Chicken Tacos al Carbon

Chicken Fajitas

“Tacos-can we ever have enough tacos in our lives? I didn’t think so. Because when the taco is right, the birds start to sing and the stars shine more brightly and you have the impression that everything is right with the world…A perfect taco is a gift to the universe.”

Jonathan Gold

As a Texas girl I dream of tacos. They are the food I crave and sometimes long for. So, in our house tacos are on the menu at least once or twice I week. Breakfast egg and cheese tacos, fish tacos with a crispy cabbage slaw, brisket tacos and this Tex-Mex classic chicken tacos al carbon.

One of my favorite kinds of tacos are tacos al carbon. In Spanish “al carbon” means cooking over coals so usually tacos al carbon are meats like beef or chicken that have been grilled with onions and sometimes peppers. I like to make mine on cast iron grill indoors, but you could also use a large cast iron or nonstick skillet. These tacos were the ones I always loved to order as a kid and my girls love eating them too!

Chicken Tacos al Carbon- Serves 6

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced into thin half rounds
  • 12 to 15 flour tortillas

First, slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally so there are six pieces of thinly sliced chicken.

Next, make the marinade whisk together the lime juice, orange juice, garlic, cumin, kosher salt and olive oil. Pour the marinade in a gallon sized plastic zip top bag and add in the chicken breast slices. Let the chicken marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. Before cooking take the chicken out of the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel so the chicken will brown well and the sweet citrus juices won’t stick to the grill.

Heat a cast-iron grill pan or a large skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes then add 2 tablespoons of canola or olive oil. Add the onions first and cook then until they turn translucent and caramelize a bit. Once the onions have cooked down move them to the side of the grill or pan.

Add the chicken breasts. Cook the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes a side until the chicken has browned and cooked through.

Slice the grilled chicken on the diagonal into thin strips.

Roll the meat and onions in fluffy flour tortillas and serve them with a sides of pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and cheese.

Then layer on the toppings and create your own perfect taco. Add a side of black beans or some skillet roasted corn and you have a delicious taco night. Want to make it a party? Then make a side of El Tiempo’s Green Sauce and some Key Lime Ice Cream Pie for dessert!

You can get lost for a moment in a bite of these tacos. Because there are never enough tacos for those who dream of them.

New Orleans Shrimp Rolls

Shrimp Rolls with Remoulade Sauce

I am always looking for delicious and simple recipes that make getting dinner on the table a snap. These New Orleans Shrimp Rolls take about 15 minutes to make which makes them perfect for nights were you need something easy. The garlic French bread and remoulade sauce add layers of flavor that make these sandwiches mouthwateringly good.

New Orleans Shrimp Rolls -serves 4

This recipe can easily be doubled to serve more by cooking two batches of shrimp.

  • 4 (6 inch) pieces of good quality French baguette
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 20 medium sized fresh shrimp, shells removed and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (half a lemon)
  • 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

Remoulade Sauce

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped

First prepare the remoulade sauce. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup mix together the mayonnaise, horseradish, mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, lemon juice, green onion and parsley.

Next, get your garlic bread baguette prepared. Using a serrated knife cut a shallow V-shaped wedge out of the top of each baguette piece to make room for your shrimp. This top cut will make it easier to fill and hold the sandwich. Melt two tablespoons of butter and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Brush the cut insides of your bread with the garlic butter. Toast the bread in a toasted oven or briefly toast them on a sheet pan under a broiler.

Finally prepare and cook the shrimp. Lay your shrimp out on a plate and sprinkle them with with the salt, paprika, pepper, parsley and lemon zest. Then heat a medium sized skillet and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the shrimp. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes a side until they turn a reddish pink on each side. Finish them by squeezing lemon juice on top of the shrimp.

To assemble your shrimp rolls spread about a tablespoon of sauce on the roll. Add the shrimp then drizzle with additional remoulade sauce to taste. Then add shredded lettuce on top.

I like to serve mine with salt and vinegar chips or Terra vegetable chips for a quick side.

The tangy remoulade sauce makes this sandwich so delicious. Traveling great distances is a little harder these days, so for now our kitchen is taking us places. This New Orleans shrimp roll will make you feel like you are out at a cafe or celebrated sandwich shop savoring the flavors of the Big Easy. Where has cooking taken you lately?

Our version of “eating out” this summer.  So grateful for the sunshine and time outdoors with family.

El Tiempo’s Green Sauce

If there is one dish that defines the beloved Tex-Mex cuisine from my hometown of Houston then it’s El Tiempo’s salsa verde or “green sauce” as Houstonians call it. This distinctive dip was created by restaurateur Ninfa Laurenzo. Laurenzo’s tortillas, fajitas, salsas and queso dip are the ultimate comfort and party food of my childhood.

Laurenzo family is still keeping her legacy alive in their El Tiempo Cantinas. The Laurenzo family still serves Mama Ninfa’s best recipes along with their own unique dishes. El Tiempo is the restaurant that I get most homesick for. Its salsa verde has a creamy avocado base with roasted green tomatillos. It’s unbelievably delicious on chips or tacos. It’s like guacamole extraordinaire.

The Houston Chronicle reports that El Tiempo or Ninfa’s green sauce is one of their  most requested recipes. Over the years they have released several different versions, but none of the ones that I tried quite got it right. So desperate to get my green sauce fix and unable to travel home this summer, I decided to make my own. After working my way through all the various ingredients and versions, I finally created a recipe that captures all magic of this amazing salsa verde.

El Tiempo Salsa Verde or Green Sauce -makes 6 cups

  • 8 to 10 tomatillos (1 pound), husks peeled
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 large lime)
  • 2 large Haas avocados, halved, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Preheat the oven broiler.

Meanwhile peel the husks off the tomatillos and rinse them in water and dry them

Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes but they have a brighter and slightly citrus flavor. They have a paper like husk that you need to remove before roasting them.

Place the tomatillos, poblano pepper and garlic cloves on a sheet pan and roast them on the second highest oven rack until the skin is charred on all sides. After the skin begins to char on one side (about 4 to 5 minutes) flip them over to finish.

Take your tomatillos and poblano pepper out. Then you want to sweat them so they are easy to peel. You can do this by putting them in a bowl and covering it with plastic wrap or  placing them in a plastic or paper bag and sealing it to trap the steam in. After five minutes they will be ready to peel.

A step by step picture of how this salsa or green sauce comes together. Roasting the tomatillos is what really makes this salsa. It gives the tomatillos a slightly sweet but earthy flavor that I prefer when it comes to making homemade salsa. The poblano pepper adds just a touch of heat but it isn’t overpowering or spicy.

Remove the stem and seeds from the poblano pepper. Place the peeled tomatillos and poblano pepper in a food processor and pulse until they are chopped like a chunky salsa. Add in the lime juice, avocado halves, sour cream, cream cheese, cilantro and salt. Blend the salsa until it is smooth and creamy.

If you are not serving it immediately then cover the top surface with plastic wrap to keep the air out and refrigerate it. It will keep up to two days in the fridge.

Now if I could only give you a taste, you would understand why this green sauce is my all time hometown favorite.

There are few things that make me happier than eating green sauce and tortilla chips. If you are looking for something delicious to make this holiday weekend then you need to try this avocado tomatillo salsa. El Tiempo’s green sauce is summer party food at its best.

Looking for other salsas and dip recipes then try Maison McCauley’s Mango SalsaOr try this caramelized onion dip which is great with burgers or anything on the grill.

Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe

Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Gardens in the Pink

“Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink.”  

Lilly Pulitzer

This year my summer garden has gone pink. Looking for a pop of cheerful color, I decided to go all in with a happy mix of fuchsia, flamingo, coral and blush. Pink in every shade imaginable. I have lots of pink perennials like peonies and hydrangeas. However this is the first year that I have used so many pink annuals.

The front flowerbeds are filled with a mix of hot pink impatiens, white new guinea impatiens, true blue pansies, and blue lobelia.

Even my front doors a got a touch pink with some new magnolia wreaths and bows. My large blue pots have cypress bushes with trailing English ivy and a pink impatiens. This year I mixed up the varieties of impatiens that I used. The new guinea impatiens typically last deeper into the fall than my traditional impatiens, but the smaller impatiens have more consistent blooms.

The front walkway pots have blue salvia in the center. Then I added some flamingo pink petunias, wizard rose coleus and coral impatiens. An admittedly, crazy mix of colors, but they make me smile.

The newest blooms to my garden are the pink hollyhocks. I planted them in a sunnier spot on my side yard. Their tall stalks are filled with buds so I am looking forward to watching their show enfold.

The back patio has a bright pink and green mix. The little spike plant adds some height to these small planters. I love the chartreuse green and hot pink on these coleuses leaves.

The new guinea impatiens in a deep rose and violet add some much needed color to my heavily shaded back yard.

When I was planting all of these pink flowers I wondered if  I had taken this whole pink thing too far. However now that everything is blooming, all those pink flowers are so contagiously bright and optimistic that I just might have to do it again. Gardening brings me such joy. I love watching glorious summer show. My girls and I have been spending lots of time outdoors enjoying the view and savoring the sunshine.

Want a little more pink inspiration? Then here are a few summer gardens with pretty pops of pink.

I love this flower bed at the Morton Arboretum lime green elephant ears and the Japanese forest grass are perfectly offset with the fabulous fuchsia impatiens.

The pink New Guinea Sun Patiens are the stars of this striking pink and purple combination. I like how they look against the taller purple bachelor buttons.

A planter at the Chicago Botanical Gardens overflowing with gorgeous summer flowers. Pink zinnias, purple salvia, orange rudbeckia and red canna leaves make for a stunning design.

I love getting ideas from large gardens, but sometimes a few colorful plants is all you need. This is such a cute little black and white house I saw on a trip to Michigan. All the pink petunias spilling over the edge of the topiaries brightens this front door. It gives this house such a cheerful and welcoming feeling.

The saying “in the pink” means to be in good health. The summer sunshine, gardening and all these pink flowers are definitely lifting our spirits. So I hope that you are finding ways to stay in the pink too.

Key Lime Ice Cream Pie

Key Lime Ice Cream Pie

Father’s Day is coming this weekend. So this week I am sharing a new recipe for a key lime pie. It’s a favorite of both my dad and my husband. My recipe puts a summer twist on this classic pie, because the filling is made with ice cream. Its easy to assemble and if making homemade lime curd sounds like too much then you can take a little help from the store. My local grocery store carries Stonewall Kitchen’s key lime curd, but Williams Sonoma and other gourmet stores have it as well.

The crispy graham cracker crust with the creamy key lime filling is so delicious! Its a wonderful treat to make and share.

Key Lime Ice Cream Pie- Makes 1 (9 inch) Pie 

  • 2 pints (4 cups) Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream, softened
  • 1/2 cup key lime curd (see recipe below or use store bought)
  • 1 graham cracker crust
  • Whipped cream topping
  • 2 limes sliced in thin rounds

Homemade Lime Curd -makes 1½ cups

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh key lime or regular lime juice (Key limes can be hard to find so regular limes will work too!)

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 sleeve (9 whole) graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup whipping cream, cold
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the homemade lime curd, cream the butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and one egg yolk one at a time and mix until incorporated. Then with the mixer on low speed slowly pour or stream in the lime juice and mix until just incorporated. Now place the curd mixture in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Whisk the lime curd until it thickens about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour the curd into a small jar or bowl. Cover and refrigerate the lime curd. The key lime curd will keep in the fridge for two weeks. This recipe makes more than you need for this pie, but the sauce is so yummy that it would be great to swirl a little extra on the dessert plates.

*Note: The whipping of the eggs and slowly adding the lime juice to the mixture is key because it tempers the egg mixture. This method is an easy way to keep your sauce from breaking or curdling.

For the crust, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then in a medium sized bowl mix together your graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Evenly press the crumb mixture into a pie plate that is sprayed with butter flavored cooking spray. Use a small cup to help press the crumbs along the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and let it cool before filling it with your key lime ice cream.

For the pie filling, in a large bowl mix together your softened ice cream and lime curd. Then pour it into the prepared graham cracker crust and freeze. Don’t worry about any tiny air bubbles they can be smoothed out after your pie has set and frozen in the freezer.  Use a butter knife or separated spatula that has been warmed by dipping it into some hot water and then smooth away any tiny imperfections on the top.

For the decorative topping, beat the whipping cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla using a mixer on high speed. Beat until you get firm peaks (about 2 minutes). Then spoon or decoratively pipe it onto your frozen pie and decorate with fresh lime twists or wedges

Key Lime Pie

This key lime ice cream pie is so good that the day after I made it my husband even had a slice for breakfast! It’s all kinds of wonderful. It’s the perfect summer dessert to share with the dads in your family.

Grilled Tuscan Tuna with Cannellini Bean Pasta Salad

Tuscan Tuna Steak

Growing up on the Gulf Coast meant I ate lots of fish. I love it and my family loves fish too. It’s on the menu at our house at least two to three times a week. I like a salmon, sole, snapper and swordfish. My daughters who can be picky eaters happen to like fish, too. Especially grilled tuna which has a nice mild flavor.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that one or two servings of fish each week, can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. So the health benefits are good too. Although fish can sometimes be a little more expensive I think it’s worth it.

A sign that says it all!  An amazing fish store at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.

Fish also tends to be quick cooking so it’s a great way to get dinner on the table. My grilled Tuscan tuna happens to be one of my husbands favorite meals. Anytime I can get outside and grill it makes cooking dinner fun. The pasta salad uses fresh tomatoes and cucumbers which are wonderful this time of year.

Grilled Tuscan Tuna with Cannellini Bean Pasta Salad – Serves 4

  • 3 to 4 Tuna Steaks cut 1 ½ to 2 inches thick (sometimes if the steaks are large then one steak might be enough for 2 people)
  • 1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium sized cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into bit sized pieces
  • 1 cup heirloom or on the vine tomatoes diced into small pieces
  • ½ pound fusilli or any short curly pasta
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  • 4 small rosemary springs for garnish (optional)

Salad Dressing and Marinade

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • Zest from one lemon
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare your grill and marinade

Preheat the grill for direct high heat grilling.  Alternatively you could use an indoor grill pan as well.

Rinse the tuna steaks with cold water and then pat them dry with paper towels. Place the steaks in a large gallon sized zip top bag.

Next, make your salad dressing and marinade. Press the garlic cloves or alternatively mash them with the salt to make a paste. Place the garlic in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Add in the rosemary, oregano, lemon zest and juice. Whisk to combine. Then add your olive oil in a slow stream while whisking. Keep whisking until the dressing emulsifies and comes together.

Pour half of the dressing over the tuna in the bag and place them in the fridge to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve the rest of the dressing for the pasta salad.

Make the warm pasta salad

While the tuna is marinating, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes. Get the tomatoes and cucumber chopped. Then drain your pasta.

In a large bowl mix together your pasta, cannellini beans, cucumber, tomato and the remaining half of the salad dressing.

Grilling the Tuna

Now grill the tuna steaks. The olive oil in the marinade will keep your tuna from sticking to the grill. Grill your tuna steaks until cooked to taste, 2 to 3 minutes a side for rare and 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium. Want to look like a grilling expert? Then rotate the the steaks 45 degrees after the first 2 minutes of grilling to create crosshatch of grill marks.

I wish I could let you smell the lemon and rosemary as these tuna steaks cook. They are so good!

Take the tuna off the grill and let it rest on a plate or platter for 2 to 3 minutes. Finally, add in your baby spinach and capers to the pasta salad and mix.

My favorite way to create fast summer meals is to use fresh, quick cooking ingredients. This grilled Tuscan tuna with cannellini bean pasta salad is simple, flavorful and delicious. So fire up the grill and enjoy one of our favorites.

Strawberries and Cream Cake

Naked Cake

Good cooking is all about love. Food has a unique ability to bring people together. It’s an important part of our lives that is often enriched by the experiences we have shared with others. What I love about the cooking community is its generosity. I believe that good cooks are always learning from others.

Food and recipes are better when they are shared. Cooking at its best is a great act of generosity and soulfulness. This week I have been watching the new episodes of Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix. Phil Rosenthal the writer and creator of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, created this new show where he travels to cities across the world to taste and share what makes these places so wonderful. I particularly wanted to see this new season because he had an episode on Chicago.

Chicago has amazing food and chefs. But what inspired me most was Rosenthal’s connection to the people and the stories behind this city’s unique melting pot of cuisines. It was an especially good reminder of the power of food and its ability to bring us together.

I have been amazed at how many new readers have found my blog over that past three months. People from all over the United States and the world which speaks to the power of food and its ability to connect and comfort us in hard times.

Nothing lifts my spirits like making and sharing something sweet. So this week I am sharing my recipe for a summer inspired strawberries and cream cake. A delicious cake that brings together some of my baking favorites .

This cake has light layers of lemon cake filled with a sweet cream cheese icing and fresh strawberries. It’s a simple summer cake that’s fun to bake and share.

Strawberries and Cream Cake- makes one 10-inch cake

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (if you can’t find it in the stores at the moment then all purpose flour will work)
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 sour cream
  • 1 pint of strawberries
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint or strawberry blossoms (optional)

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1 Stick of Softened Butter (I usually let it sit out of the fridge for at least an hour)
  • 1 (8oz) Softened Brick of Cream Cheese (I let it sit out with the butter)
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 5 Cups of Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of Milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl or the bowl to your standing mixer add your sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. Mix about a minute on medium speed.

Add in the potato starch, salt, baking powder and half of your flour with your milk and oil. Mix on low speed until just blended then add in the last part of your flour and mix until the flour is incorporated.

Line the bottom of your your 10 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and then spray your pans with baker’s joy or alternatively butter and flour the pans

Pour your cake batter evenly between the two pans.

These are thin cakes so bake them for 20 to 25 minutes until the tops are golden and the cake is just cooked through. Let them cool completely before you frost them.

Cream cheese icing is light fluffy and irresistibly good!

Now make the frosting. In the bowl of a mixer cream the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar vanilla and milk. Mix on high-speed until the icing is smooth and fluffy.

To assemble your cake place a small spoonful of icing on the base of the plate and spread it slightly. This will hold the bottom layer of the cake and keep it from sliding.

Then place the first cake layer flat or bottom side up and then pipe or spread half of the cream cheese frosting over the top. I like to use a large star shaped tip to pipe small dots of frosting. This gives the center layer a pretty finish.

Add a thin layer of cut strawberries on top.  If you are using a piping bag then pipe and extra swirl or dot of frosting between the strawberries on the outside edge.

Place the second cake layer on top. Then pipe swirl of icing to cover the top or spread enough icing on top to fully cover the top layer. Use a separated spatula or butter knife evenly cover the top of the cake.

My trick for an extra smooth top frosting layer is to use a Viva paper towel (this brand is particularly smooth so it needs to be a Viva). Place the frosted cake in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes. Then take it out of the fridge and lay a Viva paper towel on top and lightly smooth the top of the cake by lightly pressing your hand against the paper towel. Reposition the paper towel if needed to smooth away any knife or spatula marks.

Finally top the outside edge of the top of the cake with some extra swirls of icing with a mint spring and some whole strawberries to add pretty finish.

The cake is light and tender. The slight tanginess of the cream cheese icing pairs well with the sweet strawberries. It’s a great way to celebrate the flavors of Chicago’s most glorious summer season.

Tortilla Chip Fried Green Tomato BLT

Fried Green Tomato BLT

Fresh tomatoes are one of summer’s great gifts. One of my favorite ways to eat them is in a sandwich. This past weekend I set out to create the ultimate BLT sandwich. This fried green tomato BLT is crusted in crispy corn tortilla chips and served with a tangy sriracha lime mayonnaise. It’s absolutely scrumptious and substantial enough to make a wonderful summer supper.

These fried green tomatoes cook in just minutes. So, it’s a good meal to serve on a night when you want a delicious dinner, but you don’t want to be in the kitchen for too long. The flavors and textures on this sandwich make this anything but your ordinary BLT.

Tortilla Chip Fried Green Tomato BLT Serves 4

  • 2 medium sized green tomatoes (If you are in the Chicago area where green tomatoes can sometimes be a little trickier to find then try Pete’s Fresh Market)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup corn tortilla chips finely crushed (about 2 cups whole)
  • 2/3 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • canola or vegetable oil
  • 8 slices of good quality French or Italian bread, toasted
  • 1 small head of butter lettuce
  • 8 slices of bacon, cooked

Sriracha Lime Mayonaise

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sriracha
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • zest of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice

First slice your tomatoes into about 1/3 inch slices. I got about 5 slices from each medium sized tomato.

Next crush your tortilla chips in a food processor or alternatively you could crush them in a large zip top baggie.

Then prepare your three breading bowls for the tomatoes. In one bowl add 1/2 cup of flour. In the second whisk together your eggs and milk. Then in the third bowl combine your cornmeal and crushed tortilla chips.

My breading bowls all ready to make my tomatoes.

Dredge the sliced tomatoes in the flour making sure that they are evenly coated. Then dip them in the egg mixture. Finally make sure they are well coated in the cornmeal-chip mixture.

Here you can see the different textures of the corn meal and the tortilla chips. This gives the tomatoes an extra crispy crust.

Over place a sauté pan or a cast iron skillet over medium to medium high heat fill it with about 1/4 inch of canola or vegetable oil so it fully covers the pan. Allow the oil to heat until it just begins to sizzle. You will know it is ready when place a wooden spoon or spatula handle in and it begins to form bubbles around it.

Now fry your tomatoes in batches cooking them for 2 minutes a side until they turn a golden brown color.

There is nothing like the sound of a good tomato sizzling in the skillet.

Then let your cooked tomatoes drain on paper towel while you finish the rest of your tomatoes.

Next you want to mix together the sriracha lime mayonnaise. In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise, sriracha, honey, lime zest and lime juice.

Now assemble the sandwiches, by spreading the sriracha lime mayonnaise to taste on each side of the bread. Place several lettuce leaves on the bottom piece of bread then top it with your fried tomatoes, bacon and the remaining piece of bread. The sandwiches are wonderful when served warm, but they are also surprisingly good as leftovers the next day too. I like to serve my sandwiches with a side of fresh fruit.

The the crispy texture of the tomatoes with a touch of saltiness form the bacon and the crunch of the lettuce make this one outrageously good bite. So if you are looking for something new for dinner then try my tortilla chip fried green tomato BLT.

The French 40 Cocktail

I had a big birthday this week. Although I may have been on what felt like “plan G” for birthday party plans. I wasn’t about to let the COVID 19 quarantine, days of rain and flash flood warnings stand in the way of celebrating. My husband had to pick up an extra ICU shift at the hospital so I had my girls up early and working on their home schooling assignments hoping that we could finish a bit earlier. I got the cake baked and I was working on icing it. I was feeling like things were generally going well for the plan G birthday dinner until the dog disappeared from the backyard.

All the rain had washed a hole under our fence. Suddenly our dog decided to take out on an adventure. I dropped everything, grabbed his leash, a bag of treats and a jar of peanut butter. I spotted him in on the far edge of the yard behind us. However when my daughters and I got close he dashed. When I called his name he gave me a look, as if there was no treat that could possibly be worth his new found freedom. Then he made a mad dash across the street and the chase was on.

It was like the scene from Ferris Buller’s Day Off where he is running through peoples’ backyards and over fences trying to make it home before his parents discovered that he was missing. I was racing over decks, back porches, rocks, and water features. Screaming “peanut butter” (his favorite treat) at the top of my lungs. I was whizzing by peoples back doors and windows. I lost the treat box along the way. Meanwhile I was trying to look back and make sure that my daughters who were trying to follow along were safe. “Look before you cross the street or better yet just stay there.”

Finally I thought I had caught a break when I got him to run towards my oldest daughter. She put her hand on him and then screamed “EEEWWW!!! He’s dirty!”  Then I watched in horror as her hand let go. “This is not the time to worry about being dirty” I shouted.

After another 10 minutes he finally got tired enough to think about stopping for some peanut butter and I got a good grip on his collar. My little white fur ball was wet and covered in mud, but he was safe. I got everyone cleaned off and the dog secured.

Then I looked over at the cake on the counter. I had left it out and now the strawberries and cream cake was melted strawberry goo. I for a second thought about just throwing the cake in the trash. But then I thought about that episode from The Great British Bake Off where the baker throws his melted ice cream cake in the bin and decided that the trash just wasn’t the answer. I scraped off the icing  and found just enough fondant to cover the sides of the cake.  It may not be my prettiest cake ever, but it was delicious.

Then I set out to make seafood gumbo and just about then my husband made it home. He helped me make these champagne cocktails called French 75s however in honor of my birthday I am renaming them French 40s. A great cocktail for any party especially the ones the kind that feel like a frazzled plan G.

My husband put on some Zydeco music, to go along with our New Orleans styled meal and he began dancing with my girls. They were twirling across the dining room and beaming with joy. We all took turns dancing and we lingered at the table together. Savoring our gumbo and garlic bread. Sometimes the best moments are the ones you don’t plan. In the end the evening was so wonderful that my youngest daughter now wants a dance party for her birthday too.

So this week I thought I would share the recipe for a French 40 a recipe I adapted from the Queen of New Orleans Miss Julia Reed.

French 40 Cocktail 

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Cognac
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons champagne, chilled
  • lemon peel twists, for garnishing the glasses

Combine the cognac, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a Champagne glass and top with the champagne. Then garnish with a lemon peel twist.

Lemon Simple Syrup (makes 1 cup enough for several rounds of cocktails)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 inch piece of lemon peel

In a small saucepan over medium high heat bring your water to a simmer and then add your sugar and stir your sugar until it dissolves. Then add in your lemon peel to infuse it with a hint of lemon flavor. Cover and refrigerate the syrup. It will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge and makes a great base for other cocktails too.

Here is the strawberries and cream cake and the last of the tulips that I rescued from all the rain. A little New Orleans styled garden party fun.

This was definitely a memorable birthday. One to toast and remember. So if you are looking for a festive cocktail or moment of fun in all this quarantine craziness then I highly recommend our French 40 cocktails.

Summer Berry Crisp

Summer is coming and I am already seeing so many beautiful strawberries, blackberries and blueberries berries in the stores. This weekend I was talking with family about different berry salad recipes and all that berry talk had me thinking about creating a new berry recipe. My summer berry crisp has a crunchy oat topping with a sweet mixed berry filling. I love it because it’s an easy dessert that comes together quicker than your traditional pie or tart. The mix of berries with just a hint of lemon creates a bright, sweet, and delicious bite.

Summer Berry Crisp- Serves 6

Crumble Topping

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats

Berry Filling

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, halved or quartered if your berries are large
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, but if your berries are not super sweet then up the sugar to 1/3 cup

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

In a food processor pulse together your flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Next add in the butter pieces and pulse until you get pea sized crumbs of butter and flour. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor you could also use a pastry blender or a fork to work the butter into the flour mixture.

Place your blended flour and butter mixture in a medium bowl and mix in your oats. Now set the crumble mixture aside while you prepare your berry filling.

In a medium sized bowl mix together the zest, lemon juice, water, sugar and flour. Then add in your berries and carefully stir to coat them with the lemon sugar mixture.

Spray an 8×8 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Next, pour your berries in the base of your pan and spread them evenly.

Finally, take your crumble topping and sprinkle it evenly over the berries.

Bake for 40 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve your summer berry crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Warm berry crisp a sweet crunchy bite that only gets better with a scoop of ice cream. So if you too have been thinking about berries or looking for a simple dessert, then give this berry crisp a try.