It’s an impossibly beautiful, crisp and sunny Chicago fall, my uterus is now the size of a pumpkin (how festive!), and the cooking strike in Casa DiCosola continues. Dinners these days consist of cinnamon toast crunch, apples and peanut butter, fun-size snickers, english muffins and string cheese (yes, all in one night; no, not necessarily in that order).
Good thing I have this little fall-themed gem of a post in my back pocket from last year. In a sea of pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads and pumpkin lattes, these pumpkin pork enchiladas are a refreshing change of pace.
One batch of carnitas (recipe here)
4 cups pumpkin
24 small corn tortillas
3-4 cups shredded quesadilla cheese (I like La Chona brand, but anything in similar packaging will be good)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoned baked pumpkin seeds and queso fresco for garnish (optional)
1/2 cup liquid from carnitas
1 cup pumpkin
1/8 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare your carnitas and harvest 1/2 cup juice toward the end of cooking. Set aside or refrigerate if you’re preparing in advance.
For the pumpkin filling, you can use the canned stuff or pie pumpkins. I went the difficult route because I’m fancy like that. If you’re inclined to do the same, cut the pumpkin in large chunks, remove the seeds, drizzle with a little butter or olive oil and bake, covered, at 375 degrees for about 45 min, or however long it takes for the pumpkin to be fork tender. After it cools, remove the meat and discard the skin.
Prepare the enchilada sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor. Set aside.
To assemble your enchiladas, place a dollop of the pumpkin mix in the middle of a corn tortilla and some carnitas on top, and roll up the tortilla. Place each enchilada seam-side down in a casserole dish. Arrange the enchiladas tightly in the pan so they don’t fall apart during baking. Once you’ve filled the pan, drizzle the sauce (and spread with a spatula if necessary) over the enchiladas and sprinkle generously with cheese.
Garnish with pumpkin seeds and queso fresco.
I can’t always come up with witty post titles. Fortunately, this one should catch your attention in spite of itself. You really can’t go wrong when you stuff fresh, fiery jalapeños with ground beef and melty cheese, drench them in beer batter and fry them to golden-brown perfection. The homemade ranch is the icing on the cake.
They’re big and gooey, which makes them a little tricky as a finger food. Still, the most macho men (and hardcore ladies) will take them to the face while hovering over the game-day app table without thinking twice. My advice? Grab a plate, hunker down, and go to town on these babies with a fork and knife.
Cheeseburger jalapeño poppers with homemade ranch
Two dozen jalapeños
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb sliced American cheese (from the deli), chopped
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons dried, minced onion
1 tablespoon garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough vegetable oil to fill a small stock pot, sauce pan or deep fryer so that the poppers are completely submerged during frying
For beer batter:
1 1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
For homemade ranch:
1/2 cup mayo
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tablespoon dill
1/2 tablespoon dried, minced onion
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the ground beef with a little oil or butter in a skillet over medium-heat until cooked through—5 minutes or so—stirring constantly.
Pour off excess fat and add meat to a bowl with cheeses, onions, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir together until the cheese begins to melt and the ingredients are well incorporated. Set aside.
Slice each jalapeño, down the side in a “v” shape, as shown below, and carefully remove the seeds and white veins. If some seeds and veins are left, that’s fine–your poppers will just be a little spicier. Keep the tops with the jalapeños they came from as best as you can so you’ve got a good fit on each popper.
Fill a piping bag (or a plastic bag with a hole snipped on the end) with the popper filling and pipe a bit into each popper. The insides should be full, and the “lids” on the poppers bulging a bit, but not so much that the poppers don’t stay together.
Set filled jalapeños aside and prepare the batter by mixing all batter ingredients.
You can also prepare the ranch sauce at this time—simply mix all ranch ingredients in a bowl and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat. You’ll want to reach and maintain a frying temp between 360 and 375 degrees or so.
When oil is heated to the proper temp, using tongs, dip each jalapeño, one at a time, in the batter; let excess drip off for a second or so and quickly place directly into the oil. Immediately after putting each jalapeño in the batter, agitate with your tongs to make sure the popper doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. You can fry poppers in batches of 2 or 3, for about 3-5 minutes each or until golden brown. If necessary, adjust the burner to maintain your oil temp.
Drain poppers on a paper towel and serve immediately with ranch.
The best thing about game-day parties is the excuse to stuff your face and guzzle beer with zero guilt. Don’t show up to your Super Bowl party empty-handed. Seriously, don’t be that guy/gal.
I’ve even taken you half of the way there, with this handy-dandy Super Bowl recipe list:
You can thank me in free game-day betting squares.
Sliders and sammies
Crock Pot faves
Super Bowl sweets
It’s the end of the month and I’m falling off the paleo wagon. Still committed to a healthier diet, but God help me, I’m having some damn grains already. Corn and flour specifically. So here we go …
The best kinds of recipes are highly adaptable. Take my tortilla soup. It’s a thick, blended, stew-style concoction that’s not for traditionalists, but delicious all the same. Beans, tortilla chips, vegetables, spices and chicken stock—in almost any variation—blended and topped with shredded chicken, cheese and tortilla strips, will yield something fantastic. It’s so thick and flavorful, it makes for good enchilada filling, nacho dressing and in this case, tostada topping. The first tostada tortilla soup combo was great, but this one might be even better.
Chicken tortilla soup
3-4 cups chicken broth
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 dried ancho chile, roughly chopped, seeds removed
1 red pepper roughly chopped
2 yellow squash or zucchini, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup bacon fat (this is optional–I happened to have it lying around from breakfast that day and it added an extra oomph)
1 can pinto beans, drained of half the juice
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
3 cups crushed tortilla chips
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 lb cooked chicken, shredded (I cooked a whole chicken and used a mix of the dark and white meat)
Shredded mexican cheese, sour cream and extra tortilla chips for topping
Put all ingredients (start with 3 cups of chicken broth and add the additional cup as needed while cooking), minus the chicken and toppings in a crock pot. Cook on high, covered, for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.
Blend crock pot contents until pureed. Stir in chicken (reheat, if necessary before adding). Top with cheese, crumbled tortilla chips and sour cream.
For the tostadas, buy tostada shells, or make your own by frying small corn tortillas in vegetable oil until golden brown. Top with chicken tortilla soup, black or pinto beans and shredded cheese. Toast under broiler until cheese is melty and bubbling. Serve with sour cream.
Where’s your mind going? I’m talking about the soup, people. While sweet potato fries usually get all the love, this soup deserves a little attention. Velvety, rich, sweet, savory—and with a sneaking heat that will warm on even the coldest days—you’ll want to keep a batch of this stuff on hand all winter long.
Sweet potato chorizo soup
2 large sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp white pepper
8 oz chorizo
Sour cream for garnish
Crumble chorizo in a skillet and cook on medium heat until cooked through, stirring constantly—about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes.
Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat. Cook onions in butter for 2-3 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, or until potatoes begin to get tender, stirring frequently.
Add the rest of the chicken stock and spices, cooking for an additional several minutes until potatoes are cooked through.
Puree soup in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more chicken stock. Stir in chorizo. Serve hot and garnish with a dollop of sour cream.
When it comes to sweet sixteen brackets, I don’t have the best of luck. For me, March Madness begins with as much naive excitement as the locker room of your favorite Cinderella team … and ends with crushed dreams and a $50 deficit in my bank account. Here’s to hoping that the Solo Foods Sweetest 16 recipe contest—the focus of this post—brings happier results. Fortunately (I think), my fate rests in the hands of you, my FANTASTIC readers …
As one of 16 (duh) bloggers chosen to participate in the contest, I was tasked with creating a dessert with at least one Solo Foods ingredient. Armed with pie fillings galore, I set out in search of glory. Many grueling practice sessions and several recipes later, I had my MVP: Dessert chimichangas, filled with a sweet, flavorful mix of apricot, cinnamon, almond and vanilla; fried to crisp golden perfection; doused in cinnamon sugar; and topped with a healthy dollop of mascarpone whipped cream. She shoots, she SCORES.
C’mon BWB readers—send me home with the championship. Vote for my recipe here (scroll down to vote for me!).
Apricot almond dessert chimichangas with cinnamon mascarpone cream
1 can Solo Foods apricot pie filling
6 small (taco-sized) flour tortillas
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Canola oil for frying
Cinnamon sugar coating:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup sugar
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix all chimichanga ingredients (minus oil and tortillas). Spoon 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the middle of each tortilla. Fold up tortillas, burrito-style, so the ends of the “burrito” are tucked into the rolled tortilla. Secure each chimi with several toothpicks. Refrigerate for a couple hours–this will help ensure the chimis maintain their form during frying.
Meanwhile, make the mascarpone cream. Whip the whipping cream and sugar in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Beat in marscarpone cream and whip until the mixture is stiff again. Cover and refrigerate.
Mix cinnamon and sugar and set aside. You’ll use this to coat the chimis immediately after frying.
When ready to fry the chimis, heat several inches of oil (enough to cover the chimis completely) in a large pot over medium-high heat to between 360 and 375 degrees. Lower chimis in (two or three at a time) with a slotted spoon (toothpicks still inside) and fry until golden brown (about 3 minutes). Remove from oil with slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Carefully remove toothpicks and immediately coat chimis in cinnamon sugar mixture.
Serve immediately with a side of mascarpone cream cheese.
There are some things that make me proud to claim Tucson as my hometown. The breathtaking Santa Catalina mountains. The constant sunshine. And Café Poca Cosa—almost certainly the best restaurant in the city by a desert mile.
There’s no question that owner Suzana Davila’s creative, authentic and upscale Mexican cuisine (sans guacamole and sour cream) could
survive thrive in any of the country’s cutthroat culinary proving grounds—from NYC to Chicago. But pleas from restauranteurs to open locations in other cities have fallen on deaf ears. Suzana—and her melt in your mouth chicken mole and moan-inducing tamale pies—are staying put in the Old Pueblo. And that makes me smile.
Another thing that I love, love, love about Suzana is her refusal to sacrifice her culinary prowess in the face of popular demand. The ever-changing (twice daily!) Poca Cosa menu has a mere dozen-or-so entree choices—no distracting appetizers and absolutely no alterations or substitutions. What you get is a beautiful dish that is exactly as the chef intended it. ¡Que fantastico!
Lucky for me, I got inside access to Poca Cosa(thanks Candice!)—and two of Suzana’s most delicious dishes: chicken in mole verde and shredded chicken in mole de chilhaucle. Lucky for you, dear BWB readers, I’m sharing these treasured recipes with you.
Mole de chilhaucle with shredded chicken
8 skinned chicken breasts (bone-in)
32 oz. sesame seeds
16 oz. fresh almonds, shelled
8 oz. roasted peanuts, shelled
4 large roma tomatoes
12 cloves of garlic
3 yellow onions
10 chilhaucle chilis
6 pasilla chilis
3 guajillo chilis
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon oregano
8 oz. red chili powder
2 oz. sugar
4 oz. vegetable oil (soy or canola works best)
8-10 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken breasts in a large pot with enough water to yield a gallon of broth. Cut up one carrot, one onion and one garlic clove and add to the pot. Cook for 20 minutes at medium-high heat, making sure the liquid simmers, but does not come to a rolling boil. Remove the chicken breasts from the pot and pick the chicken from the bones. Refrigerate. Season broth with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour about half of the vegetable oil in a sauté pan and add the nuts and sesame seeds and brown until golden. Set aside.
Roast peppers, garlic and one onion under the broiler, turning until they are lightly charred all around.
Mix the nuts and vegetables, in small batches, in a food processor or blender.
In a large, dry sauce pan, toast the chili powder, oregano, cloves and cinnamon. Remove the spices and set aside. Cut up the remaining onion and cook it in the pan with the remaining oil. Add the veggie mix from the food processor and the seasonings and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat, gradually adding broth to maintain a loose but thick consistency. Add sugar, a little more broth and the shredded chicken. Serve with tortillas.
Chicken in mole verde
6 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil for frying tortillas
1 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup hulled, raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
1/3 cup whole blanched almonds
4 large garlic cloves
3 fresh poblano chilis, chopped
4 fresh serrano chilis, chopped
1 1/2 cups husked tomatillos, chopped
1 large bunch fresh corriander (about 2 cups packed)
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
about 4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons safflower oil
3 lbs cooked chicken, turkey or pork
In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch vegetable oil on medium-high until hot but not smoking. Fry tortillas in batches until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and break into pieces when cool.
In a dry heavy skillet, toast sesame seeds over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown (about 8 minutes) and set aside. Repeat with the pumpkin seeds for about 2-3 minutes (until they puff up but do not darken). Finally, repeat with nuts for 2-3 minutes. Set all nuts and seeds aside.
In a food processor, blend garlic, chilis, tomatillos, corriander, lettuce, tortilla chips and 1 1/2 to 2 cups broth until the mixture forms a thick paste. Add nuts and blend until combined, but not smooth.
In a large saucepan, heat the safflower oil over medium-high heat until hot and add sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, adding broth as necessary to reach a thick, pasty consistency—about 12 minutes. Stir in meat and cook for 1o more minutes, stirring constantly. Serve mole with tortillas.
Another thing to visit Poca Cosa for—Cup Quequitos from Suzana’s daughter, Shanali. With more than 100 flavors of vegan cupcakes—and counting—every meal there can have a sweet ending.
Thanks again to Suzana and her staff for welcoming (and feeding) us!
When it comes to activities that could cause bodily harm or physical destruction, I ALWAYS err on the side of caution. Meaning, I don’t partake. That’s so dangerous! is a big phrase for me. Leaving a slow-cooker unattended for a moderate stretch of time is on my list of no-nos. But alas, left with no dinner options and package of pork that would be unusable in a few days, I took a walk on the wild side.
I know what you’re thinking: That’s what a slow cooker is for. In fact, upon some investigation, I discovered evidence that debunked my fears in Crock-Pot’s own tagline: Cooks all day—while the cooks away!
Still, I couldn’t erase the visions of smoke pouring from my windows as I arrived home from work. So I’m a little paranoid.
After deciding to take the plunge, I made sure to add plenty of liquid and keep the cooking temperature on low. To my delight, I didn’t burn my apartment down. To Dave’s delight, he got fed that night.
These carnitas were perfect—tender and juicy with a wonderful depth of flavor. The pork I bought from a local mexican grocery store was simply labeled “pork cubes,” so I can’t be sure of the cut, but the meat fell apart in the sauce the minute I touched it with a fork. It was fairly lean but with really nice, thin marbling throughout. The majority of the other recipes I’ve seen call for pork shoulder or pork butt, so if your grocer doesn’t have anything labeled “pork cubes” (what an oversight!) get one of those cuts. While you could dress these up with cheese, sour cream, and a number of other complements, I recommend trying them first by themselves in a fresh, warm corn or flour tortilla. Perfection.
- 1 1/2 lbs. pork, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 can chicken broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, plus a teaspoon of sauce from can
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- dash of allspice
- salt to taste
- lime juice from 1 lime
- Blend chipotle and garlic to a paste.
- Add all ingredients except for lime juice and salt to slow cooker and cook, covered, on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
- Remove lid and shred pork with a fork—it should be tender and fall apart easily at this point. Keep lid off for the last hour or so of cooking to allow any excess liquid to cook off. Salt to taste. Squeeze in lime juice, or use lime to garnish after serving.
- Serve with tortillas.
I garnished with hot sauce and a generous squeeze of lime juice. These would also be fantastic in enchiladas, tamales or nachos. Easy, cheap, delicious.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a good mexican breakfast. A local eatery that shall remain nameless was my go-to spot for out-of-this-world chilaquiles, but all of a sudden, the dish that arrived at my table wasn’t the same one I knew and loved. Convinced these new mediocre-at-best chilaquiles were a fluke, I persistently returned for a second, third and fourth taste test.
No dice. Change in kitchen staff or management? Cracking down on ingredient costs? Who knows. All I know is that I no longer had my spicy, crispy, melty hangover cure. Time to attempt a home-kitchen recreation.
The results were delicious. The only problem? I wasn’t being waited on while sipping a giant cup of Intellegentsia coffee. First-world problems … *sigh* …
Switching gears a bit, allow me to present my new recipe format, which is printable! I’d love to hear what you think of it:
- 1 bag corn tortilla chips (the thicker the better)
- 1 can red chile or enchilada sauce
- 1 poblano pepper, diced
- 1 half yellow onion, diced
- 1 half jalapeno, diced
- 1 zucchini or other small, tender squash, diced
- 1 can black beans
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- quesadilla or pepperjack cheese
- avocado, cilantro, sour cream and queso fresco for garnishing
- butter for sauteeing
- four eggs
- Saute onion, jalapeno, poblano and squash on medium heat with butter until tender. Pour enchilada sauce in skillet with veggies and heat to a simmer.
- Pour tortilla chips in a baking dish, cover in sauce and veggies, add beans and cumin and mix to coat all chips (don’t over mix or let chips sit or they’ll become too soggy).
- Cover chips with a generous amount of quesadilla cheese.
- Set broiler on high and bake until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.
- Meanwhile, fry eggs.
- Top chip dish with fried eggs, avocado cubes, cilantro and queso fresco and serve with sour cream.
No one ever said tacos were sophisticated. Nonetheless, once the suburban soccer mom’s festive alternative to sloppy joes (ground beef and Old El Paso taco kits anyone?), they’ve become a more en vogue meal option. Exhibit A: the hipster-infested patio of Big Star on a summer evening.
The humble taco: delicious, it is, pretty it’s not.
So what’s an aesthetically-obsessed hostess to do? Why, stacked tacos, my dear. Admittedly a smidge over-the-top, they’re a manifestation of my feelings of domestic inadaquacy (spurred by complaints about one too many oven-baked chicken breast dinners).
But, they’re easier than they look, and as delicious as ever. Mine were a little heavy-handed, ingredient-wise—if I had to recommend ditching one ingredient, it would probably be the refried black beans (although delicious, they weighed the dish down a bit)
Baja shrimp and chorizo “stacked” tacos
Makes 8-10 soft tacos
1/2 lb of uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 oz chorizo
1 can of refried black beans
1 poblano pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup corn
2-3 avocados, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
small flour tortillas
1 Solo cup, with the bottom cut out
Chipotle sauce for cabbage and to garnish
1/2 chipotle pepper with sauce (canned)
1 cup mayonnaise
First, cut all the veggies as instructed and set aside. Then make your chipotle sauce by blending half a chipotle pepper in its sauce (less if you can’t handle spice) with the mayo. Mix a desired about in with the cabbage and corn and put the rest in a piping bag (or sandwich baggie with the corner snipped) to garnish.
Cook the peppers and onions with a little butter or olive oil over medium heat until tender. Add crumbled chorizo to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes until cooked through. Add shrimp and cook for a few minutes until pink. Careful not to overcook! Remove from heat and set aside.
Before prepping, heat the refried beans (if you’re using them) and the tortillas a bit.
For assembly, make sure you’ve cut enough off the bottom of your solo cup to be able to easily stack the ingredients inside. I greased the inside of my cup with butter so the ingredients wouldn’t get stuck or fall apart when lifting the cup.
The rule of thumb is to stack the heavier and more sturdy ingredients first. Set your plate out, lay a tortilla on top, and place the solo cup, bottom up, in the middle of the tortilla. I started by spreading a layer of refried black beans at the bottom of the cup. I then arranged the avocado slices in a neat, even layer. Then the tomatoes, onions and peppers, cabbage/corn salad mixture, and finally the shrimp/chorizo/onion/pepper mixture. Slowly lift the cup off the plate. Garnish with crumbled cheese and chipotle sauce.
You’ll need to serve these guys with a few more tortillas—based on Dave’s taste test, each “stack” will make about three small tacos.
¡Viva el taco bonito!