Baked Taquitos and Misadventures with DayQuil

Baked Carnitas Taquitos

Corn tortillas stuffed with beer-braised pork, 3 cheeses and green onions. Served with sour cream and a Brussels sprout, radish and sprouted mung bean slaw

I have no problem admitting that I only watch the Superbowl for the commercials and the food. This year the hitch in that giddy up was that I’ve been sick for more than a week and didn’t feel like going anywhere. I also didn’t feel like inviting anyone over — that would prevent my husband and I from spending all day on the couch in pajamas under a pile of blankets and kitties (which basically describes all of my favorite Sundays, sick or not).

So I took the anti-social and lazy way out. I planned an easy all-day menu for two based around a Mexican theme and starring one main protein — beer-braised carnitas.

A petite pork butt (around 1.5 pounds) came into play and using this super simple recipe from Bon Appetite, I braised it with dried chiles, beer and garlic. It was pretty much all I could handle in my cold medicine haze.

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Oatmeal a-go-go: A bike commuter’s breakfast

I am a (in theory) breakfast person. I love eggs, I love crispy bacon and sausage, and of course pancakes, waffles and the like. Heck, even cereal makes me pretty happy. But since I like sleeping in as much as possible, I rarely have more than a granola bar for breakfast during the work week. Which, when I throw in my 8-mile bike ride to work every day, doesn’t ever seem like enough. In fact, usually by 10 am I am staring at my lunch and by noon, I’m starving.

To help my day begin with a bit more giddyup, I finally decided to make a recipe I pinned forever ago — baked oatmeal with berries. The best thing is that it’s easy to make, the second best thing is that it’s easy to reheat. And, considering that I bike my breakfast to work, the fact that it’s easily portable was also a plus. Nothing is worse than finding out your food leaked all over your work clothes. I once had to hose out my backpack when a small container of pickled peppers got loose after a particularly rowdy ride to work.

Anyways…even though it was hellaciously hot last week, I cranked up my oven and made some baked oatmeal.

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A delicious exercise in resisting the allure of restaurant brunch

My husband and I had a list of things we needed to get done last Sunday — a fairly long list too. Usually, since it’s our only day off together, our Sundays are full of complete and utter laziness. Many of them start with us deciding to go out to brunch, which, I have finally discovered, is why we never manage to get anything done. People might say breakfast is the most important meal of the day but, believe me, brunch is nothing but a sneaky productivity killer.

First, it always takes forever. This is not an insult to the restaurants we frequent, I’m sure the staff is doing all they can to hurry things up. It just seems that whenever we think brunch will only take a little while, it’s a minimum of three hours before we get back home. Sometimes there is a long wait to get seated or maybe the kitchen staff is in the weeds, but more often than not, the worst time-sucking culprit is the brunch cocktail. You have a couple Bloody Marys while waiting for your eggs to arrive. Then once you’re done eating, wandering aimlessly around Target sounds way better than going home to do chores. I’m beginning to think my husband knows this too. Just as he knows my weakness for a good breakfast-approved cocktail.

So this Sunday when he looked at our to-do list and suggested we start by going out to brunch, I was wise to his tricks. Luckily I had a recipe for Baked Eggs with Bacon and Spinach picked out and ready to go. While it looks pretty enough to make up for staying home instead of going out, I made sure it was simple enough that my lazy Sunday morning was not totally ruined by ambition.

Now right off the bat I had to change things up. I didn’t really mean to, but I realized belatedly that we were out of spinach. We did, however, have a bunch of kale looking for a good home. So the night before I blanched it until it was just tender, then gave it a quick sauté with onions and garlic for added flavor.

The next morning, I started by cooking the meat. I had some lovely pepper bacon from Nueskes in Wisconsin. But, of course, I didn’t quite have enough for both of us, so I threw in a couple of breakfast sausages too. Lately I have been dreaming about breakfast sausages. This seemed like a great time to make my dreams come true.

While the meat was cooking, I toasted some bread for the base layer. The recipe calls for a whole wheat English muffin but (are you sensing a trend here?) I didn’t have any. However I did have some scraps of brioche left over from an event my husband did earlier in the week. It worked perfectly since they were already cut into strips, and brioche is way more fun than an English muffin.

Next I went searching for a couple of nice-sized ramekins for us to use. Most of ours are fairly small and I wanted this breakfast to be filling enough to keep us satiated through our chores. I remembered my little Le Creuset French onion soup bowls that don’t get used as much as I wish they would. They were the perfect size and added a little flair to the presentation.

The final step was layering — first the bread, then the roughly chopped meat (with a small tab of butter too, just because) and then the kale. Make a small well in the greens and drop in one egg and a dash of cream. It also worked just fine with milk if you forgot to buy cream. Ahem.

Top the eggs with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then pop the whole shebang in the oven. Wait about ten minutes or so, but be careful not to overcook the eggs. The liquidy yolk is basically the sauce for this dish. Without that moisture, it might be a little dry.

While the eggs bake, your time is best spent making a cocktail. Sure, you’re not out on the town at some fancy brunch spot, but dammit, it’s the weekend and you deserve a pre-noon drink. I won’t tell anyone. I promise.

Then, after a bit, check the oven. Your egg should go from this…

…to this…

A little Parmesan cheese grated on top and a smattering of brioche bread crumbs makes this an easy dish worth staying home for. And our chore day was successful! We were so productive I even got to take a nap — which is a serious accomplishment in my book.

Is it still considered healthy if you double the cheese?

Mexican Chicken Casserole w/ Charred Salsa

Ironically I hit the first bump in my New Years resolution as I was eating my first attempt at sticking to my resolution. Mouth full of cheesy macaroni, I was simultaneously pawing through my massive binder of recipes to find the next one to try out. This is when I realized why I always find it so difficult to cook the things that, at some point, I wanted to make so badly I mutilated a magazine just for the recipe.

The main issue is that I am drawn to recipes that are full of butter, cream, cheese, pasta and cured meats. I am half Swedish, but trust me when I say the quarter Italian and quarter French part of my heritage always win when it comes to food. I’m not satisfied with smoked fish on rye crackers, I want ravioli bathed in béchamel sauce, ragu, scallopini and gnocchi, and things covered in cheese.

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Breakfast of Champions

I love breakfast. I love everything to do with breakfast — except for the waking up early to eat it part, which is why brunch is really quite ideal for me. Plus at brunch it’s acceptable to drink, whereas at breakfast you might get a judgmental side-eye for your Kir Royale. But at brunch, it’s never the lunch part that I go for. I am never even swayed or tempted, it’s always breakfast that catches my attention. Give me a nice strata or just some soft-scrambled eggs. I love hollandaise, hash browns and sausage drizzled with maple syrup. I love pancakes, waffles and French toast. I even like oatmeal and cream of wheat. Heck, simple buttered toast with raspberry jam can thrill me.

So when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light for a rosti casserole with baked eggs, I knew I had to try it. Now right from the get-go, I was a little skeptical. To someone who doesn’t know better, a rosti may appear to just be baked hash browns. But I used to cook professionally at a high-end restaurant and during one menu cycle, I had to make rostis to go with the steak. For several months, I actually had rosti nightmares and for very good reason — they are a huge pain the ass, especially when making them in large quantities.

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