Homemade Taco Sauce

You guys knew this was coming. Gabe and I are doing our best to move away from processed food, and this recipe was the next step in that transition.

Ladies and gentlemen, my boyfriend makes killer enchiladas. In the past, he always topped them with cheese and bottled taco sauce, which I loved. Recently I had the question– which happens fairly frequently in this noggin of mine– could I make this from scratch? Yes, the answer is yes.

So I whipped up a batch of taco sauce one Sunday morning before heading to work, and I came home to a pan of piping hot enchiladas. Magical. This sauce is even better than the bottled stuff, with a more complex flavor profile. The chipotle gives it a nice smokiness as well.

Homemade taco sauce

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Homemade Taco Sauce

  • 8 oz. canned tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried minced onion
  • 1 Tbs. white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • pinch of sugar

Stir together all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the freezer for several months.

Source: Slightly adapted from Joy of Kosher.

Cherry Sorbet

A couple weeks ago we helped a friend paint the walls of his brand-spanking-new condo. Every once in a while I have those “Wow, we’re all grown up now,” moments, and I think it hit me in a strange way while touring that condo. I was genuinely thrilled that Rob had purchased real estate (eek!), but as he showed us around his new place, I suddenly realized that the things I loved most were his ginormous, organized closet and side-by-side refrigerator/freezer.

Yep, I think that puts me firmly in the grownup camp.

I love our apartment, but I can’t stop thinking about that freezer. Imagine being able to store my ice cream maker permanently in the freezer instead of having to shift around piles of frozen veggies every time I wanted to make ice cream! I could have a steady stream of sorbets, fro-yos, and custards without having to plan 24 hours in advance!

On second thought, it’s probably a very good thing I don’t have that freezer.

P.S. I thought it was appropriate to share a sorbet recipe as temperatures climb near 100° this week and we all head to the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Stay cool and hydrated, everyone!

Cherry sorbet

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Cherry Sorbet

  • 2 lbs. bing cherries, pitted and stems removed
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vodka or kirsch

In a medium saucepan, stir together cherries, water, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until the cherries start releasing their juices, and then continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cherries are very soft. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Stir in vodka and puree cherries in a blender until smooth (I use my stick blender so I don’t have to dirty another dish). Cover and chill for at least eight hours, and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes approximately 1 quart.

Source: Very slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop.

Lactose-Free Chocolate Pudding

Longtime readers know that almost every recipe I make on this blog uses lactose-free dairy products. I don’t often highlight that fact or mention it in recipes because I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself into running a lactose-free blog. And while I use regular milk for recipes that only I will eat (thanks, Scandinavian heritage for ensuring that my body can process milk!), anytime I’m making something to share with Gabe, I make it lactose-free.

Every once in a while I want to call attention to that fact, since the invention of lactose-free milk has made my cooking life immeasurably easier and more satisfying. I no longer need to figure out how to use chalky soy milk in recipes where dairy is the star, like creamy soups or homemade ice cream. Or rich, chocolate pudding.

I’ve never made pudding from scratch before, but it’s kind of magical. I felt like I was stirring, stirring, stirring, waiting for the chocolatey goodness to thicken, and then BAM! Suddenly I had a custard. So give it a whirl, whether you go lactose-free or not.

P.S. I decided to make pudding because I had four egg yolks left over from a batch of homemade marshmallows. They’re a perfect pair!

Lactose-free chocolate pudding

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Lactose-Free Chocolate Pudding

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups lactose-free whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

In medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa. Very slowly (about 1/4 cup at a time) whisk in milk, trying to remove as many lumps as possible. Whisk in egg yolks until smooth. Meanwhile, place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.

Place saucepan over medium heat and slowly heat chocolate mixture, stirring constantly. It helps to alternate between a whisk and a rubber scraper, so you can keep the pudding smooth and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pudding just barely starts to boil, reduce heat to low and continue to stir constantly for 3 minutes until very thick. Remove from heat and pour through sieve into the medium bowl. Stir in butter and vanilla until smooth.

Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, sticking it directly to the top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Remove from refrigerator, stir, and serve in individual bowls.

Serves 6-8.

Source: Very slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Spicy Refrigerator Pickles

Gabe and I had dinner at a Jewish deli in Minneapolis for the first time last week. We were frequent visitors at Zaftigs in Brookline, and I’m proud to say that I’ve eaten the as-tall-as-my-face pastrami sandwich at Brent’s Deli in Los Angeles. So it was borderline absurd that we’d made it eight months in Minnesota without a stop at Rye Deli.

Despite the fact that a crazy hailstorm rolled in and we had to grab our food and run– getting the car safely under covered parking just in the nick of time– it was a fantastic experience. And now I’m even more obsessed with trying Jewish recipes. Matzo ball soup? Check. Challah? Check. Next up? Pickles!

I was one of those kids who used to drink pickle juice for fun, so it was with glee and a slightly manic expression that I bounded through the grocery store carrying four ginormous cucumbers and declared for all to hear, “I’m going to make pickles!” Sometimes I can be embarrassing to shop with.

This recipe was super quick to whip up and easily multiplied. The hardest part was an agonizing two-day wait while the pickles cured. But then, bubbling with anticipation, I broke into a jar and Gabe and I tasted them for the first time. He looked at me with a sense of wonder breaking over his face and said simply, “You made pickles.”

Yes, yes I did.

Spicy refrigerator pickles

Spicy refrigerator pickles

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Spicy Refrigerator Pickles

This recipe is really easy to multiply! For each 16-oz. mason jar, you need the following:

  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced into spears
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbs. distilled vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt

Place garlic and red pepper flakes at the bottom of the jar. Add two sprigs of dill and the cucumber spears. Make the brine by stirring together water, vinegar, and salt until salt is dissolved. Pour brine over cucumbers in jar. Top with another sprig of dill and tighten lid on jar.

Place in refrigerator and wait two days before eating. Enjoy!

Source: Very slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats.