Category Archives: Mexican Food

Carne Asada

I’m hosting a dinner later this month for two of my favorite friends and their significant others.  I have agonized over what to serve since I knew that March was my month to host.  I thought about doing corned beef, but it’s really not my favorite food and if I’m going to cook for other people, I really want to like what I’m cooking.  I thought about fodue, but I ALWAYS mess up cheese sauce (unless it is velveeta, then I’m good).  I thought about a three-course Italian meal, but I didn’t want to spend all my visiting time prepping the next course.  So, I went simple.  Taco Bar.  I mean, who doesn’t love tacos?  I’ll be serving my Chicken Tacos with Black Bean and Corn Salsa.  I’ll also be serving pork Barbacoa tacos and I’ll whip up this Carne Asada recipe.  All of these can be prepared before and just warmed before serving, except the Asada.  It needs to be grilled right before serving – of course allowing the meat time to rest before slicing.  But cooking this meat is the easy part.  All the real work is in the marinade, and it is done the day before.

To prepare the marinade, juice 2 limes, smash 3 cloves of garlic and add cilantro, onion, salt pepper, beer, cumin and chile flake.  Mix together in a zip top bag, add your meat and refrigerate overnight.  Pull it out a half hour before you are ready to cook.  If it’s warm enough (or you’re brave enough), fire up your outdoor grill.  If not, heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat until it is smoking hot.  Cook the meat for 5-7 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Don’t mess with it too much.  You want it to develop some nice browning.

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Let this rest for 5 minutes.  Then, slice thinly and across the grain.  Serve on grilled corn tortillas with cheese, cilantro and salsa or whatever else you like to top your tacos with.

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Recipe:

2 limes

1/2 cup beer

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

pinch chile flake

2 pounds flank steak

Juice limes into a gallon sized zip top bag.  Add beer, smashed garlic, cilantro, onion, salt, pepper, cumin and chile flake.  Add flank steak to bag and seal, removing as much air as possible.  Refrigerate overnight.

Remove meat from refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Heat grill or cast iron on high until very hot.  Cook meat for 5-7 minutes per side, until desired doneness.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Slice thinly across the grain.

Taco Seasoning

I have been inexcusably absent the last couple of weeks.  But, I’m back today – and, it’s Taco Tuesday!  I reference taco seasoning in a lot of my recipes.  Sometimes, I’ll be honest, I grab a packet at the store – especially if I don’t have any mixed up and the brand with a box top coupon is on sale.  Really though, I prefer to mix up my own.  It’s simple and stores well and you can use it to liven up just about any southwestern dish.  What I like best is that it allows me to control the amount of salt and eliminate the sugar (yes, commercial mixes typically have sugar in them, who knew?).  It couldn’t be easier to mix this up.  Just measure out your dried spices, toss them in a container and stir to combine.  Then use as little or as much as you want to season up a pan full of meat for tacos. I like to add my seasoning as the meat is cooking.  Serve with a tortilla shell (these are crispy corn tortilla bowls), some lettuce and cheese and whatever else your family likes on tacos..

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Recipe:

1 Tablespoon chile powder

1 Tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Place all spices in a container and stir to combing.  Store, tightly sealed, for up to 6 months.

More Than Microwaving – Green Chile Stew

Remember when we made Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas and I told you to freeze that extra sauce? Well, this recipe is why.  It is perfect for a rainy day.  Especially one where you have limited time.  You can make it even faster by using leftover chicken or pork chops.  I didn’t have any leftover, so I started with a pound of uncooked chicken breast.  If you have time, I really recommend this because you get the extra flavor from cooking the chicken in your soup pan.  If you’re using leftover chicken, I recommend swapping out the water in this recipe for broth.

So, start by heating some oil in the bottom of a big soup pot.  Sprinkle both sides of your chicken with salt and pepper.  When the pan is hot, add the chicken.  Let it cook for about 5 minutes on each side.  The chicken will be brown on the outside.  It might not be cooked through, that’s ok, it will finish cooking in the soup later.  You see all that brown in the bottom of the pan? That’s flavor right there.

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Add about 2 cups of water to the hot pan.  As the water heats, those brown and stuck bits will loosen up.  When you’ve got most everything pulled up from the bottom of the pan, add 4 cups of leftover green chile sauce.  Turn the heat down to low and let that simmer away (or thaw if you added it frozen like I did).  Dice your chicken and add it to the pot.

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Wash, peel and dice your potatoes.  Try to get the potato chunks about the same size as the chicken chunks.  Add potatoes to the soup.  If it seems too thick to you, add some water. I added about another cup of water to mine.

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Simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are done.  Taste for seasoning.  You’re probably going to need to add a little salt since potatoes absorb a lot of salt flavor.  When you’re happy, warm up some flour tortillas and ladle out bowlfuls of this hearty stew.

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Recipe:

1 pound chicken or pork

1 Tablespoon oil

Salt and pepper

2-3 cups water

4 cups green chile sauce

2 potatoes

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large soup pot.  Sprinkle both sides of your chicken (or pork) with salt and pepper.  Place chicken in hot pan and brown on both sides (approximately 5 minutes per side).  You don’t have to cook the chicken through, but it is ok if you do too.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add 2 cups water to pan and stir to loosen all the brown bits in the bottom of the pan.  Add green chile sauce and reduce heat to low.

Cube chicken and add to pot.

Wash, peel and dice potatoes.  Add to pot.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Add more salt if necessary.

Serve with warm flour tortillas and desired toppings (cheese, onion, tomatoes, sour cream – really, whatever sounds good to you).

Chicken Fajitas

It’s Taco Tuesday, and, really, what are fajitas if not tacos with attitude! I love fajitas.  When we eat out, I order fajitas just so I can have them brought to me sizzling on the hot plate and assemble them myself.  I’m always disappointed after that though.  I mean, so much opportunity for flavor and most often it’s just wasted.  Most fajitas I order out come to me barely even dusted with salt and pepper.  So, I make them at home.  They sizzle on my stovetop in my cast iron skillet and always pack way more flavor that the bland food that passes for fajitas at the restaurant.

I start by finely slicing an onion and a bell pepper.  I like my bell pepper strips smaller, so I cut my pepper into quarters and then cut strips across the short width.

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Also, if you leave the root end on your onion, it is way easier to slice it.  You don’t have to worry about the layers slipping around as you get closer and closer to the end.

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You could use any color bell pepper, I just like the way the red looks.  Aren’t they pretty?  Don’t forget to keep those trimmings in a freezer bag for the next time you make stock!

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Next I mix up my spices and paste my garlic.  Take your garlic and mince it.  Then, sprinkle your salt over the minced garlic and use the flat part of your knife to smash it.  Press down on the garlic and salt then, while still applying pressure, drag the knife toward you.  Keep doing this a few times until you’ve got a paste like this.

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Slice up your meat.  Toss your meat, onion/peppers and spices (including garlic paste) together and add all the juice from one lime (2 if you don’t get much juice).  Heat up some oil in a cast iron skillet until it is smoking hot (seriously, you definitely want your oil to be rippling).  Carefully add in your fajita mixture.

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Sizzle until the chicken is done and the peppers and onions are tender.  Serve on warm flour tortillas with your favorite toppings.

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Recipe:

1 bell pepper

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chile powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

juice of 1 lime

1 pound chicken or beef

1 Tablespoon oil

Flour Tortillas

Remove the seeds and ribs from bell pepper and slice into thin strips.  Remove the skin from the onion and slice into thin strips.  Peel garlic and mince.  Paste garlic and salt together using the flat part of your knife blade.  Add garlic paste, paprika, chile powder ,cumin, black pepper, ground coriander oregano and lime juice to a bowl with your peppers and onions.  Slice meat into thin strips and add to peppers, onions and spices. Toss to coat

Heat oil in cast iron skillet over high heat until ripples appear.  Carefully add meat mixture to hot skillet.  Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and peppers and onions are tender.  Serve on warm flour tortillas with your choice of toppings.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Are you tired of green chile recipes yet?  No.  Good.  I don’t make enchiladas at home very often.  Honestly, there are a half dozen different restaurants within a 5 mile radius of my home that make them.  My kitchen stays a lot cleaner when I just let someone else do it.  But during chile season (also known as that time of year when you don’t want to light the heater yet so you use the oven to heat the house), I always make at least one pan of my own.  Everybody around here has their own recipe.  Everyone would die defending that they do it the right way and everyone else is wrong.  My recipe is my mother’s.  Or at least close to hers.  I may have taken some liberties with it here and there.  What I do know is that most people who use browned flour to thicken their chile sauce make a roux and cook it until it is brown.  My mom was conscious of the amount of oil she used in her cooking and we actually brown the flour in a dry pan.  All my friends think this is really weird.  Especially since I’m going to then use it with copious amounts of cheese, but hey, save those calories where you can, right? This recipe makes extra chlile sauce.  You can make more enchiladas, or you can save the sauce in the freezer for later.  I’ll show you how to turn it into green chile stew in a future More Than Microwaving post.

Start out by browning your flour.   Cook it over medium high to high heat until it is the color of peanut butter.  You must stir this constantly once it starts to brown and almost constantly before that or you will burn your flour.  You must also do this is a heavy bottomed pan.  If you do this in a pan with a thin bottom, you’ll end up warping it, and nobody likes a pan with a warped bottom (except maybe my mom, who did this in a warped pan until my dad threw it away without telling her).  I usually add my cumin in with my flour while I’m browning it.  I like the way it makes the cumin taste even more smoky and roasted.

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Next, whisk in your broth (or stock).  Be careful.  This is going to steam A LOT.  I usually wear a glove of some kind while I’m doing this just to keep my hand protected.  You must whisk continuously while you add the broth or you will get flour lumps in your sauce.  And flour lumps do not taste good.  You should end up with a light brown sauce about the consistency of gravy.

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Add your chile and spices to this sauce and let it simmer together and get happy while you roll the enchiladas.  Start by lightly frying your corn tortillas in hot oil.  This is just to heat them up and make them pliable.  A few seconds on each side is all it takes.  I literally put the tortilla in, grab the tongs, flip it, count to two and pull it out.  Place them on paper towels (or another absorbent surface) while you fry the rest. They should look something like this.

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Put a line of shredded chicken and cheese down the center of each tortilla and roll.  It takes a while to figure out what the just right amount is for you.  I use about 1/4 cup of chicken and about a tablespoon of cheese. If you overfill them, they’ll be hard to roll.  Use your best judgment.

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Roll enchiladas and place them in a pan.  I made 12 enchiladas and packed them into a large loaf pan. You could certainly make more and use a bigger pan.

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Top this with a generous amount of your chile sauce and cheese.  Bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes.  Cheese will be melted and sauce will be bubbly.

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Serve with a little extra sauce over the top.

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Recipe:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cumin

6-8 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups diced green chile (or more)

3 cloves garlic, grated

1/2 onion, diced

salt and pepper to taste

Oil for frying

12 corn tortillas

3 cups shredded chicken

1 1/2  cups shredded cheese

Place a heavy stock pot over medium high to high heat.  Add flour and cumin.  Cook, stirring constantly, until flour is brown.  Remove from heat and whisk in 6 cups of broth (careful of the steam).  Add more broth if necessary to achieve a gravy-like consistency.  Add chile, garlic, onion and salt and pepper.  Simmer over low heat while you roll the enchiladas. Taste for seasoning again before you use.

Preheat oven to 350*.  Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet.  Fry tortillas one at a time just until soft and pliable (2-3 seconds per side).  Drain.

Cover the bottom of a baking dish with a thin layer of chile sauce.  Place 1/4 cup chicken and 1 Tablespoon cheese in a line down the center of tortilla. Roll and place in baking dish.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  Cover with chile sauce and cheese.  Bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.  Serve with extra chile sauce.

More Than Microwaving – Taco Cupcakes

Yeah, I said it.  Taco Cupcakes.  They only resemble a cupcake in shape and size, so don’t gross yourself out thinking about sugary sweet tacos with frosting (ick!).My kids LOVE these.  First, they’re called cupcakes.  Second, they’re just the right size for little hands.  Third, you don’t have to worry about the shells snapping in half or having your filling leak out the back.  Also, they travel well in lunch boxes.  Sometimes, I mix up fresh taco filling just for these, but more often I use whatever taco filling we have left and make these for lunch.

Spray your muffin pan if it’s not the silicone variety.   Press a won ton wrapper into each hole.  Spoon a spoonful of refried beans onto the won ton.

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Top beans with cheese and a second won ton skin.  Top that won ton skin with taco meat (I used leftover chicken) and more cheese.  You’ll see some in the picture with only one layer.  My picky kiddo doesn’t like cheese on his meat.  Those are his.  Just won ton skin, beans and taco meat.

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Pop these in a 350* oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden.  Let them cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

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Recipe:

12 won ton skins

1/2 cup refried beans

1/2 cup shredded cheese

1 cup taco meat

Preheat oven to 350*.  Spray muffin pan with cooking spray.  Line 6 muffin cups with a won ton skin.  Place a heaping tablespoon of refried beans on top of each won ton skin.  Top beans with half the cheese.  Place a second won ton skin in each muffin cup and press down gently to spread beans and cheese evenly over the bottom of the muffin cup.  Top this second skin with taco meat (about 2 Tablespoons).  Top meat with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350* for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and won ton edges are brown and crispy.  Let stand for 2-3 minutes before serving.

More Than Microwaving – Refried Beans

I have several great recipes saved up to share with you from my weekend “off”.  I was looking through pictures and couldn’t decide what to share.  Everything looked so delicious.  Then, I remembered a friend of mine suggesting that I do More Than Microwaving on Mondays.

Refried beans are a staple in New Mexican cuisine.  I used to open a can and plop the mushy contents into a pan and reheat.  Then, I got pregnant with my first child.  Suddenly, everything that came out of a can, tasted exactly like the can it came out of.  I could doctor them some and help temper that metallic flavor, but I finally gave up and just started making my own.  You can start with dry beans, but if you’ve got some already cooked up, it makes this process even more simple.  Just realize that your refried beans will have the flavor of your original beans, so bbq beans or baked beans aren’t recommended.  Chile beans are perfect (even if they’ve got a little meat in them). Start by putting the beans in a pan to warm them up.  If your beans aren’t nice and soft, use this time to cook them a little longer.  You want them to be really soft and not very soupy.  You can tell I cooked quite a bit of liquid off of these.

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When the beans are soft, add 1/2 teaspoon cumin and mash with a potato masher.  If you want them super smooth, I suppose you could use a food processor, but I like a little texture in my refried beans.  As you mash, the beans will start to absorb all the cooking liquid.  To keep them nice and moist, you need to add some fat.  Lard is traditional.  Bacon grease is fabulous, but butter will work just fine too.

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Serve these alongside your favorite Mexican meal. Top them with cheese if you want.  Or, put them on top of a tostada with a little cheese and salsa and they become a meal all their own.

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Recipe:

2 cups leftover pinto beans in liquid

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 Tablespoon fat*

Reheat beans and cook until beans are very soft and the liquid level and bean levels are about equal. You can add more water and cook the beans longer if you need to.  When beans are soft, add cumin and mash with a potato masher.  Mash until desired consistency and stir in fat. Serve warm.

*Lard, bacon drippings, butter or margarine all would work fine.

Grilled Pork Tacos with Peach and Corn Relish

What could be better than pork tacos? Pork tacos topped with grilled peaches, corn and roasted peppers.  I swear this taco tastes like summer.  And for the record, I totally ate the peach and corn relish for lunch today, by itself, with a spoon.  Yup, it is that good.  I only managed to snap one picture on Tuesday, but it’s enough to whet your appetite.  The recipe takes a little more time than some of my others, but there is nothing particularly difficult and it is oh so worth the effort.

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Recipe:

1-2 dried ancho chiles

2-3 dried guajillo chiles

1 cup hot water

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 2lb pork loin

1 red bell pepper

1 jalapeno

2 ears corn, husks and silks removed

1 large or 2 small peach(es)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

salt and pepper

corn tortillas

oil

Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles. Break chiles in half and soak in hot water until rehydrated (I think I left mine for an hour or so, but you could probably do less).  Pour liquid, chiles, garlic cloves, cumin and salt in blender and blend until smooth.  Pour chile paste over pork loin in a shallow dish or ziplock bag and marinate for 2-3 hours. 

Preheat your grill.  Remove pork loin from marinade, but don’t scrape off the paste that sticks.  Place loin on grill and sear over direct heat for 5 minutes on each side. Move loin off of direct heat and continue cooking until desired doneness (I cooked mine for about an hour and a half).

 Toward the end of the cooking time, Place corn, bell pepper and jalapeno over direct heat.  Cut peach(es) in half and remove pit.  Add the peach, flesh side down, when you flip the vegetables. 

Remove everything from the grill when the peppers are charred and the corn and peach are roasted.  Set pork loin to rest while you prepare the relish.  Peel, seed and dice the peppers (I like to mince my jalapeno).  Cut corn off the cob.  Dice peach.  Place diced vegetables and peach in a bowl and add garlic powder, onion powder and salt to taste.

Brush both sides of corn tortillas with oil and heat over the grill until soften and slightly charred, flipping once. 

Slice pork loin into strips.  Pile tortilla with pork strips and relish and dig in. 

Chile Rellenos

I have lived in New Mexico for most of my life.  Every year, I look forward to the end of August with excitement and anticipation and glee.  Why? Two simple words: chile season.  Real New Mexico green chile is only in season for a few short weeks at the end of summer.  Roadside vendors pop up.  Chile festivals happen.  And the air is heavy with the aroma of chiles roasting over propane burners.  If I could bottle that smell, I’d make a million dollars (actually, I think a local candlemaker has a roasted green chile candle).  But I digress.  One of my favorite things to do with those fresh roasted chiles is stuff them with cheese and fry them up.  Part of the fun of peeling and freezing chiles is picking the perfect chiles for making rellenos.  This recipe also works well for making jalapeno poppers just in case you are unfortunate enough to live somewhere where you can’t get whole, fresh New Mexico green chile.

Start by peeling the roasted chile.  Try to leave the stem on, it makes a nice handle later.  Make a slit in the side of the chile and clean out most of the seeds.  Then, stuff them with cheese.  I use shredded cheese mixed with an egg to help reduce the amount of melty cheese that leaks out during frying..

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After stuffing, dip in batter and place in hot oil.  You can use a deep fryer instead of a skillet, but I don’t have one.

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Fry until golden brown and crispy.  If you use a deep fryer, they’ll be nice and round instead of flat on the sides.  They taste fantastic either way. 

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Recipe:

oil for frying

5-6 medium New Mexico green chiles

1 cup shredded cheese

1 egg

Batter:

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 egg

1/4 cup water

Pour about 1/4 inch oil in the bottom of your skillet and heat over medium heat.  Peel green chiles.  Make a slit in the side and remove seeds.  Be careful not to pull the stem off the top of the chile. 

Mix 1 cup shredded cheese and one egg together until well mixed.  Fill chiles with cheese mixture. 

In a shallow dish, combine cornstarch, flour, baking powder salt and pepper.  Add egg and water and stir until combined. 

Test oil with a drop of batter.  If it bubbles and floats to the top, the oil is ready.  Coat chiles in batter and carefully place in oil.  Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, and flip.  Remove from oil when both sides are golden and crispy and cheese is melted.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve immediately either plain or smothered with green chile sauce. 

More Than Microwaving – Reinvent Your Leftovers

Growing up, we always ate leftovers. Mom would plan a leftover night into her weekly menu plans.  I loved leftover night. Everyone got to eat what they wanted for dinner.  I looked forward to enjoying things like lasagna and enchiladas that somehow seemed to be better as leftovers than they were that first night.  My husband, however, is not a fan of leftovers.  Since I can’t stand to throw out perfectly good food, this leaves me with a small challenge.  How can I feed my husband leftovers without him knowing he’s eating leftovers. And thus, “More Than Microwaving” was born.  In these posts, I’ll share with you creative and tasty ways to reinvent leftovers from recently shared recipes.  Today, I’ll share how to use leftover Black Bean and Corn Salsa to create a Southwest Omelet that makes a fabulous meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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Recipe:

1 teaspoon butter (or oil)

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon milk

salt and pepper

1/4 cup shredded cheese

1/4-1/3 cup black bean and corn salsa

Place a non-stick skillet over medium low heat and add butter to skillet.  While butter is heating, use a fork to beat together eggs and milk.  Add salt and pepper to your preference.  When butter is frothy, but not brown, add egg mixture to skillet.  Let eggs cook until set around the edges.  Gently pull edges toward the center of the pan and tip the skillet so that the uncooked egg runs to the edges and covers the exposed skillet bottom.  Continue cooking until egg is almost completely set.  Loosen the edges of the cooked egg all the way around the pan.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese in a line down the center of the cooked egg.  Pour the salsa on top of the shredded cheese.  Fold one side of the omelet over the fillings.  Loosen the entire omelet from the pan.  Slide the folded edge toward your plate carefully and flip the unfolded edge on top.  Garnish with more salsa and extra cheese if desired.