I gave my mom and dad the DVDs to Downton Abbey, which they apparently enjoyed as much as Greg and I did. (Though she calls it Downtown Abbey, which I think is adorable so I’m not going to correct her.) The PBS Masterpiece Theater upper crust soap opera has taken America by storm. But it should come with a warning, one that my mother put so well in an email the other night. “Your father and I can hardly speak plain English anymore.” Alas, ’tis true.
Greg and I also got bit by the Downton Vocal Bug as we watched two hours of the DVD series night after night. It grew apparent as we were readying for bed one evening and I heard a loud “whack” in the walk-in closet followed by my husband announcing, in a victorious British accent, “I have vanquished a moth!” I paused in the middle of applying my night cream to comment dramatically, “How terribly brave of you, Darling.”
We are fascinated with the servants from the show, called valets (“t” is pronounced), whose sole job it was to help rich people get into and out of their clothes, shoes, and jewelry, along with keeping the garments washed, pressed and ready to wear at a whim. How I would love a valet, if only to keep my clothes off the closet floor and clean underwear in our drawers.
My father asked about our 4th of July plans yesterday and I told him, “We are just enjoying down time today. Or as we like to call it, ‘Downtime Becky.'” And I have to say, the meal I produced for the two of us was worthy of royalty. Especially the steak.
I am not a big ‘hunk of meat’ fan, as a general rule. I prefer meat as an appetizer with veggies and fruits taking up the bulk of my plate. But a petite tenderloin steak, cooked to medium rare perfection and topped with bar-b-que sauce and green chilis, a tender cut of meat that is incredibly juicy and slices like butter… well, this is hard not to love.
So I bequeath this recipe to you, to be cooked and served and savored on special occasions when you want to feel rich, and pampered and spoiled. And if you haven’t seen the two seasons of Downton Abbey, do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or buy them. You are in for a royal treat.
BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis
Two tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick, brought to room temperature
1 T. grill or steak seasoning
2 t. Worchestershire sauce
2 T. olive oil
2 T Bar-b-que sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
2 T. chopped green chilis
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour oil into an oven proof skillet, or preferably, a grill pan. Let the pan and oil get “screaming hot.” In the meantime, pierce one side of the steaks with a fork in several places; turn the steaks over and pierce the other side as well. Sprinkle both sides generously with steak seasoning and Worcestershire sauce, rubbing it in a little with your hands.
Put the steaks into the grill pan on high, and sear until the meat is golden brown with dark grill marks, just a few minutes. Turn the steaks over and repeat.
Put a tablespoon of bbq sauce and a tablespoon of green chilis on top of each steak, then put the skillet of steaks in the oven for five minutes to let finish cooking in the middle.
I like our steaks medium rare so this amount of time is usually perfect for us, but of course, cook the steaks to your desired temperature. A digital meat thermometer is a wonderful thing for this job. Pull the pan out of the oven and tent the steaks loosely with foil for at least three minutes to let them sit and juices distribute. Serve to oohs and ahhs and applause.
What would you do if given the gift of one uninterrupted day, a day where your kids, your husband, your friends and your boss gave your their blessing to walk away and create your own perfect 12 hours? A day to refill your soul?
Some seasons of my life are busier than others and the last two months has been filled to overflowing with people, appointments and a list of “to-dos” that seemed endless. Seeing his wife was in a state of overwhelm, Greg hugged me on Friday night and said, “Honey, tomorrow I want you to take the whole Saturday just do anything you want at any given minute, all day long. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll even make my own meals.”
It may have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. (True to his word, Greg made his own lunch: two pieces of leftover corn on the cob, a piece of leftover blueberry pie and some leftover salad. Yes, he missed the protein food group, but it was a great improvement over his usual “bachelor diet” when I am away: potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and cereal.)
Saturday dawned with the song “Saturday in the Park” playing in my mind, and the line, “I’ve been waiting such a long time, for Sat-ur-day” echoing again and again. The feeling of unencumbered space stretched out for the next 12 hours left me near euphoric.
I spent the day writing on our new book in uninterrupted bliss at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover Bookstore, then lunched and wrote some more at The Corner Bakery, over-looking a gorgeous outline of the Rocky Mountains. When I walked in the house that evening there was a vase of sunny yellow flowers and a loving card from Greg, “Just because.” I wrote in my Facebook status: I feel like a wilted flower that has been put in the fresh water of creative work, healing solitude, and the benevolent blessing of a good man who wants little in this life but for me to be happy. I may yet live!
After I opened the card, Greg and I went to the back porch for our Summertime Happy Hour, a ritual we started in early June to make sure we have a little time to connect before dinner. One of the things that centenarians the world over have in common is “joyful rituals.” This has become one of our favorites. I made us clementine mojitos using the mint from my herb garden, perfectly refreshing.
The day of rest and writing left me infused with creative energy as I cooked supper a little later. I grabbed a crisp jicama, a vine-ripe tomato, an avocado and a mango out of the crisper. In my mind’s eye I saw this recipe appear: a pretty salad of orange, green and red nestled in a bed of white grated jicama, drizzled with a fresh lime dressing and served in margarita glasses. It would be our “salad course.” Let me tell you, it was every bit as tasty as it is beautiful! So cold and refreshing after a 100 degree summer day.
I am delighted to share this recipe with you, along with encouragement to take time out for “Fill the Well Day” for your body, mind and soul as soon as you can!
Avocado Mango Salad “Cocktail” in Jicama Nests
2 cups peeled, grated fresh jicama
1 fresh tomato
1 fresh mango
1 T. chopped cilantro or parsley or mint
2 T. chopped green onion
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 t. salt
4 t. honey
4 T. crushed corn or tortilla chips
Cajun seasoning or Tajin chili-lime seasoning to sprinkle on top
Lime slices for garnish
Place 1/2 cup grated jicama in each of 4 margarita glasses or pretty glass bowls to create a white “nest.” Mix avocado, tomato, mango, herb of your choice and green onion together in a bowl and gently toss. Place this mixture on top of the grated jicama, dividing evenly in to the four glasses. In a small bowl mix the dressing of lime juice, salt and honey. Drizzle evenly over each of the salads. Top each salad with 1 T. crushed chips and a nice sprinkling of Cajun or Tajin seasoning. Serve with long teaspoons if you have them and put a slice of lime on each rim. Have guests stir and toss their salads once they are served to make sure everything gets coated with the lime dressing.
(Rachel – The Vegan-Eatin’ Daughter)
I hit the motherload. Yes, I have a load of amazing mothers in my life.
There is my mother-in-law, Rhonda, who, as we speak, is at the pool with Jackson. Jared is very busy this summer, and she has generously offered to give me writing breaks any time I need them. She walked in this afternoon cheerfully greeting us with her usual “Helloooo, Helloooo.” Her red curly hair tied in a lose ponytail and dressed in a bright colored sundress and flip-flops, she came bearing bubbles and summer toys for Jackson and my favorite french fries. Despite me telling her I wasn’t hungry, I ate them all. She knows me well enough to know I’ll eat the fries if she brings the fries. I love that. Jackson didn’t waste any time crawling over to his Mimi, standing up at the hem of her dress and pointing outside. He knows Mimi takes him outside to play. Mimi is fun and lets him get dirty and play in the mud.
And then there is my step-mom, Pat. She’s a lot like me when it comes to organization and order. I rely on her for any and all communication regarding family events or activities. The Freeman men are not known for their communication skills, but she has somehow learned to speak their language and relay their plans to me. Jackson loves going to Grandma’s house. She and Grandpa take him to the barn to see their horses every other Thursday while we are at home group. Another thing I love about Pat is she loves shopping at Costco. I always leave their house with a bag full of avocados, medjool dates, or berries, because with their busy work schedules they really can’t eat 30 pounds of fresh produce before it spoils. I love that.
Obviously, the mother who carried me for nine months, put up with me through my bratty preteen years and still let me live to share this blog with her, is a pretty good woman. Last time I was at her house, I left her with Jackson for a couple of hours and returned to the kitchen to find a gourmet vegan meal waiting for me and Jackson happily playing with various kitchen utensils in his high chair. She’s like a professional nurturer, able to nurture and love and adore multiple kids of all ages at once. She knows me so well that she called me in Texas all the way from her home in Colorado to tell me she thought I was pregnant, even before I knew. She can tell by the sound of my voice within the first few words exactly how I’m feeling. I don’t have to explain much to her, she just gets me. I love that. We often chat while we are cooking and one of us will say, “I’m making ‘such and such,” and the other will exclaim, “I’m making ‘such and such’ too!” The other day, she sent me her list of upcoming recipes for the blog, including her Confetti Rice Pilaf Stuffed Avocados. I had just returned from the store with ingredients for stuffed avocados myself. So, I give you ANOTHER stuffed avocado recipe. I can’t promise this will be the last time mama and daughter are cooking up the same thing, unbeknownst to each other.
Rachel’s Grilled Stuffed Avocados
Serves 2 entrees (4 appetizers)
2 avocados, cut lengthwise in half and pitted
2 corn on the cob, soaked & silks removed*
1 poblano pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced into thick rings
2 T. Canola Oil
1 t. kosher salt
juice of 1/2 a lime (~1 T.)
Cilantro Lime Sour Cream Sauce
1/4 c. vegan sour cream (or regular if you eat dairy)
1/4 c. cilantro
1/2 T. lime juice
1/4 t. salt
1/8 c. fresh jalapeno, chopped & seeded
1 clove garlic
Serve with: rice and beans for a complete meal or as a healthy side dish for any Mexican meal
Soak corn in water for 30 minutes and then peel back husks and remove silks. Light coals for charcoal grill. You want the coals to be all white, and no longer flaming. Mix canola oil, salt, and lime in a small bowl.
In a blender or food processor, Blend all ingredients for the cilantro lime sour cream sauce. Set aside.
Brush corn kernels with oil mixture and pull husks back up around kernels. Brush onions with canola oil mixture. Put corn, onions, and poblano pepper (left whole) on the grill. Apply canola mixture as they cook and turn veggies so they cook evenly on all sides. When poblano is charred on all sides, remove it and put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for a few minutes to loosen the skin. Remove the skins with a wet paper towel. Grill onions and corn for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through and lightly charred.
Brush avocados with canola mixture and grill flesh side down for 3-4 minutes. Ideally, you’ll get nice grill marks across the avocado (I think our grill wasn’t quite hot enough by the time we got them on so this was not our result, but we decided it didn’t matter because they tasted amazing anyway.)
Cut corn off the cob, dice onions and poblanos to a similar size as the corn kernals. Toss together in a bowl.
Stuff the grilled avocados with the grilled corn, onion, and poblano mixture. Serve two halves nestled on a bed of rice and drizzle with sour cream sauce. Serve beans on the side for a complete meal. Or, just serve one half as an appetizer or side.
When it comes to delicious crave-worthy foods, I’m a hoover and Jared is a hoarder.
Jared saves his favorite foods for when he really really wants them. I admire this in some ways, except that he tends to save them for so long they’re no longer edible by the time he decides to indulge. I’ve tossed out countless cupcakes or cookies that have gone bad while Jared was waiting for the perfect moment to eat them. If he’s not going to eat it before it sprouts eyes and a mohawk, he should at least release his dibs, right? His hoarding tortures me!
Though I will admit his patience comes in awfully handy as the husband to, well, me.
I grew up in a home with three hungry boys and when our mom went grocery shopping, we all immediately raided the refrigerator, battling it out for our favorite snacks. If you wanted that breakfast strudel, you grabbed it before it was gone; there were no guarantees it would still be waiting for you in the morning. Apparently, this is still engrained in my brain.
If something is delicious, I eat it all as soon as possible. Monday night I made these Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas for dinner. They were so good, I woke up the next morning thinking of them. So of course, instead of waiting for lunch or dinner, I ate the rest first thing in the morning (saving two for Mr. Patient’s dinner).
I couldn’t help it! Though the picture isn’t the greatest, these enchiladas are out of this world. The sweet and spicy homemade enchilada sauce with just a hint of cinnamon is like a warm hug wrapped around the always delicious combination of black beans and sweet potatoes. These are definitely going to become a go-to meal around here.
Rachel’s Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas
8 Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
1/2 large onion
1 bell pepper (any color but orange or yellow are nice in this dish)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped into chunks
1 t. Salt
1 16oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (I’m sure crushed tomatoes would work too, but this is what I had on hand)
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1 t. oregano
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. red chili flakes
1 T. jarred salsa (or one chipotle in adobo sauce)
Preheat oven to 350.
Bring water in a medium sauce pan to a boil and boil chopped sweet potatoes for five minutes, or until the potatoes are just barely fork tender. Drain.
While the potatoes are boiling, heat about 1 T. of olive oil on medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions, bell pepper, and salt and cook until onions are translucent. Turn off heat and gently toss in the sweet potatoes and black beans.
In a blender or food processor, mix all of the sauce ingredients until the tomatoes are pureed and the spices are all blended.
Coat an 8×10 baking dish with 1 T. of olive oil, then ladle in a little enchilada sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish. Dip each tortilla into the enchilada sauce coating both sides. Add sweet potato filling and roll tightly into a tube. Place in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat until all the tortillas and filling are used, packing the enchiladas into the dish side by side. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
Serve with Spanish rice (add a sprinkle of taco seasoning in with your rice while it’s cooking for a really quick & easy version) and avocado slices or guacamole.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/10/sweet-potato-black-bean-enchiladas/
On Thursday, Jackson and I flew out to Denver to spend the weekend at my mom and Greg’s house. A typical trip to mom’s is never short on activity and this weekend was no exception. In our quick four day visit, we drove to the mountains for a barbeque at my brother and his wife’s new place, went to a nephew’s t-ball game, and hosted a girls night/baby shower for a sweet friend (due any day)! I love packing in as much as I can into a trip. It’s the packing and traveling part that I don’t love so much, especially with this little guy in my suitcase…literally.
As my mom mentioned in her post yesterday, Jackson is the busiest little baby you ever did see, into everything and always on the go. So sitting with him on my lap for the 3 1/2 hour plane ride home just about wore me out. Trying to keep him off the floor and out of my seatmates’ laps was like trying to hang onto a block of jello wiggling through my fingertips and bouncing out of my hands.
Getting there and back is no easy task, but we make it all worth while by fitting in as much as we can while we are there. That’s how I feel about cooking sometimes too. If I’m going to go to the trouble of messing up my kitchen, I want to get as much out of it as possible. I double a recipe and freeze half or splurge on the best ingredients for maximum taste, or sneak in some extra nutrition when I can.
Guacamole is a pretty healthy snack, it’s full of good fats and fiber, but it doesn’t have any protein and those good fats are still fats, so moderation is key. You have to be like super human to only eat a moderate amount of guacamole though, right? So I like to add a secret ingredient to my guac…white beans. You don’t even know they are in there, but per bite, they increase the protein and lower the fat and calories. Seriously, you have to try this. If you are going to make guacamole, you might as well get as much of a nutritional punch out of it as you can. Also, try replacing the chips with rice crackers to health it up even more.
White Bean Guacamole Dip
Serves up to 8 small servings
1 15oz can of white beans (Great Northern, Cannellini, or Navy), drained with 1 T. liquid reserved
2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 T. lime juice
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. garlic powder
1 c. cilantro (if you like it)
In a food processor, blend beans and 1 T. reserved liquid until beans are pureed. Scoop the avocado flesh and chopped peppers into the food processor and pulse a few times. Add the lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro. Pulse until the desired consistency (I like a little bit of texture and a few chunks of avocado in mine.)
Serve with crackers or chips. I really like these Brown Rice & Flax crackers from Wal-Mart even better than chips with this dip. They’re not only much lower in fat, but they hold up better to the thick dip and I just think they taste delicious.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: White Bean Guacamole
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/08/white-bean-guacamole-dip
Saturday was a big game for my husband’s high school baseball team. I told him as I kissed him goodbye “We”ll be there, look for us in the stands.” Of course, Jackson’s afternoon nap fell at exactly the start of the game. I’ve been trying to keep him on a good sleep schedule during the day as it seems to translate to better sleep at night, so I waited until he woke up. Finally, after sleeping an hour and a half, I quickly loaded him in the car to try and make it to the game before it ended. I tuned into the local radio station airing the game and crossed my fingers that the innings would slow down (the ONLY time I’ve ever wished for baseball to slow down!) We rushed into the stadium as the seventh inning began, our team down three runs.
I sat in the stands next to another coaches’ wife. We both cheered loud when our husbands’ team tied up the game, sending us into extra innings. It was a nail biter of a game!
Sadly, the other team scored the winning run knocking our boys out of their first place spot in district.
“I don’t think I’m going to wait around for them to finish talking to the boys.” I told the other coach’s wife. “I think I’ll head to the store for a few things instead. There’s nothing like Mexican food to cheer Jared up.”
“Yep, I have a pint of Blue Bell in the freezer for occasions just like this,” she nodded.
So I whipped up a mexican casserole, cashew cheese dip, rice, salsa, and gaucamole. Then popped open a couple of Coronas with a twist of lime. Boy was my kitchen a mess, but my husband was feeling like a winner again!
Due to that whole baby sleep schedule mentioned above, it was dark by the time we actually sat down to eat, so pics of the Mexican Fiesta were quite meh. Yeah, meh is a word. So I made a plate of leftovers on Sunday for lunch to get better pictures. Leftovers = equally delicious.
Mexican Comfort Casserole with Cashew Queso
2 1/2 c. chopped onions
2 c. chopped peppers (any color or kind — I used green bell and poblano)
3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 c. (or 2 16 oz cans) of refried or mashed pinto beans
~12 corn tortillas
Cashew Queso (see below)
Optional garnish: lettuce, tomato, avocado
Preheat oven to 350.
Saute onions on medium to med-high heat with a little oil and salt for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers and continue sauteing for 10 more minutes. In the last couple of minutes add the garlic.
In a separate pan, saute zucchini and squash on med-high heat with a little oil and salt & pepper until they just start to brown but are still firm.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender combine the fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. Pour mixture into a bowl large enough to dip a corn tortilla in.
Now begin layering in a casserole dish (I used two round ones, but you could use one 8 x10 or whatever you have on hand). This recipe is super flexible. If you end up with extra ingredients, just add another layer.
Layer 1: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture
Layer 2: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce (tear tortillas in half to border edges if needed)
Layer 3: 2 cups of beans
Layer 4: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 5: zucchini and squash
Layer 6: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 7: 2 cups of beans
Layer 8: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Top with cashew queso, lettuce tomato, and avocado.
Note: this is not my recipe. I got it from a friend and I’m unsure of the source.
1 c. raw cashews
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 orange roasted bell pepper* (red or yellow will work too, but orange gives the most cheese-like color)
2 c. water
1 tsp lemon juice
In a food processor, blend cashews, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, salt,and onion powder into a fine dust. Add about 1/2 a cup of the water and the roasted bell pepper and blend again. Add the rest of the water and lemon juice. Transfer mixture to a pot and heat on medium heat, stirring pretty often until it has thickened to the consistency you like. If it gets too thick, just add a little more water.
*Making your own roasted peppers is easy. Just placing them directly on on a gas burner flame rotating it a few times (like this) or on a pan under the broiler until charred. Then put it in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap for a about five minutes. Rub off most of the skin with a damp paper towel. Voila, roasted peppers!