Monday, March 28, 2011

Taco Night!!!

Who doesn't love taco night?  In our house, it's a crowd favorite!  There was a time when I used those pre-made taco seasoning packets available at our local market. After our middle daughter, Talia, was born with food allergies, we found ourselves seeking alternatives to pre-mixed seasonings, salad dressings and sauces which often contained one our more of the common allergens we were trying to avoid.  In addition, most of them are loaded with preservatives, artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup and salt. Those pre-made taco seasoning packets in the Mexican food aisle at your local market are among the worst in terms of unhealthy ingredients.  They are however, ridiculously convenient when you want to throw together a quick taco dinner!  That's why it is a smart idea to stock your pantry with this homemade seasoning mix!  The store bought packets can't compare to the flavors in this homemade seasoning mix. Once you try it, there's no turning back!  Taco night will never be the same!

Prep Ahead Plan:  Triple the recipe below and store it in an air tight container in the pantry for a quick fix taco night.
Taco Seasoning
(seasoning for 1 pound of ground beef, turkey or chicken)

1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 teaspoon sea salt (or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 tablespoon flour (or masa)

    1.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Be sure the flour is fully incorporated with no lumps!
    2.  Store in an air tight container or use immediately.

    To prepare taco meat:
    Seasoning mix from above
    1 pound meat (ground beef, turkey, chicken)
    2/3 cup water
    taco fixings of your choosing!

    1.  Saute 1 pound of ground beef, turkey or chicken and drain the fat.
    2.  Sprinkle pre-made seasoning over cooked meat and mix to combine.
    3.  Add 2/3 cup of water and mix well.  Simmer on low for about 20 minutes and serve!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Guinness Braised Short Ribs for St Patty's Day

    photo from Williams Sonoma

    I really like to post my own pictures to go along with each and every recipe on my site but unfortunately, I just don't have a shot of this dish.  It's so pretty and delicious I had to share Williams Sonoma's picture for everyone to drool over.  It's much better than mine would have been anyway!

    Like the picture, the recipe is from Williams Sonoma.  Here is my prep ahead adaptation!

    Prep Ahead Plan:  Do steps 1-3 the night before.  Continue on to step 4, placing the ribs in the slow cooker with the Guinness.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Turn on low in the morning!


    • 4 lb. beef short ribs
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
    • 3 T canola oil
    • 2 yellow onions, diced
    • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 2 celery stalks, diced
    • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
    • 2 cups Guinness
    • 8 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional)


    1.  Season the short ribs all sides with salt and pepper. 
    2.  In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until almost smoking. Working in batches (do not overcrowd), brown the ribs on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

    3.  In the same pan over medium heat, add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
    4.  Transfer the short ribs and vegetables to a slow cooker and add the Guinness. Cover and cook on low, about 6 hours. 
    5.  Transfer the ribs to a large bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Skim the fat off the sauce. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until smooth.

    6.  Transfer the ribs to individual bowls. Spoon the sauce on top and garnish each serving with a parsley sprig. Serve alongside your favorite potato dish!

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Easy Weeknight Sloppy Joes

    I love this unique sloppy joe recipe a friend passed onto me!  It comes together in minutes and freezes really well.  Its use of gumbo made it a perfect Fat Tuesday menu choice!

    Prep Ahead Plan:  Prepare this meat mixture at any time.  Refrigerate and serve anytime that week for an easy heat and eat meal!  Freezing the mixture is an option too!  Just defrost, heat and serve at your convenience!

    Easy Weeknight Sloppy Joes
    1 &1/4 lb ground beef or turkey
    1/2 onion
    1 small stalk chopped celery
    1 can chicken gumbo soup or Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
    1 tsp mustard
    1/2 c tomato sauce
    1/4 cup ketchup
    salt and pepper to taste

    1.  Brown meat in a skillet.  Drain excess fat.
    2.  Add in onion and celery and saute a few minutes longer.
    3.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, stirring for about a minute. 
    4.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes but longer is fine too!

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Cajun Shrimp over Collard Greens

    a Fat Tuesday inspired dish...
    Here is an easy and healthy shrimp dish perfect for a Mardi Gras inspired menu!  Serve it alongside giant glasses filled with hurricane cocktails!

    Prep Ahead Plan:  Saute the greens ahead of time and season the shrimp.  Leave both in the fridge until ready to serve.  Quickly bake the shrimp and reheat the greens for an effortless but delicious Mardi Gras meal!

    Click HERE for a great slow cooker Jambalaya recipe!  Another great Mardi Gras inspired dish!

    Cajun Shrimp over Collard Greens (or greens of your choice!)

    For the Shrimp...
    2 pound bag, frozen, raw, peeled and deveined shrimp; thawed (I like to remove the tails too)
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    2 teaspoons of cajun seasoning (I didn't even measure, just sprinkled)

    1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the thawed shrimp in a bowl with the olive oil and cajun seasoning.
    2.  Spread them in an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until pink and cooked through (maybe a few minutes less if they are small).  Serve over greens.

    For the Greens:
    1 tablespoon of olive oil
    8 ounces (approximately) of collard greens (pictured above is actually baby spinach!)
    2 cloves garlic, minced

    1.  Heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute for less than a minute.
    2.  Add greens and saute about 5 minutes or until wilted and cooked to desired doneness!

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Chili for the Slow Cooker

    Generally on a typical week night, someone is bound to disapprove of the menu! Not on chili night though!  It's actually one of the few meals all five of us look forward to having!  I have several recipes which are all variations of the same idea:  brown the meat, add some diced tomatoes and seasonings and serve.  I came across a chili recipe on Allrecipes called "Boilermaker Chili."  It received over 2000 five star reviews and decided to give it a try!  I'm so glad I did!  It's delicious and really easy to make!  Don't be put off by the long ingredient list. Most are pantry staples!  Here is my adaptation!

    Prep Ahead Plan:  It takes about 20-30 minutes to brown the meat and chop the veggies.  I did this the night before. I mixed the remaining ingredients in the pot and turned it on  the next morning!

    Chili for the Slow Cooker
    • 2 pounds ground beef 
    • 1 pound Italian sausage removed from their casing
    • 3 (15 oz) cans of pinto beans
    • 2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes with juice
    • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 small stalks celery, finely chopped
    • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (I left a few seeds for a little heat, my kids don't mind though!)
    • 1 t bacon bits
    • 4 cubes beef bouillon
    • 1/2 cup beer
    • 1/4 cup chili powder
    • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
    • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 T dried oregano
    • 2 t ground cumin
    • 2 t Tabasco
    • 1 t dried basil
    • 1 t ground black pepper
    • 1 t cayenne pepper
    • 1 t paprika
    • 1 t white sugar
    • Cheddar and corn chips for serving

    1.  Brown the ground beef and sausage in a pan and drain the fat.
    2.  Place the remaining ingredients, EXCEPT THE BEANS, in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 8-12 hours.  Drain the beans and add them to the chili about an hour or so before serving.  I happen to be the only one in the family who likes beans.  I heat them separately and add them to only my bowl!