Summertime and the eats are easy

When Erin said she wanted to have a party to celebrate the end of summer (because we’re just that kind of masochistic here in Michigan) on her rooftop deck, I said “What can I bring?” Well, it turns out the lovely people at La Terra Fina* wanted to step in and help with that. They sent me two dips – their Spinach and Artichoke (the greek yogurt version) and the Lemon Pepper Asiago. I’m a little embarrassed at the ease of what resulted, but that speaks to the quality of these dips.

Spinach Artichoke Mushrooms
Spinach Artichoke Mushrooms – delicious and delightfully easy!

The first dish (I can’t even call it a recipe guys, it’s cheating) is spinach and artichoke stuffed mushrooms. I cleaned the mushrooms, pulled out the stems, stuffed them with the dip and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The end. Good hot, good cold, good anywhere in between. One tub of dip took about 20 oz of mushrooms, give or take depending on size. I had a little leftover, and tossed with sautéed mushrooms the next day for dinner – also wholly good, and holy easy.

Lemon Pepper Crostini
Lemon Pepper Crostini – great in a pinch!

The second was a bit more…hairy. I have a pizza I love with a goat cheese lemon base, zucchini and summer squash, so I thought I’d reproduce here with a zucchini beer bread (since GR is Beer City) and spread the lemon pepper dip on top. Well. I enjoy under-baked bread as much as the next person, but this took it to new heights – 1.5 hours in the oven and we were not spreading anything on that bread. Plan B, formulated while I’m in nothing but a towel, hair and makeup not done, supposed to be downtown in 15 minutes (it’s a 15 minute drive y’all). Buy flatbread. Spread with dip. Top with sautéed summer squash. Done.

As it turns out, summer came out in all her glory to big farewell – good friends, good food, great views.

*La Terra Fina was kind enough to supply the ingredients, but as always, all thoughts are my own.

 

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Crab quesadillas with sweet slaw

My love language is gifts, and I’m huge on thanking people – for a job well done, for a generous favor, for opening their home. 

Meals are my favorite gift – not just because I love to cook, but because I love to see people enjoy something that only exists in the moment. This meal was a thank you for hosting, made alongside my best friend, with wine and wonderful company. 

Dinner was a relatively quiet affair, punctuated by good stories, laughter and murmurs of “This is SO GOOD.” 

The perfect plate – crab quesadilla with slaw
Serves 4 generously, up to 8 as a lighter meal.

You’ll need:

Quesadillas:

  • 8 tortillas (we used medium-sized flour, these would be great with corn, too)
  • 3 pounds crab, picked over for shells (or cracked yourself)
  • Your favorite taco seasoning (I used a mix of chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, paprika, lime and oregano)
  • 4 T butter
  • 2-4 cups queso (depending on how much you love cheese).

Slaw:

  • 1/4 head of red cabbage
  • 2 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow)
  • 1/2 a fresh pineapple
  • 1 mango
  • 1/2 a red onion
  • 1 bunch cilantro 
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 1/4 c orange juice 
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 T blackberry jam
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 t salt

Get cooking:

Quesadillas:

  1. Heat a medium sauté pan over edo high heat. (We used cast iron.)
  2. Sauté the crab with a bit of butter and your seasoning mix. (You could also just stir the crab and mix together – I just like the flavor development the heat brings.)
  3. Butter the tortillas on the outside (you could also just spray the pan with Pam, if you wanted to cut the calories).
  4. Add a bit of cheese to the inside of one tortilla, spread with crab, then top with cheese. (This helps the tortilla stick to both sides.)
  5. Fry for 3 minutes on either side.
  6. Keep warm in the oven until all the quesadillas are done.
  7. Serve with slaw and quacamole. 

Slaw:

  1. Shred or dice fist six ingredients – add to a large bowl.
  2. Whisk last 6 ingredients together, toss with the slaw.
  3. Serve immediately, or chill until ready for use.

Vegan palak paneer

Listen, y’all know I love cheese more than my luggage. But sometimes, especially after an epic cheese-fest, I recognize the need to cut back. A little. I stumbled across this recipe for vegan palak paneer on Food 52 and thought “Well, I think I hate tofu, but with curry…”

Turns out, curry covers everything – I actually like this dish just as much, if not more, with tofu vs paneer (plus, tofu is easier to find.) Even better, I discovered recently that the tofu isn’t even necessary! Less palak paneer then and more…Indian creamed spinach?…not the same ring, but still delicious.

Delicious Indian dinner - Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.
Delicious Indian dinner – Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.

Especially since this was part of a larger Indian dinner, I figured the protein wasn’t needed. I also used fresh spinach because I got a great deal at the Costco, but would absolutely use frozen in this unless you hit a sale. (2.5 lbs, for real, is a lot of spinach.) One last note on coconut milk – I have discovered, as of late, the magic that is full-fat coconut milk. It’s so…CREAMY. Which sounds dumb and obvious, but I swear, it’s a little mind-blowing. So since you’re being so good about eating your greens – and coconut oil is health food and all – I’m saying go for it.

You’ll need:

  • 2.5 lbs of fresh spinach or 4 10 oz bags of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry (you are cooking the spinach quite a bit, so frozen is really fine here.)
  • 2 15 oz cans coconut milk (I prefer using at least one full fat, as it really adds to the creaminess of the dish)
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, cubed – optional (I have included it in the past, but didn’t here as I served it with another protein.)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 T curry
  • salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking:

  1. If using fresh spinach, cook in batches until wilted down, squeezing as much excess water from cooked spinach as possible. If using frozen, defrost and squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.
  2. Heat coconut oil over medium heat, and saute onion until browned, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add other spices and cook 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add spinach back in, along with coconut milk and tofu (if using). Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice with naan.

Cauliflower rice

I find myself, in general, super skeptical of fad diets. Oh don’t misunderstand – I’m not judging. I’ve tried the Jillian Michales 7-day detox water, whipped up more than one green smoothie and hopped on the spiralizer train. I’ve done chocolate brownie date bites and powdered peanut butter and, in fits of complete self-loathing, stevia brownies.

Some of these things have been total disasters (stevia’s aftertaste makes me very skeptical of its natural claim), but others were a pleasant surprise. (The brownie bites, while not brownie-ish at all, were nevertheless good, slightly chocolatey and imparted a fair amount of energy.) Spiralized veggies and spaghetti squash can be pretty good in certain dishes, and I’ve even found tolerance for the occasional green smoothie (though I’m always scavenging for a snack by 10.) Cauliflower rice was another fad I was prepared to hate. But the man loves him some fried rice, and while I’m really good about veggies in my diet, he is…less so.

Delicious Indian dinner - Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.
Delicious Indian dinner – Indian BBQ pork, vegan palak paneer, cauliflower rice and naan.

Turns out, we like it a lot! (In fact, it was declared “one of the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen” from a man who would eat Cincinnati chili and shells and cheese until the end of time.) Like veggie ‘noodles,’ I would argue it’s no replacement for the real thing – but when you’re using rice as a vehicle to sop up something else – like in the Indian feast pcitured above – it’s perfect.

You’ll need:

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped roughly
  • 2 T oil of choice (cater to cuisine)
  • 3-4 T spices as needed
  • A food processor

Get cooking:

  1. Pulse cauliflower florets in food processor until pebble-sized.
  2. Saute in oil for 7-10 minutes, checking texture (this is really a preference thing, however done you like it is how done it should be).
  3. Add in spices of choice and saute 1-2 more minutes.
  4. Serve with…anything!

BBQ pork – Indian style (slow cooker)

Everyone has that ‘favorite restaurant dish’ – every time you order something else (because variety is spicy and all that) it’s good, maybe even really good – but nothing lives up to that one amazing thing. At Graydon’s Crossing in Grand Rapids, that dish (for me) is the Bali pulled pork. I didn’t even consider I could attempt it at home until I was messing around on Pinterest. (See, sometimes those rabbit holes pay off.)


This is a slow cooker recipe, which means it’s pretty hands off and simple. You might even be tempted to skip the browning step, but in Indian cooking, toasting the spices really does make a huge difference. This recipe was part of a larger Indian feast, so I focused solely on meat and seasoning here – if you were serving it alone, I’d serve pita-like with naan and pickled veggies.

Recipe loosely adapted from http://myheartbeets.com/indian-style-pulled-pork/

You’ll need:

  • 3lb pork (either shoulder roast (more fat) or pork loin (lean))
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2  fresh ginger, minced
  • 7-8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 T curry powder
  • 1 T garam masala
  • 1 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 T honey
  • ½ c water

Get cooking:

  1. Heat coconut oil over medium-high heat, add onions and saute until soft, 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add pork and sear until browned on all sides.
  3. Add seasonings and saute 2-3 minutes, until you can smell them.
  4. Add tomato sauce, water and honey. Transfer to a slow cooker and cook on high for four hours or low for 8.
  5. Shred meat, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  6. Serve with naan.

Fresh 7-layer dip

You guys. This dip. ZOMG it’s like someone took your grandma’s 7-layer dip and gave it to a gourmet chef, who slapped it into shape like a boot camp sergeant. Not gonna lie: this dish requires a lot of stuff. But start to finish, I’d say this is doable in under an hour, if your chopping and multitasking skills are on point. (My wine handicap added a bit of time.) Technically, this dip is only 5 layers, but you can always add some tomatoes or olives or whatever else you like on your tacos.
Fresh 7-layer Mexican dip
Super tasty, very impressive, good as an app or a standalone meal.
This thing is a showstopper – the best appetizer at any party and totally appropriate for dinner, all on its own, with chips. Not kidding. It also goes pretty well with this. Thanks to Annie’s Eats for the recipe!
You’ll need:

Beans: 

  • 1/2 lb. chorizo
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Layers:

  • 1 1/2 c guacamole (Either prepared or homemade.)
  • 1 c fresh salsa (I used this fresh tomatillo salsa, but use your favorite.)
  • Crumbled queso fresco or shredded pepper jack cheese – as much as you want 🙂

Sour cream: 

  • 1/3 c sour cream (or plain greek yogurt)
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, chopped (seeded if you don’t want it super spicy)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime

Get cooking:

Beans:

  1. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, add chorizo and cook 5-7 minutes, until browned and fully cooked.
  2. Add beans and stock, cooking for 5 minutes until stock reduces.
  3. Mash beans and set aside to cool.

Sour cream:

Mix ingredients together, adding salt or more lime juice as wanted.

Assemble the dip:

  1. Spread the beans on the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate or cake pan.
  2. Top with guac, salsa, sour cream and cheese.
  3. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or veggies.

Mexican pho

When one of your very best friends comes home from Maryland, you drop everything to make her whatever sounds good. And when she comes home in the fall, what sounds good is soup. And Mexican.
I wanted something simple to pair with this, and came across my pho recipe from last winter – clean flavors, fun toppings. And thinking Mexican made me think tortilla soup. Ta done – Mexican pho was born! This would be equally good with a quesadilla side, or even just queso and chips.
Mexican Pho
Simple and satisfying, it’s like the LBD of Mexican food – dress it up any way you want!
You’ll need:
  • 8 c chicken broth – low sodium
  • 2 c chicken (rotisserie leftover roasted chicken works – you can also add 2-3 raw chicken breasts and shred before serving)
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional lime wedges, minced cilantro, avocado, queso fresco, tortilla strips and jalapeño slices – to serve
Get cooking: 
  1. Place all ingredients (chicken broth through pepper) in a slow cooker and stir to combine.
  2. Heat on low for 4 hours, or high for 8 (you can cut the time down if your chicken is already cooked.)
  3. Serve with lime wedges and garnish with plenty of minced cilantro and jalapeño slices.