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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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The sour cream is optional in the recipe, but not optional when I make it.
The sour cream is optional in the recipe, but not optional when I make it.

Daily dish: Chicken tortilla soup

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!

I just started cooking about three years ago, and since then, I have learned the most about the art of cuisine from my friends. This particular recipe comes from my friend Stacy and it never fails to hit the spot. Additionally, it's easy to make and packs impressive presentation which makes the still-novice chef in me feel acoomplished.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:
1 bag corn chips
2 lbs. chicken with bone (remove skin, optional)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz.) (or 4-5 ripe tomatoes diced)
1 cup onion chopped
1 cup frozen corn (or canned)
1 cup black beans, drained
1 cup red or green bell pepper chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic (minced)
1 lime cut into wedges
2 tsp. safflower oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you want it hot!)

Directions:
Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne and bake in covered glass dish at 350 for 1 hour.  Let cool and remove from skin/bone, saving meat and drippings. In soup pot, sauté garlic, onion and peppers just until tender. Add broth, tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, chicken with drippings and spices.  Let simmer for 15 minutes. Add half cilantro and reduce heat to low, simmer 10 minutes.  Serve in bowls with rest of fresh cilantro, lime and crumbled corn chips as garnish.  Add more salt and pepper to taste, dollop of sour cream optional.  Serves 6 to 8.

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I loved the zoo train as a kid, too.
I loved the zoo train as a kid, too.

A trip to the zoo is all about the choo-choo

On a recent trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo, I was blown away by the improvements. I hadn’t been there in a long time, and the cat house and the aquariums -- the zoo grounds in general -- were much nicer than I remembered. I told my friend, "I actually don’t feel that bad for the animals."

Although my sons had a great time running around and checking out the animals, every time they heard the train whistle, they asked if it was time to ride the rails. ("Can we ride it now, mom? Can we? Can we?")

Finally, I abandoned my practical course and cut back to the front of the grounds to hop the train. The boys loved every moment of it, from choosing which train car to sit in (they tried out three or four cars before picking the one closest to the engineer) to waving to every person they saw during the ride.

That night, when my husband asked them about their favorite animal at the zoo, Kai said, "We rode the train!" It’s true: for many little people, a trip to the zoo is all about the train ride, with the carousel coming in a close second.

Cempazuchi: Yay or nay for los niños?
Cempazuchi: Yay or nay for los niños?

Are these restaurants kid friendly?

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!

Sometimes it’s obvious which restaurants are appropriate for kids and which ones are not. Obviously, youngsters are welcome at most chain restaurants like TGIFriday’s or The Chancery, but potentially less welcome at a place that’s fancier.

Some Milwaukee restaurants, however, are questionable as to whether or not kids are welcome. Recently, I considered bringing my kids to a few restaurants that are more "grown up" eateries, but wondered if we would get looks of disgust.

I recognize it depends on the age of the kids, the way they behave and how busy the restaurant is, but in general, do you find any or all of these restaurants to be appropriate for children?

1.    Emperor of China, 1010 E. Brady St.
2.    Roots, 1818 N. Hubbard St.
3.    Comet Cafe, 1947 N. Farwell Ave.
4.    Cempazuchi, 1205 E. Brady St.
5.    Marchese’s Olive Pit, 1100 S. 1st St.
 

For best results, avocados used for guacamole must be perfectly ripe. (Soft but not mushy.)
For best results, avocados used for guacamole must be perfectly ripe. (Soft but not mushy.)

Daily dish: Chunky guacamole El Condor

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!  

Do you remember El Condor, the Mexican restaurant on Downer Avenue that during the ‘80s was below the space currently occupied by Café Hollander? (It was a laundry mat back then.)

El Condor -- one of Milwaukee’s few "walk down restaurants" like the now-defunct Ardor -- was known for their great guacamole, and here's the recipe. (It might be a slight variation since this recipe probably traveled from friend to friend.)

Although the recipe calls for five avocados, feel free to cut it in half. However, if you’re serving this at a party, you’ll want to spring for all of the ingredients since your guests will devour every last green smidge. Guaranteed.

Chunky Guacamole El Condor

Ingredients:
• 5 ripe avocados, cubed
• 1 1/2 tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. pepper
• 2 limes, juiced
• 1 tbl. vinegar
• 3 tsp. chopped cilantro
• 1 tbl. oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 or 2 jalapenos
• 2 small tomatoes, chopped

Directions:
Mix, taste, adjust accordingly if needed and serve with lots of tortilla chips. Occasionally, I add garlic to this recipe.