Epic Late Summer Vegan Cupcakes

Unbaked Cupcakes l Epic Late Summer Vegan Cupcakes

I hate housekeeping. I hate it! And you can’t make me stop hating it!

But just like sands through the hourglass and the loads of laundry that refuse to clean themselves, some things are just inevitable.

So let’s hold hands and get through this next bit of housekeeping together…

Mashing Avocado l Epic Late Summer Vegan Cupcakes

First thing’s first:  the official SB about me page has been updated. And not just with rhymes! So if you want the 411 on yours 4 eva and eva, check things out here.

Second, two new pages have been added about The New Southwest, which in case you hadn’t heard will be dropping on October 15th. Please check back for updates on the book itself here, and information on the book tour here.

Next up, the SB recipe index has been converted to a visual index. You can let your eyes do the walking so your fingers can focus on the clicking. So easy! Find it here!

Next, a word on Pinterest, which we all know is taking over the universe. If I’m honest, I struggle a little bit with pinning. It’s all very overwhelming and makes me want to cry tears of too much precious perfection. But I’m a big girl and I’ve done the big girl thing:  I’ve updated my pinboards to hopefully represent one of the most comprehensive collections of Southwestern foods in the universe that Pinterest is taking over. There’s other food and even other stuff too. Follow my pinning here.

Finally, the official SB e-newsletter has received a well-deserved facelift:  it’s smooth, it’s sleek, and it’s easier than ever to get the newest SB updates sent straight to your Inbox and then share in any way you see fit. Looking good. You can subscribe here.

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Margarita Pie

Margarita Pie

Assembling a pie can be a cathartic, thoughtful process, don’t you think?

I’ve actually thought some of my deepest, most Jack Handey-esque thoughts while assembling pies. And this boozy summertime take is no exception…

Press Your Graham Crust

I mentally reorganized my entire closet while pulverizing a sleeve of graham crackers, mixing with melted sweet cream butter, and pressing the moist crust into my pie plate.

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Green Creamed Corn Cups

Green Esquites

I realized the other day that fresh yellow corn in the market has always, always signaled the true start of summer. There was some surprise in this conclusion given that, as an adult, I have lived in Boston, Connecticut, Virginia, back to Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and finally Arizona.

And yet, summer corn has remained a constant…

So why fight it? Summer corn was clearly meant to be a part of my summer reality.

At the risk of sounding like a dental floss-hating dental floss hater, I will admit that I do not enjoy eating corn on the cob. Which is why these creamed corn cups, or esquites, play a starring role in my summer reality show.

I like to make up big batches of esquites, troughs really, and tweak the recipe just a bit depending on my mood. Fresh corn is so sweet and so flavorful that you don’t need to add much, but I’ve found that corn’s natural flavor can be artfully enhanced by a wide variety of additives, from chiles to bell peppers to fresh herbs to cheese to sweet and savory sauces alike.

Traditional esquites involve mayonnaise, cotija cheese, a bit of ground red chile, lime juice, and possibly some cilantro; while I often like to go traditional, I’ve been loving this green version lately.

Just promise me one thing:  you won’t skip the charring of the corn! It just takes one pan and about ten minutes and you must not neglect your charring. Yes, your corn will pop and spit and fight back the whole way, but if you stay strong, you’ll be rewarded with crazy-flavorful, slightly crispened, charred summer corn. Tossed with a bit of mayo, a handful of cotija cheese, and an herbaceous green sauce.

Welcome, summer. We missed you.

Green Esquites

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 c. corn kernels (Note that this is approximately 4 ears of fresh corn, shucked and stripped of their kernels.)
3 large jalapeños, charred, peeled, stemmed and seeded
1/2 c. cilantro, packed
3 large cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
3/4 c. crumbled cotija cheese (feta cheese may be substituted here and the cheese may be grated instead of crumbled, although I find that the queso cotija most often sold in American markets largely crumbles when grated)

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan pot over high heat. Once the oil is heated and shimmering, add the corn kernels. Toss several times and then spread in an even layer, cooking until charred. Toss again, spread in an even later, and char once more. This entire process of charring the corn will generally take approximately 10-15 minutes total, depending on the heat from your stovetop and the type of pan you are using; don’t be alarmed if the corn pops and spits while it cooks. Once charred, remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the jalapeño flesh, cilantro and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process to a paste. With the motor still running, add the lime juice and remaining oil in through the feed tube, continuing to process until uniform. Remove mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, crumbled cotija cheese, and finally the corn. Serve immediately or store, refrigerated, allowing to return to room temperature before serving.

Note that esquites are traditionally served in individual portions out of small cups or even jars, but you can just as easily serve it out of one large bowl or platter if you prefer.

Note also that this recipe can easily be batched up for large crowds.

YIELD:  approximately 4 servings

Shrimp Tacos + Coconut Avocado Crema

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

What You’ll Be Eating This Cinco de Mayo Week continues with some tacos, some crazy good crema, and some truth talk:  tell me true – do you ever find yourself becoming that person???

That person who insists on humming along with the radio throughout an entire 8 hour road trip?
That person who puts empty milk and juice cartons back into the fridge?
That person with that habit you swore you’d never, ever, ever, never -not EVER- be like?

Don’t forget, this is truth talk time…

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Loaded Guacamole Tostada Towers

Towers

This is a special time of year, don’t you think?

Let’s look at the facts:

1.  It’s cold outside. Which means you want to stay inside. And probably eat a little more than usual.

2.  There are a lot of entertaining things to watch on the TV these days, while you’re stuck inside. Sporting things. Like that big game coming up that’s so super.

3.  When you’re inside, watching super games, eating a little more than usual, it’s much more fun to be sitting on the couch with friends. Eating. Watching. Enjoying. Rather than cooking. Working. And hearing all of the fun being had in the next room.

Avocados

What does all of this mean? Just one thing:  it’s time for some simple, super, social snacks that can be enjoyed by friends on couches in front of TVs across the land.

Towering avocado tostadas to the rescue!

Mashing

I love serving these tostada towers because they are impossibly simple to prepare, incredibly fun to share with friends, and absolutely, absolutely delicious. Plop a platter in front of your couch-sitting friends and watch them disappear – each friend simply pulls off a layer and puts it in their face!

Preparing these babies is the simple work of smashing Avocados From Mexico, then stirring in a few additional ingredients designed to make the fresh, ripe flesh shine:  plump cherry tomatoes to bring out the avocados’ natural sweetness, herbaceous cilantro and chives to emphasize their earthy flavor, and of course, bright lime juice and jalapeño to kick things up a notch. Crisp tostada shells provide a vehicle for all of that deliciousness, and stacking them up means you can make a game out of your snacks. Tostada Jenga, anyone?

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My Family’s Favorite Green Beans

I’ve been doing a fair amount of nervous-anxious-comfort eating lately. Here’s what that looks like:

Gee, that doughnut sure looks good. And so does that cupcake. Hey! You got your doughnut on my cupcake! And you got your cupcake on my doughnut! Nothing left to do but eat the whole dang mess…

It’s fifty shades of ugly. For sure.

Things came to a head the other night when I sat down next to A. on the couch with my Dignity Droppin’ Dessert du jour and he looked over and actually started laughing. Out loud.

I, of course, responded in the only way possible – with preemptive aggression: “What?!?!”

He, of course, responded in the only way possible – with a life-saving change of subject: “Uh, I just read something funny online. Have you heard this joke about the fiscal cliff?”

Well played, my friend. Well played.

So, you know, it occurred to me that it may be time to start getting some more veggies into my diet. And then I discovered this recipe.

Let’s just say that when you can get a chicken nugget-shoving, cupcake-pounding, queso fundido-funneling girl to look forward to eating fresh green beans, you’re doing something right.

The idea is to char the whole beans in a screaming hot skillet, then toss them with a light and lovely Harissa sauce. It is such a wonderful alternative to the heavy, cream of mushroom soup-laden green beans that we’re all expected to eat this time of year. You might want to considering switching things up at the Thanksgiving table, green bean-wise.

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Tipsy Weekend Salsa

Sometimes the simplest recipe can end a weekend on the right note…

or start a week off in the perfect way.

Take this salsa borracha, for example:  it’s simple, it’s succulent, and it hits all the right garden-fresh notes, with subtle hints of smoky charred chiles and earthy gold tequila. I make it in big batches on Sundays and then serve it with eggs for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch, and a roast and rice for dinner throughout the week. Seriously? Seriously. Simple, simple, simple.

And don’t worry! It’s perfectly fine to make Weekend Salsa on a Monday or Tuesday – the flavor should stay the same. I can’t vouch for any Thursday salsas, though…  you’ll have to take on a Thursday Salsa at your own risk.

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Sriracha & Mexican Lime Donuts

Sometimes things will come onto your radar and stay for just a little while:  legwarmers, high-waisted jeans, Garbage Pail Kids trading cards, New Coke…

And then sometimes things will come into your life and stay for a long, long time. You’ll make space for them in your dresser, tuck them away in your wallet, and create special shelves for them inside your fridge.

I’m no longer trading Phony Lisa for Scotty Potty and I’ve (thankfully) hung up my high-waisted jeans. But from the moment I first tasted Sriracha it was love at first bite, and the Red Rooster has taken up permanent residency in my kitchen.

I’m convinced it’s the successful marriage of savory & sweet, flavor & heat, and consistency & color that makes Sriracha so dang addictive. I put it on anything and everything and I’m not ashamed to say so. I put some Sriracha on my New Coke yesterday in an attempt to make it taste more like Old Coke. It didn’t work, but the New Coke did taste a lot better.

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Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Tacos

Not much to say today, just the short story of the little huevos that could…

Imagine sitting patiently, waiting in your carton with 11 of compatriots, knowing you’re destined for greatness but watching yourself be passed over morning after morning.

There goes the Greek yogurt…
And now it’s those mangoes’ time to shine…
Of course. Today it’s chorizo and some queso fresco. Really??

Imagine the hurt, the shame…  you eventually have to ask yourself if the yolk’s on you. (Awful. I tried so hard, but couldn’t resist. Forgive me? I’ll serve you some amazing breakfast.)

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Nacho Pasta For Grown Ups

Dear Nachos,

This is, for the most part, a love letter. Because I love you! And I have for so long.

But Dr. Phil says that love is a journey, so I think it may be time for us to consult our Garmin and make sure that we’re on the right track.

I know you’ll agree that it really was love at first sight for us. Your melted cheese first caught my eye from across the room that fateful night, but when I finally worked up the nerve to come over and introduce myself, your fresh salsa and salty, crunchy corn chips had me at ‘Hello’.

To this day, your creamy sour cream and tart lime juice-laced guacamole still make me weak in the knees.

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