Friday, June 28, 2013

Simple Weeknight Dinner: Bean Tostadas

Tacos are a regular feature in our house due the usual abundance of seasoning packets we have on hand. Here lately, however, we never seem to finish our taco leftovers so I started looking for another summery take on Mexican food. These simple bean tostadas are really easy to make, especially if you have someone who can get you ahead of schedule by making tortillas or rotis (non-baking powder version) and salsa. If you've never made salsa, the easiest ones involve simply chopping a few tomatoes, an onion, some garlic, fresh cilantro, and a chili, then seasoning with salt and lime juice. If it weren't for all the chopping, my kids could make it! If you're making tortillas, do a double batch and then freeze the cooled ones in plastic bags so they'll be perfect for quick tostadas.

Bean Tostadas
Rotis or tortillas (1-2 per person)
Fresh salsa
Sour Cream
Grated Cheese
Shredded lettuce or cucumber
1 can refried beans
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
Bacon drippings (optional)

Pop the box of cream into the freezer about 30 minutes before dinner. Then prepare according to this post about 5 minutes before serving. Prepare all your grated ingredients and keep in small bowls. Heat the refried beans with 1/4 cup water, cumin powder, and bacon drippings (if desired). Stir until you have a smooth spreadable consistency. Meanwhile, heat about 1/4" of oil in the bottom of a frying pan. Once it's hot but not smoking, add rotis one at a time. Initially, you need to press down the middle a little to keep it from puffing and to promote even frying. After about 30 seconds, flip the roti and allow the other side to turn golden, too. Drain over paper towels, allowing the tortilla to drip over the pan for a few seconds before transferring to the draining towel. You can also sprinkle with a little salt if you'd like. To build the tostadas place a fried roti on the plate, top with the bean mixture, then grated cheese, and any other toppings you would like. It's a bit messy, but soo delicious to eat!

We only had a couple spoonfuls of beans left afterward so I'd say this one was a winner, especially for the kids who were thrilled to eat a giant tortilla chip!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spinach Lasagna or Rollups

I've been making this dish for a while now for my family and have been actively seeking ways to make it less labor intensive. One day I stumbled upon this Spinach Lasagna Rolls recipe over at Skinny Taste. I thought, "That's something I could totally do here!" Yes, at first glance, you would probably have to make nearly every ingredient from scratch. Let me save you some searching before you think you don't have to--lasagna noodles are a rare find here so just give up on that quest. I did, however, find one short cut... or two. Shortcut one: Don't make cottage cheese. Just buy paneer and squish it into little curds. Shortcut two: Turn yesterday's tomato soup into sauce by adding grated carrots and a can of tomato paste. Shortcut three: Don't pre-boil the pasta. These are totally a hit in our house, but for whatever reason, my daughter seems to eat them in plain lasagna style better than as rollups so I'll go the quicker route from now on. If you've got a day with a little more time and have someone who can help you whip up the individual parts, give it a try!

Spinach Lasagna
9 fresh lasagna noodles (see Pasta recipe below)
1 1/2 cups cooked chopped spinach
Almost 2 cups/425g paneer (check the fridge case or the dairy in your immediate area)
1/2 cup grated cheese (Parmesan or whatever you can get your hands on)
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt (less if you use a salty cheese)
Fresh pepper
3-4 cups your favorite pasta sauce (I LOVE this one!)
1/2 cup mozzarella, grated

Preheat the oven to 170C/350F. In a medium sized bowl, mix the spinach, crumbled paneer, grated cheese (not the mozzarella), egg, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine thoroughly. Pour a small amount of tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan just to coat the bottom. If you're doing rollups, place 1/3 cup of the cheese mixture on each noodle and spread it out the length of the noodle. Roll it up and place seam side down on the pan. If you're making plain lasagna, lay out a layer of noodles followed by a layer of the cheese mixture and sauce. Repeat, ending with a layer of sauce over noodles. You should top each roll up with some sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top of the lasagna or rollups, cover with greased foil, and bake for 40 minutes or until deliciously melty.

Homemade Pasta
1 cup flour
2 small to medium sized eggs, beaten.
Pinch of salt

Put the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs which have already been beaten. Sprinkle in the salt and mix by hand until you've got a sticky dough. Turn it out onto a flour surface and knead until the dough firms up. After about 10 minutes you should have a smooth, elastic ball. If it's too sticky, add more flour. Cover and allow to rest at least 30 minutes before rolling. Cut the ball into 4 pieces. Roll each piece paper thin and cut into flat lasagna noodle shapes (go thinner than you think you need). No need to boil. Just use them straight away in the recipe.

Peachy "Poppy Seed" Dressing

One of my all time favorite summer dinner items is a crisp salad that has fruit in it. I know many people might think it sounds horrible, but don't knock it till you've tried it. Right now, we're nearing the tail end of peach and plum season (my favorite!!) so I put together a simple salad of mixed greens, cucumber, toasted almonds, fresh mint leaves, and sweet peaches last night. Refreshing! When searching for a recipe for a sweet poppyseed-like dressing last night, I came across a few and combined them to make this. Now, you should know the "" marks are because I've never actually found poppy seeds here so my dressing did not include them. Sorry for the lack of a photo, but it was already being wolfed down before I remembered! Slightly overripe peaches are great in this because it doesn't matter if they're pretty.

Peachy "Poppy Seed" Dressing
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoon cider vinegar
4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons honey (or less if you prefer less sweet)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1 juicy peach, skin removed (2-3 little ones)
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

Pour everything except poppy seeds into a blender and puree until it is smooth and creamy. Add the poppy seeds if you have them. It almost looks like a mayo based dressing when it's finished. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Top your favorite salad with this.

I think it would also be delicious over fresh fruit.

Note: If you don't have different vinegars around, white vinegar would probably be a completely fine substitute.