Recipe: 5 Minute Tomato Salsa

Mexican food is my favorite.  And the one thing I love about Mexican food above all others is the salsa.  This one reminds me of the salsa at one of my childhood favorite haunts: Pancho’s in Ft. Walton Beach Florida.  Easy to make, and very fresh tasting!


Very fresh, make as spicy as you want by leaving seeds of jalapeno in if desired.
Source: The Best Quick
1/2 small jalapeno, minced
1/4 small red onion, peeled
1 small garlic clove, pressed and minced
2 tablespoons packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lime juice
14 1⁄2 ounces diced tomatoes, drained
Pulse all ingredients except tomatoes in food processor until minced, about 5 times.
Add tomatoes and pulse 2 times. Transfer to fine mesh sieve and drain for one minute.
Charlotte · Denver · Gastonia · Huntersville · Sherrills Ford

Best of Restaurants: Mexican Food

Mexican food is my all time favorite.  It’s my deserted island food, my last meal food and my go-to when working late.  Here are the best dishes I’ve found.

Shredded Beef Chimichanga at Margaritas in Denver, NC

Quesadilla Mexicana at La Unica in Huntersville, NC

Table-side Guacamole at Paco’s Tacos in Charlotte, NC

Pollo Loco at El Patron in Gastonia, NC

Pelusa at Los Mezquites Grill in Sherrills Ford, NC

Lobster Quesadilla at Cousins Maine Lobster Food Truck in Charlotte, NC


Simply Good Sandwiches

Sandwiches represent a certain failing for me.  Whenever I can’t get a home cooked dinner on the table, I rely on this old staple to sustain my hungry people.  It’s a default if my kids won’t eat what I’ve made (yep, I’m one of those parents who don’t MAKE the kids eat what I fix.)  But I’ve learned that sometimes, when you make a sandwich, there is a certain comfort in being able to take your plate and eat in front of the TV while watching Seinfeld re-runs.  Here are some of my favorites:

Club Sandwich

Perfect for an easy summer dinner, especially with fresh homegrown tomatoes  Club Sandwich


  • 3 slices toasted bread
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 slices American cheese
  • 4 slices shaved ham
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced, divided
  • 4 leaves lettuce, divided
  • 4 slices crisp bacon, divided
  • 2 slices Monterey jack cheese
  • 4 slices shaved deli turkey


  • Spread mayonnaise on one side of a piece of toast; add layer of American cheese, ham, two slices of tomato, two leaves of lettuce, and two pieces of bacon.
  • Spread mayonnaise on second piece of toast and place on top, mayo side down.
  • Spread mayonnaise on top of that second piece of toast.
  • Layer Monterey Jack cheese, the rest of the tomatoes, lettuce, turkey and bacon on top.
  • Spread mayonnaise on third piece of toast and place on the stack mayo side down.
  • Slice the sandwich in quarters diagonally.
  • Skewers or long toothpicks may be used to hold all the layers together.


Grilled Chick N Wrappers

Grilled Chick N Wrappers
Grilled Chick N Wrappers

A wrap is a kind of sandwich, right?  I made this one for the family last night and it was a spot hitter.  You know, it hit the spot?  OK, so it comes together easily, and even though the word “grilled” is in the title, you just cook up the chicken in a skillet.  I suppose actually grilling it could only improve its flavor.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 8 ounces Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese blend
  • 6 slices hickory smoked bacon
  • 16 ounces shredded Lettuce
  • ranch salad dressing
  • 6 (10 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 lime


  1. In a skillet heat olive oil on medium.
  2. Cut the chicken thighs into strips and add to skillet.
  3. In a separate skillet, fry the bacon.
  4. While they are cooking, slice the onion, cucumber and set aside.

  5. When chicken is done and the bacon is done, remove from skillet and set aside.
  6. Assembly time. Heat the tortilla in microwave for 15 seconds.
  7. To the tortillas, add the ranch, lettuce, cucumbers, onion, bacon, cheese, and then chicken and squeeze a little lime juice over and wrap like a burrito.

Pressed Chicken Tortas

I got this recipe when I was using Blue Apron.  They have some really great recipes, probably the best service I’ve found.  This one seems long, but it’s just because they over-explain all steps 🙂  Give it a go.  Delicious sammy!

Photo credit: Blue Apron
  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 4 Torta Rolls
  • 2 Limes
  • 1 Romaine Heart
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 bunch Cilantro
  • 3 oz Queso Fresco
  • 3 Tbsps Pepitas
  • ½ cup Low-Fat Sour Cream
  • 2 tsps Chicken Torta Spice Blend (Ancho Chile Powder, Mexican Oregano, Smoked Sweet Paprika, Garlic Powder & Ground Cumin)

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Halve the rolls. Core, halve and thinly slice the tomato. Crumble the queso fresco. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems; discard the stems. Cut off and discard the root end of the lettuce; roughly chop the leaves. Quarter the limes. Halve, pit, peel and thinly slice the avocado; top with the juice of 2 lime wedges to prevent browning. Peel and halve the onion; small dice 1 half and thinly slice the remaining half. In a medium bowl, combine the diced onion and the juice of 4 lime wedges.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season on both sides with salt, pepper and (reserving a pinch) as much of the spice blend as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. In a large pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken. Cook 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board to cool slightly. Wipe out the pan.

While the chicken cooks, add the sour cream and remaining spice blend to the diced onion-lime juice mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine; season with salt and pepper to taste.

When cool enough to handle, thinly slice the cooked chicken. Place the bottoms of the rolls, cut sides up, on a clean, dry work surface. Divide the sliced chickenavocado, as much of the sliced onion as you’d like (you may have extra), the tomato, half the queso fresco and the cilantro between the roll bottoms; season with salt and pepper. Top with the juice of the remaining lime wedges and the roll tops.

In the pan used to cook the chicken, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Working in 2 batches, add the tortas. Place a heavy pot on top of the tortas to press them down. Cook, occasionally pressing down on the pot, 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned and slightly flattened. Transfer to a cutting board or plate.

While the tortas toast, in a large bowl, combine the lettuce, pepitas,remaining queso fresco and as much of the dressing as you’d like (you may have extra dressing). Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut each toasted torta in half diagonally; divide between 4 plates. Serve with the salad on the side. Enjoy!

Another favorite is LEMONY CUCUMBER CREAM CHEESE SANDWICHES.  I made these for a Broker luncheon at a home I had listed in Lincolnton during the summer and they were cool, refreshing and tasted of summer.  The original recipe is from Chew Out Loud.


PREP TIME: 1 hr 15 mins TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 30 mins
YIELD: 4 cups


    • 4 chicken breast halves, bone in
    • 8 ounces green olives, chopped
    • 1 cup mayonnaise


  1. Skin chicken, put in pan, cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 75 minutes. Cool, pull from bones and chop finely. Add mayo and chopped olives.
  2. *Depending on how big your chicken breasts are, you may want more mayo and olives. Make it to your favorite consistency.

Three Cheese Enchiladas

My people love some Mexican food.  And this specific recipe is very special to me because a long ago friend from Osceola, Arkansas brought it to a church potluck once and I asked for the recipe.  She wrote it out by hand, and photocopied it since there were so many of us who wanted it.  I found it tucked away in my files the other day and my brain just flooded with memories of that sweet family!

Three Cheese Enchiladas and the recipe :)
Three Cheese Enchiladas and the recipe 🙂

Three Cheese Enchiladas


  • 1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (3 ounce) package softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup Pace Picante Sauce
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 8 (7 -8 inch) flour tortillas
  • shredded Lettuce
  • chopped tomato


  1. Combine 1 cup each of jack and cheddar, and the cream cheese, 1/4 cup picante, peppers, onion, and seasonings; mix well.
  2. Spoon 1/4 cup mix down the middle of each tortilla.
  3. Roll and place seam side down in 13×9-inch baking dish.
  4. Spoon remaining sauce over top. Cover with remaining mixed cheese.
  5. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.
  6. Top with lettuce and tomato and serve with additional picante sauce.

Here’s a version that’s easy to print:  3 Cheese Enchiladas


Recipe: Easy Tamale Pie

I’ve come to the realization that so many of my recipes are not very “chefy” despite calling myself a Barenaked Chef.  But when you have 2 children and a busy day, it’s hard to pass off foie gras as a dinner choice.  So, I offer you, yet again, a comfort food recipe.  Not fancy, but yummers.

Easy Tamale Pie

4-6 Servings


  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 11 ounces Mexican-style corn, drained
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces chopped green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 ounces mexican style cornbread mix


  • 1. Preheat oven to 375. In large skillet, brown ground beef, onion and garlic over medium high heat until meat is brown and onion is tender; drain. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in corn, tomato sauce, green chilies, chile powder and salt. Remove from heat.
  • 2 In small bowl beat sour cream and egg until well blended. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Combine sour cream mixture with ground beef mixture. Spoon into lightly greased 9×13 pan.
  • 3 In medium bowl, prepare corn bread mix according to package directions. spread corn bread batter ovedr casserole. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until heated through and corn bread topping is golden brown. serve warm.



No one really entertains at home anymore and that is sad. For starters, eating out has become so common, that it isn’t even special anymore. Because of our busy schedules, time is at a premium. More often than not, your friends would be more impressed if you took the time to cook them a homemade dinner than if you simply picked up the check for their meal at a restaurant. Imagine if you turned it into a themed dinner party?My friends and I have started a supper club. Each couple takes a month and provides a themed dinner party for the other couples. The option is there to cater, but most of us cook. We have had all kinds of themes, but one of the most popular is always the Mexican Fiesta themed ones. And why not? Nothing says party better than “Margarita! “


You can certainly play with this a bit, but I like to think of these recipes as great for a moderate cook. You know enough so that the ingredient list won’t be daunting, but there is no real expertise needed. Just enjoy!

Appetizers and Cocktails:
Baked Cheese Fiesta Dip
Salsa and tortilla chips
Applebee’s Tequila Lime Chicken with Yellow rice
Chopped Mexican Medley Salad
Pico de Gallo and Salsa
Tyler’s Mexican Cornbread


The Recipes

Baked Cheese Fiesta Dip Recipe2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
8-10 ounces grated cheese (I use 4 cheese Mexican style)
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (or to taste)

Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Stir in all other ingredients and mix well. Spray a 10 inch pie plate or quiche dish with cooking spray. Bake about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until edges are lightly browned.


Applebee’s Tequila Lime Chicken

4 chicken breast fillets
1 C. shredded cheddar/Monterrey jack cheese blend
2 C. crumbled corn chips or fried tortilla strips

1 C. water
1/3 C. teriyaki sauce
2 T. lime juice
2 t. minced garlic
1 t. mesquite liquid smoke
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. tequila

Mexi-Ranch dressing:
1/4 C. mayonnaise
1/4 C. sour cream
1 T. milk
2 t. minced tomato
1 1/2 t. white vinegar
1 t. minced canned jalapeno slices
1 t. minced onion
1/4 t. dried parsley
1/4 t. Tabasco sauce
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. paprika
1/8 t. dried dill weed
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1/8 t. cumin
1/8 t. chili powder
1 Dash garlic powder
1 Dash ground black pepper

1. Prepare marinade by combining marinade ingredients in medium bowl. Add chicken to bowl, cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours.

2. Make the Mexi-Ranch dressing by combining all ingredients in medium bowl. Mix well until smooth, then cover dressing and chill it until needed. When ready to prepare entree, preheat oven to high broil. Also preheat grill to high heat. When grill is hot, cook marinated chicken breasts for 3 to 5 minutes per side.

3. Arrange cooked chicken in baking pan. Spread a layer of Mexi-Ranch dressing over each piece of chicken, followed by ¼ cup cheese. Broil chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Spread a bed of 1/2 cup of tortilla strips on four plates. Slide chicken breast onto strips and serve with rice, pico de gallo or salsa.


Chopped Mexican Medley Salad

This tangy, crunchy salad is “to die for.” Serves eight.

1 1/2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
1 1/2 pounds jicama (a crunch, tasty root vegetable), peeled and finely diced
6 seedless Oranges, peeled and chopped into squares
2 red onions, finely diced
1 medium bunch cilantro, stems removed & finely diced
1 large bell pepper, finely diced


1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. Orange marmalade
1/4 cup salsa verde
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Make this salad and dressing up to four hours before the party. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Chill in refrigerator. Right before serving, add salad dressing, toss lightly and serve.


Tyler’s Mexican Cornbread

1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 lg. Onion, diced
2 eggs
1 can cream corn
2 jalapenos, chopped fine

Combine all and mix in large bowl. Spoon into muffin tins. Make sure to grease the tins first. Bake at 425° for around 20 minutes (check time). Yield: 18


Easy Flan

1 cup and 1/2 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 13 oz cans evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You will need 6 ramekins or other specialty flan cook ware and a large baking pan to put them in. Pour 1 cup sugar in warm pan over medium heat. Constantly stir sugar until is browns and becomes caramel.

Quickly pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of caramel in each ramekin, tilting it to swirl the caramel around the sides. Reheat caramel if it starts to harden. In a mixer or with a whisk, blend the eggs together. Mix in the milks then slowly mix in the 1/2 cup of sugar, then the vanilla. Blend smooth after each ingredient is added.

Pour custard into caramel lined ramekins. Place ramekins in a large glass or ceramic baking dish and fill with about 1-2 inches of hot water. Bake for 45 minutes in the water bath and check with a knife just to the side of the center. If knife comes out clean, it’s ready.

Remove and let cool. Let each ramekin cool in refrigerator for 1 hour. Invert each ramekin onto a small plate, the caramel sauce will flow over the custard.