A few days ago, I got a text from our friend, Natalia. Natalia is a dear friend of ours who has a voice like honey, is sharp as an icicle (the sharpest thing my mid-winter brain could come up with), and has a knack for coming up with great food combinations, which she photographs, as you do, and sends to her foodie friend, as you do. She also likes to say, “as you do”, as I just did. This most recent text was an image of a citrus salad, built around grapefruit from her recent trip to Arizona. She added watercress, avocado, goat cheese, a lemon vinaigrette, and spicy salted pepitas. The text was a great reminder that citrus is in season, even if my brain has a difficult time wrapping around the idea that there is anywhere on this earth that isn’t covered in several feet of snow and a blanket of clouds.
Do you ever make something so delicious that you can’t wait to spread the news but wind up with lousy photos of the outcome? That’s what happened with my chilaquiles. But they were so enjoyable to eat and as much fun to say once I learned to pronounce the word (say it: chee/lah/KEE/lehs) that I just couldn’t keep it to myself forever, regardless of my poorly lit photo documentation.
I made this dish for my brother and sister when they stopped in for a rest on their drive back home from a road trip to Texas. My brother regaled us with stories of the interesting towns they visited and people they met including the Mexican songster who keeps a tin can on the US side of the border then sits across the river to serenade passersby, coaxing them to drop a coin in the tin. Or the little girl who twisted colored wires into a peacock for my brother to bring to us as a souvenir. My sister mostly just enjoyed a little bit of space after being stuck in a van with my brother for two weeks. Ah, siblings.
I don’t travel much these days but hearing my brother’s stories and seeing his photos helped me to see a glimpse into another world and made me long to travel. It’s so easy to forget that we are all just such a tiny part of such a big world. I listen to state and national news every day and feel like I know what’s going on but all I really hear are a finely curated selection of stories. Traveling forces you out of your sliver of the world and into the lives of others. It forces connection. I get so wrapped up in going through the motions to make sure I meet all of my responsibilities at home and at work that I forget that everyone else in the great beyond is doing the same thing…just trying to navigate this world, find happiness, and make sure their basic needs are met. We are all looking for connection, for similarities, for synergy. We are all looking for someone to look inside and understand us and love us for who we are. When I remind myself of that, I feel so much more connected, a whole lot more tolerant, and a little bit silly for being so focused on my teeny corner of this world.
Back to chilaquiles…one thing that helps me to feel more connected is trying new dishes from places I’d like to visit. While I couldn’t drop everything and go on a road trip to Texas, as much as I’d have liked to, I could try a new recipe that would transport me there in my imagination.
A few notes: first, the sauce is a touch spicy so adjust accordingly. Second, the sauce recipe makes a fair amount so plan on using the leftovers for round two of this great dish. Third, there are more chilaquile recipes than can be counted. Different regions and even different families have their own recipes for chilaquiles. If this recipe doesn’t do it for you, try with tomatillo sauce or a mole sauce instead or pour the sauce on at the end, keeping the tortillas crispy for a nacho-esque dish instead. This recipe is from Bon Appetit (apart from the method for the tortilla chips) and is an excellent choice for your first go-round with chilaquiles.
And finally, you may use bagged tortilla chips for this recipe but if you don’t have any on hand, making your own tortilla chips is easy, satisfying, and makes for a heartier dish with a little less salt (this is also an excellent way to use up stale tortillas). We always have tortillas on hand but don’t often have snack foods so it’s nice to have the homemade tortilla trick up my sleeve when the need arises. See below for a few photos of the process. Very easy and very worth it!
- 7 dried guajillo or New Mexico chiles
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
- 1 medium white onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 jalapeño, with seeds, chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked or Hungarian sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- Olive or vegetable oil to brush tortillas.
- 9 6-inch corn tortillas or 36 large tortilla chips
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco or mild feta
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar
- 4 large eggs
- Finely chopped white onion
- Thinly sliced radishes
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Red Chile Sauce: Place chiles in a medium bowl; cover with 2 cups boiling water. Let chiles soak until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Discard stems and seeds; place chiles in a blender. Add tomatoes, next 4 ingredients, and 1 cup reserved soaking liquid; purée until smooth.
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add purée (it will splatter) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes (add more reserved soaking liquid if too thick). Stir in honey and season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before using.
- Tortilla Chips: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a pastry brush, brush one side of each corn tortilla with a light layer of olive oil. Stack one on top of the other with oil side up - the un-oiled side will become oiled from the tortilla it is set upon. Cut the stacked tortillas into 8 wedges. Place tortilla pieces on a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned.
- Preheat broiler. Toss chips and 1 cup sauce in a large bowl. Transfer half of chips to a large ovenproof platter or skillet. Scatter half of cheeses over chips. Top with remaining chips and cheeses, along with 1/2 cup more sauce. Broil until cheese is golden and melted, 4–5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour oil into a nonstick skillet to lightly coat. Heat over medium heat. Add eggs and fry until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes.
- Top chilaquiles with chopped onion, radishes, cilantro, and lime wedges. Top with fried eggs and serve with remaining sauce alongside.
My husband makes our 16 month old son sweet potato fries regularly for an afternoon snack and he gobbles them up faster than you can say hot potato. So when I was at the health food store the other day and saw Okinawan purple sweet potatoes and Japanese white sweet potatoes, I had to get them for an extra special, healthy, and colorful treat. Continue reading
When I was pregnant and shortly after I had my son fifteen months ago, I received a great deal of advice. Some of the advice was game changing, like the advice to get an Ergobaby carrier so I could “wear him down” to sleep while still getting some things done. Some of the advice clearly works for some babies but not mine…like the advice to put River in his crib and allow him to soothe himself to sleep. Let me just say that after many, many, many attempts and variations, he wants nothing to do with that business (and who would, when they can fall asleep with their head on mama’s warm chest, listening to the thump thump of her heart?). And some of the advice was just plain weird, like the time I was told by a well-meaning stranger at a concert that I should take a washcloth and rub vigorously to “toughen up my nipples” before I had my son. Seriously. A stranger told me that. I can’t make this stuff up.
Two pieces of advice that have been truly invaluable during this time have been 1) to take care of myself and 2) to embrace routine. Both are often easier said than done but over time I have found some great ways to streamline my day and make sure my basic needs are met so I can be a good caregiver and worker. As a food lover and still-nursing and pumping mom, that means making sure that I have snacks and lunches prepped and packed for the week every Sunday. I’m all about making one big batch of snacks and lunches to last through the weekdays. Freezable dishes? Even better. This recipe for granola bars provides me with a healthy snack that is easy to make ahead of time, easy to pack, provides a great boost of energy, and is freezable. A super food.
When I started out on my task of creating a granola bar recipe, several recipes I encountered online required baking the bars. I found that it was very difficult to get a consistent end result that was not dry or too chewy. After much tweaking and taste testing, this granola bar recipe is the result of my efforts. It requires roasting the grains and nuts ahead of time to add flavor without drying or hardening the bar. After the grains and nuts are roasted, it only takes a few moments to stir the dry and wet ingredients and to pat them in the pan to set. Easy. Delicious. Cheaper than a Kind bar. My favorite granola bar yet. I hope you love it too.
Have a sweet tooth? These granola bars are naturally sweet from the brown rice syrup and touch of honey. Still hankering? To turn this into more of a dessert granola bar, add a handful of dark chocolate chips to the mix. You won’t regret it!
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup puffed millet (optional – you can use another cup of rolled oats if you don’t have puffed millet)
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
- 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 2.5 cups dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries, etc.
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (I like to use crunchy)
- 2/3 cup brown rice syrup (I buy at iHerb.com)
- Put the oats, millet, almonds, and pumpkin seeds on a large sheet pan. Spread to distribute evenly. Roast at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes until crispy but not browned.
- Meanwhile, heat the honey, peanut butter, and brown rice syrup on low in a saucepan. Heat just enough to easily be able to mix the peanut butter with the sweetener.
- Put the dried fruit into a large bowl. Add the roasted grains and nuts and mix. Pour the liquid mixture onto the dry mixture and stir well to combine.
- Pour the mixture onto a sheet pan or a 9x13 baking pan lined with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the pan hard enough to ensure the mixture will adhere and be able to be cut into bars. I recommend using a flat bottomed measuring cup or bowl to press the mixture into the pan!
- Place the pan into the fridge to cool off for an hour.
- Cut the bars into squares or rectangles.
- These also freeze very well so you may freeze any extras you have.
- Makes about 24 bars.
Ummm….hi. It’s been a while. A looong while. In August I thought I was going to get back in the swing of blogging and it just never happened. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking…but while I was pregnant my priorities shifted. First, the focus shifted to just getting food in my mouth, not pausing to take a photo and write a recipe. As I neared the end of my pregnancy, my focus shifted to making large batches of soups, stews, and easy-to-freeze dishes like manicotti to get me through the early weeks of motherhood. We were also in the midst of frantically working on a major home project…the baby’s room. What started with a simple home improvement project (putting down new flooring and painting the walls) ended up turning into a major project, replacing windows, tearing the room down to the studs, and working on the roof.
My work life became very busy as I worked toward having a couple of months off of leave. And when it came down to it, my blog fell by the wayside. After all, the most important thing I had to cook was this little guy. River Wilder Nelson was born four weeks ago and my life has become consumed with feeding, diapering, and staring at my sweet baby. Can you blame me?
I’m just now getting my bearings enough to consider blogging again. Let’s hope this time it sticks…
As a way to cope with all of the busyness and life changes, I have become a very practical cook in recent months. This recipe I’m about to share is about as practical as it gets. It is my take on one of Cooking Light’s most popular dishes, Toasted Guajillo and Pork Posole. It’s a great way to use up Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and can easily be adapted if you have leftover pork or chicken. It’s a refreshing change after eating turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes until they come out of your ears. Not to mention, it’s very budget friendly and healthy to boot.
I flavor my posole with toasted guajillo salsa, which has been a staple in my house for the last several months. It is SO good. We use it as a flavor booster in soups, as a salsa with chips, on top of tacos and enchiladas, and with my baked eggs with kale and mushroom skillet on weekend mornings. It freezes well so I make a double batch. I’m even thinking about giving it away at Christmas with a jar of tomatillo salsa (red and green for Christmas!). So I highly recommend you make a batch and use some of it in this posole. If you aren’t into making some of this salsa, see my note at the bottom of the recipe for another way to use chiles in this recipe.
Treat this like chili when thinking choosing your toppings. I like radishes, cilantro, sour cream, and avocado on mine. Crumbled tortilla chips are also a nice addition. Whatever you like! I hope you enjoy. It’s good to be back!
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 1 pound leftover turkey, chicken, or pork, cut or torn in 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 tbsp toasted guajillo chili salsa (recipe here) or see note below
- 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
- 1 (29-ounce) can hominy, rinsed and drained
- Add oil to dutch oven/large soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion to pot and stir frequently for five minutes, until onions and garlic are softened and lightly browned.
- Add half of the broth, cumin, cloves, salt, and pepper.
- Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, pour contents into a blender and blend until smooth, then pour back into the pot.
- Add remaining chicken stock and water.
- Add guajillo chili salsa and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce; reserve the chipotle chiles from can and remaining sauce for another use (I freeze mine in small quantities).
- Stir in hominy and turkey, chicken, or pork.
- Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- *Note: If you don't feel up for making a batch of guajillo chili salsa, you can use the following method: put 3 chiles on a baking sheet, bake at 400° for 4 minutes or until dark. Cool; remove stems and seeds. Place in a blender with 1 cup of liquid from soup pot and puree. Add to soup.
Order up! Many years ago, when I was in college, I worked at a vegetarian restaurant called Gaia Cafe. The restaurant is still open after almost 30 years, and the menu has changed very little over the years. When you have a good thing, why change it? It’s one of my favorite places for breakfast or lunch, with a cozy, eccentric vibe and self serve, fair trade, and strongly brewed coffee so you never have to wait for your server to deliver your morning buzz. If I didn’t cook all the time at home, I’d be a regular at Gaia–I sure do miss my almost daily meals there from my four years of serving. Continue reading
Fasten your seatbelts, folks. It’s going to be a long post. You can skip to the bottom for the recipe if you want, I won’t be offended. But if you do, before you do, here are the Cliff’s Notes: ramblings on Christmas fun, Happy New Year(!), shame, perfectionism, joy, life lessons, resolutions or goals, and how I came to make these sweet potato, green chili, cheese tamales with tomatillo salsa. Okay–you are excused. See ya at the bottom for the recipe!
Alright, diehards, here it goes.
I am getting back to reality after a week of relaxing, both at home in Grand Rapids and in the Upper Peninsula, where I grew up. We spent the last week reading (Joseph Heywood’s Wood Cops series is awesome!), snowshoeing (new snowshoes for Christmas!), walking around historic downtown Marquette (we had a night at the historic Landmark Inn–what a treat!), and hiking to see some beautiful ice caves about twenty minutes from where I grew up. I haven’t been to the ice caves as an adult and I feel truly blessed that I have someone who I can enjoy doing things with and that he digs checking out giant frozen icicles and other wonders of nature with his Yooper gal. I’m still bewildered that someone could enjoy the same things I enjoy as much as I do myself.
Soup season has arrived, folks. You’ll be seeing many soups posted on this blog over the next several months, a testimony to my efforts to survive another cold and dark Michigan winter. The leaves on the trees are nearly gone (please hang on while I wipe the tear that is rolling down my cheek…sniffle), the lawn furniture looks eerily out of place and begs to be put away, Halloween is over and talk of the holidays creeps into conversation. We’ve already got a game plan for Thanksgiving dinner (my first time hosting!) and my mind is focused on developing recipes for healthy Thanksgiving sides for my next cooking class. The sun sets at around five o’clock and I’m still considering bucking the trend and ignoring daylight savings time (who’s with me?). The space heater is fully broken in and we are ready to hunker down under afghans for the next five months. For those of you who do not live in a similar climate, this is serious stuff, folks. A true test of resilience or sisu, as my mom would say. Sisu is the Finnish word for strength in the face of adversity…my mom would say, “you’ve got sisu, girl!”
It is fall in my neck of the woods and I am so very happy about it! I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible. That means a walk in the woods at the Blandford Nature Center today. Being outside in the woods with sunshine filtering through the orange and yellow leaves was so good for my soul. Continue reading
Wow wow wow….this summer is flying by! July is drawing to a close and I have barely caught my breath. But it’s been such a good summer…I dare say the it may be best I’ve had. I’ve gone for many summer walks, the temperatures have been wonderful other than one intense week of 90’s, my pears are growing like crazy on the tree in my yard, we’ve gone trout fishing (catch and release) in some gorgeous Michigan rivers, and we have had some wonderful dinners with friends. It’s pretty magical to sit outside on the patio until the sky is dark and the fireflies come out.
It has been a summer of music! We’ve taken the ferry to Manitowac, WI for Acoustic Fest (photos above!) and enjoyed Buttermilk Jamboree, NorEaster Festival, and Roots on the River. I have met so many incredible people at these festivals and feel so invigorated by these new friendships.
My work has begun to feel more routine and I really enjoy getting to know my coworkers. I’ve flown around on the corporate plane doing research in stores in Indianapolis, Michigan, and Ohio and feel like I’m making a difference for a company I believe in. Yes, things are turning up.
I’m really excited to share the good news that Grand Rapids Magazine plans to publish an article about me in their October issue this year. I’ve been interviewed for content and in two days a great local photographer is going to do a photo shoot with me! I can’t tell you how excited I am! I’ve never had a photo shoot before! Wish me luck!
A couple of weeks ago, I whipped up this quinoa salad after having one at our friend’s camp, the Tosebo Camp For Boys, over the fourth of July weekend. The salad is very healthy and has the perfect combination of textures and flavors; crunchy, soft, sweet, and spicy. It was the perfect meal for hot days when I stayed far, far away from the stove. This is a great dish for potlucks, one dish dinners, and lunch and is easily adaptable to your taste preferences. Enjoy!
Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Beans, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing; Serves 4-6
- 1 cup multi-colored quinoa (red, black, white)–or any color
- 2 cups water
- 1.5 cups black beans (I cook my own but you can use canned)
- 1.5 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
- 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green onion, chopped (or you may use red onion, finely diced)
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar
- 1/2 avocado, cubed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Put quinoa and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately turn down to a low simmer and cover. Simmer the quinoa in the water until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. I’d check it as it cooks–sometimes I feel that the water absorbs better than other times and I’ve burnt it from time to time!
- Mix the quinoa, black beans, corn, red pepper, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl.
- Mix the oil, lime juice, chipotle, adobo sauce, cumin, agave nectar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Serve topped with more cilantro and cubed avocado.