Your Taco Tuesday just got tuned up

My dear vegetarian friends, I heard ya!

This one is for you so please, keep reading.

Love me some Taco Tuesday’s!

Who doesn’t love a good Taco Tuesday?

It’s an after work indulgence.

It’s a social rite of passage.

It’s cheap eats, and who doesn’t like that?

It’s just fun, tasty and all of the above.

Taco Tuesday History

This history of Taco Tuesdays is a bit sketchy and two separate Mexican food establishments (from California and Wyoming) have laid claim to its creation. But the bottom line is it began as a low cost promotion to bring in customers on a night that typically had low attendance, while exposing patrons to the array of menu offerings and events the restaurants had to offer.

Most Taco Tuesday’s are often more than just tacos. Many feature a tapas or small bites menu. The mash ups, iterations and combinations range from predictable to delectable and wildly innovative.

A mash up not to be missed

As an homage to my love of all things Taco Tuesday’s and with an ear to the hue and cry of my vegetarian friends and followers, I created a wildly innovative mash up I hope will take your tapas to new heights.

It’s a tostada. Not just any tostada, but one that has soul, character and hint of sassiness.

My Sweet Potato and Ancho Chile  Tostada with  Black Bean Salsa is a bit of a departure from the expected, but it is unexpectedly good.

The mild heat and fruity flavor of the ancho chile paste perfectly complements the slightly sweet, earthy notes of the sweet potato. The addition of fresh thyme to the mixture gives it warmth and depth.  The flavor is delicate yet elevated and the mixture is a great alternative to classic refried beans. Oh and let’s not forget about that black bean salsa that tops this tasty tostada which is both savory and sassy.  One last thing, for this recipe, I used taqueria or mini size tortillas. This recipe serves four or even more so don’t dine alone.

Don’t go out for Taco Tuesday, dine in.  

Thank you Goya Foods for providing a lot of the ingredients and the inspiration for this recipe.  I hope you will be inspired to give it a try and turn up your Taco Tuesday or any day of the week.

Sweet Potato and Ancho Chile Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A departure from the expected, yet is unexpectedly good.

Ingredients

For the Salsa:
1 can (15.5 oz.) GOYA® Low Sodium Black Beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium seeded, sliced bell peppers (red and yellow) pan grilled then diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon GOYA® Adobo Light All-Purpose Seasoning with Pepper
1 teaspoon GOYA® Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon GOYA® Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the filling:
2 Ancho Chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 tablespoon GOYA® Lemon Juice
2 tablespoon corn oil
1 teaspoon GOYA® Adobo Light All-Purpose Seasoning with Pepper
½ teaspoon GOYA® ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced GOYA® garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped or ½ teaspoon   dried
Corn Oil, for frying
12 Corn Tortillas or 16 taqueria or mini size tortillas

Directions


1.  Cut and remove the top and bottom portion of the bell peppers. Remove seeds and slice into strips.   Heat about a tablespoon of corn oil in a large skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, but not smoking, add bell pepper slices and cook until lightly browned. Remove from heat. Once cooled, cut into smaller piece. (Note: you can substitute 2 large tomatoes seeded and chopped instead of bell peppers.)

2.  In medium bowl, stir together bell peppers (or tomatoes), black beans, tomato, onions, cilantro, Adobo Light, lemon juice and olive oil until well combined; cover with plastic wrap and set salsa in refrigerator until ready to serve.

3.  Place chilies in medium bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for about 15 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, pierce two medium sweet potatoes (total weight just over a pound) with a fork and place in microwave.  Bake about 15 minutes until soft. When done, remove skin and place flesh of sweet potato in a mixing box.

5.  After 15 minutes, remove stems and seeds from chilies and transfer them and 3 tablespoons soaking water to a blender. Add lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, Adobo, cumin, garlic and thyme to a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

6.  Add ancho chile paste and sweet potatoes to a bowl and mix well. Place mixture into a ceramic dish, cover with foil and keep warm in oven.

7.  Heat about a tablespoon of corn oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, but not smoking, add two large corn tortillas or three taqueria or mini size tortillas to skillet. Fry, flipping once, until tortillas are golden brown and crisp, about 1 minute per side; transfer to paper towel-lined tray to drain. Add more oil as needed and repeat with remaining tortillas.

8.  To assemble tostadas, spread a heaping spoonful of the warmed sweet potato and ancho chile filling on each fried tortilla. Spoon black bean salsa on each tortilla and top with sour cream if you like, and your favorite grated cheese.

Note: You can also add sliced avocado, chopped rotisserie chicken or another other protein before you add the bean salsa for those who just have to have meat or seafood.

Left: bell peppers cut, seeded and sliced for grilling. Right: bell peppers cooking on stove top grill pan.

Top left: Cut bell pepper, chopped onions and cilantro. To right: chopped ingredients added to  mixing bowl with drained and rinsed black beans, Adobo Light All-Purpose Seasoning with Pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Bottom: ingredient’s mixed and ready to be covered with plastic wrap and placed in the fridge.

Top left:  ancho chilies soaking in hot water, covered. Top right: chilies added to blender with hot soaking water, lemon juice, vegetable oil, Adobo Light All-Purpose Seasoning with Pepper, cumin, garlic and chopped fresh thyme. Bottom left: microwave baked sweet potatoes. Bottom right: blended ancho chile paste and baked sweet potato mixture.

Left: Taqueria size tortillas frying in a large skillet. Right: a heaping spoonful of the warmed sweet potato and ancho chile filling on  fried tortillas.

 

Up close and personal view of Sweet Potato and Ancho Chile Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa. ¡Delicioso!  

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It’s not a bunch of crock – it’s Mother’s Day dinner

I don’t think they saw this coming.

When Congress passed the Mother’s Day resolution in 1941, I bet they never envisioned that it would evolve into a multi billion dollar spending spree with Americans projected to spend $23.6 billion this year – which tops last year’s record of $21.4 billion. That’s according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), a trade organization that has been keeping track of consumer spending of Mother’s Day gifts since 2003.

The NFR estimates that over of half us have plans to dine out at a special Mother’s Day brunch or dinner. But alas, if you haven’t made reservations to take mom or the mother figures in your life to that brunch or dinner, chances are you are out of luck. Most of the best spots are booked.

Book that crock

No worries.  You can make a reservation at home and book that old Crock-Pot to make a Mother’s Day meal she will love, one that looks like a labor of love without much labor.

My Smothered Turkey Wings with Fingerling Potatoes are a Crock-Pot delight.  Simple ingredients make it delicious and soul satisfying.  Add a little red wine and elevate it to a restaurant quality entrée that is Mothers’ Day worthy.  The best part is the Crock-Pot does all the work – that is after you add the ingredients to it.

Serve this dish with a lovely salad, mixed vegetable medley and garlic bread and you’ve got dinner – well, she’s got dinner to be more exact.

Happy Mother’s Day! And by all means, post a picture on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hash tag #collardgreenscaviar and let me see your handy work. Or send an email to collardgreensandcaviar@gmail.com and I will post it on my social media sites.

Smothered Turkey Wings with Fingerling Potatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Easy, delicious and perfect for a special Mother's Day meal.

Ingredients

3 to 3 ½ pounds turkey wings
1 to 1 ½ pounds potatoes (fingerlings featured here)
2 ½ cups chicken stock  (or 2 cups stock ½ cup red wine – cabinet sauvignon used here)
2 teaspoons of  fresh chopped thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons of  fresh chopped rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3 cloves roughly chopped garlic
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, cut in cubes
Salt, pepper, garlic powder
Flat leaf parsley, chopped for finishing
1 cup unbleached flour for dredging
Oil for browning (corn, vegetable, Grapeseed)

Directions


1.  Set up Crock-Pot. Turn setting to low.

2.  Separate wings into portions. Discard tips or save for soup.

3. Add three tablespoons of oil to a non-stick  skillet. Place skillet on stove top and set heat at medium.

4.  Generously season each side  of the meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on a cutting board and about a cup of flour on the paper. Thoroughly coat each wing portion in flour. Add  to the skillet and cook on each side until dark brown. Don’t be afraid to brown the meat. Remember: color equals more flavor.

5.  When browned, remove from heat and place in large crock pot. Add more oil as needed.Continue until all pieces are browned and nestled in the crock.

6.  Add chopped potatoes, onions, garlic and herbs to the Crock-Pot. Pour chicken stock and wine (if you are using it) over the top of the turkey and vegetables. Season the top  with about 2 teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper (cracked pepper featured here).

7.  Dot top with butter. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

8. Once done, remove wings and potatoes and place in large baking dish, with wings being on one half of the dish and the potatoes on the other half.

9. Pour  the  gravy that remains over the turkey and potatoes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Note: For thicker gravy, whisk together 2 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of cold water in a coffee cup or small bowl, then whisk mixture into the gravy before pouring over turkey and potatoes.

Top left: seasoned turkey wing portions. Top right: turkey wing portions thoroughly  dredged in unbleached flour. Bottom: turkey wing portions panned seared until dark in color. Remember: color equals flavor!

 

Top left: Once turkey wings are browned, add to Crock-Pot. Top right: Chopped herbs and vegetables make this dish savory and soul satisfying. Bottom: All ingredients added to the crock including vegetables, herbs, chicken stock, red wine, salt, cracked pepper and 2 tablespoons of butter cut in cubes and dotted on top.

Smothered Turkey Wings and Fingerling Potatoes finished with fresh chopped parsley. Dinner is ready to serve and the Crock-Pot did all the heavy lifting. (Vegetables Medley, Trader Joe’s)

Recipe to the rescue, but a tad bit too late

Here’s a true  story. The names have been changed.

My friend Bob met a lovely woman on a very popular dating site. Her name was Dominique. One of the things he particularly liked about her profile was that she said she loved to “tinker around the stove top” and “was very intimate with her oven.”

“Writing like this showed she not only had a sense of humor, but revealled she might have some cooking skills,” Bob said as he shared his storied account.

After speaking on the phone, they discovered they both loved Italian food and decided their first date would be to meet at an Italian restaurant.

They met, had immediate chemistry and got along swimmingly (that’s my word) after that first date. Bob and Dominique had three subsequent dates in which he took her to upscale and eclectic restaurants in Los Angeles.

While talking over the phone about their next date, Dominique said,” I would like to invite you out to dinner.”

“Really,” said Bob. “Ok you can pick the restaurant.”

“I have just spot – Casa Domi,” she said.

Bob said he paused a moment and searched his mind for Casa Domi. When he suddenly realized what she meant, she said, “You sir will be dining at my table and I am making one of your favorite entrees – spaghetti with meat sauce.”

Dining at Casa Domi

Bob was really excited about the offer to dine at her table. After all, her profile said “she loved to tinker around the stove top and was very intimate with her oven.” And besides that, he reasoned things must be moving along nicely  with his new lady because he got an invite to dinner – something that has rarely happened to him.

When Bob arrived, she greeted him at the door wearing an apron, the sign of a real cook he thought to himself. And the smell of garlic wafting through the air was almost intoxicating.

He sat in the family room adjacent to the kitchen sipping a generous pour of pinot noir  she gave in a beautiful etched, long stem wine glass.  He could see a pot simmering on the stove top and vegetables for a salad on the cutting board. Bob said he felt like a little boy anxiously waiting for his favorite dish.

The long awaited main course

Dominique called him to the table and they started with a garden salad and garlic bread.  After they had finished  the salad,  she said  it was time for the “ll platto principale” which she quipped meant “main course” in Italian.

The bowl of pasta and ground meat she placed in front of him left him almost paralyzed. Never had he seen such an unappealing bowl of contents swimming in a red, waterly liquid.

“It was an absolutely disappointing site Ronni,” said  Bob, which is my nickname. “And to make matters worse, it tasted sweet and reminded me of Campbell’s SpaghettiOs with  ground turkey pilled on top.

Bob said he struggled through the meal and ate most of it.

Recipe rescue needed

“My lady needed a serious recipe rescue Ronni,” said Bob adding that he just couldn’t bring himself to tell her how awful he thought it was.

My friend Bob is a great guy. He’s stilling seeing his new lady and he asked me for a simple spaghetti recipe he can make when he invites her over for dinner.

This is my go to recipe when I want to make spaghetti that is familiar, yet updated and slightly – if I dare say – elevated. The sauce is rustic and flavorful. The Kalmata olives give it a Mediterranean vibe. The sliced chicken garlic sausage is a healthier choice and takes this dish just beyond ordinary.  Using the quick cooking fettuccine noodles makes it quick to get on the table so you can get to the business of enjoying the company of your date.

While this recipe wasn’t the lifeline Dominique needed to save her kitchen credibility,  perhaps it could the lifeline to save yours. Oh and by the way –  if you are silently saying “thank you,” imagine me saying “you are welcome.”

Easy Date Night Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh, light, Italian-inspired pasta recipe perfect for an intimate dinner.

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup Kalmata olives, halved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Cracked pepper to taste
1 pound Hillshire chicken garlic sausage, sliced
1 -15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes )
1-8 ounce can tomato sauce (El Patio Salsa de Jalapeno featured here; for saucier dish use two cans and increase salt and oregano to taste)
Olive oil for sautéing
1/3 cup olive oil
Pasta (this recipe used about 8 ounces of al dente Artisanal egg fettuccine noodles)
Fresh chopped basil or flat leaf parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions


1.  Fill a large Dutch oven pot with 5 quarts of water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil.

2.  Next, to a large non-stick skillet set on medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive. When oil is heated, add chopped bell pepper and onions. Sauté 2-3 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.

3.   Add garlic, chopped oregano and halved Kalmata olives and sauté until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently, about an additional 1-2 minutes.

4.  Add can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to the skillet. Stir well. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 minutes.

5.  To a separate non stick pan, add a little olive oil and lightly brown sausage slices on each side. Once browned, remove from pan and set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.

6.  Add pasta to the water, which should be boiling vigorously at this point. Cook pasta according to al dente instructions.

7.  Once pasta is done, drain thoroughly and add pasta along with browned sausage slices to simmering tomato mixture. Use a large wooden spoon or thongs to gently toss and incorporate noodles and sausage into the sauce. Turn off heat and cover.

8.  Serve with fresh chopped basil or flat leaf parsley and Parmesan cheese. Makes about 4 servings.

Simple ingredients make this dish easy and delicious.

Simple ingredients make this dish easy and delicious.

This sauté of onions, bell pepper, garlic, chopped oregano, oregano  and halved Kalmata olives is intoxicating. 

All ingredients incorporated and pasta is ready to be plated.

Easy Date Night Pasta plated with fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

Yes its in there

Chicken croquettes anyone?

Now you can get my family recipe for those amazing chicken croquettes you saw me make on the Food Network Show “Clash of the Grandmas.” They are golden brown and crispy on the outside; they are moist and delicious on the inside.

So many have asked for the recipe, now you can get it  inside my new recipe book Collard Greens and Caviar eRecipe Pop up Book, which features my most closely held and coveted recipes teased on my social media sites. The recipe book is now available on Amazon.com in Kindle download and paperback.

What else will you get? Recipes for my  Tarragon Panko Coating Mix, and  my Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Praline Topping. As a bonus, I’ve include a section called “Pantry Basics 101” to  help you stay stocked and ready to magic in your own kitchen.

Enjoy the video below and see my inspiration for making the chicken croquettes on the show.

Now – go forth, cook fearlessly and eat well my foodie friends!