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.

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.

Greek potato salad

It’s beginning to look a lot like…potato salad season. Which, as a mayo hater, can be fraught with peril. Plus, the average potato salad? Potatoes. Eggs. Maybe some pickles. Meh. But there’s something about the nostalgia, the idea of cold potatoes on a hot summer day…in the right context, dressed with the right sauce, it could be refreshing, yet comforting, flavorful, yet familiar, wholly American yet…Greek?

Think about it – what other dressing is white, creamy and capable of tying together a whole dish? Tzatziki sauce. It’s refreshing, easy and most importantly, not mayo. Using that as a base, it only makes sense to mimic some other traditional Greek flavors – olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, bell peppers, artichokes…This is a great option for a ‘non-traditional’ potato salad, and has enough color to make it a beautiful addition to the table (no formless white slop here.) It works as a great stand-alone side, or even as the main event with some accompanying vegetables. You’ll probably get more dressing than you need, but use the rest on salads, sandwiches – or straight off the spoon. I won’t tell.

 

Greek potato salad
So fresh, so delicious, so full of awesome sauce.
Greek potato salad
It’s potato salad on steroids.

You’ll need:

Salad

  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 8 oz. crumbled feta
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes or ½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 3-4 pounds yukon gold, klondike rose or assorted potatoes, diced into large bite-sized pieces
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 T rosemary
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained
  • ½ large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 yellow or orange bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 seedless cucumber, diced

Dressing

  • 2 cups plain greek yogurt
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 2 lemons, use juice and zest
  • 2 cucumbers, seeded, diced and squeezed of juice
  • 4 T fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

Dressing

Combine ingredients in the bottom of a big bowl – whisk together and let sit while you dice other veggies and roast the potatoes. (There are some ranges here, play with what you like. I like more garlic and more lemon, not everyone does.)

Salad

  1. Roast the potatoes: toss with oil, oregano and rosemary, bake at 425 degrees for 15-10 minutes, until fork tender. Turn a couple, of times to encourage even browning. Remove and let cool.
  2. Assemble the salad: dice the other veggies while you roast the potatoes. Combine cooled potatoes and veggies in large bowl with the dressing – toss to coat. Chill 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  3. Garnish with fresh lemon slices and fresh, chopped dill. Serve cold or room temperature.

 

Roasted sweet potato burrito bowls

My latest foray into “how can I feed more people, more often,” is hosting a monthly book club. But my friends love everything from teeny-bopper vampire tales to gut-wrenching memoirs to aspirational career books – why would we want to read the same thing (that every other book club in the country is probably reading)?

IMG_0129

So we don’t. Each month we pick a theme, and read a book of our choice. Not only have we not spoiled a book for someone, we actually talk about books – plus, we get recommendations (on what to read – and what NOT to read).

I try to match the menu with both the theme and any dietary restrictions (in this case, vegetarian and gluten free). March’s theme was luck, so I wanted something green – but real green, not processed green. Enter roasted sweet potato bowls with green rice. Barely adapted from Cookie and Kate, these bowls were a HUGE hit – and I made a HUGE amount. This recipe could be halved (and even quartered) if you want a more manageable dinner. It multiplies well, is super filling and also really healthy. (We made up for that with dessert. And wine.)

sweet potato2

 

You’ll need:
Green rice
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 c brown rice
  • 6 c broth (veggie or chicken)
  • 2 16 oz. bags frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of liquid
  • 3/4 c cilantro
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt to taste
Sweet potatoes
  • 5-6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Olive oil to drizzle
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • Zest of one lime
  • Salt to taste
Black beans
  • 3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c salsa (any is fine)
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • Juice of two limes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Garnishes
  • Avocado
  • Salsa
  • Cilantro
  • Queso fresco or chipotle cheddar
  • Lime wedges
  • Minced jalapeno
  • Sour cream

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss sweet potato with olive oil and spices, spread in one layer onto one large or two smaller baking sheets. (I use stones, so I don’t have to grease, but you may want to spray/parchment your pans. As long as they’re rimmed, you’re fine.) Bake, turning once or twice, until browned and fork tender (35-40 minutes.)
  2. For the green rice, blend vegetables in a blender or food processor until smooth. (You can thin out with broth if you need, it’ll depend on how much water your spinach has.) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, until shimmering but not smoking. Add rice, stirring and browning lightly. Stir in green blend, cook for a minute, then add broth and boil. Once it’s boiling, cover, lower heat to a simmer, and cook until rice is tender (35-45 minutes.) Once it’s done, remove the lid, cover the top of the pan with a paper towel and replace the lid (this soaks up excess moisture and helps the rice stay separated.)
  3. For the beans, combine ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until other ingredients are done. You can smash-up some of the beans if you want a more “refried” texture, or leave them whole.
  4. Once everything is finished, serve buffet style with all the garnishes, and let people assemble their own bowls. Serves 8 with a fair amount of leftovers.

 

Baked potato soup

This time of year is fickle. The skies promise sunshine, it peeks through the clouds with a shy anticipation – but snatches back and sends us cold winds on the turn of a dime. Everything is brown. And wet. And not growing yet. Oh, and my migraines are terrible. It makes me crabby.

When I am crabby, I crave comfort food – enter baked potato soup. You need something to cheer your weary bones? This is hearty, and comforting. You need some fun in your life? If a bacon-topped bowl of goodness isn’t fun, I don’t know what is. You need something easy for dinner? My friends, dive into this delicious bowl.

There are a million different recipes for baked potato soup – mine balances the line between decadent and decidedly not terrible for you. It’s filling, relatively fast and fairly hard to ruin. Also, cheese. And bacon. Who can be crabby in the face of that?

Baked potato soup
Potatoes. Bacon. Cheese. I rest my case.

You’ll need:

  • 6 potatoes (I like yukon golds or klondike rose), baked* and diced
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T butter
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 lb. of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ½ bunch green onions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper

*Fast method for baking potatoes:

Prick potatoes on each side with a fork. Microwave for 8 minutes, flip, and microwave 7-8 minutes more.

Get cooking:

  1. Heat butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute for 8-10 minutes, until softened and slightly browned. Add garlic and saute another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Deglaze pan with chicken broth, adding potatoes, cream cheese and half of cheddar cheese. Stir, breaking up potatoes into smaller chunks with the spoon, and allow cheese to melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Garnish with bacon, cheese and scallions.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Quinoa bake

I’ve managed to make the hubs love of a lot of things he thought he hated. Steak. Bell peppers. Broccoli. Spicy food. (Well, not spicy to me, but I can actually use sriracha now.) But nothing has shocked me as much as his absolute obsession with Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts seem to be the “hot new trend” in food – mostly, I think, because everyone thought they hated them. Including David. Until someone got the genius idea to roast them. Now, he loves them with everything.

He also is not a huge fan of me suggesting ‘meatless’ night. But this gem, via Cookie and Kate, may have changed his mind. I did serve this with a pork tenderloin, but it would have been plenty on its own. Warm, filling and actually good for you, this is a beautiful dish for entertaining, yet easy enough for any night of the week.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Quinoa Bake
Roasted Brussels Sprout Quinoa Bake – aka, David’s new favorite meal.

You’ll need:

  • 1.5 – 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or stock
  • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 6-8 oz. assorted cheese (I used buttermilk blue and swiss – the sharper you go, the less you need)
  • 3/4 cup hard cheese, grated (for the top – I used piave vecchio, but whatever you like works fine.)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t basil
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook quinoa in water/broth for 12-15 minutes, until liquid is gone (check your package, you may need to rinse your quinoa first.)
  3. Slice your sprouts in half (or quarters if they’re huge), toss with oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 10-12 minutes. (Just until they get some color, they’ll finish cooking later.)
  4. Once quinoa is done, mix in milk, cheese and spices. Add in sprouts, pour into a baking dish (mine was 1.5 quarts, but an 8×8 works), top with shredded cheese and bake 12-15 minutes, until top is just browning.
  5. Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6 as a main, 6-8 as a side.

Maple dijon roasted pork tenderloin

If I invite you to dinner at my house (so, if we’ve ever met, because I invite EVERYONE to dinner at my house), there’s a 70% chance I’ve never made the dish I’m serving before. Every “hostess tip list” says this is a terrible idea, lest you screw up/it takes too long/you stress yourself out. I say to hell with that – if my friends are there, even falling flat on my face is fun.

But most of the time, I don’t – because I have my own tricks. 1. I always have an appetizer. And let’s be clear, that “appetizer” can be as simple as straight-up cheese or chips and salsa. In fact, if you actually show up on time, you’re probably making the munchie plate. Anyone can unwrap cheese, and everyone feels more at home when they help. (Plus, I totally expected you to be late.) 2. Have a back pocket plan. I can whip up a pretty fantastic pasta with marinara sauce in less than 10 minutes, which covers basically every disaster ever.

And let’s be clear – this trial run? Won a gold medal. This pork tenderloin was so good half of us ate dinner standing, because we forgot to leave the island. We ate the “leftovers” with our hands as the night continued – still never leaving the island. Topped with maple bourbon pumpkin butter and served with roasted Brussels Sprout quinoa bake, the only falling you’re doing is in love.

Maple dijon pork tenderloin
Main course: maple dijon pork tenderloin. We could not keep our hands off it. Yes, I said hands. Forks are so appetizer.

You’ll need:

  • 1 package (2) pork tenderloin
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix everything (except tenderloin) together in a small bowl.
  2. Lay tenderloin on a baking rack with a baking sheet underneath. (You can lay it right on the sheet, but it’s harder to flip.)
  3. Brush both sides with 1/2 the glaze and roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Pull meat out and brush with remaining glaze. Bake 10-15 minutes more, until thickest part of tenderloin registers 155 degrees.
  5. Tent with aluminum foil and let the meat rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Serves 6 – no, really, the 6 of us devoured this. Conventional serving sizes may tell you otherwise, but trust me on this.