Sunday, February 22, 2009

Texas Cactus Fritters

Cactus: nutritious & delicious too!
Cactus or Nopal brought many a Texas rancher through a long hard Winter in the not too distant past. I have heard my Grandfather talk about burning the Prickly Pear Cactus all Winter long so they could keep cattle fed when grass was scarce in the 1930's. Texas A&M University has done extensive research on the benefits of Nopal for both people & animals. Early Spanish explorers were introduced to the Cactus as food source when they met indigenous peoples who used both the fruit produced by the plant as well as the green pads. In South Texas & Mexico the Nopal or tender pads of cactus are used in Salads, Soups & even scrambled into personal favorite. The taste is similar to asparagus or a green bean. Nopal is both high in fiber, vitamins & claims to lower blood sugar levels, as well as help a hangover! For more information check here:

In many Latin grocery stores nopal is easily accessible. The cactus or nopal must be blanched in order to use it in salads or cooked so the texture is acceptable. This recipe simple & can be used as a side dish or appetizer. I made a dipping sauce from Sour Cream & ready made fire roasted Salsa Verde, mixing equal parts. The sauce is nice but by no means necessary.

Texas Cactus Fritters
1 1/2 cups Yellow Corn (can be fresh, canned or frozen as long as it is drained & thawed)
1 cup of Nopal cut into small diced pieces (nopalitos), blanched & well drained
1/4 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/4 cup Poblano Pepper, roasted, peeled & diced
1/4 cup onion, diced1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded, diced
2 Eggs, beaten
3 - 4 Tbsp. milk
2 Tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 cup Corn meal
2 Tbsp. Flour
1 tsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
Mix together corn, peppers, onion, nopal. Add dry ingredients, stir to coat all of the ingredients with the cornmeal mixture. Once this is done add the beaten eggs & then add in the Tbsp. of milk 1 at a time, making the mixture the texture of a sticky texture dough batter. Drop well rounded spoonfuls into hot vegetable oil in skillet & cook over med high heat. Turn them once making certain to brown well on each side. Drain any excess oil onto paper towels & serve at once.

Nopal scrambled into eggs with tomato & green onion.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Smoking Chipotle Brownies heat up my Valentine~

Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit. ~Peter Ustinov

Year after year I give the same Valentine gift to Mr. Texas2Mexico... this year I was determined to make something a different. Smoking, smoldering & some sizzle make this a Brownie with a South of the Border kick!

When I first arrived in Mexico I remember calling a friend in Texas for her brownie recipe & trying to locate Hershey's Cocoa in the town we were living in then. She told me that with as much history has Mexico had going for it with Cocoa I should be able to find some great alternatives. The Mexican Cocoa we use for making Mexican Hot Cocoa isn't normally used for brownies however I found this addition made a good Brownie recipe even better. The Chipotle Peppers in this recipe make a crisp new flavor added to this old standard. I'm still using the Hershey's cocoa but the new flavors certainly kick the savory Brownies up a notch or two.

The Chipotle Peppers packed in Adobo Sauce I use are ground into a paste which makes adding into the batter easy. 2 things to remember. Before adding to the recipe taste the Chipotle, some of it can be likened to drinking straight from Hell's firehose! The Chipotle Peppers I used were almost mild in flavor so I was able to use the entire 4 inch long pepper. The very small cans of Chipotle peppers found in the states are small cans & they tend to be of the hotter than hot variety. If this is the case measure out no more than 2 tsp. into the Brownie mix. Don't worry about the seeds. What would any dish with chili peppers be without the seeds?

The Chipotles date back to region that is now northern Mexico City, prior to the Aztec civilization. It is conjectured that the Aztecs smoked the chilies because the thick, fleshy, jalapeno was difficult to dry and prone to rot. The Aztecs used the same "smoke drying" process for the chilies as they used for drying meats.**

The Fischer & Wieser Raspberry Chipotle Sauce I use in the Brownie frosting is a Texas original & is now sold in many fine grocery stores throughout the US, we can even find it in Northern Mexico. If you cannot locate it, go to the Website:


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
2 eggs
1 Chipotle Pepper in adobo, blend or process until it becomes a paste.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1, 2 oz. Round IBARRA or ABUELITA Mexican Chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan.

2. In food processor or blender grind the 2 oz. broken Mexican chocolate pieces with 1/2 sugar & then add to total cocoa & sugar mixture then proceed with rest of recipe. (Do not use more than 1 cup of Sugar total.) For Chipotle Pepper; drain, remove stem & process into a paste in the blender, adding water if needed to attain consistency of a paste. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Add Chipotle Chili pepper, mix well distributing the pepper paste well through the mixture.. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.Do not over bake, these are best when moist. Prepare RASPBERRY BROWNIE FROSTING; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. About 12-16 brownies.


3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1 tablespoon Fischer & Wieser Raspberry Chipotle Sauce or Raspberry Jam
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
Pecan halves for garnish

Beat butter, cocoa, Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (or Raspberry Jam) and vanilla in small bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar and milk; beat to spreading consistency. About 1 cup frosting. Frost Brownies when cooled & garnish with Pecans.

**Online info for Chipotle Pepper info.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cooking Shepherd's Pie for the masses or the family!

Childrens homes in Mexico are a place of both great blessing & great need. More often often than not they operate on little more than Faith & Hope. The opportunities to help & be of service at these homes can be endless for Expats right here in Northern Mexico. The Newcomer's Group here helps with food, clothing & educational needs. It is a great pleasure to help on Saturdays when the group provides a Saturday meal for the kids which we both prepare the food as well as actually serve it. Saturday meals give the house parents & over burdened workers a chance to rest & be served along side the kids. There is always enough for second helpings & of course desert is a must. This past Saturday we served Shepherd's Pie, Salad, Bread & homemade Brownies. The smiles were thanks enough even if it was hard not to have a lump in the throat when the blessing was said. Last Friday several of us met in my friend Tresa's kitchen to mix, stir, chop & blend the many Shepherd's Pies we served the following day. Feeding 100 isn't so hard when friends are doing the work. Not only was it satisfying but the food tasted great & interested me in cooking a repeat version for less than my own kitchen. I've scaled it down but kept the same seasons & flavors alive in my version of the Tresa Amrani's Shepherd Pie. *I have to say she did surprise me by telling me how many recipes of meals for crowds are offered online.

Cottage Pie, also known as Shepherd's Pie, refers to a meat pie with a crust made from mashed potato. Cottage was a term referring to modest working class dwelling.

The term Cottage Pie or Pye is known to have been used as early as 1791, when potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for common people. Although the potato was introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish from the New World it wasn't mainstream for several hundred years. Shepherd's Pie can be made with endless meat & vegetable varieties & even with only vegetables. In the 1990's my children were more than likely worn out on my vegetarian version of Shepherd's Pie...

Tresa's Shepherd Pie
4 large potatoes, peeled
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 med. onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 pound ground chicken
2 large carrot, shredded
8 oz. fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. Tabasco
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chicken or beef bouillon powder
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey jack & or cheddar cheese
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender, drain.
Mash potatoes with butter or margarine and milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Add as little or more milk to get the potatoes rather soupy since they dry slightly as they cook on top of the Shepherd Pie.
Saute onion & bell pepper in olive oil until soft. Stir in ground chicken, carrot, mushrooms, parsley, Worcestershire sauce,Tabasco, garlic, and chicken bouillon. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook and stir until meat is broken up and cooked through. Drain. Stir in flour.
Transfer meat mixture to a casserole dish sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Evenly sprinkle cheese over meat mixture. Spread potatoes over meat, don't pack potatoes too hard, keep fluffy.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown on top.