Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Tex-Mex Roundup

posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister

As I look through my collection of videos and blog posts, I realized that I have developed quite a collection of Tex-Mex recipes and tips. It’s really not too surprising, given the popularity of these foods. In point of fact, Sante Fe Chili was my very first video.

This popular recipe takes only about 10 minutes to prepare and, as I say in the video, will feed an army, or just you with lots of leftovers! (My niece Sara has turned this recipe, with just a few modifications, into her signature dish!)

After the preparation, it does take 2 hours to cook, so I decided to add a quick cooking chili to the collection. 2 Alarm Chili packs a punch if you use all the red pepper contained in the spice packet.

It’s a wonderful kit which contains 7 different spices needed to make the chili. If your spice collection is limited, this is definitely the way to go!

It’s not surprising that 7 Layer Dip is one of my most popular videos.

In my video, I walk you through preparing all 7 layers, step by step. Party anyone?

Fresh avocados really add so much life to 7 layer dip. Anyone needing a primer on avocados can check out my very detailed video and post on everything you need to know about handling fresh avocados.

From there making your own guacamole is a breeze.

Be sure to use ripe avocados for your guacamole. You may have to buy them several days ahead and put them in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process.

Some people like an extra bit of “heat” in there guacamole. Fresh jalapeno peppers are a perfect for that.

If you are unsure about handling hot peppers, go take a look at both my post and video for some great tips!

Salsa comes in a ton of different flavors and can be eaten in lots of different ways besides with corn chips. Baked Cod with Salsa takes about 2 minutes to prepare and no time to cook.

This makes a great dinner for you or to serve to company. Add some rice or mashed potato and some steamed asparagus or broccoli and dinner is complete!

Baked potato with salsa is one of my personal favorites. I cook the potato in the microwave and in less than 10 minutes, dinner’s ready.

(Non-fat Greek yogurt has the consistency of sour cream and it tastes great on a baked potato!)

I’ve done two Quesadilla posts: Quesadillas with Tomatoes and Black Olives, and Quesadillas Salmon and Cream Cheese.

Sunday brunch can be very special with these quesadillas that are filled with herbed cream cheese spread and diced salmon.

When planning your next party, why not start with Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage.


Then serve either Taco Salad


Or Tex-Mex Cheeseburgers (video)


with a super easy summer Bean Salad Tex-Mex Style


Click on the recipe index at the top to the page to discover even more fabulous recipes!



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How to Make Iced Tea

posted in Beverages by Emily Chapelle

Did you know that June is National Iced Tea Month?

Well, now you do, and there’s no better beverage to enjoy on a hot summer day!

The way the story goes, Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner, attended America’s first World’s Fair in St. Louis. He had planned to give out free samples of his hot tea, but it was such a warm day that no one was interested! So, he threw in some ice and offered his beverage “on the rocks.” The treat was so refreshing, he quickly had a long line of people waiting to taste it.

There are many ways to make iced tea, and countless variations on the basic recipe. If you haven’t tried iced tea before, maybe one of these variations will pique your curiosity. And if you’re not a fan of iced tea, it’s worth trying a new version – there’s probably one out there that suits you.

The basic method for making iced tea is:

  • Boil water (the amount depends on how much tea you’re making!)
  • Steep tea (loose or bagged, whatever flavor you like)
  • Strain the tea if you used loose leaves, or remove the tea bags.
  • Add sugar to taste. Some people prefer unsweetened, and some people use up to 2 cups of sugar for a 2 quart pitcher. It depends on personal taste.
  • Cool. Some people refrigerate it, others pour it over ice (which also dilutes it a bit), and some people mix it with ice water.
  • Serve and enjoy.

Sounds simple (and vague) enough, right?

Right! Anyone can make iced tea and its variations:

  • For a true Southern Iced Tea, read this entertaining recipe by Lemon Tartlet. She adds a bit of baking soda to the water before boiling. This cuts down on bitterness from accidental over-steeping and reduces cloudiness in the tea.
  • There’s a step-by-step guide to making Lemon Iced Tea at Cooking For Engineers.
  • Poppytalk gives us the easiest method of all. Brew loose tea in a special pitcher that has a removable diffuser, remove the diffuser, and refrigerate. No sugar, no flavoring, just pure iced tea!
  • Tea Party Girl, an advocate of loose leaf teas, gives us a simple method for making loose-leaf iced tea, which ends up costing pennies per pitcher.
  • But if you’re a tea bag person, you can try CFWhitney’s mother-in-law’s tried and true tea bag method.
  • Thai iced tea is made from a specially flavored tea and is absolutely delicious. Try topping it with coconut milk or sweetened condensed milk for another twist on this Asian favorite!
  • If you’re into more exotic iced teas, try tea sangria, which has fruit mixed into it.
  • Rhubarb iced tea sounds amazing – it calls for rhubarb stalks to be boiled before adding tea and sugar.
  • Ginger peach iced tea is one of many delicious-sounding iced tea recipes

Whether you brew for 3 minutes or overnight in the fridge, prefer a simple black tea or a raspberry herbal, enjoy your iced tea this summer!

Tip: You may have heard of “sun tea”, which is made by starting with room-temperature water and tea bags in a jar, then brewing the tea by placing the jar in a sunny spot for a few hours. This method, however is not recommended. Bacteria can develop in the tea and it can become a potential health risk. Sorry!

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How to Make Tomato Soup

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister

Forget “Mmm Mmm good”, this Tomato Soup is “Mmm Mmm great”!

There is a surprise ingredient in this recipe which I’ll tell you about in just a second. It makes the soup taste smooth, rich and creamy without adding any cream!

You will need a blender to make this soup, and you will also need to know how to chop an onion and mince garlic.

There are also a few pantry items you will need.

This recipe is made with canned whole tomatoes rather than fresh tomatoes, which makes it great a year round recipe! Winter tomatoes tend to be tasteless and the texture quite mealy. A bay leaf will add great flavor, but remember you don’t actually eat the bay leaf. Olive oil, chicken or vegetable broth, and brown sugar complete the pantry ingredient list.

As always, get all your ingredients prepared before you turn on the stove!

Start by chopping an onion.

If you have difficulty holding the onion while you chop it, there is actually a way to make an onion holder out of the skin of the onion!

Preparing fresh garlic is not as complicated as you might think. When recipes call for 1 clove of fresh garlic it usually means approximately 1 teaspoon of fresh garlic.

I have minced the garlic for this recipe, but you could also have crushed it if you find that easier.

The surprise ingredient is white bread! Yes it does seem like an odd addition but it will cook down and make this soup rich and creamy!

Slice off the crusts of the bread….

…and cut or tear it into 1 inch pieces.

Let’s startcooking!

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it is shimmering.

Add the onion…

… garlic and bay leaf.

Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and their juice.

Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes until the pieces are no bigger than 2 inches.

Add the sugar…

…and the bread…

…and give everything a stir.

Bring the soup to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes.

The soup now needs to get processed in a blender until it is smooth. This needs to be done very carefully as the soup is hot. Set out the blender and have a bowl ready to put the soup into after it is blended.

Remove the bay leaf from the soup and throw it away. It cannot be reused.

Scoop out the soup with a ladle and pour it into the blender. Only fill the blender half way with the soup. This will have to get done in 2 to 3 batches.

DO NOT OVERFILL THE BLENDER. The steam from the hot soup will blow the top right off if you over fill the blender.

Release the steam by leaving open a small crack in the plug on the cover of the blender.

Put a kitchen towel over the lid of the blender to hold it in place.

Now let her rip! Process the soup for 2-3 minutes or until it is smooth.

OOPS! Forgot a step! Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the blender before you start blending

Good olive oil will really enhance both the flavor and the texture of this soup!

Now pour the soup into a bowl and continue processing the remainder of the soup.

Put the soup in the blender and add the oil…

…release the steam…

…cover the lid with a kitchen towel…

…puree until smooth!

The soup has to get added back to the pot to adjust the thickness with some chicken or vegetable stock. Be sure to wash the pot first!

Now pour the soup back into the pot.

Add as much as 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth until the soup reaches the consistency that suits your taste.

Return the soup to a boil.

Now taste the soup and decide how much salt…

…and pepper the soup needs.

You can garnish this Tomato Soup with chopped basil, green onions, parsley, or croutons.

Want a bite?


This recipe was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

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