Chicken Taco Casserole

Chicken Taco Casserole

Yes, I am aware it’s Halloween and I should be sharing something themed, but to be quite honest I am not really into Halloween. It’s one day, I don’t get why it now gets a month+ ‘season’ (this also my complaint about christmas). The closest I’m coming to the Halloween spirit is drinking bourbon and reading ‘Helter Skelter‘ (it’s for my book club) all while pretending we aren’t home when trick-or-treaters come by. If that doesn’t say ‘Happy Halloween’, I’m not sure what does…

Enough about things I don’t like, let’s talk about things that I so like: Mexican food. Even in the vaguest sense, Mexican food always makes me happy. This dish is very vaguely Mexican, but tasty enough that we can overlook authenticity. It’s also super easy to throw together. Tasty and easy is definitely a double bonus in my book. I thought about adding in some more vegetables (zucchini or mushrooms maybe), but to cut down on prep/chopping time I decided not to. I thought the end result was very tasty and definitely didn’t seem like it was missing anything, but if I add more time, I would definitely add in some extra veggies as well.

Chicken Taco Casserole

Chicken Taco Casserole
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1-7 ounce can diced green chiles
  • 1-10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa
  • 4-6 inches corn tortillas, coarsely torn
  • 3 ounces Monterey Jack or Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an unheated large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Preheat skillet over medium-high heat. In a medium bowl toss together chicken, garlic, and chili powder. Add to hot skillet. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside.
  2. Add canola oil to skillet. Add onion and green chiles. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach.
  3. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 1/2 cup of the salsa in the baking dish. Top with half of the tortilla pieces, half of the chicken mixture, and half of the vegetable mixture. Pour half of the remaining salsa over the vegetables and top with half of the cheese. Repeat layers once, except do not top with the remaining cheese.
  4. Bake, covered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with cherry tomatoes and green onions.

Shrimp with Mango & Black Bean Salsa

Shrimp with Black Bean & Mango Salsa

This is a fast and easy meal. It’s perfect for summertime since very little heat is needed. The flavors come together perfectly. The best part of these tacos is the salsa. It’s super fast to make and super delicious. It would be great with chicken or fish tacos or on top of a salad. If you want to add some heat, adding in a couple jalapeños or a bell pepper would be great.

Shrimp with Mango & Black Bean Salsa
For the Salsa:
  • 1 (14.5) ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • 2 limes, juiced
For the Shrimp Tacos:
  • 3 shrimp per taco
  • 1 corn tortilla per taco
  • olive oil
  • Ground Cumin, to taste
  • Ground Roasted Coriander, to taste
  • Ground Cayenne Pepper, to taste
  • Onion Powder, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Crumbled feta or queso blanco

For the Salsa:

  1. Mix beans, tomato, mango, green onion, garlic and cilantro in a medium bowl. Top with lime juice. Toss before serving.
For the Tacos:
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. When oil is heated, add shrimp.
  3. Sprinkle with cumin, roasted coriander, cayenne and onion powder to taste. Add in the minced garlic.
  4. Stir to coat. Cook shrimp about 3 minutes per side until pink throughout.
  5. In a separate pan, heat the tortillas.
  6. Top the tortillas with shrimp and salsa. Add cheese if desired.

Slow Cooker Tri-Tip Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Shredded Tri-Tip Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

So this might be one of the most sacrilegious things I have ever done in the kitchen. I apologize in advance to all tri-tip purists. Tri-tip goes on the barbecue, it’s just a fact. That’s how it’s done. Well, when I decided to cook my tri tip, it was raining out and as much as I love my barbecue, there was no way I was going to stand out in the rain trying to cook this thing. Luckily, I’m an oddly early riser, so I had enough time to improvise and experiment. I figured if people make brisket and corned beef in the crockpot, I could stick a tri tip in there. So I did just that and crossed my fingers.
Tri-tip is a big deal around these parts. I grew up with it so I never knew it wasn’t a thing in other parts of America. It’s from the bottom of a sirloin cut and looks like kind of like a triangle. It’s normally just rubbed with garlic, salt and pepper, then cooked slow and low over the barbecue. You serve it with garlic bread, green salad, sometimes salsa and beans. It’s pretty simple and super delicious. I guess I can thank the rain for forcing me to break the rules on this one and I’m pretty glad I did.

Shredded Tri-Tip Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Now on to the salsa! This fresh tomato salsa can be found at pretty much any taco shop around here. It’s so simple, yet full of flavor and it goes with just about any Mexican meal. One, note about the jalapeños… Make sure to wash your hands with soap and hot water for like 20 minutes (just kidding, not really…) after touching them and definitely do not touch your eyes and face for a couple hours. Trust me, it’s all fun and games until someone gets jalapeño in the eye. The salsa recipe will make a lot. You will definitely have leftovers, which is great because you can use it on just about anything. Serve it with chips, tortillas, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, nachos, eggs, pinto or black beans, eat it with a spoon out of the bowl, go wild.

Shredded Tri-Tip Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Shredded Tri-Tip Tacos
  • 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 pound. tri-tip roast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if tri-tip is already seasoned)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chipotle pepper powder
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (4 oz.) mild green chilies
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • corn tortillas
  • optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, diced fresh tomatoes, dollop sour cream, lettuce, salsa, lime wedges

Fresh Tomato Salsa

  • 3 large sized fresh tomatoes, stems removed, finely diced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 jalapeño chili peppers (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
  • Juice of two limes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop the tomatoes. Prepare the chilies (be careful while handling these hot peppers!).  Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. If you like hot salsa, save few of the seeds to add in for heat.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least an hour for the flavors to combine. This salsa gets better with time, so let it marinate a bit.

Salmon with Mango Salsa and Arroz Verde

Salmon with Mango Salsa

I first had this salmon at a Mexican restaurant in Budapest. Yeah, I know what you are thinking, ‘Fish? At a Mexican place? In a landlocked country?’. Yes, I am aware I am lucky to have lived to tell the tale. But trust me, all misgivings aside, this is truly a delicious meal. I have been dreaming of re-creating it for well over a year and now that I have I think this might be entering into regular meal rotation. This salmon was so good, I’m not even going to apologize for the crappy iPhone picture.

I used frozen, skinless Coho salmon from Trader Joe’s, but fresh is perfect as well. If you want to make this recipe even easier to make, you can buy pre-made fresh mango salsa. It’s fairly easy to find around here, but that could just be a Southern California thing. Regardless, it’s very easy to make. Chopping the mangoes is the most difficult part.

For the salmon, I flavored it with garlic powder and Chile con Limon, which is a Mexican seasoning. Again, it’s something really easy to find in Southern California, but if you don’t live in these parts, it is super simple to make at home. I cooked my salmon in a grill pan on the stove, but a real barbecue grill or a regular pan would work just fine. Just make sure that what ever you are cooking on is HOT.

Salmon

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • Chile con Limon seasoning*
  • Garlic powder
  • Olive oil spray
  • Fresh lemon to squeeze/serve
  1. Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Season salmon with chile con limon and garlic powder on both sides.
  2. When pan is hot, spray with olive oil. Lightly spray salmon with olive oil spray. Place salmon on pan and cook 5 minutes each side. Squeeze lemon over salmon just before removing from pan.
Chile con Limon Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder (available on Amazon or in bulk grocery sections)
Combine ingredients together. Sprinkle over fish, meat, chicken, vegetables as seasoning.

Mango Salsa

  • 1-2 Mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Jalapeño, finely diced (add seeds according to desired heat level)
  • 1 red bell pepper or tomato, diced
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Arroz Verde (From a whole bunch of different recipes)

  • 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh stemmed spinach leaves
  • 1 1/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cups non-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Put the cilantro, spinach, and broth in a blender and blend until the vegetables are puréed. Add the milk and salt and blend a bit more until well combined.
  2. In a medium heavy-based saucepan (with a lid) over medium heat, heat the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the rice and sauté, stirring about every 30 seconds, until it just begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the contents of the blender, stir well, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, turn the heat to very low, and cook for 20 minutes. Stir the rice carefully to avoid crushing it, cover, and cook another 5 minutes.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and let the rice steam in the covered pot for 10 minutes (be sure to remove from hot burner completely, otherwise the bottom of the rice will burn). Serve hot.

My Favorite Guacamole Recipe

So my grand plans of an epic Fiesta week full of recipes kinda puttered out. Mainly because I was busy having fun. The first couple days of fiesta were wonderful. Lots of good food, margaritas, cascarones and friends. It was a lot of fun. The last couple days… let’s just agree to not talk about it. 

On Friday for lunch we went to one of the Mercados for food. It might have been because I was starving and my left thumb was beginning to look tasty, but I swear these were the most amazing chicken tacos I have ever had. The red salsa they had to put on them was delicious. I may or may not have attempted to steal with bottle of salsa, but the guy running the both caught on to me pretty quickly. I also got an awesome fresh squeezed lemonade which I consumed too quickly to get a picture of. But the most exciting part of the day was getting to play skeeball! I am obsessed with skeeball.

Friday night I had some friends I’ve known forever and a day over and we had a great time catching up over margaritas and my favorite salsa. I also made up a batch of guacamole, which was gone approximately 5 seconds after I put it down on the table. It was delicious! And obviously a crowd pleaser. I’ve only recently come to appreciate guacamole. I still hate the concept of avocados. They are weird, plus my dogs used to eat them when I was really little, so in my head I think they just kind of became associated dog food, thus making them gross. But this guacamole is pretty spectacular. I really think the extra lime and the chipotle powder give it just that little extra something that takes it from good to amazing.

My Favorite Guacamole Recipe 

  • 3 avocados – peeled, pitted, and mashed
  • 1 1/2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper (be generous)
  • 1/2 cup diced red or white onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (garlic powder can be used in a pinch)
  • 1 pinch ground chipotle pepper powder (optional)
In a bowl, add the avocados, salt, pepper and garlic. Juice the lime over these ingredients and mash together (a potato masher is perfect for this). Mix in onion, cilantro, and tomatoes. Stir in cayenne pepper.

Crockpot Salsa Chicken Tostadas

I recently discovered the convenience of the crockpot. Despite my original misgivings about it, I’ve become slightly enamored with it. It’s so easy and fast. There’s hardly any clean up and it doesn’t make the house even warmer during the summer like the oven does. After experimenting with the crockpot a couple times, I was reasonably confident I could just throw some things I liked together and it would turn out fairly well. Turns out I was right. By no means is salsa chicken original, but it certainly is fast, easy and tasty.

Crockpot Salsa Chicken

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup salsa of choice
  • 1 cup low sodium broth
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • taco seasoning
Prepare chicken and sprinkle with taco seasoning on each side. Place in crockpot. Add salsa, broth and onion to crockpot. Cook chicken on high for 3 hours. When chicken is done, shred with fork and serve or store for future meals.
Salsa Chicken Tostadas (for 2 with lots leftovers or 4 )
  • 4 flat corn tostada shells
  • 1 can refried beans
  • Salsa chicken
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 4-6 green onions, chopped
  • salsa
  • shredded Mexican cheese
  • sour cream or greek yogurt
  • hot sauce
Heat oven to 250 and heat tostadas in oven for a few minutes 5-10-ish depending on how crispy/warm you enjoy your shells. Warm beans. I added a pinch of cheese, 1/2 a diced onion and a couple dashes of hot sauce to my beans and then heated them up in the microwave. When the tostadas are warm, spread a few spoonfuls of beans on the shells. Top the beans with chicken, tomato, green onion, salsa, cheese, sour cream, hot sauce or other toppings of choice. Serve and enjoy!

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. It kinda changes a little bit every time I make it, but luckily, it’s one of those things you can’t mess up regardless of what you do. It’s fast, simple and super tasty. It works as a great salsa, by itself as a bean salad or on top of a green salad.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of frozen corn, rinsed and defrosted
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 can diced chiles, drained
  • 1 lime
  • garlic, fresh or powdered, to taste
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • hot sauce, to taste (I prefer Cholula)
In a big bowl combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, chiles and cilantro. Sprinkle garlic on top. Add in the hot sauce to taste. Squeeze lime juice and mix everything together. Cover with plastic wrap and put the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes. You can serve it right away, but I like to give it a little time to marinate all together.

4th of July!

I love the 4th of July. It’s my second favorite holiday of all time (Thanksgiving is number 1, duh). There is just something about America, summer days and bbqs that gets me all excited and happy. Mama and Papa CC moved to America 30 years ago this year and I will never be able to put into words how grateful I am that they decided to come to this amazing country and work their asses off to provide me with the life and opportunities I have had. I really think most Americans don’t realize how lucky they are. Being an American is such an amazing thing. Traveling around the world and living in former Communist countries will help you realize all this quite fast; hence my proclivity for American national holidays.

I’ve spent the last couple years celebrating the 4th of July and Thanksgiving overseas. Celebrating national holidays overseas, regardless of your home country, brings a whole different sense of national pride. Today was not my typical 4th of July celebration, I was back in America and the threat of work was looming large… I, fortunately, did not have to go into work, unfortunately my boss did. We were hoping to get in a quick lunch BBQ today, but the threat of holiday traffic meant that my dad headed back down to LA much earlier than expected and me and Mama CC were left to fend for ourselves.

The day ended up comprising of a lot of this…

Some of this…

A whole lot of these…

And a lot of this type of thing…

It was pretty much an awesome day.

There will be some appetizer and cocktail recipes up shortly. I have a grill and some tuna to attend to in the mean time.

I hope everyone had an amazing 4th of July!

Sunday Summary July 3, 2011

 

It’s July apparently. If someone could please explain how that happened I would be forever grateful. This past week has been hectic. In this past week I have somehow managed to acquire a ‘job’ and moved to LA, kinda. It’s complicated, it’s just until the end of the year, we’ll have to figure it all out again then, and I’m just going to leave it at that. The best thing to come out of all of this is all of the LA adventures that shall shortly ensue. Get excited.

Things I Made This Week:

Things I Want to Make:
Things to Know:
You should seriously checkout Lifehacker if you are not familiar with it. So many good tips!