Category Archives: Budget-Friendly

Oven-Baked Chicken Taquitos

baked chicken flautas

I’ve mentioned before that one of our go-to meals is a simple roasted chicken (spatchcocked) with a few simple vegetables on the side. Of course, it’s just the two of us most nights, and we generally have leftover chicken after this meal. Often I’ll throw it on top of a green salad for lunch or dinner the following day. Sometimes, however, a little creativity ekes out, and I come up with something different to make with my leftovers.

This time around, it was chicken taquitos.

Traditionally, taquitos are rolled corn tortillas filled with meat and/or cheese and deep-fried. While I do deep-fry on the rare occasion, it’s a bit of a mess and not something I’d like to tackle on a weeknight. These, however, are totally do-able, don’t make a huge mess, and are lighter to boot. You simply mix together shredded, cooked chicken, spices, and cheese (dairy-free if you prefer), and roll it up in tortillas. Place them on a baking sheet, spritz a little olive oil over, and bake. Whip up a big bowl of guacamole while they’re baking, and you’re set. (Guacamole totally counts as a vegetable, by the way, so it’s a well-balanced meal. Personally, I think I eat enough of it to count as two vegetable servings. Go me!)

They’re definitely kid-friendly to boot, as they’re a great finger food. You can even customize them to your liking. Have leftover beef or pork instead? Use it. Want more spice? Why not add more chili powder, or even a little cayenne? It’s totally up to you. I imagine even adding beans would be tasty. All I know is, this is a recipe we will use time and again. I hope you will too.

Print Recipe

Oven-Baked Chicken Taquitos (gluten-free, dairy-free option)

3-4 c shredded cooked chicken

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground chili powder

1/2 t kosher salt

1/4 t garlic powder

1/4 t onion powder

1 c shredded cheese (I prefer Monterey Jack or Cheddar) or non-dairy cheese (such as Daiya)

12-16 corn tortillas

Olive oil or cooking spray (I prefer using olive oil in my Misto)

Guacamole and salsa to serve

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, spices, and cheese.

Place the corn tortillas on a plate and cover with damp paper towels. Microwave for 30 seconds, and then rearrange the tortillas so that the bottom ones are on top, the top on bottom, the inside ones moved toward the outside of the stack, and so on. Heat again for 30 seconds, covered again with the damp paper towels. Continue this until they are warm but not hot. This will make the tortillas more pliable and less prone to cracking when you roll them.

Place 3-4 tablespoons of the chicken filling in the center of a tortilla and rill up tightly. Place seam-side-down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Spray the tortillas with olive oil (or lightly brush on) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crisp.

Serve with guacamole and salsa.

Serves about 4.

 

 

Pickled Carrots and Jalapeños

pickled carrots and jalapenos

A few weeks ago, my parents took me to lunch at this little hole-in-the-wall taco shop. They’ve been visiting there for ages, and have always enjoyed the food. It’s perhaps slightly more than a hole-in-the-wall, truthfully – it’s a combination taco shop plus small Hispanic grocery and carnicería. The building is run-down, but you can tell they keep things clean. Finally, I got to experience these tacos that my Dad has been raving about for what seems like an eternity.

Truth be told, the tacos were good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely worth revisiting. I enjoyed barbacoa and lengua tacos and was a happy camper. But the real prize wasn’t even something you paid additional for. Alongside your order, they would bring you a bowl of these pickled carrots and jalapeños. We asked for extra, and noshed on these slightly sweet, subtly spicy condiments both before and during our meal. They provided the perfect brightness to offset the richness of my barbacoa and were deliciously addictive. My Dad mentioned that he’d made unsuccessful attempts to get the recipe out of the lady that makes these delicious treats. Apparently that recipe was top secret.

So, turning to me, he encouraged me to take the leftover pickles home. Why? He wanted to see if I could reverse engineer the recipe. It was a challenge I was willing to take.

The pickles were simple, but reverse engineering even a few simple spices takes careful consideration. I wasn’t 100% sure on ratios, but I took a stab at it. What resulted was quite close and equally as tasty. I could definitely enjoy having these in my refrigerator, ready to accompany our next taco night (which is practically a weekly event around here).

Of course, this will mean I need to make more. I sent home this jar to my Dad, who was all-too-happy to take it off my hands.

Print Recipe

Pickled Carrots and Jalapeños (gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, vegan)

3 fresh jalapeños

5 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal, about 1 inch thick

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/2 small white onion, sliced

2 bay leaves

10 black peppercorns

10 whole coriander seeds

1 1/4 c white vinegar

1/4 c apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 c filtered water

1 1/2 T kosher or pickling salt

1 T granulated sugar

Place the jalapeños, carrots, garlic, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a quart-sized glass jar or container. Bring the vinegars, water, salt and sugar to a boil. Pour over vegetables until covered. Allow to cool to room temperature and place lid on jar. Refrigerate 1-2 weeks or until desired level of pickling is achieved.

Keeps about a month, maybe longer, although I can’t imagine you’ll make it last that long.

 

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

sauteed spinach

Looking for a quick-and-easy way to get something green on your plate for dinner tonight?

How about spinach?

Gone are those days, when I was growing up, where Mom would open a can of spinach, and we would eat it, pretending we would grow big and strong just like Popeye. I can’t even remember the last time I ate canned spinach, honestly. It’s been a long time. I much prefer fresh when I can get it, frozen when I can’t. It’s a taste preference – canned seems mushy and salty to me nowadays.

Cooking from fresh, however, doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. With just a few ingredients and less than 5 minutes, you can have delicious sautéed spinach with garlic that is a million times tastier than the canned variety. The fresh flavors of the spinach and garlic really shine, and the spinach is tender and bright.

Want to see just how easy it is? Check out my simple instructional video – and while you’re at it, subscribe to my YouTube channel to see even more easy veggie ideas.

So while your main dish is roasting in the oven, pull out a skillet and sauté some spinach! You’ll be happy you did.

Print Recipe

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic (gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

1 T coconut oil (or oil of choice – olive oil or butter works well here)

1 clove garlic, minced

8 oz spinach leaves, rinsed well and drained (let any residual water cling to the leaves), torn into smallish pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat, swirling around to coat. Add garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add spinach leaves and stir to coat. Cover with a lid and allow to steam for a minute or two, or until leaves have turned bright green and have just started to wilt. Remove the lid and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 2-4.

Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

pan seared brussels sprouts

A few weeks back, I shared in the Eating the Food group that I was having pan-seared Brussels Sprouts along with some eggs for breakfast. This started a conversation not only about Brussels Sprouts (and their deliciousness, of course) but also about getting more vegetables into your breakfast. I must confess: I don’t always get veggies in first thing in the morning. I do enjoy them (especially with eggs), but it just doesn’t always happen. Of course, that realization got me thinking and inspired this post about getting more vegetables into your day.

So I’ve been motivated once more to be sure I’m giving vegetables their due. While I have no issues in the spring and summer, when I go to the farmer’s market and come home with more vegetables than any normal human can possibly consume in a week, (What can I say? They all look SO GOOD and I get starry-eyed and have to bring them all home with me.) winter-time makes vegetable consumption more difficult. This is when I focus on those veggies that are longer storage varieties, such as root vegetables, winter squash, cabbage, and of course, Brussels Sprouts, so they still taste fresh. I also try my hardest to make these veggies easy to make, so I’ll be more likely to consume them even on busy weeknights.

Pan-searing is one such way to accomplish that “easy-to-make” goal. It only takes a few minutes and really highlights the natural sweetness of the Brussels Sprouts, thanks to the caramelization that happens in the pan. They’re delicious alongside meatloaf and mashed potatoes, pork chops, or even with eggs at breakfast. Even if you’ve previously shunned Brussels Sprouts, I encourage you to revisit them with this method. You might just find them not only tolerable, but they could become your new favorite veggie!

For step-by-step instruction, check out my “how-to” video on YouTube for these Brussels Sprouts (and feel free to subscribe, so you won’t miss an episode!):

Print Recipe

Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts (gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

1 1/2 T coconut oil

1 lb Brussels Sprouts, sliced roughly into 1/4 inch thick slices

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium heat. Add coconut oil and allow to melt and coat pan. Spread out sliced Brussels Sprouts into a single layer in the skillet. Allow to sear without moving for about a minute, or until the sprouts start to brown. Stir around to flip the sprouts and brown the other side for another minute or so. Continue to stir every so often, spreading the sprouts back out, until they are browned on edges and just tender throughout. (Total cooking time is about 5 minutes.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Roasted Rosemary Carrots

roasted carrots with rosemary

I’ve got another super-easy vegetable solution for you this week, complete with a super-easy video showing you just now super-easy it is to make.

Doesn’t that sound super-GREAT?

Okay, maybe I’m getting a tad over-excited. After all, we’re talking about carrots here, right? But these carrots, in my opinion, are worth getting excited about. They take only a few minutes to prepare, and after a little time hanging out in the oven, they emerge with caramelized edges and sweet, carrot-y goodness that can please any palate. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?

Check out the video (and feel free to subscribe, so you can be notified as soon as I post new videos to YouTube). You’ll even get to see my dogs and their affinity for carrots. They tend to always be nearby if I am cutting up carrots – it’s by far their favorite vegetable.

Print Recipe

Roasted Rosemary Carrots (gluten-free, vegan)

5-6 large carrots, peeled if desired

1 T rosemary needles, chopped

1/4 – 1/2 t kosher salt, or to taste

1 1/2 – 2 T coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the carrots into bite-sized pieces (I cut mine about 3/4 inch thick). Toss carrots with rosemary, salt, and coconut oil until evenly coated. Spread out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning over about halfway through the baking time, until the carrots are browned and tender. Remove from oven and serve.

Serves 2-3.

Dairy-Free Basics: How to Make Almond Milk

almond milk

When I was struggling with poor digestion, I had trouble not only with gluten and dairy, but often, I struggled with digesting carrageenan and gums, such as guar and xanthan gum. In order to avoid these ingredients, I rarely ate gluten-free baked goods that contained gums, which sometimes was difficult. But even more difficult was finding a non-dairy milk that I could use that was gum and carrageenan-free.

So I decided to make it myself.

If you’re new to dairy-free, struggle with digesting gums, or are just looking for a simple way to enjoy a non-dairy beverage without resorting to store-bought “milks”, making almond milk is an easy alternative, and only takes a few minutes of active time. In my opinion, the flavor is also superior to the store-bought milks, and you can customize the milk to be as thick or thin as you desire.

With just raw almonds, fresh water, a pinch of salt, and an optional sweetener, you can make this at home! Here’s how:

Print Recipe

Almond Milk Recipe (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free)

1 c raw almonds

3 c filtered water

pinch salt

optional: 1/2 t maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey

Add the almonds to a medium bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak for at least 4 hours and up to 8. Drain.

Place soaked almonds, 3 cups fresh water, salt and optional sweetener into a blender. Blend on medium speed until smooth and frothy (with a high-powered blender, this won’t take but a minute; with a regular blender, you may need to blend for several minutes).

Using a nut milk bag, a clean flour sack towel, or several layers of fine cheesecloth, strain the milk into a bowl or large container. Be sure to squeeze the bag or towel to get all of the milk out, leaving only the pulp behind. Discard the pulp (I find it works well in my compost pile) and refrigerate the milk. Use within 4-5 days, and be sure to shake before use.

Makes about 3 cups milk.

Turkey (or Chicken) and Gluten-Free Parsley Dumplings

It’s been years since I’ve made chicken and dumplings. Early on in our relationship, my husband did more gourmet cooking than I did. Somewhere along the way, the tables turned, but he has always made his famous Turkey Gumbo. Usually, I’d save the excess broth, full of cayenne and turkey goodness, and use it to make spicy chicken and dumplings. Of course, at the time, my dumplings were biscuits from a can. But still, the dish was a once-a-year specialty, and we adored it.

This time around, I opted to make turkey and dumplings. There was no gumbo (that might happen before the year is out if I ask nicely, though), but I had leftover turkey thighs and wings in the freezer that I didn’t use for gravy at Thanksgiving. I opted instead to use them for the meat for this dish, and some chicken broth I’d made a while back. So instead of turkey broth and chicken, this is chicken broth and turkey. You with me?

Honestly, you could just as easily use a while chicken, cut up, in place of the turkey I used. It would be just as delicious, and I’m imagining it’s easier to locate a chicken than turkey thighs and wings. But whatever you use, be sure and make dumplings. Because in my opinion, it’s all about the dumplings.

Good dumplings are fluffy, pillow-y clouds of deliciousness that sop up the broth from the soup. Bad dumplings, on the other hand, are none of these things. I’ve had bad dumplings. Not the canned biscuit ones – to be perfectly honest, those were not half-bad. I’ve had bad ones at restaurants. I’ve had failures in my own kitchen when attempting to make them from scratch as well. Thankfully, these are definitely not of the “bad” variety.

These dumplings are pillow-y. Full of flavor. The parsley mixed into the dough really makes them special. While the turkey (or chicken) soup is delicious on its own, these dumplings take it to the next level. And when it’s cold and icy (like it was this past weekend here in North Texas), they warm your belly like nothing else can. They’re perfect for a day when you and the family have been outside in the cold, or just need a bit of comfort. It’s a bowl full of happy.

Turkey (or Chicken) and Parsley Dumplings (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 large turkey thigh and 2 turkey wings (or 1 3-lb chicken, cut up)

Salt and pepper

3 T olive oil

1/2 c diced onion

1/2 c diced celery

1/2 c diced carrot

1 garlic clove, minced

1 t minced fresh sage leaves

1 t minced fresh thyme leaves

4 c chicken broth

1/2 c coconut milk

Dumplings:

1/2 c superfine brown rice flour

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c tapioca starch

1/2 c cornmeal

1 T unflavored gelatin

1 heaping tablespoon baking powder

1 t kosher salt

1 c coconut milk

1/2 c water

2 T minced fresh parsley

Salt and pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season turkey or chicken with salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet for 30-45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and allow to cool to touch.

While the poultry is cooking, in a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrot and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, sage and thyme and sauté for another minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and allow to simmer.

Next, make the dough for the dumplings. Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, gelatin, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the coconut milk and water and mix in. Add the parsley and stir in as well. Set aside.

Once the poultry has cooled, remove the skin and the meat from bones, and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and place into the simmering broth. Add the coconut milk. Stir in and taste to adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Drop rounded tablespoons of the dumpling dough into the simmering soup. Cover pot, leaving lid propped a bit open, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid; allow to simmer for 10 minutes more.

Serves 4.

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi’s Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to prepare all you need to prepare for Thanksgiving Day. Or even if there were, you know good and well that if you truly tried to do it all in one day, you’d be dead on your feet come meal time.

I know this truth. In my first few years hosting Thanksgiving Dinner, I spent a good amount of effort making everything the night before and the day of the meal. I was exhausted and frantic. I had too much on my plate at once.

Now, I find that a good plan is key. Part of that “good plan” is making things in advance. I make several dishes and freeze them, thawing a few days before the meal. One such dish is the gravy.

My Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy is delicious – every bit as much as if it were made on Thanksgiving Day. It’s simple too – leaving precious time for you to focus on other dishes, your family, or just to catch your breath.

Head on over to Balanced Platter to check out my Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy!

Nose to Tail: Head Cheese

head cheese

Yes. I realize the way that sounds. Head cheese. I can picture many of your facial expressions now, because I saw similar ones in the few people I told about this project face-to-face. But hear me out.

I’m a big proponent of nose-to-tail eating. After all, if we must eat a living thing – and everything we eat was once living – then we shouldn’t waste it. This means finding ways to use parts many are used to throwing away. Radish tops. Turkey or chicken bones. Broccoli leaves. And yes, a pig’s head.

I split a hog with a friend a few months ago. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying the bacon, chops, roasts, and sausage. But I’d also asked the boy (He was raising hogs for college money.) if I could have the head. He gave me two. They occupied space in my freezer for about two months before I finally carved out the time to tackle one.

When the time came though, it was a breeze. Only slightly more difficult than making stock, and considerably less tough than making a proper terrine. It was surprising how much meat really comes from a hog head. There’s a great deal from the tongue and cheeks. I had enough to fill a 9″ X 5″ loaf pan with ease. I also had an added bonus – about 7 quarts of golden, delicious, porky broth. I’ll certainly enjoy using that for soups and stews throughout the winter.

The head cheese is deliciously meaty, and somewhat rich, but not overly so. We enjoyed thin slices on crackers, accompanied by cheeses, various pickles, apple slices, grainy mustard, and an egg salad. It makes a lovely cold lunch, and a nice change to a more typical salami or other cold meat. I was glad to have made it.

But most of all, I’m glad for the experience. There’s something about making a food that most others have long forgotten, and using a part of an animal most throw away. I’m looking forward to the other hog head, although I’m more planning on dedicating that one to tamales.

head cheese overhead

 Print Recipe

Head Cheese (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)

1 pig’s head

2-3 bay leaves

12 peppercorns

1 sprig fresh rosemary

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

3 T kosher salt, plus more to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Fresh ground black pepper

Place the pig’s head in a large stockpot (I had to use my huge tamale pot to make it fit). Place the bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, and salt in the pot and fill with enough water to just cover the head.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for about 6-8 hours, or until meat is falling apart and tender.

Carefully remove the meat and bones from the stock and set on a platter. Once cool enough to touch, pick apart the meat and collagen material and place in a bowl. You can opt to include bits of skin as well if you choose. Skin the tongue and include the tongue meat as well. Chop the meat into 1/2 inch dice. Toss with the lemon juice and more salt, plus fresh pepper, until it is to your taste.

Simmer the remaining stock until it has sufficient “gelling” capability. You can test this by putting a spoonful in a small bowl and chilling it. If it gels, you’re good. If it doesn’t, reduce the stock more.

Line a terrine or loaf pan (I used a 9″ X 5″ loaf pan) with plastic wrap. Spoon all of the meat into the prepared pan. Pour in just enough of the pork stock to cover the meat, and press everything down. Wrap securely, pressing down the wrap to ensure the mixture fills the entire mold. Refrigerate overnight. Keeps for about a week.

 

Chicken Tomatillo Chili

I can’t stand soup when it’s hot outside. I often see coworkers enjoying soup for lunch all the year round, and I’m sweating just thinking about it if the temp outside is above about 75 degrees. (But I’ll drink hot coffee on an August morning, unless I’ve made cold brew coffee the night before. I’m weird, I know.) But now that it’s cooler, I’ve been incorporating more soups again.

I am the biggest fan of a soup that satisfies as a meal. Sure, simple starter soups are delicious, but I still have to make something else to accompany them. A stew or chili is substantial. Filling. I can also freeze leftovers and have soup ready for me to grab and take to the office for lunch. This chicken tomatillo chili not only meets these requirements, it’s also a budget stretcher, thanks to the beans. It’s a big bowl of comforting, warming, hearty deliciousness.

Chicken Tomatillo Chili (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 lb tomatillos, cut in half

2 medium yellow onions, sliced

6 garlic cloves, peeled

2 Hatch (similar to Anaheim or Big Jim) chiles (you can also substitute other fresh chiles, just mind the heat and adjust accordingly)

1 14-oz can whole tomatoes

1 3 ½ lb chicken, cut into pieces, breasts removed and set aside

6 c water

2 t ground cumin

1 t ground coriander

1 t dried oregano

2 t chipotle chile powder

1 t smoked paprika

1 t salt

¼ t black pepper

2 ½ c cooked black beans (or 2 cans, drained)

2 ½ c cooked white beans (or 2 cans, drained)

2 ½ c cooked pinto beans (or 2 cans, drained)

½ c chopped cilantro

Preheat broiler. Place tomatillos, sliced onions, garlic cloves, and chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil for 5-7 minutes or until the skins of the tomatillos and chiles are blackened. Remove from broiler and allow to cool. Peel the skins from the chiles, and remove the stems and seeds. (It’s a good idea to do this with disposable [non-latex if you have a latex allergy] gloves on.) Place tomatillos, onions, garlic, chiles, and the can of whole tomatoes (with the juice) in a large soup pot. Add the chicken pieces (reserving the breasts) and the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Add the chicken breasts and simmer for 20 minutes longer.

Using tongs, remove all of the chicken and place on a platter to allow to cool. Meanwhile, add the cumin, coriander, oregano, chipotle chile powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to the pot and puree the broth and vegetables using a stick blender, or a regular blender in batches. Add the beans.

Once the chicken is cool enough to touch, remove the meat and shred with your fingers, and place back into the pot with the beans. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until flavors meld. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Serves 8-10.