Condiments


What goes with almost any Mexican dish . . . Guacamole of course!  It’s a favorite for dipping, as well as topping burritos, enchiladas and nachos.  And since I’m celebrating Cinco de Mayo, I thought I’d show you how I make guacamole in a molcajete.  Molcajetes are used to crush and grind spices as well as preparing salsas and guacamole.  In Mexico they are made from porous basalt volcanic rock, typically round in shape with a bowl in the center supported by 3 legs.  The tool used to grind is called tejelote and made from the same material. A molcajete brings out the most amazing aroma by grinding the ingredients into the volcanic stone.  There is an earthiness that heightens your senses of smell and taste. By grinding each ingredient you create a layer of flavors that will come together in the most amazing way.  Every time I make guacamole in a molcajete I think it’s the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted. . . and then I make it again!  Happy Cinco de Mayo!! (more…)

Loaded-Fries-3

As promised here’s another idea for any leftover Mayan pork.  While Josh enjoyed a Mayan pork sandwich from the food truck, I had a platter of Loaded Fries.  Oh boy were they good!  The fries were crispy and loaded with cheese sauce, fresh pico, cilantro lime cream and lots of Mayan pulled pork.  It was way too much for this girl to eat but I gave it my best shot!
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Mayan-Pork-Tacos-17

Recently I had my first food truck experience.  Here in KC there is an old warehouse district called the West Bottoms that’s been converted into a huge flea market that happens every first Friday/weekend of the month.  If you love all things vintage then this is the place to be.  They have anything and everything you can think of displayed in these beautiful old warehouses. People spend hours perusing through the old buildings looking for treasure.  There aren’t many places to eat down there except for a line of food trucks that are parked along the streets.  We walked the streets looking at all the food trucks each with their own artistic style and various menus, it was hard to choose.  We decided on “American Fusion” which offered a small menu but caught our attention.  Josh had their “Mayan Pork” sandwich aka Cochinita Pibil, a slow roasted Mexican pork from the Yucatan peninsula of Mayan origin.  First of all, it practically melts in your mouth, it was that tender.  And the flavor, it was amazing with a hint of smoky sweet flavors.  I was inspired!!  After researching everything I could find on how to make this delicious pulled pork I have finally created my own version.  First thing on the menu Mayan Pork Tacos . . . . with more to come!
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Pork-and-Veggie-Potstickers-15

Today marks 5 years of An Inspired Cook!  I never thought this venture would be so rewarding, but it has truly been a lifesaver for me.  I love that my favorite recipes will forever have a place for my kids and family to go to for inspiration and bring back memories of our time together around the kitchen table.  I look back on the past 5 years as a labor of love, one that I have enjoyed so much more than I would have ever imagined.  I’ve been on an Asian food kick lately, partly because it’s so easy to make especially on these hot summer days when it’s just too darn hot to turn on the oven.  These potstickers are so good I made extra to put in the freezer.  I found that making fresh potstickers take only a few minutes to prepare and frozen take about 2 to 3 minutes more. What could be better than that!  I packaged 18 dumplings per freezer bag and thought we’d have enough for several weeks.  Turns out they are more popular than I thought and are just about gone.  I guess it’s time to make some more!
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Bacos-8

Have you ever watched “Taco Trip” on the Cooking Channel?  My sister Kat told me about this show hosted by Aaron Sanchez taking a look at the best tacos across several cities.  I started watching and couldn’t stop thinking about all those tantalizing tacos.  One that stood out was an Asian taco from New Orleans at the Pho Bistreaux that they called Bacos.  It’s made with marinated strips of pork shoulder and topped with pickled carrots, cilantro and sliced jalapenos. A steamed bun or Banh Bao is used in place of a tortilla.  You can make the dough by hand or there is a pre-made flour mix that you can find at an Asian food store.  While looking for the mixed flour I happened upon some frozen pre-made buns which I thought would be easier especially for my first time making these.  The frozen pre-made buns steamed perfectly but I think I will give the mixed flour a try next time.  The chef at Pho Bistreaux gave away many of the ingredients but she wouldn’t disclose her master marinade sauce which she said had only 5 ingredients.  So I put on my thinking cap and came up with my own 5 ingredients that I thought would make a tasty marinade.  I was amazed at how yummy these tacos tasted.  There are a lot of flavors layered on these tiny steamed buns and I can see why they are so popular!
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Sweet-and-Spicy-Brown-Sugar-Bacon-7

Some people believe everything tastes better with bacon.  I have to admit I have a weakness for bacon too.  Bacon is my go to breakfast meat but it also perks up a salad, adds flavor to soups and makes any sandwich taste better.  So when I heard about brown sugar bacon I was intrigued.  The sweetness was evident in the brown sugar but I wanted some spice too so I added some chile flakes.  It was an amazing combination.  Before it all disappeared I saved a few slices for my favorite pasta sauce, a grilled chicken sandwich and a spinach salad.
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Detroit-Coney-with-Cheese-Sauce-9

If you’ve ever been to Detroit you know that there is a Coney Island restaurant located every few blocks.  You never have to look far to find one, just go down any street and you will eventually run into one.  Each diner has an extensive menu with every kind of hot dog you can imagine plus a full breakfast menu and family style entrees too.  The great thing about it is that the food is good and cheap.  At least it was during the time that Joe and I lived there.  My favorite thing was the Detroit Coney with Cheese Sauce.  Oh, that gooey cheese sauce was so good!  And finally I’ve found a recipe to make a homemade cheese sauce that captures that smooth and creamy taste. I’ve tried to make it with different cheeses and thickeners but it always came out with a texture that was gritty or chalky. The recipe posted on Serious Eats breaks down the science of how cheese melts.  They also tested different variations like milk, cream cheese and mayo to make the perfect cheese sauce.  They figured out the components which makes cheese sauce creamy like you might find at a Fuddruckers restaurant.  You will find none of the background graininess in this sauce because it doesn’t require flour to thicken it.  The scientific key has much to do with the concentration of milk fat.  They discovered that evaporated milk is more concentrated with much of its water content removed.  Combined with cornstarch to thicken the sauce makes the cheese melt silky smooth. Thanks to Serious Eats I can now make the perfect cheese sauce!
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