Latest 'Grams

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Vanilla Pineapple IPA Popsicles | #POPSICLEWEEK

Loves Food, Loves to Eat// Vanilla Pineapple IPA Popsicles | #POPSICLEWEEKIt’s that magical first-week-of-summer time. When everything seems possible, when we shed our winter skins and people ride bikes naked through the streets, the sun sets later and later each night, barbeques and beers on patios are plentiful and stretch past our pre-solstice bed-times, camping plans and picnic plans and beach-day plans are dreamt up and mapped out, and here in the PNW, we wear tank tops and flip flops one day, rainboots and jackets the next, constantly unprepared for the heat or the rain. It’s also the time of year when Billy of Wit & Vinegar hosts Popsicle Week!

Popsicles are one of those things that give me all the nostalgic summertime feels. Childhood memories of being sent outside into the summer heat with frozen orange juice or frozen grape juice on a stick, melting faster than you can eat it. It seems impossible, no matter what sad and awful and hateful and terrible things are happening in the world and the nation and our lives, to not smile when you’re eating a popsicle. Popsicle week came at just the right time this year—I feel like we could all benefit from a few extra, sticky-frozen-sweet smiles this month.    

This popsicle is sort of my ode to the Pacific North Best—a gift to my comrades in the upper left USA who’ve waded through a long, wet, grey, sunless winter. To my fellow Seattleites who know the few months of sunshine we get every summer make the rest of year worth it. It has a bitter hoppy finish that I associate with the northwest. IPAs of course are all over the map, but they feel so PNWonderland to me—piney and woodsy, best accompanied by a flannel shirt, mountains, and evergreen trees. And the pineapple—that’s for those of us who never want to call another place home, but still long for tropical beaches.

I’ve been toying with the idea of a vanilla pineapple IPA beertail for some time now, and with popsicle week here, I decided rather than a cocktail, this would be the perfect popsicle! All the satisfying cool relief and childlike giddiness of eating an icy pop, with the contrast of the sweet tangy pineapple, the warm roundness of vanilla, and the bitter hops that our adult palates have come to know and respect. Note that these aren’t the kind of treats that have a little something for everyone—If you’re not an IPA fan (shame on you) or you’re an actual child, these aren’t the pops for you. There's a real punch in the face IPA-ness about them. Luckily, if you head over to Wit & Vinegar, there are a lot of other options to meet your summer frozen treat needs and wishes.

Loves Food, Loves to Eat// Vanilla Pineapple IPA Popsicles | #POPSICLEWEEK

Why is it impossible to get the sticks in straight!?

Vanilla Pineapple IPA Popsicles
This makes about 1.5 cups more liquid than my 10 popsicle mold could hold. I started to do the maths to cut back, and instead gave up and poured the extra liquid in a glass over ice and was grateful for that decision, instant gratification for those of us that can hardly stand to wait overnight for these pops to freeze. Note that because they contain alcohol, they don't get a really deep freeze, and that makes them melt super fast...but the slushy pop gobbled up really quick before it melted away was my fave part. 

18 oz. pineapple juice *
16 oz (1 pint / 2 cups) IPA **
1 tablespoon agave
1 teaspoon vanilla ***

Whisk ingredients together and pour into popsicle molds. Freeze until solid. Enjoy on a rainy or sunny PNW summer day.

* I used three 6 oz cans of Dole pineapple juice
**I used one from one of my neighborhood breweries… I tried to pick something a little summery and citrusy. If you can get your hands on a citra, that would be the winner
***I used vanilla bean paste, which I think has a deeper vanilla flavor plus I love the specs of vanilla bean (all those little black speckles at the tips of the pops), but regular vanilla extract and/or scraped vanilla bean will work

Monday, May 30, 2016

Fried Chicken Sandwiches!

Delicious fried chicken on a rack. My mom said that when she and my dad first lived together, practically all she made was deep fried food in a cast iron skillet, because it’s all she knew how to cook. And my grandma, from Oklahoma, has bubbling hot oil running through her veins. But I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, in the 80s and 90s. Back when health crazes were all the rage. In a time when margarine was better for you than butter (although the lower price is more likely what kept that giant tub of Country Crock in our fridge my entire childhood). The days of Slim Fast powder and Jane Fonda aerobics tapes. Back when my mom only deep fried a couple times a year, and usually just to make breaded fried zucchini, and taquitos on Amanda’s birthday. Contrary to my mom’s belief, deep frying prowess is not something you’re born with. It’s not something I was born with. In fact, it’s something that, while brave and adventurous in the kitchen, I’ve always been intimidated by and have failed at every time I tried.

the best fried chicken sandwich ever Yesterday, however, I learned a terrible, wonderful lesson: making fried chicken at home is. so. easy. I'm going to gain SO much weight. YOU GUYS. What was I afraid of? (I know exactly what I was afraid of from past attempts: burnt outsides, raw insides, my smoke alarm going off every five minutes). If you have the right tools, fried chicken is so, so, so, so easy. The right tools are a large, high-sided cast iron dutch oven (not enamel-coated cast iron) and a really good instant read thermometer. My mom practically disowned me when I told her I used a fancy thermometer to fry chicken, but again, I wasn’t born with the deep-fry gene. The most perplexing part of frying food for me was always the oil temperature. Every recipe says to heat the oil on high, then to keep the oil at a certain temperature, but it doesn’t say HOW to do that. Now, if you’re a southerner or grew up with a pot of bowling oil in your kitchen, this might be a no-brainer. But if you grew up in a time when bagel sandwiches with sprouts were health food and greasy fried zucchini was a once a summer treat, no matter how proficient you are in the kitchen, how on earth do you know how to control the temperature of a fiery cauldron of oil? For all the novices out there, here's how:

1. Use cast iron. It retains heat better than other materials, so it does half the work for you. You can bring the oil up to the heat you want it, then lower the flame, and the cast iron keeps the oil hot. 

2. Use a fancy non-grandma-approved, deep-frying specific, instant-read thermometer. I used this one (it has a probe that sits in the oil, and then a digital thermometer interface that sits on the counter top). And I set it to alert me whenever the oil exceeded 350 degrees. 
3. Add your oil to the dutch oven (I used about 2 pints of peanut oil in a 10 1/4 quart cast iron dutch oven, so it reached a little over an inch high).
4. Turn heat on high, and let it heat up to about 375 to 400 degrees. Then lower heat to medium (this is what they don’t tell you in the other recipes!). The temp will likely stay the same, or even keep rising, because of the cast iron. 
5. Gently add 1-2 pieces of the chicken, then watch your temp. The cool chicken will lower the temp slightly, but maybe too much or not enough. You want the temp to fall to around 350 degrees. At this point, I LOWERED THE HEAT to medium low. 
6. Watch the temp the rest of the time, and adjust slightly as needed. Sometimes I needed to turn the knob up to medium heat until the temp came back up, sometimes I needed to lower it quite a bit. THANK YOU INSTANT READ THERMOMETER. 
7. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp of the chicken after you remove from the oil.

As far as recipes goes, I tried two, and highly, highly, highly recommend the pickle brined chicken from Serious Eats (brined for 2 hours and made as written, but with 5 boneless skinless thighs instead of 4, plus a bit of smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in the flour). In the top photo, it's the bottom row of chicken. It has a shatteringly crispy, thin exterior. For the sandwiches, use soft fluffy potato buns, dill pickle chips, a piece of lettuce, and maple sriracha mayo (literally just mix up some mayonnaise, sriracha, and a bit of maple syrup.) And that’s it! 


Monday, May 16, 2016

Ready-To-Go TJ Salad

Ready-To-Go TJs Salad  // Loves Food Loves to EatI was eleven or twelve years old, and beyond excited to go to the movie that everyone said made them literally scream and jump out of their seats with fear. Of course my cousin Coco, 13 years my senior, took me. The same cousin who let me watch Candyman four years earlier (I would go on to brag, for years, that Candyman didn’t even give me nightmares, a fact that I wore like a badge of honor and maturity). The same cousin who couldn’t wait to binge on the movie Fear with my sister and me every summer since it came out… in 1990. When I was 5. (While the Marky Mark/ Alicia Silverstone Fear is amazing and the ferris wheel scene taught middle schoolers across the country everything we knew about sex at the time, I’m talking about the earlier movie Fear, starring Ally Sheedy, in which she’s a psychic who uses her powers to track down murderers and ps. it’s the best movie ever). The same cousin who later took us to see The Blair Witch Project… the night before we went on a family camping trip. 

Ready-To-Go TJs Salad  // Loves Food Loves to Eat But back to 1996 and the most iconic scary movie of my generation: SCREAM. Do you remember watching it for the first time? Remember Drew Barrymore’s amazing hair? And how we all fell in love with Skeet Ulrich and wondered if he was related to Johnny Depp? The next year for Halloween I wore a glow in the dark scream mask (but with platform shoes, a long hippy dress my mom had since the 70s, and a peace-sign necklace. The 90s were so good you guys). 

Scream was followed by another classic, I Know What You Did Last Summer, which was followed by countless sequels of both (remember Jennifer Love Hewitt getting trapped in the tanning bed!? That scene is the best skin protection PSA around), and a host of other mid-late 90s teen slasher films (not be confused with 80s teen slasher films). To this day, my almost thirty-one-year-old heart still beats wildly for the genre, just as it did when I was a pre-teen. Even with all the predictability, red herrings, teenage love triangles, cringe-worthy dialogue, and over the top scare-tactics, it’s my favorite guilty pleasure.

Ready-To-Go TJs Salad  // Loves Food Loves to Eat So it was no surprise that, on Sunday, nursing a hangover from a wedding the night before, I binge watched the entire first season of Scream the TV Series, and devoured nearly an entire frozen deep dish pizza, by myself.

Ready-To-Go TJs Salad  // Loves Food Loves to Eat Make no mistake, I have zero regrets about these life choices (my only regret is that I didn’t also make chocolate chip cookies), but there’s nothing like not moving from the couch for a day and eating a giant brick of pizza to inspire lighter, somewhat fresher eating. It’s back on the salad train for me, while I wait patiently for the season 2 premiere of Scream at the end of the month (and for the summer season premiere of Pretty Little Liars in June, because I’m an adult and can watch what I want, damnit).

Ready-To-Go TJs Salad  // Loves Food Loves to Eat This salad is my favorite desk lunch these days. To be fair, it’s not really a recipe and is hardly blog worthy, but I can seriously eat it every day for weeks, so I figure it's a combo worth sharing. I love the flavors and textures, it fills me up but feels light and healthy, and it’s so easy to pack for work, because it strictly uses ready-to-go items from Trader Joe’s (no affiliation), though you could definitely try out a homemade creamy cilantro dressing and home baked tofu, if you can pull yourself away from Netflix long enough to actually meal-prep.

PS. Thanks, Coco, for instilling that early love of scary movies... I think we're due for a Fear night! 

Ready-to-go Salad
Baked tofu, 1 piece cut in cubes (I like the flavor called “Savory,” lol)
Cucumber, sliced (I like the mini Persian cucumbers for this)
Avocado, diced
Dried bing cherries
Toasted almond slivers or pieces
TJ’s creamy cilantro dressing
Chia seeds

For work lunch, I like to just store all of the separate packages in the fridge at work, but if you have a bigger company/ less shared fridge space, it’s really easy to pack at home. In a to-go container, add a couple big handfuls of arugula, sliced cucumber (I use one mini Persian cucumber for a full lunch salad), and a spoonful of crumbled feta. Bring the full bottle or a small container of the dressing, or pour a little to the side of your arugula (it’s pretty thick, so it won’t run and sog out the salad too bad while you wait for lunch). I bring a full avocado to work, and use half each day—it’s the one item I don’t like to prep ahead of time, because I don’t want it to brown. Add a handful of the almonds, chia seeds, and cherries just before serving.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shredded Chicken Gorditas

Shredded Chicken Gorditas | Loves Food Loves to EatToday I’m joining some other fun people on the interwebz in sharing recipes for Cinco de Mayo (scroll to the bottom for links)! Before we get started, a few notes:
  • Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (that’s in September).
  • Cinco de Mayo is the day that marks the Mexican army's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla.
  • Since the Battle of Puebla, no country in the Americas has been invaded by any other European military, and it’s believed that this victory also helped the Union army beat the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
  • Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated all over Mexico, but is celebrated in the state of Puebla.
  • Mexico is a really big country, with tons of regional variations in culture and cuisine. Mexico is not just sombreros, ponchos, chips, and salsa.

Shredded Chicken Gorditas | Loves Food Loves to Eat This year for Cinco de Mayo, I’m trying to move beyond the thoughtless “cinco de drinko” celebrations I’ve had in the past. How do we navigate celebrating and appreciating a culture that isn't ours, while trying not to appropriate it? I think a good place to start is to learn a fact or two about the actual day. And also to avoid dressing up like racial caricatures. And, if we celebrate with food and drinks, which we tend to do in the US, to branch out and see what else Mexico has to offer, beyond guacamole and margaritas (both of which, are also delicious).
Shredded Chicken Gorditas | Loves Food Loves to Eat
That’s what I’m doing…with Gorditas! You might be thinking “you said to branch out and now you’re eating at Taco Bell…the most Americanized “Mexican” fast food place ever.” Here’s the thing: these aren't your run-of-the-mill Taco Bell gorditas... and also, there is a time and place for Taco Bell. I don’t really eat fast food anymore, and haven’t had Taco Bell in years and years. But…one time in high school, we needed a quick lunch when a bunch of family was in town… and we spent around $100 in the Taco Bell drive-thru. That is a LOT of tacos. And freshman year in college, after a couple months of dorm food, my sister drove my roomie and me to the nearest Taco Bell, far from campus, and seriously, it was so comforting and familiar… it felt like a home cooked meal. In my early twenties, I had many post-drinking, late-night, fourth-meal  chalupa supremes. So yes, while I don’t eat it these days, I admit, there is a time and a place for Taco Bell.
Shredded Chicken Gorditas | Loves Food Loves to Eat
However, gorditas happen to be a real thing beyond the walls of Taco Bell, and, according to my research, are actually nothing like the thick, puffy, fast-food flat-bread-like taco shell you may be familiar with. They are, in fact, little round, fried masa-cakes, that are incredibly easy to make, and can be topped or filled with anything your heart desires, from soft fresh cheese, to ground beef, to chicken tingas. They also taste really good fresh and warm, with a drizzle of honey!

After going back and forth between a few cookbooks, I ended up basing my masa-cake recipe off the one in Mexico: The Cookbook, which is beautiful behemoth of a cookbook (according to a lot of reviews, it’s actually really poorly edited and fairly inaccurate, but as a seasoned home cook, I think it has enough to get me started and provide a ton of inspiration… buy at your own risk, I guess). Rather than a traditional filling, I went with my weeknight standby: a store bought rotisserie chicken, shredded and tossed in warmed enchilada sauce. 
Shredded Chicken Gorditas | Loves Food Loves to Eat
Gorditas with Shredded Chicken 
Adapted from Mexico, the Cookbook
Serves 4

2 cups + 3 tablespoons masa
½ cup AP flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons water
Oil with a high smoke point (like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed) or ghee

Whisk together the masa, flour, and salt. Add water a tablespoon at a time, until dough is moist, soft, and pliable (but not wet). Roll into 15 balls, and flatten each ball to about ¼- ½ inch thick disk.

Heat a couple tablespoons (enough to fully coat the bottom) oil or ghee (I used a mix of both) in a heavy bottomed skillet, over medium heat. Cook a couple of gorditas at a time, a minute or two on each side, until golden and crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Once cool enough to handle, slide open to fill. 

Filling & Topping
½ rotisserie chicken
1 cup green enchilada sauce, warmed
Refried beans, heated
Cotija cheese, crumbled
Sour cream
Shredded lettuce

Shred chicken and toss with warmed sauce. Fill each gordita with a dollop of beans and a spoonful of chicken. Top with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and avo, as desired.

Shredded Chicken Gorditas | Loves Food Loves to Eat

Wait, there's more! 
Check out a bunch of fun Cinco de Mayo inspired recipes! Everything from cocktails and snacks to desserts and dinner ideas!

Margarita Granita by Feast + West
Cinco de Mayo Party Inspiration and Recipes by A Joyfully Mad Kitchen
Poblano & Mushroom Tosadas by The Mexitalian
Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Agua Fresca by Will Frolic for Food
Street Corn-style Roasted Potatoes by A Little Gathering
Pork & Black Bean Stew by think fruitful
Tequila Lime Tart by Love & Flour
Crispy Fish Tacos with Cajun Mayo by Winstead Wandering
Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca by A Savory Feast
Carne Asada Fries by Tornadough Alli
Mexican Carrot Dogs with Chunky Salsa Verde by Strength and Sunshine
Raspberry Lime Rickey Margaritas by Feed Me Phoebe
Slow Cooked Carnitas Style Chicken by Simple and Savory
Chicken Fajita Sandwich by Brunch-n-Bites
Cantaloupe Mint Margaritas by The Speckled Palate
Brussel Sprout, Wild Mushroom, Avocado and Feta Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa by Arthur Street Kitchen
Spiced Chocolate Ice Cream with Roasted Pepitas by Bethany Grow
Roasted Veggie Salsa by Living Well Kitchen
Seared Scallop Tacos with Spring Mango Salsa and Avocado Cream by Domesticate ME!
Blackberry mint agua fresca by the Grant life
Nightshade Free Southwest Salad by I Say Nomato
Southwestern orzo salad by Family Food on the Table
Watermelon Mint Margarita by Gold & Bloom
Mix-Your-Own Guac Bar by Hey There Sunshine
Blood Orange Margaritas by Glisten and Grace
Veggie Stuffed Chiles Rellenos with Avocado Cream by Hello Little Home
Traditional Homemade Flour Tortillas by Sustaining the Powers
Slow Cooker Red Chicken Enchiladas by Sustaining the Powers
Sizzling Texas Fajitas by Sustaining the Powers
Margarita Poke Cake by Pink Cake Plate
Cheesy Southwest Egg Rolls by Pink Cake Plate
Mojito Cupcakes by The Rustic Willow
Margarita Shrimp Tacos by Macheesmo
Pineapple Cilantro Salsa by Feast + West
One Pot Taco Soup by A Joyfully Mad Kitchen
Tequila Lime Cupcakes with Margarita Buttercream by Sugar Dish Me
Slow Cooker Chipotle Turkey Tacos by Two Places at Once
Margarita Bar by Mixplorology

34 of the best Cinco de Mayo inspired recipes! Everything from cocktail recipes, dessert recipes, salsa recipes and dinner ideas for Cinco de Mayo. Pin for later!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Warm Lentil Salad with Butter-Crumbed Eggs | #SpringPantryPurge

Warm Lentil Salad with Butter-Crumbed Eggs | #SpringPantryPurge
I have a tendency to hoard but a desire to live minimally.

I have a nostalgia for things, which I come by naturally. My dad was a first generation child of immigrants, growing up in a family who had left everything behind. I think that probably makes you hang onto things a little tighter. When my parents were young and child-free, they travelled around the American southwest, living in a tiny travel-trailer in small towns along the way. That forces you to live minimally. Then when I was born, they settled on a 5 acre property, with lots of room for stuff. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a ton of money, which I also think makes people hang onto things. And we never moved. My entire childhood. So we just kept saving stuff and filling up our space. And overtime, we grew very attached and sentimental about our things. My mom still has all of my childhood toys. So, getting rid of things is hard for me. But I feel so much better in a clutter free environment. I truly feel like clearing the clutter in my house helps clear the clutter in my mind. So, I’m trying.

Warm Lentil Salad with Butter-Crumbed Eggs | #SpringPantryPurge

I’m in major spring cleaning mode, and like everyone and their mother and sister (and my mother and sister), I’ve started using the KonMari method to help me get rid of things. A few months ago I did a huge closet purge, only keeping items that sparked joy. OMG it was HARD. I definitely need to do another full closet purge. For me it’s a process… I get a little more ruthless each time. Having cut-throat friends or family members join the purge helps. 

Evan and I also cleaned out our garage, and our pantry and food cupboards. So, Phoebe’s invitation to participate in a virtual blogger #SpringPantryPurge couldn’t have come at a better time. When I got her email, I had just unearthed, from the depths of my cupboards, a bag and two jars of lentils as well as three unopened packages of panko. If, like me, you hoard lentils and breadcrumbs, this is a perfect spring cleaning pantry purge recipe. It uses up some dried goods in your pantry, but it’s light, fresh, and springy, while still being warm and comforting—perfect for ushering in the new season.

Warm Lentil Salad with Butter-Crumbed Eggs | #SpringPantryPurge The eggs are based on the butter-crumbed eggs from Prune, the restaurant and cookbook. Evan and I had brunch at Prune the first time went to NYC four years ago (after I had read Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir), and I still think that dish—stewed chickpeas with butter-crumbed eggs and flatbread with olive butter—was the best brunch dish I’ve ever had. I bought Prune, the cookbook, the moment it came out, and lucky for me, that dish is there!

Warm Lentil Salad with Butter-Crumbed Eggs | #SpringPantryPurge In my dish, warm lentils, bacon, and briny cured olives get tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette, spooned over fresh greens, and topped with crispy, buttery, breadcrumb coated, runny-yolked eggs. So long lentil stash, hello lunch! 

Warm Lentil Salad with Butter Crumbed Eggs
Serves 2-4

1 cup small green lentils
2.5 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ pound bacon, diced or cut into lardons
¼ cup cured black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Mustard vinaigrette (below)
Butter crumbed eggs (below)

First, make the lentils. Add lentils, water, and salt to a pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, then reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until lentils are tender, but not mush. Drain any excess water. Taste, and add a bit more salt if needed.

Cook the bacon, and drain on a paper towel.

To assemble, add a pile of lentils to plate, top with arugula, bacon, olives, dressing, and 1-2 butter crumbed eggs. 

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grainy brown mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
Salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Whisk ingredients together

Butter crumbed eggs
6 eggs (4 for poaching, 2 for the breading)
1 cup panko
Salt & pepper
4 tablespoons butter

Poach 4 of the eggs until whites are set and solid, and yolk is still runny. Using a slotted spoon, gently place each egg into an ice bath to stop cooking, then move to a paper towel to dry. Let eggs dry completely (patting gently if necessary, being careful to not break yolks).

Beat the 2 remaining eggs in a dish, and in a separate dish, add panko with a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently coat each poached egg in beaten eggs, then in panko until totally coated. Set aside.

Heat butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high. Fry each coated egg in butter, a minute or two on each side, until nicely browned and crunchy. Top with a little bit of flaked sea salt.


Wait, there’s more! Check out the other #SpringPantryPurge recipes, and visit Phoebe’s site, Feed me Phoebe, to learn about donating to Feed America!

Feast + West | Honey Chipotle Roasted Chickpeas
Clean Food Dirty City | Lentil Rice Bowl with Shaved Cauliflower Salad
Crepes of Wrath | Garlic Noodles
Appeasing a Food Geek | Wine Wednesday + a Kale and Tomato Galette
Feed Me Phoebe | Maple Pecan Gluten-Free Banana Bread
Domesticate ME! | Chicken and Wheat Berry Salad with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Arugul
Arthur Street Kitchen | Kale Kimchi
Pamela Salzman | Drunken Beans
The Mom 100 | Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
Snixy Kitchen | Kale Salad with Toasted Nuts, Seeds, & Buckwheat
The Speckled Palate | Curried Veggie Rice Bowls
The Naptime Chef | Basil Polenta with Pine Nuts and Feta

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kristy Taco Salad (with Doritos and French Dressing)

In my pre-teen through teen years, taco salad night was a pretty regular occurrence at my house. I would help my mom season and cook the ground beef (seasoning taco meat was where I got my start in the kitchen), my sister would prep the veggies, and Tami, my sister’s best friend, would grate the cheese. Seriously, I don't have any memories of anyone else grating cheese in my teen years.

If my life was Full House, I was a mix between Michelle and Stephanie, Amanda was DJ, and Tami was Kimmy Gibbler (no offense, Tam) in that she was always at our house, and Amanda was waaayyy nicer to me when it was just the two of us and Tami wasn’t there. And, just like on Full House, sometimes Tami/Kimmy and me/Michelle/Stephanie would hang out and get into trouble without Amanda/DJ, and Amanda/DJ would get really annoyed by it (like the time Kimmy and Steph started that band or the time Kimmy pierced Steph’s ears… totally the kind of shenanigans Tami and I would get in). 

By the way, I thought the first episode of Fuller House was brilliant. They all looked like they were having so much fun. And they were making fun of the show in such a nostalgic, hilarious way. I laughed. I cried. When they dedicated the episode to their moms!!! Are you kidding me! I actually did cry. I could care less about the rest of the series, it’s basically your run of the mill cheesy network-style comedy. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m way too busy plowing through Nurse Jackie. Because Edie Falco/Carm Soprano is life, and also… Merritt Wever!? Love her!! Does anyone else think she and Brie Larson look like sisters/ doppelgängers?

Back to taco salad. We would set up a build your own taco salad situation, with leafy green lettuce, super seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, olives, cheese, beans (sometimes black, sometimes pinto), sour cream, salsa, and (always) Juanita's tortilla chips, all fresh and layered nicely on top of each other. That was taco salad.

When I got to college, my roommate Kristy made us a batch of taco salads. If Kristy was in our Full House scenario, she would be Gia, Amber/ Stephanie’s hot, sassy, boy-crazy, party-animal bff who hosts make-out parties and tells her mom that the booze in the dorm room belongs to her roommate (me) when really it’s hers. So she made taco salads, and I. was. appalled. Unseasoned ground beef? Nacho Cheese Doritos? FRENCH DRESSING, FFS!? And all of it chopped and pre-mixed together forming sort of a crunchy-mushy-slimy bowl of neon-orange!? This was NOT taco salad. It sounded terrible. It looked terrible. I freaking loved it. I begged Kristy to make her taco salad all the time. She brought it to every picnic/BBQ/road trip. I introduced it to my family. I gave it the very creative moniker KristyTacoSalad.

Well, it turns out this salad is a thing. It’s all over the internet. One recipe called it “healthy,” lol. My mother-in-law just emailed me a photo of a recipe card she has that’s almost identical, which she said she used to make all the time in the late 70s and early 80s. Someone, somewhere, is probably eating it in a church basement at this very moment. I have a lot of questions. Why is it a thing? Where did it come from? What kind of evil genius came up with it? Have you guys heard of this madness? What is happening here!?! Has John Stamos had work done?!?!?

You could freshen and fancy this up—make a homemade dressing, use a leafier green, layer it, make some kind of homemade tortilla chips, or even serve it in a Doritos chip bag to be hip and twee AF. But you’d be doing yourself and this salad a disservice. It’s amazing and disgusting and wonderful and terrible and addicting just the way it is, and you should definitely take it to a BBQ this spring or summer. 

This particular version of the infamous Dorito Taco Salad/KristyTacoSalad recipe is courtesy of Kristy and her mom Edie (no relation to Falco). I made a few tweaks to fit our lifestyle: Evan doesn’t eat kidney beans, so we used black beans, my grocery store is so fancy it doesn’t carry Kraft creamy French dressing, so we used Brianna’s Zesty French (which was great), and we’re strictly a Spicy Nacho Doritos household, so we used those in place of the classic Nacho Cheese Doritos. If you’re not eating it right away, mix the meat, beans, onions, and olives in one container and the lettuce and tomatoes in another. Just before serving, mix together with the avo, cheese, chips, and dressing. 

Two notes about the photos: My mother-in-law crocheted the red-trimmed towel (!), and I forgot to add cheese in the photos. 

Kristy Taco Salad / Dorito Taco Salad

Serves 4-6
The measurements here are a starting place. Add more or less of what you like. Kristy (and my mother-in-law) use a full onion. Kristy also doesn't season the beef at all, but I'm team S&P for life.

1 lb ground beef 

Salt & pepper
1 can beans (kidney or black) drained and rinsed
½ large onion, diced
½ cup sliced black olives
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 small head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, diced
4 oz grated cheddar cheese
Creamy French Dressing
(Spicy) Nacho Cheese Doritos (the chips aren't a garnish, they're a full on ingredient. Don't be afraid to use a lot... contrary to the recipe I found online, I don't consider this a "healthy" recipe... indulge, go wild).

In a skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until browned. Drain, and then in a colander/ strainer, rinse (this sounds weird, but trust Kristy, if you don’t do it, the beef will have a greasy coating). Add beef to a large bowl, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in beans, onions, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and cheese. Crunch up a bunch of chips and mix in, along with enough dressing to coat. Serve with more chips and dressing, as desired. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Panama Travel

Facebook keeps reminding me that around this time last year, I was in Panama. I just realized I hadn’t posted photos here!
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