Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekly Menu 9/24: Bust a Rut

Pictures of chicken tacos, gnocchi, chicken burgers and apple pie

This week, I'm coming off of an annual "Mystery Trip" that I take with some of my closest girlfriends (look for another blog post on that coming soon). One person does all of the planning, while everyone else just packs and shows up, ready for the surprises ahead. We all live in such controlled schedules in so many ways, that a trip full of unknowns is the ultimate break from the routine.

In this Weekly Menu, I was inspired to show you some dishes we've tried in our home that are definitely stretches flavor-wise, representing a break from the routine go-to meals that we love, but may show up on the table a tad too often. The exception in this line-up of course is the apple pie. No surprises needed there.

Enjoy and please tell me what's shaking up your meals these days.

Carne Asada Chicken Tacos

Chicken Tacos with Onions and Beans

The pickled onions sound like a big deal, but they are easy and add so much flavor. Don't worry if you don't have time to do the pickled onions, just add your favorite taco toppings and enjoy this killer chicken.

Sides: Refried beans or other favorite beans plus guacamole and chips

  • Use orange juice from a carton or bottle rather then squeezing fresh
Make Ahead Notes:  
  • Cut onions and pickle them
  • Combine dry seasonings
  • Toss chicken in seasonings and set aside in fridge for later

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 1 orange) 
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly vertically sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into thin strips 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas 
  • 1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 avocado) 
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled Cotija cheese (this cheese will remind you of feta)
  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Place onion in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; drain and plunge onion in ice water. Drain onion; add to juice mixture. Chill until ready to serve.
  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle chicken with oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned and done, stirring occasionally.
  • Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide chicken evenly among tortillas. Drain onion; divide evenly among tortillas. Top each tortilla with 2 tablespoons avocado and 1 tablespoon cheese; fold over. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.
 Recipe from MyRecipes

Gnocchi, Corn and Arugula in Cream Sauce

Picture of gnocchi with corn, arugul and a cream sauce in a bowl

Use this recipe to enjoy the last corn of Indian summer.

Sides: Crusty Italian bread. Otherwise, this one-bowl meal can stand on its own.

  • Use quality pre-grated Parmesan cheese
Make Ahead Notes:
  •  Fill pasta pot with water and set on stove for later
  • Cut basil, or if you have a kid who's handy with scissors, have them cut the basil for you
  • 3 medium-sized fresh sweet corn on the cob
  • 3 C fresh arugula (or substitute fresh spinach)
  • 1 pound potato gnocchi
  • 3/4 C half and half
  • 3 oz light cream cheese
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t fresh basil, julienne
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

  • In large pot, boil water and cook gnocchi according to package directions, adding in the corn on the cob in the last 5 minutes. Remove corn, transfer to cutting board. Drain gnocchi, but make sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Don't rinse your gnocchi.
  • For the cream sauce, combine half and half, cream cheese, salt, garlic powder, fresh basil, and pepper in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium for about 10 minutes, stirring until cream cheese has evenly dispersed throughout sauce. Stir in reserved pasta water.
  • Slice your corn off the cob.  
  • In a medium bowl, combine pasta sauce, corn, gnocchi and arugula. Sprinkle with additional salt, pepper, basil, and crushed red pepper if desired. 

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens

Chicken Basil Burgers

I have to note that the presentation you see here, while lovely, was impossible to eat. Too messy to pick up, too thick to cut up nicely. But the taste is great, so skip the thick bread seen here and instead use good burger buns. Also, leave the mayo sauce off if you have picky eaters and offer ketchup or whatever else sounds good.

Sides: Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Potatoes and steamed green and yellow beans, also from TJ's

Make Ahead Notes:
  • Cut basil, or if you have a kid who's handy with scissors, have them cut the basil for you
  • Cut up pickles and green onions
  • Mix up mayo mixture and put in fridge for later
  • Combine burger mixture and put in fridge for later
  • Slice tomatoes

  • Olive oil (for brushing)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil plus 8 large leaves, divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped drained cornichons or dill pickle plus 3 teaspoons of brine from jar
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
  • 4 good burger buns
  • 4 1/3-inch-thick slices from large red or orange heirloom tomato
  • Brush grill with oil; prepare barbecue (medium heat). Mix mayonnaise, 1 cup chopped basil, cornichons, brine, and onions in small bowl. Season basil mayonnaise with salt and pepper.
  • Mix chicken and 1/2 cup basil mayonnaise in large bowl. Using wet hands (this is key - ground chicken will stick to your hands otherwise) shape chicken mixture into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush bread with oil.
  • Toast buns and transfer to plates. Grill burgers until firm to touch and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
  • Spread bread slices thickly with basil mayonnaise. Top each bread slice with tomato, 2 basil leaves, burger, and dollop of basil mayonnaise. Garnish with remaining chopped basil.

Adapted  from Epicurious recipe

Extra Credit: Apple Pie

Freshly baked double crust apple pie

Confession: I cannot make a decent pie crust from scratch, but I can unroll a mean pre-made crust. There's no shame in my game.


  • 7 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened 
  • Pastry for double pie crust - homemade or store-bought (I like Trader Joe's)
  • Preheat oven to 450°F. 
  • Combine sliced apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon rind.
  • Line pie plate with unbaked pie crust, trim pastry, crimp to edge of pie plate. Fill pie crust with apple mixture and dot with softened butter.
  • Brush crust edge with water and place pie crust top on top of pie, crimp to the bottom crust. Make some slits in the top crust for steam to escape. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes longer.
  • While baking, cover outer rim of crust if it's browning too fast.

Recipe from

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