Chicken Taquitos with Avocado Crema

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Yes, yes, here are the long-promised Taquitos!  This has become a recipe that I come back to time and time again.  Whenever I roast a chicken, I know that I can use the leftovers to mix up a batch of freezer-friendly taquitos.  I am actually planning to make another batch tomorrow.  This week is our county’s public school Spring Break.  While many families are off to vacations, there are plenty who are staying in the area and my company is hosting a Spring Break acting camp.  We revamped the program last year and now offer a unique benefit of allowing parents to sign their children up on a day-by-day basis.  This draw does come with a fair amount of extra work, so I am expecting to be spending several hours prepping after teaching each day.  Next week’s meals are all about ease and speed!  The taquitos will be perfect to grab for lunch.

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As mentioned in my last post, we’ve moved!  M and I are quickly settling in to having our own place.  We found a complex that is exactly between our workplaces.  It means a significantly shorter commute for me and a bit more time in the car for M.  Since driving serves as his main time to decompress, this actually works out perfectly!  We specifically chose this complex for its amenities, which are lengthy.  Walking paths, a dog park, community gardens, fitness classes, gyms, pools, and sports courts are spread over our complex, and we have tested out most of the amenities.  M and I made a pact to take as much advantage of those amenities as we can, if order to balance out our investment in rent.  Since our students are on Spring Break, we are off from our Saturday rehearsals for a few weeks, so I woke up early and headed to the PiYo fitness this morning.  And died.  Oh man, I have done plenty of yoga and tried a few online pilates videos, but this class was intense!  I stuck it out and then ran over to the community garden next door for a gardening class.  I have been researching square foot gardening ever since we signed up for our spot in the garden, so the content was mostly information that I already knew.  But I learned things specific to our garden that was helpful, even as I froze in this 30 degree weather.  All in all, we have been really happy in our new place!

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Inside the apartment, we are down to one last box.  That box is full of spices.  No joke.  For all the issues with our past two rentals, both had great pantries.  Our townhouse’s pantry was huge!  Honestly, I would not be surprised if the original owners had the choice of a half bath on the main floor, or a pantry.  And they chose the pantry.  So it was tough to move into our house, which has a very reasonably-sized pantry.  But the pantry was there and had nice deep shelves.  Our new apartment has a galley kitchen and no pantry at all.  The limited cabinet space meant we had to look at other options for food storage.  We settled on a small, 5-foot cabinet.  I was hopeful that I could fit everything inside, but it was stuffed!  So we need to order one more, which will allow us space for all of our food, drinks, and baking supplies.  So that is the final major piece that we are waiting on.

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Food storage aside, adjusting to a galley kitchen has been more work than I expected.  Every house I have lived in has had a large, open kitchen.  While I have a look-through that keeps me from feeling too closed off, I have just two small squares of counter space for prep after bringing in my KitchenAid mixer and our convection/toaster oven.   I’m slowly reassessing how much I spread out during prep time and I am learning to corral my dirty dishes and clean up as I go.  Even in my new tiny kitchen, these taquitos keep things tidy.  Mix up the filling in a large bowl and fill and roll the tortillas right on the baking sheet!  1 cutting board, 1 bowl, and 1 baking sheet.  That’s all you need!  I also like using mashed beans as the ‘glue’ in this filling.  Its has more protein than the usual cheese mixture that is normally used to bind the filling together.  I’ve included a little bit of cheese, because you always need some cheese, but the beans are a perfect compromise.  The spice list is long, but you could easily substitute a taco or fajita seasoning mix in place of the individual spices.  The best part about the ingredients all being precooked before joining the mixing bowl is that you can taste as you mix up the filling and adjust the spices to your preference!

taquitos

Chicken Taquitos with Avocado Crema

Serves: about 6 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

For the Taquitos

  • 1 1/2 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1/2 bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 c. onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 c. cannelinni beans
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, loosely packed
  • 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper (depending on your spicy preference)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2-3. tsp hot sauce (depending on your spicy preference)
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 18-20 corn tortillas
  • Olive oil or oil spray
For the Avocado Crema
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, loosely packed
  • 1/3 c. Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. dried dill
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice

Make the Crema

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Taste and add more salt or lime juice, if needed.  Cover with plastic wrap by pressing the wrap to the surface of the sauce.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the Taquitos

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly oil.

Lightly sauté diced onion and cannellini beans until onion is translucent.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant.  Remove pan from heat, stir in cream cheese.  Mash the bean into the onion cheese mixture, stirring well, until the cream cheese is incorporated.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add shredded chicken, spinach, shredded cheese, all spices (cilantro, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, salt, and black pepper), lime juice, and hot sauce.  Mix to combine.  When the onion and bean mixture is cool enough to handle, mix into the chicken mixture.  I found this to be best done with my hands (hence allowing the onion mixture to cool).  The entire mixture should be uniform, with the softened cream cheese and beans binding the rest of the ingredients together.  When you squeeze the filling between your fingers it should hold together, but the mixture should not be ‘wet’.

Warm tortillas 2-3 at a time in the microwave for about 25 seconds, or in a warm, dry pan on the stove for a few minutes.  Warming the tortillas makes them pliable.  Gently, spoon about 2 Tbsp of the chicken mixture slightly off center in the tortilla.  Shape the mixture into a rough log shape, running from one edge of the tortilla to the other.  Wrap the tortilla around the mixture and place, seam-side down, on the oiled parchment paper.  Continue until all of the chicken mixture and tortillas are used up. Place about 1/2 inch about on the baking sheet, all seam-side down.  Try not to move the wrapped tortillas–the tortillas will get less pliable and more prone to cracking as they cool.   Light spray or brush the taquito rolls with oil.

Cook on the middle oven rack for 10 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and gently turn over each taquito.  The seams should hold together.  Lightly spray or brush with oil once more. Return to oven to bake for another 10 minutes.  Serve hot with the avocado crema.  Leftover taquitos may be stored once completely cool, loosely packed in a tupperware with paper towels in between the layers, in the refrigerator for up to three days.  Store avocado crema as mentioned above (with saran wrap pressed against the surface).  Taquitos may also be frozen on a cookie sheet, then combined into a bag.  Cook from frozen at 450 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, until heated through.  I do not recommend freezing the crema.

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Moving Update and Un-ravioli (Gnudi)

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I was trying to think of clever titles for this post, but all I could think of was “Dancing in my Gnudi pants”, in reference to the Georgia Nicholson series, which I devoured one summer at my cousin’s house when I was fifteen.  But that really isn’t a good reference to make, when I’m trying to convince you to make this recipe for dinner…

Today is day two in our new house!  My Sunday was spent madly packing the last –okay, most of my belongings into boxes and bins and miraculously fitting, at least, 80% of my life into my car.  Tabby may be small, but she’s a beast.  Just saying. (Even more miraculous, I think she got better mileage while packed with stuff–like, 5 more miles to the gallon, better.  That, or I filled up the tank partway and forgot about it…but I don’t think that I am so exhausted as to forget a trip to the gas station). Anyways, Monday was moving day, and we did a lot of it.  Between picking up the U-Haul, picking up keys (the rental office did not open until 10am, which set our day back a little bit), grabbing a new dining table from a friend’s, and packing up the first load at M’s house, we didn’t actually get into our new townhouse until 1:30pm.  But, all of our belongings and furniture made it into the house by 5pm, which is a great achievement.  Now, we are stuck trying to unpack everything, which is really the hard part.

I did not, to my relief, cull down any of my kitchen supplies, but this move has proven how strange of an assortment of kitchen gear I own.  Brotform proofing basket? Check. Madeleine Cookie mold? Check. Bread proofer, crockpots, muffin tins, baking tins, measuring spoons, pot holders? Check and check.  But when it came time for dinner (M had already claimed making a curry), we had no knives or plates (the plates got left behind in the plot of a long explanation).  After four years in a college dorm and three solid years of regular cooking and kitchen experiments, it turns out that I do not (nor does M or S) own my own knives.  Or a vegetable peeler. Or measuring cups, mixing bowls, pots and pans, cutting boards, or spatulas.  I’ve always used my mother’s.  Or M’s mother’s, or whichever roommate had brought those tools for the year. It was an enlightening and disappointing discovery.  While I have lovely plans for a shopping spree for such essentials, my wallet does not support that plan.  We’ll have to see what we can get by on borrowing and buying piecemeal as we go along.

Luckily, S did own (and bring) a few pots, and with M’s pocket knife, dinner got on the table–in mason jars, the only containers that had made it into the kitchen.  It was an interesting end to the day, but I don’t know if I have eaten more delicious curry.  The next day, I bought a cast-iron skillet and a chef’s knife, and M grabbed some of the plates.  We may have enough tools to survive now! 😉 Since Monday was my last day off for a week, and the last day off for M and S for at least another 10 days, the actual unpacking process has been quite slow.  Some cooking is certainly happening in the little corner of counter space cleared by the stove, but I’ve been more lax in documenting it.  Last night, the boys grilled steaks while I tossed together an herbed mediterranean salad and skillet potatoes.  I’m sure I will be making both again soon–photos will have to be taken on the second round.  I’ve always been a little torn about posting salad-type recipes…I guess some of my favorites (this mediterranean, a two-bean salad from my sister, my mother’s ambrosia, or macaroni salad, etc) don’t seem to be very revolutionary.  Tasty, absolutely, but they are simple enough that I’m sure you could find another recipe on the internet.  However, since this blog was started to serve as an online collection of my recipes, as much for myself as for anyone else, I think I do need to share my salad “recipes”.  If I really get my act together, maybe I will have a salad week!  Especially with summer coming around.

Speaking of summer, it certainly isn’t here.  While we haven’t gotten any snow for a few weeks, it has now become reliably sunny.  Looking out a window is looking out to a glorious promise of sun and warmth…a promise that is, in fact, a lie.  It is still quite chilly with the wind, in spite of the sun beaming down.  Maybe it is because of this disconnect that I have found myself craving tea, constantly. I may, or may not, have just stopped to make yet another cup of Earl Grey. (See, I am not quite as random as I seem–only tangential!)  Even though it is April, and even after last night’s lovely salad, I am still wrapped in sweaters, holding a cup of hot tea, and thinking about the rich, warming stews, rich gravies, and filling squash dishes of winter.

For today’s recipe, especially since I am still bogged down with unpacking, I have a recipe that I made several weeks ago, when the season, definitely, could still be counted as winter.  I came across Giada’s recipe for Gnudi and was intrigued by these “nude ravioli”.  Filled pastas, like ravioli and tortellini and chinese dumplings, were a staple in my house when I was young.  After going gluten-free, I have had one dish of GF ravioli that was actually passable (in fact, it was delicious!) at a local restaurant.  I was very much interested in trying gnudi as a substitute.  A creamy mix of ricotta under thick tomato sauce would be the perfect warm and comforting dish to make for dinner.  (Ultimately, my binge-cooking got the best of me, and I made cabbage rolls to go along with this.  Recipe for those coming soon!)

My expectations for this recipe were, honestly, entirely wrong.  Though the ingredients make up the soft, creamy filling of ravioli, I should have thought more about their counterpart in name: gnocchi.  Gnudi are dumplings, in the “chicken and dumplings” sense–thick all the way through, rather than holding the soft ravioli center.  This didn’t diminish their tastiness, but it was rather surprising when I came to the finished product.  Because I was expecting these to be a tad softer, I made them into larger rounds, like the dinner-sized raviolis of my childhood.  Next time, I will definitely keep gnocchi in mind and form my gnudi much, much smaller into little bite-sized pillows of cheesy awesome.  But their large size wasn’t much of an issue–two gnudi made the perfect snack, three were great for dinner with a side dish.  M, ultimately, ate these with his fingers, dipping them into the marinara sauce like I have photographed.  Either way you form them, big or small, gnudi are a delicious option for any meal.

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Gnudi 

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 6 | Prep time: 30 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes

  • 1 c. whole-milk ricotta, undrained*
  • 2 c. kale leaves
  • 1 c. grated parmesan or pecorino romano (please use REAL cheese, not the Kraft Green Bottle stuff)
  • 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. (each) salt and pepper
  • 6 tsp gluten-free flour mix + extra for dredging(I used 2 Tbsp, each, White Rice Flour, Sorghum Flour, and Tapioca Starch)
  • 1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
  • Pasta sauce (marinara, bolognese, vodka sauce, etc)

*Stir the liquid at the top of the ricotta into the rest, then scoop out ricotta to measure

Rinse and dry the kale leaves.  Chop finely.  Mix the ricotta, kale, cheese, eggs, egg yolks, and spices in a large bowl.  Whisk 6 tablespoons of flour mix and xanthan gum in a small bowl until well-combined.  Stir in flour mixture, incorporate well.  Refrigerate for ten to fifteen minutes.  This rest will help the flour begin to absorb the liquid, as well as firm the mixture slightly.  The mixture may still be rather loose and “goopy”.

After mixture has chilled, place a large pot of water on the stove.  Heat to boiling, then turn down to a simmer.  Add additional flour to a wide, shallow bowl. Using a spoon or two, scoop out desired amount of cheese mixture for one piece of gnudi.  Drop mixture into flour and coat lightly (I spooned some flour over top, then rolled a little bit).  Once coated, the gnudi will be able to be picked up by hand, but will still be delicate.  Drop gnudi into simmering water in small batches and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, until the gnudi are cooked through and float to the surface.  Drain and keep warm until serving.

Continue shaping, dredging, and cooking gnudi in small batches.  Serve warm with your favorite pasta sauce.

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Would you make small gnocchi-size gnudi?  Or keep them big (and potential finger foods)?  Do you have the same everlasting love for tea?  Do you name your car? (Fun fact: Tabby’s full name is Tabitha.  And my KitchenAid Stand Mixer is named Henrietta.  Those are the only inanimate objects that have names, though.) Have you read the Georgia Nicholson books?