Category Archives: Food

Who doesn’t love food? Here we’ll tag our good meals, whether home-cooked by us or others and share recipes and pictures whenever possible.

Food of Día de los Muertos

Filo making green salsa sopes for breakfast over an open fire. My absolute favorite! Thin and crisp, tangy and creamy at the same time. Mmmmm!

When we go to Mexico to visit family we very well fed. Mex’s sister’s cook for us and everything is always delicious. However, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a very busy time for them.

Preparing tejocotes for the ofrenda

The focus from October 30th to November 2nd the main focus is preparing food for deceased family members so we were a little out of luck in the “getting spoiled” department.  There are a number of traditional foods Mex’s family prepares for their ofrenda or offering for their deceased relatives. We tried to let our son participate as much as possible.

Our son loved helping his dad and Aunt Sofia peel tejocotes. Tejocotes are a small fruit, about double the size of a cherry. First the are boiled in water until their skins pull loose. Once they are all peeled, the tejocotes are simmered with sugar and cinnamon. After about an hour, the liquid starts to thicken and become syrupy. The finished product has an intense, delightful sweetness but don’t eat too quickly because the fruit has a small pit.

Simple green mole with chicken

Mole (MOH-lay) is often called the national dish of Mexico, with each region claiming their own version of the recipe. Stemming from the Nahuatl word mulli, meaning sauce, mole comes in a rainbow of colors; green, red, yellow, black and all shades in between. My family in Mexico says green mole is the only type made for the deceased spirits. Though mole has a reputation as being complicated, with up to 35 ingredients, this green mole is surprisingly simple.

The balance between tomatillos and pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) is very important according to Filo. For every pound of tomatillos, use a little over one cup of shelled pepitas. First the tomatillos are roasted slightly in a pan with some vegetable oil (you could put them under a broiler for about five minutes as well) then they are pulsed in the blender with the pepitas and a couple serrano chiles until smooth. The sauce is simmered with some epazote and salt. That’s it. No garlic (gasp!).  It is a very well-balanced sauce. The nuttiness of the pepitas takes the tartness out of the tomatillos.

It is amazing to see my sister-in-laws spend hours each day, staying up almost all night preparing food to serve the spirits. Besides tejocotes and green mole, they make tamales wrapped in corn leaves, sweet squash that cooks over an open fire for two days, and rice pudding.


Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexico, Morelos State, Recipes, Tetelilla, Morelos

Cocina de Ana – Mexican Take-n-Bake

You’ve heard of take-n-bake pizza, right? How about take-n-bake Mexican? Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I received a coupon offer in the mail thru work for half off my order (there was recently a Groupon for here also). Even though it is in Plymouth, about 25 miles from my house, the concept seemed so original that I had to try it. Coupon purchased! Now, clearly I am a procrastinator… Not only did the coupon expire today, but you can only place orders until noon for pick up the same day (pick up between 4 – 7 pm). What time did this chica place her order? 11:48 am! Whew!

La Cocina de Ana - Ana's Kitchen - is a unique twist on the pizza-dominated Take-N-Bake scene

La Cocina de Ana (Ana’s Kitchen), which opened in December 2010,  is located in a small strip mall on Hwy 101, just south if Hwy 6 in Plymouth. It is tiny inside, but it doesn’t need to be any bigger. There are a row of refrigerators where the day’s orders are kept, a check out counter, small office area, and a little kitchen with a window so you can see Ana and Luis preparing the food. There are tortilla chips for sale, and bags of Mexican Almond cookies, but otherwise it is strictly pre-ordered food.

Small, simple interior. Door in the back leads to small kitchen with a window, allowing people to see food being prepared.

I wanted to stick as close to $20 as possible, since that is the amount I pre-paid with my coupon. There are a number of soups, appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts available, though not everything is available every day. The food comes packaged in containers with directions on how to reheat or prepare at home, either in the oven or microwave.

Prepackaged and ready to either heat in the microwave or oven.

My husband and I decided on pozole blanco (soup) because it was the only pozole version listed on the website as only chicken (rojo and verde listed pork which Mex doesn’t eat). When I stopped to pick up the food, Ana asked if I knew that was very mild and considered her “kid” dish. When I told her I chose that version because it was the only one listed as chicken, she told me I could request chicken only with the other versions as well (there IS a spot on the online order form where you can put in special requests). She offered to “fix” it for me and magically turned it in to green pozole. It was FABULOUS!

Our white "kid's menu" pozole transformed in to rich, flavorful green in a matter of minutes

The core ingredients of pozole are hominy and chicken (or pork) and the soup was loaded with both. The broth was rich, and full of flavor, just the right amount of lime, finely ground oregano… It was just as good as the version my sister-in-law in Mexico makes for us, which I guess is our definition of “authentic.” The difference in Mexico would be little dishes of chopped onion, oregano, and lime wedges that are set out to “customize

The best tostadas are made by frying fresh corn tortillas - but the store bought crisps are simple and no mess

your soup. When ordering posole, she suggests tostadas. I would definitely agree the soup needs an accompaniment. We had tostadas on hand so we just sprinkled them with cheese, melted it in the oven for about three minutes and spread a little Mexican sour cream (slightly thinner than regular MN version). She has them available in store but it would be cheaper to make your own.

My least favorite of the three dishes - Chiles Anchos

For the main course we tried Chiles Anchos en Salsa Verde and Chilaquiles Verdes. The Chiles Anchos were not my favorite. Anchos are dried poblano peppers (confusing since anchos are red and poblanos are green) so can be spicy or mild. This Minnesotan thought ours were spicy, while my Mexican thought they were mild. I was skeptical about the texture of Anchos since they start out dried, however, stuffed with cheese and drenched in smooth, creamy green salsa (it did not have the tartness of typical tomatillo salsa) they rehydrated perfectly. The skins were too bitter for my liking, but Mex found the dish ok. Not one we would order again.

Green Chilaquiles - my 15-month-old son LOVED these!

As easy as a Papa Murphy's pizza!

Chilaquiles are a Mexican version of a casserole (and, yes, I should say Hot Dish since I’m a Minnesotan, but you can see from the pictures that it really leans towards casserole). These were not exactly what I was expecting, since I’ve only had chilaquiles on their own. Basically fried pieces or tortilla, soaked in some kind of salsa until they get soft again. Sounds simple but they are amazingly good. Ana’s version of chilaquiles layers corn tortillas (not fried), shredded chicken breast, tangy tomatillo salsa and sprinkled creamy white cheese. Put in oven to bake for 25 minutes and it is all melded together and delicious.

Total spent on the three dishes (all small versions) was a little less than $22. Although, the small size is listed as 1-2 on website, ordering three dishes, it could easily feed three people. Add a tossed salad of your own if you want to bulk up the meal. Overall, a great option, flavorful and more economical than eating in a restaurant.

Rating: Repeat Eat  (if only I lived closer!)
1400 County Rd 101 N (same strip mall as Caribou), Plymouth

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Restaurant reviews

El Guapo’s Taqueria on the Cape

Guapo Shore Shack - not really sure what this VW bus has to do with Mexican food...

After a morning at one of the many over-crowded beaches in Cape Cod, our little boy passed out in his car seat. My husband and I went in search of some fish tacos. I used my Trip Advisor iPhone app, even though it has lead us to two closed restaurants in as many days. Called “El Guapo Taqueria” on Trip Advisor, the logo says “El Guapo’s” while the sign proclaims “Guapo Shore Shack” though it is at least two miles in from any shoreline. There are few seats inside, so be prepared to sit outside and hope for good weather. The menu boasts “Burritos, Burgers, Beer” and I would say they are more heavy on the Burgers than the Burritos.

Simple, crisp, and flavorful... Just the fish taco we were craving!

The fish tacos were simple and delicious. Two corn tortillas stacked up and some fried fish, piled with shredded cabbage, zingy lime cream dressing, chopped tomatoes and onion. The fish – local cod – was perfectly fried in a light, crispy batter which was not too thick or doughy. The plain shredded cabbage was fresh and plain, not tossed in a dressing like at some places.  Since chips and salsa were not free, we decided to “upgrade” to guacamole. Save your money folks! The chips were hard and had a semi-burnt taste like the frying oil needed changing. The guacamole had no spice or liminess, and there was a whole chunk of avocado the size of the seed in our small portion.

If you’re in the area the Fish tacos are worth the stop! Pick some up and take them with to the beach. Near the rail line bike trail as well.

Rating: Average – (great fish tacos but due to the staple of chips and guac being below par we can’t rate it too high)
239 Underpass Road
Brewster MA 02631

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Restaurant reviews

Goat Cheese Arepas with Black Bean Salsa

Arepas (ah-RAY-pahs) are more common in South America, originating in Venezuela, where they are the national dish. They are delicious, mouth-watering little corn cakes with a slight crisp on the outside and a soft, steamy sweetness on the inside. In fact, these sumptuous snack cakes are getting so popular, New York City actually has an Arepa Bar (Caracas Arepas – with locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Roneria) which was featured on an episode of Bobby Flay’s show “Throwdown” (and the sister’s who opened the place won!). They can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night snacks, stuffed, topped, sauced and salsa’d. You are only limited by your imagination with these golden goodies.

This recipe was inspired by a cooking class we took in 2009 at Kitchen Window on vegetarian appetizers. I apologize that I do not remember the chef who taught the class.  These are gluten-free, and vegetarian. The dough works well for our “Mexican” kitchen where we always have Masa Harina on hand. However, purists will tell you that true arepa dough is made from Harina P.A.N. which is pre-cooked cornmeal, instead of the corn flour of Masa Harina which is used to make tortillas. All you need to add to the Harina P.A.N. to make arepas is water and salt (and this would turn in to a vegan option).

Ingredients – Arepa dough

2 cup – fresh or frozen yellow corn kernels (we suggest not using canned corn as it has more moisture which can throw off the texture of the final product)

1/2 cup – milk, scalded – (can be any kind of milk, we use Skim only because that’s what we have on hand. To scald milk heat on medium until just before it gets a skin across the top)

1 cup – Masa flour (for tortillas) or extra-fine yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup or 4 oz – goat cheese, (preferably garlic herb) crumbled

3 TB – butter

The little bit of golden crisp = delicious!

Pinch of salt

Oil – (olive, canola, or vege) for the griddle or pan

Mixing it up

  • Use a saucepan to heat butter, scalded milk, and corn until it simmers. Put it in to a food processor and coarsely grind the corn and put in mixing bowl. Corn mixture will still be chunky.
  • Add Masa, cheese, and salt. Mix thoroughly by hand or with a spatula until the Masa is totally absorbed and the whole mixture is fairly smooth with the cheese evenly distributed. Drape a towel over the bowl and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Use a large melon baller or a small kitchen scoop to get some dough (about the size you would use for a cookie) and pat until flattened like a small pancake, about 2 – 3 inches across, smaller if appetizer, larger if main course. Put on to an oiled griddle or cast iron pan over a medium low heat until golden brown. About 3 minutes on each side. (TIP: do NOT every use soap on a cast iron pan. When you first purchase the pan treat it by rubbing it with salt and oil and heat up. Wipe off. Rub with more oil and heat again.)

Black Bean Salsa

One of the most colorful and fresh tasting salsas we make - even "cheating" with canned beans

2 cups cooked or 1 – 14 oz can Black beans (if you are making fresh beans, soak beans at least 3 hours before cooking or overnight if you have time. Soaking helps reduce bean-caused gas, and also helps them cook faster)

1/4 Cup – onion, either yellow, white or possibly green onions for a flavor twist

1/2 cup – Cilantro – chopped (you can put in less if you wish)

3 cloves of garlic – chopped fine

1 jalapeño pepper – minced (take out seeds and white interior ribs to reduce heat)

1/2 Bell pepper – any color – chopped (yellow is the “prettiest”)

2 med tomatoes (usually we use Roma) seeded and diced

Bright and colorful!

1/2 lime, juiced

Salt to taste

  • Combine all ingredients and stir well. Best to make the salsa at least an hour ahead of time, cover and let sit in fridge so the flavors have a chance to mix.

Serving it up

Spoon a generous helping of Black Bean salsa on top of the hot of the griddle arepa. Drizzle with Mexican crema (or mix regular sour cream with a little milk to thin it out). Add roasted red peppers or chipotle pepper to sour cream and mix in a blender for an extra layer of flavor. Top with some chopped avocado if you have some laying around.

The finished product.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Recipes, Vegetarian Recipe

Rojo Mexican Grill- West End

Ok. I must start by saying, I have been watching way too much day time TV this winter, being holed up in the house with a newborn. The chef from Rojo Mexican Grill has been doing mouth-watering cooking demonstrations on almost every local news show so I have been wanting to go there for months. The location was appealing to me since I have never been to the Shops at the West End in St. Louis Park, so when it was my turn to pick the location for Ladies’ Night Out, I had my mind made up in a flash.

Opened in August 2010, the restaurant is co-owned by Jason Merritt and Michael McDermott whose father founded Chi-Chi’s (which, by the way, is slang for a ladies “twins” – my hubby just about died laughing when he saw his first Chi-Chi’s sign – he thought it was a topless bar).

The cuisine is described as ‘”Traditional dishes… but with bold new flavors or in unique presentations.” The website also uses “traditional but with modern influence” to describe the decor. The restaurant is beautiful with the rich, red booths (Rojo means red), dark wood, stone, and shiny, silver steel blending together to create an inviting place to spend a few hours. There are display stations where you can see guacamole, salsa and tortillas being prepared. Though the concept of this appealed to me when choosing the restaurant, I actually was not a fan. I love tableside guac prep but as we were leaving the salsa table cook had on elbow length gloves and was reaching in to stir a big vat of salsa (which is more like pico de gallo in my opinion). Something about those gloves just threw me back to being on a dairy farm and seeing my dad pull on shoulder high gloves to “reach in” help the cow give birth. No fault of the restaurant, but I couldn’t shake that image and decided the idea of seeing my salsa prepped fresh is much better than the execution.

Our waiter was very friendly and helpful with recommendations for both drinks and food. I ordered the El Guapo which is Hornito tequila shaken with lemon and lime and then mixed with Ginger Ale. Sadly, though I expected the ginger ale to give it a crisp bite, the tequila taste dominated the glass. I often will enjoy a Paloma at home, which is tequila and Squirt or Fresca, with a salted rim. Divine! This makes me think that either the Ginger Ale isn’t a strong enough soda or the bartender was a little heavy on the liquor. At a hefty $7 for a short glass filled with ice, this was a costly disappointment.

Normally, I would gobble up my favorite Mexican street food – Cotija corn – which is on the appetizer menu. However, on an evening out with friends I didn’t want to get my cheeks smeared with cream and cheese which inevitable happens when eating this delectable treat. The tortilla soup ($3.50 for a cup) was served with less flair then expected for a restaurant that touts presentation of dishes, it was served in a simple cup with a sprinkle of crispy tortilla strips on top. Although the flavor was a satisfying blend of tomato and chile, the texture was grainy and unappealing.

For a main course, I ordered fish tacos and traded one of the two for a veggie taco. Served on corn tortillas, similar to a Mexican taco stand, both fillings were unusual. Expecting a more typical light atter on my fish, the sautéed version was refreshing but the cabbage slaw was a little sweet and carraway seeds seemed like a misplaced flavor. The vege taco was a combination of  corn, sweet potato, squash,  and black beans, giving it a very earthy, fall taste. Satisfying but I wanted it to have some kind of sauce to add moisture. Serving refried beans in a dish was a nice way to keep them from invading the space of other food (I despise when my food touches) they were very typical. Sticky rice?  Am I at an Asian restaurant or a Mexican one? It was tasty but, in my opinion, sweet rice will never belong at a Mexican table. The flavor is all wrong, contrary to traditional rice that has a nice tomato flavor which compliments typical dishes. 

Now I’ll say upfront that I’m a sucker for churros. How can a deep-fried doughy pastry covered in cinnamon sugar not tempt the taste buds? I’ll be blunt on this one. Though the presentation was brilliantly perfect for sharing, over a dozen two-inch churros mounded on the plate with chocolate and cream dippers… they were TERRIBLE. Saturated in grease, with almost no cinnamon and sugar, and chocolate sauce so bitter that it couldn’t even be enjoyed on its own. A big heartbreak for me on that one.

Overall, great atmosphere, and a beautiful modern design (although I don’t really see a lot of “Mexican influence”) to the restaurant that makes it a comfortable place to sit and sip, chat and nibble. Food was ok but overall impression of it was more on the disappointed side. And pricey too. The bill for just me was $29. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much at a Mexican restaurant.

Rojo Mexican Grill
1602 West End Boulevard
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Phone: 852-657-5385
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 am – 11 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am – 12 am, Sun 11 am – 10 pm
Reservations: Highly recommended, especially on weekends
Rating: A+ for atmosphere, average food (with exception of very below average churros)

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Restaurant reviews

Casa Lupita-White Bear Lake

Hard to spot sign. Look on south side of Hwy 96, in strip mall, next to abandoned gas station.

I must attribute the visit to this restaurant purely to Groupon because there is no way I would have noticed it by driving by on the road, despite the location on a busy four lane. The deal was $8 for $16 worth of food at Casa Lupita (though the restaurant website says New Casa Lupita)- White Bear

Small seating area and deli-style service

Lake (not St. Paul, like you’ll find listed some places on the web).  It was very hard for us to find. My

GPS directed us to Hwy 96 east of Cty Rd 61, and I see google maps also has the wrong location in some spots. The restaurant is located on Cty Rd 96 half-way between Hwy 35E and Cty 61 on the south side of the road, in a strip mall corner, next to an out-of-business gas station. Sounds like mouthful of a description but you’ll need the details to find it because there is only a small white sign with thin red letters.

Menu items range from $1.50 for a veggie taco ($0.99 tacos on Tuesday) to $8.79 for a House Specialty Plate  which includes one of three meats, rice, beans and tortillas.The restaurant is set up for deli-style counter service where you can see your meat, salsa, toppings options before you order and then they are assembled and prepared for you. The dining area is very small  (and a little dirty) so I’m guessing the place gets mostly take out business. According to the website, the restaurant, which opened in 2001, serves authentic recipes from the Castellanos family’s hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. I believe that this is the same family who owned the upscale D’Castellanos Mexican Restaurant that was in White Bear Lake and closed in 2007. My husband and I ate there once and he did not like it, while I thought it was good but expensive.

My husband decided on a chicken burrito with black beans, while I had green chicken enchiladas. We also ordered some chips (about $2) to help fill us up (deli-style Mexican restaurants typically do NOT serve complimentary chips and salsa). I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of green salsa (it is by far my favorite type of salsa) and I must admit I found this sauce surprisingly bland. Usually green salsa has a nice tart tang but this was neither sour nor sweet, instead the creamy mildness made me feel like it wasn’t fresh and lost its flavor sitting too long in the steam table. It was not bad, just different from usual green salsa and

Enchilada combination plate, burrito, chips with salsa

maybe more widely appealing to those who don’t like the typical tang of tomatillo sauce. The two enchiladas were served with traditional Mexican tomato rice and I chose black beans instead of refried ones.  The burrito was not an overloaded Chipotle-style (which is great from a calorie standpoint) but my husband thought it lacked in flavor. Possibly it was just his choice of toppings because he said the burrito was very dry.

Overall, not a bad place to stop for a quick bite (if you can find it) when you want Mexican food, especially take-out, but want to stay away from a chain. Serving sizes are filling and prices are reasonable. While, for us, it lacked “wow” flavor and was hard to find, I can’t complain about paying $8 for a meal for two, courtesy of Groupon. However, I don’t think we will stop again.

I definitely give the restaurant kudos for doing the Groupon thing because over 1127 people purchased the Groupon and I’m guessing many of the purchasers (like us) would not normally stop at this somewhat hidden location.

(New) Casa Lupita Mexican Restaurant
1350 Highway 96 E
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Phone: 651-762-2948
Fax: 651-331-2422
Hours:  Mon – Sat, 11 am – 8:30 pm
Special deals: $0.99 tacos on Tuesday
No reservations
Take-out available
Rating: Worth a stop if in area. Not a repeat eatery.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Restaurant reviews

Fiesta Mexicana – Red Wing

After a very stressful week at work, my husband and I decided to take a last-minute, pre-baby weekend trip south to Red Wing. At 9 months pregnant, all I wanted to do was turn my phone off, take a leisurely walk by the river then sprawl myself out on the king size bed, my puffy legs on top of a mound of pillows, flipping between the National Geographic Channel and Food Network.

On Saturday, night we decided to go out to Fiesta Americana Mexican Restaurant. Ugh, is all I can say about this place.  While the atmosphere was typical bright colors and murals, what I would call “cheesy” Mexican decor, and the staff was friendly (and Hispanic which we use as a gauge of a restaurants “authenticness”), the food was absolutely horrible. My husband ordered the fish tacos and I ordered a combination platter of green enchilada, tostada, and taco. The tortillas on his tacos literally dripped grease. It was as if someone dipped them in oil to fry them but then changed their mind and filled them with toppings instead.

My combo plate was buried under about 1/2 a head of lettuce and it was hard to tell where one started and the other left off. The tostada was so loaded with meat and toppings that the crispy tortilla base snapped when I tried to pick it up. I guess if there is a positive it would be that you get a LOT of food for your money on the combo plate. Luckily for my husband I couldn’t finish it so he was able to eat something. 

Fiesta Mexicana
2918 North Service Drive
Red Wing MN 55066
Rating:  Lots of food for cheap price,, BUT not always edible. DON’T get fish tacos. Would NOT go back.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Restaurant reviews