Avocado-Red Pepper Salad

We like to eat this salad at family dinners. It’s delicious with Makoto ginger dressing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box mixed lettuce greens (arugula is a nice addition too)
  • 1 seedless cucumber, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 box baby tomatoes, cut into slices
  • 1 avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 large pear, peeled and sliced
  • 2 T slivered almonds

Note: If I don’t have pears available, I use 2 T dried cranberries for a touch of sweetness.

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French Lentil Soup

This lentil soup recipe doesn’t take too long and it tastes great. I used an immersion blender to get it chunky and thick. If you like tomato-based soups, you will like this one. The recipe is from Epicurious.

Ingredients:

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery stalks
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic and saute until the vegetables start to brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add 4 cups of vegetable broth, lentils, and tomatoes in juice and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

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Spaghetti with Tomato and Garlic

As I was flipping through an Allrecipes magazine (which is amazing by the way), I encountered a meal that had been saved 13, 812 times on the website. Well, for good reason! This dish is so versatile, you can substitute different types of diced tomatoes, herbs, greens, and meats. The original recipe can be found here. I made this dish twice: first without meat and using the original recipe calling for 2 cans of diced tomatoes, and the second time with shredded chicken (leftovers from last night’s tacos) and one can of diced tomatoes. I didn’t have fresh basil the second time around, so I just used dried oregano and basil flakes. The second time I also used thin spaghetti instead of angel hair, and I liked it better. I also added fresh spinach to the sauce while simmering. This is a dish I will continue to make for an easy weeknight meal!

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta (or thin spaghetti)–about half a box
  • 4 T olive oil (I used about 2)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed–I used about 2
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes–I used Del Monte, plain; you can also use one can only for less sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar (optional ingredient, but I added it!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil–If you don’t have fresh basil, sprinkle in some dried basil and dried oregano flakes)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat and add the pasta, cooking until al dente. For angel hair pasta, cook about 4 minutes and drain. For thin spaghetti, cook about 8-9 minutes.
  2. While your pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil (2 T) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute about 30 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Stir in the diced tomatoes with their juices, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and pepper. This is also a good time to add in the dried basil and oregano if you are using. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 2 minutes. Add fresh basil if you are using. You can also add fresh spinach here.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce in the pan and stir. Top with grated Parmesan.

A reader from Allrecipes suggested you add mushrooms or zucchinis too.

 

Here it is without the chicken using angel hair pasta and two cans of diced tomatoes:

 

This is the dish with chicken and spinach using thin spaghetti and one can of diced tomatoes:

 

Nopales (Cactus Leaves) and Guacamole

I can’t believe I am nearing my 100th post and I have never posted a recipe of one of my FAVORITE dishes…Nopales! There is one big reason: I haven’t been able to get my hands on them in over 3 years. I found it extremely odd and surprising that I came across a whole section of Nopales at Kroger Marketplace my second week here, when it was so incredibly difficult to find it in MIAMI, Florida! You would think that the abundance of international cuisine and supermarkets in Miami would make it easier to find these little cactus leaves. Needless to say, I stopped making them, until a few weeks ago when I found them again. I bought 3 cans so I would have enough stored, but I must admit I am on my last can; they are THAT good.

How to use Nopales in salad:

There is a very good dish at a restaurant called Talavera in Coral Gables, Florida. In case you didn’t know, Coral Gables is famous for its restaurants. It’s a great place to visit if you have never been. Anyway, this Mexican restaurant has a great lunch special which includes an entree, iced tea, and dessert, which is usually sorbet of some odd flavor. I always used to order the Cactus Salad, made with Nopales, some sort of lemon juice, and portobello mushrooms. When I make it at home, however, I use the recipe I was taught by a family friend over a decade ago. It is great served with corn tortillas, sliced steak, pico de gallo, and guacamole. I also add white rice and black beans to my tacos when I make them. My favorite meal ever!

Ingredients:

1 jar Nopales, drained and rinsed (I rinse it and leave it in the collander for at least an hour before serving, because the leaves can feel very slimy if not drained enough)

Half an onion, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

Cilantro, chopped

Salt

Pepper

Juice of 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)

 

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients together and keep cold. Serve!

Nopales, known as cactus, have a firm texture, and absorb the flavors of the lime and cilantro well
Nopales, known as cactus, have a firm texture, and absorb the flavors of the lime and cilantro well

A dish featuring Nopales would not be complete (in my opinion) without some fresh guacamole. There are so many variations of guacamole out there, but I generally throw this together:

1 avocado (use an extra half if you have 3 people eating it instead of 2)

Half an onion, chopped (or 1/4 of an onion…it depends. You don’t want it too onion-ey)

Juice of 1 lime (or about 1 tablespoon)

Half a tomato (or less. Make sure the tomato is not watery. You want your guacamole to be thick, not watery)

Salt

Pepper

I don’t use chili in my avocado, but you can if you want. Most recipes call for them.

The guac being prepared...I don't own a molcajete (Mexican version of the mortar and pestle), but I'd like one
The guac being prepared…I don’t own a molcajete (Mexican version of the mortar and pestle), but I’d like one

guac2

Tacos!
Tacos!

5 days to go! Fried Green Tomatoes for the road

Five more days until our wedding, and we are now living in Ohio! In my travels back home for our upcoming wedding, I’d like to post this recipe I found while flipping through Family Circle. Fried green tomatoes are amazing. I made them a while ago, but this is the real deal.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Red Pepper Aioli

Red Pepper Aioli:

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/4 cup roasted red pepper, drained

1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Combine the mayo, red peppers and garlic in a food processor. Process until smooth. Refrigerate until serving.

Green Tomatoes:

2 pounds green tomatoes

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 tsp black pepper

7 tbsp. vegetable oil or canola oil for frying

Directions:

Core the tomatoes, and slice the top and bottoms off. Cut each into 3 or 4 1/4-inch thick slices and dry on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp of salt.

Combine the flour and 1/8 tsp of the salt in a shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in a second dish; whisk together the cornmeal, Parmesan, remaining 1/4 of salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a third dish.

Coat 6 of the tomato slices in the seasoned flour, then the egg, then the cornmeal mixture. Heat oven to 200F.

Heat 3 tbsp of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, then add the coated tomato slices and fry them for 2 minutes. Flip them over and fry another 2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Do the rest of the tomatoes.

Add 2 tbsp. of the oil to the skillet before frying each new batch. Serve the tomatoes with aioli on the side!

Wake-Up Omelet!

Omelets (I still don’t know whether to spell it omelet or omelette, so I’ll stick to the shorter one) are one of my favorite dishes. Someone told me that one cannot be a great cook unless one knows how to make omelets. I don’t remember who said it or when I heard it, but I do know that ever since then I’ve been trying to improve my omelet technique!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs (3 yolks removed)
  • 1 slice Canadian bacon
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Grape tomatoes, sliced into rounds
  • Sliced white mushrooms
  • Fresh spinach, chopped

Directions:

Beat the eggs with a fork in a bowl. Heat a skillet to medium. Spray with Pam or melt a bit of butter on it, whichever you prefer. This next part is up for debate, and it’s a personal preference. Some people like to mix all the ingredients together with the eggs and then pour the mixture into the pan. Others prefer to pour the egg mixture into the pan and then top with the ingredients. Still others prefer to saute the ingredients first before pouring the egg mixture into the pan, pouring the egg on top of the other ingredients. Finally, other people like to remove the ingredients and saute them, pour the egg first, and then add the ingredients second. This is what I do. Whichever method you prefer, it will probably taste well.

Here’s what I did: I sauteed the mushrooms and Canadian bacon for a few minutes first, removed them, and then added them to the rest of the ingredients. Then I poured the eggs in and immediately poured the rest of the ingredients over them.

The eggs will start to cook and as soon as you see little bubbles popping you should flip over your omelet so that it is split in half:

Continue cooking two to three more minutes until the egg no longer oozes out and you’re done!

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

I needed to learn how to make this dish because it’s incredibly easy and fast. As usual, I relied on Allrecipes to teach me.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds ground chuck
  • Half an onion, minced (I used white)
  • 3 cloves garlic, mnced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley flakes
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  • Heat a skillet to medium high heat. Drizzle with olive oil. Crumble in the meat and add the onion and garlic and the rest of the ingredients. Cook until the meat is brown.
  • Add the tomato sauce. Cover and reduce to low heat. Simmer for one hour. Serve with angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti!