Archive for the ‘mexican’ Category

Easy Peasy Salsa

As I mentioned last week, I don’t usually make things from scratch that I can easily buy at the store.  I just don’t have the time.  But this salsa is an exception.  First, it’s a copycat of the salsa from Chili’s and is really delicious.  Second, I actually find it more convenient to keep the basic ingredients on hand and make the salsa whenever I need it…that way I don’t have to remember to put it on my grocery list.  And finally, I find store-bought salsa to be kind of overpriced…this is much less expensive (BK is rolling his eyes right now that I find $3.99 for a jar of salsa to be overpriced…but I do).

Making the salsa is super fast….it takes only about 5 minutes and you can easily tailor it to your preferred level of spiciness, saltiness, and seasoning.  It can be doubled, tripled, etc., and lasts forever.  Try it and let me know what you think!

Note: We use “mild” Rotel, which makes a slightly spicy salsa.  “Original” Rotel is spicier…maybe a medium.  If you want legit hot salsa, go ahead and add in some fresh or canned jalapenos when you add the onion to the food processor. 


¼ cup white onion, diced
1 10-ounce can Rotel
1 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
¼ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon cumin


Place the onion in a food processor or magic bullet.  Process for just a few seconds.  Add the Rotel, all of the whole peeled tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of juice from the whole peeled tomatoes, sugar, garlic salt, and cumin.  Process all ingredients until well blended but do not puree (usually I pulse it 3-5 times, but you could do more or less depending on how chunky you want it) .  Place in covered container and chill.

Adapted from

Homemade Refried Beans

Continuing on this week’s Mexican food theme, I am going to urge and implore you to make these homemade refried beans.   Such a dish had previously resided on my “How Nice That You Have the Time to Make This From Scratch, But I Will Be Sticking to Store-Bought” list.  This list includes things like pie crust (no, Lil Sis, it is not “so easy”), pizza crust, tortilla chips, and bread (I clearly have a fear of homemade bread products, thank you very much).  But the list doesn’t include refried beans…not anymore.

These beans don’t really take much extra time.  In isolation, maybe, but I always make them as a side dish, meaning they can be prepared simultaneously with other items.  Also, they are really, really good.   Why?  Well, because of the bacon drippings.  It gives the beans this creamy taste that I recognize from my favorite soup that also has bacon drippings in it (nicknamed “Crack Soup” by BK because I cannot stay away from the leftovers) .  Just go with it…while bacon drippings are not healthy, neither are all the preservatives in canned refried beans.  The tradeoff is easily justified.

If you don’t have any bacon drippings sitting around, go ahead and cut up a couple slices of bacon and cook them for the first step below.  Then saute the onion with the drippings and bacon and proceed along!

Make it a meal with some chicken fajitas and margaritas!


2 teaspoons bacon drippings
½ medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
⅔ cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon cumin
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 green onion, thinly sliced


Heat bacon drippings in a medium skillet set over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for an additional minute until fragrant.  Add the broth, cumin and beans and bring to a light boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Use a fork or potato masher to mash beans to desired consistency, adding more chicken broth as needed and salt and pepper to taste.  Once plated, top with cheese and green onion and serve.

Makes 1½ cups.

Adapted from Elly Says Opa via Cook Like a Champion.

Watermelon Jalapeno Margaritas

Me: Why don’t we have margaritas with our fajitas this weekend?
Me: Are you sure?
BK: Yes.
Me: Really?
BK: Yes.

BK: Unless you make some “weird” margarita.  Then I’ll just have beer.
Me: Beer it is.

And that is how I came to drink quite a few watermelon jalapeno margaritas this weekend.  (Don’t judge…there is only so much you can (should) scale down a recipe!)

The watermelon is super refreshing and the jalapeno leaves a little bit of a kick in your mouth.  Yummmmmmmm!!  We made it a meal with fajitas and refried beans and I can think of few better ways.  Although fresh is better, in this and all other recipes with lemon and/or lime juice, if you don’t have the time or inclination to squeeze your own, bottled is more than fine.  I recommend serving the margaritas ice, ice cold — my reuseable ice cubes worked wonderfully because this drink gets watered down very quickly.  Of course you can use regular ice cubes, but don’t let the drink sit for too long (if this is a problem, we need to talk).


4 cups cubed watermelon
1-2 tablespoons sugar, depending on sweetness of watermelon
6 tablespoons lime juice (from 2-3 limes or a bottle)
8 ounces tequila
7 ounces Triple Sec, divided
8 thin slices jalapeno
3 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
lime wedges for garnish, if desired


In a blender, puree the watermelon and sugar until smooth.  Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer.  Transfer the liquid to a pitcher and add the lime juice, tequila, 6 ounces of the Triple Sec and the jalapeno slices.  Stir to combine and let sit for at least 2 hours.  (This amount and time with the jalapeno will give the drink a little bit of a kick.  For more punch, add additional jalapeno slices and/or let it infuse for longer before serving.)

When ready to serve, combine the salt with the chili powder in a shallow dish.  In a second small plate, add the remaining 1 ounce of Triple Sec.  Dip the rims of 4 glasses in the Triple Sec, then coat them in the salt and chili mixture.  Divide the margarita between the 4 glasses and garnish each with a lime wedge.

Adapted from The Food Network.

Best Ever Grilled Chicken Fajitas

I do not bestow this title lightly.  This recipe really is The. Best. Ever.  Thank you, Annie!  Thank you, thank you.  It was not just the margaritas talking when your husband said “this chicken is a miracle.”   (Or maybe it was, but they were speaking the truth.)

I’m a huge fan of fajitas, but rarely order them when out…I just cannot overcome my passionate love of enchiladas (another story).   I had given up on making them at home because I felt beaten down by constant disappointment.  But after reading Annie’s review, I went for it one more time and was so, so happy to have found (yes, I am going to say it again) The Best Ever fajitas.  They have so much flavor.  They are so good.  Please, I am begging you…make them now.

To make a pretty quick and sure-to-please meal, pair the fajitas with some refried beans, grilled veggies, and margaritas.


⅓ cup lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes or a bottle)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 jalapeno, seeded, ribbed and diced
1½ tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied (6 halves total), about 1½ lbs.
1 large red onion sliced into ½-inch thick slices, rings not separated
2 large bell peppers  stemmed, quartered and seeded
8-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas
salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, etc., for toppings, if desired


In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Place the chicken breast halves in a separate bowl and pour in just enough marinade to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes, reserving remaining marinade.  Brush both sides of the onion rounds and peppers with the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Heat your grill.  Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade and place them and the onion rounds and peppers on the the grill.  Cook the chicken until it is well browned and until it is no longer pink inside.  Cook onions and peppers until spottily charred and crisp-tender, turning once or twice as needed.  When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer them to a large plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Turn the heat on the grill down and in 2 or 3 batches, transfer the tortillas in a single layer to the now empty grill.  Cook until warm and lightly browned, about 20 seconds per side.  When the tortillas are done, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or foil.

Meanwhile, separate the onions into rings and place them the bowl with reserved marinade.  Slice the bell peppers and chicken lengthwise into narrow strips and add them to the bowl with the onions.  Toss well to combine.  Arrange the chicken and vegetables on a large platter with the warmed tortillas.   Serve with accompaniments, if desired.  (I found that sour cream worked really, really well with these fajitas and enhanced their flavor.)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles and Annie’s Eats.

Mexican Club Sandwich

Years ago, our local paper published the recipe for one of my favorite mexican restaurant’s club sandwich.   It quickly became a staple at our mealtimes, but has been on an extended moratorium lately.   A while back, I was heading out on a longer-than-usual work trip and made a batch of these for BK to eat while I was gone.  I know some might think that this was very old-fashioned of me, but really its just practical: I worry that if I don’t make food, I will come home to find BK has starved to death while standing in front of our pantry full of food and insisting that there is nothing to eat.

In any case, after eating four of these sandwiches in a few days, BK informed me he would not be able to stomach another for quite some time.  But the other week I informed him that I thought we should lift the moratorium.  He agreed we were ready.  And I’m so glad.  These sandwiches have everything: the four different kinds of protein make it hearty and satisfying; the onion slices provide a nice crunch; the jalapeno and chipotle give it a kick; the avocado adds a wonderful cool creaminess; and toasting it pulls everything together.

They keep pretty well, so feel free to bring the extras for lunch the next day.  For best leftover results, I’d recommend assembling ahead of time, but grilling and inserting the avocado right before you eat.  If that isn’t possible, make the full sandwich ahead of time and nuke it (with the avocado temporarily removed) for a bit before you eat.


4 slices bacon, cut in half to form 8 short pieces
2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 thin slices ham, cut in half to form 8 pieces
1 ½ tablespoons chipotle adobo sauce (from a can of adobo chili peppers)
1 ½ tablespoons low-fat sour cream
1 ½ tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
4 hoagie rolls or 4 ciabatta rolls about 6 by 4 ½ inches
1 can nonfat refried beans
4 ounces shredded or thinly sliced Chihuahua cheese (may substitute sliced muenster or provolone cheese)
½ cup thinly sliced white onion
2 pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and cut into thin slices


Heat a nonstick grill pan or George Foreman over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp; transfer to drain on paper towels.

While the bacon is cooking, cut each piece of chicken horizontally to form 2 equal portions, for a total of 4; place between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness of 1/2 inch. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

Wipe the excess fat from the grill pan or George Foreman, add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on 1 side until lightly browned, then turn and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the ham to the grill pan or George Foreman for a few minutes to crisp it up a bit.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

While the chicken and ham are cooking, combine the chipotle adobo sauce, sour cream and mayonnaise in a small bowl.

Cut the rolls in half lengthwise. Line them up on a large cutting board or work surface covered with wax paper. Spread the chipotle mixture on the cut sides of the bottom halves of the ciabatta; spread the refried beans on the cut sides of the top halves. Cut the chicken into pieces as necessary to cover the chipotle spread. Layer the ham, crisped bacon and cheese, pressing down as you go. Scatter the onion and jalapeno pepper slices on the cheese, and complete the sandwiches with the top halves of the ciabatta.

If necessary, spray the same grill pan with nonstick cooking oil spray and heat over medium to medium-low heat; as an alternative, heat a George Foreman grill or panini press.  Add as many sandwiches as will fit, bottom side down, weighing them down (if using a grill pan) with a heavy cast-iron skillet or a plate with heavy cans on top.  If using a grill pan, cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned and crisp and turn the sandwiches over and cook about 2 minutes on the second side.  If using a George Foreman or panini press, grill for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp .  Transfer the sandwiches to the cutting board or work surface and open them between the chicken and ham layers. Add several slices of avocado and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Re-close the sandwiches.  Invert to right side up and cut in half, pressing down firmly.  Serve warm.

Adapted from “Rosa’s New Mexican Table,” by Roberto Santibanez, via The Washington Post, June 2007.

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