Tag Archives: The Best Recipes in the World

Citrus-marinated steak tacos, avocado-lime salsa, and arroz a la mexicana |Recipe report card

23 Jul

 

Someone kept trying to steal my cheese whenever I tried to take a shot of my food.

Someone kept trying to steal my cheese whenever I tried to take a shot of my food.

Today was one of those, “Oh god, I have a tiny amount of time to prep dinner and feed the lil guy before the Bug wakes up” days. So of course the meat I bought was still frozen by 2 pm, sending me reeling, trying to think of alternate dishes to make, debating whether I should just eat out (we recently decided we’ve been eating out WAY too much lately), deciding to return to plan A, and then frantically trying to straighten up the kitchen to make it functional for cooking.

But that’s why I keep testing Taco Tuesday (which never happens on a Tuesday) recipes. And this meal was exactly the right one to make. Bug likes steak, rice, and tortilla chips, so even though I hadn’t tried it before, it seemed like a safe bet for a night when just she and I were eating dinner. (And a heck of a lot better for us than mac and cheese from a box.) I made a corn tortilla version of the tacos for myself and, taking a cue from Dinner: The Playbook, a deconstructed one for Bug. For dessert, I made Banana Paletas, which were a big hit. The popsicle-size ones weren’t frozen enough, so we ate the icecube size ones that I made with the leftover liquid. I hope to write about those later.

The deconstructed, toddler-friendly version of dinner.

The deconstructed, toddler-friendly version of dinner.

Citrus-marinated steak tacosReal Simple June 2015

  • Meal: dinner, 7/23
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A+. How can you go wrong with a tasty four-ingredient marinade? This literally took less than five minutes to whip together. I usually buy my meat at a local market that has locally raised meat, but I was in a rush this week and bought “carne asada” cut at our local chain supermarket. This turned out to be a great move because it was so thin-cut that it defrosted quickly, once I pulled the pieces apart, and it cooked in seconds. If I were cooking for Dave and I, I would have preferred a better cut of steak, but tonight, when I wasn’t sure how much time I had to cook before the lil guy woke up for his first cluster feed of the evening, it was perfect. I heated the corn tortillas on top of the last batch of beef, which actually worked out well, giving some flavor to the tortillas and getting them the perfect balance of crisp/moist.
  • Kid’s grade: A. “What’s this, Mommy?” “Steak. They’re steak tacos.” “I like steak.” And then she proceeded to eat all the steak on her plate.

Chunky guacamole

  • Meal: dinner, 7/23
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A. Fearing that I was running out of time, I abandoned my plans to make Avocado-Lime Salsa and just made chunky guacamole, by chopping the avocado into big chunks, squeezing the lime juice on it, and dousing it with a good-sized pinch or two of kosher salt. It’s not the most amazing guac I’ve ever made, but it hits all the right notes, and it made me wonder why I don’t make even an easy guac more often.
  • Kid’s grade: B. Bug ate a piece of it and slightly grimaced, but I think she went back for more…

Arroz a la Mexicana, The Best Recipes in the World (similar recipe)

  • Meal: dinner, 7/23
  • Kid tried?: Yes.
  • Keeper?: Yes.
  • Cook’s grade: A-. I skimped on this recipe, too, throwing the rice, a half can of diced tomatoes with juice, garlic, stock, salt, and pepper into a rice cooker. We left the playground later than I hoped (which happens exactly always), so it was a bit dried out. But still–super easy and a great side for Mexican food. I threw some frozen corn into the rice cooker too, just to get some veggies in the meal.
  • Kid’s grade: A. Bug didn’t notice the rice until the end of the meal, the point when it’s difficult to tell if she genuinely wants to eat or if she just wants to stall going to bed. “I like rice!” she said and grabbed a big clump with her fingers, eating it as delicately as a toddler can eat a cluster of tiny pieces of food barely held together with moisture and residual heat.

Cooking tips for busy parents:

  • Use your appliances. I have been relying more and more on the rice cooker and slow cooker to help take the heavy lifting out of some of these dishes. Yes, the flavor of the food isn’t as good, but it’s good, and it helps me get better-tasting, more interesting food on the table.
  • Follow the advice from Dinner: The Playbook and make super easy sides. The arroz a la mexicana can be made using all pantry staples. Yes, Bittman says that fresh tomatoes made this dish transcend taco place fare, but, again, if your goal is to put a healthy dinner on the table without spending all your (very limited) free time cooking, this works. Similarly, the no-smash guac isn’t my ideal guacamole, but it works and was delicious.
  • The night or morning before, make the rice in the rice cooker and set the timer. Also make the marinade.
Advertisements