foodie friday: burrito bowls & key lime parfaits

While I love to cook, the day-in, day-out grind makes food prep a bit challenging.  When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is dice up some onions.  If you’re like me, routine meals are monotonous and just not fun to prepare.  I’d rather get online and order a craveable gyro that’ll be here in 45 minutes or less.  Which means 45 minutes of unwinding for me while someone else does the heavy lifting.  Unfortunately, eating out is expensive and not the healthiest of choices–even when you have decent options like I do.

I’m a fan of bulk cooking on the weekend.  Even then, though, spending an entire day making things can be overwhelming.  By Sunday night, you wonder what happened to the weekend.  So, any bulk meal has to do a lot of things: keep in the fridge for a few days, be easy to prepare, be flexible enough to be used in multiple ways, be delicious, and isn’t fussy.

My life has thrown me a few nutritional curveballs.  I live with someone who is Paleo/Primal–which means he doesn’t eat much grains (he’s not psycho about it, so he will eat them sometimes and does have cheat days).  He also has issues with peppers and onions that aren’t cooked.  They give him heartburn.  I used to be so frustrated by this–mostly because I grew up cooking with a lot of peppers and onions.  So, adjusting recipes and making separate dishes for him felt like a big hardship.  Fortunately, I’ve learned that he will eat things if they’re cooked well or easily taken out.  Or in small quantities.  I’ve learned to compromise.  Which, when it comes to cooking, has never been my thing.  However, I’m realizing more and more that food should be accessible.  Sometimes, our vision doesn’t fit our audience.  When you’re cooking for others, it isn’t about you.  It’s about nourishing that person.  So, bend a little.

I have my own nutritional curveballs since my gall bladder surgery.  This situation truly pains me because I pride myself on being pretty flexible when it comes to food.  As long as it won’t kill me (hi, shrimp), I usually will eat it–and smile–even if it sucks.  I will make my preferences known, and I’ve been known to give people suggestions for improvement, but I’m always appreciative and try to express that.

My challenge, personally, now that Gus has left the building?  I have to eat fiber.  Good, high quality fiber.  I take supplements, but it’s usually not enough.  I also have to eat a lot of protein.  And I have always struggled with eating enough of both of these items.  I’m much more a salad and grains type of person–with some cheese.  I always get enough dairy.  My other challenge is keeping things fairly decent in terms of fat.  My body has a rough time processing it–as in it doesn’t know what to do with it–or, rather, it doesn’t know what’s too much or not enough–which is why I need fiber and protein to avoid issues.  I also have to be careful about caffeine and alcohol.  I still don’t trust my body with these items, so I don’t do these things away from home anymore.

So, my reality is that I have to eat grains and tons of fruits/veggies while balancing protein.  Fatty things are a garnish.  I’ve been trying to overhaul my eating, so my first week back to cooking was a big challenge–keeping all of this in mind. I found inspiration from these two recipes.

Now, it wasn’t ideal.  I knew I’d have to do some accommodating.  Black beans, while great for me, were not the best choice for my roomie.  But the dessert was not as big of a stretch.  He could opt out of the grahams if he wanted, and it would be a decent choice for him on a cheat day.  I could probably even make it Paleo in the future by using nut flours.  My brain went into overdrive.  How could I keep this simple while making it more friendly to my roomie?

My idea was to deviate away from the salad idea.  While nice sometimes, salads get monotonous, and I needed something to pull triple duty–something easy and flexible enough to be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I decided to do burrito bowls.  Each bowl would have either rice or potatoes or veggies; a protein; a little fat; one of three salsas; and a salad flourish.  Each diner could choose what they wanted.

For me, the black beans would be my base–with some meat or an egg of some sort added–depending on what I felt like.  My roomie could skip the beans or add a little to the side.  Whatever.  We have a great BBQ place that delivers that sells unsauced meat by the pound.  So, we got some hot links, chicken, and brisket as well as some microwaveable bacon and some precooked sausage from the supermarket.  I decided to cut up a bunch of veggies: romaine, peppers, radishes, & jicama.  I also made a broccoli slaw and got a bunch of avocados.  And I made three salsas: a traditional tomato/tomatillo, a pineapple mango, and a citrus-nectarine one.  A little cheese (choice between queso fresco, sharp cheddar, or a hot pepper cheese) and some homemade bbq ranch dressing provided a little fat.

The end result was complicated by a little mishap.  I accidentally sliced through my thumb while cutting radishes.  I didn’t bleed on anything, luckily, and learned the hard way not to have the TV on while slicing and dicing.  It’s still healing, and supreming those grapefruit segments wasn’t exactly a good time.  It wasn’t perfect and took entirely too long, but I was actually fairly happy with the end result.  I probably still need to simplify and learn that I don’t have to give so many options. But, after months of not cooking, it was nice to get back into it.

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Let’s start with dessert because, well, I always do.

I was blown away by how easy this was.  I’ve made many a batch of lime/lemon/orange curd.  I wouldn’t call it difficult, but there is an art to it.  If you’re a beginning cook, it’s probably a good idea to partner with a more experienced cook the first time you do it.  Or do this instead.  It’s definitely not as rich, decadent, or thick as the real thing.  But it IS summertime, and who really wants a heavy dessert?  This version packs a ton of flavor, so you really don’t need a whole lot of the lime “pudding” to be satisfied.  The graham crumbs are so delicious, you won’t even notice they aren’t shaped into a crust.  And those crusts usually fall apart anyway.  I will probably experiment around with the crumbs and make them more crumbly–kinda like a graham cracker granola.  I think it’d rock with some macadamia nuts and some flavored sugars.  I did make a few amendments to the original recipe…and have included them here.

Key Lime Parfaits (adapted from Food, Fashion, & Flow….link above)

Crumbs:

  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (they sell them pre-pulverized, or it’s simple enough to crush them at home)
  • 1 tbsp sugar (our brown sugar went hard, so we used confectioners–ack!  I’m shocked to say it turned out fine.  I’d use a vanilla sugar or a brown sugar next time,  for sure)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted (I increased the butter because of the dryness of the powdered sugar…I’d stick to 1/2 stick.  The grahams need the extra richness.
  • Grated zest from 1/2 lime (use a microplane…you want tiny bits of zest)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

(I’d probably add a little nutmeg next time.  Because I love nutmeg and think it’s amazing with grahams.  Maybe some vanilla bean, too).

Lime “Pudding”:

  • 1 tbsp grated lime zest (use that microplane, people)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (takes about 5 limes…if you use bottled juice instead of fresh squeezed, panthers cry blood…don’t do it)
  • 1-14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk (the Hell you say?  YES)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

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Stir it all together.  That’s it.  Put it in the fridge.  Leave it there for a while.  It’ll look like lime soup, but–trust me–it will thicken.  It’s crazy.

Whipped cream:

Blog lady did real whipped cream.  I did not.  I bought some cream in a spray can.  That was too sweet, but it actually was okay because the pudding was so tart and delicious.

Next time, I’d do real cream, but I wouldn’t sweeten it because I like the richness on its own.  Add some vanilla and some lime zest–a tiny bit of salt…you’re good.

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Find some cute glasses.  Layer things.  It looks like this.

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You do want to do your dessert the day before to make sure that pudding sets.

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Lick the Bowl Black Beans (adapted from This American Girl…link above)

I quadrupled the recipe and did it all in my crockpot.  Be sure to wash and then soak your black beans in cold water overnight.  I add a little baking soda to the pot to make sure some of the notorious side effects of beans don’t visit.

After soaking, you’ll get something that looks like this.

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(Isn’t it funny that black beans are white on the inside before you cook ’em?)

  • 4 onions, rough chopped (I prefer white, but the recipe called for yellow.  Pick your favorite.  I think the white ones have a cleaner onion flavor).
  • 1 head of garlic, minced (I might roast mine next time and add even more, to give the beans a bit more dimension)
  • 2 tbsps coconut oil
  • 2 lbs dried black beans, soaked overnight
  • 8 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sriracha (all hail, the rooster…adjust to your tastes)
  • 1 tsp cayenne (you can adjust this as you like)
  • salt to taste
  • zest from lime, grapefruit, and orange (optional…but since I was making salsa, I had a lot of leftover rinds)
  • Cilantro (optional, added at end)

I pretty much dumped it all in my crockpot, covered it with water (add enough so you’re two inches above bean line), and cooked it on low for a good long while.  It might be worth doing what the blogger chica suggested–a quick veg saute on the stovetop.  If you do this, double the coconut oil.  The onions will feel like a ton of onions when raw, but they all cook down into a delicious saucy good time.

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People always seem intimidated when the subject of homemade salsas comes up.  It literally couldn’t be simpler.  The best part? You can make many salsas out of just a few ingredients–and it’s a wonderful way to use up fresh produce.

Good salsas have a few key components: veggies or fruits, an acid, salt, something spicy, onions/garlic, and some herbs.  You can make them as chunky or saucy as you want.  And there is literally no end to how many great combos you can come up with.  I recommend making these assembly line style and storing them in flat freezer bags.  You could also can these really easily.  Roasting or grilling these lovelies will only add depth and dimension–so go play!

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Pineapple Mango Salsa

  • 1 ripe pineapple, cut into a fairly consistent dice (yes, you could use canned pineapple, but I would cry…it’s totally okay to buy pre-cut pineapple from the produce section, however…reserve the juice…if cutting up your own, get ready to squeeze some limes later)
  • 2 super ripe mangoes, fairly consistent dice (these will be kind of a bitch to cut up)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno (if you try to use pickled jalapenos, I will find you and yell at you…you could also use bird chilis or any spicy chili…adjusting amounts according to taste)
  • 1/2 red onion, small dice (I would probably add more onion if it was just me…because I love onions…and yes, red makes a difference…if using grilled onions, increase amounts to taste)
  • zest from 1 lime
  • a big handful of chopped cilantro (if you hate cilantro, flat-leaf Italian parsley is an okay sub)
  • reserved pineapple juice (1/2 cup or so…or juice some limes)
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (I don’t like to put garlic in my salsas, so sriracha helps me add some heat while giving more depth…you can omit if you’d like)

Combine all in a big bowl.  Enjoy with chicken breasts, black beans (so nice together), or fish (think halibut).  If it was just me, I’d add bell peppers to this to make it a bit less sweet.

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Tomato-Tomatillo Salsa

  • 1 package cherry tomatoes, quartered (I try to avoid the big tomatoes from the grocery stores…unless I grew it or bought it at the farmer’s market, it’ll likely be mushy and tasteless.  Cherry tomatoes are so much better.  I’d recommend getting many different colors if you can, too–because who wants to eat boring food?)
  • 1 big handful of chopped cilantro (I like a rougher chop here than in most salsas).
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 jar really good tomatillo salsa (This will likely be controversial, but the thing is this: tomatillos are a pain in the ass.  It’s hard to find good quality unless you go to a farmer’s market.  You have to peel them.  You have to roast them.  It’s an ordeal.  Buy the damn jarred salsa…save yourself a lot of time).
  • Juice from 3 limes–4 if yours aren’t that juicy.
  • Kosher salt to taste

Dump your tomatoes in a big bowl with some salt.  Press them against the side of the bowl with a fork or spoon to release some of their juices.  Taste and adjust salt.  Add sriracha.  Add everything else.  Stir.  Adjust seasonings.

Enjoy with pretty much anything.

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Citrus Salsa with Nectarine

  • 2 large nectarines, rough chopped (make sure they’re ripe…can use peaches…no canned anything here, people)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 big handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 5 oranges, supremed, juice reserved (What does supreming mean?  It means getting rid of that nasty pith and just having beautiful little segments.  The key? cut the tops and bottoms off your citrus so they don’t roll around.  Get a super sharp, smallish, serrated knife.  Follow the pith.  It becomes pretty meditative.  You will be covered in juice when you’re done…and you probably won’t get all of that membrane out of the mix…but it’s worth it to at least try).
  • 4 ruby red grapefruits, supremed, juice reserved
  • Lime, grapefruit, and orange zest–a good tablespoon

This is probably the most time consuming of the three salsas and the most easy to mess up.  But who really cares if there’s pith?  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  We can deal with a little bitterness.  Whatever.

Combine it all.  Best with chicken or tofu or fish.

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Here’s what my dinner looked like, complete with 1/2 avocado, and some BBQ ranch sauce I made along with some tasty slaw.

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No, I did not eat all of that (maybe half).

Have fun…and don’t cut off your finger.

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(After I finished bleeding).

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