Grilled Cauliflower and Queso Blanco Tacos

Happy Summer Solstice!  After a cold and damp spring, it is nice to finally have some warm temps.  Maybe even a little too warm for the start of summer, but I don’t want to complain.  In the blink of an eye, it will be winter again, and I’ll be wishing for beach days long gone.

Luckily these warmer temps bring an opportunity to turn off the oven and get out the grill.  Or in my case, the grill pan since my apartment doesn’t permit grilling *sigh*.  At least my Le Creuset Bistro Grill gives the flavor of an outdoor grill.  It’s also really easy to clean.  I’ve had other grill pans that weren’t worth using due to the cleanup involved after.

I was inspired to make these tacos after seeing a recipe that Half Baked Harvest shared.  First, I should start off by stating that I was very skeptical of cauliflower and it’s new found fame.  It seems to be following in the footsteps of kale (which I was also a skeptic of at first).  Up until this point, my only experience with cauliflower was cauliflower rice.  I was surprised by how good it was, but it was not enough to convince me that cauliflower could be the star of the show.  As in, cauliflower “steak”(what???!!!) or cauliflower “wings”.  How could cauliflower replace beef or the chicken in wings?!  Vegan cheese is one thing, but this is a whole other level of food trickery!

I finally tried buffalo style cauliflower a few months ago at the New York Botanical Garden Hudson Garden Grill, which is a delicious farm to table style restaurant.  I’m so glad I did.  The cauliflower was crispy and spicy and barely needed it’s blue cheese accompaniment. Now I don’t think I could go so far as to say that this would become a replacement for regular wings, but clearly I now understood all of the hype around this unassuming veggie, which brings me back to the tacos.

The original recipe has you roast the cauliflower and serve with fried halloumi cheese.  I decided to grill it, and since my local grocery stores don’t carry halloumi, I used queso blanco as a substitute.  It also has a high melting point so I was able to grill it before serving with the tacos.  I love halloumi and when I need another cheese fix, I think I’ll order some from Amazon Fresh.

It seems that cauliflower tends to take on whatever flavor you’re imparting on it.  So the cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder definitely gave it the right Mexican kick.  It also stays tender on the inside when you cook it.  Be sure to serve the tacos with lots of guacamole, a good salsa (I like Joe’s or Shoprite Kitchen’s) and fresh cilantro.  I will definitely make these again and plan to make buffalo style cauliflower in the upcoming weeks! Are you a cauliflower convert yet?

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tablespoons sesame
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper
8 ounces queso blanco (or halloumi cheese), sliced
8 tortillas (I like La Tortilla Factory’s Handmade Style Corn Tortillas or Chi-Chi’s Flour and Corn Tortillas)
Fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, oils, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Grill cauliflower over medium high heat until each side has a nice sear.  Transfer to a baking tray and keep warm.  Grill or pan fry the queso blanco (use foil if using a grill) and cook 1-2 minutes per side until the cheese begins to melt.  Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Transfer slices to tray with cauliflower.  Heat the tortillas using your desired method.  I like to heat them on the grill pan. To assemble the tacos, layer the cauliflower and queso blanco in the tortillas and top with guacamole, salsa and fresh cilantro.


Roasted Poblano Chicken Meatballs

As I may have already mentioned, I have a slight obsession with chicken meatballs (see previous posts)!  In fact, if I could only pick two things to make, they would be my first choice with muffins for my second.  They are one of my favorite things to make since you can do all kinds of variations, and they are a great way to sneak in extra veggies like spinach and kale to name a few.

I was inspired to come up with the recipe for this batch of chicken meatballs after making a Half Baked Harvest’s Sheet Pan Poblano Chicken Fajitas.  If you’re not following this blog, you need stop what you’re doing and sign up right now.  It’s full of great recipes, and I haven’t been disappointed by one yet.

But back to my meatballs.  I had an extra poblano, white onion, jalapeño and cilantro to use up and figured the chicken meatballs would be the perfect vehicle for them.  I was right and will definitely be making these again.  I roasted some lightly seasoned cubed sweet potatoes right along side the poblano and onion and served them as a side.

1 small/medium poblano pepper, cut into strips
1/4 medium white onion, cut into thicker slices
1 pound lean ground chicken (not fat-free)
1 egg
1/2 medium jalapeño, diced
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425º F.  Place poblano and onion on a small baking tray.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt & pepper.  Toss to combine.  Roast for 20-25 minutes until peppers begin to char slightly.

In the meantime, combine the ground chicken through the cilantro.  Remove poblano mixture from oven and transfer to a cutting board.  Allow to cool before chopping  into smaller pieces.  Add to chicken mixture and stir to combine.

Form mixture into small meatballs, about 1-1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add meatballs in small batches and cook until evenly browned and cooked through.

Layered Chicken Fajitas

imageIf you’re looking for a new Mexican recipe, then look no further! I made these layered chicken fajitas last week and enjoyed the leftovers all week.  And that never happens!  I’m finicky with leftovers and tend to get bored with eating the same thing for lunch every day.  When I lived with one of my best friends, she would pack the same breakfast, snack, and lunch every day and never tire of it.   She’s a teacher and used to her routines!

But I definitely did not get bored with these fajitas!  It may have been the fresh, sweet Jersey  corn and Jersey grape tomatoes that really made the dish, but I think they’ll be just as good come winter when I have to use frozen or canned corn and non-local tomatoes.  I did recently buy some extra Jersey corn to freeze though.  They were also really easy to make, and you could easily serve them with a side of rice or another veggie and no tortillas.  I have a hard time saying no to tortillas and like La Tortilla Factory’s handmade style corn tortillas the best!

1 small red onion, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
2-3 ears fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed
1/2 pint red and yellow grape tomatoes
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 packet Old El Paso fajita seasoning, divided
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
1/2 lime, juiced
2-3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
Corn tortillas
Mashed avocado or guacamole
Fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

imagePreheat oven to 450º F.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper, corn, salt, pepper, and half of the fajita seasoning.  Sauté until slightly tender. Transfer mixture to a 9×13 (or two smaller) baking dish.   To the same pan, add the beans, tomatoes, chicken stock, and lime juice.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add the chicken and the rest of the fajita seasoning.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Layer chicken mixture over top of corn mixture. Top with cheese and bake at 450º F until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly.  Divide chicken mixture among tortillas and top with smashed avocado or guacamole, cilantro, and fresh lime juice.  Be prepared to go back for seconds!!!

*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Pineapple Chile Pork Burgers

imageI didn’t have time to cook this weekend, but I did just make these  tasty Pineapple Chile Pork Burgers!  The combination of chipotle chiles and pineapple gave them just the right amount of smokiness, heat, and sweetness.  These would be a great addition to any summer barbecue!

1 can chipotle chile peppers in adobe
2 teaspoons dried oregano (I used my special Cucina Rosa Three Spice Blend of basil, parsley, and oregano)
2 cloves garlic
1 small white onion, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds lean ground pork
8 pineapple slices (fresh or canned, unsweetened)
Hamburger buns of your choice
Fresh cilantro
Light mayo (optional)

In a food processor or blender, puree the chipotle chile peppers (no additional sauce), oregano, garlic, half of the white onion, and pineapple juice.  Combine the pork, marinade, salt and pepper with a fork in a large bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat grill (I used my Cuisinart Griddler).  Shape pork mixture into 8 patties (6 if you want larger burgers).  Grill burgers and pineapple, flipping burgers once until cooked through.  Serve on hamburger buns of your choice with fresh cilantro, light mayo, and remaining onion, sliced.  Yum!!!! 🙂

*Adapted from Food Network

Enchilada Bake No. 5

IMG_7110This enchilada bake is super easy to make and even easier to change up from time to time.  I’ve made many variations of it, hence the “No. 5” in the title, and each version is always delicious!  You can swap in ground beef or rotisserie chicken, omit the ricotta cheese, change the veggies, etc.  It’s a great way to sneak some extra veggies into your diet.  I made it a few weeks ago using rotisserie chicken, sautéed baby spinach, red onion, and red & yellow bell peppers.  I also omitted the ricotta.  The version below is probably my favorite.  Also, if you’re short on time, you can use store-bought enchilada sauce, but making it homemade is worth it!  I do like to keep some store-bought on hand though to use between the tortilla layers.  It’s great leftover, if you have any, and reheats well.  I always serve it with pico de gallo or salsa, guacamole, and chips!

1 pound ground turkey
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup tomato puree or sauce (You can also use tomato paste and thin it with a little water)
1/2 4 ounce can diced green chiles (or use the whole can depending on taste)
1 15 ounce container part-skim ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 can Green Giant® SteamCrisp® Mexicorn®
1 small zucchini, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
6-8 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese
Enchilada sauce

IMG_7097Preheat oven to 350º F.  In a large skillet, brown the meat and drain if necessary.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.  Add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika.  Stir in the tomato sauce, chiles and salt. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta and beaten egg.

IMG_7103In a 9×13 dish, layer 1/2 of the meat mixture, 1/3 of the Cheddar/Monterey Jack mix, 1/2 the ricotta, 1/2 the corn and 1/2 the zucchini.  Top with half the tortillas and some store-bought enchilada sauce.  Repeat the layers again.  Top with the remaining Cheddar/Monterey Jack mix.  Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and the cheese is melted.  Enjoy!!!