Tex-Mex Staples Make Many Meals…

I was talking to sister Erin about the upcoming week’s lunch and dinner menus last night and we stumbled upon a new Golden Rule of North American Cooking. Unthinkable ten or fifteen years ago, for most of us, Tex-Mex foods are now staples in many non-Southwestern Kitchens!

Red Beans and Rice - © epicurious.comRed Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage – a New Orleans delight and yet another dish
you can make in minutes with the right Tex Mex Staples in your pantry!

It hit me like a piece of lumber in a Three Stoodges two-reeler. When I go to the supermarket, now, I always check mentally when I’m in the bread section to see if I have enough Tortillas at home. They don’t even have to be on the list. I just use them for so many things that they spring automatically to mind.

I prefer Flour Tortillas over corn for most ad hoc meal throw-togethers. I’ve actually come to think of them as ‘thin’ Pitas, for Greek and Middle Eastern wraps and pockets, as well. Makes sense from a healthy eating perspective – less carbs than a Big Pita or two slices of Bread.

I also like to have Limes or Lime Juice in the house at all times. The makings for a last-minute Salsa Cruda or Pico de Gallo are usually in my pantry and fridge on any given day as a matter of course. The hang-up used to be Lime, the non-negotiable finishing touch! No more, though – now that I have adopted Limes as a Tex Mex staple.

Sweet Peppers and big, ripe Beefsteak Tomatoes are always on hand, along with Onions and a Jalapeño or two.

And I always seem to have a couple of cans of Black Beans in the cupboard, these days, in case I feel like whipping up a pot of Refritos.

In the Spice cupboard, I always have Italian style Hot Chili Flakes plus Pure Chili Powder (not a Chili Spice Blend) and a bottle of Arbol Chili Powder. I also have whole Coriander, Cumin and other Spices which I like to grind just before I use them. Many of the spices that go into Tex-Mex and Caribbean recipes are also used in African and Asian cuisines. I use a lot of them.

There is no substitute for fresh Cilantro. But I have trouble growing it on the widow still here in the Great White North. I also balk at buying it from the supermarket (especially in the of season) at prices that just seem crazy-high to me. I’m banking on some scientific type coming up with a cold-climate variety of Cilantro.

Ah… The great vexed question of Guacamole and Avocados in general. I don’t buy them unless they are on sale and not too far gone overripe. They can cost as much as (C)$2 each up here in the subarctic and I just won’t spend the money. Now, when they are abundant and you can get a bag of three for $2, that’s when I buy them and enjoy the luscious, creamay heck out of them!

With those in my ‘back pocket’, I can go Mex in a moment!

I like to use up leftovers in Wraps, Burritos or Tacos. Thinly-sliced leftover Sunday Roast beef with a little Arbol Chili Powder sprinkled on top and some diced Tomato and Onion on the side says ‘more’ to me!

I also make Breakfast Burritos more often now than I did a few years back. Must be my growing reliance on my Tex-Mex staples. And I’m using rice more than I used to. Same reason?

Have you ever made a Tortilla Casserole? It’s a but like Tex Mex Lasagna, but with Corn Tortillas instead of Noodles, and a Cheddar Jack Cheese Sauce instead of Tomato Sauce. Its stuffed full of Pre-cooked Chicken that’s been removed from the bone and shredded plus a healthy amount of Sweet Peppers and a few Jalapeños (To your taste.)  Some cooks also finish it off with a layer of Grated Sharp cheese on top and a sprinkling of Chili Powder…

I’ve been putting off truing the recipe for a couple of years, now, but so evolved have my tastes become, I see this Casserole as a great cold weather dish… Or am I just crazy?

~ Maggie J.

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