Tempting Main Dishes

Italian burger

Italian burgerBurgers get boring, fast. So I’m always up for experimenting with new burger ideas. And now’s the time: It’s National Hamburger Month. But don’t you think calling it National Burger Month, would inspire far more creativity. Let’s just leave the ground beef out it entirely, shall we?

This recipe goes sans ground beef. Instead, Mr. Squid picked up Italian sausage for the patties for half our crew and ground turkey for me and my teen (we like lite burgers). You could also use portobello mushrooms.

 

3 things make this burger a stand-out:

  • Baste it with marinara at the very end of the grill time.
  • Broil cheese on the burger after grilling.
  • Add a caprese-inspired topping

 

Recipe

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

1 pound Italian sausage or ground turkey

Italian seasoning

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Salt and pepper

4 slices of mozzarella or provolone cheese

1/4 cup marinara, divided

4 burger buns

 

Caprese topping

1 Tbsp. chopped pepperoncinis (opt. but oh so tasty)

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or Asiago (preferred)

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup basil, chopped into thin strips

 

Directions:

  1. Shape meat into four patties. Sprinkle liberally with Italian seasoning, garlic and onion powders, and salt and pepper.
  2. Grill at medium high heat for about 6 minutes on each side. During the final minutes of grilling, baste with 1/8 cup of the marinara.
  3. Place the patties onto a baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon marinara onto each patty along with a slice of cheese.
  4. Broil the patties for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  5. Meanwhile mix together the caprese toppings and add a heaping tablespoon (or more!) to each burger.
  6. Serve on lightly toasted buns.

 

Kids’ reactions: My teen added extras of the caprese topping to her burger. My younger two kids tried the caprese topping but didn’t want it on their burgers. Ah well, the pepperoncinis can get a little spicy.

 

 

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Moroccan shrimp

Whoops. I guess I'll need to return my tangine.

Whoops. I guess I’ll need to return my tangine.

For my birthday, my hubby surprised me with a Moroccan tangine. It’s a baking dish with a high, cone-shaped lid (not pictured) that traps the cooking liquid and infuses the food inside with the flavor.

 

Yeah, I managed to crack it the first time I tried cooking with it. (In my defense, it didn’t come with any seasoning or cooking instructions.) Well, I’m now researching how to season and cook the right way with the tangine. But I still had all of my ingredients ready to go so I made this Moroccan shrimp dish in a skillet, instead of a tangine. I used a recipe I found on The Food Republic as a base and then tweaked it to mirror the flavors of a dish a Moroccan friend of mine made for me years ago.

 

 

Recipe

I plate the shrimp with purple kale, just cuz

I plated the shrimp with purple kale, just cuz

 

Prep time: 20 minutes + 20 minutes cooking

Servings: 4-5

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, tails and shells removed

2 tbsp. oil (I used grapeseed)

1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes

1 raw tomato, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. tumeric

1 tsp. smoked paprika (or regular) + more for sprinkling

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. parsley, chopped

2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped

2 tbsp. chicken broth

1 lemon, sliced

 

Directions:

  1. Puree the tomatoes, tumeric, paprika, and garlic in a blender.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed skillet (no idea yet if this would also work in a tangine), bring the oil to medium-high heat.
  3. Add the tomato mixture to the hot oil and cook until the tomato color begins to darken (from bright orange to red), about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp into the tomato mixture and sprinkle with cumin, cayenne, white pepper, and fresh herbs. Cook for 3 minutes or until shrimp just begins to turn pink.
  5. Place the lemon slices on top of the shrimp. Pour over the chicken broth, then cover the skillet.
  6. Cook for 5 minutes until the shrimp is heated through and tender.
  7. Add additional spices, if necessary (I like to add more smoked paprika and cayenne).
  8. Serve over plain rice or Moroccan rice (recipe coming tomorrow).

 

Kids’ reactions: Thumbs up and clean plates all around. I would definitely make this again EXCEPT Mr. Squid seems to be having bad reactions to shrimp lately so I’m not sure whether we’ll have to cut out shrimp for awhile or altogether:(.

 

 

 

 

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Beef gorgonzola sliders

Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 4.54.49 PMSliders just beg for flavor-bathed ingredients don’t they? I paired thinly sliced beef with a gorgonzola cream sauce for a quick dinner.

 

I can find razor-thin beef at our local grocery store (thank you Heinen’s), but you can also cut it by hand or break out the food processor. I put on the slicing disk in my Cuisinart and run the meat through twice. If beef isn’t your thing, this works really well with meaty portobello mushrooms too.

 

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6

 

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced beef

1/2 medium white onion, sliced thin

8-10 slider buns

 

Have on hand

Arugula (or spinach or go without the greens)

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Vinegar (White Balsamic is my current fav)

soy sauce

Olive oil

 

Gorgonzola cream sauce

1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup half and half (or cream)

Pepper and salt to taste

 

Directions

  1. Toast the slider buns on a medium-high, heavy-bottomed skillet, working in batches.
  2. Add 2 tsps. olive oil to the heated pan, followed by the onions. Cook the onions until just soft.
  3. Remove the onions from the pan and add 2 more tsps. olive oil, then half of the beef.
  4. Sprinkle liberally with onion and garlic powder and cook through. You might also add a dash of soy sauce and white balsamic vinegar.
  5. Remove the first batch of beef from the pan and cook the second batch.
  6. To plate the sliders, add the beef first topped with sauteed onions, gorgonzola cream sauce, and then the arugula.

 

Super easy gorgonzola sauce directions

You can make as much or as little of the cream sauce as you want. The extras make for an amazing dip for roasted potatoes. The key is a 50/50 ratio gorgonzola to cream. Simply heat the half and half or cream in a small saucepan until it comes to a medium high heat. Add the gorgonzola and whisk until melted, remove from heat. No extra seasoning needed, although a little pepper and cayenne powder perks up the flavor. That’s it!

 

Kids’ reactions:

I only added the gorgonzola sauce to my teen’s sliders’; she gave these mini sandwiches two thumbs up. For my two younger kids I offered the sauce in a small bowl for dipping in their sliders. The dip trick worked for my younger kid, my tween didn’t care for the gorgonzola sauce  but liked the sliders.

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Family fondue night

Grab your skewer stick, it's fondue time!

Grab your skewer stick, it’s fondue time!

Fondue makes for the perfect family dinner.

 

My kids chopped up all of the veggie and fixins’ while I made the cheese sauce. Normally, I’m not a bleu cheese fan, but gorgonzola melts so beautifully that I added it into the cheese mix along with Swiss, fontina, and sharp cheddar.

I decided on two fondues–one for dinner, one for dessert.

Surprisingly the favorite dipping food for both? Fresh, torn baguette pieces. With the chocolate fondue my kids quickly ditched the marshmallows for the baguettes. I’d suggest trying the same with your crew.

 

Recipe

Cheese Fondue

(I based mine off Martha Stewart’s version)

Ready to start eating!

Ready to start eating!

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups cheese (I mixed 1 1/2 cups cheddar and mixed in fontina, gorgonzola, and Swiss for the rest)

2 tbsp. flour

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 1/3 cups liquid (Martha suggests white wine, I used a combination of white grape juice, water, chicken broth and a hint of white Balsamic vinegar)

2 tsps. lemon juice

garlic

olive oil

Serve with carrots, snap peas, baguette pieces, bell pepper strips, sausage pieces, and whatever else you can find

 

Directions

Mix the shredded cheeses with flour, white pepper and cayenne.

In a sauce pan, bring the liquid to medium-low heat (not hot!). Gradually add in the cheese a little at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition.

Once the cheese is melted, remove the pan from the burner and stir in the lemon juice. Pour into a fondue pot, if you’re using one.

Chocolate fondue

Chocolate Fondue

Ingredients

1/2 cup chocolate chips (Ghirardelli are the best)

1/2-3/4 cup half and half (or heavy cream)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Pinch of salt

Serve with baguette pieces, pretzels, fresh fruit

 

Directions

I put all of the ingredients into our mini crockpot while we were eating dinner. When it was time for dessert, the chocolate fondue was ready.

 

 

 

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Asian tacos

 

Mu Shu Tacos from Cuisine at Home

Mu Shu Tacos from picture from Cuisine at Home

Tofu is tasteless. Really. That’s why I was a little nervous that my kids might not like it. So I came up with a bit of a strategy for introducing them to the mashed up soybeans. First, it had to be firm tofu cut into little squares. I was going to make the squares up myself but I was happy to find that firm tofu comes in pre-cut squares (and they were on sale this week). Second, I needed a sauce that would soak into the tofu and add a burst of flavor. Last, I wanted to put it in something that was already familiar. Tacos.

I ran across a recipe in a recent issue of Cuisine at home that seemed to fit all my criteria. I tweaked the recipe to pass along here. The recipe starts by having you make your own flour tortillas. I was all for DIY tortillas but let me tell you for the amount of work you put in, I’d suggest buying smaller flour tortillas instead and brushing them with sesame oil before toasting. Same flavor, a lot less mess (my youngest was covered in flour head to toe). I also added in fresh basil to give the filling a needed zing (Thai basil would have been even better, but you work with what you have, right?). It’s optional, but I recommend adding some fresh herbs into the mix–cilantro or even parsley would work here too.

 

Recipe

Prep & cook time: 30 minutes or less (unless you make your own tortillas, in which case, it could be hours)

Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

4 green onions cut into 1-inch pieces (I cut those in half too)Asian taco fixins'

1/2 cup shredded carrots (had these out, totally forgot to use it)

1/2 red pepper cut into slivers

3 cups shredded Napa cabbage

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups firm tofu cut into squares

1/4 cup basil, cut into slivers (opt. but very, very good)

Small flour tortillas (often located in the refrigerator section at the grocers)

Sesame oil

Rice

 

Sauce ingredients:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. vinegar

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)

1/8 tsp. white pepper (opt.)

Tofu cooking

Directions:

  1. Toast the flour tortillas in a medium-hot skillet, brushing them with sesame oil before adding them to the pan. Cook until warm and slightly crisped and place in a tortilla warmer or wrap in a clean kitchen towel until the filling is ready.
  2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  3. In a non-stick cook pan or a wok (preferred) bring 1 teaspoon sesame oil to medium-high heat and add the eggs. Cook through and remove from pan. Slice into thin strips.
  4. Add another 1 teaspoon sesame oil to the wok and add the tofu. Cook until the squares start to crisp. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add 1/2 of the sauce. Cook just until the cubes are coated and remove from the wok.
  5. More sesame oil. Yup, add another teaspoon to a medium-high pan and then cook your veggies in this order: red peppers, carrots go first for about 2 minutes, then add the green onions. Wait a minute. Finally add in the cabbage, basil, eggs, and tofu.
  6. Now you have a choice: Do you kiddos like it saucy? If so, add the rest of the sauce, if not, serve it as a side. (I went less saucy myself.)
  7. Mix the vegetables together for about a minute and then use as a filling for the tacos.
  8. Serve the tacos alongside rice. (My kids liked adding the extra sauce to their rice.)

 

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 1.24.41 PM

Yeah, my taco pic wasn’t nearly as good as the original. The homemade tortillas were good, but not worth the extra effort.

 

Kids’ reactions: Clean plates all around. None of my kids even noticed the tofu. My two youngest kids picked out each and every red pepper sliver, but not a piece of tofu remained. Even Mr. Squid was a fan. I even made tofu fried rice the next day.

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Cowboy Thanksgiving

Photo credit: TheBlaze.com

This year’s Thanksgiving theme–cowboy style!

While we’re keeping our meal fairly low-key, each year we try to do a little bit of a twist on traditional recipes. So this year we’re trying to infuse each dish with some Southwest flavor.

Here’s what’s on the list so far:

Grilled turkey–We’re marinating a boneless turkey breast in chipolte mojo sauce (courtesy of Goya) and then grilling it outside.

Yummy potatoes–Also called “funeral potatoes,” I’m mixing in sliced jalapenos and sharp cheddar cheese

Smokin’ gravy–As long as the we’re turning up the heat on the barbecue and the smoker, the plan is to make the gravy and then put it in the smoker to infuse it with hickory

Bacon green beans–Instead of fried onions, I’m topping my green beans with chopped up bacon (and a dash of cayenne pepper)

Chorizo cornbread stuffing–Spicy sausage called chorizo melds perfectly with cornbread

Your turn–are you making any new recipes for Thanksgiving this year or tweaking traditional favorites?

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Truffle cheese pizza

Braces = pizza around our house. Our family’s favorite Italian deli happens to be right by the orthodontist’s office. So when she’s done having her braces tightened we swing by Alesci’s for their refrigerated pizza dough.

As I was digging through the refrigerator for topping ideas I stumbled on our prized chunk of Trader Joe’s truffle cheese. The cheese has the consistency of sharp provolone speckled with bits of truffle for an earthy, umami flavor. A little goes a long way.

Recipe

Serves: 4-6 people

Prep time: 20 minutes + 20 minutes baking

Ingredients

1 lb. prepared pizza dough

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1 cup fresh spinach

1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup truffle cheese (or sharp provolone)

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese

olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Roll out the pizza dough to fill a 9″ round pan. Generously oil the pan and add the dough.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. *I saute the veggies in my cast iron skillet and then bake the pizza in the same skillet. Yeah for easy clean up!
  4. Saute the mushroom and onions together in the heated oil until barely soft.
  5. Lightly brush the pizza dough with olive oil.
  6. Drain any extra liquid from the ricotta and then crumble it over the dough.
  7. Add the mushroom mixture, then fresh spinach. Sprinkle with mozzarella and truffle cheeses.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Allow the pizza to sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Notes:

  • Turn up the heat by adding a dash of cayenne pepper on your pizza before baking.
  • I served the pizza drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It was perfection!
  • My oldest daughter loved this veggie pizza but my younger kids opted for the standard pepperoni; their loss! (Admittedly, I didn’t push them too hard to try it because I really, really wanted leftovers. And this pizza is even better day two, cold.)

Getting the truffle pizza oven ready.

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Breakfast burgers

When Mr. Squid mentioned he wanted to make breakfast burgers I wasn’t immediately on board. See, we tried out breakfast pizzas once on a whim and the results were, well, not good.

But sausage patties are perfect for the grill. We buy ours from a local farmer’s market that makes fresh pork and turkey varieties. Top your grilled patty with the works like bacon, cheese, and a fried egg. Or keep it simple–I like just a turkey sausage patty topped with thick-sliced tomato.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients

4 sausage patties (1 pound)

4 whole wheat kaiser buns

4 slices bacon, if desired

4 slices cheddar cheese, if desired

4 eggs

Directions

  1. Form the sausage into 4 thin patties.
  2. Heat the grill to high, then place the sausage patties on the grill.
  3. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  4. Take the patties off the grill. While they cool prepare a fried egg for each.
  5. Place the patty on the bun followed by the bacon, cheese, and fried egg. (Alternatively, top the sausage patty with a slice of tomato.)
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Kiwi peach salsa

Whew! It’s been awhile since I posted–more on that later. For now, I wanted to pass along this recipe for a quick, fresh kiwi salsa I paired the other day with grilled pork loin.

Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes

Servings : About 1 1/4 cups


Ingredients:

2 kiwis

2 peaches

1 small tomato

1/2 green pepper

1/2 small white onion

1 lime

1/8 cup cilantro leaves

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 serrano chile pepper (opt.)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Wash and dice into small pieces the peaches (I leave the skin on), kiwis (I take the skin off), tomatoes, green pepper, and onion.
  • Squeeze the juice of the lime into the diced pieces.
  • Remove the seeds and mince the serrano chile pepper (if using).
  • Mix in the garlic and minced cilantro leaves. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and cumin.
  • Serve over grilled chicken, pork, fish, or rice.

Kids’ reactions: My middle child asked for seconds of the salsa to finish off with tortilla chips. My other two kids both requested kiwi-peach salsa again.

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Peachy pork tacos

I found gorgeous peaches at the market today, which I thought would pair perfectly with pork in traditional Mexican tacos. With authentic tacos, it’s all about the fresh fillings. Seriously, no cheese, no unidentifiable gritty ground meat.

For an easy, tasty summertime meal I chopped up pork cutlets into bit-sized pieces sauteed them with a few spices and lime before adding thin-sliced peaches, cilantro, and homemade salsa.

Picky eater trick: For my kids, I put all the ingredients on their plates and then let them construct their tacos on their own. My youngest later dipped the extra peaches right into the salsa. I surprisingly tasty combo!

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4-6


Ingredients

2 lbs. pork

1 lime

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. cumin powder

1 peach

cilantro

toasted corn tortillas

Directions

  • Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces.
  • Bring 1 tablespoon grape seed (or canola oil) to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet.
  • Saute the pork until heated through and crisped, adding garlic and cayenne powders and ground cumin half way through cooking.
  • Squeeze half of a lime over the meat before removing it from the pan.
  • Cut the peach into thin slices (I didn’t bother removing the skin since the slices were so slim).
  • Serve the pork with fresh peach slices, cilantro, and salsa on toasted corn tortillas.
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