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.
An old Ukranian proverb forewarns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.” As a big beet fan, I’d like to think that a tale that begins with a beet will end with deliciousness.
My cooking style has changed considerably since my baby boy arrived in November. Meals are simple, quick, freezable, and lunch-packable. Sundays are filled with food prep to make the work-and-baby-filled weeks a little easier. This Sunday I prepped muesli for breakfasts, grains, tofu, and greens for lunches, and snacks for the whole week. As a nursing mom, I need to make sure I’m eating small, healthy snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and hummus is a clear winner. Hummus is packed with protein and fiber, easy to make, and endlessly versatile (spread on crackers or in a sandwich, use as a dip with carrot sticks or sugar snap peas or put a dollop on a grain salad). Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with a basic hummus recipe but last month’s Cooking Light magazine inspired me to get a little crazy with my hummus and the results were great. Continue reading
Happy New Year! I just got done filing almost a year’s worth of paperwork (ahem…I sheepishly admit that last year’s resolution to stay on top of my filing didn’t stick for more than a couple of months….sigh…what do you do?). I feel accomplished and proud for the moment. That feeling will last only briefly, until the baby cries, , my hair stays wet, the laundry that needs folding piles up at the end of the bed, and I realize that I haven’t eaten in six hours. As I stand over the counter scraping avocado out of the shell with a cracker while bouncing just so to quiet the little one, I’m sure the elation of my paperwork success will feel like a distant memory. But hey, I’ll take it while I can get it. Continue reading
Happy Labor Day Weekend! It’s been a while, folks. And I’m sorry for that. But let me explain. In the last three months we have bought a house, sold a house, become a married couple, gone to Alaska on a honeymoon, and started to tackle a lifetime of projects on the 1870 farmhouse we moved to. And through it all, my belly has grown bigger and bigger (and along with it my emotions) as we prepare for the arrival of our first little one at the beginning of November. If I tried to take on anything else, I think you could just assume I’ve gone clinically insane.
And through it all, meals must be made and eaten, day in and day out. In fact, I’ve eaten a lot more and a lot more frequently as the months of pregnancy pass. But have I been stopping to snap photos, write recipes, and post about it? Not so much. When you have to eat every couple of hours, planning for, preparing, and packing food can start to feel like a chore rather than a passion.
Every once in a while though, I come across a dish that just hits all the cravings just right. This dish is one of them. Juicy watermelon, tangy feta, cooling cucumber, and peppery arugula drizzled with lime, honey, and vinegar. Sounds weird, right? Trust me on this one, take hold of the last bits of summer, and enjoy this salad.
If you are looking for last minute inspiration for salads to add to your Labor Day picnics, check out Cooking Light Magazine’s List of Great Summer Salads. In addition to their own version of watermelon and cucumber salad, you’ll find 35 other beautiful, simple salads to fill your picnic table and lighten your barbecue.
Ahhhh…it’s good to be back.
- 1/3 small seedless watermelon (about 6-8 cups), cut into ½ to 1 inch cubes
- 2 small Kirby, English, or other small cucumber with tender skin
- A few handfuls of arugula
- ¼ cup of basil, rolled up and sliced into skinny shreds
- A few pinches of coarse sea salt
- Juice of one lime
- 8 ounces of feta cheese, divided
- 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar (optional)
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- Add cubed watermelon to a large bowl and gently mix in all ingredients through lime juice. Gently toss with half of the feta and crumble the rest on top.
- If adding white balsamic vinegar and honey, mix the two together with a fork or tiny whisk before drizzling on salad.
- Serve immediately! This salad, like many salads, do not hold up well overnight in the fridge.
Happy spring….errrrr….whatever it is. Today is March 25 and we had whiteout conditions for parts of the day. Nevertheless, I have some faith, due to thirty two years of walking this earth, that one day soon the sun will shine, the snow will melt, the crocuses and daffodils will force their way through the thawing ground, and it will be spring at last. Continue reading
What a lovely weekend. First off, I got to stay home for most of the weekend, a rarity these days. The sun came out bright and shiny on Sunday. We got to enjoy Sunday morning in bed listening to our BBC Radio Drama, The Archers, and eating migas breakfast tacos (one of the most perfect breakfasts EVER). But the best thing about this weekend was that we hosted our very first house concert/potluck ever with the remarkable Michigan artist, Joshua Davis. Continue reading
I have a interesting quality that I haven’t mentioned on my blog up to this point. I guess I haven’t mentioned it because it’s something I’ve always had so don’t think about it often. But Drew mentions it to friends from time to time and I feel a bit like a carnival act. I have a memory like an elephant when it comes to food. The meal we ate on our first date? Ancho lentil tacos, barramundi cod tacos, a tea, and a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. Our meal at the Vierling Tavern? Cajun Blackened Lake Superior White Fish with wild rice pilaf and green beans, finished off with a piece of key lime pie. My birthday meal four years ago? Cedar planked salmon vesuvio. Anyway, you get the point. I remember my meals. The good and the bad.
In the summer of 2006, I had recently begun subscribing to Cooking Light Magazine. One of the first recipes I dog eared and cooked was this golden beet salad. I made it for my packed lunch to eat during a work day on my summer gardening job. That summer I was home from graduate school and was working with my friend, June Moon, in the gardens she designed and maintains around town. That day, we sat at the patio table near the pool at a client’s house (my favorite part of his place was the English garden June had designed for his wife before she passed) and enjoyed this salad. I remember that moment every time I eat this salad. I remember the feeling of friendship. I remember the hot summer day and dipping our feet in the pool to cool off. I remember the feeling of working hard and looking forward to the best part of the day; taking a break to put our feet up and share lunch with a dear friend. I’m grateful for such a good food memory because it is so often tied to memories of where I was, who I was with, and how I was feeling at the moment.
Cooking Light’s recipe for this salad calls for roasting the beets and I can attest that it is a delicious way to prepare the beets–they develop a depth and sweetness that other methods don’t draw out. But when I’m in a bit more of a rush, I opt to boil the beets until just-tender. It takes less time and still yields great results. I also add copious amounts of chopped dill (adding some chopped fresh mint to the mix tastes great too!) because I love it.
Be careful when toasting the pine nuts. It is easy to go from toasted to burned before you know it!
For Cooking Light’s original recipe, click here!
- 3 large golden beets
- 3/4 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion (about 1 small)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Scrub beets with vegetable scrub brush. Cut off any “hairs” growing out of the beets. Cut off tops of beets and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch slices.
- Place slices into a pot and cover with water. Salt water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- When tender (but not mushy!), drain and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly. Combine beets, onion, and remaining ingredients in a bowl, stirring gently.
- This also tastes quite nice with some crumbled goat cheese or served on top of some quinoa or rice as a more substantial dish.