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Quick fixes to life start in the kitchen

We’ve all heard the news: Cooking at home is the remedy for a host of budget and health concerns that many of us struggle with today.

Want to save money on your grocery bill? Cook. Need to slow down and reconnect with family and friends? Cook. Want to eat healthier meals and cut unwanted calories or ingredients? Cook.

Family schedules, work responsibilities and just plain inertia can derail the best of intentions for cooking more meals at home. Many of us are out of time and out of ideas for dinner. As a working mother of two school-age boys, I know that my enthusiasm for making a meal can fade faster that you can say “take-out.”

However, we want to help. That’s the idea behind this new feature column, Dinner Together. Each month, we’ll share a recipe that we’ve rustled up from cookbooks, magazines, readers and friends that can be pulled together quickly and inexpensively.

We might occasionally push you into unfamiliar culinary territory or ask you to buy ingredients that aren’t always on your grocery shopping list. We know you have favorite family recipes already, so we’re hoping the recipes might help you branch out. We won’t be asking readers to run to a bunch of different stores or make special online orders for ingredients.

Serving a nutritious, delicious meal at home is just the first step. Trimming the grocery bill is the next, so the recipes featured here will serve four people for around $10. We’ll also try to give suggestions for substitutions so that the meal could be served to vegetarians, vegans, those who have a gluten-intolerance or celiac disease. We won’t be able to make every recipe appropriate for every special diet, but we know many people are making dietary changes or feeding others who have allergies as well as ethical or health concerns.

Today’s recipe caught my eye as I flipped through the May 2013 edition of Food Network Magazine. The flavors sounded like an unlikely combination, but the magazine’s photo was intriguing. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for recipes that will appeal to both vegetarians and meat eaters.

The hardest part of the Poblano, Mushroom and Potato Tacos is charring and scraping the skin off the poblano chili peppers. It is worth it. Roast the peppers over a gas burner or under a broiler and let them steam in a covered bowl or paper bag while you keep moving on the rest of the recipe.

The filling gets a spicy zing from the roasted peppers, offset by the flavor of the lime juice. The sour cream (or Mexican crema) has a nice cooling effect. Substitute Anaheim peppers for folks with a lower spice tolerance. The herb-sprinkled potatoes are a surprising but welcome addition. I liked the way the sour cream brings all of the flavors together. Our children turned up their noses, but we’ll make this recipe again for ourselves anyway.

The recipe is vegetarian and it is gluten-free if you carefully choose corn tortillas. Make it vegan by skipping the sour cream for the filling and serving without toppings, such as queso fresco or Cotija cheese.

Poblano, Mushroom and Potato Tacos

Adapted from Food Network Magazine, May 2013

4 medium poblano chili peppers

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

12 ounces cremini and/or white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup sour cream, Mexican crema or creme fraiche

Juice of 2 limes

Freshly ground black pepper

Corn tortillas, warmed (see note)

Queso fresco or Cotija cheese

Roast the poblanos directly over the flame of a gas burner or under the broiler, turning with tongs, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper bag or a bowl covered with a plate or plastic wrap and let steam until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Scrape off the charred skin with a paring knife; remove the stems and seeds. Cut the poblanos into strips and set aside.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a large nonstick skillet and cover with cold water; season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes; drain. Wipe the skillet dry.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes per side.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. While still hot, sprinkle with half the herbs and salt to taste. Discard the excess oil and wipe out the skillet.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining herbs and the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add the roasted poblanos, sour cream and lime juice. Stir until warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve the potatoes with mushroom mixture in tortillas topped with queso fresco crumbles, Cotija cheese and other desired toppings.

Note: To warm tortillas, wrap a stack in a damp paper towel and microwave 30 seconds. Or warm them one at a time in a dry skillet.

Yield: 6 servings