Garam Masala Grilled Chicken Skewers

Let me start by saying that what I’m about to share with you is the easiest, most delicious bite of fabulous I have thrown together in a long time. And, I throw together bits of fabulous frequently. This one was practically perfect in every way. Eat your heart out, Mary Poppins. The. Bomb. Diggity. Continue reading “Garam Masala Grilled Chicken Skewers”

Roasted Garlic

You hear it all the time.

You have to “layer flavors” when you’re cooking. Well, what the heck does that mean? Load up on ingredients? Add tons of spices? Continue reading “Roasted Garlic”

Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken

Everyone needs a back pocket recipe. It’s that one impressive yet easy meal you can pull from your back pocket anytime you need a pass for dinner. Continue reading “Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken”

A Gringo Bandito Stole My Heart

Generally speaking, I’ve never been a huge fan of hot sauce. While I’ve partaken in a shake or two of some of the more established hot sauce players in the game, I’m not exactly a chilihead.

Don’t get me wrong – I love spicy. Eating a fat, charred jalapeño or taking down some serious Szechuan pepper ladened Asian cuisine can be downright euphoric. That song “I Can’t Feel My Face” comes to mind. Lips numb, tongue seemingly engulfed in flames fueled by capsaicin. It’s a beautiful thing. But, on the regular? I’m more of a spicy salsa girl.

I mean, how else am I supposed to eat my glorious breakfast tacos? I need salsa verde, salsa picante, salsa roja – things I not only associate with spiciness but also bursts of charred tomato, roasted peppers, and the smokiness that comes from toasted cumin or roasted garlic – flavor! For me, hot sauce has always been all vinegar and very little depth of flavor.

That was until I met el Gringo Bandito. Querido mío. And, I have to admit. The encounter has changed my life.

Armed with three options, Original Red, Green, and Super Hot, I started out on my week-long adventure the only way I know how – the breakfast taco. Now, you might be thinking, “Hey! What about better choices, chica!?” Does this stuff fit into your mantra?

Read the label, vato loco. That was brownie point numero uno.

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-30Salsa verde is normally my go-to salsa for breakfast tacos; so, I decided to stick with the program and go for the Gringo Bandito Green Sauce first.

Immediately, I knew there was something different. I wasn’t picking up that tart smack you get with most hot sauce. What I was getting was spicy but garlicky – like in that “have mercy, I need another bite” garlicky way.

The Green Sauce is a combination of Habanero and Serrano peppers, spices, and wait for it… mojo! Dude! Wow.

This was the shiznit. Blew my mind – mostly because I was fully expecting a fight with the vinegar to find some flavor. Pero no. This was good. As Nacho Libre might say, “Reaaaally goood.”

Now, as you recall, I have an aversion to sad, little salads. However, in my efforts to make better choices, I am adding more greenery to my daily intake – reluctantly so (as demonstrated in this recent text from Bear) – but nevertheless leafy greens have made an appearance on my plate.

The other day, I took some leafy greens to work. And, as part of my efforts to avoid said sad, little salad, I dressed it up with chicken and avocado. While it was a valiant effort, I feared it still wasn’t going to help take me to my happy place. So, I decided to throw some Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce into the mix.

Of the three Gringo Bandito options I tried, this was the only one that listed white vinegar as the first ingredient. I was betting on a “salad + vinegar + oil = sad, little salad + chilies = happier salad” theory.

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-27I added a generous shake or two (or ten) to my salad dressing, and once again, I was pleasantly surprised! This time, the Original Red was giving me a chile colorado vibe.

The Red Japanese Chili Peppers in the Original Red reminded me of that awesome lingering burn you feel when eating a bowl full of chile colorado just before having a sip of beer to wash it down. The addition of the Original Red took me to that happy place as I sat in the office, much like the chile colorado moment but sadly, with no beer to wash down the leafy greens.

I do have to mention, the Original Red definitely was the most vinegar-forward of the three options, but it also was nowhere near the toxic tartness levels most of the hot sauces out there embrace wholeheartedly. Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce definitely showcases an original, focused effort on getting all the heat and all the flavor out of their carefully selected pepper combinations without drowning it in acid.

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-6One of the nights this week, I made pan-seared skate wing with sauteed spinach and yellow squash. While beautifully balanced, healthy, and delicately seasoned, I couldn’t help but stare at the third bottle of Gringo Bandito sitting on the table with us, Super Hot, and wondering, “What if?”

This bad boy has Scorpion Chili Peppers!

AND Jolokia Chili Peppers! (aka Ghost Peppers! Cucuy!)

Would the skate wing melt away like that dude’s face in Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Would my fork survive?

Would the yellow squash shrivel up and turn into ash upon contact with Gringo Bandito Super Hot?

I had to find out!

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-7It. Was. Amazing.

While, yes, my lips and tongue were not particularly pleased I had gone from delicate, flaky, lightly seasoned fish to FIRE IN THE PIE HOLE, it wasn’t so much about the heat. Not even Super Hot heat. I was getting the background – the onions, garlic, and additional spices that most hot sauces lack. It was hot enough to make me uncomfortable but not so hot that I couldn’t taste the fact that it hadn’t taken anything away from the skate wing; it had actually elevated it.

The whole purpose of Gringo Bandito, I discovered, isn’t to just add a dash of spicy vinegar to your plate but for Gringo Bandito to simply and artfully craft a layer of complexity that harnesses the beauty of heat without torching the natural essence of the actual chili flavor.

The more I tasted Gringo Bandito hot sauces, the more it started to change my view on hot sauce, overall and especially as an ingredient. 

In making better choices, having flavor bomb options like Gringo Bandito that don’t bomb your better choices lifestyle is key! I need flavor punches without punching holes in my progress (17 pounds gone so far). Ultimately, this was the point that sealed the romance between me and my Gringo Bandito. It rocked my world so much that I even created a clean-eating, under-250-calories-per-healthy-serving recipe featuring Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce: Mexican Turkey Meatloaf.

Ingredients:
16oz 93% Lean Ground Turkey
1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, diced
1 Yellow Squash, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
1 TBS Cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
12 Herb Seasoned Croutons, crushed
1 TBS Knorr Tomato Bouillon With Chicken Flavor
5 TBS Tomato Paste
1 Large Brown Egg
2 TBS Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce
1 Medium Avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large sealable plastic storage bag, add the ground turkey. Set aside. Dice the onion, squash, bell pepper, and celery into small, similar sizes to ensure even cooking.

Add the diced vegetables, cilantro, cumin, garlic and onion powder to a skillet on medium-high. Cook until the onions and celery begin to become translucent. Season very lightly with salt, as you will be using bouillon later that will contain salt. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly.

Once the cooked vegetables are completely cooled, add the vegetables into the plastic storage bag with the ground turkey. Do not add warm vegetables to the raw turkey for food safety reasons. To the bag, add the tomato paste, egg, crushed croutons, bouillon, and Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce.

Seal the bag and massage the bag until all ingredients are incorporated thoroughly. Place the contents of the bag into a loaf pan and smooth out evenly with a spoon.

To the top of the meatloaf, add several more dashes of Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until the temperature reads 165° when inserted into the center part of the meatloaf.

Once the meatloaf is cooked through, top it with the sliced avocado and additional dashes of Gringo Bandito Original Hot Sauce for an extra kick! Serve with roasted sweet potato.

Yields 4 servings at 249 calories per serving.

It’s no joke. You need a Gringo Bandito in your life.

#sponsored
http://gringobandito.com/
Facebook: @gringobanditohotsauce
Twitter: @gringobhotsauce
Contact: ese@gringobandito.com

LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored when I post. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.

Greek Moussaka and Lamb Chops

I’m a sucker for a beautiful plate. When the vibrant colors dance visually, you can practically guarantee they will dance on your palate, right? So, when I was first introduced to Moussaka, a traditional Greek dish featuring eggplant and ground beef or lamb, covered in a creamy bechamel cheese sauce, I did not visualize Zorba the Greek fervently strutting about my taste buds.

Moussaka ain’t the prettiest at the party. It’s a heap of brown and white assembled in a lasagna-like pattern – not particularly “Opa!” inspiring.

Then, I tasted it.

What I adore, even more than a beautiful plate and certainly more important than aesthetics, is an amazingly memorable plate that transports me to another world or embraces me with comfort and happiness through taste and texture. Moussaka does just that. I’m not Greek, but it’s comfort food to me. And, why wouldn’t it be!? I mean, it’s meaty, hearty, and loaded with creamy, cheesy goodness!

The minor obstacle I had to overcome was the fact that most of the time “meat, hearty, and loaded with creamy, cheesy goodness” does not jive with my whole “better choices” mantra for this year.

I could ignore that, but I did write about it on the ol’ interwebs for everyone to see. Not to mention, I’ve actually lost 10 pounds in the first 14 days of 2017 just by making better choices. So, who says I can’t eat what I love and still make better choices?? We can balance it all out. I’m all about harmony (mostly harmony between my taste buds and my tummy, but harmony nonetheless).

Enter My Moussaka! (I really like saying that.)

As I walked through the list of ingredients, I thought about how I could make a faux bechamel topping and how I could keep that comforting aspect even if I took out most of the stuff that makes it comforting.

The idea hit me while we were driving to the store and I was under serious hangry duress. I had not timed my day out properly and was about an hour into a Snickers commercial. Thus, I was craving something hearty and comforting.

Well, with a few minor tweaks, I got this bad boy under 400 calories per heaping serving. Plus, I got through the nearly hourlong cooking process without my hangry hurting anyone! High five!

I drank tons of water while cooking this dish that feeds six, and I was so proud that I stuck to the “better choices” plan because this version was so good! Bear is a big eater, and he absolutely loved it and said it was very filling. While I’m not an authority on Moussaka by any means, for us, this Moussaka recipe is, dare I say, “Opa!” worthy.

Ingredients:
2 TBS Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Eggplant, peeled
1 TBS Coconut Oil
3 Garlic Clove, minced
1/3 Onion, chopped
2 Portabello Mushroom Cap, chopped
16 oz Ground Turkey
2 TBS C&J Farms Greek Seasoning
4 TBS Tomato Paste
1 Large Cauliflower
1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
8oz Daiya Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds

Note: You can add an egg to the creamy mixture right before using it to layer. It will help stabilize and create a fluffier layer, but it’s not necessary.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel the eggplant and slice lengthwise to make 1/4 inch oblong-like slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet, trying not to overlap. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the eggplant and season with 1 TBS of Greek seasoning. The C&J Farms brand of Greek seasoning includes salt. If you use a brand of Greek seasoning that doesn’t contain salt, season the eggplant on both sides with salt. Place in the oven and bake until the eggplant is roasted, approximately 15 minutes. It’s okay if the thinner slices get a little charred, but watch them carefully so charred doesn’t turn into burned. Once the eggplant is roasted, remove from oven and set aside for assembly.

While the eggplant is baking in the oven, in a medium saucepan, break up the head of cauliflower and add almond milk.

Add chicken stock to the cauliflower, season with a dash of salt, and then cover with a lid and allow to simmer on medium heat while everything else is cooking.

Finely chop the mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Add coconut oil to a large skillet or dutch oven and saute the onion, garlic, and mushrooms on medium high until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have cooked down.

Create a small well in the center of the mushroom mixture, and add the tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste in the center until it has a darker color. Then, incorporate the tomato paste fully with the onion and mushroom mixture. Add the ground turkey and the remaining Greek seasoning, and cook thoroughly. Set aside.

Once the cauliflower has cooked through and is softened, use a hand blender or transfer to a blender to blend into a smooth consistency. Add the mozzarella shreds and blend until well combined. (I’ve never been a huge fan of vegan cheese, but Bear got me hooked on this particular brand. So, it’s the only one I really use when I’m trying to cut down on dairy.)

In a casserole dish, add a layer of the ground turkey mixture. Top with eggplant as if you’re layering lasagna noodles.

Cover the eggplant with a portion of the creamy cauliflower mixture and continue to build, alternating turkey, eggplant, and cauliflower until the last layer is the creamy mixture.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Broil for another 5 minutes to char the top of the Moussaka. Then, grab a bowl, get comfy on the couch, and indulge without that pesky indulgence guilt.

Now, not my norm, but I’m going to throw a quick and easy Greek Lamb Chop recipe in here at the end because… well… it’s quick and easy! And, it’s delicious and uses the same Greek seasoning I use for the Moussaka.

Season four lamb chops with Greek seasoning that has salt. Same as above; if your Greek seasoning doesn’t have salt, season the chops with salt. Cube one sweet potato, french one medium onion, and slice one lemon. Heat up a cast iron skillet on medium high, add the lamb chops to sear until browned on all sides but not cooked through. Remove the chops from the skillet. Add the potato and onion to the skillet and saute briefly. Add the seared lamb chops back to the top of the onions and potatoes. Place the slices of lemon on top of the chops. Add a splash of chicken stock or beef stock to the skillet to deglaze. Transfer the entire skillet to the oven and bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 20 minutes.

Opa!

LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored when I post. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.
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