Breaded Steak Tortas

I grew up eating breaded steak, or bistec empanizado which just means breaded steak, on a regular basis. My mom would make it for dinner pretty regularly. She’d also make this same cut of meat without breading it and would cook it in a tomato sauce with lots of fresh tomatoes and sliced onions. I liked that one too, but let’s be honest, I’d pick fried breaded steak over anything anytime. I’d be crazy not to. Anyhow, with either dish she would make and serve it with some out of this world white rice, that even now I can’t replicate to save my life, along with freshly boiled black beans. She’d also serve the whole thing with fried green plantains (the starchy kind) and the sweet ones as well, which are just plantains that have ripened. I never liked the sweet ones like my sisters do, so she’d make us both. One of my favorite things she would do (and still does whenever I beg her for it) is take her amazingly delicious fluffy white rice that no one else can make quite like hers and mix it with the black beans that took hours to boil on the stove top. She’s against having them soak the night before so she just boils them on the stove with lots of water, garlic, and bay leaves. It’s amazing. I don’t always have time to cook dry beans so I’m forced to go with canned. Don’t judge me. I’m sure someone out there is slowly shaking their head. It’s not that bad. 

As I was saying though, this white rice and black bean mixture is my entire childhood wrapped in one incredibly easy dish. A lot of Central American countries (even Cuba) have this dish, although everyone calls it something else. My grandparents were from Nicaragua and there they call it gallo pinto. I think in Costa Rica it’s called the same thing. Don’t ask me to translate it because I have no clue what it means or what it refers to. All I know is that it’s delicious and addicting and can be eaten with anything. Next time you have some black beans and white rice leftover, mix the two together. This long rant about my childhood meals was to state that I could get down with breaded steak any day of the week. Especially when bread, cotija cheese and avocado are involved. That’s where this sandwich comes into the picture. Breaded Steak Tortas should be your new go-to sandwich. Torta just means sandwich, although it could also refer to a sweet cake of some sort. Isn’t it funny how one word can refer to different things? I find that funny for some reason. Anyhow, this isn’t cake though, this is a sandwich, and it’s the only way you should be eating your sandwiches, from now on. Don’t deprive yourself, your family or your friends of this glorious meal. You’d be cruel not to make it. 

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Fried Shrimp Po’boy Sliders

I’m currently spending a few weeks in New Orleans, so in honor of such an occasion, I thought I’d share one of my favorites from the city. Fried Shrimp Po’boys…in slider form. Because we all know that sliders are always 100 times better than their original counterparts. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. In a city that is so rich with delicious cuisine, though, it seemed only right that I should mark the occasion with food. I find myself making food be the solution to everything. I think this is the only way to go. I’ve eaten at a few po’boy places in Nola while I’ve been down there, and although I’ve had some great sandwiches in each, the best to me is still Johnny’s in the French Quarter (I’m sure some people will yell at me and tell me I’m wrong). I’m no New Orleans expert and perhaps it’s a tourist trap, but to me (and my taste buds), it’s one of the best. I also think it’s partly because I first tried it with Julian. He got a catfish po’boy and I ordered the crawfish. We took it to go and then walked to the WWII museum eating our sandwiches along the way, and wishing we had ordered another one to share. Now we can eat as many po’boy sliders as we’d like and not feel guilty about it, because ten of these sliders count as one normal sized sandwich. It’s true. 

I’m no stranger to sliders. Someone even referred to me as “The Slider King” of the world (that someone might’ve been me, but that’s okay). Sliders and I go way back. It’s a love affair that I don’t think will ever go away. And I don’t want it to. Some of my favorites from the site are Pot Roast Sliders, Fried Green Tomato and Shrimp Sliders, and Loaded Baked Potato Sliders, just to name a few. Here’s a hint, if you search for “Sliders” on the site you’ll be able to find many more. That’s free of charge for you because I like you guys so much. Maybe not as much as sliders, but still, you’re up there on my list. 

If you’ve never visited New Orleans before and have always wanted to go, I highly recommend it. I can’t give you guys a trip (I’m not Santa Claus, or Oprah) but I will do the next best thing. I’ll give you the recipe for these po’boy sliders! Whaaat?! Say it ain’t so!! My generosity knows no bounds. Now you can feel like you’re right here with me. That’s pretty awesome. If you really think about it, I’m doing you a favor. You don’t have to pack and travel to the airport and get through security and fly on a plane and then have the best time ever, but all the while knowing you have to go back home inevitably and so you get depressed about it. You don’t have to go through all of that. I’m saving you from it. Instead, you can make a batch of these sliders and bring New Orleans to you. TO YOU! Isn’t that so much better?! I think it is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some more food while I’m here. 

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The Classics: Chili Cheese Dogs

Perhaps you guys can help me settle a long time debate I’ve had with everyone in my family. Actually, with all the strangers I’ve ever come across in my life. I won’t say that I always ask the same question to every single stranger I encounter, because that would make me a weirdo freak, but I also won’t say that I don’t ask the same question. I insist that the hot dog links themselves are called weenies. That’s what I’ve always called them, even when I was a kid. Somehow though, everyone always laughs at me and tells me that they’re actually called hot dogs. We end up getting into a big debate because how else are you supposed to distinguish the weenie and the weenie and bun combination from each other? Weenie is the proper name. I know it. You know it. And it’s about time everyone else knows it. I think you all should leave a comment down below and tell my family how wrong they are. Jonathan knows best. Weenies for life! (End rant).  

Let’s really get down to business now. It’s time for another installment of The Classics. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about classic recipes on here and I think that now is a good time as any. The last time around I was tempting you with a Yellow Cake covered in chocolate buttercream frosting. A real childhood favorite of mine. I’ve been doing this classic series for a while now and just in case you don’t remember some of the other recipes, I’ll happy to refresh your memory. That’s what I’m here for. We kicked things off in the first installment with Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The fried chicken of your dreams. We then moved on to some of America’s favorites like Cinnamon Rolls, Apple Pie, and Bacon Cheeseburgers. Click on the links and experience them for yourself.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you at this very moment is that you really need to be putting chili and cheese on top of everything this summer. Everything. Don’t you dare let the season end without making a big pot of chili at least once. If you make it more than once, you’ll be my new best friend, though.  I know what you must be thinking, “Jonathan, it’s so hot during the summer! Why should we make a big pot of steaming hot chili, slaving away in the kitchen over a hot stove stirring chili all day long?! That’s madness!” Well, when you put it that way it does sound a little kooky, but come on people…it’s chili! Chili never needs an explanation. I shouldn’t have to force you to make chili. That’s blasphemous. Just in case you weren’t convinced enough though, I decided that hot dogs topped with chili and lots of shredded cheese needed to be involved. They’re invited to the party and they want you to celebrate with them. Are you going to leave them hanging? These chili cheese dogs are calling out your name. I think you better answer. It’s the only way to celebrate the summer. Trust me. 

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Chicken Meatball Tortilla Soup

Am I the only one that enjoys eating soup during the hottest days of the year? I don’t know if I enjoy it so much as I’m just used to eating steaming bowls of broth and veggies on super hot days. It brings me back to my childhood where my mother would decide that cooking soup all day long was only logical when the temperature rose to a high number. Her logic behind it would always be the same, “the heat from the soup counteracts the heat from outside and hence, it cools you down.” Does this make sense? It makes perfect sense. I remember playing outside and staring up at the windows in the house and it would be foggy and steamy from the heat of the stove and I’d be miserable and a little excited (but don’t tell my mamma) because I knew that soup was in store for us. This also meant that we’d be eating it for a few days because whenever my mamma made soup, she made enough to feed the entire neighborhood. ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD. She would have it cooking away on the stove in the biggest pot I’d ever seen, and would stir it with a bowl. Not a spoon, but a bowl. Standing on a chair because she wouldn’t be able to reach the top of the pot from the floor. If that’s not dedication, then I don’t know what is. 

Not much has changed since then, except we’re all a little older now, but my mom is still making too much soup and I still get the craving for a giant bowl whenever it begins to warm up. Two of my favorite soups are meatball and chicken tortilla (neither of which I grew up eating, go figure), so I thought the smartest thing to do is to combine them both into one mega soup. It was the only solution. That way, I can eat both of my favorites at the same time, without having to make them both separately, which I’m not opposed to doing by the way. Best idea, or extra best idea? Either way we all should be having soup this summer because it’s the way to go. My mamma says so, and after all, mammas know best. Don’t try to fight it, just accept it. 

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Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage Pasta

I cook a lot because of what I do for a living, but I don’t have to tell you that, I’m sure you already knew this. If you looked in my fridge right now you would see an obscene amount of food. It’s packed with food storage containers filled with various dishes, ranging from appetizers to salads to entrĂ©es from the week’s work. Sometimes it’s crazy how much of it there is in my house at any given moment, but crazier is the fact that we can’t always seem to eat it fast enough. We’ll have friends or family over often, and basically force food down their throats and even then we’ll find ourselves eating a certain dish for several days in a row. It’s a good thing I happen to really love leftovers. It’s not a good thing that Julian is meh about leftovers. 

Because I spend so much time in the kitchen on a daily basis, there are times every now and then where the last thing I want to do is get in the kitchen, yet again, and make dinner. Sure, on more than a few occasions what I make and shoot ends up becoming dinner, but as much as I would love for Chunky Monkey Sticky Buns and Strawberry Pistachio Cupcakes to be a hearty supper, it doesn’t always work out that way. Unfortunately my doctor says I need a well rounded meal with protein and vegetables. The nerve! On those days, I find myself making the easiest of dishes. We’ll have tacos (my go-to option) or tuna sandwiches (against Julian’s wishes) for dinner because it’s the quickest thing I can whip up without going crazy because I’ve just spent the entire day in the kitchen. Julian will cook a few nights out of the week which totally makes me happy, and I’ll just spend the night on the couch drinking a cocktail and bask in the pampered life.

We’ve recently made a valiant effort to have a date night at least once a week (every Thursday) where we go out and enjoy a meal somewhere we’ve never eaten before. It gives us a chance to try one of the many restaurants in our neighborhood. I do have to admit though, at times, mainly due to me falling in love with a particular place, we’ll go back to the same restaurant a few weeks in a row. On one of these evenings we tried a cauliflower dish that was out of this world. It was battered and fried and served with a garlic aioli and I couldn’t get enough. Easily one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten outside of my house. Ever since then, cauliflower and I have become the greatest of friends. We’re kind of, sort of inseparable. I’ve now added this Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage Pasta to the rotation when I don’t really feel like cooking because it’s so easy to make. I can shut off my mind and bring it together in no time at all. Although it’s simple with only a handful of ingredients, it’s one of the tastiest pastas you’ll ever try. Cross my heart and kiss my elbow. 

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Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

I will always reserve a special place in my heart for these Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches. Partly because breaded and fried chicken thighs are involved, I’ve learned never to question fried chicken, but also because it was the first thing Julian ever cooked for me, on our third date. This was the only dish he knew how to cook at the time, which I believe he actually called his mom right before and asked her how to make it. You gotta give the man points for trying. And even though it looked like a tornado hit the kitchen, and I was fairly certain the night would end with us at the emergency room waiting for Julian to get stitches (thankfully it didn’t), it’s still one of my all time favorite sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. No joke. And that’s saying something because I love me a good sandwich every now and then, and as we all know there are so many options to choose from, so it’s kind of hard to pick a favorite. But how can you pass up breaded chicken topped with marinara and cheese and then sandwiched together between two pieces of crusty garlic-rubbed bread?! You can’t, you just can’t, and even if you did, I’d have serious doubts about our friendship. Then again, I would be able to eat your sandwich…so maybe I should rethink this. 

To this day, whenever it’s Julian’s turn to cook dinner, I’ll either get these sandwiches or a grilled steak with brussels sprouts and potatoes. I’m not complaining though because sometimes it’s too much of a hassle for me to fire up the grill, stand in front of hot burning charcoal all night with smoke blowing in my face. Thankfully the man can grill like no one’s business, and actually enjoys doing it. He has since learned how to cook a few more dishes, through the years, like tacos and homemade tortilla chips with guacamole or grilled salmon with rice and roasted asparagus. They’ve been added to the rotation, but honestly even if this sandwich continued to be the only thing he ever cooked for me, I’d be super happy because it’s a masterpiece of a dish. But it’s best not to tell Julian this. We don’t want it getting to his head.

Instead of keeping this recipe all to myself, though, like some selfish animal, I’ve decided I needed to spread the word. I told myself, “Self, everyone needs to try this sandwich. You’d be doing the world a disservice if you didn’t share it.” That happened, but also I figured we could all use a few more quick and easy recipes that can be whipped up in no time. Especially during those week days when we’re all exhausted from work and just want to get home as quickly as possible, make dinner and catch up on those shows we’ve let pile up. Let’s get with the program and make these happen as soon as possible. 

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