Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chicken Fajita Tostadas and Pintos and Cheese Salad

Chicken Fajita Tostadas
Chicken Fajita Tostadas

The flavor of fajitas with the crunch of a taco combine in these tostadas. Pre-made tostada shells and pre-cooked chicken to make prep and clean-up easy.

Chicken Fajita Tostadas
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

8 tostada shells
2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast
1 cup refried beans
1 medium green pepper - thinly sliced
1 medium red onion - thinly sliced
1 packet (1.25 ounces) taco seasoning mix or 1/4 cup homemade*
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce, diced tomato, salsa, sour cream and guacamole for garnish - optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine taco seasoning, water and lime juice and stir well.
3. Pour half of the taco seasoning mixture over the shredded chicken and the other half over the pepper and onion.
4. Cook chicken in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the sauce starts to thicken slightly - 2-3 minutes. Remove chicken and keep warm. Add peppers and onions and cook until the sauce starts to thicken and veggies start to wilt - about 3-4 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
5. Lay tostada shells on an ungreased baking sheet.
6. Top each shell with 2 tablespoons refried beans, 1/4 cup shredded chicken, peppers and
onions and cheddar cheese to taste.
7. Bake until the cheese just starts to melt - about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with optional garnishes.

*Homemade Taco Seasoning:

1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (I like smoked)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (many use red pepper flakes, I really like the finer consistency of powdered cayenne)
Blend all and use in place of store bought taco seasoning.

Pintos and Cheese Salad
Pintos and Cheese Salad

Pinto beans and Monterey Jack come together with a bright and fresh cilantro lime

Pintos and Cheese Salad

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 10 minutes
Serves: 6-8


3 cups cooked and drained pinto beans
1 cup cooked corn kernels
1/2 cup diced red onion
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese - cut into small dice


1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic - minced
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Place salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to mix.
2. Combine dressing ingredients in a blender until cilantro is chopped fine and dressing is well mixed. Pour over salad and serve immediately.

Note: Do not add dressing until serving time as the acids in the dressing will cause the
cheese to break down and become mushy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Patty Melts

Classic Patty Melt
Classic Patty Melt

Patty melts are classic diner fare and my very favorite, to boot. The best I've had is at the Royal Diner in Washington, N.J. In fact, here's my review:

Straight out of 1940 with very few changes made, this diner is old-school awesome with terrific food. I just visited today and had the patty melt. I have a culinary diploma and write about food and this was the BEST patty melt I've ever had. The fries were fresh and crispy and the taste was clean (no old oil lying around at the Royal Diner!) I'd travel back from Bethlehem, Pa any day to get another.

My daughter had the California burger and was just as impressed. The staff was courteous and kind without any fake "fluff" going on. When I asked when the diner was built my server knew right away. If you're in or near Washington, NJ, the Royal Diner is worth checking out.
Classic patty melts are so simple to make and so yummy, you'll never have leftovers. Serve with chips or hand-cut fries, pickles and a cold root beer for a diner style meal at home.

Classic Patty Melt
Classic Patty Melt

Patty Melt

Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Ready In: 35 minutes
Yield: 4 sandwiches


1 large onion, sliced thinly
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/12 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon Kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 slices rye bread
8 slices American or Swiss cheese
butter for spreading


1. Mix ground beef with salt and pepper and form into 4 patties slightly larger than the bread you will be using. Set aside.
2. Cook onion in oil until well caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.
3. In a large frying pan, cook burgers until desired doneness is achieved - usually 6-8 minutes per side. Remove from pan.
4. Stack patty melts together, bread, one slice of cheese, burger, another slice of cheese and 1/4 caramelized onions followed by another slice of bread.
5. Butter both sides of each sandwich and cook in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until cheese is melted and sandwiches are golden brown.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Easy Pizza Rolls

Easy Pizza Rolls

It's game day! Playoffs for Superbowl 50 are ON and I needed dinner and football munchies. Here's a kid-pleasing favorite that's also a game day winner and not too hard on the budget. Use store bought pizza dough to streamline prep, but make your own if you have time (see recipe below).

Easy Pizza Rolls

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8


2 loaves frozen bread dough or 2 pounds pizza dough - thawed
1/2 pound sliced ham
1/2 pound sliced hard salami
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup jarred or homemade marinara sauce


1. Roll each loaf of dough into a rectangle about 8 inches by 12 inches.
2. Layer ham and salami down the center of each rolled loaf lengthwise.
3. Top meats with 1 cup shredded mozzarella per each roll.
4. Fold short ends of each loaf in about 1/2 inch and seal. Roll from the long sides and pinch well to seal the entire loaf. You should have 2 long rolls.
5. Bake, seam side down on a greased baking sheet in a 375 degree F oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Cut each roll into 8 slices and serve with marinara for dipping.

Easy Pizza Dough

1 package dry yeast (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
1 cup lukewarm water (110 degrees F)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1. Sprinkle yeast on water and let sit for 5 minutes in a large bowl.  When bubbly, add oil and salt and mix in about half the flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and mix/knead until smooth and not sticky.
2. Let rest for approximately 5 minutes to allow dough to relax so it will stretch more easily.
3. Use as directed in your favorite recipe.