Recipe

Cheesy Ground Beef Empanadas

My brother-in-law is from Argentina and makes these fabulous empanadas for holidays when we are together.  His are from his mother’s recipe, passed down for generations and take hours to make.  Days!
These aren’t those.
These are actually pretty simple.  They use refrigerated pie crusts and the meat only simmers for 15 minutes.  Still doggone delicious!  I found this recipe at Great Grub Delicious Treats.

Cheesy Ground Beef Empanadas

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp Slap Ya Mama® seasoning
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp diced jalapeños
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 2 boxes Pillsbury™ Refrigerated Pie Crust
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.

  2. In a cast iron pan or large frying pan, add ground beef, chopped onions, minced garlic and cook over medium heat until ground beef is no longer pink. Drain grease and return to pan.

  3. Sprinkle with seasonings, stir.

  4. Add tomato sauce and jalapeños, stir and let simmer for 15 minutes.

  5. Unroll pie crust on a lightly flour surface. Using a 4 inch bowl, turn bowl upside down and press down to cut dough. Should be able to get 4 pieces per pie crust.

  6. Add a little water to the edges of the dough before filling to help seal.

  7. Add a small amount of shredded cheese and about a 1/4 cup of meat mixture.

  8. Fold dough over and using a fork, close up the edges by pressing to seal and place on a baking sheet.

  9. In a small bowl, whisk egg and one tablespoon of water together. Using a basting brush, brush egg wash over the top of each empanada.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or until empanada crust is golden brown.

  11. Carefully remove from oven and enjoy.

Mooresville

Restaurant Review: Provecho Mexican Kitchen & Cantina in Mooresville

Popped in to Provecho tonight for a yummy Latin inspired meal after having this one on my list for a bit.  Out in the Langtree area of Mooresville, it feels like it is quite far out (for me) but it’s becoming quite the little restaurant scene out here.

We arrived at 8pm on a Friday night, easily found a parking space and walked into the half full restaurant to a sign that asked us to seat ourselves.  We chose a half booth half table that felt comfortable to us and had a seat.  I love that we got to choose where we wanted to be.

The waitress came over to greet us quickly and got our drink order.  I ordered a Strawberry Cream Margarita and it was Instagram worthy.  It was frothy and cold, and sweet too!  I don’t know where the “cream” came in, but it did have this beautiful black sea salt on the side that was just gorgeous!  I have to say I wouldn’t have minded some sugar instead of the salt.  Still, a delicious drink.

We decided to begin with Queso Fundido, which the server explained was not like cheese DIP but rather cheese melted in an iron skillet.  It was served with flour tortillas but she also brought us chips, too.  It comes with a small cup of salsa verde, but I ordered a cup of regular salsa since I prefer the tomato based salsa.  The salsa was very chipotle forward, but it was fine.  The fundido was amazing!  Melted cheese with browned bubbles all over…wow!  It was my favorite dish of the night.

I had two tacos, one beer battered fish and one braised beef.  They were both great.  The fish was crispy and topped with avocado, crema, Mexican slaw and cilantro.  It was a nice contrast with the warm fish, the fresh slaw and the cool crema.  The beef taco was more about the meat, and it was delicious as well.  Think a Latin flavored roast beef.

My son got Arroz con pollo, which was delicious and you could really taste the adobo, which is not my favorite flavor oddly enough.  Still the chicken was cooked well and it was a flavorful dish.

This is a great little restaurant which looks like a lot of local people come to just hang out, have a drink and a snack as well as diners having dinner.  Give it a try!

Marion

Restaurant Review: Nopale’s Mexican Grill in Marion, NC

While coming home from Asheville, we got hungry and decided to stop in Marion for dinner.  This place was the closest Mexican restaurant we found to the interstate so we decided to try it.  On a Saturday evening the line was out the door!  It moved fairly quickly, but there was a large party that was taking up most of the tables in the middle of the room so not sure this would happen on a normal weekend night.

The service was hit or miss.  Our waiter was kind and efficient, but we’d go for longish periods without seeing him.  Again, busy night so we understood.

The food is actually very good.  I had a chicken quesadilla with a side of Mexican rice and Charro beans.  The Charro beans were fantastic!  They were seasoned with little bits of bacon and plenty of spices.  I loved them!  The chicken quesadilla was also delicious, filled with chicken and cheese and then topped with cheese dip.  Cheesy but good!  The rice also was topped with cheese dip which totally made that dish!

You do have to go up to the front to pay your ticket, which for some reason I hate.  In this instance, the cashier (without a word to me) left to go sing happy birthday with a crew of people.  When he came back, there was no apology for just abruptly exiting or an explanation.

While we enjoyed it, I believe I’d try another restaurant the next time I’m in Marion.

Mooresville

Restaurant Review: Cantina 1511 in Mooresville NC

I’ve eaten at the Charlotte Cantina 1511 restaurants in the past, so knew what to expect, but was still pleasantly surprised by this location.  It is in a convenient shopping center, and parking can get a little dicey at peak times, but is usually find-able.

They have an outdoor seating area for warm weather, and plenty of seating inside.  It is a rather sizable space.  The staff is warm and friendly.

They offer complimentary chips and salsa when you dine in, and the chips are fresh and warm and perfectly salted.  The salsa is cool and spicy, very delicious.  I love their Queso Dip too!

For lunch I had the 2 Chicken Tacos, which is one of the choices on the lunch menu special features for Tuesday.  The tacos were topped with lettuce, pico de gallo, a slice of avocado and Mexican crema.  They were so darn good!  The chicken was shredded and spiced and they lime wedge that they serve with it helped cut through the creamy crema and avocado.  So good.  It was served with black beans and Mexican rice.  Also cooked well.

My friend had the Chicken Tostado Salad off of the same menu.  Beautiful strips of chicken, spiced perfectly atop a mound of lettuce and tomatoes and topped with a scoop of guacamole and cotijo cheese.

We also couldn’t resist ordering a side of Street Corn.  My dining companion told me that this was the closest she’d had to the real deal in Mexico, so I had to try.  True to her word, the corn was plump and juicy and the crema and cotija cheese provided a wonderful creaminess which was balanced by the Tajin seasoning that was so sharp it made me pucker!  Definitely try this!

This is a great addition to the restaurants here in Mooresville, even though it is a small chain.  The service is top notch and the food is delicious and thoughtfully prepared.  I can’t wait to go back!

Huntersville

Restaurant Review: Verde Mexican and Nuevo Latin Fusion

Need a vacation but are stuck here in Lake Norman? You need to check out Verde in Huntersville.  This great restaurant will transport you to Cuba, Argentina, Mexico…without leaving this beautiful area.

The front is deceptively small, once you get inside the restaurant goes back pretty far and seats plenty.  They have a great little bar area with high top tables, and booths and tables in the restaurant area.  There is room enough for a large party of about 10.  Service is great, our waitress was so kind and attentive.

We started with cocktails and drinks.  I had the peach margarita which was on special.  It was sweet yet strong!  Very good!


Next we ordered the guacamole which comes with chips and salsa.  They also refilled our chips when we ran out for no charge 🙂  The guacamole was very fresh, chock full of tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro.  The salsa had a slight hint of chipotle to it, which isn’t my favorite flavor, but it wasn’t overpowering.  I liked it!

For my entree, I chose the paella with seafood.  It was as flavorful as everyone before has stated, but maybe a little heavy on the peas!  I could taste the smoky paprika, and most of the seafood was very fresh, but I did have one calamari ring that was a bit fishy, so I took the rest off.  The shrimp were delicious.

Ty had the Tacos Verde which were small but tasty.  He ordered a side of rice to accompany.  The tacos had tasty marinated steak and were topped with chipotle rouille, avocado salsa, Monterrey jack and cotija cheeses.  Yum!

We enjoyed our time there and will likely be back!

Mooresville

Restaurant Review: El Veracruz in Mooresville, NC

Photo Credit: Stephanie S on Yelp

The last time I visited this location was when it was the Prickly Pear years ago.  We loved it then, although the stairs can present a challenge to some.  There is handicapped parking in the back and a ramp for those needing access.  This building was once a church and is kind of off the beaten path right past downtown Mooresville, but that just adds to its charm.

The service was great on our visit, our food was brought very quickly and our waitress was very attentive and kind.  The chips were fresh and warm and the salsa was very flavorful and just spicy enough.  Also very fresh.  We ordered a cheese dip as an appetizer and it was thick and creamy, very good!

Our dinners were also delicious.  I got a platter with a taco, chile poblano and a tostada.  All was delicious, but the taco was my favorite.  The meat was spiced well and it surprisingly held together while I was eating it.

My kids got the Pollo con Crema and that was super good.  The meat was seared just perfectly to give you the crispy brown bits but the chicken itself was very tender.  The rice was also flavorful and fluffy.

We truly enjoyed our experience and can’t wait to return.

Recipe

Tex Mex Dip

When we lived in Osceola, Arkansas we attended the First Presbyterian Church and each Wednesday night we had a fellowship supper.  Each family brought a dish to share and we enjoyed each others company and broke bread together.  Sue Moody brought this one night and I just loved it.  She graciously shared her recipe with me over 20 years ago and I still make it often!

TEX-MEX DIP

INGREDIENTS

  • tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium avocados
  • 1teaspoon pepper
  • cup sour cream
  • 1cup mayonnaise
  • (1 1/4 ounce) packet taco seasoning mix
  • 21 ounces commercially prepared bean dip (plain or jalapeno)
  • 1 cup green onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 7 ounces olives, chopped
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • tortilla chips

DIRECTIONS

Peel, pit and mash avocadoes in medium bowl.

Add lemon juice, salt and pepper.

In separate bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, and taco seasoning.

To assemble, spread bean dip on a large, shallow platter.

Top with avocado mixture.

Put on sour cream and taco mixture.

Sprinkle wit chopped onions, tomatoes, and olives.

Cover with shredded cheese.

Recipe

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!

5 MINUTE TOMATO SALSA

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 · Mooresville · 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

Fish and Chips Taco at Velvet Taco in Charlotte

Street Corn from Cantina 1511 in Mooresville, NC

Recipe

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

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

  • 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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

  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.

DIAN’S CHICKEN SALAD

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

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

  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.