Thursday, September 3, 2009

Farmer's Markets & Spicy Favorites

The Farmers' Almanac predicts numbing cold this winter. If that will hold true or not only time can tell but it is hard to see that far right now as our days slowly slide the mercury down the thermometer towards something bearable. Many Texans felt we had almost hit a cold spell this past week when temperatures that day only hit 95. I'll be mixing up a batch of those Hatch-a-ritas the moment the Texas temps drop below 80. Something with that much heat needs a little cooperation from Mother Nature!

While Fall is many weeks away here in Central Texas the tiny break we've had from our 100* temperatures gave us reason to hit the Farmer's Markets once again. Hornsfan & I loaded the dogs in the car (note the photo below which shows Jack sleeping in his doggie seat belt) last Saturday & left everyone else snoozing as we hit the road early to visit the Austin Farmer's Markets. We first went to Sunset Valley & bought produce & strolled the vendors booths amazed that so much produce could exist during our intense late Summer weather. Somehow as my backyard garden has sizzled & popped it's way to the compost pile our brave Texas Farmers had great things in store for lucky Austin folks. Next we headed downtown to the Republic Square Farmer's Market & were in awe once again of the produce, plants, live music & array of wonderful locally produced goodies. Our dogs were impressed with the number of Canine friends they met as well as the array of pet items for sale. We even found our favorite Green Chiles at one booth. As you know Gloria is still running her Green Chile Contest over at Food & Flavors of San Antonio. That leads me to the recipes I've cooked up once again using those Sizzling, Sirens of the Spice world! I've been on the go much of this week but still managed to whip out a couple of Green Chile Pepper items for even the most uninitiated Foodie with semi-Spicy interests. I have relied upon my Crockpot more than once recently. Family needs food & I am too busy to stir a big fuss up in the kitchen & "voila" I can slow cook it & be done with it. My Crockpot Roasted Chicken & Vegetables has 2 Fresh Green Chiles in the recipe & while the peppers added flavor they did not make the chicken hot. The Green Chile Mashed Potatoes were delicious the first night, had a bit of a kick but the leftovers the following evening had even more heat! We loved them but fair warning, Green Chiles add heat & at times just keep on adding...

Crockpot Roasted Chicken & Vegetables
1 3-4 lb whole Natural Chicken, remove giblets
4-5 Red Potatoes, cut into quarters
2 Fresh Green Chile Peppers, seeded & halved
1 Red Onion, quartered
12 Baby Carrots
1 Tbsp dried Herbs de Provence
1 tsp Adobo seasoning (Goya brand)
1/2 c water or white wine
1 clove chopped Garlic
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
Prepare the potatoes, baby carrots, and onion, and chopping potatoes & onions into quarters.

Lay 1/2 of the vegetables on the bottom of the Crockpot. Sprinkle Adobo Seasoning and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the garlic over the vegetables.

Sprinkle dried herbs over the vegetables.

Wash and dry the chicken.

Rub salt in the cavity, place 1 Fresh Green Chile Pepper, seeded & halved.

Rub olive oil on the outside of the chicken.

Lay the chicken breast side up on top of 1/2 of the vegetables and sprinkle with Herbs de Provence, black pepper, arrange remaining vegetables & top Chicken with other Green Chile Pepper halves.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 5 hours.

Hatch Green Chile Mashed Potatoes
4 large baking potatoes, or about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup heated milk
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 ounces shredded or crumbled Mexican Cotija Cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Roasted Green Chile Peppers, seeded & diced
pinch Smoked Paprika
Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well.
Put potatoes back in saucepan; stir over low heat until dry, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash, adding about 1/2 cup milk and the 2 tablespoons butter. Add grated or crumbled Cotija cheese and Roasted, diced Green Chile Peppers. Beat with a spoon, adding remaining milk until desired consistency is reached.
serves 4.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hatching up some Spicy Food!

What do Green Apples, Sage & Hatch Green Chiles have in common? Hatch Green Chile Stew of course!

When cooking up some Spicy foods & using Hatch Green Chiles I've been testing the limits of dishes which I can mix in these fleeting seasonal favorites. Gloria Chadwick of Foods & Flavors of San Antonio has even created a new blog to pay tribute to this quintessential pepper!

Excitement was in the air the last 2 weeks at our local Grocery stores & markets as the famed Hatch Green Chile Peppers arrived in Texas. So much was the excitement when Hornsfan called me, that I rushed to our grocery store to see if the Hatch Peppers had arrived & had started roasting yet. I'm certain the produce people at our grocery store were thrilled to be rid of the crazy woman who seemed to be stalking them for hot peppers! The New Mexico Hatch Chile folks were even giving away CDs of cooking demos & helpful chile pepper advice. After living South of the Border our Pepper consumption has jumped a heat level or two! When the peppers hit the markets here they are hard to miss as most of the grocers set up a large gas or wood roasting pit. As the Chile Peppers roast they are turned to ensure even roasting & are manned by someone standing nearby with water to keep the flames from getting out of hand. Roasted, blackened & cleaned the Chiles are the perfect addition to so many dishes. How did I know the delectable peppers added enough heat enough at our house? My husband was eating his second bowl of my Green Stew when he had to keep wiping his of those hurts so good meals!

The history of the Hatch is a bit murky since the origin somewhere close to 1896 when New Mexico rancher Emilio Ortega carried pepper seeds back to California which became the Anaheim Pepper....those seeds may have indeed been from what was later known as the Hatch Chile. Hybridized, refined & widely touted, the Hatch Chile Pepper is only from Hatch, New Mexico & can have quite a kick when compared to the somewhat milder Anaheim cousin. It is worth noting that these Peppers are in season once each year so if you are lucky enough to find them buy enough to roast an extra pound or two & freeze them. We have eaten them mixed into countless bowls of guacamole as this is probably one our favorite Hatch appetizer to eat this time of year. For a little more information about Hatch Chile Peppers check out this New Mexico site! I'm thinking we might have to try whipping up a batch of "Hatch-a-ritas" before the season is over.

Hatch Green Chile Stew

2 1/2 lbs Pork Loin, trimmed & cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Med Onion, diced
2 Cups Water
8 Hatch Green Chile Peppers, roasted, seeded & chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Red Bell Pepper
3 Green Granny Smith Apples, cored, seeded & chopped
5 Fresh Sage leaves, cut into slices or thin strips
1 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Tsp. Celery Salt
Queso Cojita, semi soft Mexican white cheese, grated

Heat oil in large wrought iron dutch oven or large heavy skillet. Brown pork, add the onion, pepper & garlic. Add 2 cups of water, green apples, Hatch Green Chile Peppers, sage & salts. Simmer stew covered for 30 min. Remove lid & simmer for 30 min more till pork is tender. Add water as needed no more than 1 cup at a time. The stew should be thick not thin & soup-like. Serve garnished with Mexican Cojita cheese either crumbled or grated.
Yields 4 servings

This recipe is based on a recipe which was wildly popularized in San Antonio Texas back in the mid 1960's. My mother has a worn Sunday school church cookbook from that time period which this is recipe is based on. This corn bread really can be a meal alone. Enjoy!
Hatch Green Chile Corn Bread

1 Cup Stone Ground Cornmeal
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 Eggs
1 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Cup Melted Shortening or Bacon Renderings
1 Cup Cream Style Corn
1/2 lb. Grated Cheddar Cheese
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Small Onion, diced
2 Roasted, Seeded Green Chile Peppers diced**

In a bowl stir together cornmeal, soda, salt. Beat eggs slightly & add to buttermilk; stir this into the dry ingredients. Add melted shortening or bacon fat. Stir in cream style corn. Mix, add grated cheese, onion, garlic & chile peppers to the cornmeal mixture. Pour into a greased baking pan (9 X 13 inches) Bake @ 375* for 35 min. or till cornbread tests done & is golden brown.
**2 diced pickled jalapenos may be substituted.

Green Chile Dressing

1/3 c. lightly packed cilantro with stems
2 roasted, seeded Green Chilies, chopped
3Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1/2c oil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt,
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
Mix in blender till smooth...makes 1 1/4 cup

I served this dressing over a simple Spinach Salad with sliced onion, sauteed shrimp & garnished with sliced almonds.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sultry Texas Summer & Easy Meals with a Cherry Limeade or 2!

Bring on the ice & squeeze that lime! Regardless of what else you're drinking; Lime juice over ice can certainly help hold the heat off this Summer.

Only 2 Sisters from Texas could think of sitting outside on a patio to eat in 100+ heat in the middle of Summer.

Returning home & family has been a Texas tonic for my Soul. The sister visit, much too brief. The Sonic drinks, hit the spot! All of it is good though, in fact is it downright well with my Soul!

Of all the things I was certain of when we returned to Texas early this Summer; I was positive I'd experience the blazing Texas heat. Of course at the onset I doubt that anyone could have predicted how hot. We have already had 60 days of temperatures over 100*. Our garden efforts have been fizzling out one by one. The only things which have remained strong throughout this heat are the Peppers & my Herbs. I do have high hopes for some Winter Squash which are starting to show some promise for the Fall. I am hopeful cooler temperatures may be heading our direction before too long. While my sister & her kids were visiting we made several manditory stops to Sonic for Cherry Limeade drinks. If you are from the South you know of what I am talking about, nothing cools you down like a Route 66 Cherry Limeade from Sonic! I even took a photo of my sister snapping a shot of her Sonic drink to send send back home. Somethings are beyond words & only a photo will do! Driving back & forth across Central & South Texas we made many quick side trips through our beloved Sonic Drive In! We actually hit many rest stops along our trek across Texas as a result of those enormous Route 66 drinks but every ounce was worth it! While my sis was here visiting we visited Cascade Caverns (which I'd never seen), had some quality family time out in Uvalde, had more BBQ & Tex-Mex than her kids thought possible & made it an all around Texas pilgrimage for her kids making certain they never forget their Texas roots. There is no place like home or in our case, TEXAS!
With family visits & outdoor activities this Summer I have tried to maintain some easy go-to-meals which keep everyone fed & hot times in the kitchen to a minimum. I made this Southwest Soup in the Crockpot which made a filling, easy 1 dish meal.

Perky Peppers are some of the true garden survivors in the Texas heat right now.

Cherry Limeade Tutorial, Texas to Mexico version
You need, Sprite, Limes, Cherry Juice, Rose's Grenadine, *Cherries & lime to garnish & plenty of crushed ice!
~ Fill a 16 oz glass 3/4 full of crushed ice Pour 12 oz Sprite or 7-up over crushed ice. Add 1/4 cup Cherry, squeeze in juice of 1/2 lime & drop lime half into the drink.
Add the cherry juice & a dash of Rose's Grenadine, for exact color (about 1 tsp.) This does nicely with a quick shake in a cocktail shaker. Serve with straw. & garnish with Cherry or Strawberry. Makes 1~16oz drink. Pretend you are driving down a long stretch of highway & Crank that music up & let your hair down, Baby!

Spicy Southwest Chicken Soup

1 1/4 lb. boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 14.5 oz. cans Chicken Broth
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 10 oz can Rotel tomatoes, undrained (use original or mild)
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 medium Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 14.5 oz can of Black Beans, drained & rinsed
1 can (4 ounce size) Roasted Green Chilies, chopped
1 tsp. Thyme leaves, fresh or dried
1 1/2 teaspoon Seasoned Salt, optional
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
**Garnish: Avocado, Tomato, Cilantro, Cheese, Baked Tortilla Strips

In a large skillet, saute the chicken, onion & peppers in oil until lightly browned. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Stir before serving. Serve on the side & garnish with *Baked Corn Tortilla strips, shredded cheese, avocado, tomato & cilantro.

**To bake Corn Tortilla strips: Slice corn tortillas into 1/2 inch strips, place strips in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Spray them with cooking spray, sprinkle with cumin, red pepper & toss to coat strips. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until strips are crisped & lightly browned.
6 servings.

Friday, June 26, 2009

If you can't stand the heat....

We are dealing with scorching heat & dreadful drought this Spring & Summer from Texas all the way into Northern Mexico. Is there truly enough Sweet Tea or Dr. Pepper in the Lone Star State to break this heat wave we are having?? Texans are no strangers to heat for certain but this heat is seriously cutting into gardens & produce at the local farmer's market. Since returned to Texas I've been doing search & rescue missions out in my yard figuring out what Xeriscape & Native plants survived during the years we were down in Mexico. Some of the Native plants went truly native & have to be pruned during weekend Extreme Makeover episodes out in yard!! More on that in the months to come. I'm digging in & digging up as well as moving things & all seems to be a work in progress from now till the Fall. I've been reworking my herb beds which were inspired several years ago after visiting the Fredricksburg Herb Farm.

While herbs & a few vegetables are growing out back we are taking advantage of our local "Slow Food" movement here. We have been visiting the Farmer's Markets to pick up produce & have been eating both regional as well as seasonal. In that effort we have been enjoying the Corn, Peppers, Onions & a variety of fruits. It is very soothing to feel like we are a part of a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life. While Alice Waters may have pioneered the Slow Food movement our Grandparent's generation certainly lived that live long before it was chic or trendy! Bytes from Texas aka, my daughter has been on those weekend jaunts to the Farm Stands & has cooked up some delicious dishes from her farm fresh findings. As we are just now heading into Summer I'm certain more dog days of Summer are heading our way. While I can truly take the heat, I'll be digging into my Texas roots a little further & keeping cool with tall glasses of iced tea.

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.

This corn salad was inspired by Ina Garten better known as the Barefoot Contessa. A cooking Photo friend made this garden fresh salad reminding us all that the best way to enjoy Summertime goodness is straight from the garden to the table. Buen Provecho~

Spicy Fresh Corn Salad
5 ears of Yellow or White Corn, shucked
1/2 cup small-diced Spanish Onion (yellow onion)
1 med. fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded & finely diced
3 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
3 tablespoons good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Cilantro leaves (very rough chopped & loosely packed)
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.

Toss corn with the onions, jalapeno peppers, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the cilantro. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

A great green Summer meal full of flavor & spice. I might be out of Mexico but the Spice is here for the duration.

Leek & Mushrooms with Green Pasta
1/2 cup roasted Pine Nuts
1 large Leek*
8 oz. sliced Baby Bell Mushrooms
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 tbsp. finely diced fresh Jalapeno Pepper
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1 16 oz. package of Spinach linguine
4 Tbsp. Flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. Garlic Chives, or Green Onion tops

**Trim the root end of the Leeks, then cut off the hard & keep only the tender green leaves, slice Leeks into rounds 1 inch long, separate the Leek rounds slightly & wash well. Leeks are grown in sandy soil so need washing well so there will be no sand or grit when cooked. Set a large pot of water to boil, and salt it. Once the water boils blanch the Leeks for 3-4 min & drain then plunge into iced water to keep green color & not over cook for the rest of the pasta dish.

Put half the Olive Oil in a large pan, preferably non-stick, on medium-high heat. Add the Garlic and Jalapeno Pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, do not let the garlic brown. Add the Leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they wilt, about 10 minutes. Add the Red Bell Pepper & Mushrooms lower the heat; add the cumin and continue to cook, stirring once in a while, until the Leeks begin to brown slightly. Cook the pasta until it is tender & drain, reserving about half a cup of the cooking liquid for use later.
Toss the pasta and the Leeks, Jalapeno, Garlic, Red Pepper combination & the Pine nuts, together with the remaining oil, freshly ground Black pepper to taste and all but a little of the Parsley, adding a bit of cooking liquid if the mixture needs moisture, just enough to make it slightly moist. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with the remaining Parsley and serve. This can be served with grated Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Veni, vidi, vici, Cordero?

I came, I saw, I conquered & then there was the Lamb....Of all the things I have fed by hand & I NEVER wanted to eat very much of, top of the list would have to be Lamb! Mr. Texas to Mexico does love a good rack of Lamb & friends of ours in Mexico gave me cause to give it a second thought. True, I can go most Summer months without meat of any form but being the daughter of generations of Texas Ranch folk I would be a bit of a hypocrite to eschew meat or those who eat it. Hope that statement won't get me kicked out of the Veggie establishments I enjoy visiting around in & around Austin~ Having said that I recently brought home a leg of lamb & we had a Roasted Leg of Lamb for dinner. The Earthy flavors of Rosemary & tangy taste of Mustard meld well with the texture & taste of Lamb.
I then conquered our next Lamb related meal by whipping up some Portobello & Lamb Quesadillas. Oven roasted Portobellos sliced thin, shredded Lamb, Black Beans warmed up in a fabulous Central Market Multi-grain Tortilla & served with a mound of fresh Guacamole! The only thing which could have made the meal better would have been an absolute Box Free Existence at our home....Currently we are in Veni, Vidi Vici mode with the hundreds of moving boxes still in our home! Small steps........ seeing & conquering can be very different sides of the coin or moving crate as it might be! I'll be digging out for a while yet trying to mix what came from Mexico back into our Texas lives. In the mean time we continue to settle in, visit Family, Friends & our favorite Farmer's markets on the weekends. The blogging might be slow for a while but slow food, good conversation & enjoyment of life have always been important at our house. ¡Buen Provecho!

Cordero Asado con Mostaza
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Stone Ground Brown Mustard
2 Tbsp chopped Fresh Rosemary
1/3 cup of Honey
1 tsp. each Black Pepper & Salt
1 tsp lime zest
1 Clove Shallots, minced
4 pounds whole leg of lamb, trimmed to remove most fat

Mix the honey, mustard, rosemary, ground black pepper, lime zest and shallots. Mix well and apply to the Lamb. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 3 to 4 hrs.

Preheat oven to 450*
Place Lamb in a roasting pan after removing some of the marinade with a spatula, reserve for basting purposes.
Bake at medium rare, during this time brush roast with the marinade just keeping moist, meat will gradually glaze & brown. The internal temperature should be at least 145* when taken with a meat thermometer. Rest the Roast for about 10 minutes before carving, slicing into 1/3 inch slices against the grain. t 450* for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 400* and roast for 1 & 10 hour more minutes for medium rare. The internal temperature should be at least 145* when taken with a meat thermometer. Let the roast rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Portobello y Cordero Quesadillas
2 cups Roasted Lamb, shredded
8 oz. shredded Oaxaca Cheese, fine shredded
2 Portobello mushrooms, oven roasted & sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup canned Black Beans, drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh Tomatoes
Whole wheat, Flour or Multi-grain Tortillas
Fresh Guacamole

Prep all ingredients & have all filling ingredients ready next to the cooking area. We made these ingredients available & had everyone prepare their own quesadilla once it was set up & ready to go. Over medium high heated gridle or skillet, heat tortilla & layer in cheese, portabella, lamb, few tsp. black beans & tomatoes & top with a little more cheese then layer on one more tortilla. This creates a "sandwich of tortillas with your fillings caught between 2 layers of tortillas. When it starts to slightly brown flip it over, (careful not to drop any ingredients out of the sides & then toast a few more moments till it is slightly browned, cut into wedges & serve with fresh Guacamole.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Going home~Who says we can't go home?

The Spirit of Mexico may never leave us but we are certainly going to do just that & leaving Mexico to head back home...

As we leave Mexico & return home I reflect on all the ways Mexico touches our lives. While it is true Texas is never far from Mexico both in distance & cultural connections. During the time we have both lived here & traveled to and from Mexico it has touched our lives in ways one cannot describe or even try to tell someone else. The friends we made in Mexico will be ours for a lifetime & the experiences we had will stay with us even longer. Texas will always be my home & birthplace but Mexico will always have a piece of my heart. **Besides all of the sentiment, I knew it was time to head home to Texas when my husband wanted ice cream & I paid 130.00 pesos for a carton of Blue Bell ice cream. Somethings are just sacred!

I spent last week running around visiting my friends, saying my goodbyes & having a few last cups of coffee. I was able to visit a Festival de Artesanias from Oaxaca which came to town just before we left Monterrey. The festival featured handmade products from across the state of Oaxaca. I was impressed as always by the quality of goods & the skills of the artist from that region. Most of the artist were very friendly & eager to show the wares they had made but one in particular impressed me when she gave me a demonstration of weaving with a traditional back strap loom. Alicia Gomez Navarro showed us several of the weavings she had made several of which depicted animals woven into the patterns. We of course bought some of her beautiful woven pieces, which are true treasures. Many of the typical Artesanias we saw from Oaxaca have been made for generations & the ancient traditions have been handed down from Nahua or Aztec heritage.

A Typical Tex-Mex Breakfast good enough for a meal at any time.
More than once during our moving time period I made up Migas for a meal. When moving easy meals featuring whatever was on hand & didn't require making a run to the "Super" was the comida del día.
"Migas" means crumbs, in Spain the migas or crumbs are actual breadcrumbs mixed into the eggs & scambled. In Texas or Northern Mexico it's Tortillas which are the "crumbs" in the eggs.

Huevos con migas Omlette

3 large eggs
1 Tbsp. Poblano Chili Pepper, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 6-inch corn tortillas, cut into small strips
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 roma tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
1/2 cup chopped avocado, sprinkled with a little lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
2/3 cup grated mild cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese
crema or sour cream

In a small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, and set aside.

Warm the butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the tortilla pieces and sauté until softened. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it is transparent. Stir in the chopped Poblano chiles, tomato.

Pour the egg mixture into the skillet, and "scramble" gently eggs are done or set. Remove the skillet from heat, and sprinkle the cilantro and cheese into the eggs, fold Omelette over carefully making certain the cheese is in the center as you would with a regular omelette. the Tortillas add density to folding it over may require both a spatula & silicon spatula. Top with Crema & serve avocado to the side. This omelette serves 2. Serve at once with warm flour or corn tortillas & favorite salsa.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo & Why all the Hoop-la?

For perplexed Cinco de Mayo celebrants & shrimp lovers I offer some South of the Border explanations.

The first year lived in Mexico I asked my Spanish teacher about how people celebrated Cinco de Mayo in Mexico? I seriously thought people strung up those Jose Cuervo banners I saw at home in all the Tex-Mex restaurants & had one day long extravaganza! I mean why not?? Back in the states it's a day of culture & foods. I'd already seen how they threw parties for Diez y Sies & other big events. I was quite surprised to find out that the celebration is called Cinco de Mayo but hardly rates a blip on the radar across most of Mexico. As we leave Mexico soon I have to wonder if I'll be celebrating Cinco de Mayo next year in the Estados Unidos with a different appreciation for the event?

The state of Puebla recognizes the day but it's not a national holiday throughout Mexico. The day actually celebrates the Battle of Puebla when the French under estimated how the Mexicans were seriously fed up with & quite angered concerning French expansion on Mexican soil. It took Mexico several more battles albiet years to clear out foreign intervention in Mexico. The real hero of the Battle of Puebla was a young General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin. Texans may recognize the name Zaragoza as he was born in near the town of present day Goliad Texas. Ignacio Zaragoza moved from Goliad to Monterrey, entered a Seminary then later joined the Mexican Army. There he rose through the ranks & actually fought for reestablishment of a constitutional democratic government in Mexico & defeated the dictator Santa Anna. (I knew there was a reason I liked this historical personage!) General Ignacio Zaragoza died after contracting Malaria & dying at the youthful age of 33. So when you celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the States just remember this true hero of Cinco de Mayo. My tribute to General Zaragoza involves giving some South of the Border flair to a standard Thai dish. All Texans know that premium shrimp can be found in the Gulf. The shrimp I cooked for Cinco de Mayo are from the state of Veracruz & of course the Gulfo de Mexico! Feliz Cinco de Mayo~

Our dinner menu featured Drunken Noodles with 2 Different Chilies (which I am sending onto Girlichef for her Chili Pepper Challenge) & Krupek/Shrimp crackers sprinkled with Tajin, a Mexican Lime & chili seasoning~

Cinco de Mayo Drunken Noodles

16 oz wide Thai rice noodles
1 medium Onion, sliced
1 Red Bell pepper, sliced
1 Yellow Bell pepper, sliced
3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 lb raw, peeled shrimp
1 can baby corn, drained & halved
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
fresh basil leaves, about 2-3 stems of leaves.
fresh cilantro leaves, about 2-3 stems of leaves.
3-4 Chilis Arbol*
oil for cooking
1 large or 2 small limes for juicing in sauce and garnish

Sauce Ingredients:
6 TB Oyster sauce
3 TB rice vinegar
2-3 TB fish sauce
3 TB sugar
3 TB fresh lime juice
1 TB Ground Chipotle Chilis (ground chiles processed or blended into paste)

Start noodles & have boiled & ready to add to dish since the veggies & shrimp come together quickly. Keep them in water so they don't stick together.
Saute onion, garlic & peppers in 2 Tbsp. Oil in large skillet. When the veggies are still crisp add the Chilis Arbol, Shrimp & cook till just pink but not over cooked. Add in the drained baby corn & water chestnuts. Drain the noodles & add them into the skillet, toss the shrimp, veggies & add sauce, stir well enough to blend the sauce over the mixture. The noodles are now drunken with the sauce, add basil, cilantro & serve with limes.
*Chilis Arbol are thin skinny Mexican Chilis the size of a small finger. Leave them whole when cooking with them. It makes it easier for a non-Chili lover to pick them out!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Veggie Tacos & life this week South of the Border.

This week in Mexico has been tumultuous at best. With the news of the H1N1 Influenza A~aka: Swine Flu becoming the media Feeding Frenzy of Spring 2009 we are certainly taking stock of our lives here South of the Border. Daily the news & rumors seem to mutate into some different form of rules or recommendations of how one should go about daily living here. I had to in fact laugh when we were handed thin, quite useless facial masks with a brief explanation of Influenza prevention methods on the back of a "Vote for me" paper insert. The facial masks as you can see might have been a better political point than true germ barrier. (yes, that is our lips you can see through the thin papery masks) The ultimate Flu prevention as always remains washing hands & avoiding sick people. Common sense & logic tells me this is so & yet it is hard not to become slightly panicked with a whole country wearing masks. Currently the warm Mexican greetings of kisses & hugs are a thing of the past as the government is telling the general populace to avoid even handshakes as well. As the government has asked the country to shut down all but "essential businesses" from May 1-5 we are certainly getting creative at home with our time & talents. Time to get creative & stay on my toes!

To make matters a wee bit more hectic here we have our entire household in an upheaval as we are getting ready to say goodbye to life as we have known it for the last several years here. We are packed up & will be ready to leave Mexico in a short time, returning once again to our home & family back in Texas. Will I continue to keep the blog moniker: "Texas to Mexico"? Yep, it is who I am & after all Texas was once part of Mexico. No matter where one goes in Texas, Mexico isn't all that far away.

These Veggie Tacos are my "Quarantine Creative" meal for the week! I am going through & using things up before we head out of the country. Sending this recipe on over to Gloria at Flavors of San Antonio for Taco Tuesdays!

Spicy, Sweet Veggie Tacos
2 med. white potatoes, diced with peels
2 lg. carrots, diced
1/4 cup onion, sliced thinly
8 large Crimini mushrooms, sliced in half (baby Portabello also may be used)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 4 oz. can of Mild Fire Roasted Green Chilies, undrained
2 Tbsp. Cilantro chopped
4 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 clove of garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
Whole Wheat or Flour Tortillas
Avocado & lettuce for garnish

Saute onion, carrot & potatoes in 2 Tbsp vegetable oil for 15 min. or till potatoes & carrots are almost tender then add tomatoes, mushrooms plus 2 tbsp. of Balsamic vinegar then mix in the can of green chilies, remove from heat, adjust seasoning adding salt & pepper then sprinkle with cilantro. Heat tortillas, fill with Veggie filling, garnish & serve. *The Mushrooms have are best kept in larger pieces so as to rather "meaty" quality & add pleasing texture.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fiestas, Friends & Frijoles

Last week we had a fabulous Fiesta at our home to celebrate our time here South of the Border & spend an evening with our friends as life in Mexico winds to a close. Celebrations in Mexico are always great fun & the people here love a good party. We took a trip earlier in the week to the large Mercado down on Cuauhtémoc in Monterrey to find the perfect Pinata for the party. The selection, color & size of the Pinatas was nothing short of staggering. We did however make a selection & I rode next to a 3 X 4 foot Fuzzy Butterfly Pinata on the way back home. There were several kilos of candies & little tiny plastic Puerquito toys stuffed inside the Giant Pinata. Nothing says "let's Party" like hitting a swinging paper mache' Pinata & being blindfolded. Even those novices who were new to the Pinata experience got into the fun when our Pinata was strung up from the balcony. We had far more food & beverage than could possibly be consumed by the crowd & it seemed like everyone had a Mexican dish they specialized in. Of course the cuisine in Mexico seems take center stage at any celebration. I made Frijoles Borracho which I learned to make years ago from a friend of ours who is from Mexico. I used my traditional Mexican Olla to cook the beans in. A well seasoned Olla makes the flavor even better for these tasty legumes.

Frijoles Borrachos, Drunken Beans

1 pound dried pinto beans
1 14 oz. can of Diced tomatoes, or 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 med. white onion, diced
4 slices of bacon, cut into small 1 inch pieces
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
12 ounces Sol beer
2 quarts water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the beans thoroughly in cold water, sort beans discarding any stones or odd beans. Place the beans in a Dutch oven or well seasoned Mexican Clay Olla, and cover with water. Soak overnight. Next day, cook for 30 minutes & add the tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, garlic, bacon, oregano, and beer. Cook until the beans are tender, about another 2 hrs over low heat. With a potato or bean masher, crush the beans, to thicken the bean liquid. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls. We serve this topped with extra diced tomato, onion & cilantro.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April Beach Escape & Tasty Tortilla Dishes

Our April run to the border began last week for Semana Santa here in Mexico. Semana Santa is Holy Week in Mexico & people often take the entire week off for the holiday. In Northern Mexico much of that week is spent heading North of the Border to South Padre Island or seeking out relatives in Texas. Driving to Nuevo Laredo we kept uploading the government website for the bridge "wait times" hoping we were ahead of the rush of cars & buses seeking entry at one of several bridges. Smooth sailing at the bridges on the Mexican side looks much like the proverbial lemming rush with thousands of people crushing into too few lanes. Once across we drove several hours through familiar South Texas landmarks to our final destination of South Padre Island. The weather was blustery, the sun intermittent; however the relaxation & family time was premium. For our family the sounds of ocean waves crashing on the sand makes the cares of the world seem far away. For several blessed days we watched nothing more than the setting sun & drifting sands. (Oh there was a large rattlesnake on the sand as well...we gave him a wide berth!)

While in Port Aransas we hit Port A Seafood Company several times for incredible fish & oysters but ate so quickly no photos or recipes are forthcoming (better planning next trip)...So food wise I'll post a couple of Lenten favorites which make the cut even post Easter. Tortillas in Mexico are thought to date as far back as 10,000 B.C. According to a Mayan legend they were created by a peasant to feed a hungry king. Whatever the origin, no one can argue the importance of the Tortilla in Mexico or Mexican cuisine. While living in Mexico I have found that almost everyone who has kitchen help or has lived in Mexico very long has a favorite version of Chiliquiles either Rojo or Verde. I am particularly fond of the version favored by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. She enjoyed serving company Chiliquiles Verde. Frida loved to entertain & was fond of traditional Mexican dishes of which several are recorded in the book "Frida's Fiestas~Recipes & Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo". The other recipe I have included is a different twist on Pie Azteca which I first blogged in the traditional format in November 2008. I changed it up a bit deleting a few of the vegetables & staying with only chicken, mushrooms & white corn. These type dishes are frequently served with beans & salad of some type. The last of the Padre sand is being swept out of the car, I'm still hearing seabirds in my head but it's a comforting feeling to know my lifetime obsession of the Texas Gulf Coast keeps me anchored back home~

Chilaquiles in Green Sauce
24 medium Corn Tortillas, cut into triangles
Corn Oil1
1/2 cups. of Mexican Crema (Sour Cream can be substituted but needs to be thinned out with milk.)
1/2 lb. shredded Oaxaca Cheese


30 tomatillos, peeled & chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
5 Serrano Chiles
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. Corn Oil
Fry tortilla triangles in hot oil until golden & drain on brown paper.Cover the bottom of an ovenproof casserole (8 X 13) with a small amount of sauce & cream after spraying the pan with cooking spray. Top with 1/2 of the remaining sauce, 1/2 of the remaining cream & half of the cheese. repeat this process ending with cheese. Bake @ 375* for about 20 minutes or till the sauce is hot & cheese is golden & bubbling. *To make the sauce, puree all the ingredients except the oil with salt to taste. Saute the puree in the 2 Tbsp. Corn Oil until the flavors blend & the sauce has thickened.

Pie Azteca con Pollo

18 Flour Tortillas, cut into triangles
1 cup Roasted Chicken Breast, diced
1 small can of fire roasted Green Chiles, (Roasted Poblanos can be used instead)
3 cups Sour Cream or Low Fat Sour Cream
2 Large Eggs, beaten
pinch of ground Cumin
12 oz. Manchego, Oaxaca Cheese or Monterrey Jack grated
1/4 onion, diced
8 oz. Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen or fresh white corn, thawed
1 clove garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 bunch of Green Onion tops, diced
salt, pepper to taste

Lightly bake tortillas @ 350 for 15 min. spread evenly on a cookie sheet, sprayed with vegetable spray.
Prepare the sauce by sauteing the onion, garlic, mushrooms & corn for 8-10 minutes, seasoning with salt & pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Mix in sour cream & 1 beaten egg with pinch of cumin & green onion tops.
In an oven proof, greased 9 x 13 casserole: layer 1/2 of the tortillas, 1/2 of the chicken & green chilis, 1/2 sour cream mixture, top with 1/2 cheese. Repeat layers ending with cheese. Bake in 350* oven for 30 minutes or till bubbling at the edge & slight golden color to the edges. Remove from heat, cool for 10 minutes, cut into squares & serve.