Houston-Style Green Salsa

by Shawnda on September 18, 2011

in Appetizers,Cinco de Mayo,Condiments,Cookbooks,Lighter & Healthier,Mexican & TexMex

Houston-Style Green Salsa from The Homesick Texan Cookbook

I’ve been waiting for this day for over 2 years. Literally! In the fall of 2009, I had the pleasure of testing recipes for Lisa Fain’s cookbook, The Homesick Texan, one of my very favorite blogs, turned cookbook. And just shy of two weeks ago, a copy showed up in my mailbox. Christmas in September. With a high over 100. Typical, Texas.

I must admit, I am a recovering cookbook addict. A year ago, I had shelves and shelves full of cookbooks. Our first home in Houston was built in the early 70’s and had several built-in cookbook shelves. It had history and character. And the world’s ugliest smokey mirrored-walled wet bar. But did I mention all the bookshelves?

Our new home in the suburbs was built 10 years ago and has four walls. And ceilings. And that’s about it. We have far less book storage so only the very, very best and most used get to stay. And this book is one of those.

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

In southeast Texas, we have an absolutely wonderful mish-mash of cultures – a little Cajun, a little East Texas, amazingly fresh seafood from the Gulf, a little influence from the Hill Country, and a lot of influence from Mexico. And The Homesick Texan Cookbook celebrates all of it, from kolache to pork tacos, from chocolate pie to queso flameado. Each turn of the page brought a bigger and bigger smile. Lisa may live in a big city up north now, but her book does Texas and our foods proud.

Houston-Style Green Salsa from The Homesick Texan Cookbook

And we want you to have the book. If you haven’t ordered it already, here’s a chance to win a copy. And if you don’t win, put it on your Christmas list! Because we think you’ll like it that much. Simply leave a comment below and tell us:

What’s your favorite Texas, Tex-Mex, or Mexican food?

Are you crazy about fresh tortillas? A fan of Frito Pie? A queso connoisseur? Or maybe you are one of the very few that appreciate a big spoonful of chow chow on top of your pinto beans. (Mom and I are in pretty small company on that one :) )

Updated: The random number generator has spoken. Congrats to lucky commenters #263 (Natalie) and #254 (Kelsey). Instructions to claim your prize were sent to the email address that you left with your comment.

The fine print:
– One comment per person.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm (Texas time!) on Friday.
Two winners will be selected by one of those cold, soulless, unfeeling random number generator thingies and announced on this post on Saturday.
– If prizes aren’t claimed within 7 days, alternate winners will be selected.
– Contest is open to readers world wide.

Houston-Style Green Salsa

Tomatillos and avocado make a creamy, tangy salsa familiar to fans of Houston's Tex-Mex scene.


  • 3/4 lb fresh tomatillos (~4) or 11 oz canned tomatillos, drained
  • 1 large avocado
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 serrano peppers, seeds removed (or left in!)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • Salt


  1. If using fresh tomatillos, remove the husks drop them whole into a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer them from the pot to the blender.
  2. Remove the pit and scoop out the avocado and add it to the blender along with the garlic, peppers, and lime juice.
  3. Blend until you reach desired consistency.
  4. Add cilantro and a pinch of salt, pulsing once or twice to combine.
  5. Leftovers will keep several days in the fridge.


Yields: ~2 cups

Adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Estimated time: 10 minutes


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Marinated Beef Kebabs

Do you know Matt Armendariz? You probably do. He’s the super creative and super talented force behind Matt Bites. He’s a fellow Texan. A fabulous photographer. And he just released his cookbook, On a Stick! It’s a fun book full of fun food by a fun guy. Skewered appetizers. Stuck entrees. Impaled desserts. (I should bust out the thesaurus.)

We got the chance to hang with Matt at Food Blog Camp down in Mexico this passed January. His photography session (and Adam’s styling session) were actually the reason we signed up. The baby-free unlimited margaritas, ceviche, and guacamole were just a bonus :) Matt & Adam are great peoples – if you ever get a chance to spend 5 minutes in a room with them, go for it.

On a Stick!

Put food on a stick and people smile. It brings memories of carnivals, county and state fairs, and if you’re a Houstonian: The Rodeo. Back in my pre-Foodie Bride days, I actually snagged a Best Dish with Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs: alternating skewered cubes of angel food cake & strawberries. People went nuts over it! Why? Because it was on a stick.

On a Stick! will be the funnest cookbook that you’ll own. You’ve got your classics, corn dogs and caramel apples, but the real genius is in the unique, creative twists on foods you don’t normally find on a stick: S’mores, Pizza, Cheesecake, Ravioli, Chicken & Waffles, Korean Style Barbecue, and Macaroni & Cheese.

Yes, he put macaroni & cheese on a stick. Fried macaroni & cheese.

Matt’s publisher, Quirk Books, provided us with a copy of On a Stick! to check out. We think that it’s such a fun book that you need a copy, too!

Update: The giveaway has ended. The winners are:

Instructions on how to claim your prize have been sent to the email address that you left with your comment. Thanks for playing!

Soy-Marinated Beef Skewers with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream


  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 lb flank steak cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • Small handful cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • Juice of 1 lime


  1. Whisk soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes, and orange juice & zest in a medium bowl.
  2. Add steak, toss and refrigerate until ready to grill.
  3. Heat grill to medium-high.
  4. Grill 4-5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.
  5. Stir lime juice, sour cream, and half the cilantro together.
  6. Serve skewers over steamed rice, garnished with remaining cilantro, and a dollop of sour cream.


Yields: 4 Servings

Inspired by On a Stick! by Matt Armendariz

Estimated time: 20 minutes


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Almost-Fudge Gateau

It’s the day before my Tuesdays with Dorie contribution is due and my oven is empty. My inner Dorista doesn’t want to make chocolate cake. My outer Dorista’s pants are too tight. Sigh. Such is the life of a baker.

I remind myself that life is too short to be skinny so I suck it up, grab my favorite knife for chopping, and start hacking away at some good, dark chocolate. By the time the smell of the melting chocolate from the bowl of the double-boiler reaches my nose, my inner Dorista has shaken her anti-baking funk and we’re ready to roll.

Looking back, I don’t see how I couldn’t have forgotten about the egg whites whipping away in the mixer. Sure, my mixer isn’t whisper-quiet but between the melting chocolate and the smell of buttercream that already filled the first floor of our home, my senses were pre-occupied. And so, the egg whites were forgotten.

Over-beaten egg whites don’t “gently fold in” to anything. The foam is dry and the only way to get the chocolate and egg whites to play is to fold until your arm falls off. By the time they’re actually incorporated, the egg whites have pretty much deflated. There are far worse fates for eggs to meet than a dense chocolate cake – like a travertine floor. So it’s a good thing that we have nothing against a dense chocolate cake.

Almost-Fudge Gateau

How I served the dense cake: I used buttered round pastry cutters to cut the cake into circles. I leveled the rounds and spread warmed blackberry preserves over the top of the “bottom layer.” I topped it with a second cake round and spooned ganache over the top of the cake. I used an offset spatula to coax a bit of the rich ganache down the sides of the cake.

Absolutely divine.

Almost-Fudge Gateau

Dense chocolate cake covered in a rich ganache.


  • 5 large eggs
  • 9 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp coffee or water
  • 1/3 cup AP flour
  • For the ganache:
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.
  3. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar, butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that's fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour.
  5. Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm but glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.
  6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you'll think it's done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn't shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.
  8. To make the optional glaze:
  9. First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you'll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips. Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.
  10. Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven - the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
  11. Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don't worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake - it will just add to it's charms. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or, if you're impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.


Yields: 1 9-inch cake

Adapted from Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes



Basic Pizza Crust Dough

by Shawnda on November 18, 2007

in Cookbooks,Pizza

Pizza crust

“The last cookbook you’ll ever need,” was how the professional chef-turned Baptist pastor referred to the 60th anniversary edition of The Gourmet Cookbook during the cooking demonstration of our marriage prep course. He presented his theory on what he believed to be the relationship between a happy life built around the heart of the home, the kitchen.

The cooking demonstration was fun, lunch was yummy, and we walked away with tons of useful tidbits:
– Why it’s okay to cook with butter (my favorite)
– The best pieces and brands of cookware for a starter kitchen
– Understanding how large a role food plays in life, beyond “just” nutrition

There are a handful of “real” newlywed cookbooks out there but The Gourmet Cookbook immediately became our Kitchen Bible. The first time that we cooked together, Jason and I made Macaroni & Cheese (pg 223). The Basic Pizza Dough (pg 120, recipe below) has become our go-to recipe on pizza nights. Jason presses garlic, makes guacamole, shuts off annoying timers, and in general controls the chaos that I inherently bring to the kitchen.

Our Yellow Bible offers a wealth of information that goes far beyond recipes, from “How to throw a cocktail party” to a “who’s who” of items like salad greens and Asian noodles. It might not be the only cookbook that I’ll ever need, but it’s definitely in my top 5 that I’d never want to be without.

Basic Pizza Dough, adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
1 pkg dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 3/4 cups flour, divided plus more for dredging and dusting
3/4 cups warm water (110-120F), divided
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp olive oil

Stir together yeast, sugar, 1 TBSP flour and 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour out and start over if your yeast doesn’t get frothy.

Add 1 1/2 cup flour and salt in a stand mixer. Add yeast mixture, oil, and remaining 1/2 cup warm water and mix until smooth. Add remaining flour and knead on medium-high for 8 minutes (the dough will be sticky and might not completely come off the bottom of the bowl).

Form into a ball, place on flour-dusted surface and cover. Let rise until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

Preheat oven to 450. Remove all racks and place pizza stone in the oven to heat (if you’re using one – we have one but don’t always use it).

Do not punch down dough. Carefully dredge ball in a bowl of flour to coat and transfer to a dry work surface. Hold one edge of the dough in the air with both hands and let the bottom edge touch the work surface. Carefully move hands around the edge of the dough (like turning a steering wheel) to stretch the dough to 10-12 inches. Lay dough on a lightly floured surface and gently stretch into a 14-inch round.

Lightly brush dough with oil and bake for 7 minutes. Remove pizza from the oven, top, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

Yields: 1 lb pizza dough (or enough for 1 large pizza)