Baked Southwest Egg Rolls with Creamy Salsa

IMG_9279

I have a major weakness for Southwest egg rolls. It’s my kryptonite. Just one whiff of them can bring me to my knees, and every time I see them on a menu (and that’s a lot since our move to Texas), I have to order them. I’m not sure who it was that first came up with this Asian fusion work of art, but they should be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for brilliance in food discovery. Alright, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but that’s how much I love them. Now, with that being said, I realize that these fried little goodies aren’t the most nutritious things you can put into your mouth, and with bikini season still in full swing, I’m not yet willing to abandon my healthy eating habits and devour these by the handful, like I inevitably do once sweater season strikes. But just because the weather is warm and the clothing trends skimpy, doesn’t mean I should completely sacrifice my favorite go-to appetizer, right? At least that’s what I was thinking last weekend when I was having a serious snack-attack. Hungry for something savory and satisfying, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own less fattening version of the Southwest egg roll. Made with brown rice, lean chicken, and baked instead of fried, I feel better (at least a little bit) about attacking these guys with reckless abandon. Which I did. — Don’t judge.

Baked Southwest Egg Rolls

Makes 14

  • ½ cup dry brown rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1½ cups corn kernels, fresh or canned
  • 1 cup precooked rotisserie chicken (white meat, skin removed), roughly chopped (*omit to make this a vegetarian dish)
  • 1 bell pepper (red or orange), chopped
  • ½ cup jarred salsa
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 Tbsp diced canned jalapeños (substitute mild diced green chills for less heat)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 14 flour tortillas, fajita size
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
  • parchment paper

IMG_9252

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add rice and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until rice is soft and all the water has evaporated from the pot. Once rice has finished cooking, fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour half of the black beans into a medium bowl and mash with a fork until most of the beans are crushed.IMG_9237

To the same bowl, add cooked rice and all the other remaining ingredients (except the tortillas and egg wash), and stir until combined.IMG_9254

Fill a ¼-cup measurer with egg roll filling and drop it into the center of a tortilla.IMG_9259

Bring 2 sides of the tortilla upward, then use your other hand to press on the outside of the tortilla, forming the filling into a log running down the center of the tortilla, stopping ½-inch from each end.IMG_9260

Fold the bottom of the tortilla up towards the center, then fold both sides inward, creating an envelope.IMG_9261

Brush the open end of tortilla with the egg wash and fold inward, sealing the egg roll.IMG_9266 IMG_9263

Place egg roll seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then brush the top of the tortilla with egg wash, covering the entire surface.IMG_9265

Repeat with the remaining tortillas.IMG_9268

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until egg rolls are golden brown and crispy to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with Creamy Salsa for dipping (recipe below).IMG_9270

Creamy Salsa

  • 1 cup jarred salsa
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • smoked paprika for garnish

Mix salsa, sour cream, and salt together until smooth. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Creamy Salsa can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.IMG_9287

Sidekick: Serve with a light and refreshing beer, preferably of the Mexican variety: Pacifico, Modelo, Sol, Dos Equis, Victoria, or Carta Blanca.

Advertisements

Super Easy Sopapillas

IMG_7177

Sopapillas are a traditional Mexican dessert consisting of fried dough that’s been sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar then drizzled with honey. Ohmygod my mouth started watering just typing that sentence. Okay, now you’ve all had elephant ears at the fair, right? Yeah, well these are so much better. I don’t know why, but they are. Maybe it’s the honey. Maybe it’s the Mexican flare. Or maybe it’s just me. But this dessert is the single most thing I look forward to whenever we go out for Mexican food. Forget the chips and salsa, I’m all about the sopapillas.

Now normally I like to do things the right way. I’m about making the dough by hand, letting it rise, rolling it out, and frying it in small batches. When time permits. But when you have a house full of hungry guests who have been drinking daiquiris and noshing on street tacos, there’s no way you’re gonna to want to pull yourself away from the party to cook up a labor-intensive dessert. At least I wouldn’t. So why not opt for something simpler. Let’s all just agree to skip the kneading and rolling this Cinco de Mayo and throw a bunch of tortillas into the fryer instead!

Super Easy Sopapillas

  • vegetable oil, roughly ¼-½ cup
  • 4-6 small flour tortillas (fajita size works well)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • honey

IMG_7149

Cut each tortilla into 4 wedges, set aside. In a small bowl, mix cinnamon and sugar.

Pour oil into a straight-sided skillet until it’s ¼-inch deep. Set heat between medium-high and high. Allow oil to get hot (you’ll know it’s ready when a couple drops of water pop when they hit the oil).

With kitchen tongs, carefully place 4-5 tortilla wedges into the oil and cook, occasionally pressing down on the tortillas, until they brown on one side, then flip and cook on the other side, approximately 1 minute per side.

Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and immediately sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining tortilla wedges.

IMG_7156

Either drizzle with honey and serve immediately, or allow to cool, then store at room temperature in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 day. Drizzle with honey just before serving.

IMG_7165

Side note: In case you were wondering what happens to all this delicious food after I’m done with my photo shoots, I can tell you that everything goes directly to my Quality Assurance department (a.k.a. my stomach). So yeah, I ate this entire plate of sopapillas as soon as I put down my camera. And no, I didn’t save any for my toddler who was napping at the time. Don’t judge me.

 

Last-Minute Cinco de Mayo Party at Home: Smoky Beef Brisket Street Tacos

IMG_0882

With Cinco de Mayo only cinco days away, it’s time you started thinking about your party plans. You know, and I know, and all the other sane people on the planet know that every Mexican restaurant from here to Jupiter is going to be jammed packed with people fighting for a table. Even if you were forward-thinking enough to make a reservation, you’re still gonna wait a long time to be seated. Sure it’s fun to go out and celebrate with tequila-guzzling, sombrero-wearing, chips-and-salsa-munching party animals, but doesn’t it sound more fun to have a few friends over for a casual party where you can enjoy good food, good conversation, and still make it to work the next day (btw, Cinco de Mayo falls on a Monday this year, yeesh!)? Below is a quick and easy Cinco de Mayo menu that you can prep the day before, then throw into the crockpot to cook while you bide your time at work waiting for the festivities to begin.

Smoky Beef Brisket Street Tacos

Also known as carne deshebrads, these super easy, super tasty tacos take a couple minutes to prepare, and even less time to vanish. Seriously, beware because they are highly addictive and will be requested by family and friends for every occasion from here on out. Consider yourself warned!  Just don’t forget to marinate the brisket overnight so that it can reach its full flavor potential. (Recipe slightly adapted from Muy Bueno cookbook, by way of my aunt, by way of her daughter-in-law)

Serves 4-8

Tacos

  • 2-4 lbs. beef brisket, fat trimmed (½ lb. per person)
  • 2 oz. brisket marinade, (preferably Claude’s Brisket Marinade Sauce), or 2 tsp. liquid smoke per pound of brisket
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 oz. beer (preferably Blue Moon)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 8-16 corn tortilla, warmed (about 2 per person)

Toppings (choose any combination of the following or add your own)

  • 1-2 cups crumbled or shredded Mexican cheese, such as cotija or queso blanco, or another cheese
  • 1 cup Crema Mexicana or sour cream
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn
  • 1-2 cup white onions, diced
  • 1-2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2-4 avocados, sliced
  • 3-4 cups shredded cabbage or lettuce
  • 2-3 limes, cut into wedges
  • Lots of pico de gallo/salsa

The night before:

Place all of the taco ingredients (except tortillas) into the baking dish of crockpot or slow cooker, then cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the brisket to marinate.

Chop and prepare all the taco toppings (except for the avocado which will turn brown), cover and refrigerate.

The day of:

Place baking dish in the crockpot and set to cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or HIGH for 4-6 hours.

About 30-mintues before the brisket has finished cooking, slice the avocado and remove the other toppings from the refrigerator. Also, warm the tortillas by stacking 5 of them on top of each other, then wrap in tin foil and place in an oven preheated to 350° for 15-20 minutes (you can warm multiple packets of 5 tortillas at the same.)

Remove the brisket from the crockpot and place on a large serving platter. With two forks, shred the meat and drizzle a couple tablespoons of cooking liquid over top.

Set out toppings and allow guests to build their own tacos.

Sidekicks:

IMG_7033

  • Serve tacos alongside Mexican rice, and guacamole with chips.
  • With this meal you have plenty of wonderful thirst-quenching companions. Serve with Mexican beer such as Pacifico, Modelo, Sol, Dos Equis, Victoria, or Carta Blanca, to name half-a-dozen, and/or a pitcher (or three) of homemade strawberry-watermelon daiquiris.

Guacamole

IMG_7017

Guacamole

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • ½ tomato, seeds removed, diced
  • ¼ white onion, diced
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeds removed, minced
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 4 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 dashes hot sauce (optional)

Cut the avocados in half and remove pit. Scoop out avocado from the peel, put in a medium bowl. Mash avocado with a fork until slightly smooth with some chunks of avocado left.

Add tomato, onion, jalapeño, and lime juice. Stir until combined, then season with salt & pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce if you’d like. Serve with tortilla chips.

*If you have a small food processor, you can use it to chop the ½ tomato, ¼ white onion, jalapeño, and lime juice until chunky, then add it to the mashed avocado. Or, for a super quick version, add ½ cup jarred salsa to mashed avocado and mix until combined.

IMG_7013

Guacamole is best served fresh, but if you do refrigerate it, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of guacamole, the cover the entire bowl with an additional piece of plastic wrap.

IMG_7021

Mexican Rice

IMG_7036

Mexican Rice

Serves 6-8

  • 2 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 green pepper, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups dry long-grain white rice
  • 1½ cups spicy tomato juice (2 – 5.5oz cans of V8)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • chili powder (optional)
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped

In a large, straight-sided skillet, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion and pepper and sauté until soft and onion begins to become translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and cook until it begins to toast, about 1-2 minutes.

Add tomato juice and chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once liquid begins to boil, immediately reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until rice is soft but not mushy.

Add peas and tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and chili powder, if you like it extra spicy.

Transfer to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve hot.

*Rice can be made the day before, refrigerated, then quickly reheated in the microwave the day of the party.

Strawberry-Watermelon Daiquiris

IMG_6229

The thing I always hate about making frozen drinks at home is that unless you own a Vitamix (which I desperately want but feel bad about dipping into the Toddler’s college fund to buy), I always end up with huge chunks of unblended ice that clog up my straw. By pre-freezing the watermelon for a few minutes and using frozen strawberries, I’ve found that I can bypass those pesky ice cubes altogether and still get the creamy, frosty effect that you’d get from your favorite Mexican restaurant.

Strawberry-Watermelon Daiquiris

Serves 4

  • 2 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed watermelon
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • ½ cup light rum
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup triple sec
  • ¼ simple syrup *

IMG_6576

Place watermelon in a bowl and pour rum over top, then freeze for 40-60 minutes. In a blender, add watermelon and remaining ingredients and blend on high until smooth.

Pour into glasses and garnish with a wedge of watermelon.

*To make simple syrup, add 1 cup white sugar and 1 cup water in a sauce pan. Bring water to a boil and stir until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Simple syrup can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

CHECK BACK FRIDAY FOR A QUICK AND EASY MEXICAN DESSERT YOU CAN SERVE WITH THIS MEAL!