Posts Tagged ‘Mexican’

Mountain Fajitas and Tacos

August 22, 2009

Donna, Ryan and I are visiting Facebook friends Carolyn, Stephen, Toni and Tony up in the mountains north and west of Scanton, PA.  They have a great comfortable complex here that to call it camping is to call the Ritz Carlton a motel. Needless to say we are having a great time. So what we eating? Last night over two tiny propane stove tops and a BBQ grill, the Tony’s and Carolyn whipped up a Mountain Fajita Buffet.

Black Bean, Rice and SalsaThe buffet started with some homemade Black Bean, Rice and Salsa. The perfectly cooked rice and beans dish was complemented by the mild salsa.  This dish alone was worthly of a solo performance but it played well with the other dishes to kick off the buffet. The crisp White Onion added some crunch and tang to the fajitas and tacos while the Sour Cream cooled the heat of the hot sauce and peppers.

Fajita Bar ItemsThe heat for the fajitas and tacos came from the Chunky Salsa. It was a mild heat that was in turned cooled by the sour cream and shredded Mexican Cheese blend.

Grilled Chicken and PeppersFor protein, Tony grilled some Chicken Breasts and sliced them into bite size pieces. As he grilled the chicken, he also grilled some Green and Red Peppers to create that authentic fajita experience. The peppers also added some nice crunch to the fajitas.

Carolyn's Perfect Tacos

So we ended up with a choice of Hard or Soft Tacos and Fajitas.  Carolyn joked that every time she makes a taco she wished she had a camera cause her taco was so perfect so I handed her mine. It was perfectly tasty. I ate fajitas cause you can stuff more goodies into them. LOL.

Homemade Mexican CornbreadFor dessert Toni made a delicious Mexican Cornbread. The bread was from the oven and still warm  when we got it. The bread had a nice crust on top that contrasted nicely to the creamy interior.  There were also nice big kernels of sweet corn on the inside making the texture even interesting. It was the perfect ending to the perfect Fajita and Taco bar.  It was the start of a great evening up here in the mountains.

Check out my Facebook page to hear more about the Haunted School Bus that we explored after dinner.

UFC Poker Guacamole

July 11, 2009

Tonight we are going to Erika’s in Jersey City to play some poker and watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship 100 Match. Apparently UFC heavyweight title holder Brock Lesnar will try to defend his crown against rival Frank Mir in their long-awaited grudge match. I copied that off the UFC Web site cause, LOL, cause I don’t know anything about UFC other than two really strong guys get in a cage and beat the heck out of each other.  Ryan and a lot of my poker buddies are into it so it should be fun to watch them cheer on their favourites.

Guacamole Ingredients I asked Erika if she wanted us to bring something sweet or salty, she went salty and to surprise her.  So after some thinking I decided to go for some homemade Guacamole. Yes, I know guacamole is not salty on it’s own but with some tortilla “scoop” chips that should qualify as a salty appetizer.  The other reason is that at our Mexican Hold’em Poker Tournament, Erika shared that she loved guacamole so why not give a girl want she likes. LOL.

To make the guacamole, I visited the Hass Avocado Web site for their classic recipe cause this family from Maritime Canada doesn’t have a family recipe for it. LOL. I used ripe avocados, jalapenos, limes, red onions, plum tomatoes, cilantro, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Basically I chopped everything into a fine chop and mixed thoroughly. The ratios are on the Web site, I went with more a visual image of what I think good guacamole looks like.

Homemade Guacamole I love foods that offer different contrasts within the same dish, differences in textures, flavours and heat levels. The final guacamole mixture was a great contrast of flavours and textures. The creamy Avocados  with chunky Red Onions and Jalapenos, the sweet Tomatoes with the tart Lime Juice, metallic Cilantro and Kosher Salt and the coolness of the mixture with the heat from the jalapenos. I added some Cumin to give the dip some smokey flavour and some freshly ground pepper to balance the heat of the dish. I hope Erika and my Poker-UFC buddies like the dip.

I will post the final presentation photo later today as we get closer to party time.  I am looking forward to the party.

Make-Your-Own-Fajitas Buffet

June 15, 2009

I think it was the margaritas at noon that got us thinking about Fajitas for supper.  Donna and I both love them, I think they are healthy and the boys like them.  What’s to hate? LOL – Pass the tequila.

WeBeef and Chicken Fajitas like a combo of Chicken and Beef Fajitas. So to start, we cut round steak and chicken breasts into two bite strips.  We used different boards, knives and contains so do send the “poultry police” after Donna and I. In separate saute pans we cooked the strips. As the strips cooked, we seasoned them with garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, onion powder and tacoseasoning. I like the heat from the chili and pepper flakes, the smokiness from the cumin and Tex Mex flavours from the garlic and taco seasonings. Both the chicken and the steak do maintain their own flavours but are enhanced by the seasonings. Tonight, both turned out well. I sampled both and was happy.  I put them in the oven to keep warm until the rest of the buffet was prepared.

We like Refried Beans with our fajitas, so I opened a can and put in pan over low heat to slowly warm. Don’t hate the can, hate the canner. LOL.

 Onions, Peppers and Garlic for Fajitas

While the meats rested in the oven, we prepped Onions, Red and Yellow Peppers and Garlic for sauting. We like long strips of onions and peppers to match the strips of meat.  Once they we were prepped, I sauted them in the beef pan so that I could capture the beef flavours in the veggie mixture. We kept the seasoning on the veggies light as we wanted the meats to shin thru in the final fajitas. We just used some salt, pepper and garlic. The veggies seemed to take the longest to cook as they were the last cooked ingridents.

While the veggies were sauting, we prepped the cold fix’ems. We like chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream as options. 

Fix'em for FajitasThe final steps are to nuke the tortillas in a moist paper towel, lay out the buffet and call the boys. 

Everyone makes their own fajita with different combintations of chicken, beef, veggies and fix’ems.  The boys are not big fans of the veggies but love a combo of meats, the refried beans, cheese, lettuce and sour cream.  Donna likes the refried beans, a combo of meats, salsa, cheese and lettuce. I like them all but tend to place chicken at one end of the tortilla and beef at the other end so that the meat changes as I eat.  I am sure you have your own way of making and eat these so tell us in the comment section or reply box.

Net – net, Yummy food, Happy family.

Memorial Day Weekend Kick Off

May 22, 2009

Margaritas from scratchI got inspired by Facebook Friend and co-worker Marc’s photo of his kick off Martini to make cocktails here in New Hope. Since Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer Donna and I decided to make Margaritas.  Margaritas say summer to me because of the freshness of the lime juice, the sunny glow of the tequila and the crushed ice. So here’s how we did.

Margaritas ingridents

I made the margaritas from scratch today rather than opting in for margarita mix.  Donna hand squeezed enough limes to give us about 6 oz of juice.  I chilled the margaritas glasses in ice as I mixed the ingredients together in a shaker glass.  (If anyone needs a cocktail shaker glass let me know I have quite a few from Tuesday night drawings at Cafe Europa.) I used a 2-1-1 ratio of Tequila, Lime Juice and Triple Sec.  A quick stir of the liquids and into the crushed ice glasses.  Once I evened out Donna’s and my glass with the liquid, I floated some Grand Marnier on top and garnished with a slice of lime.  Since Donna and I don’t need any additional salt in our diets we passed on the salt rimmed on the glasses. Your body, your choice.

Guacamole and margaritas

Margaritas also say Mexico to me so to go along with them I made some quick Guacamole.  I mashed three ripe Avocados left over from the Mexican Hold’em Poker Party into a small bowl along with half a finely diced Red Onion. I added a clove of garlic, salt, pepper, cilantro and lime juice to the mashed avocado. I stirred the components to get an even distribution of goodness and plates with some tortilla chips and took the shot to the left.  The guacamole turned out very nice contrast in tastes and textures. The creamy sauce, the smooth chunks of avocados and the crunch of the red onion,  The sweetness of the avocados and tang from the red onion and the tart from the lime juice.  I didn’t use chilies tonight cause I didn’t have them, oh well still turned out well.

Nice start to the weekend, thanks again for the inspiration Marc.

Mexican Hold’em

May 18, 2009

Mexican Hold'e,

Mexican Hold’em was a great time. People started arriving at 1:00 and some were still here at 11:00. Deb, Erika, Janet and Bob chopped the pot for the tournament. We also played some cash games at 25/50 cents. It was a lot of fun and everyone seem to have a good time.

Mexican Hold'em Veggie TrayNow on to the food.  We started the day off with some chips and dip and a veggie tray. The Veggie Tray had grape tomatoes, cucumbers, celery sticks, carrots, broccoli and red pepper. Poker Bob and I had a bet which veggie would go first and which one would have the most left over at the end of the night.  The cucumbers were the surprising winner of the most popular and the least popular were the grape tomatoes.  I thought the grape tomatoes were just tough to dip, although they very fresh and popped when you bit into them. We bought a large container of spinach dip at the store but when Facebook Friend and poker but Grace showed up with her homemade spinach dip in a sour dough bread bowl, people switched to her dip.  Shout out to Grace.

Guacamole I had never made Guacamole before but since the theme was Mexican I thought I would give it a try.  I searched the internet and found a recipe at the Haas site that sounded good so I did that recipe. I used four ripe avocados, tablespoon of cilantro 1/2 sweet onion, 1 jalapeño pepper, 1 diced tomato, juice of 2 limes and kosher salt to season.  It turned out great.  We coupled it some tortilla chips, Donna likes the Scoops brand the best. Facebook Friend and tournament winner Erika said it was the best she ever had.  I think she was just being sweet but I’ll take it as being very good.  I liked it. It was simple to make and chunks of the avocado in the lime soaked salsa with a little heat from the peppers was very nice.

Wings from Stella's at Mexican Hold'emPoker buddy Tony brought 200 of the best tasting Chicken Wings I have had in a long time.  Normally I would have nominated these for the Best in Bucks – Wings, but alas Tony’s family restaurant Stella’s is in West Trenton, New Jersey. These were breaded wings, medium and size but moist and tasty when you bit into them.

Hot Sauce and Blue Cheese dressing from Stella'sTony also brought along hot sauce and blue cheese dressing on the side.  The hot sauce on the side allow the poker players to adjust the heat of their wings.  This was a flavourful sauce not the burn your head off fire brews some restaurants give you.  The Blue Cheese dressing was creamy with nice chunks of cheese in the mayo dressing.  Nothing goes better than blue cheese and hot chicken wings. Since it was a Mexican theme party we took Tony’s Italian wings and sprinkled cilantro over them to christen them Mexican. LOLMexican Hold'em Chili

The Mexican Buffet started at 4:00 with Mexican Chili, Mexican Mac’n Cheese and do-it-yourself tacos and Fajitas.  For the Mexican Chili, I cooked up 3 pounds of hamburger, 1 pound of chorizo sausages, onions,  red peppers, mushrooms,  jalapeños and garlic. I seasoned the mixture with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, red pepper flakes and cumin. Once the veggies were heated thru I added red kidney and black beans some red sauce and a lot of chili powder. It was my pretty standard chili kicked up with some extra heat, chorizo sausages and jalapeños. It made the theme ingredient.

Fajita and Taco FixingsSpicy Chicken for Tacos and Fajitas   For the do-it-yourself  Taco and Fajitas Bar, we sauteed some chicken and beef strips in taco spices and some extra cumin.  For the taco meat, we took regualr ground beef and cooked it with some finely chopped onions and garlic, we added salt, pepper, cumin, taco seasoning and red chili flakes. We also sauteed sweet onions and red peppers with onions and garlic.  For sides we chopped up fresh romaine lettuce, jalapeños and tomatoes. We put out a bowl of sour cream as well.

Mexican Mac'n CheeseFor the Mexican Mac’n Cheese, we boiled the elbow macaroni as directed on the package. While that was happening, Donna made a bechamel sauce with flour, butter, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  To the sauce she added pepper-jack cheese. The drained pasta and cheese sauce were combined and then we added red pepper flakes and diced chorizo sausage to match the theme.  We spread the Mac’n Cheese out in a lasagna pan and topped the mixture with moistened bread crumbs, pepper-jack cheese and some more red pepper flakes.  Donna baked the dish at 350 degree F for 45 minutes to get the nice brown coating you can see in the photo.  Mac’n Cheese is normally a comfort food classic (shameless plug inserted here for the survey on Favourite Food Types – do the poll if haven’t already) but with the addition of the spicy cheese and chorizo sausage this dish becomes very festive.

I didn’t think to take pictures of the desserts that folks brought but they were all delicious.  JoJo, from the Church Ham post, made Chocolate Mexican cake and a Coconut Custard pie. JoJo brought the recipe for the chocolate cake and we didn’t see anything in the recipe that would make it especially Mexican so we figured it must be the chocolate that made it Mexican so from then on all desserts with chocolate met the theme ingredient. JoJo’a pie was creamy with great flecks of coconut. Shout out to JoJo for the pie and cake. 

Poker buddies Pete and Stella made her famous Brownies and these are to die for. Moist and chocolaty.   Facebook Friend and poker buddy Polina came with homemade chocolate covered strawberries. Tournament winners Deb,  Bob and Janet brought a pies.

All in all it was a great Mexican Buffet and dessert contibution were well appreciated.  Donna and I had a great time preparing the food and spending time with our friends and poker buddies.  I hope they had a great time too.

Cinqo de Mayo at my Favourite Italian Restaurant

May 6, 2009

On one of the episodes of Tony Bourdain’s Cook Tour, he goes to the hometown in Mexico of one of  his staff cooks.  The show highlighted a great deal of homemade Mexican food and made the point that the backbone of many restaurants in New York City are Mexican cooks and kitchen staff.  The same might be true in here in Bucks County.  My case in point is Cafe Europa which for the other 364 days a year is pretty hard core Italian but offers Mexican specials on Cinqo De Mayo.  The specials are created by the Mexican staff and they take a great deal of pride in the preparation and presentation of their specials.

Margaritas for Cinqo de MayoBefore I tell you about the food, let me tell you about the margaritas, the traditional cocktail served on Cinqo de Mayo.  Bartender and Facebook Friend Carolyn made this one with a mid-range tequila, freshly squeezed lime juice and triple sec in a 2-1-1 ratio. The drink was shaken with some crushed ice and served in this delightfully tacky glass.  The glass actually glows and had settings for on, off, slow flash and fast flash and you got to keep the glass.  Carolyn’s margaritas were so good that by the end of the night my counter looked like an airport at night with all the glasses flashing in a row.  It was pretty funny.  For more information on where you can get a great margarita make sure you visit my co-worker Eric’s site Top Margaritas where he and his friends have ranked margaritas from around the world.  If you know where I can get a great margarita in Bucks County let me know on my Best of Bucks – Margiaritas page.  Let me know if you need a blinking margarita glass as I seem to have collected quite a few.

Mexican Chicken Special

For my meal, I chose the Mexican Chicken Special.  The dish came with moist pan fried chicken, brown rice, avocado slices, a salad of sweet onions and cucumbers over a bed of iceberg lettuce and deep fried tortillas pieces with a spicy green chili sauce. 

The salad was simply dressed with lime juice which matched well with the sweet onions and cool cucumbers and lettuce.  The lime dressing also matched with lime juice in the margarita. The chicken was pan fried with just salt and pepper.  The rice took on the brown colour from the cumin that gave the rice a slightly smoky flavour.   I especially enjoyed the green chili sauce and ended up dipping the chicken as well as the tortillas into it.  A very nice heat. The flavours were fresh and bright from the salad and avocado and filling and satisfying from the chicken and brown rice.  This combination made the dish a great success. 

I know an Italian restaurant is an unusual place to celebrate a Mexican holiday but Phil’s team made it work.  Let me know about the flashing glass thing or you comments in the reply box or comment link below.