The Need for Comfort over Authentic: Dad’s Mexican-Inspired Skillet Taco

Skillet Taco with Brown Rice

Everyone has a cheap, quick comfort food dish from childhood memories. Mine is Dad’s Skillet taco recipe. Perhaps, Mom occasionally made it, too. It a classic 1970s dish. It was taco seasoning mixed into ground beef scrapped to the center of the skillet. White rice surrounded the beef. Shredded iceberg lettuce layered the rice. Gooey, melted, shredded cheddar cheese topped the meat, and the dish was finished with plain chopped tomatoes. What I remember most about this dish: Always wanting more cheese.

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Parade Magazine: Roast Butternut Squash and Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Roast Butternut Squash and Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Growing up, tacos were filled with ground beef or shredded chicken, and they were topped with chopped tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and shredded mild cheddar cheese. Mom deep fried corn tortilla shells and asked everyone whether they want soft or hard taco shells. Back then, tacos were simple, and I still love my childhood version today for nostalgic reasons.

Today, an online search for tacos yields more than lettuce and tomatoes. Tacos are topped with pickled vegetables and authentic Mexican cheeses. They’re filled with meat slowly simmered in mole sauce, quinoa and spicy roast vegetables. And, some people buy tortilla presses to make their own corn tortillas. Personally, my taco shells aren’t deep-fried, instead a little oil is added to a hot skillet as a tortilla shell is flipped over several times for a few minutes.

In this autumnal taco, butternut squash is roasted with warm spices and toss with shredded chicken. The meat and squash filling is placed over a corn tortilla and before its folded in half to enclose it, pineapple salsa is spooned on top for a fresh and sweet taste. Of course, no taco is complete without cheese. In this version, only a mild flavored cheese is needed, such as Cotija (think of it as a Mexican version of the Italian Ricotta Salata cheese).

There’s memories surrounded by tacos. Since, Dad was ‘The Cook’ in our house, we were excited when Mom decided to make one of her few dishes, which were tacos. For the record, even though I strive to eat healthy most of the time, I always prefer her deep-fried taco shells.  Read more

Peanut Sauce with Udon Wheat Noodles, Vegetables and Shrimp

Udon Noodles with Vegetables and Peanut Sauce
Udon Noodles with Vegetables and Peanut Sauce

Depending on how many Spring Shrimp Rolls are made, the amount of peanut sauce prepared could initially seem excessive. It was to me, and that sauce is too delicious to forget and let spoil in the back of the refrigerator. Taking a mental inventory of what’s in the kitchen, I remembered the wheat noodles left over from an incredible Asian soup made a few months ago. In the freezer, was a bag of frozen, precooked shrimp. The CSA share provided plenty of squash and carrots. However, broccoli, carrots, bok choy, bell peppers, water spinach, napa cabbage, baby corn, mushrooms (dried and/or fresh), daikon, snow peas, sugar snap peas, peas, cauliflower, celery, onions, scallions, garlic, ginger, parsnips, radishes, broccoli rabe, edamame, leeks, asparagus, bamboo shoots, and sweet potato all are delicious options to include. Was there a vegetable left out? Let me know, especially if it’s a vegetable not commonly sold in the United States. Read more

Spring Shrimp Rolls with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple Tomato Salad

Spring Shrimp Rolls served with Peanut Sauce
Spring Shrimp Rolls served with Peanut Sauce

Having around the clock hot weather equates to less time in a kitchen. That being written, those fancy spring rolls we adore in many Vietnamese restaurants are simple to make. Unless you’re a restaurant superstar chef, don’t worry if the spring rolls are not perfectly shaped with the shrimp perfectly aligned in the transparent wrapper. Just have fun making them. Perhaps, the carrots can be blanched, for small details do make a difference in contributing to the overall taste. Use small to medium size shrimp that are peeled, deveined and precooked with this recipe to avoid turning on the stove and to save time. The smaller shrimp is sweet, and defrosting them takes a few minutes. Serve them with Peanut Sauce, coconut rice and a Pineapple-Tomato Salad, and this makes a beautiful dish best served cold on a hot day. Read more

Cilantro Almond Pesto

Cilantro Almond Pesto
Cilantro Almond Pesto

The other day, a friend curiously smiled as I discussed experimenting with a Cilantro Almond Pesto. With confidence, we talked about several versions of pesto, not being limited to the traditional ingredients of basil, cheese and pine nuts. The Witchy Kitchen blog made a Basil Sunflower Seed Pesto. The sunflower seeds are economically alternative to pine nuts. Although, Despite Nuisances I Will Be Happy’s blog creatively referred to her Arugula version as a spread; it’s still a derivative of a pesto. Aimée at Simple Bites, posted a recipe of the traditional basil pesto, and she offers ideas on how to incorporate it into recipes. This week, I pick up my household’s first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box full of greens, fruits, vegetables and eggs. In addition to prepping and cleaning the vegetables and fruits for proper storage that will extend their freshness, several of them will turn into a pesto and frozen for future use. Read more