Love letter #4, tex-mex

Besides the fresh produce and herbs that are available at Farmer’s Markets this time of year, I am not fond of summer. I love snow and the crispness of the later months of the year. That being said, a Tex-Mex inspired meal can make even winter girls appreciate the season.

My favorite part of Tex-Mex is the freshness. Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, avocados, limes…everything is so gorgeous and full of flavor. There’s so many ingredients that add a “wow” factor. In addition to that, the gorgeous deep red, purple, and green colors of the fresh produce make me question just why I don’t do a southwestern inspired meal more often.

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This meal was a large one for the two of us, but sometimes that’s just what you need. A little bit of everything, not a lot of one thing. Good for the soul. A folded burrito, black bean soup, fresh roasted tomatillo salsa, guacamole, and chicken tacos with sautéed onions and peppers make a meal that is both inspired and practical. It’s comfortable. We all know and love the warm flavors of cumin, the spiciness of chili powder, the bite of of a jalapeño, but making almost everything from scratch ups the elegant factor. This isn’t a fast food restaurant, this is your home and a meal you made that you are providing for your loved ones.

Traditional “taco” seasoning that you buy at the store is just ingredients that you already have in your spice drawer. Cumin, chili powder, red pepper powder, garlic powder, salt, and onion flakes. The benefit of making your own spice mixes at home is that you control what go into them. I prefer much spicier than what is store-bought, so I can add extra chili and red pepper powder. Like pre-shredded cheese, spice mixes also come with extra add-ins to prevent clumping. Making your own at home doesn’t need any unnecessary products.

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I never buy pre-shredded cheese. It doesn’t taste as good. Use a food processor to shred your cheese using the shred blade, and save your arm strength from grating.

Onions are my favorite food. They are so versatile. I used them in each dish I made today. From sautéing peppers with onions, to soup, to guacamole, to salsa verde, to the garnish for tacos, or in my burrito wrap. Nothing can replace the flavor of an onion.

My black bean soup starts with a traditional mirepoix–carrots, celery, and onion. After that I add garlic, black beans, chicken stock, some white wine, cumin, chili powder, and salt. It’s simple, but absolutely divine. Add a lime wedge, avocado, sour cream, and some cilantro to top it all off. Use an immersion blender to blend 1/3 of the soup to add a creamy texture.

I love the bright citrus notes in fresh Tex-Mex. Add lime juice, lime zest, orange juice, orange zest, and beer to your shredded chicken with Anaheim peppers.

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Garnish with onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

My favorite salsa is salsa verde, or tomatillo salsa. Broiling the ingredients before pureeing them together gives them a charred, yet slightly sweet flavor. Of course, your food processor is your best friend for this recipe.

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For guacamole, I like it simple. Avocado, red onion, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Use a fork to keep a chunkier texture.

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Though unusual for Alex and I, we both agree that our favorite part of this meal was the more processed one of all of them (!!). A burrito wrap with both jarred cheese sauce and taco sauce. Not something I tend to keep at home, I did have to go out of my way at the grocery store to pick up some of these items.

Start with your favorite cheese sauce and let it act as a glue between the tostada and burrito. IMG_5207

Next, add your beans and meat. Then your favorite hot sauce. With the recipe we like the Taco Bell brand. IMG_5214

Add your extra toppings.

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Then fold as if it were a galette. IMG_5219IMG_5221

Fry in pan then enjoy.

I’m always craving grapefruit in the summertime, so a grapefruit spiked seltzer water hit the spot. Though there is much added heat in all of the dishes, the addition of cilantro, lime juice, and avocado keeps you cool for the summer. We’ll be eating these dishes over the next couple of days and they are just as good reheated as they are from when they are first served.

I hope this post inspires those winter girls who prefer a chill over the heat. By bringing together the warm flavors of the various spices I used, it’s comfortable, it’s simple and fresh, and it’s inviting. Make this for your boyfriend, your children, or your friends, and they’ll know you love them without so many words.

Taco Seasoning

  • 2 tsps chili powder
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsps garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion flakes
  • 1 tsp red pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Mix well.

Shredded chicken for tacos

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 limes, juice and zest
  • 1/2 orange, juice and zest
  • 1/2 can light beer
  • 3 Anaheim peppers
  • Taco Seasoning
  • 3 tbsp refined avocado oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub spice mix over chicken breasts until thoroughly seasoned. Brush avocado oil on breasts. Cook for 30 minutes or until chicken registers 150 degrees on a meat thermometer. Let cool. Shred chicken with fork, hands, or a food processor.

Heat oil in sauté pan over medium high heat. Add peppers. Cook until tender. Add chicken, lime juice and zest, orange juice and zest, and beer. Add more seasoning to taste. Let simmer over low heat.

Black bean soup

  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cans of black beans
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
  • Cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in medium dutch oven. Fry spices. Add carrots, celery, onion, and bell pepper and sauté  until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and stir for one minute, until fragrant. Add drained black beans, chicken broth, and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste. Take off heat and with an immersion blender blend about 1/3 of soup. Simmer another ten minutes. Serve with lime wedge, cilantro, sour cream, and avocado.

Guacamole

  • 3 avocados
  • 1/3 red onion, diced finely
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mash with fork.

Salsa verde

  • 4 tomatillos
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 jalepeños
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 3 garlic gloves
  • Bunch of cilantro
  • Salt

Add all ingredients except cilantro to a sheet pan. Broil each side for 5 minutes, until charred. Add all ingredients to food processor. Season to taste.

Burrito wraps

Each individual wrap contains:

  • 1 large flour tortilla
  • 1 tostada
  • Nacho cheese
  • Refried beans
  • Taco seasoned ground beef
  • Hot sauce
  • Shredded lettuce
  • White onion, diced
  • Shredded cheese

See above pictures.

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