Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden SalsaSwimmin’ with the Fishes
Anytime the weather turns sunny and a smidge warmer, I tend to start eating more fish. Maybe it’s the looming promise of bathing suit season but at the first signs of spring, I feel the need to eat a bit lighter.

To say that I dramatically increase my fish intake would be a stretch. It’s a relative thing because I’m not a big lover of fish. I tend to gravitate more towards a cheeseburger.

When I do make fish, I like to go simple with a lot of flavor. That may sound contradictory but let me explain. If I had to pick my favorite fish recipe it would be this one, Salmon Roasted in Butter. It’s so quick to make and with some really fresh Salmon—it melts in your mouth.  One cannot live on Salmon alone, though. It would be boring.
Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Not all fish does well on the grill. But, Tuna is one of them. Because they are hearty and firm, Tuna steaks are perfect for the grill, and are a great alternative to red meat. They even work well as a burger (for those times when you crave a burger but have to be good). And it happens more than you think…

I usually just brush on some olive oil and sprinkle the steaks with a little salt and pepper. If I want to brighten the flavor up a bit I will top them with mango salsa or even better, with real salsa.

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa
Adapted from Rick Bayless

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Red Chilaquiles

Red ChilaquilesBreakfast, It’s What’s for Dinner

I have long been a fan of breakfast for dinner—it kind of feels like you’re breaking the rules a bit. A rebel without a spoon, if you will…

We would have breakfast for dinner once in a while when I was growing up, usually waffles ‘cause Dad was a big fan. When I moved out on my own, scrambled eggs and toast made for and easy and cheap dinner. Throw a little salsa on there, and it was a fiesta. Ole!

Nowadays we have breakfast for dinner at least 3 times a month. It’s my culinary equivalent to running up the white flag. Whether it is because of time constraints, over-achieving chickens or the inability to string an idea together beyond eggs, breakfast is a great way to avoid extreme pizza, Chinese take-out, burger fatigue.

Breakfast for dinner almost always involves whatever I have on hand. Sometimes that means straight up scrambled eggs and toast. Sometimes there’s bacon or sausage. Pancakes have been known to make an appearance, with or without pecans and bananas. Other times there might be drop biscuits and honey instead of toast. My favorite though, is when there are leftover tortilla chips because that means one thing: Chilaquiles.

My love of Mexican food is well documented which is why it should come as no surprise that my favorite breakfast for dinner dish is basically Mexican breakfast. If you have never had Chilaquiles you have been missing out on the ultimate comfort food and hangover cure (or so I have been told). It’s spicy, cheesy, crispy goodness piled high on your plate. Sometimes there is shredded chicken. Sometimes I use salsa verde or regular salsa instead of making a red sauce…just depends on mood and my previous shopping trips.

So next time you find yourself with a half-eaten bag of stale tortilla chips, give this a shot!

Red Chilaquiles
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Charro Beans

Charro BeansThe Great Southwest

Whenever the weather gets warm, my taste buds automatically go on a road trip through the southwest. It’s a strange phenomenon. The minute the mercury hits 85º, I’ve got chilies on my mind, and margaritas in my hand. Cumin and lime juice find their way into everything I make.

I have often said that I can eat Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—then wash, rinse repeat. But I also love Tex-Mex and New Mexican cuisine. (Nope. They are not the same thing.) Tex-Mex is mainly about larger cuts of meat, mostly pork and beef with a little chicken thrown in for good measure, and usually grilled. In New Mexican cuisine the chilies reign supreme…so much so that the question “Red or Green?” is almost the state motto…

Needless to say these past few days of warm weather have been somewhat spicy. I’ve been doing a lot of grilling ‘cause it’s fast, and there’s been a lot of baseball, so fast is bueno.

I try (key word, try) to have some side dishes prepared ahead of time, so that we’re not just eating slabs of meat in tortillas. (Though I am totally cool with that). Beans are a favorite in all forms. Refried. Black. Ranchero, or these yummy things.

Feel free to experiment with bean varieties though stay with the larger ones for best results.

Charro Beans
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Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole

Slow Cooker Chicken MoleFood to Die For

Halloween hasn’t arrived yet but I am already over it. Too many stores have had the Halloween stuff up and on the floor for sale since August. (Even worse, I have seen the Christmas stuff in some places…really?) The over-availability of anything Halloween-related has made me indifferent to the goblins and ghouls. Even my kids seem lukewarm about Halloween—and when you think about the amount of candy that could come their way, that’s saying something.

To combat this, I have decided to stage my own personal rebellion (Okay, teenage angst tantrum is probably more accurate.) and focus on the day after Halloween. This year we are going to honor our dead with a Dia De Los Muertos feast.

Some of you may see this for what it actually is: another excuse for me to make Mexican food, my favorite. You would, indeed, be correct. But consider it as a way for me to educate my family about the fascinating traditions of other countries, thus making them more well-rounded and accepting citizens of the world. …Nah, I wouldn’t buy that either.

I will say this, any opportunity to get together with family and friends, to remember those whom we have loved and lost, is worthwhile. If it happens to also come with some rockin’ good food (and don’t forget the Margaritas!) from south of the border, so much the better.

Most of our honoring will occur on the soccer pitch, because of playoffs. I am going to use this Chicken Mole recipe to make life a little easier. Mole is one of the most iconic and flavorful dishes of Mexico, and is therefore the perfect choice with which to coax the spirits of the departed back to gather with friends and family for a great feast.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole
Adapted from Martha Stewart

What is great about this recipe is the ease of preparation. It is perfect to do in the morning, and find a simmering pot of mole when you get home from a day’s work.
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Chicken Tamale Pie

Chicken Tamale PieHere today…Gone Tamale (or to Tahoe)

It’s the second week in August, so you can find me parked in a beach chair reading my Kindle up at Tahoe. This is my post-baseball, pre-start of school week of relaxation…well sort of. It’s really semi-controlled chaos, but we have a good time!

Yes, just being at Tahoe makes life better. It’s hard not be relaxed while enjoying the views and the water. There is just one problem—we still have to feed people—11 of them plus two dogs.

Over the years my sister and I have pretty much gotten things down to a science, but there is always room for improvement. In recent years we have started using the crock pot, so dinner is ready when we get home from the day’s activities. Of course, a well-timed cocktail and some appetizers can buy time for the stuff that takes a little bit longer.

A few weeks ago I came across this Tamale Pie recipe, and knew I had to try it. The recipe was super-easy and tasty, and could be easily doubled (or tripled) for a large crowd. So this will be on our table this week. As a bonus, the leftovers (if there are any) make a great breakfast with scrambled eggs.

Chicken Tamale Pie
Adapted from The Food Network 
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Chiles Anchos Rellenos de Queso (Cheese-Filled Ancho Chiles)

Chili Relleno Feliz Cumpleaños

My family is a bit different. I think we have well established that, but if we need any further proof, here it is…

I celebrated my 29th birthday (again) this past May, and my gift from my sister was a culinary tour of the Hispanic grocery stores, bakeries and butchers in Sonoma. Not your usual gift, but it totally beats a new sweater. It was typical us…and we had a blast.

Because of my Mexican food habit, I am no stranger to Hispanic grocery stores. In fact I shop at my local Mom and Pop all the time for the things we just don’t carry here. (As much as I would love to have anything and everything, it’s just not possible.) And for the warm tortillas…(My god, the warm tortillas!)

As a card carrying Foodie, or maybe because that’s how I roll, I have never felt the intimidation that others in our tour group felt about shopping at one of these establishments. Granted, I feel pretty at home in grocery stores, but I always figured any language barrier could be solved by hand gestures at the least and a love of food at best. So it surprised me that some of the other food lovers among us were missing out on really great culinary experiences because of fear of looking out of place or unknowledgeable. The good news? That was resolved that afternoon.

The panaderias (bakeries) and the carnicerias (butchers) are a whole different world of new and interesting. Here you will find the legit pastries and cuts of meat that you won’t find anywhere else–and the best thing is that, for the most part, the people who work there will happily explain how to prepare their products. We were given quite an education by the proprietors, and more than a few ideas for what to make for dinner.

We were also fortunate to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, Rancho Viejo. If you are ever in Sonoma and looking for some place to stop and grab a bite, I definitely recommend it. The Cochinita Pibil (Pork slow cooked in Banana Leaves) was fantastic, as were the Chili Rellenos.

Chiles Anchos Rellenos de Queso (Cheese-Filled Ancho Chiles)
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Mexican Bulldog Margarita

iStock_000019554803_Bulldog MargaritasThe Bulldog
I’m not a fan of beer, though sometimes I wish I was. There’s something about a cold beer on a hot day that sounds so appealing…until I try to drink it. I’ve always wanted to be a beer drinker—it’s more convenient and less high maintenance than other options. And, of course, it goes together with baseball and hot dogs. The good news? I found a new way to drink beer and it’s name is The Bulldog.

I was introduced to “the dog” on vacation in Mexico last week. While this margarita-like cocktail is nothing new, I was definitely new to it, and was skeptical because it does contain beer. Corona to be exact.

Maybe it was the warm weather, or perhaps I was just having too much fun to care, but I took a chance and fell in love with the Bulldog. It’s safe to say I had a few too many. The good news is there were no cameras to record my encounter for posterity…I think.

Because we were both enjoying them too much, my husband and I neglected to get the recipe from the waiters—who happily brought us just uno mas. I searched online when we got home, and found a number of possibilities. Some call for margarita mix, and others say use lemonade. I am looking forward to trying all versions to find the perfect one, because this is my cocktail of choice not only for Cinco De Mayo but for the rest of the Summer…

Here is my take on the recipe.

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Classic Ensenada Fish Tacos

Fish TacosEaster South Of The Border
As you read this, it is entirely possible (and most likely) that I am pool-side, slathered in SPF 5000, and sucking down margaritas like water. If I am not, it is because I am stuffing my face with fish tacos, while sucking down margaritas like water.

Vacations are always fun and relaxing, but I think we are looking forward to this one even more. We are just that tired. (I am including the kids in that statement. After all of the standards testing, they’re just done.)

The five of us are looking forward to a week of great weather and doing absolutely nothing. Normally, when we plan a trip we all throw out ideas for activities. When asked what everyone wanted to do this time around, the overwhelming response was “drool”. I am so on board with that.

There may be a snorkeling trip along the way, and I am pretty sure there will be some jewelry shopping with my daughter, but one thing I know for certain is there will be good food. How do I know this? Because when you don’t give me your input or opinion on such matters, you do so at your own peril. I have made all of the reservations at the places I want to try!

¡Hasta la vista!, baby…

Classic Ensenada Fish Tacos
Adapted from Rick Bayless
Tacos de Pescado “Clasicos de Ensenada”
From Season 8, Mexico—One Plate at a Time
Servings: 12 tacos, enough to serve 4 people Read more…

Spicy Mushroom Tamales

Tamales Hot Tamale
We are a pretty non-traditional family when it comes to many things, but most especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day celebrations. We’ve done the giant chocolate chip cookie heart, and of course the heart-shaped pepperoni pizza. Most years, we have the mother of all Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae Bars so that we can over indulge in creamy iced goodness. This year, my family has gone rogue, again, and it’s weird.

I have been asked to make a Valentine’s Day Thanksgiving. Yup, you read that correctly. The forecast is for the upper 70s this weekend, and I will be roasting a turkey. In all fairness, I did promise back in early December that I would do a Thanksgiving in the new year, because we all agreed that we just didn’t get enough in November. Silly me, I figured we would still be having winter weather in February. It was also before we made our plans for Spring Break. Now I have margaritas, beaches and tacos on the brain.

So, as head chef, I am going to pull rank. We can do the turkey on Sunday and they can just like it. For Valentine’s Day I want a margarita or five, and something hot and spicy (besides the husband…nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and chocolate. Let’s not forget the chocolate.

Tamales are traditionally made and eaten at celebrations, and I think these would be perfect for this weekend. Time consuming, yes, but oh so worth it. Serve them with some tasty beans and a salad and we have our own Fiesta del Amour!

¡Arriba! (I know, just go with it.)

Spicy Mushroom Tamales
From Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless
Makes 6 medium-size tamales
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Amy’s Guacamole

Amy's GuacamoleA Bowl of Somethin’ Super

Perhaps you haven’t heard, but the Super Bowl is this weekend. I admit I like the Super Bowl and everything that goes with it. The Food, the Commercials, the betting pools. All of it. I am also one of those people that actually likes to watch the game.

After decades of going to Super Bowl parties or having people over at my place, I have finally figured out that I prefer to be in my own home, on my own couch, with a Coke not a Pepsi, and actually watching the game without having to shush people or turn the volume up to 80. This Sunday I will be doing just that with my Patriot fan husband. (Go ahead. Boo if you must.) But don’t think for one minute that we will be scrimping on the snackage. It may just be the five of us, but we’re going big, baby.

We have done numerous things for our Super Bowl feasting over the years. Chili. Pulled Pork. Baby Back Ribs. After serious soul searching and heated family debates, it has been decided that this year we will be having a Make Your Own Nachos bar. It may sound simple but these are not your average nachos. Sure, we could go with the basic cheese and chips with salsa, but that would be for amateurs. We take our nachos very seriously and we all like different toppings. Our ingredient list could feed a small country. There are numerous different kinds of chips, cheeses, beans, no beans, meats and salsas. Pickled jalapeños, fresh jalapeños, no jalapeños. It’s Tex-Mex anarchy.

One thing that we do all agree on is there absolutely–the world will tilt on its axis if it’s not there–must be guacamole on the nachos. And if you ask my husband, it must be my guacamole. (Yeah. He’s a keeper.) There ain’t nothin’ better than fresh guacamole with fresh chips. Mine is SO easy to make. Just make sure the avocados are super ripe…but not brown.

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