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Our favorite el cheapola Mexican restaurant recently closed down. This is sad, not just because we enjoyed the company of the owner and the staff and the food was pretty darn good for the price, but because now we have to A) find a new place not too far away or B) make our Mexican food at home.

Having an almost 9 month old baby is not particularly conducive to restaurant hunting so yesterday I went for option B.

Whenever I make tacos I make extra meat and freeze the leftovers for nights just like last night. We need something in a hurry, and thawing cooked hamburger is pretty darn speedy. We also had half a package of flour tortillas in the freezer (also a quick thaw) so the result was obvious. Quesadillas!

I call these leftover quesadillas not because they are leftover, but that they are generally made from leftovers (and pantry staples). They are fast, flexible and delicious! Use this recipe only as a guideline. Feel free – in fact I insist – on adjusting amounts and ingredients based on what you have in your fridge and your own personal tastes and preferences.

KKF Leftover Quesadillas

1.5 cups cooked and seasoned taco meat

1 14 oz can pinto beans or black beans, drained and rinsed

1 10oz can Rotel-style tomatoes (diced tomatoes with green chiles)

1 cup corn kernels (I pull them straight out of the freezer)

1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Chipotle tobacco (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Flour or corn tortillas

For toppings: sour cream, green onions, cilantro, more cheese, avocados or guacamole

 

Mix all ingredients except for the tortillas (obviously) and toppings (or heck, throw them in and be your own man) in a large bowl. Throw a tortilla on a heated pan (cast iron would be nice for this) and top with as much filling as you want and top with another tortilla. I usually leave a good half inch of space around the edges to help keep everything inside. How much filling depends on the size of your tortillas and how fat you want them to be, but keep in mind that when you cut them too excess filling will come spilling out the sides.

Heat over medium heat until the bottom of the tortilla is browned and crispy. Using a large spatula, flip and brown on the other side. The cheese in the filling will make it stick to the tortillas, but if you find it’s not sticking very well you can sprinkle a little extra cheese on the tortilla before adding the filling and that should help.

Move to a wooden cutting board and let it rest for about five minutes (if you can). Cut with a pizza cutter and top with your choice of garnishes.

That’s it. Dinner is served in like 20 minutes. Take that, Rachel Ray!

There’s nothing like fresh tomatoes. Straight from your garden or a real farmer’s market, fresh tomatoes are one of life’s amazing gifts. Sadly, this seasonal fruit (yes, fruit) has but a brief few months before they’re gone and you find yourself in the middle of February with some canned tomato paste and a sad face.

Now, no canned tomato is going to hold a candle to that summer Beefsteak. But here we are in (hopefully) the tail end of winter and our choices are limited. However, we do have some good choices! My favorite canned tomato is Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes. They actually do taste fire roasted, they’re organic, the cans are BPA free and they are the best tasting canned tomato I’ve tried thus far.

You can actally get them at a decent price from Amazon. If you do subscribe and save it’s $1.86 per can for 12-pack and you get them delivered to your door. If you’re an Amazon Prime member you can get them through the Prime Pantry program for $1.38 per can. If you’re a Costco member you can get them right now for $6.89 for a 6-pack which is only $1.15 per can – not bad at all.

Here’s some of the things I like to do with these ‘maters:

Bruchetta

Mix a can of fire roasted tomatoes with three cloves of minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Slice a loaf of French bread on the diagonal and toast in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, then top with the tomato mix. Broil for 4-5 minutes. Top with shreds of basil and freshly grated parmesan.

Lazy Pasta

Cook 8 ounces of the pasta of your choice (I find small shaped pasta best for this purpose – fusilli, rotini, large shells, etc.) according to package directions. Drain and return to the pan and put on low heat. Stir in a can of fire roasted tomatoes, about two tablespoons of basil paste or a handful of shredded fresh basil to taste, a cup of shredded cheese (any good melting cheese will do) and about a half a cup of heavy cream. Heat through and salt and pepper to taste.

KKF Bolognese Sauce

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Test subject Bill asked for Bolognese sauce last week. It’s always nice to get a request…and then NAIL IT. This sauce was a thing of beauty. I recommend serving it over homemade pasta for best results! Note: a good Bolognese takes time. Don’t rush it, and you will be rewarded.

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KKF Bolognese Sauce

1 lb ground beef

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

5 cloves garlic

2 t curry powder

2 small bay leaves

1.5 cups red wine

14 oz tomato paste

Bunch thyme, tied together tightly with string

2 T olive oil

1.5-2c water

½ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Buzz your onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the food processor until you have a chunky paste. Warm the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the garlicky mirepoix. Hit it with a big pinch of salt. Cook gently for at least 20 minutes, letting the flavors develop. Add the ground beef (you’re using grass fed beef, right?) and give it a good strong stir, blending it well with the veggies. Let it cook, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and let it cook for another few minutes, then add the wine. Bring the mixture to a light simmer and hold for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently, then add about half a cup of the water. Add the curry powder, thyme and bay leaves.

Bring the mixture back to a simmer and give it some time, at least 15 minutes, stirring frequently, before adding another half cup of water. Monitor your sauce, adding water as necessary when it reduces, and tasting and adjusting salt and pepper as desired. The longer you can let it go the better it will be. Mine probably went in this phase for about two hours.

You want to end up with a fairly thick, uniform sauce with very, very small chunks of the ground beef. You don’t want to see big chunks of anything. Once you are happy with the consistency and flavor of your sauce you are almost done. Just one more finishing touch…

Slowly stir in half a cup of heavy cream and let it just heat through before serving. Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese and a smile.

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Pecan pie is probably my all-time favorite pie. Unfortunately because this pie is almost always made with corn syrup I usually either forgo it or eat it and then feel bad about myself. But I have found a way to make my pie and eat it too.

Pecan pie with no corn syrup. No GMOs to worry about and replacing it with a healthy substitute. That’s win-win in my book!

I started with this recipe. As you are probably aware, I can rarely leave a recipe as is. So I used pure maple syrup instead of the cane syrup they used. I also cut back on the sugar from 1 cup to ¾ of a cup. (As it turns out, it was still too sweet and next time I’ll scale back even further on the sugar.) Other than that, I left it as is.

I will admit that I used a store bought pie crust for this. (Serious kung faux pas.) But in my defense, I am mom to a now-crawling baby and am short on time and was not playing super mom that day. And it was an organic crust!

The pie turned out looking beautiful. (A little too perfect looking, thanks to the crust, but oh well. This post is not about the crust.) I was amazed. I delivered it to my Superbowl party friends with both pride and trepidation, because you are never sure how a pie turned out until it’s tasted. And bringing a pie with a slice missing to a friend’s house is just bad form.

The texture of the filling turned out nicely. Maybe not quite as spongy as is achieved with corn syrup, but it delivered on flavor and the texture was good. We felt like it did need more filling for the size of the pie and the amount of pecans, though, so I will probably ramp up the maple syrup and eggs for round two while still reducing the sugar. As I mentioned, it was very sweet.

In the end it was a successful first-time pecan pie. Yes, it was my first. And here’s another factoid – last Thanksgiving I made my first pumpkin pie. Shocking!!

I recommend giving this recipe a whirl and adding your own flair to it. It’s definitely a great place to start for a corn syrup free Southern pee-can pie!

One of my favorite things in the world is a good Asian peanut sauce. If you add noodles, it’s even better! I’ve been trying to achieve the perfect peanut noodles with just the right balance of heat, spice and sweetness. At long last, I think I have found it. Pull out your big noodle bowls because you’re going to want a big helping of this! It also comes together really quickly so make sure you have all your ingredients ready to roll before you turn on the heat.

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KKF Chicken Peanut Noodles

2 c cooked chicken, shredded

8 oz angel hair or thin spaghetti pasta

1/3 cup peanut butter

1 13.5 oz can coconut milk

2 medium red, orange or yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced

¼ cup soy sauce

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp curry powder

2 tsp rice wine vinegar

2 tsp honey

1 T Korean hot pepper paste

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 bunch of green onions, sliced

½ cup chopped cilantro

 

Heat water for cooking the pasta. (Note: angel hair/thin spaghetti cooks very quickly, so plan to add the pasta to the boiling water about the same time you add the chicken and bell peppers to the sauce below.)

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic for a few minutes. Stir in the peanut butter, chili paste, vinegar, curry powder, and honey. Heat through, stirring constantly to maintain the consistency of the sauce. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine, then add the chicken and peppers and heat through, about five minutes.

Toss the noodles and sauce, top with the cilantro and green onions and enjoy!

When you think of living creatures in your house, you probably think about your pets, the occasional ant or bug, perhaps a spider or two. But you have many, many more than that. Your kitchen is filled with tiny unwanted pets…bacteria. And they are lurking in places that you might not suspect. Here’s the top five nastiest spots in your kitchen:

The Sink: 45% of kitchen sinks were found to be contaminated with coliform bacteria. Even though those sinks may get wiped down regularly, the cracks around the drain or garbage disposal are veritable bacteria nurseries, pumping out baby bacteria like there’s no tomorrow in that warm, food rich environment. Sanitize your sink a few times a week with a one tablespoon of bleach to one quart of water mixture. That will help clean up the bacteria horror show in the garbage disposal as well.
The Sponge/Rag/Brush: These are some of the most disgusting things in your kitchen, and they are probably in and around your sink where you wash your hands, rinse your fruit, fill up water glasses, etc. Or you use that rag to wipe down your countertop, then your little one comes along and rubs their hands on it, immediately transferring that nastiness to their face. NSF International reports that 75% of household sponges and rags carry Coliform bacteria (you know, like E coli.) Don’t keep your dishrags around for more than a day or the bacteria will fester. You can nuke your wet sponge for two minutes in the microwave to kill bacteria, one of the few uses for a microwave I can actually support.
The Fridge Handle/Oven Knobs: Here’s a scenario: you touch your steering wheel, which is covered with the nasty germs you picked up after pumping gas, then you come inside and put away your groceries in the fridge. An hour later you want a snack, open the fridge and grab a piece of cheese and pop it in your mouth. You just ate whatever junk was on the gas pump. Often overlooked when cleaning or forgotten about because they don’t look dirty, oven knobs, drawer knobs and especially the fridge handle are teeming with bacteria. Make sure to wipe them down regularly and wash your hands before putting food away or getting food out.
The Wooden Spoon: Wood is more porous than other types of utensil materials so it can be a haven for bacteria. Especially because you don’t want to put them in the dishwasher (they will crack eventually, either destroying the spoon or creating an even worse environment for bacteria to grow. Wash your wooden spoons in boiling soapy water and replace them at least every five years and discard them if they get black or discolored spots, as this indicates that they may be rotting. And whatever you do, don’t rub that germy sponge all over them!
The Produce Drawer: Cleaning the fridge is a giant pain in the butt. The only task I hate more than cleaning the fridge is cleaning the oven. Unfortunately a dirty fridge is a ticking time bomb, and the produce drawer is a prime candidate for making you and your family sick. Salmonella, yeast, mold, and other unwelcome guests are probably in your produce drawer right now. Compounding that problem is the fact that many items that are stored there are eaten raw, meaning you could be running that bacteria laden lemon under the faucet, then depositing it right into your water glass, salmonella and all. Wash out your produce drawers with soapy water on at least a monthly basis. And get rid of those parsnips that are still in there from the last time you cleaned it.

There are LOTS of other places in the kitchen that can harbor nasty pets – the can opener, the cutting board, the gasket in your blender. The list never ends. Be on your guard against these little baddies and keep your family safe and healthy!

When I was a teenager I worked in the kitchen in a rest home. There was one old lady who told me the same story every time she saw me. It would always start the same way.

“Where do you live?” Bertha asked.

“Ridgeway,” I would say, knowing what was coming next.

“I was in Ridgeway once. I didn’t know it was a town. We went there to catch a train to see the doctor because my mother had a goiter.”

I must have heard about Bertha’s mother’s goiter a hundred times. These days people don’t get goiters, or if they do, very rarely. Goiters are a result of iodine deficiency, which is why they starting putting iodine into table salt.

Like many ideas, it was a good one at the time that served a purpose whose time has come and gone. Anyone who eats a half way healthy diet including seafood is getting plenty of iodine. No need for the regular table salt, which, frankly, tastes harsh and if it makes any sense…is too salty.

Other than not really needing the iodine, there are other reasons to ditch the table salt. First, regular table salt is heavily processed, stripping away the nutrients. (This website claims that the salt manufacturers then sell the minerals they took out of the salt to nutritional supplement companies. I have not investigated this, but if true is an eye-opener.) Second, they also add anti-clumping agents, generally talc and silica aluminate. Talc is a known carcinogen (why it’s not in baby powder anymore), and aluminum is highly toxic to neurological systems (also a good reason to seek out aluminum free baking powder). Up to 2% of table salt is permitted to be these “fillers.”

Those are additions I’m just not looking for in my diet, so I strongly prefer sea salts. Even if there were no appreciable health differences between table salt and sea salt, sea salt just tastes better. It comes in fun colors (usually grey or pink, depending on where it came from and is due to the minerals that it contains) and a variety of textures.

Sea salt can be expensive, so I usually get mine as part of a bulk order through a food co-op that I’m part of. I do sometimes need to buy it on my own, and when I do I really like Celtic Sea Salt. It has a really mild flavor and I feel like it enhances the flavor of food the way salt should, instead of just masking blandness with saltiness.

What’s your favorite salt?

 

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