Veggie Enchiladas

9 11 2012

Whoa, November. Another year is quickly speeding to the finish line and it seems winter has shown up a wee bit early. It’s hard to ignore the changes in our climate. Besides the dump of snow we got here, hurricane Sandy and the follow-up storm has many folks stopped in their tracks, the devastation is clearly unbelievable. We need to reflect on the impact climate change has had on our environment (while some continue to deny it). Hopefully we not only sort out a recovery but how to adapt and rethink how we interact with our world.

Back to food (and dreaming of warmer days already)…growing up, Mexican food was a staple in our house including taco night, dad’s nachos (he makes good nachos) or going to Chi Chi’s with family and friends. Like many Canadians, trips to Mexico started as teens to escape our long winters. No all-inclusive for us, we always had an apartment and mom cooked with local ingredients. Later on, travelling there on my own, staying with friends, I learned the art of making great guacamole.

I can hardly call this veggie enchilada recipe a ‘recipe’ because it’s so easy. If you can, pick up fresh corn tortillas and pepper sauce from a Mexican store. I get mine from Sabores at Kingsland Farmers Market. I think the enchiladas are $5 for a stack and they last me two enchilada dinners. I just freeze half for a second dinner. The corn tortilla is what separates an enchilada from a burrito, so for gluten-free folks, it’s the way to go. Pick a filling, roll up and cover with sauce and a bit of cheese and bake. You can make your own pepper sauce, recipes are plentiful, pick a red or green, but I cheat and buy them to make this an even easier dinner to throw together. Here are two simple ways to get your enchilada on, veggie style.

Filling #1: Mexican Veggie Ground Round

  • I package Yves or other Veggie Ground Round (I season my own, but you can use the Mexican one if you’d like)
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp ground Mexican seasoning or Taco seasoning – season to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground Chipotle seasoning
  • Olive Oil for sautéing
  • 1/2 small Sweet Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small Red or Yellow Pepper, sliced
  • 6 White Mushrooms, sliced
  • Heat the veggie ground round, season to taste
  • Saute the onion, peppers and mushrooms in a bit of olive oil until softened and move to enchilada construction

Filling #2: Refried Beans

  • 1 can black or pinto Refried Beans, warm in a pot over the stove, season to taste
  • Sautéed veggies from filling #1
  • Move to enchilada construction

General ingredients:

  • 10-12 Corn Tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups of salsa or pepper sauce of your choice – I buy a red sauce from Sabores, it’s perfect but I have also used a canned Mexican green sauce bought in the Mexican section of your grocery store
  • 1-2 cups of shredded cheese or vegan alternative of your choice. Monterey Jack and Mozzarella work well

Enchilada Construction:

  • Lightly coat a 9×13 glass baking dish with a non-stick spray.
  • Before assembly, you have to soften the tortillas, work with them at least at room temperature, but they may crack. I did some research and there are two ways of making them easier to roll, heat in oil or lightly steam in microwave, I chose the latter.
  • Wrap the tortillas in a damp cloth or paper towel (wet and squeeze out water), put in the microwave for 30-60 sec. Now work fast.
  • In each tortilla, place 2-3 tablespoons of the bean or ground round filling and then a small amount of the veg on top. You don’t want to over stuff. Practice makes perfect.
  • Roll softly, they don’t have to be tight, place seam side down in the pan. You don’t have to tuck in the sides like burritos, just roll them up. If they crack, don’t panic, try again. Tuck them beside each other to keep in place.
  • Cover with sauce and then cheese.
  • Bake in the oven until golden brown at 375 for 40-50 min.
  • Serve with fresh guacamole, salsa, sour creme or whatever you’d like.

The best part about these is that they make great leftovers (if there are any). Ole!

Eat well, Be well,

Nat

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Hungarian Lesco

19 09 2011

How was your weekend? Mine was filled with cooking, eating and visiting. It was nice to spend time with friends and family and have few things to achieve. What I love about this blog is sharing traditional recipes with you, ones that are passed down through the generations. Today Tony and I made Lesco (Lecho in English, pronounced lech-oh). Lecso is a Hungarian pepper stew. I am lucky to have a husband that finds this to be a comfort food like I do. He was on and on about making some for winter, so we headed out to the farmers markets Saturday in search of sweet yellow Hungarian peppers, paprika and onions. Now when I say we made lesco, we made A LOT of lesco.

A sink of peppers and tomatoes

While at yoga T washed and prepped the peppers, 25 pounds of Hungarian peppers and a pound or two of hot banana peppers. I got home and it was straight to work. In two hours we chopped, sautéed and stewed. We kept some aside for dinner and packed the rest up in freezer bags for winter.

T prepping hot peppers (gloves a must for contact wearers 🙂

My mom taught me how to make lesco a couple of years ago, she learned from grandma and developed our family recipe I grew up eating. This was my first attempt on my own, easy peesy, and it tastes just like moms :).

Sauteing Peppers

Here is my family recipe for Lesco (I’ve given you a smaller portion size here):

  • 2 bags sweet Hungarian Peppers (the produce bags you get from the grocery/market), seeded and chopped
  • 5 hot Banana Peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium or 3 small sweet White Onions, chopped
  • 5 medium Tomatoes or 8 Roma or 1 can Whole Tomatoes
  • 4-5 tbsp Hungarian or Spanish Paprika (sweet, red and full of flavour)
  • 3/4 – 1 c Sour Creme
  • Olive Oil for sautéing
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt

BIG pot of Lesco

Blanche the tomatoes, remove skin, chop. Saute the onion in olive oil until transparent. Add 1-2 tbsp of paprika and 1 tsp salt, mix. Add the tomatoes to the onion mixture, warm through. Set aside. In the meantime or after the onions are done, saute the chopped hot peppers in one pan and the sweet peppers in another large pot in olive oil. That way you can add the hot peppers to the mixture a bit at a time. Saute peppers until al dente. Add tomato-onion mixture to the sweet peppers, mix over low-medium heat. Add small portions of the hot peppers and taste until you have a heat level you like. If you don’t like hot, do add at least one hot pepper, it gives it flavour. Add 2-3 more tbsp of paprika, 1 tsp or more of salt to taste. Stew low-medium heat for 15-20 min. Add the sour creme, stir well.

Lesco Packed up for Winter

Eat fresh with fresh sour dough bread, mmmm. We had ours for dinner and packed the rest up for the freezer.
If you are in Calgary and want Hungarian paprika, I found gorgeous paprika it at the Crossroads Market, at the Hungarian Deli.
What traditional foods bring you comfort?
Eat well, Be well,
Nat




Bread Project: Halusky

5 03 2011

The Bread Project continues to be so enriching and fun. These ladies know so much about feeding ourselves. I am grateful for the lessons I learned in the kitchen from my mom, grandma and baba growing up. It was like injecting me with a food gene. We take so much for granted when it comes to cooking. How do we learn to cook? I imagine kids and adults today that haven’t been around food, how would they know what to do? Following a recipe is one thing but the details that are left out can be disastrous. For instance, when a recipe calls for a soup to be blended and you don’t have an immersion blender, you naturally use your blender. If you don’t know to put a towel in between the lid and the blender or keep the lid loose and not air tight, there will be an explosion from the trapped steam (been there, done that). Recipes don’t tell you these things. I do think this is a benefit to cooking shows (the real ones where they cook, like Julia Childs back in the day). Cooks on shows like this tell you the inside scoop on how to do things, what’s not written down. How else do you learn unless you grew up in a kitchen? We talked about kids at school, taking home ec classes. I don’t think it is the recipes that are as important as becoming comfortable with food, and confident enough to experiment. Just knowing how to mix flour with a liquid is a skill that goes a very long way. If home ec isn’t offered anymore in our schools, this is a real problem for the future. The Bread Project is looking at ways to bring these lessons to schools and kids programs in the city, good work to be done.

 

That’s why this project is so important. We need to pass these lessons onto families and kids so they not only feel a connection to their food but confident to experiment, learn and feed themselves. We made a soup, Halusky (pronounced hal-oo-shkee) the other week with Vera, she is of Russian descent. It was the flavours of my baba’s kitchen. It was so easy and probably cost all of a dollar to make, just like the other recipes we are making. I don’t use a lot of flour in my kitchen, and I know that these recipes originated from stone ground grains that were much healthier for you. Something I will experiment with, replacing the processed white flour with whole grain. However, making this with all purpose flour is just fine. Families spend so much on packaged foods, some flour and eggs can get you a long way, much more healthfully. This soup is like a blanket, comfort.

Halusky

2-3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp baking powder (but not necessary)
1 medium russet potato
2 green onions (scallions)
1 tbsp butter

  • Bring a soup pot of water to boil, 6 cups
  • While the water comes to a boil, peel and dice the potato, finely slice green onions
  • Add potato, onions and butter to the boiling water, turn down to low boil
  • Whisk the eggs, salt, pepper and baking powder together in a bowl
  • Add the flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough is sticky and a bit runny. If it gets too thick you can add a bit of milk or cream, a tablespoon at a time
  • With a teaspoon, scoop and drop small amounts of the dough into the water
  • The noodles cook very quickly, once they rise to the top and puff up, a few minutes, the soup is done
  • Interesting tid bit, in Hungary they use a grater type thing to run the dough through over the hot water and call the noodles Nokedli (pronounced no-ked-lee). Instead of adding to soup, you strain them and make a gravy for them. I love that our cultures are so connected.

How did you learn to cook? I would love to hear your experience.

Eat well, be well,

Nat





Comfort Food

14 11 2010

When life hands you lemons you can react a couple of different ways. Leave your head on the pillow or get up and put one foot in front of the other. After leaving my head on the pillow for a few days, I got up, put one foot in front of the other until I was in the kitchen doing what makes me feel better, cooking. Unfortunately for Tony and I, the past few weeks have dealt us some blows, but we are surrounded by amazing family and friends. Thank-you to those that read this and have been by our side.

I have made Borshch with my mom many times (assuming ‘made’ means drinking wine and watching). Last year and at the start of this blog, I chronicled our Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, which includes Borshch. My mom measured out the recipes as she cooked from memory. This way I could write them down and make it all on my own one day. I’m workin’ on it.

Well I grew great beets this year, although small, and they’ve been in the fridge since October. I paired them up with some organic beets from Planet Organic to make a big pot of Borshch. I followed the recipe, consulted mom and found solace in a quiet kitchen and the comforting smell of soup simmering on the stove like the generations before me. Here is our family Borshch recipe, I hope it brings you as much comfort as it did me last night.

  • 6 large Beets, I ended up using about 12 small beets
  • 1/2 c dried Brown Mushrooms, broken and chopped up (if not dried, then saute them in a bit of olive oil before using)
  • 2-3 Chicken Bouillon cubes (I use the veggie variety)
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 6 Pepper Corns
  • 1 1/2 c diced Celery
  • 1 1/2 c diced Carrots
  • 1 1/2 c diced Green Beans
  • 1 1/2 c Peas (frozen okay)
  • 1 medium White Onion, diced and sautéed until golden brown
  • 3-4 c of Beet Tops, chopped small, separate the stems from the leaves
  • 1 tsp Dill (dried okay)
  • 1/2 c Italian Parsley, chopped well
  • 2 tbsp Flour
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil (choose a natural oil, stay away from processed oils, aka Canola)

Clean off the beats, no need to peel, cut the roots and tough parts off. Grate the beets using a food processor, rough chop them first, the grating attachment makes this very easy and less messy. If you don’t have a food processor, grate whatever way works for you. Makes about 12 cups.

 

In a soup pot, place the beets, diced beet stems, mushrooms, bay leaves, pepper corns and bouillon cubes and cover with water. Bring to boil, cover, simmer covered for 15 min. Add celery, parsley, simmer covered for 15 min. Add beans, carrots, simmer covered for 15 min. Add peas, chopped beet greens, sautéed onions and 1/4 to 1/2 c of water if you think it needs it. Simmer covered for 15 min, the veggies will be al-dante.

Once the soup is done, in small sauce pot, cook the flour over medium-high heat, stirring continuously for 60-90 seconds. Take the flour off the heat and add the butter and oil, continue stirring, the butter should melt and maybe froth up a bit. You’ve just made a roux and probably didn’t ruin it over the heat, good job. Add three cups of the borsch to the roux, one cup at a time, mixing well, and then add it all back into the main soup pot. The cooked flour and roux brings the flavours together and makes the soup glisten. Look at it, isn’t it pretty.

Serve with a dollop of sour creme or plain yogurt and fresh cracked pepper. It’s like a hug in a bowl.

Eat well, Be Well,

Nat