I eat a lot of eggs, so I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to prepare them. Here is something different for breakfast or a light dinner. Cooking the eggs in a muffin tin results in single-serving frittatas that you can even take with you for breakfast-on-the-go. These keep well for a day or two, so they are a good option when you want to make weekday breakfasts ahead. The recipe makes enough for 6 “muffins.”
- 1 tsp. oil
- 4 oz. sausage, casings removed and crumbled
- 2 tbsp. diced red onion
- 2 tbsp. diced bell pepper
- 5 lg. eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Nonstick cooking spray
- ½ cup shredded cheddar or cheddar-jack cheese
- ¼ cup diced tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the sausage, onion and peppers in the oil over medium-high until the sausage is fully cooked, 4-5 minutes. Whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper. Stir in the cooked sausage mixture. Spray a 6-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup evenly with the egg mixture and sprinkle with the cheese and tomatoes. Bake until the eggs are firm, 15-20 minutes.
Notes: This recipe seems very adaptable, by replacing the sausage and vegetables with whatever you like. Or omit the meat altogether for a vegetarian version.
As a special Memorial Day holiday weekend treat, last night I made chicken nachos. You don’t really need a recipe for nachos. It’s more of an assemblage of tasty things you like to eat on top of an extremely unhealthy mound of tortilla chips.
This time, I made chicken nachos. I used rotisserie chicken purchased already cooked from the grocery store. I pulled off the skin, shredded the meat and tossed it with some barbecue sauce, a little bit of apple cider vinegar and a tiny bit of Tabasco. (I didn’t use all the chicken, so the rest I’ll eat in sandwiches and salads throughout the week).
I spread the chips out on a baking sheet and piled the chicken mixture on top. I then added my favorite nacho fixings: pickled jalapenos, diced tomatoes and lots of cheese, including cheddar, Monterey Jack and queso. Heat in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes to melt the cheese and crisp the chips, then pile onto a platter. I garnished these nachos with scallions and served freshly made guacamole on the side in place of sour cream.
As you can see, nachos are an infinitely adaptable recipe, and the kind you make at home are every bit as good as the appetizers you get in restaurants. Even better, because you choose what goes on top. Some other ideas we had for topping nachos include refried beans, corn, ground meat cooking with taco seasonings, chopped onions and sour cream.
It’s not the healthiest dinner, I’ll admit, but for a once-in-a-while treat, nothing could be easier.
Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate a new practice into my eating: for one meal per day (usually lunch), eat salad or soup. I haven’t always succeeded, particularly on weekends, but for the most part it’s working out.
My goal is two-fold. First, I want to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. Salads and soups usually contain lots of veggies and rely on a small amount of meat or cheese to enhance the flavor. And second, I want to reduce how much I eat. When I eat salad or soup, I generally eat less because greens and broth are so filling. Also, I am compelled to eat slowly, as opposed to wolfing down a sandwich, which means I get full sooner. I usually don’t need bread or other carbs to help me feel full.
When I make soup, I usually make a big pot and freeze single servings to dole out later. Salads are more improvisational, based on what I have in my fridge or pantry at the time. I’ll be posting some of my favorite soups and salads here.
Here is last night’s salad: a Southwestern chicken salad. This isn’t so much a recipe as a blueprint.
Southwestern Chicken Salad
- Cooked, sliced chicken (leftover chicken is great)
- Sliced squash, roasted at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes
- Sliced tomato
- Diced avocado
- Canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- Shredded cheddar cheese
For the dressing:
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp. chili powder or to taste
- ½ tsp. cumin or adobo seasoning or to taste
- salt and pepper
I use this recipe to make vinaigrettes, varying the flavors to match the salad ingredients. I like to make a larger batch than I need and keep it in the refrigerator for quick salad making throughout the week. It’s a good idea to have a dedicated salad dressing bottle; here’s one I like, which allows you to remix the dressing just before you use it.
Last night, I made calabacitas, which is a cheesy, creamy concoction of zucchini, chiles, scallions and corn. I also added some potatoes and used it to fill vegetarian soft tacos. It was delicious.
The recipe came from the cookbook, The Feast of Santa Fe by Huntley Dent. Instead of posting the recipe, I’m going to talk about this cookbook. I’ve actually had to move it to the “retired” section of my cookbook collection because I’ve thumbed through it so much that it’s starting to fall apart.
My husband and I went on our honeymoon to Santa Fe, and we were captivated by both the city and its food. New Mexico cooking is both similar to and totally unlike Southwestern, Tex-Mex or Mexican cuisine. It relies on two distinct sauces: red chile sauce and green chile sauce, and is heavily influenced by Native American foods.
I bought The Feast of Santa Fe while I was in Santa Fe, and it was a truly great find. This is not only a cookbook but also a history of New Mexican cuisine, as fun to read as it is to cook from. It contains all of the classic recipes, including both sauces, and almost every recipe suggests several variations. I learned how to make real enchiladas out of this cookbook, as well as burritos and chiles rellenos. Every recipe I tried from it was both delicious and authentic-tasting.
Last night I decided the cookbook needed to be retired before it deteriorated any more, so I could preserve it for special meals. The last recipe I made out of it was the calabacitas. It tasted like it came straight from a Santa Fe restaurant. If you are interested in this style of cooking, The Feast of Santa Fe is the only reference you’ll need.
When you think about it, there’s really not much difference between a burrito, an enchilada, a taco and a tostada. The main differences are presentation and heating method. But you can essentially use the same fillings for all of these (and other tasty Mexican-style dishes). That’s why I always keep a pack of tortillas in the fridge. Using them, I can put together a quick dinner with pretty much what I have on hand, and I can mix it up many different ways to keep things interesting.
Here are what I see as the essential building blocks:
- The tortillas: I prefer the small flour tortillas, which are the most versatile, but you might like the larger burrito size, corn tortillas or hard taco shells. If I buy a lot, I freeze the extras.
- The filling: You can choose something very simple, such as browned ground meat or chopped onion, or pile it on. I like to use up leftovers, such as rice, beans or bean dip, cooked meats and grilled or roasted vegetables. Fried or scrambled eggs also work nicely.
- The cheese: Always required. I usually have something appropriate on hand, such as cheddar, Monterey Jack or even goat cheese.
- The sauce: Salsa will work. So will bottled or homemade enchilada sauce or chili sauce. Even barbecue sauce will do in a pinch.
- The garnishes: These are the finishing touches. Lettuce, tomato and sour cream are naturals. Also think pickled jalapenos, guacamole, raw onion or whatever you like.
Now here’s how you put it all together, from simplest to more complex:
- Tacos: Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm them for 10 minutes or so in a 400-degree oven while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients. Let everyone assemble their own at the table.
- Tostadas: Toast the tortillas individually in a dry nonstick skillet for a few minutes per side. Serve open-faced and just pile it on.
- Burritos: Spoon the filling in a thick line down the bottom of the tortilla. Top with cheese and sauce. Fold in the sides to partially cover the filling, then fold the bottom over part of the filling and roll up. Bake seam-side-down in an oiled casserole dish at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until bubbly. Garnish after cooking.
- Enchiladas: Traditionally, enchiladas are made with fewer filling ingredients than burritos, so they are rolled thinner. Prepare as for burritos, except top with more sauce and cheese before baking.
- Chilaquiles: Cut the tortillas into wedges and fry in a small amount of hot oil until crisped and browned. Layer the wedges in a baking dish with the filling ingredients, cheese and sauce, like a Mexican lasagna. Make three layers, ending with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until bubbly. Garnish.
- Nachos: Spread tortilla chips on a baking sheet and top with the filling ingredients, sauce and cheese. Broil until the cheese melts. Garnish to serve.
Quick and Easy Enchilada Sauce
Time to make: 15 minutes
Yields: 2 cups
- 1 sm. onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1-2 chiles, chopped (optional)
- 1 tbsp. oregano
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 2 tbsp. Mexican or Southwestern seasoning mix (optional)
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium until the onion turns translucent. (Also add the chiles, if using). Stir in all of the seasonings and cook another minute or so. Add the tomatoes. Simmer until the sauce is no longer liquidy. Let cool and puree before using.
After I set a goal of posting a recipe daily, I skip a day, of course! Well, I never claimed I’d meet the goal, just that I would try to. I got too busy yesterday to post, but last night we had a nice “no time to cook” dinner composed of little bits of leftovers from the rest of the meal’s weeks. On Fridays I like to clean out the fridge before the weekend grocery shopping. I had half a can of diced tomatoes, half a jalapeno, a little diced onion, a couple of slices of bacon, half an avocado and some cheese. Mix all that with some eggs, and the result is a hearty and tasty rancheros-style scramble.
While I made this recipe almost exclusively from leftovers, it is a good enough dish to make on purpose for dinner or a hearty brunch dish. I served it with toast, but it would go especially well with warmed tortillas.
Time to make: ~30 minutes
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 sm. onion, diced
- 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 jalapeno or other green chile, diced (remove the seeds for milder flavor)
- 8 eggs, lightly beaten
- salt, pepper and dried oregano to taste
- 4 oz. Monterey Jack or colby-jack cheese, cubed
- 1 avocado, cubed
- toast or tortillas to serve
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high until crispy. Set the bacon aside on paper towels to drain. Pour out most of the grease, leaving a thin film to coat the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, tomatoes and chile. Cook until the vegetables have softened and most of the liquid has evaporated. Reduce the heat if necessary to prevent the onion from browning.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Spread the vegetables out in a single layer in the pan and pour in the eggs. Crumbled the bacon over and season with salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Using a rubber spatula, stir and fold the eggs gently until wet curds begin to form. Scatter over the cheese and continue to fold the eggs until the eggs are cooked to the desired doneness and the cheese has begun to melt. Remove from the heat and fold in the avocado. Serve with toast or warmed tortillas.
Guacamole is one of my favorite foods in the world. I could easily eat a whole bowl by myself, and if I see it on the menu of a Mexican restaurant, I have to have it — which is why I tend to avoid Mexican restaurants.
Yes, guacamole is high in fat and calories, because avocados are high in fat and calories, and guacamole is mainly an excuse for showing off the tastiness of avocados. But avocados have the good kind of fat, so it’s okay to indulge every now and then. I think guacamole should be pure, not muddied up with mayonnaise or sour cream or a lot of additions, as some recipes will have you do. Really ripe avocados* are tasty enough by themselves, so why throw any unnecessary ingredients into the mix?
*How do you know if an avocado is really ripe? Squeeze it — it should have some give, but you shouldn’t be able to smoosh it. If it’s not ripe yet, let it sit out on the counter for a couple of days and it will ripen on its own.
- Remove the flesh from 1 avocado and chop, reserving the pit (how to chop an avocado).
- Mix in:
- 1 tbsp. red onion, diced
- ¼ tsp. garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 tsp. fresh chile, cayenne or hot sauce
- pinch salt
- Mash with a fork.
- Taste and adjust salt, hot sauce, lime juice or garlic to suit.
Notes: All amounts are approximate — guacamole is a matter of taste, not measurements. A drizzle of olive oil may be necessary. A small amount of chopped tomato, cilantro or crumbled queso fresco is appropriate, but not at all required.
Let the mixture sit a few minutes so the flavors can mingle, but serve within one hour for best results. (If you must let it sit longer, bury the avocado pit in the guacamole and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the guacamole; this will prevent the avocado from turning brown.)
This recipe serves 2-4 people, depending on how much they love guacamole, but it can be easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled for more guests.
Bean cakes — or croquettes, if you want to get all French about it — are a wonderfully versatile dish. They work equally well as a side at breakfast, as an appetizer with a dipping sauce, on a sandwich or in a tortilla. Use any kind of beans you like, and vary the flavorings to suit. I generally make mine with a Southwestern flair, but cannellini with Italian flavors or chickpeas with Middle Eastern flavors are also good ideas.
I have also made these with lentils, without much success, but don’t let that stop you from trying if you are a lentil fan. The lentils have to be cooked exactly right, though. If they are undercooked, the cakes won’t hold together, and if they are overcooked, the cakes will be too mushy.
My favorite way to serve bean cakes is on top of a pool of Roasted Vegetable Salsa, with some salsa drizzled on top. Any salsa will work well, as would pesto or even aioli.
Time to make: ~1 hour
Yields: 2-4 servings
- 2 cups beans, pre-cooked or canned, drained and rinsed with some of the liquid reserved
- ½ cup onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, whole with skins on
- ¼ cup cilantro or parsley
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup Mexican cheese, dry feta or Parmesan, grated
- salt and pepper
- breadcrumbs as needed
- vegetable oil for frying
- food processor
Saute the onion until browned, about 10 minutes. At the same time, toast the garlic cloves in a dry skillet until spotty brown on all sides and set aside to cool.
In a food processor, process the beans with a little of their liquid until chunky. Peel and chop the garlic. Combine the beans, onion, garlic, herbs, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Form this mixture into 4 large or 8 small patties.
Place the patties on waxed paper and set in the freezer to firm about 30 minutes. Heat about 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet over medium. Dredge the patties in the breadcrumbs to coat. Fry the patties until browned on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side.
Anything made into a cake and pan-fried has to be good. (Croquettes are traditionally deep-fried, but pan-frying is easier and better for you.) You can make croquettes with almost anything, and they are a particular tasty way of using up leftovers. For another style of croquette, try my Potato Croquettes. These Leftover Chicken Croquettes from AllRecipes look like a good idea for a quick weeknight meal. And here’s a recipe for Sweet Potato and Turkey Croquettes that’s a keeper for after-Thanksgiving leftovers.
I’ve been craving soups lately, and it’s not just because it’s winter. (It’s going to be in the 70s here this weekend!) After all that holiday indulgence, soup is the perfect rebalancing food. Broth-based soups are comforting, healthy and generally chock-full of vegetables. Because they take longer to eat, you feel full faster and don’t eat as much, so soups help you lose weight. All in all, soup is good food.
Here’s a simple but tasty recipe that I have been eating for lunch this week.
Corn & Potato Chowder
Time to make: ~30 minutes
What you need:
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
- 2 cups corn
- 1 4-oz. can roasted chiles
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tbsp. Southwest seasoning
- shredded Monterey Jack for garnish
- Heat the oil over medium
- Saute the onion and garlic until translucent
- Add the remainder of the ingredients
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; let simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes
- Remove half the soup to a blender and puree; return to the pot and heat through
- Garnish with shredded Monterey Jack, if you like
Traditionally, chiles rellenos — stuffed poblano chiles — are battered and deep-fried. This baked version is lower in fat and simpler to make for a weeknight dinner. This is a recipe you can vary any number of ways to personalize for your tastes. Serves 2; easily doubled or tripled.
Prepare the peppers:
Broil 2 poblano peppers until the skins are charred, turning occasionally. Remove and let steam inside a paper bag for 10 minutes (this loosens the skins). Remove as much of the skin as possible. Slit open and remove the seeds, but leave the stem intact. Set aside.
Note: If poblanos are too spicy for you, green bell peppers may be substituted.
Make the sauce:
- Heat 1 tbsp. vegetable oil over medium
- Saute ½ small onion, chopped, and 1 clove garlic, crushed, until translucent
- Add 1 cup crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer (you may need to reduce the heat)
- Season with ½ tbsp. oregano and 1 tbsp. Southwest seasoning blend
- Simmer until thick and puree in a blender
Prepare the filling:
I like to use refried beans for this recipe, but you can use any filling that would make sense in a burrito. Meat eaters might like to try browned chorizo sausage, onions and tomatoes. Vegetarians might prefer a mix of sauteed vegetables. It’s entirely up to you and your refrigerator.
Put it all together:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the peppers in a baking dish. Spoon a healthy amount of filling into the slit you made in each pepper. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Spoon some sauce over. Add some more cheese, if you like. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.