Posts Tagged ‘Mexican food’


This morning I woke up motivated. I prep my food for dinner early in the day as quite often I run out of time later or energy. Always I have been a morning person. My favorite time being just before the sun crests the hill. An unfolded day in front of me, no phones ringing, no chores to be accomplished, nothing but blessed peace and quiet and a steaming cup of fresh coffee. Mmmmm.

I digress. Remembering something I needed in the garage refrigerator, I slipped on a coat and well, slippers, and unlocked the outside door. Opening the refrigerator I stared into the gaping maw realizing quickly whatever it was I felt I couldn’t live without five minutes prior had been eliminated by my receptors on the way out to the garage. Straining to see if I could revive the thought, I gave up, closed the door and went back inside. The minute I’d removed my arm from the second sleeve, eggplant popped into my head as clear as “an azure sky of deepest summer” to quote Alex De Large. Sigh. When brains have been around for a few years they seem to develop quirks like refusing to remember that blond guy who was in Rich Man Poor Man or whatever that city was you lived in when you were nine. Most annoying. Rick has taken to using “whatchamacallit or whatshisname” as standard phrases for everything or everyone he’s searching for in his memory but cannot find.

While visiting my mother I noticed she was doing this fairly often. Not enough to be alarming, but enough. What amused me was she commented on a friend saying he repeated himself regularly. This was the third time since I’d arrived she’d told me the same thing.

On the second day of our visit there was a scheduled weekly hair appointment. As I’ve mentioned before my mother has her hair done once and week, has for years, and she will make this appointment if she has to be transported by ambulance. I offered to go with her. It is an old salon reminiscent of the 1970’s. Most of the ladies seated in the chairs are older and the “do’s” pretty much of the assembly line variety, curlers, dryer, and tease, followed by a good coat of shellac.

Deciding to have our nails done while there. Mother said her manicure was set for 10:30 so we should get there a few minutes early because of the holiday. Okay. Getting my mother out the door is a process but somehow we got ourselves there and parked within minutes of the scheduled time.

Approaching the reception desk we were told her stylist, Henry, had gone missing. Apparently there had been a company Christmas party the night before and Henry had disappeared with one of the elves. To add to the mix, it turned out my mother’s appointment wasn’t until 1:00 for her nails with mine following at 2:00. It would seem we had a little time to kill until her hair appointment at 11:30, provided Henry rallied and arrived on the scene. Mother suggested we walk next door and get some lunch. This killed a half an hour.

Henry showed up looking a bit peeked around 11:45. His earlier appointments were backed up at that point so Mother was placed in the queue. The manicurist arriving early and unbooked asked if I’d like to fill the gap. For an hour the manicurist, a lovely Vietnamese woman who at forty-six looked like she was barely old enough to drive, regaled me with stories of her twenty year old son who refuses to go to work and doesn’t respect his parents. Hmmmm. Doesn’t matter where you come from, the story seems to follow the same theme.

I opted for a festive red with a bit of sparkle for my nail color. I have little patience for sitting so squirming usually commences about a half an hour in. Several times she looked up over her glasses as if to say, “really?”. Sorry. Once all coats had been applied, beauty is a process, a small heater was placed in front of me and I was instructed to place my hands inside. I did, both at the same time hitting one hand against the other. Now the glasses were perched at the end of her nose and the look was much intensified. Whoops. “One at a time, Susie”, she said. The “duh” was omitted in case a tip was imminent. Damage repaired, my nails were dried and I was done. I must write that down for next time, “one at a time, one at a time”. Duh.

Mother had progressed to sitting under the dryer, People magazine in hand, and a cup of Henry’s “special coffee” sitting next to her. Asked if I’d like the same, I nodded yes and was shortly handed a latte and offered a hair style magazine to peruse. Since I wasn’t getting my hair done I wondered if this was a hint, but chose another gossip rag instead and settled in the particularly uncomfortable dryer chair to pass the time.

Ladies around me were in all stages of being done. One, whose head was completely covered with tin foil squares looked as if she might be preparing to make a moon landing at any moment. Another had purple dye on red hair, eight earrings crawling up the side of one ear, and 10″ orange nails. She could have explored Cyrano de Bergerac’s nose with ease. Less colorful floats have appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Gossip was flowing like champagne on New Year’s Eve. Bits of it floated my direction allowing me to gather that Janice’s husband was painting outside the lines with a lady at work, and Rene’s son was in rehab again and his mother was supporting his pregnant girlfriend. Some things never change.

Finally at 2:30 with my behind having completely lost feeling and unsure I could stand without assistance, we made our way out the back door and into the Bay Area holiday traffic. Half way home my mother announced she’d forgotten her reading glasses. Back to the salon we went. At home, my other half had unleashed the dogs and alerted the media, but in the end we had a great dinner and a rousing game of trivia which with four people who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast, was memorable. Another day in the life of.

These were just plain finger licking good. I could have eaten four.

Tilapia Baja Tacos with Tangy Slaw

Tilapia Baja Tacos

1 1/2 lbs. tilapia filets, cut in half
1/3 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp. dried coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Freshly squeezed lime juice
Canola or Grapeseed Oil
Tangy Slaw (recipe below)
8 corn tortillas
Chunky salsa

Slather filets with yellow mustard. In shallow dish whisk together flour, cumin, chili powder, coriander, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Dredge filets in flour mixture covering all sides. Drizzle lime juice over all. Cover and place in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap tortillas in tin foil, four to a package. Place in oven for 20 mins.

Heat 3″ of oil on high heat in deep heavy skillet. Cook fish in batches until golden brown and floating on top of oil draining each batch on paper towels. Keep batches warm in oven.

Place two pieces of fish on top of warm tortilla. Top with tangy slaw. Serve with salsa.

Tangy Slaw

1 14 oz. bag angel hair coleslaw mix
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Place coleslaw mix and red onion in medium mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add to coleslaw mix. Mix well and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hr. Serve on top of fish.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

I have my first cold of the season. Most probably directly related to my crawling around in the recesses of the chilly garage trying to locate my Christmas decorations.

Prophetically, I made turkey soup yesterday so dinner is ready for tonight as well as a natural cure for the common cold. With a fifteen pound bird to dispose of between the two of us, we’re looking forward to turkey soup, turkey shepherd’s pie, turkey Benedict and a host of other clever ways to disguise leftover yard bird. My eyelids are getting heavy already. Whether turkey makes you sleepy, from what I understand, is based in both myth and fact. There is tryptophan in turkey which can cause drowsiness when taken directly, but most likely the drowsiness following a huge holiday meal is your body trying to process appetizers, alcohol, turkey with all the trimmings, and three pieces of pie with whipped cream. Burp.

Facebook was buzzing with turkey pics, family pics, and updates on family gatherings all day. Facebook is probably a fun outlet, but personally it scares me to death. Bullying is so accessible on this type of site, and particularly attractive to young petty little minds with the destruction of another teens self-esteem at the touch of a well-painted fingertip. Yesterday I read an article about how often Facebook is showing up in the courtrooms. The site itself is not being sued, or not that I know of, but litigants on either side of cases are accusing the other side of maligning or misrepresenting them on the well-populated social media giant. I find it truly fascinating what people casually write on these updates. Often they are things I wouldn’t be comfortable saying on the phone to a person I trusted with my innermost thoughts, much less write openly to an audience of millions. It reminds me of people who adjust their body parts while standing on a street corner, whisper something offensive loud enough for Hellen Keller to hone in on, or explore their nasal cavities at a stop sign. WE CAN SEE AND HEAR YOU!

It is suggested you do not post “Leaving for a week on Maui tomorrow”, for example. Not only might your friends be celebrating your impending departure, but someone casing your house hoping to find it empty might be popping the cork on a champagne bottle as well.

Posting your personal status as “single” when you’ve tucked your wedding band in your pocket for an evening on line might not be the best strategy either. If you are tracking hundreds of people it stands to reason someone most likely is tracking your cheating behind as well.

Employers are looking potential candidates for jobs over on line. That hysterically funny selfie posted of you and your gal pals half-naked showing your latest tattoos in front of a strip club in Vegas, bottle of JD in one hand and joint drooping off one pierced lip, gets a thumbs up from your friends. Possibly, if you’re applying for a teaching position at a local parochial school, not so much.

Email can also be a dangerous tool, and voice mail. Knee jerk reactions to a situation left in either queue can come back to haunt you later. Particularly in the case of email where with no intonation on the words, the words often are left to stand alone and can be misinterpreted.

In a world where we all seem to have so much to say, possibly we need to be more discerning about what we say and where we say it.

Humblebrags, a word it seems actually included in some dictionaries, is another interesting social media offspring. It is a way of saying something seemingly self-effacing when actually patting yourself on the back or apprising people of your successes or recent high-dollar purchases. Hmmmm. Sort of like, “I never knew when I bought this enormous house with twenty-nine bathrooms we’d use so much toilet paper”.

Are we becoming a country hooked on instant gratification? The most results for the least amount of effort expended? Can’t help but wonder. Sometimes the thrill of something comes in the waiting. If you go out on a first date and before desert your date puts a ring on your finger and the waiters start singing “Today I Met the Boy I’m Going to Marry”, wouldn’t that diminish the excitement of your first kiss, your first fight, and all the things filling in the middle? Falling in love is part of the journey, not just the actual act of getting married.

Working hard to achieve a goal is extremely rewarding, at least for me. If you’ve set your sights on something in the distance and climb the hills in between and tough out the rainstorms and the hot dry days to get where you want to go, there is an exhilaration accompanying such an accomplishment that can’t be equaled by having it simply handed to you.

For me it’s “all things in moderation”. I love the Internet and use it regularly. It’s a magical wonderful tool as are all the gadgets and Space Odessy like technology coming our way, but we’re an addictive society as a whole so perhaps using these tools wisely is the key. As usual, I’m full of questions, or full of something.

This soup was a great way to gobble up the leftover turkey. Yum.

Spicy Southwestern Turkey Soup

5 cups rich turkey broth
2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup green pepper, chopped
1 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup cooked corn kernels
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. Lawry’s taco seasoning mix, hot
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt (as needed)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 avocados, chunked
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Sour Cream
Lime slices

Place first 12 (through black pepper) ingredients in large stockpot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 mins. on low.

Place 1/4 cup of cooked rice in the bottom of six large soup bowls. Ladle soup over top. Top each bowl with 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, chopped avocado, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and lime slices.

Turkey Broth

1 turkey carcass, meat left on if possible
5 quarts water
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered with leaves
2 carrots, peeled and chunked
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 cups white wine (I used pinot grigio)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/3 cup parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place turkey pieces in bottom of large stockpot. Add water, vegetables, garlic, wine, and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over med-low heat for 2 hrs., skimming fat during cooking.

Add thyme, parsley flakes, and black pepper. Continue cooking over med-low heat for 2 hours. Strain large pieces and discard, reserving meat for future use. Cool and refrigerate or freeze.

Read Full Post »

final pizza

A friend of mine living in Ashland, Oregon recently sold her home. During our last conversation she discussed considering buying a condominium in a “community living” complex.  As she explained it, the units are designed in a community friendly way so that tenants or owners would feel part of the whole rather than an isolated pod.  Families are encouraged, with interaction with others in the group a part of the selling point of the project. Interesting concept.  It seems, to this writer at least, we have strayed further and further from that way of thinking over the years becoming less affiliated with our neighbors and more involved in activities outside of the home or work.

Growing up my parents knew most of the people on our block, and many of those on the neighboring blocks. Frequently they received invites to and reciprocated with an invitation when a party was on the horizon.  People dropped by to borrow a rake or a lawn mower, share a bit of gossip over a cup of coffee, or to bring a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Our house operated on a sort of open door policy. The large built-in pool guaranteed most weekends during the summer months it was occupied with neighborhood kids and often their parents.  Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass blared on the stereo and clinking ice and laughter were familiar sounds heard drifting in through the screen door. Women exchanged a cup of flour for a tablespoon of cinnamon, men hedge trimmers for screwdrivers. Saturday afternoons in the suburbs barbecues were fired up.  Smells of grilling chicken and ribs commingled in the air. Men in Hawaiian shirts and “Kiss the Cook” aprons talked over the back fences reliving the most recent ball games puffing on a Camel unfiltered and downing a cold beer tucked in a styrofoam koozie.

On our immediate left lived the stereotypical dysfunctional family, not that weren’t well qualified to vie for the title.  The faces across the breakfast table each morning at their house included the matriarch of the group, Pat, a three-time divorcee (again I have nothing to say in this area either), four of her five children acquired between three marriages, and her brother. Pat left her second husband to marry her best friend’s husband who, in turn, married Pat’s jilted spouse. A better soap opera could not have been written by a seasoned Hollywood script writer than the day-to-day goings on at their house. Holidays, to say the least, were interesting. The brother, Vic, a man in his thirties was long on charm and short on employment history. His claim to fame, so he referred to it, was an amazing intake capacity for malted beverages.  Pat dated a Cadillac driving older man with a large bank account who sported a dreadful red toupee sitting atop largely gray undergrowth. On the side, she entertained a younger man from Greece for recreational use only. Once I actually saw the Greek gentleman stashed in the closet with the vacuum for several hours when the bad toupee showed up for an unexpected visit. Their house was a constant hang out afternoons after school. I learned much on my visits there about the nuances of life.  Under Vic’s tutelage we learned the ins and outs of playing hearts and poker and the correct English when approaching a cue ball.

So often now, I’ll hear people comment they don’t know any of their neighbors, or if they do know any it’s on a very surface level. In our last house we knew three or four of the inhabitants on our street and often stopped to talk when meeting at the mail box or working in the yard, but I can count on one hand the times I stepped over their thresholds, or shared more than an idle conversation with them.  Actually I probably wouldn’t have known them on even that level except for the fact we owned a restaurant in town or the first year we were in the house I went trick or treating.  We’d only been in the house for two months when Halloween appeared on the calendar.  Newly employed at a local newspaper, employees were asked to dress up for work.  Dragging out my Halloween costume cache, I decided to be a milkmaid, purchasing a bucket and some blond braids at the local costume store.  It was dark when I arrived home.  Halloween candy sat in a bowl by the door, but in the largely adult community I rather doubted our supply would significantly dwindle.  Looking out the window at the pumpkins flickering in the windows along the street, I grabbed a pillow case, and with Rick’s jaw dropping announced I was going trick or treating.  Scratching his head as he often does with me, he opened the door and wished me luck.  Truly it was fun.  I went into five or six houses and became acquainted, consumed a homemade cookie or two, and had a glass of wine with my neighbors directly across the street.

The last time I can remember having a sense of real community where I lived was in the 1980’s.  My second husband and I purchased a house in a beautiful garden city nestled in the foothills in the Bay Area.  On a Saturday we moved in with my two children, a stepchild on loan every other weekend, two dogs, two cats, one rabbit and two hamsters.  It was a large sprawling single level home with a bedroom for each occupant and large yard suitable for housing the menagerie.  Moving van still blocking the driveway my neighbor across the street, their house a mirror image of ours, arrived at the front door with a pot of freshly brewed coffee and some cinnamon buns still warm from the oven.  Coming right in she plugged in the pot, introduced herself as Lovebird (a nickname she explained her husband bestowed on her) and volunteered the same gentlemen, who she referred to as Uncle Bob, for any handyman jobs needed to be done.  How nice.

Before the last picture was hung, people up and down the street had stopped by to say hello or offer welcome. One lady known for her expertise in the kitchen dropped off a delicious lasagna, another couple a plant.  Weekends most garage doors were left open. Neighbors could be seen chatting on front lawns or waving to one another as they walked their dogs, others played ball in the street with their children.  It was comforting, I found, to know if you needed someone in a hurry you could knock on a door and find a welcoming and familiar face on the other side.

Here one neighbor stopped by to bring some fudge, and we’ve exchanged a couple of hello’s with the people to our left but really the only lengthy conversation I’ve had with any of them was the man across the street suggesting I rake the yard rather than use the leaf blower.  Not exactly on a par with Mr. Roger’s “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”.

Mexican Pizza

1 1/4 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. Lawry’s Taco seasoning mix (I used hot)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained liquid reserved
3 Tbsp. Rotel tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp. dried cumin
salt and pepper
2 wrap size flour tortillas
olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
10 Campari tomatoes, sliced thin
1/2 cup Rotel tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded fine
1 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded fine
1 small can ripe olives, drained
Sour cream, salsa, guacamole

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the meat:

Brown meat and drain on paper towels. Add pkg. of taco seasoning mix and 2/3 cup of water. Continue cooking over med. heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.

For the beans:

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in large skillet over med. heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 5-6 mins. until onion is translucent. Add beans and 1/3 cup of reserved bean liquid to pan. Add cumin. Cook beans, about 8-10 mins., mashing with potato masher or wooden spoon until desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Remove from heat.

Place one tortilla on previously sprayed pizza pan or cookie sheet. Brush top with olive oil. Spread 1/2 of the beans over the tortilla. Top with 1/2 meat mixture.


Top meat with 1/2 of the red onion and 1/4 cup of Rotel tomatoes.


Mix together Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses. Distribute 1/2 of the mixed cheeses over the top of the “pizza”. Top with 1/2 of the sliced tomatoes and 1/2 can of the ripe olives.


Repeat with second tortilla.

Place in over for 20 mins. or until tortilla is crispy and cheese is melted. Cut with pizza cutter. Serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole if desired.

Serves 4.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Our neighbors to the right suffered the loss of their patriach over the holidays, leaving his elderly wife and son living in the house.  Noticing the always beautiful garden lying fallow made me sad, so I was delighted to see a gardening service truck pull up to their curb.  In the vernacular of Two Men and a Truck or Three Men and a Baby, these guys had the name “Three Men and a Blower” pasted on the side of their vehicle.  I have been around a few years and never have I seen a crew of landscapers this long in the tooth.  It took them fifteen minutes to shuffle along from the curb to the front door.  I had to give them an “A” for azalea, however, for still being employed at their age, and moreover at a labor intense job such as gardening. The shortest of the trio, also appearing to be the oldest, wore a sweat stained straw hat. The man was locked  in a permanent stoop forcing his head down toward his shoes. Where his arms were exposed beneath his short sleeved shirt the skin seemed almost shiny in appearance like well tanned leather. Either the years of constant sun exposure, or perhaps life in general, had forged deep furrows along his cheeks leaving him with the appearance of a dried apple head doll a tourist might purchase in a Mazatlan tienda (store).

As I passed the window the next several hours busying myself with clearing the dishwasher and folding laundry, the three men continued to toil in the garden at a pace giving even the snails most likely hiding in the ivy beneath their feet an opportunity for escape before being crushed by their heavy work boots. If paid by the hour this was shaping up to be a real pruning, if you know what I mean.

Around mid afternoon I was expected downtown for a doctor’s appointment.  Quickly showering, I hopped in my car and backed out of the garage.  In the rear view mirror the three men were still visible.  To explain the configuration of our yard, the road is up a flight of stairs from the level of our house.  Besides ourselves, three other houses share a common driveway, the only egress to the road.  The house where the men were working is the last one in our group before reaching road level.  In the middle of the driveway blocking my exit stood the bent gentlemen precariously balancing an armful of yard clippings.  Never in my life have I seen a human being move more slowly.  His movements so imperceptible I wasn’t sure if he hadn’t frozen in the spot where he stood never to move again.  Not wanting to startle him, I leaned out the window and yelled “excuse me”.  Nothing.  Hmmmm.  One of the other two workers fired up a blower making repeating myself seem an unlikely resolution to the problem.  Getting out, I approached him from the back and gently tapped him on the shoulder.  Like someone had released his arms from being constricted by a rubber band his hands flew up in the air releasing the lawn cuttings once again on the driveway and in the cup of his hat.  Not looking up, well, because he could not, and though I couldn’t see his expression, I had a feeling this didn’t sit well with him.  He muttered something in Spanish. Fortunately, my four years in Spanish class hadn’t, I am sure, taught me this particular phrase. Waving his hat to shake out the grass, he began to walk toward one side so I could pass.  Ten minutes later he reached it. I waved an apology as I passed. I can’t say for sure but I believe he offered me the international signal of good will as I drove by.

Thinking of the three gentlemen as I drove, my mind wandered to Mexico. How long it has been since I’ve crossed the border for a visit.  As a teen going to Tijuana, T.J., as we called it, was an activity saved for warm summer days, and convertibles. At the border clad in shorts and huaraches we flowed along  with the river of tourists heading through the gates at the border and into the dusty downtown area. Touristy shops were everywhere, sustaining the lifestyle of those making their homes in the surrounding area. Before long shopping bags were filled with colorful velvet bulls, leather wallets, and huge paper flowers to take home as souvenirs. Being young and incredibly stupid, we ate juicy slices of fresh watermelon from the stands on the streets never giving a second thought to the flies landing and taking off the pieces of fruit as like planes on an aircraft carrier might be adding to our systems. Walking along the seemier side streets, smoke wafted out from beneath swinging doors and behind those doors music and laughter from bar patrons whiling away their troubles over a cool cerveza on a hot afternoon. Rumors of what went on beyond those doors remained rumors to us because no one dared venture behind the doors to confirm or deny them.

Once shopping was done and if a piece of the day was still ours, we would sometimes turn south to drive down the coast to catch a swim at one of the beautiful beaches.  It was an interesting area to visit.  Such sharp angular contrasts between the beauty of the shoreline and the evidence of extreme poverty everywhere you rested your eyes.  Rosarita Beach was one of my favorite rest stops, popular with American ex-patriots and tourists alike.  Street merchants dogged your steps while you walked through the shopping areas.  Beautiful linen tablecloths, mirrors of pounded tin, watches, and warm blankets were offered for a bit of bargaining, flung over arms or showcased on the backs of the chairs as you sat and enjoyed a bottled water or lemonade.

For me the colors were vibrant there, and the people despite their challenges, easy to smile, sing and dance.  I’ve taken two cruises to Mexico and would like to go again some day.  Another notch on my bucket list.

This chili was great.  I did it in the crockpot because it doesn’t heat up the house and it’s hands free easy.  Enjoy.  I’m taking a break for a week or two, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Spicy Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili

3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1 1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 7 oz. can pickled jalapeno slices, drained
1 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
3 16 oz. jars salsa verde
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 15 1/2 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 1/2 oz. can canneloni beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 cups white rice (optional)


Green onions
Monterey Jack cheese
Tortillas chips, crushed

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Place vegetables on bottom of pot. Top with chicken breasts. Sprinkle jalapenos and chiles over top. Mix together salsa verde, broth, cumin, chili powder, salt and black pepper. Pour over top. Cook on low for 8 hrs. Remove chicken from pot and shred with a fork. Return to pot.

Add beans, sour cream and cilantro to crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 1 hr. until all ingredients are heated. Serve as is with garnish or over cooked white rice.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

According to the weatherman our weekend was to be “unsettled”.  It was.  One moment the sun would appear, the next dark clouds would hover overhead. I snapped the picture below sitting on the deck just before sunrise this morning.  No wind, not a sound to be heard. Slowly I am saying my goodbyes to our lake. Soon we will be moving on to new adventures. Not that I shall ever forget my time here, I never shall. Time, however, has a way of slowly erasing the vivid details of our lives, so I am creating a scrapbook of memories to help keep my memories fresh.  Thought I’d share a few.

No touching up on this picture, simply the camera capturing a piece of the natural beauty lying beyond my wrought iron railing.


My grandson last Thanksgiving, a foodie in the making, is making the most out of a chocolate on chocolate cupcake.


Our town is seeped in history, a nice way of saying it is “old as dirt”.  The older downtown area, its original heyday long past, retains hints of old splendor in the lovely old Victorians and well-kept newer homes with resplendent gardens dominating what was once the main drag.

A walk downtown

Walk 2

Walk 8

Life here over the past decade I divide into sections.  The restaurant years, busy and productive along with stressful and relentlessly money draining.  Vino Vino, with it’s beautifully muraled walls, ghostly reminders lingering in the bar of rough and tumble days long gone, and delicious smells emanating from the small but efficient kitchen, shall have a special place in my scrapbook for taking a leap of faith and being satisfied with the results no matter what the outcome.


vino vino

Another section might be our lake years.  We bought our ski boat prior to buying the restaurant.  Both of us were complete novices when it came to piloting the darn thing.  This was not my first boat certainly but it had been twenty years since my last, so factoring in the fact I strain to remember what I had for breakfast these days, you could technically say it was my first boat.  Launching it was a performance Abbott and Costello would have taken pride in.  After numerous failed attempts, in desperation we gathered some kids working at the marina to help us get it in the water.  I circled in the boat while Rick parked the trailer. Luckily I managed to pick him up fairly close to shore without inflicting any permanent damage to him.  Considering what came afterward, this was more like an “act of God” than luck.

At the controls already and being the only one with some knowledge of boats, I drove. Taking a brief tour of the lake, we turned toward the marina before supper time where our slip was already secured.  Not many available in early summer, ours was in the far corner of an inside group of slips, not easy to get to.  To add to this, branches protruding from the shallow water by made it necessary to hug the dock to garner passage through the maze of docks. For those of you who have owned or driven boats you will know a boat moving slowly is far more difficult to maneuver than one moving at a high speed.  It wouldn’t have been hard to determine by any onlooker the driver of our boat had no single clue what she was doing. If anything I should have been wearing a tee-shirt reading “Water Hazard – Keep a Safe Distance”.

Remarkably I made it into the marina.  Each slip was occupied except ours sitting in between two oddly placed slips on either side. The idea was to pull into the slip, drop the gear into reverse to slow us down, stop and tie up. That was the idea.  However, I forgot everything at the key moment. Drifting everywhere but where I was supposed to, I managed to clip a sailboat in the adjacent slip which propelled me back into the center area once again.  Now going forward, I rammed the dock on the opposite side.  Rick bailed at this juncture and as I was unable to reclaim control, was left standing on the dock. Circling like a loose cannon gathering an audience I finally got close enough to the dock so that he could jump back on.  People swimming not far away evacuated the area as though a dorsal fin had surfaced in the vicinty.

By the time we finally calmed down enough to dock it, only mayhem and debris ws left in our wake, so to speak.  At the time it wasn’t funny.  Well, let’s just say Rick wasn’t laughing.  Now, it seems hysterical.  Thankfully, we improved over time and spent many fun days floating around and enjoying picnics on the beach before we decided to sell it. Here’s Rick “saving himself”.

Rick "saving himself"

Just a glimpse of my world here with the glistening Feather River at my doorstep.  Hope you’re enjoying a pleasant Sunday.  Made these tacos last night and I have to say they were absolutely yummy.  Give them a try.  The cream sauce would be good on so many things.

Miss Boo expresses her opinion on the whole moving situation.

Boo, the Queen of Cats, preparing for the move

Chicken Fajita Soft Tacos with Chipotle Cream Sauce

juice of 2 limes
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1/8 cup chunky salsa
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″
1 large red onion, sliced into onion rounds
1 large red pepper, cut into strips
1 large yellow or orange pepper, cut into strips

1 large coarsely chopped tomato
6 8″ flour tortillas

Garnish with sour cream, avocado, green leaf lettuce

For the marinade, whisk together lime juice, 2 Tbsp. oil, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeño, cilantro, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Remove half of the marinade and set aside.

Place chicken and 1/2 the marinade in large resealable bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hr. Slice onions into onion rounds and red and yellow peppers into strips. Brush both sides of onion rounds and peppers with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Heat grill t medium. Place chicken on it and cook for 10 mins. per side or until chicken is very firm and well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken and tent with foil while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Sprinkle veggies with salt and pepper to taste. Grill vegetables in a single layer until charred on one side.  Flip and repeat on the other side.  About 10 mins.

Slice breasts into 1/2″ strips and add to bowl of vegetables. Add the reserved marinade and tomatoes.

Heat tortillas in dry frying pan until slightly charred on both sides.  Keep hot in tin foil until ready to use.

Place fajitas, lettuce, and avocados (if desired) inside warm tortillas and top with chipotle cream sauce. Yum.

Chipotle Cream Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Zatarains creole mustard
2 large chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded
2 scallions
1 garlic clove, quartered
1 1/2 Tbsp. adobo sauce (from can of chipotles)
3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients but cream and salt and pepper in food processor.  Pulse until well blended.  Spoon into mixing bowl and whisk in heavy cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: adjust the heat of the sauce by less or more peppers and adobo sauce.

Read Full Post »

chille relleno

Last weekend was a busy one. Not much time to put my feet up and enjoy the Sunday paper.  Saturday night Rick and I took ourselves out to dinner, something we haven’t done in a while.  January hit the ground running this year. Fully charged with kinetic energy it seemed to pick up speed with each succeeding day.  Feel like I’ve been run over by a riding lawn mower, pieces of me scattered all over the state.  I’m hoping February will be featuring a bit tamer fare on its schedule of events.

It was the perfect night for date night.  Nothing was defrosted for dinner as I spent most of the day cooking for Super Bowl the following day. Hungry, going out seemed like the perfect plan. As beautiful an area as we live in, the downside of living here is all the excellent restaurants in the area are at least 45 minutes from home.  Now, I understand this is not a trip requiring hotel reservations or luggage, but when you’re of a mood to run out and grab a quick bite, the drive can be enough of a buzz kill to encourage you to take something out of the freezer, put your feet up, and forget the whole thing.  On Saturday, however, we were determined.

Our restaurant of choice doesn’t take reservations.  Located in the midst of a college town, it is mostly staffed with college students, as well as largely populated with same.  Knowing there would be a wait on a Saturday we drove in early. Even at that, we found ourselves waiting outside with a pager placated by the usual promise from the perky hostess of a “15 minute wait”. Not being our first rodeo we knew this meant our table would be ready closer to 40, which it was.

Super Bowl pre-partiers in the bar swelled the noise decibels to a notch above the sound barrier.  Seated by the kitchen, servers behind our booth carrying empty trays into the kitchen screamed “corner” at the top of their lungs as they passed by to avoid a mid-air collision with those coming the opposite way trays loaded with food.  Needing libation at this point, I signaled for a vodka and tonic with a twist and one was provided.

Two waitresses approached our table, one a trainee it was explained, the second the trainer. Having owned a restaurant I have infinite patience with new employees, knowing first hand how difficult those first days can be. New hires must memorize the menu offerings and prices, make themselves knowledgeable about the ingredients in each dish, all the while becoming familiar with the kitchen and staff dynamics and whatever restaurant geared computer system is in place. Stir this in a pot with first day jitters and missteps are generally unavoidable. Rick ordered the huge steak topped off with an equally large marinated mushroom depicted in the cardboard ad on the table. I ordered the steak and seafood special. Yum.  A teetotaler, Rick ordered a soda plus several appetizers to share.

After about ten minutes, our appetizers arrived.  Across the aisle from us was a family with three children. No food evident yet to distract them, all three apprentice monsters were actively engaged in sending their parents to an early grave.  The youngest disappeared and reappeared beneath the table every minute or two like a Jack-in-the-Box on steroids while the two older ones were fully immersed in seeing how many pieces of bread could be lobbed at one another before their father flicked them on the head.  Seated in the middle was an older woman who I assumed to be the grandmother guzzling a beer as if she had five minutes to live and this would be the last malt liquor she’d ever taste.  “Corner”, I heard as another waiter passed, immediately followed by a deafening crash.  Hmmm, a glitch in their highly sophisticated system.

Thankfully, Rick and I are rarely short of conversation because I believe I celebrated a birthday before dinner arrived.  In the meantime our trainee stopped by to refill Rick’s soda, unfortunately with the water pitcher, and clear our dishes. Fighting over scraps of bread on the table, our eagerly awaited meals were placed before us.  Mine appeared exactly as shown on the menu. A skewer of perfectly cooked scallops and seasoned shrimp nestled in a bed of seasonal veggies seated next to a juicy steak with a fully dressed baked potato.  Rick’s dinner was also the same as pictured, except for the steak.  The steak in the photo was thick, plump and juicy. The one resting on his plate looked more like the sole of a well used all-weather boot. It was about 1 1/2″ thick and was oddly corrugated.  Cutting into it, the reportedly medium rare meat didn’t show a hint of pink.  A crook of Rick’s finger in the server’s direction signalled this wasn’t going to work, wasn’t going to work at all.

After being inspected by our ladies in waiting, it was determined this was not as ordered. Apologies were issued and the plate was dispatched to the kitchen for rework.  Moments later the restaurant manager, John, a young nervous looking type already combing over his rapidly dwindling hairline, arrived at our table.  After profusely apologizing he assured Rick his reworked meal would be out in two shakes of lamb’s tail (in this case cow’s tail) and insisted on providing a dish of clam chowder compliments of the house.  Yea.

Insisting I eat before mine got cold, I dug into my dinner. I didn’t enjoy it as much knowing Rick didn’t have his, so offered him bites along the way.  The soup long eaten, and what remained of the oyster crackers having disappeared, no new steak had arrived.  Finally, the trainee came by to box up my dinner and Rick’s dinner was at last served.  Really?  This steak looked beautiful, plump and juicy as promised.  Cutting into it, unfortunately it was raw.  This was not going to end well. 

John arrived with a new apology at the tardiness of the recook, and the unfortunate fact that they hadn’t, in fact, cooked it at all and offered to comp Rick’s meal.  Rick thanked the man and explained we had owned a restaurant. As an FYI, he thought John should know the first steak served was not anything like the one now sitting on the table, but looked more like one you might pound, bread and cover with gravy. Rick was not slated to work for the diplomatic corp.  After some deliberation John, obviously having nothing else to bring to the table, came up with the explanation all cows are not constructed equally so it is this lack of continuity that probably led to the problem.  This, of all things during the evening besides the company, made the dinner worth the drive.  I must remember that the next time I get an odd-looking hamburger.  Perhaps the meat came from one of those dreaded non-uniform bovines.  Words to live by.

Chile Rellenos


6 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt

Puree 5 of the tomatoes, onion and garlic in food processor. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over med. heat. Add the tomato puree, chopped tomato, and diced chiles and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.


6 poblano chiles
3 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
4 large egg whites plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
All-purpose flour

Place chiles 1/3 of the oven below the broiler on cookie sheet covered with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Turn frequently until charred on all sides. Place in resealable bag and close. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to steam. Remove the skin.

Make a horizontal slit across the top of chile below the stem (leave stem intact). At middle of slit slice lengthwise down to the tip of the pepper. Splay pepper and remove seeds. Discard.

Place the cheese in a bowl, then add the oregano, crumbling and rubbing it with your fingers to release its flavor. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Fill each chile with about 1/4 cup cheese mixture. Fold in the sides to cover the filling, then thread 2 toothpicks across the seam to form an X. You will probably need to make a second toothpick X to secure each chile so the filling doesn’t leak out when you fry.

Beat the egg whites with a mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the egg yolk and beat 3 more mins.

Heat 1″ vegetable oil in a deep skillet over med.-high heat.

Place flour in a shallow dish. Season well with salt and pepper. Dredge peppers in flour.

Holding peppers by the stem dip into egg batter, allowing excess batter to drip off.

Cook in batches of 2, turning once until golden brown, 1-2 mins. per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve with warm sauce.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

With all the events transpiring in our world, I certainly think we all need to stop for a moment to take a look at the First Lady’s new bangs.  It appears her bangs are the number one search on the Internet. Are you ever amazed at the “what’s trending now” panel on your browser?  Fascinating. I will say Michelle Obama didn’t make a false step fashion wise in my opinion during the inauguration ceremonies. Both her choice of outfits and new hairstyle got a yes vote from me.  If you asked the man or woman on the street what the President was wearing, I wonder if one person could provide an adequate description beyond the man wore a suit, undoubtedly an expensive suit, a shirt, and a tie?  Unless he’d opted for a powder blue sequined tuxedo with wide lapels and a big yellow flower that squirted water, I doubt whether his suit was navy, black, brown, or pinstripe would be worthy of so much as a nod on the 5 O’Clock News. However, if his wife’s clutch didn’t match her gown it would have gone viral.

Funny, in most of the animal kingdom, males of the species are the “peacocks”, if you will, not their female counterparts. Several hypotheses are offered to address the reasons behind this.  Possibly the brilliant colors prevalent in male plumage might be to attract the opposite sex.  I’ve always wondered if, like us, certain birds Male_and_female_superb_fairy_wrenare considered by their peers more beautiful and attractive. Is one musk ox hotter than his hairy neighbor grazing in an adjoining field? If so, would the less attractive of the group lure mates with their riotous sense of humor, great personalities, or uncanny ability to ferret out worms? Do some pigs stand shoulders (that would be pork shoulders) above their sty mates, while others are just, well, pigs?  These are more of Susie’s conundrum’s for you to ponder on those nights when you’ve totally wrung the juice out of all other avenues of intelligent thought.th

Another theory is females, if duller in color, blend more easily into their surroundings thus making them less vulnerable to predators while guarding a nest. One researcher surmised male birds eat more carotenoids, a chemical enhancing brightness, during the mating season thus making them appear more colorful and attractive to a mate.  The only case where the female bears the more striking plumage in avian species is where the males are the ones left to guard the eggs and protect the nest and the females compete for mates.  Interesting.

Back in my grandfather’s day men dressed conservatively.  There are no pictures in my albums of him wearing sweats and running shoes.  Men dressed for dinner, and didn’t leave the house without securing a tie around their necks and placing a hat on their heads.

By the late 60’s and early 70’s flower children glided into our world eating magic mushrooms, dancing in the park to Jimmy Hendrix, a colorful cat himself, and driving Volkswagen buses painted with flowers and peace symbols. Young hendrixmen burned their draft cards, tossed their razors and white button down shirts in the trash, and vibrant color was visible everywhere. Tie dyed tee’s replaced standard white, manes of long hair and ponytails took the place of mop tops and the slicked down styles of the decades before, and headbands, beads, sex, drugs and rock and roll ruled the airways.

Looking further back, in the late 1700’s men’s dress was nearly as flamboyant as the women of the time.  Fussy, embroidered waistcoats over dressy shirts were popular accented with lacy scarves at the neck and cuffs.  Breeches,or knee-length pants with leggings finished off the outfit.  Shoes often had heels and oversized buckles and curly powdered wigs of varying lengths made it hard to differentiate one sex 250px-Elegant_couple_1678from the other.  It is my understanding wigs came into play because people didn’t habitually bathe as they do today, and often their hair was riddled with lice.  Heads were shaved to rid themselves of the problem, and wigs were worn to cover the bald heads.  Euuuwww.

Today we seem pale in comparison, at least here in the U.S.  Other cultures embrace a love of color evident in clothing worn by both sexes but other than brightly tinted mohawks, or football fans, American men tend to stick to their comfort zones when it comes to vibrant colors.

Sports seem to release the inner peacock in men, I must say.  Fans arrive at the stadiums wearing large pieces of cheese on their heads and disguised in wild face makeup.  Inhibitions seem to be left at the stadium gate and anything goes.  I have seen grown men fully painted sitting in freezing weather with no shirts drinking a cold beer.  Perhaps it goes back to the coliseum days, where we shed our civilized skins for those more primitive.  As usual I have no answers only questions.

Superbowl is coming up.  The 49er’s are playing so life at our house is as good as it gets.  We’re having some foot ball fans in spainexcellent television kibitzers in, so I’m making food ahead of time to keep their furnaces stoked.  These carnitas are good in burritos, soft tacos, tortas, or tostadas.  Cooked a long time in the crockpot and shredded, the meat melts in your mouth.  Heat them up or tone them down, but anyway you cook them they’re good.

I want to thank Peri at Peri’s Spice Ladle for nominating me for The Illuminating Blogger Award.  I will pass this on soon, but in the meantime stop by and say hello.

Slow Cook Carnitas Soft Tacos

4 1/2-5 lb. pork butt or shoulder
1 onion sliced thin
2 16 oz. tubs chunky salsa hot
12 8″ flour tortillas


Sour cream
Sliced Avocados
Chopped Cilantro
Jalapeno Pepper


1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. chili powder
3 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried cumin

Mix all seasonings together and rub over entire roast. Toss any extra. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place roast on bottom of cooker. Top with sliced onion. Pour tubs of salsa over top. Cook on low for 10-12 hours.


Remove meat from sauce and shred with two forks. Season with salt and pepper as desired.


Heat tortillas and place 1/4 cup of meat inside. Serve with choice of garnishes.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Susie Nelson

Lately I have limited myself to fifteen minutes of news including the weather before I start my day.  More than that and I might go back to bed.  Last week I lingered a bit longer, fascinated by a story about “man aisles” becoming a new trend for some larger chain stores.  Hmmm.

With more men assuming household responsibilities previously left to their wives, girlfriends, mothers, and whoever else, stores are looking at ways to make shopping less painful for them.  To achieve this goal, highly compensated marketing groups huddled in corporate conference rooms came up with the idea of creating an aisle specifically for the testosterone set stocked with items determined to be “male oriented” products.

Truthfully I have seen some of these poor guys in the market aisles, looking like they’d rather sign up to host a Tupperware party than be carrying a crumpled grocery list their other half has supplied them with.  Particularly the pale looking guys with sweat circles forming under their arms, ball caps pulled down to hide their faces frantically scanning the shelves in the aisles marked “female products”.  Pitiful.

Television monitors are even provided in some stores to help them select the appropriate products for brushing their teeth, preventing those sweat circles, and shaving that manly stubble. Really?  This is a task they perceive men are unable to perform without assistance? I think that leans on the insulting. Do they perceive this man aisle looking something like this? Beer (eye level in case you’ve had too many to either reach up or bend down effectively), a pork rind and beef jerky kiosk with chips, dip, and an assortment of processed cheese products.  A bank of frozen foods requiring only a push of a microwave button to have a three course dinner steaming on the old TV tray in the blink of a commercial.  Condoms, deodorant, shaving products, toilet paper, paper plates and utensils, charcoal, charcoal lighter, big cuts of meat and ice cream.  Think that just about covers it, except perhaps a very attractive young woman passing out samples of chili cheeseburgers and imported brews dressed in a cheerleader outfit.  Sound about right?  Did I miss anything?

Coincidentally, not long afterwards I also found an article on the same subject. In it, the author represented men as bargain shoppers, somehow connecting this with their hunting instincts.  A majority of them, again in the writer’s view, will search for deals even if it takes longer to find one, but conversely do not want to spend any more time then necessary in the store.  To me, I would think this to indicate that men would opt to visit the store more often for small amounts than going once every week or two for the whole list like I prefer to do.

During my dating years (Yes, I found time in between standing at the altar. That’s how I kept finding myself standing there.), I found most men I dated maintained a fairly spare larder, if you will.  One man I dated for about six months only had beer, catsup, pickles, mayonnaise, soy sauce and mustard.  These items, I was told, were only kept on hand to supplement his fast food purchases. If the condition of the refrigerator was any indication of how old these items were, the best by dates probably hadn’t been checked since since Queen Elizabeth took the throne.

While we were going out, he would provide a minimal wine stash for his lady as well, but if I required a glass to pour it in I was on my own.  I, in fact, did provide my own after I discovered his labrador retriever not only drank out of the glassware, such as it was, but after humans were done eating, their plates were placed on the floor for him to lick off the leftovers.  Knowing firsthand that Kiwi (apparently he was purchased from an Australian couple) made frequent visits to the toilet bowl if left open, to quench his thirst, I provided my own everything when I ate over which was rarely. Once I commented on the odd pattern in the butter on the table.  It looked like thin lines had been drawn there with a fine tool.  After inspecting it more closely it was determined that indeed these were whisker tracks. It seemed his Siamese cat, Jeremiah, was harboring a rather serious butter addiction and apparently had needed a fix.  Exit stage right.

Another man I dated had two roommates, Messy and Messier.  Their idea of doing laundry was to place it under the bed and wait for the laundry fairy to retrieve it, and, in the event of company of the female persuasion all dirty dishes (which on most days accounted for every one available on the premises) were placed in the bathtub and the shower curtain drawn.  This only presented a problem if someone was actually wanting something to eat, naturally.

I’m certainly not saying all men are messy. Some, I think, don’t see the mess, but rather are totally oblivious to its existence  My other half is very neat, but I do have to say that the majority of the men I have associated with seem to have adopted, shall we say, a more casual approach to the state of their surroundings then I might.  I’m just saying. Rick says I chose to date the wrong men before I met him, and he has probably got something going on with that train of thought.

In the end it doesn’t really much matter, other than health wise perhaps, whether your dust bunnies are multiplying at an alarming rate or your venetian blinds have enough dust on them to fill a king sized mattress, but for me I function better without chaos around me.  Just for me.

Anyhow, I find the man aisle an interesting concept.  Let me know what you think.  I can hear the men out there already. 🙂

Chicken Taquitos

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rotisserie (garlic if possible) chicken, shredded (2 cups)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup crumbled queso fresco (Mexican white cheese)
2 cups chicken broth
12 (6-inch) white corn tortillas
Oil for frying

You will need: Sour cream, salsa, guacamole, toothpicks

Heat olive oil over med. heat in a large skillet. Saute onion until translucent about 5 mins. Add chicken broth, chicken garlic, jalapeno, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook 10 mins. longer, until fragrant and broth has reduced. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro. Set aside.

Bring chicken broth to a simmer in a small skillet. Dip tortillas one by one just to soften about 2-3 secs. Stack one on top of the other on working surface. Spread 2-3 Tbsp. chicken mixture over bottom third of each tortilla. Top with a Tbsp. of cheese and roll like a cigar. Secure with toothpick.

Heat 1 1/2″ of oil in large skillet (3″ deep). When oil reaches about 350 degrees place taquitos in batches (do not crowd) in oil, seam side down, and brown on both sides.

Remove from oil with tongs and allow to drain vertically on paper towels. I place an inverted meatloaf pan behind them covered with paper towels.

Healthier baking instructions: 425 degrees

Place seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spray or brush tortillas lightly with oil and bake until crisp and lightly browned, 12-15 mins. Serve immediately with guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

Fabulous Frijoles

1 lb. dried pinto beans
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
3 slices bacon (fat only)

Wash and pick over beans. Place in large pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Cover and let sit overnight. Drain beans and rinse pot. Return beans to pot. Add 7 cups of water. Add remaining ingredients except bacon and bring to boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and cover (leaving cover ajar) and continue cooking for 3 hours stirring regularly.

Water should be just above layer of beans at this point with beans showing through. If not, remove cover and continue cooking until reduced, but don’t dry out.

With potato masher mash beans until chunky and thickened. In large skillet heat 1 1/2 Tbsp. of bacon grease over med. heat until shimmering. Add beans and cook for 8-10 mins. until beans are thickened, pushing with a spatula across bottom of the pan regularly to keep from sticking. If desired sprinkle with cheese and adjust seasoning before serving.

Read Full Post »

Photo by Susie Nelson

Growing up my children were forced to accept the reality both parents had to work.  No way around it, no pardon, no unhealthy rich uncles on the horizon, just a fact of life.  Baby sitters came and went, some good, some not so much.  At the beginning of the summer before my daughter was to begin first grade and my son kindergarten, we faced another black hole with regards to babysitters, with no one acceptable lined up to fill it.  That summer we ran our usual ad in the local paper “two perfect angels in search of a firm hand and a gentle soul” and began the inevitable trial and error process to select a suitable “pseudo parent” for our two young terrorists.

Marta came first, a rather androgynous looking woman in her mid thirties, who I first mistook for a man.  Not being a person to go by physical appearances, after checking her excellent references I offered her the job. She arrived on a Monday, and said goodbye the following Thursday when I came home to find both my children had been given a “bowl cut” while I was at work and I had to dig deeper to discern which was my girl and which my boy.  Sigh.

Mrs. Smith arrived on the scene next (we never referred to her by her first name), and after Marta was a breath of all-purpose flour.  Aptly named after the frozen pie crusts you find at the grocery store, she was an able hand in the kitchen, and to say her baked goods were outstanding would have been an understatement.  Mrs. Smith was a well put together woman in her late forties. Mr. Smith, the pastor, having gone on to a better place several years prior to our hiring her, and on meeting her she seemed perfect for the job. Deeply religious, the children were involved in Bible studies in the afternoons and said their prayers with sincerity before being tucked into bed, but unfortunately we discovered that not only had Mrs. Smith been sharing time, in the Biblical sense naturally, with the plumber next door, but our liquor cabinet had been watered down to such a point that the bourbon now resembled the gin.

Starting to weigh the pros and cons of giving up our house and having me stay home or each of us taking a child to work in a backpack, my husband found an ad in the Los Angeles Times for live-in housekeepers, English and non-English speaking.  Really? No crazy mornings trying to move two young bodies toward the door, lunches already made, laundry done, are you serious?  Where do I sign? I voted yes with both hands.

To preface this, I had a very attractive young husband, you understand.  Being in my early twenties, but not entirely devoid of brain cells, I felt I should be the one in charge of choosing a housekeeper lest a swimsuit model show up at my front door in a frilly apron with a small overnight bag containing her entire wardrobe.

Taking an afternoon off work I made the hour plus drive into Hollywood and locating a parking space found the second floor office space I was looking for.  Greeted in the lobby by a cheery English girl, I was ushered into a larger room towards the back with several other women of varying ages already seated. I chose a chair next to a lady wearing animal prints, 9″ nails and smoking a cigarette out of a long holder (you could do that then) and waited to see whether the lady or the tiger was going to appear behind Door Number Three. Please do not put me in the cast of HELP, truly I was searching for a loving influence for my children.

One by one our names were called and I assume the others, as did I, spoke to a counselor trying to assess our needs and pair us with appropriate housekeeper/nannies.  On my original paperwork I had indicated that I spoke some Spanish (4 years in high school – although I didn’t think “voy a la biblioteca” (I’m going to the library) would be of much use) and would be fine with someone who did not speak English.

It was a weird situation when they brought the women out.  Felt like a cattle call of some sort which made me uncomfortable.  I struggled with my Spanish and spoke in brief to each applicant.  Maria was second to the last.  Guatemala was listed as her point of origin on the paperwork, and in the language section next to English a rough “no” had been written. A plump faced woman in a red dress with kind brown eyes with a touch of sadness and an easy smile that showed a sizable gap in front of her top teeth.  Her eyes frequently turned downward as we spoke and as my mother said after first meeting her her body was round in the middle but supported by two spindly legs giving her the look of an olive on a toothpick.  For me, she was perfect.

Over the next three years she occupied our spare room Monday through Friday.  Weekends she took the bus into Los Angeles to stay with her son and his family. We shared a lot of giggles. I taught her to sew and in turn she showed me how to make homemade tortillas. After much experimentation in the realm of communication, we got to a point where we understood one another and to us, she was family.  I often think of her and wonder where she’s gone in her travels.  For my children it was an opportunity to learn about another country and their way of life, pick up a little Spanish, and discover that “no” was no in both English and Spanish.

Have a great Cinco de Mayo!

Artwork by Susie Nelson

Spicy Mexican Potato Salad

1 lbs. red potatoes
3 eggs, hard boiled
1/4 cup jarred pickled Jalapeno juice
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
3/4 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Juice of two limes
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. hot chunky salsa
1 Tbsp. prepared yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. Sazon Goya seasoning
1 cup chopped celery
1 red onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. jarred pickled jalapenos, chopped
1/4 cup chopped black olives
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish

Hard boil eggs, peel and refrigerate. Slice one and chop two when ready to use.

Boil potatoes in large pot until tender. Allow to cool slightly, skin and chop into large mixing bowl. Add 1 tbsp. vinegar and two chopped eggs and toss. Set aside.

Whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, chunky salsa, Sazon goya, pickled jalapeno juice and juice of 1 1/2 limes.

Add chopped vegetables (except avocado), cilantro, olives and dressing mix to potatoes and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Just before getting ready to serve, peel and dice avocado. Sprinkle with other 1/2 lime juice. Mix into salad. Decorate with sliced egg and paprika.

© http://www.susartandfood.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

After staying with one’s parents for nearly a week it can answer so many questions about your own peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, and it is nice to have a source of blame for said. As always when visiting my mom, I cook, then I cook and then I cook some more.  This always with my mother reminding me I’m working too hard, but never pushing me very hard to stop. I never mind, she spoils my stepdad to the point of distraction seven days a week so if I can spoil her on the occasions of my visits, that works for me.  However, she can be particular about the spoiling which can make me want to pull out my toenails one at a time.

When I load the dishwasher, she reloads it.  It she asks my opinion about which outfit she should wear the red or the blue, I pick blue and she appears shortly after wearing the red.  After completely setting the table with a fresh cloth, napkins, napkin rings, plates, stemware, salt and peppers, plates, salad bowls and arranging a floral centerpiece, she brings up adding the second leaf for more room. AAAAAAAH, seriously.  Do I love her?  Immensely.  Do I ever question what it would feel like to put my fingers around her neck and squeeze ever so slightly, just for a minute, but not til she blacks out?  Often.

It is said that we dislike traits in others that we are blind to in ourselves.  Now, I don’t care how you load the dishwasher as long as you’re putting something in it.  If you get cleaned up and make an effort to look fabulous, I am never going to fault you for wearing brown socks with green pants, but I do have to say that my carpet lines are top-notch and if you insist on making the sheets longer on one side than on the other I will not berate you, but I will make them even when you’re not looking.  There I’ve said it.  In many ways, I am my mother’s daughter.  Sigh.

So, as much as I love my parents company, it was orgasmic to sleep in my own bed last night with my own well-punched pillows.  My other half and I need our space while asleep lest a murder should occur in the middle of the night, so the larger bed made life a little calmer.  Boo, the Queen of Cats, however, would not be ignored after our absence so I spent most of the night removing her whiskers from my nostrils because she was sleeping so close to me I was breathing her air.  Apparently this is “cat” for “I missed you”.  Mouse, the feral adoptee, did a pee pee dance on both back feet to welcome me. This, I am sure more due to the fact I am her chief kibble pourer and litter box screener, rather than stemming from her deep affection for my face.  Despite the flaws, it is good to be home.

Friday night my cousin and his wife arrived from Nova Scotia.  Also joining us were two of our grandchildren, provided eight and ten years ago by my son and his wife, as well as my son. I don’t get to see them often enough so when I do it is always craziness, which is my favorite variation of ness and much fun.  After dinner, my other half’s fabulous pasta, which in the middle of the festivities I forgot to photograph so I could share with you, and chicken nuggets and French fries for the braces set, we took the golf cart out for an after dark run and came back to get reacquainted.

While we were gone my Mother took all the old pictures and albums out of her hope chest to share.  OMG.  You know the ones where Uncle Fred caught a candid shot of you picking your nose at two, the first braces pictures where your mouth looks like it’s picking up reception from Jupiter, and my personal favorite of me with a hideous frizzy permanent that she got for a deal at a local beauty school when I was in seventh grade.  There isn’t enough wine for family moments like that.

Today is Easter, and for us a quiet one.  Originally I had planned to have roast leg of lamb but they were asking over fifty dollars for one, so we bought a prime rib instead. There is a lamb somewhere giving a special Easter thanks for our economizing I am sure. Our granddaughter comes home tomorrow so chaos will once again be the word of the day.  Today, however, is ours.

I realize burritos aren’t exactly traditional Easter fare, but we had these for dinner last night and they were so good I decided to get a head start on Cinco de Mayo.  You can use prepared salsa and quick rice for time constraints, or make your own but this rice is great.  I make my salsa in batches like my spaghetti sauce and freeze it.

Chicken Fajita Burritos

juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup EV olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts cut in strips
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
2 avocados, sliced
8 burrito sized tortillas
sour cream

Combine lime juice, oils, jalapeno, garlic, oregano, cilantro, green pepper, yellow pepper, salt and pepper into a resealable bag. Add chicken. Seal and shake to coat. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight turning several times.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove from peppers, onions, and chicken from marinade. Add to skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook until nicely browned and chicken is thoroughly cooked 10-12 mins. Remove from heat and allow to rest.

Warm flour tortillas.

Place chicken, rice (recipe below), sour cream, and sliced avocado in center of each tortilla. Roll burrito style and serve with sour cream and salsa.


1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chunky salsa (your choice of heat)
1  15 1/2 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro , minced
1 lime cut in wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place diced tomatoes, salsa and onions in food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to measuring cup reserving 2 cups. Discard excess.

To remove excess starch from rice place rice a bowl and cover with water.  Let sit for 20 mins.  Rinse until water runs clear under cold water. Shake colander vigorously to remove excess water.

Heat oil in heavy bottomed Dutch oven with tight fitting lid over low-medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add rice and stir fry until rice is light golden brown and translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add garlic.  Stir constantly for about 2 mins. until fragrant.

Add broth, pureed tomatoes and onions, salsa, tomato paste, and salt. Increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

Cover pan and transfer pan to oven to bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes.Stir well after 15 minutes.

Stir in cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: