Cilantro-Lime Rice and an Unexpected Rice and Bean Burrito Bowl

Cilantro-Lime Rice from Pamela Salzman

We all love to cook, right?  Ok, maybe some us just like to cook.  And I know that I’m the biggest cheerleader of planning your meals ahead so that dinnertime is stress free and a walk in the park.  Yeah.  Well, gotta tell you that this week did not go as planned.  One day especially was just a doozy.  There was a lot of traffic on the way home from work.  AND I forgot to defrost the chicken I wanted to make for dinner.  AND I had to pick up one daughter who I thought had a ride home.  AND my other daughter wanted “to go study at the library, can I please have dinner right now?” AND I had a headache.  Can you see my grumpy face?

cilantro and lime

I had this whole orange chicken thing planned with spicy sweet potatoes and sautéed spinach.  Sounds nice, right?  Well, the chicken was frozen solid and I had no time to roast sweet potatoes.  You know what cooks really fast?  White rice.  I know, it has nothing going for it.  A totally devoid food, nutritionally-speaking.  However, white rice is a bit easier to digest than brown and as the well-respected nutritionist Linda Prout claims, you can close the nutritional gap with white rice by eating a few extra forkfuls of spinach.  And did I mention my headache?  Sold!  White rice it is!  And with some doctored up black beans out of a (BPA-free can), I would figure something else out so that I wouldn’t need to get take-out.

chopped cilantro, lime juice, olive oil

It’s not that I am completely opposed to take-out once in a while.  But where I live, there really aren’t too many good take-out options and what is decent is so expensive.  Even with a headache, it doesn’t make me happy to spend $80 on dinner for the five of us when I know I can make something good for under $20.  And the meal I put together on this particular night probably cost me under $10.  For the five us.  And I didn’t have the guilt of throwing away a hundred plastic to-go boxes and bags.

One fast-food restaurant that my family likes is Chipotle, which we never get here at the beach, but I always google when I am traveling for a soccer tournament with Mr. Picky and I’m in the middle of who-knows-where.  We all love rice and beans, especially the kids and Chipotle has a yummy cilantro rice that I thought would be perfect with beans and some quick veggies.  It ended up being a really satisfying, nutritious and easy meal that the kids asked me to make again.  I’ve noticed that anytime the kids get to “assemble” their own dinner, they are very pleased.  I put out the cilantro-lime rice, black beans, two fresh salsas that I purchased at the farmer’s market, my cheater guacamole, leftover grilled asparagus and some quick-roasted carrots.  Everyone except Mr. Picky made deconstructed burrito bowls which were DELICIOUS.  He, of course, can’t have have different food groups touch each other, so 4 bowls and 1 plate, please.

rice and bean burrito bowl

I know a few of you will frown at my white rice, but I also believe in keeping it real.  The internet and social media allow people to show the side of themselves that they want to be shown, which is usually only what is positive and perfect and sometimes unrealistic.  It can be a bit daunting to think that the grass is always greener on the other side or that every food blogger can seamlessly put together a visually perfect, well-balanced, delicious meal every night.  That is certainly not me and I can’t say that I aspire to that level of competence.  But rather I hope that whatever curveball life throws me whether it’s in the kitchen or out, I will find a way to roll with it and not worry about the fiber content.

rice and bean burrito bowl

3.0 from 2 reviews
Cilantro-Lime Rice
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup long-grain rice or basmati rice, brown or white
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined olive oil, coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (chop, then measure)
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined olive oil
Instructions
  1. If you have time, soak the rice in a bowl with lots of water to cover. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1-8 hours. Drain. If you're not sure why you should soak your rice, read this post on arsenic and rice.
  2. In a small saucepan, add drained rice, 2 cups water, 2 teaspoons oil or butter, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes for white rice or 45 minutes for brown rice. (If you didn’t have a chance to soak your rice, cook another few minutes.) Turn off the heat and allow to sit covered for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. In your serving bowl, combine lime juice, cilantro, remaining 2 teaspoons oil and cooked rice. Toss to combine.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins Recipe

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

I know time flies when you’re having fun, but these days I think it flies because everything moves at warp speed, whether you’re having fun or not.  And sometimes I think it’s not very fun when life happens so quickly, especially when you’re eating good food!  Eating is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  Thankfully I get to do it several times a day, every day.  But very few things annoy me more than having to rush through a very delicious meal.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

That’s what I was thinking the other day when I made these stuffed sweet potato skins.  I enjoyed them so much that I didn’t want them to end.  Need help with your math homework?  No problem!  Come back in 20 minutes.  Ooops.  Forgot to call my mom back.  She can wait.  I have a sweet potato party on my plate and I’m not ready to leave.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

Cinco de Mayo, one of my favorite food holidays, is just around the corner.  I know.  It’s MAY in like 5 days!  I had no plans to include this recipe on the blog but I made it on a whim last week and I knew I had to share it with you.  Although I can say with 99% confidence that you will never find this recipe on the menu of any Mexican restaurant, so maybe it’s not Cinco de Mayo fiesta fare if you are having people over.  BUT, the flavors here are totally South of the border and it’s such a healthful and satisfying meatless meal, you should make it no matter what day it is.

Sauteed onions, jalapeño, spices and cilantro

If you are not a sweet potato fan (stop it!  really?), then maybe substitute a baked potato.  But sweet potatoes are sooooooo nutritious and I never feel like I need dessert afterwards.  They’re the perfect natural antidote to my sweet tooth.  The best part of this recipe is the contrast between the creamy sweet potato and the smoky corn and a hint of spice.  I made these about as spicy as my family would like them, but you can go as hot as you want.  Serve with a green salad or some grilled asparagus and you’re all set.  My girls and I loved them, and Mr. Picky ate half of one and said they were “okay.”  I think if I had let him eat it with corn tortilla chips, he would have finished the whole thing.

sweetpotato

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

For those of you like me, who very much like to either prep some or all of your meals in advance, it’s your lucky day.  You can make this entire thing ahead and bake it just before dinner until it’s nice and hot.  Or assemble different parts of this ahead, like baking the sweet potatoes or sauteing the onions.  The cheese on top is very optional.  I had mine without, as did Mr. Picky, and still loved it.  My daughters added extra on top of theirs and asked me to tell you that they don’t think the cheese is optional and that if they were writing the recipe, they would double the cheese.  Okay, girls.  Have it however way you want.  Just don’t rush me.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins by Pamela Salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Tex-Mex Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined olive oil, coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • ½ of an onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • ½ ripe avocado, flesh scooped out
  • 6 Tablespoons shredded cheese, such as Cheddar or Monterey Jack or dairy-free Daiya (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, bake sweet potatoes until tender, about 45-60 minutes.
  2. While sweet potatoes are baking, place corn in a medium heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Do not add anything else to the pan and do not stir so that the corn gets a little charred. Then toss a little and cook corn until browned and toasted on the outside. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the black beans to the corn.
  3. You can use the same skillet to sauté the onion and jalapeno. Warm the oil in the skillet and sauté the onion and jalapeno until tender and translucent. Stir in the spices and salt and cook for 1 minute more. Add the cilantro to the pan and turn off the heat. Toss to combine the mixture and transfer to the bowl with the corn and beans.
  4. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven. Allow to cool slightly so you can cut them easily or use rubber gloves if you’re in a rush and you don’t want to burn your fingers. Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop most of the flesh out and leave the skins intact. I like to leave a thin layer of sweet potato to help these stay together better. Transfer the scooped out sweet potato to a large bowl and leave the skins on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Add avocado to the sweet potato in the bowl and coarsely mash together, but don’t make a puree. Add the corn, bean and onion mixture to the mashed sweet potatoes and stir gently to combine.
  6. Preheat the broiler in your oven and arrange the oven rack to the second level from the top. Scoop the filling into the skins. It might seem like you have too much, but you should use it all and make them nice and full. Sprinkle each with cheese if desired and broil for a couple minutes or until cheese is melted.
Notes
*If making this in advance, remove prepared sweet potato skins from the refrigerator and bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through, about 15-20 minutes.

Tex-Mex Matzo Brei Recipe (Migas with Matzo!)

my favorite passover breakfast

I used to look forward to Passover when I was a child even though I wasn’t Jewish and was never invited to a seder.  But Pathmark and Shop Rite would carry matzo for about 2 weeks around the time of the holiday and I loved it.  Do you know about matzo?  It’s like a giant, light and crispy cracker usually made with wheat flour and a little salt, typically only eaten for Passover.  Funny enough, my grandmother (also not Jewish) was the one who introduced me to matzo which she slathered with Breakstone’s whipped butter.  This was really the only way I ever ate it unless I was feeling adventurous in which case I might spread on a little peanut butter and jelly.

I like to soften the matzos a little by running some water over them.

I remember back then we could only find plain wheat matzo or egg matzo which was a bit softer.  But now, it’s amazing to see all the different varieties available.  Just the other day in addition to the traditional egg and wheat, I spotted gluten-free matzo, both plain and toasted onion flavor, spelt matzo (I bought two boxes), whole wheat, whole wheat with extra bran (good because matzo can be a tad constipating), and matzo crackers (Mr. Picky’s favorite.)  Matzo has come a long way!

saute bell pepper and onion; add jalapeño if you like.

break up the matzo and add it to beaten eggs

My matzo consumption has also evolved and become a little more interesting since I married a Jewish guy.  I’ll tell you the truth, I really don’t eat much matzo anymore, but when I do I’ll turn it into a matzo lasagne or my favorite, matzo brei (rhymes with “sky.”)  Matzo brei can be sweet or savory, but essentially you break up some matzo and combine it with beaten eggs and cook the whole thing in a skillet.  For savory, you can add cooked onions, smoked salmon, salt and pepper.  For sweet, we add a little cinnamon and serve it with maple syrup and fresh fruit on the side, sort of like French toast.

just needs some salsa and guac!

Well if you live in Southern California long enough, you’re bound to be influenced by the flavors south of the border.  One of my favorite breakfast dishes is migas, which is eggs scrambled with fried corn tortillas and all the delicious accompaniments you would expect like salsa and avocado.  I can’t believe it took me this long to cook up a Tex-Mex matzo brei!  This has become my favorite matzo dish so far and there are so many ways to adapt it to suit your taste. I also included sweet bell pepper and onion and then served it with fresh pico de gallo, guacamole and cilantro.  If Mr. Picky hadn’t been eating this the morning I photographed this, I would have added a little minced jalapeno to the bell pepper and onion.  If you eat dairy, this is a natural for cheese and/or sour cream.  And if you aren’t keeping Passover, by all means add some refried beans!  This would be equally delicious for lunch or dinner.  Enjoy!

i love this with salsa, guacamole and cilantro

Tex-Mex Matzo Brei
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 sheets matzo (don’t use egg matzo as it’s too soft)
  • 6 large eggs
  • suggested accompaniments: fresh pico de gallo or salsa, guacamole or fresh sliced avocado, fresh chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese like Monterey Jack, crumbled Cotija cheese, refried beans
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté peppers and onions with a pinch of salt until tender and translucent.
  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl.
  3. Run cold water over the matzo for a few seconds to barely soften them. Crumble the matzo into bite-sized pieces and mix with the beaten eggs.
  4. Add the egg and matzo mixture to the skillet with a healthy pinch or two of salt and pepper and cook, stirring often until cooked to desired doneness. This should take 5 minutes more or less. Serve with suggested accompaniments.

Kiwi salsa recipe

Have you ever looked at recipe and thought there was an ingredient that could be omitted no big deal?  But then afterwards you realize that maybe it was there for a reason.  I swear I don’t think I zested a piece of citrus for 20 years because I didn’t know any better.  Entire recipes, too.   Sometimes I’ve passed on recipes that I learned later were really great.  I’m still learning what kinds of recipes work for my family and me and it always helps to get recommendations from friends who eat the way we do.

I was at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago buying pomegranates and a woman standing next to me asked me what I was going to do with all of them and how one eats pomegranates.  I was very enthusiastic giving her all sorts of suggestions from yogurt parfaits to salads to cocktails, all very standard and common, I’ll admit.  Then this other woman out of the blue asked, “have you ever tried pomegranates in guacamole?”  Show-off.  No, I haven’t nor had I ever heard  of such a thing.  I thought to myself it sounded a little out there and I planned on NOT trying it any time soon.  So I took my pomegranates home to my granola and greens and that was that.

Then last week I was teaching at my friend Lisa‘s house and she was telling me about her CSA boxes and how exciting it has been receiving such great produce every week.  Lisa said she had gotten so many kiwis the last few weeks that she was forced to find a few new delicious ways to enjoy them, including an amazing kiwi salsa with pomegranates.  Light bulb.  Oh really?  Tell me more.  She had made a very easy chunky salsa that was more tart than sweet, but had creamy avocados and crunchy pomegranate seeds.  The universe was telling me to make this no matter how crazy it sounded.  I love kiwis as much as the next person and you know I am mad for pomegranates and avocados, so how bad could it be?

A few nights ago I planned on pan-seared wild halibut with the salsa plus some cilantro rice and cauliflower.  I wouldn’t say that fish gets everyone super excited in our house, except me of course.  And Daughter #2 is still on her anti-seafood campaign.  But everyone FREAKED out over this salsa and the fish.  My husband said, “I have to say I am delightfully surprised by how much I like this.  This salsa is fantastic.”  He’s really not as dorky as he sounds. He and Mr. Picky polished off their fish and salsa and then proceeded to finish the remaining salsa with tortilla chips.  Mr. Picky even suggested making the salsa with fish tacos.  Success!

This was not as sweet as a mango or pineapple salsa, which the hubby doesn’t care for.  Instead kiwis and pomegranates are both a little tart, probably more tart than a peak-of-summer tomato.  And it’s a great option for the winter when all these ingredients are in season.  Plus, it’s super nutritious!  Kiwis, pomegranates and jalapenos are loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants.  And avocados have amazing healthful fats and Vitamin E.  All great beauty foods!  I made this two hours ahead of eating it in the 15 minutes I had between coming back from dropping Mr. Picky off at soccer and picking up Daughter #2 to go to music lessons.   What is better than fast and easy?  I think I’m I’m going change up our standard Super Bowl fare and make a bowl of this.  It’s a new year people and I’m going to act like it!

Kiwi Salsa
Author: 
Serves: makes about 1½ cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup diced peeled kiwifruit, about 3-4 kiwis (don't choose kiwis that are too soft)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds (see how to seed a pomegranate)
  • ½ an avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon thinly sliced green onion (white and light green parts)
  • ½ Tablespoon minced fresh, seeded jalapeno (or more or less according to your desired heat level)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro (about 6 sprigs) -- you can add more, but I was rushing to finish this
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined extra-virgin olive oil
  • a few pinches of sea salt or to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, gently combine all ingredients so you don’t mash the avocado and kiwi. Taste for seasonings, specifically jalapeno and salt, and adjust accordingly. I like to let salsas sit for an hour or so to allow the flavors to meld. Keep covered so the avocado doesn’t brown.

 

Southwestern Quinoa Salad Recipe

Have you ever read a cookbook or food blog where an unbelievable, creative recipe was put together with “odds and ends” from the pantry or produce bin?  I am always in awe of people who can do that.  Those same people go grocery shopping without a list and simply buy what looks good and then create a meal around it.   I too can use bits of this or that and turn it into something fairly tasty, but it usually ends up as a frittata, Pantry Pasta, or some sort of fried rice dish.  Definitely enough to get an acceptable dinner on the table, but nothing that will win me any accolades.

 

One day a few years ago, I decided to try my hand at “throwing something together.”  I figured I had done this many a time at salad bars, I should be able to do this within the limitations of my own pantry and refrigerator.  Whereas I pride myself on keeping things simple,  on this particular day I got a little carried away.  It all started with some quinoa, corn and cilantro which sounded Southwestern to me.  Pretty soon I was dicing up red pepper, red onion and opening a can of black beans.  Just when I thought I was done, I spied a mango and that went into the mix, too. After squeezing in some lime juice, olive oil and cumin, I had myself one fresh and tasty salad that I could happily bring to a backyard barbeque or serve to guests, even that same day to my mother-in-law who is slightly skeptical of quinoa.

I’ve made this salad countless times since then and changed it up every time.  Red onion has been replaced with scallions or shallots.  Ripe avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds have found their way in on many an occasion.  When corn is crazy fresh and sweet, I just cut it off the cob raw and use it that way.  With Father’s Day coming up, I am thinking about including this on the menu, but I might just leave out the quinoa entirely since I made quinoa tabbouleh last year on Father’s Day.  Although my husband likes quinoa just fine, he doesn’t consider it very “manly.”  Please.  I keep trying to tell him how much protein it has — it’s like eating meat, but without the saturated fat and cholesterol.  But it’s his day and I aim to please!  So I think next weekend I’ll make this with extra corn and beans and thrown in some “manly” diced up grilled chicken.  Regardless, “creating” this salad was a good exercise for me in learning how to be flexible, but also gave me some confidence to use what I’ve got — in more ways than one.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Author: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed if canned (1 can)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or cooked corn (cut from 2 large ears)
  • ¾ cup diced red pepper (1 small pepper or ½ large)
  • ½ large red onion, diced (soaked in ice water if you want to cut the harsh onion flavor)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice (about 1 ½ limes)
  • ⅓ cup unrefined, extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Transfer to a saucepan and add a healthy pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and place a kitchen towel over the pot. Place the lid over the towel and let sit covered for 5 -10 minutes.
  2. Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl, fluff with a fork and cool slightly. Add beans, corn, red pepper, onion, (optional) jalapeno and cilantro. Sprinkle with cumin and sea salt.
  3. In a small bowl combine lime juice and olive oil. Pour over salad and mix well. Taste for seasoning.
Notes
Options for substitutions/additions: Also delicious in this salad are sautéed zucchini, diced celery, diced fresh mango, sliced scallions, diced tomato or diced avocado.

Thai (Grass-fed) Steak Salad Recipe (or with Chicken)

 

Thai Steak (or Chicken or Salmon) Salad Recipe | Pamela Salzman

 

Oh people.  We are on the brink of my favorite time of year.  A time of backyard barbeques, picnics at the beach, sand between my toes, fresh tomatoes and basil, peach pie, and long nights under starry skies.  Ahhhh, summer.  Beyond better weather and my favorite produce, life is just easier when the kids are out of school.  No homework, tests or book reports.  Sure, two out of my three have a summer reading list, but they always wait until the last week of summer to crack those books open, so it’s smooth sailing until then.

Because we live at the beach, we entertain most weekends in the summer, starting with Memorial Day which, being the East Coaster that I am, is the unofficial start of “the season.”  One of my favorite things to do right about now is start planning a few menus that I can rotate during the summer.  Whenever I am thinking of the ideal food to prepare — make ahead, room temperature and easy all come to mind.  Very often, we’ll go to the beach for the afternoon, come back to the house to freshen up before lingering over dinner in the backyard.  This doesn’t give me too much time to cook for a crowd, so I look for recipes which allow me to prep in the morning or the night before so I can do more assembling than cooking.

This Thai Steak Salad has never appeared on any of my summer menus since I just taught it a few months ago in my classes, but it will definitely be a regular this season.  There are so many reasons I love this salad — it’s light, I can vary it with chicken or tofu (even shrimp) and change up the vegetables according to what looks good, and there’s lots of prep in advance that I can do.  Oh, forgot to mention that my family loves it, too!  The first time I told my kids and husband they were eating “Thai” steak salad, I saw a bunch of sad faces.  “We don’t like Thai food.  It’s too spicy.  Or sour.”  “Guess what?  You’ve never had Thai food in your life!”  I only call this a “Thai” Steak Salad because of the combination of sweet, sour and sort of spicy in the marinade/dressing, plus the addition of cilantro and/or mint.  I have a feeling I am taking a lot of liberties with the word “Thai.”  I could probably get away with it if I added some fish sauce to the marinade.  Next time.  However, if I were to rename this recipe, I would call it Yummy, Fresh, Tangy, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan-adaptable, Paleo-friendly, Perfect for Summer Salad.  If you’re debating whether or not to veer from the standard burger fare this holiday, I have two words for you:  Pink Slime.

 

If you’ve been hanging out with me for the last year, you probably remember my post on how to reduce carcinogens when you grill.  Now’s a good time for a refresher.  Whereas you can definitely grill the steak or chicken here (I did grill the chicken), I prefer a more healthful way to cook the steak.  It’s a method I picked up from Cook’s Illustrated and it’s especially good for cooking grass-fed beef, which can get dried out if you’re not careful.  The only downside is that it takes a few minutes longer than grilling, but it’s a really tasty result and likely less carcinogenic.  No matter how you make this salad, it will surely be a delicious way to welcome in summer!

 

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Thai Steak Salad Recipe
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • Marinade/Dressing:
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ cup unrefined olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons shoyu (or gluten-free tamari)
  • 6 Tablespoons packed fresh cilantro or mint leaves, chopped (or a combo)
  • 1-2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes or ½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon raw honey
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ pounds grass-fed top sirloin or flank steak, about 1-inch thick
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined coconut oil or olive oil
  • 8 heaping cups salad greens, about 6-7 ounces
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • a few handfuls of seasonal veggies*: thinly sliced cucumber or sweet bell pepper, sprouts, julienned carrots, fresh mint leaves, fresh Thai basil leaves
Instructions
  1. Combine lime juice, 6 Tablespoons oil, shoyu, cilantro, garlic, hot pepper, honey, and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
  2. If steak is thicker than 1 inch, place between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound on both sides. Remove wrap and place meat in a shallow nonreactive dish that is just small enough to hold the meat. Pour HALF the marinade (about ⅔ cup) over the meat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours (longer is better). Take the reserved marinade in the bowl and add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Set this aside as your salad dressing.
  3. Pull the steak from the refrigerator about 30-60 minutes before cooking it. Preheat oven to 275 degrees or preheat a grill.
  4. Insert a wire rack inside a baking sheet and place the meat on top of the rack and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes for medium to medium-well.
  5. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat. Transfer the steak to the skillet and sear for 2-3 minutes on each side for medium to medium-well. Alternatively, grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes for medium doneness.
  6. Transfer meat to a carving board and allow to rest for 10 minutes, covered.
  7. Assemble the salad greens on a platter and drizzle with half the dressing (about ⅓ cup), tossing to coat. Drizzle the shallots and vegetables with half the remaining dressing (about 2 ½ Tablespoons). Toss to coat and arrange on top of the salad. Taste for salt and add as needed.
  8. Slice meat thinly against the grain on a diagonal. Arrange slices of meat on top of the greens and drizzle with remaining dressing.
Notes
* I used 1 whole red bell pepper and 2 Persian cucumbers.

To prep in advance, marinate steak or chicken the night before. Keep dressing refrigerated. Wash and cut all vegetables and keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.

 

 

Green Rice Recipe (Arroz Verde)

I traditionally teach a Mexican-inspired menu during the month of April so that my students have some fun recipes to cook for their family and friends on Cinco de Mayo.  I am obsessed with Mexican food, so I really look forward to this time of year.   Of course, April has come to an end and sadly, so will my daily fish tacos.  I wish it were Cinco de Mayo every month!

I usually have no problem coming up with an entree for a Mexican-inspired meal, but sometimes the sides stump me.  Here’s a winner for Cinco de Mayo or any night.  This green rice was originally inspired by a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at Lucques.  I’ve simplified the recipe a bit, but it is still unbelievably tasty and reminiscent of the green rice you may have had at a Mexican restaurant.  The color is pretty subtle, unlike the the spinach risotto recipe I posted last month, but green enough that no one will know if you made it with brown rice or white.  Pretty tricky!

There are so many things to love about this green rice.  For one, it’s delicious!  I adore basmati rice, which I think naturally tastes better than almost all other rices.  But in my opinion it’s hard to beat rice with garlic, butter and salt.  The flavor from the onions, pepper and cilantro are just a nice bonus.  Green rice is also very versatile.  Besides being the perfect side dish to fajitas, tacos or Mexican beans, this rice can easily be made into a vegetarian entree with the addition of some cooked pinto beans or sliced almonds.  Combined with some protein, green rice makes a perfect school lunch.  On the weekends, I’ll use leftovers in a burrito with beans.  Yum!  This recipe is also easy.  Don’t let the blender discourage you.  Think of it as a friend who will chop your cilantro and spinach into the bittiest pieces so you don’t have to.  Last but not least, whole grain brown rice with spinach, herbs and garlic — are good for you!

If you have eaters in the house who are green-averse, see if they’ll be more inclined to eat the rice with corn tortilla chips crumbled on top.  If not, add it to chicken and avocado soup, vegetable chili or freeze it for a rainy day.  Of course, you can do what I do and eat it for breakfast with some eggs and guacamole!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Green Rice Recipe (Arroz Verde)
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • ½ heaping cup cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
  • 1 cup tightly packed baby spinach leaves (stemmed if larger)
  • 2 ¾ cups water, chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups long-grain brown basmati rice*
  • ¼ cup green onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Poblano chili, stem and seeds discarded, diced (or if you have time, roasted, skin peeled, diced) or 1 green bell pepper, diced
Instructions
  1. Put the cilantro, spinach, and 1 ¼ cups of water in a blender and blend until pureed. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups of water and salt and blend until well combined.
  2. In a medium (3 qt) heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil and butter over medium heat. When butter is melted, add the rice and sauté, stirring about every 30 seconds, until it just begins to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and chili and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the contents of the blender, stir well, turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 50 minutes. Fluff with a fork, cover, and cook another 5 minutes.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and let the rice steam in the covered pot for 10 minutes or until you are ready to serve.
Notes
If you use white rice, reduce cook time to 20 minutes.

Chicken and Avocado Soup

Even though I’m a big football fan and I love a good game (especially when my team wins), when it’s over, it’s over.  Whether the outcome of the game is favorable or unfavorable, life goes on and so do I.  So football is finished until next year, but eating happens multiple times a day everyday.  And today I am much more focused on what to do with Super Bowl leftovers!

Quinoa cornbread became breakfast.  Chili went into thermoses for lunch.  And topping bar items can make their way into frittatas, quesadillas or soup for dinner.  This particular soup was not my brain child, but as often happens in my life, my kids leave the house and are amazed by what they’re “missing.”  A while back my mother-in-law took them to Cafe Rio, a “fast casual dining establishment,” and they went bonkers for the Tortilla Soup.  It’s is a brothy and flavorful chicken stock-based soup with some vegetables and whatever add-ins you choose.  Whereas the younger two kids asked me if we could go there for dinner some night and have it again, my older daughter knew me better than that and suggested I try to copy the soup at home.  Great idea!

So one day my friend Cheryl and I went on a secret reconnaissance mission to the local Cafe Rio to check out the famous soup and see exactly how they do this thing.  Truthfully, their method is pretty genius and it’s the perfect soup to make at home for a family or a group.  The server adds into a cup your choice of chicken, guacamole, salsa, cheese, cilantro, and tortillas, and then ladles a flavorful chicken soup on top.  Yep, that’s it.  And except for being unbelievably salty, the soup was rather tasty.   You know how much I love a do-it-yourself situation (less work for me!)  Can you picture how easy this is if you have cooked chicken and salsa already made?  This comes together in minutes, I tell you, and everyone makes it the way they want.  You want it to be vegetarian?  No problem!  Just sub a great vegetable stock for the chicken stock and add in some pinto beans for protein.

Even though my intent was to copy Cafe Rio’s soup, I ended up making a couple of my own tweaks, such as using chopped avocado instead of guacamole (but definitely use the guac if you have it) and adding a squeeze of lime at the end.  I used poached chicken the day I took these photos and give you directions for that in the recipe, but I have used leftover grilled chicken or the meat from a whole roasted chicken, too.  And sometimes I add quinoa to mine if I’m not in the mood for chicken, and I love that, too.  But the method behind this soup is giving me all sorts of ideas for how to use up some tasty leftovers.  If you make the soup base as directed here, I have chopped up leftover enchiladas and added them for an “enchilada soup,” but I bet you could add in taco meat and some tortillas for a “taco soup.”  I’m excited by the possibilities, plus I think I just made my meal plan for the week!

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken and Avocado Soup
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 or 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (depending on how much chicken you want in your soup)
  • ½ large onion, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon additive-free kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
  • A few peppercorns, crushed
  • A few garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded (if you don’t want too much heat) and diced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (double this if you use unsalted stock)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
  • 1-2 avocados, peeled and cut into chunks or guacamole
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges (my favorite part!)
  • Other possible add-ins: tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, shredded cheese
Instructions
  1. Poach the chicken: Place the chicken breast, onion half (halved again), salt, pepper and garlic into a medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer chicken for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow chicken to sit in the liquid until cool enough to handle.
  2. In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, scallions, carrots, celery and jalapeno. Sauté until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Pull chicken from liquid and remove skin and bones. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces. You can divide chicken amongst the 6 individual bowls or add it all to the pot.
  5. Put a heaping spoonful of pico de gallo and avocado chunks/guacamole in each individual bowl and ladle soup on top. Squeeze lime on top and sprinkle with corn tortilla chips and fresh cilantro, if desired.