Vegetarian Cravings: Buffalo Sauce

Over the weekend, I made black bean and sweet potato Chilaquiles, which called for taco-sized corn tortillas. For some reason the package always comes with a ton of them, so I was left trying to figure out what to make with what remained. Last time I had leftover corn tortillas I made flautas, so I decided to make them again… this time with a twist.

In conversations I’ve had with other vegetarians, I’ve found that the majority of us do in fact miss some meat related things from time to time. One food that seems to always come up is the buffalo wing. I was never a huge chicken fan myself (probably because we had it so much growing up), so I know it isn’t the meat I miss. Instead, I think it’s that crispy and crunchy texture, and the flavorful sauce it’s coated in. There have been quite a few vegetarian-friendly things coming out of my kitchen within the last few months smothered in buffalo sauce (lasagna, stuffed shells, grilled cheese, dip), so I figured Veggie Buffalo Taquitos would be my next adventure.

The great thing about these taquitos, I think, is that you don’t miss the meat. My carnivorous dining partner enjoyed them sans-meat, and I think you will too. But, if you just can’t get behind the idea of a buffalo sauced dish without chicken, you can definitely add shredded chicken into the mix! And it could easily be made vegan by using dairy-free cream cheese, or a tofu and nutritional yeast combo. The dish also winds up being gluten-free thanks to the corn tortillas, so almost anyone can enjoy it. The filling for the taquitos comes together in a matter of minutes, so this is perfect for a busy weeknight (served with veggies, of course!), a quick snack, or a party dish. I paired mine with a giant salad and roasted veggies, but you really can have it with almost anything.

Veggie Buffalo Taquito

Vegetarian Buffalo Taquitos
– makes 10 taquitos – 

10 taco-sized corn tortillas
1 15oz can white beans
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella or a blend works)
1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot (or other buffalo styled sauce)
Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
2. Combine the white beans, cream cheese, shredded cheese, and Frank’s in a medium sized bowl. The beans don’t need to be smashed, but some will get smashed from the combining of the ingredients, which is fine. 
3. Wrap the corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 40 seconds. This helps prevent them from cracking when you roll everything together. 
4. Take two tablespoons of the buffalo mixture and spread it down the middle of a tortilla. Roll the tortilla to completely cover the mixture (just like you would a burrito, except you don’t tuck in the ends). Secure with a toothpick. 
5. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and line it with the taquitos.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. There will be some oozing of cheese, which just means it’s extra delicious! 

Buffalo Tofu Tacos and a Bake-off

I really enjoy tofu. I know that many people are turned off by its texture and lack of flavor, but those are two qualities I appreciate. I’m not one of those people that is easily persuaded by texture, as I know a lot of people are (though I do have my limits with super-slimy). And as for flavor, that’s easily fixable – tofu is so incredibly versatile and it’s like a sponge; almost any flavor can seep into its pores.

That being said, when I had a craving for buffalo chicken, I figured I would give buffalo tofu a shot. I didn’t want to simply marinate some tofu in Frank’s Red Hot and call it a day – it needed some frying action first. That reminds me of the other reason I like tofu – it’s so easy to prepare. All you need is a deep skillet with canola oil, slices of extra firm tofu that’s been pressed to get rid of excess water, and buffalo sauce. Heat the oil, add the tofu (try not to touch it except to flip) and cook it on either side about 2-3 minutes. It’s that easy! I served my tacos with red onion, shredded lettuce, avocado, diced tomatoes, and some shredded cheese. YUM.

On Tuesday  night my kitchen was put to the test. Aside from making the above dinner, I also had to prepare my entry for our company bake-off. I decided to make How Sweet Eat’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles, and RecipeGirl’s Oreo Cheesecake Bars. I didn’t have time to snap a picture of the truffles, but look at these Oreo bars. I knew I had a pretty good chance at placing.

After all was said and done, I wound up taking first AND second place! I scored a gift card and a dessert cookbook – two things I can’t wait to put to good use.

A Spicy Fat Tuesday

Never being one to celebrate Mardi Gras (I grew up in New Jersey, and have sadly never been to New Orleans), I decided to play into the “Fat Tuesday” idea this year. While I didn’t gorge myself at every turn, I thought it would be a perfect night to make some Chicken(less) Buffalo Pizza! I love buffalo styled sauces, and have had my fair share of buffalo chicken pizza from pizzerias all over. In college, my friends and I always made it a point to stop at the place across the street from the bar before heading home to get our late night fix. So healthy, I know.

The chickenless chicken strips I had picked up at Trader Joe’s last week were meant for my Thai Pizza, but since that was a fail, I’m glad I didn’t waste them. Instead, I put them to good use as a nice barrier between the spicy and tangy pizza sauce, and mounds of cheese. Buying these pre-made pizza crusts has been a lifesaver – all you need to do is prepare whatever toppings you’re planning to use, then pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes. How much easier could it get?

Unfortunately my fiance wasn’t a fan… since I mixed the hot sauce with blue cheese dressing, it was just too blue cheese-y for him, as he really doesn’t like it. Apparently he was never much of a fan of the dressing or cheese itself, but after a little food poisoning incident with some moldy fruit snacks, he’s steered clear. So, that left me with an entire pizza to myself… dinner on Tuesday and lunch on Wednesday!

I realize that this is far from what one might call a Fat Tuesday, but hey, I got to enjoy one of my favorite meals that isn’t very healthy, so I’ll take it as a Foodosaurus FT win! And speaking of winning – don’t forget to enter my giveaway – you have until Sunday (3/13) at 9p EDT to enter!

Chicken(less) Buffalo Chicken Pizza
– Serves 4 –

1 pre-made pizza crust
1/4 cup light blue cheese dressing
1/4 cup buffalo sauce + 2 Tbsp for drizzling (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
1/2 cup chicken substitute strips (I used Trader Joe’s, but Morningstar makes some good ones, or you can use real chicken!)
1 cup shredded cheese blend (I used cheddar and jack)
2 scallions, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Combine blue cheese dressing and buffalo sauce, spread on pizza dough
3. Add chicken atop pizza (strategically placed, of course), and cover with cheese. Drizzle extra sauce on top.
4. Bake for 10 minutes, then add scallions, and continue to bake for an additional 2-5 minutes, until crust is golden brown

Potato Chips and Eggs for dinner!

As I mentioned yesterday, I was planning on making a Potato Chip Tortilla this week. I had every intention of making it yesterday, but when shopping on Saturday my head was not in the game, so I left out some key ingredients. Today after work the fiancé and I headed over to the Target near our office to grab an onion and some extra eggs. The particular Target we usually stop at has a pretty impressive produce section. Well, they had no onions! Sure, they had ground beef, green dips, pre-made salads, onions, a ton of fruits, lettuce… but no onion. I decided it was just going to have to be made without the onion.

The recipe is from May’s Food Network Magazine. There was a whole section on incorporating potato chips into your meal. There was potato chip crusted pork, chocolate and toffee drizzled potato chips, and also the potato tortilla. The name can be deceiving. When I hear tortilla, I think of what I wrap my burrito in. Well not this case! This was definitely more like a fritata than anything else. It actually reminded me a lot of the delicious Chilaquiles Fritata I made in February.

I’m all for the super simple recipe. And I am no stranger to breakfast for dinner. Sure, I’m willing to get my hands dirty every once in awhile, but in most cases, after getting home from work at 6:30p, the last thing I want to do is cook for an hour or two, and not eat until it’s almost bedtime. The whole recipe wasn’t ready until about 8pm, but that’s just because it took 30 minutes to bake. I don’t mind that – I was able to do some other things while it was baking. I just hate actively cooking for a seriously long time after a full day.

All I had to do to prepare for this recipe was crack the eggs (I really think I’m the worst egg cracker there is), beat them, add in some spices, and crush up and add my potatoes to the egg mix. The recipe only called for salt and pepper, but I decided to be adventurous and add some chili powder and cayenne pepper, since we like things with a kick! This particular recipe assumes you have a skillet that has oven-friendly handles. Well, I do not. So after cooking it on the stove-top for about 5 minutes, I had to transfer it to a Pyrex dish to put in the oven. No biggie, but kind of annoying. Since I’m a cheese lover, I also added some shredded mozzarella to the top, and let it bake.

After baking and letting it cool, it had a loaf-like consistency. I decided to have mine with a little Frank’s Red Hot, while the fiancé chose to use Sriracha. It was perfect! There was just the right amount of egg flavor (I’m not a huge egg fan), and a nice potato chip flavor. It sounds like it would be a very odd combination. But believe me, it was delicious! We just had it with a simple green salad, and were good to go. We have plenty of left overs, so I’m looking forward to having some of that with some Green Giant microwaveable veggies for lunch tomorrow!

So whether you’re looking for a brunch item, or maybe you want breakfast for dinner, all you need for this recipe is a few key ingredients, and about 45 minutes. Then you can tell everyone you had eggs and potato chips!

Potato Chip Tortilla

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 white onion, halved and thinly sliced
12 large eggs
1 8.5 oz bag of thick-cut potato chips (about 10 cups)
Kosher salt & ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring until soft, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and 1 cup water in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly crush the potato chips into the egg mixture and let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chips are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the onion.
3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and cook until it begins to set, about 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are firm and the top is golden and slightly crisp, 30-35 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes, then slide onto a plate. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy nomzing!

Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese!

I don’t remember exactly how I found this recipe, but on the last snow day, I wound up perusing Yum Sugar‘s site, and focused on one of their posts about macaroni and cheese. They had quite a few different types, but one really stuck out. As a spicy anything lover, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make the Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese.

Since my fiancé and I had a busy weekend, we decided to be daring and tackle the recipe during the week. Monday night was filled with a trip to the gym, dropping off our rent, stopping at the grocery store for some forgotten spices, coupled with me dying from my typical intestinal issues. That’s neither here nor there. The important fact is that I got to make it Tuesday.

I usually try to stay away from recipes that require more than minimal work during the week. So that means less than a 20 minute cook time with minimal prep. We’re big fans of the Bertolli spinach & ricotta tortellini because it’s ready in 10 minutes and absolutely delicious. But knowing we need to expand our week night horizons, I thought this would be an excellent choice. Plus, Tuesdays are always so bland. We both work for a software development company in the time & attendance / payroll industry, and everyone likes to process payroll Tuesdays. So we’re always busy, plus there isn’t any good TV (though MTV’s 16 & Pregnant is becoming increasingly interesting).

Back to the task at hand – the making and devouring of the Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese.

There were A LOT of little steps to get this guy going. First, I needed bread and cook the chicken and put it aside. I also needed to make the macaroni, pretty much at the same time, to ensure there wasn’t a lot of lag time between. Then I needed to make the onion, garlic and milk mixture. My stove top could barely handle the pressure!

Those were really the only tedious parts; mixing all of the cheese and then the final ingredients together was easy. Like always, waiting was torture because I am one of the most impatient, anxious, and ADHD people around. Thankfully my fiancé is the same way, so we manage to entertain each other. Usually ridiculously.

Now this is NOT the type of recipe to make if you’re on a diet, if you’ve already eaten a lot of calories for the day, etc. Of course no mac ‘n cheese is “good for you.” But I’m yet to meet someone that doesn’t love it, so it’s worth it! This particular recipe has a ton of butter, milk, and cheese, and all things wonderfully fatty. But after running a solid 4.5 miles, a nice mile and a half over the training that was required for the day and in a decent time, the indulgence was only appropriate.

Because the recipe has so many heavy ingredients, you really don’t need to have much. Pair it with a simple green salad, and you’ll be good to go!

You’ll find the recipe below. It makes 12 servings. I actually cut it down so it was only a third of the 12 servings, and there was definitely enough for 3-4 people.

Thanks again to my wonderful fiancé for the great pictures! You can check out more of his other pictures over at his blog; I Hate Fun.

Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n Cheese

2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
1-1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 pound chicken cutlets
6 tablespoons canola oil, plus more as needed
1 pound elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
3 cups chopped onions
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated jack cheese
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup creamy and crumbly blue cheese (recommended: Maytag Blue), crumbled, plus more for garnish, if desired
2 teaspoons paprika
1 cup Frank’s RedHot Original or other hot pepper sauce
1 stalk celery, finely diced

1. In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, salt, cumin, cayenne, and pepper. Beat eggs in a shallow bowl. Coat chicken pieces with the breadcrumbs, dip in the eggs, then coat again with the breadcrumbs; place on a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
2. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 cup canola oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add two of the chicken tenders and cook, turning once, until golden, about 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding more oil if necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked chicken to paper towels to drain. Cut into 1-inch pieces; set aside.
3. Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until pasta is tender but not quite cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain; transfer to very large bowl.
4. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in same large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic. Cover; sauté until onions are soft but not brown, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat and simmer sauce 2 minutes. Add all cheeses, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Whisk until cheeses melt and sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Mix cheese sauce into macaroni. Mix in half the chicken pieces. Mound mixture in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake macaroni uncovered until heated through, about 25 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, stir hot pepper sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.
7. Remove macaroni from oven and top with remaining chicken pieces, then spoon 4 tablespoons of hot pepper and butter sauce over macaroni. Bake for 5-7 more minutes.
8. Sprinkle top of macaroni with finely diced celery and more blue cheese crumbles; serve immediately, passing around extra hot pepper sauce.