Sunday, January 31, 2016

Stitch Fix #17 Review - January 2016


I recently decided that I had to take control of the clothing subscription box situation around here.  I used to receive boxes from Stitch Fix every few weeks, which was awesome, but . . . then I joined Golden Tote.  I kept items from Stitch Fix.  I kept items from Golden Tote.  You can see where this is going.

If you've never heard of it, I'll give you a little basic information about Golden Tote.  It's a little different than Stitch Fix, but I've found it equally fun!  I've gotten three totes so far, along with a couple of mystery totes.  (Those weren't quite as successful, but what can you do?)  It's addicting!  Anyway, here are my Golden Tote reviews if you're interested:

Golden Tote Review - January Mystery Totes

Golden Tote #3 Review - December 2015

Golden Tote #2 Review - November 2015

Golden Tote #1 Review - October 2015

OK.  Back to Stitch Fix!

I just changed my account settings so that I only receive fixes once a month.  Like I said, I'm trying to get this situation under control.  I was supposed to receive this latest fix on February 1st, but it arrived a couple of days early!  As long as I remain selective about the items that I keep, I am hoping that this helps to keep my closet situation more manageable!

If you're reading this, you probably already know the ins and outs of Stitch Fix.  If you've never heard of it, here are the basics: 

As a member of Stitch 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:

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

If you're not currently a member and are interested in trying it out, here's my referral link:

If you sign up using my link, I'll get a small credit.  Just in case you were wondering, I pay for all my own fixes.  My only relationship with Stitch Fix is as a customer.  I signed up about a year ago and I've really been enjoying it!

Lauren styled my last fix, which was a 5/5, so I was excited to see what she chose for me this time.

Here we go:  :)

1.  Liverpool Reagan Skinny Pant - $88.00

I asked for pants in this fix.  It seems like it is so easy to find tops.   But pants that are flattering and long enough?  And preferably not plain black or denim?  Those are harder to come by!

These Liverpool skinnies are the first of two pairs that Lauren chose for me.  At first, I was kind of wishing they weren't just black and grey.  I do like the pattern, though - see?

They fit perfectly.  The waistband seems pretty substantial, which is a good thing.  I hate skinny pants that fall down all day, and these don't have belt loops!  They don't feel like they will fall down.

They are also the perfect length for flats.  I did receive another pair of Liverpool skinny pants in a previous fix - those substantially shrunk in length after one cold water wash.  I was disappointed.  I still like them, but I usually wear them with long boots now.  Otherwise, they feel too short!  These feel like they are made of a different fabric than the others.  I like them enough that I'm going to give this brand another try!

Verdict:  KEEP

2.  41Hawthorn Lucida Colorblock Dress - Price - $68.00

OK.  I took a picture so everyone could see it.  As long as I can get an item on my body, I always do.  Sigh.  I really don't like this dress, though.  It feels super conservative and plain - not me at all!  Why?  Well, it's a little bit of everything.  I don't like the color combination.  Navy is a good color.  Pink is sort of all right.  It's not my favorite color, but I don't mind it in a print.  The same dress in black with a pop of red?  Well, maybe, but the fabric and the cut just seem so . . . old.  (In a bad way, because we all know there's nothing inherently wrong with "old".)  I'm not feeling it.

It's also a bit too small - sometimes I need a large in dresses thanks to my broad shoulders and long torso.  (Especially now, when I'm still feeling the holidays.  Oops.)

Here's a view of the back.  It's no better.  It might even be worse!  (See, it's too tight!  And I refuse to wear shapewear.  Under any circumstances.)  Ha ha.

No.  No, no, no.

Verdict:  RETURN

3.  Brixon Ivy Pinson Drape Cardigan - Price - $54.00

I really don't get this cardigan.  When I peeked at what I was getting in my fix, I had some doubts.  It's so . . . feminine and flowy.  I am not that kind of woman.  Maybe I should be, but what can you do?  Ha ha.  I did see that it also comes in grey and black.  That would work, though I have no shortage of cardigans these days.  I was hoping for THAT one.

I was really surprised when I got the light tan and blush pink that I had seen in so many other reviews.  I don't see anything on my Pinterest page or profile that would indicate that this is my thing.  It's just way out of my preferred color zone.  This little dog print top than I got from Anthropologie is about the only top in my closet that seems to go with it.

It is pretty.  When I put it on, I didn't hate it.  I just don't have anything to wear with it, so it's a no!

Verdict:  RETURN

4.  Margaret M Emer Printed Knit Straight Leg Pant - $98.00

So - I did request a pair of Margaret M Emer pants.  I have seen some lovely examples in blue and teal lately (on other people's reviews).  I do have one pair from a previous fix.  I like them.  I don't go as crazy for them as some, but I wanted to try another pair.  Well . . . there were no blue ones available in my size (and the longer length, since I'm 5'9"), so Lauren sent these.  Here's a close-up of the print:

I like the print, but once I put it on, I didn't think it was very flattering on me.  Trust me - I picked the two most flattering photos out of ALL of the ones we took.  Ha ha.

Also, the fabric feels a little bit different than my other pair.  These are more of a knit fabric (and stretchier).  I could tell I would be pulling them up all day long.  There are no belt loops, so . . . it's a no.  These pants are almost $100.  They would have to be perfect, and they're not.  I'd try some other Emers at some point, but these just didn't work for me.

Verdict:  RETURN

5. Brixon Ivy Sylvester Split Neck Blouse - $54.00

I went back and forth with this blouse!  I was not a fan when I took it out of the box.  The color is pretty, but it seemed so plain!  I like details - lace, leather, cutouts, whatever!  The material seems so flimsy and crepe-y.  I don't mind wearing a camisole underneath a blouse that I really like, but why this one?  It's just a generic tab-sleeve blouse.

Well, once I put it on, I started to appreciate it a little more.  I like the color.  The tab sleeves are kind of built-in, so they won't come undone.  It is flattering, as long as I wear a fitted pair of pants.

However, my husband (correctly) pointed out that the neckline looks like a choir robe.  O.O

It does. 

I am a choir teacher.  That might be taking it a little too far, though!  Ha ha!

He also said that the fabric was kind of grandma-ish.  (Again, in a bad/stereotypical way.  Nothing wrong with grandmas - they can rock it just like anyone else!)  Yeah.  I hadn't yet told him that I thought that, too, but I had.

 I belong to a couple of Stitch Fix discussion boards on Facebook.  I decided to ask for some advice.  Most ladies advised me to keep it.  I was soooo close!

This was a tough call, but I decided to send it back.  This is not the type of item that I was looking for when I signed up for Stitch Fix.  I just didn't find it that interesting.  I have too many tops in my closet already to justify keeping something that I don't absolutely love.

Also, I want to order a new tote from Golden Tote tomorrow when they launch their February sale.  It's getting out of hand.

It's cute, but it's going back.

Verdict:  RETURN

Well, this fix was a mixed bag, but I'm thrilled with the Liverpool skinnies, so I'll consider it a win!  My last fix was a 5/5 - Lauren knocked it out of the park!  This one wasn't quite there, but that's OK.  It was fun.  I'm still a little puzzled by the conservative colorblock dress and the super-feminine flowy cardigan, but whatever!  I'm excited to see what I'll get next time.  I think I want to be surprised!  :)

By the way, you can check some other awesome Stitch Fix Reviews at this link:

It's hosted by Maria of Crazy Together and Kinder Craze.  She received some great items this month as well!  Check it out!  :)

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

44. Slow-Cooker Barbecue Chicken Tacos with Coleslaw


I made these tacos last Sunday.  Apparently, I've started a pattern of making the tacos and not getting the post done until a few days later!  Well . . . what can I say?  School has started!  Ha ha.

I was in the mood for something rather simple and comforting.  I know - can you believe it?  Usually, I'm all about complicated recipes!  The truth is, I had some other things to get done and I wanted something that I could start and then forget about for a few hours.

I'm a huge fan of using a Dutch oven - in the oven (for braising).  There are other options, though.  We have two slow cookers, and unless we are having a big party and need to keep something warm, they are usually just gathering dust in the pantry.  For whatever reason, I decided to dust one off and and give it a whirl.

I kind of wanted barbecue chicken with coleslaw and macaroni and cheese for dinner.  That would have been nice.


I've come to realize, since beginning this project, that we don't always get what we want for dinner.  Ha ha.  I decided to make a taco with the same flavors - shredded chicken in a homemade barbecue sauce, creamy coleslaw, and shredded cheese with peppers.

The result definitely satisfied my craving!  I'm not sure if I completely bonded with the slow cooker, but it worked!

Here's the recipe:

Slow-Cooker Barbecue Chicken Tacos with Coleslaw

Serves 4 to 6 (about 12 tacos)


For the chicken:

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken (I used a mix of organic breast and thigh meat.)
One 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, including the juice
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke

For the coleslaw:

3 heaping cups bagged coleslaw mix
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

About 4 oz. finely grated Colby-jack cheese with peppers (or another cheese of your choice)

12-24 corn tortillas, depending on their size and whether you plan to double them up


1.  Start the chicken mixture:  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet.  Add the onions, lower the heat a bit, and cook until they are soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

2.  Place the onions, garlic, and all remaining chicken mixture ingredients into a slow cooker.  (Leave the chicken pieces whole - they'll be easier to remove later!)

Turn the heat to high and cook for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is very tender.  If your slow cooker is larger than mine, you might want to reduce the cooking time.  Mine took about an hour or so just to start simmering!

3.  While the chicken is cooking, make the coleslaw:  Place all of the coleslaw ingredients in a medium bowl and toss until well combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

4.  Remove the chicken pieces from the slow cooker.  Using a knife and fork, pull/shred the chicken into small, bite-size pieces.

Using a hand blender, blend the sauce that remains in the slow cooker until smooth.  

Place the chicken back in the slow cooker (in the sauce) and keep warm.  

5.  Prepare the tortillas to your liking:  There are a few different ways you can do this.  When I am making tacos with soft corn tortillas, I heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  I place a large sheet of aluminum foil near the pan.  I heat each tortilla in the skillet for about a minute or so on each side, or until it softens and begins to brown.

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 and place them in a 250 degree oven until I'm ready to assemble the tacos.  They always stay hot and soft!  If there are leftovers, I heat fresh tortillas for the next meal.  

6.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  (You can double them up if your tortillas are thin.  Since the filling is very saucy, I would recommend it!)  Spoon some of the chicken mixture down the center of the tortillas.  Sprinkle on some of the grated cheese.  Finish with some of the coleslaw.  Enjoy!

I loved the combination of flavors in this recipe.  It really did remind me of a great barbecue chicken meal!

It was a bit spicy.  Oh well - what do you expect?  This is Arizona, after all!  You could definitely cut back on the amount of crushed red pepper or use a cheese without hot peppers added if spice is not your thing.  As barbecue sauces go, this is also on the tangy side rather than the sweet side.  It would be easy to tweak the amount of vinegar, mustard, and molasses if you would prefer the sauce to be sweeter.  I thought it was perfect. 

There was a lot of sauce.  You could probably add another pound of chicken without changing anything else if you wanted to serve more people.  In that case, I would have had to use my larger slow cooker!

Steve liked these as well.  We actually had the leftovers on top of white rice the next day.  That was delicious as well!  If you don't want to do tacos (or rice), you could make some awesome sandwiches out of this recipe, too.

Would I use the slow cooker again?  Well, probably, but I don't think it will become one of my go-to cooking appliances.  I'm not a fix-it-and-forget-it kind of person.  I was checking this constantly and worrying about how slowly it was heating up.  In the end, it was fine.  I did fill it to the brim and did not preheat the ingredients, so I don't know why that surprised me.  It would be really easy to make this on the stovetop or in the oven as well.  

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  Am I the only one that just can't turn on the slow cooker and forget about it?  Ha ha.

What should I make next?  Well, actually I know what I'm making next.  Spaghetti squash tacos with rajas!  :)

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

43. Shrimp and Grits Tacos with Smoked Green Tomato Sauce


I've had this taco in my mind since the beginning of this project.  It's taken me a long time to get around to it, though.  There has always been a reason to put it on the back burner.

In my opinion, it definitely had to be a brunch taco.  Shrimp and grits are good ANYTIME, but I specifically envisioned this taco with bacon and salty dogs on the side - brunch.  Eating tacos and having drinks at noon are things that a person can only do on certain days of the week (for obvious reasons).  Ha ha.

Also, I've been trying to rotate my main ingredients.  I didn't want to make these tacos immediately after, say, Crispy Shrimp Tacos with Sriracha.  (Those were awesome, by the way.  Check them out!)

Well, at long last, here they are!  You'll notice that I incorporated the grits into the taco shell.  I don't know . . . a pile of grits on a tortilla just seemed kind of strange and redundant to me.  I made a shell similar to some of the other pancake-like shells that I've used in other brunch taco recipes.  The grits and the cheese made these a little tougher to work with, but the grits flavor came through.

I got out my trusty Cameron stovetop smoker for this one.  If you don't have one yet, you should think about getting one.  We love ours!  We use it regularly - probably at least a couple of times a month.  It's awesome!  You can even cook vegetables in it.  You'd be amazed at how much flavor a smoked onion can add to your favorite soup recipe.  Seriously!

Here's a link to buy it from Amazon:

Read the reviews - it's well worth the price!  It's very easy to use, too.

If you don't have a smoker or don't want to deal with it, you could probably cut the green tomatoes into chunks and roast them in the oven.  You wouldn't get the smoke flavor, but it would probably still be tasty!

Overall, I'm pretty happy with these tacos!  Here's the recipe:

Shrimp and Grits Tacos with Smoked Green Tomato Sauce

Makes about 9 or 10 small tacos, or about 3 servings


For the smoked green tomato sauce:

4 medium green tomatoes

Olive oil for drizzling
2 scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Dash cayenne pepper

For the grits pancakes:

3/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup grits

This is the kind I used.  They are not quick-cooking.  If you use those, you may need to adjust the cooking time.
1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup finely grated sharp white cheddar cheese

For the shrimp:

1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled (and deveined, if desired)
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (such as Tony Chachere's)
1 Roma tomato, chopped


1.  Smoke the green tomatoes and make the sauce:  Trim the tomatoes and slice about 1/2 inch thick.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Smoke in a stovetop smoker for about 15 minutes.  Allow the tomatoes to cool.  Place the tomatoes in a high-powered blender along with the other ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Set aside. 

2.  While the tomatoes are cooking, start the grits.  Combine the water, butter, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the grits, lower the heat to very low, and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of the milk  and cook, stirring, for an additional 10 minutes.  (You'll use the additional 1 and 1/4 cups milk in the pancake mixture.)

Set aside and allow to cool.

3.  Finish the pancake shells:  Combine the cooled grits and all remaining pancake ingredients except the chives in a blender.  Blend on medium speed until fairly smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat.  Cook the pancakes, 3 at a time, using about 3 tablespoons of the batter for each one.  They should spread out to about the size of a street-taco tortilla.

When the top is mostly set and the bottom is lightly golden, flip and cook the other side.  Do not attempt to flip until the top is set!  (I'm not going to lie - these are tough to work with.  I think it's the cheese.  Some of mine were really hard to flip.  I would use a generous amount of cooking spray and go slow.  After you flip them, they are still very pliable, which is helpful if you need to "fix" them.)   As the pancakes are finished, stack them on a sheet of foil.  When they are all done, carefully wrap them up and keep warm in a 250 degree oven.

4.  Cook the shrimp:  Heat the olive oil and 1 tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and red pepper.  Lower the heat a bit and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for an additional minute.  Add the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter and stir to melt.  Raise the heat to medium high.

Toss the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning.  Add them, along with the tomatoes, to the pan.  Cook, stirring, until the shrimp are just done, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat.

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a pancake shell on a plate and top it with about three or four of the shrimp.  Top with some of the smoked green tomato sauce.  Garnish with a little more of the Cajun seasoning, if desired.  Enjoy!  :)

Well, this wasn't what you would call a "quick and easy" recipe, but the results were worth it!

Let's be real.  I don't think any of my recipes could qualify as "quick and easy".  Oh, well.  :)

I wasn't sure how well these would go over at our house.  Ha ha.  Steve has always thought that shrimp and grits is a strange combination.  He thinks the same thing about chicken and waffles.  How is he ever going to order anything at a hipster brunch restaurant?


Anyway, he was sold on these!  We both were.  The shrimp had a lot of flavor, the smoky kick from the sauce was perfect, and those cheesy grits pancakes were so good!  Since they were difficult to work with, I thought about adding more flour to the batter, but I'm glad I didn't.  They were so moist and cheesy . . . they just require patience.  And lots of cooking spray.  Trust me.  Use cooking spray - not oil!

I actually made these on a Monday!  It was Martin Luther King day, and my last day before spring semester classes started.  I'm only just now getting the post done.  The first week of school is always an experience!

Well, on to the next one.  I wonder if a chicken and waffle taco could work.  O.O  I don't know if that's the best idea ever or just . . . wrong.  What do you think?  Feel free to comment!  :)

Thanks for reading!  :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

42. Chipotle Tempeh Tacos with Three-Pepper Salsa and Avocado


It's been a while since I've made tacos that were truly vegan.  I'm not a vegan myself, but I do appreciate the lightness of foods that have no animal products at all.  I am especially quick to get on board when I am still being dragged (kicking and screaming) from the excesses of the holiday season!  Ha ha.

I haven't featured tempeh in a taco since recipe number four.  I figured it was about time.  Tempeh is a great protein source.  It's a soybean product in a cake form - very crumbly.  It's got a nutty taste and is quite filling - it lends itself quite well to being the center of a vegetarian plate!

To flavor the tempeh, I used chipotle chile puree, which is something that I pretty much always have in the refrigerator.  How do you make it?  Simple!  Take a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, like this one:

Place the contents in a blender and blend until smooth.  Store in a small airtight container in the refrigerator.  That's it!  It stays fresh rather indefinitely.  I have used it when it is months old.  (Of course, you should always eyeball it, smell it, and use your best judgement!)  It is an easy way to add a smoky, spicy flavor to any number of savory dishes!

I tested these all by myself.  Steve met up with some old friends in Phoenix for a guys' night, so I had my own private taco party!   I thought they were pretty good - you'll just have to take my word for it!  :)

Here's the recipe:

Chipotle Tempeh Tacos with Three-Pepper Salsa and Avocado 

Serves 3-4 (about 8-12 tacos with extra salsa)


For the three-pepper salsa:

3/4 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
One roma tomato, quartered
One clove of garlic, chopped
One dried chile de arbol, stemmed
One dried guajillo chile, stemmed and seeded
One fresh Fresno chile, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt

For the tempeh mixture :

One 8 oz. package tempeh
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
One clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. chipotle puree
1/3 cup beer
3/4 salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lime

12 high-quality crunchy taco shells (I used Trader Joe's brand.)

1 avocado, sliced

Shredded iceberg lettuce

1.  Make the salsa:  Place all of the salsa ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce the heat to very low, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Transfer to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

2.  Make the tempeh mixture:  Crumble the tempeh into a medium skillet.

Add enough water to partially cover the tempeh.  Bring to a simmer and gently cook for about 12 minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed.  Drain any remaining water.  Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, tomato paste, and chipotle puree and cook and stir over medium heat until the onion has softened and the mixture is well-combined, about four to five minutes.  Add the beer, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, and cook and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add the lime juice and remove from the heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.

3.  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!

4.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a taco shell on a plate.  Fill with some of the tempeh mixture.  Top with the lettuce, a couple of avocado slices, and a generous amount of the three-pepper salsa.  Enjoy!

I enjoyed these vegan tacos quite a bit!  Would they have been good with a sprinkle of cheese?  Well . . . sure.  However, the tempeh is rich and nutty enough that I didn't really miss the cheese.  If you're not a vegan, though, add it if you wish!  :)

I liked the three-pepper salsa.  It was kind of like a thin taco sauce.  It was tangy, spicy, slightly sweet . . . all good things!  There is quite a bit left, but I don't see that as a bad thing.  I could picture it on eggs, potatoes, more tacos, etc.  It's tasty!

If you're serving hard-core carnivores, these might not convert them.  Vegans, vegetarians, and hippie-granola types?  Yes - they'll love them!

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

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 15, 2016

41. Lamb and Shiitake Mushroom Tacos with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Crispy Shallots


I'm not really sure where this recipe came from.  I just wanted to make something . . . different.  And these are different - in a good way!

If there was any kind of inspiration for this, I'd have to say that it came from a vegetarian mu shu seitan recipe that I've made a few times.  The cookbook that the recipe comes from is a restaurant cookbook - a place called Cafe Flora in Seattle.  Interestingly enough, my dear sister now works at Cafe Flora.  Strange coincidence, right?

Anyway, it's been one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks over the past few years.  Here's a link to Amazon if you want to check it out.  It's worth the price!

I've always served that mu shu seitan with flour tortillas.  I had an extra bag of flour tortillas that I wanted to use, and the mu shu seitan just popped into my head.  Somehow, my idea morphed into lamb and shiitake mushrooms.  And five-spice powder.  It's not like the mu shu seitan recipe at all!  Oh, well.

It is slightly Asian-inspired though - and served with flour tortillas!  Here's the recipe:

Lamb and Shiitake Mushroom Tacos with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Crispy Shallots

Serves 3 to 4 (about 10-12 tacos)


For the lamb-mushroom mixture:

2 tbsp. canola oil
1 lb. lamb stew meat
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup sherry
A 5 oz. package of sliced shiitake mushrooms
3/4 tsp. salt

For the Napa cabbage slaw:

2 heaping cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1 medium carrot, grated
1 Fresno chile pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the shallots:

1 and 1/2 cups thinly sliced shallots

1 and 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour
A pinch or two of kosher salt
A pinch or two of cayenne pepper
Canola oil for frying

12 small flour tortillas


1.  Start the lamb:  If necessary, cut the lamb into smaller pieces.  (I cut mine into 1/2 inch pieces.)  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add the lamb and brown on all sides. about 3 or 4 minutes.

Transfer the lamb to a plate with a slotted spoon.

2.  Add the onions to the pan, lower the heat to medium low, and cook the onion until it is soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the ginger, garlic, and five-spice powder and continue to cook until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until it is incorporated into the mixture, which will be dry.  Add the beef broth and sherry, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens.  Add the mushrooms and salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom have released their juices and are cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Return to the lamb to the pan, cover, and simmer very gently for about 1 and 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 hours.  The lamb should be very tender.

3.  While the lamb is cooking, make the slaw:  Combine all of the slaw ingredients in a medium bowl.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

4.  While the lamb is (still) cooking, fry the shallots:  Toss the sliced shallots with the flour, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Pour some canola oil in a small pot until a depth of 1 to 2 inches is reached.  (It will bubble up when you add the shallots, so make sure the pan is deep enough!)   Heat the oil to 375 degrees.  I check this with a laser thermometer.  Carefully add a small amount of the shallots and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Continue this process until all of the shallots are cooked.  I did mine in two batches.  

5.  When you are almost ready to serve the tacos, prepare the tortillas to your liking:  Heat the tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, one by one, until browned but still soft, about 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side.

As they are done, stack them on a sheet of foil.  When you have as many as you want, wrap in the foil and set aside.  You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven if you wish.  Since this was basically my last step, I didn't need to do that.

6.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Using a slotted spoon to avoid excess liquid, spoon some of the lamb and mushroom mixture down the center of the tortillas.  Top with some of the slaw.  Garnish with the fried shallots and enjoy!

I have one word to describe these tacos:  UMAMI.  These are savory, salty, umami goodness.  If that's what you're craving, you won't be disappointed.

I realize that the cooking time for the lamb is quite lengthy.  If you have the time for it, though, it's kind of a relaxing process.  There is some down time.  Have a beer.  Make the slaw.  Check Facebook.  :)

Frying the shallots is a bit messy, but that's the price you pay for fried-crispy-oniony deliciousness.

These are a little strange if you think of them as tacos, but it's a good kind of strange.  We both dug them.

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

Thanks for reading!