Goat cheese

10 years ago, if you’d told me that I’d move to the far west, cookie-cutter suburbs of Houston and judge most of the restaurants frequent-visit list by the quality of their playground and not necessarily the food, I might have laughed in your face.

Probably would have, actually. All those margaritas I made with Mrs Ts neon-green bottled mix would have no-doubt left me pretty giggly.

But here we are 10 years later. In the far west, cookie-cutter suburbs of Houston. And we judge most of the restaurants that we frequently visit by the presence of a playground, the quality of said playground, and lastly: the food.

One of those restaurants shoots to the top of that list simply because of the playground. Because why else would anyone pay more for average TexMex when you can get better, for less?

But we have a 4 year old with endless amounts of squeals and climb-up-the-slide energy. And they have free ice cream and a covered playground smack-dab in the middle of the cookie-cutter suburbs. They are, as you can imagine, raging successful.

And sometimes being able to talk over a bowl of chips and green sauce on a patio while The Little plays 20 feet away is totally worth it. So you pick your battles. And I made peace with it once I discovered their Fish Tacos with double Cucumber-Mango salsa. Because the fresh, crunchy, and sweet salsa has been the best thing I’ve tasted there.

At home, we ditch the oily coleslaw and heavy chipotle mayo that comes on the restaurant version in favor of keeping it light and simple: chile-lime grilled fish, thin slices of avocado, cucumber-mango salsa, and whatever crumbled cheese I have (queso fresco or goat cheese).

Fresh, bright, light, and flavorful. And if we had a rocking playground like that our backyard, we’d never have to go back.

Grilled Chile-Lime Fish Tacos with Cucumber-Mango Salsa

Flaky white fish seasoned with chile and lime is topped with a sweet, fresh scoop of cucumber and mango salsa and queso fresco.

Ingredients

  • For the fish:
  • 1 lb tilapia
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Chile powder (I used chipotle)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • For serving:
  • 1/2 cup diced mango
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • Tortillas
  • Crumbled cheese (queso fresco or goat cheese)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high.
  2. Squeeze a couple of lime wedges over the fish and then season both sides with salt, pepper, and dust with chile powder.
  3. When the grill is heated, lightly spray/brush the filets with olive oil and cook for ~4 minutes each side.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the mango, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno with a pinch of salt and the juice from 1-2 lime wedges (to taste).
  5. Squeeze the remaining limes over the fish when it comes off the grill.
  6. Flake the fish into large bite-sized pieces and serve on tortillas topped with a generous scoop of salsa and crumbled cheese.

Notes

Yields: ~6 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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Watermelon Salad with Tequila Lime Vinaigrette

Last week, a picture of a pumpkin cheesecake popped up in my Facebook feed and I was like no.

And then I went all Tracy-Morgan-from-Cop-Out.

NO. NONONONONONO.

HELL. NO.

It’s July. And I want no part of pumpkin creamy salted apple Thanksgiving caramel candy corn baked casserole pumpkin anything.

What I do want? Sweet, figure-friendly summer fruit. Doused in figure-unfriendly tequila.

And we all know that fruit and tequila go together perfectly.

Watermelon Salad with Tequila Lime Vinaigrette

One of my favorite throw-together summer side salads is watermelon, red onion, feta, jalapeno, and a big handful of cilantro, sprinkled with just a little salt and a squeeze of lime. It has everything you could want in a summer side, except tequila.

Cut in larger chunks, it makes a fabulous salad. Cut in smaller dice, it’s makes a fabulous salsa for a no-cook chips-and-salsa dinner on the patio.

So it’s no surprise that one of my favorite recipes from Pastry Queen Parties is a similar blend of flavors taken to the next level with a tequila-lime vinaigrette. It has everything you could want in a summer side, including tequila.

The Pastry Queen serves her spiked watermelon salad in scooped out personal-sized watermelon bowls. So fancy. I opt for the no-fuss approach: a 12-year-old tupperware bowl that’s missing its lid.

Watermelon Salad with Tequila-Lime Vinaigrette

Watermelon and feta salad get a summery kick from a tequila and lime vinaigrette.

Ingredients

  • For the salad:
  • 5 generous cups 1.5-inch dice watermelon (about 1 small watermelon)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 3 oz crumbled feta
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (optional - but go for it)
  • For the vinaigrette:
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tequila
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Lightly toss the watermelon, onion, cilantro, feta, and jalapeno in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the lime juice, tequila, 1 Tbsp honey, salt and red wine vinegar together.
  3. Taste for sweetness and whisk in the extra honey, if desired.
  4. Pour over immediately before serving.
  5. If you anticipate having leftovers, only dress half the salad with half the dressing - the watermelon will water down the dressing the longer it sits. Dress additional salad as needed.

Notes

Yields: ~8 servings

Adapted from The Pastry Queen Parties

Estimated time: 20 minutes

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Guacamole with Goat Cheese, Grilled Mexican Corn, and Bacon

Let’s be honest here – anything more than salt, lemon, a little lime, and avocado isn’t really necessary to make guacamole. It’s pretty perfect, just like that. But that doesn’t mean you have to – or should – stop there. I know I almost never do.

Guacamole with Goat Cheese, Grilled Mexican Corn, and Bacon

For this year’s Cinco (Cuatro) de Mayo Bash, I was thinking of doing a “guacamole bar” al a my friend Josie with bowls of fun toppings for guests to top their own smashed perfection, things like:

Pico de gallo
Chopped jalapenos
Grilled pineapple
Goat cheese
Bacon
Mexican grilled corn, cut off the cob
Grilled tomatillos
And a mountain of cilantro.

Because I’ve yet to discover that line where “too much cilantro” is actually too much cilantro. (As long as chocolate isn’t involved, I’m not sure that line exists.)

Guacamole with Goat Cheese, Grilled Mexican Corn, and Bacon

For this batch, I took three of those ingredients: The kernels cut from two Mexican grilled corn cobs, some tangy goat cheese, and a couple slices of salty, smokey, crispy bacony bacon. And I made what was quite possibly the best guacamole combo ever. (You know, aside from “best guacamole ever” that is simply the bare minimum.)

Guacamole with Grilled Corn, Bacon, and Goat Cheese

Guacamole studded with grilled Mexican corn, tangy goat cheese, and smokey bacon.

Ingredients

  • 3 large avocados, seeded and diced.
  • Juice of 1 small-ish lemon (~2-3 Tbsp)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt
  • Kernels cut from 2 Mexican grilled corn cobs
  • 4 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 slices of thick cut bacon, crumbled
  • Large handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Tortilla chips for serving

Instructions

  1. Smash the avocado with lemon juice, lime juice, and salt.
  2. Fold in the corn, goat cheese, bacon, and cilantro.
  3. Serve cold or room temperature.
  4. For breakfast or a party.
  5. Or lunch.

Notes

Yields: ~3 cups

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 15 minutes

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Mexican Grilled Corn

We grew up on a quiet, country road. Our house marked the midway point from the bus stop to Martha’s house. On any given day, if her kids weren’t at my house, my mom’s kids were at hers.

We introduced Martha to chocolate gravy, baked beans, and snow ice cream. Martha introduced us to chorizo, homemade tortillas, and tamales.

Martha was very much like a second mom. She had no problem putting us to work or yelling at us if we got too loud and disturbed Mr. John’s nap.

And then I caught that crazy woman putting mayonnaise (MAYONNAISE!) on my corn-on-the-cob and I thought I’d never be able to trust another human again.

Mexican Grilled Corn

Mexican Grilled Corn, or, you know, “corn,” as Martha & Mr. John called it, is a thing of wonder. Sure, you could say the right sweet corn cob needs nothing more than a pat of butter… but you’d really be missing out.

Local taco trucks sell it and advertise it simply as Elote (corn). And what you’re getting for $2 is simply fantastic.

The corn cobs are grilled until lightly charred, brushed lightly with mayonnaise, and then topped with a dusting of chile powder, a squeeze of lime juice, and crumbled Mexican cheese (queso fresco or cotija). The heat from the grill melts the mayo and cheese while the lime cuts the richness and the chiles gives it the perfect bite.

Mexican Grilled Corn

Elote

Corn on the cob is grilled, brushed with mayo, and topped with chile powder, goat cheese, and lime.

Ingredients

  • Corn cobs
  • Mayonnaise
  • Chile powder (chipotle is my favorite)
  • Crumbled goat cheese (cotija and queso fresco are traditional)
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high.
  2. Leaving the stalk attached, remove all but the single, very inner-most layer of corn husk and discard.
  3. Run cobs under water and then put directly on the grill.
  4. Cook ~5 minutes at a time, rotating to lightly char all kernels.
  5. Remove any husk/silk that didn't burn away on the grill.
  6. While the corn is still hot, coat each with 1-2 tsp of mayo. I do this by putting the mayo on a paper towel and rubbing it over the corn.
  7. Sprinkle with chile powder and cheese.
  8. Squeeze lime wedges over top and serve warm.

Notes

Yields: Servings vary

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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