Quick Veggie Burritos

Quick Veggie BurritosThere’s nothing quite as quick and delicious as stopping by the local taqueria and picking up a couple of burritos. While it may be easy, those quick calories can start adding up on your waistline while depleting your wallet — or at least, that’s been my experience.

So, I decided to create something a bit healthier, though still pretty simple to make, and crafted a quick and tasty veggie burrito. I kept things inexpensive by using frozen veggies and prepped a few days of burrito fillings in advance so that I can spoon some mix into a tortilla and warm it slowly on the stove top soon after I get home from work. Not only are these almost as easy as dropping by the taqueria, they’re just as hearty, and they’re bursting with healthy vegetables. And seriously, these things are yummy!

Pair them with a nice ale or lager, or a white wine that can play nicely with all the different flavors, something like a Fumé Blanc.

Quick Veggie Burritos


Serves 4

high heat oil
garlic salt to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup mixed mushrooms
1 cup precooked butternut squash, cubed (I even got this frozen!)
4 Tablespoons canned tomatillos
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons sliced black olives
1 cup walnut pieces
handful of cheese (A combo of mozzarella and cheddar is nice. So is queso fresco.)
1 avocado, cubed
4 spinach wraps or other large tortillas

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
On a cookie sheet, scatter the broccoli, mushrooms, and squash in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper flakes. Cook until the veggies begin to brown, about ten minutes if they’re frozen, about five if they’re fresh.
Preheat a griddle or large pan over medium low heat.
Remove veggies from oven and put in a large bowl. Dump in the rest of the ingredients and stir together.
One by one, place tortillas on griddle and flip after a minute, leaving just long enough for the tortillas to be warmed and become more flexible.
Spoon approximately a cup of filling onto the middle-side of each tortilla. Fold tortilla and roll until a burrito is made.
Place on the griddle and cook on each side until lightly browned, about a couple minutes per side.
Serve with chips and salsa.

Dal

DalHappy New Year! I’m back from my blogging hiatus and ready for a full year of healthy cooking.

Every year I choose a word I want to focus on, and for 2016, I chose “active.” I was so busy last year, it seemed like every bit of potential free time was spent indoors, which definitely took a toll on my physical health. Though I was doing some awesome, creative things, it also took a toll on my mental well being, as I didn’t have time to focus on the things that keep me happy and productive. For me, my year of “active” means also being more involved in the things I find fulfilling. Blogging is one of those things, filling my wellspring back up.

Since it is a new year, and everyone is focused on healthy eating and improvement, I thought I’d focus on an easy, tasty vegetarian meal — Dal. I grew up thinking lentils were boring, never realizing that what they really needed was some spice. Of course, Indian grandmothers have been in the know about that for generations. What’s even better, lentils are an incredibly inexpensive food source. The recipe below is for four servings for around $3, and is so tasty, I’m making another batch tonight, per Charles’ request for more.

I served this with a dry Riesling. It would also be quite good with an amber ale, or if you want to go the non-alcohol route, coconut water would be nice, too.

Dal


Serves 4

water
1 cup dry, red lentils
2 cups water
1 sweet onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
salt, to taste

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder

4 small handfuls chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Cover the lentils in water and let sit for a half hour or so. Drain and rinse.
In a small pot, add two cups of water, lentils, onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Bring to a boil over medium heat then cover pot with a lid and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
Whisk the lentils and smash some with a large spoon in order to thicken. Add a pinch of salt and stir. Turn off heat, but keep the pot covered.

In a small pan, heat grapeseed oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add cumin and mustard seeds and cover for a few seconds. Add the powder and let them bubble for about 30 seconds. It can burn easily, so keep an eye on the spices. Pour the oil into the lentil mixture, stir, and serve with a garnish of cilantro.

Fish Tacos

Fish TacosSometimes, there are healthier options, but I just don’t choose them. Such it is with fish tacos. I find them the most enjoyable when they’re beer battered and fried. I’ve had them grilled, and they’re tasty like that, but it’s just not what I think of when I’m craving fish tacos.

While frying foods isn’t the healthiest option, it should be pointed out that there are healthy aspects to this dish. 😉 Cabbage, avocados, salsa, white fish — these are good things, and I opted to use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for the creamy cabbage taco topping. All this to say, there’s no harm in the occasional fried treat, as long as it’s just occasional.

Since my tilapia was beer battered, I paired dinner with a beer as well, Six Rivers Paradise Moon Coffee Porter. I used Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout in the batter, so the Porter was a nice accompaniment.

Fish Tacos


Serves 2-4

1 tilapia filet
1 lime, cut in half
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup high heat sunflower oil
2/3 cup flour
8 ounces of beer
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 corn tortillas
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon chopped green onions
4 leaves of cabbage, chopped (savoy or Napa work well)

Put tilapia, juice from half the lime, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Tie closed and shake contents. Place in refrigerator to marinate and “cook” (The acids from the lime will interact with the fish, rather like ceviche.) for about 30 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
Prepare beer batter by mixing flour, beer, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until blended. It should be about the same consistency as cake batter. Tear fish into small pieces and submerge in the batter.
Carefully lay pieces in the skillet. There wasn’t quite enough oil in my skillet to submerge, so I cooked each side for about three minutes. You’ll know the fish is done when the batter has browned and turned crispy on the outside.
Lay fish on paper towels to soak up any extra oil.
One at a time, take the tortillas and submerge in the still hot oil and then flip over, cooking for about 30 seconds total. Remove to another paper towel to drain.
In a large bowl, add avocado, the juice from the other half of the lime, yogurt, cilantro, onions, and cabbage. Mix until cabbage is nicely coated.
Place fish inside each tortilla and cover with the creamy cabbage mixture. Fold tortillas in half, garnish with pickled carrots, jalapenos, and onions and add a dollop of salsa to the side.

Crab and Shrimp Nachos

crab and shrimp nachosIt’s Dungeness crab season in northern California, and it’s something of a tradition for coastal folks to have crab for their Christmas dinner.

While we moved inland a few years back, that doesn’t mean that Charles and I are willing to give up our coastal traditions. The store has been selling Dungeness precooked, which made our dinner preparations even easier this year, and since we are inland, it makes sense to sell them that way. While cooked and paired with a Beaujolais Nouveau or crafted into an amazing stew called Cioppino and served with hot sourdough bread are the traditional ways to consume this amazing crab, I — not surprisingly — did something slightly different this year. I combined the crab with precooked shrimp and made gooey, amazingly addictive, nachos.

I paired our meal with another West Coast tradition, Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s awesome seasonal beer, Winter Solstice. Its hints of toffee and spices went well with the rich flavors of the seafood and chevre, and its creamy mouthfeel was perfect with the melted cheese. Since tomorrow is Solstice, pick some up to toast in the returning light — and to pair with your own shellfish nachos.

Happy holidays, everyone! Cheers!

Crab and Shrimp Nachos


Serves 6

1 Dungeness crab, cooked and meat removed (Since I know most of my readers aren’t in northern California, canned crab can be substituted and will be just as tasty.)
1 handful of baby shrimp, cooked
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 Tablespoons chopped green onions
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
juice of one lemon
8 pepperoncinis, stems removed and chopped
2 roasted red bell peppers in olive oil, chopped
2 oz of chevre (I used Cypress Grove’s PsycheDillic®. The flavors were perfect.)
2 handfuls of shredded mozzarella
6 handfuls of tortilla chips

In a small pan, melt butter over low heat and toss in shellfish, nutmeg, green onions, and garlic. Stir until garlic becomes fragrant. Add lemon juice, pepperonchinis, and roasted red bell peppers and stir until well mixed.
Turn on broiler to high. Adjust the oven rack to be about six inches below the broiler.
Heap chips onto a cookie sheet. Scatter the contents of the pan, sprinkle on the mozzarella, and then top with the chevre. Place in the oven and cook until the cheese begins to bubble and turn golden brown.
Separate your cheesy, gooey mess evenly onto six dinner plates and serve right away.

Slow Cooker Stout Chili

chiliI don’t know what it is about chili and summertime, but the two go together like best buds. While it’s a hot and spicy meal, it’s also really satisfying – even when the mercury is hovering around 100 degrees F.

Of course, since it is incredibly hot outside, I kept the temperature nice inside by using the slow cooker. It’s a perfect way to make chili, as the flavors have hours to slowly meld, incorporating the savory, sweet, and spicy into a taste bud pleasing whole.

Using stout in the chili is the perfect way to round out the flavors. It supports the malty, molasses flavors while complimenting the chipotle spice. Pair the dish with a summer beer, like Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice (it was amazing with the chili) and a cornbread muffin, and this humble dish magically transforms to almost Manna-like proportions. Well, maybe not to that extent, but it is a pretty pleasurable dinner.

A quick note on the spice blend I used – it was Frontier’s Blackened Seafood Seasoning. Here’s the thing about “specific” seasonings – they’re still just a blend of herbs and spices. Don’t feel like it’s just for use on one type of meat. It’s a blend. Use it wherever you see fit. This specific seasoning would also be fantastic on chicken — or even tofu — and I used it on ground pork, which was perfect.

Slow Cooker Stout Chili


Serves 8

50 oz. canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed (If using dried beans, soak overnight.)
56 oz. canned fire roasted tomatoes, crushed (I used Muir Glen)
1 pound ground pork
22 oz. stout (I used Lagunitas Imperial Stout)
1 yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
Hot sauce, to taste (I used O’Brother, That’s Hot Chipotle Habanero Pepper Sauce)
2 teaspoons salt
Spice blend, to taste

Brown pork in a skillet over medium-high heat. Shake in spice blend while pork is cooking. Add onion and garlic and stir. (I used a pork that wasn’t greasy, but if yours is, make sure to dab up the excess grease with a paper towel.)
Pour into a slow cooker, spreading it evenly over the bottom. Add beans, tomatoes, stout, hot sauce, and salt. Cover and cook on low for nine hours.
Taste and add more salt, spice blend, and hot sauce as needed.

Sort-of Oaxacan Tostadas

tostadasCinco de Mayo is right around the corner, and any excuse to make Mexican food is reason enough to do it. So… let’s make tostadas!

A good tostada needs a good salsa. While freshly homemade salsa is best, it’s April, so that’s not really feasible. Tomatillos aren’t yet in season. There are some good pre-made salsa options, and if you’re in a bit of a time crunch, that may be your best option even if you’re making this dish in August. I chose a variety I knew from experience had good flavor with a bit of heat. A caveat — this tostada recipe isn’t as authentic as something you’d find in a Mexican restaurant. It’s still really tasty, though.

This meal is medium-hot on the spicy factor — the perfect reason to pair it with beer. A lighter style is your best option, be it lager, wheat, or pale ale. I opted for Lost Coast’s Tangerine Wheat. Its sweetness and crispness complimented the fatty chorizo and tempered the heat from the green salsa and the meat.

Tostadas


makes 12

12 small corn tortillas
1 jar green salsa
1 avocado, chopped
2 Tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
1 pound chorizo, casings removed
6 ounces queso fresco

Preheat a pan over medium heat. Cook chorizo until browned on all sides, breaking into small chunks as you stir.
While chorizo is cooking, add salsa, cilantro, and avocado to a bowl and mix well.
Crumble queso fresco into another bowl and set aside.
Drain cooked chorizo onto a plate lined with lots of paper towels in order to soak up the extra grease. Set aside.
Heat your stove top grill over medium high heat.
Place six tortillas on the grill, turning every 30 seconds until they begin to brown and puff up. Sprinkle chorizo onto the top of each tortilla. Allow the meat to warm and the tortilla to crisp. Remove from heat and repeat the process with the other six tortillas.
Sprinkle each tostada with queso fresco and then drizzle with the salsa mixture.
Serve with your beer of choice and plenty of napkins.

Candied Bacon for Easter

stout candied bacon

My sister’s never been a fan of that traditional, Easter staple, ham. It’s just not her thing. While clicking around on Pinterest the other day, I found something that I think she’d enjoy, kind of a honey-glazed ham cousin – candied bacon with beer.

The recipe I found was from Tide and Thyme. As is my wont, I changed the recipe to fit my own tastes, and the result was compulsively good. Warning – if you have difficulty stopping your snacking tendencies when something is savory, sweet, smoky, crispy, and chewy, you may want to make sure that you only make this when you’re surrounded by a party of people. This creation is that delectable. Your taste buds will scream, “More, more, more!” and it’s so hard to say, “No!”

The fact that this is a finger-food makes it that much more appealing, as my family will be spending Sunday playing the Settlers of Catan, and that will make it very easy to snack on. Holiday tabletop – woot!

The pairing of this melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, fatty stick of wonder is pretty obvious. It goes wonderfully with the rest of the beer you used to create it. For me, that just happened to be Six Rivers Brewery’s Paradise Moon Porter, a chocolaty porter infused with Kona coffee. It’s amazing on its own, and it makes one Hell of a candied bacon.

Candied Beer Bacon


serves — well, that’s up to your degree of self-restraint

12 oz applewood smoked bacon
1/2 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup porter or stout

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Whisk together sugar and beer and set aside.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place a wire cooling rack or baking rack on top. Lay the pieces of bacon on the rack. A little overlap is fine. Put in oven and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven. Using a grill or marinate brush, coat each piece of bacon with the syrup. You may need to give the syrup mixture another quick whisk if the sugar has settled. Turn the bacon over and brush the other sides. Cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and repeat the brush/flip/brush. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and repeat the previous steps one final time. Cook another 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for one hour.
Stuff your face and be glad we live in a world with bacon, sugar, beer, and tabletop games.

Portobello Burger

portobello-burgerThere are a lot of good veggie burgers on the market, but since I’m very Hobbit-like when it comes to food choices, if I’m presented with a mushroom, I’m going to eat it.

One of the nice things about making portobello burgers is that the patty is already made for you. All you have to do is brush off any lingering dirt, and there you are. I like to rub on a little gluten-free Worcestershire sauce to give it more of a robust, meaty taste. (Make sure it’s GF if you’re sensitive. Worcestershire sauce usually contains wheat.) I do that to my hamburger too, so it’s not just a veggie thing. Then it’s time for my stove-top grill, and it’s done before I can even contemplate getting impatient. Suddenly, there’s a meatless meal that’s still incredibly hearty.

Maybe the best part — there are so many ways in which you can pair this burger! A Sangiovese or Sangio blend would be stellar. I had our previous blend winner, Montoliva’s 2009 Sierra Bella. It’s sold out, but our newest blend winner will soon be available. The 2009 is really coming into its own — lots of good tannin structure, ripe, well-rounded fruit… it was a wonderful pairing with dinner. Or you could have a good Pinot Noir. Its earthiness would compliment your portobello wonderfully. This was actually my first instinct. Of course, if you’re feeling like a good burger deserves a good beer, you can’t go wrong with a porter. Deschutes Black Butte Porter comes to mind… I may need to go make a few more just to play with the pairings.

Portobello Burger with Goat Cheese


serves 1

1 portobello mushroom, stem removed and cap brushed clean
a sprinkle of gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1.5 oz chevre (I used Laura Chenel Cabecou)
1 leaf of escarole
1 roasted red pepper in olive oil
1 teaspoon horseradish sauce
1/2 a small avocado, sliced (Use the side without the seed so that the rest of the avo can be saved for later. The side with a seed still in it tends to oxidize slower.)
gluten-free hamburger bun (I used Rudi’s.)
extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Preheat grill over medium heat. Rub a bit of Worcestershire sauce on the cap of the mushroom, flip over and rub in a bit more. Place bottom-side-down onto the grill and cook for three minutes.
Flip over and place chevre on mushroom. Cover with a lid and cook for another three minutes.
While burger is cooking, drizzle the inside of the hamburger bun with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder and set on the grill to crisp and brown. Flip when you flip the portobello.
Remove bun and burger from heat. Place burger on the lower half of the bun. Spread the horseradish sauce on the inside of the upper bun. Layer burger with roasted pepper and avocado. Sprinkle a bit of coarse salt and grind a bit of black pepper on top. Lay your crisp piece of escarole on top, set on the top bun, grab a bunch of napkins and your drink, and dig in.