Tag Archives: chevre

Pupusas De Queso- My Accidental Salvadoran Treat

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The theme when planning our meals this week was “use up what we have.” While I need fresh produce on a weekly basis, pantry staples like beans and grains have a much longer shelf life, and also a tendency to be forgotten once their role in a particular recipe is over.

I was brainstorming ways to use up some pinto beans, which I had purchased a very large quantity of when my grocery store was selling them for $0.30/lb (!), and some masa harina, the type of flour used to make tortillas and tamales. I had a bag of this from when I made tamales back in May. I was thinking I could make tortillas with it and turn these into quesadillas to serve with some refried beans. Simple and easy, right? Maybe too simple for me- it sounded boring. What if I stuff the tortillas with cheese before cooking them? Now that sounds more like a fun dish!

I sauteed a diced jalepeno with some sliced green onion, mixed it with some chevre, tucked this inside two uncooked tortillas, and cooked this on a pan with a little olive oil. What a fun new twist on Mexican food!

Well it turns out, I was only half way right about that. They are fun (and oh so tasty), but a quick google search of “stuffed tortillas” prior to writing this proved that this little snack was not my own invention, but rather a variation on a popular Salvadoran dish called “Pupusas de Queso.” That being said, keep in mind that my recipe doesn’t attempt to be faithful to tradition. (The recipe that I found from my search my from a site called Herbavoracious, and the recipe can be found here if you want to check it out- it’s a pretty awesome site!)

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Spiced Tortillas Stuffed with Queso-Chile Filling:

(Vegetarian and gluten-free as is. For a vegan version fill with vegan cheese or refried beans)

Makes 4-6 stuffed tortillas

For the dough:

*1 cup masa harina (a flour of gound corn treated with lime that can be found in the ethnic founds section of most supermarkets)

*1 teaspoon each: ground cumin and smoked paprika

*1/2 teaspoon salt

*1 teaspoon baking powder

*1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the pan

*1 cup hot water

For the filling:

*1 jalepeno, minced

*3-4 green onions, sliced

*1 teaspoon olive oil

*1/2 cup crumbled chevre, queso fresco, grated cheddar, or a mixture of these. (I used chevre in mine, a mixture of chevre and cheddar in Andrew’s.)

Directions:

1. To make the dough, combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a fork. Pour in the 3/4 cup of the hot water and olive oil and mix with the fork. The dough should hold together but not be too sticky. You should be able to form a little ball in your hand with out it crumbling too much or sticking. If it crumbles, add a little more water, slowly, until the desired consistency is achieved. Divide mixture into 8,10, or 12 equal portions and roll into balls. Cover these with a damp cloth while you prepare the filling.

2. Saute the minced jalepeno and the white part of the green onion (reserve the green parts) in the olive oil until softened. Tranfer to a small dish and stir in the green parts.

3. On a sheet of waxed paper, flatten the balls of masa dough into disks, about 1/4 inch thick. You can use you hands to do this, but if you own a tortilla press, you could use this too, just be sure not to flatten them as thin as a traditional tortilla. Divide the chile-onion mixture equally among half of the masa disks, then top with about 1.5- 2 tablespoons cheese each. Cover the filled halves with a plain masa disk and press the edges to seal.

4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray or a teaspoon of olive oil. Transfer 2-3 filled tortillas to the skillet (depending on how large your skillet in and how large your tortillas are) and cook about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel while you cook the second batch.

Serve with salsa, cilantro pesto, guacamole or sour cream. Round out the meal with a side of pinto or black beans and a fresh green salad.

I served mine with salsa, but used some of my leftover pesto to make a salad dressing by thinning in down with fresh lime juice! The salad consisted of organic greens from our CSA, avocado, green onion, and these beautiful heirloom tomatoes I found:

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Look at that color! If you haven’t tried heirloom tomatoes, they are worth seeking out! I think they tend to be more flavorful than many conventional tomatoes today, and they are definitely nicer to look at!

Enjoy!

xo/ Nikita

Mythical, Magical Figs and Chevre Cheescake

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I went to the grocery store a couple days ago for a bit of lettuce. When I saw these, I stopped in my tracks!

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I hadn’t tried fresh figs until a couple years ago. You can only get them fresh a few months out of the year, which adds to their appeal. They are a rare treat and a delicate fruit. They bruise easily and don’t last long, but that only makes them seem more precious. They are a great source of fiber, and a good source of potassium, manganese, and calcium. But I would eat them even if they weren’t!

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There is something so seductive about figs. Its not surprising they have been the subject of so many myths. Figs trees are in many depictions of the Garden of Eden, and the leaves were what Adam and Eve were said to have used to cover themselves. Romans held the fig tree to be sacred because the she-wolf who suckled Romulous and Remus did so under a fig tree. Figs are associated with Dionysus, the God of wine, and Priapus, a satyr who symbolizes sexual desire. Even the bodhi tree which Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under is a type of fig tree.

As luscious, sweet and juicy as these gems are on their own, I felt like the first figs of the year deserved a little special presentation. Enter the Honeyed Fig and Chevre Cheesecake Bites with Walnut Crust…

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These combine two of my favorite things: Figs and goat cheese, which incidentally are a lovely combination! I made them in muffin tins because mini things are just cuter and it also helps with portion control! They are even gluten free, utilizing a simple crust of walnuts and dates. I tried to drizzle them with honey before baking, but I’m going to recommend not doing that because it made them very sticky and difficult to get out of the muffin tins!

Honeyed Fig and Chevre Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

makes 6 muffin sized servings

Crust:

*heaping 1/2 cup walnuts

*heaping 1/2 cup dates

* 2 tablespoons rolled oats

pinch on salt

Filling:

*3.5 oz plain soft chevre (goat cheese)

*4 oz low fat cream cheese

*1 large egg

*1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 2-4 tablespoons sugar (I used 2, plus a little stevia. You could probably replace all or most with stevia, but my husband hates it so I have to be sneaky!)

*1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

*1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Garnish:

*4 large fresh figs

* 2 tablespoons honey

cinnamon for sprinkling
Directions:

1. Preheat your over to 350F and prepare 6 muffin cups by either greasing them or placing paper muffin cups inside. Make the crust by pulsing the walnuts, oats, dates, and salt in a food processor until a crumbly mixture forms that will hold together if you roll it into a ball. Divide the mixture equally among the muffin cups, pressing against the bottom and up the sides to form a crust.

2. Make the filling by combining all filling ingredients in the food processor until well mixed. Spoon this mixture into the prepared muffin cups. Try not to eat it all before it gets there.

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3. Now prepare the figs: Slice the figs into 4-6 pieces each. Heat the honey up on the stove or in a microwave until hot and completely liquid. Toss the figs in the honey and let marinate for a few minutes. When they have soaked up that honey goodness, spoon them over your prepared mini cheesecakes, careful not to drip a lot of honey down the sides. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

4. Bake for 20-22 minutes, then broil for just a minute to ensure caramelization of the figs. Cool for 3 hours or more before serving.

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Enlightenment is not guaranteed, but they do pair well with Harry Potter Fever! Anyone seen the last Harry Potter yet? I did! Loved it!

xo/ Nikita

Staying Healthy for Busy People

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On making time for health:

As I sit at my computer writing this, I have just put the finishing touches on a paper for school and am feeling relieved (I still have to leave early to print in though- no printer here L) The paper has pretty much been my main focus the last few days- though I have many roles and hobbies, I consider school a top priority. I am a full time nursing student and spend about 20 hours a week just at school and my clinical site, not to mention time spent on homework. I work between at least 16 and sometimes up to 26 hours a week as a nurse’s aide. I also have a husband, apartment, and cat that need daily attention!

Most of us are juggling multiple roles in our lives: students, employees, homeowners, spouses, parents (how do you do it?!). With all these responsibilities, good intentions of making time for ourselves and our health can easily go by the wayside.

For me, healthy eating and an active lifestyle are important. They make my body and mind feel good and balance the effects of stress in other areas of my life. When I make healthy meals, I am exercising my creative side and aim for aesthetics along with flavor and nutrition. A healthy dinner is also a relieving break from a homework-a-thon and can be a motivating factor for getting something finished by a certain time.

Here are a few things I do to ensure I can stay healthy when working or going to school all day:

*Pack a lunch the night before. This also saves money! My usual method of doing this is to throw together a “leftover salad” as I’m putting dinner leftovers away. I simply mound some spinach or mixed greens into a container, top it with leftovers (roasted vegetable dishes and stirfrys lend themselves especially well to this- soups, not so much), and take a tiny container of dressing if needed. Throw in a piece of fruit and you have a nutritious and filling lunch! And it takes less than five minutes longer than just putting away leftovers would. When there are no leftovers or I wont have access to a refrigerator, PB&J with some carrot sticks is my go-to.

*Either work out in the morning or bring gym bag. I love morning workouts because they are an energizing start to the day and free up my evenings for relaxing or… homework. And yet… I tend to have a hard time fitting them in. I usually have to be somewhere in the morning between 7 and 9 am, and quite honestly don’t like waking up any earlier than 6:30. I have trouble falling asleep at a decent hour, and tend to favor a full nights sleep over a morning workout. So for me, the key is usually throwing the gym bag in my car. If I go to the gym right after work/school it saves me the time of going home and hassle of going home and back out again and also prevents me from going home and getting occupied with something else.

*Slow cookers! I love my crockpot dearly… unfortunately it was recently left oo close to a burner on the stove and suffered third degree burns… not sure yet if it will be ok L. Slow cookers are great for busy people though, especially when you wont be getting home until late in the evening and know you will be hungry! Some of my favorite things to make in mine are lentil or split pea soups, chilis, and spaghetti sauce. I like to chop some extra vegetables while I prepare dinner the night before, then in the morning before I leave I can just literally throw everything in the pot and have dinner ready when I get back! I also like to make big batches of beans (black beans, pintos, garbanzos, and white beans most commonly). I soak them overnight, cook them in the slow cooker all day, then have them ready for use by dinner time. The ones that I don’t forsee being used within a week get portioned into containers and stored in the freezer- another great time saver when I need it!

*Plan meals for the week before grocery shopping. I don’t always stick to this plan exactly, but it saves me time wandering around the grocery store and ensures I will have ingredients on hand for a weeks worth of healthy meals. I don’t really have a limit on buying seasonal produce, and tend to just buy what looks good and is a good price whether I have a definite plan for it or not. I figure it is good for me to be challenged to include more produce!

*Have a handful of quick meal ideas on hand for busy nights. These are usually things that come together really quickly like a frittata or that have some premade portion like the tortellini salad I made last night. I had dinner ready in less than 30 minutes last night with this simple recipe:

Lemony Artichoke Tortellini Salad

Lemony Artichoke Tortellini Salad:

One 10 oz package refrigerated tortellini (I used pesto filled)

15 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced into rings

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons

Handful of fresh spinach, torn (optional)

2-4 Tbsp. vegetable broth or cooking water from pasta

2 Tbsp. grated parmesan

2 Tbsp. crumbled chevre

1 small lemon, zested

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice onion first, and heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Fill a large pot up with salted water and place on the stove top to begin boiling while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Slice the zucchini and add to the onions, then slice the artichokes and add them to the sauté. The pasta water should be boiling by now, so you can throw the tortellini in and cook according to package directions (should be around 4-6 minutes). During this time, you can zest the lemon and get the cheeses ready.

Once pasta is finished cooking, drain and toss into the pan with the veggies. Add the broth or cooking water if it seems a bit dry. You could add more olive oil if you wanted also. Add the cheeses and about 1 Tbsp. or juice from your zested lemon and toss everything to coat.

Serve topped with lemon zest and additional cheeses if desired. Enjoy!