Easy Oven Tri Tip with Roasted Garlic and Gorgonzola Butter

This was a HUGE hit with my husband. The idea for this recipe came to me because I had a beautiful tri tip that needed to be cooked and had not been marinated. I love big flavor and thought what can I do to add flavor to this? I also did not want to BBQ the tri tip because it was an unusually cold and windy day. I did a little research and thanks to a leftover hunk of a really amazing Gorgonzola cheese from, where else, Trader Joe's... and all the garlic I always have in my pantry... a star was born.

Crockpot Pork Carnitas

Honestly, I am not a huge pork fan ... unless it's bacon because, duh. I will give you a little background of why I decided to make carnitas. There is a cafĂ© on the California delta... right on the water... that my husband and I go to regularly. It's like our version of Cheers. My husband proposed to me there, we had our rehearsal dinner there, and we are there at least a few times a month for breakfast. Even more if it's summer! It feels like home and is very near and dear to my heart. Anyway, my husband would always order the "carnitas scramble" for breakfast... for years! And it never, ever sounded good to me. One day about a year ago I finally decided to try it and I was hooked. It is an egg scramble with carnitas, grilled onion and jalapenos, served with beans, home fries and tortillas. SO GOOD, especially with a bloody mary during a hangover. After a while, I thought I should try my hand at carnitas. I found a few different recipes then just made one up based on what I had and what I like. During my research phase, I found out the traditional way carnitas is made is basically braised in lard. That was not happening in my crockpot. So I assume my version is a little healthier. Don't be afraid to play around with the seasoning and spices.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries (they're not as hard as you think)

These are seriously easy. It's so hard to screw them up! This really is the only dessert I've ever cared to make because one: it's easy and 2: soooo delicious! You can use any kind of chocolate you prefer, and of course just fresh whole strawberries! I love a good dark chocolate, so that's what I used. I bought a double pack of strawberries and a pound of dark chocolate (I only used half the bar).

Spicy Quinoa

This is one of my husband's favorites (although he will tell you everything I cook is good, bless is heart). It is chock full of protein and lots of the "good stuff" and, as with almost ALL of my recipes, you can adjust everything to match your taste buds! This is basically a recipe I have made up incorporating Southwest, Mexican and Puerto Rican flavors. I usually make a big pot and then pack away into tupperware for lunches that following week. This may sound weird, but I sometimes add green olives because that is what my husband's Puerto Rican Grandmother does with her "pink rice" and it is always my favorite part! Sometimes I don't have the taco seasoning or Sazon (a latin seasoning blend with saffron) around, or I want to make it a little lower in sodium, so I just dump in different things I have in the cupboard (garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika and chipotle peppers).

Quick and Easy Tzatziki

Greek yogurt is something I ALWAYS have in the house. I use it for everything, mostly as a substitute for anything that normally calls for sour cream or mayonnaise. Why no one thought to do this decades ago will always baffle me. Driving home from work one day, I knew I had some chicken that had been marinated in Italian dressing, some veggies and a tub of Greek yogurt that needed to be used. That inspired a Mediterranean dinner, the star of which was a quick homemade tzatziki sauce that turned out PERFECT. Remember, these are all rough measurements. You like garlic? Add more. Hate onion? Leave that sucker out.

What you need:

1 large English cucumber, finely chopped
A quarter of a red onion, finely chopped
About a tablespoon of chopped fresh dill (not dried)
About a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (depends on how much you love garlic and how big they are)
Juice of 1 lemon
About 1 cup and a half of Greek yogurt (I use 0% fat, use whatever you like!)

All you do is mix all ingredients together with salt and pepper to taste, and let it chill for about an hour for all the flavors to mix in. What you are left with is a refreshing and garlicky sauce that is SO good with any kind of protein or veggie and ESPECIALLY a good naan or lavash bread. Enjoy!

"Street" Tacos

It's no secret there are tons of really great Mexican restaurants and taco trucks here in California. One of my favorite things to order are the small street tacos. You know, the ones that come on two small corn tortillas, loaded with chicken or carne asada, chopped white onion and cilantro. Yum! However, one thing I DON'T love is all the grease and calories that come with these guys. I make my own version at home and it is SO simple and much healthier.

What you need:
1 package corn tortillas
1 package taco seasoning (or make your own! Garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and cumin are the main components)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
1 yellow or white onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 bottle "green" taco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
Cojita cheese (optional)

Heat a large sautee pan on medium heat with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Brown chicken, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Turn heat to medium low. Add package of taco seasoning and about 1 cup of water (I just fill up the foil taco seasoning packet with water and dump that in). Simmer and stir occasionally until liquid reduces.

Meanwhile, chop cilantro and onion. Heat your tortillas, top with chicken, followed by onion and cilantro. 

Finish with green sauce and cojita cheese (a salty, dry Mexican cheese ... I forgot to get it at the store so it's missing in these pics). That's IT! I serve with a side of homemade guacamole and chips OR a tomato and avocado salad.