Tag Archives: cilantro

Easy Food Prep Tip: Herb Storage

Wow. That sounds really boring. I cannot tell a lie. It sort of is. But it’s also one of my kitchen routines that I feel strongly about, so I’m sharing it anyway. If you’ve decided to keep reading, grab a cup of coffee and try to stay awake. I’ll keep this as short or as entertaining as possible. Thanks for sticking with me.

Today, I’m washing and storing Italian flat-leaf parsley and cilantro. These two are like family. They’re always in the house, always in the fridge, and if you don’t show them some love, they’ll wither and die. I’ve learned that if I invest a little time in prepping them when they come home from the store, I can make them last longer. Let’s break it down. DJ…can I get a beat?

Home in a plastic store bag & unwashed = rotten in 3-4 days
Washed, prepped & bagged properly = good for 7-10 days

Step 1 – a bath & a trip to the carnival
I try to wash and prep my herbs within 24 hours of bringing them home from the store. I give them a cold water bath and a quick trip to the carnival with a long ride in the Salad Spinner. Then I dump them out onto paper towels on my counter so I have room to work. Each herb gets their own little party pad.

Step 2 – stem those little suckers
This step is especially important for the Italian parsley. Those stems gotta go. Yes, this step takes a little time, but the end result is worth it. Those little beauties will be all dressed up with their make-up on and ready to party if you spend a little spa time up front. Ha! That’s what SHE said!

The cilantro is a little different. Big stems are out, but little, thin stems can stay.

Once each herb is stemmed and ready to roll, fold the paper towels they’re sitting on as if you’re diapering a baby – opposite corners together, bottom folded up, then top folded down. If you’re not familiar with baby diapering, think of it as making a paper towel envelope around your herbs. It’s okay if the paper towels are slightly damp. You just don’t want them to be more than slightly damp. Place into labeled freeze bags and press most of the air out. If you’re really organized, you can write the date on the bag along with the name. Or you can be like me and peek in the bag. If it looks good, great! If it’s mushy and looks like a garden slug, it’s time to toss it out. Gross? Sure…but effective.

Place your herb bags in the vegetable bin in your fridge, and try not to stack anything on top of them. If you don’t have a veggie bin or use yours to store beer, pickles and Ding Dongs, stand them up on a shelf somewhere. Just try not to crush them, and don’t push them against the back wall of your fridge. It’s too cold back there, which can cause frost damage. Don’t throw your stems in the trash. Send them down the garbage disposal to make your kitchen smell good. I do the same thing with citrus fruits, once they’re juiced. That’s it! You’re ready to save money by having herbs that last longer, and time by having herbs that are ready to go when you need them. Simple and sensible. That’s how I like it.

Okay. I hid the caramel sauce behind the peppers for this photo. So what!?!



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New Year’s Day in the South: It’s all about traditions and our ‘lucky’ foods

Black-eyed peas are a New Year's Day tradition for good fortune & prosperity.

Here in the south, we are hell-bent on consuming our traditional lucky foods on New Year’s Day. In particular, we’re partial to black-eyed peas. Tradition also dictates that we pair them with pork and greens, variations of which depend on the cook’s preference. In our home, it’s a smoked pork tenderloin (which The Complete Package has mastered) and cabbage stir-fried with bacon. According to folklore, the black-eyed peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In order to be blessed with good fortune and prosperity throughout the year, you should eat 365 peas (one for each day) and as much cabbage as your intestines can process (or the Beano wears off). Pork is also supposed to bring luck, although I’ve also heard that it represents progress, since pigs always move forward as they forage. Either way, we’re covered. To celebrate the new year, and to help share fortune and prosperity with all of you, I’m posting my favorite lucky black-eyed pea recipe.

NanaBread’s Texas Caviar:
• 2 cans of black-eyed peas, 15 ozs. each
• ¼ cup purple onion, finely minced
• 2-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded & minced
• 2 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
• 1 teaspoon season salt (Penzey’s or Lawry’s)
• ¼ cup red wine vinegar
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
• Additional salt & pepper, to taste

Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas and dump them into a mixing bowl. Add the minced onion, peppers, garlic, season salt, vinegar and olive oil. Toss to combine and taste to determine if additional salt and pepper is needed. (Note: I like to use Penzey’s 4/S season salt, and I use a combination of the regular AND the spicy version of it.) Once you have the seasonings right, toss in the chopped cilantro. Stir to combine, pour into an air-tight container with a tight-fitting lid and place in the refrigerator to chill. This is served as a cold salad, but I like to take it out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes before serving. Of course, it can also be served up immediately, or you can let it marinate in the fridge overnight. Either way, it’s delicious. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can serve this as a dip with a big bag of tortilla chips.

As a side note, I just read that foods in the shape of a circle are considered good luck for the New Year. Thank you, Jesus! Now I can add donuts to my New Year’s Day menu without guilt. This is going to be the BEST…YEAR….EVER!!!


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Craving Breakfast for Dinner? Try Huevos Rancheros (Ranch Eggs)

Huevos Rancheros - A Breakfast for Dinner Favorite

This used to be our favorite “lazy weekend” breakfast – perfect for those mornings when you want to sleep late and read the paper in your pajamas and bunny slippers. Lately, however, it seems like we’re eating it more often for dinner than breakfast, which still works because it’s great any time. I just love everything about this dish. It’s simple, easy to make, and it satisfies my cravings for Mexican food and breakfast for dinner. It also brings together my favorite elements of a classic Mexican food binge – chips, salsa & cheese. If you haven’t tried Huevos Rancheros yet, it’s time. Here’s how I make it for two people:

One small bag of corn tortilla chips
Pam cooking spray
4 large or jumbo eggs
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup of grated colby jack cheese
2 Tablespoons of minced purple onion
1/2 cup of red salsa
3 Tablespoons of cilantro (optional)

Set out two plates. On each plate, arrange enough tortilla chips to cover half the plate as if you’re making nachos. If you want your chips to be more bite-sized, crunch them up a little before spreading them out. Spray a non-stick skillet with a little cooking spray and cook your eggs until the yolks are to your liking. I’ll be honest with you, this dish is best if you leave the yolks a little runny. Gently place 2 eggs on each plate on top of the bed of tortilla chips. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of grated cheese on each serving, top each with one tablespoon of minced onion, pour 1/4 cup of salsa across each serving, then top with the cilantro. Put each plate into the microwave for 30-60 seconds on high to warm everything up and melt the cheese. Serve immediately. I like to serve this with pan-fried potatoes with onions or leftover refried beans. Out of salsa? Try it with pico de gallo instead. Want it spicy? Toss a fresh, minced jalapeno on the top or give it a few shakes of Tabasco. For me, this dish has it all – crunchy, creamy, salty, and spicy. It’s just fantastic. Whether you serve it for breakfast or dinner, Huevos Rancheros is sure to warm you up.


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Homemade Tortilla Soup

I love simple foods – meals made with a few quality ingredients while they’re in season that taste wonderful together. Nothing fancy, just good simple food. This recipe starts with a rotisserie chicken from your deli. It’s easy, it can be ready in an hour, and you’ll find yourself wanting it again and again. It’s good for whatever ails you. Don’t let the length of the recipe put you off. It’s broken it into steps so it’s easier to follow.

Homemade Tortilla Soup - It's a Good Thing

First, start the soup base in a stock pot:
One rotisserie chicken, small (plain, not flavored)
Two 32-ounce cartons of chicken broth
1 tablespoon of powdered chicken bullion
1 large clove of garlic, peeled but left whole
Salt and black pepper to taste (added at the end)

Put the first 4 ingredients into your pot; cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove the garlic clove and toss it. Remove the chicken and allow it to cool for 10 minutes, then pull the meat off, removing the skin and bones. Chop into bite-size pieces and return it to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Start a pan of steamed rice:
1 cup white rice, uncooked (I love Texmati basmati rice)
2 teaspoons of canola oil
1 3/4 cups of water
1 teaspoon of salt

Heat the canola oil in a medium pan. When the oil is hot, add the rice and toast it, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes. Add the water and salt, stir to combine, then cover tightly with a piece of aluminum foil, put a lid on and make sure it’s snug, then turn the heat down to medium low. Cook for 25 minutes, and don’t peek. I mean it. Let your rice cook in peace.

While that’s warming up, toss together a bowl of pico de gallo:
One large ripe tomato, chopped
One small yellow onion, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
One teaspoon of garlic salt
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice squeezed from one fresh lime

Toss all of this into a bowl, mixing well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Once that’s done, make your tortilla strips:
10-12 yellow corn tortillas, cut into narrow strips about 1″ long
Pam or other cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon of salt

On a cookie sheet, spread your tortilla strips out into a single layer so they will toast evenly; spray lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, tossing them half-way through, until they are lightly browned and crispy. Could you cheat and use tortilla chips from a bag? Sure, but it won’t taste good, and they’ll turn to mush almost instantly. I don’t recommend it.

Prep your final toppings:
One avocado, peeled and chopped into chunks
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Fresh cilantro, chopped
One lime, cut into quarters

Okay, so now for the good part. To serve, get a large soup bowl for each person and layer the ingredients in the following order:
1/2 cup of steamed rice
1 1/2 – 2 cups of chicken soup base with chopped chicken
tortilla strips (as many as you like)
grated Monterey jack cheese (don’t be stingy)
pico de gallo (at least a couple of spoons full)
avocado chunks and cilantro, to your taste
finish with a squeeze of lime juice over the top

Dig in immediately! Tortilla soup waits for no one. Eat it right away while the broth is still steaming hot and the tortilla strips are still crunchy. If you have leftovers, you can combine the rice and soup stock in one container. Store the pico de gallo, grated cheese and other fresh ingredients in their own separate containers. Most importantly, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. As they say, “soup is good food.”

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Posole – It’s a Mexican-Style Stew

Posole - It's What's for Supper

Posole (poe-SO-lay) is one of those Mexican dishes you may not have heard of. For me, it’s the unsung hero of stews. It is delicious and easy to make and should be in everyone’s recipe box. You really should try it sometime and see what all the fuss is about. C’mon…don’t be afraid to make a new friend.

This is my go-to meal when The Complete Package smokes a rack of pork ribs and we have leftover meat. And on his behalf, let me state for the record that TCP smokes a mean rack of pork ribs! Anything leftover after rib night gets picked off the bones and frozen in air-tight containers for posole. It’s also the reason I keep a large can of hominy in my pantry at all times. I like to plan ahead like that. And I’m the queen of recycling just about everything, including pork.

Here’s how I like to make posole:
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1/2 of one yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 poblano pepper, roasted, seeded and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
One 29-ounce can of hominy, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can of tomato sauce
One cup of smoky pork rib meat, chopped
2 cups of chicken stock
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Pinch of cumin (or more, to your taste)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream, to dollop on top

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the oil, onion and peppers until translucent. If you don’t like heat, leave the jalapenos out, but keep the poblano – it adds so much flavor. Next, add the garlic and stir for about 30-45 seconds or until you start to smell it. Add the drained hominy, tomato sauce, smoky pork, chicken stock and all the dry spices. Save the cilantro and sour cream for the end. Stir to combine all the ingredients, then put a lid on it and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and allow the stew to sit for at least one hour. Trust me, it helps all the flavors come together. Don’t skip this part. After one hour, bring the posole back to a simmer to heat it back up. Add the fresh chopped cilantro and give it all a stir. Then spoon the posole into bowls, top with sour cream and go for it. You can serve this with warm flour tortillas or a crusty loaf of French bread. And if you don’t like this recipe, I’ll donate a can of hominy to my local food bank in your honor. That’s how good it is. Pinkie swear.


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