Steak Chalupas

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Happy Friday Y’all! So ready for the weekend and all the festivities involved.  This week and next week (which is a half week for us), are proving to be super busy, so with our festive Friday dinner, tequila cocktails are definitely in order!

We love Mexican food, and more often than not, if we eat it, I make something at home.  Its not easy to find good Mexican food in Connecticut!  I have met a lot of different people from all over latin america here, but surprisingly not many fellow Mexican Americans. There are lots of people here from Europe, Honduras, Guatemala, Columbia, and other places though making it a unique cultural melting pot.

Chalupas are basically giant nachos.  They can be a little messy to eat, but when all of your ingredients are fresh, they are so tasty! We had these for dinner recently and James really enjoyed himself. They are such a great thing to make for groups also as everyone can get involved making their own and adding the toppings they like.

What you need:

Beef Marinade:

  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 3lbs of skirt steak or sirloin

Chalupas:

  • 6-8 Chalupa Tostadas
  • 2 cups Refried Beans homemade or store-bought
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 1-2 jalapeños
  • 3-4 lime wedges to serve

Pre-Heat your oven to 350F.

Mix together your marinade and place beef and mix in a zip lock bag or shallow dish and cover.  Marinate your beef for at least an hour, or overnight if possible.

Once your beef has marinated, cook on grill or grill pan over medium heat until cooked.  My beef was really thick so this took at least 15min for medium rare, but if you have thinner skirt steak, it will cook faster.

Remove cooked beef from the grill and let rest for 2omin.  Slice up the beef in bite sized chunks to assemble your chalupas.

Spread beans over the tostada, and layer on beef and cheese.

Place in the oven for about 10min to heat the beans through and melt the cheese.

Remove from the oven and serve with chopped up lettuce, tomato, jalapeño, and lime wedges.

This is fun to do as a family and let everyone build their own chalupas.

Enjoy with a beer or tequila cocktail and get your weekend kicked off on the right foot!

Lentil Soup

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Well hello arctic cold front! Holy cow its cold out there! This morning it snowed for about an hour, and instead of getting warmer as the day progresses, the temperature is meant to drop even more.  I mean honestly, count me out! I am dreaming of warmer climates and looking forward to going down to Texas for Christmas this year. Like a migrating bird, we are headed south for the holiday season, and given this cold snap, it can’t come soon enough!

I decided it would be a good idea to make a hearty lentil soup to combat the cold, and it was a great idea! This soup is so full of flavor and its really hearty! We ate it on its own, but with a fresh baguette or something like that to dip in it, yum!

I’m super busy next week before we leave for the holiday, so things like this that can be made in advance and warmed throughout the week for lunch or dinner are ideal. I usually cook for James and I on Tuesday and make 3-4 meals at once that we can warm during the week.  It’s great for me to get ahead, and test out recipes I might use on my private chef clients. This soup was a home run so I thought I would share it with you!

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What you need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch of chard or collard greens or kale to add at the end

In a large dutch oven warm your olive oil over medium heat.

Once hot add in your onion, carrot, and celery and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add in your lentils, tomatoes, broth, and seasoning including salt and pepper.

Let boil for about 30-45min.

Remove the bay leaf and using a hand blender, roughly blend the soup to make a smoother, thicker soup.

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Add in your chopped up bunch of chard or collards and stir in until wilted.

Enjoy!

 

Seared Tuna Salad

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The core of what I do is create a balance in our lives and the lives of my clients. Just like everyone else I love unhealthy food sometimes and a drink every now and again.  In order to not feel guilty about those meals, I make sure to eat well the rest of the week.  Usually weekends are when we splurge on burgers, pizza, or that extra glass of wine! So during the week I cook pretty well.

In the winter it is harder to motivate yourself to eat cold foods.  It is so tempting to eat hearty and warm food for every meal, but every now and again, it doesn’t hurt to have a salad.

This salad is a delicious seared tuna, with quails eggs, and a miso lime dressing. It is so full of flavor and really light.  During this season of lots of holiday parties, a light meal is really refreshing.  Last night, I went with a group of friends and fellow entrepreneurs in the Greenwich area to a 5 course dinner out with wine and cocktail pairings.  Everything was so good, but for tonights dinner, I needed it to be light! We have another two holiday parties on Friday and Saturday nights so, this week is all about balance!

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What you need:

  • Lettuce
  • 1 Tomato
  • Chives
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 2 Tuna steaks
  • 6 Quail Eggs (hard boiled)
  • 1 tbsp white miso paste
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce or gluten free soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Chop up all of the ingredients you want in your salad.  I kept it simple, but feel free to add in any veggies you like!

Season your tuna steaks with salt and pepper.  Make sure these are sushi grade tuna so you can eat them raw.

Heat your grill pan to medium high and drizzle the tuna with olive oil before placing it on the pan.

Cook your tuna for about 2-3 min per side just until you see the grill marks and remove from the heat and set aside.

Mix together your dressing ingredients: miso, honey, wasabi, salt, lime, vinegar, soy, and your oils and whisk until a homogenous mixture.

Plate your salad, tuna, and quail eggs and top with your dressing.  Serve with a lime garnish if you’d like and enjoy!

 

Creamy Goats Cheese Polenta

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As promised, here is the delicious polenta recipe from the short rib dinner the other night. James said to me before making this, “I don’t really like polenta.” Challenge accepted, and guess what, he liked this polenta A LOT!

I don’t have a ton of experience with making polenta, so this was a bit of an experiment, and I plan on doing a few more experiments with it in the near future, but it is essentially cornmeal. You cook it with water and then add in your seasoning or flavor towards the end of cooking.

It really is a blank canvas for flavor, and even though it is traditionally Italian, I think I am going to try it with with some Mexican flavors as corn is the base of so many Mexican dishes.

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What you need:

  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup polenta (slightly under 1 cup actually)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz goats cheese
  • black pepper to taste

Pour your water into a pot, and whisk in the polenta in a steady stream.

Simmer the polenta for 15minutes whisking it frequently. If you notice it looking thick and not creamy, add in small amounts of water at a time to adjust.

After about 15 min, add in your salt, butter and goats cheese,  and black pepper making sure to whisk it the whole time to get a smooth mixture.

Serve it with your short ribs or anything else you might like it with and enjoy!

For those naysayers out there, polenta is somewhere between grits, rice, and mashed potatoes. It is hearty and can be full of flavor, but it requires a little something extra like cheese or jalapeño or seasoning to really elevate it to the next level.

Braised Short Ribs

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Braised short ribs are a phenomenal winter dish. They are so flavorful and tender when done right, and are so warm and hearty.  It is the perfect dish for those really cold winter nights when you need warming from the inside.  I served these short ribs with a goats cheese polenta, that we couldn’t get enough of!

As I mentioned yesterday, the temperature has really dropped, so you might be seeing a lot of these types of warm, hearty dishes. It is fire building weather and stew weather, and I vow to make an attempt at beef bourguignon this season!

We had some left over onions, carrots, and chicken broth from Thanksgiving so this recipe is a great way to get though them also!

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What you need:

  • 8 whole beef short ribs
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 6 pieces of pancetta diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 cups of red wine
  • 2 cups of beef or chicken broth (whatever you have is fine)
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Season your short ribs in salt and pepper and them dredge them in flour.

Using a large dutch oven or other oven safe pot cook your pancetta until browned over medium high heat.  Once cooked, remove the pancetta pieces, but leave the grease in the pan.

Depending on the amount of grease, you may or may not need to add some olive oil, but I didn’t. Add in your short ribs and brown them on all sides. Be careful for oil splatter, your hands will thank you for it! (learned the hard way obviously)

Once browned, remove the ribs and lower heat to medium. Add in your onion, carrots, and shallots and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in your red wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan.

Once boiling, cook for 2 minutes and add in the broth and a tsp of salt and plenty of pepper. Add your ribs to the mixture and check they are almost completely submerged in liquid. Add in the pancetta, rosemary, and thyme whole and place the lid on top.

Cook in the oven for 2 hours at 350F and then lower to 325F and cook for a further 30min.

Remove from the oven and let sit for about 20 min.

Skim the fat off the top of the liquid and serve over potatoes or polenta spooning some of the sauce over it.  (Polenta recipe coming tomorrow)

Make sure you have some wine left over to enjoy with this dish.  It’s the perfect pairing!

p.s. This is a great dish to make a day or two in advance also.  You can scrape the fat off once its cold, and the short ribs are so delicious and tender a couple days later!

Brussels Sprout Caesar Salad

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Caesar salads are always pretty tasty, but not always your healthiest salad option on the menu.  More often than not, they are made with super creamy dressings instead of the tradition caesar dressing, which has no cream at all. Being lactose intolerant, I have to avoid the really creamy dressings, so I made my own this time, and it was really delicious!

James and I really like to eat a balanced diet, so every now and again we have salads for dinner or other really light options to balance out those days and nights we don’t eat as well.  Yesterday we had cheeseburgers for lunch from our local butcher, but for dinner we had this awesome salad to keep it light.

We had a pretty active day also, which made us feel better about those cheeseburgers.  I took our dog for an hour walk and James went to play soccer with friends.  We also took our dog to the beach in Old Greenwich for a while, and got to enjoy the gorgeous weather.  We’ve had another cold front come in, and it is really starting to feel like winter! We’ve been so lucky to have sunshine and beautiful days, but the temperature is dropping!

Now more than ever, it is important to find balance in your diet and exercise routine as this is the season most people gain on average 10lbs! I really think you should enjoy all of those holiday parties and festivities of the season, but on nights you eat at home, you should find balance and eat well so you don’t break your goals! Forget New Years resolutions, and have a goal for the holiday season instead.  That way, when the new year comes around, you don’t feel like you have to work extra hard to get back to the status quo.

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What you need:

  • 2-3 cups of brussels sprouts
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 4 anchovies or anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • Croutons if desired
  • fresh cracked salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 chicken breasts (optional)

Cut the stem off of the brussels sprouts, and use a food processor to shred them.

Cut open your pomegranate and  add the seeds into your salad along with the parmesan.

Mix together your olive oil, egg yolk, garlic, lemon, anchovies, dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the dressing into your salad and top with croutons and enjoy!

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The pomegranate seeds give it a real brightness and fresh flavor.

If you add chicken, I just seasoned mine with salt and pepper and grilled it for a simple flavor to go back to your salad.

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition

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We just finished celebrating my favorite holiday and man did I cook up a storm!  The men of the house were in charge of the turkey itself- I was in charge of everything else.  I stupidly didn’t get a picture of the whole Thanksgiving spread together, but there was so much food, I actually didn’t have a counter long enough for it!

We indulged in fried turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, bacon brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, gravy, a salad, and a fruit salad.  Not to forget dessert, which was apple pie, pumpkin pie, and chocolate bourbon pecan pie (by far the winner). I would say our Thanksgiving was pretty traditional in the spread and I thought I would share some of our tips and recipes with you to consider for next Thanksgiving or even the upcoming holiday season.

Now in the Ruiz household we have been frying our turkeys for about 15 years. This is a sure way to get a delicious, juicy turkey with crispy skin and lots of flavor. They key for a really top notch fried turkey is in the injectable marinades. If you want to make your own, I would suggest a lot of melted butter and some poultry seasoning for a plain, traditional turkey.  We love to make a butter jalapeño turkey and a plain one for Thanksgiving.  We use a brand called Tony Chachere for their marinades because we know they are delicious! (not sponsored, but maybe next year 😉 )

Fried turkeys need 3min per pound only in peanut oil heated to 350F. So this is a much faster way to cook them than the traditional way, which is another bonus.  We recommend letting them rest for 30min to an hour also after removing them from the oil to really seal those juices in! MAJOR DISCLAIMER: DO NOT FRY FOZEN TURKEYS, ALWAYS MAKE SURE THEY ARE COMPLETELY DEFROSTED!!!!!

Make sure the turkey is completely submerged in the oil, so you need about 3-5 gallons for most fryers.

Moving on to stuffing, obviously in frying a turkey, you don’t actually stuff the turkey, so we make ours separately. We have always made a cornbread stuffing, and it really gives it so much flavor. Everything is eyeballed also , so no need to measure everything out! We use about half of a large onion, a couple of carrots, and a stalk of celery and cook it in some oil and butter until its really soft. Then we add in lots of herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage.  Sage is a great addition to stuffing!

Once your veggies are cooked, we break apart the cornbread into a pan and add in the veggies and a few cups of chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.  We also add in some pecans and dried bread mix. My mom likes to add in apples and raisins, but this year we kept it simple with no added fruit.

For green bean casserole, I love to make it with fresh ingredients instead canned things. I used cremini mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms and fresh green beans to get a really awesome flavor. One trick here is to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms with warm water and to then use the mushrooms and the mushroom water in the sauce. We used a natural brand of cream of mushroom soup and add in some fresh herbs to really elevate the sauce.

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For cranberry sauce, again we kept it simple.  1 bag of cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, the zest of an orange and a splash of orange juice. Cook down for about 15min, and it turns into this delicious sauce perfect for any turkey, and a great addition to those leftover turkey sandwiches!

I didn’t photograph the mashed potatoes or gravy as there wasn’t anything too exciting about how to make them.  The trick to a good mashed potato is lots of butter, enough milk, and a little olive oil to give it richness. I also use a hand mixer to blend them into creamy oblivion, and they are so delicious! I admit I cheated on gravy.  I’ve made it from scratch in the past, but with everything else I was responsible for, I cheated and used turkey stock and a gravy mix. We all have flaws, and even in my wannabe Martha Stewart world, I had to take a short cut! Please forgive me!

We had a wonderful time being together, and way too much food and wine! We of course went for seconds later in the evening and continued our wine consumption for hours! We were so happy to see the Dallas Cowboys win their 10th straight game, and we sat back and thought about how much we really had to be thankful for.  2016 was an amazing year, and still not over yet!

I hope everyone’s thanksgiving felt as special as ours, and hopefully the holiday season continues to be a blessing for all of you!