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Not Cooking Tonight {recipe: loaded texas queso}

20 May

Sometimes, you have to leave Texas. Sometimes, like now,  you have to realize that there is a recession and you need to go home. Which is ok. Other times, you choose to leave Texas, like my brother who skipped out to move for school to upstate New York where I hear it is cold and lacking in the queso department. Or a dear friend, a fantastic writer, who followed her heart to Minnesota. Or another, who is now tucked away in the northwest, close to family. And then there’s another old acquaintaince who I blog-stock (because come on, their kiddo is really, really cute).

Well, this recipe is for all of you.

You may need to have some of your new never-been-south friends over and treat them to this processed cheese delight. You also may need to drown your homesick-ness in a big bowl of queso at some point in time. It didn’t keep you in Texas, but it will keep you coming back. The beef makes this very filling…so if we start with queso, I usually don’t even make dinner 🙂

From Queso

Loaded Texas Queso

1 pound ground beef

2 T. cumin

1 T. chili powder

1 14-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 14-oz. can Rotel (can’t find Rotel? Use 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 4-oz. can diced green chiles

14-oz.Velveeta (which is half of a package. I use the 2% milk kind, you know, to keep it healthy), cut into 8 pieces

few T. milk

1 avocado, diced (see how to dice an avocado)

Tortilla Chips

In a large, nonstick pan, brown the ground beef with the cumin and chili powder. When beef is browned, add in the tomatoes and beans. Then, add in the cheese and stir until melted. Add in milk if you want it a bit thinner, stir, and pour into a bowl. Top with diced avocado.

Look at me. I am all Southern with my Red Velvet Cake and Texas Queso.

Check out a great blog from the cowgirl-turned-city Homesick Texan. She will keep you company on the months and years to come with Texas recipes straight from New York.

From Queso

Original post at


Mojitos and Tamale Cornbread Casserole

22 May

Some of our friends have a garden in their backyard (this is very impressive as we know few people with houses and even less with gardens) and are growing some herbs and veggies for the summer season. This weekend, I benefited from the mint plant in their backyard. Amanda came over this weekend to lay out by the pool with me (our perk for living in an apartment complex) with the mint, some mango rum, and club soda…and Saturday afternoon Mojitos were born.


I didn’t even think I liked rum (maybe because we’ve always bought the cheap stuff) but Amanda brought some Mango rum from St. Croix that was very, very good. So good, in fact, that we made them again tonight! Note to Amanda: according to how the grocery store values Mint…you have at least $100 of it if your garden

Mango Mojitos

serves 2.

16 mint leaves

4 T. sugar

1 lime

16 oz club soda

3 oz. Cruzian Mango Rum

Chop mint leaves and divide between two glasses.

Put 2 T. sugar in each glass. If you have a muddler –now is your chance to show it off, if not–a wooden spoon works just fine: crush the mint and sugar together in the bottom of the glass, you are trying to release the mint flavors from the leaves and mix them with the sugar.

Cut lime in half, squeeze each half into a glass and drop the lime into the glass.

Fill glass 3/4 full with ice (this will keep all og the mint from immediately floating.

Add 8oz club soda and 1.5oz rum to each glass.

Stir. Insert straw. Enjoy.

(To complement the mojitos) we had this Tamale cornbread casserole.


This casserole really does not resemble tamales at all, but it is very good, easy, healthy and quite cheap-all things we like. I am not crazy about corn tortillas, but this recipe gets the corn feature of tamales into the dish with cornbread, which I love. The sweet flavour of the cornbread complements the spicy chile powder and the bite of the green chiles. I used pepper jack cheese in the recipe for an extra kick, but you could use cheddar for a sharper taste, or american for a more mild taste.

Tamale Cornbread Casserole

adapted from Hands-Off Cooking: Low-Supervision, High-Flavor Meals for Busy People, Ann Martin Rolke

serves 4.

3/4 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons chile powder (more or less to taste)

2 teaspoons cumin (more or less to taste)

1 (28 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained (Muir Glen makes the best ones around, but I can’t always find them at all grocery stores. Down south, HEB and Randall’s usually have them)

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained,

1 (16 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced ripe olives

3/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese (about 3 ounces)

1-pound of Jiffy cornbread mix prepared with 1/3 c. milk and 1 egg as directed.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat ground beef in a large skillet on medium high. Add the onion and bell pepper. Add salt, chile powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef has browned. Remove from heat. Drain excess fat if necessary (if you are using lean beef, there shouldn’t be excess).

Mix in fire-roasted tomatoes, chiles, corn and olives


Grease an 8×8 pan and spoon in filling.

Top with shredded cheese.

Spread prepared cornbread as top layer over cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is browned.