Archive | March, 2014

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl with The Mother of All Taco Seasoning

25 Mar The Mother of All Homemade Taco Seasoning

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl- Perfect for endurance athletes!

Here we are y’all… a month past Austin Marathon and I’m still avoiding writing about it.  I’ll get there, but there are so many other things going one and the fact that it doesn’t really count as a race because I basically strolled through the second half makes it feel pretty unnecessary to even recap.  Besides, I’m SO BEHIND on recipes right now it seems the recap will have to be squeezed in amidst far more interesting and yummy topics.

And, since I’ve currently got a backlog of recipes half written and ready to post, this is the perfect time to delay them further to write about what I’m making a this very moment in my kitchen.  Obviously, that makes perfect sense!

Boston Marathon is just a month away, so logically The Hubs is facing an achilles injury with less than four weeks before he has to line up in Hopkinton.  No bueno!  Luckily, we’ve got a little time and a lot of awesome resources so we aren’t concerned.   Who needs long road runs when you’ve got access to an AlterG and 3 hour aqua jogs (in a 25 meter pool none the less… The Hubs has deemed it the “actual insanity workout”)?  Dedication and hard work trump perfect circumstances every time, mostly because perfect circumstances don’t exist.

What does this have to do with food?  Major changes in training intensity this close to a race coupled with an injury mean we need to keep a careful eye on his weight and nutrition- even more than usual.  Every calorie has to count big time in terms of nutrient density.  Which means bye bye to refined carbs and the sugary treats that he loves to sneak!  I have to make sure he is satisfied and nourished enough that he doesn’t have the desire to snag a candy treat when I’m not around.

It also means making dinners that can be packed up as lunches for the next day because I’ve got my hands full at night ensuring I pack the right combination of snacks to keep him full… but not too full.

Last week, I brought a tray of my made-over mac and cheese to my friend Laura’s house for a lunch playdate, and she served me a quinoa side dish very similar to the one I feature here that I promptly mixed in with my serving of mac- and it was delicious.  I quickly realized that the concept of her quinoa side dish would be a versatile one that I could draw on for years to come.  As I made my menu plan for the coming week, the memory of that little quinoa side kept shouting at me in my brain “Top me with ground beef and serve me over salad!”

If you’re a distance runner or endurance athlete, you’re probably pretty familiar with skillet style meals- brown some meat, dump in beans and tomatoes, and serve over rice.  While easy, I’m not a huge fan because skillet meals lack texture or color interest- they are meals of necessity and not enjoyment.  This beef and quinoa taco bowl is just as easy, but far more flavorful and offers levels of interest for your eyes and your palate.

I make my own taco seasoning, and you should too.  Mine is spicier and smokier than the one my friend Laura makes and serves mixed straight into the quinoa , but that’s the beauty of making your own spice mixes- you can make them perfectly to your liking.  I served the beef and quinoa over mixed baby herb greens, but you can just as easily use it to stuff an tomato, a pepper, or an avocado… or wrap it up in a spelt tortilla.  Top it according to your nutritional needs and taste preferences- plain kefir (instead of sour cream), queso fresco, or diced avocado.

The Mother of All Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 2 tbs chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp organic sugar
  • 1 tsp Chihuahua de Mexico wood smoked salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked tomato powder

Directions: Mix all spices in bowl to combine.  Store in an airtight container.

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl- Perfect for endurance athletes!

Beef and Quinoa Taco Bowl

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or veggie broth
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs+ of homemade taco seasoning
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 a small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 lb grassfed, lean ground beef
  • grapeseed oil
  • serving options: plain kefir, queso fresco, mixed baby greens, avocado

Directions: Rinse quinoa well and drain thoroughly.  Bring veggie broth or water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add quinoa and I smashed garlic clove to the broth.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until most of liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat, uncover and fluff with a fork.

Thinly slice remaining garlic clove. Saute sliced garlic in a dollop of grapeseed oil for 2 minutes until fragrant but not browned.  Over medium/medium-high heat, add ground beef  and break up into large pieces.  Add taco seasoning (add seasoning to taste, I like to start with 2 tbs) and cook through, breaking up into small pieces as you cook.  If desired, season with additional salt while browning meat.

Line a colander with paper towels and pour in ground beef to drain off/ absorb any unnecessary fat.

In a large bowl, toss together quinoa, corn, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.  Squeeze lime juice into quinoa mixture and toss to mix thoroughly.

Serve quinoa on a bed of greens, topped with beef and additional toppings of your choice.


#BetterGoodThings: Mac and Cheese Makeover (Complete with Cauliflower, Squash & Kale)

21 Mar #BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

This month for Better Good Things, Evin and I decided to better up (that’s a phrase now… I’m totally making it a thing) mac and cheese.  Apparently her kids are addicted to the orange stuff from the box, and even though baby Bird can’t eat much of the boxed stuff (Because soy.  And because NO.) besides a few types of Annie’s, she was introduced to a version she could eat while she was staying with grandparents and was apparently on a major mac and cheese jag during her trip.  So much so that when she came home she asked for it at every meal.  Every single one.

Now, I shouldn’t pretend that N has never had boxed mac because she most definitely has indulged.  On oh-so-overwhelming toddler days I have on occasion broken out the Annie’s mac and tried to make myself feel better by lacing it with non-gmo corn, peas, and diced carrots.  She is partial to the one with the oozy, Velveeta-esque cheese that really freaks me out.  I get it… the texture is smooth and creamy… but cheese that oozes out of a pouch?  That shouldn’t happen.

But did I mention that I totally understand her love for the oozy cheese?  After all, I secretly binge eat queso in the closet.  Not often…. but sometimes.

I had almost decided that soy free pseudo-cheese could be our private, dirty little mother-daughter secret until my mom told me she had heard rumblings that you could make your own “processed cheese product” that was actually made with real ingredients.  After much poking around and experimenting, I settled on a recipe I’m quite pleased with based on the one developed by Cristina at An Organic Wife.  She is an awesome, real-food guru so I urge you to check out her purist version at the link.

I’ve used this “real-veeta,” as I’ve come to call it, in a less cheesy mac and cheese packed with veggies that doesn’t lose any of it’s cheese depth or flavor.  It also bares that beloved day-glow orangyness… NATURALLY.

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

So much orange food…

You may look at the turmeric and nutritional yeast and think “Hmmm… those a weird for mac.  My kids won’t eat it.  I’m skipping those!”  Be forewarned, that will dramatically change the color, depth, and flavor- and your kiddos will call your bluff.

The kale and turkey bacon on top are the icing on the cake and add a satisfying crunch and bite.

Trust me on the orangey goodness.  The flavor, texture, and color are there.  Your kiddo wont be the wiser of the fast one you just pulled!

#BetterGoodThings- Homemade Real-veeta (Velveeta) made with whole food ingredients

It’s a beautiful nightmare, y’all! Whole food block-o-cheese…

Homemade Real-veeta

(following An Organic Wife‘s proportions)

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2/3 cup monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 package gelatin (2 tsp)
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 1/2 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 2/3 cup organic whole milk

Directions: In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and allow it to bloom for five minutes.

Add shredded cheese to a powerful blender or food processor (I used my Vitamix) and sprinkle in nutritional yeast. Line a mini loaf pan with parchment or plastic wrap.

In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent scorching.  Remove milk from heat once it reaches a boil and whisk in gelatin mixture until smooth.  Pour immediately into blender and process until smooth.  Pour cheese mixture into mini loaf pan.

Refrigerate for at least three hours.

#BetterGoodThings- Mac & Cheese Makeover- Yellow Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, and Turkey Bacon

Made-Over Mac and Cheese

  • 1 block of homemade real-veeta, cubed
  • 1/2 a head of orange cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 5 oz bag of frozen, cubed butternut squash (defrosted)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup monterrey jack/cheddar cheese mix, shredded
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 a bunch of curly leaf kale
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/2 a bunch of kale
  • turkey bacon, cooked and diced
  • 2 cups pasta

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the kale to bake. Rinse and dry very well. Cut leaves from stem and tear into small pieces.  Toss kale pieces with with olive oil, 1 tbs nutritional yeast, and a generous pinch of salt and spread into a single layer across a baking sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake the kale for 15 minutes.  Toss kale, rotate, and return to oven for 12 more minutes.  Check the kale for dehydrated crispness before removing from the oven.  Return from oven for one to two minutes if needed, watching carefully, to ensure they are crisp but not browned.  Gently remove to a bowl to cool completely.

Raise over temperature to 375 degrees F.

In a small pan, saute the butternut squash in the butter to slightly caramelize the surface.

In a steamer basket, steam cauliflower florets for 5-7 minutes until soft but not mushy.  Add both the cauliflower and butternut squash to a blender or food processor.  Add salt to taste (about 1 tsp was good for us), 2 tbs nutritional yeast, and the milk and puree.

Bring a pot of water to boil.

Pour puree into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and add cubed real-veeta and 1/3 cup shredded cheese stirring to melt.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente according to the instructions.  Drain pasta and add immediately to the cheese sauce, removing from heat.

Pour pasta and sauce into a 3 quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve warm, topped with bacon and crispy kale chips.

Hankering for even more mac?  Check out Evin’s take right here.  She gussies her mama version up with Sriracha… oh the goodness!

#BetterGoodThings- Mac and Cheese Makeovers

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Colorful Vegetable Medley

1 Mar

First on the First Kitchen Adventure

Well March, here we are.

In a passive aggressive attempt to avoid writing my recap of my abject failure at Austin Half Marathon, I’ve avoided posting really much of anything this month after my Better Good Things post.  And though the race recap will inevitably make it’s way to the party at some point it’s been trumped by a very fancy food adventure that I embarked upon for this month’s First on the First challenge.

#FirstontheFirst- Wellington (Beef and Lobster variations)

This month we were challenged to Beef Wellington.  Super fancy, right!?  Thoughts of turning Chez Larson into a fancy, gilded steakhouse with two dapper, tuxedo-clad beagle waiters danced through my dreams. And though is a remarkably adorable dream sequence- two immediate problems emerge here: 1) We’re Texans, and we like our steaks grilled and sans frills so pastry coated filet just aint my cuppa tea, y’all! (You see what I did with the colloquialisms, there?); and 2) I stink at red meat preparation.

Let me be very practical- from the very beginning, this challenge stood there glaring at me with neon dollar signs behind it.  It was going to be expensive to attempt.  The thought of knowingly walking into a challenge where I would obliterate countless dollars worth of filet, pate, mushrooms, wine and puff pastry made me sick.  I ran through the options… Chicken Wellington?  That shouldn’t be a thing.  Seitan Wellington?  Too odd a juxtaposition.  Lobster Wellington?  It’s a real thing and a task I could feel more confident to tackle.

I did a lot of research beforehand in an attempt to lessen the chances of failure and settled on a recipe from the Battle House Hotel as a guidepost.  I also decided that I would make life easier and only work with tails, make individual servings, and save myself the headache of homemade puff pasty and seafood stock in this application  and instead rely on market ready shortcuts that I know provide consistent results.

This still holds the distinction of being the most expensive single course meal I’ve ever prepared: lobster tails (almost $40 for 4 at WFM), Dufour puff pastry ($10 for two sheets), a bottle of Groth 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (not a budget breaker on it’s own, but at $17 a bottle things are adding up), seafood stock glace ($7 for 1.5 oz), plus organic veggies…. by the end of my shopping trip I knew that this would either be a post about a really great recipe that I’d made once and hadn’t further road tested for bumps or a post about ruining the most expensive meal I’d ever attempted.  No room in the budget for do overs!

In addition to bearing to title of most expensive meal I’ve attempted, it also happens to be the meal for which I’ve taken the worst photos ever- a particularly interesting distinction given that we all know I taken generally terrible photos at all times.  So there you go.  They’re really bad.

But the Lobster Wellington turned out to be really good- shoddy photos aside.  Like, really good!

And I discovered that Baby Bird loves lobster.  And I discovered that she is a total food snob as she accused me of not making “real lobsters” since I just used tails.

Oh, the trials of raising a teeny gourmand.  Maybe I shouldn’t have introduced her to Rick Bayless so early in life…

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Rainbow Chard, Asparagus, and Purple Cauliflower

Individual Lobster Wellingtons with Colorful Vegetable Medley

(Method as written uses two ovens)

Lobster Wellington Ingredients:

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, leaves and stems separated

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 container More Than Gourmet Glace de Fruits de Mer Gold
  • 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 tbs cold butter, cubed

Vegetable Ingredients:

  • Stems of rainbow chard
  • 1 head purple cauliflower
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tbs butter
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:  Steam the lobster tails for 6 minutes.  Remove meat and set aside to allow to cool.

Combine wine and shallots in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and reduce by half.

Bring a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath.  Julienne the stems of the chard.  Blanch the chard leaves in boiling water for one minute.  Transfer leaves to an ice bath to stop the cooking and towel dry.

Dilute the Glace de Fruits de Mer with 2 1/2 cups warm water and stir to combine.  Add mixture and thyme sprigs to wine and shallots and reduce again by half.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F for lobster and 400 degrees F for cauliflower.

Cut cauliflower into small florets and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread cauliflower on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes.

Make an egg wash with 1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp water.

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Rainbow Chard, Asparagus, and Purple Cauliflower

Lay out chard leaves to form four flat sheets shaped like squares for lobster tails.  Place lobster tail in the center of each square.  Wrap lobster tails in chard leaves.  Cut each puff pastry sheet in two.  Lay chard wrapped lobster tails atop each portion of puff pastry.  There should be a portion at the end of each puff pastry segment that will be visibly unnecessary for encasing the lobster- remove this and set aside.  Seal each lobster tail portion inside the puff pastry, pinching to close.  Seal with egg wash.  Using a small star pastry cutter, cut stars from remaining puff pastry.  Adhere over seam with egg wash.

#FirstontheFirst: Lobster Wellington with Rainbow Chard, Asparagus, and Purple Cauliflower

Bake lobster tails for about 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Remove sauce from heat.  Remove thyme sprigs and slowly whisk in butter, tbsp by tbsp.  Pass through a fine mesh strainer.

Cut asparagus into small segments.  In a pan over medium high heat, saute asparagus in a tsp of olive oil until tender crisp.  Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and add 1 tbsp of butter in which to saute the julienned chard stems.

Toss together the asparagus, chard stems, and cauliflower before serving.

To serve, coat bottom of plate with sauce.  Slice lobster wellington in half.  Place the lobster wellington atop the sauce and garnish with vegetables.

Looking for some Beef Wellington options made from… well… beef?  Check out the options from our other First on the First ladies: