Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spinach Enchiladas

WE LOVE TEX-MEX,  but it seems that most of our local Mexican Restaurants have moved to more of a California style of Mexican cooking. I suppose it is more on-trend and I understand why. Cal-Mex seems to be lighter with more of a focus on seafood and fresh vegetables, whole beans rather than refried, and lots of cilantro which is an herb I don't enjoy.

The tortillas are another thing. Tex-Mex tacos and enchiladas are made with corn tortillas, whereas the Cal-Mex style uses flour tortillas, another thing I do not enjoy.

We recently went to one of our (formerly) favorite Mexican Restaurants. I ordered spinach enchiladas, which I had enjoyed in this restaurant many times over the years. Imagine my disappointment when the plate presented to me (with the standard warning of: hot!) contained a couple of "spinach roll-ups" with flour tortillas, no sauce, no melted gooey cheese. That was not an enchilada, rather more like a burrito.

We haven't been to that restaurant again--sigh--and I decided to make Spinach Enchiladas at home.

Spinach Enchiladas
1 Tbsp. butter
1 bunch sliced scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. fresh curly spinach, steamed until barely tender, then squeezed dry
1 cup queso blanco (may substitute ricotta or cottage cheese)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded Montrey Jack cheese
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas
18 oz. enchilada sauce

Melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and scallions and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, but not brown. Stir in spinach and cook a few minutes longer. Remove from heat and mix in the queso blanco, sour cream, and 1 cup of the Monterrey Jack.

Warm the tortillas, a few at a time, wrapped in damp paper towels, for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Spoon about 1/4 cup of spinach mixture onto the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 13x9 inch baking dish. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top, and top with the remaining 1 cup of Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Carrot Cupcakes with Pineapple and Golden Raisins topped with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was asked to bring a healthy dessert for a meeting. Is that an oxymoron?

My habit of over thinking things had me wondering. Isn't dessert the final course of a meal? Wouldn't healthy dessert be the quintessential fruit and nuts?

I knew this group wanted a treat, a goody and not a tray of fruit and nuts. I started thinking about my longstanding desire to include at least some nutritional value in the sweets I make--fruit pies, oatmeal cookies, rice pudding, parfaits. (This is not to be confused with celebrations. . .birthday cakes, Christmas cookies).

Personally, I am not a sweetie. Even as a child, I always preferred savory tastes. But I do love to cook and bake. And I love seeing people appreciating my efforts. These cupcakes made the group very happy and that made me happy.

Another way to steer sweets towards a healthier horizon is through portion control; thus the cupcakes rather than an entire cake.

Carrot Cupcakes with Pineapple and Golden Raisins
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 (3 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup finely chopped pineapple
4 eggs, room temperature
3 cups finely shredded carrots (about 6 medium)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup golden raisins

Line 24 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, and the cinnamon. Set aside.

For the filling, in a mixer bowl combine cream cheese and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Beat with and electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in the egg yolk and a pinch of salt. Fold in the pineapple. Set aside.

In another bowl stir together 4 eggs, the carrots, oil, and vanilla.

Add carrot mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in golden raisins.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup. Drop about 1 rounded teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin cup. Spoon the remaining batter over cream cheese mixture in cups.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting and store in refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powder sugar to reach desired spreading consistency.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuna Salad with Cucumber, Cranberries, and Pecans

THE GOOD THING ABOUT LIVING in a tourist town is that we get to live like we are on vacation all the time. The down side is there are entirely too many people in our town. From now until the end of October, we will have trouble finding a place to park in order to dine at our favorite restaurants. We will have to be extra vigilant when driving through town because the tourists, as they gaze around at the beauty and magnificence are apt to blissfully wander into the road.

Today it has rained all day. It is very chilly and foggy. I have a pot of beans simmering and cupcakes baking. As I work in my kitchen, I love staring out the window. The trees are verdant, the mountains are shrouded in mist, and the dogwood blossoms are practically glowing.

Yesterday it was dry and quite warm and I prepared salad for supper.

Ahh, my beautiful life in the mountains. . .

Tuna Salad with Cucumber, Cranberries, and Pecans
(adapted from The Daily Meal)
2 cans (or 10 ounces) tuna
1/2 cup diced cucumber
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Serve as a sandwich spread or on lettuce, garnishing as desired.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Crock Pot Pulled Ham

ADMITTEDLY, WHEN PRESENTING A PLATTER OF PULLED HAM at Easter Brunch, you miss the dramatic effect of a glistening ham perfectly scored into a diamond pattern each of which has been carefully dotted with whole cloves, and basted with the perfect glaze. Or one of those with the pineapple rings and cherries. Even a spiral sliced ham with the perfect slices all fanned out.

Even when served on a beautiful heirloom platter which belonged to my great-grandmother, it still looks like a pile of shredded meat. But don't let its humble appearance fool you, this is the most succulent and flavorful ham I have ever eaten. I think I have a crush on it and my mind has been reeling with leftover possibilities.

And it is ridiculously  easy to cook with only two ingredients--ham and water. You can make some kind of sauce if you wish, but we didn't find that it needed it, being so intensely ham flavored on its on.

This ham is also very economical. We used a bone-in smoked picnic ham which comes in shank or butt halves and found in the regular grocery store.

Crock Pot Pulled Ham
1 bone-in ham which will fit in your crock pot
Water, to come up 1-inch

Place ham, fat side up, in cooker and add water. Cover pot and turn it on low. Let cook 8-10 hours, until easily shredded with a fork.

Even though you start with only a small amount of liquid, more will form in the pot throughout the day. If it does not, lower the heat and add a little more water if necessary.

When done, take it carefully out of the crock pot and place on a large meat board or rimmed platter. Remove the fat and bone then shred the meat using two forks. To keep the shredded meat from drying out, ladle over some of the cooking broth from the pot.

For another menu item, my little 5-year-old assistant helped with another batch of Black Skillet Parker House Rolls. 

We have really been enjoying some little pulled ham sandwiches.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Stacked Tortilla Pie

THE ENTIRE TIME I WAS WORKING OUT yesterday, I was thinking about food. Not that I was hungry; I'd had a good protein packed smoothie before I went to the gym. But I knew I would stop by the grocery store on my way home and I needed to decide what to make for dinner. I wanted something simple and healthful. As I was working on my gluteus maximus, this tortilla pie came to mind.

I have seen variations of this and Rosie Hawthorne's has always appealed to me most. I like that she doesn't cook or saute her vegetables before assembly. Now is the time of year I crave a little crunch in my life after all those winter soups and stews.

 I have always thought Rosie's use of butter and her baking directions sounded just right.

Rosie adds corn to her pie but I don't because Pritchard Parker doesn't want to eat it. Instead, I used two different types of beans--black beans and refried beans.

Stacked Tortilla Pie
(adapted from Kitchens are Monkey Business)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can refried beans
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup sliced pimiento stuffed olives
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monteray Jack cheese
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Extra large whole wheat tortillas
Ground cumin and cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a sheet pan.

Mix together the black beans, onion, bell pepper, tomato, and olives.

Spread refried beans on one tortilla and place on prepared sheet pan. Spread some of the vegetable mixture over the beans and then sprinkle on some of each cheese. Repeat, leaving a bit of vegetables and cheese for the top.

Brush melted butter on the edges of the tortillas and all over the top one. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and cumin to taste. Add the remaining vegetable mixture and cheese to the top.

Bake 20 - 30 minutes until golden and the cheese is melted. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with choice of salsa, sour cream, guacamole, crumbled caso blanco.