Fresh salsa

I know. A salsa recipe! From ME! It’s shocking. I’ll give you a minute while you collect yourself.

This one comes courtesy of my BFF’s boyfriend, and it is so good. Very different from my usual roasted salsa roja, and perfect for right now when the tomatoes are in season and easy to find. Around here we can still find a farmer with a card table of tomatoes and a cigar box for cash sitting out at the end of the driveway. Best tomatoes in the world!

Anyway, the salsa is also easily customizable, so you can make it anywhere from diced tomatoes to melt-your-face-off hot (which, you’ve probably figured out by now, is my preferred level of heat).

Fresh salsa:

  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium-large white onion
  • 3 serrano peppers
  • 1 bunch cilantro*
  • salt, and black pepper to taste
  • 3 large limes

To assemble:

  1. Dice tomatoes, onion, and peppers and stir together in a bowl
  2. Chop the cilantro and add in
  3. Add salt and pepper, then squeeze in the juice from the limes
  4. Stir, and enjoy! The longer it sits, the hotter it gets — just something to keep in mind

*A note on cilantro: for the last three years or so I kind of hate it (pregnancy was weird), so the first time I made this myself I just left it out. And I MISSED it. It really makes that much of a difference, so my advice is to try just a little bit in it even if you think you hate it.

Random: this reminds me so much of the now-defunct Salsa Y’all. Does anyone else remember that?

Mambo margaritas

It’s late July in Nashville, which means it’s really too hot to do much of anything but try not to break a sweat by blinking too much. Getting up to make a margarita, however, is worth the effort. Lissa and I found these when we were taking turns reading the Sweet Potato Queens books a few years ago, and we’ve been making them since then. They’re fast, they’re easy, they’re a little fizzy, and they’re crazy refreshing on an unbearably hot summer evening.

Mambo margaritas

Ingredients

  • 12 ounce can frozen limeade concentrate (still frozen; save the can to measure remaining ingredients)
  • 12 ounce bottle of Corona
  • 12 ounces of Sprite or 7-Up
  • 12 ounces tequila
  • Salt for glasses, optional

Instructions

  1. Pour all ingredients into a pitcher and stir well
  2. Serve over ice (and don’t forget the salt!)

Because variety is the spice of life and all, what’s your favorite summer drink? Margaritas? Sweet tea? An ice bath?

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shell casserole

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked forever, and finally got to play around with it. And I’m so glad I did! Mine is, um, not photogenic. But it sure is tasty! It’s like Tex-Mex comfort food, which is exactly what sounds great to me this time of year. Well, really, any time of year, if we’re being honest here. It’s a nice departure from my standby of cultural divide casserole (have you weighed in?) which gets made a lot in winter weeknights.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shell casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz box large pasta shells
  • 1 large (29 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 can Ro-Tel
  • 4 Tbsp. (or one packet) taco seasoning
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • Salt
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Boil the pasta shells in well-salted water for about four minutes less than the time indicated on the box for al dente (mushy noodles = bad)
  3. Make the sauce by combining tomato sauce, Ro-Tel, taco seasoning, and black beans; heat to a low simmer in a saucepan
  4. Make the ground beef mixture by browning the beef, onion, and garlic together, then stirring in cumin, chili powder, and salt; turn off the heat and stir in the cream cheese
  5. Assemble the casserole by putting in a bottom layer of shells into a large baking dish, each shell stuffed with about a Tbsp. of the ground beef mixture (a small cookie scoop works great for this), follow with about half the tomato sauce mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat the layers, then cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so until cheese is bubbly

I would love to hear what your cold-weather favorites are! What else should I try?

Flour tortillas

These. Are. Amazing. I can say that without bragging because it’s not my recipe; I just made ’em.

This is a Mark Bittman recipe that I scribbled down on a piece of paper without much documentation; I’ll assume it’s either from one of his NYT articles or from How to Cook Everything. These top every single homemade tortilla I’ve ever made or eaten, and they’re quick and easy to boot. NO BRAINER.

Flour tortillas

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 oz) AP flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp. lard (yes, lard, people — don’t be afraid)
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Instructions

  1. Dust off your food processor and dump in the flour, salt and lard; pulse about ten times to cut in the fat
  2. With the machine running, add the water till the dough kind of all the sudden comes together in a ball
  3. Dump it on the counter and knead by hand for about one minute, then wrap in plastic wrap to rest for at least 15 minutes, but up to all day at room temperature
  4. Cut the dough into six pieces and heat a large (cast iron if you have it) skillet for 4-5 minutes on medium; roll out or press the tortillas till they’re quite thin, then cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side, till little browned spots appear. Eat immediately (duh), or keep warm by wrapping in a towel, or cool then keep in the fridge in a large zip top bag.

I used these to make quesadillas with some leftover steak and cheese, but they’re also heavenly for veggie wraps, or slathered in butter and cinnamon sugar and rolled up for breakfast. Enjoy!

 

Taco pasta bake

This is an interpretation of a dish I saw at Carrie in the Kitchen (originally at About a Bit of Everything). It’s SO tasty, but rather unphotogenic — as I suppose a lot of casseroles are.

Regardless, you should try this. Just, you know, don’t sign it up for a food modeling contest.

Taco pasta bake

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 8 ounces dried pasta
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 can Ro*tel

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Cook pasta in salted water for two minutes less than lowest time recommendation on box (e.g. if “cook 7 minutes for al dente” then cook yours for 5 minutes); drain
  3. Brown ground beef and drain any grease; add water and taco seasoning, stir, and let simmer uncovered 5-10 minutes; stir in cream cheese, cooked pasta and RO*TEL
  4. Spoon into greased casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese; bake for 20 minutes or so until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown around the edges

Bonus: this freezes like a dream! Make two and freeze one covered in a layer of plastic wrap then a layer of foil — just remember to remove the plastic wrap before baking!

Myrtle Dip

What, like that’s not a descriptive name?

Kiddo’s Aunt Myrtle (hands seen in picture) made this for me this weekend. We may or may not have eaten it sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace and a chick flick. Ahem.

Myrtle Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1 can RO*TEL, drained
  • 2 cans Super Sweet Yellow & White corn (see picture)

Instructions

  1. Drain the corn and RO*TEL, then stir together in a shallow dish (that’s a double batch in a lasagna pan in the picture up there), then pinch off chunks of the cream cheese and scatter over the RO*TEL/corn mixture; bake at 350F for 15 minutes
  2. Carefully remove from oven and stir together so it’s all incorporated; return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The end!

Y’all know how I love me some easy recipes. Plus, this is really great hot and really great cold. New Year’s Eve anyone?

Enjoy!

Taco sauce

I looked around at a lot of different taco sauce recipes and none of them seemed exactly right to me, so I kind of cobbled together my own according to what I had on hand. Very tasty!

Taco sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 small can tomato sauce (8 oz)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes or so until all the flavors get to know each other pretty well
  2. Store in fridge, cute jar label optional.