Tex Mex Party Menu

Last night we had a large dinner party, and I made Tex Mex.  Not many people are familiar with such cuisine here in Switzerland, so it was an adventure for quite a few of our guests!  Rather than a recipe this time, I’ll give you my menu with links to the recipes I based my dishes on:

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For the Apero:

Spiced nuts, Guacamole & Salsa with tortilla chips, and Pina Colada (virgin, with Coruba Rum or Malibu Coconut Rum on the side for those who like it spiked)

Drinks served for the main meal:

Corona beer; Desperados tequila beer; a variety of drinks such as Coke, 7-Up, etc.

Main Meal Choices:

Nopales (cactus salad) [I used Feta cheese, as Cojita is not available here.]

Spanish Rice (with coriander cooked in)

Chicken *

Barbacoa Beef *



Tortillas, Tortilla chips


Sour Cream with Chives, shredded lettuce, grated Cheddar cheese


Apple Tiramisu

Sopapillas (Cheesecake bars) (I used phyllo dough, as crescent roll dough is strictly an American product)

I made the meats without hot peppers; I cannot eat spicy, and many people don’t like it, so I served spices and tabasco on the side for those who wanted a zing.

I basically set up the kitchen counter as the buffet, with tortilla chips and bowls of guacamole & salsa along the tables.  Needless to say, the whole menu was a hit!  The Apple Tiramisu has become my signature dish, as it’s requested again and again; I couldn’t leave it out, though it’s not Mexican, which is why I included the Sopapillas, for the authentic theme.

* I cooked both of these simultaneously in my crockpot:  I put the beef into a metal bowl that just fit into my crockpot width-wise; the chicken was in the main pot, and then I sunk the bowl up to the rim in the liquid, to get an even heat distribution.  They both cooked beautifully, though occasional stirring of the chicken was a bit tricky.  To serve, I set the bowl into a pan next to the crockpot to minimize mess.

[In gathering the recipes for these links, I was reminded again of why I have Firefox!  If you don’t yet have it, do yourself a big favour and download it as your browser:  It has a function that allows you to look at a basic website without all of the flashing, pop-up annoyances they call “ads”!!]


Moroccan Lentil Soup

I made this soup tonight, and wanted to snag & pass the recipe! It’s full of aromatic flavours, and cooks up in about 30 minutes. It was delicious hot, and I’m sure it will be delicious cold, too!

Spoon With Me

My husband and I met a friend downtown last Friday for drinks.  I’m not high maintenance by most standards, but it took me about 40 minutes and two outfit changes to switch over from teacher-mode to going out mode.  The mister, on the other hand, showered, shaved, chose a button up shirt and jeans, and carefully mussed his hair in less than 15.  He was sitting on the couch playing Angry Birds long before I emerged from the bedroom to ask him which shoes looked better.

My male counterpart is usually known around here by pseudonyms like Mr. Medium Rare, The Hubs and my favorite taste tester.  You may be surprised to know that he has a real name.  Meet Peder; 6 foot 4, blue-eyed and amiable, the keeper of  both random and highly useful knowledge.  Equal parts logical and creative,  stubbly and polished.  Peder has good kitchen sense, but cooks…

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Plarn Bags, & How to Fold Plastic Bags

I don’t know about you, but I find that plastic bags seem to multiply like rabbits; until they are no longer made, I say that we need to take lemons and make lemonade.  I use bags to crochet “plarn” items, and reuse some as waste bin liners.  This image below is from Pinterest; the source was not attached, so if you know who took the original image, I’d like to credit them for the image below.

I’ve been using this technique for years, and it’s simple, neat, and convenient.  I store my bags in an old whiskey carton; I can then grab a few and toss into the bottom of our smaller bins occasionally.  For larger plastic bags, I have a storage bag; the size of the triangle tells me roughly which size bag I’ll get, so I can quickly find the right size (or colour, if for crafts) of the bag I grab.

The last step is not very clear; it’s simply that you tuck the last fold into the other folds, to keep it from unravelling.  If you find that a bag’s “leftover fold” is too short to hold, back up one fold, fold the top in the opposite direction to form a triangle, and then tuck it in.


Below are a few of the bags I’ve made; the white plastic yarn, or “plarn” is made from the flimsy veggie bags you get at grocery stores.  Cut into one continuous strip; once they’re crocheted, they’re sturdy, and you can toss the bag into the laundry when needed!  The black bag is made from the thickness of bags you get at a clothes shop.  I use that bag to tote reuseable grocery bags in, and I’ve added pockets by ironing (between baking papers) cut-outs of drink plastic wraps (below), and ironing them onto the sides of the bag (be sure to slip baking paper under areas of the label that you don’t want melted to the plarn bag, to create the pocket!).  If you’re interested in doing something like that, there are tons of tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest!!


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Chicken Taco Pizza

Today I was in the mood for a pizza, but also Tex-Mex; so why not combine them?  I hunted around for a simple recipe and found a lot of complicated ones, so I came up with my own.  This literally has 4 simple steps – the meat, the base, the topping prep, and baking, DONE!  So without further ado, here it is:

Chicken Taco Pizza

Chicken Taco Pizza

The Meat:

600-800 gr. Chicken meat, diced

1 spring onion, finely chopped

Taco spice * to taste

Toss into a pan & turn the stove on high.  Stir, cooking until the meat is done; set aside to cool.

Mix into the meat:

~ ½ C. mayonnaise or sour cream or plain yoghurt, along with a squirt of lemon juice and about 1 garlic clove’s worth of garlic paste.

The Base:

Instead of the typical pizza base of tomato sauce, essentially this is a bean sauce.

1 tin of beans, drained – either white beans or kidney beans; if you’re daring, a tin of refried beans!

Pop the contents into a blender, sprinkle in a few chives & a bit of seasoning or lemon juice, and blitz until a smooth paste.

The Toppings:

Slice any or all of the following toppings:

6-8 button mushrooms

10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved

Black olives(pitted), chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1 avocado, halved, pitted & peeled, and sliced thinly

~1 C. grated Cheddar cheese

On a tray, roll out your phyllo dough onto a sheet of baking paper, and spread the base mixture from edge to edge.  Pour the meat mixture on (drain, if too juicy) and spread it out, then toss on the toppings, and top with the cheese.

The Baking:

Pop it in the cold oven, and 45 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to eat, turn the oven on to 180°C (350°F).  Serve hot, and enjoy!

Can be served with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole, or just as-is!


*You can use any taco or fajita spice you like; if you don’t have access to such a spice in the store, or you want to make your own to ensure you know what’s in it, click here for a DIY recipe.

Dietary note:  For those who are lactose intolerant, Cheddar cheese is naturally lactose-free; the yoghurt or sour cream can be the LF variety, and you’ve still got a tasty meal!

Quick & Easy Lentil, Chickpea, Coconut & Curry Stew/Dip

I was recently in the hospital for surgery, and as a result, our meals are mainly liquid (or at least smooth) at the moment as I can’t swallow anything more solid!  This situation has led to my discovering new ways to make soup tasty, healthy and keep it from getting boring.  The following recipe came out of my soup pan yesterday, so I thought I’d share it with you!

It turned out delicious, and is just as tasty cold as it is hot; in fact, this comes out so thick as a puree that it could be served as a dip with crackers or crudité.  As I keep both chopped frozen coriander & onions on hand, this literally took 3 minutes to toss together… quick & easy is my favourite method!

Lentil,Chickpea,Coconut Curry Stew & Dip

Lentil, Chickpea, Coconut & Curry Stew

1 tin lentils

1 large tin chickpeas (or 2 smaller tins)

1 tin coconut milk (2, if you want it soupier)

1 handful fresh or frozen coriander

1 onion, finely chopped

curry spice to taste

1 tsp. each of ginger paste, lemon grass paste, and garlic paste (or amount to taste in whichever form you have available)

Tumeric, salt and pepper to taste


Toss it all into a pan, bring to a boil.  For those who want it smooth, puree the mixture before serving.

Serve with bread or crackers, or Naan bread.  Serves 4-6.

Home Craft Idea: Welcome Sign

For a homey craft, here’s an idea I’ve been percolating on for a week or two until I came up with the right solution for our own, personal look:  I took a white wooden welcome sign that I’d purchased on sale; it was originally decorated with Easter-themed wooden flowers and dangles of eggs and birds, so I removed all the extra bits except the five small loop head screws.  If you can’t find such a sign, you could make one with cardboard, hardening it with a couple layers of paper machè before painting it your base colour and attaching the screws.

The sign, I covered by paper machèing it with the inside of a few security envelopes (the kinds you get bank statements and bills in).  Most of the paper beads are also made from the same envelopes.  [If you want to find an addictive craft, paper beads will do it!]  I laid the sign upside down on the outside of the opened envelope and traced the letters, cutting out the paper before glueing it on.  The design can be seamlessly augmented with the security motif, as the sign is longer than the length of an opened envelope laid flat… my seam is overlapping onto the “e” after the “w”, and you can’t see it.

For the dangles, I made the security paper beads, and one bead is made from a magazine picture of the sun; I strung them onto nylon thread (“fishing line”), and used silver beads, cap-beads, crimp beads, and silver charms at the ends.  I then strung a length of black satin ribbon to hang the sign on our door, making sure the length allowed for viewing through the peephole.  I secured the ends of the ribbon to itself with crimp bead covers (also crimp beads, but a “C” shape to clamp around crimp beads).

[If you’re interested, I got all of the jewellery findings and beads online, at Aliexpress.com.]


Basque Pintxos

This is not so much a recipe, as a tip on what to serve the next time you want starters for a meal, or a meal eaten by hand.

I just returned from a long weekend in Bilbao, Spain; it’s a thriving city on the Bay of Biscay.  The Basque have one food that they are probably most famous for:  Pintxos (pronounced “Pintchos”).  These are a similar concept to the Spanish Tapas, but far more elaborate.  5 or 6 of these will make a meal.  Any good Pintxos bar worth its salt will have a wide variety spread out along the length of the bar (which is not usually for drinking at, but for selecting your food), and they pride themselves in personal specialities, so you have to bar hop to get the full experience; I’m sure they’ve got a local term for it – bar hopping, pub crawling, or as my husband and I dubbed it, “Pintxopping”.

They usually come served atop a slice of toasted Baguette bread, and some of the combinations we had were:  Diced crab with tomato sauce; an unusually non-distinct mushroom patè fried in a hushpuppy-like batter; crab and vegetables sautèd in tomato sauce and served in an open clam shell, overbaked with cheese; baked squid atop a fish pate; a skewer of breaded and fried vegetables; a variety of fish and seafood in spring roll wraps; breaded chicken on a skewer with rounds of goat cheese; one bar’s signature Pintxo was a mound of crab meat overbaked with a quid-ink-tinted cheese, in the shape of the local mountain.  The possibilities are endless!  Below is an example found on Pinterest; if you want more ideas and recipes, you’ll find them there.  En Guete!