Cuban Mojo Chicken Sandwiches with Garlic Aioli

My best friend from college, Marisa, is visiting from Key West this week — and when she asked me if there was anything she could bring from Florida, I nearly exploded begging her to bring me some freshly baked Cuban bread. You see, there is literally nowhere in Denver to buy Cuban bread. My favorite restaurant, Cuba Cuba, even has to fly theirs in from Miami. Not cool, right? So when Marisa showed up with a massive supply of Cuban bread, I knew I had to make some mean sandwiches for everyone. There wasn’t time for my usual lechon asado — so I improvised a little with chicken!

The first step to cooking delicious Cuban meat is making your own mojo to marinate it in. Our household recently acquired a really gorgeous mortar and pestle, so I’ve been going a little crazy with my mojo experiments. It’s just too much fun mashing garlic and onion and spices together — the whole kitchen smells like savory heaven!

How to make your own mojo!

The other “sauce” necessary for this recipe admittedly intimidated me at first — the garlic aioli is mayonnaise-based (and I am not a mayo fan). I was worried it was going to be too mayo-ish, but mixing in the fresh herbs and tangy mojo created the perfect flavor and texture. My mayo-phobia caused me to be cautious when lathering the sandwiches with the aioli, but we all ended up going back to dip our bread in more and more sauce — it was so tasty! But back to the mojo chicken:

cubanmojo

Here’s a little secret that I must confess: I was so diligent with taking pictures of every step of the recipe and taking notes on my ingredients — but once I plated all four sandwiches, I totally forgot to snap a photo of the final product! I improvised a bit and tried to arrange my plate so you couldn’t notice that I had totally already eaten half of my sandwich, oops. It’s the thought that counts, right? 

IMG_0930This Cuban sandwich recipe became an instant favorite. I’m finicky with my meat, so the traditional Cuban sandwich with deli ham (yuck!) isn’t quite my cup of tea. The mojo marinated chicken is lean yet so flavorful. If you want an extra Cuban kick, try adding pepperoncini or pickles to your sandwich.

Let me know your thoughts on my Cuban mojo chicken sandwich with garlic aioli recipe! What’s YOUR favorite Cuban sandwich recipe?

 

Cuban Mojo Chicken Pressed Sandwiches
 
Pulled chicken marinated in homemade mojo, pressed on Cuban bread with swiss cheese and garlic aioli.
Author:
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 loaves Cuban bread
  • two heads of garlic
  • sliced swiss cheese
  • 2 lbs. chicken tenderloins/breast
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 limes
  • 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Prepare the homemade mojo: Finely dice the garlic and onion. Mash together with salt, pepper, and oregano. Squeeze the juice from the limes and orange, and mix together. (I use a mortar and pestle, but any other method will suffice.)
  2. Prepare the garlic aioli: combine one part chopped parsley, one part mojo, and three parts mayonaise. Add additional mojo to taste.
  3. Pour the mojo over the raw chicken -- then marinate in the refrigerator for one hour.
  4. Over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet, cook the chicken in the mojo juices. Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, use two forks to shred the chicken in the cast iron. Continue to cook until the chicken lightly browns. Remove chicken.
  5. Prepare the sandwiches by slicing the Cuban loaf in half. Spread aioli on one side, add a thick layer of shredded chicken, a slice of swiss cheese, and a few slices of avocado. Butter the outside of the sandwiches.
  6. Melt a teaspoon of butter in the cast iron, then add the sandwiches. Using a large, flat pot cover, firmly press the sandwiches as they heat up. **If you have a few bricks easily accessible, you can use them to keep the sandwiches pressed.
  7. Enjoy!

 

Easiest Recipe for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (ever!)

For some folks, the winter season is just an excuse to crank up the heater and indulge in an endless supply of homemade pumpkin spice lattesbut for those of us who live in a house full of dirtbag climbers, the winter months are all about survival.

You see, we don’t run the heat, so at this very moment, it’s about 55º in my kitchen – which means everything is cold. So cold, in fact, that when my housemate poured fresh coffee into his tall cup, the glass was so cold that it shattered upon contact with the hot liquid. In a world where everything is cold, hot food becomes a dietary staple.

My favorite way of warming up with edibles? Homemade soup! Stew a giant pot of hearty liquid warmth, and you’ve got instant heat to last up to a week. And while I love a fancy soup just as much as the next gal, there’s nothing better than an easy, simple soup. Plus, the entire house seems to warm up with the smells of stewing veggies and simmering broth.

This homemade chicken noodle soup recipe yields 10 mason jars worth of goodness – plenty to last you at least a week – and this may just be one of the easiest soup recipes, ever. The most difficult part of making this soup is merely the effort that it requires to patiently wait for your soup to reach optimal soup-age – but there’s no shame in sneaking a spoonful or two during the cooking process.

What you need:

  • 50 ounces (6 ¼ cups) of 100% natural chicken broth | Since I’m on a dirtbag budget I used the 99% fat free canned version from Swanson.
  • 3 cups carrots  *
  • 2 cups celery *
  • 1 yellow onion *
  • 12 ounces of wide egg noodles
  • 1.25 lbs of chicken breast * | We get ours from Earth Fare; it’s ‘local’ chicken from Springer Mountain in Georgia!
  • 2 cubes of bouillon/seasoning of your choice
  • 4 cups of water | Purely to add to the soup as it cooks; additional water will be used to boil the noodles.

* Bonus Points if you get these items from a local farm or market!

How to make the easiest homemade chicken noodle soup (ever):

1. In the biggest pot you’ve got, start boiling some water. Chop your chicken breast into smaller pieces (think about 8 per breast), and toss ‘em into the water to boil.

2. While the chicken is cooking, begin preparing your vegetables. Dice the onion; slice each celery stick in half, and chop; slice and halve the carrots. The size and thickness is up to you – I prefer to make my veggies in a variety of sizes to make each bite a surprise.

3. After about 10 minutes, check the chicken – if there is no pink left in the middle, drain it and set it aside to cool for a few minutes.

4. While you’re working on the chicken, toss your vegetables and two cups of water into the pot. I added a small amount of chicken broth, to soak up some flavor while the veggies softened. Add celery and carrots first, then onions later. Now is a good time to add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pot.

– At this time, you should also set a separate pot to boil, and cook your package of egg noodles.

NOTE
: I do not cook my egg noodles all the way; I leave them al dente because they will continue to absorb the broth in the soup (this is a great way to avoid getting them too mushy during storage).

5. Once you can handle the meat, begin to pull the chicken apart with your fingers (or a fork). You’ll quickly find that what began as a small pile of chicken chunks will grow into a rather large heap of shredded meat.

6. Add the chicken, remaining broth, noodles and any other leftover ingredients, to the pot (I didn’t drain the noodles, I added the water along with ‘em). Once the soup reaches a bubbly brew, toss in the bouillon/seasoning cubes. Continue to season to taste, if necessary.

7. Begin the waiting game. Set the soup to a simmer, and occasionally stir and taste for at least two hours. The longer, the better – but it may be hard to resist the temptation of pouring yourself a bowl.8. Ladle your soup into mason jars, and set some aside in the freezer (not completely full), and some in the fridge to be eaten quickly.

After an afternoon spent tending to my vat of homemade chicken noodle soup, I was left feeling almost eager for all the mason jar rations to be devoured so I could cook up another big batch of soul-warming soup. I’m thinking loaded baked potato soup may be next up on the schedule…

Do you love soup, too? What’s your favorite flavor?

I reckon I’ll be making quite a few more kinds of soup this season,
so let me know which variety I should experiment with next!

For more foodie fun, check out my “For The Foodies” board on Pinterest.
And if you liked this recipe, add it to your boards – and give it a ‘thumbs up’! 

Sweet potato hash, buttery salmon benedict, and messy donuts bites at Jelly Cafe in Denver, CO

There are few things that will happily lure me out of bed at 7:00 in the morning – snagging a table at Jelly Café early enough to avoid waiting in an epic queue of hungry hipsters is one of those things.

I was first introduced to the edible bliss of Jelly Café through my then-housemate, McGoo. He’s the ultimate source for the best eats around, and his recommendations are the kind I always follow. Any time he gets excited about taking me somewhere to eat, I can pretty much guarantee that I’m in for a treat.

Walk up to this breakfast haven sitting on the corner of Pearl Street and 13th Avenue any time after 9:30 AM, and you’re guaranteed to be in for a wait. I waited almost two hours once – and I would so do it again in exchange for what I’ll dub the best breakfast diner in Colorado, possibly the entire country.

Before you even attempt to survey the menu, request an order of their famous donut bites – and make sure you get a mix of all the tantalizing varieties. Each fresh puff of crispy dough represents one of four creamy concoctions: crème anglaise, homemade jelly, chocolate anglaise, or cinnamon sugar. Taking the first bite into any given beignet guarantees a dripping mess all over your chin – just let it happen.

Another pre-breakfast treat I love is the selection of funky adult beverages to make your day a bit more pleasant. I’m partial to the Parnold Almer with sweet tea infused vodka and lemonade, but you really can’t go wrong with options like hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, bloody marys topped with shrimp and celery, or the “S’mores,” a Bailey’s brew with fluffed marshmallow vodka, Ghiradeli hot chocolate, and whipped cream.

During one visit to Jelly, I was meeting up with two Floridian friends who were considering moving up to Denver (check out her post on Jelly Cafe about What Tasty Food). My buddy ordered one of the specials, a fizzy libation that listed a Bing energy drink as one of the ingredients. As it happened, the kitchen had just run out of Bing – but fear not, Jelly sent someone sprinting across the street to a convenience store to grab him another. Now that’s service, folks.

The clear stars of this morning extravaganza are the heaping plates of breakfast delight that make it nearly impossible to settle on just one platter. There are temptress dishes like french toast stuffed with bananas and cream cheese, mini sliders stacked thick with pepper pesto sausage frittatas, and bacon pancakes – but I’m loyal to a trio of this restaurant’s finest meals.

The sweet potato hash was the first thing I ever sampled at Jelly Café. The overflowing plate presented to me was loaded with crumbly Mexican chorizo, onions, celery, roasted poblano pepper, cubed sweet potatoes, and red skinned potatoes – all topped with two eggs, toast, and fruity jelly. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, and it’s absolutely amazing.

My second favorite dish is the roasted turkey hash piled high with shredded lean turkey, tender chopped apple, onion, red potatoes, and a sprinkling of tarragon. It’s like a Thanksgiving feast in breakfast form. The third best plate was a more recent discovery, the salmon benedict with peasant potatoes. I had never tried poached eggs before, but Jelly Café converted me into a fan. They serve two poached eggs draped over a perfectly pink filet of seared salmon balanced on artisan sourdough. The entire creation is slathered in their signature dill cream cheese hollandaise – perfection.

Their corned beef hash also deserves an honorable mention for its perfect balance of savory meat and sweet caramelized onion. Really, anything you can fork into your mouth will treat you well.

I hear there’s also a lunch menu – but I’ve never quite made it past the breakfast. 

Need more Jelly? You can connect with them through Facebook,
follow them on Twitter, and check out other satisfied diners’ rave reviews on Yelp!

The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee

Living in Denver introduced me to a lot of things, but the biggest culinary revolution I experienced was being exposed to the liquid paradise that is pho. A Vietnamese tradition, pho is arguably one of the best dishes of all time that combines broth and noodles. Returning to Tallahassee after indulging in the rich cultural offerings of Denver brought disdain to my tummy, until I happened upon a sign advertising for Pho 7.

I was instantly intrigued.

Niko and I vowed to try it out, but we weren’t fully committed or convinced until our foodie climbing friends Barbara and Andrew tested the waters. Their report on Pho 7? It was authentic, and it was delicious. Delighted by their positive feedback, I made a dinner date with some friends for the next day.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Pho 7 is their walls; they’re painted my favorite shade of marigold. The casual seating is reminiscent of an adult cafeteria, and I appreciated the no-frills layout of the restaurant – plus, each table is adorned with enormous bottles of sriracha and hoisin sauce, my favorites. It took our group a few minutes to survey the menu, and then we ordered a true feast.

While my companions took their taste buds on an adventure with Vietnamese subs and meaty rice platters, I stuck with what I came here for: pho. I ordered a tofu pho, cheese and crab wontons, and vegetarian spring rolls.

Everything was amazing. 

The beefy pho broth was easily the best I have ever tasted. It was richer than any other broth I’ve tried, and offered the perfect balance of spices. My soup only came with one slice of lime, but the meaty pho hardly needed any fixings anyways. Our entire table was satisfied with their meals, and we all agreed to return soon.

 

While chatting over our scrumptious Vietnamese grub, my buddy Juan mentioned the Latin Xpress eatery that sat at the opposite corner of the strip mall. I had heard good things about the joint, and my input peaked Juan’s interest – so we decided to pop in to “just check out the menu” after pigging out at Pho 7.

Fast-forward about an hour, and you’d find our little crew slouching in another cafeteria-style booth. This time, we weren’t surrounded by chopsticks and bean sprouts. Our table was littered with tiny mugs that were once filled with sweet, strong Cuban espresso shots. We drank ten total, unable to resist continually ordering more rounds.

Displeasing my already bursting belly, I was unable to shake the temptation of Latin Xpress’s surprisingly affordable menu. Cafecito shots were just 60 cents, guava and cheese pastelitos ran under $2.00 each, and a dry-erase addition to the menu hanging over the counter lured me in with mamey shakes for only $2.50.

My stomach aches just thinking about it.

Needless to say, the strip mall that I previously knew solely as the place where Planned Parenthood resides has now taken on a new identity. Within a single visit, it was reborn as my go-to destination for cheap, tasty eats with unique cultural flair.

Tallahassee, you never cease to amaze me with your hidden gems.

The five best joints to grab a great meal while visiting Vail, Colorado

There is only one thing I do better than exploring the outdoors, and that’s stuffing my face with tantalizing food. I’m partial to local eateries, but can easily be swayed by any savory wafting scent.

During my visit to Vail, CO, I honestly spent more time gorging my gut than I did burning off those calories on the slopes. My skiing may have only made it to the bunny slopes, but my dining experiences were certainly epic adventures.

Here’s a look at the best places to grab a bite while visiting the luscious mountainside at Vail:

Pazzo’s Pizzeria

Don’t let the restaurant name fool you; I munched on nary a thin-crust nor pepperoni during my visit to Pazzo’s Pizzeria. My mother and I stumbled upon this gem while wandering through Vail Village very, very early in the morning. I had worked up an appetite, so we randomly stumbled into this shop since the idea of a slice of pizza before 10:00 AM somehow sounded fantastic to me.

Of course, there was no pizza to be had. Apparently this place cooks up breakfast, and since I was starving, I decided to nix my early bird pizza fantasies and ordered a breakfast burrito. Holy mother of tortillas – this thing was unreal. I can’t even imagine how large the flour tortilla really was, nor do I understand how all the fillings fit inside the perfectly wrapped giant. The monster was stuffed with scrambled eggs, green pepper, onion, tomato, ham, and refried beans – then slathered with a spicy red chili, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

I think the picture speaks for itself, but this was hands down the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life. I would drive back to Vail solely to munch on it again – and I’m dying to try their pizza, because it must be phenomenal if their breakfast is this good.

The Little Diner

I already blogged about my adoration for The Little Diner, but this quaint spot deserves mention while talking about the best places to eat in Vail.

The tiny countertop seating area is jam-packed by 8:30 AM, a testament to this little joint’s big servings of awesome. You watch the cooks prepare each meal in the very small kitchen area, and I didn’t see a single thing roll out of there that I didn’t want to dig my face into.

On any other day, the bursting amount of food consumed during a visit to The Little Diner would have left me napping all afternoon with a seriously bloated belly, but it’s the perfect way to begin your day when you’re planning to spend an entire day traversing a mountain with two skis strapped to your feet.

My advice? They open up shop at 7:30 – so set your alarm early if you want to snag a seat without waiting.

Vail Chop House

Sitting directly across from the gondola at the bottom of the mountain, the Vail Chop House provides pristine views of the slopes, and offers a great outdoor patio that is surprisingly pleasant during a sunny day – even if it’s only 30 degrees outside.

My mother and I set up shop at one of the outdoor tables while we waited for my dad to finish up his morning ski runs. At first, we decided to only order drinks. We each ordered an ‘adult’ butterscotch hot chocolate – and it was lip-licking, belly-warming, sticky fingers wonderful. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and with liquor perfectly masked by the sweetest of butterscotch liquor combined with the smooth taste of chocolate and Bailey’s; this beverage was divine.

My father finally showed up at the bottom of the run an hour, and four hot chocolates, later. At that point, my belly had digested the massive breakfast burrito from earlier, and was ready to gorge again. We sampled the miniature sliders with a side of fries, and weren’t disappointed.

This place is slightly pricey, but still doesn’t even compare to the majority of expensive eateries found in sophisticated Vail.

Sushi Oka

With two drunk parents leaving dinner plans up to me, I did my usual research on Yelp before deciding to venture to Sushi Oka for our last night’s dinner. I’ve been on a bit of a sushi kick lately, so I wanted to see what Vail had to offer.

We made our way to Vail Village from our Marriott Lodge room via the complimentary shuttle service that runs throughout the vicinity, and quickly found the sushi shop, which I had noticed earlier in the day. We started the meal with edamame and sake, score.

I must admit, while I am smitten with sushi, I’m not the biggest raw fish fan – blasphemy, I know. I ordered a fat roll topped with baked halibut and stuffed with all manner of tasty ingredients like fresh crab and creamy avocado. It was fantastic, as was my mother’s order of pad thai. Unlike the traditional flavors of pad thai, this batch had a unique hint of tomato sauce that we all enjoyed – but be warned, it is extremely spicy.

Moe’s Original BBQ

This place deserves an honorable mention, not so much for their food, but for the atmosphere.

We sauntered over to Moe’s after the first day of skiing, totally exhausted, pretty drunk, and very hungry. Much to my delight, there was an excellent bluegrass band jamming out near the bar. +100 points for the banjo music.

I’ve eaten at a Moe’s BBQ in Denver once, but never got the chance to try their version of my two favorite barbeque stapes: mac-n-cheese and baked beans. Hats off to this joint for totally satisfying my taste buds with thick, sweet beans and hearty mac that filled my belly.

Another +100 for the Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boys. My parents and I had a blast munching on ribs, sipping our tall boys, and taking in the great music.

This is admittedly not the most amazing place to eat while you’re in Vail – but if you’re looking for comfort food, no-frills service, and a hospitable atmosphere, you’re in the right place.

I didn’t come to Vail for the food, but the tasty eats I enjoyed before and after my skiing quickly became some of the highlights of the trip. Where’s the joy in spending a day burning calories if you can’t refuel afterwards?

Looking for a casual, chummy stop for an après-ski libation? Check out Garfinkle’s at the bottom of the main slope, a few shops to the right of Vail Chop House. I didn’t eat here, so it didn’t have a place on my list of the best bites in Vail – but I downed my fair share of beverages with my ski lesson buddy Kelsey after our class ended. Strong drinks, reasonable prices, and a great atmosphere for us everyday folk.

Starting a day of skiing in Vail, Colorado with a big breakfast from The Little Diner

The trek from Denver to Vail was a harrowing experience packed with white-out snow conditions, icy roads, and the thrill of reuniting with my parents to explore the wintry Colorado mountains. We arrived at the Vail Marriott Mountain Lodge a bit around midnight, and quickly crashed into plush beds.

In the morning, we woke at the crack of dawn to make an early breakfast at The Little Diner, which had attracted my attention with rave Yelp reviews and claims that it offered reasonable prices – a miracle in this expensive ski town. Arriving shortly after the tiny eatery opened, we easily snagged seats along the U-shaped counter, which offers space for less than two dozen hungry patrons at a time. The cozy, open atmosphere of this little shop reminded me of my favorite Cuban eatery in Miami, Ruben’s. The menu offers a variety of early morning grub, from traditional breakfast skillets to sweet and savory crepes. The small cooking space is situated in the middle of the counter area, so you get a meal and an entertaining experience at the same time. My bar stool sat next to the grill, and as soon as I laid my eyes on huge chunks of sizzling hash browns, I knew I had to try them.

As usual, I ordered the traditional breakfast platter with wheat toast, scrambled eggs (with cheese, of course), homemade hash browns, and extra crispy bacon. My father opted for the chunky french toast – another dish that was prepared right under my nose, and smelled delicious. Always the elegant one of the group, my mother was keen on sinking her teeth into a spinach, mushroom, and egg crepe.

Everything tasted outrageous. Not one for fancy plates and food that looks more artistic than edible, I can always appreciate a home-style helping of hearty grub. I surprised myself by demolishing the entire platter, even though I was stuffed full about halfway through. I regret not snagging a bite of the thick french toast that was sitting just inches away from me at the counter, but I definitely enjoyed a small sampling of the healthy crepe my mother ate.

Don’t let the title or cramped quarters of The Little Diner fool you; this restaurant packs big flavor and breakfast satisfaction into generous portions that will leave you struggling to clean your plate. Being early birds, we were amongst the first handful of people to arrive at the joint, but by the time we left, the diner was jam-packed with eager snow bunnies waiting to load up on savory goodness before hitting the slopes. I wouldn’t have asked for a better way to start my first day of skiing in Vail, Colorado.

Getting stoked on the wintry Vail spirit?
Stay tuned for updates on my very first ski lesson, exploring Vail Village, and more!

Taking a bite out of healthy, convenient fare from Fresh Fit Meals in Denver

Through a stroke of good luck, I recently won a $25 gift certificate to try Fresh Fit Meals, a Denver-based healthy food facility that cooks up convenient and wholesome meals for the on-the-go eater. Since I love to promote great local businesses, I figured I’d share my experience sampling Fresh Fit Meals.
Bon appetite! 

I’ll be the first one to admit that these pre-packaged, microwave-friendly meals don’t exactly look like a divine edible intervention – until you take a bite. Don’t let the fuss-free appearance of these meals fool you; every bite is jam-packed with flavor and spice. A bit peppery, spicy enough to require a refill on my water, and every once in a while I get a nice hint of celery.

As soon as I arrived home from Emerald City Smoothie with my aromatic package, I couldn’t resist digging into one of the containers. My first victim was the “NOLA Dirty Rice.” Looking back at it, I think this was my favorite dish. The turkey was piled generously on top of a bed of savory rice, sprinkled with peas and carrots. I could seriously nosh on this meal every single day.

The “Get Yo Mac On” dish immediately caught my eye, but I was skeptical about the brown grain macaroni; try as I might, I just can’t seem to get on good terms with non-white pastas. Fresh Fit Meals knocked the ball out of the park with this mac. The pasta was perfectly done, and didn’t have that unpleasant grainy taste most “healthy” pastas have. Once again, the ground turkey was the star of the dish, perfectly seasoned with a great kick of flavor.

Could I have added a handful of cheese to my mac? Of course. Am I also a shameless glutton? Yes. I reasoned with myself that it would be a travesty to ruin such a healthy meal with heaps of cheese, so I sliced up some fresh avocado and tossed it into the mix – a perfect idea.

The next day, I dug into the “Sweet Potato Bird” as a late afternoon meal. The thickly sliced turkey looked a bit dry out of the fridge, but as soon as I was done heating it up, the meat was dripping with juice. This dish didn’t quite have the spicy kick of the other two samplings, but it offered a perfect balance of tender turkey meat, earthy rice, and creamy sweet potatoes. Another thumbs up, though this meal wasn’t quite as dazzling as the first two.

My final samplings were the turkey and eggs breakfast tacos. I had a moment of dread when I realized that the tortillas were of the corn variety (I’m a flour snob), but after heating up my meal I was delighted to find that these were some of the best corn tortillas I’ve ever had. Once again, the turkey was perfectly seasoned and kept me coming back for more, but I was a little iffy about the eggs. I’m very fussy about my meat products, so it was a bad move on my part to wait four days to eat the eggs – oops. The tacos also came with a small side of salsa that added a great little burst of flavor to each bite.

I would highly recommend grabbing a few of these pre-made meals to keep you going throughout the week without having to worry about cooking lunch. It was great to be able to pick a dish, pop it in the microwave, and have a healthy, tasty meal at my disposal without having to fuss around in the kitchen. They were ideal for post-climbing dinners when I returned from the rock gym burnt out, famished, and lacking the energy to get down in the kitchen.

The best part?
Our friends at Fresh Fit Meals are extending an offer to the readers of The Morning Fresh:

Get 10% off your order by using the code “themorningfresh10”
now through February 28th!

Be sure to check out Fresh Fit Meals online. Survey their sweeping menu of savory selections, give them a ‘like’ on their Facebook page, and connect with them via Twitter! Trust me, all it takes is one bite, and you’ll be hooked. Finally, an eating addiction that’s actually good for me!

Take a bite out of this traditional Cuban Feast

How’s that for a Christmas Eve meal? Celebrating holidays with a bite of Cuban fare is my favorite family tradition. Tonight’s menu included my abuela’s famous black beans and rice, homemade pulled pork, fresh avocado salad, garlic yucca, sweet plantains coated with brown sugar, roasted chicken, and a platter of lime wedges.

Food like this will always keep me coming home for the holidays.

Digging into Juan’s Famous Poo Poo Plate at Morrison Inn in Morrison, CO

After a grueling day of hiking to crags, exhausting yourself with beta, and the whole propelling-yourself-up-a-boulder thing, climbers need good grub and cold drinks to help us refuel – and there ain’t nothing better than a hearty plate of Mexican food to get you back on your feet.

Thanks to Mountain Project’s description of the Morrison/Evergreen climbing area, Niko and I gained curiosity about the highly acclaimed Mexican food in the area, especially the recommended Morrison Inn. Located only a few miles away from Three Sisters Park, we figured it would be a great place to unwind after a cold day of climbs. After a day of this, we loaded up our gear and followed the winding mountain roads that led us from Evergreen to Morrison.

Always a beer man, I was surprised when Niko expressed his interest in ordering a margarita. Naturally, he maintained his manhood by ordering a house variety on the rocks, and I stayed true to my own form with a sweet frozen strawberry flavor. My favorite part of my blended drink was the sugar-coated rim, yum.

We both felt comfortable in this cozy establishment, which has some of the friendliest waitresses I have ever encountered. Our particular waitress was quick to refill our constantly emptied salsa bowl, and her quirky antics left us feeling cheerful as we slurped up our drinks and pondered our next move.

As Niko and I sipped on our tequila cocktails and shoveled tortilla chips into our mouths, we scoured the menu in search of edible conquests. Always budget-minded, we decided to order something that we could share. Fish tacos and burly burritos called out to us from the offerings, but as soon as our eyes landed on “Juan’s Famous Poo Poo Plate,” we burst into giggles and found our meal.

To be honest, neither of us had a clue what “cocktail flautas,” or “petite chili rellenos” were, but we decided to take a gamble after our bubbly waitress told us the platter was an excellent choice. Curious, but even moreso famished, we continued noshing on chips and salsa as we waited for our mystery meal to arrive. We eventually spotted our waitress rounding the corner with an enormous spread of Mexican goodness – as soon as she delivered the mound of morsels to our table, I shot Niko a doubtful concern about our ability to clear the massive plate.

Truth be told, we totally demolished every last bite. The nachos were perfectly layered, the queso dip had an ideal balance of spice, and the mysterious flautas and rellenos turned out to be the best part of it all. The flautas were basically deep-fried tortillas wrapped up and stuffed with ground beef and seasoned chicken. My favorite portion of the platter were the petite chili rellenos, little fried balls oozing with jalapeno-infused cheese.

How we managed to fit all that food in our bellies after two huge margaritas and more refills on chips and salsa than I’d like to admit, I simply don’t know. We are veritable foodie champions, conquering the realm of Mexican food so readers like you can enjoy the stories while we clutch our bloated bellies. I would highly recommend this joint as a post-climb pit stop for any climber, hiker, or adventurer in the vicinity. Two thumbs up, Morrison Inn!

Visit TheMorningFresh.com again next week for another Tasty Thursday!
Until then, follow me on Twitter & check out The Morning Fresh on Facebook.

A very climber Thanksgiving feast full of Floridians in Colorado

With twenty-two years of bacon-covered, avocado-filled Cuban Thanksgivings under my belt, I experienced a strong mix of emotions while preparing for this year’s November celebration – it was my first holiday spent away from home. Thanks to miniscule budgets and newly-acquired jobs, the rest of my Colorado climber family stuck around too – and we even had a Tally Rock Gym-er fly out to join us in the mountains.

I was determined to keep some of my Cuban meal traditions alive, and my fellow cohorts embarked on similar missions of creating dishes to mimic their favorite family fare. I cooked up black beans drenched in homemade sofrito with rice, avocado salad, and green bean casserole. McGoo experienced his first (and adamantly declared only) foray into chefdom with a delicious sweet potato casserole topped with pecans, and his grandfather’s savory stuffing. Niko made a great batch of garlic mashed potatoes, and donated a Honey Baked Ham gift certificate that got us a delicious brisket.

In addition to the first round of preparations, we had multiple waves of kitchen use that produced an enormous spread of Thanksgiving grub. Steve got a huge turkey from his new job, which Douso draped with bacon before popping into the oven. Steve’s mom pitied our homesick holiday and ordered a beautiful ham for our buffet. Hannah diced up a huge selection of yams, potatoes, peppers, and pearl onions that she doused in a brown sugar and butter glaze. Douso rounded things out with made-from-scratch pumpkin and apple pies.

And of course, McGoo made sure to keep the drinks flowing all morning, afternoon, and night long.


Before long, our guests arrived bearing edible and drinkable gifts. Jerimiah and Adam arrived with arms full of fresh bread from Whole Foods, exotic cheeses and prosciutto, and a hoard of spicy olives. Our bar was soon stacked with everything from Baileys, Kahluha, and cheap tequila to Absolute vodka, Red Stag whiskey, gin and tonic makings, and a huge variety of bottled beer. We made merry while the final casseroles and pies basked for a last few minutes in the oven, then it was time for our grand noshfest to begin.

The meal began with lots of chatter and silverware clinking against glass, then gradually grew into a quiet affair with a gut-clenching crowd. We pleasantly gorged ourselves on every morsel of food we could shovel into our mouths, and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to share my first ‘grown-up’ holiday with. We had all began our adventures down in Florida, and had journeyed to this very moment, crowded around a dinner table in Denver.

Our cookware was largely purchased last minute, upon realizing that none of us vagabonds had proper supplies of kitchen utensils suited for our needs. We purchased the table the night before our meal, and our chair arrangement consisted of every seating vessel scrounged up around the house, and an upside-down tub draped with fabric. It may not have been the fanciest meal, but to a vagabond like me it felt fit for royalty.

While my heart ached to have spent Thanksgiving shouting Spanish across the table and enjoying family traditions that I grew up with, this Colorado celebration was one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever experienced. We were all forced to spend the holiday away from home (besides Niko, who very sweetly came to Colorado to spend the holiday with me), but we had a beautiful time sharing this part of our current adventures. For some, this was the first holiday spent in their new home of Colorado, others saw their last true family meal before moving on to new countries, and some came from across the country just to spend the time together. Me, I was just in it for the bacon and black beans.