4 Mexican Dishes You Want to Make (And Eat!) This Cinco De Mayo

OK, peeps, today is Cinco de Mayo and, in case you didn’t know, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. No, the 5th of May is celebrated to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over Napoleon’s French forces at the Battle of Puebla.

In any event, even if it is more of an American holiday these days, since Mexican food is probably on the brain today I thought I’d remind you of 4 of my favorite Mexican dishes you can throw together in a snap:

1) Homemade pinto beans.

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My pinto beans just went into the pot!

Right now, do this: pull out your crock pot and add  2 cups of dried pinto beans, 6 cups of water, 1 onion chopped into quarters, 3 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, 1 tsp of cumin, 2 tsp sea salt, 2 tsp of black pepper. Cook for 5 hours on high (or 8 hours on low). These will be the most amazing pintos you’ve ever had.

2) Almost instant chicken fajitas (and you don’t need a fajita flavor packet to make it happen).
fajitas
(Make a quick run to the store sometime today and grab a rotisserie chicken, some bell peppers, and corn tortillas today and throw these together.)

3) Homemade red and green salsas with  Juanita’s (the ONLY tortillas chips I buy).

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(Seriously, MAKE THESE SALSAS. They come together in a flash and will make you think you’re sitting in Mexico for dinner tonight.)

4) Use QUINOA for a ‘tortilla-less burrito bowl‘. (While my kids gravitate towards burritos and tacos with tortillas, you know me: quinoa is my foundation for everything.)

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And don’t forget to put out a gorgeous array of fresh fixings like cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, onions, lettuce, lime wedges, and fresh diced jalapeño… and shredded cheddar cheese! Everything goes better with FRESH.

Have fun, everyone!

And hey: Let me know what YOUR favorite homemade Mexican dish is!

The Top 5 Grocery Goodies to Fall in Love With This Year

A couple of weekends ago I did something amazing: I spent two full days at ExpoWest in Anaheim with 60,000 other visitors. ExpoWest is the ‘natural, organic, healthy’ red carpet of food shows; and, over 2,600 of the Who’s Who of food brands get decked out, strut their stuff, and highlight what we ‘must’ eat this coming year.

If you’ve never been to (or heard of) ExpoWest, imagine walking the isles of a 1-million square foot Whole Foods store. While people push and rub against you and force you to travel in baby steps, every single item is displayed, sampled, cooked-up, and/or served for your unlimited tasting. There are bright lights, music, yoga classes, speakers, massage chairs, colors, energy, savory smells of goodness, impromptu living rooms set up in booths where deals get done, and Disney-attraction quality displays where branded workers are tripping over themselves to hand pins, bags, stickers, stress balls, and sealed samples (some even full size!) of their products.

Gluten free, vegan, meat free, flower infused, dairy free, dairy rich, cricket-powder fortified (yes, I found a bar made with crickets as the protein source!), herbal… whatever your bent, ExpoWest had the goods.

It was a total hoot.

It’s taken me a bit to process it all. I’ve reviewed my brand materials, re-read ingredient labels, re-tested samples in the comfort of my own kitchen, and gathered reviews from my man and kids. And, now, here it is:

My TOP 5 GROCERY GOODIES TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS YEAR:

 

Better Bean Company

1)   Beans from The Better Bean Company. I love beans, as you know, and typically make my own. What I love about this company and their ‘rethought’ beans, however, is they’re made the way I would make them: with nothing but real, wholesome ingredients and no added sweeteners, added flavors, or chemicals. The Uncanny Refried Black Beans are exactly what you want to have on hand for an instant burrito night; top a bed of quinoa with some Rethought Red Beans, Cuban Black Beans, or Three Sisters Chili for an instant lunch (I break one pod into two lunches for my girls); or, try the Chipotle Bean Dip as a dip, or even as a base for a southwestern chicken tortilla soup! Every recipe they have is delish – and, the fact this company is run by a passionate and engaging father/daughter team makes them even more special in my book. (They cost about $2.50 / 14 oz pod, and you’ll find them in the refrigerated section beside hummus and salsa.)

Tumeric Alive Vanilla Bean Elixer

2) Tumeric Alive Vanilla Bean Elixir. Ok, I’m not a ‘drink’ girl that navigates too far from water, coconut water, and coffee. When I stopped and sampled the options from Tumeric Alive, though, I found a new indulgence: Tumeric Alive Vanilla Bean Elixir. (I say ‘indulgence’ because they’ll run you anywhere from $5-$5.50 a 12-ounce bottle.)  It’s not a juice – it’s a ‘herbal formula’ made of turmeric, ginger, cardamom, spearmint, honey, lemon, sea salt, cayenne, and vanilla bean. What I loved about the Vanilla Bean blend is it has some kick to it, yet was extremely refreshing and soothing to my talked-out throat. MMMM…. so good – and so much better for an afternoon pick-me-up than any coffee bar drink.

Epic Lamb Bar

3) Epic Bars. I was super leery about trying these ‘100% grass fed’ meat-based bars, but I did… and, thank God, because they are amazing. After tasting each of their four blends – lamb, bison, turkey, and beef – lamb was surprisingly my favorite. I felt like I was eating a really soft beef jerky with just a hint of sweet (from the cranberries). They’re geared for the Paleo crowd (but even non-paleo folk like me can dig ’em), and run about $2.75 a piece. The ingredients are clean and there are no added sweeteners – hooray! So, if you’re looking for a savory bar to keep on hand for after workouts, I’d give this a shot. (Use their product finder to locate a store near you, or order online.)

Nancys Greek organic-greek-plain-yogurt

4) Nancy’s Plain Greek Yogurt and Straus Plain Greek Yogurt. Since yogurt is one of quinoa’s best friends in my world, of course I set out to see if there was a yogurt brand I’ve been missing out on. And, you know what I discovered? Fage, move over – I have two new loves in my life:  Nancy’s Greek yogurt and  Straus Greek yogurt. Nancy’s is out of Oregon and Straus is out of California; I’m telling you about both because, depending on where you are, you may not have both choices. Either one, however, will knock your socks off. Super creamy, just the right tang flavor, no grainy taste, and fabulous consistency of each. (If you’re dairy free, try SoDelicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Unsweetened Yogurt, another one I really loved at the show.)

kolat

5) Kolat Espresso Hazelnut Superfood Fusion Fruit and Nut Butter. My kids beg for Nutella and, while we have one jar in the house for ‘special’ nights (I keep it high up out of the everyday intake because it’s literally a spreadable candy bar), I’ve told them when it’s gone, it’s gone and will never return. (Seriously – read the ingredient label.) This is why I was so excited to discover Kolat at the Expo. They make decadent tasting nut and fruit spreads with NO ADDED SUGARS. Serious! My favorite of their four recipes was the espresso hazelnut spread, and check out the ingredients: roasted almonds, hazelnuts, dates, organic coconut oil, ground espresso beans, and sea salt. No sweeteners, no preservatives, no flavors – just real good stuff I’m happy to keep readily accessible for all of us to enjoy. ($9.99 / 16 oz. Use their product finder to locate a store near you, or order online.)

Here are some other ‘must mentions’ to look out for:

Vegan Perfect Bar

Protein bars by PerfectBar. If you read ingredient labels for food bars, almost every one of them has sugar as a top four ingredient and a variety of other junk that should never be labeled ‘healthy’. (This is why I developed SmartyBars years ago – in rebellion to all the garbage!) Thankfully, however, I stumbled upon this fabulous bar at the Expo – and now I have something I won’t hesitate to buy: the Almond Coconut Perfect Bar. The founders have a great story. Plus, their bars really are ‘perfect’ with no added sweeteners, added flavors, or preservatives. (A few flavors do use honey, but honey is God-made and I have no problems with it in moderation.) I’ll hand these to my kids in a heartbeat.

Alter Eco Quinoa Dark Chocolate Crunch

AlterEco Quinoa Dark Chocolate Crunch Bar. A true treat: their gluten-free quinoa chocolate crunch bar. (I love they use Fair trade certified ingredients.)

chicapeas

Chic-a-peas. These baked chickpea snacks (plain and falafel seasoned) are a perfect lunchbox snack. Made of nothing but chickpeas, safflower oil, seasonings, and sea salt; and, perfectly baked to satisfy your savory cravings. (Hopefully coming to a store near you… and, until then, order online.) The company was also founded by two cutie-patooties from New York – and their passion and love for their products captured my heart.

There you go! Let me know if there’s a grocery product YOU’VE discovered that I should try out. I’m always looking for clean ingredient labels and good tasting options.

Hearty Quinoa Minestrone

Today I planned to tell you about my fabulous apple cranberry upside-down cake that has a hint of rosemary and lemon… but I’m going to have to switch gears on you and save that for next week. (I know, I’m sorry – especially because, when I posted the picture on Instagram and Facebook last week, you helped it become one of my most viewed photos of the entire week! (Really… you love the sweets even more than quinoa? LOL) )

Why?

Because the weekend forecast is downright frigid… there’s a little bug going around… and we could all use something to warm us up from the inside out, couldn’t we? That’s why I want to tell you about this:

Gluten-Free Quinoa Minestrone

Gluten-Free Quinoa Minestrone

Literally, minestrone means ‘that which is served’. It’s a soup we all know hails from Italian culture… and I ate plenty of while I lived abroad. Typically it’s made with vegetables, broth, and the addition of pasta or rice… but, in reality, there really isn’t a fixed recipe.

What I love about minestrone is that it’s more about style than following a set of rules; it’s a ‘whatever you have lying around’ kinda soup… and, I know we moms like that syle of dish, don’t we?

There are as many ways to make minestrone as there are cooks; and, depending on the time of year it’s being made, and what ingredients are on hand, this ‘traditional’ soup has unlimited variations.

My variation that I’m sharing with you today is a little bit of all I love:

quinoa (instead of pasta)

quinoa (instead of pasta)

lots of fresh herbs

lots of fresh herbs

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fresh vegetables

…and a couple canned ingredients for the sake of ease

…and a couple canned ingredients for the sake of ease

Here’s what you need:

  • olive oil
  • 2 FRESH rosemary sprigs about 2″ long
  • 3 FRESH sprigs of thyme
  • 1 FRESH sprig of oregano
  • 1 handful of curly parsley
  • 5-6 FRESH sage leaves (or 1 large sage sprig)
  • 1 FRESH sprig of marjoram
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced and crushed
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
  • 1 small bunch of kale, rough chopped
  • several small potatoes (I like to use fingerlings)
  • soup stock (I use chicken stock)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • precooked quinoa
  1. Heat a large soup pot on the stove top and add olive oil to coat the pan. When hot, add onions and garlic; saute until onions are translucent.
  2. Add diced celery, chopped carrots, and chopped kale. Saute for a few minutes, covered, on medium high heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add canned tomatoes and fresh herbs, stir to incorporate, and continue to saute (uncovered) for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. (NOTE: You don’t need to remove the leaves or chop the herbs before adding to the soup. Just toss them into the mix completely whole, and remove the woody stems before serving.)
  4. Add potatoes, beans, and enough stock to cover the base by two inches. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium, cover, and allow the soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes so flavors incorporate and the potatoes to soften.
  5. Serve over a scoop of quinoa, and, if desired, top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Not only do the fresh herbs make this the best minestrone soup you’ll ever taste (and YES, you MUST use fresh herbs… MUST), I guarantee the quinoa will satisfy more than pasta ever could.

So, there ya go – a big pot o’ love you need to make this weekend. It’s easy, fragrant, amped up on nutrients, and exactly what this cold weather is calling for.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Friday Night Feast: Tortilla-less Burrito Bowl

Okay, so it’s Friday. The nicest part about Friday for me is that it kicks off two days where I don’t have to make lunches. Yippee!! (Anyone else with me on this one?)

The other part I love is that everyone comes home Friday afternoon and their bodies and minds melt into relaxation. No rush to do homework. Technology is a free-for-all. And, tomorrow: all will sleep in.

Friday is also a time for ‘easy dinner’… and, the favorite ‘easy dinner’ around here is burritos. Right now my pinto beans are in the crock pot**. And tonight, we’ll warm the tortillas on our old school cast iron skillet before my man and my little ones fill them with beans, cheese and onions.

Now, for me, I’m not a big fan of the tortilla – or the cheese. So, while my family enjoys burritos their way, I’ll make a tortilla-less burrito by layering all my fixin’s right over a warm serving of quiona.

Yep – quinoa replaces my tortilla.

Tortilla-less Burrito Bowl

Tortilla-less Burrito Bowl

No tortilla - just pure goodness!

No tortilla – just pure goodness!

So, here’s what’s I love to put in my ‘tortilla-less burrito’ bowl:

  • quinoa
  • pinto beans
  • fresh cherry tomatos sliced in thirds
  • chopped cilantro
  • fresh diced jalapeño
  • lime juice

Doesn’t that sound delish??

I can’t wait for dinner.

Rebel on,
-e.
___________

**To make crock pot pinto beans:

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 onion cut in half
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper

Put all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high for 6-8 hours.

NOTE: if you didn’t plan ahead and make your pinto beans in a crock pot, you can always used canned pinto beans. Just warm them on the stove and add a little seasoning to enhance the flavor.