Spicy Shrimp and Guacamole Nacho Bites

Spicy Shrimp and Guacamole Nacho Bites

A couple weeks ago I finally got the opportunity to try a spicy shrimp taco that I had read about in Saveur over 2 years ago.  The article was about a taco eating trip down highway 99 in California with stops mostly in agricultural areas with larger mexican populations.  I was busy with school and too far away from the restaurants at the time, but I love Mexican food so the article sat in the back of my mind, added onto the running list of food anecdotes and meal ideas I keep in a dark corner somewhere in there.  When I found myself in Fresno recently I somehow unearthed the article from the depths of my subconscious and hopped on Yelp to make sure they were still open.

Spicy Shrimp and Guacamole Nacho Bites

The tacos.  Were.  Great.  There’s no shortage of delicious tacos in California, and especially not in Fresno, but these stood out as different than what I would usually get.  A flour tortilla holds rice, cheese, guacamole and shrimp bathed in a hot sauce.  They were so filling I could barely finish my second one, but I wanted more of those shrimp.  

Spicy Shrimp and Guacamole Nacho Bites
For my own adaptation I kept the best parts of the taco and ditched the rice and cheese.  These shrimp nacho bites are crunchy and loaded with freshly made guacamole and shrimp.  Avocados and shrimp can be what I call “quiet” flavors in their plain state, but with so many other fresh flavors and spices, the end product is super flavorful and the perfect combination of crunchy, creamy, fresh and spicy.

Spicy Shrimp and Guacamole Nacho Bites

Spicy Shrimp and Guacamole Nacho Bites
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 3 6” corn tortillas or 12 thick tortilla chips
  2. 12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  3. 1 t. garlic powder
  4. ¼ t. smoked paprika
  5. ¼ t. cayenne pepper
  6. ⅛ red onion
  7. 2 avocados
  8. ½ serrano pepper
  9. 2 T chopped cilantro
  10. 2-3 limes
  11. 2 ½ t. kosher salt, divided
  12. 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
  13. Salt
  14. Vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Begin heating ½” of vegetable or other neutral tasting oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Stack your tortillas and cut them into quarters. Check the heat by dipping a corner of the tortilla into the oil and if it begins bubbling rapidly the oil is ready. Add as many of the chips as can fit in the pan without any of them overlapping and cook, flipping occasionally until golden brown and bubbling has nearly subsided. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle immediately with salt. Continue to cook the rest of the chips in the same manner. If making ahead, allow to completely cool and then store in an airtight container.
  2. Chop the shrimp into bite sized pieces and combine in a bowl with the garlic, paprika, cayenne, 2 t. salt, and 1 t. oil. Slice the red onion thinly lengthwise and set aside. Cut 1 lime into wedges.
  3. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash slightly with a fork, adding ½ t. kosher salt. Dice the serrano pepper and add to the avocado along with the cilantro and the juice of 1 lime. Continue to mash the guacamole to the consistency you prefer, then taste to see if it needs more salt or lime juice and adjust as needed.
  4. Heat 2 T. vegetable oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold all the shrimp in a single layer. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp has just turned pink. Remove from heat and begin assembling nachos. Add a dollop of guacamole on top of each chip, followed by a spoonful of shrimp a few slices of red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Garnish with an extra squeeze of lime juice from the wedges you cut earlier.
Notes
  1. While you can make some components of this dish ahead of time, they must be assembled right before serving to avoid sogginess. If you're making these for a party and want to make as much ahead of time as possible, I would suggest making the chips and chopping and marinating the shrimp 1-2 days ahead of time. The guacamole can be made in the morning and stored in a bowl in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed directly on top so that it doesn't have contact with any air.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
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Lemon and Blackberry Mascarpone Cake

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Guys, I’m really excited about this cake.  Why?  For so many reasons!  First off, it was ridiculously easy – so easy I can barely even remember making it the next day.  Second, the taste is amazing.  This cake is all sorts of quintessential spring dessert – there’s lemon and fresh berries, the mascarpone is rich, but the cake is light.  Not to mention, it’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.  Just like the daffodil that blooms next to a mud puddle, this cake has a natural beauty, but the bare cut edges of the cake bring you back to reality.  And that’s another thing I love about it – I don’t believe in stuffy food.  Nothing and nobody should be perfect all the time, or even try to be.  I prefer life to be a little rough around the edges – it’s better that way.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

This cake was inspired by my simultaneous need to use up buttermilk and a clamshell container of fresh blackberries.  I know we’ve all been there with the buttermilk.  If you buy it for one recipe you’re inevitably left with at least half a carton.  This cake helps, but just a little bit.  The recipe came together little by little, following a trail of breadcrumbs of inspiration.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Here the buttermilk lends a very moist and delicate crumb, which makes it delightful to eat, but hard to get a clean cut.  Refrigerating the cake for 30 minutes should help if you want nice clean edges, but I think this cake has more personality with crumbs and slightly jagged edges.  Once you get the cake filled and the layers stacked, you definitely won’t be able to cut a perfect piece, so don’t plan on serving this if you’re trying to impress with perfect slices.  I promise though, people will ask you for the recipe.  It’s that good.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Flavorwise, this cake is a real winner.  Blackberries, lemon, cream and vanilla are a hard combo to say no to.  It’s simple and delicious.  

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & CrumbsThe cake batter is based, very loosely, on one from the New York Times, which adapted it from the Joy of Cooking.  I started out making a full batch in a jelly roll pan, but once I started stacking the layers I realized if I went any higher than two my cake would probably topple over.  In accordance, the recipe below has been halved.  I also swapped the cake flour for all-purpose without any noticeable difference in texture.  I wanted this to be a fancy sort of everyday cake – the kind you just whip up – and everyday cakes shouldn’t use anything but all-purpose.

Lemon Blackberry Cake | Cravings & Crumbs

Lemon and Blackberry Cake with Mascarpone
Serves 6
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Cake
  1. 1 c. + 2 t. all-purpose flour
  2. ¾ t. baking powder
  3. ¼ t. baking soda
  4. ¼ t. salt
  5. 3 T. unsalted butter, softened
  6. ⅔ c. granulated sugar
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. ½ c. full fat buttermilk
  9. ½ t. vanilla
  10. Zest of 1 medium lemon
Filling
  1. 1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  2. ¼ c. granulated sugar
  3. ½ t. vanilla
  4. 5 t. lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
  5. ¼ c. milk
  6. 12 oz. container blackberries
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x9 square baking pan.
  2. Mix together dry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Add softened butter and sugar to a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, cream the butter and sugar until completely combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture in three parts, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon zest with the final buttermilk addition.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to make sure it’s distributed evenly. Bake for 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes in the pan. The cake will pull away from the sides as it cools.
Filling and assembly
  1. Add the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and milk to a bowl. Using an electric hand beater or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape into a pastry bag or the corner of a gallon ziploc with the tip cut off.
  2. Cut the cake in half to create two rectangles and trim the edges so all sides are exposed, just like how you would cut the crusts off of toast.
  3. Place the first layer on your serving platter. Using the pastry bag, pipe dots or a ruffled line around the perimeter of the cake to create a decorative edge. Fill in the center with a thin layer of the filling. Place rows of blackberries across the short way, leaving a little space in between each row to make it easier to cut slices later.
  4. Place the second layer on top and, following the same steps for decorating, pipe a decorative perimeter and place rows of blackberries. Pipe dots in between the blackberries to fill in the top.
  5. Refrigerate if not serving right away. This cake should hold up well in the fridge, although I can only attest to one day, as that’s how long it lasted in my house.
Notes
  1. To get a cleaner cut on the cake layers, refrigerate for about 30 minutes prior to cutting. Use a paper towel with a little vegetable oil to coat both sides of your knife before each cut.
  2. This cake easily doubles and can be baked in a 12x17 jelly roll pan. In fact I halved the recipe after my first round of testing. However, if you double the recipe be sure not to go any higher than two layers. Lining the pan with parchment is a good idea to be able to lift it out of the pan.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
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Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

It’s Thursday which means you’ve made it over the hump and are sailing towards the weekend.  It also means you’re still two days away from leisurely cooking and cocktail hours – enter this ridiculously fast, cheap, vegetarian dinner to sustain you until you reach weekend indulgence.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

These tostadas are simple, but still so satisfying.  They start with shallow fried corn tortillas (you can bake them if you prefer, they’ll just be a little bit drier), then you top them with refried black beans, a cilantro and lime slaw, cotija cheese, and a chipotle crema.  They are all at once crunchy, creamy, salty, refreshing, and satisfying.  Trust me – they seem basic, but you’re going to love them.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

Here I’ve used the smaller street taco size tortillas to make them more of a snack meal.  I have a thing about that – making my food amusing to me.  I’m entertained by anything that has a dip or topping or is otherwise interactive, and snack dinners check a lot of those boxes.  You’ve got to keep life interesting somehow!

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

The other great thing about these tostadas, besides how delicious they are, is how economical they are to make.  I usually cook my black beans from scratch on the weekend or after work for the next day.  With black beans there’s no need to soak them, in fact you end up with a thicker and richer bean broth if you don’t.  You don’t have to cook them from scratch, but if you do they are literally cents on the dollar and have so much more flavor.  Other than that, tortillas, cabbage, the tiniest sprinkling of cotija and the greek yogurt “crema” are all so cheap you could probably feed 10 people for a dollar each.  Just goes to show good food doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema

All ingredients below are approximate, as this recipe is easily scaled up or down, depending on how many you’re feeding.  This recipe is also just a canvas – you can add any number of other toppings, including meat – may I suggest a chopped achiote chicken breast?

Black Bean Tostadas with Chipotle Crema
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Ingredients
  1. 5-6 small corn tortillas
  2. 2 cups homemade or 1 (15 oz.) can black beans
  3. Pinch of ground cumin
  4. 3 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
  5. 2-3 limes
  6. Small handful of cilantro
  7. Cotija cheese
For the chipotle crema
  1. ¾ cup plain greek yogurt
  2. 1 garlic clove, sliced
  3. 1-2 chipotle in adobo
  4. Juice of ½ lime
Instructions
  1. First, make the crema. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until combined. Feel free to add a tablespoon or so of water to get the blender running, if needed. Making the crema first allows all the flavors to meld as we do the rest of the cooking.
  2. Add the shredded cabbage to a bowl and top with a small drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt, and the juice from about 2 limes - give it a taste to know how many. Chop the cilantro and toss with the slaw.
  3. Next, add a tablespoon of oil to a small frying pan or saucepan over medium heat. Add the beans (with liquid), a pinch of ground cumin, and a big pinch of salt and allow to cook for about 5 minutes. You want the beans to be heated first to get a smooth mash.
  4. Using a potato masher or the back of a fork, mash the bean until they are as smooth or chunky as you want them. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Turn heat to low and allow to continue cooking, adding more water if they start to get dry.
  5. Heat a small amount of neutral oil (about ¼ cup) in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the tortillas until crispy, flipping halfway through. You’ll know they’re done when the oil has all but stopped bubbling around them. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat until all the tortillas are fried.
  6. Finally, assemble! Spread a few spoonfuls of refried beans on a tortilla, add some slaw, crema, crumbled cotija, and a squeeze of lime.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
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Homemade Garlic Croutons

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

Are you looking for a way to seriously improve your salad game?  Swapping storebought for homemade dressing is the first thing you should do.  The second is making your own croutons.

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

Homemade croutons are far better than any you can get at the grocery store.  Making them yourself also allows you to add any seasoning you like and use up any bread that is going stale or is close to getting moldy.  Not to mention it doesn’t require any skill and very little time.  

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

All you have to do is cube the bread, toss with oil and seasonings and bake for about 20 minutes.  Just be sure you make at least double what you think you need.  Almost every time I make them people gravitate toward the kitchen and slowly snack on them as dinner is being finished.  They’re so irresistible you might have to set aside what you actually want to put in the salad to make sure you have enough!

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

You can use any bread you have around, but they’ll be best with a bread that has a good crust.  I usually make them with baguette, french bread, and sourdough.  I would avoid any bread that is too sweet, like a whole wheat sandwich loaf, or too dense.  Of course, it really depends on what salad you’re going to put them on!  I’ve seen salads with cornbread croutons which are both sweet and dense, so really anything goes if it tastes good with your other ingredients!

Homemade Garlic Croutons | Cravings & Crumbs

Homemade Garlic Croutons
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 oz. stale bread
  2. 1 garlic clove, peeled
  3. 2 T olive oil
  4. 1 T vegetable oil
  5. ½ t. garlic powder
  6. ½ t. dried basil
  7. 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  8. salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°.
  2. Cube or tear your bread into about ½” cubes. Press, mince, or grate the garlic clove into a medium sized bowl and add the oils. Add the bread to the bowl and toss to coat. Sprinkle seasonings on top and toss again to coat.
  3. Spread croutons on a small baking tray and bake for about 20-30 minutes, tossing ¾ of the way through, until golden brown. If the croutons look very dry when you toss them, feel free to add an extra drizzle of oil before returning them to the oven.
Notes
  1. These measurements are just a guideline. Feel free to use more bread, oil, or different seasonings. This is just a very basic version of the croutons I make. I switch everything up depending on the salad and my mood.
Cravings & Crumbs http://www.cravingsandcrumbs.com/
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Chile Lime Popcorn

Chile Lime Popcorn | Cravings & Crumbs

Congratulations, you made it to the weekend! If you’re absolutely nothing like me, maybe you went out yesterday for St. Patrick’s day and drank too much at a bar packed with too many people. I’m much older in my heart than my true age, so my idea of a good time is a relaxed cocktail hour with close friends or family, and of course good snacks. Read More

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Achiote Chicken Salad

Achiote Chicken Salad | Cravings & Crumbs

Lunch options near my work are slim.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of restaurants, but they’re all too expensive and not even that delicious.  As someone who likes to cook a lot, it pains me to pay too much money for something that I could have made better for half the price.

Achiote Chicken Salad | Cravings & Crumbs

There are a few options I enjoy when I’m too lazy to cook lunch or simply forget.  One of them is a mexican restaurant run as an offshoot to another two well known restaurants in the area.  Everything tastes really good, but you end up paying $15 for three tacos and a drink.  It kills me that I could go to the mexican market and buy everything to make enough tacos and drinks for 10 people for that price. Read More

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Lemon Cream Tart

Lemon Cream Tart

Last week it was my dad’s 68th birthday and when I asked him what he wanted he said lemon pie.  This is the guy whose favorite dessert of his mother’s was lemon meringue pie and who has been talking about making lemon bars for at least two years, since the last time he made them.  So you could say I was less than surprised by his request.  Yeah, he likes lemon…

Lemon Cream Tart

I don’t make pies or tarts very often, so after a few days of stressing about how I would get all the steps done, imagining completing one part of the recipe each day after work, I just started look at recipes and pulling elements that would actually make this dessert doable.   Read More

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One-Bowl Cardamom Coffee Cake

Cardamom Coffee Cake

A few weeks ago someone in my office brought in homemade cookies and quietly laid them out with a small sign, “Holiday Snickerdoodles”.  Imagine my surprise when I took a bite and they weren’t any ordinary snickerdoodle, but cardamom and currant snickerdoodles!  What a pleasant turn the morning was taking and I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet.  They looked so unassuming on a paper plate, covered up with a paper towel – they weren’t winning any points for presentation, but these cookies spoke for themselves with the first bite.  They were so good they didn’t make it to the next day, but I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Read More

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