New Menu Monday- Potato Tacos!

I disagree with The Mom-in-Law, I think shredded beef tacos are the ultimate taco goodness. She prefers ground beef. Gotta admit, her ground beef tacos are the best I’ve ever had. Her secret? Simmer the ground beef for a while in a little water after browning with onions and garlic. This turns the beef into a tender, flavorful taco stuffing that is far from any fast food ground beef taco.

But, I like my shredded beef tacos better, and they are quicker. My trick is using leftover roast beef- my roast is more of a tender, falling apart braise than a rare, prime rib style roast beef. It is pretty much shredded when done… that’s how to tell it is done. Does it shred into tender pieces? Yes? Then take it out. A  3lb. chuck roast takes about 3 hours in the oven at 275-300 degrees (here’s a beautiful tip- a frozen roast at 275 degrees and 4.5 hours later it’s happy dinner time).

But, I gave up meat for Lent. So. How about copying our favorite Mexican joint’s potato tacos? We LOVE the So. Cal restaurant El Ranchito… I’ve never had better refried beans. We discovered the potato tacos last year and I loved them, too. Tonight I made a big batch of what we call Camp Potatoes (sliced potatoes fried in butter and oil with sliced onions, garlic, salt and pepper), and fried up a mess of corn tortillas. Cast iron pans are the best, aren’t they? The Husband stuffed them, we cheesed them and after about 15 minutes in the oven, we had a great dinner. We are soooooo making these again.

Onions up, potatoes in the line up...
Onions up, potatoes on deck…
Onions and potatoes frying... Yum.
Onions and potatoes frying… Yum.
Time to stuff the torts.
Time to stuff the torts- potatoes and shredded cheddar.
Tortillas in the oil, onions and potatoes almost finished.
Tortillas in the oil, potatoes almost finished.

New Menu Monday- Chayote Squash = Steak Gets a New Side

Chayote squash. I’ve seen it in stores my whole life but never knew what to do with it. A couple of weeks ago The Mom-in-law decided that we should pick up some when we hit Pancho Villa Market, mentioning that she hadn’t made it in a long time, but wanted to give it a try again.

Really, for the amusement factor alone, this was easily worth it- pick up a new vegetable and give it a go. Even if everyone hates it, you get the fun of watching the people you lovingly serve it to make all sorts of faces, either politely trying to hide their distaste or the outright look of disgust at the thought of trying something new.

Chayote squash, sliced, ready to sauté with onions.
Chayote squash, sliced, ready to sauté with onions.

It’s good to be the cook!

I finally gave mine a go tonight (it is a harder squash and kept well in the fridge for two weeks), preparing the squash the way she served hers-
simply sautéed until tender with onions in butter and olive oil.

The family’s comments and observations included the following:

Chayote and onions in the cast iron skillet... the only way to cook.
Chayote and onions in the cast iron skillet… the only way to cook.

-Chayote’s texture is different from other squash, like zucchini, yellow or crookneck… it is more firm, like that of a sautéed apple, maybe?

-If you don’t care for the softer texture of summer squash varieties, chayote is a good squash to try as it is much firmer and not seeded.

-Its flavor is very much like zucchini, only more strong. And a bit sweeter.

-This would pair well with a squeeze of lemon and maybe some chopped, fresh dill.

Steak and mushrooms with baked potato and chayote. Good stuff!
Steak and mushrooms with baked potato and chayote. Good stuff!

One chayote was enough for the four of us to enjoy a taste testing, but I would need two for a proper side dish, for sure. The chayote was an overall hit, and we will definitely be cooking it up again.

New Menu Monday- A Twofer! Bratwurst AND Enchiladas are discussed…

My mom-in-law and her golf buddy made sauerkraut recently and we scored two jars of it. Normally, she shares prepped nopales (cactus), Mexican oregano or tamales that someone in the family has made… sauerkraut is quite a different treat. My dad was excited to get a jar, too, and is looking into the steps to make his own- I predict he will abandon the project when he sees how many steps it takes to ensure well made sauerkraut. Ha.

We made enchiladas one time, and Phyllis let me snap this photo and share her recipe on Pinterest. I honestly don’t care for enchiladas any way or anywhere else now, these are unequalled:

Phyllis showing me how to make the best enchiladas. Click photo or link for recipe...
Phyllis teaching Enchiladas 101. Click photo or link for recipe…

Left- our usual Bratwurst and corn on the cob dinner Right- Brats with kraut and potato salad

Grilled Bratwurst Dinner in our home usually will have corn on the cob, a seasonal fruit and some other vegetable… yum! It is simple, but great eats, I tell you. However, I was so glad that I (finally) tried braising the brats in the sauerkraut and beer after grilling them for about ten minutes. The potato salad was fab, too, with its big chunks of Kosher dills and the right amount of a spicy brown mustard put out by Sierra Nevada brewery. You can check out the mustard here:

Every time I make potato salad it turns out differently- does that happen to anyone else?

Once again, I am sure that my son will be accusing me of trying to kill him by making him try sauerkraut. The fact that his gramma made it will give me some pull, at least. I’m surprised he was able to survive last night’s Cajun Night as it is.

New Menu Monday- Carnitas… from Heaven!!

Pulled pork is fabulous in the crock pot; sprinkle a lot of onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper on a pork shoulder butt and 4-8 hours later you have a magnificent meal. With BBQ sauce for the meat, we round it out with a baked sweet potato and maybe green beans. We all love it.

Tonight we are making carnitas with the same cut of pork and swapping out the sweet potato and green beans for a boat load of cilantro, chopped onions, pinto beans and tortillas.

I love me some Pinterest- that’s where I dug around for the carnitas recipe. This is what I found:

I changed up the recipe only a bit- freshly made mini corn tortillas instead of the suggested flour, and I tossed everything together on the baking sheet- the onions, garlic and I squeezed the citrus juices and 1/3 cup of bacon grease over everything. I only used oregano, salt and pepper, too, and skipped the other spices. I don’t think we missed the one pound of lard to cook the meat in, either… the bacon grease and pork fat from the meat was puh-lenty. But read the original recipe, it looks great as-is.

It was FABULOUS!! Seriously, try the recipe, and if someone really does cook it in the lard, I’d love to know how it turned out.

This was so good, I’m going to serve it to my mother-in-law. Yep. That good.

New Menu Monday- Herbed Salmon with Artichokes

In trying to stick with the goal of serving up our favorite meals in different ways, today I made the family switch from this:

Baked Salmon with Dill Sauce, Buttered Spinach, Brown Basmati Rice
Baked Salmon with Dill Sauce, Buttered Spinach, Brown Basmati Rice

and try this instead:

Salmon Baked with Olive Oil and French Herbs, Steamed Artichokes, Green Salad, and Whole Wheat Rolls
Salmon Baked with Olive Oil and French Herbs, Steamed Artichokes, Green Salad, and Whole Wheat Rolls

The family LOVES brown basmati rice, and somewhat willingly chokes down the spinach, but we always serve these same sides with our salmon. So, I decided to up the torture for my son- I made the kid eat an artichoke. He complained so little that I suspect he secretly liked it. My daughter and I not only really like artichokes, but think that they make a great excuse to get more butter into our faces, yeah!

Three out of five of us think that we need to eat artichokes more often- the spare 5th person was the boyfriend… he redeemed himself because even though he can’t stand the artichokes, at least he’s a salmon lover… so he can stay.