I ate all the tacos so you don’t have to (unless you’re really into that)

A sampling of tacos from El Taco Luchador on Baxter Avenue.
A sampling of tacos from El Taco Luchador on Baxter Avenue.

It was an assignment not for the weak of stomach: write about the burgeoning Louisville taco scene.

Journalism school taught me that a good reporter must do his or her research, so I embarked on a two-week taco taste test across the city. I documented some lessons learned and some stand-out taquerias in a story I wrote for the WFPL news blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The components of a taco sound simple enough—a tortilla, some meat, a few veggies, a sauce, and a wedge of lime on the side. But the best tacos in the city are thoughtfully crafted by chefs willing to explore flavor combinations that call on tradition yet seem refreshing and new. The tortilla should be soft, warm, made of corn and sturdy. The meat is best when it’s marinated and slow cooked, as evidenced by tender strips that fall apart as you chew your way through. The veggies should be crisp and handled with a light hand to not overwhelm aforementioned tortilla. And the sauce can make or break this little handheld dish—too much, and it’s sloppy and overbearing, too little, and the dish is  dry. And don’t forget to squeeze that lime, for it adds a final citrusy pop to make the tastes come alive.

Read the rest of the article here. Gluttony jokes aside, I had a fun time writing this one. Louisville has turned into a great place for tacos.

Where do you go when you need a taco fix?

December is a good month if you love Subway and Qdoba

Here’s a quickie post to get your Friday going.

  • Subway is offering $2 six-inch sandwiches through December for Customer Appreciation Month. Here’s the catch: the deal only applies to the cold cut combo and the meatball sub.
  • Now through Dec. 11, Qdoba restaurants in Louisville and southern Indiana will offer $5 entrees after 5 p.m. You just have to purchase a soft drink.

Got it? Go forth and have a fantastic Friday.

Donate canned goods for queso at local Qdoba Mexican Grill locations

Got some canned goods? Want to help a local food bank? Do you like cheese dip?

Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurants in Louisville and southern Indiana will collect canned goods for Dare to Care food bank through Sunday, Nov. 20, according to an email I got from the chain restaurant. In exchange for one canned good, customers will receive a free queso upgrade to any entree. In exchange for three canned goods, the restaurant will give you an order of chips and queso.

This sounds like a win-win situation. And if you don’t make it into a Qdoba by the end of the promotion? Donate to Dare to Care anyway.

Time for some last-minute Super Bowl recipes

Photo courtesy of boo_licious via Flickr.

I’m not a big sports fan, but I can appreciate an event like the Super Bowl. Any event that brings people together and involves food can’t be all bad.

The big event is just a couple of days away. Here’s a few quick dishes that you can whip up if you still haven’t figured out what you’re going to feed the crowd.

Fruit dip –  Blend a package of softened strawberry cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow cream. Serve with your favorite fruits. (All Recipes)

Nachos – Heat a jar of picante sauce, a can of nacho cheese soup and some chopped jalapeno peppers on the stove. Stir often. Serve with chips.

Sliders – Mix a package of ground beef with two cap fulls of Mrs. Dash seasoning (or the store-brand equivalent, which is cheaper and tastes the same). Form into small patties. Grill in a medium pan. Top with slices of pepperjack cheese, and serve on King’s Hawaiian Rolls.

Potato wedges – Bake a bag of frozen potato wedges according to package instructions. Right after you take them out of the oven, sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Serve with ketchup spiked with Frank’s Hot Sauce.

Pizza – Top pita bread with pasta sauce, spinach and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

S’mores – Top a graham cracker with a piece of chocolate and marshmallow. Put another graham cracker on top. Repeat with as many times as you like. Heat in microwave for 10 seconds. (Food Network)

The $10 Challenge: El Mundo

When the people talk, I listen.

And all the folks who have e-mailed, commented or tweeted about El Mundo had a clear message: this Mexican restaurant is the perfect destination for a $10 Challenge.

So I used my birthday and my roommates’ big hearts (and wallets) as excuses to visit the Frankfort Avenue restaurant.

El Mundo isn’t like most Americanized Mexican places that I’m used to visiting. Gone are the bad murals of haciendas and medleys of Spanish singing over the speakers. Same goes for the identical menus and indistinguishable dishes covered in melted cheese. This restaurant takes traditional Mexican dishes and shakes them down Kentucky-style by infusing food with local ingredients and giving the finger to what people expect from a Mexican restaurant.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: El Mundo”

The $10 Challenge: Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant

I love a success story.

But for this week’s $10 Challenge, I was determined to fail.

I have operated under the notion that $10 should be enough to receive a decent meal at a local restaurant. But what if you throw in a couple of extra bucks? Will the more-expensive meal be worth blowing off the $10 budget I have imposed upon myself for the last few weeks?

I decided to test this theory at Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, a local chain with three locations in Louisville and the surrounding area.

Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant on Main Street in Louisville, Ky.

Los Aztecas has been the go-to Mexican place for my buddies and I for years. In high school, I visited the restaurant’s Main Street location about once a week because it was the only eatery open for lunch during my Sunday afternoon shift at the Louisville Science Center. I didn’t fully appreciate the variety Los Aztecas offered back then. Instead, I ordered a chicken quesadilla (the starter entree for anyone new to Mexican food) each time I brought something back to the museum for lunch.

A few years have passed, and I have since been fortunate enough to further explore Los Aztecas’s extensive food and tequila selection. But I’ve gotten into a rut during my last few visits. I have been ordering the quesadilla fajita grande with chicken or the burrito fajita grande with chicken with the reassurance that each of the similar dishes will always come out tasting great.

On my most recent dinner visit, I wanted to flip to a new page in the Los Aztecas menu and try a different entree.

Continue reading “The $10 Challenge: Los Aztecas Mexican Restaurant”

Guacamole success, or, the last time I’ll write about avocados for a while

Let’s just call Saturday Ocho de Mayo, because that’s when my Mexican heritage celebration finally took place.

I bought three avocados Wednesday that were on sale to make guacamole for Cinco de Mayo. Unfortunately, it took until Saturday for them to finally ripen.

So here is my recipe, adapted from this blog. And I promise I’ll post more recipes that aren’t Mexican-inspired, though I do love some good Mexican food.

Guacamole (ingredients purchased at Kroger and Aldi)*

It looks messy, but that's how I like it.The Numbers:

  • Three avocados (69 cents each, $2.07 total)
  • 1/2 red onion ($1.13 each, 57 cents for half)
  • 1/2 green pepper (83 cents each, 42 cents for half)
  • 1 clove garlic**
  • 1/2 tomato ($1.78 per pound, ~59 cents)
  • Juice from 1 lime (49 cents each)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Frank’s hot sauce, to taste

Total cost: $4.14

Cost per serving (about 6 servings of 1/2 cup each): 69 cents

The Action:

  1. Dice red onion, green pepper, garlic and tomato. Combine in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Hull and chop avocados. In another bowl, smash avocados with a fork. Squeeze lime over the smashed avocados.
  3. Mix avocados in the large bowl with red onion, green pepper, garlic and tomato.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

The Extras:

This is a great dip with some tortilla chips, but it’s also good if you smear it on a burrito. I paired it with some grilled tilapia, salsa and tortilla chips.

A very festive plate.

*I didn’t have the receipt for some of these purchases, so I got the prices from the USDA.

**I couldn’t find the price of garlic, but it’s pretty cheap.


Fine Print: Louisville grocery deals for the week of 5.9.10

This one is dedicated to all the mothers, aunties, play cousins, grannies and the other strong women who had a hand in everyone’s upbringing. Happy Mother’s Day.

Now, on to the sales.

CVS Pharmacy (all savings require CVS card)

  • Kellogg’s cereal: $1.88 per box
  • Gold Emblem canned vegetables: 49 cents per can
  • Kraft macaroni and cheese and assorted grocery items: 10 for $10
  • Healthy Choice fresh mixers: Buy one, get one free
  • Starbucks Via eight-pack: $5.99 per box

Kroger (all savings require Kroger card)

  • Kroger cheese: Two for $5
  • On the Border tortilla chips: Two for $4
  • Arnold Sandwich Thins: Two for $5
  • Kroger round-top bread or buns: 10 for $10
  • Cameo apples: 99 cents per pound
  • Perdue 93 percent lean ground turkey: $2.49 per package
  • General Mills cereal: $1.97 per box
  • Navel oranges: 68 cents per pound
  • Kroger fish fillets or scallops and Gorton’s shrimp: Buy one, get one free

Meijer

  • Corn on the cob: Four for $1
  • Asparagus: $1.49 per pound
  • Angus ground beef from round: $2.29 per pound
  • California strawberries one-pound containers: Three for $5
  • Organic broccoli: Two for $4
  • Baby-cut carrots one-pound package: Five for $5
  • Vidalia onions: 69 cents per pound
  • Three-pound bag of Michigan Ida Red, Red Delicious, Jonagold and Jonathan apples: Two for $4
  • Frozen Tyson boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins 40-ounce bags: $4.49
  • Kraft shredded cheese, cheese chunks, cubes or crumbles: Three for $6
  • Splenda products: 25 percent off
  • Healthy Choice complete meals or cafe steamers: $2.19
  • Aunt Millie’s family-style loaf and homestyle honey hamburger or hot dog buns: Two for $2
  • Rold Gold pretzels: Two for $4
  • All Bran and Wheatables crackers: $2.59 per box

Rite Aid

  • Post Cereal: Buy one, get one free
  • Mott’s Applesauce, Del Monte Pineapple and Sun Maid Raisins: Four for $5
  • Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee tuna: Four for $5
  • Franzia Wine (the boxed kind): $13.49

Target

  • Lean Cuisine frozen entrees: $1.88 each
  • 12-ounce Starbucks coffee: $7
  • Market Pantry 13.5-ounce tortilla chips or 16-ounce salsa: Three for $5
  • Nine- to 13-ounce Tostitos: Buy two, get one Tostitos dip or salsa free
  • 16-ounce Market Pantry frozen vegetables: 99 cents each
  • Simply Orange juice: $2.99

Walgreens

  • Nature Valley bars: Two for $4
  • Skippy peanut butter and Ragu pasta sauce: Two for $3 (with coupon)
  • Lay’s potato chips or Indiana Kettlecorn: $1.99 per bag

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with homemade Mexican food

Cinco de Mayo is supposed to be a day to celebrate Mexican heritage and pride (at least, that’s what Wikipedia tells me).

For me, the observance has given me a reason to indulge in large quantities of chips and dip.

Whatever your reason for celebrating Cinco de Mayo, it’s a great day to try a homemade Mexican-inspired recipe. Remember the cheesy chicken nachos?

The nachos, transformed into a burrito.

Tonight, I will make some homemade guacamole using this recipe I found on a fellow foodie’s website called Spicie Foodie. I chose to make guacamole because a) I love me some guac; b) this particular recipe seemed basic and easy; and c) avocados are on sale at Aldi in Louisville for 69 cents each. If that’s not a good reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

(Side note: I might end up stocking up on Mexican food supplies at my trip to Aldi, because it looks like they have some fantastic Cinco de Mayo sales.)

I’ll post the results of the homemade guac tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some links to more Cinco de Mayo-inspired recipes and deals:

  • All Recipes has a page dedicated to Cinco de Mayo recipes. I’m tempted to make a grilled version of this fish taco recipe to go with my guac. (site)
  • Paula Deen, one of my favorite Food Network personalities, has a recipe for Mexican Chicken. It includes one of my favorite cost-saving ingredients — canned soup. (recipe)
  • If you visit a Louisville-area Qdoba on Cinco de Mayo, you can get chips and salsa for 50 cents. (site)