Taco Night

Tacos are versatile, easy to prepare and fun to eat. Last night I prepared two taco offerings, Quinoa & Sweet Potato and Grilled Citrus Chicken. A relaxed taco party is a great way to unwind and celebrate dinner. Here are my tips and recipes for a taco night to remember!

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Prep Schedule

1. Ambiance: Create a festive space outside, set the tablecloth, put on some party music, bring out the drinks and prepare cocktails.

2. Light the charcoal and cook: It takes 30 to 40 minutes for the charcoal chimney to work its magic. In the meantime, I cooked the quinoa and sweet potatoes, marinated the chicken, grabbed the Sriracha and prepped the cilantro, avocado, fresh lime, chili and queso fresco.

3. Serving outside: To save time, I keep a stack of trays and cutting boards close by to transport drinks, food and serving pieces outside. We dine outside almost every night and the trays keep me organized, making clean up a breeze. Before heading outside, I stacked every item I needed on two trays. I placed the tray full of fresh toppings on the dining table, before heading to the grill with cutting board and tongs.

4. Grilling: Once the charcoal was dumped and spread evenly, I waited for the grates to warm up and then grilled the chicken. Once finished, the chicken rested on the cutting board under a tent of aluminum foil. I placed each corn tortilla on the grill for 10 to 15 seconds per side.

Recipes : Quinoa & Sweet Potato Tacos – Serves 4

Quinoa

  • 1 cup of organic red quinoa, rinsed
  • 2  1/4 cups of water
  • 1 cracked garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced

Add quinoa and water to a medium sauce pan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, keep covered and cook for 10 minutes. The grains will crack slightly and soften. Turn off heat and discard garlic clove. Stir in cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and peel potatoes, cut into large dice. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Mix quinoa and sweet potatoes, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with warm corn tortillas and fresh toppings.

Grilled Citrus Chicken Tacos – Serves 4 

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 lemon – juice and zest
  • 1 lime – juice and zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire, around 375 to 450 degrees F. Pound chicken breasts to 3/4 of an inch, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour juice and zest over chicken and coat, marinate for at least 30 minutes. Grill 6 to 8 minutes per side, first searing the meat and then moving it to a cooler spot on the grill if needed. When fully cooked, the internal temperature of chicken should be 165 degrees F. Anticipate some carry over cooking once the chicken is removed from the grill, let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze fresh lime over the chicken and slice thinly at the table. Serve with warm corn tortillas and fresh toppings.

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Local ingredients : Bloomingfoods East is my go-to store for buying organic and local ingredients. Currently, they are offering organic Miller Farm’s Amish Chicken, along with local sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

Drink pairings:  Michael enjoyed a beer with his tacos, New Belgium’s Rolle Bolle. This summer seasonal ale is brewed with soursop and monk fruit and is slightly tart and citrusy. I chose Hudson Vineyards Grenache Rose. The wine is fruity, with floral notes and a touch of minerality. It was great with the grilled chicken.

What is your favorite taco?  Grains, beans, pickled vegetables and fish are other exciting options for Taco Night. Please share your favorite taco ingredients with me in the comments.

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Restaurant Review : La Torre

La Torre is a quaint Mexican restaurant on the eastside of Bloomington, very close to our new home. This summer I have spent countless hours enjoying the company of close friends on the terrace. We enjoy baskets of crispy corn tortilla chips, fresh salsa, tacos, carnitas, enchiladas and tasty drinks. The vibe is relaxed and the service is great. We dined there just last Saturday and Michael summed up our time spent at La Torre by saying “I feel like I am on vacation every time I sit on this patio.” This is why we go back again and again.

Mike enjoying “vacation”

La Torre highlights:

  • The welcome is always warm and inviting. The first interaction with staff sets the tone for the experience and La Torre gets it right.
  • Try the west terrace for great seating. The hanging stretched canvas sun shields do their job for the most part although don’t forget your sunglasses and arrive after 7pm for an all shaded terrace.
  • The servers are kind and gracious and they have never rushed our experience. Typically we won’t order dinner until we have enjoyed ourselves for at least a half an hour, sometimes longer. The food comes out so fast!
  • The Saturday and Sunday brunch menu is amazing with a separate menu of unique Mexican dishes, fresh squeezed juices and fun cocktails. My friend Matthew introduced me to the shrimp cocktail in tomato juice and lime….to die for.

The standard menu offers all the typical Mexican fare. I am a chicken taco gal with a soft corn tortilla, no cheese a little raw white onion and lots of cilantro. The tacos are full of flavor and the tortillas are pillowy and fresh. Sometimes if I am feeling extra hungry I will order rice and beans.

The drink menu is well rounded offering beer, cocktails and lots of tequila. When we have a crowd a bucket of Mexican beer is a must. Choose any combination of 6 beers and the icy bucket is delivered to your table with fresh limes on the side. We usually go for Negra Modelo (Michael’s favorite), Corona (my favorite) and Dos Equis Amber or Lager. I am a huge fan of silver tequila, blanco. If I am feeling frisky I will order a chilled shot to enjoy with my chips and salsa. It is a great way to kick off dinner!

The restaurant hosted a tequila dinner a few weeks ago and my friend Charlie attended. He said the dinner was a fun experience with interesting food and tequila pairings. I have heard they may schedule a tequila dinner every month!  As La Torre adds services and events I will update the new offerings here. Check out their website for more information by clicking here.

Brunch Magic: Green Chile and Goat Cheese Frittata

Oh how I love Sunday mornings full of great company, delicious food, fresh coffee and sunshine! We dine al fresco in the backyard and always have a wonderful time. I look forward to Sunday brunch all week and with that comes a little pre-planning. This week I knew I wanted to incorporate some roasted chiles and goat cheese into a frittata. The roastiness of the chiles with the creamy toasted goat cheese were a perfect pairing. I served the frittata with corn tortillas instead of toast. I am in love with corn tortillas as of late and they are a great match with this dish. This recipe is so easy, just the way I like it at brunch.

Green Chile and Goat Cheese Frittata

Heat a 10 inch skillet over medium-low heat , add a 1/2 tablespoon of butter and turn your oven to a low broil. Start with 1 cup of roasted, chopped green chiles. Gather 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano, wash and chop it. Crack 10 eggs into a mixing bowl and beat fiercely until the yolk and white are combined and the eggs are foaming.

Pour the eggs into the skillet, add the green chiles and oregano and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and fresh pepper. Let cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the frittata is set.

Crumble 3 or 4 tablespoons of fresh goat cheese, Capriole is my favorite, over the top and place under the broiler until the top sets and the cheese toasts a bit, about 2 or 3 minutes. WATCH IT CLOSELY. I inherited the ability to place a beautifully prepared dish under the broiler only to come back to a completely scorched mess. I have watched my mother burn garlic bread a thousand times, I love you MOM! My rule is do not walk away, do not have a conversation, do not look at the dog and tell him how cute he is. ALL EYES ON FRITTATA.

Heat 6 corn tortillas on the stove top in a skillet. Cut the tortillas in half when warmed through and wrap the bunch in aluminum foil.

Top the frittata with a little fresh oregano before serving. Serve the frittata in the pan for a lovely presentation with the tortillas on the side. A little Cholula hot sauce drizzled over the top is a great addition.

Here is a tip, the edges of the frittata become goldey brown and caramelized, carmelized = flavor. This is the best part and I always go for a little edge in every piece. Enjoy!

Green Chile and Goat Cheese Frittata served with Cholula hot sauce and Corn Tortillas