Tag Archives: Dinner


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Two summers ago, I worked for a newly opened office, designing their billing systems and doing data entry as well as answering phones.  The majority of my co-workers had immigrated from Mexico and Central America, and about half of them barely spoke English.  One day we had a potluck lunch, and I basically gorged myself on delicious, authentic Mexican food.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I almost couldn’t move after lunch, and just wanted to take a nap for the rest of the day.  I asked one of my co-workers to ask another girl for the recipe for her carnitas, because I don’t speak Spanish.  She wasn’t able to give me an exact recipe, but said that the pork is cooked in water with onions and jalapenos, shredded, and then cooked in a mixture of orange juice and milk.  I’m glad she didn’t tell me about the OJ and milk combo earlier, because I probably wouldn’t have tried it, but somehow it works and just adds a tiny bit of sweetness.

After looking around online I found a popular recipe that only seemed to deviate from my coworkers recipe in that it didn’t have jalapenos.  I made it recently using half a jalapeno, because I was worried about it being too spicy and my roommates not eating it.  It was delicious, but not at all spicy.  Next time I’ll use at least one whole jalapeno, and more likely two.  These carnitas are simple and fairly quick to throw together, because most of the cook time is completely hands-off.  You could also probably cook the pork in a crock-pot during the day, and just shred the meat and add the OJ and milk right at dinnertime.  No matter which way you do it, this is an easy, delicious meal that everyone will like.

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Your ingredients.

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I used pork shoulder steaks, because they were on sale.  It’s just a pork shoulder that’s already partially cut.  I only used half of this.

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After cutting up your meat, garlic, and jalapenos, add them to a pot of water with salt and pepper and boil for 40 to 45 minutes.

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Drain your meat, and shred it a little bit with two forks.

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Put your meat back in the pan, and add the orange juice and milk.  Remain calm.  Continue to cook over medium heat.

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Cook the liquid and pork until the liquid has mostly evaporated and coats the meat.

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Place your carnitas in a tortilla with whatever you want.  Some salsa or veggies would be great.  I just added a little bit of cheese.  Devour.

Pork Carnitas

adapted from Martha Stewart

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used pork shoulder steak)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (I would use 1 or 2, and maybe leave some of the seeds in)

Salt and Pepper

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. orange juice

Tortillas and whatever toppings you like (I would recommend salsa, onions, cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges)

1. In a large pot, combine the pork, onions, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper, and about 8 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes.  Drain well.

2. Heat oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet (I just used the same pot).  Add pork, milk, and orange juice, and cook 8-12 minutes, until liquid has evaporated and pork is browned.  Serve carnitas in a tortilla with whatever toppings you like best.


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Sausage with Ravishing Rice

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Wow, now that I’ve posted an SMS recipe on a Sunday, let’s try getting back into blogging on a regular basis!  It finally started to feel like fall here today.  I think everyone on campus walked out of their apartment or dorm this morning and promptly turned around to grab a coat.  It was one of those days that’s perfectly comfortable in the sun, but when there’s a breeze or you’re in the shade you need to keep your hands in your pockets.  Well, at least, I did.  But I get cold just thinking about snow.

This baked casserole-style meal was perfect for this kind of weather.  My roommates and I only eat together about twice each week because of conflicting schedules, date nights, etc.  Oh, and because we all have such different tastes…  Everyone liked this dish, though!  It’s a slightly spicy, surprisingly filling rice and noodle dish, flavored with onions and peppers.  It’s a little bit time-consuming because of the baking, but could easily be prepped the night before.  I think next time I’ll reduce the onions to 3/4 cup, or maybe caramelize the onions beforehand, because the onion taste was a little bit strong for our tastes.  Other than that, though, we loved this!  We had it with leftover SMS muffins that I froze, which were a lovely side.

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All of your ingredients!

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No product placement intended, but I went to a couple of different stores and this was the only package of two pouches that measured 4.2 ounces, so I’m assuming it’s what Ms. Deen was referring to.

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Brown your sausage.  This was the only other small source of confusion, I didn’t know if the recipe meant Italian sausage, country sausage, or what.  I went with Italian.

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Bring your water to a boil, and add your rice and the chicken noodle soup pouches.  Boil for 10 minutes.

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Chop your onion, green (or orange) pepper, and celery.

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Add your veggies, sausage, butter, and all the spices except the paprika and almonds.  Pour the mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish.  Honestly, if you have a 2 1/2-quart dish, I would seriously recommend that.  If not, make sure you put a baking sheet under the dish.

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Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Eat!

Sausage with Ravishing Rice

from The Lady and Sons, Too! by Paula Deen

Serves 6-8 (recipe says 10-12, but I think they’re lying)

1 pound fresh sausage

5 c. water

1 c. raw long-grain white rice

2 packages dry chicken noodle soup mix from a 4.2 ounce box (I used Lipton brand)

1 c. chopped onion

1 large green bell pepper, chopped (I used orange)

1 c. finely chopped celery

¼ c. butter

½ tsp. seasoned salt

1 tsp. house seasoning (or use ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and ¼ tsp. garlic powder)

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley

¼ c. slivered almonds (I left these out because I didn’t have them)

1/8 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Crumble the sausage and cook in a skillet over medium heat until nicely browned; drain well and set aside.  In a large, heavy pot, bring the water to a boil, add the rice and soup mix, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery, butter, seasonings, and parsley.  Pour into a greased 2-quart casserole dish, top with almonds, and sprinkle with paprika.  Bake the casserole for 40-50 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.

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Thin-Crust Pizza

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Has everyone seen the newest Harry Potter movie yet?  My good friend Dana is in town and we saw it last night.  I have to say, I wasn’t terribly impressed with it.  The movie itself was very good, don’t get me wrong, but we were both really disappointed with how many major scenes were left out, and how many others were created just for the movie.  On the other hand, we got a kick out of all the one-liners, Harry’s behavior after drinking the Felix Felicius (he acts like he’s on drugs!), and the first “Slug Club” dinner.  We’re really excited that the last book is being split into two movies.

But, back to the food.  A few weeks ago Mike and I were craving pizza, but we have very different ideas as to what constitutes a good pizza- I like thicker crusts, and he likes ultra-thin.  Fortunately, the internet delivered a recipe for a thin-crust pizza dough that doesn’t require several hours of prep time.  This dough comes together in about 20 minutes because it doesn’t require a rise time.  I feel like next time I might let the dough rise a bit, then punch it down and make two separate pizzas because the dough seemed really dense to me, but Mike loved it, so I guess it’s just personal preference.  The only real problem I had with this dough was that it needed to be kneaded for more than two minutes.  After two minutes, it wasn’t at all elastic and just tore when I tried to stretch it.  I probably kneaded the dough for at least 6 minutes, just until it was elastic enough to stretch.  I think next I’ll have to try a recipe for ultra thin, crispy, cracker-like crust.  Does anyone have one they like?

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Combine your water, sugar, and yeast, and let set for eight minutes.  If your yeast has no reaction, throw it out and try again.

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While you wait for the yeast, prep all of your ingredients.

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Combine your yeast with the flour and salt.

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Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and knead for several minutes.  This was my dough after two minutes, and you can see how it just cracked and split when I tried to stretch it.  Just keep kneading until the dough is elastic.

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Once your dough has been kneaded, spread it out on a greased pizza stone that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, a cookie sheet will work, but you might want to try doubling up cookie sheets.

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Spread the pizza with your sauce…

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And add your toppings.  Mike likes sausage and sometimes jalapenos (although he also had pepperoni this time), and I love pepperoni and black olives.

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If you’re me, add an ungodly amount of cheese- it’s ok, my dad is from Wisconsin.  Please know that if you use this much cheese, your pizza will most likely spill out into the bottom of your oven, burn, and force you to clean the oven.  And in the background is the oven thermometer that my oven killed… may it rest in peace.

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It was worth it, though!  Also, please remember to rotate your pizza halfway through its cooking time, or it may end up looking like mine…!

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This crust wasn’t super thin and crispy like I was expecting, but we still had a really good ratio of crust-to-sauce-to-toppings.

Thin Crust Pizza Dough

adapted from Robbie’s Recipes

1/4 oz. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. sugar
3/4 c. warm water (about 110 degrees F.)
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Sauce, toppings, and cheeses as desired

1) Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.  Allow to rest for eight minutes.
2) Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.
3) Pour yeast mixture over flour mixture and mix well with a heavy spoon.
4) Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for two minutes. I had to knead for at least 6 minutes for the dough to become elastic enough to work with.
5) Working from the edges to the center, press dough into a 12-inch circle.  You can also hold the dough in the air and use gravity to stretch it, making sure to rotate the dough the whole time.
6) Place the dough on a lightly greased pizza pan and stretch to the edges. For a really crisp crust, sprinkle the pan with cornmeal after you grease it.
7) Top the dough with whatever sauce, toppings, and cheeses you want.  Bake in a 500 degree oven until the edges are golden, about 8-12 minutes. I had a lot of toppings and had to bake this a bit longer than that.  Just keep an eye on it and take it out when it looks done.


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Beef and Pork Picadillo

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I was planning to start this post partying after a good week.  I don’t have class tomorrow, my great-grandpa turned 92 on Tuesday, I saw “The Hangover” (which was hysterical), for the first time I did the SMS recipe before the weekend it was posted, and it was only a balmy 88 degrees out today!  But then I saw that Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett passed away today, so somehow it didn’t exactly seem appropriate.  Mind you, that apparently hasn’t stopped me…

Anyway, with as hot out as it’s been, I don’t want to turn on the oven, the stove, anything.  I made a quick stir-fry earlier this week and ordered pizza last night, and tonight I made picadillo.  It’s a really yummy Cuban dish of ground meat, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the recipe I’ve used before, so I looked at several recipes online to get some ideas, and then just tried to do what I remembered.  I thought it needed more spices, maybe a bit more kick.  Next time I think I’d add some red pepper flakes.  The whole thing came together in about half an hour, which was perfect for me, and would be great for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen in this weather.  Best of all, it uses ingredients you probably already have sitting around!

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Your ingredients.  Before I’ve used all ground beef, but I had half a pound of ground pork sitting around, so I decided to use that with half a pound of ground beef.  Also, pretend there’s an onion in this picture.  Thanks.

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Brown your meat, and drain off the fat.

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While the meat is browning, chop half the onion, half the pepper, your tomato, and your garlic.  If you’re using fresh herbs, chop them now as well.

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Add your veggies to the pot and let them cook for a few minutes.  At this point, start your rice.  After the veggies have been in the pot a couple minutes, add your spices.

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Add your tomato paste, mix well, and then add the beef broth.  If you don’t have tomato paste or don’t want to use it, you can use tomato sauce in place of the paste and broth.

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Turn the heat down a bit, cover your pot, and simmer the picadillo for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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When your rice is done, spoon it into a bowl and put the picadillo on top.  Garnish it with whatever you want.  I just spritz it with a squeeze from a lime and mixed it together.

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Mike adds cheese, mixes it all together, and eats it with tortilla chips.  Really, anything goes!

Beef and Pork Picadillo

1 pound total ground beef and pork (or all ground beef)

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 tomato (I used 1/3 can petite diced tomatoes), chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 c. beef broth

2-3 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. oregano

3/4 tsp. cilantro

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooked white rice

1. Brown the ground meat, crumbling as it cooks.  Drain.  While the meat is browning, chop the pepper, onion, tomato, and garlic.

2. Add the chopped veggies to the drained meat for a few minutes, then add the spices and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the tomato paste and broth, or half a cup of tomato sauce, and mix well.

3. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer the picadillo for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.  Remember to stir occasionally.

4. Serve the picadillo in a bowl over cooked rice.  Garnish with whatever you want (we used lime and cheese- although not together).

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Walking Tacos


Sorry this is so dark, it's the only picture of quarter midgets I have where you can see the cars! Mike's youngest sister Sarah is in the white car on the far left.

My boyfriend, Mike, grew up driving racecars.  Ok, so technically they’re called quarter midgets, and as near as I can tell they’re glorified go-karts.  Not important.  See, the important part is that he grew up eating what he calls “racetrack food” just about every Saturday in the summers.  And for the past couple of weeks he’s been pestering me to make “walking tacos”.  All I knew about them was they involved meshing tacos and Fritos, and since I had bags of chips left over from a big dance event a couple of weeks ago, we had walking tacos in all their salty glory.


Step one: Cook and crumble ground beef in a skillet until fully cooked.  Drain off excess fat if necessary and add taco seasoning and water.  I made half a pound of ground beef, so half a package of seasoning.  Alternatively, you can make your own seasoning.

I’ll stress this, though: if you can, use low sodium taco seasoning.  My local grocery store doesn’t usually stock it, so I stock up when I’m at other stores, but I was out this week and used full-salt seasoning.  I don’t really recommend it.


Step two: Once the ground beef is fully cooked and the water has reduced down to a thick sauce, scoop some of the meat into your Fritos bag.  We had four-one ounce bags of Fritos, apparently you’re supposed to use the next size up, but beggars can’t be choosers.  For us, a half a pound of ground beef worked for the four bags (although the fourth bag had significantly less  meat in it), but how much you use will depend on how much meat you want in your walking taco.


Step 3: Add whatever else you want.  Shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, whatever makes you happy.  Mike had cheese, salsa, and sour cream, I had cheese, lettuce, and a bit of salsa, but this part is completely up to you.


Step 4: At this point, you apparently hold the bag shut at the top and shake.  The small bags made this difficult, and I ended up just stirring mine, but you get the same end result.  Which is, grab a fork and dig in!

My thoughts on this, I liked it.  It was fun.  It was WAY TOO FREAKING SALTY!!!  I would be willing to make it again, but I’d definitely use reduced sodium taco seasoning (which I just stocked up on, how convenient!).  Mike was really happy, though, and thought they were good.  This would be a really fun thing for getting kids into the kitchen.  An adult makes the taco meat, and then the kids make their own tacos and shake the bags up (or mix them, if you’re less daring).


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