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TDF Archives

Easy Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup and How to Add Flavor to Quick Soups

When it comes to dinner, I’m an obsessive planner.  With a full time job and an hour commute and two kids, my dinnertime meals are regimented.  But lunch is more spur of the moment.  Not exactly an afterthought, but definitely more of a “What do I feel like eating today?” meal.  And sometimes what [...]

Crockpot Mexican Pork Carnitas

I must have missed out on the “party planning gene” that every other person in the world seems to have, or at least other moms. I look at Pinterest, with the decorations and the tablescapes and the elaborate menus – and break out into a cold sweat. The theme for my kids’ birthday parties [...]

Five No-Fuss, No-Pasta Dinners For When You Don’t Really Want to Cook

dinners   So if you listen to as many food-related podcasts as I do, you may have noticed that lately there has been a lot of talk about cooking (I blame Michael Pollan)- about how it’s healthier, and better for society, and connects you with your humanity, etc.  Which, hello? is great, and I’ve been saying for years! Yay cooking! We love it around these parts. I also, however, like to play the role of fairy godmother of the reality check. You know and I know that we would LOVE to make from-scratch, healthful dinners EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, but we also both know that sometimes that just isn’t happening. Before you call the delivery man, or open (yet another) box of pasta, I present you for five ideas for easy, quick, no-fuss dinners. They don’t require NO cooking, but they do require MINIMAL fuss and no thought whatsoever. I usually plan to have ingredients for at least one of these in the house at any given time, to account for traffic jams, late meetings, and general exhaustion. [...]

Picadillo Tacos with California Ripe Olives #kitchenplay

California Olives We’re all familiar with the role that California black olives play in traditional Cal Mex cuisine — they’re a regular feature of nachos, enchiladas, and taco salads. I decided to use them in a slightly different format, creating a taco inspired by the flavors of Latin America and the Caribbean. I used the olives to make a variation of picadillo — a spiced meat mixture that is both sweet and salty. I upped the Caribbean flair by adding to each taco slices of fried bananas. Plantains would be traditional, but I can never find plantains in just the perfect stage of ripeness, and slightly underripe bananas make an admirable and easy-to-find substitute. [...]

Pineapple Avocado Salsa with Jicama

I make no pretenses that this is based on some autentico salsa especiale I tasted in a tiny cafe in Zihuatanejo. In fact, this recipe is based entirely on a pineapple I had in my refrigerator that was quickly getting a little too ripe (shopping with a 4 year old means you come home with lots of produce and few plans). But it makes use of the Mexican flavors and produce I find all over southern California — the sweet acidity of pineapple matched by savory onions, chiles and cilantro, all mellowed by avocado and enlivened with the crunch of jicama. (If you’ve never had jicama, it’s a great ingredient. Resembling a large pale brown turnip, it’s a juicy root vegetable that’s very faintly sweet and has a terrific crunch not unlike a water chestnut.) Pineapple Salsa [...]

Carne Asada Tacos

LA Times Carne Asada
Now that I live here, although there are plenty of visits to the local taqueria, I can get all the ingredients to make fabulous tacos at home. The really good kind of corn tortillas. Cilantro for 25 cents a bunch, and limes for a dollar a dozen. The sweet white onions necessary to real Mexican food. And the meat. Any carniceria worth its salt will sell you carne asada — seasoned beef, ready for the grill. But I’d never attempted to make it myself, until I saw the recipe in the LA Times, in an article about the combining of Mexican and Armenian food traditions in one Angeleno family. It seemed almost laughably easy, so I picked up the ingredients at my local Mexican Armenian market — beef flap meat (though any very thin and flavorful cut of beef will do), cilantro, onions, and the ultimate authentic ingredient: Worcestershire sauce. (LA always has been, and always will be, a melting pot). A few whirls in the food processor, some quality time with the grill, and I had my tacos. No need for a taqueria run. [...]

Tacos Por Favor — Shredded Chicken Tacos with Tomatillo Sauce

tacos chicken rotisserie chicken Bobby Flay Tomatillos Taco Tomatillo
I like to to say I’m a California girl born and bred, but when I hit the tender age of seventeen I was ready for anything but. I wanted away from brown hills and palm trees, dry desert air and eternal sunshine. So when I graduated from high school, I lost no time in packing up my life and heading for college in New England.
New England was a revelation – the summers were a deeper green than I have ever seen, shading through a multicolored fall into a grey and black and sometimes white winter. I dove into the culture, donning peacoats and woolen scarves, going apple picking and clam digging. I picked leaves in the fall and lilacs in the spring. And even now my years in Connecticut have changed me, making people who are die hard Easterners think I must be one too.
For more on my California Girl tendencies and a recipe for tacos, clock on the post title above. [...]

The Hits Keep Coming — Recipes for Black Beans 3 Ways


I know I’m going to get my frugal license taken away for this, but the truth of the matter is I don’t really like leftovers. Sure, I’ll take last night’s dinner as a brown bag lunch the next day, but that’s pretty much it. I’m certainly not eating the same thing for dinner the next night, and forget about having it every night for a week.
However, when you are cooking for two adults and a toddler (who may, or may not eat whatever you’ve made, depending on some bizarre power struggle/whimsy/will of the gods), sometimes leftovers are unavoidable. Sometimes I foist them on my husband to take to work for lunch multiple days in a row; sometimes I strongly hint to my babysitter that she’s welcome to help herself to anything in that fridge, but sometimes these strategies don’t work, and I am forced to my last resort. No, not eating leftovers. I’m talking about the element of disguise.

See, even though I may not want to eat the same thing three days in one week, I am perfectly willing to eat three different things with the same base ingredients. Like these black beans three ways. I like beans and rice, and realize that many people eat it every day of their lives, but sadly, I am not one of those people. I can, however, eat beans and rice one day, and a quesadilla another day, and soup on a third day and be perfectly happy to do all three. Apparently I’m not too bright if I can trick myself this easily, but there you go. Thus we have — black beans three ways, or how to use up your leftovers without driving yourself crazy. [...]

Cinco de Mayo 2 — Easy Chicken Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles I recognize that it’s a little on the late side for many of you to cook this for Cinco de Mayo. I have heard rumors, however, that in some parts of Texas, Cinco de Mayo has been rescheduled for September due to concerns over swine flu. They’re also planning to push back the 4th of July to November.
Regardless of when you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, or whether you celebrate Cinco de Mayo, this dish is worthy to add to your repertoire. I got the recipe from my mother, who is a source to be reckoned with. She works full time, has written several books, travels the world on a regular basis (I think right now she’s somewhere in the Aegean) and still manages to cook dinner nearly every night (skipping the nights on the Aegean). So you knw that any recipe that comes from a woman like this is 1) simple to prepare, because she does not have TIME for excessively complicated dishes and 2) delicious, because she has high standards. [...]

Cinco De Mayo 1 – Aztec Chocolate Cookies

chewy chocolate chili cookies mexican aztec mayan
I am rather more-ish when it comes to cookies. You will probably not find me waxing rhapsodic about the simple charms of a basic, not-too-sweet butter cookie. I want a little more going on when it comes to cookies. More flavors, more textures, more zing. And more cookies please.

These cookies are all that AND a bag of chips (no, not literally). They’re packed with rich chocolate flavor that’s enhanced by chocolate chips, plus they have the warmth of spices and the heat of chilies. They’re crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. And despite packing enough heat to make you open your eyes when you bite into them, they seem to be universally appealing, as we discovered when we left a plate on the dining room table. The enterprising and surprisingly agile Nuni climbed onto the table, helped herself to three cookies, and proceeded to smear chocolate all over my dining room chairs. Which is why we keep an oilcloth on the table and plan to reupholster those chairs. But I digress. [...]