Mix and Match Mexican Night

My husband has been gone for twelve days now. We are ready to have him home!   In his absence, though, I have been buying some of the foods that I really like and he doesn’t care for: salmon, lamb chops, and ground beef.

Tonight it was time for the ground beef, which I purchased late last week (with no idea of what I would do with it). Yesterday would have been grocery day, but I took care of my friends’ three kids this weekend as well as my own little time sucker – and by the time the mess settled last night, I just didn’t have it in me to do a grocery run.

So I dug around in my pantry and on the internet tonight, and ended up with the following:

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce – I didn’t have chicken stock so I used broth instead, and I was out of garlic powder (which, to be honest, I don’t love anyway – even though I love garlic) so I just skipped it.  I was really surprised to find a recipe for red sauce that contained no tomato paste or sauce. I was a little worried that it would just be overwhelmingly spicy, but it was actually really good and very flavorful.

Next, I used this recipe as my inspiration: Beef and Bean Burritos – but then I mixed it up a lot. We had no refried beans at the house, so I just cooked a can of black beans in a little olive oil with some red onion. And I like corn tortillas a lot better than flour, so I wanted to use those – but I didn’t want to make a full dish of enchiladas.  So I baked two small corn tortillas, sprayed with a little cooking spray, in a 350 degree oven until they were hot but not crispy (about half the time I bake them if I”m making homemade chips). I put one on the plate, put some meat and beans on top, layered another tortilla on that, and put a little more meat, some shredded mexican cheese, and a little more enchilada sauce on top, and popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  And it was great. And my sidekick got to have nachos, which he prefers to tacos/burritos/enchiladas – so we were both happy. And full. Success!

Mexican night

Finally back testing out some new recipes. We love mexican at our house, so tonight I tried chipotle salsa baked chicken. G isn’t home, but Charlie’s chicken got put into a quesadilla, and I had mine with a side of black beans and some tortilla chips.

I really liked the flavor of the sauce – it reminded me of the warm salsa they used to serve at Austin Grill (before they started messing with their old stand-bys), and there’s plenty to dip my chips in. The chicken was good too, though next time I think I’d cut the pieces thinner, more like cutlets.  We have leftovers, and I think they’ll be great rolled up in a tortilla with the leftover black beans.  This wasn’t anything I’d gush and rave about, but it’s a relatively easy, quick recipe that can be served a couple of different ways. I’ll be making it again.

Carnitas, Round II

Not that I don’t love my family, but it’s really, REALLY nice to get an occasional weekend away to hang out with old friends. And that’s what I was supposed to be doing this weekend. But due to the aforementioned sickness, I couldn’t leave my husband at home alone with the kiddo – and even if I could have pawned the kiddo off on someone, George was sick enough that I couldn’t in good conscience leave him on his own either.

So since we had no plans all weekend other than a birthday party this afternoon, I decided to cook.  Todays’ recipes were slow cooked pork carnitas (different recipe from last time) and lime sherbet.

First off, there’s nothing better than slow cooker recipes on the weekend. I don’t really like them during the week because even though I know they’re made for cooking things while you’re gone, I can’t really wrap my mind around leaving something cooking all day when I’m not in the house. Our nanny and Charlie are in and out, but not with enough frequency for me to feel all that comfortable leaving food cooking. But on the weekends, bring it on. Food prep started by 10 a.m. means dinner is ready by 6:30 or so, with no scrambling around. This afternoon, for instance, Charlie and I went to a birthday party and then I came home, put him down for a rest (George was also home resting) and went to the pool to swim laps. When I came home, all I had to do was cook some black beans and heat up some tortillas, and dinner was ready.

The pork was good, but not great. I have been spoiled for carnitas by the place by my Maryland office that makes spicy, tangy pork and pineapple carnitas that I love. These didn’t really have the kind of flavor/kick I was hoping for. They really just tasted like pork – juicy, succulent pork which is good, but I’m still looking for a carnitas recipe that knocks my socks off. With this one, I think you could drain the meat and toss it with some barbecue sauce and have a pulled pork sandwich. It didn’t have the flavor I was expecting for carnitas.

The lime sherbet is delicious!  Well, I’ve only tasted it in “soft serve” form, right out of the ice cream maker while I was packing it up, so I haven’t had much yet. But it’s now in the freezer, and I plan to have more very soon. Nothing says summer like homemade ice cream!  And this recipe couldn’t be easier – no custard making, no crazy prep – just zesting and juicing some limes to mix with sugar, half and half, water, and a pinch of salt. Right out of the ice cream maker, it was fresh and creamy and delicious. I can’t wait to try more!

Carnitas

We love tacos at Casa Griffin – but we make run-of-the-mill, ground turkey tacos. Tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, coriander, onion, oil, and turkey (if you’re still using those taco seasoning packets, STOP! They’re full of salt and you only need a few spices to make perfect tacos) and this family is happy.

But I’ve realized that when we eat tacos out, I almost always get carnitas. I love the tender, shredded pork with most anything mixed in. There’s a gas station near our Maryland office that does a spicy carnitas with little bits of pineapple in it – yum!  But I also like tacos filled with a more traditional version. So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

We didn’t eat until about 9:30. The downside of this recipe is that it should be in the oven for about 2 hours, and there is a little (very little) prep before you can put it into the oven – and then there’s some more cooking after. So it’s not a great weeknight recipe, as I almost never get home before 6 p.m.  But the actual work involved is minimal, and most of the ingredients are stuff we generally have on hand.

George and I both thought this was a really nice change from our normal taco routine. I served these with shredded cheese, chunks of avocado, black beans, and sour cream – all good toppings, but next time I think I’ll do a little more. This would make a great weekend recipe with some homemade salsa and guacamole, lime slices, and maybe some crumbled queso fresco.

End result: success – we’re already talking about eating the leftovers later in the week!

Slow Cooker Chicken Black Bean Tacos

We tried another Skinny Taste recipe last night, this time the Slow Cooker Chicken Black Bean Tacos.  We didn’t make the cabbage slaw because the grocery store I went to on Sunday didn’t have red cabbage, but I’m definitely going to make that next time.  This was pretty good – the chicken, black beans, and tomatoes went into a quesadilla for Charlie and crisp corn shells for George and me.  Charlie initially complained about beans in his quesadilla, but then commenced to eating it, so that’s a success. George and I both thought the chicken was a little dry – next time instead of separating the chicken out and draining the beans, I think I’d drain a little of the liquid and then mix the rest in with the chicken.  It had a good amount of flavor/spice and would probably make a great filling for burritos and enchiladas.

Pros:

  • Everyone ate it!
  • This is only in the slow cooker for 2 hours on high, and requires minimal prep work, so it’s feasible that I could make it for a weeknight meal. 
  • It’s nice to have the beans and chicken cook at the same time in the same dish – less clean up.

Cons: The chicken was a little dry.

Make again?   Yes – maybe as chicken black bean burritos next time.

Recipe variation?  Don’t drain the beans completely.