200 Easy Mexican Recipes – Cookbook Review for Cinco de Mayo


Happy Cinco de Mayo!  I received 200 Easy Mexican Recipes: Authentic Recipes From Burritos to Enchiladas by Kelly Cleary Coffeen just in time.  It’s full of a variety of mexican favorites I’m sure we’ll be making, as Mexican food is very popular at my house.  I love how with a few key ingredients you can make a wide array of Mexican favorites and it easy for me to adapt these recipes to my family’s tastes and my daughter’s vegetarian needs.

I decided to make the Chopped Mexican Salad (recipe below) and while I was glad I did, the name didn’t fit the preparation.  I was expecting a salad of chopped items all mixed together.  However the recipe calls to lay out the lettuce and layer veggies and beans on top – which I’m sure is a beautiful presentation.  Since it was a “chopped” salad I chopped the lettuce and and mixed it together.  I’m sure it’s tasty either way, but I was going for speed and ease.  In order to make it more hearty I added some grilled shrimp.   I think next I’ll try the making the homemade tortillas with my kids. Stay tuned….


Pros: Lots of easy recipes for a variety of tasty, vibrant mexican classics.  Useful recipe tips of substitutions and additions to alter recipes.  Good intro of Mexican cooking techniques, equipment, ingredients and spices.

Cons: If you like colorful photos you’ll wish there were more.  Only about a dozen.  Recipe instructions may differ from others.

Chopped Mexican Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Fresh goodness and color are at the heart of this chopped salad.  A citrus marinade refreshed these chopped vegetables.  This is a wonderful vegetarian meal but can be topped with chicken or steak as well.


1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey


6 cups chopped romaine lettuce

1 can black or pinto beans rinsed and drained

1 cup chopped, peeled jicama

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 yellow or red pepper, seeded cored and diced

2 ripe avocados, peeled and diced

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (you could substitute feta or goat)


To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, hot pepper flakes, garlic and honey.

Spread lettuce evenly across a large serving platter.  Arrange beans, jicama, corn , bell peppers, and avocado sie by side on top of lettuce. Garnish with cheese. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, for at least one hour before serving.

Drizzle with dressing before serving.






Reward Offered….Missing Sugar Baby (Mardi Gras Wrap Up)

Last night we did our final mardi gras meal and king cake for the season.  There was much build up after all the recipe testing and fanfare.  I even found these fun mardi gras masks.

After reading an article recently from the SF Chronicle about grits making a comeback in restaurants, I thought I’d try their Shrimp and Grits with Tomato-Bacon Relish for Fat Tuesday dinner.  This was great and did not dissappoint.  I wasn’t able to find yellow grits, so I made white.  I only used half the amount of Tabasco and substituted smoked red pepper powder for the cayenne in the shrimp, as my kids are not always excited about too much spice.  I ended up deconstructing theirs (shrimp without sauce, and grits on the side), as the sauce was still a bit hot for my daughter.  But they really loved the meal, especially the grits with cheddar cheese.  I will make this again and would even make it for guests as it was easy and very pretty, besides tasty.  (See entire recipe below)

The moment everyone was waiting for was the king cake.  I decided I had made the cresent version and the cupcake version and was time to try and compare a traditional version of someone else’s.  And sometimes I have to remind myself that I can’t make everything, all the time.  It was difficult to find a local king cake, but I  called around and ordered one from Arizmendi Bakery in San Rafael.  They were making them for Fat Tuesday only.  This was a good option because while it was still large it wasn’t giant like many of those online and most of the recipes (makes 2 cakes to serve 12 – 18 people).  This was mid-week, after school, Tae Kwon Do and doctor’s appointments, so I would be able to squeeze in a cake pick-up but not a make from scratch cake.

My first impression was “This is lovely and very reasonable at $15.”  While it had all the mardi gras colors, it was somehow not as tacky as many pictured online.  Plus everything from Arizmendi (pizzas, scones, muffins etc) is wonderful.  After out great dinner it was time to cut the cake.  I explained to my family what the baker had told me about the “baby”, and that it was “a baby made out of sugar”.  We were so anxious to see the sugar baby.  We each chose a piece and took a bite.  My next thought was “This cake is great”.  Sweet frosting on top of wonderful layers of brioch.  We found the occassional hole that we thought the baby was hiding, but no.  We only ate about 1/4 of the cake and no one found the baby.  My kids and I were very curious.  We decided to cut the remaining cake into slices. 

Still no baby.  We were still hopeful and not yet ready to wreck the yummy cake.  We waited…

Overnight.  Again after dinner, we each chose a slice.  No baby was found.  It was time to butcher the cake.  We cut the remaining slices into small pieces and we never did find the sugar baby.  However we did find a hole with about 1/8 teaspoon sugar.  Was this once the baby?  Did he melt?  Or was this just another sweet bite and the baby made an escape before baking?  We’ll never know.  This baby didn’t bring us luck, but lots of intrigue. 

Shrimp & Grits With Tomato-Bacon Relish

Serves 4

 From Brenda Vuenviaje, chef-owner of Brenda’s French Soul Food cafe in San Francisco. Prepare the grits – which should be soft and spoonable – with 4 parts salted water and 1 part grits.

  • Tomato-Bacon Relish
  • 1/4 pound smoked bacon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 medium red onion, about 1/2 cup
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, some juice reserved
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce like Tabasco or Crystal, to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar, or to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar, or to taste
  • — Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • Shrimp & Grits
  • 2 cups prepared grits (Bob’s Red Mill yellow grits preferred)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, about 2 ounces
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound large shrimp, 26-30 count, peeled and deveined, tails on
  • — Kosher salt, to taste
  • — Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • — Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • — Thinly sliced green onion, for garnish

For the relish: Thinly cut bacon crosswise into lardons about 1/4-inch thick. Cook bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until crispy and fat has rendered. Move bacon to paper towels and reserve. Drain skillet and discard excess fat, while wiping away any burned bits. Add olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook – stirring frequently – until onion is a medium brown color, about three minutes.

Add tomatoes, hot sauce, brown sugar and sherry vinegar then bring to a simmer. Cook briefly until slightly thick, stir in bacon and add salt and pepper to taste. The relish can be made a day or two ahead and kept refrigerated. Makes about 1 cup.

For the shrimp & grits: Preheat oven to 350°. Portion hot grits into 4 large, oven-proof dinner bowls, sprinkle cheddar over and place in oven until melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Or melt in the microwave, about 30 to 60 seconds per bowl.

Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons oil to a hot saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute briefly until slightly brown. Add shrimp then season with salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste. Saute briefly until edges of shrimp start to turn pink.

Add 1 cup white wine, deglaze pan and cook until wine is reduced by half. Add the Tomato-Bacon Relish and 2 to 3 tablespoons butter. Cook for another minute until sauce is hot and slightly thickened and shrimp are cooked through.

Divide shrimp and sauce into the bowls and garnish with sliced scallion.


Calistoga Get-Away (with Wild Shrimp and Organic Cabbage Salad Recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

My husband took me to Calistoga in the Napa Valley for a wonderful birthday present.  He surprised me and made all the plans and reservations.  And thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, we got to spend the weekend without the kids.  Of course we love them, but nice to have couple time too.

In addition to relaxing by the pool and bike riding through the vineyards, we of course had some really great wine and food.  While some were fancier and more creative, my favorite dish was from the SolBar Restaraunt at the green resort, Solage.  In fact we shared it as an appetizer for dinner one night, and I had it again for lunch the following day.  What was it?  The best shrimp summer roll I’ve ever had.  I was so excited by the flavors and textures I wanted to recreate something similar at home.  I skipped the rice noodle wrap and made the dish into a salad.  This is great for a fresh, simple, summer meal.

Note:  Talk about a coincidence.  The day we returned from our weekend there was a review of the SolBar in the Sunday Chronicle.  (By the way in case anyone is asking, I would’ve given another star in each category.)

Wild Shrimp and Organic Cabbage Salad Recipe

(4 – 6  servings)

For a heartier meal and combination of crunchy and soft textures, add cooked and cooled rice noodles to the mix.

1 pound medium cooked wild shrimp, tails and shell removed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablspoons Asian fish sauce
Finely grated zest and juice of organic lime
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
4 green onions, minced
1/2 small purple cabbage, cored and finely shredded (about 6 cups)
2 organic carrots, julienned
1 organic zucchini, julienned
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

In a small bowl whisk olive oil with the fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, curry paste and onions.

In a large bowl toss together cabbage, carrots, zucchini, and shrimp.

Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and stir until coated. Let stand about 20 minutes. Toss salad and top with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
See also Greg’s Steamed Pacific Oysters With Sweet Organic Wine Butter
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, and Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Felinda | Dreamstime.com
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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