Monday, November 17, 2014

Beef Avocado Cream Tacos - My El Chico Recipe Contest Winner!

Beef Avocado Cream Tacos

1 pound ground beef
1 ounce taco seasoning mix
12 soft flour tortillas or crispy corn taco shells
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded lettuce
½ cup diced tomatoes

Brown ground beef in skillet and drain off excess liquid. Add one ounce of desired taco seasoning mix and ½ cup water. Stir and simmer until water has evaporated.

Avocado Cream:
1 jalapeno  pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 of fresh lime - juice only
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
4 ounces cream cheese
1 ripe Avocado

Cut jalapeno in half, seed and trim.  Place in mini food processor along with cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice. Pulse until finely chopped. Add cream cheese and pulse again until smooth. Add flesh of avocado and pulse until creamy.

Build tacos as desired with beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and top with Avocado Cream.  For hard taco shells, the avocado cream is best when added on top of meat before lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. For soft tacos, the avocado cream is best spread on tortilla first before adding meat and other ingredients. It is also great on chicken or fish tacos or dolloped on as a topping for a taco salad.

I entered an El Chico Recipe Contest....and won!

El Chico sponsored a contest asking for Taco recipes.  I nearly didn't enter because I was about to leave town and had a lot of things to do but decided to take the time to enter and submitted my recipe. A few weeks after the contest ended I received the following message: 

I couldn't believe it! I was told that my recipe was the winner and that my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos would be served in all El Chico Restaurants! 
El Chico designed these cool announcements that looked like flour tortillas and placed them on every table in their restaurants. They folded in two so that they looked like a taco shell! 
Here is a picture of the announcements at the El Chico Cafe in Waco, Texas!  I thought that was such a cute and fun way to market and promote my dish! 
The first time I went to El Chico to try my tacos the local newspaper came and interviewed me and the restaurant manager. I took my family with me and it was a night I will never forget as we enjoyed our meal and I posed for photos! I really felt honored.

I was out of town on business a few days later and my phone started buzzing early one morning.  Everyone was texting and posting photos on my social media pages letting me know my article had made the front page of the Waco Tribune Herald newspaper! I was in Austin by myself and couldn't get a hard copy of the newspaper and there was no one around to hear my good news. That was a very strange feeling! It was my big day and I was by myself.
Soon after my newspaper article I received a call and was asked by Emily Iazzetti to make my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos live on the Moms Everyday KWTX-TV show.  It was so much fun! I wasn't anxious or nervous at all. I just embraced the moment and really enjoyed myself!

After that, I was featured in a few more newspapers with my recipe and one of my friends lovingly nicknamed me "The Taco Chick!"  
El Chico sent me a chef apron to wear when I was on television and I was proud to wear it.  For months, every time my friends or family visited El Chico, I received a text photo of my tacos or would be tagged on Facebook in a picture of them enjoying my tacos. It was such fun time.  My recipe was on their menu for the next six months.
Now you know my little story about my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos and how I became the Taco Chick! I thought I was too busy to enter the contest but decided to take just a few minutes to e-mail my recipe and that spur-of-the-moment decision changed my life! I am certainly not famous but it was the first time my passion for cooking was really rewarded and it refueled my desire to experiment with recipes and share them. To be recognized and acknowledged by a restaurant like El Chico, the most historically famous establishment for Tex-Mex food started by Mama Cuellar, made me very proud.  I have now been recognized a few times in places I never dreamed anyone knew me and it was all because of my little moment in time with my tacos.

I hope you try these tacos and enjoy them. The recipe is simple, just like most of the best things in life!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jalapeño Cauliflower Soup

 Jalapeño Cauliflower Soup

1 large head Cauliflower
1/2 Cup chopped fresh Cilantro - reserve 2 Tablespoons
1/4 Cup diced pickled Jalapeño peppers - reserve 1 Tablespoon
2 Onions - peeled and quartered
2 medium Potatoes - peeled and quartered
32 oz Chicken Broth
1-1/2 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 teaspoon Jalapeño Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Cup grated Cheddar Cheese

Bring water to boil in soup pot. Add washed, rough-chopped Cauliflower, Onions and Potatoes.  Boil for 5-7 minutes and add Chicken Broth and Butter. Reduce to low heat, and add jalapeño salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir and add Jalapeño peppers. Cook another 10 minutes or until liquid reduces enough so that soup will have a thick consistency when blended.  Remove from heat and semi-puree with immersion blender.  Add cheese, and remainder of fresh cilantro and blend until desired consistency. Stir in remainder of diced jalapeño peppers and serve. 

I garnished mine with a few more jalapeño peppers, a leaf or two of fresh cilantro and a few diced bell peppers. 

You also might like more or less cheese in it or even add a little sour cream or milk. Experiment and see what tastes best to you! Enjoy! 

Fiesta Brand makes the Jalapeño Salt we like.  It is also a great steak seasoning!

The diced jalapeño peppers I like are made by Mt. Olive. 

My daughter-in-law makes a delicious cauliflower soup and that has ham in it and potato flakes.  I didn't have ham or potato flakes so I experimented this morning with the ingredients I had on hand and came up with this recipe.  I invited my Mom over for lunch after we went to church and the two of us really enjoyed this.  My youngest son stopped by today and had some with me for supper. He loved it too!  I think I have a new recipe for soup I will use again and again! I hope you enjoy it too! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Sic 'Em Bears" Claw Cookies and Dr. Pepper Hour

"Sic 'Em Bears" Claw Cookies
and Dr. Pepper Hour

One of the first things your learn at Baylor University is how to do a proper Sic 'em Bears! Grab your knee with your right hand,  then raise raise your hand into the air. Shake it with spirit and as you shake your Bear claw you yell, "Heyyy....Sic 'em!!!" and swipe your claw down and across and then yell "Bears!" as you draw your claw back up! 

I decided I must make some Sic 'Em Bear Claw Cookies for a tailgate party I was having at home.  

I was challenged by Southern Living and Blue Diamond Almonds to be creative with Blue Diamond Almonds, create Game Day Snacks, and serve the either at home on Game Day or at a Tailgating Event.  I also shared my photos on Social Media with the hashtag #gamedaysnack.  I enjoyed preparing for parties every week and tying them in with a Baylor University theme.

Since 1953 Dr. Pepper Hour has been a tradition at Baylor University. Each week students, faculty and staff gather to socialize while enjoying a Dr. Pepper Float. I have always enjoyed Dr. Pepper Hour at Baylor so I thought it would be fun to serve Dr. Pepper Floats with the "Sic 'Em Bear" Claw cookies at my party! I put a couple of scoops of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream into a glass, added Dr. Pepper and sprinkled some chopped Blue Diamond Almonds on top! The cookies and the floats were the perfect pair!  

Sic 'Em Bear Claw Cookies

1 package of Betty Crocker Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix

Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds

I cannot make Double Chocolate Chunk cookies better than Betty Crocker! I believe that if someone does something better than you can do it, make it their way and give them credit! Betty Crocker has this recipe down so go with her and use her Cookie Mix to make your cookies!

Prepare the cookie dough as per directions in a bowl and then put the dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven according to directions.  Remove dough from refrigerator and shape 2-3 tablespoons into a ball. Place on cookie sheet and slightly press down until the ball is flattened a bit.  Take 4 Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds and place slightly inside the edge like "claws" would be on a bear paw.  Bake according to instructions. Let cool and carefully remove from baking sheet.  

The salty, smoked almonds taste very good with the chocolatey sweetness of the cookies!

These would be perfect for any Baylor Tailgate Party or on a Camping Trip or  Zoo Visit! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Kickers" Wasabi & Soy Sauce Blue Diamond Almond Deviled Eggs

Wasabi & Soy Sauce Blue Diamond Almond Deviled Eggs

6 - eggs
1 Tablespoon Mustard
4 Tablespoons chopped Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds

Hard Boil eggs, peel and let cool. Slice eggs in half, remove yolks and place them in small bowl. Reserve whites of eggs as vessels for filling.

Chop 4 Tablespoons of Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Almonds until they are in small pieces. Pour pieces over yolks in bowl. Use fork to crumble yolks and mix with almonds.  Add mustard.  Add enough Mayonnaise to make a smooth desired consistency. Fill egg whites with mixture. Place a whole almond on top to look like a football ready to be kicked.  Place a tablespoon of mayonnaise in zippered sandwich bag.  Cut off a tiny corner so mayonnaise can be piped out onto almond to look like football lacing. Serve immediately or refrigerate before serving. 

I was challenged by Southern Living and Blue Diamond Almonds to be creative with Blue Diamond Almonds, create Game Day Snacks, and serve them either at home on Game Day or at a Tailgating Event. I also shared my photos on Social Media with the hashtag #gamedaysnack. I enjoyed preparing for parties every week and trying out my treats with friends and family each Game Day! When I tasted the Wasabi and Soy Sauce Almonds I immediately thought about how they might taste good in Deviled Eggs.  I was right! It is a different way to make deviled eggs and we love them! 

I met the "Game Day Snack" Challenge and Southern Living and Blue Diamond Almonds sent me the Ultimate Game Day Snack Prize Pack above! I love it!!! I also love challenges! I am already trying to think up new things to make this football season! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Thousand Island Dressing and a Taste of New Orleans

Thousand Island Dressing

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Dill Relish
Ground Black Pepper
Cracked Black Pepper

In small bowl stir together Mayonnaise, Ketchup and Dill Relish. Add several pinches of Ground Pepper and a few grinds of Cracked Black Pepper.  Sample the dressing and adjust ingredients according to your taste. I usually just add Ketchup until I get the color I desire.

Some recipes call for minced onion, or garlic, or Worcestershire sauce but I keep it simple.

Today I made a different version of the salad.  I call it a Bird Nest Salad Bowl. All I did was cut a medium sized head of Iceberg lettuce in half and hollow out the middle. This works best when the lettuce is a less compact head.  I julienned a carrot and red cabbage, placed it in my "bowl" added the salad dressing and topped it with cherry tomatoes. This was such a fun way to change up a regular salad.
I have found it to be true that the most simple of foods are often the best. This is nothing more than Lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and homemade Thousand Island Dressing. Fresh ingredients and a nice presentation made such a difference!

We just returned from another vacation in New Orleans.  We made sure we were able to enjoy at least one meal at The Court of Two Sisters.  We love the ambience and the food and the evening we spent there did not disappoint us! 

Our table was in a perfect location. We sat back and enjoyed the view and took our time also enjoying each other's company.

I was hungry for a salad and decided I would order the Lettuce Wedge with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Sliced Red Onions and Tomato Wedges.  This is a photo of the salad I was served. The generous portion of dressing was just enough for the wedge and I don't know when I have enjoyed a salad so much. The recipe I have posted is not The Court of Two Sister's Recipe.  The salad I was served there inspired me to recreate this salad at home. I do not have their recipe for Thousand Island Dressing.
The bread at The Court of Two Sisters is always such a treat! It comes in a cute paper bag and their soft butter pats make the bread even more tasty! I enjoyed a piece of the buttered bread with my salad and I thought I was in Heaven! 

On this visit to New Orleans we stayed at the Bourbon Orleans. It is a French Quarter Luxury Hotel on Orleans Street and it known to be haunted! I didn't mind haunting this place at all! It was so beautiful and the staff made us really feel like welcomed guests. We spent a lot of our spare time sitting in this lobby just so we could enjoy the surroundings.  
This is the pool at the Bourbon Orleans. It was so inviting. We loved staying there!

We enjoyed a carriage ride one evening through all of the French Quarter. This is a great way to see sights you may miss otherwise. The tour guides give you such fascinating historical information as well as entertaining stories during your carriage excursion.

New Orleans is such unique city and I always find myself being amazed at the views and different sights to see. 
Jackson Square is the center of all activity and the Bourbon Orleans where we stayed is just on the other side of the square. 
We strolled down Bourbon Street and saw the sights to see. There is always a thing or two to raise an eyebrow on this street! 
"Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler" Let the Good Times Roll.  We just returned from our vacation to New Orleans and I am ready to go again!  The people, places, foods and history of this city all blend together in a way that good times can roll all year long!  I am already starting a list of things to see and do when I return!

I am so glad I ordered the salad I did at the Court of Two Sisters. Now I will be reminded of our evening there and our vacation every time I make Thousand Island Dressing! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Turnip Greens, Pot Liquor, Pepper Juice and Cornbread

Turnip Greens, Pot Liquor, Pepper Juice and Cornbread 

I love Turnip and Mustard Greens

Each year we plant turnip and mustard greens in our garden. We plant them in both our spring and fall gardens.

These are some from our fall garden. Turnip and mustard greens seem to keep producing long after everything else in your yard stops at the end of the season.

When I pick turnip greens I pick a lot of them at once and prepare them all at the same time. 

It takes a LOT of hand washing cycles to get them clean.

Just when you think they are clean, you still find grit at the bottom of the sink! Time to wash again! 

When I finally get them clean I am ready to begin cooking! 

I add the greens to boiling water. They will cook down fast so keep adding them and you can cook a big batch at one time. I leave my greens whole. I also leave the stems on them if they are tender.

I always add and ounce or two of salt pork to boil with the greens. I also add just a little salt but not much. I prefer to add salt when I am eating them so that everyone can salt their own serving to taste. 

I usually add a little bacon grease too! My Grandmother used to really pour in the grease but now I usually just add about a tablespoon for flavoring. You do not have to do this step.

Keep boiling until the greens are tender. I always cook mine for at least an hour. Do NOT drain them when you are finished cooking. The juice is just as good as the greens! It is called Pot Liquor.  Pot liquor is the vitamin rich juice that is rendered into the water while the greens are cooking. I am convinced pot liquor is the reason cornbread was invented! Cornbread is used for "sopping up" the pot liquor! 

I have tried making my own cornbread but my favorite is Betty Crocker's Cornbread & Muffin Mix. Betty makes it better than I ever could so I applaud her and give her all of the credit for my cornbread! 

I have my Great-Grandmother's iron skillet! To make cornbread, pour a little vegetable oil or bacon grease in the bottom of the skillet and heat it in a 400 degree oven just until the skillet gets hot. 

Prepare cornbread mix according to instructions and pour it in the hot skillet. I use three packages of the cornbread mix to fill my pan! 

There is just something about a pan of cornbread that reminds me of homemade country style meals with family. Sometimes we even serve the cornbread in the skillet on the table. The skillet keeps it warm!  

Can you see the Pot Liquor and its rich shimmer? A bowl of greens, a chunk of buttered cornbread and you have a meal! 

To make your meal complete you need to shake some juice from peppers in vinegar over your greens. This will add another dimension to the meal! This is just another tradition of my family. My Grandmother used to make her own Pepper Juice but I buy mine. A few shakes and you are set! You have a complete country style "Greens and Cornbread" meal! 

What are you waitin' for? Supper is ready! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

I have been seeing on the news and weather for the last few days about how an Arctic cold front will be arriving tonight. I have also seen reports of colds and flu taking over in huge areas of many states.  So far we have been healthy this year and I want to do everything I can to keep us that way! Homemade soup seems to make me feel I am doing something to keep us feeling well. 

This morning we had a Clean Up Day at our local Boys & Girls Club. We began at 7:00 a.m. All available Hillsboro Fire & Rescue men came and volunteered their time to help us. I could not believe how quickly they organized and got tasks completed. Right as they finished an emergency call came and three of them had to leave to rush to the aid of someone in need. I was so thankful to have them help us and it made the arduous day before us suddenly become a task we could complete in a few hours! 

We had board members, staff and volunteers working and we dusted, organized, uncluttered, rearranged and left after a few hours with a club that we cannot wait for our Boy & Girls to see when they arrive on Monday! 

I got home and I was freezing. I had been hot while working but after I stopped I realized it was a really cold day and I just could not get warm! I feared I might be getting sick! I decided I needed to make some soup!

This is such a simple recipe. I encourage you to make this soup instead of buying it in a can. It is so much better and your loved ones will appreciate it!

You can use a white onion but I prefer green onions so that they will add color to the soup. My Grandson gave me this new chef knife for Christmas and it chopped the onions so well I felt as if I were a professional chef while I was using it!

Instead of just adding a stalk of celery I pull out the more tender center of the celery stalk that has the leaves on it and chop those leaves and stalks. I used two centers for this soup. The leaves make a great texture and again, makes the soup more appealing to the eyes!

You don't have to add a carrot but again, I like it for color. Also, you can use any kind of noodles you like. Egg noodles are great in this soup. I used thin spaghetti this time because that is what I had on hand. I am trying to use things I have in my pantry. I stocked up with so many things preparing for Christmas cooking my pantry is overstocked! I'm on a mission to use what is on hand for the next few weeks and only buy produce and dairy products when needed.

I use Lawry's seasoned salt instead of regular salt in this soup.  I try to use Low Sodium Chicken Stock and then I can more freely add Seasoned salt. It gives the soup a great flavor.  Also, I use lots of black pepper  - the more the better!

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 large chicken breasts
1 bunch green onions (10)
Celery and leaves from inside celery stalk- about 1/2 cup
1 carrot
1 10 oz package thin spaghetti
3-15 oz cans chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Boil 2 large chicken breasts in three cups of water. Add chopped green onions, chopped celery and sliced carrot. Add chicken broth. Remove chicken when fully cooked. Allow chicken to cool until it can be touched. Slice and shred chicken and return to soup. Add salt, pepper and spaghetti. Boil until spaghetti is fully cooked. Taste test for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if needed and serve.