Monday, January 16, 2017

79. Lamb Picadillo Tacos

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Lamb Picadillo Tacos

This post contains affiliate links to support my blogging addiction!

I have a confession to make.  I came up with this taco recipe over the summer, right around the time my taco project temporarily crashed and burned!  We had a family get-together, and I figured I'd knock off three taco recipes in one day.  Well . . . I did.  I just didn't do a great job at documenting them.  Then I took a few months off of blogging.  By the time I got back to it, I didn't feel right posting the recipes I had made that day because it had been so long since I had made them that I wasn't sure I could adequately write about the experience!

I remembered that the lamb picadillo tacos were awesome, though!  I knew I needed a do-over.  I bought the ingredients for my months-old recipe, made it again, and decided to get a blog post up right away (as I usually do) while both the recipe and the cooking experience were still fresh in my mind.  I'm confident that what you're reading is an accurate representation of my original recipe!  I usually don't get to try them twice before posting (because this project is CRAZY), so it was kind of a bonus for me this time!

I got the inspiration for these tacos from a picadillo mollete recipe that I found in one of my many cookbooks: 



It was basically a sandwich - a picadillo filling stuffed in a roll and lightly fried. 

Picadillo is a kind of hash that can be found in many Latin cuisines - Mexican, Spanish, Cuban, etc.  It usually involves ground meat and potatoes, but can also include olives, raisins, and many other ingredients. 

Interestingly, the term "mollete" can also refer to different things, depending on the cuisine.  It can be a flatbread or a type of sandwich. 

So . . . what goes in a sandwich?  Cheese!  Pickles!  Lettuce! 

You can see how this happened.  I had an idea and took it down some crazy road that has quite possibly never been traveled before.  Ha ha.  This is probably the most unauthentic incarnation of picadillo that has ever been made, but it was pretty delicious.  If you're not a fan of lamb, it would work equally well with ground beef or ground turkey. 

So . . . here's what I did:

Lamb Picadillo Tacos 


Serves 4 (about 12 tacos)

Ingredients:

For the lamb filling:


1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 lb. ground lamb
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup peeled and diced russet potato (about 1/4 inch dice)
1/2 small plum tomato, diced (also 1/4 inch)
2 tbsp. dried currants (or raisins)
1/4 cup pimiento stuffed green olives, chopped
2 tbsp. dry sherry
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. white wine
1 and 1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Filling Ingredients for Lamb Picadillo Tacos
I know - it's got a lot of ingredients.  However, you might have most of these in your pantry already!

12 high-quality crunchy taco shells (freshly made, if you can get them)

Taco Shells for Lamb Picadillo Tacos

Garnish as desired with:

Shredded iceberg lettuce

Kosher dill sandwich slices, sliced in half lengthwise

Pickle Slices for Lamb Picadillo Tacos

Finely shredded provolone cheese

Provolone Cheese for Lamb Picadillo Tacos

Cholula (or another hot sauce of your choice)


Instructions:

1.  Make the lamb filling:  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and red pepper, lower the heat a bit, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute, or until fragrant.  Add the cumin, oregano, lamb and salt and raise the heat back to medium.  Cook and stir, breaking up the lamb into small pieces, for about 10 minutes or until the lamb is fully cooked.

Browned Lamb for Lamb Picadillo Tacos

Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer.  Lower the heat and gently simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potato is tender and most of the excess liquid has evaporated.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Keep warm.

Lamb Filling for Lamb Picadillo Tacos

2.  Heat the shells:  Toast briefly (a minute or two) in a 350 degree oven until hot and fragrant.  Watch them - they can go from toasty to burned pretty quickly!

3.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a taco shell on a plate.  (If you have nifty little taco holders like the ones below, use them!  They make things easier!)  :)



Place one of the pickle slices inside.  Fill with some of the lamb mixture.  Top with lettuce, cheese, and Cholula.  Enjoy! 

Lamb Picadillo Tacos

There you have it.  Lamb picadillo tacos!  We both loved them, though we had different opinions about some of the ingredients.

I love pickles, olives, vinegar, and all things sour and briny.  I thought the olives in the filling, the vinegar in the Cholula, and the slice of pickle in the shell really went well together.  Steve thought the pickle was overkill.  He preferred just the meat, cheese, lettuce, and hot sauce.

If you're like me and you love pickles, I would recommend including the pickle slices.  If you would rather not, you'll still have some delicious tacos!

Three tacos seemed to be a good serving size for this recipe.  We got one dinner and one lunch out of this recipe, and we enjoyed it just as much the second time! 

If you've followed my recipes, you probably know that I don't worry too much about a little extra fat.  That being said, it is true that ground lamb can contain a little bit more fat than some people prefer.  If you wanted to brown the lamb separately, drain it, and then add it to the pepper and onion mixture, I'm sure that would work!  As for me, I didn't stress about it!  :)

This was a good one!  I will definitely make these again.  I can even see myself using the picadillo filling for other purposes.  It's so flavorful and delicious! 

If you'd like to follow along as I finish my taco project (and I will finish), please consider subscribing to my blog by clicking the link below:

Subscribe to Arizona Renaissance Woman by Email

Please comment:  What do you think of this idea?  Did you make the tacos?  How did they turn out?  Until next time . . . Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

78. Lentil Tacos with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce

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Lentil Tacos with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce

This post contains affiliate links to support my blogging addiction!

OK.  It's time.  I'm finally going to get back on the horse with The Taco Project.  If you've followed my blog at all, you may have noticed that I took on a personal challenge to create one hundred unique taco recipes in a year's time.  Well . . . that didn't quite happen.  I got a bit overwhelmed.  I actually do have a job.  I love my job, but it does NOT involve making tacos.  It was tricky to balance it all. 

So, I hit a wall.  I needed a break.  I took a few months off from blogging.  I was disappointed in myself for missing my deadline (which would have been this past August 2nd), but I still felt like I had accomplished so much and I wanted to finish the project when I was ready.

Sigh.  I think I'm ready.  Twenty-two more recipes! 

This latest creation came on the heels of a fantastic trip to New Orleans.  I went there for a jazz conference, which was amazing in itself.  I brought Steve along, so (naturally) we did some sightseeing as well.  When I say sightseeing, I mostly mean EATING!  And drinking.

Shrimp and grits.  Roast duck.  Blackened redfish.  Red beans and rice.  Fried chicken.  Bread pudding.  Oysters.  More bread pudding.  More oysters.  More shrimp.  Beer.  Bourbon.  Repeat. 

O.O

I brought my running shoes.  They rested comfortably in my suitcase for the whole trip.  Ha ha.

I have no regrets, but I knew it would be time to get it together when we got home.  School starts next week!  There's more to life than bread pudding and bourbon!  :)

The initial idea for these tacos came from a lentil filling for a vegetarian moussaka from the Cafe Flora cookbook.  You can find it here:



Random, I know!  Great cookbook.  Great moussaka.  These tacos don't take like the moussaka at all.  I was just craving something vegetarian and relatively healthy.  The idea evolved from there, and these  
tacos ended up fitting the bill quite nicely. 

Here's the recipe:

Lentil Tacos with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce


Serves 3 to 4 (about 8 filling tacos)

Ingredients:


For the feta-yogurt sauce:


1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. hot smoked paprika

Ingredients for Feta-Yogurt Sauce for Lentil Tacos

For the lentils:


1 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup green lentils
1 and 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. hot smoked paprika
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Lentil Filling for Lentil Tacos

For the roasted vegetables:


2 medium parsnips (about 7 to 8 oz.), diced into small 1/4" to 1/2" pieces
2 medium carrots (about 7 to 8 oz.), diced into small 1/4" to 1/2" pieces
1 medium rutabaga (about 7 to 8 oz.), diced into small 1/4" to 1/2" pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Root Vegetables - Rutabaga, Carrots and Parsnips

For the spinach:


2 heaping cups chopped spinach
1/2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/2 tbsp. walnut oil (or olive oil)
1/4 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 to 16 corn tortillas, depending on whether you double them up

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped, for garnish

Instructions:

1.  Make the feta-yogurt sauce:  Place the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl or measuring cup with high sides .  (I used a 2-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup, not the shallow bowl pictured below.)  Blend with a hand blender until the consistency is thick and relatively smooth.  Alternately, you could use a small food processor if you have one.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Set aside.

Feta-Yogurt Sauce for Lentil Tacos

2.  Prepare the lentils:  Heat 1/2 tbsp. of the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, lower the heat a bit, and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the lentils, water, bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp. of the salt. 

Lentils with Onion and Bay Leaf

Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the lentils are just done, about 20 minutes.  Drain the water thoroughly.  Season the lentils with the remaining 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, oregano, smoked paprika, parsley, and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Keep warm. 

3.  While the lentils are cooking, roast the vegetables:  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a medium bowl, toss the diced vegetables with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Transfer to a shallow baking pan and spread out into a single layer. 

Diced Root Vegetables - Rutabaga, Carrot, and Parsnip

Roast the vegetables for about 15 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned. 

4.  While the lentils and vegetables are cooking (Yay for multi-tasking!), prepare the tortillas to your liking:  I prefer to heat mine in a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat for about 30 seconds to a minute on each side.  After each one is done, I place it on the foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.  When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil.  You can keep them warm in a 250 degree oven if you wish!

Corn Tortilla in Cast Iron Skillet


5.  After the lentils, vegetables, and tortillas are ready, toss the spinach:  Place the chopped spinach in a medium bowl.  Add the sherry vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.

6.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place one or two tortillas on a plate.  (If your tortillas are thin, double them up.)  Spoon on a small amount of the lentil mixture.  Top with some of the spinach and roasted vegetables.  Add a generous amount of the feta-yogurt sauce (we ended up adding more than pictured) and sprinkle with walnuts.  You can also add a little sprinkle of the hot smoked paprika if you wish.  Enjoy! 

Lentil Taco with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce

After four days of indulgence, I have to admit that I was a little nervous about how these would go over.  Steve asked me what kind of tacos we were having and I just said they were vegetarian.  I didn't mention the lentils.  Or the rutabaga.  Ha ha.

Well . . . we both liked them!  The subtle spice from the hot paprika was great!  I loved the different textures from the lentils, roasted vegetables, and crunchy walnuts.  The yogurt and feta added a salty tanginess that was the perfect topping!  Steve put Cholula on his.  I did NOT.  I love Cholula, but I didn't think these needed hot sauce.  If you think it needs some extra kick, though, go for it!

I'm not sure that corn tortillas were the best choice for these tacos.  Corn might have been one flavor too many, though it certainly wasn't a bad thing.  Next time, I might use flour tortillas.  It would certainly work with either!

The sauce was very thick, but I didn't mind.  I didn't want to dilute the flavor by adding liquid.  I put it in a little plastic bag, snipped off the end, and piped it onto the tacos.  I thought it worked pretty well. 

Steve admitted that these weren't his favorite tacos ever, but he liked them.  He said they were very "vegetarian".  Ha ha.  To me, that's a good thing, but it may not be a good thing for everyone.  Take that as you will.  :)

If you're feeling overindulgent/guilty and you want something very tasty that also feels a bit on the healthy side, these tacos are for you!  They came together pretty fast, though there was some multitasking involved. 

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

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Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

Note:  This point contains affiliate links to support my blogging addiction!  :)

So . . . once upon a time, I used to have a blog.  Actually, it was about six months ago.  I still HAVE the blog; I just haven't posted in a while.

I don't know.  Life happens, I guess.  Last year, I started a really crazy recipe creation project (tacos), got overwhelmed, and kind of hit a wall.  Then, school started and I had a super busy fall semester.  As a result, I've gotten a bit behind in sharing my Stitch Fix experiences!  In fact, I haven't shared anything lately.  I think that needs to change!

If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with Stitch Fix, but if not, read on for a brief description of my history with Stitch Fix and a short explanation of how the whole thing works:

I became a member of Stitch Fix in January of 2015, and I am definitely a fan!  My closet has improved 1000% since then.  It's been really nice to receive clothing in the mail that I can try on at my convenience.  I've received some great pieces that I wear often.  I may never see the inside of a mall again!  :)

To get started, you go to their website and fill out your style profile!  That gives you a chance to show your stylist your measurements, usual sizes, how you like things to fit, and the styles that generally appeal to you.  
If you're interested in checking it out, please consider following my link to schedule your first fix!  (I am a member of Stitch Fix's affiliate program, which means I get a small commission for anyone who signs up using my link.  However, my opinions are always my own and I pay for all of my own fixes!)


When you order a fix, you pay $20.00 to have your own personal stylist look at your style profile and preferences (which can include a Pinterest board).  They will choose five clothing and/or accessory items specifically for you.  They are shipped right to your doorstep!  You have three days to try the items with other things in your own wardrobe and decide if you want to keep them.  The $20.00 styling fee is credited toward any items that you decide to purchase, and you receive a prepaid shipping envelope to return anything that you don't want.  If you happen to keep all five items, you receive a 25% discount on the whole box!  You can choose to receive fixes every month, every few weeks, or only once in a while.  Here are some links to my previous reviews, if you'd like to check them out:

June/July 2016 - #22
May/June 2016 - #21 
April 2016 - #20
March 2016 - #19
February 2016 - #18
February 2016 - #17
January 2016 - #16
December 2015 - #15
November 2015 - #14
November 2015 - #13
October 2015 - #12
September 2015 - #11
Stitch Fix Keepers
September 2015 - #10
August 2015 - #9

Yes, I did receive fixes in August, September, October, and November of this year.  No, I did not review them.  I kept at least one item from each of those fixes, though.  Here's to getting back on the horse!  It's FUN to share what I receive, so I'll try to do better in 2017!

Anyway, moving on . . .

I received this latest fix toward the end of a week-long vacation in Hawaii.  It arrived early!  I had to ask my neighbor to take it off of our front porch and keep it safe for me until we got back.  I'd like to say I was eagerly anticipating the moment that I would open the box, but that isn't true.

The trip was a whirlwind.  We were both sick.  Picture yourself in paradise, but you don't feel like doing anything.  And your appetite is all messed up.  Yep.  That was us.  Yay! 

We tried to make the best of it and had as much fun as we could.  We got home late at night on December 23rd.  I proceeded to get worse.  Christmas Day was my low point.  I think I blew through a whole box of Kleenex by myself.  Ugh.

After a couple of days had passed and I was finally starting to feel better, I was getting curious about what was in the box.  I finally dragged myself over to my neighbor's house and picked it up!

Stitch Fix Box - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

It seemed so light - no shoes this time, I guess!  That's fine with me.  I've received shoes frequently in my last several fixes, and the last few pairs haven't really worked out.  I was fine with receiving only clothing this time!  I opened the box and found some nice winter colors embedded in a few bold patterns:


Stitch Fix Box Contents - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

One of the nice things about Stitch Fix is that they send you a style card with ideas for each of the items that you receive.  If you're clueless about fashion (as I can be sometimes), it's nice to see a couple of different ways to wear a new style.  Here's the style care that came with this fix:

Stitch Fix Style Card - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

Lauren was my stylist again!  I think she's been styling me for about a year now.  She picks out great stuff!  I have to confess, I was not a good client this time.  I did not leave her a note to ask for anything specific.  I did not update my Pinterest board.  She had nothing to go on.  Oops. 

Her note to me was just as positive as ever, though!  Here's what she said:

Stitch Fix Stylist Note - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

There were a couple of items that I wasn't sure about, but I was excited to give everything a try! 

Well . . . here's what I got!

1. Tolani Talline V-Neck Silk Dress - $188.00


and

2. Rune Porter Legging - $44.00


Tolani Talline V-Neck Silk Dress and Rune Porter Legging - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

I tried to find some good light in our backyard, but my photos definitely have a winter cast to them.  And I'm wearing my most wintery lipstick.  My husband calls it my goth lipstick.  I'm not sure if he really knows what "goth" is.  Anyway, it's called "Dominatrix".  I think I mostly bought it for the name, but it is actually great lipstick.  It smells amazing.  Ha ha.  You can get it here.  If you think that might be your jam.  No judgement here!



As Lauren suggested, I tried the dress and the leggings together, completing the look with black riding boots.  I found the silk dress to be quite flimsy and see-through.  I definitely would not have been comfortable wearing it without something underneath it. 

So . . . I kind of hated this dress.  It was pretty baggy on me.  I felt like I was wearing a sack with a really pretty print. 

The neckline really bugged me.  The v-neck was very low cut and loose.  I couldn't think of a necklace that would look good or be comfortable with this gaping neckline.  The tab sleeves hit me at a weird spot, but if I unrolled them, they were shorter than I would have liked.

And . . . $188?  Wow.  I'll spend that much on a dress, but it needs to be an awesome dress!  Nope.  This is not that.  Ha ha.

The leggings are mostly covered up in the picture, but there's not much to them.  Basic black leggings.  And when I say leggings, I do not mean leggings-as-pants kind of leggings.  These make you feel like you need to cover your butt.  I wasn't a fan.  I might as well have been wearing tights.

I have several pairs of "pants" that are almost leggings.  They are very thick.  Some of them have pockets.  I feel comfortable wearing them with shorter shirts.  That's what I want in a legging.  These leggings gave me that uncomfortable feeling that I get from wearing tight pantyhose - you know, when they start sagging in the crotch?  That's one of the reasons I don't wear hose.  Nah.  I really didn't need these.

Verdict (dress):  RETURN

Verdict (leggings):  RETURN

3. Central Park West Zofie Mixed Material Sweater - $138.00

Central Park West Zofie Mixed Material Sweater - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

(Note to self:  Time to get those highlights touched up, huh?)

My gut feeling when I saw this sweater was that I was going to love it.  Not a bad thing, right?

Then I saw the price!  I just knew it was going to be that one item that I had to keep! 

Lauren knows that I like animal prints, back details, and zippers - I could totally see where she was coming from with this one, even though it was pricey.

Central Park West Zofie Mixed Material Sweater Close Up - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

I paired the sweater with my Level 99 coated skinnies from my October 2015 fix.  I decided to keep the riding boots on, especially since those jeans are SHORT for winter . . .

By the way, I love these Steve Madden boots!  I wear them all the time.  They're so comfortable and they fit my calves just perfectly - reasonably priced, too!  They're available here:


So . . . did I decide I couldn't live without the expensive sweater?  Ha ha.

I got lucky.  I put it on and thought, "Meh."  It wasn't bad.  The sleeves were long enough.  I'm a tall person with long arms, so that was a plus!

I just didn't think it was that flattering.  It didn't wow me.  It was a nice sweater, but . . . this happened to be one of those times when the IDEA of something was much better than the reality.   

Central Park West Zofie Mixed Material Sweater Back - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

I decided to pass.  My credit card was relieved!

Verdict:  RETURN


4. Daniel Rainn Sealy Tassel Tie Blouse - $68.00


Daniel Rainn Sealy Tassel Tie Blouse - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

(Note to self:  The nineties called.  They want the choker back.)

Look at my face.  Ha ha.  It's saying, "Here we go again . . . another Daniel Rainn top."  It seems like I get one in almost every fix.  I'm almost getting sick of them.  But then they end up being cute and I keep them. 

I wanted to hate this one.  Feminine?  Flowers?  What?  I don't want to be that kind of princess.  I like an edgier vibe.  How about some spikes?  To go with my goth lipstick?  Ha ha.

Lauren suggested trying this top with jeans.  I decided to just continue the experience with the same Level 99 jeans and Steve Madden riding boots that I wore with the sweater.  If it's not broke . . .

Daniel Rainn Sealy Tassel Tie Blouse Back - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

I looked in the mirror and grudgingly admitted that this was a nice outfit.  My husband liked it, too, though he did point out that I have quite a few boho/hippie tops already.

Yes.  Yes, I do.  That is totally not the point.

OK, Daniel Rainn.  You win.  This time.

Verdict:  KEEP

5. Edyson Maisha Ponte and Faux Leather Jacket - $88.00



Edyson Maisha Ponte and Faux Leather Jacket - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

The last thing in my fix was this jacket.  Lauren suggested throwing it on over the Daniel Rainn top, so that's what I did.

The color kind of threw me off.  I like grey, but this is a warmish mocha grey.  Weird.  Not part of my usual color palette at all!

The jacket was so fitted that I didn't think it would fit over the top.  Sometimes I'm better off sizing up with layers.  My shoulders are very broad.  However, the jacket did have some stretch in the shoulders and arms, so it just barely worked with the thin Daniel Rainn top!  I still think a large might have been better (this was a medium), as I would only have been able to wear this with short sleeved and/or very thin tops.

Edyson Maisha Ponte and Faux Leather Jacket Back - Stitch Fix #28 Review - December 2016

In the end, I liked it much better than I thought I would.  However, I didn't see myself wearing it very often.  I have some other layers already in my closet that would work just fine with the outfit above.  I decided I didn't need it.

Verdict:  RETURN

Well, there you have it!  I'm happy with the one top that I kept, and I'm really looking forward to my next fix!

I requested to keep Lauren as my stylist for next time, and I am going to make a point to write her a detailed note and update my Pinterest board!  A 1/5 fix isn't bad, but I wouldn't mind getting another 3/5 (or even a 5/5) one of these days!  :)

By the way, if you'd like an easy way to see Stitch Fix items that other people have received, you can check out some other Stitch Fix reviews by clicking on the link below and visiting a great linkup.  It's hosted by Maria of Crazy Together.  I always enjoy seeing her fixes and joining in the fun with other Stitch Fix fans!  :)

http://crazytogether.com/stitch-fix-for-the-holidays-december-stitch-fix-review-43/


Please comment!  Did I make the right calls?  Have you received any of these items?  What did you think?

Thanks again for reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

77. Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos!!!

Yum

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos Collage

This post contains affiliate links to support my blogging addiction!

Well . . . it's been over a month since I've posted anything.  I got a little carried away with summer vacation.  Oops.

The funny thing is . . . I thought it would be easier to blog during the summer.  No.  At least, not for me - so many distractions!  My regular school-year routine was thrown out the window with abandon, and it was hard to figure out where blogging fit into the long, hot, crazy days!  Ha ha.

And . . . I think I just needed a break.  If you have read any of my previous posts, you might have noticed that I have been working on a taco recipe creation project for a little over a year.  Well, it was supposed to be just one year, but I didn't quite make it!  I'm still going to finish my 100 recipes, but it's going to take a little longer.  2 more months?  4 more months?  We'll see.  Once I started questioning whether I should go on vacation or stay home to make tacos, I knew I needed to reassess my priorities!  Ha ha.

So, anyway . . . I made these a few weeks ago.  I wanted to see if I could incorporate the flavors of a jalapeño popper (everyone's favorite spicy bar-food treat, right?) into a taco.  I suppose I could have just made jalapeño poppers, chopped them up, and threw them into some taco shells, but . . . no.  Ha ha.  I felt like the whole thing needed a bit more finesse than that, so I decided to deconstruct/reimagine the typical components of this guilty pleasure and (hopefully) come up with something unique.

I used ground turkey as the base.  I know, that's not typically part of a jalapeño popper filling, but I didn't want to end up with a taco full of nothing but cream cheese.  Ew.  I added bacon to the turkey to give it some flavor (as bacon does happen to be an ingredient that is commonly used in jalapeño poppers).

To incorporate the creamy, cheesy filling, I made a sauce with cream cheese, cheddar, and more peppers!  Finally, I topped the tacos with some crunchy garlic bread crumbs as a nod to the breaded/fried aspect of jalapeño poppers.

Weird, I know.  Well . . . here's the recipe:

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos!


Serves 3 or 4 (about 8 tacos) 

Ingredients:

For the garlic bread crumbs:


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 cup panko
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of red hot pepper flakes

For the poblano-cream cheese sauce:


2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
8 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the turkey filling:


2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 lb. ground turkey
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled or chopped
1 tbsp. green hot sauce (I used Gringo Bandito.)

Green Hot Sauce for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

Other things you'll need:


8 large jalapeños, roasted, peeled, and seeded (left whole as much as possible)

Peppers for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

12 crunchy taco shells (I used Trader Joe's Brand.)

Taco Shells for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

Chile powder of your choice, for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

1.  Make the bread crumb topping:  Place the olive oil and the garlic in a medium skillet over low heat.  Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the oil is very warm.  Add the panko, salt, and red pepper and stir to combine.  Cook (stirring occasionally) over low heat until the crumbs are toasty.  Be careful not to burn them - it's easy to get impatient!  Mine took about 25 minutes and ended up looking like this:

Garlic Bread Crumbs for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

Set the bread crumbs aside to cool.

2.  Make the poblano-cream cheese sauce:  Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, reduce the heat slightly, and cook until softened and slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and chiles.  Cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until everything is heated through and most of the liquid from the chiles has evaporated.  Cut the cream cheese into pieces and add to the mixture along with the shredded cheddar cheese.  Cook, stirring often, until the cheeses are melted and the mixture is hot and bubbling.  Add the salt and cilantro and remove from the heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Cover and set aside.

Poblano Cream Cheese Sauce for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

3.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, reduce the heat slightly, and cook until softened and slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook and stir for an additional minute or so.  Add the turkey, salt, and pepper and increase the heat to medium.  Cook, stirring and breaking apart with a spatula, until the turkey is completely done.  Stir in the crumbled bacon and hot sauce.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Remove from the heat.

Turkey Filling for Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

4.  Assemble the tacos:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Take each roasted jalapeño and cut it down one side (if you didn't already do that while seeding them) and lay it out flat.  Place all of the shells in a baking dish that will allow them all to stand upright.  (This was the trickiest part for me - they kept falling over!  It took a few tries to get them all propped up!)  Line each taco shell with a whole jalapeño.  Top with some of the turkey mixture.  Spread on some of the poblano cream-cheese sauce and sprinkle with the garlic bread crumbs.

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos - Ready to Bake
Oops!  I took this picture before I sprinkled on the bread crumbs!

5.  Bake the tacos:  Place the pan in the oven and bake until all of the taco ingredients are hot and the shells are starting to brown.  Mine took about 15 minutes, but this could vary depending on your oven, so watch them carefully.  The shells can go from browned to burned very quickly!

6.  Sprinkle each taco with a bit of chile powder (if desired) and serve two or three for each person.  If you have nifty little taco holders like the ones below, use them!  They make things easier!  :)



Enjoy!  

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos

These were definitely a hit.  My husband and I both enjoyed them.  One important thing to mention, though . . . any given taco could be WAY hotter than the others.  The heat level of jalapeños can really vary from pepper to pepper, and since I used a single pepper for each taco, there was no way to gauge the general spiciness of the recipe.  Some tacos were pleasantly spicy.  A couple of them were like death.  Seriously.

My husband started complaining that his taco was too spicy and I actually thought he was being a baby.  At first.  Then I took a bite of that taco and went running for the freezer in search of something cold to put in my mouth.  Ha ha.

It's good to know that going in.  I'd still recommend them, but just be aware you may be playing a kind of Russian roulette with heat!  :)

There is only one thing I would change.  The sauce was a bit on the thick side.  I thought it would thin out during the baking process and I didn't want it oozing out of the tacos and getting all over the place.  It didn't.  The thickness stayed the same even when the tacos were very hot.  It wasn't bad; it just wasn't what I had envisioned.  When I make this again, I'll probably add a couple of tablespoons of liquid to the sauce - maybe heavy cream?  Mmmm.

By the way, the sauce is fantastic.  You will want to put it on EVERYTHING!  You'll probably have some left, and you won't be sorry!  I spread some of it on an breakfast sandwich the next day and was very pleased with the result!

Deconstructed Jalapeño Popper Tacos (2)

Well, I'll be going back to school tomorrow.  Maybe that will bring some normalcy back into my life and I'll be able to post more recipes!  (Actually, I still have a few more that I've already made and need to post!  Oops.)

Small steps.  Recipe number 100, I'm feeling you.  I'll get there.  I'm not one to start a project and not finish it, especially if it's crazy!  Ha ha. 

Please feel free to comment!  Did you try these?  What did you think?  Thanks for reading!  :)