Crack Tacos… or as most of you know them, Blackened Tilapia Tacos

For a few years my husband nudged, suggested and encouraged me to try the Blackened Tilapia Tacos at Rubio’s. I resisted and stuck with the steak tacos I’d always ordered. I was sure that I knew what I liked and no amount of cajoling was going to get me to change that.

Sunday became Rubio’s day, my daughter schedules her music lessons that day, my husband and son go airsofting, the guy way to bond, and I get the house to myself. I used to cook the family meal while they were gone.  Eventually I commandeered those few hours as my own, embracing the lazy afternoon by reading magazines and watching tv that no one was interested in. Don’t get me wrong, an afternoon spent cooking is not a hardship, in fact, it’s almost always my favorite way to spend a day… but there’s something to be said of an afternoon free of expectations except your own.

I digress, back to tacos. One Sunday for some unfathomable reason, I decided that I should follow my husband’s advice and ordered the Blackened Tilapia Taco. I have never ordered my fallback steak taco again, from other places, yes, but not from Rubios. These spicy fish tacos became the things that called to me. They were my new food ‘drug’.

If you’re trolling blogs and websites looking for recipes, I imagine you’re a lot like me. I fall in love with a food from a restaurant (or a friend’s house) and become obsessed with recreating it, sometimes improving it, sometimes leaving it be, but always getting it just right.

I had already made a batch or two of blackening rub for other meals, it’s been put to good use on chicken and steak. I’d found a creamy taco sauce when my daughter complained her mom-made chicken tacos were blah without it. Now I just needed to get over my fear of the flat of tilapia I got from Costco (after a failed attempt with tilapia a few years ago, I got a little skittish) and conquer those tacos!

The blackening rub is probably the key, a little too much of a taste you don’t like will turn you off, not enough will make it dull. This is the blend I use and love, you will want to alter it to suit your tastes once you’ve given it a try. I always make a double batch because we have taken to using it for a lot more meats and fish…

Blackening Rub

1 ½ tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Add all ingredients to a bowl, mix well until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour into an airtight container for storage.

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Creamy Chipotle Taco Sauce 

(this is adapted from the recipe found on ohsodelicioso blog (Creamy Taco Sauce). I had to make changes to accommodate my husband’s no dairy diet)

½ cup vegan mayo

½ cup vegan sour cream

crushed garlic to taste (I use 1 decent sized clove)

juice of 1 lime

2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon adobo sauce (I always have canned chipotle peppers on hand, use the adobo for SO many things)

Add to bowl, stir all ingredients until smooth.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlackened Tilapia Tacos- for a family of 4

10-12 Corn Tortillas

2 lbs Tilapia fillets

Blackening Rub (to taste)

Olive oil for frying (½ tablespoon at per pan of fish)

Shredded Cabbage (I actually ‘cheat’ here and buy a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix. One less step at dinner time can be crucial)

Sliced avocados *optional and yummy

Sliced limes

Sprinkle a plate with blackening rub, lay a fillet on top, sprinkle with rub on top and rub into both sides of fish. We’re quite liberal with the rub for our tacos, coating the fish on both sides for lots of flavor. Set coated fillet on a separate clean plate.

Shimmy the spilled rub around on the plate, place a new fillet on top and keep going until your fish are all coated with blackening rub.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Over a medium to high heat, add oil to frying pan and add fillets no more than 2 at a time. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side- check to make sure your fish is no longer translucent in the middle before taking it out to set asideIf your fish is a little thicker, more time will be needed to cook through.

While the fish is cooking warm the tortillas. I do mine in a pan over medium to low heat, with a little cooking spray on each side of the tortilla to soften it up. If you have a favorite way to get your tortillas your perfect way, now’s the time to do it.

Once everything is cooked, let the crack taco building begin…

Lay out your tortilla, add half a fillet (there’s a natural ‘crack’ in the fish that makes this easy), some avocado (if you love them like I do), squeeze some lime over it, top with shredded cabbage and a dollop (or 2, maybe 3?) of that yummy taco sauce, fold over and let the bliss take over.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Music, Laughter, Chocolate…

Is it just me, or does everyone feel music when they eat really great chocolate? I know I’m not alone, if you don’t want to say it out loud, I totally understand… but just take a moment, imagine the taste of your favorite chocolate… now put that to music.

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That might have been a stretch, I was trying to get you to a place. The place I was when I was making truffles for our high school band’s annual Comedy Night & Silent Auction. The event is the band’s biggest fundraiser, with many facets to the evening… there’s the local restaurant that participates by selling amazing BBQ that everyone looks forward to, the comedy (of course!), the silent auction, the bake sale tables of homemade goodies that make your mouth water and finally the truffle sale!

A few years ago, one of the famous chocolate retailers donated truffles for the event and that’s where the tradition began. You purchase a truffle and with it you get a surprise envelope with a gift card in it. This was a great way to take advantage of all those $5 and $10 cards we were getting. Eventually the retailer stopped the donations, but the truffle sale lived on with parents donating truffles they’d purchased. The truffle sale always did well, bringing an extra $250 or so into the fundraiser. I’ve always wanted to see what I could do with truffles, my mom handed me down a really great, flexible recipe, but time has never been on my side… this year, things were different.

I volunteered to make the truffles for the event this year and started to work on flavor ideas… My mom’s recipe is yummy, and I really didn’t need any others, but since I can’t do anything without overdoing it, I started looking for other recipes to try. I began playing, taking samples to my friends, looking for feedback on the results. The reviews were good enough for me to think I could actually do this!

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I decided to make several flavors, combining my mom’s recipe with a few others-

Mexican Chocolate (Vegan) – I adapted mine from the one I found on The Bonjon Gourmet’s blog (Vegan) Chocolate Chile Coconut Milk Truffles)

Dark Chocolate Strawberry (Vegan)– this came from my mom’s recipe

Dark Chocolate Cherry (Vegan)– this also came from my mom’s recipe

Banana Split– I adapted mine from this one I found on aboutfood.com in a posting by Elizabeth LaBau (Banana Split Truffles)

Salted Dark Chocolate Caramel– This one I followed pretty closely to the posted recipe which I found on Portuguese Girl Cooks blog (DARK CHOCOLATE-SALTED CARAMEL TRUFFLES WITH FLEUR-DE-SEL)

Peanut Butter– I followed the recipe I found on Swanky Recipes pretty closely too (Peanut Butter Truffles)

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I also dipped Gluten Free ‘Oreo’-type cookies in milk chocolate as well as some fruit jellies from Trader Joe’s (these are a tribute to the fruit jellies my mom, sister and I dug for in the Bridge Mix bags Mom brought home. Though Hershey owns this company, the brand we dug through all those years ago, was Lowney, a Canadian candy company).

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The truffle table was busy all night, sales were brisk and brought in $450! Small potatoes when you’re looking at $100,000 yearly budget for the band, but big russets when you think about my hands rolling all those truffles!

Feedback that night was amazing and I left the event with a list of emails for people to contact when I got my business up and running… I hadn’t been planning on a Truffle business.