Tacos are on the Money

There’s a certain weirdness to going on the air of a radio station and knowing that the listeners are going to hate you. And getting up really early to do it. And doing it – voluntarily – for 3 hours.

Yet, Pam Parker – editor of Lake Erie LifeStyle magazine and Her Times magazine – and I have been joining Tom New, president of WQLN Public Media, for the spring fundraising drive for nearly a decade.

Yep. Nearly 10 years of begging for money on the air.

It’s a privilege and a pain.

Privilege because even though I spent most of my adult life in the for-profit end of the media business, I have been a supporter of public media since shortly after I had enough left from my paycheck to support something other than myself. I know that bringing news and entertainment to the public is not free – even thought listeners and watchers don’t pay for it like they do for the newspaper (my prior employers).

So if you listen or watch this bright, smart, sometimes funny, often interesting, programming – then I think you should pay for it. The government does not fund your local public radio station or TV station – more than 85 percent of that money comes directly from you. So, if you don’t listen or watch, then don’t give.

I get it.

But if you do, then go to WQLN.org.

Enough preaching.

While you are listening to Pam, Tom, and I ask you for money on Monday morning, we know you don’t like us to interrupt your programming. So we know we have to be chirpy and bright despite knowing you really don’t like us.

And we like to be liked.

So we get really enthusiastic when the phone rings. Or donations come in through the web site. Some years, the phones ring – especially after 7 a.m. (we start at 6 a.m.). Other years, it’s so quiet we can hear the spring peepers outside.

This year was a little on the peeper side. But we also came into the campaign with about $47,000 already in the bank courtesy of people in the sustainer category – they commit to annual giving via a credit or debit card in monthly installments. It’s easy for both the giver and WQLN. I think of it like my Netflix subscription. I pay for that each month on my bank card – why not public media. Plus it gives me access to past programming.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan. Plus I serve on the WQLN board of directors.

But it’s pretty exhausting on the air begging for money from 6 to 9 a.m. Even if you love the people you are on the air with.

By 5 p.m., all I wanted to do was take a nap. But, that’s the dinner hour. And I have a 14-year-old to feed healthy food.

Tacos are friend to moms everywhere. They can be a nutritional nightmare of grease, cheese, and sour cream. Or you can replace the ground beef with chicken thighs, and add more fruits and veggies.

This recipe takes advantage of things i keep in the house. I always have some chicken thighs in the freezer because they cook quickly when chopped, are protein heavy, and are very versatile. Taco seasoning is in my cupboard always, as are pineapple fruit cups, because they are easy to pack for lunch, add to a salad, or mix with yogurt or cottage cheese. In this recipe, you’ll use the pineapple liquid to cook the chicken.

Salsa verde is in the fridge, as are some form of tortilla or flatbread wrap. Peppers and onions are usually hanging out in the crisper.

I also keep avocados around because they add a vegetable to a sandwich or snack — making them just a little healthier.

In less than 25 minutes, you’ll wind up with this beauty – which is a whole lot tastier than takeout tacos.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

After dinner, I took the dog for a stroll and then hit the sack.

Dreaming, all the night, about selling tacos to raise money for public broadcasting.

Please give. I need to sleep.

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Chicken Thigh Tacos with Pineapple Avocado Salsa
Course dinner
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Drain and reserve pineapple juice. In a small bowl, mash avocado. Add pineapple bits, salsa verde, cilantro and 1 tablespoon of minced red onion. Set aside.
  2. In a medium to large saute pan, add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil. Add sliced onion and red peppers. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Saute until onion is soft and slightly caramelized. This will take about 10 minutes or longer. Add more oil if needed. Remove from heat and place into a bowl.
  3. Toss chicken thighs with taco seasoning.
  4. Add remaining oil to pan and, over medium heat, add chicken thighs. Cook until done, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved pineapple juice. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until juice is mostly evaporated. Remove from heat.
  5. To prepare: Arrange tortillas on plates (1 or 2 per plate, depending on size). Top with each with equal amounts of radish slices, chicken, onion and pepper mixture, then pineapple salsa. Serve. divide equally among the tortilla shells.
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Best Lunch Deal in Town

Every year I look forward to getting the invitation from North East resident and former Erie Times-News editor Jennifer Smith to go with her to the lunch offerings from the culinary students at Mercyhurst University’s North East campus.

On certain Wednesday and Fridays (details below) during March and April the students prepare a three-course lunch ($9) and serve it either on campus or at Lake View Country Club in North East.  Getting the meal from concept to table is part of the graduation requirements of the two-year culinary program at North East.

The program attracts students from ages 20 to 45 and graduates a dozen or more per year. From North East, the graduates head off to hospitality jobs throughout Erie and surrounding areas.

Serving the public will give students exposure to all that comes with a restaurant — including menu planning, staffing, budgeting and working with the public.

I headed out on Wednesday this week to Lake View Country Club (my first visit there) to sample the Taste of Winter menu by Brent Nusom. The meal opened with a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts; followed by beer-braised venison with rice and asparagus spears; and concluding with a chocolate bead pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramelized bananas.

Nusom, like all the chefs in the lunch program, table hopped with his guests. He explained that he chose venison because his brothers are hunters, although he is not, and he knew they would be asking for ways to prepare it.

Overall, the setting and meal were delightful. Customers are asked to give feedback on cards for the chef and wait staff. This is part of the learning experience.  Many of these students wind up in local restaurants and hotels, so you can have a real impact on the Erie hospitality industry by just having lunch.

What a great way to spend a Wednesday or Friday lunch time.

 

Lunches with Mercyhurst North East
Either Mercyhurst North East or Lake View Country Club
Wednesdays or Fridays
March 29, April 5, 7, 12, and 21
Seating begins at 11:30 a.m.; lunch is served at noon. Reservations (required), 814-725-6333.
Menus: http://northeast.mercyhurst.edu/sites/northeast.mercyhurst.edu/files/uploads/%3Cem%3EEdit%20Simple%3C/em%3E%20For%20the%20Public%20/mne_spring17-menu.pdf
Lunches are $9 per person, including tax.

In case you ever want to make your own beet salad, here’s a simple way to roast beets.

Print Recipe
Roasted Beets
The beauty of these beets is you don't have to peel. Just wash, remove the green tops and save for another recipe, rub with oil and roast. When they have cooled, just take a paper towel and rub the outside of the beet to remove the skin.
Course lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Course lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Coat beets lightly with oil.
  3. Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, about 45 to 60 minutes depending on the size.
  4. Remove from the oven, let cool for about 10 minutes. Use a paper towel to rub off the skin. Then slice or cube. Or put in a baggie in the fridge and cut when ready to use.
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Happy Pi Day

There are so many reasons to love Pi Day. The chief among them is that it inspires people to make pies, even if National Pie Day was in January. I know that makes no sense. But that is the joy of Pi Day.

For those of us who didn’t study math with any great enthusiasm, pi was just 3.141592 (rounded, of course, to 3.14). It first came to my attention in 2015, when the numerals lined up to 3/14/15, or March 14, 2015. I made a French silk pie, with a whipped cream pi symbol, π.

With the frightful weather outside, today was a good day for making pies inside. It’s also citrus season. The two combined to inspire today’s pie, which is Lemon Chess Pie. Why it is called chess pie is somewhat uncertain. That this is Southern is not in dispute. The rest is kind of murky. There are some theories on What’s Cooking America that it really was a term for cheese pie. There is no cheese in it, so it seems a bit of a stretch.

Even the ingredient list can vary by chef. The filling is lemon juice, sugar, egg, butter, and some cornmeal. Some recipes call for milk, cream, flour, cornstarch. Adding milk or cream will create a fluffier filling. The recipe I like has no milk or cream, so the filling is pure lemon flavor – a lot like lemon bars.

On this snowy Pi Day, this Lemon Chess Pie is a little taste of sunshine.

Enjoy

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Lemon Chess Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place pie crust into a pie pan, cutting off any excess overhang. Refrigerate crust while you make the filling.
  2. Add sugar, salt, cornmeal, and cornstarch to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs (4 eggs and 1 yolk). Beat on medium to medium-high until the mixture is pale and sugar is fully incorporated. With the mixer running, add the lemon juice. Then pour in melted butter in a thin stream. Continue beating for about 30 more seconds.
  3. Pour the filling into chilled pie shell.
  4. Bake the pie on the bottom shelf of the 375-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center is set. The top should be golden brown.
  5. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before cutting and serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Quiche it Simple During Lent

The Lenten season is upon us. This exercise in meatless Fridays sticks with me even though I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic.

Culturally Catholic, I am. So the guilt about eating meat remains with me to this day.

Skipping meat on Fridays wouldn’t be that big a deal if I could serve the grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. I love grilled cheese. Any cheese melted between two pieces of bread slathered in butter or olive oil is pure heaven.

Except my daughter doesn’t eat cheese. And she has a nose that can smell it several rooms away.

If I crave a melted cheese sandwich, I eat in the middle of the night when she is asleep. Then I burn candles to get the smell out of the house.

Sometimes I will order one when we are eating out for lunch. But she is relentless in her ongoing commentary about how much she hates cheese.

Yes, this is odd. I am the mom. It is my house. But when your child is on the autism spectrum, however mild, this isn’t a battle anyone is going to win.

Fortunately, she likes most vegetables. So on many meatless nights, it’s just a plate of roasted vegetables and pasta or rice.

But I’m trying to find add a little more protein to her diet, which would consist largely of chocolate and chips if left to her own devices. We eat a lot of chicken.

When Lent rolls around, it’s time to cook more creatively. We live just a couple of miles from a chicken farm, so we always have fresh eggs in the house. That means frittatas, quiches, and omelets.

The beauty of any of these is that you are free to improvise. Throw some spinach in for some extra veg, add or change a cheese, and use fresh herbs if you have them.

I keep a box or two of frozen pie crusts that I buy at Trader Joe’s in Cleveland on hand. It’s one of my favorite crusts, and it saves time.

Today, I had some extra smoked salmon, green onions, and potatoes. If I had baby kale, chard, or spinach, it would have gone in too. I was finished in less than 45 minutes. Plus the leftovers can do double duty for breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

This is #whatsfordinner tonight.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Salmon, Dill, and Potato Quiche
This is an easy dish for dinner or lunch. Pair with a cucumber or green salad. Depending on appetites, and whether it is lunch or dinner, this can feed from 4-6 people.
Course dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roll out pie crust so it will fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Place crust into pie pan and trim off edges. Top crust with parchment and pie weights or beans. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans and cook another 5 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain. Slice.
  4. Beat together the cream, eggs, dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper until the eggs are lighter and there is a bit of foam on top of the batter.
  5. Place cut potatoes over the bottom of the pastry. Then put half the salmon strips in the gaps. Sprinkle with half of the green onions. Pour over the egg mix.
  6. Bake for 25 mins until the top is firm. Allow to cool. This is best served at room temperature. Before serving, top with the remaining strips of salmon, some dollops of creme fraiche, sour cream, or yogurt. Sprinkle remaining green onions on top and some dill.
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