Tuesday, April 14, 2015

M is for Mexican Food

I live in a Mexican neighborhood... I would say that it's a Hispanic neighborhood, but really, a large percentage of my neighbors are actually from Mexico.

This means that I'm surrounded by Mexican food and culture on a daily basis - the guy 2 doors down plays in a mariachi band, and all summer long they practice in his garage. It's a good thing I like mariachi music!


Anyhow, there is wonderful Mexican food galore in this part of town, and it's all the really authentic variety, which is totally delicious...

But sometimes I get a hankering for the cheesy Americanized kind, so I thought I'd share one of my favorite Americanized Mexican food recipes.


Cheesy Americanized Soft Tacos

This is really a simple recipe. You just brown up some ground beef (I used the reduced guilt variety - organic and grass fed - you could also use ground turkey, or meat substitute crumbles, or skip it altogether and just go with beans.) Add an onion, some garlic & green pepper, a teaspoon or two of chili powder & a bit of oregano. Toss in a few dashes of liquid smoke & maybe a can of pinto beans if you feel so inspired.


Spread this mixture on a tortilla, cover with shredded cheese, lettuce, chopped tomato and maybe some easy-pants guacamole (which is just an avocado mushed up with some picante sauce.)

EasyPants Guacamole
Voila! Yummy (if a bit messy to eat) soft tacos!


Of course, no cheesy Americanized Mexican dinner would be complete without a cheesy Americanized margarita - so I whipped up one of those too.

Basically it's one part tequila, one part curacao (the bright blue coloring is totally authentic, dontcha think?) one part triple-sec, and three parts lime juice. You can vary your proportions and the size of your "parts" depending on taste and how snockered you want to get!



And speaking of cheesy American take-offs on Mexican food, I recently read that the city of Lakewood (the suburb in which I grew up) just granted historical landmark status to the restaurant, Casa Bonita.


I'm sure this won't mean anything to most of you, but Casa Bonita is the kitschiest of kitsch. It's like a caricature of a Mexican village built right into a strip mall - complete with cliff divers, arcade, gift shop, haunted cave, the WORST excuse for Mexican food on the planet, and some guy in a gorilla suit (because all Mexican villages have a rogue gorilla running around, don't they?)

Wait... don't gorillas come from Africa, not Mexico?
Oh who cares, we have tourists to entertain!
I think half of my high school graduating class must have worked there, and eating endless sopapillas until you were ready to puke was sort of a right of passage in my youth.


I was never actually employed there, but I did my fair share of hanging out at Casa Bonita, and I do remember hitching a ride home on the back of a motorcycle with one of the cliff divers - less exciting than it sounds... we had some sort of project due for English class.

Cliff Divers at Casa Bonita
Anyhow, it totally cracks me up that it's now considered a historical landmark - I think hysterical landmark might be more appropriate! Here's a little unsanctioned video tour that the local rag did about the place in case curiosity has gotten the better of you.




Happy Mexican food, y'all!



22 comments :

  1. Until the pictures, I didn't realize that the cliff divers were real. If I'm ever out your way, I'm gonna have to visit Casa Bonita.

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    1. Well... it's definitely a "unique" experience! :-)

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  2. That's really something! Have you been in Black Bart's Cave? It's amazing that it's all under one roof. I was reminded of South of the Border just off I-95 at the South Carolina-North Carolina border, which is equally cheesy but not under one roof. http://www.thesouthoftheborder.com/

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    1. Black Bart's cave is hysterical... it's basically just a twisty dark passage where high school kids hang out and make out... with periodic interruptions to scare the pants off of little kids coming through! At least that's how it was when I was a kid.

      And South of the Border looks similar, though much more elaborate. It just cracks me up - the caricatures of Mexican culture.

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  3. Oh my gosh! I just read about this place in a novel. They name was changed, but my friend from Denver confirms it's the same place. "Where You Once Belonged" by Kent Haruf. It made me want to visit! --TRISTA at All But The Kitchen Sink.

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    1. Ha! That's totally hilarious! I guess Casa Bonita has "made the rounds" so to speak!

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  4. Sounds like an interesting dining experience... I went to TRex Cafe in Orlando (With NO kids in tow) just because I liked the idea of dinos roaring at me while I ate, haha. But it's seems strange for a restaurant to be a historical landmark... A roadside attraction, I can understand!

    - Allison
    www.allisonwrites.com

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    1. "Interesting" is such a kind choice of words. The part that really makes my brain hurt is that this city is literally crawling with real, authentic Mexican restaurants - I just like a big plastic imitation duck sitting smack dab in the middle of a pond full of real ones - and everybody's interested in the plastic one instead of the living ones!

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  5. At first I thought "cheesy" was literal, but then I figured it out. Your tacos have just a little literal cheese on them.

    Robin's easy-pants guacamole is avocado plus lime (or lemon). He says yours is definitely a step up! But normally he goes whole hog (avocado + lime + jalapeno + oil + garlic + onion + tomatillos at least).

    I generally avoid places like Casa Bonita but it really is so pretty! I could see going once.

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    1. So I have yet to experiment with tomatillos - does he just chop them up and mix them in raw, or do you have to cook them first?

      And the pink facade of Casa Bonita, is... well... bonita! The place is totally over the top though.

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    2. He chops them "coursely" and mixes them in raw. Many recipes call for tomatoes, but he prefers tomatillos.

      Over-the-top can be fun. But it also seems loud and expensive. I'd want to go when they first open, perhaps on a week day!

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    3. Interesting about the tomatillos. I'll have to give them a try.

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  6. Ha! I love your phrase "hysterical" landmark. I think I would love to visit Casa Bonita just to see all the kitsch. But, I will have to pass on Mexican food. the closes we get to that here in Hamilton Ontario is, sadly, TacoBell.

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    1. Well, if all you've ever had is Taco Bell, then you haven't ever had Mexican food!

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  7. I so miss authentic Mexican food. After living in LA and having the Mexican stands I grew to love the food but coming back east there isn't anything remotely authentic about the Mexican food here, even in the so called authentic restaurants. Then again I couldn't get anything that tasted even close to Italian when I lived in the southwest. I'm going to give your recipe a try it looks very good. I've got my oldest son and his children coming down for the weekend so this might be dinner Saturday.

    I'm not sure I could handle a Mariachi band practicing near me all the time, once in a while is fine but I've just never took to it.

    Casa Bonita is hysterical. I guess historical landmarks don't have to be in good taste to get the designation.

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    1. Ha! When I was in college in upstate NY, the cafeteria would sometimes serve "Mexican food." It was a travesty! Seriously, they had these tortillas that were more like crepes than tortillas, and everything was sopping in tomato sauce, with no actual chili peppers to be found! Oy!

      And I don't know what other people experience in terms of Italian food here, because my dad knows all the authentic places - so we only go there. Still... I do miss a good NY style pizza with the thin foldable crust... yum! (Not that I can eat that sort of thing anymore due to food allergies, but you know what I mean.)

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  8. That looks really good, even if it isn't authentic.

    Isn't Casa Bonita the place Cartman likes in South Park?

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    1. I haven't seen that episode, but I ran into several references to it when looking for pictures, so I think they must have mocked it. Sorta hard to mock something that's not very serious in the first place though! :-)

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  9. I drive past Casa Bonita on my daily commute! I grew up in Denver, but have only eaten there once - I wanted to go there so bad when I was a kid, but we rarely ate out. It was always considered kind of cheesy and tacky, but it's lasted so long and is unique in it's way that is has become a landmark

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    1. I grew up only a few miles from the place, it was walking distance from the home of a few of my good friends, so it was definitely part of our day to day. We always described it as the place to go when you're interested in quantity over quality! :-)

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    1. Had one for dinner tonite. It was yum!

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