Mexican Layer Dip

My daughter recently had a camp out with a few friends in our backyard. They slept in a giant, 14-person tent. What fun! šŸ™‚ The camping was combined with another event on their summer bucket list- a “dip-night.” (inspired by TikTok šŸ˜‰ )

The girls each contributed a different dip, savory or sweet, to create the feast. We made this Mexican layer dip and served it with tortilla chips and Trader Joe’s corn dippers. The recipe was adapted from ThePioneerWoman.com. I loved that her version incorporated warm beans as the base of the dip. It was an easy crowd-pleaser.

  • 1 can refried beans (I used Trader Joe’s Fat Free Refried Beans)
  • hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula, to taste (I omitted it for this crowd)
  • 1 can diced green chilies (I used Trader Joe’s mild green chilies)
  • ground cumin, to taste
  • 3/4 to 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (mild or sharp)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • freshly made guacamole (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 cup Pico de Gallo (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 can sliced black olives (I omitted them)
  • kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, optional
  • sliced or diced jalapeƱos, for garnish, optional
  • tortilla chips (and/or other corn chips), for serving
  1. Begin by heating the refried beans in a small pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add one or two dashes of hot sauce, if using, and a small can of undrained diced green chilies. Stir well.
  3. Sprinkle the bean-chile mixture with a little bit of ground cumin. Stir to incorporate.
  4. Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass bowl or high-sided or wide serving dish.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar evenly over the top.
  6. Next, dollop the sour cream over the cheese. Spread it into a single layer, as much as possible, being careful not to disturb the cheese underneath.
  7. The next layer is the guacamole. (I used my favorite guacamole recipe (link above) using 2 avocados and garlic-chipotle salsa. This time, I omitted our traditional add-ins of chopped tomatoes and red onions.)
  8. Next, sprinkle an even layer of shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the guacamole.
  9. Top with a generous layer of Pico de Gallo.
  10. Sprinkle chopped black olives over the top, if using.
  11. Microwave an ear of fresh corn for 1 minute on high. When cool enough to handle, place upright in a bowl and slice of the kernels. Sprinkle the kernels over the top as the final layer.
  12. Garnish with jalapeƱos and cilantro, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.

Creamy Cucumber-Avocado Salad

This fabulously easy salad was creamy and delicious. We ate it as a side with grilled vegetable and fresh ricotta sandwiches, but it could also be served as a light summertime main dish.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.com. I used avocado mayonnaise, chipotle Cholula hot sauce, and cilantro. My kids thought that it tasted like guacamole. šŸ™‚ Great.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  • 1 seedless cucumber (about 3/4 to 1 pound), washed and chopped into chunks
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used avocado mayonnaise)
  • juice of half a lime, plus more to taste
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Chipotle Cholula, to taste
  • chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  1. Combine cucumber, scallions and avocado in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and hot sauce; adjust to taste.
  3. Drizzle salad with dressing and garnish with chopped herbs.

Grilled Corn & Avocado Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing

I have a few side dishes to share showcasing sweet summer corn.Ā The romaine lettuce base and generous sliced avocado and grilled corn topping made this a must try summer salad. I love salads with loads of toppings.

My entire family loves creamy blue cheese dressing (who doesn’t?), so I knew that a creamy feta dressing loaded with fresh herbs would be the icing on the cake.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sue Li. I only used half of the prepared dressing in the finished salad.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 6 ears corn (about 3 pounds), shucked and silk removed
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 6), trimmed
  • 1 jalapeƱo
  • 3Ā TĀ olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 medium head romaine lettuce, cut or torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  1. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high.
  2. Brush corn, scallions and jalapeƱo with the oil and season with salt and pepper. (I didn’t oil the corn.)
  3. Arrange on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until corn kernels are browned in spots and the scallions and jalapeƱo are charred all over and tender, about 10 minutes, a little longer for the corn.
  4. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and let cool slightly.
  5. When cool, remove charred jalapeƱo skin. Then remove the stem and seeds. Finely chop.
  6. In a medium bowl, using a whisk, mash the feta into a coarse paste. Whisk in buttermilk, lemon zest and juice and garlic, then stir in chives, parsley, and charred jalapeƱo. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. In a large bowl, toss lettuce with half the feta dressing and arrange on a platter or salad bowl.
  8. Cut corn kernels off the cob and slice scallions into bite-size pieces.
  9. Arrange avocado slices, corn and scallions on top of the lettuce. Serve with remaining dressing or add additional dressing, as desired. (I reserved 1/2 the dressing for another use.)

Mushroom Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce

More tacos to share! I served these full-flavored vegetarian tacos for our Cinco de Mayo celebration this year- with margaritas, chips, and guacamole, of course.

The recipe was adapted from The Essential Mexican Instant Pot Cookbook: Authentic Flavors and Modern Recipes for your Electric Pressure Cooker by Deborah Schneider. I used a stove top pressure cooker instead of an instant pot, but this filling could be prepared just as easily without using a pressure cooker at all. The creamy avocado sauce was amazing!

The original recipe is for “quesotacos” which the author describes as black-belt street cooking, made by browning a layer of cheese right on a griddle, scooping it up with a tortilla, and using that to wrap the filling. I opted to serve the filling over the shredded cheese in a traditional taco form. This wonderful filling is also used in enchiladas in this book. Yum!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6, with about 1 cup of Avocado-Tomatillo sauce

For the Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce:

  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 2 tomatillos, husked and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 serrano chile, stemmed (and seeded, if desired)
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • leaves from 2 sprigs cilantro, chopped (about 1 T)

For the Mushroom Tacos:

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch dice (2 cups) (I reserved 1/4 cup of the onion for the sauce)
  • 9 garlic cloves, minced (3 T)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 to 10 oz cremini mushroom, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 8 to 10 oz white button mushrooms, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or shredded fresh epazote
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 corn or corn-wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or grated Cojita cheese
  • Avocado-Tomatillo sauce, for serving
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

To Make the Sauce:

  1. In a food processor, combine the avocado, tomatillos, onion, Serrano Chile, water, and salt.
  2. Pulse until fairly smooth, about 10 pulses, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the cilantro and pulse a couple of times to combine.
  4. Transfer to a bowl, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt if needed.

Note: The Sauce will keep well for 24 hours, covered and refrigerated.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Broil the poblano chiles in the oven, rotating every 5 to 7 minutes, until charred and blistered on all sides. (I set my oven to Broil Max at 450F.)
  3. Wrap the chiles in the foil lining, to loosen the charred skin with steam.
  4. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and dice the roasted chiles.
  5. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker, instant pot, or dutch oven.
  6. SautƩ the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
  8. Add the water, salt, portobello mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and white mushrooms, then stir in the cilantro/epazote.
  9. If using a pressure cooker or instant pot, secure the lip and cook on high for 1 minute. (Alternatively, cook the mixture in a Dutch oven until mushrooms have released a significant amount of moisture and are lightly browned.)
  10. Use the quick pressure release. (I rotate the valve into a perpendicular position on the top of my pressure cooker.)
  11. Set a colander in a bowl. Pour the mushroom mixture into the colander, reserving the liquid in the bowl.
  12. Set the colander aside and return the liquid to the pot.
  13. Bring the liquid to a boil, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until syrupy and very thick.
  14. Return the mushroom mixture to the pot and stir in the black pepper, pepper flakes, and roasted and diced poblano chiles.
  15. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until heated through.
  16. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.
  17. Serve the mushroom filling in warm tortillas over shredded Monterey Jack and crumbled feta. Top with sauce, minced cilantro, and extra cheese, as desired.

For “Quesotacos”: Ā Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly oil, place a tortilla in the pan and toast for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the tortilla and top with 2 T of Jack cheese and 1 T of feta/Cojita. Continue toasting until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes more. Top with mushroom mixture, sauce, sprinkle of cheese, and pinch of cilantro. Serve immediately.

For a Grilled Corn & Mushroom Variation: Add kernels from 2 ears of grilled corn to the pot after adding the roasted poblano chiles.

Easy Taco Skillet Dinner

I love a quick skillet dinner- especially on a weeknight. This delicious family friendly meal is from my friend Mollie @Frugal Hausfrau. I have made it a couple of times, most recently for our Super Bowl celebration. Our meal has to complement the mandatory Super Bowl guacamole. šŸ™‚

Even though it could be served as is straight from the skillet, we ate it in both soft and hard shell tacos. (The hard shells won as the favorite, by the way.) I think that eating it as a pre-mixed taco filling made it even more of a crowd-pleaser. I modified the recipe by using ground turkey and by increasing the beans, onions, and garlic. Great!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup salsa (I used Trader Joe’s garlic chipotle salsa)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup white Basmati rice
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • hard or soft taco shells, for serving, if desired
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish, as desired
  • sliced avocado, for garnish, as desired
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, as desired

  1. In a large skillet with a lid, over medium high heat, add ground meat and cook, crumbling as it cooks.
  2. As soon as it starts to give up the juices, add in the onion and bell pepper, continuing to cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic, stirring for a minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper; briefly stir.
  5. Stir in tomatoes with the juice, salsa, black beans, and hot sauce.
  6. Toss the rice on top and add the 1 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir together, bring to a boil.
  7. Cover with lid and reduce to a bare simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until rice is just done. If possible, donā€™t lift the lid or stir until rice is finished.
  8. Turn off the heat. Using a spatula, gently turn the mixture from top to bottom. Add cheese to the top. Cover with lid and let sit for five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Serve in warm taco shells garnished with green onions, avocado, and/or minced cilantro, as desired.

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Pork Chile Verde

As I love sharing recipes, I am also thrilled when someone shares a recipe with me! šŸ™‚ My son’s swimming coach texted me the link to this wonderful dish after she made it for her family. What fun! She knew we would enjoy it too.

This recipe was adapted from Today.com, contributed by Padma Lakshmi. I doubled the garlic, reduced the pork, used large onions, and seeded the jalapeƱos. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with cornbread on the side. Full-flavored and absolutely fabulous!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 4 jalapeƱos, seeded
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, divided
  • 2 largeĀ yellow onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 to 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 shot tequila, preferably Alejo
  • 15 oz canĀ cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 lime, juiced, optional
  • rice, for serving, optional
  1. In a blender (I used a Vitamix), combine the tomatillos, avocados, jalapeƱos, four cloves of garlic, cilantro, lime juice, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, salt, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Puree until smooth. (Side note: This makes a great salsa verde sauce on its own; you may want to buy double the ingredients and use the extra as a dipping sauce for other savory treats!)
  2. In a heavy soup pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Slice remaining four cloves of the garlic in half, and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the onions, oregano, cumin, remaining sesame seeds and red pepper flakes, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  4. Add the ground pork and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.
  5. Add in the shot of tequila.
  6. Add the tomatillo sauce, beans and water or stock to the pork mixture.
  7. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.
  8. Stir in the lime juice just before serving, if desired.

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Chocolate-Avocado Pudding

This pudding gets its creaminess from avocados- and you would never know. It’s also made in minutes using a blender- fabulous!Ā I love that it incorporated aĀ vanilla bean and freshly squeezed orange juice too.

This recipe is from Gjusta in Venice, California, via Bon Appetit. Fresh and great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 2 large avocados, pits removed
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Ā¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Ā½ cup pure maple syrup
  • Ā¼ cup agave nectar
  • Ā¼ cup (or more) fresh orange juice
  • Ā½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1Ā½ cups heavy cream, optional
  • Ā¼ cup cocoa nibs and/or chopped hazelnuts, optional
  1. Scoop avocado flesh into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)
  2. Scrape in vanilla bean seeds; reserve pod for another use.
  3. Add cocoa powder, maple syrup, agave nectar, orange juice, and salt and blend to a coarse purƩe.
  4. With motor running, gradually stream in Ā¾ cup hot (but not boiling) water; blend, adding more orange juice as needed, until smooth and creamy.
  5. Divide pudding among eight 4ā€“6 oz. ramekins or small bowls and chill (uncovered) at least 2 hours.
  6. Just before serving, whip cream in a medium bowl to soft peaks and spoon over pudding, if desired; top with cocoa nibs and/or hazelnuts.

Note:Ā Pudding can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

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