October 29, 2010

Salsa Verde Shrimp Tacos and Jalapeno Shrimp Tacos

With Wednesday's prize winning recipe, Southwestern-Style Shrimp Tacos, for the Gorton's/Ortega recipe challenge the taco creations made yesterday were just okay. Although tasty and a good flavor combo, they lacked that flavor explosion in every bite.

The Salsa Verde Shrimp Tacos were yellow corn taco shells layered with the popcorn shrimp, black beans, avocado, (which I thought that alone would make these stellar, I was wrong.) green onions, red bell pepper, salsa verde, and cilantro sprinkled on top. The salsa verde made the tacos and I was thankful to have had extra avocado slices leftover to get excited about. Yes. I stood over the cutting board with salt shaker in hand and they didn't have a fighting chance. Devoured. Savored.

Jalapeno Shrimp Tacos I thought would be a good concept. A yellow corn taco shell topped with popcorn shrimp, tomato, green onions, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, a squeeze of lime and sprinkled with cilantro. Just not what I expected. Not enough heat maybe? Too toned down from the sour cream? However. I believe the bar was set too high.

I still submitted my recipes and maxed out my five entries. I think these tacos knew they didn't stand a chance against the Southwestern-Style Shrimp Tacos because my cheapo point and shoot camera couldn't even capture a decent photo. Maybe my lack of enthusiasm over this recipe had something to do with the taste. Not a question. Maybe I put the fate of the tacos in the hands of 2 two year olds and they weren't as well received as the day prior. Once again not a question. All facts.

I'm 2 for 5 in this recipe challenge for a success rating with the family. While I am not confident with 4 of the 5 recipes a valuable lesson was learned; I gave it my best shot, I got creative, and realized I'm still a recipe follower and will leave the trial and errors to the professionals.

October 28, 2010

Southwestern-Style Shrimp Tacos

While I am a fan of Gorton's popcorn shrimp I can't lie... I was not looking forward to having another batch of it after Tuesday's day of tacos. My hesitation all changed when my stomach was growling bad enough and I was pulling all of the ingredients out for my third recipe for the challenge.

After the popcorn shrimp baked I placed the Ortega flour tortilla in the oven to warm up. Without thinking I left it in the oven for 3 minutes and it crisped up. Sure, the challenge says "fish taco" but this was still on a vehicle of sorts and still was stuffed piled high with deliciousness. No I couldn't fold it like a taco. Okay. So it's a tostada. Rules are meant to be broken.

With the end result as flavorful as it was I'm sure a little rule breaking won't hurt anyone. These tacos tostadas were given the seal of approval by 2 two year olds who sat at the table for an hour and fifteen minutes eating two servings each. The only sounds coming out of these very talkative little guys were a "yummy" after every bite. This is a feat of it's own. I had one toddler eat it as is and my son had to have his disassembled and each element stand on it's own.  

Southwestern-Style Shrimp Tacos (or tostadas) are little blankets of heaven. A crispy flour tortilla layered with crisp romaine lettuce, nutty corn, green onions, silky black beans, refreshing tomato, more crunch from blue corn tortilla chips, creamy avocado slices, and a tangy sour cream drizzle. The sour cream was mixed with lime juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic, maple syrup, hot sauce, and cilantro. 
The first bite til the last was a flavor explosion. Lunch time hasn't tasted this good since before having a toddler. Thankfully now I can add these tacos in the lunch rotational and have a lunch worth looking forward to.

I quite possibly believe these could be a winning recipe. Even if Gorton's and Ortega don't agree my family sure does. Strike that. Mr. Sideline Chef still thinks day one's recipe of Chipotle Spiced Shrimp and Mango tacos were better.  His taste buds just need to be taken in for a tune up obviously. He ate day one's tacos with any of the toppings and just had the tossed shrimp in his tortilla with the romaine lettuce. No sense of adventure.

Give these a try and put a flavorful spin on your tacos!

October 27, 2010

Sauteed Onion and Poblano Pepper Shrimp Tacos

With wanting to complete this recipe challenge I knew I would most likely get burnt out on popcorn shrimp and tacos by the end of the week. I woke up this morning with my stomach turning at the thought of having to make another batch of popcorn shrimp. We went through a box of Gorton's popcorn shrimp yesterday. My toddler's excitement over a new food item to try coupled with my lack of planning had me popping batch after batch of these little suckers in the oven. The seafood scent was just enough to turn my stomach by the end of the night. Not because of the product itself. I guess I could actually blame it on the popcorn shrimp. The problem is: they are so darn good out of the oven that I couldn't keep my hands off of them and stuffed myself. You know that feeling when you eat too much and just the very sight or talk of food makes you want to vomit? Yea. I was there.

By the time lunch rolled around my stomach was growling and I knew I still had 4 tacos to complete. I only intended on making two more of my recipe ideas today. Upon pulling out all of the ingredients from their designated living areas I was getting more excited to make my tacos.

Starting to get their sizzle on.
First up was my take on a Southwestern-Style Shrimp Taco (recipe to come tomorrow) which was hands down the most incredible mix of flavors and textures I've ever thought to put on a flour tortilla. My second creation was a yellow corn shell topped with sauteed onions and poblano peppers in a little bit of olive oil and garlic. The popcorn shrimp were layered on next and then I squeezed the end product with lime and sprinkled it with cilantro. Poblano peppers being a more mild pepper still gave this a nice bit of heat and the sizzle of the onions and peppers transformed my love of fajitas to taco form. A tasty taco but not as good as the Southwestern-Style Shrimp Taco which from the mouths of 2 two year olds were "yummy" and having repeated it after every bite. Is it tomorrow yet? Bet you wish it was for this recipe. I think I might have come up with a prize winner!

October 26, 2010

Chipotle Spiced Shrimp and Mango Tacos

While enjoying a cup of coffee and going through my ritual morning computer routine on Monday I came across a recipe challenge on Hungry Girl's website. In the past when a recipe challenge was presented in front of me I tucked my tail between my legs like a dog and hid for cover. Like I stated before, I am a recipe follower, not an innovator. Creativity in the kitchen leaves me panic stricken. Well not this time I said with my chest pointed out and head held high. That's a lie. I wish I was that brave. I clicked on the recipe challenge and read through all of the criteria and rules. I'm gonna do this damn it.

That afternoon I searched the Internet for fish taco recipes for inspiration. Reading over some of the flavor combinations had my hands sweating and my heart racing. "Would radish really pair well with mango?" I had to find out. The rules stated that I could submit up to 5 recipes and must include a photo of my taco with each of the company's products, Gorton's and Ortega, in frame. I came up with my 5 that I wanted to try to create and just wing it. Yes. Wing. It.

Never before tried product. Why buy fresh ever again?

This "recipe" I created doesn't have exact amounts. Hell! It's tacos. You just throw a little of this on and a little of that.

I dragged poor Mr. Sideline Chef to the grocery store late in the evening because I just had to start on the challenge... right this instance! I spent the entire day coming up with my plan of attack. Progress had to be made. We spent a good half hour in the produce department alone and then came to the frozen food section where the Gorton's fish products were. I knew I wanted to do shrimp tacos. I debated over their classic grilled or popcorn shrimp. In the end price won and popcorn shrimp it was. 5 boxes. My math was hazy last night. I was making 2 tacos of each recipe to try and each box serves 4. I only needed three boxes. Give me a break. A couple weeks of popcorn shrimp for every meal isn't going to hurt anyone.

The real problem came when it was time to put the Ortega products in the shopping cart. Our Neighborhood Walmart Market doesn't stock their products. Damn them to hell. I'm boycotting. Major toddler temper tantrum in aisle 3. "Hunny, you don't understand. I HAVE to have Ortega!"

Mr. Sideline Chef drove us and the already purchased groceries home. He was granted the rest of the night off to dedicate to catching up on his missed episodes of NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. I jumped online to find out where to buy Ortega's products in our location. Two stores came up, both of which are nearby, Krogers and Randalls. I grabbed the keys from him and jumped in the car heading to the nearest store. What the hell Randalls? Ortega says they stock their products there. No time for a tantrum in this store. You are being boycotted though.

A sigh of relief was made when Krogers had their products. I was tired and drained from the wild goose chase all in the name of this challenge that I wasn't going to let the anxiety take over. I grabbed a Grande Dinner Kit with Soft and Hard Shells and called it a night. Did I take the time to find the Ortega black beans? Oh hell no! My eyes were heavy and if I had to scan any more aisles to find a certain brand I was going to scream. Store brand black beans at $0.64 it was.

Once home I decided I too would take the rest of my night off. With after running all over town to find the last of my ingredients the rest of my night already meant I was late for bed. Tomorrow is as good as any to start the recipe challenge.

While not a breakfast taco I couldn't contain myself and started on these first thing in the morning. I can't lose another night of sleep going over the execution in my head. I'm dreaming of fish tacos and waking up with a growling belly. Quiet you! Soon enough!

Go on... play nice with one another.
The Gorton's popcorn shrimp baked in the oven for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Around the 6 minute mark the aroma took me back to Seattle sitting near the pier at Alki Beach and sharing a meal of fried shrimp and fries with my dad. While the shrimp were doing their crispy business in the oven I prepared my dressing and chopped my veggies.

"I know pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Fish Taco. You may now make shrimp tacos."
The end result went a little something to this effect: On an Ortega yellow corn shell I layered romaine lettuce, mango, tomato, radish, and added the Gorton's shrimp that were tossed in a cilantro, lime juice, honey, salt, olive oil, and chipotle dressing. The crunch of the yellow corn shell, the spicy kick from the chipotle, and the sweetness from the mango had some major flavor play happenin'. All of the flavors meld together and create a zippy touch to what could have ended up becoming just another Taco Tuesday.

October 24, 2010

Food Funnies

Sunday mornings during my high school years hold some of my fondest mother/daughter memories. My mom would put on a pot of coffee, we'd pick out our favorite mug (we had a cupboard full of "fun" mugs), add our favorite flavorings to our coffee and sit on the floor with the Sunday paper.

I would pull out the meat of the paper, the best part, the ads and comics! I looked over the ads quickly pointing out items that I just had to have... more so... dream of owning. After looking at an ad I would place it in mom's "to-look at" pile.

Once I got to the comics mom would sit there having to listen to me roar in laughter over my favorite comic "Get Fuzzy". Of course me laughing would have mom curious to see what was so hilarious.

One Sunday morning mom and I were sitting knee to knee and as she leaned over her boob was resting on my knee while she was putting her grubby little paws on my stack of "not read yet" papers. She was trying to steal the comics from me first. Not a chance in hell mom! I started busting up laughing, "Mom! Your boob is on my knee!" Mom with her witty comments, "Yea! And in 10 years my boobs will be on my knees!" Haha!

The newspaper gave my mom and I a great bonding opportunity. Not only were Sundays a day I looked forward to but our morning walks to the school bus stop as well. Mom would pull out the paper from the mailbox and only bring along the part we really cared about: horoscopes and "funnies". We would also on occasion work on the crossword puzzle. Sharing a laugh with my mom first thing in the morning kept her close all day. I would be sitting in class and think of something her and I had laughed at and I'd find myself getting kicked out of class until I could contain my laughter and no longer disrupt class.

Now that I live 2300+ miles away from my mom the newspaper doesn't get subscribed to anymore. It's just not the same. The ads lack excitement and the comics just aren't funny to me anymore. I lost my taste for Sunday mornings. Maybe I'll get it back when my itty bitty is old enough to find the simple pleasure of sitting in my presence over a cup of hot chocolate or tea and we take on a hobby together.

Sitting here writing this post is bringing a smile to my face as I look back on my years under my mother's roof and can't think of a more comfortable and loving environment to be in. Turning into my mother has been something that I am looking forward to. The type of mom that she was and the way she made every day feel like it was a special occasion are some shoes I'd feel proud to fill.

Even though we are apart I still feel close when I look down at my feet and see thick crocheted socks,a  ginormous mug of coffee, and my growing love for Sundays all over again. 

October 19, 2010

Green Chile Cheeseburgers

Good. Now that I have your attention: That my friends is a 1/4 lb. of beefy-cheesy-roasted green chile heavenliness. If you are looking for a juicy and flavorful burger look no further. When grilled up these babies were the true star of Sunday's BBQ. Succulent enough that they were best left condiment less and everyone agreed. Although, on second thought, bacon and more bacon would enhance the flavor also. The recipe below when followed will produce a mild heat so feel free to really kick it up with other types of peppers and pepper jack cheese.

Even the grown men only ate one (with sides of potato salad and baked beans) and were left comfortably stuffed. It was one of those burgers you eat that leaves you wanting more and craving it for breakfast the next the morning. Crumbled into pieces and scrambled with eggs and topped with salsa... lip smacking and a hearty start for the day.

The recipe calls for roasted green chiles and sure enough I could have just bought canned green chiles but I thought I would try my hand at roasting my own. I had to do my research first and after reading the directions I was shocked to see how easy it was. Broil the peppers until blackened, cover with saran wrap to steam for 15 minutes, peel the skins, seed them, and dice away. We had to open the windows while doing this step of the recipe to air out the house because the aroma they were giving off was the same as someone smoking weed. The smell made me nauseous but I managed for the sake of the final reward.

If you've never roasted your own peppers or even tried your hand at forming burger patties by hand then slap yourself in the forehead and get to the store this morning so you can make yourself (and end up with a happy man) a mouthwatering burger. You could easily double the recipe to feed a crowd. The recipe makes 4 (1/4 lb.) cheeseburgers.

From MyRecipes.com and many thanks to Sunset Magazine's July 2006 issue.

Stars of the Show:

  • 1 1/2 lb. ground chuck - Feeling ambitious... grind your own meat... once I buy a meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid I will be doing so.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced (If you want a bit more spice since these were mild than I would recommend not seeding the peppers. If you recall from yesterday's post, Mr. Sideline Chef said "we" should try it with jalapenos next go round.)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (You could even use pepper jack cheese for more heat depending on your taste preferences.)
And Action:
  1. Add all the ingredients into a large bowl and gently incorporate the ingredients with your hands.
  2. Divide the combined mixture into 4 equal parts and form into patties making the centers thinner. They shrink when cooking.
  3. Heat the grill (make sure it's well oiled to prevent sticking) and throw these bad boys on. 2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium, and 5 for well-done. We went for medium and they were so moist and juicy. One word to sum it all up... orgasmic!
  4. You could top with cheese as we did to make it well, obviously, more cheesy.
  • The fresher the meat, the more tender and flavorful.
  • The more you handle the meat, the tougher it will become.
  • Keep formed burger patties chilled until time to grill. This helps the flavor carrying fat stay locked in.
  • If using a gas grill cook with the lid on. If using a charcoal grill cook with the lid off.
  • Flip the burgers only once and don't press the burgers down. Don't want to lose any of those delicious juices that will drip down your arms.
  • Let the burgers rest a few minutes before eating.
Nutritional Stats:
Calories: 439 (62% from fat) Trust me, the hour and half walk to burn off these calories will be worth it.
Protein: 39g
Fat: 30g (14g Saturated fat)
Carbohydrate: 0.8g
Fiber: 0.1g
Sodium: 847mg
Cholesterol: 136mg

“Get Grillin’ with Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France Cheese, Rösle, Emile Henry, Rouxbe and ManPans.”

October 18, 2010

Football's Sideline Chef

Weekends are filled with football and good eating in our household. College gameday Saturdays and Steelers Sunday. Every weekend is treated like a holiday and gives good reason to throw an impromptu BBQ with the neighbors. We invite everyone we know starting in the A's in our phonebook on our cell phones and working our way down. The more the merrier. It's always an incentive when someone pitches in and brings a side dish or gives cash before we head to the store.

No BBQ is complete in our household until potato salad and baked beans are added to the lineup. Normally someone will bring a veggie tray that doesn't get touched, a meat and cheese tray that melts from the heat and becomes a paradise for the flies, bags of chips, and drinks. Everyone stands around the grill drooling while Mr. Pretend Chef flips burgers and turns hot dogs. The potato salad doesn't stand a chance for becoming leftovers and the baked beans are hit or miss. I still have yet to find a baked bean recipe deemed worthy of making the starting lineup.

After making a trip to the store I couldn't wait to get in the kitchen and begin making the potato salad and forming the green chile cheeseburgers. The potato salad needed to be made first. "I won't touch it if it's warm." Arms folded and standing his ground on the issue like Mr. Pretend Chef does. After tasting a bite of the finished product he'll throw in his two cents, with permission given to do so, and throws out his take on how to better it. "This recipe is a keeper but make a note about cutting the celery thinner next time or cutting the amount in half." I'll admit it, I roll my eyes as I turn around and walk back to the kitchen. "Okay hunny."

Next was making the green chile cheeseburger patties. Roasting poblano peppers? What? How? Wiping sweat from my forehead. Washing hands after of course. Ugh! Here's where my cooking anxiety kicks in. After searching YAHOO! for how do do this I was put at ease with how easy it was. I'll never buy green chiles again. That statement is struck from the records. I'm sure when it's time to put together green chile chicken enchiladas on a weeknight the canned ones will be bought. Slaps hand.

Forming burger patties, let alone 1/4 lb burger patties, is tough for a petite woman with hands about the same size as a five year old. I know it's Steelers Sunday but the use of those large manly hands would have been much appreciated when forming the patties. He just couldn't be bothered and left it up to me. I put on my big girl pants this morning and accepted the challenge. I was a little butt hurt with his lack of help and couldn't help but get frustrated when he kept telling me to make sure they were packed firm to prevent them from breaking apart. I had visions of the meat falling between the grates of the grill and our guests having to puzzle piece together their burgers. My heart was racing and panic was setting in. "How about you show me how to do it since you are so good at it?" Ego stroking didn't work this time. "I could really use your help." Eyelash batting. Damn. Nothing worked.

He lost his title of Mr. Pretend Chef to Mr. Sideline Chef until he deems himself worthy again and lends a hand in the kitchen. He'll get his payback when I need him to stand for 20 minutes and stir a risotto.

Luckily the patties held together on the grill. This was my first attempt at making my own hamburger patties and not buying them frozen. What a difference! These burgers were so juicy and flavorful. The green chiles add a minute bit of heat. "Maybe next time we should try it with jalapeno peppers for more heat." All I'm thinking is next time "we'll" do that just how today "we" made the potato salad and burgers.

I'm holding off on giving y'all the recipe for the green chile cheeseburgers until tomorrow to up the anticipation factor because these babies were that delicious and drool worthy. They were filling enough to fill up a grown man after one but left everyone craving a second.

Here is the potato salad recipe that has won the seal of approval by Mr. Sideline Chef. It earned a spot in the household BBQ rotational until another recipe comes along to take it's place. Well played taters, you've got yourself a spot in the starting lineup.

Adapted from Hellmann's® recipe

Stars of the Show:

  • 2 lb red potatoes, scrubbed clean, and cut into 3/4" chunks
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I use Kraft Mayo with olive oil. Heart healthy and delicious.)
  • Our taste buds like potato salad with celery, hard boiled eggs, relish, onion powder, parsley, and black pepper. Make it your own and add the ingredients your family likes.

And Action:
  1. Cover the potatoes and bouillon cube with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Keep uncovered and boil until the potatoes are tender. About 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Combine the cooled potatoes with the remainder of the ingredients. Serve chilled. Per orders from Mr. Sideline Chef or at room temperature. Enjoy.

October 15, 2010

You've Got Mail

How is it that a mom always knows just when to send a pick-me-up to their child? My mom lives 2300+ miles away from me in Oregon and the long distance is tough but frequent phone calls keep her close at heart.

While on the phone last night with my mom I shared with her my thoughts on starting this blog. She was such a cheerleader squelling in delight about what a great idea it was. If she wouldn't have supported me I'm sure I would have sent her a virtual bitch slap to the face... oh wait... that's what the other sister would have done. My bad. I would have pulled my big girl undies on and did this anyway. I'm my own biggest cheerleader.

For Halloween, with my son's new found love for Mickey Mouse, I decided to let that guide this year's costume choice. Back when I was 3 years old my mom had handmade Mickey and Minnie mouse ears. Perfect! She did the manual labor back then and I would now once again reap the benefits of her hard work. That's what kids do, even at my age (23, who's counting?) and living so far from home. Thanks mom!

She asked if I had received the package yet and I informed her of my weekly trip to the mailbox on Sunday but told her I could oblige and move my walk to the mail area a couple days early. She twisted my arm. It's the least I could do.

My birth certificate was signed with hearts and curly qs.

I strapped my son's sandals on his feet and we set off for the 2 minute walk. There it was. The notice informing me of the package being held in our apartment building's office. Tack on another 2 minutes to the office. We were there. Fresh baked cookies to coax the toddler into the office. Bribery. Sure. It works. Don't judge. Mail in hand, big box in the other, and a toddler roaming freely since my hands were tied up. Let's see how the walk back to the apartment would go.

Dropped the mail 2 times and had to use the box to guide my son on where to walk. It worked. Once inside I couldn't wait to open it. Kitchen scissors to slice through the packing tape and the box was opened. Mom packaged the box and that only means one thing. Step back. Miscellaneous items are bound to fall out. Sure enough... two neon splash balls for Jason... or so I'm guessing. Random. Sure. That's my mom. Mouse ears! Score! Halloween costume is one more step towards being complete. Another big thank you! That's not all. Leave it to my mom to see that there is more space in an inside out printer box that can be filled. Packing peanuts. Surely those won't do. Why not add more weight and increase the shipping costs on what was only to be Mouse ears being shipped? Cookbooks. Lots of cookbooks. I was elated! I was beaming all day about them. Mouse ears are now obsolete and instead I'll just cook my way through the Halloween holiday. Leave me in my gluttony induced state and mom, please mail some of that pink stuff for the onset of a stomach ache... thanks.

October 14, 2010

Who Is The Pretend Chef?

I am a directions follower to a T. It could be my goodie-two-shoes personality. Deviating from a recipe or any set of specific directions leaves me feeling fretful and cold chills run through my body. Cooking anxiety. That best describes the feeling I get when preparing a meal for anyone other than my family. By family, I mean, my 2 year old son Jason Jr. and his daddy Mr. Pretend Chef, Jason.

My itty bitty who enjoys his little bites.

When trying out a new recipe to prepare for them I have no worries and find the beginning to end process of cooking a meal very therapeutic. Mashing potatoes and pork chopping is a great stress reliever. The kitchen is my domain. Albeit, a small space given it's apartment living; it's my one room in the house that I have complete say over and the only thing Ohio State Buckeyes is our pitcher and set of 4 plastic cups.

If a meal isn't up to par then there are no tears shed. We pile into the Mustang and head to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Los Cucos. There I know the fate of my satisfaction is left in hands of another. The fresh tableside guacamole and beef fajita tacos never disappoint.

My passion is food. I live to eat. I know, I know... dieticians reading this are cringing and screaming profanities at the screen at me. Hear me out. I gained 50 pounds when I got pregnant. My weight ballooned to 180 pounds. Poor diet choices and a lack of exercise got me there. When my "aha" moment hit, it hit me like a ton of avocados bricks. I set myself on the path to losing the weight and in the process learned a few tips and tricks for eating healthful without sacrificing on taste and my weight and waistline have lightened up. I refuse to cut out sugars and fats and have found that when I am on a strict "diet" it led to late night binges and horrible cravings. Here I am 40 pounds lighter and still taking it one day at a time doing it the "healthy" way with lots of sweat and food that I look forward to eating that fuels my body.

This blog is not about my weight loss journey although there may be weight loss updates on occasion. I wanted to start a blog highlighting my kitchen successes and my failures. Many egg whites may be wasted in the process in my learning to create soft or stiff peaks and many may be ate when a quiche is a success. Success or failure it's the joy of sharing my passion with others. Here goes some good eating along the way.

Happy and healthy eating!
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