Beefy Nachos with Guacamole: A Satisfying and Fun Last Minute Dish

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole, Photo by Jason Homa

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole, Photo by Jason Homa

Monday nights a lot of friends go to a NYC Mexican restaurant for “Fajita Night,” but this is not the Mexican food I grew up on in California. Fajitas came later and were more common in the Texas region that was once Mexico (ode to Joaquin Murrieta Carrillo).  I was raised on handmade tortillas, (my friend Amy Sierra’s mom used to make them) with chorizo and eggs, chile relleno, refried beans, tacos, salsa picante and enchiladas.  This is what I considered “real Mexican food.”  Everyone is entitled to their taste.

One of my favorite (and real simple to make) snacks was nachos.  I thought about them last night on our way home and stopped and grabbed a couple of avocados, vine tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, lime and a variety of corn and sweet potato chips and here is what I came up with.

Again, before I let Jason go at them, he took this beautiful photograph.  It was one of our quicker shoots, since, by the time we ate, we were starving. This recipe is for my brothers, my mom and dad and all my friends in Cali!!!  Good eats, good times and good memories!

Oh, and if you’re in the Bay Area of northern California, here were some of my favorite spots:

La Pinata

Tito’s Mexican Restaurant

La Taqueria

Beefy Enchiladas with Guacamole

Preheat Oven to 325

1 Lb. Ground Beef
1 Cup Beef Broth
1 Tbsp. Flour or Cornstarch
1/2 Lb. Sharp Cheddar Grated
1/2 Lb. Monterey Jack with Peppers Grated
1 Yellow Onion Minced
3 Cloves of Garlic chopped
1/8 Tsp. Hot Hungarian Paprika
1/8 Tsp. Smoked Spanish Paprika
1/8 Tsp. Cumin
1/8 Tsp. Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Small Jalapeno or Serrano Chile (more if you like to sweat a little)
Salt & Pepper

Guacamole
1 Large Haas Avacado
1 Tsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Small Jalapeno or Serrano Chile
1/2 Juice of Lime
Dash of Cumin
1/4 Yellow Onion Chopped
1 to 1 1/2 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Chopped and Seeded Vine Tomato
Salt & Pepper

Final Topping
1 and 1/2 Medium Vine Tomatoes Chopped
1 Tsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro

Be creative:  Add your favorites at this point.  I have to be careful with how spicy I make it for some guests and others love it when I load on more chile peppers.

In a skillet coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Saute onions and garlic until caramelized. Brown meat in a separate oiled skillet (I coat the meat with a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch).  Once browned, add to caramelized onion mixture and adding jalapeno, paprikas, cumin, and oregano, mixing well.  Add beef broth, while stirring, add the cilantro and bring to a boil.  Simmer on low while preparing guacamole and chips.

For the guacamole I simply cut my ingredients into quarters and throw into my food processor until the texture is to my liking.  (I prefer a slightly chunky guac).

Assemble chips of your choice in a pyrex baking pan, layer with grated cheeses, repeat and pop in oven for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted through. Using a slotted spoon, top with beef mixture and put the nachos back in the oven for another 5 or 10 minutes (watch closely).  Take out and top with guacamole and tomatoes.  Serve immediately while catching up on Game of Thrones or The Good Wife!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Love Thy Neighbor with Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread, Photo by Jason Homa

I discovered my love for the warm buttery goodness of banana bread following a trip to New York City.  I was staying with my stepmom’s mother, Fania Stone, then in her eighties; still going to work everyday as a textile designer, with silver-white hair cut in a stylish pixie.   She was a delight and quick as a whip on walks to the Farmers Market at Union Square.  We used to walk there on the weekends from her apartment in Gramercy Park to get our fruits and vegetables.

Fania was an avid reader, an eloquent pianist and painter.  Her foyer was filled with books.  Amidst the novels and art books was a small little cook book.  In it I found the recipe for Banana Nut Bread.  I baked it for us weekly and we enjoyed it each night with a little butter on one slice coupled with a hot cup of tea over a highly competitive game of Scrabble.  I learned so much from her about art, culture, music, literature and good wholesome food.  My time with Fania will stay in my heart indelibly as a precious and momentous life experience.

Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit – adding a little hint of vanilla, lemon or some other variation of spice or fruit depending on the season, my mood or just what I had on hand in the kitchen that day.

Today’s recipe was made with a bit of chocolate and some rich vanilla and coconut.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

Pre-heat oven to 325

3 Ripe Bananas
1 Cup Sugar
1 Egg
4 Tablespoons Melted Butter (salted)
2 Tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil
1 1/2 Cups Flower
3 Teaspoons of Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chunks

Mix all wet ingredients in larger bowl
Mix dry ingredients in smaller bowl
Fold dry into wet ingredients

Grease and flour large bread loaf pan or 2 small pans
Pour batter into pan(s)
Bake for 1 hour
Check with toothpick in the center to make sure it is cooked all the way through.  Toothpick should come out clean.

What I did with the recipe today was divide it into two smaller loaf pans and checked them at 45 minutes and 55 minutes.  I took them out as soon as the toothpicks came out clean (a little under an hour).

One bread stayed home for Jason and I and the second made the perfect #WelcomeHome #gift for our #lovely #neighbor #Sophie who just arrived from the hospital after a bad fall.  Happy to say she is on the mend, and like Fania, she has strength and vitality beyond her age.
#ILoveMyFamily

Pasta alla Puttanesca

Tonight my girlfriend Maeve asked for my recipe for Puttanesca and I told her it was here on my blog. I quickly pulled out the phone, pulled up my wordpress icon and found that I hadn’ t posted a thing since Thanksgiving time -not since my Grandmother had gotten ill.

My Grammy has since passed away and she was one of the greatest influences of my cooking. My mother’s mother, the matriarch of the family, worked most of her life to raise four children and at times to help raise many of her grandchildren.

So many memories of her standing in the kitchen whipping up a breakfast from leftovers from the night’s before dinner. She had a knack for making breakfast burritos out of scrambled eggs, potatos, sausage or bacon. Bisquits and gravy was my favorite breakfast and a tradition in my maternal family whenever celebrating someone’s birthday or a special holiday. In my younger years, following Sunday School my mom would treat us to it or she’d take us to Grammy’s for Sunday brunch.

Pasta alla Puttanesca

Pasta alla Puttanesca

 

But alas, this is not what this post is about!

This post is about making my Puttanesca recipe available to Maeve so here it is beautiful woman!

Pasta Alla Puttanesca
Ingredients
• 1 pound linguine
• 1 (2-ounce) can anchovies, drained, oil reserved, chopped or 1 Tbs. anchovy paste
• 6 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with added puree
• 1 pound shrimp, peeled
• 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
• 1/4 cup capers, drained
• 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
• 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions
In a large pot, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally with a spoon. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the reserved oil from anchovies over medium-high heat. Add chopped anchovies; saute until aroma is released. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, shrimp, olives, capers, and dried crushed red pepper. Simmer over medium heat until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. To the skillet add drained pasta and toss in anchovy mixture to coat, garnish with parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In honor of my friend Maeve and in loving memory of my Grandmother Leona Mae Berg-Strickland!

 

My Grandmother, Leona Mae Berg-Strickland

My Grandmother, Leona Mae Berg-Strickland