Sweet Potato Salad with Broken Glass

August 5, 2015

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The correct name for this recipe is: “Sweet Potato Salad with Carmelized Onions, Watercress, and Guajillo Chile Dressing”. This dish had more oil-everywhere problems than BP. (Too soon?) Ultimately we LOVE this recipe and we’ve already repeated it for friends, since making it the first time. The second time I didn’t even break anything.

Please do not laugh at my lack of knowledge of thermodynamics, or whatever tells you that heat and cold break glass. Who knew?!

I can’t find my pic of the ingredients. The list appeared pretty long for someone who grew up thinking Hamburger Helper was complicated. (Oil, guajillo chiles, garlic, vinegar, red onion, sweet potato, watercress.)

You can buy guajillos at an upscale food market for about $50 per pound. I wish I were kidding. They come in hermetically sealed packages of 6. OR you can buy a big handful of them from the various dried pepper bins at your local tienda (Mexican grocer) for a total of 48 cents. I gave the clerk more than that, because that was ridiculous. Additionally, despite the fact that neither of us spoke each other’s language well, she helpfully explained the heat levels of each pepper to me.


You put them in heated oil with garlic, and they smell like freakin’ Heaven.

447 (2)
Caution: The oil is burny and the pepper is burny so either way, you’re gonna get burned.

Tips about oil:

  1. Don’t accidentally use too much oil, like I did.
  2. Don’t get confused about the cookbook wanting the oil to cool.  They mean for you to let it cool in the pan, on the stove top. You are using it for the dressing in a second.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, decide to speed things up by pouring the  hot oil into a glass and putting that glass in the fridge to cool. (You idiot.)

This will end badly for your pretty glass. Who knew?!

IMG_20150709_193036536 (1)
Clean break, though.

Then you cook a chopped red onion. After that, you discover how a potato peeler works and cube up a million (or 4) sweet potatoes. This will make more than will fit in your largest pan, so you will have to cook them in two separate pans. They will not be uniformly cooked through, but whatever.

457 (2)

The dressing is made from the sauteed garlic and peppers, blended smoothly with a vinegar – either sherry, balsamic, or, as I used, champagne. #fancy

The recipe called for the cooked, dressing-covered potatoes and onions to be served over a “bed of watercress”. I discovered that this is actually a kind of lettuce! Who knew?!  The recipe said to remove the stems from the watercress. I see from the picture below that I missed one. I thought this combination of foods sounded rather odd, but it was, upon tasting, kind of amazing.

IMG_20150710_095803 (1)

Otherwise? I would eat this weekly. The dressing would probably make it ok to eat salad for a year.

However, R. I. P. to my blue, coincidentally Mexican margarita glass. You were shattered before your time.

What We Have Learned:

  • Glass breaks when you change its temperature quickly.
  • Entire sections of common sense-type knowledge were taught when I was apparently absent.
  • Learning to “adult” is satisfying and good. And so is this potato salad.
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This is: Spicy Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos

July 11, 2015

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This is a tomatillo with the husk on it:IMG_20150708_111535385

This is a tomatillo without the husk:IMG_20150708_111451795

This is how you roast them in a pan with garlic:


This is how you blend them with two chipotle peppers:

This is the other goodness that your sister makes while you make the tomatillo salsa:IMG_20150708_112345879

This is the fruits of your labor (chipotle tomatillo, red pepper pico de gallo, mango cilantro salsa, guacamole):


This is how you eat it (adorable children not necessary):


What we have learned:

  • You cannot screw up salsa.
  • You do not need to have salsa music playing while making salsa, but it helps.
  • A tomatillo is actually an armadillo-like tomato.

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Spice, Pain, and Ventilation; Chipotle Beef Tacos with Carmelized Onions

July 6, 2015

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Who doesn’t love spicy? Lots of people, including my husband, but we won’t talk about how I married a flavor wuss. 

This recipe in Everyday Mexican by Rick Bayless seemed very straight-forward and easy, so I figured it would be no-stress way to start the book. There was even an accompanying tomatillo salsa recipe with like 4 ingredients – how could I screw that up?

Skirt steak on sale from Walmart (#dealwithit), corn torts, one onion (it was supposed to be two but apparently I can’t count that high and shop at the the same time), hot sauce for garnish, and fresh cilantro.

I am one of those people for whom cilantro makes everything better. There are people who are genetically pre-disposed to hating the stuff, and I feel very, very sorry for them. NPR Cilantro/Genetics article here.  No cilantro was called for, probably because it’s not authentic or whatever. Sorry, I am HUNGRY, not authentic.

Oh yeah, and most importantly, one can of Chipotle peppers, in canning sauce.

I have to apologize, I got a new phone that is wonderful and takes absolutely crap pictures.

The book said to choose a “heavy skillet”, so I grabbed the cast iron one with two hands and didn’t drop it on my bare feet. Already, I thought I was winning. I cooked the onions in oil in this skillet, and didn’t burn them. Life was good.

This is all the onions I made, because I can’t read.

Then I used a “food processor” (tiny round chopper machine I use only when it’s 9 AM and I don’t know where my salsa is) and I processed the chipotle peppers and their sauce. The mixture looked slimy but delicious. After spreading a “thick patina”, #douchey, on the steak and prepping the pan with oil (nobody said this was healthy), I had leftover chipotle sauce. It looked like salsa. It smelled like Heaven. SO, naturally, I ate a big spoonful.

And almost died.

Now, it is believed that there is a connection to loving spice and loving pain. Wall Street Journal writer John McQuaid visits the masochistic concept here. I pride myself on not being a spice wuss. I also pride myself on having a high tolerance for pain. I had completely natural childbirth with my first. It was stupidly unintentional, but now I crow about it like I’m Wonder Woman, or something.

I’m not into pain any more than anybody else, but I was in paaaaaaaiiiin, after that bite. No, really. I was not ok. Tongue, nose, and throat all cried out in protest. I was blinded, my eyes welled up so fast.  Who knew taking a big bite of pure ground peppers would be so hot? DUH, Meg. Just… DUH. After chugging some half & half (milk products fix spicy, not water), I realized that the steaks were going to offend my mild-loving husband and children’s tongues. I scraped most of that “patina” of my skirt steaks, figured it was fine now, and put them in the hot skillet.

“Steak?” “Money’s too tight for steak…” “Steak?” “Suuuure…’steak’…”

And then the smoke bomb went off. When you cook in a cast iron skillet, it apparently smokes a little. Or a lot. It would also seem that I did not remove enough of the chipotle “patina”, or else it has patina’ed its way into the meat already.  The cloud of smoke that arose from the pan threatened to melt my eyeballs. My kids in the next room started coughing and complaining. I turned on the whole-house fan, sent kids and dog outside, and wondered if hubby keeps a gas mask under the sink for emergencies.

This was supposed to be a safe, easy meal, damn it.

Mmmmm, steak. And with two fans on, nobody died.

This dish actually turned out beautifully, and the steak was not too spicy for the family. I cooked it to a medium pinkishness and, after letting it rest, cut some off for the girls and cooked that a little longer. I will teach them to appreciate a medium steak someday. Right now we’re still working on everybody remembering to flush the toilet.

Important Factoids:

  • Cilantro makes everything better and the people who think it smells like stink bugs are genetically inferior unfortunate.
  • Pain and spice receptors are closely linked in your head.
  • Chipotle peppers are hot.

What we have learned today:

  • You should remember to make the tomatillo salsa recipe with this, because I forgot, and it sounds wonderful.
  • If it gets a chance, spice will kill you and everyone you love.
  • “Patina” is not the Spanish word for a baby duck.
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Mexican Everyday: Chipotle

June 11, 2015

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My Mexican Everyday cookbook (by Rick Bayless) came from Amazon today. I haven’t even cracked it yet. It’s a weeknight, we spent 2 after-school hours in the pool, and have I mentioned I suck at cooking? I did mention that, right? Go back and read.

To preface my dinner choice explanation, I would eat Chipotle for one meal a day, every day. Forever. And ever. Amen. So, I decided to celebrate my fancy Mexican cookbook arriving and kick off my adventure in Mexican cooking with… a little fast food. Since public opinion says that taking the lid off a take-out container doesn’t count as cooking, I made an attempt a cook a Chipotle Burrito Bowl. What, like it’s hard?

Hubby schooled me the night before on how NOT to overcook chicken:

Did you know they make thermometers for meat?! What will they think of next? Chicken is supposed to hit 160. Then you take it off the pan, or you eat white rubber.

I accidentally started the chicken way before the boy (who was doing some wife-approved, after-work, guy-bonding  in Philly) was on his way home.  No worries! Turns out you can keep chicken warm in the oven on a covered plate in a 170 degree oven. Then you can take the plate of chicken out later, good as new, and burn the ever-lovin’ CRAP out of your hand on a hot plate. Good times.

The rest of my Chipotle assembly line ingredients were as follows:

Weeknight = ready-made guac and salsa. The boy makes his own killer versions of these, when time permits. I do not. Black beans must be rinsed or they have a buttload of sodium, and make my congestive heart failure get uppity. And yes, that is Great Value brand you see. And YES, there is a Whole Foods, Rastelli’s, and Trader Joe’s 10 minutes from my workplace. We shop at Walmart for basic groceries. I know. We’re heathens.

Important Factoids:

  • I only ate the guacamole verde with a fork 4 times during the meal prep. #selfcontrol
  • Herdez is our favorite salsa, and we’ve noticed that it’s seems to be the favorite of the people in the Hispanic Foods aisle who actually appear to be Hispanic.
  • Speaking of hearts, cut open a plum tomato long-ways sometime, and tell me if it doesn’t remind you creepily of a human heart. Freaky.
  • Shredding cheese is dangerous for your fingertips, fyi.
There are no bits of shredded fingertip in there. Probably.

I cooked the Minute Rice as per the package directions, but I don’t usually remember to note the time that foods are on the stove top, so….it may have boiled over twice. This dish also required math and reading a chart on the side of the box, so I would like extra credit now.

All good. Not ruined! Just messy.

I mixed in chopped fresh cilantro, pepper, and butter. (I was careful to put aside some of the unseasoned rice for the girls, because God forbid they should eat something with flavor.) I discovered after some research that Chipotle calls it “cilantro lime” rice, so I should have probably bought limes. And made margaritas, clearly.

When hubby got home, I took his order. I did not greet him at the door wearing the Chipotle crew member apron and hat, sorry. He did not get to choose between “for here” and “to go”, either. (The cherubs were in need of some Daddy time, and I was in need of them not needing me for like 15 minutes, so he was not going anywhere.) He asked for everything except salsa. He is a reformed tomato hater; he didn’t want to over-do it.

The final product. “For here”, Burrito Bowls, pretty darn close to Chipotle quality, too. *patting self on back*

What we have learned today:

  • So maybe the hubby’s insistence in the value of digital thermometers is real. The chicken was so much better than Chipotle’s.
  • The rice, not as much. Apparently you should actually follow those directions on the side of the box.
  • You pretty much can’t screw up the rest of these ingredients, in various combinations. This is why “Mexican” food is the best food.

Next time: Meg stops imitating take-out and opens the actual cookbook.

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Times They Are A-Changin’

June 9, 2015

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So my hubby was a band director and didn’t remember desiring any other career since the beginning of things.

The boy’s last concert.


Except that this career kinda sucked for hubby. He spent 11 years hopping around to five different school districts – doing a good job and trying hard to be happy. But his hobby was always “computer stuff”.

Flashback: He built me my first (second, third) computer out of parts, in college. He was “Doctor Finale”, having mastered that music notation software back then, too. He could have charged classmates for all the help he game them, using that program.

About a year ago he started teaching himself different coding languages and working on web development projects. He began working for an app development company. He started going to JavaScript meet-ups. (No, I don’t know what those are either, but he met some very cool people who helped him out immensely, so whatever.) He started volunteering for Code for Philly, a non-profit organization that seeks to “make Philadelphia a better place to live, work, and play, through technology”. He was trying to learn all he could to start a new career- and then he got one!

Hubby resigned from his teaching job – after the spring concert – in May. June 1st he started a completely different job. He interviewed for a won an paid internship 50onRed, a tech advertising company. He’s been there 7 days and he’s never been happier, work-wise – and not just because of the endless stream of free food and relaxed      atmosphere. He really enjoys the work.

He also just gave up teacher tenure. And summer. And the promise of steady employment. And being home by 4:30 every day. And me being able to schedule any appointment kid-free before 7 PM. And…

We are adjusting pretty well to the later schedule. He doesn’t have to be in at work (in Philadelphia) until 10:00 AM. Still doing the Daddy thing quite nicely, he gets the girls breakfasted and ready, drops them off at school, and heads to the train station. He is home around 7:00-7:30 (3 hours later than before). The girls are getting to stay up late by the old standards; they think this is a party.

However, it was the boy always made dinner in our house. What? He enjoyed making dinner. And he enjoyed that I perched on our bar stool, drank wine, and talked to him while he enjoyed making dinner. It was enjoyable. Now, have to enjoy  making dinner. Oh dear.

Another, “however”:  I am going to be home and single-parenting it, without hubby. all. day. all. summer. long.

I am not a good stay-at-home mom. I don’t stay at home well, period. And I am one of those weird wives who actually loves and craves her husband’s company. Or, any adult’s company. I am going to miss him! I will be the only adult in the house with these two little kooks and the deranged puppy. Help! Send reinforcements. Tell them to bring their bathing suits, and wine. 

In an effort to not succumb to Netflix & takeout poisoning, I’ve decreed that the following will happen, this summer:

A) We will maintain some kind of a schedule. Mainly so I can point to it and say “It’s not ‘bother Mommy’ time right now, it’s ‘Art Time’, or what have you.

How to Make a Summer Schedule for Kids Plus activities for summer
Like this Pinteresting thing, but less regimented. “11-12, Quiet Time in Room” hahahahahahaaaaaa *wipes tears away* That’s rich.

I am also going to make an attempt to do stuff with these kids, and report it here (dare I say daily? Ha). We live in a fabulous area of the country to raise children. There’s a ton to do here, between the city and the shore. I do have some grad work to do (classes until July), but after that, we’re gonna pound the Capri Suns and live it up – grade-schooler style. Woooooo! Call me if you wanna go somewhere or float around a pool.

B) I suck at cooking. I ruin grilled cheese. I have minor anxiety attacks about timing eggs and toast. And we have a healthy, loving relationship with Mexican food. Therefore I very randomly purchased Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless (on my phone, in the car, after hearing him on the radio, because…impulsive). I decided I needed to grow some cojones and cook my way through his book. And his second book. And then I want an order of enchiladas on the side, just because.

So I’ll be able to mix my classic Mommy Blog ‘here’s what we did today’ ramblings with the close-up foodie pics of a cooking blog, and really strive for internet blandness. (Sorry. Stay tuned.)

You know you want more pictures like this in your life anyway. Look at this. Whatever this is, I’m making it. Challenge accepted.
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