Tag Archives: Mexican

VegWeek Day 5, Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice & Beans

29 Sep

“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”

VegWeek_2011Welcome to Day 5 of VegWeek – we’re almost to the end! There are a number of great documentaries out on the state of our food system, and if you have Netflix, many of these are available on-demand. There’s a new documentary that just came out this year, called Forks Over Knives. It promotes a vegan diet from the health perspective. As I mentioned on Monday, health concerns are one of the reasons many people opt to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet.


Meat-eating has been linked to a plethora of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. According to the film’s stats, a person is killed by heart disease every minute in the United States, and 1500 a day die from cancer – over one million combined a year. A third of people born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Forks Over Knives tells the story of two doctors, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., whose independent research ultimately brought them to the same conclusion: the simple prescription of a whole foods, plant-based diet could reverse the leading causes of death in the world today. Specifically, this diet includes whole, minimally refined fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and avoidance of animal-based foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as processed foods like bleached flour, refined sugars, and oil.

The film details the history of the American diet and shows how the rise in processed foods and meat consumption directly correlated with a rise in heart disease and cancer. These findings were common throughout the world, in places where the American diet is new, as well as places where meats and dairy have been scarce for a time due to war and poverty. When the meat is gone, disease decreases. When it’s back, disease is on the rise.

To further explore this idea, Dr. Campbell conducted a test with rats, to see how they responded to casein, the main protein in dairy products. The rats’ intake of casein was adjusted between of 5% and 20% of overall diet – the increase our culture has seen – at three-week intervals. Rates of cancer followed this single change, down and up and down again. “This was so provocative, this information,” says Campbell. “We could turn on and off cancer growth just by adjusting the level of that protein.”

There’s so much more valuable information in this documentary, but you’ll have to watch it to learn the rest. I hope you will. Do your research – decide for yourself.

Everyone knows the old adage, “you are what you eat.” If I think of myself being a cow or a chicken or a goat, that might not be so bad. There’s kind of a cool, reincarnationey feeling about it. When I think of myself being a frightened, abused, diseased cow or chicken or goat, it gets a bit harder to stomach. But then, think of this – you are what you eat and everything that you ate, ate. What comes to mind when you think about grazing cattle? Grass, bugs… dandelions? How about feathers, hair, skin, hooves, and blood? Manure? Plastic? All these and more get digested by factory farmed animals and show up in their meat. Chew on that next time you’re craving a burger. [Source: Union of Concerned Scientists]

you are what you eatAnother problem with our diet is the cost of food. Fast food is cheap, loaded with instantly gratifying flavor including massive amounts of sodium, which we’ve our palates adjust to, and, well – it’s fast. Convenient. Logical… There is a distinct correlation between obesity and economic status. But education and awareness could be factors, too. Here is a great article to debunk this commonly held, woe-to-us idea. Food for thought, if you will.
New York Times: Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

Still not convinced? Eat a vegan diet and you, too, can be buff!

Vegan bodybuilders Derek Tresize and Robert Cheeke debunking the myth about plant foods and building muscle. Image via Forks Over Knives.

Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is a humble, staple kind of dish, but I never thought to make it until I caught a quick glimpse of the hottie firemen in Forks Over Knives making it. I love jasmine rice and black beans, and had a host of great companion veggies on-hand, so I decided to try it.

Rip EsselstynHonestly, though, this guy could convince me to eat almost anything.

I love how versatile this dish is, and that it’s a one-dish meal. It’s perfect for workweek lunches. Last week, I made my rice and beans with garlic, red onion, bell pepper, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

rice & beans

This week, I decided to try out some “El Burrito Soyrizo.” (Man, I love the name! Had to buy it.) Veggies included were shallot, bell pepper, tomatillo, tomato, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

soyrizo rice & beans

My preparation from the first night is below. But go ahead and experiment with this dish, and whatever veggies you have. Olives? Jalapenos? Spices? Vegan cheese crumbles? The sky is the limit!

1 cup jasmine or other rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 (14 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as safflower
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, sliced into cubes and scooped
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Prepare rice according to package directions. Saute garlic until just lightly browned, then add in onion and bell pepper. Cook until slightly softened, between 5 and 10 minutes, then add black beans and rice to warm through. Garnish with lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.


Post-Thanksgiving turkey enchiladas

27 Nov

Friday turkey enchiladas are a tradition in my family. I look forward to them almost as much as the Thanksgiving meal itself. This is a quick and easy way to use up your leftovers, and a change of pace from the classic holiday flavors. Of course, in Santa Maria, Mexican food is the classic taste all year ’round!

To start, thinly slice or shred your leftover turkey, white or dark meat, whichever you prefer. We use the breast meat for this.


In the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish, spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce. You can use corn or flour tortillas, but corn are traditional. My mom has found that warming the tortillas makes them more malleable; you can do this over an open flame or on a pre-warmed skillet, just until the edges soften.

olives, chilis, enchilada sauce(The most cans you will ever see assembled together on this blog. I promise.)

Then, pile turkey, sliced black olives, green chilies and Mexican blend shredded cheese in the center of each tortilla.

tortilla(Who didn’t grow up with Corel dishware?)

Be sure to leave yourself enough tortilla to roll it, and place the roll, seam-side down, into the sauced 9×13 pan. Continue rolling enchiladas and stacking them side-by-side until you have filled the pan. The corn tortillas are about 8″ in diameter, and we usually get about 12-14 enchiladas in the pan.


Cover each enchilada with sauce, making sure no tortilla is exposed. This advice comes from the experience of biting into tough, chewy tortilla that was not covered in sauce… so trust us on this one!


Then cover the entire pan with shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Served here with refried black beans, tortilla chips from the best Mexican restaurant in town, and quinoa.

post-Thanksgiving Mexican feast(I’m not posting this quinoa recipe because it wasn’t great. But try this one: Spanish-style quinoa. Add a little S&P. Yummy.)

Margarita Fish Soft Tacos

5 Apr

After the completely gluttonous past two days, we decided to go with something lighter for dinner last night, so I pulled out Rachael Ray’s Margarita fish soft tacos. I have historically hated fish, so this recipe is not only light, but also somewhat adventurous for me. I’ve established that I like tilapia (or “crap fish,” as my friend calls it, because it has no taste), but mahi mahi I wasn’t sure about. I’ve heard that it is one of the more “neutral” fish for people who don’t like fish. In this recipe, it’s also masked by a ton of spices and a homemade salsa, so it can’t be too bad, right?

I bought frozen mahi mahi at Trader Joe’s for this venture. So first, the marinade. Tequila, lime zest and lime juice, vegetable oil, Old Bay seasoning and chili powder. Mix and let the fish chill out for a while.

Next, prepare the salsa. I made half the portion of RR’s original recipe, based on reviews that said it was way too much for the portion of fish. But some ingredients I decided not to half, like the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Those will be sauteed first. Next, add in 5 chopped tomatillos and cook until all have softened.

Add to this cumin, salt and pepper, then toss veggies into a food processor along with the juice and zest from half a lemon, a teaspoon of honey and half a ripe avocado. Pulse into the texture resembles a thick salsa. Then set aside to cool – the flavors come out stronger as it cools.

Next, cook the mahi mahi. RR recommends using an outdoor grill, but we used a skillet on the stove and it was fine. Cook the fish for about three minutes on each side. Meanwhile, char corn or flour tortillas over an open flame on the stove, or heat in a dry skillet.

Serve inside a tortilla and top fish with salsa and shredded cabbage. Serve, savor, enjoy.

*A note about the salsa. It’s a very mild, cool, refreshing salsa. This would be a nice dish on a hot summer day. If you’d like a spicier salsa, I’d recommend not seeding the jalapeno. You might even use two jalapenos, or add some kind of Tabasco or chili sauce.

2 ounces tequila
1 lime, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (recommended: Old Bay – recipe follows*)
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 (6-8 oz) portions mahi mahi or halibut fillets
1 small to medium red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 tomatillos, peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 ripe avocado, halved, seeded and flesh removed
Cooking spray
8 soft flour tortillas
1/2 small white or red cabbage, shredded

In a small bowl, combine the tequila with the lime zest and juice, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, seafood seasoning, and chili powder. Coat the fish in the dressing.

Heat medium skillet with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, jalapeno and garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes or until the mixture begins to soften, then add the coarsely chopped tomatillos. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in the cumin. Cook until the tomatillos soften, about 6 to 7 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Carefully add the sauce to a food processor with the lemon zest and juice, honey and avocado. Process until it becomes a thick salsa. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.

Heat an outdoor grill or skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add the fish and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Char the soft tacos over an open flame on a stove burner or grill to soften and char. Serve the fish with tortillas alongside and top the fish with cabbage and salsa as you eat.

*A note on Old Bay Seasoning: I had a hard time finding it in the store. If you also have trouble, or just plain don’t feel like adding another spice mix to your pantry (I wouldn’t blame you!), you can make your own with this recipe.

1 tablespoon ground bay leaves
2 teaspoons celery salt
1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container and store in a cool place. Use with seafood or chicken. Makes about 1/4 cup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup, Berries with Cardamom Cream

3 Apr

Today a friend came over for lunch, and since the weather has cooled down again this week, I figured it was the perfect time for a soup. I’m generally not that much of a soup eater, but chicken tortilla is my favorite soup of all time. I order it almost any time I can find it on a menu. Strangely, I’ve never made it before. Today I made Tyler Florence’s recipe, but with a few modifications that sounded good from reviewers.

First, you cook down diced onion, tomato, jalapeno and garlic until it gets “pulpy.”

Then you’ll add in chicken stock, lime juice, corn and beans along with salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder. (Mr. Florence’s original recipe included a recipe for making your own chicken stock, which alas I didn’t do, because I am too lazy. But check the link above if you’re interested.) While all that’s simmering, fry up some tortilla strips. Because what would chicken tortilla soup be without the tortillas?

By the way, this pile-o-chips is huge because the original recipe called for 8 tortillas. That is wayyyy too many. My foodnetwork reviewers failed me on mentioning this. I would half the amount. Also important, let the oil re-heat between batches to ensure that your tortilla strips are nice and crispy.

While the soup is simmering, cook, then shred, a 1-lb chicken breast.  To shred, hold one end of the cooked breast while tearing the other with the tines of a fork along the natural lines of the breast. (I neglected to take a picture of this, but will add one next time I make the soup… which I’m sure will be soon!) I added the chicken into the soup and let it simmer for a while before serving.

To garnish, add tortilla strips, fresh avocado, jack cheese and cilantro.

Verdict: awesome. I only wish I had more. Next time, I will double the recipe.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium white onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
3 ripe medium tomatoes, chopped
1 quart chicken stock
Juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup black beans
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Canola oil, for pan-frying
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
Seasoned salt
1 lb shredded cooked chicken
2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
1 cup shredded Jack cheese
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving

Place a stockpot over medium heat and coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, jalapenos, and tomatoes; cook, stirring for 25 minutes until the vegetables are cooked down and pulpy. Pour in the stock, lime juice, corn and beans. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1-inch of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high flame. When the oil begins to smoke, add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until they are crisp on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined platter and sprinkle with seasoned salt while they are still hot.

Ladle the hot soup into 4 soup bowls and put a pile of shredded chicken on top of each. Top with the diced avocado, fried tortilla strips and cheese. Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.


For dessert I decided to keep it light with some fresh strawberries and blueberries topped with cardamom cream.

Here’s the basic recipe I use for whipped cream. Excellent with raspberries and pound cake as well. YUM.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

You can also use cinnamon if you don’t have or don’t like cardamom. This little something “extra” is what really does it for me. I whip the cream with a hand-held mixer, but I’d recommend using an immersion blender if you have one, it’s much faster.