Saturday, August 20, 2011

Taco Piz

A few weeks ago, we enjoyed a lovely weekend afternoon at a winery that served grilled pizzas. The Taco Pizza caught our eye, and while all the flavors were good, this was the run away star of the afternoon for me. (I played DD).

So tonight, we are recreating Taco Piz for date night. Play with this and make it your own!

Crust: We use naan, an Indian flatbread, but you could also try pita, 100 calorie sandwich buns, lavash, tortilla, etc. You get the idea.

Meat (cook this ahead of time!): Ground beef sauteed with diced onion and some frozen corn. Would be equally good with diced chicken, cilantro, and pepper. Experiment!

Sauce: Tomato sauce with a bit of salsa or hot sauce added in. Would be good with all salsa or those Mexi-stewed tomatoes whirred in the blender to make a sauce. We just mixed a small can of tomato sauce with a few dashes of cumin and garlic and about 1/8 cup of salsa.

Cheese: Cheddar, or a mix of cheddar and jack or pepper jack.

Build your pizza with sauce, meat, and cheese, and place in a hot oven (or on a hot grill) until cheese is melted. We do our oven at the hottest temp with the pizzas on a cookie sheet. It takes about 8-10 minutes. Top with shredded lettuce, chopped tortilla chips, a drizzle of sour cream, and if you want, a sprinkling of salsa fresca or hot sauce. Yummy! It's kind of like an inverted taco salad but so much fun. And let's face it--this is great with the sangria I just blogged about, eh? Cheers!

Favorite Sangria

While this blog is certainly not Pig in an Alcohol Store, I have to share our new favorite sangria recipe. It's light and perfect for summer. Even better, it reaffirms the brilliance of buying bulk seasonal fruit and freezing it for a rainy (er, sunny) day when it's no longer fresh. Frozen fruit keeps sangria cold and delicious throughout its time in your glass.

If you're like me, you probably want to save your $20-40/bottle red wines for a good steak dinner. And you probably hesitate to buy a cheap bottle for any reason. However, let me steer you to Tisdale Merlot, which we get for about $3/bottle and is perfect for sangria, where it's not really about the quality of the wine anyway.

This recipe makes one drink. Double, triple, quadruple, etc for a pitcher.

1/2 large glass filled with one (put a full pour of wine in here)
2 squirts Torani ruby red grapefruit or blood orange syrup (Italian soda syrup)
Rest of glass full of icy cold club soda
Frozen fruit and maraschino cherry

Mix all ingredients well with a swizzle stick or similar, and enjoy. I suppose you could use a Tisdale white wine if you like white sangria, but we gravitate toward the reds. If you like your sangria a bit sweeter, you could add a splash of Midori or more syrup, but we usually like the wine to speak for itself (Hi, I'm cheap wine but also delicious!) and the sugar to take a backseat.

This is Southern California in a glass!

Best Beef Pot Roast

A dear friend of ours recently celebrated a birthday and had us over for a special meal. While I wish she would have let us make her a special dinner, I'm secretly glad she showed us on of her family's favorite recipes, which is now an all-star Sunday dinner in our home. Best part? Super simple. Beyond simple.

Pot Roast

2-3 lbs. of beef roast (chuck, for example)
1 envelope onion soup mix, dry
1 1/2 cans cream of mushroom soup

That's it--line a pan with foil, then top foil with onion soup mix (dry). Place roast on top, and then slather with cream of mushroom soup. Bake in the oven, covered with more foil, for 2-4 hours, or until meat is tender. The gravy will be there in the foil, and you just have to put it with mashed potatoes and green beans to complete the meal.

This is so good, and what I like the best is that it is doable on a week night--since the gravy makes itself, it is quick and has no intimidation factor. I've since heard that this type of recipe used to be a staple in households all over, though my family never made it. Which begs the question: What other super simple recipes have gone by the wayside but deserve an encore in today's busy kitchens?!!

Date Night Chicken Dinner

We've gotten to that point where we have date night. Sigh. Every Saturday night, we try to carve out some time together between reading books, running errands, working, and spending time with Helmut, our cat. Last week, we started date night with an argument. But from there, we got back into a cozy place and decided to stay in and cook with what we had, enjoying each other's company instead of going out to a crowded place.

Such a good decision! We happened to have frozen chicken tenders from Trader Joe's, fingerling potatoes, carrots, and frozen spinach, so we improvised a chicken dinner that turned out to be five-star quality. One of the best meals we've ever had.

Give it a try--pre-meal argument optional!

Cover the inside of a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Toss in cut up fingerling potatoes (peels on) and peeled carrots, all cut into chunks. If you have an onion, slice it up and toss it in too (we didn't.) Massage veggies with a bit of olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper, minced garlic (maybe not best date night choice), and oregano. Top veggie mixture with six frozen chicken tenders that you've tossed with a little oil, salt, pepper, and herbs de provence (one of my fav spice blends).

Put this all into the oven at about 400 degrees, and wait until it smells like chicken dinner to take it out. Check it after half and hour, and it will probably be done by an hour and change, but make sure you check your chicken. If you want to do this faster, par boil the veggies and use raw chicken. Same great flavors.

While this was all well and good, the star of the meal was the creamed spinach. I vaguely recall seeing creamed spinach with corn on a menu or having it at some point recently, though I can't recall where. So we flew by the seat of our pants on this one...put half a bag of frozen spinach and 1/2 c. frozen corn in a skillet. Drop in a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of olive oil. Add salt, pepper, cream cheese (we used 1/3 less fat), fresh grated parmesan, 4 T. cream, and a dash of milk. If you have some minced garlic, toss it in, and give it a sprinkle of nutmeg. Cook until creamy. This is irresistible with the corn and a new family favorite.

What is your favorite date night meal?