Sunday, July 14, 2013

David's tostadas: Awesome and economical

David made the most amazing tostadas last night.

He's a fantastic cook, but I have to admit I wasn't super excited when he proposed a dinner of corn tortillas, refried beans and eggs. Trust me, it's light years better than it sounds!

David also grilled some scrumptious lemon chicken. The table was a virtual smorgasbord of savory taste bites and south-of-the-border condiments, but when all was said and done, the tostadas were best exactly how he prepared them, without any chicken, bells or whistles.

Here's the recipe:
  • 1 large medium-hot pepper
  • 1 package prepared corn tostadas or corn tortillas
  • 1 can organic refried black beans with jalapenos
  • 1 batch Spanish rice, homemade or combine mix with one can diced tomatoes and chiles/jalapenos/habaneros
  • Cheese (colby/jack/cheddar if you want to melt it, or queso fresco)
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced (buy one that's slightly soft, cutting/pitting demo here)
  • Eggs
  • Water
  • Fresh cilantro, washed and lightly chopped

These are prepared individually; the number of tortillas and eggs needed will be based on the number of people served. Two per person would be very filling, especially if you have side dishes. Hint: The easiest way to make these is to roast the peppers when the grill's already fired up for another meal, and cook the Spanish rice ahead of time.

Tortilla/tostada: If using corn tortillas, pan fry in hot oil until crisp and drain on paper towels; set aside.

Rice: Prepare the Spanish rice. If using a bagged or boxed mix, reduce the amount of water and add the can of tomatoes. Set aside.

Hot pepper (David used Cubanelles): Split the hot pepper lengthwise, and remove stem and seeds. Grill on hot grill until blackened
and slightly soft inside. You could probably also blacken it in a hot cast iron pan with a very small amount of oil. Cool and slice, leaving the skin intact.

Poached egg: In your smallest pan, bring water to a rapid boil. Crack an egg into the water and boil for a minute. Remove from heat, cover and let set about 3 minutes; it should be bright white outside, and the bright yellow of the yolk should fade until it's barely yellow. Personally I think it's better if the yolk is a little runny.

  • During the 2-3 minute egg wait, quickly stir up the refried black beans and spread on the tostadas/tortillas. 
  • Top with Spanish rice and cheese; microwave if desired. 
  • Top with the chopped blackened pepper. 
  • Remove poached egg from water with a slotted spoon; let any water run back into the pan, then place egg on the tostado.
  • Surround egg with avocado slices.
  • Top with fresh cilantro. 
  • That's it--enjoy!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A gift that rocks: Michigan State trivet

To say that David is a Michigan State fan would be a gross understatement. He's not merely a fan; the guy bleeds green. 

While I graduated from the University of Michigan, I certainly understand his loyalty. After all, David is a State alum, just like his father before him, who graduated from MSU when it was still Michigan State College. His kids are dyed-in-the-wool Spartans; both recently graduated from State.

Since David frequently cooks, I knew he would love this river rock trivet in his favorite MSU theme, the block S. Turns out his kids were wowed by it too, so much so that I think I'll need to make more for them someday.

The river rock trivet is an adaptation of several projects I saw on Pinterest. It turned out better than I expected, although it was challenging to keep the rocks the same height. This is important so a hot dish doesn't slide off the stones!

To make the project, you'll need:

  • A pattern: I found the block S pattern online and pasted the picture into a Word file to print out.
  • Felt: I used forest green for the S, with sheets of heather gray for the backing.
  • Good fabric scissors.
  • Other scissors for the cardboard and pattern.
  • Cardboard: Use thin sheets, the kind that gives some stability to packaged items such as curtains. I glued two together to get the desired thickness.
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks: For gluing the felt together.
  • River rocks: I used several bags from Dollar Tree, plus ones David and I have collected over the years (you'll need lots, since you have to sort through them to find flatter ones of similar height).
  • E-6000 glue: For gluing rocks to the felt.
  • Cotton swabs: I used these for the E-6000 glue.
  • Rubber gloves to wear while applying the glue.
  • A large foil tray or something to hold the project (be sure it's something sturdy you won't regret getting glue on!).

1. Gather the materials and wash the rocks in a sink of soapy water, allowing them to dry on an old dish towel.
2. Cut out pattern. It should be big enough to work as a trivet to hold a pan out of the oven.
3. The cardboard serves as a stiffener for the bottom layers of felt. Cut out cardboard sheets in the desired shape. You may want to create a pattern for this too.
4. Hot-glue cardboard sheets together to create a thin, sturdy surface.
5. The felt background sheets need to be about 1/4-inch bigger on all sides than the cardboard sheets they'll be hot-glued to. You can either cut the felt pieces using the same pattern as the cardboard, or hot-glue the sheets of felt to the cardboard and carefully trim felt (either way, cut the felt 1/4 inch bigger on all sides).
6. Cut out the top layer of felt in the block S or your design pattern. Center it on the background felt. You may want to make a chalk line on all sides.
7. Hot-glue the top felt shape onto the background felt.
8. Place the felt layers onto the foil tray. Grab all of your river rocks and get comfortable.
9. Sort through the rocks, finding pieces that fit the shape of your pattern. You probably want to vary the colors, sizes, and angles a bit for interest. Frequently check that the rocks are level by setting a casserole dish on top. If it teeters, you'll need to replace a rock or two. Expect this to take a while. I kept my project on the coffee table for a couple of days and kept returning to it.
10. Once you're happy with the rock placement and are sure they're level enough to support pots, pans, and casserole dishes, you're ready to glue. Before you get started, read the E-6000 glue label and take any  necessary precautions. 
11. Carefully move the foil tray with the felt, rocks, glue, gloves and cotton swabs to a well-ventilated spot (preferably outside!) and open up your tube of glue.
12. With gloves on, put a little glue on a swab, carefully pick up one rock at a time and glue it to the felt shape.
13. When all the rocks are attached, allow them to dry in a well-ventilated spot.
14. Check that all the rocks are firmly attached. Start by tipping the trivet slightly. If they stay stuck, tip it upside down and shake it a bit, re-gluing any rocks which come undone.
15. If you notice any visible glue, try to carefully scrape it off with a knife.
16. If you like, you can glue a few cork tabs on the bottom, although I didn't find this necessary.
17. Let it dry indoors for a few more days before using.

Note: Be sure to read the E-6000 glue label.This glue worked very well for the project, but gave off strong fumes! Avoid getting it on your skin. If I had it to do over, I would have done this project on a nice summer day, when I could work outdoors. Since I was making this in Michigan shortly before Christmas, I worked inside but waited until a day when it wasn't snowing, went as fast as I could, then took it outside to air out and dry a bit.