Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning 1

How pretty is this colourful group of seasoning?

Ever noticed how many ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce on those premade taco seasoning packs??  Stop the madness with this mixture.  A little bit of flour makes the ground meat have a wee bit of a saucy texture.  Don’t stop at ground meat for goodness sake (pun? word play?)..  Sprinkle this over vegetables and roast them up – drizzle with a little lime crema and you’ve got an amazingly tasty dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (use less if you aren’t keen on the heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

Mix all this up in a small bowl, and then have it on hand to season meat or vegetables.  You’ll be so glad you took a few minutes to get this ready.

Taco Seasoning 2

To use this for ground meat tacos, brown your meat in a fry pan, then add 2 tbsp mixture for each pound of ground meat and add about 2 tbsp water, stir and cook just until meat is cooked through.

If you want to leave the flour out altogether that is just great, that makes it even more versatile:

Salad Vinaigrette:  1 tbsp mix to 2 tbsp lime juice and 7 tbsp olive oil.

Vegetable (or chip!) Dip: 1 tbsp (or to taste) with 1/4 cup each plain yogurt and good mayonnaise.

Grilled Shrimp:   Sprinkle a generous amount over shrimp before grilling.

Taco Seasoning 3

I like to mix up 3 x this recipe and just keep it on hand.  Try it, you’ll do the same thing!

Butternut Squash Salad

Roasted squash, crunchy pepitas, salty feta, and tart pickled red onions.  This salad has it all, and can be served warm or cold.  Make a big batch it keeps so well.

Butternut Squash Salad

 

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup cooked barley

Barley

1 cup chopped fresh kale, massaged well until it is bright green

Kale, massaged

Look how much brighter the massaged kale is, compared to the kale at the bottom of the photo.  Massaged kale is more tender and easy to digest also.

1/3 cup toasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

preheat oven to 375

Peel squash and cut into bite size pieces.  Toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, and roast until tender, about 30-40 minutes.

To cook barley put 1/2 cup dry barley into saucepan with 2 cups water (or chicken stock for extra flavour).  Boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour.  Drain well.  You can easily do this a day ahead.

Dice red onion finely, and set aside in small bowl or jar.  Combine the sherry vinegar, water, salt and sugar and stir until well dissolved.  Pour over onions and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.  You can also do this ahead of time, in fact I often have a jar of these in my fridge as they are amazing on salads, sandwiches and of course tacos!

Pickled red onion

Just love the bright colour pickled red onions get, with a gorgeous pink vinaigrette.  Yum.

The pumpkin seeds I have on hand all the time aren’t salted, so I toasted them in a little bit of olive oil, with a sprinkle of fresh sea salt.  They were so delicious I kept nibbling at them, good thing I ended up with enough for the salad.

When squash is ready, toss in a large bowl with all the other ingredients and about 3 tbsp  olive oil.

Butternut squash salad prep

Get everything ready ahead of time, and once the squash is roasted toss it all together.

Credit for this amazing salad goes to Smitten Kitchen, Deb used faro and I used barley but you can use any grain you like.  The kale was my idea too, had some in the fridge and thought it would add a nice pop of colour and texture, it did!

Spicy Sweet & Sticky Asian Pork Chops

Spicy Sweet Sticky Pork Chops

Grill just until cooked through, these juicy pork chops hit all those notes of spicy, sweet and sticky – get out the napkins!

 

  • 8 thin cut pork chops, pounded lightly until uniform thickness
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 chilli finely chopped (seeds removed if needed)
  • juice of 1 lime
  1. To make the pork chops, combine the soy sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, curry paste chilli & lime juice in a bowl and mix well.  Taste, and adjust if necessary – especially for heat.  If you like it hotter, add more!
  2. Place the pork chops in a ziploc bag and pour over the sauce. Close the bag and allow to marinade for 20 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Grill over high heat until just cooked through.

Noodles 2

 

We served these with a crunchy Thai noodle salad.

Summer Mexican Cobb Salad

Mexican Cobb Salad

Chipotle Chicken and Cilantro Vinaigrette give this one dish dinner a real taste of Mexico.

Combine the taste of cilantro dressing with fresh and lively salad crunch, and top it with grilled spicy chipotle chicken – you’ll have the best summer salad … this one will be on repeat.

CHIPOTLE CHICKEN MARINADE

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, or 8 boneless, skinless thighs
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Blend all ingredients until smooth, and pour over chicken.  Marinate for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.

Grill until cooked through, and set aside.  Do not slice until chicken has rested at least 15 minutes.

CILANTRO VINAIGRETTE

  • 1 huge bunch cilantro – chopped up
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 loved garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard

Put all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

This vinaigrette is delicious!  Use it on a salad, or as a topping for your steak ….. dip your prawns into it …. the list is endless.

SALAD

Summer Salad

include any number of ingredients to create texture, bright, crispy crunchy fresh vegetables as well as creamy avocado, tasty fruit and toasted nuts

 

  • salad greens
  • spinach
  • cucumber
  • sweet peppers
  • snap peas
  • corn, grilled and sliced off the cobb
  • avocado
  • sliced strawberries
  • cooked bacon
  • toasted nuts

Toss salad ingredients together, and drizzle with cilantro vinaigrette.

Top with sliced chicken and drizzle a little more vinaigrette over the chicken.

 

Peanut Sesame Noodles

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, you won’t be sorry!

YES, I mean it, get in there … play with this noodle dish.  Experiment with textures and colours, and then when its time to mix with the dressing your hands are the best tools in your kitchen, a great time to get the kids to help ….. (after they’ve washed up).

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts
  • 1 small jalapeño, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, halved
  • One 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2  cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black bean sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

 

Heat peanut oil in sauce pan, and add peanuts.  Heat until golden brown and allow to cool slightly.

Grind garlic, jalapeno and ginger with a 1/2 tsp of sea salt with mortar and pestle.  (Yes, you can use a food processor if you have one and would rather!)  Add sliced scallions.  Pour warm peanuts (with oil) over top.  The warmth allows the flavours to bloom.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well.  I can’t say this strongly enough but taste it!  Taste, taste, taste.  Everybody has a different brand of each ingredient, and that will make the overall taste slightly unique in every household.  Get a balance that you like, in other words, when you realize you are still tasting just to eat it ……

Soften rice noodles according to package instructions.

Thinly slice coloured sweet peppers, celery and any other vegetables you are inclined to add – this is so forgiving and just allows you to express yourself.

Asian noodles

Toss everything together until well blended.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This noodle dish is easy to turn into a main dish, or one dish meal by adding chicken or seafood.  Keep it the way it is for a vegetarian meal or add some cubed, fried tofu.

Grilled Shrimp and Cauliflower with Romesco Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romescu
The first thing you need to know is that this sauce is A M A Z I N G.  Put it on your sandwich, toss hot pasta with it, fresh veggie dip or meat skewer dip …. it wins every time.  Today’s appetizer included these grilled cauliflower florets, lightly marinated shrimp and green onions.

Ingredients for Romesco

1 1/2 CUPS SERVINGS

  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Pulse first 8 ingredients in a food processor until very finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add oil; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Romesco can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

romescu

To use as a dipping sauce, heat through until easy to stir and warm.

 

Shrimp and Vegetables

  • 1 head of cauliflower – cut into florets
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp – tails and shells on
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 bunch green onions

Lightly steam cauliflower until just tender crisp – be careful not too overcook it.

Season with salt.

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with vegetable oil and lime juice.  Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Grill cauliflower, shrimp and green onions just until heated through (and shrimp is fully cooked) – try to get some pretty grill marks on there!

Arrange on a serving platter with the Romesco and dip merrily away.

 

 

Basil Chive Vinaigrette

Nothing smells like fresh basil – definitely my favourite herb.  Summer is the only time of year I make this vinaigrette, when the basil is plentiful and salads grace every meal.

Basil Vinaigrette 1

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 oz (45 g) fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups leaves)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Blend all ingredients, except for the olive oil.  Give it a good whiz, until all the herbs are bright flecks of green, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and smooth.

Basil Vinaigrette 2

I really think this needs either an immersion blender or food processor to get the consistency.  If you don’t have either, chop herbs very fine and whisk it all up.

This will yield about 1 pint jar, and I’d suggest trying it in a variety of ways …

Basil Vinaigrette 3

salad dressing   ~   vegetable dip   ~   blend with cream cheese for a spreadable bread topping   ~   toss with zucchini ribbons   ~   brush over grilled chicken or seafood