Tortillas to the Rescue Cookbook Review with Southwestern Caesar Salad Recipe

My family eats tortillas quite a bit.  Usually corn or a wheat/corn blend that we use for tacos and burritos.  However after receiving the new Tortillas to the Rescue Cookbook by Jessica Harlan, I’m definitely branching out.  Who knew tortillas could make a good spicy crouton or a cup for mexican chocolate pudding?  This is a handy guide for new foods with tortillas.  Recipes are good for quick mid-week breakfast, snacks and dinner.  Who doesn’t eat tortillas?  Tortillas are so accessible, my kids also enjoyed going through the book and getting ideas.  They were even able to help with making and assembling lots of the recipes.

My family made our own vegetarian version of the book’s Chorizo and Cojack Taquitos.  Because taquitos are generally fried I don’t think my kids have ever eaten them.  And I’ve never made them.  But these were rolled and placed on a baking sheet with a light brush of oil – so no frying.  I don’t usually buy flour tortillas so the kids were very excited.   You could stuff these with anything.  We substituted the recipe’s chorizo for vegan sausages – which worked great.  You could pick veggies or chicken or change the cheese – and they’d all be great.  These were a big hit.

With the taquitos I made the Southwestern Caesar Salad with tortilla croutons (see recipe below).  The croutons were such a hit everyone was wanting to eat them like chips before the salad was even dressed.  Kids for some reason usually like caesar salad.  I guess it’s the cheesy dressing.  This dressing was lighter and leaned toward the southwestern flavors which was nice.  I substituted veganaise for the mayonnaise.  The quantity of dressing was probably double what I needed but coincidentally we were invited to friends for a tamale dinner later in the week so I saved the dressing and made a new salad and croutons to share.


Book Review

Pros: easy recipes, creative ideas with a basic and accessible ingredient, tortilla info for storage and nutrition

Cons: no photos, may be too simple for some


Southwestern Caesar Salad from Tortillas to the Rescue by Jessica Harlan

Serves 4

Smoky Tortilla Crouons

4 small (6 inch) flour tortillas

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika teaspoon kosher salt


juice of 2 limes (about 4 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 head romaine lettuce


1. To make the tortilla croutons: Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Brush the tortillas with oil on both sides.  Cut the tortillas with a knife or pizza cutter into 1 x 2 inch strips.  Place them in a bowl and sprinkle lightly with paprika and salt, using a spatula to toss and coat evenly.  Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp about 10 – 12 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.

2. To make the salad: In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, mustard, garlic, mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese until smooth.  While whisking drizzle the oil until dressing is smooth and emulsified.  Just before serving, tear the lettuce by hand into bite size pieces and place in a serving bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing and toss to coat.  Top with tortilla croutons.


Friends and Lemonade – A Perfect Combo


My daughter had a friend over on a sunny afternoon and the first thing they wanted to do was set up a lemonade stand.  I was a bit taken back.  I’ve never done this before as an adult.  It seemed this needed some planning and lemons.  Hmmmmm… well I had 5 lemons.  So I said we could make a small pitcher.  (and I don’t have a plastic one).  I got to work on the simple syrup.  I realize not everyone does it like this, but this was the part that I knew and was easy for me.  Actually my daughter went to her first lemonade stand where the lemonade was from a carton.  (I told myself it didn’t matter as long as they had fun)  But certainly if I’m the mom of the stand, we’re going to make it.  The girls then remembered some chocolate chip muffins I had made the day before and asked if they could sell those too.  They sure were entrepreneurial!

squeeeeeeeeze!more squeeeezing


The girls made signs and talked price.  I overheard $1 per item and I suggested it be $1 for a combo muffin and lemonade but only fifty cents on their own.  They were ok with that.  Here’s where I felt a struggle.  You want the lemonade stand to be cute and genuine, not greedy.  It was coming together and my first timer stress was relieved.

Did I mention we live at the end of a steep shared driveway?  I think this is why the idea for the stand was stressful for me too.  We decided we’d have to locate it down the drive and at the park.  It was a lovely day and we thought this might actually mean a few customers and traffic.  It took my husband and I and the girls to haul all the stand items to the park.  There was a plastic tub to set the sale items ( I guess the actual “stand”).  The pitcher.  Glass at that.  Note to self – buy plastic pitcher for next time.  Muffin tray.  Tea towel. Plastic cups.   Again I didn’t have throw away,  so I instructed the girls to please have them returned.


The girls set everything up and after about five minutes left dad in charge and they were going to recruit people to come over from the playground.  I went back up to get a change box and when I returned my husband was at the stand and the girls were playing on the swings at the park.  I didn’t have high hopes for the endeavor and my husband had things under control so I left for an errand.


I was very surprised to come home and find everything back home with only a few muffins left and an empty pitcher.  They made $5 total and split the profits (the girls, not my husband).  Apparently there were customers and the girls got busy.  I think it was a success!  The girls had fun, my husband spent some time in the sunshine and we have simple syrup ready for the next lemonade stand request.  Just have to remember those lemons…




Iron Chef Event Benefits Leah’s Pantry


As I’ve mentioned before I am very proud to be a member of the board of directors of Leah’s Pantry, a non-profit organization which provides multi lingual cooking workshops and nutrition education to seniors, families and children living in transitional housing and homeless shelters throughout the Bay Area and San Diego.  Last week we had our first fundraising event to raise funds and awareness for a new Leah’s Pantry initiative – Food Smarts Cook It! Kits.  These kits are filled with basic cooking items (slow cooker, spices, knives, cutting board) to enable seniors and individuals living in SRO’s (single residency occupant hotels) to create healthy food for themselves and neighbors without relying on free meals from St. Anthony’s and Glide.


What better way to showcase cooking than a San Francisco Iron Chef style competition?  The competitors were Dennis Leary of Canteen restaurant and Jennifer Puccio from Park Tavern.  Both chefs were very generous with their expertise and time as they cooked from a surprise bag of ingredients with shrimp as the main protein.  There were two 15 minute competitions – one for an appetizer course and one a main dish.  Unfortunately I was not a judge, as the food looked and smelled wonderful.  Thankfully there was plenty of wine and tasty food provided by Haight Street Market, for the rest of us to enjoy while the chefs cooked and the judges reviewed.  The event was held on a beautifully warm night in San Francisco (that rarely happens) at the owner of Tante Marie’s cooking school.  Mary was a delight, as was her welcoming home and lovely garden.


There were some special guests and judges including San Francisco Supervisors representing those in the neighborhoods where Leah’s Pantry is educating such as the Tenderloin and Bayview Hunter’s Point.  There were also some loyal community organizations such as Hamilton House, that first partnered with Leah’s Pantry six years ago when it was founded.  There was a raffle held prior to the event and the winners won a spot at judges table and as sous chefs.  Sounded intimidating at first, but everyone had a great time.  A real Iron Chef winner, celebrity chef  and restauranteur Kerry Simon of KGB and Prime restaurants in Las Vegas and Los Angeles also stopped by to lend support.  Hopefully this will become an annual event and expanded to include more spectators.  I’ll let you know…




Crisp Rice Treats – Familiar but Vegan

O.K. so everyone calls these Rice Krispies treats even though they are made with other rice crisp  cereal and vegan marshmallows.  I guess it’s like calling a tissue a Kleenex.  Anyways, I thought these would be fun to make and package for my daughter’s soccer team snack.  My box had a peanut butter version, so I went online to look up the original.  This was a fun one to do with my kids.  Super easy.  I realized I hadn’t made these in quite a while when my son looked into the pot with an amazed face and said “Wow, these are cool looking!”


How can 3 little ingredients add to so much fun, ease and taste?  The thing is we don’t buy Rice Krispies Cereal (high fructose corn syrup) or regular marshmallows.  No worries.  We used Trader Joe’s Puffed Rice cereal (Ewewhorn makes one too – no GMO’s and organic) and found vegan, gelatin free marshmallows  (Dandies’ or Sweet & Sara).  Of course once my vegetarian daughter found out what was in regular marshmallows (gelatin is made of hides and  bone) she wasn’t haven’t any.  I don’t blame her – yuck!  I bet you could even make this recipe with vegan sticks, but no need to go there if you don’t have to.  The expense of the marshmallows alone is twice that of the regular gelatinous ones.  The funny thing is even one of my daughter’s friends who apparently rejected one of these earlier in the day at Starbuck’s, ate this version after the game.  Maybe we’re on to something.  Of course most people didn’t know about the vegan marshmallows so when another family made Rice Crispy treats another game my daughter passed and said they weren’t vegetarian and told the dad all about what’s in marshmallows.  Oops!  We need to work on simply saying “no thank you” without a political or nutritional statement.


Here’s the recipe, which may not be on the box of other  rice cereal.

Crisp Rice Treats

3 Tbl unsalted butter

10 oz. vegan or regular marshmallows

6 cups crisp/toasted rice cereal

Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with butter or cooking spray. Set aside.

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add  cereal all at once. Stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into prepared 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan while warm. (Be careful if children are helping) Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. (Best if served the same day.)