Friday, May 27, 2011

Easy Mexican Dinners

It's a litte late for Cinco De Mayo, I know. But I've made a couple Mexican recipes lately and wanted to share them with you. I'm extremely fortunate to live in an area where there are a lot of great, authentic (and inexpensive) Mexican restaurants so I don't worry about cooking much Mexican at home. But I saw  the first recipe in the new issue of Everyday Food and I had some flank steak languishing in the freezer so I thought I'd give it a try.

Please keep in mind that I am not a food photographer. Well, actually, you won't have any trouble remembering that! ha! But ugly photography notwithstanding, these recipes are worth the minimal time to prepare.

Chile-Spiced Steak and Grilled Onion Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa
Adapted from Everyday Food, June 2011

For the tacos:

1 T. olive oil
2 T. chile powder
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. low-sodium soy sauce
2 T. fresh lime juice (plus wedges)
1 ½ pounds flank steak
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, cut into quarter-inch rounds
12 soft corn tortillas

Mix the olive oil, chile powder, brown sugar, soy sauce, and lime juice together to make a marinade. Place in a Ziploc bag, or a shallow dish covered tightly with plastic wrap and place in fridge to marinate for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, slice the onions and set them aside.

To make the salsa, dice 3-4 tomatillos, 1 jalapeno (don't forget to wear gloves) and about 4 T. red onion. I thought it was a little dry so I added a couple squeezes of lime juice. Refrigerate for a while to let the flavors blend.

Heat your grill to about medium high. Brush the rack with a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Season the meat with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper just before putting it on the grill. Save the marinade and brush it over the steak and onions as you grill them. I did the meat about 5 minutes a side. Flank steak should be a little rare inside. Grill the onions with the meat and brush with the marinade as they cook. After cooking the meat, I blistered some tortillas on the grill.

Let the meat sit for a few minutes after cooking. Slice against the grain, into thin strips. Place several strips on each tortilla. Top with the tomatillo salsa and onions. I also topped the tacos with crumbled Queso Fresco, diced avocado, tomato, and sliced radishes and served with more lime wedges.

I loved the taste of the meat. It would be just as good good served by itself with some roasted corn and stewed black beans. It could use a little extra spice though, so next time I think I'd add a little hot sauce to the marinade. I wasn't crazy about the salsa. I thought the tacos would have been better served with a pre-made, perhaps fire roasted salsa. I also had to finish my onions in a pan inside. They really need to be quite soft and I couldn't get them that way on the grill. The day I made these, however, the wind was so strong that it actually blew a piece of meat off the plate! So I didn't have a lot of patience for standing in front of the grill. I was afraid that dinner- or me- might blow away!

All in all it's a fairly authentic tasting recipe and the meat gets a great flavor, although I'd like to try it when I have more time and it can marinate longer than an hour.

Easy Chicken Empanadas

A few nights later, I was looking for another quick dinner idea and my mind went to a Paula Deen recipe that a friend had tried recently and told me was good. I hate bell peppers though and some of the reviewers (my friend included) complained that although the finished empanadas had a good flavor, they were a little dry, so I was brainstorming ways of making them creamier. First I thought maybe adding some sour cream would help but what I finally settled on was the new Philly Santa Fe Cooking Creme. It's an easy recipe to being with, and this makes it even easier because the spices are already included! All you need is this:

1 box refrigerated, rolled pie crust with 2 crusts (I used the Meijer brand)
1 can white meat chicken, drained and flaked into chunks (I used Trader Joe's)
1 tub Philly Santa Fe Cooking Creme
1 bag Mexican blend shredded cheese

Mix the flaked chicken and about a cup of cheese with the cooking creme. You could add some salsa or hot sauce if you'd like but I thought it was fine was it was. Preheat your oven to 400.

Roll the pise crusts out even thinner. I thought this would be hard because I'm really bad with dough, but it was actually easy and the dough didn't stick. Cut the dough into 3 inch rounds. I just used a wide mouthed drinking glass. It helps to roll out the individual circles into more of an oval shape. Wet the tip of your finger and run it around the edges of the crust. Fill with a heaping tablespoon of filling. Flip the crust over and secure the edges with a fork.

Before baking, brush the tops of the empanadas with some beaten egg white if you wish. It makes them look a little nicer and gives them a crackly sheen. I was able to make about 20 empanadas with a little filling left over.

I even had enough crust left to make on of my favorite childhood desserts- jam pie! Just make a tiny "crust" with a little pie dough and fill the indentation with some jam from the fridge. The perfect dessert for one, and kids love having their own individual pie!

Bake the empanadas (and your jam pie) in the 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Serve alone for a snack or with a salad for a meal. You could easily sub black beans for the chicken if you'd like a vegetarian version. They came out perfectly- a little spice but not too much and not dry at all! If you make them, and I suggest you do, let me know what you think.


My ugly, but tasty, raspberry jam pie! 


  1. So nice! Thanks for sharing this recipe with us!

  2. You're welcome Eftychia! I hope if you try it, you enjoy!