Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vegetarian Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

Our first meal when we arrived in the States was Mexican. My cousin picked us up from the airport and whisked us to the best Mexican place I've ever been to (Cafe Con Chocolate). Nick got the pork torta and I got the mole enchiladas. Eating there was pure happiness. They also have (of course) spiced Mexican hot chocolate that is to die for. Did I convince anyone to visit us yet?
I've been making enchiladas a lot lately because my little sister goes crazy for them. The recipe for the mole sauce is from My New Roots and the enchilada recipe is one I've been making forever. The mole sauce recipe makes a lot. I recommend using it right on a roasted sweet potato or any roasted veggies really.

Mole Sauce:
coconut oil
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1- 15 oz can whole, organic tomatoes
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. ground chipotle
pinch of cayenne, if desired
2 dates
2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
1 Tbsp. tahini
4 Tbsp. water, divided
1½ Tbsp. lime juice

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add oil and onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another couple minutes. Add all spices and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add tomatoes into the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Carefully transfer the tomato mixture to a blender. Then add the pitted dates, cacao powder, tahini, lime juice and a couple tablespoons of the water. Blend on high, adding water to thin as needed, until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste.

10-12 large whole wheat tortillas
1 small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mole sauce
lots more cheddar cheese, for the topping

Saute all the veggies over medium heat in a large saucepan until cooked through. Then add the yogurt and beans and stir into the veggies. Add the cheese and mix gently until melted. Add mole sauce and season with salt and pepper.
To assemble: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add a couple scoops mole sauce onto the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Add about 1/4 cup veggie mixture into each shell and roll into a burrito. Stack enchiladas to fill the pan. Pour plenty of mole sauce over the enchiladas and top with plenty of cheese. Bake in the oven 20-25 minutes until the cheese on top is nicely golden brown.
Serve with hot sauce, fresh cilantro, plain yogurt, and guacamole.

Strawberry Vanilla Lavender Jam

I was just about to post this when I saw that Kate had just made some jam! It's pretty awesome that we're in sync. Although, as it's strawberry season strawberry jam just makes sense! I went picking with my sisters at the cutest little family farm (Jollyview Farms). It's not far from my family's house, but the windy country roads make it a long, beautiful drive. Eastern PA has really great farms for picking fruit. We packed a picnic and were set for the day. We picked about 18 pounds of strawberries in under an hour. Not bad!
Most of the strawberries were eaten fresh for Kelly's graduation party. My family goes nuts for fruit. One of the things I miss most about Vietnam is all the amazing tropical fruit. I have to say summer in PA really makes up for it! Coming up is blueberry season (I even bought 2 bushes for my parent's house!)! Also peaches and cherries.
This recipe was found on Cooking up a Story! Such a cute blog name.

Makes enough to fill one half-pint mason jar

4 cups ripest strawberries, whole
1 cup raw cane sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1 vanilla bean, split
1 tsp dried lavender flowers
1 tsp chopped fresh lavender leaves

A note on the lavender: I like to add excessive amounts. If you don't, just cut back some. Also go crazy with herb combinations! Rosemary, mint, thyme, etc.

Set a small plate in the freezer to chill. In a wide saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and stir constantly for about 15 minutes. Then pull the plate out and add 1/2 tsp jam onto the cold surface. Tip the plate. If the jam runs slowly, it's ready. It really depends on how set you want the jam to be. The slower the jam runs, the thicker the jam will be. If you want it thicker, just cook it longer.
When it gets to a consistency you like, pull out the vanilla bean. Then you can blend the jam if you want it to be smooth. I made 2 batches, with whole strawberries and one with pureed strawberries. Then pour into a sterilized mason jar.
I don't bother to process the jam. We keep it in the refrigerator and eat it within 2-3 weeks. You can use it to make great strawberry ice cream and brownies.
Also Rex likes my Surly as much as I do. I need to get him to stop chewing the tires though.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Beet Veggie Burger

I haven't found a veggie burger that competes with OTB's yet in Philly; therefore, I decided to make my own!!! I made these for my family, added too many beets and had them fall apart everywhere. On the plus side, they tasted great. My advice to you all is not to add too many beets (I just love them, I can't help it). The spices in this burger patty really make it awesome.
Anyways, I have not had time to blog since we just got a puppy! His name is Rex and we are so, so in love. He is super sweet. He is also a trouble maker. He broke out of his crate three times. He even met Twilly already! They are friends as long as Laura doesn't pick up Rex or pet him...

I found this recipe by Googling the best veggie burger in the world. I chose a post by that exact title on A Cozy Kitchen.

8 ounces beets, roasted and peeled
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, washed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, washed and drained
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup rolled oat flour (make your own in a food processor)
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sumac (substitute lemon zest if you don't have sumac)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

Throw everything except the chickpeas and black beans in a food processor and pulse just until all the ingredients are chopped a little more and incorporated. Then pour into a large mixing bowl and mash the beans into the mixture with a fork. It takes some work. I tried to do this all in the food processor but it makes the texture too mushy.
Shape the mixture into 6-7 patties and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour to set. You can even make this a day in advance.
To cook: Fry on both sides until lightly brown (about 1-2 minutes on each side) in some coconut oil.
Serve with strong cheese, ketchup, mustard, salad greens, tomato, and sliced onion. Lots of garnishes aren't necessary since the veggie patty is so flavorful. Or you can upgrade with a fried egg on top!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strawberry Jam

To be honest, making strawberry jam is a bigger pain in the ass than most other jams I've made. But once I taste it, I know the fruits of my labor are worth it. Pun intended.



It's Kate here, and as always, I have a sweet tooth recipe.

I think, subconsciously, I'm against anything and everything about strawberries. As a kid, I ate so many of them one summer I broke out in hives. I never ate them again until adulthood, because I was told I was allergic. I think my small, 3-year-old body simply couldn't handle five pounds of strawberries, or however many I ate. I don't even remember it happening. Turns out, I'm not allergic. At least, not when I don't eat my own weight in them.

Anyway, there are extra steps to making strawberry jam, verses other jams, like blueberry or blackberry. First, cutting the stems, coring them, and cutting the strawberries takes forever. Count on it taking hours, especially when working with locally grown berries, which aren't the ginormous berries found at most grocery stores year round. (I don't want to know what's done to them for them to be that big.) Basically, I never knew how big strawberries were supposed to be until I started picking and canning them. Picked strawberries are tiny, usually about double the size of a blackberry. Sad but true. Also, strawberry season is very short compared to most other fruits, only a week or two, so take advantage of the berries while they're around! Picking season here will probably be over by the end of this weekend.

Other extra steps when making strawberry jam include clearing foam that forms on the top of the jam when its cooking down. The foam needs to be scooped up constantly. This doesn't happen when cooking other fruits.

Lastly, when putting the stuff into jars, popping the air pockets with a sterilized pointy item, like a butter knife. Just go around the inside edges a few times to eliminate that problem.

I'm sorry for all of the snide comments. I'm a complainer by nature. The finished project, however, is delicious and worthwhile. And when canned via water boiling, it can keep for a year or more, without refrigeration. That always amazes me. It's magic. Even better, it's completely customizable, and I know exactly what goes into it, unlike the store bought stuff. I usually like putting in less sugar than what recipes call for, because the jam tastes tangier and fruitier that way. (And it's not super sweet.)

Anyway, here it goes:

Strawberry Jam
Recipe adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserves

Yields about six 8 oz jars (have an extra jar or two ready just in case)

• About two quarts of sweet, sweet strawberries
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 6 tablespoons (or one box) pectin
• 4 cups sugar (original recipe calls for 7 cups)

Wash strawberries; drain. Remove stems. I like my jam with pieces in it, so I just crush the strawberries with a potato masher while they're cooking. Combine strawberries, pectin and lemon juice in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into sterilized hot jars, leaving 1/4 headspace. Attach two-piece. Again, lids need to be sterilized. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Once removed from canner, leave jars sit undisturbed for 24 hours. After a day, check seals by pushing the lid. If they stay in place, without flexing up or down, they're sealed. If they move up and/or down, the container hasn't sealed, and you can either water boil it again with a new lid or refrigerate immediately to eat.

For clarification's sake: Jars and rings can be used countless times. Lids, however, when water boiling to preserve, can only be used once.




Side note: My favorite part of the canning process, besides the food of course, is hearing the pop of the jars after taking them out of the canner. That means they're sealing! I'm probably just weird.

Also, please please please, if you've never canned before and plan on trying it out, read up on it first. Ball is the saint of canning, so you can read more about how to do it the right way here. While a canning pot helps, things can be water boiled in a large pot just fine. It's just good to be educated about it, since botulism is a very rare but dangerous risk if not done properly. It's most common when canning foods with low acidity (not so much strawberries with lemon juice), but still, it's better to be safe than sorry.

On a brighter not, here's the glorious end result:


Have you ever canned before?

P.S. You can also view this recipe on my blog, Thriftburgher.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Fiesta Bean Salad"


Like I mentioned in a previous post, Vince and I have been trying to budget, including packing lunches.  I made this salad for the first time within my first couple weeks living together.  I've found the key to packing lunches is packing food you actually want to eat.  Many a time at my old job, my packed lunch would get pushed further back in the fridge as my coworkers' ideas for takeout sounded more enticing. Vin mentioned different salads sounding good and I thought of a recipe of Jackie's from college.  I couldn't track that down, but as always I found my way on Pinterest.  I get the feeling Vince's coworkers were a little impressed to see Vince actually bringing lunch, rather than going out for lunch every day as he was before.  They were also impressed with my over-doing the garlic, with the smell of garlic filling the room whenever Vince opened his container at lunchtime.  Though he loves garlic, I've since cut back for the sake of our containers and Vin not getting sick of the salad.  The original recipe recommends to eat it right away, but it's fine through the week, though the avocado gets soft.  I think maybe next time I'll add some black pepper.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Avocado & Steak Salad with Balsamic Basil Dressing

Today I went to the first First Friday at the Frick concert of 2014 with my sister, mom and grandparents. My family's been going since I was in elementary school, and I've tried to go at least once every summer. So many more people go now! The whole Frick property is packed with people and their crazy fancy picnics. The headliner concert of the Three Rivers Arts Festival was the same night, and the place was still packed.

Summery Lemonade #3! Blueberry Lemon/Limeade

Sorry for so many lemonades, but I can't stop myself this week. I don't have a favorite from the three I've made so far this summer - they've all been good. This one is probably the prettiest color, though!

It's Twilly's third birthday!! Such a big boy.

Adapted from Damn Delicious

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup lime juice
5 cups water

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Soft Polenta Bowl

During a long walk, I spent the whole time dreaming about my lunch. However, I was not about to make my usual hour long recipe (see other polenta post). I threw this together in about 30 minutes instead with some leftover arugula pesto.
I am currently writing this as Monkey is applying aloe vera to my back. My skin is nice and toasty thanks to my first day working at Mill Creek Urban Farm. It was so good to be back to a farm. I learned how to harvest asparagus and ate some fresh cherries right off the tree with some of my coworkers. My favorite thing about the farm so far is the fruit trees (plums, peaches, mulberries, etc.). All this fruit makes me dream of pies!

1 cup medium ground cornmeal
3 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Bring the water, cornmeal, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn down the heat to medium and stir constantly for 15 minutes until mixture thickens. Add in the butter and Parmesan and stir until incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile get toppings ready. I used what I had on hand. Sliced avocado, tomato sauce (the one from 101 cookbooks is great), fried egg, and fresh oregano. Also-

Arugula Pesto

2 cups arugula, packed
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Process the pumpkin seeds, garlic, and cheese together in a food processor. Add the arugula and pulse until finely chopped. Drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto gets to a consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, scoop out some polenta into bowls and top with whatever you like.

Summery Lemonade #2! Rhubarb Rosemary Lemonade

Earlier today Britt sent me a pin for this pretty pink lemonade, and, of course, I was like, YES this is exactly what I want today. Because rhubarb, rosemary and lemons are my three favorite things! (By the way, did you know that the Pgh Kitchen has a Pinterest account? Probably not, because I just started it a half hour ago.)

It seems like all I want to do lately is juice lemons in my very lo-tech glass juicer thing. Soon I will have muscles like Ser Gregor Clegane a.k.a. the Mountain that Rides (warning: that link contains GoT s4e8 spoilers!), at least on my right arm.

Adapted from the Merry Thought

2 cups rhubarb, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 sprigs rosemary
1 cup lemon juice
garnish with more rosemary & lemon slices

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chicken Mango Fajitas

In the past month or so, a lot has happened.  I quit my job of 4+ years, moved away from Pittsburgh (my home of 8 years), and moved with my boyfriend to Takoma Park, MD.  Being in a new area, looking for a job, and living with a significant other for the first time have offered a lot of challenges along with lots of excitement.  Overwhelmingly cliche, I know.  I pretty much agreed to move to Takoma Park, a cute tree-filled community bordering DC, before ever visiting it.  So much of enjoying an area is knowing how to do it right and being a part of the community there.  Luckily, a former coworker of mine was able to give me the info of his sister-in-law and Vince (the boyfriend) has coworkers here that have been giving us some insights.  We've been trying to budget well (emphasis on the trying..) so that of course means smart grocery shopping, packing lunches, and making dinners.  As we meal planned for the week, Vince suggested quesadillas, which turned into this meal.  I had a moment of "should I buy the packaged fajita seasonings?" which was immediately followed with "of course not, I have a recipe!" With advice from one of our TP mentors, we checked out a grocery store called Shoppers, which was priced very well.  I'm not sure if we went on a bad day or what, but our cheap bell peppers needed to be used quickly.  What better way to use them but one of my fav recipes - Chicken Mango Fajitas.

During the few weeks we've been living together I've already made this recipe twice, with the second time being our first time having a friend over for dinner at our new place!  It was also a go to for dinner's in Pittsburgh.  Finally, I'm sharing the recipe.


Chicken Mango Fajitas

1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped (use the other half as garnish)
1 teaspoon lime juice


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