Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sweet Potato Tacos

    They are certain items in life that were just meant to be together.  For instance: salt and pepper, Ken and Barbie, or peanut butter and jelly.  Sweet potatoes and tacos aren't usually a combination that come to mind!  However, last spring, while trying to figure out something different to do with a sweet potato, our family discovered that chorizo and sweet potatoes are just amazing together!  Sweet potatoes are the perfect foil to salty, spicy chorizo - and when you add in tomatoes, avocados, and cilantro - the flavors play off each other perfectly. The resulting filling is yummy in a whole wheat tortilla, in a corn taco shell, or just alone. Since chorizo packs such a strong wallop, not a lot of it is needed.  Sometimes we add black beans and queso fresco, but not always.  Add a squirt of lime along with the rest of the healthy ingredients and enjoy!

Ingredients for about four servings:

      1 large sweet potato

6 ounces of bulk chorizo sausage

2 tomatoes

1 avocado

1 small handful of fresh cilantro

1 lime

Optional:  1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

Optional:  1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco


     Place the chorizo in a skillet, break it up, and cook it over medium heat until it resembles browned ground beef.  Drain off as much oil as possible and set it aside.

     Peel the sweet potato, cut it into 1/4 inch slices, and then cut each slice into cubes.  Place the cubes into a sauce pan, cover them with water, and bring them up to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium high and continue cooking the sweet potato cubes about 12 more minutes until they are tender, but not mushy. Drain the sweet potatoes and place them in a bowl that will be large enough to hold the rest of the ingredients. 

     Dice the tomatoes, cube the avocado, and chop the cilantro.  Add them, along with the cooked chorizo, to the sweet potato cubes in the bowl.  Gently mix the ingredients together and serve with tortillas or taco shells.  Slice or cut the limes into wedges and squeeze over the tacos if desired.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

John Smith's Crema Poblana - Cream of Poblano Pepper Soup

     Roy, the girls, and I feel blessed to have some wonderful neighbors.  One family that we really enjoy are the Smiths.  John and Barbara met and fell in love when Barbara came from Mexico to the U.S. to study.  The charming details of their courtship and marriage would make a great movie.  John has a hilarious account of the happenings on the day they were married in Mexico- including everyone rushing off to the church and leaving him alone at the house. Thank goodness the story has a happy ending, because he did make it to the church on time and at the celebration afterward, this fabulous soup was served.  One of John's many talents is cooking and he experimented for years to recreate their wedding soup just the way they remember it.  This soup is so, so delicious and is just perfect on a cold winter day.  It is rich and creamy, so all that is needed to serve with it is some good bread, cheese, and perhaps a salad.  We had a wonderful time last Saturday night when John let me peek over his shoulder as he made this luscious soup and our two families, as well as mutual good friends from across the street, got together to enjoy it!

Ingredients for four servings:

4 poblano peppers
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup tap water
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
32 ounces of chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1 pound green (raw and unshelled) shrimp
For Garnish:  1 corn tortilla and a tablespoon of oil


     Rinse the peppers to remove any dirt or soil and dry them with a paper towel. Roast and char the outside skin by placing them on the grill and turning them over as the skin becomes black (or hold over a stove burner with tongs.)

     Place the warm charred peppers inside a plastic bag and let them "steam" for about 15 or 20 minutes until they are cool.

     Once the peppers have cool, peel the charred skin away from the flesh of the peppers. Cut and discard the tops of the peppers. Cut the peppers open and discard the seeds and membranes.

       Soak the peeled, seeded peppers in a bowl filled with enough half water/half white vinegar to cover them.  Let them sit for at least 30 minutes.

     Next, roughly chop the onion and smash and peel the garlic.  Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are tender.

     Place the peppers, onions, garlic, and the bouillon cube into a blender or food processor.  Pour in enough of the chicken broth to cover the ingredients and puree the mixture.

     Transfer the pepper mixture into a stock pot and pour in the rest of the chicken broth. Turn the burner to medium to heat the soup up. 

     Break the brick of cream cheese up into cubes and add it to the pot.  Stir until it mixes in or use an immersion blender.

          Shell the shrimp and add them all at the same time to the warm soup.  Continue heating the mixture until the shrimp turn pink and opaque.  

     If desired, make a garnish for the soup by cutting a corn tortilla into 1/4 inch strips.

          Add a bit of oil to a small frying pan and brown the strips of the tortilla up.  Careful - they crisp up quickly - watch out or they will burn!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Jenn & Julia's Salmon & Sauce

      I think its great that Jenn and her close friend Julia like to cook.  It turns out that they are pretty good at it too!  About every other week, they meet, go to the grocery store, go over to one of their apartments, and then cook up a storm. Occasionally, they will go over to Julia's parent's house and cook for them - especially when all the siblings are home!   One of the girls' favorite things to make is baked salmon and Cucumber Dill Sauce that goes so well with it.  This sauce recipe comes from the very first cooking class my mom and I ever went to; it was held at a little shop called The Kitchen Door and was in the basement of Glendale Mall.  The store is long gone, but I still have the typed up hand out which says this says goes great with salmon pie, crab cakes, and shrimp.  The girls bake the salmon with a pinch of seasoning salt, dill, a lemon slice, and just a bit of butter to make it extra delicious. 

Baked Salmon with Lemon and Dill


Salmon pieces, about 4 ounces per person
A lemon slice for each salmon portion
1/8 teaspoon of seasoning salt for each portion
1/8 teaspoon of dried dill or 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill for each portion
1 teaspoon pat of butter for each portion


For each piece of fish, sprinkle the seasoning salt and the dill over the top.  Put a lemon slice on each serving, then place the pat of butter on the that.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the salmon is opaque and flaky.

Cucumber Dill Sauce


1/2 of an unpeeled cucumber, seeded and cubed into small pieces
1 tablespoon finely diced white or yellow onion
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried dill or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and then lengthwise again.  Scoop out the seeds and cube the cucumber into small pieces.  Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve.