Monday, July 28, 2014

Spicy Steak Tacos with Watermelon Salsa

Spicy Steak Tacos with Watermelon Salsa

It's Taco Tuesday, and everything is awesome!  Who else is watching the Lego movie on repeat?  I don't mind so much, especially when it inspires meals such as this.  This, along with my grilled summer veggie salad, have become my favorite dinners of the summer.  Two more big reasons to love it?   It's incredibly quick and easy, and healthy to boot.

The steak is rubbed with a spicy mixture of cayenne, black pepper, salt, and paprika, and then thrown on the grill.  Meanwhile, you simply mix up a quick watermelon salsa, warm your tortillas, and you're ready to eat.  The smokiness and spice from the steak pair wonderfully with the sweet and spicy watermelon salsa, and the cotija cheese gives the tacos a subtly creamy and salty finish.  I loved these tacos so much, and we all "mmm'ed" our way through dinner.  I served  these tacos with grilled Mexican-style street corn and more watermelon, and it was pretty much the perfect summer dinner.

So today's Tuesday… who wants tacos?

Spicy Steak Tacos with Watermelon Salsa 

Spicy Steak Tacs with Watermelon Salsa
adapted from Cooking Light, August 2014
serves 4

  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 pound flank or skirt steak, trimmed 
  • Cooking spray
  • green onions, roots trimmed, finely minced
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh watermelon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime

  • 1/2 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
  • (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 2 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  2.  Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, paprika, oil, and red pepper in a small bowl. Rub both sides of the steak with the pepper and oil mixture.
  3.  Arrange steak on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3-4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes; cut steak across the grain into thin slices.
  4. 4. Combine watermelon, cilantro, green onions, lime juice, chile, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
  5. 5. Place tortillas on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 1 minute on each side or until lightly charred.  Divide steak, salsa, and cheese evenly among tortillas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Spinach & Zucchini-Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

Spinach and Zucchini-Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

What do you get when you combine one of my favorite comfort foods with fresh summer produce?  Spinach and Zucchini Lasagna Rolls!  These tender pasta rolls are stuffed to the gills with a mixture of ricotta, parmesan, zucchini, onions, and spinach.  Then they're smothered in marinara sauce and cheese, baked, and devoured.  And my gosh, they are good!  And as far as eating a baked pasta dish with three cheeses, they are actually pretty light.  A modest amount of cheese goes a long way in lightening these up, and the addition of zucchini and spinach bulks up each serving.

Spinach and Zucchini-Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

I've been making a conscious effort to eat healthier this summer, and it's so refreshing to be able to enjoy a meal like this with no guilt.   It still has that satisfying comfort food feel, but thanks to a few steps to lighten it up, it's actually fairly healthy.  Definitely the best of both worlds.

Spinach and Zucchini-Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

Spinach and Zucchini-Stuffed Lasagna Rolls
adapted from Skinny Taste
makes 8 rolls
  • 8 lasagna noodles, cooked, drained, and patted dry
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz zucchini (about 2 medium), grated and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup  part skim ricotta cheese 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cups Marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • fresh basil for garnish (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Ladle about 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook until just softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the zucchini and sauté until it is softened and beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and cook until fragrant about one minute.

In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, spinach, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, red pepper flakes, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  

Lay out the lasagna noodles on a clean work surface. Make sure noodles are dry. Take a scant 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over the noodle. Carefully roll the noodle and transfer it seam-side down to the prepared baking dish.  Repeat with the remaining noodles and filling.

Ladle the remaining sauce over the lasagna rolls and top each one with 1 tablespoon of mozzarella cheese. Cover the baking dish with foil, and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle basil over the top, and serve.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Oven-Fried Shrimp & Okra Po' Boys (and a po' boy salad)

Oven-Fried Shrimp & Okra Po' Boys

Oyster po' boys are one of my favorite foods ever.  Love the bread, love the fried oysters, love the remoulade sauce… it's all good.  But… not good for you.  Like, at all.  So it's relegated to a "once a year, only order it on vacation" food. That doesn't mean I don't crave it though.  And when I do - there's this sandwich.  No, it's not the same as the real oyster deal.  But it's pretty darn good.  And oh, about 1,000 calories less.  So it's a winner all-around.

When I first saw these in Cooking Light, I got so excited because HOW have I never thought of an okra po' boy before??  Genius!  Instead of being deep-fried, the shrimp and okra are tossed in buttermilk, then coated with spicy Cajun-spiked cornmeal.  They are baked in the oven, and come out perfectly crispy and delicious.

Another way that these cut calories is portion control.  Instead of being served on a big honking baguette, they are served in hot dog buns - like a lobster roll.  Definitely splurge and buy fresh hot dog buns from the bakery for these; or better yet, make your own!  A spicy and creamy remoulade sauce rounds them out, and I'd recommend serving simply with some chips, or go all-out summer and add some corn on the cob and watermelon.

Oven-Fried Shrimp & Okra Po' Boys

As for me?  I had a hankering for a salad that night (I told you, I'm obsessed with salads this summer).  So I turned my sandwich into a big salad with romaine, tomatoes, grilled corn, then okra and shrimp, and thinned out the remoulade with a little buttermilk to make a kick-ass dressing.  Winner winner, po' boy dinner.

Turned my shrimp and okra po' boy into a salad.  #greatdecision #clblogger #clkickingdishes #pinkparsley #summertime

Oven-Fried Shrimp & Okra Po' Boys
 Cooking Light, June 2014

The sandwiches were a little messy for the kids to eat, so I ended just giving them the okra and shrimp with some remoulade for dipping.  They loved this, and I think it would be a fun appetizer served this way too!

  • 15 small okra pods, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 low-fat buttermilk, divided
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 10 oz medium shrimp, deveined, peeled, and tails removed (preferably gulf shrimp)
  • 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 3 Tbs canola oil
  • 4 top-split, hot dog buns, toasted
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced romaine or iceberg lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • Remoulade sauce (recipe below)
Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat  to 450 degrees.

  1. Combine the okra and 2 tablespoons buttermilk and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl; gently stir to coat.
  2. Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with flour; toss well to coat. Drizzle with remaining 6 tablespoons buttermilk, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss to coat. Drain okra and shrimp through a sieve; discard liquid.

  3. Combine cornmeal and Cajun seasoning in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add okra and shrimp; seal bag, and shake well to coat.

  4. Carefully remove pan from oven; drizzle with oil, then use a brush to coat the entire bottom of the pan with the oil.. Remove shrimp and okra from cornmeal, shaking off excess, and arrange in a single layer on the pan. Bake for 5 minutes.  Carefully flip the okra and corn, then bake an additional 4 to 5 minutes, or until the shrimp and okra are cooked through.
  5. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the rémoulade on one side of hot dog buns; divide lettuce and tomato evenly among buns.  top with the shimp and okra and serve.
Remoulade Sauce
adapted from Annie's Eats

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ Tbs pickle juice
  • ½ tsp prepared horseradish
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • Dash of hot sauce
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Thai Grilled Steak Salad

Thai Grilled Steak Salad 

This has been the Summer of Salads.  We've been eating salads for dinner at least once a week, and oftentimes more than that.  Now, before you roll your eyes at me for getting excited about salad, let me clarify that we've been eating ridiculously amazing salads.  Like this chopped grilled summer vegetable salad.  And it's chicken fajita counterpart.  And a balsamic steak and tomato salad with bacon and blue cheese.  And a Georgia-style caprese salad.  And a shrimp and okra po' boy salad.  And last but not least, this Thai Grilled Steak Salad.

When I was young and hip and lived in the city, there was a gourmet grocery store/take out place called Eatzy's.  They had a glorious selection of all sorts of snacks, cheeses and meats, prepared salads and dinners, and an amazing deli.  It was right across the street from my gym, so I used to treat myself once a week to their Thai steak salad.  I'm quite certain it wasn't authentic, but I just loved it so much.

This salad is reminiscent of that one, and dare I say even better?  Being that this is a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, there are of course a few offbeat methods and steps.  Their goal for this salad was to be able to make it completely from ingredients found in the grocery store.  Therefore, a few creative substitutions and steps were taken to avoid a trip to an Asian grocer.  So while making your own toasted rice powder may seem a little strange, and toasting spices may seem like too much work, trust me on this.  Those little things just take a few minutes; they really elevate the salad to the next level, and are well-worth your time.

The dressing hits the usual Thai flavor points of hot-sour-salty-sweet-bitter, and the savory steak and crisp and refreshing cucumbers and herbs play so nicely off of it.  This was a really great dinner served simply with some fresh fruit and grilled corn, and the leftovers were stellar as well.

The Summer of Salads.  It's a thing.  What's your favorite salad?

Thai Grilled Steak Salad 

Thai Grilled Steak Salad
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs long-grain white rice
  • 3 Tbs lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 1/'2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 lbs flank steak, trimmed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped (Thai basil, if you can find it)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 3 shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced into thin rings
  • 1 seedless English cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible (use a vegetable peeler or mandolin)
Prepare grill.

In a small skillet, heat the paprika and cayenne over medium heat.  Cook, shaking the pan often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Transfer to a small bowl.  Be very careful and run the fan over your stove if you have one as you toast the spices, because the toasted cayenne will burn your eyes and throat if you're not careful!

Return the now-empty skillet to medium-high heat, add the rice, and toast, stirring frequently, until it's a deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a small food processor or spice grinder, and allow to cool 5 minutes before grinding the rice to a fine meal.  You should have about 1 tablespoon of powder.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, water, granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon of the toasted spice mixture.  Set aside.

Season the steak liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.  Place the steak on the grill and cook until it's just beginning to char, and beads of moisture appear on the outer edges, 5 to 6 minutes.  Flip the steak and continue to cook until the steak reaches 125 degrees (for medium-rare), about 4 to 5 minutes longer.  Transfer to a plate and allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes.  Slice 1/4-inch thick on the bias, against the grain.

Toss the cucumber slices, shallots, and serrano rings in the bowl with the dressing, then use a slotted spoon to remove them and arrange on a serving platter.  Toss the steak and herbs in the bowl with the dressing, then place on top of the cucumber slices.  Sprinkle the toasted rice powder over the top, and pass the toasted spice mixture at the table for those who want more heat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Taco Pizzas

Taco Pizzas

Tacos and pizza.  Pizza and tacos.  Two of my very favorite foods.  So I put my hands together, and I give you taco pizzas!  I know this isn't groundbreaking, and I know everyone and their mom has been making these for years.  But in my humble opinion, this particular combination is worth sharing.  Also?  This is actually a pretty light dinner - two of these guys come in at right around 500 calories.

So you start by crisping up some corn tortillas in the oven, then smear them with mashed pinto beans.  Top that with a delicious and perfectly spicy taco filling, then sprinkle the whole thing with cheese.  After they bake for a few minutes, you drizzle them with a cilantro-lime yogurt sauce, then finish them off with diced tomatoes.  Yum.  These were a huge hit with everyone, and I know they'll be in the regular rotation come this fall when our weeknights are ridiculously busy.  Quick, easy, healthy, and a family favorite?  Instant slam dunk.

Taco Pizzas 

Taco Pizzas
adapted from Ellie Krieger's Weeknight Wonders

  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 1 ear of fresh corn or 2/3 cup kernels
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup grated Pepperjack cheese
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Brush both sides of the tortillas lightly with 1 tablespoon total of the oil.  Arrange them in a single layer on two baking sheets, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are lightly crisp.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Transfer about half the onion mixture to the bowl of a small food processor (or a small mixing bowl).  Leave the rest in the skillet.

Add the turkey to the skillet and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it's cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Add the corn kernels and salsa to the turkey, and cook about 2 to 3 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  

Meanwhile, add the pinto beans and broth to the food processor and pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice (you could also do this in a mixing bowl using a potato masher).

Spread 2 tablespoons of the bean mixture on each tortilla, then top with about 1/4 cup of the turkey mixture.*  Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the cheese on top and bake 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

As the pizzas bake, whisk together the yogurt, cilantro, lime juice, and water.  

Remove the pizzas from the oven and drizzle the sauce over the top.  Top with the diced tomatoes, cut each pizza into quarters, and serve.

*You will have a bit of the turkey mixture leftover.  I used mine to make a killer taco salad the next day for lunch

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Vegetable Skillet Lasagna

Summer Vegetable Skillet Lasagna

Two years ago, I posted a recipe for Skillet Lasagna, and it's still one of the most popular recipes on this here blog.  And for good reason:  it's super easy, fast, and amazingly delicious.  Since the first time I made it, I've been mulling over other variations, one of which being a skillet lasagna that features the beautiful produce of summer.  But lo and behold, good old America's Test Kitchen pulled through and provided me with just that!

This skillet lasagna features tomatoes, zucchini, and squash.  It is just as low-maintenace as the original, if not more so.  It's also super delicious, and was a hit with everyone in my family - if that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is!

Everything cooks in one skillet, so this is really as easy as it gets.  Minimum work, maximum reward.  What more do you want?  Lazy summer days turn into lazy summer dinners here, and I couldn't be happier about it!

Summer Vegetable Skillet Lasagna 

Summer Vegetable Skillet Lasagna
barely adapted from America's Test Kitchen's Best Summer Recipes
serves 4 to 6

  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 (8-10-oz) zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 (8-10 oz) yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 8 oz (1 cup) ricotta cheese, divided

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Drain the can of tomatoes into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Add enough water to the reserved tomato juice to equal 2 cups.

Pour the tomato-water mixture over the onions, then stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Scatter the noodles over the the top, then layer the tomatoes over the noodles.  Bring to a simmer, stir, and reduce heat to medium.

Cover the pan and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the zucchini and squash, and cook for 8 more minutes, or until the noodles and squash are tender.

Add the basil and 1/2 cup of the ricotta.  Stir until the sauce is creamy, season to taste with additional salt and pepper, remove from heat, and dollop the remaining 1/2 cup of ricotta over the top.  Allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes, and serve.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Big Blueberry Pancake

Big Blueberry Pancake 

What are your plans for the Fourth of July?  Cooking out?  Spending the day at the pool?  Enjoying a lazy morning with your family?  Running in the largest 10K in the world in the wee morning hours?  That's what I'll be doing!  After a 3 year break for pregnancies and baby-raising, I'm back at it, and I'll be running in my 13th Peachtree Road Race.  I'm nervous and excited, and I'm really looking forward to it.  I always identified myself as a runner, and since having kids, it's kind of fallen by the wayside.  I'm so happy to have picked it back up, and I'm really looking forward to the race on Friday.

However, if you're NOT a nut who's getting up way too early to run 6 miles with 55,000 other sweaty people, then might I suggest enjoying a big blueberry pancake?  My kids LOVE pancakes, but to be honest, I find making them to be a bit tedious.  Standing over the hot griddle, pouring the batter just so, flipping, repeat.  By the time I finish making them all, everyone's done eating and are ready to move on to the next activity.

But this big blueberry pancake is as easy and low-maintenance as you can get.  You mix up a typical pancake batter, pour it into a hot skillet, sprinkle on some blueberries, then let it bake up in the oven.  To serve, just slice it into wedges and dole them out.  Easy peasy!

This has quickly become a family favorite - I've made it for breakfast and lunch, and it's gobbled up in no time by my little ones.  Definitely worthy of a holiday meal.  Or an any-day meal!

Big Blueberry Pancake 

Big Blueberry Oven Pancake
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, May 2014
serves 4 to 6

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbs plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, divided (2 Tbs melted + 1 Tbs solid)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • confectioner's sugar, for dusting
  • maple syrup, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a 10-12 inch cast-iron skillet on a rack placed in the upper-third.  

Whisk together the flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.

In a liquid measuring up, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla, egg, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter.

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.

Remove the skillet from the oven and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter, swirling to coat the bottom and sides of the pan.  Pour in the batter and smooth the top with a spatula.  Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the batter, then sprinkle the top with the remaining teaspoon of sugar.

Bake until golden-brown and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool 5 minutes, then dust the top with confectioner's sugar, slice into wedges, and serve with maple syrup.