Fish Tacos – A nod to Cinco de Mayo

Growing up in Ohio, the 5th of May just came and went like any other day.  When I first moved to California, this day came and there was much ado about it everywhere. Cinco de what-o? was my initial reaction. But now that I’ve lived here 20 years (wow, just did the math on that one, and I surprised myself), a little Mexican fare is almost obligatory on this much-feted day.

This year though, we had been doing kid stuff all weekend down in San Diego and returned home late Sunday afternoon. Cinco had just snuck up on me.  What to make? I decided to pull out a quick and easy one, and a definite crowd pleaser in our house – fish tacos!

A while back we discovered a winning sauce combination and THAT is what makes these such a favorite in the house.  The 3 year old was once heard proclaiming at the table on fish taco night, “I could eat fish tacos every single night, Mom.”

So here’s the dish on the secret sauce – equal parts mayo and sour cream (we usually do 1/2 cup of each) mixed with the juice of 1 lime and about a Tbsp. of fresh grated lime zest. Try it and you won’t regret it.

The second thing that makes these a fav among the kids, is that they get the joy of assembling their own taco – think culinary Legos. So I serve up lots of options when I serve fish tacos – fresh cabbage (my personal favorite), grated cheese, salsa, corn and beans, cilantro, avocado, rice, and lime wedges to name a few.

While I am prepping all of my accompaniments for the tacos, I have the fish cooking in the oven.  I prefer using Trader Joe’s Breaded Cod Fillets, but really any fish choice will work. After the fish is

crispy, I just cut it into shred-like pieces.

The kids plates look a little different than mine as they create their own taco concoctions, but at least they’re getting a healthy Cinco dinner no matter how it ends up on the plate.

Happy Cinco de Mayo . . . or any other day that “assembling” seems more appealing than “cooking” to you!

Cheesy Quinoa Bake

I have to admit, I wasn’t a quinoa fan at first sight. I found it bland and a bit texture odd, and I’m all about the texture of food.  But I had heard about and read about (http://www.livestrong.com/article/346908-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-quinoa/) its great health benefits and so I didn’t give up on my quest for a palatable version of this great protein source.  Well, I think we finally found it when I happened upon this inspiration recipe for a Crispy Quinoa Bake.

To start with, you take the quinoa and rinse it thoroughly for 2 minutes. I’m not sure exactly how the rinsing ordeal affects the final texture outcome, but I’m convinced that it does have some impact on giving this dish a better texture.

After rinsing it, you heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a pan and then add the quinoa, stir a couple of minutes until it begins to dry and pop, and then add the veggie broth. Cover it and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed – about 20 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, sautée one chopped onion and half of a chopped red pepper for about ten minutes.  Then add in a clove of garlic chopped and a couple of medium zucchinis diced. Sautée for another couple of minutes.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork and then combine the quinoa and onion mixture.  To this, add black beans, diced tomatoes, frozen corn, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, and lime juice.

Once everything is well blended, place in a 9×13 casserole dish sprayed with oil.  Bake the whole deal at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle the top with grated Mexican blend cheese and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.

I think it’s great served with a little sour cream and accompanied by some corn bread and a simple green salad.

This dish is also great because you can basically clear out the fridge with odds and ends and put them in the bake.  I have added shredded carrots, kale, chard, brussel sprouts, and scallions to name a few.

For those who like precision, here are the actual quantities:1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups veggie broth

1 cup onion, diced (about 1 medium)
1//2 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup zucchini, cubed (about 2 small)
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 4 ounce can diced green chiles
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup canned corn, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 lime, juiced
Salt
2 cups shredded mexican cheese blend