Repurposed Rice

An offering

Coconut curry on Saturday and Tofu, Broccoli, and Mushroom Stir-fry on Sunday means two containers of plain-ish rice in the refrigerator today. A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchencomes to the rescue. THIS time, the rice won’t get shoved to the back of the refrigerator until it remains undiscovered until it is too late.

There is a little old German woman who lives in my head. Through the years, she has been more of a detriment than anything else – no fun (except for the college years when she inexplicably disappeared), unreasonably high standards, and a little obsessive compulsive. She hates waste. She is the reason I pile all the “seen better days” food at the end of the counter before I can actually admit that it has gone bad. Lately, I have been trying to make the best of her frugal ways and find ways to repurpose leftovers before they go south. Why not? It’s good for the environment and saves money. Leftover rice is perfect for fried rice the next day.

I love ordering fried rice at Chinese restaurants, but when I have attempted it at home the result has been woefully bland. This is the first fried rice recipe I have been happy with. It is a bit more than vegetables, egg and rice. There is fried tofu (or Quorn as was the case this particular night) and this lovely coconut milk-soy sauce-lime-sugar mixture poured over the rice at the end.

It’s a win-win. Tasty fried rice and the little old German lady (and Alia) is appeased . . . for today anyway.

Curried Fried Rice with Tofu, Red Onions and Sugar Snap Peas

Adapted from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I use light coconut milk and freeze what is in the rest of the can. It is a little curdly but totally useable at a later date.)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (The original recipe calls for peanut, which I don’t have at this time.)

1/2 medium red or yellow onion, chopped (The original recipe calls for TWO onions. That’s way too much for me.)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup frozen peas

8 oz Quorn Chik’n Tenders (or tofu – see original recipe)

1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and minced.

2 medium garlic cloves

2 teaspoons curry powder (1 1/2 teaspoons mild, 1/2 teaspoon hot)

5 cups cooked and chilled long grain rice, large clumps broken up

Chopped cilantro to taste

Combine the coconut milk, soy sauce, lime juice and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the eggs and cook until they begin to set, about 20 minutes. Scramble and break up the eggs with a spatula. Continue to cook until eggs are cooked through but still tender, about 30 seconds. Transfer the eggs to a bowl.

Raise the heat to high and add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil to the empty skillet. When oil is shimmering, add onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and Quorn. Cook until thawed. Add the chile, garlic, and curry powder. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add rice and coconut milk mixture and cook, stirring constantly until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and cilantro and stir to distribute evenly. Serve immediately.

Ratings:

Me:  A+ (I have had this for breakfast, lunch and dinner since I made it. I love it.)

Scott:  N/A (Scouts)

Luca:  N/A (Scouts)

Alia: B- (In the beginning, she was enthusiastic, but this waned as time went on. She did finish her bowl though.)

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The Other Soup

The soup that made a tomato soup lover out of Scott.

There are two soups I can count on for an A average rating from the critics – red lentiland tomato. This isn’t just any tomato soup. This is THE soup that made a tomato soup lover out of Scott. On occasion, when we are eating this meal, Scott announces (in his best Ward Cleaver voice), “Kids, this is the soup that made me LIKE tomato soup” followed by an appreciative head nod.

Tomato soup as he knew it – as I knew it – was of the Campbell’s variety. Read: salty, watery, ketchup-y. *Shudder* This soup is thick, flavorful and a bit creamy. Any grilled cheese would be happy to take its place beside it . . . or quesadilla . . . or Asiago garlic bread.

This really IS good food.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque

slightly adapted from Food & Wine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (The original recipe has 4 tablespoons of butter. It is not necessary because it is thick and rich enough with 2.)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water + 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon
Two 14 1/2-ounce cans crushed fire-roasted tomatoes (I use Muir Glen. I am a bit of a hoarder of these.)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream (You could certainly leave this out. It is definitely gilding the lily.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic, cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir over low heat for 1 minute, or until the flour is fully incorporated. Add the water, Better Than Bouillon, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook the soup over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 15 minutes.

Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan. Or use a stick blender and puree to your preference in the pan. I like it pretty smooth. Add the heavy cream and cook until the soup is just heated through. Season the soup with salt and black pepper. The salt is key to a flavorful soup. I begin with 1/4 teaspoon, taste, then add more if needed. I typically use 1/2 a teaspoon.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with grilled cheese or quesadillas or cheesy garlic bread.

Ratings:

Me:  A

Scott:  A

Luca:  A+ (He did say it would be better with a few gnocchi thrown in.))

Alia:  A+ (YAY!)

Why I Do the Things I Do

I can’t answer this question about everything, but I can about making dinner for my family most nights.

1. I’m a control freak and this is something I can control. I can’t do much about 80 degree weather on March 1st or the war in Afghanistan, but I can make sure my family eats nutritious food most of the time. Eating at home and making most of our meals from scratch allows me to control what goes into our bodies – allows me to make sure our bodies have “good energy” (this is how I explained it to Luca when he was a toddler). It seems like there is a news story every day or so which convinces me this is a good thing for me to do. Have you seen the headlines about pink slime? Or Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me?

Do we always eat nutritious, whole foods? No and no. I aim for 80% of the time. And, I am always trying to cut out processed food. Right now, I am down to snacks and Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese. I still buy crackers (healthier versions, but processed nonetheless), granola bars, and sometimes COOKIES (you know, the NATURAL Oreos). A bag of potato chips occasionally finds its way into the cupboard over the sink too. The only thing that is completely off-limits in our house is soda. So, perfect we are not.

2. I’m cheap. Making our own food is less expensive than going out or buying the frozen variety. And, it tastes better . . . usually.

3. I enjoy trapping my family at the dinner table and subjecting them to my cooking. And more importantly “Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.” Whew! It’s like the family meal is religion or something. We do not eat together every night – about 4-5 nights a week. Like everyone else, we have Scouts or school activities or yoga (ahem), but I am trying hard to maintain this as sacred time for our family.

Is our evening meal always the site of jovial chatting about the days events? No, but we keep trying.

4. We don’t eat anything that ever had a face or a butt. If we ate frozen meals or at restaurants, our choices would be pizza or pasta or pasta or pizza or fried rice. End of story.

5. It’s kind of a hobby. Or an obsession? I don’t know which – there is such a fine line between the two. I like to curl up with a good cookbook whenever possible. Trolling the internet for recipes can be a stress reliever for me. I probably spend more time on Pinterest than I should, but I can’t help it. So many recipes so little time. And, I window shop in food stores – yes, I do.

Why do you prepare meals at home?

Curry, Curry in a Hurry

Potato Chard curry - not the most vibrant looking dish, but pretty vibrant in flavor.

Saturdays in our house are often filled with house projects and errands. I usually take more time to make dinner on these days and these dinners are more elaborate. On this particular weekend day, I believed I had all the time in the world in the morning. Alia and I went to our co-op and international foods store and took our time sampling and picking up a few things. I don’t know about you, but I love exploring our international grocery –  hundreds of  hot sauces and curry pastes in cans with Thai characters, any kind of dal imaginable, and frozen dumplings in brightly colored bags. So, we dawdled.

We arrived home and everyone had lunch, then we planted Luca’s bean project and a cabbage he brought home from school. Then, the day seemed to disappear . . . I went for a run, a friend called about an impromptu gathering for another friend who was passing through, Scott got out the industrial sized weed eater and started hacking away at bushes. I decided on a quick curry I had wanted to make earlier in the week. I prepped all the ingredients (with Luca volunteering to help! He separated the leaves from the rainbow chard – he called it disco chard.) before going to my friend’s, then put the dish together when I arrived home later.  While the curry simmered, I made a simple rice pilaf.

It was tasty and came together quickly – perfect for a Saturday that (pleasantly) got away from me.

Potato and Chard with a Green Curry Sauce

slightly adapted from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen (This is one of our go-to cookbooks – quick, flavorful meals arranged by season . . . only one or two clunkers so far.)

1 tablespoon canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
1 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk, with 1/2 cup thickened cream scooped out and reserved
1 tablespoon (to taste) prepared green curry paste (I bought Maesri Green Curry Paste at our international grocery. Thai Kitchen brand is more widely available. I started out with 1/2 a tablespoon then added more as the dish came together.)
1/2 cup water
2 lbs. yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into bite-size chunks (I threw in a couple Russets because I didn’t have enough Yukons. The Russets did break down a bit, which was fine. They added a thickness to the sauce. I would not make this with all Russets because you would end up with mashed potatoes.)
salt
1 bunch swiss chard, leaves removed from the stems and chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon or more fresh lime juice

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, no more than 1 minute.

Add the 1/2 cup thickened coconut cream and curry paste. Simmer briskly 2-3 minutes until the liquid evaporates and a thick paste forms.

Add the remaining coconut milk, water, potatoes, and 1/2 ts. salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the chard, cover and cook, until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Add salt to taste and serve over rice.

Ratings:

Me:  B+ (See Scott’s comment below. I did hold back on the curry paste because of the kids. I can see this dish as a platform and adding other vegetables like red bell pepper or zucchini during the summer.)

Scott:  B (“It needs a little something else – more heat, another vegetable.”)

Luca:  A (“I would give it an A+ if the rice wasn’t so salty.”)

Alia:  D (She had a few bites, but that was it)

Bar Food for Dinner

Friday Night Decadence

I went to watch a series of films made by mothers (none about cooking though) late this afternoon so Scott was left with dinner duties. As I walked out the door, I suggested nachos. An appetizer at most sports bars, this is not the healthiest meal, but we all love it. And, of course, I tweak the typical “recipe” some to make it a little more nutritious.

Scott started with Santitas chips (Cook’s Illustrated did a tortilla chip taste test and these came out on top) arranged in one layer on a large cookie sheet. He combined some Yves Meatless Ground Round, a drained can of black beans and some homemade taco seasoning in a cast iron skillet and heated through. Scatter the bean mixture on the chips and top with shredded extra sharp cheddar. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned in places. He then added toppings – chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapenos. We usually serve sour cream and salsa on the side. If I happen to have an avocado, I make guacamole, but I am the only one who eats it.

Do you ever eat bar food for dinner? Or are we the only decadent ones?

Ratings:

Me:     A

Scott: A

Luca:  A

Alia:    A

(No comments . . . everyone was too busy eating.)

Vestiges of Winter Comfort Food

Red lentil soup is more like a stew the next day. Luca opted to take it (rather than his beloved pasta or cheese-pickle-radish-tomato sandwich) for lunch today. That's a mighty fine endorsement.

Like in many other places, the weather has been unusually warm here. It finally became more reasonable with a rain followed by cooler temperatures yesterday. At last, a soup supper day.

I love soup. It typically has everything you need in it – protein often in the form of legumes, complex carbohydrates like bulgur wheat, a little fat and an assortment of veggies. I think there used to be a Campbell’s commercial that proclaimed “Soup is good food.” There isn’t any Campbell’s around here though. I make two soups that receive a consistent A rating from the family – red lentil and tomato.

Red Lentil, Bulgur and Mint Soup was on the menu yesterday. I came home from work and had a fragrant pot simmering on the cook top half an hour later. The first thing Luca said when he walked in the door from school was, “What smells so good?” Red lentils are a favorite of mine. Because they soften considerably, they are best in soups and curries. Their flavor is wonderful – rich and peppery. Red lentils may not be available in standard grocery stores, but you can find them at natural food stores and international groceries. I serve this soup with a prepared flat bread like naan on the side. I hope you have a chance to try this before things get hot again.

Red Lentil, Bulgur and Mint Soup

adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced (3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium tomato finely chopped (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons paprika (I do a mix of sweet and smoked: 1-1/2 tablespoons sweet and 1/2 tablespoon smoked)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
or ground red pepper
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 cup basmati rice
6 cups vegetable stock or water (I use water mixed with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur
1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

In a heavy medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until they’re softened but not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato, paprika, and Turkish pepper. Saute for about 1 minute until spices are fragrant. Add the lentils, rice, and stock. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the lentils have blended with the stock. Add the bulgur and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Make sure you season well. I usually add about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt at this stage. If you don’t, the soup will be boring and bland. Keep tasting and seasoning until you can taste the peppery bite of the red lentils. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.

Serve at once with lemon wedges and warm flat bread for dipping.

Note: I have successfully added little, roasted cauliflower florets to this soup for some cruciferous goodness . . . about 1 cup, maybe a little more, at the end of the cooking process.

Ratings:

Me:  N/A (Forward bends and back bends at yoga. This is another reason I like soup – most is great to make ahead.)

Scott:  A

Luca:  A

Alia:   A (Finally, a A from Alia)

Cupcake Collapse

Today is my mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! We celebrated last weekend at their house with a few adults and many more grandkids (sometimes it seems like a million, at this particular event, there were eight kids from the ages of 11 months to 9 years). When we are there, I make the cake of her choice – this time it was chocolate. I have a tried and true chocolate cake recipe that I rarely stray from – Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten. I have tried in vain to adapt this cake recipe to cupcakes. Each time, the cake is too moist and delicate . . . the crumb too light to hold up in cupcake form . . . but I keep on doing it.

“All men may err; but he that keepeth not his folly, but repenteth, doeth well; but stubbornness cometh to great trouble.” – Sophocles

Stubbornness. That may have something to do with it. No repenteth-ing here. The cake was exactly what you want cake to be – flavorful, moist, light. But, the cupcakes fell apart when the wrapper was removed. This even made one of my nephews cry . . . not over spilled milk, but over a collapsed cupcake. My tweak failure doesn’t change the fact that this is a damn good chocolate cake. Next time you have a yen for chocolate cake, try it. But, please, refrain from tweaking.

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten

The coffee is really key here. It makes the cake more chocolately somehow. I also put coffee in brownies.

Butter, for greasing the pans

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups good cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Buttercream

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (Garten recommends Callebaut. I use Ghirardelli because that’s the best chocolate that is locally available.)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder (Or a few tablespoons of brewed coffee. I don’t always have instant coffee around and this improvisation works just fine.)

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Fabulous Feta Comes to the Rescue

It was one of those days on which dinner ideas were eluding me. My mind was blank. I haven’t made a full scale trip to the grocery since we returned from our little Midwestern jaunt, so there are only odds and ends in the refrigerator as well as some things my mom sent home with us. Does your mom pack up her refrigerator for you to take with you when you visit? Mine does. It makes me feel like I am still in college or something. In the 11th hour, my mind zeroed in on the half a tub of feta in the cheese drawer. Had it gone bad? If not, it must be used immediately . . . but, in what? I could have made a frittata, but I had 7 ounces to use up. The only way I could think to use up that much was in some sort of pasta dish. Then, a favorite came to mind – Marcella Hazan’s goat cheese and chive pasta. I make this at least once or twice every spring when I have a lot of chives on my hands.

I had feta, not goat cheese so a tweak was in order. I thought I would just wing it and experiment with substituting the feta for the goat cheese, but I chickened out and did a search. I found a New York Times recipe from 1997 that looked promising. It still needed some tweaking because – first of all – everyone in this family but me detests olives. (Not long after Alia came home from Kazakhstan, I made a green olive gnocchi with green olive pesto for just the two of us and she gobbled it up. I was hopeful that I found an olive ally, but that was the last time she touched them.) Secondly, I didn’t happen to have some pappardelle lying about. Farfelle, yes, pappardelle, no. Finally, chives aplenty here, not thyme.

This improvisation was mostly a hit. And, thankfully, the feta did not perish, but triumphed in this unusual, but tasty sauce.

Farfelle With Grape Tomatoes and Feta Cheese Sauce

adapted from The New York Times

Yield: 6 servings.

1/2 to 1 Serrano chile, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed

1 clove garlic, smashed and skin removed

1/4 pound Greek feta cheese

1/2 cup cottage cheese

3 tablespoons plain yogurt, low-fat is okay

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1/2 a container grape tomatoes, quartered

fresh black pepper to taste

12-16 ounces farfelle or pasta shape of your choice (Next time, I will try linguine)

1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Bring water to boil in a large pot for the pasta.

With food processor running, put chili and garlic through feed tube to chop. Turn off processor; add feta, cottage cheese, yogurt and lemon juice, and process until smooth-ish. Put the cheese mixture in a large bowl (needs to accommodate ~1 pound of pasta) with chopped chives, quartered tomatoes and a grind or two of pepper. Taste for salt. I put a sprinkle in because you know I like salt.

By this time the water should be boiling. Add a tablespoon or more of salt. (Mario Batali says it should taste like the sea whatever that means.) Cook pasta to al dente. Don’t forget to scoop a little water out in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain pasta and toss with cheese mixture, tomatoes and chives. Add water a tablespoon at a time if the sauce is too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. I added one more grind of pepper and the tiniest bit more salt.

I made some simple roasted broccoli as a side. I broke two heads of broccoli into bite-size florets and tossed to coat with olive oil on a cookie sheet. Then, I seasoned with salt and pepper. The cookie sheet went into a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (tossing once) until tender. When the broccoli was done, I put the zest of half the lemon I used for the sauce on top and tossed.

Ratings:

Me:    A- (The minus is because it was too saucy, but I adjusted the recipe here to take this into account. The flavor of the sauce is great though.)

Scott: A (He had the same issue with the sauciness.)

Luca:  A (“At first a B because the flavor was so surprising, but I got used to it.”)

Alia:    D (I am on a losing streak here. The tomatoes were particularly offensive.)

Quick Comfort

Image

We are just back from a long weekend trip to my hometown – South Bend/Mishawaka, IN. My mom’s birthday is the first day of spring, so we usually make the trek the last weekend of our spring break. There wasn’t a lot of cooking done there – except for chocolate cupcakes which I will save for another post. My head is reeling at the moment . . . where DID spring break go? It was such a tease . . . unseasonably warm weather giving us glimpses of the summer to come, but alas, seven more weeks of school. Sigh.

After being car-bound with two kids most of this particular beautiful day, I wanted a quick and comforting dinner. Enter Pioneer Woman, some pantry ingredients, a few sorry looking green beans and a quick trip to the grocery. I am the Mistress of the Tweak (if I do say so myself). This recipe is a good example of my (sometimes questionable, sometimes brilliant) skills. I have tried many a bean burrito recipe and have found all of them to be bland until I stumbled across 16 Minute Beef and Bean Burritos. You may wonder what business a vegetarian has looking at such a beefy recipe. This is where the tweaking comes in. A little Yves Meatless Ground Round and one can of black beans and – viola – “beef” and bean burritos.

For the side, I had a handful of green beans that were a day or two away from the compost bin. Not all that appetizing, I know, but I am being truthful here. How often do you have a partial bag of some sort of random vegetable knocking around in the vegetable bin? I think they are fair game as long as they are not slimy or discolored. The green beans were as good as new after a few extra minutes in a rolling boil. Toss the beans with a little extra-virgin olive oil, pepper and smoked salt and serve next to the hearty, spicy burritos and you have quick comfort on a plate.

16 Minute Veggie “Beef” and Bean Burritos

adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1/2 whole medium onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or epazote

1 teaspoon chile powder

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 15 oz. can reduced salt black beans, drained

1 12 oz. package Yves Meatless Ground Round (or ground meat of your choice)

1 7 ounce can Mexican tomato sauce or enchilada sauce (I use the one with the duck on the can)

salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

4-6 large flour tortillas

a handful of cilantro leaves, chopped

Optional Filling Ingredients: Mexican Rice, Sour Cream, Guacamole, Green Chilies, Pico De Gallo

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent and beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the cumin, oregano, chile powder and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute until you can smell the spices. Add the beans, Meatless Ground Round and about 1/2 the can of sauce. Heat everything through, then season to taste. I usually add about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add cheese and stir in till melted. Keep warm.

Heat tortillas in microwave for one minute. Pour a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a shallow casserole that will fit 4-6 burritos.

Spread about 1/2 cup of bean mixture on each tortilla. Fold over ends, then roll up. Place burritos in the casserole and drizzle red sauce over the top and sprinkle with more grated cheddar. I drizzle half of the burritos with more sauce and just put cheese on the other half. Heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and burritos are very hot. Serve immediately.

More tweak ideas: Skip the Yves Meatless Ground Round and use 3 cans of drained beans instead. Or substitute some sort of ground beef or chicken for the meat analogue. But, before you go for the red meat, read this: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/13/health/la-he-red-meat-20120313.

Ratings:

Me:  A- (They are good, but let’s face it, they are still burritos.)

Scott:  A-

Luca:  A- (Not exactly an A.)

Alia:  C (She ate them with some prodding, so that warrants a C in my book)

Welcome to the Melting Pot

Tex-Mex Vegetable Enchiladas

We have friends who just returned from adopting their son in China. Welcoming a child into your family through adoption has its own set of joys and challenges. Instead of watching an ever growing belly, prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) carefully gather and tend sheaves of Apostilled documents from a minion of professionals like social workers as well as government agencies you don’t know exist. This pile of documents – the dossier – can weigh as much as a newborn baby when complete. If adopting internationally, the physical and emotional fatigue of travel rivals hours spent in labor. A family may be in the air or on the road for as long as 24 hours. The resulting jet lag from traveling to some place where it is yesterday can make one feel like they took a hand full of sleeping pills and chased them with a bottle of vodka – that was my experience anyway. This is a time to get to know each other and set up a routine . . . a time when it is helpful to not have to worry about getting food on the table.

With this in mind, a friend has arranged meals for the newly expanded family. I have a few go-to meals for such occasions. They can best be described as comfort foods – lasagna or calzones along with salad and brownies perhaps. This time, I opted for Tex-Mex enchiladas (Everybody Likes Sandwiches is a great site, by the way). I came across this recipe years ago and it became a favorite immediately. I had relied on a tomato-based sauce for enchiladas before this, one from Mollie Katzen of Moosewood Restaurant fame. I experimented with dried chile sauces once or twice, but the results were bitter. I do love this Tex-Mex version, but healthy, it is not – an oil-based roux with spices and broth added. I increase the vegetables to make up for lack of nutritional content in the sauce. I have stuffed the corn tortillas with diced, pan-fried zucchini and mushrooms, chopped onion and grated sharp cheddar . . . even cauliflower florets, onion and cheese. This time I added – you guessed it – kale! I chopped kale, sauteed it with some oil and a pinch of salt until wilted and added it to diced onions and grated sharp cheddar. Any combination works. You just need about 2 cups of filling. A simple slaw rounds out the meal in the winter; corn on the cob in the summer.

In addition to enchiladas, Sean will be introduced to curry and frittata the first week he is home. Welcome to the melting pot, sweet little boy!

P.S. Lori, a dear friend, is making her way to China to adopt her third daughter in just a few days. Check out her blog if you want to follow along.

Tex-Mex Enchiladas

Recipe adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

for the chili gravy
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or epazote
1/8 teaspoon dried chipotle (I have also omitted this – it depends on how spicy you want it.)
2 tablespoons chile powder
2 cups vegetable broth or water (I use water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon Better The Bouillon)

In a medium-sized pot, heat up oil over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the flour mixture browns, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the garlic powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle and chili powder and cook for another minute, all the while stirring like the dickens. Add in broth and turn heat to low, whisking sauce to smooth out any lumps. Let the sauce simmer and thicken. If the sauce gets too thick, add in a bit of water and whisk.

for the enchiladas
8-10 corn tortillas
1 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 small onion, diced (reserve some to sprinkle on top)
about 3/4 cup mix of diced or chopped sauteed vegetables (see above)
2 cups chili gravy

Preheat oven to 400F. Wrap the corn tortillas in a damp towel and microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds. They should be pliable and bend without cracking. Set aside, keeping them wrapped in the towel while assembling.

Mix together the cheese, most of the onions and sauteed vegetables into a medium-sized bowl. Pour half a cup of the gravy into the bottom of a square baking pan. Assemble the enchiladas by putting a few tablespoons of the cheese-onion-vegetable mixture into the center of the corn tortilla and bringing the edges together so they overlap. Place each rolled tortilla into the baking pan seam-side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour the gravy over the enchiladas until covered (you may have a little left) and sprinkle more cheese and reserved onions over top. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese has melted. Makes 8-10 enchiladas.