Brisket Soft Tacos

October 3: National Soft Taco Day

Just one day before National Taco Day, National SOFT Taco Day is observed as a food holiday. Highlander prefers the latter but Islander likes her tacos crispy. Tacos are a versatile dish. The filling could be beef, pork, chicken or seafood and the shells could be soft (flour or corn tortilla) or crispy. Toppings could include cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, avocados, jalapenos, sour cream and salsa.

For this particular post, we used soft low-carb flour tortilla shells in which to wrap the meat filling and toppings. We used leftover shredded beef brisket made from our slow cooker (it yielded a lot of meat for just the two of us). And we filled it with toppings as colorful as the Mexican blanket in the final food photo above.

Switch up the tortillas for tacos today and go specifically for the soft shells on National Soft Taco Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • SOFT tortillas (flour, corn or a combination of both)
  • Shredded beef brisket (or other meat or seafood of your choice)
  • Shredded cheese (we used a Mexican blend of cheeses)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped cilantro leaves
  • Salsa or taco sauce
  • Lime wedges or slices (optional)

Directions

Warm the soft tortillas in a skillet or microwave according to the package directions to make them warm and more pliable. Lay a soft tortilla on a plate. Place hot shredded beef brisket on top. Layer with cheese on the hot brisket (it will melt slightly to bind the meat together).

Sprinkle with shredded lettuce. Top with tomatoes, onions, cilantro leaves and salsa or taco sauce. Roll and secure with toothpicks. Serve with lime wedges or slice to squeeze the juice to flavor the filling in the soft tacos (optional).

Notes

  • National Soft Taco Day on October 2 falls near the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month.  This month is a great opportunity to try some of the Latin American recipes posted under the Theme Menus on our blog.
  • Cook crispy tacos tomorrow for National Taco Day on October 3.

 

Sinigang na Baboy

(Filipino Tamarind Pork Ribs Soup)

October 2: World Farm Animals Day

Islander’s grandma had a farm. E I E I O! And on that farm, she had some poultry and pigs. E I E I O!

When Islander’s family visited the Philippines occasionally during her youth, her late maternal grandmother lived on a farm (now inhabited by her relatives). When her parents went to market, to market (not to buy a fat big or hog, because there were at least two already on grandma’s farm), Islander and her brother would help her with the chores. City slickers/suburbanites that they are, feeding the chickens and pigs did not seem to be such an unpleasant task. They once ventured beyond the boundaries of the farm and into the rice paddy and were frightened by a huge carabao (water buffalo)—and the “chicken” siblings quickly ran back to the chickens!

Islander’s late paternal apong (grandmother) also lived on a property with chickens and goats. Islander was always annoyed when the rooster crowed at the crack of dawn, interrupting her beauty sleep—definitely not a morning person!

Both grandmas would serve us chicken and pork dishes with the staple rice and we often wondered if one of their farm animals sacrificed their lives so that the family could be fed. We only knew of the chicken’s fate from its crazy-then-silent clucks. Chop, chop! But pork pieces were purchased by the parents when they went to market, to market after all!

In observation of World Farm Animals Day, we made a classic Filipino tamarind soup with pork ribs. Sinigang na Baboy is one of the many dishes that reminds us of our time spent in the Philippines with our beloved grandmothers.

Recipe

(Adapted from Filipino Village)

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1 ½ pound pork ribs, individually sliced
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 packet sinigang mix
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • bunch of spinach leaves, baby bok choy or other green vegetables

Directions

In a large pot, boil the ribs in water then simmer for about 1-2 hours to tenderize the meat. Skim off the scum. Mix in the sinigang packet. Chop the onion and dice the tomatoes.

Stir in the onions and tomatoes and cook for 15 more minutes. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the green vegetables. Serve hot with rice.

Notes

  • We usually add only half the packet of the sinigang mix as tamarind tastes too sour for us.
  • Search our blog for other Filipino food recipes.

 

Kālua Pua’a

(Hawaiian Pulled Pork)

October: National Pork Month

Let’s luau, everyone! Whenever we have get-togethers with ‘ohana (family) and friends and need to feed the crowd, we make kālua pua’a (Hawaiian-style pulled pork). Pigs represent a “bounty of blessings” at a buffet because the animal is big and can feed plenty of people, so they are served at many huge celebrations around the world.

In Hawaii, traditionally (and touristically), kālua pig is prepared in an imu, a type of underground oven. A pit is dug in the earth and heated with rocks from fire using sandalwood/mesquite. Meat simply seasoned with sea salt is wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed in the pit. Then it is buried in a layer of sand or soil and left to cook-steam for several hours until the meat is tender, smoky and juicy. Mmmmm…’ono!

Obviously, it is impractical for us to build an imu without ample space, fire-safe facilities and permission from the strict homeowners’ association to do it in our backyard. A crockpot has become a handy and convenient substitute to cook kālua pig at home for a smaller group. We take a piece of pork shoulder/butt, rub Hawaiian sea salt all over it, place it in a crockpot with liquid smoke flavoring and leave it to cook slowly for several hours. It is so easy to “fix it and forget it”—and the result is tender, smoky pulled pork that tastes almost like the ones served at luaus.

Cook kālua pua’a in a crockpot for a little luau and celebrate National Pork Month. Aloha!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5-7 lbs. pork butt or shoulder (boneless)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt (or coarse salt)
  • 2-4 tablespoons liquid smoke (depending on taste)

Directions

Line crockpot with slow cooker bags for easy cleanup (see Notes). Rinse the pork in water and pat dry. Cut slits in the pork (or pierce with the tines of a fork) then rub the sea salt and liquid smoke all over.

Place in a slow cooker/crockpot. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender all the way to the center. Shred with fork. Drain off some of the fat and liquid and serve over rice or between slices of Hawaiian bread.

Notes

  • Lining the bottom of the crockpot with clean banana leaves will impart a nice tropical flavor, too.
  • Adding more liquid smoke to the recipe depends on one’s preference for a smokier flavor.
  • Instead of kālua pig at parties, we sometimes serve a whole roast pig.
  • Our Texas friends like to add barbecue sauce on our Hawaiian pulled pork for a Southern-style sandwich (served on Hawaiian sweet bread/buns).
  • Saute some sliced onions and chopped cabbage with leftover kālua pig and serve with steamed white rice for a filling meal.
  • Search our Theme Menus for more Hawaiian and local recipes.

 

Dutch Baby

September 26: National Pancake Day

Highlander’s family loves Yorkshire pudding. They regularly ate the eggy side dish with roast beef, gravy and potatoes for their Sunday suppers. Now whenever we have a family reunion with them, this meal makes the gathering nostalgic and special.

Very similar to the English Yorkie puddings and popovers is a Dutch Baby. It is actually a German (as in Deutsch/sounds like Dutch) pancake. It is easy to make and fun to see how it puffs up when it is baked. Personalize this pancake with various fruits (berries, bananas, cooked apples in cinnamon, etc.) for a delightfully different breakfast. Sweeten with powdered sugar or maple syrup.

Try a puffy pancake—a Dutch Baby—for National Pancake Day.

Recipe

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • powdered sugar
  • berries (optional)

Directions

Use part of the butter to generously grease the sides a 10-inch round pan. Put the rest of the butter in the middle of the pan and place it in an preheated oven at 400 degrees. After five minutes, check to see if the butter is completely melted, being careful not to burn or brown it. While the butter is melting in the oven, mix together the flour and milk in a bowl. Beat in the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Blend until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan over the hot melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes until the Dutch Baby is puffed up. Remove from the oven. The Dutch Baby will deflate a bit. Blot out extra butter on top with paper towels. Slice into quarters and put on plates. Sprinkle powdered sugar over it. Garnish with berries.

Notes

  • National Pancake Day is observed in the United States on September 26. International Pancake Day is celebrated in various English-speaking Christian countries around the world on Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, as part of Mardi Gras festivals, carnivals and pre-Lent celebrations, and is a movable feast day.
  • Thanks to blog reader, Robert R., who suggested trying a Dutch Baby recipe.
  • Try our blueberry and cherry popover recipes.
  • Search our blog for more posts on pancakes.

 

Crispy Gau Gee

September 26: National Dumpling Day

In a past post on Chop Suey Day (August 29), we mentioned that Islander’s first family home in Hawaii when she was a baby was an apartment in Aiea, Oahu, located in a strip mall. She and her ‘ohana had lived above a Chinese restaurant named Waimalu Chop Suey. Chop suey was a fad food back in the day so the restaurant needed to re-brand itself to stay relevant. Waimalu Chop Suey is now famous for its giant, crispy pork-filled dumplings and calls itself the “House of Gau Gee”.

Now we make mini gau gee on the mainland to satisfy Islander’s Chinese and local food cravings. The size is smaller than the big ones at Waimalu Chop Suey to ensure that the pork filling is cooked all the way through. We fold them in the easy and traditional rectangle shape, but the dumplings can be turned into won tons as well.

These delightful dumplings make delicious appetizers and noodle toppers (gau gee mein) and are perfect pouches for observing National Dumpling Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Foodland)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ¼ pound shrimp, fresh, raw, peeled, deveined and chopped fine
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 can (4 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and chopped fine
  • 1-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • won ton wrappers

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the ground pork with the shrimp and green onions.

Add the water chestnuts, ginger, garlic, oyster sauce and soy sauce.

Mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors blend (optional). Separate the won ton wrappers. Place a tablespoon of the pork mixture and stretch it across the middle of a wrapper. Dip finger in water and moisten along the edges. Fold over in half and press to seal. This may be done assembly-style.

Place between sheets of waxed paper. Freeze for 30 minutes to hold its shape (optional). Deep fry in hot oil at 350 degrees F until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve with sauce (sweet and sour, duck, chili or hot mustard).

Notes

 Search our blog for more Chinese and dumpling recipes.

Fried Grits Cake

September 22: National Grits for Breakfast Day

Having lived in Oklahoma and now in Texas, we have found grits to be on many restaurants’ breakfast menus. Grits are corn that has been ground into a coarse meal and boiled. They are very popular in the South and Southwest of the United States, having originated from the Native Americans who ate maize-types of porridges. We would eat grits for breakfast instead of oatmeal as a change but they were kind of bland and boring to us. But when fried into cakes, grits are great!!! Serve as a side dish with eggs and bacon or sausage for a Southern-style morning meal on National Grits for Breakfast Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked grits (including water)
  • 4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • oil for frying

Directions

Cook grits according to the package instructions, reducing the water by about ½ cup. When done, stir in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Line an 8×8-inch square pan with foil, leaving a little overhang for the “handles”. Grease the foil with butter or cooking spray. Pour in the cooked grits and spread evenly. The grits should be no thicker than ½ inch. Cool completely (may be refrigerated) to solidify.

Lift the foil from its handles and place on cutting board. Slice the solidified grits into squares (may use circle or cookie cutters for different shapes). Dredge a piece into flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Then dip into the beaten egg and back into the flour. Press lightly into the panko, shaking off excess.

Fry in hot oil on one side until brown and crispy. Carefully flip to brown and crisp the other side of the grits cake. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot for breakfast.

 

Apple Dumplings

September 17: National Apple Dumpling Day

When we lived in Illinois, we would visit the apple orchard at Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park, and attend some of the fall events there. When we lived in San Antonio, Texas, we took fall road trips with our friends to Lost Maples in Vanderpool then stopped by Love Creek Orchards Cider Mill and Country Store in Medina for a snack. We enjoyed eating desserts at these places made with fall’s quintessential fruit—the apple.

We have several apple recipes on our blog, but here is an easy glazed dumpling dessert we made especially for National Apple Dumpling Day. Apple dumplings are like mini apple pies but when apples are encased in rich puff pastry and served warm à la mode with vanilla ice cream, they become a fancier fall treat!

Celebrate National Apple Dumpling Day, three National Apple Months (September, October and November) and the autumn season with apple dumplings.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food Network)

For the apple dumplings

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pecan chips
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 4 small apples (we used Granny Smith)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons butter (divided into 4 pieces)
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (for the egg wash), beaten

Directions

In a bowl, combine the sugar, raisins, pecan chips and ground cinnamon. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Mix till moistened.

Peel, core and slice the apples in half. Unfold the thawed puff pasty onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to about 12 inches square. Cut in quarters (6×6 inches). Place the apples on each square.

Spoon filling into the middle. Place butter pieces on top of the filling. Take the corners of the puff pastry square and fold towards the middle to seal the dumplings. Place them seal-side down on a lightly greased baking pan.

appledumplingssteps3

Brush with egg wash. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. The pastry should puff up more, turn golden brown and soften the apples inside. Transfer to a wire rack.

For the glaze

  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

In a small pan, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, water and butter. Simmer over medium low heat, stirring until the butter has melted and the liquid is slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Brush over the apple dumplings. Serve in individual dessert plates with vanilla ice cream (optional).

Notes

  • Search our blog for more apple recipes.