Taco Bell, either you love it or hate it.
Believe it or not some of my favorite high school memories took place in a Taco Bell. In high school, my friends and I would make a visit to Taco Bell frequently between school and a variety of afterschool rehearsals. We would always order the chicken quesadilla and an order of fiesta potatoes and sit in the corner and be those annoying teenagers in a restaurant you always glare at. As a continued to grow up I still made the occasional Taco Bell run with my college friends during late night study sessions or after choir concerts to celebrate.
It may seem weird to some people how I am talking about a mediocre restaurant, but looking back it was more about being there with my friends and having a good time with people I cared about. The Crunch Wrap Supreme recipe below is a fairly simple and delicious week night meal for anyone, even those who don't visit the halls of their local Taco Bell regularly. They are easy to customize if you want to use different fillings to fit your specific tastes. I made these with my roommates recently and it was fun to build and cook them, and ultimately enjoy them together as a house. I encourage anyone to make these with their loved ones or housemates, you may find out you like them as much as a loyal Taco Bell-er.
Homemade Crunch Wrap Supremes
1 lb. Ground Beef
1/2 a Yellow Onion, diced
Large flour tortillas
Small flour tortillas
1 Tbs. Ketchup
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
Oil for frying
In a large pan heat a small amount of oil, then add the onions and fry until translucent.
Add the ground beef and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
Add the ketchup, and spices to the ground beef and allow to cook for another minute or two to let the flavors combine.
Prepare all other ingredients and then get ready to assemble the crunch wraps.
To assemble the crunch wraps begin with a large tortilla.
Place some of the ground beef in the middle of the tortilla, about the same width of a tostada shell.
Then add a layer of nacho cheese and top with a tostada.
Smear some sour cream on the top of the tostada shell and then top with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.
Next take a small flour tortilla and place it on top. This will help to fill in the gaps the other tortilla may have.
Lightly press down on the pile and begin to fold the larger tortilla in toward the center of the small tortilla.
Once the crunch wrap has formed its hexagonal shape place folded side down in a hot, oiled skillet.
Fry for 3-4 minutes. Once the crunch wrap is golden brown flip over and fry the other side until golden brown.
Remove from the pan and consume immediately with your choice of hot sauce.
There's something about fresh made salsa
This recipe for Grilled Pineapple Salsa is a great twist on the classic salsa I had growing up. The grilled pineapple adds a depth of flavor and smokiness that takes an already delicious dish to another level. I recommend eating this salsa on fish or Shrimp Tacos or just with tortilla chips before the summer ends!
Grilled Pineapple Salsa
1 Pineapple, peeled and sliced into rounds
Vegetable Oil, for brushing
6 Roma Tomatoes, chopped into small cubes
1 medium Red Onion, finely diced
2 Jalapeno Peppers, minced
1 bunch of Cilantro, minced
2 Limes, juiced
1 tsp. Cumin
Salt & Pepper to taste
Brush the pineapple rounds with the vegetable oil and grill on high heat until the pineapple have developed a decent char on both sides.
Remove the pineapple from the grill allow to cool.
Chop the pineapple into small cubes, avoiding the tough core.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.
Refrigerate until chilled and the flavors have time to combine, then serve with chips or as a garnish on tacos.
Cooking is best when you don't have a plan!
I simply walk into the pantry or look in the fridge and grab whatever speaks to me. I let my mind explore the possibilities that a single ingredient can have. It gives me the opportunity to work my culinary imagination in a way I don't get to all the time. This Simple Summer Succotash recipe is the culmination of one of those inspirational culinary experiences I had recently. I happened to have a squash, tomatoes and corn on hand and everything else just fell into place. This dish is full of wonderful summer flavors like basil and zucchini and the pepper flakes and Parmesan make the different ingredients dance on the tongue.
I encourage you to try this dish, and maybe even let the ingredients you have on hand inspire you to make something amazing too!
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 banana peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 medium Zucchini, chopped into bite sized pieces
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 ears of corn, shucked and removed from the cob
1 can of beans (kidney, black, white, whatever you have)
1 handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Heat a generous amount of oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
Add the onions and garlic to the pan and sauté until the onions just begin to turn translucent.
Add in the peppers and zucchini and mix well.
After about 5 minutes add the tomatoes and corn to the pan and mix to combine.
Once the tomatoes are soft, add in the beans and basil, as well as the pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese salt and pepper to taste.
Mix everything together and let everything cook through for another minute or two then serve.
"Which is better: Landfood or Seafood?"
Comparing seafood and "landfood" is like asking someone if they like watching the Discovery Channel or Netflix. They're just not on the same scale! How can you possibly choose? While I enjoy seafood and all of the different options that the ocean has to offer; so called "Landfood" is a variable smorgasbord. There's fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, desserts and so much more!
I do admit that I chose "Landfood" over seafood, but let me make it clear that I still love seafood with all my heart! Fish, shrimp, crab, even squid and octopus; I like it all! It is so light and fresh and lends itself to all kinds of flavor combinations. I love a good fried catfish dinner or a crab boil with all the fixings. You can make it Italian, French, Mexican, Chinese! Seafood can be found everywhere! Even in a landlocked state like Indiana! (I do admit that seafood is best on a coast, but sometimes you have to deal with less than ideal circumstances)
I made these Shrimp Tacos earlier this summer and they really hit to spot. The fresh flavors of the shrimp and the Homemade Grilled Pineapple Salsa were wonderful and the spiciness of the Cajun seasoning balanced the dish nicely and complimented the smokiness of the grilled crustacean. Even if you don't have a grill I recommend trying this dish! A simple pan seared shrimp would work just as well and be delicious.
Small Flour Tortillas, slightly heated through to make them more pliable
1 package of shrimp, shelled and deveined
The juice of one Lime
Lettuce, Finely Chopped
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Homemade Grilled Pineapple Salsa
Preheat your grill. (or a sauté pan with a small amount of oil if you are not using a grill)
Layout out the shrimp in a single layer on a tray.
Cover the shrimp in the Cajun seasoning on both sides
Cook the shrimp for about 6 minutes; flipping over half way through.
Once the shrimp are nicely browned and pink in the middle remove them from the heat and let them sit for a minute.
Squeeze the lime juice over top of the shrimp
To build your tacos, start with a tortilla and begin with several shrimp.
Top with lettuce, cheese and your Grilled Pineapple Salsa.
How lucky am I that both of my grandmas are amazing cooks?!
I could really talk about any of those memories and so many more, but this is a food blog so of course I am going to talk about my grandma's food!
Like anybody else's grandma, the food she made for us was always wonderful! Some of the best meals I have ever had in my life took place at my grandparents' houses. Whenever we happened to spend the afternoon at her house, my grandma would make us spaghetti and creamed corn. No matter how many times we had it, we would always ask for the same thing because it was so amazing! The spaghetti was not your ordinary spaghetti and tomato sauce, though. Oh no! She had to add her special touch to it. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what all she put into it, but I am pretty certain that the ingredient list included ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar! No wonder we liked it so much! And don't even get me started on the creamed corn! It was made with fresh corn she grew herself and was so creamy and sweet and salty at the same time it was amazing! I still love it to this day! After we had finished our lunch we always knew what was next...DESSERT!
While there are so many great desserts that my grandma makes, the one she is famous for is her custard pie. It is so amazing I don't even know where to start! It is so satisfyingly sweet and creamy, and there's this layer where the custard and crust meet that is almost fudgy from the custard soaking into it. It is to die for! Everyone in my extended family knows and loves this pie. Many have tried to replicate it with varying levels of success, but none come close to the real thing. Chalk another one up to the magic of grandmothers!
One of the other desserts that my grandma makes regularly is a simple yet delicious banana cake that is topped with a delicious caramel frosting. I remember having this cake countless times throughout my childhood with homemade ice cream and it always hit the spot. I recently got the recipes of several of my grandma's famous dishes and this cake was one of the ones that I was most excited about making for myself. When the cake was finished and I took my first bite, I was instantly transported back to my childhood; sitting at my grandma's dining room table playing games and eating food. I find it so amazing how food can do that. No matter how much time has passed, or how much you've grown or changed, food can take you back to simpler times and memorable places in an instant.
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed bananas
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs on at a time, making sure to fully combine each egg before adding the next.
Add the vanilla and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl so everything is incorporated.
In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl combine the buttermilk with the mashed bananas.
Slowly add a third of the banana mixture to the mixing bowl mixing to combine.
Then add a third of the dry mix, mixing to combine.
Continue to add the rest of the ingredients alternating between wet and dry until everything is just combined. Do not over mix.
Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan and place in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool, then cover in the caramel frosting.
1/2 cup butter
1 heaping Tbsp of flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
In a heavy sauce pan melt the butter of low heat.
Once completely melted, add the flour and stir to combine and get rid of any lumps.
After a minute, add in the milk and the brown sugar and stir frequently until the sugar has completely dissolved. (about 2 minutes)
Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
Allow the frosting to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, add enough powdered sugar to thicken to your desired consistency and spread over cake.
Serve and enjoy.
With summer in full force
Fortunately, we have a grill in our backyard which has really come in handy the past couple weeks. While using the grill is obscenely hot, it keeps the heat outside while also embedding our dinners with wonderful summer flavors. Most recently, we had vegetable kababs and roasted Brussel sprouts on the grill. They get this wonderful char on them and the caramelization adds great flavor to an already delicious meal. I decided to make a simple pasta salad to go along with the kababs. I was inspired by several recipes I found online and developed this recipe of my own to fit the ingredients available and the flavors I wanted.
In my opinion, pesto is always a great addition to a meal so this summer pesto pasta salad hits the spot. The fresh cherry tomatoes and cheese compliment the pesto and greens nicely. I really enjoyed this dish and will plan to make it more often throughout the summer. I highly recommend trying it for yourself. You will not be disappointed! Try to stay cool out there!
Summer Pesto Pasta Salad
8-10 oz. short pasta of your choice
2 cups cherry tomatoes
10 oz. fresh greens
8 oz. feta, mozzarella, or parmesan cheese
1/4 of a red onion thinly sliced into strands
3/4 cups prepared pesto
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper to season
Cook the pasta until al dente and set to the side to cool
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to a large bowl
Take the cheese and cut into small cubes and add to the bowl.
Add the cooled noodles and the red onion to the bowl.
In a separate bowl add the pesto, vinegar, sugar and olive oil.
Mix well until everything is combined and smooth.
Add the dressing to the large bowl and mix everything together.
Add the salad greens in handfuls until there is enough to your liking.
Season with salt and pepper and place in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld together and enjoy.
Summer is here!
While I don't particularly enjoy that aspect of the season, one of the things I do look forward to when summer finally arrives, is the fresh produce! The bright colors and flavors of summer fruits and vegetables really shine during the summer months. And the endless possibilities of summer dishes fill my brain with new ideas that have been dormant all winter long.
There is a local farm that has fresh produce stands all over Northern Indiana during the summer that my family and I always go to. They have everything you could think of during June, July and August; fresh tomatoes, watermelon, sweet corn, peppers, and so much more! I remember going there countless times growing up and getting a bushel of sweet corn with my mom. We would take it back home and everyone would gather around a bucket and shuck the corn for dinner. It was a bit tedious but so much fun and definitely worth it!
These Zucchini Spears are a simple, and unique way to use zucchini. The coating is wonderfully salty and crisp and highlights the zucchini's flavor nicely. I recommend trying this recipe this summer when zucchini are in full season. It works very pretty well as a side dish to a main meal like steak or grilled chicken or even the spaghetti and creamy tomato basil sauce I have here.
Parmesan Zucchini Spears
3 zucchini, cut into 3" spears
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup powdered parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder
In a bowl add the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and spices and mix to combine.
Drizzle the zucchini spear in olive oil and mix to coat entirely.
Individually dredge the zucchini spears in the bread crumb mixture making sure to coat evenly on all sides.
Place the breaded zucchini on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single, even layer.
Put the finished spears in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and fork tender.
Remove from the oven and eat immediately.
You cannot go wrong when it comes to tacos!
Growing up, we used to have family taco nights pretty regularly and we would go ALL OUT! We had rice, beans, chicken, peppers and onions, and all the toppings. It was always a team effort to get everything ready. Someone was in charge of the rice and the beans, while others chopped vegetables and meat. Then while someone else fried the meat and vegetables, yet more people prepared the toppings and made sure everything was set out and ready for people to dig in. It was so much fun working together in the kitchen and making food as a family. It wasn't something that happened all the time, but when it did we always had a blast!
Once everything was ready we would gather around the table in the kitchen and build our own tacos or burritos. It seemed impossible to not over fill them, and we would always end with a complete mess all over our faces, but the flavors were amazing! The spicy peppers and seasoned meat, the fresh tomatoes and onion, that special zing from a lime wedge; the symphony of flavors would sing on the tongue and have us filled with joy.
In the past several years I've figured out a way to make this already wonderful occasion that much better homemade tortillas! I found this simple recipe in a cast iron skillet cookbook I had and now I make them every time we have taco nights. If you have never experienced the flavor and wonderful chewiness of a fresh tortilla you are seriously missing out! These tortillas are pretty easy to make and can take any taco night to the next level! I highly recommend you try our these great tortillas the next time you have a taco party at your home! You won't regret it!
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbs. chilled butter
1 1/2 cups room temperature water
In a large bowl combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
Chop the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture.
Using your hands break up the butter until the dough is crumbly and the butter chunks are pea-sized.
Add 1 cup of the water and mix with your hands until all of the the water is incorporated.
In portions, add the remaining 1/2 cup of water until the dough is wet but not too sticky.
Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
(About 10 minutes)
Portion the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Taking a rolling pin, roll a section of dough into a round about the size of your skillet.
Repeat the process with all the sections of dough.
Over high heat, add a single tortilla to the skillet (no oil necessary) and let it cook for 30 seconds to a minute then flip to cook the other side.
The sides of the tortilla should be browned but not burnt.
Serve the tortillas immediately or cover with a damp tea towel to keep them warm longer.
Last Summer I had
This dish is comprised of a simple mashed potato, topped with a gravy and a sausage. What isn't there to like? My first sample of a traditional Bangers & Mash was at a small pub in London. Let me just tell you, the atmosphere in these traditional pubs is so amazing! The loud music, happy people, and rustic décor were wonderful and really added to the experience. When my Bangers & Mash was set down in front of me, my mouth instantly began to water.
There was this huge mound of mashed potatoes absolutely smothered in gravy and beside it was this enormous, perfectly caramelized sausage about the length of my forearm. Needless to say, I was excited to dig in. The potatoes were thick and creamy and the gravy added a nice peppery kick. The sausage was wonderfully seasoned and had the perfect combination of saltiness and spice. I happily ate the entire dish with much gusto and many a satisfactory exclamation!
Since I have been home, I have craved this meal again and again. Finally, I decided to make it and boy was I taken back! This recipe is very simple and a great week night meal for people who may not have a lot of time to devote to making meals. I added a side of roasted vegetables to balance out the meal and it was wonderful. I highly recommend trying it for yourself if you're craving a taste of English cuisine.
Bangers & Mash
6 medium potatoes, rinsed and diced into cubes
2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. butter
1 cup milk
black pepper to taste
Good quality sausage (Kielbasa or Andouille will work)
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 Tbs. flour
2 cups chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
Boil the chopped potatoes in water until potatoes are fork tender. (about 25 minutes)
Drain the potatoes and mash until smooth.
Add in the butter, salt, milk, and pepper and combine until butter has melted.
In a medium sauce pan fry the onions in the oil until translucent.
Add the flour and stir to incorporate.
Constantly stirring, slowly add in the broth and stir until all flour has dissolved.
Continue to stir frequently and cook over medium heat until thick and bubbling.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the sausage into portions.
Cut the sausage in half length-wise.
Fry in a hot pan until both sides are caramelized and slightly charred.
To serve: Mound the potatoes on a plate and top with the gravy. Place the bangers on top and serve with a side of roasted vegetables.
As a kid, pizza night was a wonderful occasion!
Our mom would make the dough and gather all the ingredients, but when it was time to assemble the pizzas it was all hands on deck! We would press the dough into a baking sheet and then add sauce and all the toppings we could find, and of course cover the entire thing with cheese. I remember standing around the kitchen counter with my brothers arguing about what would go on which side of the pizza. They made it very clear that they didn't want any "disgusting vegetables" on their half of the pizza, and I was more than happy to keep them for myself!
Sometimes if we were lucky there would be some extra dough that we would turn into bread sticks. That was particularly exciting, because it meant we got to have an appetizer before the main meal! (Life's all about the little joys right) We would dip them in ranch or tomato sauce or, if we were feeling decadent, we would make this cheesy tomato dipping sauce that was so good and so not healthy, a little kids dream!
To this day I still get excited at the thought of having homemade pizza nights, and these cheesy, garlicky knots are a fun variation on the breadsticks we had. The dough is soft and pillowy, and the salty, garlicky goodness of the topping hits the spot perfectly. Of course you can dip these in whatever sauce you want but they are also just a delicious on their own and oh so addicting. This recipe is so simple and easy to work with, you could use this dough for just about anything from pizza, to a loaf of bread. I encourage you all to make these garlic knots for yourself the next time you have a pizza night or any ordinary night for that matter!
Garlicky Parmesan Knots
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
3 cups flour
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let sit for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is foamy.
Add 2 cups for flour and mix well until the flour is combined.
Dissolve the salt in 3 tsp. of warm water and add to the dough. Mix well.
Add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic.
(about 10 minutes)
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth and let raise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size punch it down and dump onto a floured work surface.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle with about a 1/4 inch thickness.
Using a knife, cut the dough into strips about an inch wide.
Take the strips one at a time and twist them.
Then, carefully form a knot with the dough tying it in on itself.
Place the finished knots on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush the knots with melted butter and garlic.
Put in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes have passed, brush the knots with butter again and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place back in the oven until golden brown, about another 5-10 minutes.
Let the knots cool for a couple minutes and enjoy!