Reader Recommended: Taco Pizza

I love when totally unexpected people tell me they read my blog! I was working a few weeks ago in Chicago and one of the local staff had a recommendation for me to try. She suggested a taco pizza! She and her husband like it and seem to have perfected it! Thanks Mrs. M!

I’m not into mixing food from one region to another (hello, taco stuffed shells? No thanks) but pizza is a whole different game to me. Does that make sense? Prob not. Do I make the rules? Sure do! I was super psyched to make this pizza and knew I’d like it.

Ingredients:

Pizza dough
1 can refried beans
¾ pound ground chicken/pork/turkey/beef
3 tbs taco seasoning (or half a packet)
1 ½ cups Monterey jack cheese, shredded
¼ cup salsa
2 cups lettuce, chopped
5 tortilla chips crumbled (optional)

Directions:

Precook pizza dough for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Cook ground meat until cooked through and add taco seasoning and a splash of water when the meat is mostly cooked.
Remove pizza crust from oven and spread the beans on it (instead of tomato sauce)
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Top with cheese, then ground meat and cook for 10 more minutes (or until crust is crisped).
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Remove from the oven and top with salsa, lettuce, and tortilla chip crumbles.
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Creamy Spinach Enchiladas & Avocado Eggrolls

After thinking about other ways to use ricotta I thought, why not Mexican? I’m sure nobody who knows anything about enchiladas would ever use ricotta but I’m not pretending I know anything other than what tastes good.

The thought of biting in a huge hunk of cream cheese makes me shutter. I like ricotta because it’s light and creamy. It was beautifully green (thanks to some spinach) and light but full of flavor.
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Ingredients:

12 oz whole milk ricotta
2 cups spinach leaves
2 slices of thick cut ham
1 tbs taco seasoning
6 whole wheat tortillas
1 ½ cup enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar

Directions:

Blend ricotta and spinach in a food processor, or by hand (chopping spinach first).
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Pan fry the ham and taco seasoning just until golden and warmed through.
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Stuff each tortilla with the ricotta mixture and top with ham.
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Roll them up and put them into a baking dish.
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Top with enchilada sauce and bake 20 minutes at 375.
Finish with shredded cheese and bake 3 minutes to melt.
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I liked this seemingly strange combo. I actually had the ham around so that’s why I added it but I really liked it in here! You could easily use shredded chicken, sauteed peppers & onions, or corn and black beans…or whatever. These were cheesey inside and out and had some textural contrasts too.

Then I decided to recreate a recipe I had from a restaurant. Jose MacIntryre’s has these crispy avocado eggrolls that are addicting…especially during $1 appetizers ;)

Ingredients:

Egg roll wrappers
2 avocados
2 tbs salsa

Directions:

Cut avocados and mix with salsa
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Put 2-3 tbs of the avocado mixture into the center of the wrappers. Tuck 2 opposite corners towards the center, and then roll the corner closest to you to the center and roll it away from you (like rolling up a burrito).
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Fry for a few minutes on each side.
Remove and let cool on paper towel.
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These were pretty good. Not as good as the restaurant, but I liked it. Mr. J wasn’t a big fan so I had his for lunch the next day. That’s when I remembered they’re served with some creamy dipping sauce.

I mixed some ranch dressing, bbq sauce, and taco seasoning. Ohh my goodness. That’s the ticket! Don’t knock it will you try it!

Pork Tamale Pie

The other night, I was prepping dinner and I was following a recipe. I actually rarely follow recipes. I consider them “suggestions” or jumping off points in most cases. I read a lot of blogs and google a lot of recipes so it is often mishmash of an “adapted from.” Following recipes can be stressful and it takes even longer! You might be surprised how quickly I can whip something up if I’m not blogging it!
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Things were going well, then going poorly, and it was crazy. Part smelled really good but the other part seized up. I burned my hand (not badly, don’t worry mom!) and almost dropped the entire cast-iron skillet (which contained the entire meal). The external flash I nab from Mr. J wasn’t working, I chose a pan a bit too small, and the pup was underfoot.

While all of this was happening, I was rocking out to my kitchen radio the previous owners of the house so kindly left. Kelly Clarkson’s “oldie” “Beautiful Disaster” came on. How appropriate for this meal?! It was seeming like just that.

Pork Lover’s Tamale Pie

 

from Rachael Ray Magazine

1 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups boiling water
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon corn oil or EVOO
1/3 pound mexican chorizo (raw) or chopped spanish chorizo (cured) (I nixed this since my store only sells spicy and Mr. J doesn’t love lots of heat)
4 slices bacon, finely chopped (I nixed this too since I planned another meal with bacon and figured we’d be fine without it)
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped (I used dried)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander (about 1/2 palmful)
1 small onion, chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup beer
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained (I used fresh)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
Cilantro leaves and sliced scallions, for garnishing (I chopped arugula I had instead)

Directions (in Rachael Ray’s words)

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk. Whisk in the cornmeal, then whisk in the boiling water and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the butter and honey.
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Preheat the broiler. Meanwhile, in a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the chorizo and bacon and render the fat for 3 minutes. Stir in the pork and cook, crumbling the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes.

Season with the thyme, chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften. Stir in the beer to deglaze for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes to heat through.
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Spoon the thick cornmeal over the pan and spread evenly. Top with the cheddar and brown under the broiler for 2 minutes. Serve from the skillet, garnished with the cilantro and scallions.
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So, check out what happens when you read the first step and overlook the fact that the water should be boiling water. In the time it took to heat the water (after adding the cornmeal to the milk) it totally seized up. I was going to dump it and start over but I was feeling especially determined. I whisked as much as I could once the water was finally boiling. Seriously though, milk and cornmeal are cheap ingredients and wouldn’t have set me back.
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After all that I bet you’re wondering how it was. It was good, not amazing. I think the chorizo and bacon would add a bit more flavor. We joked it was Pork-Liker’s Tamale Pie rather than Pork-Lover’s Tamale Pie since I omitted 2 of the 3 porks. I used fresh tomatoes and think canned would have boosted the flavor too. That’s quite the creative licensing given the fact that I said I was following the recipe.
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I liked the cornmeal topping and I appreciated that this wasn’t a million ingredients. It reheated surprisingly well too. It was a fun and I was glad to have a different Mexican meal for a change.
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Three Bean Fiesta

The name ‘Bean Salad’ completely deceiving. My mum gave this recipe to me after raving about it. Then Mr. J was the one raving…he said it was the best side dish ever. This bean salad can be a side or served with tortilla chips as a dip. I got it prepped one morning so it would marinate all day and we had it for dinner.

I got the largest lime I’ve ever seen straight from Florida (thanks Aunt S & Uncle B)! I really wanted to put that to good use so I used it to marinate chicken with honey for a Mexican twist before Mr. J grilled the chicken.
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We are making up for lost time when the grill sat in the garage for 2 years before moving so there’s year-round grilling happening here. Also, my mum made me some taco seasoning for Christmas. I was super excited since I use it all the time and have only ever found it in packets so this jar was a big deal to me.

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The taco seasoning when on some brown rice and poof, we had a fiesta (served in fiestaware of course)!
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Ingredients:

½ cup oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 can black eyed peas
1 can Mexican corn
½ cup red onion
1 red or green pepper, chopped

Directions:

Heat oil, vinegar, and sugar until gently boiling.
Pour liquid mix over beans, peas, corn, onion, and peppers.
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Let stand overnight (or 9 hours while at work).
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Serve with tortilla chip scoops as a dip or as a side.
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I subsititued white for red onion, since I had it on hand. I didn’t have any peppers so I chopped some tomatoes just before serving. I also didn’t have any black eyed peas so I just went with the other 2 beans. Three cans of beans would be a ton anyway.
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I liked the sweet/tart balance. We ate it a few times but I can see it keeping better if the onion & tomato/pepper was added just before serving.

It was a super easy side and was a pretty healthy one! I’m sure this will have a regular rotation in our house. I’d throw it on salad or tacos or the leftovers drained into soup or chili.  Ohh how fun would a chili bar be at a party?! The wheels are churning here for housewarming parties!

Zesty Mac & Cheese

Last year for my birthday I made Mexican Mac & Cheese and it was such a hit at the taste-off. That was wayyy too much mac and cheese so I took a break from any for awhile. If you need a non-holiday meal this is perfect!
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This one is special. It isn’t traditional which is also why it is so good. Ohh I love it…everyone else does too.

Ingredients:

½ pound elbow macaroni
⅓ pound ground turkey
3 tbs taco seasoning
½ cup butter
2 tbs flour
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
¾ cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 roasted red pepper
⅓ cup Monterrey jack cheese
¼ cup salsa
1 cup tortilla chips, crumbled

Directions:

Brown the ground turkey with taco seasoning while water is boiling for the pasta.
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Melt butter over medium low heat and add flour to get a roux going.
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Slowly add milk stirring constantly until well incorporated.
Turn to low and add cheese.
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When pasta is just barely soft, remove from the water and add it to a baking dish. Mix the egg yolk in and then the cheese sauce.
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Add ground turkey, roasted red peppers, remaining cheese and mix. Dot with salsa but don’t mix salsa through.
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Top with crumbled tortilla chips and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
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This mac and cheese is creamy and has really great flavor. I sprinkle more taco seasoning on the top before topping with chips. It’s kind of a casserole and it is such a winner.
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Green onions would be good and jalapenos if you wanted some spice. I think I threw in some leftover black beans once for color.

I use these smart choice noodles. They only come in 3 shapes (elbows, penne, & rotini) but they’re better than regular dried pasta since wheat pasta just isn’t the same.
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Cheap & Easy Chicken Enchiladas

I have to do a price breakdown for these Chicken Enchiladas because they were so filling and actually used so few ingredients. Cheap? Easy? Quick? YES PLEASE!

I whipped these up for dinner in a hurry and was thrilled. They were really good and I’d never made enchiladas before. I don’t know what was stopping me.
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Ingredients:

1 chicken breast
1 tbs taco seasoning
½ yellow onion
1 cup corn
1 cup black beans
½ cup tomato sauce
1 ½ cup enchilada sauce
4 wheat tortillas
2 cups shredded cheddar
½ cup salsa

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Dust chicken with taco seasoning before grilling it. Once cooked through, shred the chicken.
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Sautee the onions until almost translucent and add in the cooked chicken, corn, tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes.
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Fill four tortillas with half of the cheese, and the chicken mixture.
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Place the filled enchiladas, seam side down, into a baking dish on top of ¼ cup of enchilada sauce.
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Top them with the rest of the sauce and bake for 20 minutes.
After taking them out of the oven, top with remaining cheese.
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I served the enchiladas with the best tortilla chips I’ve ever had. They’re Tostitos artisan recipe chips with roasted garlic & black bean. Yum. These are seriously really good.
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That was it! I thought they were filling and easy enough to just serve the enchiladas with some chips and salsa. Mr. J LOVED it. I was afraid it might be a bit too spicy for him but he really liked it. I tell ya, he loves anything with a sauce!

The enchilada sauce was much spicier before it was cooked. I’m not sure why. I got a mild canned sauce but I hear they’re not hard to whip up.

Chicken enchiladas would be an easy one to prep in advance and just assemble and bake when ready.  I’ll totally make them again. I still need to make my own taco seasoning…I use it so much and hate that it seems to only come in packets.
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Here’s the estimated cost breakdown I could come up with (thanks to the local Peapod listings):

Chicken Enchiladas (serves 4)

chicken: $1.50 (1 breast)
onion: $1.25 (1/2 of a onion)
black beans: $0.50 (1/2 of a can)
tortillas: $1.32 (4, 8” tortillas)
enchilada sauce: $2.00 (1 can)
shredded cheddar: $1.94 (1/2 bag)

total: $8.51 for 4 enchiladas ~$2.12 per serving.

Do you see that? Crazy! I already had frozen corn and salsa but the rest is totally cheap. The pricing really surprised me. I knew this meal was cheap but it makes a single $4 frozen enchilada look pitiful!

Hot Hot Hot

Caliente Kitchen

We went back and forth about what to do for dinner when we were in Florida but it’s not an area where we could wander and peruse menus. We spent the day strolling a wildlife refuge peeking at gators and the rest of the day we were on the beach. For dinner we started with mojitos. I got a great blackberry mojito and Mr. J had a super refreshing cucumber mojito.
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Mr. J spotted a few menus but was undecided and I was in the same boat. I saw Caliente Kitchen which was right across the street so we ended up there.

It was such a fun dinner! We both really enjoyed it and were happy with the choice!

Ohh the chips.
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Good thing the chips weren’t bottomless because they were so good we could have kept going! They were fresh and had the greatest seasoning. I think it was chili powder and cinnamon. YUM!

I took my cue from the beautiful beaches and couldn’t get enough seafood. I chose shrimp tacos with a cilantro dressing. There was a nice zest to the sauce and I loved them. I don’t get enough fish tacos.
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Mr. J got traditional beef tacos. He thought they were good and enjoyed the whole thing.
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It was a great last vacation meal before heading back to Boston.

Hola Empanada

Tacos make dinner feel like a party! I couldn’t remember making tacos since living in this apartment (about a year and a half). Mr. J swears we have but I don’t think so. We’ve definitely had burritos and even a tortilla pie, but I don’t think I’ve made hard tacos in years! I wanted something a bit more than a few tacos for the meal so I thought of empanadas….or my version.
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My favorite Mexian would cringe but I LOVE them with puff pastry, rather than pie dough. Since I’m not the slightest bit Mexican, I don’t care. Puff pastry is so flaky and buttery that I can’t switch to pie dough no matter how much of an impostor it makes these.I had a craving for tacos and was loving the fact that these weren’t going to require too many ingredients other than what I had on hand.Again, work is nutty right now and will be for about 40-something more days so tacos were a fun & quick weeknight meal.Remember when I became a genius and started getting up an hour earlier each morning? I chopped my veggies for the empanadas and defrosted some of the other ingredients so I was a step ahead when I got home.

Ingredients

frozen puff pastry sheets, defrosted
1 zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tbs grilling rub, taco seasoning, or chili powder

Directions

Chop zucchini and onion and toss with spices of choice
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Saute until slightly soft
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Unfold puff pastry sheet and cut into 9-3 inch squares
Add zucchini and onion mixture into the center and fold into triangles to close
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Bake 20 minutes at 375 until golden brown
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These are so easy and a great side. Anything goes in empanadas but I think they make for the perfect warm side or appetizer and since I was serving them with tacos, I figured a veggie filling would be best. Puff pastry is flaky and puffs just how the name suggests so mine never seem to stay closed and I’m A-OK with that. This time I pinched the opposite corners together (making them less and less authentic all the time).

My tacos featured ground chicken, refried beans, lettuce, corn, cheese, and salsa in hard taco shells. I used some leftover ground chicken from my lasagna meat mix.

A Comeback with Chicken

I know a few of you felt cheated with the Brownie post. In an effort of full disclosure: I love all food. I love to make things myself and I love that which others make for me too. There are not as many restaurant reviews as I originally anticipated but winter in New England makes us hole up inside sometimes.

I’ve been sick so I agree that my recent posts are not all AMAZING. The other night I did make a pretty amazing meal. Without further ado…I present to you: Smoky Grilled Chicken with Mango Salsa. Boo-yeah.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
marinade
spice rub
1 ½ cup chopped mango
1 cup chopped tomato
½ cup chopped roasted red pepper
½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Marinate the chicken and then dredge into the rub. I used my fav lime salad dressing and a rub blend I got Mr. J in Seattle from the famous Chef Tom Douglas.
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Grill the chicken until cooked through. Since our chicken breasts were so enormous I cut them each in half (yes, those are 2 breasts cut in half, woah!)
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Chop the mango, tomato, roasted red pepper pieces. Add vinegar, oil, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Roughly mix with a fork to incorporate all the flavors. Let stand while chicken finishes cooking.
mango_salsa_290_200Serve over rice with salsa spread on top.
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This was so easy and was wonderful! The chicken was veryyy spicy because of the rub but I liked that combo with the sweet salsa. Mr. J may not have been expecting the kick during his first bite! I hadn’t been sure what to make for dinner when I defrosted chicken early that morning but this was almost all pantry/freezer items!

I used frozen mango chunks that I keep handy for smoothies or when we’re just out of produce and I’m in fruit-withdrawal. Since mango can be so pulpy or fibrous I probably should have chopped it while frozen, but I didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect. Pineapple would be a great alternative!

We ate the chicken & mango salsa over instant brown rice to cut the spice. I steamed some pea pods on the side. I really enjoyed this flavorful & instant dinner! It was refreshing and was a perfect amount.

Pie for Dinner: Tortilla Pie

I was in the mood for something fun and after scouring the fridge I thought about Mexican. I went with a tortilla pie and it was great! All the ingredients were things I had on hand and threw in what I had.

My thought was that it could come out too messy if there was too much liquid. Since flour tortillas won’t absorb much I tried to keep that in mind.

Ingredients

3 flour tortillas
1 can pinto beans
½ cup salsa
2 cups chicken, chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 cup brown rice
1 cup corn
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 tbs taco seasoning

Directions

1) Cook chicken with taco seasoning.

2) Cook rice and then mix in spinach. I used instant brown rice and and the spinach wilted perfectly when mixed in. Serve the unused portion on the side. Putting some in will help keep everything from getting soggy.

3) Spray an empty skillet with non-stick spray and toast each side of the tortilla.
4) Rinse beans and add ¼ cup of salsa. Mash the beans and mix the salsa evenly with a few lumps remaining.

5) Layer toasted tortialls with bean spread, chicken, corn, cheese, rice & spinach, and sprinkle with taco seasoning. Repeat layers ending with a tortilla on top.

6) Bake 20 minutes at 350. Sprinkle with cheese if desired and salsa.

I had some leftover breaded chicken pieces that worked really well. The spinach was a good way to add another veggie and tomatoes might have made it too runny. Keeping the salsa out of the pie kept the consistency perfect. I had some salsa con queso cheesey dip so I drizzled some of that too. Mr. J and I liked it a lot and will definitely make it again!