Thanksgiving Quesadillas

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Still have leftovers taking up precious space in your fridge? I know my fridge is bursting to the seams since we made a full Thanksgiving dinner for just two of us. So lots of leftovers, and some complaints from the peanut gallery that they need something other than Thanksgiving food.

Enter quesadillas. Now, I am a #1 fan of the Thanksgiving sandwich, and you definitely need to make sure to eat one to several of those in the days after Thanksgiving. But this quesadilla is a nice way to mix up the traditional Thanksgiving flavors to make it feel like you are eating something different. You can also mix and match what you want to put inside the quesadillas for any picky eaters complaining about the leftovers…

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THANKSGIVING QUESADILLAS

INGREDIENTS

Leftover turkey (dark meat reigns supreme here)
Cranberry sauce*
Pepper jack cheese, shredded
Chopped onion
Salsa*
Gravy
Tortillas
Butter

DIRECTIONS

Place desired amounts of turkey, cranberry sauce, pepper jack cheese, onion, and salsa on on tortilla. Season with salt and pepper (especially the turkey).

Heat pan to medium heat. Melt butter and rotate pan to coat. Place tortilla with filling down and top with another tortilla on top. Press down. Cook until golden brown, for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until cheese is melted and tortilla is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Slice quesadilla and top with gravy and additional salsa.

*Use the well gelled sections/whole cranberries from your cranberry sauce. If you use cranberry sauce that is too runny, your tortillas can get soggy. Same for salsa, chunkier salsa works better in this.

Pizza Quesadilla

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There have been multiple reasons for my radio silence for the past few months (!?). I was eating out more often, was busier with work, got a puppy that demands 99.9% of my attention at all times, and while I was still cooking, it was nothing that I considered “blog worthy.”

So, my cooking has changed. I still like to cook from scratch as much as I can (cheaper and healthier!), but I am definitely into faster meals now, and I am really into cheese in my meals even more so than before. So that’s where this pizza quesadilla comes in. The picture ain’t a beauty, and that’s because I snapped it with my iPhone in my horribly lit kitchen on my ugly countertop (before I burnt the countertop though at least), but this is a genius idea.

Pizza quesadillas are more quesadilla than pizza, but it is great. I find it more filing than the typical quesadilla fare, but still super simple to make!

Pizza Quesadilla
Barely adapted from Buzzfeed

Ingredients

2 tortillas
Tomato sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Additional toppings as desired (onion, pepperoni, peppers, sausage, olives, etc.)
Oil

Directions

Preheat broiler.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Spread on tortilla one lightly with tomato sauce and sprinkle mozzarella on top. Add any other desired ingredients. Coat pan lightly with oil and place tortilla in pan. Place another tortilla on top and press.

Cook until tortilla is lightly brown, about 5 minutes, and carefully flip the tortilla. Cook for 5 additional minutes, or until other side is golden brown. Transfer quesadilla to a baking sheet. Lightly spread tomato sauce on top of quesadilla and add any desired toppings, including cheese. Broil for 2-4 minutes, until crispy.

Huevos Motuleños

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I can get tired of eating the same food over and over. Not other people though it seems. My sister typically rotates between cooking 1-3 meals for herself, and my boyfriend literally asks to eat pizza for dinner every other day.

But I need variety in life. Except when it comes to Tex-Mex. I could eat chips and queso, enchiladas, nachos, and tacos all week long. Pair it with a frozen margarita and that’s even better. There is so much variety even within Tex Mex that I can be satisfied, but the familiar base of cheese, spicy sauces, and salsa is the best.

When I saw this recipe on The Chew, I knew I had to make it. Now, this is not a quick 30 minute dinner. It has several steps and involves frying, which means you got to clean up oil (Ugh. The worst). But the flavor is great- crunchy, spicy, creamy, and rich. It is a great homemade meal when you want to cook something special for your Tex-Mex.

HUEVOS MOTULEÑOS
Adapted from Mario Batali at The Chew

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound Chorizo (not in casings)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 cups refried beans
1 plaintain & 1/2 cup light brown sugar, optional
6-8 small flour tortillas
Canola oil, for deep frying
3-4 eggs
Avocado, sliced
Cojita cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

Coat a large skillet in olive oil. Heat over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Season slightly with salt and pepper. Stir in Chorizo and cook until browned, about 3-5 more minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Remove and drain excess oil from mixture.

For optional plaintains: Slice plaintains. Coat plantain slices in brown sugar. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat coated well with olive oil. Fry plantain slices until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour 1/2-1 inch of oil into a skillet. Heat over medium heat until oil is approximately 300°F. Place tortillas in oil one at a time and fry each side until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. Set aside and keep warm (can be kept warm in a 200°F oven but keep your eye on them to make sure they don’t burn).

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Crack eggs individually into pan (be careful not to over crowd eggs- work in batches if needed) and fry eggs for 1-2 minutes. Flip eggs (carefully to avoid breaking yolks) and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

To assemble Huevos Motuleños:

Place a fried flour tortilla on a plate. Spread refried beans on top. Spoon chorizo filling on top. Sprinkle cojita cheese and avocado slices on top. Top with additional fried tortilla, if desired. Top with fried egg. Serve with fried plantains, if using.

Olive and Pineapple Nachos

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Summertime means lots of snack foods.  Preferably with a nice, cold, fruity adult beverage.

When I was younger, my nachos always were cheese- just cheese.  Usually just cheddar.  Maybe a Cheddar and Monterrey Jack combo if I was feeling daring.  And every single nacho needed a decent amount of cheese on it. Eventually, I progressed into more daring topings starting with sour cream and progressing up to refried beans and pico de gallo.

Now, plain cheese nachos are boring. I will now bravely go where no other nacho has gone before (look out for my version of Thanksgiving on nachos this November).  Here we have one of my ideas of “that might be good on nachos”.  A bit of strange bedfellows but it works out well: you get savory cheesy taste, salty olives, and tangy pineapple.

OLIVE AND PINEAPPLE NACHOS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

Tortilla chips
Shredded pepper jack cheese
Spanish olives with pimentos, sliced
Pineapple, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place tortilla chips in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle cheese on top. Top with olives and pineapple. Bake for 7-12 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Mexican Pizza with Homemade Refried Beans

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I love making homemade food from scratch in my own kitchen, but sometimes you just cannot beat the fast food restaurants.  How McDonald’s gets their French fries so perfect is a mystery.  Why Chik-Fil-A’s chicken is so wonderful is one of the world’s great questions.  And the Taco Bell Mexican flavors have never been recreated in my kitchen.

I really thought I had an in to fast food secrets when my sister worked at McDonald’s last summer, but these mysteries still remain unsolved.

I used to eat Taco Bell about 3-5 times a week when I was a sophomore in college.  I was sick of dining halls, so I would drive out one night either to Subway or Taco Bell.  I would either get a 12 inch sandwich (BMT, lettuce, olives, American cheese) or 3 tacos & a Mexican pizza.  Then I would have dinner for 2 nights in a row.  Two days later, I would probably go out again.  When the people at Subway started to recognize me and my same order, I started to branch out.

Once I got an apartment and started cooking for myself, I haven’t hit my old haunts so much (with the exception of a DQ blizzard for dinner every now and then).  I love my own homemade Mexican food, but sometimes I still crave that Taco Bell taste.  So taking matters into my own hands, I decided to make my own Mexican pizza.  This version is probably a lot healthier and gets close to that TB flavor.  Definitely a winner for a way to mix it up on taco night.

With toppings, the sky is the limit. This time around I added in some hominy for some corniness flavor, and I loved it.  You can also used mashed black beans, make it vegetarian, add sour cream, or add hot sauce.

Wrap it in a cardboard box, and it will definitely taste even better.

Mexican Pizza
From Cinnamon Freud

For the Homemade Refried Beans:
1 cup dried pinto beans, soaked and cooked
Can sub 2 cans pinto beans, drained
1/2 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 cup chicken/vegetable broth

For the Mexican Pizza:
4 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 smoked parika
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound ground meat
6 – 9 tortillas

For Toppings:
Shredded cheese
Green onions, sliced
Jalapenos, sliced
Avocado, sliced

DIRECTIONS

For the Homemade Refried Beans:

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil and 1/4 tablespoon butter.  Add onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in pinto beans, remaining butter, cumin, and smoked paprika.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour in chicken/vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the beans are soft.  Transfer to a food processor and process until you reach your desired smoothness.

For the Mexican Pizza:

In a small pan combine tomato sauce, vinegar, chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and sugar.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Let cook until slightly thickened, about 10-20 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.

In a large saute pan, melt butter.  Add onion and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add ground meat and cook until cooked through.  Drain if needed (this will depend on the type of ground meet you use).  Mix in the sauce (use the amount that you want).  Remove from heat.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat.  Coat pan with butter.  Fry tortillas one by one, until crispy.

Preheat broiler.

Spread refried beans on tortilla. Top with meat mixture.  Top with cheese and jalapenos.  Place on baking sheet and broil for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted.  Top with green onions and avocado if desired.

Makes 6-9 Mexican pizzas.

Chorizo Chimichanga

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For me this recipe is really called taco roll.

I’ve mentioned before that I often eat steel cut oats for lunch since I find them delicious and they help keep me full.  Now that school is back an session and lunch is often squeezed int office hours or eaten during class, I have been eating a lot of oatmeal.  Unfortunately, our building’s communal microwave is out of commission during a remodel, so my oats are often room temp or slightly chilled.  Not my ideal lunch situation.

So, lunch on the weekends really needs to count.  This chorizo chimichanga is inspired by one of my favorite elementary school lunches.

Did you get those monthly hot lunch calendars when you were in elementary school?  For me, it took a little planning at the beginning of each month to decide my best lunch options.  I would often buy lunch when there was pizza or pasta- pretty easy choice.  But I also would have mom pack me a lunch (she often packed a good lunch).  If I wanted to feel sophisticated, I would sign up for the chef salad for lunch (this was often the teacher’s lunch choice- I was basically an adult when I ate that big salad with mountains of toppings.

But there was one lunch that the school served that I always bought.  Taco Roll.  Years later, I learned that this was basically a chimichanga: a deep fried burrito filled with cheddar cheese and ground beef.  And it was delicious.  So I decided to recreate my favorite childhood lunch with a few updates.  I mixed up some chorizo, pepper jack, garlic, and onions.  Stuffed in a burrito and deep fried.

It tasted just like I was eating it off a plastic tray many years ago.

The best lunch I ever ate at school though?  When our middle school first opened, they sold pints of ice cream.  My friends and my lunch of choice then was obviously a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.  Lunch of champions right there.

But for a more balanced diet, I guess I can eat this chimichanga for lunch.  And then the ice cream.

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CHORIZO CHIMICHANGA
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1/2 tablespoon butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1-1 1/2 pound chorizo (or ground beef)
4 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 ounces cheese, shredded
5-8 large flour tortillas
Vegetable oil, for frying

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Melt butter.  Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, about 7-10 minutes.  Stir in chorizo/ground beef.  Cook until cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel.  Let cool completely.

Fill a pot or pan with 2 inches of vegetable oil.  Heat oil to 375°F.

Warm tortillas in the microwave.  Divide filling between the tortillas.  Top with cheese.  Fold tortillas.  Fold the top/bottom first then the sides.  Use toothpicks to secure the chimichanga closed.

Fry for 1-2 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Drain on paper towel.  Keep warm in a 200°F if needed.

Makes 5-8 chimichangas.

Pork Carnitas with Peach Salsa: Improv Blog

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I wish these pork carnitas with peach salsa and I could be reunited.  It would feel so good.

As a pun lover, I really enjoyed this month’s Improv Challenge of peaches and herbs.  A great summer ingredient combo and a great singing duo.

Now, these carnitas.  They are great for many reasons.

First, they are delicious.  I do not know how to properly convey to you all how good these pork carnitas are.  If I were texting you, I would use lots of random emojis and lots of explanation points, but since this is a blog let me just say: yum. Let it be known that I ate these pork carnitas three days in a row and was very sad to have to eat something different on the fourth day.

Second, they are easy to make.  Just rub some spices on the pork and stick it in your slower cooker.  Instead of sweating in the kitchen, you can watch a Real Housewive marathon  while dinner cooks itself.  After pondering why Vicki is dating Brooks or how Lydia’s hair is so thick (jealous), you can just shred up the pork and top it with a quick peach salsa. Then you sit down and eat.  Easy.

Third, this recipe makes a lot of food.  Meaning you can feed a large crowd or happily eat pork by yourself all week long- it tastes great leftover.  With this pork, you are ready for several nights of  reality TV marathons.  After watching Real Housewives the first night, I recommend transitioning to Princesses of Long Island.  Last night, I literally just had to sit in silence for a few moments to ponder that show.  It’s unexplainable, awful, and wonderful.

What do you mean work?  No thank you, I have pork carnitas to attend to. And bad reality TV to watch.

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PORK CARNITAS WITH PEACH SALSA
Carnitas adapted from Oh Sweet Basil
Peach Salsa from Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

For the Pork Carnitas:
4-5 pounds pork shoulder
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried cinnamon
12 ounces beer
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup picante sauce

For the Peach Salsa:
4-6 peaches, diced
1/2 shallot, minced
1/4-1/3 cup candied jalapeños, minced
Splash lime juice
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

For Serving:
Tortillas
Cojita cheese, crumbled
Avocado slices

DIRECTIONS

For the Pork Carnitas:

Rub spices onto pork.  In a slow cooker, combine pork, spices, beer, lime juice, water, and salsa.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until fork tender.

Preheat broiler.

Remove pork from slow cooker and shred with ford.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Broil until browned and crispy, about 3-6 minutes.

For the Peach Salsa:

Combine peaches, shallot, jalapeños, lime juice, salt, and cilantro in a bowl. Mix together.

Serve pork on tacos topped with peach salsa, cojita cheese, and avocado slices.

Serves 6-8.

Thanks to our host, Frugal Antics of a Harried Housewife– make sure to check out what everyone else made!

Sweet Potato Tacos with Yogurt Sauce

Growing up, mom always served us a balanced meal with a protein, a starch, and a vegetable.  When I first was on my own in college, my meals may have become slightly less balanced.  Grilled cheese and cereal for at least four days a week made me miss mom’s home cooking.  The food at our school cafeteria wasn’t awful, but the meat was often overcooked or undercooked (I once got a plate of bloody rotisserie chicken).  So slowly but surely my meat intake dwindled.  Then when I moved into my apartment and began to cook for myself, I began trying new vegetables and began to crave vegetables and other types of protein rather than meat.  I still love a good steak or piece of pork, but many days I got meatless.
Meatless meals are a great way to save some money and try new flavor combinations.  These tacos mimic fajitas without any meat.  I used to not be a fan of sweet potatoes (until I ate this Struesel Sweet Potato Souffle), but now I love them.  And I especially love eating them around this time of year- gets me excited for Thanksgiving (only 2 months away!!).  These tacos are filling, delicious, and vegetarian.
SWEET POTATO TACOS WITH YOGURT SAUCE
Adapted from The Picky Eater
INGREDIENTS
For the Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Tacos:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 cups frozen corn
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
8-10 corn tortillas, warmed
DIRECTIONS
For the Yogurt Sauce:
In a bowl, combine Greek yogurt, roasted garlic, and ground cumin.  Stir together and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Chill until ready to use.
For the Tacos:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add sweet potatoes and season with salt.  Toss and cover.  Cook for 5-8 minutes, until sweet potatoes are cooked through (time will vary depending on how large or small they are chopped).  Add onion and remaining olive oil.  Cook for 5-6 minutes.  Add carrots and corn.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  Season with garlic powder, chili powder, and smoked paprika.  Adjust seasoning and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Divide filling between tortillas and top with yogurt sauce.
Serves 3-4.