Strip Mall Salsa

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Strip Mall Salsa

Strip Mall Salsa

Any true Texan knows the best Mexican restaurants in town aren’t off the highway, but tucked into those strip malls in your neighborhood – next to the Kroger, the dry cleaners, and/or the nail salon. These restaurants – with their neon signs and ceiling tiles (painted black, if they’re fancy), rubbery booths and plastic tablecloths – aren’t out to win any decor awards. It’s the fantastic food, always served hot in ridiculously large quantities, the house special margarita, and the salsa that brings the neighbors coming back again and again. I made salsa before. Using a fork, I’d dangle fresh

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Find Your Beach Fajitas

Find Your Beach Fajitas

So, I have a confession to make. My favorite fajita marinade in the whole world is Claude’s. I’ve carried countless bottles of this glorious stuff over the ocean in suitcases. If anyone is looking for a hostess gift when they visit me in Belgium, this is all I want. Well, that and Bath and Body Works hand soaps. But, with my contraband supply depleting and the temperatures rising here in Belgium (thus, making me always think of Texas) we’ve been grilling like crazy. I have been tapping into my backup homemade fajita marinade recipe. I like to call this one,

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Campin’

Campin’

Trees as thin and packed as matchsticks line the one-lane gravel road. Shafts of silver light pierce the forest. The GPS arrow hovers above a green blob on the map, and the indicator on the dash says “offroad”. A crooked tiny sign points to the left and our small caravan follows. The rocks and potholes challenge my Skoda sedan, but determined, it climbs toward the invisible destination – De Kluis, (Dutch for “The Safe”). A comforting name for a campsite. “Places in Belgium are hard to find, period,” my husband admitted a week earlier, “I can’t imagine trying to find

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Jalapeno Ranch Dip

Jalapeno Ranch Dip

Shannon is an old friend from college who’s lived in the U.K. for what seems like forever. She visits Texas often and last summer I hosted her and a two of our close college girlfriends for dinner. After popping champagne to celebrate the momentous occasion of the four of us actually being in the same country at the same time, the conversation turned to her ‘must dos’ in Texas. “Oh, I have to go to Chuy’s,” she exclaimed. I cocked my head. “Really? Chuy’s is your Tex-Mex of choice? I’m more of a fan of Pappasito’s, Mi Cocina, or rather

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Homemade Tortillas

Homemade Tortillas

“Oh my, these tortillas are fantastic – man, I miss good, flour tortillas so much!” and I gobble another one. One of Nikki’s cousins eyes me suspiciously. He’s 13 and in that curious and not-too-cool-to-talk-to-adults-phase. “Why don’t you just go to your local grocery store and buy them?” he asks, in between mouthfuls of his own. “Jacob, I live in Belgium, not San Antonio. You can’t get homemade tortillas in Belgium, okay?” I explain. He blinks, then frowns. “Yeah, I guess not. That sucks,” he deadpans. “Yeah, it really does,” I tell him.    I decided then and there that

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Leftover Guacamole

Leftover Guacamole

Guacamole, the fresh green yumminess, can easily turn into an unattractive shade of brown. If by chance, you have any guacamole after serving it (this is a rarity in our house – my middle child is a guacamole-eating monster!) the best way to store it is by placing it in a small bowl or other glass container and covering it with plastic wrap. The key is to not allow any air to get between the wrap and the guac. Smush the plastic wrap and then let the edges cling to the sides. Refrigerate.

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Molcajete Curing

Molcajete Curing

The first time I moved overseas, I left my Great Aunt’s cast iron skillet in storage (shameful!), but brought my comal. My college roommate’s Hispanic family introduced me to the comal, a flat cast iron pan, in which to heat tortillas on. (Please white people, stop microwaving your tortillas right now! Those chewy things have no contest on a nicely warmed tortilla from the comal). I bought it in San Antonio before we headed to the Netherlands. We hosted a number of Tex-Mex nights for the expats I’d met. Using the comal, I made perfect quesadillas for my kids and

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Tex-Mex Layered Dip

Tex-Mex Layered Dip

I recently made this dip for my daughter’s birthday party during our visit back to Texas. As always, it was devoured and my Canadian friend requested the recipe. As I typed it, I was having trouble converting everything to European ingredients. . . I knew I’d made it in the Netherlands. . . but where are refried beans in Belgium?! I first tried making my own refried beans (fail!). So I was just scratching my head. . . until last week. I noticed the Albert Heijn Mexican brand now has refried beans stocked. Game changer!! I bought a can and

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Celeste’s Guacamole

Celeste’s Guacamole

“I have to buy new cowboy boots and a molcajete,” I tell my husband. “Boots, sure but – A what?” he shakes his head at me. We’re in San Antonio, at the Mercado just a few months before our departure for Belgium. The smell of fresh churros permeates the air. Girls in frilly colorful dresses and boys in sharp black suits decorated with silver buttons perform for an equally sweaty audience. Tejano music has attracted the audience like moths. They sit watching the show and fanning themselves in their t-shirts and shorts. During our previous expat experience, I had left

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Benchwarmer Beer Dip

Benchwarmer Beer Dip

My good friend, Tess is originally from Minnesota and she gave me this recipe years ago when I got married. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made it – but Texans, Dutch, Cajuns, Belgians, Estonians, Chicagoans, Romanians, and Italians have munched on this cheezy goodness with pleasure. Of course, it took me a while to figure out a substitute for Velveeta in the Netherlands – “What IS a substitute for Velveeta?!” Tess gasped when I told her my dilemma – but once I did, I’d stock up when I found it. Preppin’ 8 oz. (180 gram) cream cheese,

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