This is another recipe that I got from the Nordstrom Flavors Cookbook and it has quickly become a favorites of Robert’s and appears on the weekly menu multiple times a month.  It’s easy to make and includes a lot of fresh vegetables that I think sets it apart from other taco recipes.  And the cilantro lime vinaigrette is a unique and delicious addition to the palette of flavors contained in this dish.  So, without further adieu, let’s get on with the recipe.

Ingredients:
Vinaigrette:
1 T seasoned rice vinegar
2 T fresh lime juice
1 T honey
1 small garlic clove minced
1 t minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce (canned in Hispanic section of grocery store)
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

 

Chicken Taco Filling:
2 T canola oil (olive oil can be substituted)
1 pound ground chicken (or turkey if chicken not available)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2t kosher salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T fresh lime juice
1 T soy sauce (I use reduced sodium and it works great)

 

Start with making the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.  Combine in a food processor the vinegar, lime juice, honey, garlic, chili and salt and blend until smooth.  Then with the machine running, pour the the oil in a small, steady stream to make a thick sauce.  Then gradually add the cilantro until the mixture is a dark green in color.

To make the taco filling, heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat and add the chicken, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through with no pink.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add lime juice and soy sauce to skillet and simmer until almost completely reduced.  Serve in soft flour tortillas with chopped yellow bell pepper, chopped cherry tomatoes, shredded romaine lettuce, queso fresco and vinaigrette.  We also add guacamole and salsa to the tacos for additional flavors.

Here is a picture of the taco meat with all the sides from our dinner the other night.  Hope you enjoy this favorite meal of ours!

The spread of taco filling and all the fixins

The spread of taco filling and all the fixins

Office Pranks

May 20, 2009

Robert and I are HUGE fans of the TV show “The Office”.  In fact we now own three seasons on DVD and watch them repeatedly.  One of our favorite parts of each episode is when Jim plays a prank on Dwight.  I’ve always been a big fan of pranks.  In fact, in college my roommates and I were involved in a prank war with another house of some of our guy friends.  It didn’t last that long (the guys chose not to respond to our final prank of flouring and q-tipping thier yard) but we had a blast all the same.

Today, my office in Dallas City Hall decided that the best way to wish our co-worker “Happy Birthday” was to pull a series of pranks on him.  First of all, you must know that we are probably one of the most light-hearted departments in all of City Hall.  We have office parties (think Party Planning Committee) and team lunches and all out goofing around from time to time.  Second, Corey is a huge self-promoter.  He started announcing his upcoming birthday three weeks ago and informed the office that we would be making a big to-do about it. 

So we decided to give him what he asked for and made a BIG deal about pulling pranks on him for his birthday.  It all started with wrapping his cubicle in yellow CAUTION tape from the Fire Department that I just happened to have in my car from a previous project.

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Corey's desk after being wrapped in Caution tape

Corey discovering his newly decorated cubicle

Corey discovering his newly decorated cubicle

As you may be able to tell from the photos, we succeeded in surprising Corey for his birthday.  I don’t Corey will ever make the mistake of over-publicizing a birthday of his ever again.

I love food.  I love the way various ingredients come together to make a culinary piece of art.  Initially, while I loved food, I did not enjoy cooking myself.  Until recently.  Now I find the art of cooking enjoyable and even, at times, relaxing.  A few months back my friend Rachel started posting some of her family’s favorite recipes on her blog to share with her blog readers.  Rachel and I used to cook a meal for our husbands together back when we were in grad school at A&M, so this element of her blog helps me feel like we’re cooking together again.  Following in her footsteps, I have decided to have a weekly installment of our favorite recipes and term it “Tasty Tuesdays”. 

The first installment of Tasty Tuesdays will be a Mocha Bread Pudding.  

I found this recipe in the Nordstrom Flavors Cookbook and it has become a staple for when we are asked to bring dessert to a dinner party.  It’s really simple to make but looks like it takes a whole lot more work than it actually does. (which makes you look like a fabulous cook!) Be forewarned, it is very rich but worth every bite.  The recipe makes a lot so for dinners with 5 or fewer people, I recommend halving the recipe and using an 8×8 pan.  Otherwise you will end up eating bread pudding for a week, which may not be a bad thing after all.

 Ingredients

Unsalted butter for baking dish

1 cup strong brewed coffee (I recommend using Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory)

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs

6 large egg yolks

1 loaf french bread (1 pound) preferably a day old and cut into 1 inch squares

8 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I recommend Ghiradelli)

Powdered Sugar for dusting

 If your bread is not a day old, cut it into 1 inch pieces spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely before adding to the custard.

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 9×13 in baking dish.

 In a small saucepan over high heat, boil the coffee until reduced to 2 tablespoons.  Remove from heat at set aside.

 In a heavy-bottomed sauce-pan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk and granulated and brown sugars and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until blended.  Whisking constantly, gradually add the hot cream mixture.  Whisk in the reduced coffee.  Add the bread and stir gently to coat with the custard.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the bread has absorbed most of the custard (about 20 minutes).  Fold in the chocolate.  Spread in the prepared baking dish and cover with aluminum-foil.  (I have found that if you let it sit a little longer, say 20 minutes after the chocolate is mixed in, the pudding has a firmer and more full texture.  If you don’t have the 20 minutes to spare it definitely won’t hurt the flavor to cook it after folding in the chocolate.)

 Bake the pudding until it looks set around the edges, about 40 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 15 minutes more.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

 Sprinkle powdered sugar on top for garnish if desired and serve.

When I was younger, I prided myself on how independent I was.  Starting at age 7, I would leave my parents for weeks at a time and visit my grandparents or go to camps and never get homesick.  I loved my parents and my home but I think I enjoyed the fact that I could, to some degree, take care of myself.  Leaving San Marcos to move to College Station to attend Texas A&M was one of the most exciting moments in my young adult life.  Finally, I was being given the opportunity to prove that I was capable of living on my own.

My independent spirit thrived at A&M.  During my 6 years there my parents practically had to beg me to come home for a visit while many of my other friends went home every available weekend, especially that freshman year.  I even took several trips overseas during that time to further punctuate how independent I truly was.  When I studied abroad in Italy for 2 months, it was my mom who couldn’t handle the one phone call a week rule that Dad established, not me.  I was doing just fine. 

Grad school, internship at the White House and moving to Dallas were more stepping stones on my road of independence.  That was, until, I got engaged to Robert.  All of a sudden, I needed his opinion on virtually every decision I made.  I couldn’t commit to dinner or an evening out with friends without first consulting Robert.  And the strangest part was it felt so natural.  My independent spirit that so frequently wanted to buck off any notion of dependency was content. 

I believe it came to rest on the fact that depending on Robert in our relationship, in our marriage, was simply just the next iteration of what it means to be an independent woman.  I had left the umbrella of my parents’ household and authority and had joined a new household with Robert.  WE were independent, together, and while that may seem like an oxymoron I think it’s perfect. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this independent dependance this week as Robert has been away from Dallas in Maine with our good friend Jim.  I’ve gotten used to having Robert around so much that I find myself not knowing what to do when I’m by myself.  Well I guess that’s not entirely true.  I’ve been a very busy woman this week with two neighborhood meetings for work and a prolonged dinner with a good friend.  I’ve literally only been home long enough to sleep, get ready for work and head out of the door.

And while I enjoyed my independence this week, I am beyond excited that I will be picking Robert up at the airport tonight at 6:30pm!  It will be great to return to the normal state of life with Robert that I now loving call my independent dependency.

The Law School Widow

May 7, 2009

Many of you may see the tag line here and wonder “what do they mean by ‘law school widow?'”  A law school widow can be defined as a woman who has lost her husband to the black hole of law school.  The idea for the term came from a comic “PhD Comics” entitled “PhD Widows” where there is a support group for spouses of PhD students.

phd-widows1

While I am fortunate that my husband does, in fact, know when he will be graduating, there still are times when it feels like this journey of law school will never end.  This feeling mainly arises around finals when I see Robert briefly for dinner before he returns to the law library only to come home after I’m long asleep.  Then we wake up and the cycle starts all over again. 

Fortunately, this round of finals will be over tomorrow evening at 8pm.  At that point we will have successfully survived the first year of law school!  I say we because while Robert may be the only one in the classes and taking the exams, I have found that I am just as stressed out (or sometimes more so) as Robert in the days leading up to an exam or brief.  And trust me, this level of stress is way harder than the stress I was under in grad school because at least then I could study and work to make me feel better.  Now all I can do is encourage Robert, provide him with food and pray.

This first year of marriage and law school has been a good one.  We’ve been stretched and challenged in ways we never expected and have learned how each other responds to the various stresses in our lives.  Two weeks from today we will move out of our first apartment into a condo a mere three blocks from SMU’s campus, in particular the law library and law quad.  We are very excited about this new location as it will allow for Robert to more easily access the resources at the library and it may even enable us to eat earlier on certain nights since he can pop in for dinner and get back to campus for class within 5 minutes!   We’ll be sure to post pictures of our new home once we get moved in and settled, we think you’ll like it too.