Fish Tacos

Tacos are the ultimate weeknight meal.  They come together quickly, and require very little actual cooking.  The protein, vegetables and starch are all accounted for, so there is no need for extra side dishes.  And everyone likes them.  I have never met someone who doesn’t like tacos.*

These fish tacos take the standard beef-lettuce-salsa-cheese formula and lighten it up, while also adding flavor and spice.  It may seem a bit fancy, but still come together in about 30 minutes.  Fish filets are ideal for weeknights, since they cook up quickly, and pre-shredded coleslaw is a great time saver.   Perfect for your next Taco Tuesday.  Or Wednesday. Or any day, really.

*I now expect at least a dozen taco hating comments.

Fish Tacos                          

  • 1 TB chile powder
  • 1 TB cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt, plus a bit more for coleslaw
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (give or take based on your spiciness preference
  • 2 TB olive oil, divided           
  • 2 filets white fish, about 12 oz total weight – I have used both halibut and mahi mahi with success
  • ½  a head of cabbage, thinly sliced, or ½ a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 chipotle pepper, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Corn tortillas, warmed
  • Queso fresco and hot sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix first 6 ingredients (through cayenne) with 1 TB of olive oil to form a paste.  Rub the spice paste all over the fish, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for a few minutes.

While fish marinates, make the coleslaw.  Place the cabbage, green onions and cilantro in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, chipotle, lime juice, sugar and a pinch of salt.  Taste for spiciness and seasoning, add more chipotle or salt if needed.  Combine sour cream mixture with vegetables.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Heat the remaining olive oil in an oven proof sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add fish filets; allow to cook about 3 minutes.  Flip and put in oven to finish cooking. Cook time will depend on the thickness of the filets; usually about 5-8 minutes. While fish cooks, heat tortillas in a dry pan or in the microwave. 

Remove fish when done, and using a fork, flake the fish into bite size pieces in the sauté pan to coat in seasoning. 

Assemble the tacos by placing fish, coleslaw, queso fresco and hot sauce on a corn tortilla.

 

 

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A Homesick Texan Meal

This may not make sense to most people, but sometimes I am from Texas.  Sometimes I am from Pennsylvania, sometimes I am from Colorado, sometimes I am from Virginia.  As an Army brat who is the child of Army brats, answering the question “where are you from?” is more complicated than one might think.  So, sometimes it changes.  My mom’s family is from Pennsylvania, but now all live in Colorado.  My parents, sister and I have all lived in Virginia for several years.

My dad’s mom, my Mimi, was a born and raised, tried and true, deep in the heart Texan.  She moved around most of her adult life as an Army wife, but never lost her Texas charm or Texas roots, and made it back there permanently after my grandfather retired.  We still have family who live in Texas, including my sister and brother in law.  I spent my sophomore and junior year of high school there. My dad has a faint, but distinct, Texas accent, though only on certain words. I love Friday Night Lights. Even my dog is from Texas.

All this is to say, I have a little Texas in me, and a big soft spot for the Lone Star State.  While not a seventh generation Texan like Lisa Fain of The Homesick Texan, I absolutely loved cooking from her book, and honestly?  It made me just a little bit homesick. 

Carnitas*

  • 3 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt

The original recipe said to not trim the pork at all, but I cut off some of the larger pieces of fat.  Cut the pork into 2 inch pieces.  Put the pork in a large Dutch oven, and add juices, garlic cloves, cumin and salt.  Stir, and then add water to just barely cover the pork.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.  Allow the pork to simmer for two hours, uncovered.  Do not touch or stir.

After two hours, mot of the liquid should be evaporated, and the rendered pork fat will be in the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Turn heat up to medium high, and sauté the pork until browned on all sides.  This could take from 10-30 minutes, depending on how quickly the liquid evaporated.  Keep an eye on the pork!  When it is browned, it is done.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Serve warm, with Houston style salsa (recipe below), cilantro, onions and tortillas (recipe also below).

Houston Style Green Salsa*

  • ¾ lb tomatillos, husked
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 or 2 Serrano chiles, ribs and seeds removed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • salt

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add the husked tomatillos, whole, and boil for 5 minutes.  Strain, allow to cool for a few minutes, and then add to blender with all other ingredients.  Puree, taste, add salt if needed.  If the mixture is overly thick, you can add water until desired consistency is reached.

San Antonio Style Flour Tortillas*

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan just until the butter melts.  Remove from heat and stir in oil.

Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until it forms a loose, sticky ball.  Knead on a floured surface for 2 minutes, until a firm, smooth ball is formed.  Cover the dough and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

After one hour, divide the dough into 8 smaller balls.  Cover and allow to rest for 30 more minutes.

On a floured surface, pat each ball into a 4 inch ball, and then roll out into a thin disk, about 8 inches in diameter.  Keep tortillas covered until ready to cook.

Heat a dry skillet over high heat.  One at a time, place the tortilla on the skillet.  It will immediately begin to bubble up.  Allow to cook for 30 seconds, then flip.  Cook 30 seconds on the other side, and then flip for another 30 seconds.

I had to keep a very close eye on the tortillas, and flip often.   More than 30 seconds on either side and they started to burn.  This will depend on the heat of your stove.  The bottom line is:  LOOK OUT.  They can burn quickly.  Frequent flipping is totally fine.

Keep tortillas warm by wrapping in a clean kitchen towel.

*All recipes are from The Homesick Texan cookbook.

Chicken Taco Salad

Remember last week when I said no one needs a salad recipe? I still stand by that, and this is again NOT a salad recipe…it is a salad COMPONENT recipe.  There is a HUGE difference (sort of).  We try to eat fairly healthily, and dinner salads are a great way to pack in some extra veggies and lean protein.  But like other things, you can get stuck in a salad rut, which is where these component recipes come in handy.

This recipe is for a marinade.  In this particular instance, I marinated boneless, skinless chicken tenders, though I think it would be great on beef as well, or on seafood (for a shorter period of time).  The Latin vibe of this marinade set the tone for the salad…a Chicken Taco Salad. 

We marinated and grilled the chicken, and served it with chopped leaf lettuce, black beans, fresh salsa, shredded cheese and some crushed tortilla chips.  For a dressing, I whisked together lime juice, a chopped chipotle pepper, some sour cream and salt and pepper.  We didn’t have any, but avocado would be great here. 

It was a great light dinner, and completely different from the flank steak salad last week. Really, there is no reason to get stuck in a boring salad rut.  Use different marinades and homemade dressings to had some variety to your healthy eating!

Honey Chipotle Marinade

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1-2 canned chipotle in adobo peppers, chopped, depending on your desired spice level
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ¼ canola oil
  • Salt and pepper

Whisk together all marinade ingredients.  In a ziptop bag, combine protein and marinade. If marinating chicken or beef, leave in the fridge over night.  If marinating seafood, about an hour in the fridge should do it.  You don’t want the acid from the lime juice to start cooking the fish!

Spicy Turkey Burgers

burgerI always buy ground turkey when I go to the store.  It’s inexpensive, low fat and versatile, which comes in mighty handy when I get home from work and have no idea what to make for dinner.  My fall backs are meatballs (with spinach and parm, yum), chili (though it has to be cool), and turkey burgers. 

Many, many variations of turkey burgers have come out of my kitchen.  Curry turkey burgers, Thai turkey burgers, spinach turkey burgers.  But as with most things, the Southwestern flavored one seem to be my favorite.  I’m predictable.   Bonus recipe for oven fries!

Southwestern Turkey Burgers

  • 1 package 99% lean ground turkey (usually a lb or a little over)
  • 1/2 a small onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (leave in some seeds if you like more spice)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a small amount of oil in a pan, and saute the onion, jalapeno and garlic until just softened, 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled, combine this mixture with the turkey, cilantro, egg and spices.  You will probably want to use your hands to get a good consistency!  Form into 4 equal patties, and cook on a grill pan coated with nonstick cooking spray.   Remember, unlike ground beef, ground turkey must be cooked completely…depending on the heat of your grill, that should take about 6 minutes per side.   I served these on wheat buns, with a little chipotle sour cream, arugula and melted cheddar.  They would also be great with salsa, bbq sauce, tomato, etc. 

Basic Oven Fries

  • 2 baking potatoes
  • 2 tb olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Optional:  a sprinkle of chili powder and garlic powder for a Southwestern kick

Preheat oven to 425.  Cut potatoes in thick slices lengthwise.  Cut each slice into 5-6 fries, depending on size of potato.  Coat with olive oil and spices. Arrange potatoes on a wire rack over a baking sheet (this allows the fries to get crispy on all sides…if you dont have a wire rack, put them right on the baking sheet and flip half way through the cooking process).  Cook for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with the turkey burgers.

burgerandfries

Healthy Tacos – A Bit of Trial and Error

At least I got some pretty pictures!

At least I got some pretty pictures!

Tacos.  Who doesn’t love them, honestly?  Not only are they easy to eat and portable, they also pack everything you could need for a balanced meal into a tidy (sometimes!) little package. 

I decided to do a healthy chicken taco in corn tortillas, with black beans and Southwestern slaw.  I adapted the slaw recipe from here, subbing in lime juice for lemon, and adding a little hot sauce.  It was great, light and fresh.  The black beans are my own standard concoction: a little minced onion, a can of chopped green chiles, garlic, cumin and a can of black beans cooked up with some water (maybe ½ a cup) and mashed slightly with a fork.   I baked the chicken simply with chili powder and salt and pepper. 

Each component was quite tasty, as was the store bought mango salsa.  But when we went to dig in, something was missing.  The corn tortillas were drier than usual, and the whole mixture was in need of some sauciness, for lack of a real word.   I ended up turning the ingredients into a salad and scrapping the tortillas, which helped.  In the future, I would probably add some sort of sour cream sauce or cook the chicken in some tomatoes and spices.  

Little mess ups sometimes frustrate me, but will lead to a better dish next time!  And I rarely mind the taste tests.  🙂

 

Chicken Green Chile Eggrolls

During one of my many Food Network binges, I caught an episode of Quick Fix Meals, which..meh.  It’s not my favorite show, but this episode featured this recipe that I thought looked right up my alley.  I have since made these little “straws” (mine are more the shape of eggrolls!) for a couple of parties since then and they are always a HUGE hit.  The honey jalapeno dipping sauce is good, but so is sour cream with a little lime juice and one chopped up chipotle.  These are perfect Super Bowl food…I would recommend a double batch!

Mexican Chinese fusion?  Yes, please!

Mexican Chinese fusion? Yes, please!

Enchilada Lasagna

It may be a bit messy, but it was still delish.

It may be a bit messy, but it was still delish.

Pretty much everyone I know, myself included, seems to have been born in January.  While I love celebrating my friends, my dad and me, it gets expensive and exhausting.  This long weekend was a celebration marathon, with nights out for both John and Jessica, the co worker brunch I cooked for which turned into a full day celebration, and of course, that little ceremony happening 6 miles from my house!

When it came time to make dinner last night, I wanted to do something warm, budget friendly and easy.  Using a bunch of leftover ingredients, and some inexpensive staples I created an enchilada lasagna that definitely fit the bill!  Much quicker then rolling and stuffing individual enchiladas, and enhanced with lots of veggies, it was perfect for a cold night after a long weekend. 

The enchilada filling is ready to go into the "lasagna"

The enchilada filling is ready to go into the "lasagna"

Enchilada Lasagna

 

*Dust 3-4 chicken breasts with salt, pepper and chili powder.  Cook, cool and shred.

 

*While the chicken cooks, cut the following into a small dice:

 

Zucchini

Red bell pepper

Shitake mushrooms

Jalapeno pepper (seeded)

½ white onion

 

*Sauté the vegetables with:

 

1 TB olive oil

1 TB garlic, minced

1 chipotle in adobo, minced

Chili powder

¾ can refried beans

 

*Add the shredded chicken and heat until the mixture is well combined.

 

*Line the bottom of a small casserole dish with corn tortillas. Cover in enchilada sauce (I cheated and used a can!).  Spoon on about half the chicken mixture, cover with some shredded cheese.  Layer on more tortillas, sauce and chicken, then top with cheese and bake at 350 for 12 minutes.  Turn on the broiler and cook for 3 additional minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.  Allow the casserole to set for a few minutes, and then enjoy!