Leftovers: shrimp tacos and fake chile relleno

I’m terrible at using leftovers, and after a few days, I shudder at the idea of eating “rotten” food. I know my food keeps longer than I’m willing to eat it, but the idea of ever possibly ingesting rotten food keeps me from even trying to eat leftovers after 2-3 days. The $10/lb grassfed beef and $13/lb Brazilian shrimp I stuffed my tomatoes with yesterday surely wasn’t going to waste. Aiming to spend less on food this year isn’t so much about reducing the quality of my food, but to increase the quality of real food while ensuring that I eat more of it, and don’t toss half my groceries every week.

Yesterday, before I headed into work, I power-lunched with these tacos. Easy peasy: I sliced up some cherry tomatoes, threw in a bunch of cilantro, added the shrimp, and spread a bit of sour cream on the corn shell I’d heated in the microwave. No need to cook. On the side: cottage cheese. I sure do need protein and fat before I work hard all night long.

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Today, I checked the fridge and saw the second of the two poblanos I’d purchased for my stuffed tomatoes yesterday. I hadn’t used the pepper, and it was nearly perfect and in great condition — a miracle for a small Midwestern city chain grocery store. I’d intended to blacken it and blend it up to make a green chile sauce for eggs or tacos or enchiladas, but that sounded like too much work tonight.

I blackened the pepper on the gas burner of the stove, steamed it in a plastic bag for 7 minutes, and then scraped off the skin. Oven preheated to 375F, I slit the pepper down the middle on one side, removed the seeds, and stuffed it full of that yummy taco meat that had been soaking up the flavor for a day. I stuffed the rest with shredded cheese on top, and threw it in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, I broiled it to brown the cheese for 3-5 minutes or so.

It’s not one of those “real” chile rellenos, fried to perfection and filled with even more and creamier cheeses, but it was pretty damn tasty and took far less time and money. On the side: avocado mashed with cilantro and lime (I ate the rest of the simple guacamole with chips while the poblano cooked), smashed up black beans, sour cream, sliced cherry tomatoes, and brown rice.

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Taco stuffed tomato brunch

Feeding another person is such a uniquely intimate act. It’s an extension of my own creativity, my resources and ability to collect and share food on a primal level, and an act of deeply caring for another person by satiating one of our strongest, deepest needs. Feeding others is selfless, as some also feel when they feed the homeless or wait a million years for a toddler to finish her Cheerios. By preparing food for others, I’m sort of asking people to accept a delicate piece of myself. The rejection many people feel when someone doesn’t like the food created for them is, in a way, an extension of feeling like the self has been rejected. Fortunately…my friend liked my food and said nice things! I cook for those I care about, to show them that I care about them.

My pal asked me out to eat on her lunch break. It was my first test of whether I could shoot down a restaurant offer, and we did find a good time to eat in my own kitchen instead. Unfortunately…I had no idea what to make, and my groceries were dwindling already. A quick browse through Instagram on my drive to the grocery store just one hour before my pal was expected over led me to a Whole30Recipes version of taco stuffed tomatoes. I grabbed most of what I needed, and we did have a really great lunch before she had to dart back to work.

My version of their recipe, below. I often modify recipes because of the small number of portions I need, or because I’m cooking only for myself and don’t need or want to use fancy ingredients.

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Stuff you need:

  • 1lb grassfed beef or meat of choice (venison or bison sound awesome, too)
  • 3 carrots, shredded and raw
  • 1/3 white onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced thin
  • 1/2 poblano (I should have used the whole pepper!), deseeded and diced thin
  • A bundle of fresh cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 large tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, mashed with a tiny bit of lime juice
  • 12 cooked, cold shrimp
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt, black pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater taco seasoning of choice (I bet fajita seasoning would work, too)

Preheat oven to 400F. Cook beef on stovetop until it’s about half browned. Put in minced garlic, onion, some cilantro, jalapeno, poblano, about 25% of the taco seasoning packet, and about half of the tomato guts from coring and let the meat finish browning.

Core the tomatoes and scrape the inside guts out, being careful not to puncture the bottom or sides. Use a slotted spoon to fill tomatoes with taco mixture and place in a glass bottom dish. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Toss shrimp in cayenne, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.

Pull tomatoes out of oven, top with raw carrots, mashed avocado, cilantro, and shrimp. I served vanilla yogurt with blueberries and agave drizzle on top.*

(Yes, I know yogurt isn’t Whole30 or Paleo compliant and that the post is tagged with those keywords, but I don’t claim to adhere entirely to a Paleo diet — only that that particular lifestyle is excellent for my vanity, excludes the grains I cannot digest, and aligns more fully with my values about what quality of food I prefer to ingest.)