Life is better with Tex-Mex

Tex-MexI can’t have a food blog and not talk about my favorite food in the world! Well, as the title says, life gets a whole lot better with a little bit of Tex-Mex. It makes me happy just typing the name. 🙂

I have to preface this blog by saying that I love ALL types of mexican food and, in my personal opinion, it doesn’t get any better than the Mexican food in Texas. Since I can remember I have always been drawn to chips, salsa, and of course…Queso! I mean what’s not to love about a big pot of melted cheese with some spicy beef, hot peppers, and roasted tomatoes thrown into the mix. My obsession started young and I have to blame my Okie/Texan family for introducing it to me early on. Half of my family is from Oklahoma and half from makes for a fun football season let me tell ya!

My first real memory of Mexican food started with my grandfather’s salsa. Anytime I would ever go over to see my grandparents the first thing I would do is go to the fridge and pull out the salsa. He would even hide it sometimes because, once the boys found where it was hidden, it would be gone in a matter of minutes. For years I couldn’t find a salsa as good as his until I finally tasted my big brother’s recipe.

Side Note: As I mentioned in the “This is Me” section, my father is an amazing cook, but he’s not the only one. My grandfather and brother can really hold their own in the kitchen.

I hadn’t attempted to create my own salsa until this year and I really have to credit my brother for 90% of the recipe. I’ve added a few hints of originality to it, but why mess with a good thing.

It is only fitting for someone so in love with a particular type of food to have their first real job serving it. Growing up I was always drawn to restaurants (ha well now I know why) and I couldn’t wait to turn 18 so I could be a waitress. The week after I graduated from high school I went and applied at On the Border Mexican Cantina in Norman, Oklahoma. I was so excited to start my new job, but I soon learned that it was going to be harder than I thought. My first day out of training I dropped an entire tray of drinks all over this poor woman wearing a light pink jumpsuit. Needless to say, I was a bit more cautious from then on and my summer job turned into 3 years of working my way through college.

During my employment with OTB, I learned that I had no limits when it came to Mexican food. When I wasn’t working, I was up there eating sometimes 5 days in a row for lunch and dinner (hey it was free and I was in college). When I moved to Texas in 2003 I continued to wait tables, but moved from serving mexican cuisine to more upscale restaurants serving steak & seafood. Even though the menus are night and day for the most part, I still managed to find the closest thing to mexican food on the menu to eat (I still crave The Keg’s chicken nachos).

I now try to incorporate one Mexican dish in my menu a week, but one hang up with eating Tex-Mex all the time is that it’s not always kind to the waistline. So, now I have reached out to my trusty Weight Watchers cookbooks and Cooking Light magazine collection for healthy alternatives. I have to say, the Healthy Beef-and- Been Tacos from Weight Watchers have become a weekly staple in my home. Taco night is something both my husband & I look forward to for sure.

After many years of eating Queso multiple times a week, I started to show it on the scale. I don’t eat it much anymore, but I have grown to love it’s substitute just as much…Guacamole! Avocado finds it’s way in a lot of my dishes- everything from salads, dips, sandwiches, etc. I know it’s fattening, but it’s good fat and okay if eaten in moderation right? Nothing adds excitement to Taco Night like a little chips, salsa, and guacamole!

Now I know that I can survive living on the west or east coast just as long as I have a supermarket close by. I’ve talked to some people who think mexican cooking is too difficult, so they don’t even try. Start easy, like me, and you’ll eventually find yourself frying up some Flautas and grilling some killer fajitas. I guarantee you this will not be my last post about Mexican food, but here are a few recipes to get you started. Enjoy!

Spicy Tomato Salsa

Yields around 4-5 cups of fresh salsa

  • 28oz can diced tomatoes (Muir Glen is my fav)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into quarter
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1/2 large (or 1 medium) jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, rough chop (seeds removed)
  • 1/2 small bunch of cilantro
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt and pepper

**Disclaimer: I like my salsa pretty spicy. If you prefer yours on the mild side I would suggest removing the seeds and veins. For an even milder salsa, use only one jalapeno pepper minus the ribs and seeds.

Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until well mixed. Taste and add additional seasoning to your liking.

Weight Watchers: Healthy Beef-and-Bean Tacos

  • 1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Pound Lean Ground Sirloin
  • 1 Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1 1/4 Cups Fat-Free Refried Beans (Old El Paso, Spicy is the best)
  • 8 Taco Shells
  • 1 Cup Shredded Lettuce
  • 1 Large Tomato, Diced
  • 2 Tablespoons Sliced Pitted Ripe Olives
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Red Onion
  • 1/2 Cup Nonfat Sour Cream **I can’t stand nonfat sour cream so I substituted with light sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the taco shells on a baking sheet and warm them in the oven, about 8 minutes; keep warm. **I usually just heat mine according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the beef, onion, garlic, and seasoning mix. Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the water. Cook, until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans and heat through.

Spoon about 1/4 cup of the beef mixture into each taco. Top each with the lettuce, tomato, olives, onion, and sour cream.

Makes 4 servings. Per Serving (2 tacos): 318 Cal, 9 g Fat, 1 g Sat Fat, 25 mg Chol, 1,123 mg Sod, 41 g Carb, 7 g Fib, 17 g Prot, 106 mg Calc. Points: 6.

Savory Southwest Guacamole

Yields 4-6 servings

  • 4 large avocados, ripe
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp diced jalapeno (seeds and veins removed)
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

**The key to delicious guacamole is a ripe avocado. The best way to check for ripeness is to apply slight pressure to the top pit of the avocado. If the pit gives slightly to your pressure then it’s ripe. Try not to squeeze the entire avocado too much while checking for ripeness, it will bruise.

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990) was a blues legend from Dallas, TX. In 1971 Stevie Ray moved to Austin, TX where he continued to make music his life. His catchy, blues-rock style resulted in Stevie being named one of the greatest guitar players of all time.

In the spirit of Tex-Mex nobody screams Texas to me more than Stevie Ray Vaughan. Songs like “Pride and Joy” have influenced my musical taste and love for the blues. His raspy voice and signature guitar makes me want to be dancing in South Texas…while eating some Mexican food of course!!

Here’s to a little piece of Texas!

10 responses

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  4. Sarah, I’m really so glad I found your blog. I think I’m going to love what you post. Tex-Mex is my favorite food. I grew up in Oklahoma and have been in Texas for over 10 years now, so Tex-Mex it is!! I can’t wait to try your salsa recipe. I’m printing it off right now. I do enjoy cooking, but only tried salsa once and it took so long to chop everything, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Now I see your recipe with CANNED tomatoes (!) and I’m going to try again.

    Also, I have two WW cookbooks, but never crack them open, so I’m going to try to fix your taco recipe too.

    And Stevie Ray Vaughn?! You are my soul sister!! 🙂

    • Awesome!! I’m from Oklahoma as well with family in Texas, so Tex-Mex has been ingrained in my appetite since I was a little girl. Needless to say, I’m obsessed. So you can expect a lot of delicious southwest recipes from me for sure. Definitely try my salsa recipe and the tacos are my fav. If you’re not a huge fan of spice then make sure you cut down on the peppers. Happy eating!! 🙂

  5. Sarah, just wanted to let you know that we had dinner guests this weekend and I made your salsa. It was a HIT! It was a little too spicy for a couple of wimpy ones (I like hot, so I didn’t change anything in your recipe), but the rest of the group gobbled it down and took the recipe. Thanks!

    • Awesome! I’m so glad everyone liked it. It is definitely spicy, but I can’t help myself, I need the heat. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Loaded Baked Potato Wedges « Sarah's Musical Kitchen

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