Fiesta Chicken Tacos

We like Mexican food but sometimes it can be hard to jazz it up. While looking through various cookbooks and websites for ideas, I decided to give this recipe a try and serve it along side of corn tortillas. You could serve this as is with rice or even pasta, but I liked that we used this dish and filled our tortillas with something warm and cheesy.

Fiesta Chicken Tacos
recipe adapted from Pace Foods

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell’s® Cream of Chicken Soup
(I made this homemade cream of chicken soup to use instead of canned)
1 cup Pace® Chunky Salsa OR Picante Sauce
1/2 cup water
1 cup whole kernel corn
1 can drained and rinsed, black beans
4 boneless chicken breast halves, sliced
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
corn tortillas, warmed

MIX soup, salsa, water, corn and beans in 2-qt. shallow baking dish. Top with chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Cover.

BAKE at 350°F. for 45 min. or until done. Sprinkle with cheese.

SERVE by slicing chicken and stuffing in warmed corn tortillas.

Chicken & Mango Salsa Tortilla Stack

Not sure how the weather is in your corner of the world but today is horrible here in Chicago. I’m so thankful I did all my grocery shopping and errands yesterday before the big ‘blizzard’ hit!

To make some room in my freezer, I roasted a large chicken last night which I coated with a cinnamon chipotle rub and stuffed with 2 chopped limes. Delicious! We enjoyed some of the chicken for dinner yesterday with leftover Arroz con Gandules. I actually roast meats quite a bit for a few reasons…

  1. Often times, large cuts of meat (pork, beef, chicken) cost less per pound than others.
  2. Roasting a large cut of meat allows me to be creative and make other dishes using leftovers… stretching the cost a bit more!

So with leftovers of this Cinnamon Chipotle Lime Chicken on hand, I took a peek in my fridge to see what I could come up with. The Pièce de résistance? … Chicken & Mango Salsa Tortilla Stack! It’s a common dish layering tortillas, salsa, cheese and meat which is then baked. Very similar to a lasagna only kept stacked.

Chicken & Mango Salsa Tortilla Stack
original Joelen recipe

1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
1-2 cups Mango Salsa (or whatever salsa you have on hand)
1 cooked roast chicken breast (or use rotisserie chicken)
5-6 corn tortillas (6 inch size)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a round baking dish, spread about 1-2 tablespoons of salsa.
Place one tortilla over the salsa coated dish.
Top with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
Top with another tortilla.
Top tortilla with slices of chicken until covered.
Spread a few tablespoons of salsa over chicken.
Top with another tortilla.
Continue layering and stacking in whatever way you’d like until all ingredients are used.
The top layer should end with a tortilla and enough salsa to cover the top.
Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30-45 minutes.
Serve with sour cream, a sprinkling of shredded cheese and a dollop of guacamole.


Shrimp Ceviche

I made the following recipe for our annual Holiday Party where our menu highlighted Floribbean cuisine. Seafood is definitely evident in Floribbean foods and shrimp needed to be included in my menu. I love how easy ceviche is to make and how refreshing it is to eat without being heavy. This was a great recipe that helps me forget about the harsh Chicago winters!

Shrimp Ceviche
served with tortilla chips
recipe adapted from

1 pound medium-small raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp salt
3/4 cup lime juice (juice from 4-6 limes)
3/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 2-3 lemons)
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1-2 jalapenoes, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cucumber, peeled finely diced
2-3 roma tomatoes, finely diced

1-2 avocadoes, finely diced

In a large pot, bring to a boil 4 quarts of water, salted with 2 Tbsp salt. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute to 2 minutes max, depending on size of shrimp. (Over-cooking the shrimp will turn it rubbery.) Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

Drain the shrimp. Cut each piece of shrimp in half, or into inch-long pieces. Place shrimp in a glass or ceramic bowl. Mix in the lime and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour.

Mix in the chopped red onion, jalapenoes & tomatoes. Refrigerate an additional half hour.

Right before serving, add the cilantro, cucumber & avocado. Toss to combine and serve as is, with chips or on top of tostadas.

Layered Jalapeno Dip

I love snack food and this is an easy one to prepare especially for parties. I served this up for my annual Holiday Cookie Swap this year…

Layered Jalapeno Dip
original Joelen recipe

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained & chopped
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 cup prepared guacamole
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/4 cup sliced black olives (optional)
1 tomato finely diced
sliced green onions for garnish
tortilla chips

Combine the first 5 ingredients above and mix thoroughly.
Spread this mixture at the bottom of a pie plate.
Top with a layer of guacamole.
Sprinkle with a layer of remaining Mexican cheese blend.
Sprinkle sliced black olives, chopped tomatoes and sliced green onions.
Serve with tortilla chips.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Jalapeno Popper Dip
adapted from THIS recipe

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained & chopped
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
chives for garnish

Combine all the ingredients above except for chives and mix thoroughly.
Place in baking dish and bake for 20-23 minutes until warmed and bubbly OR place in mini crockpot to keep warm.
Garnish with chives.
** I made this a day in advance and replenished my mini crockpot as needed.

Chili Cheese Dip

Chili Cheese Dip
adapted from
THIS recipe

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15 ounce) can chili
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 tomato, chopped & seeded
chopped chives for garnish

Combine all the ingredients above except for chives and mix thoroughly.
Place in baking dish and bake for 20-23 minutes until warmed and bubbly OR place in mini crockpot to keep warm.
Garnish with chives.
** I made this a day in advance and replenished my mini crockpot as needed.

Tostaditas with Black Bean & Scallop Ceviche

Tostaditas with Black Bean & Scallop Ceviche
(sadly, no picture available since we ate it all up!)

For the black bean spread:

original Joelen recipe
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
3 tablespoons light sour cream
salt & pepper to taste

In a bowl, mash black beans to paste, leaving it slightly chunky for texture.
Add remaining ingredients and fold in until combined and incorporated; set aside.

For the ceviche:
adapted ceviche recipe courtesy of Food Network
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cilantro
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 pound fresh diver-harvested sea scallops or any other fresh scallop of high quality
1/4 cup diced red or yellow onion
1/2 minced, seeded jalapeno
1 plum tomato, seeded, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh minced cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine lime zest, juice, and spices. Set mixture aside. Clean and wash the scallops, then cut each 1 in 1/2 lengthwise. Add scallops to lime juice mixture, stir well and set aside in cooler. Add the vegetables and cilantro to the scallop mixture. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.

To prepare & assemble the Tostaditas:
prepared black bean spread
prepared scallop ceviche above
tortilla chips
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 tablespoons water

Spread black bean spread on a tortilla chip.
Top with scallop ceviche.
Combine sour cream and water in a small bowl and drizzle over the top of the tostadita.
Serve immediately or have guests make them as they eat.

Mexican: Light & Refreshing

For dinner tonight, a friend came over to catch up on girltime. I prepared a quick dinner that was light, flavorful and used what I had on hand, since the hubby to the car to work today. (And it was a perfect chance to cook beef for myself since my hubby doesn’t eat beef!) With that said, here’s what I came up with and was pleasantly surprised what a little creativity can do!

Mexican Steak “Pitzas” with Cilantro Cream

1 lb beef flank steak, finely chopped
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon southwest seasoning
1 teaspoon Sazon con Cilantro seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon canola oil for cooking
4 gyro pitas
1/2 cup shredded mexican blend cheese
1/2 finely diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2-3 tablespoons water

– Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
– In a skillet over medium high heat, add the cooking oil, onions and garlic; saute until softened.
– Add the beef and seasonings and cook until browned.
– Meanwhile, place your gyro pitas on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes to soften the pitas. Remove the pitas from the oven and set aside.
– When the beef has cooked thoroughly, carefully spoon the beef over the warmed pitas to cover completely.
– Top the beef with the shredded cheese and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese has melted.
– While the pitas are baking, prepare the cilantro cream by combining the cilantro, sour cream and water. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
– When the pitas are done baking, remove from the oven and top with the cilantro cream and chopped tomatoes; serve.

Tex Mex Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 chicken breast, boiled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 stalk green onion, sliced
2 japelenos, finely diced
1 can sweet kernel corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the quinoa and chicken broth. Cook until done and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss.
Add the slightly cooled quinoa to the bowl and toss
Season with salt & pepper to your taste.

Margarita Adventure Round Up!

My friends love their drinks… especially when I’m hosting my monthly TGIFriday Happy Hours! This month we celebrated all things Mexican with margaritas and their delicious cuisine. For the event, I provided a margarita bar. Actually, it was more like a margarita room because there was so many things involved to create it that it took up a whole room.

For my margarita bar, I provided the following for my guests to have free reign to experiment and whip up some custom margaritas. Everyone had so much fun creating some fun margarita flavors!

Blender, Shakers, ice
Liquors: 2 kinds of tequila, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, Papaya liquor, Bacardi rum
Juices/nectars: pineapple juice, mixed berry puree, pear nectar, mango nectar, peach mango juice, sweet & sour mix, sweetened lime juice
Wines: red & white
Beers: Corona, Malt Goya
Sodas: misc assortment
Condiments: rimming salt, rimming sugar, limes To pair with our margaritas, we feasted on a fabulous spread of Mexican inspired fare. Here are pictures of the event and unfortunately, not everything was pictured: And to end our event with a bang, our friend John brought a special treat… a pinata! It was a blast to give the ol’ pinata a whack after a long week. It was seriously the pinata that would not break open. Here are pics of our pinata whacking…

Lisa of Lime in the Coconut
Firecracker Shrimp & Fiesta Peppers
Lisa joins us to share 2 fabulous Mexican inspired recipes for Firecracker Shrimp & Fiesta Peppers! Both look wonderul and so colorful. Check out her blog for the recipes and learn where she found them!

Tamale Time!

Today, friends and I got together to make tamales! It was a great day and a lot of fun to sit and talk, while making tamales. Making tamales is usually a very lengthy and time consuming process. Each component of making tamales can be done in advance, which makes it easy when you have friends over to make/assemble them. Prior to everyone coming over, I made the fillings, masa and soaked the corn husks so all that we needed to do was assemble them.

For fillings, I offered several kinds including:
salsa verde, citrus & lime chicken
beef & chorizo
southwestern pork carnitas
carmelized onions & peppers
corn & black bean
authentic & vegetarian refried beans

Some additional ingredients I provided for filling our tamales:
green onions
salsa verde
roasted tomato salsa
mexican blend cheese

To go with our tamale lunch, I also made:
Mexican Rice

Tres Leches Flan Cake

Here are some pics of the event and the recipes to follow:

Masa Recipe

1lb lard or 2 sticks butter + 2 sticks margarine
5 cups chicken broth or water
2 lbs corn masa flour
1-2 tablespoons salt

In a stand mixer with your paddle attachment, mix the lard or butter/margarine until fluffy.
Alternate adding the masa flour and chicken broth/water in the stand mixer with the salt.
Continue mixing the mixture until your dough comes together.
To check whether your dough is ready, take about 1/2 a teaspoon of the dough and place it in a cup of cold water. If the dough floats, the dough its ready.

Preparing the Corn Husks

You can find dried corn husks at various stores including some supermarkets or ethnic markets. I picked mine up from an ethnic market and asked the staff for them since its something they don’t always put out. (It helps to know your neighborhood grocery staff too!)

To prepare the corn husks for tamales, you will need to soak them for 30-45 minutes in hot water. I filled up my large 20 qt stock pot with water and heated it up to a boil. I then turned off the heat, placed the husks in the pot until they were fully submerged, topped the husks with a heavy plate (to keep them submerged) and covered the pot. After 30-45 minutes, I pulled the husks out with tongs and placed them in my large roasting pan. This made it easy to bring to the table for folks to use the husks.

Assembling the Tamales

There are so many ways to assemble tamales, but for my event, we kept it simple. To assemble, spread a heaping tablespoon across the widest part of the corn husk. Spread it to a nice thin layer. Down the middle of the masa, place your filling in a line, being careful not to overfill! Take the sides of the tamale and fold it over towards the middle. Fold up the narrow bottom and tie it with a sliver of corn husk. I’m sure if you did a search online, you’ll find so many fun and different ways to package these tasty tamales.

Cooking the Tamales

Now that you have your tamales made, you’ll want to steam them in a large pot with a steamer basket. If you don’t have a large pot with a steamer basket, crumple a large piece of foil into a ball and place in a wok, dutch oven or the largest/deepest pot you have. Place your tamales inside the pot and have it lean against the foil ball, all the way around. Carefully fill the pot with water until you have an inch of water. Cook over high heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, covered. Check the level of the water every so often to make sure it hasn’t completely evaporated. The tamales are done when it peels away from the corn husk easily and the masa turns a slight shade of yellow.

If you need some visuals, here is a link with some step by step pictures and thorough explanations on how to make tamales.