Papusas with Salsa Roja (El Salvadorian Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup)

Grilled cheese is one of the quintessential comfort foods. Even better? It’s one of those things that’s just as good, no matter how old you get, that’s just as comforting in its original, unaltered form ( just like Mama made it) or growing with you into more ‘gourmet’ versions. And we’ve run the gauntlet, bringing you all different varieties

 papusas 4

But we’re not the only country who’s on top of their grilled cheese game. Far from it.

Today we bring you papusas, straight from the streets of El Salvador. These traditional Salvadorian ‘grilled cheese’ consist of a thick, handmade corn tortilla that’s typically filled with a blend of meat and/or cheeses. But, of course, we’re focusing on the cheeses. And it may sound hard to replicate, but it’s surprisingly easy, and affordable. They do take a teensy bit of work, but they’re well worth the time. They’re a perfect snack, or main meal. Even better? Dip it in a fresh bowl of salsa roja, a seasoned tomato sauce that resembles a runnier version of tomato soup, but with kick butt flavors.

So, let’s recap, Pupusas are cheap and cheerful, exceptionally hearty, stuffed and griddled disks of corn tortilla oozing, gooey cheese induced euphoria that originated in El Salvador. Use our recipe to bring a batch to your house, and enjoy watching the face-splitting smiles that spread across their faces.

Papusas

papusas 8

2 cups masa harina
1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups warm water
½ tsp. salt

Filling

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
½ cup cotija cheese, crumbled or shredded

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix the masa, salt and 1 ½ cups water together with your hands to make a dough.
2. Dump the dough onto the counter. If you press it and it cracks, you need to knead in more water.
3. You’ll know you have enough water when you press it and it looks smooth.
4. Break off a handful of dough and roll it into a ball. Slightly flatten the ball and make an indention in the dough. Add about a tablespoon of the cheeses that have been mixed together.
5. Fold the dough like a taco and press together. Fold in the opposite ends and press together.
6. Set the dough on the counter and press the dough together to cover the filling. Carefully flatten it out into a ¼-inch thick disc. Don’t press too hard or the filling will poke through the dough.
7. Continue with the remaining dough.
8. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium to medium-high heat. Place pupusas on the skillet in a single layer. Cook for 5 minutes, until brown.
9. Flip. Continue cooking 5 more minutes. Remove from skillet and cook remaining pupusas. Serve with Salsa Roja for dipping.

Salsa Roja

papusas 6

3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped white onion
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
2. Stir in the tomatoes and the oregano and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool a bit.
3. Once the mixture has cooled, puree the tomato ‘sauce’ in a blender until smooth, adding a little water if needed. Add in salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

papusa recipe adapted from Zestuous

Sous Chef Sunday: Roast Beef & Horseradish Dijon Cream Cheese Snack Crackers

Just the right amount of creamy and crunchy textures, with a little zip of horseradish and the tang of gourmet mustard– Roast Beef & Horseradish Dijon Cream Cheese Snack Crackers couldn’t be more perfect. These feisty little bites make a great appetizer for any gathering, an easily pack-able lunch or a quick grab and go snack.

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Shrimp Salad

Nows when I’m gonna need to call all my other bargain shoppers to the table. I’m sure there’s a fair number of you who ( like I did for w a y too long ) think seafood, or at least quality seafood is out of your budget. Well let me just tell ha that that ain’t the case, at least it’s not the case if you’re willing to bide your time, wait for a good sale, and then stock up. Even then though, I can’t always swing the grocery money enough to actually stock up. That being said, I do keep my eyes peeled for when my local grocery’s brand of salad shrimp go on a great sale. For just a few bucks I can grab a few bags and almost never feel guilty about it.

 Shrimp Salad 2

Now salad shrimp are a bit smaller, ok — A LOT smaller than their often more expensive, uncooked counterparts, But they’re absolutely perfect for recipes/meals like this shrimp salad. What can I say? We all love us some shrimps, so even if there’s no fancy shrimp cocktail for us I’m all about finding the wiggle room between fancy and none.

Shrimp Salad

This is salad makes a perfect sandwich ‘meal’. Even better? If I make it for lunch the sons think we’re oh-so fancy, and they have no idea just how simple it really is.

Shrimp Salad

Shrimp Salad 3

1 lb cooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined 1⁄2 cup mayonnaise 1⁄3 cup chopped celery 1⁄4 cup finely diced onion 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1⁄4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

1. Cut shrimp in half, or just break them up a bit later on when you stir everything together. In a medium sized bowl, combine the shrimp with the remaining ingredients. Stir just until everything’s evenly incorporated. Chill for an hour. Serve the prepared, chilled shrimp salad on bed of lettuce as a sandwich on toasted bread.

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

Do you ever find yourself perusing Pinterest, or Facebook, or even sitting in a lobby flipping through a copy of Taste of Home only to see yet another salad ‘meal’ recipe and just keep flipping (or scrolling) because you just know either you’ll be the only one who likes it or it’s got a 50/50 shot at best? I can’t tell you how many times this has been me. If it’s been you too, then this is the salad recipe for you. This salad and dressing are packing the protein and the dressing is so yummy they’re not even gonna guess it’s got a good for em base.

 Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad With A Cool Avocado Dressing

Let the little bit of spice give ’em a kick in the pants. After all hasn’t Mom always told you to eat your greens? They’re good for you. Geez! Sorry. Seriously, sorry. Sometimes the mom in me just comes waltzing right on out and into my conversations. There’s really no stopping it. But back to topic. Healthy AND tasty.

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Cool Creamy Avocado Dressing

This is a salad for the people. The people who love salad. The people who suffer through salad. And especially the people who take one look at a salad and stick there nose up in the air because a salad can’t possibly be a satisfying meal.

Give it a try, and tell me if it doesn’t leave em asking for more 🙂 Top it with tortilla strips or a few crushed tortilla chips for that crunchy piese de résistance. And then try to hide the smirk while you politely refrain from telling them ‘I told you so’. Nope, scratch that. You can totally smirk.

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Cool Avocado Dressing

For the Southwest Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 cup of drained can corn or thawed frozen corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced roma tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese, or more to taste
crispy tortilla strips or tortilla chips

For the Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

1 small avocado, peeled and sliced
1 small jalapeno, seeded, de-veined and roughly chopped, optional
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mild or medium salsa
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
juice from 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
tiniest of dashes of cayenne pepper, optional

Directions

1. Add all of the Creamy Avocado Salad Dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides down as needed. If using it, add in the cayenne pepper before adding additional salt and pepper to taste. If your dressing is too thick, then add in a little extra milk and stir until you’re reached the desired consistency. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Add salad ingredients to a large bowl, except for the tortilla strips/chips,  and toss to combine.
3. Toss the salad with the desired amount of dressing or drizzle dressing over individual servings, especially if you’re not planning to polish off the entire salad in one meal.
4. Garnish the salad, or servings, with tortilla strips, or tortilla chips and freshly cracked salt and pepper.

Are your hungry, hungry omnivores still looking for more protein and/or a denser dish? Serve it topped with grilled chicken strips and they’ll love it.

recipe adapted from Carlsbad Cravings

Sous Chef Sunday: Big Mac Pizza

Wanna add some ‘wow’ into your family’s next pizza night? Our Big Mac Pizza is sure to do the trick. The sons could not gt over the fact that it tasted just. like. the sandwich. It’s pretty epic. The whole concept combines two of their most favorite things: fast food & pizza. And Mom’s actually letting them have both? IN THE SAME NIGHT?? They were on cloud 9, and I’m pretty sure if they’d floated any higher they would’ve floated away.

Big Mac Pizza

You don’t have to go super fancy just to change things up a bit. This pizza is a fun twist, but it’s still family friendly, and easy to assemble. And I’ll let you in on a little secret I discovered during the making of this dish. You wanna get the kids in the kitchen fast? Want them to actually want to help you fix dinner? WITHOUT complaining? Put the words ‘big mac’ in the name of whatever you’re having. Problem solved 🙂

Big Mac Pizza

Big Mac Pizza 2

pizza dough, homemade, store-bought, or pre made will all work
Olive oil (if you’re using fresh dough)
Thousand Island salad dressing
6-8 slices of yellow American cheese
1/2 – 3/4 lb. ground beef
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
grape tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium sized skillet, brown the ground beef. Season the meat with salt and pepper, to taste. Drain the cooked beef and set aside.

2.For pizza dough, lightly grease a pizza pan or large cookie sheet. Pat or roll the dough out into pan and lightly drizzle some olive oil over the top of the crust and then bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

3. Top the pizza crust with Thousand Island salad dressing and just like you would with sauce, use a lade or the back of a spoon to evenly spread the dressing out over the crust all the way up to the crusts edges. Top the spread dressing with the American cheese slices, and don’t worry if they don’t completely cover the entire pizza. Top the cheese with the ground beef. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese evenly over top of the beef.

4. Bake the pizza at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

5. Remove from the oven and allow the pizza to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes, before cutting it into slices.

6. To serve, top the cooled pizza with shredded lettuce, tomato and additional Thousand Island, if desired. Enjoy!

recipe adapted from Love Bakes Good Cakes

Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches

There’s just something about a chicken sandwich, specifically, a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich, that is just out of those world delicious. Especially in the realm of fast food. And who can blame them for the uber simple, streamlined menu. It’s hard to top perfection. And perfect the boneless, fried chicken breast they have. And for years we’ve craved that taste, paired with delicious dill pickles. And for years I’ve been angered, depressed, even sickened once by my failure to achieve anything close to it at home. Don’t get me wrong, I usually will find any reason to justify coughing up some extra cash for a pit stop at the nearest one, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. (Heeellllooo, Sundays at lunch time, every single time, when we pull in only to face palm after realizing, duh! they’re closed) And yet, the craving still demands to be satisfied. So what’s a gal to do???

 Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches

She keeps right on trying, dammit!! And lo and behold, we finally have a winner folks! I kid you not, the flavor is spot on. I was even able to feed everyone, at 1 sandwich a piece with only two breasts. Two! and yes you read that right. I can’t even get over these, that’s how good they were. The hubs, the sons, everyone has asked for them repeatedly. Anytime I ask what we should have for supper, this is there answer. The hubs liked it so much he had two, two, and then stared down my sandwich every.single. bite. I took the entire meal. He even told me to name my price! Oh the things I can get that man to do for a bite of this sandwich. (cue the witchy, evil laugh) But really, that honey do-list? Totally, nonchalantly pushing it across the table…

The secret? The marinade before the seasoned breading. It’s pickle juice. And no for all the pickle haters out there, it doesn’t leave the chicken tasting pickle-y. For added authenticity, serve these on buttered, toasted hamburger buns with two pickle slices each.

Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches

Copy Cat Chick-Fil-A sandwiches 2

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (we get 3 patties er breast)
1/4 cup dill pickle juice
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp dried basil
tiny dash of cayenne
Oil for frying (about a cup), if you’re going for authenticity use peanut oil, I usually just us vegetable oil and they still taste phenomenal
Buns (buttered and toasted)
dill pickle slices/ ‘chips’

Directions

1. Wrap the chicken loosely between plastic wrap and pound gently with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until it’s only about ½ inch thick all around.
2. Cut the breast into two, or three, pieces, as evenly as possible.
3. Marinate the chicken in pickle juice for at least 30 minutes, and up to one hour.
4. Beat the egg with the milk in a bowl.
5. Combine the flour, sugar, and spices in another bowl.
6. Dip the chicken pieces each into the egg on both sides, then coat in flour on both sides.
7. Heat the oil in a skillet (1/2 inch deep) to about 345-350 degrees.
8. Fry each cutlet for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown on the outside and cooked through.
9. Remove from the skillet onto paper towels. Blot to remove any excess oil, and serve on toasted buns with pickle slices.

Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches

The tenderest, juiciest seasoned pot roast ever is cooked in the crockpot before being piled high on crusty baguettes with melted provolone cheese. Served with their own yummy au jus, these Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches are dippable perfection you just can’t get enough of.  

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Sous Chef Sunday: Cuban Hot Dogs or Cubano Dogs

Ok, the sons are the sons, and Lord knows I love my boys, BUT in the past few months the lazy/put upon bug has bitten them in the butt. HARD. Yes, I expect you to help with dinner. Is it going to kill you? No. You’ve got no problem eating the 4 course meal, and you expect me to help with homework, run you around, and generally revolve my whole world around anything you deem fit. SO, if I need a little help with some prep work? You’d better pretend to be willing to lend a hand. That being said, their idea of a complicated recipe and mine are totally different. You ask them to dice or chop and onion, and just the thought has them crying crocodile tears. Big babies. That’s what those big fat science safety goggles are for! 😉

That being said, I try to pick my battles. So if it’s actually their turn to cook, or I delegate the job (yep, it happens) I try to keep their sometimes waning enthusiasm in mind. Things like Cuban hot dogs are perfect for these nights. Still relatively easy, but still technically a recipe. Little prep work, mostly just assembly. And pair it with a simple tossed salad? Or some steamed veggies? Dinner. Is. Done.

So for this Sous Chef Sunday were bringing you dogs. Hot dogs, but not just any hot dogs. CUBAN hot dogs. This may not be the prettiest picture we’ve ever taken, but man oh man don’t let that turn you away. This is one of our favorite ways to enjoy a hotdog! So good! It’s a flavor picnic packaged neatly in a little bun.

Cuban Hot Dogs/Cubano Dogs

Cuban Style Hotdogs

4 hot dogs, we prefer the all beef variety
8 thin slices of Swiss cheese
8 slices of deli ham
4 buns
1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced
prepared yellow mustard
4 dill pickle spears

Directions

1. Cook the hot dogs however you normally would.
2. Place the opened hot dogs buns on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and layer two pieces each of cheese and sliced ham over the inside of the bun. When the hotdogs are just about done cooking, put the buns in the oven and broil until they’re toasted and the cheese is melted. This step is optional. I prefer the toasty, melty cheese version, but the hungry sons usually skip it to get it on their plates faster 🙂
3. Place the cooked hot dogs in the buns and top each with a pickle, onions, and a drizzle of mustard.

recipe adapted from Sweet Treats & More

Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

If you’ve followed us for any amount of time you know that I’ve got a thing for traditions. Every holiday has its own little nuances and little things that, come hell or high water, we are going to adhere to. Another Easter just came to pass, and it’s no exception to the ‘mom is a crazy lady who is dying to make memories’ rule.

For example, every year we go to a local historical park that features a variety of animals and gorgeous gardens and views. It’s a big affair, complete with grandparents and aunts too. Each year we kick the whole shebang off with a picnic lunch. Really. Every year. Sadly though, like everything else it seems, I was pretty sure the older sons had aged out of caring this year, and I purposefully didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want to be all emotional when it was time for us to argue about it and for me to finally have to force them to go by pulling the ‘because I said so, and you’re gonna like it dammit’ card. I mean family time is family time. Right? Non-negotiable. But, to my surprise and utter delight, when I didn’t bring it up and Easter was creeping closer and closer, the older sons started to have a mild freak out.

Umm, excuse me? Of course we’re having an Easter picnic/park day. Duh. How could you doubt me? I was prepared to drag you there by the scruff even if you complained the whole way there, because tradition! But it made my heart so happy that you were that adamant about going yet again.

So, with that emotional crisis averted for all parties involved, we got back to the next most important thing. The food. After all, that’s our biggest tradition and the memories made around it one of our greatest legacies. For us no picnic lunch, especially an Easter Sunday picnic lunch, is complete without potato salad. It’s a staple. We’re not even real picky on the kind as long as it has the same style base. Potatoes, and something creamy, like mayo.

This lightened up, buffalo style version is one of our favs. Soon it’ll be one of yours too 😉

Light/Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

Light Buffalo Potato Salad

recipe adapted from The Weary Chef

2 lbs red and/or russet potatoes, diced into 1/4″ cubes
generous 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
generous 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-4 tbsp buffalo wing sauce, we prefer a mild sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium sized pot, add the potatoes and add water until it just covers them. Add about 1 tsp salt, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender. Transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain, and gently rinse with cold water for about one minute to stop the cooking process and cool them off.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, buffalo sauce, and salt and pepper. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining ingredients, stirring just until everything is evenly incorporated. 3. Serve as is, or refrigerate until chilled.

Asian Chicken Wraps

Spring has sprung which, for the sons and I, meant another Spring Break sprung (up) upon us and just as sneakily slipped away. Everybody enjoyed themselves for the most part. A few days were touch and go though. Son # 4 has developed a case of motor mouth. If he’s awake, it’s running. It’s pumpking out questions. Everything is why? And he’s a repeater. It doesn’t matter how fa into a sentence or a story he is, if he gets interupted by anything, he begins again. From the begining, repeating every words just the same, whether it’s the third or fifteenth try. And I mean interrupted by anything. By me, by another thought, but a bird chirping when he’s trying to talk. The whole world must stop and give their full attention to every. single. word. Aside from that he doesn’t talk. He spells. Everything. He asks to spell everything. It’s like having a conversation in textlish. ‘I W-A-N-T … … Mama, how do you spell lunch again? L-U-N-C-H.” Most days it’s cute, but by day 4 I had pulled out the plug. Ear plugs, a great investment for any parent.

But speaking of lunch, with a whole week of everyone home for all their meals I do try to ‘spice’ things up a bit, after all it is Spring Break. Even if we’re staying home we can still pretend we’re on vacation right? We don’t have to be as responsible, and that’s reason enough to celebrate. So plain old, ho hum lunches just wouldn’t do. Sandwiches just scream ‘school day’. We want lunches that loudly proclaim, we’re home for a week full of sleeping in, binge watching tv, and lots of fort building in the woods. I don’t know about you, but we’ve found wraps are a good way to transform a boring sandwich into something that’s so much more. It’s ok to break away from the loaf and leave the boring sandwich behind.

This east meets west, easy wrap idea is perfect for lunch, or even a lighter dinner. And doesn’t an Asian Chicken Wrap sound way more exciting than a sandwich? Chock full of flavor with a perfect chow mein noodle crunch these were the perfect way to say ‘School’s out for Spring Break’.

Asian Chicken Wraps

 Asian Chicken Wraps

4 medium sized tortillas
2 chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced into strips
2/3 cup General Tso’s sauce
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
romaine lettuce, or other lettuce variety of choice
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 tbsp chow mein noodles

Directions

1. In a small skillet or pot, add both sauces and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
2. Add the cooked, sliced chicken to a medium sized bowl and pour the prepared sauce over top. Stir to toss the chicken with the sauce until all the chicken is well coated.
3. To make each wrap, add about 1/3 cup lettuce, 1/2 cup chicken slices, 1/4 cup carrots slices, and 1 tbsp chow mein noodles down the center or each tortilla.
4. Fold in the top and bottom of each tortilla and then roll it up. Enjoy!