Monday, August 31, 2015

Baked Veggie and Black Bean Tostadas

Remember when I made pork cube steak tacos? Well, I still have a bunch of corn tortillas to use up. They come in a big package. I've had tostadas in the past, but I've not tried making them myself. They're much easier than I thought--especially if you bake them!

Notes: Think of tostadas as an open-faced taco. They are hard to eat, but they're delicious.

Typically tostadas are fried, but I didn't want to mess with cooking oil. I also didn't want to make them less healthy. So I baked them. As long as you oil them lightly, baking works just fine.

I think next time I would season the tortillas. Maybe just with some salt and a little chili powder.

You can use whatever kind of mushrooms you want. I just happened to have a mix of white and shitake on hand. Frankly, you can use whatever veggies you want. The tostada is versatile!

1 pint sliced white mushrooms
1 pint sliced shitake mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces
1 15 oz. can black beans
2 tablespoons cumin (divided)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (divided)
2 teaspoons chili powder (divided)
Hot sauce (to taste)
6 corn tortillas
Cooking spray or olive oil
Shredded cheese for topping (optional)
Avocado (optional)

Directions: Heat oven to 400 and line two baking sheets with foil. Lay out 6 tortillas (3 per sheet) and set aside.

Drain (but don't rinse) the black beans. Add them to a bowl and season with hot sauce, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and hot sauce. Mash the beans into a paste and set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt a small amount of butter. When the skillet is hot, add the mushrooms and brown. Season with the rest of the cumin, chili powder paprika, salt, and hot sauce. Add in the asparagus and cook until tender-crisp (about 4 minutes).

Spray the corn tortillas with cooking spray lightly on both sides (or brush both sides lightly with olive oil). Bake for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes is up, take them out of the oven and flip them over. Layer each tortilla with mashed beans, cheese (if you're using cheese), and then the mushroom/asparagus mixture. Return to the oven and bake for five more minutes.

When they're done, top with mashed avocado if desired. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Red Velvet Birthday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Scott's birthday was last weekend, so that means I got to make a birthday cake! The birthday boy requested red velvet cake. I was happy to oblige.

Notes: This was the first time I've ever made red velvet cake. I've been cooking for almost 10 years now and there is still so much I have to make.

People mistakenly think that the fuss about red velvet cake is the red color. False. It's really the fine crumb and the unique combo of buttermilk and cocoa powder. You could leave the food coloring out completely if you wanted to and it would still be worth making.

I followed this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction almost to a T, so I won't retype it here. It came out great.

If I had to make some changes, I would replace the vegetable oil with another stick of butter. I also used a combo of red food coloring and blue food coloring to make a dark red. I also used a lot less of it, so my cake had a more subtle red color.

I decorated mine with mini chocolate chips. I only needed about 1/3 of a cup.

It's a lot of work, but it's worth it to have made-from-scratch red velvet cake!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Q.E.D.: Pork Cube Steak Soft Tacos with Simple Slaw

Are you tired of my fast and delicious taco recipes? Well, that's unfortunate because I have another one!

Notes: These tacos were a grocery store inspiration. I wanted something fast and simple for dinner. As I was walking by the meat section, I saw pork cube steaks. They're pounded thin, so they cook very quickly and they are inexpensive. On their own, they might not be that exciting, but cut thin and served in a taco they're great. I thought they'd be best with a light crust sort of like a lighter version of country fried steak.

If you have the time, it would be nice to rub the seasoning on the steaks and marinade them in the fridge for an hour or so.

I used some bagged slaw mix for the simple slaw, but if you have fresh cabbage, by all means use that.

I only made enough tacos for Scott and I, so I only used two steaks. If you're feeding four people, I'd use four steaks.

2-4 pork cube steaks
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for pan frying
Corn tortillas
Simple Slaw (recipe follows)


Heat enough oil to pan fry the pork steaks on medium in a large skillet. While the oil is heating, whisk together sugar, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and hot sauce in a small bowl to make a paste. Rub the paste all over the pork steaks. Let stand just a few minutes.

Put the flour on a plate or in a wide bowl. Dredge the pork steaks in the flour. Fry for about 4 minutes per side until they're a deep golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess grease.

When the steaks are finished, slice them into thin strips. Warm the taco shells and assemble the tacos with the steak and the slaw. Enjoy!

Ingredients for slaw
1 heaping cup of shredded cabbage
2 rounded tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons sweet relish
1 teaspoon celery seed

Whisk mayo, relish, and celery seed together in a bowl. Add in the cabbage and toss to coat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Q.E.D.: Scott's Tuna Salad in Avocado Boats

Readers of this blog will recall that my husband Scott basically doesn't know how to cook save for a few dishes. Tuna salad happens to be one of them. His tuna salad is one of our typical summer lunches, but I asked him to make some for dinner so we could try the avocado boats. Delicious!

Notes: Not only is this Q.E.D., it's no-cook. You don't even need to look at your oven. Perfect for a hot summer evening.

These would be lovely on top of a bed of greens. To serve it that way, just scoop the avocado flesh out of the peel first. Run a spoon around the edge so you can scoop it out whole. Then (carefully) put it on the greens and mound the tuna on top. A little drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice and you'd be all set.

This is a light meal, so it's perfect for a night when you're not that hungry or you had a late lunch.

If you wanted to serve 4 people, the recipe can be easily doubled.

Ingredients (serves 2 people):
1 large (or 2 regular sized) cans of tuna (in water)
3 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3-4 tablespoons mayonaise
2 ripe avocados
Salt and pepper


Put the tuna in a mesh strainer and rinse. Press out as much of the liquid as you can.

Scrape the tuna from the strainer into a bowl. Add relish, mayo, celery seed and stir to combine.

Slice the avocados in half and mound the tuna salad into the holes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy your no-cook Q.E.D. meal!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Black Bean and Corn Sliders with Bacon Sweet Potato Fries

Summer is waning, my friends! I hate to admit it, but it's true. It'll be September before you know it. That means we need to enjoy it while we can with some summer grill recipes.

Or if you're me you just make black bean sliders and sweet potato fries any time you feel like it---summer or not!

Notes: Don't have a grill pan? Never fear! Just use olive oil or vegetable oil and shallow fry the sliders in a big skillet. The sliders won't have the pretty grill marks, but they'll taste just as good.

I roasted my corn in the husk before I stripped it from the ear. If you want to do the same thing, just trim the loose pieces of husk and the tassel off, run the whole thing under water for a minute, and then stick it right on the oven rack for 30 minutes at 350. The roasted-in-the-husk flavor is awesome. If you don't feel like doing this step, no worries. Just strip the kernels right off the ear straight into the bowl.

I find the easiest way to make fries is to cut the sweet potato in half and then cut each half into strips. Then cut those strips into smaller fry-sized pieces. There's no science to it---just make them look like fries.

I didn't have any crumbled bacon, but I had leftover bacon grease in the fridge from the last time I made bacon. If you don't have any, just use butter or olive oil for the fries. It will work just fine.

Slider buns are fairly easy to find nowadays. I found mine at Trader Joe's, but I've seen them in Target and other grocery stores as well. If you can't find them, any small roll will do.

Ingredients for sliders (makes about 8 sliders):
1 15 oz. can black beans
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ear of corn

For fries:
2 large sweet potatoes
6 teaspoons bacon grease, divided
Crumbled bacon for topping (optional)


Heat oven to 450. Line two baking sheets with foil.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into fries. Spread them in one layer on the baking sheets. Pour 3 teaspoons of bacon grease over each tray of fries. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are tender and they start to turn dark brown. Stir the fries about halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.

To make the sliders, drain the beans (don't rinse). Strip the kernels off the ear of corn. In a large bowl, mash the beans and corn together with a potato masher. Be sure to leave some of the beans and kernels whole. Lightly beat the egg and add it to the bowl along with the bread crumbs, worcestershire sauce, salt, hot sauce, brown sugar, and taco seasoning. Mix everything together until it forms a thick paste. Form small patties and then let stand 5 minutes.

Heat your grill pan on medium-high. Grill each slider about 3 minutes per side until a crust forms on the outside. Remove from the grill and transfer to a plate. Tent them with foil to keep them warm while you grill the rest.

Top with your favorite hamburger toppings and serve with hot sweet potato fries. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Grilled Beef and Bean Soft Tacos with Rosemary Orange Slaw

Summer time is great for tacos. Technically any season is good for tacos, but since summer time is the time for grilling, what could be better than grilled tacos?

Notes: If you wanted to make this vegetarian, a mix of kidney beans and black beans would be perfect. I would mash up half of the black beans as well. It gives you the texture of refried beans.

Make sure your grill pan is nice and oiled. That way you don't have to brush the tacos with oil.

I was totally lazy and used pre-made taco seasoning here. The blend I bought was better than something I could have whipped up (I don't have any cayenne pepper).

I used flour soft tacos, but you can use corn. Speaking of corn, you could grill some fresh corn on your grill pan before you grill the tacos and add it to the beef mixture. Awesome.

Ingredients for Tacos:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
Taco seasoning (or you can make your own mix)
Cheese for topping (I like manchego-style cheeses for tacos)
Soft taco shells
Rosemary Orange Slaw (recipe follows)


Rinse and drain the kidney beans. Mash about half of them. Put a skillet on medium heat. Brown the ground beef. Add in the beans and season with taco seasoning blend. Turn the heat to low.

Heat the grill pan on medium. When it's hot, grill the soft taco shells on both sides just until grill marks appear (about 45 seconds each). Put the filling in the middle of each shell, top with cheese, and rosemary orange slaw.

Ingredients for Rosemary Orange Slaw (about 1 large cup of slaw):
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon deli mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 bag of broccoli slaw blend


Mince the rosemary and add it to a small bowl. Squeeze the juice out of the 1/2 orange. Whisk in honey and mustard. Pour over the broccoli slaw and toss to coat.

Enjoy some delicious summer tacos!