Tag Archives: mexican

Quinoa Goes South of the Border

Cooking for one is a challenge.

On the plus side, you don’t have to cook as often. So the preparation and cooking time for one dish (which will give you six to eight meals) is reduced overall. On the negative side, especially with new dishes, what happens if you don’t LIKE the result? You end up having to eat it for six to eight meals. And some things don’t freeze well. If you’re smart, you halve the recipe to make that particular dish. But then, you often end up with half cans of sauces, beans, veggies etc that are needed for the dish.

Another negative is that you sometimes end up having to buy pre-packaged perishable foods for the dish you’re making that you don’t always use up before they go bad.

This past weekend I brought home a lot of pantry items. Some of them were intended for dishes in which the remaining quinoa in my pantry would be used. And then, I ran across a 900 gm package of white quinoa which was reduced to about 45% of its regular price. So I bought the bag planning to save the pricier tri-colour quinoa for dishes where appearance mattered. Luckily, such items have a long shelf life. But I ALSO bought a hard taco kit cause I have had a Tex-Mex craving for a while. And my Cinco de Mayo meal was just … sad. And it was on sale. 🙂

I DID have to buy some ground beef to put in the tacos, though, because I didn’t have any in my freezer. And old cheddar cheese because I was low on that too. Luckily the cheese was a dollar off.

(The JOYS of grocery shopping.)

Anyway, at this point, I had decided on a Tex-Mex menu for the weekend.

To spare you further headaches of the mental gymnastics I went through, my Sunday cooking ended up being beef tacos, a quinoa enchilada casserole and some mac and cheese (leftover pasta shells) as a side to one of my future weekday meals.

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole – serves 4

2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup rinsed and drained quinoa, 1 cup chicken stock and 1/2 tsp salt, though you can use vegetable stock)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn
1/2 cup black beans (if canned, drained and rinsed well)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Enchilada sauce

1 clove garlic, smashed and sauteed over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil til golden, discard garlic retaining the seasoned oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo
1-2 tbsp water, as needed

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Garnish

1-2 diced Haas avocados
1/4 cup green onions thinly sliced on diagonal

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized casserole or other baking dish.

In a large sauce pan, combine the seasoned oil, tomato sauce, cumin, salt and pepper, chipotle and 1 tbsp water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add additional water if sauce is too thick.

Combine the quinoa, corn, black beans, jalapeno pepper and cheese in a medium sized bowl. Turn out into prepared baking dish and press down lightly.

Spoon the enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle the 2nd amount of cheese over the top.

Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, or the lid if using a casserole dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve, garnishing each individual portion with diced avocado and green onion.

Expect to see more quinoa recipes … soon.

Sourdough Flour Tortillas

I have a package of flour tortillas in my freezer for when I want to make wraps or quesadillas but a recent post on a sourdough baking group on FB inspired me to make my own with discard sourdough starter.

The recipe below has been scaled down from the original and the directions have been rewritten with a bit more detail.

Samantha Sunshine’s Sourdough Flour Tortillas – makes 8 x  6-7 inch diameter tortillas

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp vegetable oil or melted lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Mix all the ingredients above together in a large bowl and knead to form a soft dough. You may have to add a bit more flour so it’s not sticky.

Wrap the ball of dough in a sheet of plastic food wrap and rest on the counter for a few minutes.

Divide into 8 portions and roll into balls. Pat each ball down gently to flatten and then roll out to a diameter of 6-7 inches.

Heat a cast iron frying pan or grill pan to medium high heat. Lightly oil the pan, add the tortilla and cook for a few seconds on each side. If you’re concerned about burning, lower the heat a bit (to between medium and medium high) and cook the tortilla for 20-30 seconds on each side. You’ll find the tortilla puffs up in places and the bubbles may char.

NOTE: According to a comment on the FB group, if you let them rest 24 hours wrapped at room temperature, you’ll have a true fermented flour tortilla. I only waited about an hour.

‘Spicy’ Chili and Sweet Cornbread

When I’m happy … I want sushi.

When I’m sad … I want sushi.

When I’m bored … I want… I think you can pretty much figure out where this is going.

BUT, sushi is pricey, so I go digging through the pantry and the freezer for inspiration, and then I come up with dishes that will fill my tummy and not empty out my wallet.

I haven’t made chili in a while and a recent exchange with “The Frugal Hausfrau” about chili and the obsession of some people over what makes the perfect chili came to mind.

So, I decided to make chili and NOT use any commercial chili powder. Instead, I soaked and pureed the last mulato chile in my pantry, and combined it with some frozen chipotle in adobo sauce, ground cumin, minced garlic, and Mexican oregano. All ingredients in the commercial chili powder in some form or other.

‘Spicy’ Chili – makes about 8 servings

1 pound red kidney beans, soaked and cooked until tender
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2-1 cup finely diced onion
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 mulato chile, stemmed and seeded, soaked in about 1 cup hot water then pureed in ~1/4 cup of soaking liquid
1 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce (or more if desired)
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano, stems and flowers removed and roughly rubbed between palms
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt to start, more as needed

Mulato puree and Mexican oregano

In a large dutch oven, over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add half (or all) of the mulato chile puree, chipotle, cumin and oregano and fry for a few minutes.

Add the crumbled ground beef and salt and brown, breaking up as you do so.

Add the drained, cooked beans and tomatoes with all their liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat so the contents simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chili is the consistency you prefer. Taste and add more salt if needed.

You may choose to add hot sauce to the pot or to individual servings.

Garnish with diced avocados, grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese or sour cream and serve with cornbread.

PS: My definition of spicy is ‘flavourful’ NOT ‘hot’. If you want heat, a few splashes of your favourite hot sauce will do the job.

And what bowl of chili is complete without a square or two of sweet cornbread? No jalapeno peppers, whole kernel corn or grated cheese to doctor it up. Just a bit of honey in place of the sugar and I was in chili nirvana. Martha Stewart’s cornbread recipe is almost identical to the one I used but I’ll post it if anyone is curious.

Plain Corn Bread – 16 2-inch squares

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2-4 tbsp sugar (depending on how sweet you like it to be)**
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk or buttermilk**
1/4 cup cooking oil or melted butter, margarine or shortening

** I used 1/4 cup wildflower honey this time cause I wanted it sweet and buttermilk cause I had some available.

Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together eggs, milk and oil. Add to flour mixture and stir just until batter is moistened, no more.

Pour into greased 9″ round cast iron skillet (or an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan, but really, the cast iron makes it taste better) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 deg F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Even better … I now have several containers of chili to stash in my freezer. And a tub of cornbread.

Stuffed Pepper Soup with Albondigas

I was planning on sleeping in on Sunday and then doing a quick run to the city market to buy some things I need for next week’s cooking. Well, I picked up a couple of goodies for lunch too, and something NOT on my shopping list.

At around 2 pm, I was bored so I decided to get started on the cooking early.

I was going to make a big pot of stuffed pepper soup since I had a couple of peppers in the crisper and I had bought extra ground beef … and then I had a BRILLIANT idea. Why bother using up a pound of ground beef that I just bought, when I had almost 2 dozen perfectly good cooked albondigas (Mexican meatballs with rice) in the freezer. So, I made the rest of the dish and added the albondigas and 1/2 cup of raw long grain rice for the last 20 minutes of cooking.

A hour later, I had 6-8 servings of an amazing soup hearty enough to be a meal. All it needs is some bread for dipping into it.

International Cooking

What country/nationality’s cooking, other than your own, do you enjoy?

I live in Canada and other than poutine and butter tarts, I can’t really claim that I cook anything that is particularly CANADIAN. Throwing maple syrup into a dish doesn’t make it Canadian, does it?

I enjoy a variety of national cuisines. This past week … I made Chinese (kale and white miso soup), Japanese and Tex-Mex dishes.

Donburi, or Japanese rice bowls, are a great way to use up leftover sushi rice. Chicken is one of my favourite proteins to top the rice bowl. The beef version was a new one for me though I didn’t have the paper thin fatty beef that is usually used and ended up with some chewy strips of sirloin steak. It still tasted good, though.

Chicken katsu (cutlet) with scrambled egg poached in the simmering sauce …

… and gyudon (beef) with egg. In Japan a raw egg is broken over the hot rice bowl but our eggs aren’t safe to eat raw so I poached mine. Paper thin cut fatty beef is preferred for quick cooking time and flavour. I garnished the rice bowl with shredded pickled ginger and green onion. And the pink, white and green colours looked pretty too.

I made a half dozen crab stick and avocado hand rolls with the rest of the sushi rice.

As for Tex-Mex … well, it’s better than going to Taco Bell. (Even if it IS an occasional guilty pleasure.)

Beef fajitas

Tamales are more Mexican than Tex-Mex but I’m going to throw them into the mix.

And, lest I forget … an iced Thai coffee to beat the heat. One of these days, I’ll make a more expansive Thai menu.

Iced Thai Coffee

Make double strength coffee and let cool to room temperature. If you like cardamom, a pinch or two added to the coffee while you’re brewing it is tasty.

In a tall glass, add a few ice cubes, 1-2 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk depending on how sweet you like your coffee. Pour the coffee over the ice cubes.

Pine Nut Brittle and a Break

I  think I’m going to take a bit of a break … not sure how long though so I’ll leave you with a quick candy recipe post. This will give anyone reading a chance to catch up on earlier posts which they may have missed (hint) and give ME a chance to come up with some ideas for what to make during my two months of summer break.

POSSIBLE projects are mostly rehashes of things I haven’t made in ages … like cannoli shells, potstickers, pastas (I’ve been meaning to try a beet puree for colouring), yaki onigiri. (I may add more ideas here as they come to me. Right now I’m too hungry to think clearly.)

I had a brittle craving a while ago, but the only nuts in the house were pine nuts from my freezer, so that’s what I went with. Not cheap to make compared to something like a peanut brittle, but OH SO GOOD.

Pine Nut Brittle

A very simple basic brittle recipe using equal amounts by weight of sugar (100 g /1/2 cup sugar, 100 gm/1 cup pine nuts, 1 tsp butter, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of sea salt and a few finely minced fresh rosemary leaves).

I made a second batch in which I doubled the sugar and halved the nuts. It was good too and more economical on the nuts if that’s a concern. Here’s a picture of the two versions for comparison. At least I could spread out the 2nd batch of brittle more thinly on the sheet.

Meal Round-up

Breakfast of sourdough starter pancakes topped with macerated strawberries and maple syrup, eggs over easy and LOTS of bacon.

Various chicken dishes: a disappointing chicken kebab recipe which was transformed into a chicken shawarma wrap, a couple of ways to serve leftover shredded chicken mole

Leftover pea-meal bacon roast, mac and cheese and peas … all from the freezer

Potato salad with hardboiled eggs with my home made blender mayonnaise.

Albondigas (Mexican Meatball) Soup and Cafe Bombon

I had planned on a Greek themed cooking weekend inspired by a package of phyllo dough in my freezer … galactoboureko and spanakotheropita and dolmathes. (I keep seeing those jars of brined grape leaves in the grocery store). I even wrote them down on a piece of paper.

And then I picked up a two pound package of fresh lean ground beef on sale at Freshco and decided to make albondigas (Mexican meatball) soup since my friend Spikesgirl58 had shared her recipe with me earlier in the week. Well, I started with her recipe.

And then I made a few changes.

Are you surprised?

I figure that about 90% of the recipe is hers.

I thawed the rest of the 1 pound package of home made Mexican chorizo to add to the meatball mixture, and picked up some other items on Saturday morning, including baby spinach, fresh cilantro and limes.

Spikesgirl’s Albondigas (Meatball) Soup – makes 6 – 8 main-dish servings

Meatballs – makes 40-44 meatballs, use half of the meatballs in soup below

1 1/2 – 2 pounds lean ground beef (or half beef and half raw chorizo sausage**)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1** – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro**, mint** and oregano), coarsely chopped
2 tbsp – 1/4 cup** rice

Soup

6 cups chicken stock
4 cups beef stock or consommé
1/2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican or Greek)
1 medium sized onion coarsely chopped
4 medium /6 small carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned with liquid (optional)
1/2** – 1 cup frozen corn (optional)
1/2** – 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1/2** – 3/4 pound baby spinach
2 to 3 limes, cut into wedges

** Amounts I used

Combine ground beef/chorizo, bread crumbs, rice, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped herbs, salt and egg. Form into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter (~2 tbsp).

In an 8 quart kettle, combine the chicken stock with the beef stock, onions and oregano.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Drop the meatballs into the stock.

Simmer meatballs for about 5 minutes, then spoon off any fat. (THIS IS IMPORTANT … I didn’t do it and ended up with a layer of fat on top of my soup.)

Add the carrots and potatoes. Continue simmering, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender to bite.

Meanwhile, clean spinach discarding the tough stems. Wash leaves and chop the large ones in half. Add to stock along with corn/peas and tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.

“Ladle into bowls and pass limes,” according to Spikesgirl.

* * *

I used the second pound of ground beef for some spaghetti sauce and threw in some other leftover items from my freezer including sauteed mushrooms and pureed tomatoes.

Cafe Bombon

I thought this coffee drink would pair well with a Mexican soup as it has Spanish/Mexican roots … being equal parts sweetened condensed milk topped with piping hot espresso. Serve in a tall clear glass with a spoon so your guests can admire the layers and then stir and sip this VERY sweet drink. It cools quickly by the way.

Carrot Cake, Tamales and Savoury Empanadas

My freezer/pantry clear out has taken a serious turn and I can finally see the bottom of the upstairs freezer. And there are darned few things left in there so I’ve had to be creative.

Even the carrot cake was partially made with a freezer item, the last of a bag of walnuts from Costco. I DID have to buy a can of crushed pineapple though. And, killing two birds with one stone … carrot cake is on my cooking bucket list. I haven’t crossed anything off it in ages. The results were great. I used a recipe I found on Fridgg, even though I had several recipes stored away already on my hard drive. That ‘shiny, new’ tendency strikes again.

Pineapple carrot cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting and a garnish of walnut halves

I made half the recipe and baked 12 large cupcakes with the resulting batter. Perfect for a single person or couple.

The tamales were made with the last of a bag of Maseca brand masa harina and dried corn husks from my storage area. Instead of water I used frozen ham broth from the picnic shoulder ham I boiled a while ago to flavour the tamales. I made a shredded mole chicken filling with poached bone in chicken breasts. The mole paste was a jarred brand, Dona Maria. The filling wasn’t quite as good as the pulled pork I’ve used in the past but beggars can’t be choosers.

Destined for the freezer and quick meals

Tamales with a bit of mole sauce to drizzle over

Steamed tamales

The savoury Mexican chorizo and potato empanadas were made with home made chorizo and pie crust (Tenderflake lard recipe from the box) from my freezer. I got 2 dozen 5″ diameter empanadas from a bit less than 1 pound of fried chorizo and some limp potatoes from the basement, cubed and pan fried until brown and crispy.

Pan fried potatoes and chorizo filling

Baked Chinese Buns and other stuff

WARNING: Picture Heavy Post

I’ve been doing quite a bit of cooking from my freezer these days due to necessity. No money and free time means I can get creative.

I love dim sum and one of my favourite dishes is char siu bao or Chinese bbq’d pork buns. I was going to use the Korean pork tenderloin for a filling but I was too lazy to do so when I had a  container of Jamaican beef patty filling in the freezer, so I used that instead. I ended up making 2 batches (24 buns total) to use up all the thawed filling. Next time I’ll try for something more traditional with my own Chinese bbq’d pork. The buns were a definite winner.

Char Siu Bao Dough – makes 12 x 1 1/2 oz buns

2 1/4 tsp (1 package) of dried yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups (280 gm/10 oz) plain flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp cold water

Shaping the Buns:

Place the sugar and warm water in a small bowl, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Add yeast and leave it for 10 – 15 minutes until it becomes all frothy.

Sift flour into a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture, beaten egg, oil and salt and stir. Bring the flour mixture together with a fork or your hands.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. Use as little flour as possible for kneading. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1 – 2 hours depending on the temperature in your kitchen.

Once dough has doubled in size transfer to a working surface over which you’ve scattered some flour. Deflate the dough a bit and divide into 12 equal portions. Shape into round balls.

You can use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to approximately 8cm (3 inches) in diameter. Then pick the piece of dough up and gently pull the edges to enlarge to about 10cm (4 inches) in diameter. (By doing this it keeps the dough slightly thicker in the centre. This means that when your buns are cooking they won’t split on the top.)

Place a good sized tbsp of filling on the dough circle. Then gather the edges and seal your bun.

NOTE: Alternatively, press the ball of dough down with the heel of your palm, put the stretched dough into your left hand and add the filling. Use the thumb of your left hand to press down on the filling while using the thumb and first two fingers of your right hand to draw the edges of the dough up around the filling.

Place the bun sealed side down on your baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough. (You can press down on the balls gently so the bun won’t be too bread-y on the top and the filling will more centered. See picture below. ) Once all the buns are finished, brush the surface with egg wash.

Place in a preheated oven of 400º F for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

The buns went well with a freshly made bowl of creamy turkey and wild rice soup.

A few other goodies made this month: Raisin butter tarts and a couple of mini pies, coconut panna cotta with a blueberry sauce or a simple apricot jam base and a quince paste garnish.

I used the extra blueberry sauce for a filling for a couple of blueberry-raspberry mini pies. The filling for the fruit pies was thickened with a cornstarch slurry and cooked together with a handful of frozen raspberries before being allowed to cool. The pastry for the tarts and pies were made with Tenderflake lard pastry from the freezer.

And lest you think it was all about the sweets … here are some other tasty dishes.

Chorizo sausage, jalapeno cheese and cheddar cornbread … with leftover turkey potato gnocchi soup

Salmon in roasted tomato and pesto marinara over fettuccine

Pork chops – either simmered in a cream of mushroom gravy or breaded and pan fried

And then, there’s always a pizza or two. In this case, the last of the whole wheat sourdough dough from my freezer.

Washed down with a refreshing beer, in this case a Japanese Sapporo.