Tag Archives: freezer friendly

Bolognese Sauce

I usually plan dinner parties weeks in advance – tinker with the menu, what wines to serve, what kind of tabletop I want to have etc until I settle on exactly the look, taste and feel I want.  However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and this sauce and the dinner party it spawned is a good reminder to me that I should trying to be less planned.  I have been working on my bolognese sauce for a couple of years, trying to meet my husband’s exacting standards.  I had been getting pretty close so when our good friend Dave was staying with us for the weekend I thought it would be a good way to try out the latest incarnation.  We were having a bunch of people over to watch the Patriots so the notoriously long cooing sauce could just sit and bubble away while the game was on.  Well smelling the sauce for a couple of hours drove my friend Baker to distraction – he offered up a deal.  Could he and his fiance Erikka stay and have dinner with us if he provided fresh pasta??  That was much too good for me to pass up and so suddenly a dinner for 3 because a party of 5 with a fresh pasta lesson to boot.  I was able to round up a nice salad to start and figured out some sort of dessert with what I had in my pantry.  Baker schooled us all on making pasta by hand (something that I am determined to conquer this year).

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It was one of the most fun nights in recent memory and the sauce was just perfect with the fresh pasta strands.  This sauce would actually be good on cardboard so if you don’t have fresh pasta just used boxed like I had planned to.  This makes a ton and freezes really well so you too can have an impromptu dinner party!

Bolognese Sauce 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.

Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.

Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

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Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

When I was a kid and got a present I would immediately use it, even if that meant wearing a parka in July or playing with my ice cream stand at Christmas.  I haven’t grown up all that much because when my brand new slow cooker arrived in the mail it was less than 24 hours before I broke that baby in.  My friend Tommy had convinced me to upgrade from my old school crock pot to one with a digital timer.  After some research I settled on the Set n’ Forget from Hamilton Beach and have been really happy with it so far.  The best thing about having the timer is that I put the lamb tagine in before I went to work and set it for 8 hours – once it hits the proscribed time the slow cooker switches to a warming mode.  I was worried that the food would be overcooked and dry but it was perfect.  I always wondered how people were cooking in their slow cooker and working a full work day but now I can be one of those people!  Browning the lamb at 7:00am wasn’t the highlight of my day but coming home to an almost complete meal was – I served this dish alongside some couscous which only requires boiling water.  Viola, a dinner party!

A tagine is actually an earthenware cooking vessel from Northern Africa (and the name of dishes made in it).  Its conical shape helps seal in moisture to braise chicken or lamb dishes just like its more modern slow cooker friend.  I would love to have this hand-painted one from Tunisia, maybe not to cook in but to use as a serving dish, but tagines are pretty large for a single use item!  So the slow cooker it is, just make sure to serve it up in a pretty dish before devouring it.  I included some traditional Northern African flavors like the olives and preserved lemons to give this dish a lot of contrasting flavors.  If you have never cooked with preserved lemons before this is a great way to start – you can buy them in a jar or make them yourself (I did once and went back to buying them as I couldn’t tell the difference).  Because they are processed in salt the lemon rind becomes edible and has a lovely smooth flavor unlike the sharp citrus bite of fresh lemons.  They last forever in the fridge and really punch up the slow cooked lamb.  I like the Les Moulins Mahjoub brand but any will do.  This dish also freezes really nice so make up a big batch this weekend and squirrel some away for a rainy day.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine 

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb leg, trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces on a diagonal
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Put the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.  Working in batches (should take 2 to 3 max) dredge (i.e. toss the meat in the flour and then shake off the excess) the lamb cubes adding them to the hot oil.  Only do enough that can fit in the pan.  Brown the pieces all over, cooking a couple of minutes on each side, before adding them to the slow cooker.

Add more oil if necessary to brown all the batches of lamb.  Then add the onion, carrot and garlic to the skillet, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to keep from burning.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften, then add all of the spices along with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring until all the veggies are combined with the spices.

Pour in the port and use it to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan).  Dump everything in the skillet in to the slow cooker on top of the lamb.  Add a 1/2 cup of water and stir everything together.

Set for 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.  Once it has finished cooking you can refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months.  Right before serving (or while you are reheating it) stir in the chopped preserved lemon, raisins and olives, stirring to combine.  Let those ingredients heat through and then serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos

I hope you all saw my post on Thursday about the fantastic new Mexican resturant in DC, Espita Mezcaleria.  Everything I ate there was delicious but the lamb barbacoa tacos were out of this world.  Before my second bite I told Patrick I needed to figure out how to make these at home.  I have had lamb tacos before but usually they consist of grilled lamb that has been thinly sliced or ground lamb served in hard shells.  The Espita tacos had richly sauced braised lamb folded into their homemade tortillas.  A slow cooker seemed like the best way to ensure that the lamb got fall-apart tender.  Lamb shoulder would be perfect for this but it can be difficult to find most of the year, whereas lamb leg you can pretty much always  track down.  I bought my lamb boneless and pre-butterflied because that’s all they had at the store but I promise it’s really easy to do and a good skill to have.

It really doesn’t have to be perfect at all since it’s all going into the slow cooker – if you are butterflying for the grill you want to make sure the meat is even thickness.  This recipe is a little more fussy than most of my slow cooker recipes – you want a decent amount of liquid to cook the lamb in but then you should cook it down to help concentrate the flavor.  If I really had all day I would have cooked all of the liquid down to the 1 1/2 cups needed but the house smelled too good to wait.  The lamb at Espita had a nice smokey, spicy sauce on it so I thought chipoltes were in order.  I used the dried peppers in the cooking process and then chipoltes in adobo to flavor the sauce.  If you cannot find dried chiptoltes in the store, any dried chili pepper will do.  As for the chipolte puree, I just take a can of the chipoltes in adobo (which you know about from here) and puree it in the food processor.  I use what I need and then keep the rest in the fridge for whenever I want to add a little kick (it will last indefinitely because of the vinegar content).  If you don’t want to do that just take one or two of the chipoltes, smash it with a fork and add them to the lamb along with some of the adobo sauce.  I served the tacos with chopped raw onion, some purple cabbage and a squeeze of lime.  I also added some of my Habanero Hot Sauce which I will be posting on Tuesday (yowza it’s hot!).  This would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, just make it this weekend, pop it in the freezer and then defrost for next weekend!

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos 

  • 3 dried chipolte peppers, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons chipolte puree (a can of chipoltes in adobo pureed)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the dried chilis and toast them in the dry pan for 3 or 4 minutes, flipping once, until they darken a bit and you can smell the chili.  Remove and put into the slow cooker.  Add the oil to the pan and salt and pepper the lamb while you wait for the oil to heat.  Once the oil is hot add the lamb to the pan and brown on one side without disturbing it for 5 minutes.

Flip and cook for 5 minutes more until both sides are nice and brown.  Remove the lamb from the pan and add to the slow cooker.  There should be enough fat from the lamb and the oil in the pan but if not add a touch more canola oil   Add the onions to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two and then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander and salt and pepper.

Cook for another 2 minutes until the onions are softened.  Add the can of tomatoes and use the liquid to deglaze the pan of any brown bits stuck on the bottom.  Add the contents of the pan into the slow cooker with the lamb and chipoltes.  Add beef stock so the liquid comes up at least three-quarters of the way up the lamb (you may not need all 3 cups).  Turn on the slow cooker to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours.

Carefully pull out the lamb and place it on a cutting board to cool (it’s ok if it falls apart a bit as you do this as you are just going to shred it anyway).  I used a large spatula and a wooden spoon to get it out of there.  Pull out the dried chipoltes and toss.  Pour the rest of the content of the slow cooker and its liquid into a blender or  food processor (carefully!) and blend until smooth.  Transfer one and a half cups of the puree to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer over low for 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened a bit, stir in desired amount of chipolte puree.

While the sauce simmers shred the meat once its cool enough to handle, it should fall apart very easily.  Once the sauce it done combine it with the shredded lamb.  You can serve right away or store in the fridge for several days or the freezer for several months.

Patrick’s Irish Stew

Growing up in an Irish family in Boston, you pretty much take it for granted that everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s day.  I didn’t realize until I left the nest that EVERYONE celebrates St. Patrick’s day.  And who could blame them?  The Irish are the friendliest people you will ever meet, love to drink, eat, dance and have a good time.  No wonder everyone wants to be Irish!  St. Patrick’s day is a terrific excuse to have a party or at the very least a nice tall Guinness.  However, I had to take my celebrations to a whole new level when I met my husband, Patrick.

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In Adare, Ireland

Every March 17th I make this incredible soda bread made with brown butter and rosemary and have plenty of Irish whiskey and beer on hand to share with our friends.  This year I thought my man should have his very own stew with all of his favorite things included.  Jameson, Guinness and coffee pretty much fuel Patrick so I added those to a hearty beef stew and came up with the perfect way to celebrate this year.  Sláinte!

Patrick’s Irish Stew

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups of Guinness
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure all of the pieces of beef are around the same size, if not cut them until they are.  Sometimes I am lazy and buy the precut stuff (or it is on sale) but often they are all weirdly shaped.  It’s worth taking the time to cut them all the same so they cook at the same time.  Salt and pepper the beef cubes.  In a large dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat.  When hot add half of the beef cubes, making sure not to crowd them.  Let them cook about 5 minutes and don’t mess with them much or they won’t get brown.  Flip and cook the other side for 5 minutes and then remove them to a plate.  Add another tablespoon of oil (if necessary) and add the remaining beef cubes, repeating the 5 minutes then flip and 5 minutes more routine.  Add the second batch to the plate and toss in the bacon.  Let the bacon cook until starting to crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes and then add in the chopped onion, leek, carrots, garlic and butter.

Salt and pepper everything.  Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the onion and leek have softened.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute until all the flour is absorbed.  Add the Jameson and let cook for 1 minute.  If you have butchers twine tie the herbs together and add, otherwise just toss them in.  Add the beef broth, Guinness and coffee and stir to combine.

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Bring to a simmer then cover and put it in the oven.  Cook for an hour and a half, stirring once.  At the very end fish out the herbs then stir in the frozen pearl onions and frozen peas and cook for a minute or two more either in the oven or on the stovetop until they are heated through. The stew can be served right away, kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for several months.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Yikes it is cold out there!  Lucky you if you are reading this from somewhere warm but DC is freeeezing, like Boston style cold.  I moved 400 miles south for a reason!  Anyway the best way to fight of the cold is nice warm comfort food, bonus points if it’s a little spicy too.  Pop this baby in the slow cooker and you will have meals for several nights or freeze some and you will happily discover it in your freezer during the next snow storm.  Cooking Indian food can be a bit intimidating especially when you see a list of like 6 different required spices.  However, after you make the $10 investment up front pretty much the same spices are used over and over again so you can make awesome dishes like Turkey Biryani or Spinach and Chickpea Saute.

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I use chicken breasts here because I prefer the flavor and texture over thighs.  Most slow cooker recipes will have you use thigh meat because the extra fat helps keep the chicken from dying out in the long cooking process.  However, this dish is super saucy and the tomato helps tenderize the chicken so the result is, as my friend Lainie calls it, “falling apart chicken goodness.”  If you like thigh meat use it by all means and report back.  Obvious pairings for this dish are nice fluffy basmati rice and naan to dip in it – stay tuned for a Indian Dinner Party post which this dish is the star.  Stay warm!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala 

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup cream

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken (in batches if you need to) and cook for about 5 minutes or until browned on all sides – don’t worry if they are still raw inside, in fact they should be.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker.  In the same skillet (adding the other tablespoon of oil if you need it) sauté the onion, garlic and ginger with a pinch or two of salt for about 5 minutes.  This should help pick up any brown chicken bits from the pan.  Add in the tomato paste and all of the spices and cook for another minute or two until the spices are fragrant and the tomato paste is deepening in color.  Add in the diced tomatoes and stir, picking up anything stuck to the pan.  Dump everything in the slow cooker with the chicken then add the crushed tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir so everything is combined.

Set the slow cooker to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours (I prefer the low setting if you have the time).  After 4 or 8 hours the chicken should be very tender/almost falling apart – stir in the cream and taste for seasonings.

Pumpkin Lasagna

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The great thing about getting comfortable with a lasagna recipe is that you can change it up pretty easily depending on your mood, what’s in the fridge, or in season.  Remember the Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna from June?  I made that with tons of fresh basil and a light tomato sauce.  Now that it’s fall I took the same recipe and method and just swapped out basil for sage and tomato sauce for pumpkin sauce.  The rest, the 3 cheeses and prosciutto, stay the same.

This version is a “bit” richer so you definitely want to pair it with a light salad and have a nice warming red wine on the side.  This sauce would also be lovely just over regular pasta, maybe with some cubes of roasted butternut squash tossed in as well.  I won’t bore you all to tears with step by step pictures in this post, if you need a reminder of what it should look like during assembly just refer back to the original post and follow along.  I will definitely be coming up with a winter and spring version of this lasagna – it’s just that good.

Pumpkin Lasagna 

Pumpkin sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small onions, or one large, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 16 ounces pumpkin puree (make sure its plain pumpkin not pie filling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment de espellete (if you don’t have that, well let’s assume you don’t, use 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup cream

Rest of the Lasagna

  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (either homemade or good quality)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped sage
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 8 sheets of no boil pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

First make the pumpkin sauce – in a saucepan over medium heat add the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic for 7 minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the pumpkin, nutmeg and red pepper and turn up the heat to medium high.  Cook on this higher temperature for 3 minutes, stirring frequently so the bottom doesn’t burn.  Add the broth and cream and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  This makes 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

If baking right away preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl mix the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, sage and prosciutto together then season with salt and pepper.  Put a 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the large pan or distribute equally among the 2 smaller pans, using the spoon to spread out the sauce.  Then add 4 sheets of the no boil pasta on top (4 laid in the bottom of the large pan or 2 in each small pan).  Then add half of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.  Next you add half of the ricotta mixture – don’t worry if your layers of sauce or cheese don’t cover the whole surface, once these get in the oven everything pretty much melts together.  Then comes another 1/3 of the sauce, 4 sheets of pasta, the remainder of the mozzarella and the remainder of the ricotta mixture.  Finish it all off with the rest of the sauce and then top with the grated parmesan cheese.

If you are going to freeze them cover with a layer of saran wrap then a layer of tin foil.  They should freeze well for 6 months – take it out of the freezer the night before you want to bake it and let it defrost in the fridge.  You could also just assemble these and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (3 max) and then bake.

Once you are ready to bake put the lasagna in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, maybe 40 if it’s coming from the fridge.  It should be brown and bubbly on the top.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting into slices.

Basil Pesto

The classic.  So good all you basically need is a spoon.  It is summer in a sauce, especially since it’s no cook!  I realized I had posted different pesto variations but never the classic basil.  I have tried lots of different versions over the years and finally worked out my own that borrows from all the rest.  Most pestos will only use pine nuts but I like a mix and by happy accident tried it with pecans once (out of walnuts) and really liked the flavor.  A little lemon zest is also nice here to really amp up the lemony flavor of basil.  This is my base recipe – it doesn’t contain any cheese so it’s perfect to freeze or for vegans.  I like to freeze the pesto in ice-cube trays or mini muffin pans (silicone is the easiest to get them out) and then just defrost and let my imagination run wild.  If I want to stay true to the classic I just fold in grated parmesan but often I skip the parm and mix in goat cheese which really mellows out the garlic and makes a wonderfully creamy sauce.  Make a whole bunch with the rest of your summer basil and freeze it so you can have a little bit of summer this winter.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons pecans (or walnuts)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 5 cups basil leaves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • optional add ins – goat cheese, parmesan, butter, ricotta, yogurt, a spoon…

In a food processor add the pine nuts, walnuts and garlic cloves.  Process until chopped together.  Add the basil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.  Process again for a couple of seconds and then with the food processor running pour in the olive oil until it comes together as a pesto.  This can now be served on its own or mixed with cheese, kept for several days in the fridge under a layer of olive oil or frozen for several months.

Short Rib Tacos

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Yea I know, what won’t this woman put in a taco??  Pretty much nothing but honestly these are incredible, not just because of the flavor but how easy they are.  Time consuming sure but the “hands on” time is almost zero.  I got the methodology from Cooks Illustrated – if you have never picked up their magazine it’s definitely worth a try.  They basically do all the work for you by testing and retesting different ingredients, proportions and cooking methods in a super methodical, almost scientific way.  I can find sometimes the flavors a bit lacking, but the techniques they share are always spot on and flavor is easy to enhance with some tweaks.  This method is just genius because it cuts out the two most annoying things about slow cooking – browning and chopping.  Browning meat is incredibly important to flavor, as the heat carmelizes the sugars in the meat and really develops them.  By lifting the short ribs out of the liquid it’s braising in on onion slices these folks have discovered a way to get the browned meat without having to spend the time cooking each side before adding it to the pot with the aromatics.  Also by pureeing the sauce you lose the need to chop any of the veggies, meaning all you have to do is slice an onion and then everything else is just tossed in the pot.  I did this in a dutch oven but you could easily convert this to a slow cooker (especially in the summer not to heat up the house).  I included both so you can do either.  This recipe makes a ton so perfect for your next taco party.  It can be frozen for up to 6 months so if you don’t eat it right away divide the rest into smaller portions and then you can have pulled short rib tacos on a week night and blow everyone away.

Short Rib Tacos 

  • 1 ½ cups beer (I used Negro Modelo)
  • ½ cup cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 6 ancho chiles, stemmed and torn into 1 inch pieces (I leave the seeds in but you can take them out for less heat)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (dried)
  • ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1-2 large onions, sliced ½ inch thick slices
  • 3 pounds boneless short ribs

Take the short ribs out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you are going to cook.  Pat them dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (if using the dutch oven).  Then dump in the beer, vinegar, anchos, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, clove and cinnamon in a large dutch oven (or slow cooker).  Season with salt and pepper again and then nestle in the onion rounds so they form a layer on the bottom of the pot (or slow cooker) that will keep the short ribs from touching the bottom.

Depending on the size of your onion it will probably only take one but have a second on hand just in case.  Place the short ribs on top and cover.  Place in the oven and cook for 3 hours (if using a slow cooker cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours).  The meat, even without browning, should have a nice crust on it.

Take out the meat and put it in a bowl.  Pull out the bay leaves and then blend the onions and the liquid in a blender or food processor.  The original said to trash the onions but why throw away flavor??  At this point you could probably just use the sauce but I like to get as much fat out of it as possible.  Easiest way to do this if you have time it to place it in the fridge or freezer until the fat creates a solid layer on top that you can scrape off (that will take a couple of hours).  If not just let sit until the fat rises to the top and skim it off.

Shred the meat with 2 forks or your fingers and stir it into the sauce.  It can be served right away, or stored in the fridge for a couple of days and the freezer for a couple of months.

Chicken Enchiladas

I know I have mentioned our Fiesta Friday tradition.  I am not sure exactly when it got started but it did come about pretty organically.  I realized I was doing tacos and margaritas on Fridays a lot because it seemed like such a great way to cap off the week.  Of course then I made the mistake of naming it and making it a thing so DSC04503that my husband, friends and colleagues were asking me every Friday what was on the menu for Fiesta Friday.  The pressure was on and while I like the idea of a fiesta to unwind after a long week, cooking a full meal can also be daunting after a week of work.  I knew enchiladas would be the answer to this problem.  Somewhat time-consuming to make but they freeze great and can be cooked right from the freezer so basically all you have to do when you get home on Friday is turn on the oven and pour the margs.  I got the cooking method for this one from Cooking Light magazine but the rest is a creation of my own.  Cooking Light often has great ideas on how to freeze things or do them in advance but I find a lot of their recipes almost too dumbed down.  That’s why its good to scavenge inspiration from a variety of sources – meals eaten in restaurants, magazines, friend’s cooking etc.  This recipe is a chameleon –  make it with shredded pork instead of chicken, tomatillo sauce instead of enchilada sauce, swap the corn for beans – you get it.  I made my own enchilada sauce but guess what?  Totally not worth it – turns out this is one of those times that the store-bought is just as good, if not better.  I would budget 2 enchiladas per person but if you were super hungry then someone could easily polish off 3.

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Chicken Enchiladas 

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 chipoltes in adobo, chopped
  • 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 4 scallions
  • chicken from 1 chicken breast, shredded (I used rotisserie chicken or you could roast 1 skin on bone in breast)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded jack or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (do this even if you are freezing them as you need to par bake before freezing).  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chipotles, green chilis, tomatoes and corn.  Turn up the heat to medium high and cook for approximately 8 minutes until everything has combined and some of the liquid from the chilis and tomatoes has cooked off.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken and scallions.  Remove from the heat.

Spray the pan or pans with cooking spray and put the enchilada sauce in a shallow bowl.  Microwave the tortillas for 20 seconds (do 6 at a time so they stay warm).  Microwaving the tortillas makes them more pliable and easier to stuff.  Spread several tablespoons of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan/pans to cover with a thin layer.  Dip a tortilla into the enchilada sauce and shake off the excess.

This is a messy job so just get into it.  Stuff the tortilla with several tablespoons of the chicken mix and fold over the two sides.  If you have over stuffed the tortilla theends won’t meet, so then just scoop out a little and keep moving.

Put into the pan with the seam side on the bottom.  Keep going with the rest of the tortillas – if you are making two pans, 6 tortillas will fit in each.  Don’t worry if you have to squish them in to fit, it’s actually better if they are tightly in the pan.

Microwave the second batch of tortillas and repeat until there are no more tortillas or stuffing.  Spoon over any remaining enchilada sauce and then cover with cheese.  If eating now: bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  If freezing: bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once room temperature, tightly cover with foil and freeze.  Then to reheat bake it straight from the freezer at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.  I baked one to eat immediately and one to freeze which was perfect.

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna

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I have already mentioned that I am a reformed ricotta lover, previously eschewing it in any form until I had good ricotta.  Maybe that is why I also was never a big lasagna fan as so often it was stuffed with a ton of bland crumbly ricotta.  Also I think back in the 80’s lasagna was just plain boring – always the same fillings, always meat sauce with ricotta and rubbery noodles, always overcooked and heavy.  I have come a long way since then, as has lasagna.  Now you see more and more veggie options, using bechamel sauce, different cheeses, less pasta and more fillings.  There are several recipes I like, some heavier than others but for the summer a lighter flavor profile seems appropriate.  The best thing about lasagna is that you can make several in advance and freeze them.  I will admit that putting them together can be sort of tedious but then just make a whole bunch at a time so you have a quick dinner any night of the week.  There are two schools of thought on freezing lasagna – to pre bake or not – and I fall in the not category.  Assemble the lasagna, cover it with saran wrap and foil and then when you want to bake it off just leave it in the fridge over night and bake the next day.  I find if you bake then freeze then bake again it can really dry out but try it for yourself and see what you like better.  This recipe would make one large lasagna for about 8 people, or 2 smaller ones for 4 each.  I like to serve it with an arugula salad tossed with a lemony dressing to add some sharp notes but it would also be great with sautéed escarole or a caesar.

Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Lasagna 

  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce (either homemade or a good quality like Rao’s)
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese (either homemade or good quality)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 8 sheets of no boil pasta
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

If baking right away preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl mix the ricotta, goat cheese, egg, basil and prosciutto together then season with salt and pepper.  Put a 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of the large pan or distribute equally among the 2 smaller pans, using the spoon to spread out the sauce.

Then add 4 sheets of the no boil pasta on top (4 laid in the bottom of the large pan or 2 in each small pan).  Then add half of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.

Next you add half of the ricotta mixture – don’t worry if your layers of sauce or cheese don’t cover the whole surface, once these get in the oven everything pretty much melts together.  As you can see I just sort of dabbed  the mixture on.

Then comes another 1/3 of the sauce, 4 sheets of pasta, the remainder of the mozzarella and the remainder of the ricotta mixture.  Finish it all off with the rest of the sauce and then top with the grated parmesan cheese.

If you are going to freeze them cover with a layer of saran wrap (tomato sauce plus tin foil makes for a bad reaction and the saran adds an extra layer of protection from freezer burn anyway) then a layer of tin foil.  They should freeze well for 6 months – take it out of the freezer the night before you want to bake it and let it defrost in the fridge.  You could also just assemble these and leave them in the fridge for a couple of days (3 max) and then bake.  Once you are ready to bake put the lasagna in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes, maybe 40 if it’s coming from the fridge.  It should be brown and bubbly on the top.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so before cutting into slices.

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