Chick Pea Soup Recipe with Crispy Cilantro Garnish

Chick Pea Soup

Chick Pea Soup with Crispy Cilantro Garnish

Admit it: Have you ever made a dish just for the garnish?

I am the person who orders Caesar salad just for the croutons. Spaghetti just for the meatballs. Sundaes just for the hot fudge.

I have seen lots and lots of fried parsley out there – so I wondered  . . . can you fry cilantro? I couldn’t WAIT to try.

Turns out, you can! You cook it just the same way that you cook parsley – it takes just a minute to get crisp, but just like parsley, it holds its own with the hot oil and makes a pretty garnish for the top of a bowl of soup.

I put a blended chick pea soup underneath the garnish and it is YUM. Yes, both the soup and the garnish!

— posted by Donna

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette Recipe

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
It’s time to take a “pit-stop” in the middle of my Holiday Baking Marathon to make my family’s favorite holiday salad. Yes, you heard correctly… I said it… “favorite salad!” This Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette is a holiday season MUST at our house.  I have served this salad as a side dish at fancy dinner parties and as a meatless entre at busy weeknight meals.

And, if that’s not enough, it really is gorgeous on the plate. The pomegranate seeds look like little jewels.

I do have to say that earning the title of our family’s “favorite salad” is quite a feat. We kind of have a thing about lettuce around here.

Like Ralphy says, “every family has a kid that won’t eat.”  Our kid is James, my oldest kid. And, for some reason, lettuce is the very worst thing. Now that he is grown, he can fly airplanes through giant storms and “tornado alley” in the summer, land them in high crosswinds with almost no visibility… but he still can’t bring himself to eat lettuce.
He says it has something to do with heat lamps.  Heat lamps?  Like, when restaurants use shredded lettuce as a garnish and leave the plate under the heat lamp… or put lettuce inside a hot-out-of-the-frier taco shell and the melted cheese and grease wilt the lettuce to death?  Those heat lamps.
Rings of roasted squash for Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
But,for some reason, James loves this salad…

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Rustic Veggie Soup with Cheese Cubes, or Carol’s Caldo con Queso

Cheese Soup 1865x1865

Caldo de Queso or Cheese Soup

My name is Donna and I am a soup-a-holic.

As soon as there is a chill in the air every autumn, I begin daydreaming about soups. Creamy soups. Brothy soups. Spicy soups. Anything made into soups. And what’s better than a steamy bowl of veggie soup? A steamy bowl of veggie soup with cheese cubes!

One of my current obsessions is this soup. It has chunks of all kinds of veggies in a flavorful broth. But what makes this soup craveable is the chunks of cheese added in just before serving. And not just any cheese, but a non-melting kind of cheese like queso fresco. The chunks of cheese become little flavor sponges and soak up the broth and become soft and tender and, well . . . my mouth is watering just typing these words!

My dad is one of those folks with impeccable, classic taste in everything, even food. When we go to my favorite restaurant on the planet, El Charro, their Caldo de Queso soup is one of his favorites, and he orders it almost every time I am with him.

So, on my recent visit home, mom and I decided to try a home version. Result: Bliss in a Bowl! The key is the cheese, and cutting it into small cubes and tossing them in at the last minute. My mom is one of those amazing cooks who can adapt recipes from just tasting them. I love to be with her when she experiments in the kitchen – we have a great time laughing, tasting, conspiring together.

So here, southwest food fans, is Carol’s latest creation for your culinary pleasure!

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Classic Cheese Crisps Recipe from our Hometown – Tucson, Arizona

Mmmm… warm melted cheese and roasted chiles on a crispy flour tortilla. No, it’s not heaven, it’s Southwest’s authentic cheese crisps invented in our home town of Tucson, Arizona.
Authentic Cheese Crisps from Tucson, Arizona

Sometimes simple is best.

Take Cheese Crisps for example. Tortillas. A little butter. Cheese. That’s it. Really. Sure, you can add toppings if you like. But just those three essentials are heavenly all by themselves.

Our hometown – Tucson, Arizona – is the birthplace of this simple culinary delight, and specifically El Charro restaurant, my all-time favorite place to eat. ((Note: We are going to do a post on El Charro soon here on EDS – IMHO they serve the best Sonoran style Mexican food in the universe.))

It is not a surprise that the Cheese Crisps there are THE best. Ever. Thin, crispy flour tortillas with a little butter toasted to perfection in the oven and then slathered with Mexican cheeses and melted again. Oh. My. Gosh.The Perfect Bite.

I recently saw another food blogger from Tucson do a fabulous post on What’s Gaby Cooking? on her take on Classic Cheese Crisps. I decided it was time to post them here. After all, Sandy and I are both Tucson girls and grew up on them. Whenever I fly into Tucson, my first stop is and will always be El Charro, and my first bite will be a Cheese Crisp.

Yes, here we present to you the El Charro Classic Cheese Crisp, reinvented for the home cook. Ooey, gooey cheesy goodness at its best.

I know. You’re welcome!

— posted by Donna

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Fried Avocado with Spicy Shrimp Salad Recipe—Paula Deen, This One’s for You!

Fried Avocado with Spicy Shrimp Salad Recipe

Fried Avocado with Spicy Shrimp Salad Recipe

I cannot tell a lie, I did it. I took an avocado, coated it in breadcrumbs and deep fried it. Then, I covered it with a spicy shrimp salad recipe and ate it for lunch.
Why? By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Anthony Bourdain, Paula Deen smack down.
You haven’t?
Well… let me tell you about it! For some reason, Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations, decided to pick a fight with mothers everywhere by calling Paula Deen, Queen of Southern Homecooking herself, the biggest threat to America, today. Paula responded with a well placed uppercut saying that she and her Food Network friends cook for people who can’t afford $59.00 for prime rib or $400.00 for a bottle of wine.
Let the food fight begin!
I don’t know why I feel so defensive about Paula Deen. I’ve never actually cooked one of her recipes… yet. But, I know those flavors. Like so many of my generation, I grew up on American Regional Cuisine; complete with mayonnaise and tuna noodle casseroles made with condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. Come back here, Northeast. Ya, we’re talking to you, with your heavy roux chowders and your mayonnaise covered lobster rolls.
Bourdain has made a habit of taking cheap shots at Emeryl and Rachael Ray. So, why the fuss now? Perhaps his jab hit a little too close to home, our home—a little too close to Mom and apple pie.
His point that foods such as Deen’s are seen as unhealthy is nothing new. Funny, I never had to watch my weight back then; not until my kids were grown and I could afford to eat in fancy restaurants such as the ones Bourdain has cooked in. Hmmm… I wonder?
Anyway, I found out that Paula Deen likes fried avocado. Well… who doesn’t? Antonia fried them for her during a quick-fire challenge on Top Chef All-Stars. I was stunned. I actually called out to the television,
“Hey! That’s my recipe!”
Well, not mine exactly, I stole it from my favorite Cowboy restaurant, The Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, which was conceived by one of my favorite chefs, James Beard Award winner Robert McGrath. The Roaring Fork uses a crab salad instead of the fried shrimp that Antonia used. I substituted little salad shrimp for the crab in this recipe, as well. Let’s just say I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I saw the price of fresh lump crab. It’s a substitution that Paula would approve of.

Spicy Shrimp Salad on Fried Avocado Recipe

Spicy Shrimp Salad on Fried Avocado Recipe

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Shaved Summer Squash Salad with Jalapeno Vinaigrette and Spiced Pecans for Meatless Monday

Shaved Zucchini Square

Raw Shaved Summer Squash Salad with Jalapeno Vinaigrette and Spiced Pecans

My garden is overflowing right now with all kinds of produce. So can you blame me that I am shaving zucchini and summer squash?

This raw salad is an incredible mix of sweet, savory and spicy all at once, and I give it a southwest kick by adding pepper rings and a spicy coating to the pecans. And so little cooking to heat up your kitchen!

Just make the vinaigrette with southwest favorites: jalapenos and cilantro; then, toss with shaved squash and pecans.

Summer squashes are packed with nutrients and I have grown to love them raw just as much as cooked.

Happy Meatless Monday, Everyone!

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Bacon Wrapped Chicken Jalapeno Thingies on the Grill inspired by The Pioneer Woman

Chicken Bites Square II

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Jalapeno Bites

It’s confession time: I don’t like jalapeno poppers. I know, I know. This is a southwest blog and I’m supposed to like them.

But there is just something about the texture that I hate, and having a whole jalapeno in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong – I like jalapenos in lots of things. But not just a whole one with hot cheese oozing out.

The closest I have come to liking them was last Fall at a fabulous Blogher conference party hosted by The Pioneer Woman herself – Ree Drummond. She served up Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Thingies. They almost made me like jalapeno poppers. But just almost.

So, I decided to ditch the jalapenos and use chicken instead.

These are so flavorful and easy to do on the grill. You can whip them up in no time and throw them on the grill with the rest of dinner!

Happy August, Everyone!

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Bacon Wrapped Chicken Jalapeño Thingies with Inspiration from The Pioneer Woman

Chicken Bites Square II

Okay. Confession time: I don’t like Jalapeño Poppers.

I know, I know. This is a southwest food blog. I should love them, I really should. And I love jalapeño peppers in most everything.


There is something about the texture and the too-much-of-a-good thing feeling when you have a whole jalapeño in your mouth.

I almost became a convert when The Pioneer Woman served up her “Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Thingies” at the Blogher food conference in October 2010. Almost.

So I decided a revision was in order. I wrapped pounded chicken around a filling of cream cheese, minced jalapeños and then sliced them and wrapped them with bacon. Very thin bacon works best, because it gets crispier on your barbecue.

(BTW, are you staying cool? Have you entered our cool giveaway for making frozen pops in a flash? You really should click here!)

These “thingies” are fabulous! Perfect summer appetizer bites you can make if you are already grilling you dinner.

Happy August, Everyone!

— posted by Donna

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