Lazy Tuesday Pasta

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We’re just coming off of a four-day weekend and although they are always a welcomed relief from our hectic schedules, the day after when things have to get back to normal seems to draggg by. Sort of like our bodies and minds are putting the brakes on and yelling, “No,I’m not ready to get back into the regular swing of things just yet!”  My whole day has been like that. Plus, it’s cold outside and I walked the dogs 4 miles in a windy snowstorm which quite frankly, sucked the life right out of me.

I spent the remainder of the day forcing myself to clean house and then sat on the couch and consumed an entire Big Hunk (yes, they are dairy-free & gluten-free) while reading my new book, “The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship” by Lisa Verge Higgins.

Now it’s coming around to dinner time and I am just as lazy as I was earlier today. Rather than scrambling eggs or making sandwiches, also very easy for a day like this, I believe that lazy, cold days are perfect for pasta. If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to eat it without looking and continue to read my book.

Lazy Tuesday Pasta

About 20 minutes start to finish. Feeds 2 people.

About 1/2 Package Tinkyada Spinach Spaghetti Style Pasta

2 Tbsp. of Garlic Olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/2 Sweet Onion, sliced thinly

1/2 Large Red Bell, sliced thinly

3 Sun Dried Tomato Halves, chopped, about 2 Tbsp.

1 Tbsp. Fresh Garlic, chopped or 1 1/2 Tbsp. organic chopped garlic in the jar (love it!)

1 1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped

1 1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano, chopped

(I also added 1/2 of a grilled chicken breast because I had it left over in the fridge.)

1 or 2 Grinds of Sea Salt

A Few Drizzles of Garlic Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh Parsley to Finish

Fill a medium pot with water and about 2 tsp. Sea Salt. Bring to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, slice and chop vegetables, herbs, and garlic. Once the water begins to boil, add pasta and cook for 15 minutes (I always follow the package directions for gluten-free pasta.)  Drain and rinse, set aside until vegetables are done. It won’t take long, the pasta was still hot when I plated everything.

While the pasta is cooking, pour 2 Tbsp. of Garlic Olive Oil in a large skillet and heat on medium to medium  high. Add onions and peppers and saute until onions are almost translucent. Add sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, and chicken breast. Continue sautéing until herbs have wilted and tomatoes and chicken are heated through. Season with 1 or 2 grinds of sea salt and plate. Once plated, drizzle lightly with garlic olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Rich & Spicy Chili With Cinnamon Rolls

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For some reason, chili and cinnamon rolls go together beautifully. I’m not talking about canned chili and a cinnamon roll that came out of a tube either. I’m talking chili from scratch, and warm cinnamon rolls straight from your own oven that have come from the work of your hands.

When I first entered into the gluten-free world I was shocked by some of the baked items I found in the gluten-free freezer section of the grocery store. Seriously, who buys this stuff? On top of that, I’m also dairy-free, which adds another frightful dimension to trying to figure out what to eat. Don’t get me wrong, there are gluten-free choices out there on the shelves and in the freezer sections that are do-able. Some are even quite good. But, with that said, I typically prefer to do my own baking and cooking, control my own ingredients. And when I buy something packaged, I usually doctor it up with my own ideas.

Once I ventured out and learned the science behind gluten-free baking, it opened up a whole new world. I have always loved to cook and bake and was used to doing things a certain way. Gluten-free baking can be challenging. If you like to take gluten recipes and transform them, it can take a lot of trial and error before you come up with a satisfying recipe. But once you do, it’s incredibly rewarding! You can teach an old dog new tricks! Pat yourself on the back, do a happy dance, feed your friends and family… Anyone can throw together an easy wheat, sugar, baking powder, and butter recipe for crying out loud. It’s predictable. It does all the work for you. But gluten-free baking? It can be a wild card, it’s exciting, it makes you use your noggin’. That’s what this dinner is about. A reward for hard work and trying something new “ish”, and the great satisfaction it brings when you’ve created something special with your own hands.

Rich & Spicy Chili

1 lb. Ground Beef, I like to use extra lean

1/2  lb. Ground Hot Sausage, make sure it’s gluten-free

1 Medium Onion, diced

2 Stalks Celery, sliced down the middle & diced

1/2 Large Red Bell Pepper, diced

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic, smashed & diced

2 14.5 oz. Cans of Fire Roasted Tomatoes

6 oz. Can Tomato Paste

7 oz. Can Mild Roasted Green Chilis

2 15 oz. Cans Kidney Beans

1 15 oz. Can of White Beans

15 oz. Beef Broth, make sure it’s gluten-free, you may need to add 1/2 cup or so more during the simmering process

3 Tbsp. Chili Powder

1 tsp. Dried Parsley

1/2 Tbsp. Sea Salt

1 tsp. Dried Basil

1 tsp. Dried Oregano

1/4 tsp. Ground Pepper Medley

1/2 tsp. Crushed Chili Pepper

Drizzle about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large Dutch Oven, heat on medium to medium high heat and brown the hamburger and hot sausage. While the meats are browning, prepare the vegetables, garlic, and gather the seasonings. Set aside.

Once the meat mixture is browned, remove from pot and set aside. Leave browned bits and drippings in pot. Add onions, pepper, celery, and garlic and saute until onions are translucent.

Drain the beans, set aside.

Pour both cans of roasted tomatoes and the tomato paste in a blender and puree until smooth, set aside.

Once the vegetable mixture is sautéed, add the drained beans, green chilis, spices, meat, and sauce. Stir until combined.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and slowly simmer for 4 hours stirring occasionally.

This is what it will look like after 4 hours.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Makes about 11 large rolls.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

(If you’re not dairy-free, you can use real butter. I haven’t tried it though, it may alter the outcome.)

For The Rolls:

4 Tbsp. Earth Balance Natural Butter Spread

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Almond Milk,warmed but not hot to the touch

2 Eggs

1/2 Cup Canola Oil

2 tsp. Pure Vanilla

1 1/2 Tbsp. Yeast, dissolved in the warmed almond milk

1 Cups Sorghum Flour

1/2 Cup Mama’s Almond All Purpose Gluten Free Flour

2 Cups Potato Starch

1/2 Cup Tapioca Flour

4 tsp. Xanthan Gum

4 tsp. Baking Powder

1 tsp. Sea Salt

Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer on high until thoroughly combined and fluffy.

Warm the almond milk lightly, not hot and add yeast. Stir and let rest while you’re measuring the flours, etc. Measure the sorghum flour, almond flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, xanthan gum and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

To the creamed mixture, add the eggs, oil, vanilla, and milk/yeast mixture. Mix on medium speed scraping down bowl at least once, until combined. It will look curdled.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour and scrape down bowl. Mix on high until thoroughly combined (about 1-2 minutes). Dough will be sticky.

Next, flour a piece of parchment paper and scoop dough out onto paper. Flour the top of the dough and pat down. Flour a rolling-pin and roll the dough into a 21×13 oblong “ish” form.

For The Filling:

4 Tbsp. Earth Balance Natural Butter Spread

1 3/4 Cups Dark Brown Sugar

2 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon

Place the butter in a small dish and stir until softened enough to spread with the back of a spoon.

Once it is softened, spread carefully all over the rolled out dough.

Sprinkle the dark brown sugar over the entire surface. Smooth with fingers. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Using the parchment paper to assist you, slowly begin to roll up the long sides of the dough. As you go along, tuck the dough toward the paper so that the roll doesn’t end up too loose.

Once it is rolled up completely, pat the ends in so all of the filling doesn’t spill out and smooth out the roll a bit.

Cut into 1 1/2 inch slices and carefully place in a greased 9×13 glass dish, some of the filling will try to sneak out. Place a small dollop of dairy-free butter on each one.

Cover very lightly with sprayed plastic wrap, leaving edges loose, and let rest for 30 minutes on top of stove. Bake at 350 degrees for 28-30 minutes or until lightly browned and when you press in the center it feels firm with just a little give. If you over cook them they’ll be dry, and if you under cook them they’ll deflate.

Remove from oven and allow to cool almost completely before frosting.

I like to frost mine when they are still just a little bit warm on the inside.

For The Frosting:

About 4 Cups Powdered Sugar

About 4 Tbsp. Dairy Free Butter

About 4-6 Tbsp. Almond Milk

About 2 tsp. Almond Extract

Melt butter in microwave and add to powdered sugar, add almond extract, and about 2 Tbs. of the milk. Whisk until completely smooth. Add more almond milk if necessary to make a good spreading consistency, but not too thin. Dollop onto cinnamon rolls and spread carefully with spoon. Make sure someone you love gets to lick the spoon!

Gluten Free Onion Rings

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Fried food. Naughty, I know. But oh so good. This is the first year of my life that I have ever deep-fried anything. Can you believe it took me 42 years? My mom bought me a Dutch Oven for Christmas last year and then I ran across a gluten-free doughnut recipe on the internet where the woman was using a Dutch Oven to fry them. I was beside myself with excitement. It brought back instant memories of my Grandma frying and frosting absolutely mouth-watering, delicious, doughnuts for us when I was little.

Once I set aside that small amount of fear I had about dealing with 350 degree oil on my stovetop…I got right to work. First, I made glazed doughnuts, then apple fritters, then onion rings. (Doughnut recipes to be posted in the future…) I’ve made the onion rings a few times with different types of batters and egg and flour dredges. The battered onions come out of the oil crispy but as they sit, they get too soft for my liking. I’ve found that the egg and flour dredges mixed with gluten-free bread crumbs stay nice and crispy. Tonight I served the onion rings with a grilled hamburger and tangy sauce on the side. These would be great for a little get together too. If people like to gather around your kitchen counter like they do at my house, you could fry them while you’re visiting and people could snack and drink a good beer. You could even put some of your guests to work…those are the best parties!

Gluten Free Onion Rings

1 48 oz. bottle of Canola Oil

2 Cups Mama’s Almond Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, or your choice of GF flour

1 Cup Gluten-Free Bread Crumbs (*See note below)

2 Eggs

1/4 Cup Almond Milk, or rice, or regular milk if you aren’t dairy-free

4 Tbsp. Sea Salt

1/2 Tbsp. Garlic Powder

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1 tsp. Chicago Steak & Chop Seasoning, or your favorite steak seasoning

Dipping Sauce:

Whisk together 1 cup light mayo, 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle), 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy).

Oil:

Pour oil in a Dutch Oven or deep, heavy pot. You could also use a deep fat fryer if you own one. Heat oil slowly to 340-350 degrees. Use a thermometer.

Onion Rings:

While the oil is heating, pour 1 cup of the gluten-free flour on a dinner plate. Add 1 Tbsp. of the sea salt and mix together with fingers, set aside. In a medium bowl, add 2 eggs and 1/4 cup almond milk and whisk, set aside. In another dish or on another dinner plate, add the remaining cup of gluten-free flour, the gluten-free bread crumbs, the remaining sea salt, garlic powder, baking powder, and Chicago Chop & Steak seasoning, mix and set aside. *You can use leftover gluten-free bread for the crumbs, just make sure they’ve been dried and crushed completely. Mine were made from a boxed mix for french bread that I bought and didn’t like. (Gluten Free Pantry French bread & Pizza mix. Didn’t like the bread at all but it works great for bread crumbs.)

Slice three large onions. If you’re serving this with dinner, it’s about an onion a person. If you’re doing them for a party as an appetizer, then I would use about 1/2 onion per guest. This is the size of the onions I used. Not huge, but large.

Peel and cut into 1/2 inch (or so) slices. I try to keep mine about two rings thick. Don’t worry about the thick middles. They also fry up nicely. First, coat the onion with the salted flour.

Next, dip carefully in the egg mixture.

I changed the egg bowl to a larger one on the 2nd dipping because it was a bit too tight. After you’ve dipped the floured onion in the egg mixture, place it in the last flour mixture and coat completely. I turned mine over a couple of times and pressed it into the coating.

Once the oil is heated between 340 and 350 degrees do a tester onion. After it’s been dredged lower it carefully into the oil. When it begins to brown, turn it over with a slotted, metal spoon or spatula. Once it has browned to your desired color, remove carefully from the oil and place it on a baking sheet covered in layers of paper towels. Salt with sea salt. Taste. Mine needed to cook just a bit longer. The onion was still a little too crisp. I also decided that I wanted a bit more coating on the next batch.

Go through the process with the remaining onions, cooking 3-4 at a time. You want plenty of room in the frying oil for them to move around and also, if you load too many in there, the temperature will drop too quickly leaving you with soggy onion rings.

As you fry several batches the oil will get darker because of the bits of coating that fall off of the onions. This is normal. Also, keep an eye on the oil temperature. You want it to stay between 230-240 degrees while frying. After a couple of batches, I waited a few minutes to allow my oil to heat back up to the desired temperature. DO NOT turn up your stove. This can heat the oil too quickly, it can get too hot, and you could end up having a very scary problem on your hands.

Remove each batch from the oil carefully, place on the paper towel lined baking sheet and season with salt. I also salted the paper towels so that I wouldn’t have to flip the onion rings over to salt them on the bottom. You can also keep them warm in a 200 degree oven once they’ve been salted, crack open the oven door though to allow any moisture to escape.


Spicy Sausage & Cabbage Soup

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Our winters last anywhere from about the end of October through the end of March, sometimes even into the beginning of April. There are years when I worry that it’s going to drag on forever and things will never warm up and bloom. Winter always makes me want to hibernate in the kitchen. I love to fill our house with the scents of baking bread, cookies, pies, soups, and stews.

Steaming, fragrant, homemade soup served alongside a warm roll or large slice of french bread slathered in butter (dairy free for me of course) on a chilly winter day…it gives me the warm fuzzies just thinking about it. Soup is soothing and comforting. Typically the first thing we crave if we’re not feeling well, and there’s a reason for that. Soup equals love and comfort, in my mind anyway. If you’re lucky enough to come from a “foodie” family, it’s the first thing your mom or grandma make for you if you’re not feeling well. It’s comforting on a cold day, calming on a stressful day, and a perfect gift for someone you care about that is going through a hard time in life.It’s a labor of love and you can taste it in every, soothing drop.

Spicy Sausage & Cabbage Soup

2 Pkgs. Al Fresco Chipotle Chorizo Chicken Sausage With Mango and Adobo, sliced on the diagonal

1 Whole Red Onion, diced

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced

3 Medium Red Potatoes, cubed

3 Large Italian Kale Leaves, rough chopped

1/2 Cabbage, rough chopped

1 Tbsp. Oregano, torn into pieces

3 Garlic Cloves, crushed and diced

2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

3 32 oz. Boxes of Chicken Broth, make sure it’s gluten-free I use the organic Pacific brand

About 2 Tbsp. of Sea Salt

Several Grinds of Pepper

About 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Heat olive oil in dutch oven on medium to medium high heat. Add sausage and brown.

Remove from dutch oven and set aside. Add onions, pepper, and garlic to dutch oven and saute until onions are almost translucent.

While the onion mixture is cooking, chop the Italian kale and potatoes.

Slice the cabbage.

Add the sausage, potatoes, kale, cabbage, oregano, and hot pepper flakes to the onion and pepper mixture in the dutch oven and combine.

Add the 3 boxes of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a low to medium boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes or so. Add the salt and pepper and serve with warm gluten-free rolls or french bread.

Clementine & Chocolate Shortbread

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Today is the perfect day to set aside a few minutes to sit down with a hot cup of tea, a good book, and a little treat. Well, I guess I would have to say almost every day is a good day for that! Unfortunately, most of us don’t take much time for ourselves to relax, even just for a short spell. The craziness of life sweeps us up and all of a sudden our day has gone by so quickly, most of it was just a blur.

Keep in mind that these cookies are to be savored. They’re something special. No drive by quickie, grab a cookie and go. Your house will be filled with the spicy scents of warmed oranges, ginger, cinnamon, and rich chocolate. A comforting, come hither, kind of warm breeze. Take some time even if it’s just a few short minutes, to place a couple on a pretty plate, brew yourself a nice cup of tea, grab your favorite book, take a deep breath…and relax.

Clementine & Chocolate Shortbread

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Makes about 28-30 1 1/2 inch cookies.

1/2 Cup Earth Balance Butter, room temp. (Can also use real butter.)

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 tsp. Clementine Peel, finely grated

1/2 tsp. Pure Orange Oil (I buy mine in tiny bottles at Cost Plus World Market.)

1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger

1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 Cup Mama’s Almond Blend All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Cream in powdered sugar until completely combined, scraping mixing bowl once or twice.

Grate the clementine peel.

Add the peel, orange oil, ginger, and cinnamon to the butter and sugar mixture. Cream until completely combined, scraping bowl. Slowly add in the flour, mixing until dough is combined and comes together.

Scrape out onto plastic wrap, cover, flatten into a disc, and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.

When you’re ready to work the dough, remove it from the fridge and allow it to sit on the counter for about 20-30 minutes. Place on floured (Gluten Free Mama’s) parchment paper and roll to about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Cut with desired cookie cutters. I used a 1 1/2 inch square.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10-13 minutes. Edges should be slightly golden. Remove carefully to cooling rack. They are very fragile when they’re hot.

While you allow the cookies to cool completely, start the dipping chocolate.

Orange Chocolate

1 1/4 Cups Miniature Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (Can also use regular.)

1/2 tsp. Orange Oil

Pour chips and orange oil in a small microwavable bowl and melt in 20 second increments, stirring well until completely smooth. If you wait to add the orange oil until after the chocolate is smooth, sometimes it will seize up. It’s best to heat them together.

*Because I’m not giving these cookies as gifts I did not temper the chocolate. Tempering gives the chocolate a shine even after it has set and cooled completely. You can learn how to temper chocolate here.

Carefully dip half of each cookie into the melted chocolate allowing the extra to drizzle off. Place on a piece of parchment (I used the same parchment the cookies were baked on).

Allow chocolate to set up before serving.

Potato Pancakes

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I’m not a big fan of really sweet breakfasts. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t turn down a pancake, waffle, or crepe, but when I do have those types of breakfasts I like to balance it out with some savory side dishes. The men in my house usually wake up thinking about something sweet to eat, but  not me. Starting my day off with a sugar load usually leaves me with a huge headache and within a couple of hours I’m hungry again. Typically, I eat leftovers for breakfast from our dinner the night before, but today a fish taco just didn’t sound all that great at 7:00 in the morning. Remembering that I still had leftover riced potatoes from our Valentine’s Day dinner, visions of seasoned potato cakes, bacon, and an egg began dancing through my head. This is such an easy breakfast to whip up…maybe 30 minutes from start to end tops, and that includes the eggs and bacon.

Savory Potato Pancakes

About 2 Cups Leftover Mashed Potatoes or Riced Potatoes

1 Egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp. Oregano, finely chopped

1 tsp. Basil, finely chopped

1 tsp. Garlic, finely chopped

About 4 Grinds of Sea Salt

About 6 Grinds of Pepper

Drizzle of Olive Oil

1 Tbsp. Bacon Fat, if you have it

Pico de Gallo, if you have it, or you can use ketchup, salsa, hot sauce, whatever you like.

Place potatoes in a medium bowl and add the chopped oregano, basil, and garlic. Add the beaten egg and sea salt and pepper. Stir gently until all ingredients are incorporated.

Heat olive oil & bacon fat in a large skillet on medium to medium-high. Place potato mixture into skillet by large spoonfuls and flatten lightly with spatula.

Fry until golden brown about 5 minutes or so on each side. Keep an eye on them so they don’t get too dark.

Remove from pan and plate, top with Pico sauce. Serve with all natural, uncured bacon, an egg, and orange juice or coffee.

Fish Tacos

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So, I have to admit that several years ago when someone told me they had fish tacos at a local restaurant it made my stomach roll. For some reason I just could not picture a fish taco. The problem was that I was trying to picture a traditional taco with fish instead of meat. Once I got a grip on the concept, I was willing to venture out of my comfort zone and give this whole fish taco thing a try. I’m so glad I did! It’s not at all like a traditional taco. It resembles a taco because of how it’s presented but what’s inside is wonderfully different. Fresh and fragrant with so many different layers of flavor. There are many ways you can make them and be adventurous with your ingredients. I suppose the number one goal would consist of three things…fresh, flavorful, and fabulous. Fabulous to me means distinct flavors and textures that make you happier with each bite. Fresh tomatoes, lime, juicy slaw, possibly a spicy pico de gallo, a perfectly fried corn tortilla and of course, moist and tender pieces of seasoned fish. You can add mango, shrimp, cilantro…change it up any way you like with your favorite ingredients.

Fish Tacos

6 Cod Fillets, or your favorite lighter flavored fish

Olive Oil, I used garlic olive oil and drizzled the fish skillet with about 4 Tbsp.

Canola Oil, about 2 cups

Corn Tortillas

Sea Salt & Pepper

For The Pico de Gallo

5 Medium Vine Tomatoes, diced small with juice and seeds

1/2 Yellow Bell Pepper, diced (traditional Pico does not contain bell pepper, but I like the color and the texture)

1/2 Red Onion, diced

About 1/2 Cup Cilantro, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. Jalapeno Pepper, I used roasted Hot jalapeno…

1 1/2 Tbsp. Garlic, finely chopped

2 Limes, quartered

Prepare the vegetables, lime, garlic, and jalapeno. Pour into a medium bowl, squeeze lime juice into mixture, stir to combine, and refrigerate for at least an hour. The longer it sits, the better it tastes.

For The Slaw

1 Bag of Broccoli Slaw

3/4  Cup Light Mayonnaise

1/2 Cup Rice Vinegar

Pepper to Taste

A Pinch of Sugar

Whisk mayo, vinegar, pepper, and sugar until smooth. Add to broccoli slaw and toss until completely combined. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Pour canola oil into a large skilled about 1 inch or so up the side. You need a lot less than you think and if it gets too deep, it can be dangerous. Set aside until you start cooking the fish.

Tear off several paper towels on a plate and set aside.

Rinse and dry fillets completely. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, drizzle about 4 Tbsp. of olive oil and heat on medium to medium high heat. Add fish and cook until white and flakey. This will only take about 4 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of your fish fillets. Heat the oil on medium high until it starts to ripple. If it starts to smoke it’s too hot, turn it down to medium or even medium low. It really depends on your stove. You want the tortillas to sizzle when you put them in but a medium sizzle, not too low, and not too high.

When the fish is done, remove from burner and cover lightly with a lid. Fry corn tortillas one a time, they only take about 2 seconds on each side, layer in between paper towels on a plate. I fry a lot, maybe 15 or so because I like to have leftovers for lunch the next day. I would fry about 3 per person.

When tortillas are done, layer your tortillas with slaw, fish, and Pico. Serve with a wedge of lime and sliced avocado with pepper,and a good beer.