Archive for the ‘Southwestern/Mexican’ Category


This dish is one of those family classics that is very simple, but has stuck around for a reason.  Craig grew up on this dish, and when we moved out of the dorms in college and started making dinner for ourselves, it was one of the first recipes he requested from his mom.  At first, I was a little skeptical – Craig calls this “Frito pie,” which sounded odd to me.  After the first time he made it, though, I was completely won over.  What’s not to like about a crispy, cheesy Frito topping?  Of course, we had to make this recipe our own over time and put our own spin on it.  We have probably made this dish every couple of months or so for the past five years, and we now have it perfected to the way we like it. 

Last year, sadly, Craig’s mom passed away.  A couple of months later, wanting to assemble her best recipes and hold on to them, his dad and his sister were on the hunt for this recipe.  It seems the original copy had somehow disappeared from his parents’ house.  Well, I was so happy to be able to tell them that I still had the copy she had made for us during college, and I quickly sent it back their way.  This is a recipe that will certainly live on in our household, and we are looking forward to getting our own kids hooked on it someday as a family classic handed down from their grandmother.

Frito Pie

Our adaptations to Sally’s recipe


  • 1 lb. ground meat (the original, of course, is ground beef, but I almost always use ground turkey or chicken)
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 Tbsp. chili seasoning (I make my own using chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper)
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 oz. Fritos (as an interesting aside, I think that when this recipe was written, that was the standard size for a bag of Fritos. Now, needless to say, bag size has expanded and you will have Fritos leftover.)
  • 1 can beans (I usually use black beans, but the original calls for kidney beans. Pinto beans are also really good in this dish.)
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or a Mexican blend)
  • Toppings of your choice, such as: sour cream, diced avocado or guacamole, shredded lettuce, diced fresh tomato, pico de gallo (the toppings were another modification that Craig and I made to the original, and I think they make it much more interesting.)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the meat in a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, chili seasoning, tomato paste, and water.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes, until mixture has thickened and water has evaporated, stirring occasionally.

2. Spray a round, high-sided casserole with cooking spray. Layer ingredients as follows: ½ of the Fritos, ½ of the meat mixture, ½ of the beans, ½ of the olives, and ½ of the cheese.

3. For the second layer, add ingredients as follows: remaining meat mixture, remaining beans, remaining olives, remaining Fritos, remaining cheese.

4. Bake at 350, covered, for 30 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until cheese and chips start to brown on top.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving with toppings as desired.

Yum – check out that crispy, Frito-y crust…

Frito done


Read Full Post »

green enchiladas

These enchiladas are so delicious. I simplified this recipe from the “Tyler’s Ultimate” version, which has you make your own green enchilada sauce out of tomatillos. Someday, when fresh tomatillos are abudant in my suburban DC grocery store, I may attempt that, but in the meantime, store-bought tomatillo salsa works fabulously. These enchiladas have an ideal blend of flavors, and the filling comes out velvety and smooth. I think I have made this dish about 4 times now, which, as I’ve mentioned before, says a lot about the recipe, since at least 4 or 5 of the dinners I cook each week tend to be new recipes. Enjoy!

Green Enchiladas with Roasted Chicken

Adapted from: Tyler Florence, Food Network



½ of a large rotisserie chicken (to make about 2 ½ cups of shredded meat)

1 large poblano pepper, roughly chopped (or, if the poblanos at your store are old and shriveled like mine were last week, you can combine a green bell pepper and half of a large jalapeno as a substitute)

½ large sweet onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. cumin

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

8 small flour tortillas (You can also use corn if you prefer. It’s what the original recipe calls for, but I prefer flour with my chicken or pork and corn with my beef.)

1 jar/tub of your favorite salsa verde or green taco sauce (you’ll need at least 1 ½ cups)

5 oz. shredded Monterey jack or your favorite white Mexican cheese blend

Salt and pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil




1. Pull the chicken into long shreds by hand. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


2. Heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook 8-10 minutes on medium, or until the peppers and onions are very soft, but not brown.  Add the cumin and stir to combine; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and cook 1 minute, stirring vigorously.


3. Add the broth in 2 or 3 batches, stirring well to avoid any lumps in the flour. Once well-combined, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a rapid simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer about 5 minutes, until the mixture has reduced slightly and the sauce is velvety. Turn off the heat and fold in the chicken, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, the mixture may look a little thinner than other enchilada fillings. However, it will continue to set in the oven, creating an ideal texture.


4. Pour a little salsa into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and spread evenly. Pour some more salsa into a wide, shallow bowl. To assemble enchiladas, dip a tortilla into the bowl of salsa to coat. Add a line of chicken mixture in the center, and sprinkle a little cheese on top. Place in the pan and roll up so that the seam side is down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. To finish, spoon a little more salsa on top and sprinkle with a bit of additional cheese.


5. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving, with sour cream or additional salsa if desired, or just serve as-is!

Read Full Post »

carne guisada

Given the fact that Craig and I will both graduate from graduate school this spring, we are confronted with the reality that this year brings the last spring break we will probably ever have in our lives. We couldn’t just stay home for that, so we decided to book tickets to Texas to visit Craig’s best friend. He’s been pestering us to come down there for 3 years now, so it’s really the least we could do :). We’re really looking forward to the trip (leaving next Friday), and as a bonus, our trip coincides with the Houston Rodeo, which I hear is a great foodie experience. To start getting us in the mood, I decided to make this slow-cooked beef, Texas carne guisada, from the awesome Homesick Texan blog. Click the recipe link below to learn more about this dish and its importance in Texas. I loved this meal. It was pretty easy to make, and tasted better than a lot of what is served in most Tex-Mex restaurants, at least the ones where we live (far from Texas).

Texas Carne Guisada

Adapted from: The Homesick Texan


(this is for a half recipe, but it was so good that I would probably make a full recipe next time and freeze some)


2 pounds of beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes (my package was actually 1.75 lbs.)

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 small onion, diced

2 large or 3 medium cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup canned diced tomatoes

Hot peppers of the green variety, of your choice, minced – I used one fresh serrano and a handful of pickled jalapenos

½ Tbsp. cumin

½ Tbsp. chili powder

½ tsp. oregano

1 cup of water, plus more for adding later

6 oz. beer (the recipe calls for dark beer, but I forgot to buy some especially for this, so I just used the Yuengling we had on hand)


The original calls for cilantro, which would be good if you like it – we don’t like it enough to buy it.



1. In a large pot or a Dutch oven, brown the beef on medium high to high heat in the oil.  Remove beef from pot and set aside.  Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of the drippings and cook on medium heat the onions and chiles for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.


2. Add the browned beef, the tomatoes, and the herbs, spices, water and beer and mix everything well.  Turn up the heat to high, bring the stew to a boil and then turn heat down very low and simmer for five hours, mostly covered, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed. At this point, some of the meat will have turned to strings thus thickening the gravy.



To serve: Mexican rice as seen on the Dinner and Dessert blog (I simplified this recipe just a little bit – it was great), and avocado slices drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with kosher salt.

Of course, this beef would also make a great taco filling! However, we both thought that this meal had an excellent blend of flavors and textures.

Read Full Post »

shrimp tacos

These tacos were so good, with a great balance of flavors. When we made our monthly trip to the awesome (though faraway) grocery store Wegman’s recently, I bought my standard 2 lb. bag of shrimp. Since I often have some on hand, I am always looking for new, good things to do with the shrimp. While browsing Food and Wine online, I saw a recipe for tacos that featured fried shrimp and a spicy slaw. I knew I wanted to make a version of them, but I made the recipe all my own based on what I had on hand and our own tastes (mainly, that is, the fact that we’re avocado lovers).

Avocado and crispy shrimp tacos with spicy slaw

Makes 4 tacos (2 servings)


for shrimp:

16 shrimp – peeled, deveined, and tails removed, patted very dry

½ cup milk

2-3 Tbsp. plain yogurt

¾ cup panko

Canola oil for frying


for tacos:

1 large, ripe avocado

½ lime


4 small flour tortillas


for slaw:

1 ½ cups shredded Napa cabbage

¼ cup canola mayonnaise

6 pickled jalapeno slices

1 Tbsp. juice from jar of pickled jalapenos

Up to 1 Tbsp. water as needed

Salt and pepper




1. First, prepare slaw. Finely mince pickled jalapenos until they are almost completely crushed. Place in a medium mixing bowl with the mayo and add the juice from the jalapeno jar and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together, adding water if needed to make a dressing with a vinaigrette-like consistency. Fold in shredded cabbage and toss to coat cabbage with dressing. Set aside.


2. Next, bread shrimp. Whisk together milk and yogurt in a shallow bowl, adding more yogurt if necessary to make the milk the consistency of buttermilk (so that it just coats shrimp) – the original recipe called for buttermilk, so you can use that if you have some on hand. I made this substitution because the only buttermilk left at the store was in quart-sized containers; that’s definitely not an amount I could use up!


Place the panko in a second shallow bowl. Dip the shrimp first into the milk mixture and then into the panko, pressing to coat shrimp in the crumbs. Set breaded shrimp aside on a clean plate.

3. Roughly dice avocado and toss with juice of ½ lime and a sprinkling of salt on the cutting board.


4. Fry shrimp. Heat about ½ inch of canola oil in a cast iron skillet or another heavy pan over medium-high heat. Oil is ready when a small pinch of flour sizzles and immediately dissipates when added. Fry shrimp for a total of 2 minutes, turning once. Drain shrimp on paper towels.


5. Warm tortillas by wrapping them in a clean kitchen towel and heating in the microwave for 20-30 seconds on high. Plate tacos by dividing shrimp and avocado among the tortillas and topping each with slaw and a drizzle of additional dressing.



one taco

For the Food and Wine recipe that inspired me to create this dish, click here.

Read Full Post »

Texas caviar

For my second selection for Dinner Divas (see below for my first), I chose this Texas caviar recipe. If you are not familiar with Texas caviar, it is essentially a black-eyed pea salsa. I thought it was very appropriate to make these black-eyed peas during the first week of the new year, since they’re supposed to be eaten on New Year’s Day for luck. This dip is so delicious! We could not stop eating it. I will definitely be making this again as a side or appetizer in the future. I made a few changes from the original, so feel free to check the link if you want to see the recipe that claims to be from the “Cowgirl Hall of Fame.” Note that this recipe is one that definitely needs to sit in the fridge overnight for the flavors to marry. I couldn’t believe how different it tasted when we went to eat it than it had when I made it and tasted to check the seasoning the day before.

Texas caviar

Adapted from: Epicurious



1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

3 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped

4 scallions, thinly sliced, green part only

½ Tbsp. hot sauce (I use Cholula)

½ Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

6 pickled jalapeño chile slices, finely chopped

1 firm, ripe, chopped tomato

Vinaigrette (the original recipe just called for this without specifying, so I whisked together about 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, salt, and a generous dash of ground cumin with 3-4 Tbsp. of olive oil)

½ fresh red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced



Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and fold together with a spatula until well combined. Refrigerate overnight, in a covered container. Serve with saltine crackers or corn tortilla chips.

Read Full Post »

Yes, the flank steak is secondary in this one because the corn and peppers are the star. I know corn has a lot of huge fans, but I am not usually one of them – I like it, but it doesn’t usually do a ton for me. But for whatever reason, when I saw this recipe in the May issue of Food and Wine, I decided to try it. Since I followed their directions pretty closely, I will reproduce them here and add my notes in bold.

  • 2 poblano chiles (My grocery store doesn’t have the best pepper selection. I used 4 small chiles and half of a red bell pepper.)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (I used half of a large one.)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels (I used frozen, but it was good quality – sweet white corn from Whole Foods.)
  • 1 cup sour cream (This was a bit much for me, so I used about 2/3 cup, plus a small splash of heavy cream)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 6-inch pieces (I used a small flank steak for my hubby and me and I cooked it in one piece)


  1. Roast the poblanos directly over a gas flame or under a broiler, turning, until charred all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes. Peel, core and seed the chiles, then cut them into thin strips. (The broiler works fine. I am both intrigued and freaked out by the idea of charring something over the gas flame.)
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the corn and poblano strips and cook until the corn is tender, about 2 minutes (You don’t even need this much time if you’re using thawed frozen – a minute should do it). Stir in the sour cream and season with salt and pepper. Keep the corn warm over very low heat. It will look like this:

3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Rub the steaks with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; season with salt and pepper (I also added a shake of chili powder on the steak). Grill over high heat, turning once, until lightly charred, about 6 minutes (Maybe this is long enough for 6″ pieces of skirt steak, but I cooked my flank steak a couple of minutes longer than that and it was still a little bit rarer than I would have liked. For a smallish flank steak, I would do about 10 minutes total next time). Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice across the grain. Serve with the corn and poblanos. I also suggest crusty bread or a warm tortilla on the side. Finally, I topped my steak with some chunks of avocado that I had squeezed with lime and sprinkled with salt. Yum!

Read Full Post »