

– 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

– 1 cup sugar

– 3 large limes, zested

– 1 egg at room temp

-3 Tbsp fresh lime juice (2-3 large limes). Again, I am sure you could use the bottled kind, but I needed limes for my margaritas anyway, and it was an excuse to use my cute juicer I got on sale at Anthro a few summers ago!

– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

– 1 1/2 cups rice flour, plus more for dusting…I scoured two grocery stores for this stuff before doing an Internet search in which I found often times all-purpose wheat flour is a fine substitute. And it was!

– 1/2 cup cornmeal

– 1/4 tsp sea salt

For the glaze:

– 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar

– 2 large limes, zested

– 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice (or lemon juice)

To Do:

1. The recipe called for lining a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper…neither of which I happened to have, so I heavily Pam-ed the cookie sheet and that was just fine.  Do not use waxed paper coated in cooking spray as a substitute, despite what the Internet tells you…it will start to burn, smoke up your kitchen, and set off your smoking alarm while your baby looks at you with a mixture of confusion and horror.

2. In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, and lime zest until combined.  Then add the egg, lime juice, and vanilla, processing until smooth.  Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt, processing together until the mixture forms a dough.  Take the dough out and knead for about 20 seconds on a lightly floured surface.  Then wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for 20 mins.

3. After 20 mins, put dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll out until the dough is about a quarter-inch thick.  It calls for a round cookie cutter to cut the dough, which I didn’t have, but an inverted drinking glass worked just as well!

4. Place dough circles on greased baking sheet, and then put in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 mins (until the edges are light golden).  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, lime juice, and lime zest until smooth. Spread approx. 1 tsp of the glaze onto each cooled cookie.  Allow glaze to harden for about 45 minutes before serving.

I thought the cookies turned out wonderfully…the tartness of the lime combined well with the buttery flavor of the cookie.

Last but not least, I’ll share an easy family recipe for great margaritas!

1. Fill a blender with ice.

2. Empty one can of frozen lime juice.

3. Fill that can back up with orange juice and empty into blender.

4. Fill that can back up with tequila and empty into blender.  Note: you can use less than a can of tequila if you are a lightweight prefer less booze.

5. Blend together and serve in a salt-rimmed glass!

Here is my BFF Katie, Emmeline and I before sitting down to our dinner 🙂

I hope you’re able to try some of these recipes over the coming months and enjoy them as much as we did!

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