We wanted to make a simple casual yet Californian feeling dinner as a send-off when my boyfriend’s parents were in town. We’d been eating out most of the week, so something on the lighter side was definitely in order. We took inspiration from Tasty Chicken’s recipe for Chicken Fajita Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette and also made some guacamole on the side.
Alterations: Since we didn’t have enough time to properly marinate, we cheated and used a pollo asado mix from Trader Joe’s. We used a grill pan to char the chicken, peppers and onions.
Do-again?: This hit the spot. The dressing was tart and refreshing and went well with the chicken and peppers. We would definitely make this again.
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For Valentine’s Day, I almost did the expected steak and lobster… since technically that would have been A-OK for Paleo. But I thought we might miss the drawn butter. And I figured this was a chance to try something different. EatDrinkPaleo has a ton of gorgeous looking recipes. I settled on the Seared Mexican Tuna Steak with Sweet Red Peppers and Avocado Salsa.
Alterations: Followed as directed, using a bacon avocado from my CSA and a couple of tuna steaks from the fresh section at Trader Joe’s (which were $7/lb cheaper than the ones at Whole Foods).
Do-again?: This was very tasty, though next time I’d cook the tuna a little less so that it was a bit more pink in the middle. This definitely satisfied and my boyfriend said it looked like a “restaurant dish.”
A few years ago, I went to Mexico City for the weekend with friends. As a California native, I’ve always thought that I have had good access to authentic, delicious Mexican food, however nothing could prepare me for the tastebud onslaught caused by some 1am Tacos Al Pastor from El Califa. Definitely one of the top five things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Al Pastor is a favorite at California taquerias too, however I’d never tried to make it at home, thinking a spit was a necessity. But luckily my new favorite magazine Cooks Illustrated came to the rescue, using trial and error to break down how to get that same flavorful, crispy goodness using the stovetop and grill. Cooks Illustrated is subscription only access, however MyYearCookingWithChrisKimball published a near-identical version of the recipe.
Alterations: I ended up using dried ancho chiles instead of guajillo based on what was available at my local supermarket. My pork butt roast was a little under 3 pounds, which ended up serving 5 people multiple tacos. Instead of coring a pineapple, I grilled precut fresh pineapple strips. I heated my tortillas on the stovetop.
Do-again?: These were incredible. While the recipe does take some time, it is simple and you are not busy most of the time (it’s simmering away doing the work for you - though be careful because I got burned by a bubble of the delectable chile sauce when stirring mid recipe). The grilled pineapple also seals the deal bringing that smoky sweetness to the taco. Pure bliss.
I never tire of making or eating enchiladas - but sometimes (and I know this is sacrilege for some people) I think they are too cheesy. Enter my new best enchilada friend - Skinnytaste’s Cheesy Zucchini Enchiladas. This recipe satisfies a certain want of cheese but sneaks in some delicious seasonal summer vegetables too.
Alterations: I had some pretty huge zucchini so I decided to make six instead of four enchiladas. I did not use reduced fat cheese and low carb tortillas but I did use Whole Foods brand which makes me feel like they were still somewhat healthier ;) For the enchilada sauce, I used some leftover pizza sauce combined with spices.
Do-again?: Si, si, si! Easy, tasty and a great way to utilize the summer squash bounty. They reheat rather well as leftovers too.
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Since we knew we were spending the day indoors watching the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl, we faked some time outside by grilling some tacos on our balcony during the game. We were even able to get together all the ingredients without leaving the house. Utilizing my leftover chiles in adobo, I crafted a marinade based on this Epicurious recipe for spicy chipotle marinade. We grilled the meat on the Mangrate grilling system that my boyfriend received as part of his Christmas bounty.
Alterations: Instead of marinating a broken down chicken overnight, I used the marinade on some thawed chicken thighs and only let them stew for a couple of hours. We also put some sliced red onions in a foil packet with a little bit of olive oil, Old Bay, cumin and oregano and let them caramelize while everything else was getting ready. We toasted up some tortillas, chopped up some cabbage and cilantro and pulled everything together.
Do-again?: The chicken was awesome - definitely a marinade I’d try again. The only thing lacking was either some sour cream, avocado or salsa to make things a little less dry.
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This weekend I’m headed to Palm Springs for a little spa getaway with some friends and next week, I’m headed back to San Francisco so it’s time to clear out the fridge. Who would have thought that canned pumpkin and stale tortillas could turn into a spicy luscious soup? Thanks to TheKitchn’s Pumpkin Tortilla Soup recipe for the inspiration.
Alterations: Based on the number of leftover tortillas I had, I used 4 tortillas for the base of the soup and fried up 3 tortillas as the crispy topping. My soup was quite spicy since I used Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes with jalapenos) for the tomato portion plus a combination of chile powder and dried chiles. I added in a little bit of soyrizo in the last five minutes of cooking as well.
Do-again?: The soup got good reviews from both my brother and my boyfriend and was simple to put together. I would like to try it with a bit more pumpkin so that flavor came out more and I might bring the spice factor down a little bit so I didn’t need to dab my brow during the meal as often.
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A dozen years ago (yikes, I’m getting old) my family took a trip to Cabo San Lucas and ate at a restaurant that is now a family favorite - Felix’. In addition to feasting on the amazingly varied salsa bar, it was also our first time trying Chiles en Nogada (chiles in walnut sauce). This sinfully delicious meal commemorates Mexican Independence Day because the colors resemble the flag. My mom and I both subscribed to the Felix’ newsletter, which shares recipes and stories from the restaurant. Luckily not long after we subscribed, they issued the famous Chiles en Nogada recipe. The chef’s recipes are more of a loose guideline than those found in most cookbooks, but that’s the way I cook so it worked out okay for me.
Alterations: I used pork loin chops instead of shoulder meat since this is what was available at Trader Joe’s and cooked enough to stuff six large peppers. I also should probably have cooked my meat more to tenderize it but as I was cooking this after work, time was of the essence. For the walnut sauce, I used Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.
Do-again?: The flavors of this dish really come out the longer they sit around. The leftovers of this meal (even four days later) were better than on the first night. The flavors are really complex and layered. My attempt was not as good as Felix’ but was pretty damn good for a Tuesday night.
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Confession: I rip out a lot of recipes from magazines and file them away, yet most of my recipes and inspiration for things I actually cook comes from online. When we were moving, my boyfriend nearly lost it when a file of clippings splayed across the room. Today, I may have won some of his favor back by cooking these delicious Butternut Squash and Chorizo Enchiladas with Cinnamon-spiced Crema. Second confession: this recipe came from an ad for Cacique Mexican food products in an issue of Food Network Magazine.
Alterations: I meant to cook this with soyrizo so dinner could qualify for a Meatless Monday meal, however the grocery store I went to didn’t carry the veggie version so I opted for the real deal from Cacique. I substitued Better than Boullion for the broth (as this is a staple in my kitchen) and used fat-free Fage Greek yogurt instead of crema for the sauce. I used the jalapeno version of the Queso Quesadilla cheese as well for some added heat.
Do-again: This was super tasty and I’m glad this made a lot so I can reheat it for lunch later this week. The sauce was really delicious and rich - kept drizzling more on my enchilada. Next time, I’m going to chop the butternut squash ahead of time to make it cook a bit more evenly and faster. I had to cook it an extra 25 minutes and it still didn’t quite get “mashable” texture all the way through. As I mentioned above, I also want to try this with soyrizo to make it a bit healthier. The Greek yogurt substitution worked well - the sauce still tasted very rich but with a lot less fat.