Tag Archives: Mexican

Lazy Day and Mexican Lasagna

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Hello lovelies! I apologize for taking so long to post again…I have been working a lot and generally feeling exhausted. I do have several posts I’m working on though!
What a long weekend it was for us! Andrew and I both work long hours on weekends, and this one especially full of… tedious and unpleasant extras. Riding my bike to work three days in a row was tiring, especially in the dark after working 12 hours. After attending a 60 year high school reunion. I was kinda excited, curious since I’ve only been out of high school 5 years. Andrew said “That sounds like it will be depressing and boring.” I said “It will be fun! I get to wear a dress!” And… it was boring and depressing. And I was overdressed. As if being in a room full of people 3 to 4 times my age didn’t make me feel out of place enough.
I don’t mean to complain. I am really lucky to be employed at all and generally enjoy my job. Sometimes it’s just lonely… I used to think I was such a loner. Not antisocial, but not especially social. But there’s nothing like moving to the other side of the country away from all your friends and family and then landing one of the few jobs in which you really don’t interact on a normal human level with anybody to make you realize how socially needy I am.
Monday I was completely taking it easy. I had some things that need to be done, such as returning books, mailing things, phone calls. I walked for my errands and did some light yoga. Otherwise I just did as much relaxing as possible. I worked on some jewelry and spent time with Andrew. We watched Breaking Bad and I made Mexican Lasagna. Good, lazy times. Just what we both needed!
I have made many incarnations of Mexican Lasagna and it is one of Andrew’s favorite dishes. This version is vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Mexican Lasagna:

Ingredients:

*12 6 inch corn torillas

*2 cups salsa (I use cheapo brands for this, save the fancy stuff for something else)

*1 8 oz can tomato sauce

*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1 cup diced onion

*1/2 red bell pepper, diced

*1 green chile, minced (optional- leave out if you don’t like it hot!)

*1 clove garlic, minced

*1.5 cups cooked pinto or black beans

*2 cups lowfat or fat free cottage cheese

*1 egg
*1-2 cups shredded pepper jack or sharp cheddar cheese
*minced fresh cilantro and green onion for garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Pour 1/2 cup salsa into a large casserole dish, spreading evenly. Combine the cottage cheese with the egg, mixing thoroughly, and set aside.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, bell and chile pepper, and garlic. Saute until softened. Add the beans, remaining 1.5 cups salsa, and tomato sauce and cook until heated through.

3. Now you are ready to begin layering! Lay 4 torillas on the bottom of your dish, overlapping slightly. Top with 2 cups bean-vegetable mixture, then 1 cup cottage cheese mixture, then 1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese. Repeat this layering, leaving out the shredded cheese (save it for the final topping). Layer on your last four tortillas, last bean-veggie mixture, and the remaining shredded cheese.

4. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting for best (neatest!) results! Top with cilantro and sliced green onion if desired.

We ate our fill of this, kept some in the fridge, and put some in the freezer. This weekend I had two freezer meals that I had made already waiting for me to just heat up after work and it was great! I don’t get home until 7:30- 7:45 pm and am covered in sweat after my uphill bike ride home. The last thing I feel like doing is cooking! This way I can get home and heat dinner up while I shower! So much better!

xo/Nikita

 


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

Tamale Tutorial: Authentic Recipe Reworked

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Tamales are a near and dear to my heart. They were always served at major holiday get togethers and handmade with care by my abuela. Of course, she made them with traditional ingredients like lard and meat fillings. I have adapted mine to be vegetarian or vegan friendly, while preserving as much authenticity as possible. When I was in high school, I was entrusted with the task of learning how to make them. I wrote everything down on a couple little pieces of paper. Seven years later and 2200 miles away, I was amazed when I found this while cleaning:

The original recipe! Complete with a diagram!

Seriously, I don’t know how it got here, but I took it as a sign that I needed to make some tamales asap.

I’m not going to lie. Making tamales is not for sissies. There is a reason why these are a fiesta food, not a lazy weeknight cooking food. They take time! But they are oh so rewarding… delicious and homey yet fancy enough to impress your friends :)

I decided to prep my fillings the night before I planned to serve them. Tamales are usually filled with meat, but you can really put anything you can imagine in them. My abuela used to make some filled with pinto beans for me (she understood that I didn’t eat meat, but never got the whole lard thing…) and she also made cinnamon raisin ones. I decided on a Spinach and Cheese filling and a Chipotle-Kissed Pinto Bean filling.

Popeye would be proud

Spinach and Cheese:

1 small onion, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

10 frozen chopped spinach (thawed)

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cumin

6 oz queso fresco

1-2 oz chevre

1-2 Tbsp parmesan

1 Tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper

Directions:

Saute the onion in oil until translucent. Add the spinach, oregano, and cumin and season with salt and pepper. You may also need to add about 1/4 cup water or broth to keep it from drying out. Cook about 5 minutes and remove from heat. Let cool a few more minutes before adding the crumbled queso fresco, chevre, parmesan, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and either use right away or refrigerate for later use.

Chipotle-Kissed Pinto Bean

Ingredients:

1. 5 cups cooked pinto beans (or about 15 oz can)

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup canned tomatoes with green chiles

2 Tbsp chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (the rest freezes beautifully for later use)

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

salt and pepper

Directions:

Saute onion until translucent, then add garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened. You can mash them up a bit to thicken them, but leave them chunky for the best texture in the tamale. Again, use now or refrigerate for later.

Ready to begin working on the dough? Get your hojas soaking! Soak hojas in hot water while you prepare the dough. Corn husks are traditional, as are banana leaves in some areas. In a pinch, tin foil will do the trick too, but it wont be as cute.

Hojas

Now for making the dough:

*For truly authentic tamales, you would soak a dried ancho chili in water overnight, and blend it in the morning to add to the dough. My abuela told me this was just for color, not flavor because the ancho is so mild, but I disagree! It has a subtle kick and adds a more complex note to the masa. It can be left out, but its worth it if you can find dried anchos.*

*This recipe makes about 35-40 tamales. That may sound like a lot, but you can always freeze leftovers (before cooking)*

Masa Dough:

Combine dry ingredients:

6 cups masa harina

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp tumeric (something I discovered also gives a nice color. Use double if you could not locate anchos)

Combine fats (beat until smooth):

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup coconut oil, softened

*for vegan tamales, use all coconut oil*

Blend your chile up, if using. Add the dry ingredients to the fats and add the blended chile plus warm water as needed to make the dough soft and pliable. It should not be crumbly, but it shouldn’t be too wet either. This might take about 1.5- 2.5 more cups of water.

Now you’re ready to start assembling the tamales!

1. Lay soften corn husk on a flat surface and spread about 2 heaping Tbsp of masa dough onto it.

2. Spread a scant Tbsp of filling in a line down the middle of this.

3. Now roll the tamale length wise, THEN tuck the end, and secure with a slim strip of corn husk.


4. Holy crap! now all you have to do is cook them! Steam these babies for about 15 minutes.You will have to do this in batches unless you have a ginormous steamer.

5. Serve with salsa (I made a roasted tomatillo green salsa to accompany),  regular or tofu sour cream or greek yogurt, cilantro pesto, jalepeno hummus- hey go crazy. Your worked hard and deserve to have a little fun!