Apr 24, 2012

Carne Adovada Tacos

From the kitchen of: Isabel   Makes: 4-6 servings (depending on size of beef chuck)
Total time:
20 min to prep, 24 hours to marinade, 6-8 hours to cook in a crock pot

Having taken six years of Spanish during my middle school and high school years, I still had to Google the Spanish term, “Adovada.” All that learning gone to waste! Haha. Well, the term “Carne Adovada” (also known as “Adobada”) in Spanish means marinated meat. It’s a New Mexican cuisine, which typically uses pork and marinates it in a red chili sauce with garlic and several different spices.

The chili is key. It is what actually gives the meat all that yummy flavor and heat. For my tame taste buds, I went for a dried medium-hot chili called “New Mexico Chili,” packaged in a big plastic bag I found at Latino Village on 6003 W. Broad street. You are welcome to go hotter if you like. There’s usually a “hot” indicator scale on the front of the bag.

I also decided to use beef chuck, for no good reason. Just felt like eating beef that day, I’ll certainly try it with pork another day. I only have Nat from Nat’s Taco Truck Stop to thank for introducing me to my first Carne Adovada, which was in the form of a taco. I just had to learn how to make it at home when his newest restaurant didn’t carry them. Bring them back, Nat!!

1.5 lbs beef chuck (boneless pot roast)
8 New Mexico chili pods
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
2 cups water for boiling, 1/2 cup water for marinade, 1 cup water for crockpot

flour soft tortillas
diced avocado
shredded cheese
sour cream

1. Prep the New Mexico chili.
First, preheat the oven to 350°. Then, slice the tops of the chili pods and discard the tips. Place the chili on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 6-8 minutes. Meanwhile, bring to a boil 2 cups of water on the stove top. Once the chili become slightly toasted, remove them from the oven. Slice each one down the middle to remove all the seeds. Place the de-seeded toasted chili pods in a medium-size bowl and pour the boiling water over them allowing the chili to soften for 3-5 minutes.

2. Blend the marinade. In a blender, add the soften chili pods, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and just 1/2 cup of chili infused water. Blend together until the chili pods has been broken down into a thick paste. Take the marinade and cover the beef chuck completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, if possible. If not, at least 4-6 hours.

3. Crock pot the marinated beef. Place the beef with all the juices and marinade in the crock pot. Add a cup of water so the meat doesn’t become dry. Cover and allow to cook on low for 6-8 hours, turning at least once. The meat should be fork tender. Once it is, shred with two forks. To make tacos, scoop some of the carne adovada in a heated flour tortilla. Top with salsa, diced avocados, shredded cheese and a drizzle of sour cream. Enjoy!

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Apr 18, 2012

A nice little day trip to Williamsburg Winery

I’m pretty lucky to be only an hour away from some of the sweetest wineries in Central Virginia. Richmond is literally a short drive to Charlottesville and Williamsburg, which are two cities that have numerous wineries and can be the perfect little dry trip with some girlfriends. So that’s exactly what I did this past Saturday. Two of my friends and I drove to Williamsburg Winery to enjoy a little tasting and tour. We spent only $10 pp to get a pretty thorough tour of the winery, and sampled seven different wines. The tour was an hour long…no joke! The first 40 minutes was practically learning/walking through the winery, and the last 20 was tasting the wine. I think we definitely got our money’s worth.

As you drive into the property, you’re greeted with acres and acres of land (Williamsburg Winery is 60 acres total). A tree lined dirt path led us to the actual winery. It was just a beautiful, sunny and gorgeous day for this trip!

We arrived late afternoon around 3:15pm. It was fairly crowded, but we were able to get on the 3:30 tour. We walked inside the shop and learned that their wines were fairly reasonably priced. The cheapest was $8, but obviously the price goes up from there.

Our tour began right on time with a short video describing the history of wine and of the winery itself. Not too thrilled about this portion, but the video was only 10-15 minutes. Afterwards, our personal tour guide assigned to our group took us through different parts of the winery. I forget his name, but he was good!

He took us to a couple different areas in the winery including the barrel cellar where wines were kept stored in oak barrels for roughly 6 months.

Continued onto the production area…

And to the wine museum…

Learned that the first wine bottle was called an “onion” bottle (photo on the right). It was suitable for the very rough terrain, note the wide bottom. However, when roads were built, the bottles evolved to what we see now in the stores, which are more compact than the onion bottle.

Now the fun part…taste time! These were seven wines we sampled at the end of the tour. A pretty wide selection with three whites, three reds and a dessert wine. After the 40 minute walking/lecture tour, the whole group was ready for this! Haha!

Everyone got a sheet of paper with the names of the wines so we could take notes. We also received a wine glass with the Williamsburg Winery logo etched on it. We found a spot and our guide started to pour!

I certainly had a favorite, the Lord Botetourt. It’s a red wine with a blend of several different grapes. It was amazingly delicious. It was incredibly super rich and flavorful, which after sampling the whites and lighter reds, felt really nice on the palette. This doesn’t even compare to my Trader Joe wine, sorry La Finca. I can splurge a little bit when the wine is this good. I brought one home with me for a reasonable $14. Can’t wait to enjoy it soon!

Thanks Rachel and Emily for a fun day trip to the winery! If you get a chance to go, think about doing the more expensive tour for only $36. It includes a 2-hour tour with more wines to sample with gourmet cheeses and crackers. But if you decide to go on the $10 tour, you’ll certainly enjoy it. It was well worth the trip.

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Apr 13, 2012

Meatball Sub with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella and Basil

From the kitchen of: Isabel   Makes: 4 servings   Total time: 45 minutes

The other day I had a huge craving for a meatball sub. Don’t lie, I’m sure you’ve had one too. I’m not pregnant or anything, I promise! Haha. I don’t particularly mind this craving since it could be worse, ya know? I certainly satisfied it with my go-to recipe for homemade meatballs and tomato sauce. I’ve made these meatballs a million and one times, and each time the meatballs come out so juicy and tender. I sauté them over the stove since I enjoy those delicious crispy brown parts, but you can bake them if you prefer a “healthier” method. The meatballs and tomato sauce goes well with pasta, trust me, I’ve tried it! So whatever your craving is, a meatball sub or spaghetti with meatballs, this recipe will satisfy that ultimate craving.

Tomato Sauce
1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (this made a lot of sauce, you can use half the can)
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
olive oil

1 lb of ground beef
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (heaping!)
1/4 cup shaved or grated Parmesan cheese (heaping!)
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
olive oil

Ciabatta bread
fresh mozzarella balls, halved
olive oil
fresh basil for garnish

1. Prepare tomato sauce.
Add a drizzle of olive oil to a saucepan and heat at medium temperature. Sauté the diced onions, chopped garlic, dried parsley, salt and pepper, stirring occasionally. Cook until translucent for about 5-7 minutes. Afterwards, add the crushed tomatoes and allow to simmer on low temperature while you’re preparing and cooking the meatballs. Stir occasionally to prevent sauce from sticking to bottom of the pan.

2. Prepare meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, egg, milk, dried parsley, dried basil, salt and pepper. Add the ground beef and combine until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Make golf ball size meatballs by rolling each one in the palm of your hands. Makes about 12 meatballs, 3 per person.

3. Cook meatballs. In a large, non-stick pan, add a heavy drizzle of olive oil and heat over medium temperature. Carefully place each meatball in the pan once the oil heats up, meatballs should sizzle. Cook for 10-12 minutes, rotating every 2-3 minutes four times in order to brown all the sides. Remove the meatballs and place on a plate. Discard the excess oil and add the tomato sauce to the large pan. Add the meatballs into the sauce and simmer for an additional 10 minutes on low.

4. Broil meatball sub. Cut 8 slices of Ciabatta bread and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle each bread with olive oil. On four of the slices, add three meatballs and top with the tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. Broil the subs on low temperature in the oven for several minutes until the bread is toasted and the mozzarella has melted. Keep an eye on them, they broil up quick! Garnish with basil and serve hot!

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Apr 11, 2012

Grilling Spring Veggies

From the kitchen of: Isabel   Makes: 8-10 servings   Total time: 10 min to prep, 10 min to grill

What’s not to love about grilling, Spring and vegetables? Put all three together and you got a winning combination. Grilling vegetables has got to be the easiest thing to do on this planet. I don’t even know why I provided directions on how to grill them, but for those who need some guidance, here you go! I grew up eating all sorts of vegetables even trying my least favorites — okra and bitter melon. Ewww. Other than those two, I’ve learn to love vegetables and appreciate them for their unique flavor. So go ahead and start grilling some vegetables this Spring. You’ll love how simple it is.

1 large red onion
1 bunch of asparagus
3 zucchini
3 peppers, one of each color
olive oil
salt + pepper

1. Prep and chop vegetables.
Before you prep the veggies, start up your grill! Prep the vegetables while the grill is heating up. Rinse all the vegetables under cold water and pat completely dry with paper towels. Once the veggies are dry, it’s time to chop them. Cut thick slices of the onion, remove just the woody part of the asparagus (the end of the stalks), cut the zucchini on the bias in thick slices and lastly, slice the peppers in half, remove all the seeds and cut into large chucks. Place all the vegetables in a large pan or bowl.

2. Season the vegetables. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss everything together to be sure all the vegetables are coated. You can add more olive oil, salt and pepper again to be sure you got every piece seasoned.

3. Grill the vegetables. Place the large pieces of vegetables directly on the grill. For the peppers, I used a grill basket. If you don’t have one of these, keep the peppers in large strips so they don’t fall through the cracks. Grilling the vegetables literally takes minutes. Roughly 3-5 minutes per side depending on the grill’s temperature. Once the vegetables have nice char on them, place them back on the serving platter. Keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.

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Apr 6, 2012

A woodsy flavor with cedar planks

Just recently, I experimented with cedar planks on the grill. I’ve always wanted to try it to see if it actually makes a difference to the flavor. Well sure enough, it does! I did have some issues with my charcoal grill though. The charcoals had stayed on for quite some time, so by the time I wanted to grill, the fire had died down. I eventually had to finish cooking the salmon in the oven. However, during the time it was grilling on the planks, I could immediately taste the smokiness that the cedar planks had provided. It was the coolest concept and wish I wasn’t so new to this cooking process.

First things first, remove the planks from the packaging. I found these Fire & Flavor cedar planks sold at Kroger for only $7, and it comes with 2 planks. As stated in the directions, soak each plank in water for an hour before you start grilling. I used a heavy bowl to submerge them into the water. Whether you purchase these Fire & Flavor cedar planks or find some some actual cedar at Home Depot, soaking them in water is a must unless you want your wood to catch on fire! Just so you know, these cedar planks can be reused 2-3 times.

When you’ve soaked the planks for an hour and the charcoals are nice and hot, place the soaked planks on the grill. Heat both sides for 3 minutes according to the directions.

Next add your marinated fish on the planks. Cover the grill and allow the fish to cook through. Because my grill wasn’t hot enough, I didn’t get an accurate cooking time for the fish, but I’d imagine it would only be 20 minutes or so. I’m going to try this again soon and develop the timing and marinade better. But all in all, cedar planks are a very creative way to add additional flavor to fish. The fish stays tender and moist infused with a woodsy, earthy flavor…amazing!

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