Tag Archive: salsa

Rise of the Nachos

chips_paintingI can’t believe it’s 2014 – already! I have no excuse for not having a recent post, other than my Master’s thesis being due very soon. Just imagine all the celebratory food cooking and related cacophony of posts I could do after THAT πŸ˜€ For now, I wanted to post this simple & sweet blurb on nachos. Ahh, cheese. Where would food be without you? One of my favorite foods is cheese. One of my other favorites? Salsa. I am also a carnivore by nature and can’t help but like eating meat from time to time too. Where do these three meet? Cue in – nachos. This undervalued dish isn’t necessarily unhealthy, just watch the cheese! Nachos are on the rise and if you’ve a bad or nonplussed experience of the dish before, it’s time to make new memories, I mean nachos. We are lucky to be in the era of limitless culinary diversity and the sheer amount of different things you can put on cheesy nachos is kind of mind-boggling.

From what I remember of my restaurant experience with nachos, it’s a little slimy, a little soggy, and kind of anticlimactic. But I do also remember from my bar-tending days that nachos was the one dish that people would NEVER finish. Why? Because there’s too much if it! Granted, there’s nothing better when you’re really hungry than a steaming pile of chips & cheese, but it’s important to transcend the baseline comfort elements in this recipe to reach something better. The 3 recipes or versions I have here I read in last year’s Cooking Light. So easy! So simple! So tasty! I should write ads for this magazine πŸ˜‰

When it comes to nachos, here’s 3 tips to remember: 1. It’s quality, not quantity. Gourmet ingredients cheese_nachosgive you some deluxe nachos and no matter what, you will be full by the time you’re done (and there will be some left). Spread a baking sheet onto the oven pan and one layer of chips, no need to make mountains – I know tortilla chips are cheap but please refrain, for the sake of your stomach 2. Don’t skimp on the cheese. Broiled chips aren’t very tasty by themselves, but add the right amount of cheese and viola, irresistible goodness. The best part? Broiling this dish takes 1-2 minutes MAX. You put it in and you’re eating moments later, it’s like magic πŸ™‚ 3. Be creative. Try making what you’d consider you’re “dream nachos.” Then m???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ake a Greek version, a Caribbean version, and/or good ol’ Tex-Mex. Mix it up and have all-veggie nachos or use some crazy ingredients like toasted sesame seeds or capers.. No need to restrain yourself, this dish is messy and sloppy and will turn out del-ish once covered in warm, melted cheese. Have fun, because you have TIME for that when making dinner only takes 15 minutes!

My star ingredient? Greek yogurt. Greek what?! You don’t need sour cream or creme fraiche, they’re merely nice condiments that should be used in moderation. But, you get some low-fat Greek yogurt and put a big dollop in the center of your nachos? It’s practically the same thing, only better (for your body, I mean). I love sour cream as much as the next American πŸ˜‰ but hey, there are alternatives to watch the calorie count and Greek yogurt is just as yummy. Below are 3 versions of simple nacho recipes you can make, enjoy and WARNING: you will need napkins πŸ˜€

Nachos – 3 Ways

(1) Pork & Bean Nachos with Tomatoes, Onions, and Fresh Herbs


1 bag of tortilla chips, unsalted

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded cheddar cheese

1 yellow onion, thinly slicednacho-combos

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 can black or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced

1 bunch fresh basil (or mint)

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

4-5 pickled or preserved jalapenos, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

baking paper

vegetable oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season the pork tenderloin generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, brown the tenderloin on all sides, turning every 4 minutes or so and cook until tenderloin is firm, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes. When cool, slice the cooked pork into chunks and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in an even (or not so even layer) across the baking sheet and top with meat and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add beans, tomatoes, and onion. Top with minced herbs, pickled jalapenos, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(2) Spicy Shrimp Nachos with Salsa, fresh Jalapenos, and Avocado


1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedfresh-salsa

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 bag (around 1/2 kg) frozen small shrimp, peeled & de-veined

1 jalapeno, seeded & sliced

3 Tbs. coconut flakes

4 Tbs. seafood seasoning or market spice

2 ripe avocados, slicednachos_02

1 bunch fresh Cilantro, minced

1 cup salsa of your choice or pico de gallo, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

vegetable oil

baking paper

(1) Defrost shrimp, drain, and rinse thoroughly. Place in a bowl with seafood seasoning and 1 Tbs. oil and stir until well-coated. Heat another Tablespoon of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook, 1 -2 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and can be easily cut in half with a fork. Put cooked shrimp in a bowl and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips and coconut flakes in a layer across the baking sheet and top with shrimp and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add spoonfuls of salsa, slices of avocado, and jalapenos. Top with minced cilantro and a big dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(3) BBQ Chicken Nachos with Green Onions, Jack Cheese, and Honey-Mustard Coleslaw


1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedbbq-chix

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded Jack cheese

2 cups of cooked barbecued chicken, shredded or cubed

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for servingColeslaw

(for slawπŸ™‚

2 Tbs. honey

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 Tbs. mustard

1 tsp. paprika

sea salt & cracked pepper

1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 head of fennel, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & grated

3 Tbs. fresh dill fronds

baking paper

(1) To make slaw, put honey, paprika, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and mustard in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal the container and shake until ingredients have combined. Season dressing to taste with salt & pepper and chill at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld. Mix thinly sliced cabbage, fennel, and carrots in a large bowl and add dressing. Stir until combined and chill slaw until ready. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in a layer across the baking sheet and topnachos_painting with barbecued chicken pieces and Jack cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oven and add green onions and spoonfuls of coleslaw. Top with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and serve immediately.

Serves 4

My question: what are the craziest (as in crazy delicious) things you can think of to put on nachos?

Come on, I’d love to hear what that could be – I want to make MORE of this cheesy deliciousness and I need some fresh ideas…



Fish Tacos Night :)

There comes a time (right around now..) when you’re so anxious for Spring you feel like making equally zestyΒ dishes to remind you it’s the season of sunshine, freshness, and bloom. Maybe I’ve just been cramped up in winter for too long that the sight of all these flowers makes me feel more energetic and adventurous πŸ™‚

Last weekend we had some company over for dinner, both of whom are talented foodies in their own right. My friend cooks authentic Mexican food and she was wonderful enough to bring roasted tomato and pepper salsa — Salsa Roja — which sounds just as awesome as it actually is, as well as fresh homemade tortillas that went wonderfully with the blackened fish.

The actual recipe I used for the fish tacos ended up being a culmination of a few different recipes I found that served my purposes. For the blackened part, I used a recipe from Cooking Light (March 2011) and substituted the spices I had at home for the ones I wasn’t going to go out and buy, namely I used ground coriander, chili powder, and lots of cumin. The idea for the tacos came from allrecipes.com where they paired slaw with fish and chipotle mayo in tacos (but who needs mayo when you have fresh salsa!) For the slaw, I found a recipe made by the brilliant ‘Southwest’ chef Bobby Flay for cumin-lime cabbage coleslaw. I modified it by adding honey because it just sounds like something slaw is missing πŸ˜€

The star ingredient in this menu was fresh limes (I know I’m loving/craving citrus these days so I may be a little bias, but still). Limes have this wonderfully sour and acidic flavor that compliments spicy and sweet dishes alike, not to mention it just looks colorful and fresh sitting on a plate. I even served our coca-cola with little lime wedges to stick with the theme :v There is something nice about the flavor combination of blackened fish, spicy salsa, sliced avocado, creme fraiche, and warmed tortillas all cut with a squeeze of lime that makes you appreciate the messy act of devouring tacos all over again!

Spicy Blackened Fish Tacos served with Creme Fraiche, Lime, Fresh Salsa, & Avocado


1/2 kg (or 1 lb) boneless fresh white fish, like Tilapia or Halibut

(for blackened seasoning)

1 1/2 Tbs. ground coriander

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 Tbs. dried oregano

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 Tbs. ground Cumin

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

(for the tacos)

3 ripe avocados

3 limes

1 package small flour (or corn) tortillas

2 cups fresh salsa

1 cup creme fraiche

(1) Mix all of the spices together for the blackened seasoning (coriander through salt) in a small bowl. Spread evenly over both sides of the fish until all the seasoning has been used. (2) Heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (or 300 Fahrenheit). Wrap the tortillas in foil and put in the oven to warm. (3) In a large frying pan or skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fish and cook 3-4 minutes per side, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Keep the fish centered in the pan so it cooks evenly and just until it begins to fall apart. Remove from the pan and cover with foil. (4) Slice the limes into wedges. Put the salsa, shredded cheese, and creme fraiche into separate bowls and set out for serving. Halve and thinly slice the avocado; squeeze a lime wedge over it to prevent browning. (5) To assemble the tacos, take a warmed tortilla and first put some of the blackened fish, then salsa, cheese, and a spoonful of creme fraiche, top with sliced avocado. Serve plates with a couple of lime wedges on the side πŸ™‚

Serves 4

Honey-Cumin Cabbage Slaw with Red Onion, Carrots, & Bell Peppers


(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

3 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. ground Cumin

(for the slaw)

1 head of red cabbage, stemmed & cut into ribbons

2 carrots, peeled & grated

2 bell peppers (red & yellow) seeded & thinly sliced

2 medium red onions, thinly sliced

(1) Make the vinaigrette first, whisking together the olive oil, honey, vinegar, and cumin in a small bowl until blended. (2) In a large bowl put all of the chopped vegetable ingredients (cabbage through red onions). Add the vinaigrette and mix well. (3) Refrigerate the slaw until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Sadly, taco night is over but that craving for fresh food has not gone away yet so, much like Spring I suppose, my meal plans will hopefully blossom into more colorfully fresh and vibrant dishes πŸ™‚

My question:

What is the best-tasting fresh fish to use for tacos?


Salsa Fresca Sabrosa!?!

So at last the sun comes out to stay for a couple of days and while I’m completely sunburned :(everyone keeps calling me a Lobster) I am just glad I got to lie on the shores of the ocean again! Now I just need to learn how to fish (can’t be that hard, right?) While it is still summertime and growing hotter by the day, I wanted to make something cold (and yes, spicy) that I could feast on every time I find my blood sugar is low. God bless Mexico for coming up with salsa!?!

This week I made a BIG batch of spicy salsa, substituting a few things since the ingredients aren’t as readily available here fresh; I know it sounds odd, but I used fresh Parsley instead of Cilantro (yeah, definitely no cilantro around here) and pickled jalapenos instead of fresh ones. The important things is that the tomatoes are ripe and fresh (and tomatoes are the best vegetable…er, fruit:) My end result was incredibly tasty and seems to gain a bit of spice as it sits in the fridge. Tonight I used my hearty supply to make chicken burritos with basmati rice and sour cream πŸ™‚ Ahhh, enjoy the summer while it lasts!!

Spicy Salsa with fresh Parsley, Red Onions, & Avocado


7-8 tomatoes, chopped

2 red onions, chopped

1/2 bunch fresh Parsley, chopped

3 fresh Jalapenos, chopped & seeded

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 avocados

juice of 3 limes

1 Tbs. white vinegar

1 Tbs. beer

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine the tomato, onion, parsley, jalapenos, and garlic in a blender and mix thoroughly. (2) Add the lime juice, vinegar, and beer, blending the mixture well until it is smooth. (3) Transfer to a sealable container; cut the avocados into small cubes and add to the salsa. (4) Mix and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or warmed tortillas πŸ™‚

Serves 6-8

I’m under the belief that any combination–very sweet or salty, super spicy or garlicky–all pretty much work for salsa, you just season to taste and voilΓ ! I was thinking of adding a melon to this recipe to give it a little sweetness to counter some of the acidity; probably should next time }:)

My question this week: what is your favorite type of salsa?

One of mine is chunky pineapple green chili salsa, mmmm…


Ode to the Quesadilla

I’m a big fan of the quesadilla (and spellcheck says it isn’t a word, cha). I like the simplicity of it all: you have tortillas, shredded cheese, meat, and any number of fresh ingredients which all come together to make up a mighty fine tasting meal. And perhaps the best part about making quesadilla is the wonderfully delicious sides it is served with. Salsa happens to be one of my favorite foods, and then of course there’s sour cream; I went all out and even added a second side dish that contained diced vine tomatoes and cubed Avocado with a dash of lemon juice…because one can never get enough of avocados or tomatoes, right?!

I do remember my recent ravings of buffalo, but I thought since I still dwell in Colorado (at least until the end of this month), I’d just find another excuse to use this tasty meat. It may be dark, but it’s also lean so I bought a pound of the ground goodness and browned it in a pan with some seasoned salt and beer, perhaps much like they would have done in the old West, if they ever grilled up quesadilla, that is πŸ˜‰

The original recipe I drew my inspiration from was actually for buffaloΒ  nachos, which would be awesome except for the corn part, which is the source of a major allergy for my boyfriend and not that awesome of a grain anyway (personal opinion, of course). So alas, nachos are out of the picture, but I always seem to have an endless supply of tortillas so it was easy and logical enough to change the recipe up just a bit. My advice? Use a big skillet, you can even melt your quesadillas on the grill, just make sure the heat is medium and no higher so the outside of the tortilla doesn’t burn before the cheese melts πŸ™‚

Buffalo Quesadillas with Black Beans, Tomatoes, and Avocado


1 lb. ground buffalo (or other ground substitute)

1 can black beans, rinsed & drained

2 vine tomatoes, diced

1 cup red onion, finely chopped

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Jack cheese

1 Avocado, diced

1 Tbs. beer (or wine)

1 Tbs. dried cilantro

1 Ts. lemon juice

2 Tbs. fat-free sour cream

1 Ts. butter

cooking spray, sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Heat the butter on a large skillet over medium-high heat. When melted, add the ground buffalo meat and stir constantly, using a spoon and/or fork to keep breaking up the pieces of meat into smaller pieces; add the beer and season with salt & pepper, cooking until the meat is browned and crumbled, about 10 minutes. (2) In a small bowl, mix together the avocado and sour cream, stirring with a fork until it gains a smooth consistency. In another bowl, mix together the cheddar and jack cheeses until evenly blended. Season the black beans with dried cilantro and lemon juice. (3) On a large plate, spread the avocado mixture thickly over half of a tortilla with a butter knife. On the other half, start with a layer of shredded cheese, then sprinkle with the ground meat, tomatoes, red onions, and black beans, topping with another light layer of cheese and folding the tortillas in half. Repeat this process until you’ve pre-made all the quesadillas your ingredients allow, using about four to five tortillas. (4) Clean the skillet before re-heating over medium heat; spray with cooking spray and add folded quesadilla, cooking for about 10 minutes total, turning once until both sides are a golden brown and the cheese is melted. (5) Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and let cool while cooking the rest on the skillet. When cool enough, cut into three pieces. Quesadilla benefits from being served with sides of spicy salsa and sour cream =)

Serves 4

I don’t believe I will ever tire of the spicy, cheesy food that comes from the South }:) Luckily, one can avoid feeling guilty about any over-indulgences here by just being more careful in ingredient choice; incorporating light or fat-free cheese and sour cream makes a difference and as tortillas are a pretty low-fat food to begin with, this meal is packed with more than enough salsa and fresh veggies, which is what we’re supposed to be eating more of anyway!

My question: what was the tastiest combination of ingredients you’ve ever had in a quesadilla?


To continue on my musings from Hawaii, I have posted a recipe I made for fish tacos (!) This recipe I based off a version from Cooking Light (an awesome magazine) and includes a version of my own fresh salsa. It seems you cannot go wrong when using multitudes of fresh ingredients πŸ™‚

And why, you ask, are fish tacos bomb? I think it’s all due to the perfect setup–spicy salsa, some crema, fresh fish, and warm tortillas. I made a salsa for this recipe using some of the fresher ingredients I found in the store including honedew melon, heirloom tomatoes, and cilantro. We baked the fish in an aromaticly spicy rub until it was just tender enough to flake into pieces.

The fish you use in tacos is important. Any fresh fish will do, and you can come up with some interesting combinations depending on your seasonal sea-faring selection. My mother and I purchased a fat cut of a Hawaiian fish called Ono from the local market; the meat was freshreshingly light and tasty! I got a picture of the fish alive, just for a visual of the slippery (and delicious) creature πŸ˜‰

Cumin-Coriander Crusted Fish Tacos with Lime, Melon Red Onion Salsa & Cilantro Garlic Crema


(for the crema)

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. fresh Cilantro, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt

2 Tbs. crumbled feta cheese

1 Tbs. lime juice

(for the salsa)

2 cups honeydew melon, cubed

1 1/2 cups red onion, chopped

1 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped

3 cups tomatoes, chopped

2 Tbs. lime juice

1 Tbs. white vinegar

1 Tbs. garlic powder

(for the rub)

1 Ts. ground Cumin

1 Ts. ground Coriander

1 Ts. paprika

1/4 Ts. cayenne pepper

Sea salt & cracked pepper, to taste

1 1/2 lbs. fresh fish filet

olive oil

small Flour tortillas

(1) Combine all the ingredients for the crema (ingredients 1-7) in a bowl and mix until well blended; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (2) Combine all of the ingredients for the salsa (8-14) in a blender and pulse until salsa is coarsely pureed; refrigerate until ready. (3) Preheat the grill on medium. Combine all the spices for the rub (15-19) in a small bowl and spread evenly over both sides of the fish fillet. When the grill is at 400 degrees, coat with cooking spray and grill the fish, turning once until cooked through (10-15 minutes). (4) Flake the fish with a fork until it is torn into small pieces and toss well with salt & pepper in a bowl. (5) Arrange all ingredients needed to make tacos; set out the crema, salsa, and grilled fish with serving spoons along with a pile of heated tortillas. Tacos can be assembled before being brought to the table. Enjoy with a few extra napkins, lime wedges, and cold beer πŸ™‚

Serves 4-6

So, although they proved a bit messy, fish tacos are definitely a meal worth grilling πŸ™‚ the combinations of fresh and spicy ingredients lend unique flavors to this lively dish and its my memory of the clean, zesty taste of these tacos that has kept me craving more of this white-fleshed fish from the sea…

My question for anyone today, what would the best fresh fish to use in fish tacos?