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Austin Street Tacos is Up and Running!

4 Jun

Me working the cart with my daughter and her boyfriend who stopped by for lunch one day!

Howdy y’all! I thought it was high time to give you an update on my new food cart venture. I officially opened on Saturday, May 24th, just in time for the busy holiday weekend. The cart was open for lunch every day straight through Tuesday, and in between all that managed to have a lovely evening out with my parents visiting from Texas for my daughter’s 18th birthday.

I also managed not to have a complete melt-down when I accidentally dropped an entire 5-tray condiment bar upside down inside the cart, a mere 15 minutes before opening on my very first day.

In case you are wondering about the brace you see on me, after weeks of back pain and x-rays and an MRI, it was discovered I not only had one, but two fractures in my back! All from a sneezing/coughing allergy fit I had one day. Don’t ask me how, but I still managed to get open by the day I wanted to.

Oh, and here’s the almost final logo design and colors. I still have a few tweaks on it. I don’t have a high-rez copy of it either, but you get the gist. I sure stand out in the crowd! T-shirts and caps with the logo are coming soon, too.

Austin Street Tacos logo

Austin Street Tacos logo

I’m closed on Wednesday’s due to a long-standing Farmer’s Market in my location, for which there were no spaces left for me by the time I opened, but it’s a welcome mid-week break.

I also was able to work my first First Friday Art Walk, which is a huge evening event in my town each month and had a wonderfully successful night. I sold out of my bean and cheese tacos that night (perhaps the $2 price tag on those helped?) and went home at 10 pm, exhausted and exhilarated. I keep forgetting to ask someone to snap a photo when the cart gets busy, but it’s kind of hard to remember when you are in the thick of things. Some day I’ll remember!

I still plan on posting new recipes in the future, once I get the hang of the day-to-day running of the cart and prepping the food for it. Some days it’s by the seat of my pants when things go awry!

A huge thanks to all for still hanging with my while I got my new business up and running. You are all still an inspiration to me!

(Here’s a photo of my mom from Texas helping out in the cart one day just before we opened.)

My Texas mom helping out in the cart

 

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Carnitas Cubano and Logo Reveal!

13 May
Carnitas Cubano

Carnitas Cubano

With an over-glut of carnitas on hand from recipe testing, I settled on whipping up some Cubano sammies, carnitas-style! No recipe really needed for this. Slather both sides of of two slices of bread with butter (I used Seattle Sourdough) and skillet grill one side of each. Spread mustard on grilled side, then layer carnitas or any other cooked pork, sliced ham, dill pickle slices, and Swiss cheese. Add the other grilled side face down on top, then press and grill until browned, using either a panini-style press or another heavy skillet on top. Oh my, decadent and finger-licking good!

And…

Here is the logo for my new taco food cart!

Austin Street Tacos Logo

Austin Street Tacos Logo

I’m still deciding on colors and what-not, but my temporary white sign really pops on the cart. One more inspection and permit to go, then I’m in business!

Easy Chicken Gratin and a Partial Reveal

30 Apr
Chicken Gratin

Chicken Gratin

As much as I love tacos, truth be told we cannot simply eat tacos every night of the week. Therefore I’m still cooking other things and taking a photo here and again. Due to the time I’m committing to my new venture now, I’m limiting my recipe photos to one or two.

I saw this lovely dish on Food52 website and knew it would be a meal I’d be making soon. It’s very simple and cooks up in one dish! My kind of dinner. If you use the amount of chicken called for the chicken can nestle further into the gratin sauce, but my lonely piece wasn’t so fortunate. However, my husband was duly impressed with the curdled lemon cheese sauce (it’s supposed to be that way!) and it was truly an elegant meal.  I served the chicken over buttered rice and peas. Delicious!

Here is a link to the recipe —> Richard Olney’s Chicken Gratin (which is printable over there if you are so inclined).

Of course, you’ll need to adapt depending on the amount of chicken you are cooking.

NOW, drumroll please…

My new food cart name is…

 

Austin Street Tacos

 

This is not the full logo, as I sent it back for some tweaking. But I couldn’t resist sharing! I also wanted to give a HUGE thank  you to all my friends and readers for your overwhelming support for my new career. It means the world to me. xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

My Big Announcement

22 Apr

I know some of my readers have been chomping at the bit to hear my latest news. As many of you know, I was unceremoniously laid off from my job recently as a geeky software business analyst of almost 16 years with the company in one fashion or other.

One of my friends asked me, “So now what are you going to do with your life?” My knee-jerk reaction was to say, “Well I guess get another business analyst job.”

But then I woke up that night with an epiphany. Do I REALLY have to go back into the same profession? My future is a blank slate! I have many skills besides being an analyst and writer. I like to cook, I like like to make great food and serve it to others (and I’ve been blogging about it for over 6 freakin’ years). WHY NOT OPEN MY OWN FOOD TRUCK???

And so I did.

My Food Cart

My Food Cart

Well, technically it’s a Class IV food cart, but to me it’s my own food truck and my future. The permitting process has been tedious at best, but we are getting so close to the final stretch.

I’ll be selling Texas-style street tacos on a busy riverfront plaza downtown where I live, and have the option to work events and festivals (with more permits, of course). I’ll serve breakfast tacos for the morning downtown workers, then regular street tacos for lunch and weekend nights (beef, pork and chicken). And my creamy spicy pinto beans will be served up all day!

Creamy Spicy Pinto Beans

Creamy Spicy Pinto Beans

The logo and website designs are still in process, as well as the final street vendor permit. I don’t want to say much more about that part lest I jinx any outcomes. Of course I’ll be using the standard social media platforms to also promote my new business.

I’ve been cooking up a storm with my recipe development, and my poor family is about taco-ed out, ha!

Carne Asada Street Tacos

Carne Asada Street Tacos

I’ve also landed my first gig catering a breakfast taco brunch, which will be a good test for cooking larger quantities. I have a commissary/commercial kitchen at my disposal for my food prep, but all food will be dished up fresh and hot on the cart, complete with cast-iron warmed corn and flour tortillas. I also have three signature salsas for patrons (my Texas Green Sauce has been getting raves) to choose from, as well as the other standard street taco garnishes.

Egg, Potato and Cheese Breakfast Taco with Texas Green Sauce

Egg, Potato and Cheese Breakfast Taco with Texas Green Sauce

So that’s it! Oh, you want to know the name of my business too? Well I’m sorry you’ll have to wait longer on that one until everything is finalized. I know, I am such a tease. Many of my close friends and family know, but I’d really like to kick off with my new logo. Stay tuned! XOXO

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

24 Mar
Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

You’d think being unemployed would have all kinds of perks, like lots of free time for cooking and blogging, right? Long story short, that is not the case, so my quest for easy and delicious dinners remains the same.

Here’s one I made a few weeks ago I had waiting in the wings (thank goodness because my spare time has been minimal) that is chock full of flavor and spice! This hearty soup was one of those welcome, warming dinners on a cold and dreary evening. I hope you think so too.

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

8 ounces dried black beans, soaked overnight (or sub two cans)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, tips removed
Olive oil for garlic
1 tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
4 ounces ground spicy Italian sausage
1 chipotle in Adobo sauce, minced plus one tablespoon of the sauce
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups ham or chicken stock
1 14.5 ounce can tomatoes with liquid (I used my homemade canned tomatoes)
1 tablespoon dry sherry or apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Lime wedges, cilantro, sour cream, for garnish

Garlic Ready for Roasting

Garlic Ready for Roasting

Drain and rinse beans (dried or canned) and set aside. Nestle cloves of garlic cut tips up in aluminum foil and drizzle olive oil over top. Wrap tightly and place in 350-degree toaster oven (or oven) for 25 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and ground sausage, stirring until sausage is cooked through. Drain any grease, if necessary. Stir in the chipotle and sauce, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper until combined and fragrant.

Sausage and Veggie Mixture

Sausage and Veggie Mixture

Pour in the stock, then squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic out of their skins into the soup. Now add the beans. Bring up to a boil, then turn down and simmer until the beans are cooked through. For dried beans, this could take an hour or more depending on how old the beans are. Canned beans are ready when heated through.

Pureed Tomatoes

Pureed Tomatoes

Puree the tomatoes with liquid in a container using an immersion blender stick, or a blender or food processor. (I used my new Cuisinart stick!) Once the beans are tender, pour in the tomatoes and sherry or vinegar. Taste for salt, and add if necessary.

Puree about half the soup using an immersion stick, or add to blender or food processor in batches. I like mine a bit chunky. Once soup has warmed through again, serve immediately and pass with lime wedges, cilantro, and sour cream.

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Roasted Garlic

 

Carne Asada Street Tacos: Sous Vide or Grilled

5 Mar
Carne Asada Street Tacos

Carne Asada Street Tacos

I had a gorgeous hunk of flank steak in our freezer from our quarter cow we bought last year, and carne asada street tacos were calling my name! Typically skirt steak is used for these tacos, but I figured the leaner flank steak would work just as well provided it was marinated in a citrusy sauce for a spell.  I decided to cook this via the sous-vide method, but grilling the steak would work just as great.

Total thumbs up all the way around for the tacos! We had plenty of leftovers for another dinner even with my daughter eating three of them in one sitting. I made some fresh pico de gallo to serve these with along with the avocado, but you can use any condiments of choice for these tasty tacos.

Carne Asada Ingredients

Many of the delicious Carne Asada ingredients

Carne Asada Street Tacos: Sous Vide or Grilled
Adapted from Serious Eats

3 whole dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
3 whole dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 whole chipotle peppers, canned in adobo sauce
3/4 cup fresh juice from 2 to 3 oranges (I used Cara Cara)
2 tablespoons fresh juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Sea salt, to taste
1.5 to 2 pounds flank or skirt steak
Warm corn or flour tortillas, lime wedges, diced onion, additional fresh cilantro (or Pico de Gallo), and avocado, for serving

Place dried ancho and guajillo chilies in a glass bowl and cover with boiling water. Let steep for 20 minutes until soft and pliable. Drain water, then transfer chiles to a food processor or blender.

Toasting the Cumin and Coriander

Toasting the Cumin and Coriander

Toast the ground cumin and coriander in a hot dry skillet until fragrant and add to the chiles. (You could toast the seeds and grind yourself, but I’m not that fancy.)

Ready to Process the Marinade

Ready to Process the Marinade

Add the rest of the ingredients except steak and condiments. Blend until a smooth sauce has formed. Transfer half of the sauce to a gallon-sized zip-top bag and refrigerate or freeze the other half in a sealed container for future use.

BONUS! Here’s my quick recipe for homemade Pico de Gallo. Double or triple as needed:

Pico de Gallo

1 Roma tomato, chopped
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 jalapeño or serrano chile, finely diced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, and let marinate for an hour or so. That’s it!

For cooking via sous-vide method:

Add steak to the marinade in the bag, squishing around to coat.

Steak in Marinade

Steak in Marinade

Vacuum-seal the bag using the water immersion method. Set temperature on the sous vide to 131 F, then place the bag in the pot and cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation. Cook for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, preheat a cast-iron pan on high. Remove the bag from the sous-vide pot, then remove the steak from the marinade and wipe off excess. Discard marinade. Char the steak in the hot pan for a minute or two on each side until well-browned. Transfer to a cutting board and slice thinly against the grain.

Serve immediately with warmed tortillas and garnishes.

Sliced Carne Asada Flank Steak

Sliced Carne Asada Flank Steak

For cooking on a grill:

Add steak to the marinade in the bag, squishing around to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat your grill on one side to the highest temperature. Clean and oil the grilling grate.

Remove steak from marinade and wipe off excess. Place directly over the hot side of the grill. If using a gas grill, cover; if using a charcoal grill, leave open. Cook, turning occasionally, until steak is well charred on outside and center registers 110°F on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice thinly against the grain.

Serve immediately warmed tortillas and garnishes.

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

Quick and Easy Posole

1 Jan
Quick and Easy Posole

Quick and Easy Posole

Happy New Year my friends! I thought about freshening up my good ol’ black-eye pea recipe for today, but instead decided to give you a quick and easy posole recipe that can make good use of any leftover meat you may have hanging around from the holidays. This includes pork, chicken, turkey, or beef!

I delivered this meal to a friend as a pre-packaged “make it yourself meal” when she said she wished she had some easy dinners to cook for her family. All the ingredients were packaged up in a box along with pre-printed step-by-step instructions. She said it was a huge hit with her family so I thought I’d better try it out myself. (Yes, I sent her a blind, untested recipe.)

This posole is huge on flavor and does not even skimp in the filling factor. Plus it’s very versatile, too! Thumbs up all the way around!

Posole Ingredients

Posole Ingredients

Quick and Easy Posole

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon flour
Posole Seasoning Mix (divided, recipe below)
3 ounces tomato paste
1 cup water
4 cups chicken stock (can also use turkey, pork, or beef)
4-ounce can chopped green chiles
15.5-ounce can hominy (gold or white, drained)
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (can also use turkey, pork, or beef)
1 fresh lime
Fresh cilantro
Crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, Mexican sour cream, for garnish (any or all optional)

Posole Seasoning Mix
Hint: Make a double or triple batch to store for future use!

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon New Mexico Red Chile powder (or sub with regular chili powder)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Finely dice the onion, then add it to a soup pot or Dutch oven along with the oil. Sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until tender and transparent. Add the flour and a tablespoon of the seasoning mix and continue to sauté for two minutes more.

Posole Soup Base

Posole Soup Base

Add 1 cup water, tomato paste, and the rest of the seasoning mix to the pot. Whisk the ingredients together until the tomato paste is dissolved. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, at which point it will thicken.

Big Ladle of Posole

Big Ladle of Posole

Finally, add the stock, shredded meat, diced chiles, and hominy. Stir to combine and then heat through for about 10 minutes.

Cut the lime into wedges and roughly chop the cilantro. Top each bowl with chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips and cheese and a wedge of lime to squeeze over top.

Quick and Easy Posole

Quick and Easy Posole

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

Mexican Poblano Burger Soup

16 Oct
Mexican Poblano Burger Soup

Mexican Poblano Burger Soup

After we got back from our trip to the coast for our anniversary, I harvested the last of my chile peppers and the wee tomatillos and poblanos I managed to eke out with our short summer weather. Half the hot peppers had turned red while we were gone, but that’s OK as I like spicy!

Cooking is quite the challenge one-handed, but I’ve figured out some hacks to where I don’t ask for much assistance any more in food prep. Dicing a fresh onion is the hardest I’ve found, but luckily I have a bag of diced onion in the freezer that I brought home from a work potluck, which can be used in soups and stews.

Tips: A mini food processor can be used for a rough dice of carrots, celery, and onion, and a pair of kitchen shears does quick work on green onions. I do have limited use of my left thumb and forefinger, so I place the green onion between those two fingers and snip away!

This soup was the culmination of wanting to use my peppers and tomatillos in something as well as a large leek that needed to be cooked stat. I roasted the poblanos, tomatillos, and a serrano until charred, then had my daughter peel and mince them for me. I then scrounged the freezer and pantry and came up with a half pound of burger, black beans, and golden hominy. Combined with my homemade beef stock, a filling Mexican-style soup was on the horizon!

I’m still limiting my prep photos until I have two hands again but this is a pretty straight-forward soup recipe. Note: I used all my very small poblano peppers and tomatillos in this, but have adjusted the recipe below for standard grocery-sized produce.

Pepper and Tomatillo Harvest

Pepper and Tomatillo Harvest

Mexican Poblano Burger Soup

1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced
3 peeled, rinsed and roasted tomatillos
1 large roasted and peeled poblano, minced
1 roasted and peeled serrano pepper, minced
1/2 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
4 cups homemade or low sodium beef stock or broth
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can golden hominy, drained and rinsed
2 soft corn tortillas, diced large
Juice squeezed from a large lime wedge
Tortilla chips, sour cream, and cilantro for garnish (optional)

Roast and prep the peppers and tomatillos. In a soup pot or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef and leeks in 1 teaspoon olive oil until burger is browned and leeks have softened. Add the minced garlic in the last minute of cooking them.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the garnishes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook 15-20 minutes until the tortillas have dissolved and soup thickens, stirring occasionally.

Ladle into bowls and serve with desired garnishes. This soup was even better the next day!

Mexican Poblano Burger Soup

Mexican Poblano Burger Soup

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

 

 

 

Fire-Roasted Tomatillo Sauce on Grilled Chicken

28 Jul
Fire-Roasted Tomatillo Sauce on Grilled Chicken

Fire-Roasted Tomatillo Sauce on Grilled Chicken

I am astounded I am about to make my FOURTH trip over the Santiam (mountain) Pass in Oregon tomorrow for the month of July. Let’s see, I’ve been over it to do a grueling hike to Blue Pool with friends from Ohio just after the 4th of July.

Blue Pool Oregon Hike

Blue Pool Oregon Hike

I’ve visiting friends (solo) at the coast in Yachats just after that and did another grueling hike to the top of Cape Perpetua. It was much shorter than Blue Pool but twice as steep to get up it! Luckily it was a cool and foggy-ish day so I didn’t die of heat stroke hiking up it.

Me and Friend at top of Cape Perpetua

Me and Friend at top of Cape Perpetua

This past weekend we spent four days at our river property on the Siletz River at the coast and got another base set for a new deck from our dock that washed it away last year in the floods.

New Base for Deck from Dock that Pushed it out Last Year in Floods

New Base for Deck from Dock that Pushed it out Last Year in Floods

And tomorrow our family leaves for a Portland family reunion at Clear Lake! My uncle is turning 89 and my parents have also flown up from Texas so my dad (and mom) can join his brother and extended family and us for a weekend of fun. This is a photo from the reunion two years ago but we did go last year too.

Clear Lake, Oregon

Clear Lake, Oregon

Whew! So what does that have to do with food and recipes? Well, the month of July has been kind of a cheater month for me. I made this dish on a whim a couple of weeks ago on the grill when I discovered I had bought a pound of tomatillos and forgot about them in the fridge. It was hot as heck out so I whipped up an impromptu batch of tomatillo sauce to pour over grilled, marinated chicken. Yummy all the way around!

My “recipe” is just a guideline, as I didn’t even write any notes down. I just kind of cobbled it all together and served it with beans and tortillas chips. That’s just how some dinners go!

Fire-Roasted Tomatillo Sauce on Grilled Chicken

2 small chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Salt or Mrs. Dash, and ground pepper, to taste
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 large clove garlic
1 1/2 large shallot (you can sub 1/2 small onion)
More oil and a little minced garlic for veggies
1/2 cup homemade or low sodium chicken stock or broth
Shredded cheese of choice

Marinate the chicken in oil, garlic, lime juice, and spices to taste for a half hour or more. Toss the tomatillos, minced garlic and shallot in a little oil then place on a pre-heated grill set to high. (The shallot kind of fell apart hence all the pieces)

Grilling the Tomatillos, Shallots, and Garlic

Grilling the Tomatillos, Shallots, and Garlic

Grill and turn until charred.

Roasted Tomatillos, Shallots, and Garlic

Roasted Tomatillos, Shallots, and Garlic

Remove, place in blender with 1/2 or so cup of chicken stock and blitz until blended.

Ready to Blitz the Roasted Veggies and Chicken Stock

Ready to Blitz the Roasted Veggies and Chicken Stock

Pour into a cast iron skillet and simmer for about 15 minutes until reduced to desired consistency. (I put the skillet on the propane grill burner but you can do this inside too.) Stir occasionally.

Tomatillo Sauce Finishing on Grill

Tomatillo Sauce Finishing on Grill

Meanwhile, grill marinated chicken for about 5 minutes per side.

Burning Some Chicken

Burning Some Chicken

In the last few minutes, toss some shredded cheese on the chicken until melted.

Melting Da' Cheese

Melting Da’ Cheese

Remove chicken from grill, let rest under foil for a few minutes, then serve with roasted tomatillo sauce, and beans and tortilla chips, if desired.

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

Food52 Community Pick: Fire-Roasted Hatch Chile and Serrano Pepper Salsa

16 Jul
Hatch Chile Fire-Roasted Salsa

Hatch Chile Fire-Roasted Salsa

I’m happy to announce I have made it to the Community Pick level in the Food52 contest again for one of my recipes! No need to vote at this time as that doesn’t happen unless it makes it to the final two.

You can head over there to read it here ———-> Fire-Roasted Hatch Chile and Serrano Pepper Salsa

I have hopes to post a new recipe for you later today before I head out tomorrow to visit some wonderful friends at their new ocean-view house they built on the coast of Yachats, Oregon. But if not, I have not left you high and dry for the week.

 

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