Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Texas to Mexico Paleo~Style Stuffed Squash

As our family prepares to head to South Texas for the Thanksgiving holiday where quiet relaxing vistas will keep us spellbound for a few days & give us all a certain spiritual nourishment. This fall I've been so enamored with the selection of winter squashes & pumpkins I've seen. I've seen more variety & colorful selection than ever. Not for the first time this season I have cooked with Carnival Squash. It is a mild, squash in the size range of an Acorn Squash.  I enjoy baking Carnival Squash with savory spices however many cooks bake these with a much sweeter result using winter spices such cloves, cinnamon & agave or honey. The colorful skin makes this a nice centerpiece till you are ready to use it regardless of how it is baked. My version of the stuffed squash gives a nod to the hunter-gatherer diet paying attention to exclude grains, legumes, dairy products, salt & refined sugar. *winter squash are:Fat-free and sodium-free, a three-fourths cup serving provides fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and thirty calories. Darker colored squashes have the most beta carotene.  

Carnival Squash are a colorful winter squash sometimes labeled acorn squash.

 Creamy mild flesh of the squash makes a nice complement to the spicy chili sauce
Stuffed Carnival Squash with Mushroom & Red Chili Chicken

2 Carnival Squash, halved, seeded, rubbed with 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 lb ground chicken
1/2 lb lean chicken sausage (I found mine at Sprouts, remove casing if it has casing)
1/4 diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
*1/2 cup Red Chili Sauce made with Guajillo chilis see recipe link
Recipe here from previous blog post on *Lunch Box for One
2 tablespoon chopped flat leave parsley

Bake the 2 Carnival Squash cut into halves @ 375 for 25 minutes or till crispy golden around edge & flesh tests tender.  Set aside &  prepare Mushroom & Chicken stuffing. Saute onion & garlic in skillet till translucent, add the chicken sausage & ground chicken. Cook till chicken is no longer pink & slightly browned.  Add in mushrooms, cook till tender then add the Red Chili Sauce, mix, add parsley & remove from heat.  Spoon into Squash halves & return to 375 oven for 10 minutes till heated throughly.  Serve immediately.  Any leftover stuffing I serve alongside the filled squash halves.
Leftover Mushroom Red Chili Chicken Filling is good alone 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Paleo Wedding Soup & a Devilish Egg Appetizer

When I'm lucky enough to have true farm fresh eggs, I find a variety of ways to fit them into meals at our home. Eggs aren't just for breakfast as anyone in my house can tell you. Eggs are a low cost cost way to add a naturally good source of vitamin D & protein. This past weekend I made both a soup as well as a quick dozen Deviled Eggs using some of my farm fresh eggs my mother brought me from Uvalde County in South Texas.   

This soup gets the name as a "married soup" since it is a marriage of meat & greens. The traditional name is actually Minestra Maritata & the origins are both Italian & Spanish, whatever the origins are the soup is a perfect Fall meal. Many recipes use bread crumbs to make the meat balls but if you have fresh meat, add the egg & chill the meatballs prior to dropping them in the soup they will be fine. I've even baked my meatballs to get them nice & brown when I have time. Many traditional recipes for this soup soup have streaks of egg-and-cheese scrambles borrowed from the Roman egg-drop soup Stracciatella. The egg adds a certain hearty quality which makes this a very nice one dish meal.

Primal Italian Wedding Soup

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8 ounces turkey or chicken sausage
8 ounces ground turkey
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound spinach, coarsely chopped (1 pound of kale is a good substitution)
2 small turnips, diced into 1/4 in pieces
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the meatballs: Stir the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the sausage & turkey. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and spinach, turnips and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the spinach or kale is tender, about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. *Finish soup with parmesan cheese if desired. We didn't have this but it is traditional garnish for the soup. I am almost certain no one else puts turnips in Wedding Soup but I had some garden fresh turnips & thought they would be a nice addition to the soup.

Devilish Deviled Eggs
6 Eggs, hard boiled
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
3-4 Tablespoons Jalapeno Mustard* (or any spicy version you prefer)
2 teaspoons diced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely minced shallots or white onion
dash of sea salt according to taste

Cut boiled eggs into halves lengthwise, scoop out inside reserving whites on platter. Mash & break up all lumps in the hard boiled egg yolks, then add next 6 ingredients. Garnish tops of eggs with extra oregano leaves or sprinkle with dill or any fresh herbs you may enjoy. *I used Woeber's Jalapeno Mustard 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yes, Soup Weather again! Hlelem a versitile Tunisian Soup is back on the menu.

At the first sign of a cold front in Texas I believe across the United State a loud cheer could be heard coming from this Southern State. Texas had record heat & drought this summer. Hottest, driest, longest since 1885 in fact Wichita Falls had 100 days over 100. As a state it certainly felt like we simmered & stewed all summer long (at times in our own skins...). Salads and lighter cooler meals have been the order of the season for months. This past week when temperatures dropped to freezing overnight it felt like it was okay to drag out the soup pots & dust off the crock pots once again. What is nauseating to think of when it is 109* is downright cheerful when the temperatures seem normal once again. I always feel better when I can make a pot of soup. Earthy, rich & soothing soups make me feel comforted & tend to remind me of soups my mother would make when I was a kid. This is a traditional Tunisian soup inspired by Martha Rose Shulman's version from her Mediterranean Harvest recipes. Some of you know this is not my first post of Hlelem,  I've actually made it before with all the beans however I'm on a eating lifestyle now which departs from some of the legumes & pastas so I've changed things up a bit. For vegetarian diets this is good with vegetable broth, for those who want to add a lean protein; I expanded this soup on day 2 with lean ground meat. Enjoy & be soothed as I was.
Hlelem soup hits the spot on a cool fall evening.

Hlelem (Tunisian Vegetable Soup)

yields 2 quarts

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup celery stalk, large outer veins trimmed, diced
1 large red or green bell pepper, seeded, diced
3 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 quart chicken broth
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup canned chickpeas, drained*check below for my new substitution without legumes
7 cups Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves shredded, lightly packed
1/2 cup angel hair pasta or fideo, dry, approx. 1/3 c.
1/2 tablespoon red curry paste or Harissa
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup radishes, grated
wedges of lime or lemon

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine 1/2 cup of the reserved chickpea liquid with the broth, reserved bean liquid, and the tomato paste to the pot. Slowly stir getting the tomato past lumps worked out or till well blended and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Approximately 10 minutes before serving, add chickpeas or alternative veggies such as butternut squash*, the Swiss chard, and the pasta. Simmer until the pasta and chard stems are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the Harissa and stir until blended. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Garnish with the chopped parsley, radish & serve with a wedge of lemon or lime.

*I added 1 cup diced butternut squash instead of the chick peas although the chick peas are more traditional in this soup.  Also I would now omit the fideo pasta to cut out the gluten. You can add whatever vegetables are local or seasonal. Rutabaga & Sweet potato are nice winter/fall substitutions.The radishes as a garnish add a nice zesty punch.

A spicy addition to Hlelem Soup this is very similar to Red Curry paste.
Harissa comes in small cans and can be found in a lot of supermarkets and Mediterranean groceries. It is a Tunisian hot sauce or paste usually made with hot chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil.  I also added lean ground meat the second day to this soup.

For my previous Hlelem recipe in the Crock pot please check here for my previous blog post.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finding my Sunny Side Up!

Jello no matter what the flavor gets old in a hurry!

 I had unexpected surgery 2 weeks ago & it has truly made me reinvent my meals so I can tolerate some of my favorite foods.  My doctor told me next to nothing about post surgery diet and I've been on my own with figuring out what works for me right now. I've had oceans of Jello & yards of saltine crackers so I'm just trying to hit my stride on the culinary side. I guess I'm searching for my sunny side up as it were! Still sore & dealing with stitches I'm getting the hang of what works & what still has meal appeal to me as well as my family. I had already pared down my dietary meanderings omitting foods such as bread, all dairy foods, red-meat etc. Having said that I'm sticking pretty close to the straight & narrow when it comes to eating fruits, veggies & lean proteins. I hate people who preach about the new blah, blah, blah diet that they love which really made them who they are, Zzzzz....  Having said that though I'm feeling pretty good about a few new recipes I've added & thanks to a couple of good blogs I'm finding that many of the best things are still in the que for meal preps. I found Sarah Fragroso's Everyday Paleo to be very helpful. I'm not saying I will stick to a strict Paleo diet but she has some great recipes & I think a Texas to Mexico kitchen can only improve with a little Paleo restructure.
Egg Muffins are a good choice for weekend brunches.

Egg Muffins
1lb Ground Turkey or turkey/chicken sausage
3 cups fresh Spinach (packed), cleaned & chopped
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
mushrooms, sliced
32 oz carton Egg Whites*
1 tsp. cayenne
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Cook Turkey, season with cayenne, salt & pepper to taste. Set aside turkey, wilt spinach in skillet. Try not to over cook, I just toss spinach in skillet till barely wilted & remove from heat. Into the bottom of muffin cups (you may use silicon muffin liners or just use a vegetable oil spray in the muffin pan) I spooned a Tbsp of meat into each muffin tin, layer in veggies then pour in egg whites leaving 1/3 inch space at top so egg muffins can rise as they bake. Bake at 375* for 25 min or till they are slightly browned & spring back when touched. Cool slightly & serve. These are good stored & I've even frozen them & heated them in the microwave for a quick breakfast.*I did not use the entire carton of Egg whites & you can also use 12-14 whole eggs in place.  Experiment with different veggies & type of egg product. ie: egg beaters, whites or whole eggs.
Any favorite Veggies can be used. I've used Asparagus & Broccoli

This recipe is easy to bake for the work week ahead.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Homemade Prickly Pear Sauce, Minus a few Stickers!

For the first time in several years I picked fresh Prickly Pear fruit. As I drove up the rural ranch road out in Uvalde County I was struck by the colorful "tunas" dotting the tops of the Prickly Pear. Considering the number of cactus plants I saw, it is no wonder I was compelled to pick 10 pounds of Prickly Pear Tunas so I could make Prickly Pear Sauce. This prickly pear sauce recipe a friend gave to me years ago. It was from a cookbook he had with old recipes from Mexico. I've also found it several times since then on websites & in several cookbooks. It can be easily increased.

The Prickly Pear fruits are very sweet/tart.  Depending on the level of ripeness the sweet factor can be more to the tart side. When I lived in Mexico the street vendors used to peel the fruits & sell bags of them for about 20 pesos.  Considering the areas I see Prickly Pear growing in Texas & across the Southwest there is no end to harvesting opportunities. Be cautious though; as I picked the fruit out in rural Uvalde County my mother mentioned that rats liked to build nests at the bottom of Prickly Pear Patches which also tend to attract snakes.  The morning I picked the fruit last Monday I noticed a nest almost 4 feet wide at the base of one of the Prickly Pear.  I was alert & walked very carefully.  Seriously, I thought: "no snake will cheat me out of a Prickly Pear Sauce".  I was also of the mindset if that proved wrong I could sprint quickly without spilling too many fruits!!

To harvest  Cactus fruit  wear heavy-duty protective gloves.

Some of the health benefits associated with prickly pear:
Immune support
Helps manage cholesterol

Some of the nutrients found in prickly pear cactus:
Flavonoids | Pectin | Vitamin A | Vitamin B | Vitamin C
Once peeled the Prickly Pear can be eaten either fresh, frozen, or cooked as I have into a sauce which makes a nice marinade, basis for a colorful salad dressing or my personal fave: add a colorful kick to a margarita.  The raw fruit tastes somewhere between kiwi or strawberry with a slight acidic tang.(Use gloves & tongs to handle the fresh tunas & when all else fails pick those tiny stickers out with tweezers. The times I have handled the tunas I've always had a few get into my finger tips.)
Prickly Pear Sauce also adds a tangy kick to Margaritas!

Nopal (Prickly Pear) Sauce

*16 fresh prickly pears
*1/2 Cup sugar
*1 Tbs. lime juice
*1 Tbs. orange liqueur

Remove rind from prickly pears by cutting off both ends and running a slice down both sides. If ripe, the rind will pull off easily. Chop prickly pear into 1-inch pieces and place in a blender. Blend on medium-high until you have a puree. Strain through a cheesecloth or a food mill, this will remove almost all of the tiny stone like seeds. Reserve both the juice and puree. Put 2 cups of the prickly pear juice in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar. Cook over medium heat until mixture is reduced by half. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup of pureed prickly pear, the lime juice & orange (or lemon) liqueur. Stir well. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving. **Once we reduced the sauce by half & it thickened slightely it was put into pint canning jars & processed in a water bath for 15 min.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Keeping Cool with Los Cocos Fruit Ceviche

Summer heat is setting records in 2011
 The scorching sun has sent the summer temperatures well over 100 for more than 41 days, only considered cool in a "I survived that kind of way",  I'm all for prepping meals with little or no oven time right now. To heck with conventional cooking, please don't turn up the heat.  The Summer of 2011 could almost be considered the Summer of Ceviche for our family. We've had many endless variety in this popular Latin American dish. This fruity Ceviche version is named after one of my favorite Fruiteria stands in Monterrey Mexico. I've only had fruit cups there at Los Cocos but if they had a Ceviche with fruit it would taste  something like my version. Make a Ceviche with whatever seafood is on hand and be liberal with choice of fruits. Ceviche is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices & spiced with chili peppers. Our family enjoys Ceviche & it seems like the perfect way to cool things down at the end of a long hot day. Follow it with a crisp wine or cold Mexican beer & it's a meal. Salute!

Los Cocos Fruit Ceviche
1 pound medium-size raw shrimp, shelled and veined

1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2cup lime juice, divided in half
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup melon, cubed
1 avocado, diced
2 kiwi fruit, skinned & diced
1 cup pineapple diced, juice reserved
1 orange, cut in sections and diced, juice reserved
Salt and pepper**


Blanch the shrimp in boiling water until no longer translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain & quickly cool down in iced water. (Chill shrimp approx 30 min)

Combine the shrimp, red or yellow pepper, cilantro, jalapeno, and 1/4 c.lime juice in a large bowl. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Drain off most of the liquid.

Whisk together the olive oil, ketchup, all citrus juice, and cilantro. Pour over shrimp and add diced avocado, melon, (add all fruits at this time), orange pieces &  pineapple. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.**Fruit juices are natural tenderizing agents so remember to prepare approx. what will be consumed in given meal.  The shrimp tend to keep tenderizing with the fruit juices & become mushy in more than 24 hrs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tortilla Espanola, in Spain it's a Spanish Omelette~

In Mexico Tortillas are disks of either corn or flour flat bread to be served with food tucked into them.  In Spain a Tortilla is an entirely different matter. The Espanola is an egg dish filled with potatoes & served either hot or cold.  It may be served as an appetizer in a Tapas bar or a main dish at home.  My first education about the Spanish Tortilla was in a Miami Beach Tapas restaurant believe it or not. (at last count Miami has at least 8 Tapas restaurants) My husband had lived in Spain & was thrilled to find a Tapas restaurant & introduce the family to one of his favorite foods.  Since then I have been captivated by this easy mainstream dish from Spain. Tales of this dish differ on where the Tortilla Espanola originated however all seem to agree that it dates back to the early 1800's. Historically speaking it was said to gain popularity during wartime as a way to feed a crowd with few handy & wholesome ingredients. The dish is both easy & quick to put on the table.

Tortilla Espanola ~ Spanish Tortilla
6-7 medium potatoes, peeled
1 whole yellow onion, sliced
5-6 large eggs
1 cup Spanish Chorizo, sliced into rounds
3  cups loosely chopped Swiss Chard
2-3 cups of olive oil for pan frying
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut the peeled potatoes in half lengthwise. Then, with the flat side on the cutting surface, slice the potato in pieces approximately 1/8" thick. If you slice them a bit thick, don’t worry – it will simply take a bit longer for them to cook.

Peel and chop the onion into 1/4" pieces. Put potatoes and onions into a bowl and mix them together. Salt the mixture.

In a large, heavy, non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Carefully place the potato and onion mixture into the frying pan, spreading them evenly over the surface. The oil should almost cover the potatoes. You may need to turn down the heat slightly, so the potatoes do not burn, next add chorizo slices & cook 3-4 more minutes or till sausage browns slightly.

Leave in pan until the potatoes are cooked. If you can poke a piece of potato with a spatula and it easily breaks in two, your potatoes are done. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and allow oil to drain.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat by hand with a whisk or fork. Pour in the potato onion mixture. Mix together with a large spoon.

Pour 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil into a medium, frying pan (aprox. 9-10”) and heat on medium heat. When hot, stir the potato onion mixture once more and “pour” into the pan and spread out evenly. Allow the egg to cook around the edges. Then you can carefully lift up one side of the omelet to check if the egg has slightly “browned.” The inside of the mixture should not be completely cooked and the egg will still be runny.

When the mixture has browned on the bottom, you are ready to turn it over to cook the other side. Take the frying pan to a sink. Place a large dinner plate (12”) upside down over the frying pan. With one hand on the frying pan handle and the other on top of the plate to hold it steady, quickly turn the frying pan over and the omelet will “fall” onto the plate. Place the frying pan back on the range and put just enough oil to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Let the pan warm for 30 seconds or so. Now slide the omelet into the frying pan. Add chopped swiss chard & use the spatula to shape the sides of the omelet. Let the omelet cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the tortilla sit in the pan for 2 minutes. If chard needs wilting more broil it for 1-2 minutes or till nicely wilted.

Slide the omelet onto a plate to serve. If eating as a main course, cut the omelet into 6-8 pieces like a pie. Serve a wedge of the Tortilla with sliced pickle, marinated mushrooms, fruit or a piece of crusty bread & a glass of wine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Comfort Foods take us down memory lane.

Familiar house numbers on Nana's San Antonio home.

















Comfort whether it pertains to a place, a food or feeling one gets taking a trip down memory lane. It's something that makes us all feel an emotion about the person place or thing.  Last year my Nana's house sold in San Antonio Texas & it was a bittersweet feeling.  Good because the family who bought the home knew my grandmother & loved the property. Bittersweet in that the empty house brought back so many memories that somehow would never again be so visceral or so easily touched.  Emotions & memories are like that.  Touching on something deep within which somehow make us connected to that which we are from.  Comfort foods are like that also.  Comfort foods connect us to a person or event which gets relived even in a tiny form when we experience it again.  I recently found a new twist on an old favorite.
Ground Smoked Chipotle Pepper adds a smoky quality
















So normally I don't just take a recipe I find in a food magazine then just revamp & repost.  Something within me yearns for a little more creativity but, how can one really improve on something as great as mac & cheese? The recent cover dish on the March issue of Bon Appetit has been in my focus since I saw it.  B A food writers have an entire article dedicated to mac & cheese.  True, mac & cheese is what every red blooded American kid grew to love & crave no matter what era you grew up in post World War II.  Even if it was that familiar blue box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese & it somehow made an episode of the Brady Bunch last a wee bit longer. (Ha! Guess I'm dating myself with that one...) I left behind my boxed macaroni & cheese some years ago when I realized homemade mac & cheese is better than anything pre-packaged.  My version of the Pimento Mac & Cheese has a bit more heat in it than the original version may have.  I found a nice ground smoky chipotle pepper.  At it's outset it has a nice smoky scent imparting a nice touch of hot. Whether you want to play with the recipe as I did or just make the mac & cheese ingredient for ingredient it's by far one of my favorite macaroni & cheese recipe's I've had in some time. I also opted to roast my red bell pepper since I like the flavor of roasted bell pepper. Can't wait to see what strikes my fancy in the April issue. Bon Appetit!


Pimento Macaroni & Cheese

  • 1 7- to 8-ounce red bell pepper. (After roasting seed & cut into 1-inch pieces.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved, divided
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup drained mild Peppadew peppers in brine, 1 tablespoon brine reserved
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chiles
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
  • 8 ounces medium shell pasta or gemelli
  • ingredient info

    Peppadew peppers are available in jars or in the deli section at some supermarkets, at specialty foods stores, and from peppadew.com.

    Look for panko at supermarkets and at Asian markets. Ground Chipotle Chile peppers are available in the spice section of supermarkets and at Latin markets.


  • Broil or roast in the oven the garlic & red bell pepper. Simmer until pepper is soft, about 15 minutes.
  • Toast panko in skillet over medium-high heat until golden, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool to lukewarm. Rub 1 tablespoon butter into crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  • Transfer bell pepper mixture to processor. Add Peppadews and 1 tablespoon brine, 2 tablespoons butter, ground chiles, and 1/2 garlic clove; then add cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Blend until sauce is smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 8-cup baking dish (or 6 individual dishes). Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; return to pot. Stir sauce and mozzarella into pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon pasta into dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
  • Bake pasta until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes (15 for individual). Let stand 10 minutes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mexican Pickled Onions-Cebollas Curtidas, Perfect Side for Tacos

Simple Onion becomes Brilliant in Cebollas Curtidas
The ways in which simple foods take on a magic every day in Mexico are truly endless. I first tried Cebollas Curtidas at a street taco stand in Torreon Coahuila & was so overwhelmed by the street tacos that I just knew every single part of that experience was grand.  It was later when I saw the colorful onions again & knew I had never tasted onions quite like the Mexican Pickled Onions. They were sweet, spicy & altogether unexpected. In the Yucatan they use oregano &  chilis habanero in these onions. I suspect that the jalapeno addition may be more of a Northern Mexico style but the citrus juice makes these onions a side dish to be remembered. I have also heard these are a menu item all through Latin America from Guatemala to Ecuador. 

Cebollas Curtidas, Mexican Pickled Onions
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced (approx. 4-5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 med. limes)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice (5 med. oranges or 2 med. grapefruit)
Don't forget to use non metal containers
1/3 cup of white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled & halved
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed & very thinly sliced into rings

1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add onions and blanch for about 15 seconds. Drain well and set aside.
2. Combine lime juice, orange juice, sugar, and salt in a large nonreactive bowl, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add blanched onion slices and jalapeño, and stir to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. **the brine can also be seasoned with peppercorns & bay leaves.
Cebollas Curtidas are perfect for Shrimp or Veggie Tacos

 We enjoyed the Mexican Pickled Onions with Shrimp Tacos this weekend but the onions are delicious over any taco which has fresh roasted meats or veggies.  I first tried them on Potato Tacos.

Shrimp Tacos

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced green onion
1 liberal dash of cholula hot sauce or favorite sauce
1 each red bell pepper, green bell pepper chopped
8 corn tortillas, warmed

Saute garlic, bell pepper 2 min over medium heat, add shrimp, season with salt, pepper & hot sauce. Serve immediately with Pineapple, Cebollas, Curtidas, Avocado, shredded Radish & Cilantro (also

cheese if you please). Enjoy & Buen Provecho!
*Blanch the Onions for 15 seconds to keep the color & crisp quality.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gumbo Shooters, powerful sip of Soup.

Did the last time you had something in a shot glass make you feel less than virtuous? 

Try serving up your favorite soup in a shot glass. No virtue promised here but no roaring headache the next day either! I hosted Bunco night here recently & served Gumbo one last time. I wanted to serve Gumbo since our cool nights are long gone here in Texas & won't return for several  months.  I had a New Orleans theme going for my friends & fellow Bunco players.  Normally I serve rice with Gumbo however with tiny servings I didn't think rice was necessary & not one person noticed the absence of said starch.  I prepared the Gumbo ahead of time & kept it warmed in a crock pot during the festivities.  I recommend the 2 oz wide mouth Duralex shot glasses.  They are reasonably priced & have enough space for a good sipping Gumbo!  Les c'est le bon temp rouler!
Duralex 2 oz shot (wide mouth) glasses hold a nice sip of gumbo 

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo Shooters
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. veg. oil
1 c. flour
Make a roux from the butter, veg. oil & flour in deep dutch oven or gumbo pot. Once your roux is deep brown or copper penny color then add & saute:
1 sm. onion, diced
1 med. bell pepper, diced
2 lg. stalks celery, chopped
Once the vegs are cooked add 1 quart chicken stock or warm H2O. 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. salt, *Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning to taste. Add 4 lg. skinless chicken breasts. 1 pkg. (1 link) smoked beef or pork sausage. Simmer till the meat is cooked well. Remove this from, the gumbo & chop up chicken and dice up sausage. Add this back into the gumbo, keep simmering. Add 1 frozen pkg. okra. Add one small bunch of green onion tops, chopped. Once this comes to a low simmer turn it off & serve in small shot glasses.  Use  a small size ladle to make the Gumbo transfer neat & tidy. 
*Tony Chachere's is a popular season salt from Louisiana, even when living in Mexico I could find this spicy seasoning. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Officially National Pi Day!

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

3/14, 3.14: The Celebration of ratio of the circumference of a circle or Hold that Pie Chart....what better reason to celebrate the Glorious Pie? Really, do we need a reason?? Apparently the House of Representatives made it officially Pi Day & they never make mistakes do they? Check out the Wikipedia Pi Day link! Why did the photo of the Pi guy make me smile?

What about that blackbird pie poem from childhood?  Pie has been national past time for literally centuries, there are volumes written, childhood poems glorifying them but the end result is still the same. One of my daughters likes to call the fruit pies: "hot mushy fruit". Whether you enjoy a creamy custard or hearty apple pie it can be a satisfying experience paired with a cup of coffee & lingering conversation.  It may not sound exciting but no dessert brings back memories for me like a family pie recipe. Having said that I thought I'd share a quick Fresh Blueberry Pie which had even the least likely of pie fans at our home eating this pie & wanting seconds.Our blueberries have been so delicious here. I've been buying those pints of berries & eating them over yogurt & cereal more often than not however they are perfect for sauces & desserts. Hope you enjoyed your Pi Day!

Fresh Texas Blueberries
Fresh Blueberry Pie
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup water
4 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Con Olio Lemon Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon melted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons equal parts sugar & cinnamon
17.3 oz box of Puff Pastry, thawed, 2 sheets
In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, stir in water. Bring to a boil; stirring constantly, boil for 1 minute. Add blueberries, lemon juice & vinegar. Line a lightly buttered deep dish (9 inch) pie pan with 1 puff pastry sheet. Pour blueberry mixture into the crust then layer the top of the fruit with the second layer of puff pastry, loosely fold both crust at the edge to loosely seal the edges. Lightly crimp drizzle melted butter & sprinkle with sugar & cinnamon. Bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Enjoy!

Need more diversity in your pie?

Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!

(**eeks! Not certain why this poem make it into the bedtime repertoire of so many children.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Buzzing about Kale


I'm not exactly sure why it took so long for this veggie to regain popularity.  Kind of like the tall girl in the back of the dance class, kale hardly had a second glance for a very long time.  In the past 18 months I've heard a great deal of buzz about kale. Not to detract but this modest member of the vegetable kingdom needs more than a second glance almost as much as .....Bacon! (don't hate about the bacon note but seriously can we shift gears for a moment here? Enough foodie talk about bacon...besides what hasn't been written about bacon recently? ) 

I've always been a proponent of greens in all textures & varieties. At times I am certain my family has been rather skeptical at one more dish of anything of the "green" variety.  In the past 2 years it seems like foodies everywhere are singing the praises of kale & chard. In the United Kingdom kale was widely popular during World War II because of the ease which it was grown in Victory gardens & the nutritious benefits the greens added to the wartime rationed diets.  kale has 192 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin c as well as minerals like iron, niacin, potassium and phosphorus. Not loaded with nitrates & fat, kale is low in calories & good for us too.  Many folks out there are touting the anti-cancer agents found in Kale. When I first heard about Kale Chips I couldn't imagine baking kale & having it keep any flavor.  I was impressed by the time I saw Giada de Laurentiis turn kale into a crispy side dish although it might be considered an appetizer.  Served with a side of the lemony mayonnaise & I could be in heaven in less time than it takes to toss on the olive oil & throw a serving of kale in the oven. Giada has a genius for knowing her audience & somehow tossing sea salt over the EVOO enhances kale making it perfection.  The big taste test came when the kale chips were brought to the table & my husband started raving about them.  A real hit for certain.  Recently, I've also been rather enamored with Whole Foods selection of Kale Salads.  Check here for a modest recreation or twist on my own Kale Salad which is also posted on the lunch box blog here:

Potato & Kale Chips
3 large Kale leaves
Extra Virgin Olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 (8-ounce) medium white potatoes, unpeeled
* 1 (8-ounce) medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled


* 1 cup mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 a large lemon)
* 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1/2 a large lemon)
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chips: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the thick stem from the kale and discard. Cut the leaves into 2 to 3-inch pieces. Put them in a bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss well. Arrange the kale in a single layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until crispy and slightly dark on the edges. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Using a mandoline slicer or a sharp knife, slice the white potatoes and the sweet potatoes into 1/8-inch thick slices. Put them in a bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss well. Arrange in a single layer (without overlapping) on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes. Turn the slices over and continue to bake, checking every 2 minutes until brown and crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes longer. Season the chips with salt and pepper, to taste.

Mayonnaise: In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer all the chips to a large bowl and serve with the mayonnaise.

Cook's Note 1: Some potato chips will cook faster than others. Remove the chips from the baking sheets as soon as they become brown and crispy.

Savory Kale Salad
Cook's Note 2: The recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Soup weather takes me to North Africa

In a very literal way I've been away for far too long.  I've taken many weeks away from blogging to take care of family business, say some tearful goodbyes. Through all of that I continued cooking those comfort foods which make those near and dear feel warm, loved and special.  Okay..... not all of those meals were for others but you get the idea!  Some of those meals were at the end of very long days when we were lucky to be eating a meal at all. We've all had those days.  I was so happy on those days to come home to a meal in my Crock Pot.  A  new favorite soup for me is Hlelem, it's a Tunisian bean & vegetable soup.  The word Hlelem actually comes from the hand rolled pasta which is found in this soup in from North Africa in Tunisia. I used Spanish Fideo which is easily found in the states the Latin section of most grocery stores. I did make a few changes to this recipe but found it to be a healthy & comforting soup. We've all had long stretches of cold days this winter & warm soup is a good go-to for me. I've dreamed of hoping a plane for a warmer destination more than once.  I might be dreaming of Africa or the South Pacific on those days but I will still put a south of the border spin on a soup like this by kicking the spices up a notch.  I have utilized this cookbook many times in the last few months.  "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker" cookbook.  by Beth Hensperger. I can recommend many of the recipes & always am looking for ways to shorten time in the kitchen on a long work day. 
1-15.5 oz can garbanzo beans, undrained
1-15.5 oz can butter beans, undrained
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves + 1 rib chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup fideo or crushed angel hair pasta
1 bunch green swiss chard leaves & stems, leaves shredded & stems chopped
1 to 2 tbsp Harissa
2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
lime wedges for serving.

Place garbanzos & butter beans with their liquid, celery leaves, parsley, tomato paste & broth in slow cooker, stir to combine. Cover & turn the setting to low. 

In a small skillet heat the olive oil over med heat.  Add the onion, celery & cook, stirring a few times until softened about 5 min. Add to the cooker, cover & cook on low for 4-5 hours. 

Stir in pasta, then pack in swiss chard; it will cook down. Cover & cook until the pasta 7 chard stems are tender to the bite, 30 minutes to 1 hour longer on low or 10 to 15 min. on high. Stir in Harissa & season with salt & pepper.  Serve hot with lime wedges.  I enjoy the flavor of lime over the traditional lemon for the flavor. 

Beth Hensperger has a recipe for Harissa however I found it in a can recently after a friend of mine showed me where to find this traditional North African ingredient in a local Halal meat shop.  She actually took some to my daughter for a house warming gift.  It is a very spicy version of a tomato paste. 

**While I loved this my husband did feel his was in dire need of "meat". Obviously this defeats the purpose of a "Meatless Monday" meal but to each his own.  It was actually quite tasty with some shredded roast & in my opinion would be good with lamb in it as well.