Monday, June 29, 2009

Taco Salad Our Way

I'd taken the pics for this post, and then promptly forgot all about it for nearly 3 weeks. Oops. What can I say? Life happens...4 kids home this summer, swim team, Vacation Bible School. Seriously...our summers are just as busy as the school year.

But let us now contemplate the creative genius of the taco salad. Specifically, the way David grew up eating it. I'd had taco salad before of course. My very first job was working in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant, and I made it many, many times for customers.

But David's version (which he taught me in the early years of our marriage) was quite different from the restaurant standard--a large, fried taco shell, filled with meat, lettuce, cheese...etc. My hubby's family apparently believes a proper taco salad consists of the above said ingredients, but no taco shell. What? Now I've piqued your curiosity, haven't I?

Well, wait no longer. This salad is easy as heck...the kids will love it...and it's inexpensive too. I always make this when the chips and meat are on sale.

Taco Salad

2 pounds ground beef round (use more or less for your family as needed)
1-2 packages dry taco seasoning mix
1 bag Fritos corn chips
1 head green leaf lettuce, washed, spun dry, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup chopped tomato
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, or mexican blend works well)
1 8-ounce container guacamole dip
1/2 cup chopped onion/scallions
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 bottle Catalina or French style salad dressing
1 15 ounce can ranch-style beans (optional)
Red or green salsa of choice

In a large skillet, brown the beef, until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink. Drain the fat, add the taco seasoning and water according to the package directions, and set aside when done. My chitin's don't like things too spicy, so I use 1 1/2 packages of taco seasoning mix.

Now, everybody has their own way of making taco salad. David does his differently...he uses a huge amount of lettuce, and he likes ranch style beans with his salad. So feel free to make yours however you like.

But here's how I like mine.

Chips first...

Then the meat...

Cheese is next...and I like a lot of cheese!

Then lettuce...

Tomatoes from the garden, aren't they pretty?

Onions, also from the garden, just a sprinkle...

Guacamole (no sour cream, but if you wanted it, fine by me!)....

Green salsa...

Catalina dressing, I know...but it's a nice, tangy contrast with the spicy meat...

And we're done!

Oh wait...I forgot the cilantro!

I love taco salad...everyone eats it in our house.

Would you like to see how Gabriel eats his taco salad?

Isn't he a MESS? And he doesn't care for the meat much...but he LOVES ranch style beans. I'll bet he had 3 servings of beans that night :-).

I hope you're in the mood for Mexican, and try our family's taco salad.

God Bless your table tonight!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Eggs Benedict For Father's Day

I wanted to get this up in plenty of time to make for your favorite Dad on Father's Day. Poached eggs may seem intimidating, but there's really not so much technique to it as there is timing. I made Eggs Benedict for the first time last year and served them on toasted English muffins with smoked was heavenly ('cause of course, I made myself a plate too)! And yes, please cheat and use a prepackaged hollandaise sauce makes me feel less guilty for not making it from scratch...thanks, I appreciate it!

I think Dads deserve breakfast in bed just as much as Moms do, so get ready to crack some eggs. If you're still unsure about poaching eggs, have a practice run before Sunday ;-)

Classic Eggs Benedict

Makes 1 serving
1 package hollandaise sauce mix
butter and water for the hollandaise sauce mix
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt (for the water)
2 large eggs
salt and fresh black pepper
4 thin slices deli ham
1 English muffin, split in half
fresh dill for garnish (if desired)

Fill a large, deep saute pan with water, to within an inch from the top. Don't use a pot if you can help it...the eggs will take longer to hit the bottom, and they may not cook up as nicely. Crank the heat up to high...we want this baby to boil.

Meanwhile, make the hollandaise sauce according to the package directions. I just used this one from Walmart.
Please do not skimp on the amount of butter it calls really is necessary to make the sauce rich and creamy. You can work off the calories later. Once the sauce is done, turn down the heat to the very lowest setting (as low as you can get it) to keep it warm, and cap with a lid.

Now for the eggs. Once you have a good boil on the pan of water, turn your heat down slightly so you have a nice medium boil. Add the vinegar and salt, and stir to combine. The vinegar helps the egg whites stay together once it hits purgatory, and the salt adds flavor.
Crack your eggs into a couple of measuring cups with handles. This is the easiest way to get both eggs in at the same time. (If you need to make four eggs, use 4 cups).

Hold the measuring cups over the water...

and gently tip them in. They will turn white and start to cook immediately.
Poach the eggs for 3 to 4 1/2 minutes. If you like the yokes very runny, you're a 3 minute egg person. If you're like me, you are more of a 4 minute egg person, where the yolk is loose, but not all over the place. Everyone with me?

While the eggs are poaching, lay the ham out on the English muffin halves and toast. I do them together in my toaster oven.
It is very necessary to use a slotted spoon to lift the eggs out of the water once they're done. This helps cradle the egg gently so it doesn't break and drain the excess water away.

Hold the egg over the water for just a few seconds to let any water drip off.

Carefully place the eggs on top of the ham covered muffin halves...

and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

Ladle the hollandaise sauce over the eggs...and be generous! Mmmm.....!

The fresh dill adds a nice layer of flavor with the lemony, buttery sauce. Usually, I will sprinkle it on, but I didn't this time (I did after I took the pictures ;-).

I cannot tell you how good this is! I feel like I'm on vacation at a nice hotel, on a Saturday morning with room service. Ahhh! (Okay...I had a craving too...but don't tell anyone!)

Now see...that wasn't so hard, was it? Hope you give this a try!
Happy Father's Dad to all our Dads and God bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fresh Tomato Salad

Adapted from Everyday Food

There could not be anything easier that this salad. It is perfect as a first course for summer dinner party, antipasto platter, or alongside grilled meats.

Using our excess of home-grown tomatoes makes this salad divine. Store bought tomatoes will work too...although you might want to use a bit more salt and pepper, and just a pinch of sugar, as the tomatoes will not be as sweet.

This is so simple, I'm just going to tell you straight out how to make it.

On a serving plate, slice up about 1 pound of tomatoes (2 pounds if you're feeding more than 4 people). Any variety is fine. I used one slicer, 2 romas, and a handful of baby yellows. This made enough for Rebecca and I to share. She is the only one in our house who eats tomatoes with the same amount of gusto I do :-).

Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, and grate over the zest of one lemon. Use either a microplane grater or a box grater, using the smallest holes.

Finally, add some kalamata olives for a burst of briny goodness and a sprinkling of freshly chopped basil. Rebecca didn't care for the olives, so I had to eat them...which didn't concern me at all ;-).

And that's it. I let this stand at room temperature for about 1/2 hour before serving. I don't refrigerate our tomatoes because that breaks down the sugar in them, so didn't see the need to chill the finished salad.

If you are fortunate to grow your own tomatoes, this salad is awesome. The lemon zest is a touch of tang with the sweetness of the'll love it!

Enjoy...God bless your table tonight!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bacon, Leek, and Tomato Frittata

Eggs are just about the quickest protein you can get on the table. My kids love frittatas and think it's great when Mom makes 'em for dinner. I sneak in some veggies, and they don't mind too much, especially if I melt some cheddar or monterry jack cheese over the top...they dig right in.

In case you're wondering, a frittata is a open-faced omelet cooked in a large, non-stick skillet. If you are intimidated by regular omelets because you don't like the idea of flipping eggs over, this is the perfect recipe for you. It looks impressive, but you don't have to flip a thing :-).

You can use any combination of vegetables you like. I have leeks, grape tomatoes, baby yellow tomatoes, and yellow squash from our garden, but blanched asparagus, parboiled potatoes, scallions, green bell pepper, zucchini, or corn will work just fine. If you don't have yellow tomatoes, just use all red grape or cherries. Instead of bacon, deli ham, turkey, or turkey bacon is fine if you want to cut back on the fat.

Bacon, Leek, and Tomato Frittata

8 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
Splash of milk
salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup baby yellow tomatoes
1 cup red grape or cherry tomatoes
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
5 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup yellow squash, diced
1 cup monterrey jack cheese

In a medium bowl/measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, basil, milk, salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Have your bacon and vegetables all ready to go. You can't chop and cook at the same time with this dish, because it goes rather quickly. Please pretend I posted a picture of the yellow squash here; I wasn't going to at first, but I needed to use it up...thanks for understanding ;-).
Are you wondering why I don't have a pic of my cut-up tomatoes?

Well hold on...I have the NEATEST trick to show you! I saw this on an episode of the Rachel Ray show and I practically squealed with delight, because I really knew it would come in handy with the millions of tomatoes I've been picking. Here's just a sampling of what we've been harvesting the past 2 weeks.

First, take two plastic deli lids...from your Chinese take-out containers, grocery store, or where ever. Place one lid right side up on your work surface.

Put however many little tomatoes will fit into the lid, on their sides.

Now, place the second lid, upside down, on top of the tomatoes.

Take one hand, and hold the lid down, gently, but firmly. Use your other hand and a nice sharp knife to cut the tomatoes in half, in between the lids.

Look...perfectly sliced tomatoes!!!

Isn't that COOL? Come on? Aren't you squealing like I was? (Okay, maybe not, but still...this trick has saved me all week :-).

Just for fun, I did some red grape tomatoes too. Put all the prepped tomatoes together in a bowl.

Heat up a 12-inch, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Make sure your skillet has an oven-proof handle. You also don't want to use a pan that is really old and beat up. Chances are the non-stick surface has worn off as well, and it would be awful to make a beautiful frittata that sticks to the pan.
When your pan is ready, toss in the bacon, and cook until it's nice and brown.

Next, add your leeks. There should be enough bacon fat in the pan to cook the leeks, but if not, then pour in the olive oil. We want to be absolutely certain the frittata will slide right out of the pan when it's done.

Continue to cook the bacon and leeks for about 4-5 minutes, then add the yellow squash.

The tomatoes go in next...just cook those a few minutes until they start to soften.

Season everything up with some salt and pepper. At this point, heat up the broiler in your oven.

Turn your heat down to medium low, and carefully pour in the eggs.

Let the eggs cook for about 5 minutes. Use a plastic spatula to gently lift the edges so any uncooked egg runs underneath.

When the top is almost set (edges are done, and top is still moist and a bit runny), sprinkle on your cheese, and pop the skillet under the broiler.

Now, I've said this before, and I'm going to tell you not leave the kitchen. The broiler is SUPER hot, and the frittata needs just a few minutes under the heating element so the eggs finish setting up and the cheese melts.

Use an oven mitt to remove the frittata when it's just a little golden brown on top.

Cut into wedges and serve immediately. My hubby likes his frittata with salsa.

Coming up...more recipes using tomatoes and a little somethin' special for Father's Day. I tell you, we are so overrun with tomatoes...I'm having to cook with 'em nearly every day...otherwise, I can't keep up!

God bless your table tonight!