Not Here But Not Quite Gone Either…

I’m here to apologize.

I’ve been absent. Very absent.

I think you deserve an explanation.

Life kicked into high gear around the time of the big move. We packed up all our worldly belongings onto a truck, got on a plane and flew across the country from Philadelphia to Los Angeles:

 

FROM:

TO:

Mr. Hot and Spicy and I quickly got settled in into a cozy little apartment in Seal Beach, just south of Long Beach. Since our new home is only blocks from the beach, we spent nearly every day this summer at the beach:

When I wasn’t bumming around on the sand, I was deep into an intense job search. I am so fortunate to be able to say that I have found an amazing position at an amazing school in South Central, Los Angeles. I love the position. I work with hardworking kids, hopeful parents and passionate teachers. I feel blessed every day.

Unfortunately, the position is intense and my hours have been long. For a long time now, I’ve telling myself that I would find the time to get back into the kitchen, to keep experimenting and keep posting. But, I have to acknowledge my limitations. For the time being, this blog will be on hiatus. I’ll keep the archives going and keep reading the awesome comments.

I hope that, by winter, I’ll be back here posting again and being part of the amazing community of bloggers. But, until then, keep it Spicy everyone!

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An Awesome Cinco de Mayo

524778_614457192956_687309644_nJust about every day is Cinco de Mayo around these parts. Tacos, burritos, margaritas, cervezas… that’s just how we do it every day.

But what really works for a Cinco de Mayo party? You want things that can be done in advance, things that are easy and things that are muy deliciosas.

You also want things that will let you enjoy the night without blowing up like a piñata. So, for your enjoyment, I’ve rounded up the best Mexican dishes and drinks from around the web… all under 300 calories.

¡Salud y Buen Provecho!

 Drinks

Skinny MargaritasSkinny Margaritas: Nothing says verano like crisp margaritas with with a bit of sparkle. These simple drinks are just made up of seltzer water, lime juice, tequila and a splash of juice- but they pack a punch.

Weight Watchers Points+: 3

Calories 80, Carbs 4g, Fat 0g, Protein 0g

Appetizers

Healthy Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers3Healthy, Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers: These are a big it every time. Spicy, intense and surprisingly healthy. Stuffed with mushrooms, garlic, Greek yogurt, a bit of cheese and wrapped in turkey bacon, these are amazingly delicious and guilt free.

Weight Watchers Points+: 1

Calories 30, Carbs 1g, Fat 2g, Protein 5g

low fat guacamoleLow Fat Guacamole: I’ve been seeing some odd recipes for low fat guacamole lately- guacamole with mashed peas, garbanzo and even zucchini. But there is such a natural solution- tomatillos. These tart, citrusy veggies help cut the calories nearly in half.

Weight Watchers Points+: 1

Calories 51, Fat 4, Carbs 4, Protein 1

mini tamale pie 1 (2)Taco Dip Mini Tamale Pies: Aren’t these stunning little appetizers? They start with an earthy masa base, followed by layers of pepper jack cheese, refried beans and yellow rice, topped with guacamole and sour cream. It’s like a taco dip that gussied up for a cocktail party.

Weight Watchers Points+: 4

Calories 130, Carbs 15g, Fat 8g, Protein 4g

Wine SalsaWine Sautéed Tomato Salsa: This is a salsa with the usual ingredients- tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, onion- but it has a small twist. The tomatoes and garlic are sautéed in white wine before everything is pureed. The result is a milder salsa where the wine brings out the natural sweetness of tomatoes and adds a subtle bit of acidity instead of the sharp bite of lemon juice.

Weight Watchers Points+: 0, Calories: negligible

Tacos

Why are tacos awesome? They’re easy to prep, easy to set out and easy for everyone to make their own!

Pick up some of the best quality tortillas you can find. If you can find a place that makes them fresh, then you are good to go. To keep them warm, plug in your slow cooker, set it to low and wrap the tortillas in a damp towel. Then set out some of these fillings:

Spicy Ground BeefSpicy Ground Beef/Turkey: The best part about this filling is that it requires two ingredients and two directions. If you can turn on the stove, you can create something that will blow Taco Bell out of the water.

Weight Watchers Points+: 3

Calories 161, Carbs 2, Fat 6g, Protein 22g

DSC03124Carne Adobada: What is carne adobada? It is marinated pork, beef, chicken, lamb or even goat. It is spicy, vinegary, smoky and a tiny bit sweet.  I always make a double batch of this because I know I will reincarnate the left overs in so many ways.

WW Points+: 6 per serving

Calories 275, Fat 9g, Carbs 3g, Protein 42g

Vegetarian, Low-fat, Unbelievably Delicious Refried Beans: It won’t just be your vegetarian friends that love these. Packed with flavor and just a little bit spicy, these refried beans may just make you swear off the canned stuff forever.

Weight Watchers Points+:3

Calories 143, Carbs 23g, Fat 2g, Protein 9g

Dessert

avacado-chocolate-chip-cookies-034aChocolate Chip Avocado Cookies: These are very unexpected, very green but very delicious. These little cookies get a little health makeover by snubbing butter in favor of avocados. Pass these around hot out of the oven- they are a gooey, decadent experience.

Weight Watchers Points+:3

Calories 99, Carbs 17g, Fat 3g, Protein 1g

 

 

 

 

 

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Skinny Margaritas (3 points)

Skinny margaritas

 

The weather is warming up and Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. It all makes you want to kick back and soak up the sun with a refreshing beverage in hand. This little cocktail is a simple mix of tequila, seltzer water and lime juice with a splash of juice. I love it. It’s not too sweet, not too sour, not too fruity but so very perfect. The seltzer water makes it refreshing, the juice gives it a touch of sweetness and the lime takes the edge off the tequila. So, be careful now, these are a little too easy to drink.

In fact, I love them so much I’m claiming them for myself. From here on out, they’ll just be known as Lidi-ritas. I’ve always wanted to have a drink named after me.

Ingredients:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • 1 oz tequila
  • 1 oz juice (mango and guava are my faves)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) seltzer water

Directions:

  • Stir together ingredients. Pour over ice.

Serving Size: 1 margarita

Weight Watchers Points+: 3

Calories 80, Carbs 4g, Fat 0g, Protein 0g

 

 

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Spicy Ground Beef Chiles Rellenos (4 points)

Chiles Rellenos

Craving something hot and saucy, cheesy and spicy? These surprisingly easy chiles rellenos are filled with ground beef, a spicy chile sauce and melted cheese.

This blog (and my kitchen) has been quiet recently. I realize that it seems like I’ve dropped off the face of the blogosphere but I’m not gone forever, I was just taking a hiatus. Things have gotten so busy with the details of our upcoming move.

Believe me, I am beyond thrilled to be moving to Long Beach. But, a cross-country move takes some planning. First, we were so excited to spend the summer on the beach that we decided to break our lease early and move in June. Our management company, on the other hand, didn’t share our enthusiasm. After some back and forth, we struck a deal- they would let us out of our lease if we found the next tenant.

After some Craigslist adventures, we found great tenants. They signed and we were ready to move on. Except, I then realized just how much still had to be done. A moving company had to be enlisted, a new apartment had to be found, new cars had to be researched and, of course, I had to find a new job.

Before this, moving meant renting a u-haul and paying some friends with pizza. But because Mr. Hot and Spicy’s new job offer included professional movers, it made more financial sense to move our things across the country than to sell and then buy new. But I do wonder what the in-home estimators thought as they marched through our one-bedroom apartment taking inventory of our fine collection of Ikea press-board furniture. “Lady, this is just insulting, now I’m hauling doll furniture.”

Everything else, I’m still working on. Because we will definitely need at least one car in Long Beach, I’ve had to research what sort of lovely new (to me) vehicle I want. And, because, I need to pay for said car, I need to find a job. I’ve stopped being a blog writing machine and started being a resume writing machine.

The point is that I’ve become a bad blog owner. But I do have an amazing dinner to share. Remember the El Pato sauce I was raving about? Remember the cheesy (and yet healthy) chiles rellenos I love? I’ve put the two of them together for a rich, filling dinner. These chiles rellenos get loaded with lean ground beef, fresh beans, shredded cheese and a light chile sauce. The best part is that the cheese and the chile sauce blend together in the oven to create a hot, spicy cheese sauce. So good!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, 95% lean, or ground turkey, 90% lean
  • 1 can El Pato tomato sauce, 7 3/4 ounces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can beans (or 2  cups homemade)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 8 poblano chiles, washed and dried

Directions:

  • First, let’s prep the poblanos. I’ve actually decided that it’s easier to clean out the seeds before charring the skin. To clean them out, cut along the length of the poblano and across the top. You are cutting a T-shape.

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  • With a knife, you can cut out the main membrane with the seeds. Use a spoon to scrape the rest out. Remember, membranes=spicy. Also, don’t touch your eyes afterwards and don’t touch anyone else’s eyes.

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  • Now you can char the skin. The easiest way to do this is to use your broiler. Place the peppers into the broiler. You’ll start to hear the skin blistering. After 8 minutes, check on the peppers. The skin on the peppers should be puffy and blistering, light brown to dark brown. Flip the peppers and char the skin on the other side. Remove after 5 minutes or so.

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  • Place the peppers in a sealed plastic bag for 5 minutes. This steams the peppers and loosens the skin. I make these chiles rellenos so often that I keep a Ziploc bag just for that use.
  • Open the bag and let the peppers cool slightly. After steaming, the skin should come off nicely. You just need to find a good spot to pinch and a big chunk of skin usually comes off. Don’t worry about getting it all off, just enough.
  • Next, brown the meat in a skillet until most of the pink is gone. Stir in the can of El Pato tomato sauce. Add the salt. Simmer over low heat until the sauce has been reduced by half.
  • Now, set up an assembly line for stuffing the chiles. You want to stuff each chile with a 1/4 cup of beans, 1/2 cup of meat and 1 tablespoon of cheese.

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  • Close up the poblano chiles with a toothpick and place on a baking tray.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until very hot.

Serving Size: 2 chiles rellenos

WW Points+: 8 per serving

If you liked this recipe, you might also like….

Easy Baked Chiles Rellenos with Cheese MushroomsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Crunchy, Spicy Hole-in-the-Wall Style Tacos (10 points)

Crunchy Tacos

Love hot, crispy tacos loaded with cheese, sour cream and spicy sauce? Think you can only get them at Taco Bell? This recipe makeover delivers the taste without the fat, additives or mystery meat.

There isn’t anything quite like Californian Mexican food. I’m talking about those crispy fish tacos, hot chimichangas and smothered burritos. I’m talking about those margaritas the size of your head. I’m talking about everything that is a meld of cultures and pure comfort.

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story set in the sandy beaches of San Diego. It’s set during the summer after my freshman year of college. I had been dating this cute boy for a couple of months. He was smart, he made me laugh, he made me wonder. But most of all, he made me feel at peace, like slow waves rolling in. All that summer, after we would get off from our menial jobs, he would pick me up and we would drive. We would drive to Encinitas, Leucadia, Oceanside with the sun hot and bright overhead, washing out the colors of California to oranges and blues. There would be a quick stop. We’d pick up sandwiches or sushi, but mostly we’d pick up tacos with horchata for him and agua de jamaica for me. And then, we’d sit. Toes buried in the sand that was quickly cooling off after a long day, we’d sit and talk and watch the waves crashing onto shore while finishing off crunchy tacos that dripped oil. His blond hair went pale like wheat that summer and he tanned deep golden while I went from cinnamon to caramel. The sun would slip down over the horizon as we talked and laughed for hours, until it was finally so cold we had to run back to the car.

We spent a few more summers like that. And, I hope, we will have a lifetime of more summers like that.

Crunchy, Spicy Hole-in-the-Wall Style Tacos
Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef, 95% lean
  • 1 can El Pato tomato sauce, 7 ¾ ounces (check here if you’re unfamiliar with it)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups refried beans (you can open a can but homemade is so much better)
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Optional:

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt
  • Shredded spinach or lettuce
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Salsa (click here for some ideas)

Directions:
1.         Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

2.         Brown the meat in a skillet until most of the pink is gone.

3.         Stir in the can of El Pato tomato sauce. Add the oregano and salt. Simmer over low heat until the sauce has been reduced by half.

4.         To get the tortillas nice and pliable, you’re going to have to steam them in the microwave. Wrap the tortillas with a clean, damp towel. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.

Wrap tortillas in a damp towel

Wrap tortillas in a damp towel

5.         You’re going to have to work quickly for the next part so line up everything that’s going inside the tacos- the meat, the beans and the cheese.

6.         Take a nice, hot tortilla. Quickly spray both sides with the olive oil spray. Fill with the following- ¼ cup ground beef, ¼ cup refried beans and 1 tablespoon cheese.

Quickly spray tortillas on both sides.

Quickly spray tortillas on both sides.

Layer ingredients

Layer ingredients

7.         Fold into a taco and place on a baking sheet. If the tortillas don’t close, you can use a toothpick to hold them in place. If the tortillas start to crack or just aren’t pliable enough, return them to the microwave.

8.         Bake for 10-12 minutes until just crispy.

9.         Set out any of the optional ingredients as toppings.

Serving Size: 2 tacos

WW Points+: 10

Calories 400, Carbs 49g, Fat 11g, Protein 33g

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Healthy in 30: Healthy Wraps- Easy Spicy Salmon Wraps

Spicy Salmon Wrap Hotspicyandskinny.com

The winning recipe!

I’ve been quietly typing away in my corner of the blogosphere for a while now, learning basic photography, simple web design and blogging basics all while continuing to do what I love the most… cooking healthy and delicious food.

My readership is still tiny and I don’t know what I’m doing. So I was blown away when I was approached by Spry Living magazine, asking if I would mind being featured on their online edition.

Would I mind? It’s like the coolest thing that’s ever happened to this baby blog! I’m happy to announce that today, Spryliving.com featured my Easy Spicy Salmon Wraps in their Healthy in 30 series. Go take a look! And then check out the rest of this awesome magazine.

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Go-to, Throw into anything… Spicy Ground Beef/Turkey

 

Spicy Ground Beef

Today I’m going to introduce you to the lazy Mexican cook’s ultimate secret. It’s versatile, it’s convenient, it’s in a can with a cute duck… It’s El Pato Hot Spicy Tomato Sauce!

El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce

With a few cans of this stuff in your pantry, you can create hundreds of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. It’s a simple tomato sauce. The ingredients list tomatoes, chiles, garlic and onion. It’s a bit on the spicy side if you’re not accustomed to Mexican dishes. I’m thinking it’s about as spicy as the medium sauce you get at Taco Bell. Speaking of Taco Bell, if you like that stuff you won’t after you try this. [click to continue…]

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These are seriously cool and so perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. They really do come out bright green. And they really are made out of avocados!

How perfect would they be to take in  to work? Or to send to your child’s school? Or to feast on late at night after your pints of green beer?

These little cookies get a little health makeover by snubbing butter in favor of avocados. But don’t fear, they don’t taste like guacamole cookies. They taste like a regular cookie, although the texture is different. Maybe more like a scone. Spongier, fluffier than a cookie. A different texture, definitely, but still delicious. And here’s a fun tip- freeze the cookies and they taste just like cookie dough! Make them with dark chocolate chips for an antioxidant boost.

The recipe comes straight from Jen at Peanut Butter and Peppers. Click here for her amazing recipe!

Update: I made these for some friends on Friday night and we devoured them straight out of the oven. We all decided that they may be the best outa-the-oven cookies ever made. Super gooey and melty!

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Things to be Grateful for… March 10, 2013

Another week’s gone by and I want to know…. what are you grateful for?

These are the things I’m grateful for. I’ll start with the small stuff and end with the BIG one!

1. El Pato Tomato Salsa

El Pato Salsa

I used to take these little cans for granted. The iconic yellow cans with the serene duck hold a wonderful spicy tomato sauce made with chiles, onions and garlic. They’re the perfect cans to reach for when you’re making some Mexican on the quick. For the rest of the month, I have 6 recipes to share that use this humble sauce. Stay tuned for the month of the Pato.

2.  Isabel Allende

Once upon a time, I was a voracious reader. But, now, I often feel listless and bored with the books I pick up. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt spellbound by a book.

But then I picked up Island Beneath the Sea while on vacation at Rehoboth Beach last weekend. While I sat on the dunes of that prim, Victorian seaside town, I was transported to the thick jungles of Haiti and the dense sugarcane fields worked by slaves. The story is told through the perspective of one slave who starts her life on a plantation, survives through the Haitian revolution and eventually flees with her children to French-dominated New Orleans. Needless to say, I hushed my husband a lot as I tore through this book.

3.   Southern California

A while back, I shared that we would be moving soon but we still didn’t know where. My husband had quite a few interviews, a number of job offers across the country and some very hard choices to make. But, in the end, only one thing truly made sense- going back home. In June, we will be leaving Philadelphia for Long Beach. There are so many things I’m going to miss about Philadelphia and the East Coast. But I’m overjoyed about what I’m going to gain.

We’ll have our families close by. We’ll have a network of friends. We’ll have sun, warmth and sand. We’ll have lemon trees and avocado trees. We’ll have palm trees and bougainvilleas. We’ll have fresh, local produce year around. We’ll have Spanish on every street corner again.  We’ll have community. We’ll be able to raise bilingual children. We’ll be able to teach our children to swim in the Pacific Ocean. We’ll have 287 days of sunshine a year. We’ll have winter temperatures that don’t dip below 50 degrees. We’ll have the things that make me the happiest in the world. Sometimes, just sometimes, life clicks into place so perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, now, it’s your turn. What are you grateful for this week?

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Easy Chipotle Salsa (or an easy way to store leftover chipotles)

Chipotle salsa

Chipotle salsa is as easy as opening a can, dumping the ingredients into a blender and giving it a good spin. Use the salsa on everything from veggie burgers to rice to hot dogs. Store in a glass jar in the fridge for weeks! Every time a recipe calls for one chipotle pepper, add a tablespoon of your puree!

Pureed chipotles are so delicious as a salsa, people simply don’t believe that it’s not a complicated recipe. One day for work, we threw a taco potlock. I was responsible for bringing ground turkey. Usually, I would add something spicy to the meat. But, given that this was in Philadelphia and there was not a single Latino on staff, I wanted to be careful with the spiciness. I didn’t want to be responsible for this:

So, as a compromise, I cooked the meat without chilis and pureed up some chipotles on the side. Well, the chipotle salsa was a hit! Everyone wanted to know the “recipe”.

“Lidi, this is so good, what’s in this?”

“Nothing, it’s just a can of chipotles.”

“No, but what else do you add?”

“No, you open up the can and blend it.”

“No, LIDI, but what do you blend it WITH?”

Finally, I gave up.

“Actually, I can’t tell you because it’s a secret recipe. It was passed down from my abuelita who got it from her abuelita, who was an Aztec princess. So it’s sacred.” [click to continue…]

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