Tag Archives: mexican

When in Rome…or Houston

1 Nov

I like to eat regionally.  I am always up for a culinary adventure.  My blog on the Witch Doctor recounts such an adventure.  Find it here: https://busymomswellness.com/2014/07/31/when-in-rome/  Luckily, another adventure came along, and it was a blast!

I was in Houston Texas recently for a professional healthcare conference.  Regional food, ingredients, and influences are experiences I gravitate toward, even when a trip is work related.  Lucky for me that this trip across country was allowing such a culinary outing.

With its geographical proximity to Mexico, Houston cuisine is inspired by hispanic flavors.  With that, tex-mex emerged as a culinary theme in this area of Texas.  I couldn’t wait to dig in!

I have been to Mexico and had authentic food there.  I am talking middle of the jungle freshly caught and prepared armadillo, to name one memorable meal in that country.   Unfortunately many Mexican  local restaurants in the United States just don’t thrill me.  So naturally I was excited to be going to Houston where authentic mexican flavors inspire the food.  Many folks in my office that had been to Houston were happy to offer me the name a local favorite-Pappasitos.  It was a place that had 2 thumbs up from folks not only in our east coast office, but the Houston office as well.  Say no more…I was all in.

When we arrived at the renowned restaurant, I warned my dining companions that I would be taking pictures of the food.  (The dork in me always comes out when I dine with beautiful and authentic food). The place was busy, and it took a minute or two for us to get a table.  When we did, I was ready to follow tradition.

It is de rigueur at this place to begin with a margarita.  Being a midwestern girl, margaritas I was familiar with were typically a sweet bottled mass produced mix with tequila splashed in, and I was not a big fan.  But what the heck..when in Rome…

The margarita that I had in Houston was like nothing I had tasted before, much to my delight.  Obviously it was a drink made from scratch, not a bottled mix.  The margarita was loaded with refreshing ice, tangy citrus flavors, and a good size piece of lime.  It had a wonderful balance of sweet, tart, and tequila.  Wow!  Delicious!

Oh yeah.  Mandatory at a tex mex place in Houston!

Oh yeah. Mandatory at a tex mex place in Houston!

Moving on to the chips that are always on the table at mexican restaurants in this country, Pappasitos did not disappoint.  The chips were warm and had very little salt on them. They were thin and pleasantly crispy.   Several small dishes of salsa were placed on the table for us to enjoy.  And enjoy we did!  The salsa assortment was also fresh and fabulous.

Our dinner included flavorful rice that had flecks of chopped vegetables.  It was firm to the bite and one of many accoutrements to the meal.  We also had creamy delicious beans. Also offered were warm fresh tortillas, and tender juicy chicken.  The food was piping hot and laden with spices that imparted Mexican essence, and a pleasant heat.  The guacamole was chunky. It was fantastic.  Dining regionally rocks!

Sauces, or salsas, placed on our table at Pappasitos.  YUM!!

Sauces, or salsas, placed on our table at Pappasitos. YUM!!

An amazing plate of food with Mexican inspired ingredients and flavors.

An amazing plate of food with Mexican inspired ingredients and flavors.

Time for soup!

12 Oct

Ah yes.  The calendar says its October.  We may still be having some warm days, but make no mistake.  It is fall.  Soup is on!

Let’s have a brief history of soup.  Many historians believe that soup is as old as the history of cooking.  Soup is an ancient food.  It was the perfect food for rich and poor, all cultures, healthy people and invalids.  In other words, it was an ideal food for everybody.  Most everyone had access to a pot and fire  Not only that, anything can go into soup.  So it is easy to understand how it dates back hundreds of years.

The art of tossing things into a pot for a one dish meal started out as a rustic meal, and has come a long way.  Soup is nutritious, flexible with ingredients, warm and nourishing.  It can be as simple or as sophisticated as desired.   My number one reason for loving soup, though, is that it can be made on any budget.  Another bonus…soup can easily feed a crowd.

I am not the only one craving comfort food at the moment.   I went out to lunch with some folks from the office.  They invited me to “go out for soup”.  Sure, I thought.  When I inquired as to where we were going for soup, the answer confused me.  Donna, a coworker,  said “Oh, to a Mexican restaurant down the street”. Umm, what?  A mexican place?  But always one for a culinary adventure, off I went with the office crowd.  I need not have questioned the rationale.

The soup and quesadilla lunch special was about 6 bucks.  It was easy on the budget, but more than that, it was fantastic!  Who knew that you could get delicious soup at a place that I relate more closely with a cheesy, spicy, rice and tortilla meal.   This lunch outing really got me jazzed yet again for soup season.  Its time for some fun.   After all, it is fall!

The soup and quesadilla lunch special.  Delish!

The soup and quesadilla lunch special. Delish!

Just look at that chunky soup filled with veggies, avocado, and chicken.

Just look at that chunky soup filled with veggies, avocado (a favorite superfood of mine), and chicken.

Seven Super Spices

11 Nov

Spices are used to enhance the flavors of the food we cook.  But there is an added bonus!  Did you know that spices are packed with healthy antioxidants?  Spices, even in small amounts, can pack a good healthy punch in your daily diet.  How?

Antioxidants prevent oxidation.  How is that helpful to our bodies?  Oxidation harms our cells, and antioxidants protect our cells from the damage oxidation can cause.  That is why we hear so much about antioxidants today.  Where are antioxidants found and how can we incorporate them into our diet?  There are many ways.  Using spices is a good place to jump start your cells to better health!

Antioxidants in spices are super concentrated.  What are the best spices to focus on?  We will start with one at a time.  Let’s talk about cumin.  It is prized for medicinal healing.  But we will focus on what the studies have shown to make cumin medically beneficial.

  • Studies have shown cumin to help reduce glucose levels naturally in diabetics, increasing glucose sensitivity.
  • Cumin has been a proven bronchiodilator, beneficial for asthmatics.
  • It is packed with antioxidant properties.
  • Cumin contains iron and manganese, great for the immune system.
  • Cumin has been shown to benefit the digestive system by stimulating pancreatic enzymes.
  • Studies have indicated that cumin seeds may also have anti-carcinogenic properties.

Cumin seeds physically resemble caraway seeds.  Both the cumin seeds and the powder can be found in the grocery store.  The seeds are fresher, and can be toasted and easily crushed to use in any recipe.  But use which ever is best for you.

Cumin is generally associated with Mexican and Spanish foods.  It is also widely used in Mediterranean cooking.  You can throw it into your tacos, chili, or enchiladas.  Add cumin to black beans and rice.  Give your cauliflower a healthy punch by sprinkling it with cumin.  It doesn’t matter how you use it…just start!  You will quickly be in your way to better health!  And the next of the seven super spices is…

Crock pot tacos

15 Oct

I have been of the mindset that crock pot meals are:

a) SO 70’s, and not in a good way

b) SO boring

c)  SO bland, like beige food

d) decidedly and completely unsexy food

In other words, no F-U-N!

But…..I was short on time the other morning (as usual), and wanted to get a fairly decent meal on the table for my family that night.  So I took a minute before leaving for work and grabbed a couple of things to toss into the (time for true confessions…) crock pot.  My intention was to have flavorful and somewhat healthy tacos by suppertime.  So this is what i tossed into the crock pot:

4 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 can diced green chilis

4 ounces salsa

4 ounces salsa verde (green salsa)

1 envelope of low sodium taco seasoning

1 T. chili powder

1 T. cumin

salt and pepper to taste (you can always adjust this upward, so be conservative to begin with)

I put the chicken in the bottom, then just dumped everything else on top.  I was in a hurry,  the chicken breasts were individual, not in a big block, but still frozen solid.  The seasonings went on the top.  I didn’t even stir it.  I just threw it together, covered the crock pot, turned it on and ran out the door.

When I came home in the late afternoon, I opened the lid of the crock pot and gave the mixture a good stir.  I used two forks to shred the chicken while it was still in the crock pot, which was so tender it easily broke apart.  I had a quick taste, adjusted my seasonings a bit, then put the lid back on.

When dinner time came, I made some spanish rice, shredded some lettuce and cheese, pulled the tortillas out, and dinner was served!  The tacos were kind of an all in one because of the vegetables  added to the mixture.  The dinner was nutritious and relatively low in fat.

This recipe really stretched my ingredients so it was budget friendly, and it served a crowd.  It was an easy weeknight dinner.  True it wasn’t sexy, but it wasn’t boring either.  With all of the added vegetables, it was colorful, flavorful, and quite satisfying.  What will you add to your crock pot tacos?