The Three Amigos in Downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Dining Outside the Home: The Three Amigos in Downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada! Authentic Mexican food is as festive as Mexican blankets, wide-rimmed sombreros, and multicolored piñatas. The “Daily Special” boasted Fajitas Al Pastor—crispy chunks of marinated pork cooked with onions and green pepper strips served on a sizzling skillet. Homemade corn tortillas accompanied sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. We ordered a side of refried beans to use as a binding agent once the shells were filled. The finishing touch of habanero sauce sealed the deal with a nice kick of spice. An agave nectar margarita cocktail culminated the entire meal. Bueno!

Tortilla Republic Kitchen and Margarita Bar in Koloa, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Tortilla Republic Kitchen and Margarita Bar in Koloa, Kauai. Picture this. The sun is super-bright and tropical-warm to the point where ducking into a Mexican cantina for a salt-rimmed margarita would have been a good idea about an hour ago. Nevertheless, the shade on the outdoor patio feels 10° cooler under the turquoise blue umbrella as the breezes are beginning to stir. The house margarita goes down easy on its way to an order of Quesadilla Vegetariano. I’m sure you get the picture. Complimentary tortilla chips and spicy salsa are perfect for snacking. This is a recipe for making my day.

Winterfest Walking Tacos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Winterfest Walking Tacos! Here’s the perfect “Grab and Go” snack when you’re heading out the door. This time of year towns all over the world celebrate the holiday season with dazzling displays of outdoor Christmas lights. From Santa’s Workshop to high-tech Winter Wonderlands, the animation never stops. Pile the kids on board and have a tailgate party in your car, truck, or SUV. Keep it simple by using plastic picnic tumblers for easy handling. Enjoy a tasty snack while embracing the spirit of the holidays.

WINTERFEST WALKING TACOS

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef

1 package taco seasoning mix

15-ounce can chili beans

10-ounce can tomato bits and sauce

2 cups shredded romaine

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

10-ounce bag of corn chips, slightly crushed

1/3 cup salsa

Instructions:

Brown ground beef in a large skillet. Stir over medium heat until completely cooked. Drain. Add taco seasoning packet, chili beans, tomato bits and sauce. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until thickened. Stir occasionally. Before serving, assemble corn chips in the bottom of each cup followed by beef mixture and toppings of choice. Eat with a fork.

Hacienda Taco Salad Bowls

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Hacienda Taco Salad Bowls! It’s okay to indulge in those fast-food cravings. Everyone does now and then. When I get the urge to succumb to the temptation, I begin to turn things around in my own kitchen. Take, for example, the glorious Taco Salad with the edible crispy flour shell bowl. It can be made for half the cost at home, leaving extra money in your wallet for something like…oh I don’t know…SHOES! Make this guilt-free version at home.

HACIENDA TACO SALAD BOWLS

Ingredients:

6 flour tortillas

1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

Romaine lettuce leaves, torn

2 tomatoes, diced

1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

2 green onions, snipped

1/4 cup black olives, sliced

1/4 cup jalapeño peppers, sliced

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup salsa

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Using nonstick spray oil, coat the inside of oven-safe bowls. Gently mold the flour tortilla inside to form a bowl. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and cool before transferring to wire rack. Meanwhile, brown ground beef and drain. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin. Mix well. Assemble hacienda bowls by filling with remaining ingredients, per taste. Top with Greek yogurt and salsa.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter H

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Huevos Rancheros! The nice thing about a breakfast like this is it’s basically made from leftovers. Beef roast. Check. Baked potatoes. Check, check. If you need ingredients on short notice, no worries. Substitute cooked chicken instead. Potatoes with the skin on cook very quickly in the microwave before being transformed into tasty hash browns. Just remember to pierce them first. Then cook on High for 5 minutes each. For this morning’s heuvos rancheros, I skipped the tortillas and substituted a couple of corn chips for crunch. It’s all good.

HUEVOS RANCHEROS

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups beef, cooked and shredded

10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies, mild

1/3 cup onion, chopped

3/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 potatoes, baked and cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons butter

4 eggs

Fresh cilantro

4 tortillas or corn chips

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Combine shredded beef, diced tomatoes with green chilies, chopped onion, cumin, oregano, and sea salt in a large saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. This makes the beef moist and tender. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, drizzle olive oil. Add cubed potatoes. Sprinkle with seasoned salt. Cook 5 minutes or until golden brown. Do not stir. Turn potatoes for a crispy finish; cook 5 minutes longer. Drizzle in more olive oil, if needed to avoid burning. Remove potatoes from heat when desired texture is reached. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. In another skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet. Fry eggs sunny side up in butter, 3-4 minutes for runny yolks. To assemble huevos rancheros, layer corn chips or a tortilla on the plate. Next, add spicy meat mixture, then crispy hash brown potatoes. Top with fried egg. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter T

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Tomatillo Salsa Verde! The grower at the Farmers Market literally gave me her version of roasting tomatillos as she handed me her bounty. “Pull out your iron skillet, peel and quarter the tomatillos, throw in some garlic cloves, and roast it together in your oven. Simple.” Imagine my smile later that afternoon as I presented a dish of the freshest aromatic salsa verde to my husband for “Happy Hour”. Served with organic corn chips and a citrus margarita, it created quite a buzz!

TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE

Ingredients:

5-6 medium size tomatillos, peeled and stems removed

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cumin powder

3 jalapeño pickled peppers, sliced

Instructions:

Remove the crackly husks covering the fresh tomatillos. Rinse well to remove the sticky residue on the skin. Quarter each tomatillo and place in a seasoned iron skillet. Add garlic and sweet onion. Sprinkle with salt and cumin powder. Place skillet in the oven on highest setting for Broil. Check after 5 minutes, turn the vegetables, and broil another 5 minutes. They should appear soft and slightly charred. There will be juice in the skillet, so handle with care. Transfer vegetables to a food processor. Add jalapeño peppers and purée on pulse setting.

Dining Outside the Home: Mariachi’s Mexican Restaurant in Lihue, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Mariachi’s Mexican Restaurant in Lihue, Kauai. Across a footbridge over a cool mountain stream, the dusty road becomes a well trodden path where the festive flavors of Mexico blend into a warm, inviting atmosphere. Hola, amigos. Please have a seat for open-air dining. The family-owned and family-run restaurant originated years ago in San Diego. Now on the island of Kauai since 1992, Mariachi’s not only offers a free ocean view, but the menu options come highly recommended as well. Think about what to order while sipping on a classic lime margarita, salted rim optional. Take things slow and easy. In time, you may come to see why the family chose a new life in paradise serving authentic Mexican food.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter T

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Home Cooking: Tiki Tacos! There was a time I could eat a dozen tacos at one sitting. Seriously. I was 20 years old, working two full time jobs and rode my bicycle everywhere! Nowadays, I show a little more restraint and stop after two tacos. But it’s still one of my favorite meals. Sometimes I use corn tortilla shells and other times I use flour. The shell determines which spices to use. Today it’s flour tortillas.

TIKI TACOS

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 flour tortillas

1/4 cup butter, melted

Lettuce, torn

Tomato, chopped

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup jalapeño peppers, sliced

1/2 cup prepared salsa

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium skillet, brown ground beef. Drain. Stir in garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Brush one side of tortillas with butter. Spoon about 1/4 cup of meat mixture onto center of unbuttered sides. Fold in half; place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas are filled and meat is distributed evenly between them. Bake in the oven about 15 minutes or until tortilla shells are crisp. Remove from oven and serve with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Spoon salsa over too and garnish with jalapeño pepper slices.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter F

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Home Cooking: First-Class Fajitas! Grilling is always in season and what better way to prepare a smorgasbord of flavor. I prefer shrimp, my husband prefers steak, and we both like chicken. So we blend it all together and make this fabulous main course. Throw in the sides, salsa, and cheese, and everyone is happy!

FIRST-CLASS FAJITAS

Ingredients:

1-pound of shrimp

2 chicken breasts, boneless

1 pound of sirloin steak

Marinate each meat/shrimp in the following: (x3)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup tequila

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sea salt to taste

1 Vidalia onion

1 green pepper

4 romaine leaves, gently torn

1 tomato, chopped

2 green onions, snipped

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 cup sliced jalapeños

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro

4 flour tortillas

Instructions:

In three shallow dishes, place steak, chicken and shrimp in their own marinade. Let stand for one hour. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Drain marinade and discard. Place meats and shrimp on grill.* Cook through until done. (Chicken will take about 7 minutes per side.)

(Steak will take 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.)

(Shrimp will take 2 minutes per side.)

(Grill the vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes total.)

Meanwhile toss romaine leaves, tomatoes, and green onions to blend in a bowl. Fill tortillas with your favorite meats, veggies, and toppings. Serve with chips, salsa, and sour cream. Olé!

*For easy cooking on the grill, use one grill pan for the shrimp as well as one for the vegetables.