Tag Archives: weeknight dinners

Chili cheese fries

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Chili cheese fries are one of my absolute favorite foods. They are a great thing to make at home because they are less greasy than the diner/bar versions, so they can be eaten for dinner.

Yesterday I made a turkey chili in the slow-cooker (similar to this chili recipe but with ground turkey). I used frozen french fries baked in the toaster oven (but you could also make these crispy oven fries), then topped them with chili, white cheddar, and green onions.  I might have to try the same thing with baked sweet potato fries!

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Polenta with Shrimp

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I purchased some polenta at the store on a whim, and I’ve been meaning to make use of it. This was my first attempt, and I used instant polenta, but next time I will make it the old-fashioned way. The sauce was really flavorful and simple, and the polenta was a welcome change from pasta.

Polenta with Shrimp

For the polenta:
1 lb. tube of instant polenta
1 c milk
kosher salt
black pepper
1/4 c grated parmesan

For the shrimp:
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 T butter
1/2 lb shrimp
7-8 leaves of basil, finely chopped

Prepare the polenta according to the package directions. I heated mine on the stove, stirring constantly, and added parmesan at the end.

To make the shrimp, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, then season with salt. Saute for two more minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and butter. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and basil at the very end, and continue to cook until the shrimp turns pink.

Serve the shrimp and tomato sauce over the polenta.

Stuffed Summer Squash

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When I lived in Guatemala, I cooked with a lot of vegetables. My favorite was “guicoy,” which is a little round zucchini.  Whenever I see them at the farmer’s market here, I have to buy them. You can saute them just like regular zucchini, or you can stuff them! Their shape makes them the perfect vessel for cheese, rice, nuts, meat, or anything else that sounds good to you. With a little bit of meat for protein, they become an entrée.

I added mint to mine because it looked great at the farmer’s market, and coriander because it goes well with mint. You could use parsley and cheese, or any other herbs that you prefer.

Stuffed Summer Squash

5-6 small round summer squash
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 lb ground beef (substitute cooked rice to make this vegetarian)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 T mint, finely chopped
1/4 c breadcrumbs
1 egg
kosher salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the summer squash in half horizontally. Use a small spoon to scoop out the inside of the squash so that they form a little bowl, and set aside the insides of the squash. If necessary, cut off the stems of the squash so that they lay flat. Season them lightly with salt.

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ground beef to the skillet. Season with salt, pepper, and coriander. When the meat has browned, add the reserved squash insides and mint to the skillet. Saute for another minute.

Remove the meat mixture from the skillet and cool for five minutes. Combine with egg and breadcrumbs. Stuff the squash halves with the filling.

Place the stuffed squash in a casserole dish. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your squash. They are finished when the squash is tender.

Serve with brown rice or cous cous.

Indian-Style Sloppy Joes

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I found this recipe in Every Day with Rachael Ray, and I immediately wanted to try it! I like the idea of sloppy joes, although I never really eat/make them, and this spicy Indian version seemed like the perfect opportunity. I modified the recipe to give it more of a kick, and I used ground sirloin instead of ground lamb because I wanted a leaner cut of meat.

I served them with crispy oven fries, and the filling was great the next day over brown rice, too!

Indian-Style Sloppy Joes
(Adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray)

1 lb ground sirloin
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3/4-inch piece of ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 T honey
butter, room temperature (for buns)
4 burger buns or kaiser rolls, split
fresh cilantro for garnish
sliced red onion for garnish

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned, then add the onion, ginger, and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and red pepper flakes, then stir to combine. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft.

Add the tomato sauce and honey. Fill the empty tomato sauce can halfway with water, then pour the tomato-water into the pan as well. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes.

Serve on toasted, buttered buns, and garnish with cilantro and red onion.

The secret to juicy pork chops – Brining!

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Pork chops are one of those things that I always thought were just okay. They aren’t as juicy as a steak, and they aren’t as flavorful as some of their other pork cousins (ribs, pork shoulder, pork belly).

The first time I ever saw someone brine a pork chop was years ago in San Francisco. My friend Blake cooked the juiciest pork chop I had ever tasted, and since then, I have always brined my pork chops.

You can use brine to infuse flavors into your meat, but I usually just make a plain one for the juice factor. Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices!

Brined Pork Chops

2 thick pork chops
1 1/2 T kosher salt
1 1/2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 c warm water
1 c ice cubes
black pepper
olive oil

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the warm water. Add ice cubes to cool the water, then add the pork chops. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

When you are ready to cook your pork chops, remove them from the brine and rinse thoroughly. They will be very salty if you skip this step! Pat dry with paper towels.

Season the pork chops with black pepper or any other desired seasoning, then sear over medium-high heat in a skillet with olive oil for 3-4 minutes on each side. We have ours with grainy mustard on the side.