Spring break has sprung in Colorado and Grace and I took full advantage of it this past week. I guess that we are just gluttons for punishment because instead of hopping a jet for the beautiful waters of the Caribbean, we hit the dusty trail once again and drove to Texas. Don’t ask me what the fascination for car trips is these days, because I just couldn't tell you. In addition to wanting to get away, this trip had a dual purpose. My mother offered to give Grace a desk for her apartment next year and driving down seemed to be the best way of getting it here. Like most women who love a bargain, and there’s no better bargain than free, we both jumped at the chance to take advantage of her generosity and started packing.
We got up bright and early Saturday before last and pulled out of the driveway leaving our men behind. Kevin’s spring break was the following week which was OK because he and Mark would rather take a stick in the eye than another road trip. Besides, we had big plans for our man-less trip. We could take as many bathroom breaks as we wanted and talk about make-up, chick flicks and Hollywood gossip for hours on end without any eye rolling or groaning from male passengers. For the next 1,000 miles, we were Thelma and Louise (without the murder and mayhem of course).
We normally try to pack enough snacks to carry us through so we can take our first meal break in Texas. Like many who leave their homes to settle in foreign lands, familiar food seems to be the main thing we all miss. On this trip, our first couple of meals in our homeland went just OK. We had some mediocre hamburgers and a couple of less than memorable Mexican combination plates in the northern part of Texas. We brushed these meals off as poor precursors to the real deal, because Houston has some of the best food in the western world and we were rocketing there at an average of 66 miles per hour.
I am positive about our land speed average because my husband hooked up Grace’s new GPS just in case we suddenly decided to veer off the route that we had driven a thousand times before and get lost. I found this new contraption to be extremely annoying because in addition to speed it also felt obliged to figure our arrival time. This meant that instead of living in ignorant bliss about how long that last pit stop took us; Mr. GPS was there to remind us that we were now 30 minutes farther away from our destination than we were when we stopped. By the time we arrived in Houston, this mean little machine was more than happy to report that we had fiddle farted around and extended our trip by one hour and forty-five minutes. If I really wanted to know that information, I would have brought my husband along.
When we finally arrived at our destination, we hit the ground running. We were over the moon to discover that the rodeo was in town. As a girl growing up in Houston, the rodeo was a month long celebration. I was so excited to share something that I had liked so much as a child with Grace. She, on the other hand, was just as excited that the rodeo had included Keith Urban in its line up. I am here to tell you, Nicole Kidman is one lucky woman. Who cares that we had oil soaked corn dogs for dinner during his show. Keith was worth every calorie infused, nutritionally devoid bite.
As we were leaving the rodeo, I was disappointed to discover that while we were eating those aforementioned corn dogs inside, outside in the carnival food tent, there were people enjoying such delicacies as shrimp on a stick, funnel cakes and, deep fried Oreos. I must have experienced brain damage from the decibel level in the stadium or was just overcome by Keith Urban’s awesome Aussie sexiness, to pass on these intriguing menu items. I don’t know the reason but, under normal circumstances, I would never have turned down a deep fried cookie. Oh well, the next rodeo is less than a year away.
We are back home now and Grace leaves for university later on today. Her week off is over and Kevin’s is just beginning. Last night, in celebration of both, I gave my lovely little family a trip back to Texas in the form of a beef tostada dinner. Before she died, my wonderful Aunt Sis passed this recipe down to all of the girls she loved. I can still see her, frying corn tortillas with a Lone Star beer in her hand and Marty Robbins singing about a Mexican gunfight on the stereo. It’s just a shame that she never taught us how to fry an Oreo.
Aunt Sis' Crispy Beef Tostadas
This is a great beginner recipe when first venturing into Mexican cooking. It is delicious and since most moderately experienced cooks will already have most of the ingredients in their cupboard for their Asian recipes, easy to prepare. Crispy beef tostadas offer something new and different with minimal effort. Vegetarians can substitute refried beans for the beef for an equally delicious dish. There is no way that these tostadas can be eaten with a knife and fork so, roll up your sleeves, use your hands and be sure to lean over your plate to avoid a lap full of food, and enjoy.
1/2 - 1 cup (125 - 250ml) vegetable oil, enough for 1/2"-1" depth in your pan
8 corn tortilla pancakes (you can stretch this recipe to 10 tortillas if needed)
1 ½ pounds (750g) beef mince
½ small onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons (10ml) ground cumin
1 teaspoon (5ml) ground coriander
2 teaspoons (10ml) chili powder
1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
Freshly milled black pepper
1 - 14.5 ounce (411g) tin chopped tomatoes
2 cups iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
2 large avocado pears, diced
1 ½ cups (170g) cheddar cheese, grated
4 green onions, sliced across in ¼” slices
1 cup coarsely chopped black olives
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh or pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
Soured cream and tomato salsa to garnish
Preheat oven to 250 F, 140 C, Gas Mark 1.
In a medium size frying pan, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Place 1 tortilla at a time into hot oil. Fry each tortilla for 30 seconds or so on each side or until tortillas are crispy and slightly brown. Remove from oil and drain in a single layer on a kitchen roll lined cookie sheet. Place in the preheated oven to keep warm.
In a large frying pan, over medium heat, brown mince until it is almost cooked through, approximately, 8 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes or until the onion begins to sweat. Add cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir well then add tomatoes; stir quickly once again. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove tortillas from the oven and place on serving plate. Top each with equal amounts of the seasoned mince, lettuce, avocado, cheese, green onions, black olives, jalapeno peppers. Garnish with a dollop of soured cream and salsa.