Mexican food, you beautiful thing you. Mexican food is like the food that keeps on giving. Quesadillas, burritos, burrito bowls, salads. There's no end to the combinations. Late last week I realized I'd made some variety of Mexican every single night that week. Luckily, my family's affinity for this fabulous food group is pretty strong too. No one even knew it'd been a week of Mexican! And who cares if they had. A week of Mexican is a week well-spent.
I'll try to go through the gist of what we had last week and maybe it'll inspire you in the kitchen. I know I am always looking for inspiration in the kitchen. Either the recipes are coming at me rapid-fire or my mind is a blank slate. So, if melted cheese and avocados and browned seasoned beef with a dollop of sour cream is your thing, read on.
(I'm pretty sure this isn't entirely authentic Mexican. I've been to various parts of the country, and what they serve definitely looks different. Perhaps this post would be more aptly titled: Tex Mex, Tex Mex, all the time Tex Mex.)
I had a few avocados that, when squeezed, had just the perfect give to them. And so, guacamole was born. Sometimes I get a little bit fancier with my guacamole, but if time isn't on your side, a few cranks of a sea salt shaker will do you just fine. When time is on your side, however, sea salt, some chopped cilantro, fresh minced garlic (really good addition), and a few spoonfuls of a pico de gallo. Our favorite salsa is the one in the Trader Joe's refrigerated section, plastic container. I'm not sure exactly what it's called but it's very much a chunky "pico de gallo" as opposed to the blended type of salsa. And, don't knock it till you try it, some feta cheese is amazing in guacamole too.
Add some cilantro lime rice, shredded cheddar, chopped romaine, iceberg, or spinach, another scoop of salsa, browned beef or shredded chicken, and refried beans and you've got yourself a burrito bowl. This is one of my favorite dinners because, it's a build-your-own which is always fun (especially for the kids), and because it's flour-less. Not that I'm anti-flour, but I could eat it (and do eat it) all the time so to find a meal without any is a bonus. Another great thing about this recipe: I almost always have some combination of the ingredients on hand. Worth mentioning is the refried beans I buy. They're the ones from Trader Joes that say vegetarian with an added salsa--in a can. I'd like to eventually make my own, but haven't gotten there yet. They're so good, less thick than the other varieties (you know the kind that have to be seriously coaxed out of the can) and so smooth and delicious (plus organic!). I heat them up on the stove and add a good amount to my bowl. I know refried beans aren't everyone's cup of tea but I love the stuff. I'd dip chips in it or eat it straight off a spoon. Other options: corn, sliced red bell peppers, or black beans instead of refried beans. If jalapeños are your thing (they're not ours), add some too!
Another favorite, are you still with me?, is quesadillas. When I've had the foresight to defrost and cook chicken (in a crock pot is my favorite way!), the options are endless. Sometimes I pull out four chicken breasts, cook them in the crock pot with a splash of water, and keep them in the fridge. I high-five myself when I approach the dinner hour and realize I have meat already cooked! You can do nearly anything with it but, Mexican is the obvious choice. Is there a theme here? I pull it apart, for some reason shredded/pulled chicken is infinitely better than cubed. Then, with your open fajita shell, add cheese, black beans, red pepper (onion would be good here too), and a few pieces of your chicken (or beef?). Fold it in half and close it in a panini press, or a pan with a flat lid that can press it down to stick the sides together. Once it's cooked, the sides are browned and crispy, and the cheese is melted, put it on a flat surface and cut it into triangle pieces with a pizza cutter. Add a big scoop of sour cream and salsa to it and it's DELICIOUS. Everyone, including Parker, loves these--the dipping and the eating. Steve actually declared last week, "BRIDGE. This is better than any restaurant." Yeah, I sort of know my way around a quesadilla. Not a humble-brag, just a brag.
And finally, all of the stuff mentioned above, but on a salad. A taco salad isn't a huge departure from a burrito bowl. In fact, I'd argue that dumping a burrito bowl onto a plate, you've got yourself a taco salad. Maybe add another handful of greens to really help it own its name. Add some crushed corn chips for a little added crunch. (We don't use salad dressing on taco salads because with all of that added stuff, it's not really necessary.) Several bowls on the table, all full of ingredients... kids are psyched. When kids are psyched, Mom's psyched too.
And an added note: when we eat at home, we always buy our meat organic. It's expensive (sometimes I'm slightly debilitated by the cost of organic chicken at Trader Joes.), so I up the fill-factor in other ways. Beans and veggies. We love meat (I really love meat, especially red meat), but for all of us I generally only cook a pound of ground beef or two to three chicken breasts. We rarely (like four to five times per year?) have a meal where meat is the main dish. I'd like to more, but it's not in the budget. So, this is the perfect way to still be full and feel like you got some meat in you.
And that is our week of Mexican.
Any recipe ideas for me? Give 'em.