Tonight was supposed to be leftovers night, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to cook something using the ingredients on hand. We had leftover chili and tortillas so I decided on chili enchiladas. That’s a heavy dish and as with most Mexican-style dishes I never know what type of vegetable to serve on the side. Broccoli? Cole slaw? Naw.
I rifled through the fridge and found an English cucumber, feta and some limes. I had chickpeas in the pantry. Yes….this could be something.
This salad was the perfect palate cleanser to the heavy enchiladas. The bright lime dressing cut through the spicy, cheesy sauce and left me licking the salad bowl.
You can opt to not fry the chickpeas, but that added crispiness was a wonderful touch.
Cucumber chickpea salad with lime dressing
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 english cucumber, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3+ tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup feta crumbles
salt and pepper
Coat the bottom of a medium sauté pan with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Heat over high flame. Remove as much moister as possible from the chickpeas by putting them in a salad spinner.
When the oil is hot, add the chickpeas to the pan and fry them for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and crispy. Turn off heat and let chickpeas cool.
In a medium bowl, add the cucumbers, green onion, cilantro and feta.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When chickpeas are cool, add to the rest of the salad. Just before serving, whisk the dressing together and toss into the salad.
Every year my family takes a trip down to Nayarit, Mexico to my parents’ vacation home, Casa Colibrí. Their housekeeper, Moña, is an expert cook and I look forward to her authentic Mexican dishes every time we visit.
I have tried to replicate several of her recipes in the past, including fried cauliflower and guacamole. I’ve attempted other dishes but there’s something about the fresh ingredients of Mexico that I am unable to replicate many of her recipes.
Here is one more attempt at one of her classic dishes, chiles rajados con elote y crema, or in English, sliced chiles with corn and cream. In Mexico, crema is a thick consistency, almost like yogurt or sour cream, but with a sweet cream taste. I’d say crème fraîche is the closest thing here in the states, but I have a hard time finding that in Anchorage, so I’m trying it with heavy cream.
Moña serves this for breakfast or lunch. It can accompany fried eggs or rice. It’s a versatile dish that’s got a slight amount of heat, which is mellowed out by the sweetness of the corn and cream.
4 poblano chiles
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
3/4 cup cream
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bullion
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the peppers into strips and remove the seeds and pith. Add oil to a pan and heat over medium-high flame. Sauté the peppers and onions until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the corn and cream and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle in the bullion. Turn heat down and simmer for a few minutes until sauce has thickened slightly. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle cheese on top and serve.
I love me some junk food and nachos are near the top of the list. They are quick, cheap and can pile on the calories if you’re not careful. I like to justify mowing down on nachos by using healthier ingredients.
Here’s my no-brainer secret to making perfect nachos in the oven — bake them, don’t broil them. Broiling sometimes burns the chips before the cheese has melted. So, preheat an oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the chips on a foil-lined baking sheet. Top with green onions and cheddar. Dot the Neufchâtel all around the chips. Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the cheddar is gooey.
Remove from oven and top with sour cream, avocado, salsa and cilantro.
This is just a guideline, of course. You can add whatever toppings you like. Jalapeños, black beans, chicken, tofu — the world is your nacho!
If you’re in the mood for a fiesta, try some of my other recipes, such as:
I am trying to pare down our cabinets and fridge contents. This takes a little creativity. Last night I made a list of all the cookable staples such as rice, beans, rotisserie chicken, can of tomatoes, lasagna noodles, cheese and so on.
I recall my friend Kelly telling me last week that she was making enchilada stuffed shells. Any time a recipe calls for stuffed shells I automatically switch to lasagna roll-ups. You don’t have to be as ginger with them and they are really easy to serve. Why not make enchilada roll-ups with lasagna noodles, leftover chicken, spinach, cheese and homemade enchilada sauce? Sounds good to me. It was!
Since I only had a can of tomatoes, I decided to make my own enchilada sauce using this fabulous recipe from DamnDelicious.net. I will never buy enchilada sauce again if I can help it. It was thick and bursting with flavor.
As for the roll-ups, I modeled my recipe from this one at Bevcooks.com. I tweaked it here and there, but I think this experiment may become a staple in our household. I was licking the plate!
Chicken Enchilada Roll-ups
1 large can of red enchilada sauce (or the equivalent of homemade)
1/2 bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
1 leftover rotisserie chicken, edible bits removed and chopped
1 can diced green chiles
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeds removed and chopped fine
1 egg (I figure if I’m modeling it after lasagna, I might as well add an egg)
1 cup grated cheese blend (I used mozzarella and cheddar)
salt and pepper to taste
12 undercooked lasagna noodles
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat the bottom of a casserole dish with a generous amount of enchilada sauce. While the lasagna noodles cook, combine the spinach, chicken bits, chiles, egg, salt and pepper and 1/2 cup of cheese. Mix it well. Spread a couple of tablespoons of the mix into each lasagna noodle. Roll up the noodle and place it seam down in the casserole. Repeat with rest of the noodles and filling. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle liberally with grated cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes, if desired. Let sit 5 minutes before serving with chopped scallions, sour cream and avocado.
In my ongoing quest for quick and somewhat healthy dinner ideas, I came across a tasty recipe for chicken flautas today. Usually my decision to try a recipe is based 90 per cent on whether I have all of the ingredients already. This one passed the screening and sounded tasty as can be. Since I never know what type of vegetable to serve alongside Mexican food, I tweaked the recipe slightly and added chopped frozen spinach. I also healthified it more by adding a wild rice/quinoa blend that I’d made earlier in the day and saved in the fridge.
Both boys (husband and son) gobbled this up. I think I’ll have to make these a staple dinner in our house.
Ingredients (I eyeball everything, so measurements are approximations):
8-10 taco-sized flour tortillas
1 chicken breast
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1/2 brick Neufchatel cheese or cream cheese
nearly one cup Monterey jack cheese
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
Place frozen spinach in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with water. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for two minutes. Drain thoroughly, squeezing with your hands to remove as much water as possible. Place in a medium mixing bowl.
Butterfly the chicken breast and coat both sides with salt and pepper. Coat a frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high flame. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Once chicken is thoroughly cooked, shred with two forks and add to mixing bowl.
Add all the other ingredients but the tortillas and combine thoroughly. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the filling onto a tortilla and shape it into a narrow log. Roll up the tortilla tightly and place seam-side down in a casserole dish. Do the same with the rest of the tortillas and coat the tops of the taquitos with cooking spray. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until they are golden and crisp on the edges.
We recently spent two and a half weeks in Mexico where I spent a good deal of time watching the housekeeper cook. She used to run a restaurant from her home and one of her specialties is a dish called chilaquiles. It’s fried corn tortilla strips steeped in a red chile sauce. I thought the sauce would transfer well to an enchilada dish. I made a few twists and it turned out almost as well as Moña’s in Mexico. I wasn’t able to find the exact same dried chiles she used, but I used the kind from the Hispanic food section of the grocery store and it worked just great. Add in a little bit of slow-cooked beef, some rice, black beans and cheese and you’ve got yourself some amazing enchiladas.
Oh, and if you’re totally lazy, you could buy the sauce and just follow the enchilada recipe below. That’s what I did to obtain this pathetic photo. Trust me, it’s waaaaay tastier than it looks.
3 plum tomatoes
4 medium-sized dried red chiles
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 Tbs. flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbs. chile powder
salt to taste
1 Tbs. chiles in adobo sauce, chopped finely
Break the tops off the dried chiles and toss as many of the seeds as you can. Bring the water, tomatoes and chiles to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
Place one clove of garlic in a blender. With a slotted spoon, add the tomatoes and chiles, cover the blender and start blending. Slowly add the water from the saucepan and blend on high for a minute or so.
Mince the remaining clove of garlic. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook till onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix into a paste. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
Turn down the heat and add the blended mixture, chicken stock, chile powder, chiles in adobo sauce and salt. Bring to a simmer, turn to low and let bubble for 10 minutes or so. The sauce will be thinner than gravy.
If you prefer it thick, make a slurry with 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1-2 Tbs. flour and pour it in. Stir and let simmer for five minutes or so till it thickens.
Store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Recipe for beef enchiladas
1 thin, cheap cut of beef; about 1/2 lb.
salt & pepper
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, partially drained
2 chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped fine
leftover brown rice (optional)
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated (for the top, optional)
tortillas (flour or corn)
Coat the beef in olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Place in a slow cooker and add the onions. Cook on low for 5 hours or so. It’ll be so tasty you might have a hard time getting it into the enchiladas. Shred the beef and set aside.
When it’s near dinner time, preheat the oven to 375′. Add the beans to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Mash with a potato masher and add the chopped chiles and some salt. Cook for five minutes or so. Heat up your leftover rice, if using. Coat the bottom of a square or rectangular baking pan with enchilada sauce.
Pour about a cup of sauce in a pie pan. Set up a little assembly line with the tortillas, sauce, work surface, beans, beef, rice, cheese and baking pan. Soak a tortilla in the sauce and place it on your work surface. Add small amounts of all your ingredients, roll up the tortilla and place it seam-side down in the pan. Repeat till the pan is full. Pour a cup or so of the sauce all over the enchiladas. I never put enough and they end up drying out on the edges, so really saturate the baking dish. The tortillas suck up a lot. Top with remaining cheeses. Place, uncovered, in the oven for 30 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly.
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving, or, if starving, risk lava-hot amazingness.
Have you ever envisioned a meal and had it turn out better than you expected? This was one of those dishes. I had some leftover ground pork and a can of black beans in the cupboard, so I did a Google search for those two ingredients and found this recipe for mexican pot pie. I had everything the recipe called for, but I didn’t need to feed an army, so I halved it for just me and my husband and tweaked a couple of ingredients.
This casserole had deep flavors and just the right amount of spice and cheese. The cornbread topping was crusty on top and creamy underneath. A dollop of sour cream and this became an instant dinnertime favorite in our household.
Since the full recipe called for one egg, I just beat an egg and eyeballed half of it.
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 cup diced bell pepper, color of your choice
2 Tbs. jarred jalapeños, chopped
3/4 lb. ground pork (or beef)
1, 8-oz. can of tomato sauce
1 Tbs. tomato paste
5 oz. frozen corn, thawed
1/2 can of black beans
1.5 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
2 tsp. yellow cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1.5 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. melted butter
3/8 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/2 can green chili peppers (4 oz. can)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a small baking dish (mine was 1.5 quarts). In a large skillet, heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and jalapeño and cook for about five minutes.
Add the pork and cook till the pork is no longer pink, chopping with a wooden spoon as you go.
Stir in the tomato sauce, paste, corn, beans, cumin, allspice, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
For the cornbread batter, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the butter, milk and egg. Stir until just combined. Add the cheese and chili peppers.
Place the filling in the baking dish and dollop the cornbread on top of the filling, spreading it out as you go. If you can’t cover the whole top of the pie, then fill in the holes with grated cheese.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the crust is baked and the filling is bubbling.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a cold beer.