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Apps, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

Meat-Stuffed Grape Leaves

September 21, 2017
These meat-stuffed grape leaves make a tasty appetizer or the spotlight to a special dinner with warm pita bread, lemony cucumber salad, and creamy hummus.

I’m always on the lookout for something different to switch up the dinner doldrums. Similar to I’m sure many of you I fall into weeknight ruts of either picking up something or making the same old things over and over again. So when the lovely Liz Della Croce asked if I would want to take a peek at the newest edition to her Food From Our Ancestors series: The Ultimate Syrian Sunday Dinner I jumped at the chance. This beautiful compilation of family recipes drive home why they are favorites; comfort food, full of flavor, the dishes our mothers have been making forever, for good reason.

I’ve a weakness for stuffed grape leaves so as soon as I saw Liz’s recipe I knew that those would most certainly make the cut. I’m the gal who buys the Trader Joe’s grape leaves for just about every summer picnic but have never actually made them myself. The recipe looked simple enough and culinary challenges are pretty much my jam so in I dove.

I’ve only ever eaten rice-stuffed grape leaves and was excited that I could actually rationalize these meat-stuffed grape leaves as dinner. Add a salad (I made Liz’s Syrian salad from the book) and a side (again Liz to the rescue with Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions—I told you this book was good!) and now, man I’m getting excited about dinner!

These meat-stuffed grape leaves weren’t even all that hard to pull off. The jar of grape leaves I found at Whole Foods and they easily unfurl to create perfect little wrappers for the meat and rice mixture. One jar was plenty and I even has some leftover, so you know whose going to be making stuffed grape leaves again. Yay, yes, ME!

As far as stuffing and rolling I fell right into rhythm. They were like rolling up tiny little burritos: two sides in, bottom over filling, roll, roll, roll.

Then you pile them in a pot, cover with water, and weigh them down with a plate. Simmer until the rice is cooked—they only take about 15 minutes! They are excellent hot, room temperature, or cold. It’s the lemon that I love, no the mint, no the lemon. Either way, so good.

Liz’s Food From Our Ancestors series are real treasures. You can get the Syrian ebook or buy a bundle of all four: Mexican, Jewish Shabbat, Italian, and Syrian for basically a steal.

Meat-Stuffed Grape Leaves
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 (2-pound) jar of grape leaves (roughly 50 leaves)
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • ½ cup lon-grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into thirds, optional
  • 5 cabbage leaves, optional
  • 2 tablespoons dried mint
Instructions
  1. Line a large pot with celery stalks and loose cabbage leaves (I used extra grape leaves).
  2. Place grape leaves on a plate and trim any large, thick stems off bottom.
  3. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, rice, juice of 1 lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  4. Working one grape leaf at a time, place the leaf flat on a plate and add 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture near stem.
  5. Form meat into thin cigar shapes, then roll the grape leaf starting at the stem all the way to the top. No need to fold in sides but they'll look nicer if you do.
  6. Line stuffed grape leaves in pot, alternating direction with each layer, until the pot is filled ¾ of the way or you've used all your leaves.
  7. Cover the grape leaves with water, making sure there's at least one inch of liquid above the grape leaves. Pour in remaining lemon juice and add dried mint.
  8. Cover grape leaves with a small plate turned upside down to keep them from moving and to weigh them down.
  9. Cover pot with lid and bring to a simmer.
  10. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Serve with pita bread and cucumber laban.
Notes
Liz suggests lining the cooking pot with celery stalks and cabbage leaves. I didn't have either, so I used a few of the torn and tiny grape leaves instead

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

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Comida Latina, Mains, Recipes, Sandwiches

Chiles en Nogada Grilled Cheese

September 12, 2017
This Chiles en Nogada Grilled Cheese recipe takes a complex dish of stuffed peppers and simplifies it into an easy, delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

This Saturday, September 16th, Mexicans everywhere will be celebrating their independence. It’s Mexican Independence Day! Also known as El Gritothe cry heard across Mexico that triggered the Mexican war of independence against the Spanish in 1810.

A traditional meal eaten during this holiday is Chiles en Nogada a dish representing the Mexican flag with dark green poblano chiles smothered in creamy white walnut sauce and topped with the sweet sprinkling crunch of pomegranate seeds.

This is a gorgeous, complex dish with flavors of cinnamon, and rich meat, chiles, and nuts. A beautiful representation of what true Mexican cuisine is and something you should make and try if not this weekend, then sometime this fall while pomegranates and apples are in season.

A much easier way to get a taste for what this dish represents is to make this simple grilled cheese sandwich with the flavors of chiles, walnuts, pomegranates, and cream all still there but in a much easier form to make. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to real chiles en nogada this grilled cheese will fit the bill.

This lazy lady’s chiles consist of country walnut bread, stuffed with charred poblano chiles, aged white cheddar cheese, and a drizzling of pomegranate molasses. This tangy, kinda sweet Middle Eastern sauce is never used in Mexican cooking but the spirit of the tart pop of pomegranates in the traditional dish is there. I like to dip a crispy edge of the sandwich in a bit more molasses. Some people do ketchup, I don’t know.

Chiles en Nogada Grilled Cheese
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This Chiles en Nogada Grilled Cheese recipe takes a complex dish of stuffed peppers and simplifies it into an easy, delicious grilled cheese sandwich.
Author:
Serves: 2 sandwiches
Ingredients
  • 1 poblano chile
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 4 slices walnut bread
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, plus more for dipping
Instructions
  1. Char poblano chile by laying over an open flame on your gas stove or placing under the broiler. Turn frequently until all sides are blackened and blistered, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle. Peel off charred skin and remove stem and seeds. Thinly slice.
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Divide cheese and chiles between the interiors of two slices of bread. Drizzle each sandwich with pomegranate molasses and top with remaining two slices of bread; butter side out.
  3. Heat a large cast iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Place sandwiches, butter side down in the frying pan. Once cheese starts to melt and the bottom is golden brown, flip and grill until other side is golden and cheese is fully melted. Cut in half and serve immediately with a little more pomegranate molasses for dipping, if desired.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

How To Make A Beef and Bean Burrito

September 8, 2017
Step-by-step instructions will show you how to make a comfort food classic: the Beef and Bean Burrito. A supersized family favorite for hungry bellies!

I’m pretty sure my son’s the only kindergartener who takes a container of meat to school for lunch.

Yesterday I was cooking the meat for these beef and bean burritos when Hiro sauntered in nose-first. “That smells good Mama, can I have some for my lunch?” He asks. I thought about the logistics for a moment, fearing he wouldn’t be able to open the container, or that it would get cold by the time he got around to eating it, or worse, he’d get made fun of for having a tiny Tupperware of meat but then said, “I don’t have the rest of the burrito stuff ready, but I could put some meat in a container and you could eat it with a spoon?” “Thanks, Mama!” He said. And so it was, he took it. He ate it (the teacher did have to open the container for him) and what little was left he ate in the car on the way home from school. I don’t know why I worry.

It goes without saying that this beef and bean burrito recipe is kid approved.

Here’s how you make them!

First things first, make the filling. I loosely follow a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best Mexican Recipes. If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll make Mexican rice instead of the garlic rice in the recipe. After your filling is ready to go then I feel it is essential to warm the tortillas in a hot, dry frying pan—not in the microwave. The pan lends a toasty flavor to the tortillas and the micro just makes them rubbery. You warm the tortillas because they need to be cooked a little before filling to get rid of that doughy flavor.

As far as the tortillas are concerned, I like to buy the extra-large (12-inch) flour tortillas that they use at the burrito truck. Most Latin markets sell them but most other grocery stores do not. Just buy the biggest ones you can find, but also know the big ones make HUGE burritos, so if you’re feeding little ones the smaller 8 or 10-inch ones are just fine.

After the tortillas are nice and toasty it is time to fill them up. The amount of filling you add will depend on how big you’d like your burrito to be. A hungry man burrito takes about 3/4 cup of beef and 3/4 cup of rice.

You can add other stuff to your burritos too, like cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa. We are a dairy-free house so I didn’t add any of the cheesy stuff and I don’t like hot guacamole so none of that inside my burrito either. Armando and Hiro like pico de gallo inside their burritos, but I do not. I think it makes the tortilla soggy and prefer to put mine on the outside, but it’s up to you.

Then its time to roll it up. Sides go in first, then the bottom goes over the filling.

Pull the tortilla tight over the filling then roll all the way up to seal.

The most essential step to a good burrito comes at the end. After you have rolled it up the burrito goes back in the hot, dry frying pan to get a nice, crispy crust. One that seals up the seam and turns that tortilla from rubbery to golden.

Don’t forget more fresh pico on top!

Beef and Bean Burrito Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups chicken broth
  • ¾ cup long-grain rice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 21 ounces 85 percent ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder (I used New Mexico chile powder, the recipe calls for chipotle--you decide)
  • 1½ cups cooked pinto beans (a 15-ounce can or cook your own )
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 6 flour tortillas (the biggest you can find, I used 12-inch)
  • Pico de Gallo or your favorite store-bought salsa
Instructions
  1. Bring chicken broth, rice, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes, fluff with fork, stir in cilantro and cover to keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add beef, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, and chile powder. Cook, breaking up meat with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until beef is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  5. Using a potato masher mash 1 cup of the beans in a bowl with ½ cup of the bean cooking liquid or the liquid from the can if you are using canned beans. Stir into the beef mixture along with remaining ½ cup whole beans and lime juice. Taste to see if it needs more salt then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  6. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Warm the tortillas on both sides for a minute or two but not until they are toasted. Transfer to a baking sheet and mound about ¾ cup beef and ¾ cup rice in the bottom third of the tortillas. Add some pico de gallo if you'd like.
  7. Fold in the sides then roll the bottom of the tortilla over the filling, pulling back on it firmly to tighten it around the filling then roll the rest of the way up to close. Set seam side down on a tray. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
  8. Place burritos seam side down in a hot dry skillet to seal closed and get a nice golden crust. Flip and toast the other side. Serve immediately with pico de gallo or let cool and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Burritos will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer and 5 days in the refrigerator.
  9. To rewarm: Unwrap burritos and place on a baking sheet if you are heating more than one or on a oven-safe frying pan for just one burrito. Heat in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes.

 

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Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes, Soups and Stews

Simple Summer Vegetable Soup with Cilantro Pesto Croutons

July 25, 2017
How to make a summer vegetable soup packed with white beans, garden veggies and topped with a crispy crouton slathered with cilantro and baby spinach pesto.

We got back late last night from our European summer adventure.

The two things I’ve been dreaming about for the last couple weeks of the trip have been going for a run and a simple summer vegetable soup. I’m not sure exactly who I have become.

Normally I’m not such a health freak but after six weeks of gluttony my body was in desperate need of a reboot. This morning I hit the pavement vowing never to go on such an extended excursion without my running shoes again and then made a big pot of soup for dinner.

There’s something so intensely satisfying about potatoes and carrots and beans bubbling away in a tomatoey broth. It is the kind of simple food to regroup to, to find your balance, and most importantly, fill your belly.

As you can imagine, I’m a bit exhausted from our trip, but I wanted to share this recipe with you as I have a feeling I’m not alone in the need for simple comforts, getting back on track, or maybe just a recipe to use up your garden’s summer bounty.

The cilantro pesto croutons are obviously optional but I love their crunchy edges and soft middles, plus any extra pesto gets mixed into the soup giving it a happy little herby boost.

Simple Summer Vegetable Soup with Cilantro Pesto Croutons
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 10-12 servings
Ingredients
For the Soup:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 leeks, halved, washed well, and sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 small yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1 cup cubed)
  • 1 cup dried large white beans, rinsed (I used lima beans)
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped green beans
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
For the Croutons:
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, thick stems removed (about 2 packed cups of leaves and tender stems)
  • 1 packed cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 baguette
Instructions
To make the soup:
  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add carrots and celery and season again with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes more then add garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, potatoes, beans, water, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until beans are tender, about 1-1½ hours.
  4. Add green beans and zucchini and continue cooking until tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. I added about 1 teaspoon more.
For the Croutons:
  1. Heat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine cilantro, spinach, garlic, salt, and pumpkin seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add oil and blend until smooth.
  3. Slice baguette into ½-inch thick slices. Spread about ½-1 teaspoon of pesto on one side of each slice then place pesto-side-up on a baking sheet. Bake until outer edges are crisp about 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon any remaining pesto into the soup pot and stir to combine. Ladel soup into bowls and top with one or two croutons.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

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Apps, Mains, Recipes

Friends Who Fete: How to Throw a Whimsical Bridal Shower for the Globetrotting Girl

June 8, 2017
How to throw a whimsical bridal shower for a travel loving girl who, oh yeah...already eloped! With a menu, decor ideas, florals, and a DIY champagne bar.

** Click here to enter THE ULTIMATE BRIDAL SHOWER GIVEAWAY worth over $1000 or scroll to the bottom of the story to enter!!**

How do you throw the perfect bridal shower for the girl who’s been everywhere, seen everything, and oh yeah….already eloped?

Well that is just what my dear friend Meg (from This Mess Is Ours) and I set out to do a couple weeks ago for our friend and partner in party-making, Aida Mollenkamp (from Salt & Wind). Aida is so fabulously sophisticated it was no easy task. We had to find the choicest of locations, put together the most elegant of menus, and of course some sort of fancy cocktail situation. Not to toot my own horn; but I think we nailed it! Let’s take a peek.


THE MENU

Aida is the queen of travel so we wanted to create a menu that reflected her worldly view with flavors from around the globe. Instead of a sit-down lunch, we opted for finger foods offered up buffet style so everyone could not only help themselves but mingle and talk while they nibbled.

Moroccan Passionfruit Minimalist Iced Tea || Salt & Wind

Spring Asparagus and New Potatoes with Harissa Goat Cheese Dip

  Gougeres Tea Sandwiches with Moroccan Chicken || Salt & Wind

Gougeres Tea Sandwiches with Mint, Date Paste, and Goat Cheese || Salt & Wind

Gougeres Tea Sandwiches with Spiced Carrots, Tapenade, and Ricotta || Salt & Wind

Avocado Deviled Eggs with Dukkah

Spicy Papaya Lime Shrimp Skewers

Easy Watermelon Canapés || This Mess Is Ours

Individual Pistachio Pavlovas with Strawberries || This Mess Is Ours

THE ULTIMATE CHAMPAGNE BAR

Nothing is more festive than champagne so we needed bubbles….and lots of them. Meg put together a DIY bar with homemade syrups, fruits, and edible flowers to really knock it out of the park.

How to Build the Ultimate Champagne Bar || This Mess Is Ours

Vanilla Bean and Plum Syrup || This Mess Is Ours

Apricot and Orange Blossom Syrup || This Mess Is Ours

Hibiscus Syrup


SETTING THE SCENE WITH THE HUNTED FOX

 

We needed to find a space that echoed Aida’s luxurious and colorful flare. The Hunted Fox studio in downtown LA brought our dream to life. With their bright, airy space and rich textiles, our intimate gathering celebrated the bride in style. Their handmade ottomans, pillows, and linens added unique elements to the party making it feel cozy and charming. If you want to read more about The Hunted Fox check out Meg’s shopping guide!

THE FLORALS

Meredith Ambruso mimicked the party’s whimsical feel with arrangements of edibles like button chamomile and dill flowers along with roses and olive leaf. A long table runner of flowers, herbs, and fresh fruits from Melissa’s Produce adorned the buffet.

She also created a stunning floral wreath, similar to the individual ones she created for our Italian Polenta Party. The wreath, made of Willow Eucalyptus, Spray Roses, Fern, and Statice, all of which she dried and reshaped and gave to Aida as a keepsake for her front door.

WATERCOLOR WHIMSY

This delightful watercolor menu filled with elements from the buffet was created by artist Jessica Weymouth.


SHOWER GIFTS….AND A SURPRISE

To be completely honest, I’m a little bit jealous of Aida’s fabulous bridal shower gifts. She received one of the brand spanking new, recently released miniature Kitchen Aid Mixers, a beautiful selection of cookbooks, and a handmade Hunted Fox pillow which are all wonderful presents to start a new home. Not to mention a gorgeous 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven, a hand-painted card, and an artisan foods gift basket from Melissa’s Produce.

Now for the truly exciting part: I might not be able to have these gifts but guess what? YOU CAN!! As part of our bridal shower celebration we wanted you to be part of the fun too! Whether you need gifts for an upcoming wedding or want to keep them for yourself, we are giving away all these gifts to one lucky winner, a prize package valued at over $1000!

ENTER NOW!

Click here to view this promotion.

FRIENDS WHO FETE

If you know anything about me, you know I love to get together with friends and family and celebrate for any reason…or no reason at all. That’s why every few months I join forces with Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours to throw a party and give you all the details so you can too! We call it Friends Who Fete and you can find all our fiestas here!


SOURCES

Many thanks to Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours for all the gorgeous photography and Melissa’s Produce for the beautiful fruits and vegetables.

And a big thank you to our giveaway sponsors: Le Creuset, Kitchen Aid, Melissa’s Produce, The Hunted Fox, and Jessica Weymouth.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

 

Apps, Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

Spicy Papaya Lime Shrimp Skewers

June 2, 2017
These spicy papaya lime shrimp skewers are the perfect summertime grilled skewer. Small bites of lime and chili marinated shrimp with juicy papaya.

** Click here to enter THE ULTIMATE BRIDAL SHOWER GIVEAWAY worth over $1000!!**

The girls and I got together again. You know how we do every few months. Throw a fabulous party, take a bunch of pictures, tell you all about it. Follow #friendswhofete for all the details.

This time it was to celebrate Aida’s elopement and future wedded bliss in an effortlessly elegant bridal shower. We got together at my friend Moana’s studio, drank champagne cocktails, and nibbled on finger foods. It was all kinds of fancy and I’ll be sharing lots of photos and recipes and party tips with you over the next week or so because I know there are at least one or two of you who will be hosting a bridal or baby shower this summer.

One of my contributions were these shrimp and papaya skewers that I had marinated, and skewered in advance and then grilled right before we ate. Which p.s. means they can absolutely be made in advance and are excellent party food.

Let’s talk shrimp

I am a gal who prefers super fresh local shrimp with the heads and shells left on. I was able to get some at the local fish market on the harbor in Santa Barbara. That being said (knowing full well you are probably in mid eye roll right now) this recipe will work perfectly perfect with headless, peeled and deveined shrimp. But if you have access to local shrimp and can get those bad boys with the head on–do it!

The shrimp gets marinated in loads of lime zest, fresh squeeze lime juice, ground California chili powder (or whichever chili powder you prefer) and sugar. In this instance it is a marinade but there is no reason this would not make an amazing dip for spring rolls or pot stickers, so keep that in mind next time you want to doctor up a bag of Trader Joe’s gyoza.

Because these are supposed to be dainty bites I skewered one shrimp between two papaya wedges but if you are serving them as more of a main course situation you can add as many to the skewer as you’d like.

Let’s talk papaya

For this recipe you want a ripe, sweet papaya…but not too ripe. If the papaya is like super duper, kinda starting to mold on the outside ripe, it will fall apart the second you try to skewer it. Look for one that is almost to that stage, but not quite.

Peeling a papaya is best done with a y-peeler. If you don’t have one—what the heck are you waiting for?!! They cost like two cents and perform miracles. Peel it, cut it in half and scoop out the creepy looking black seeds–eat them if you want, they taste like pepper.

The final touch for these skewers was a sprinkle of Jacobsen Salt Company’s habanero salt, just to add a touch of heat. By the way, they are not paying me to say this, but I really do love their salts, and honeys, and oh my god their salty candies which basically taste like the best salt water taffy you’ve ever had. But for these skewers the habanero salt is where its at. If you are not that into spicy, just leave it off but it does give the skewers that perfect je ne sais quoi.

Spicy Papaya Lime Shrimp Skewers
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 24 bamboo or metal skewers
  • 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 6 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground California chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound shrimp, preferably head-on with shells
  • 2 pounds ripe papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
  • Habanero salt, for garnish (optional)
  • Lime wedges, for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. If using bamboo or wooden skewers, cover with water and let soak for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine lime zest, lime juice, sugar, oil, chili powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to dissolve sugar.
  3. I like to use head-on shrimp as I find they have more flavor. I leave the heads and shells on and rinse them well in cold water. If you'd rather get headless shrimp that's fine too. Peel and devein the shrimp if you'd like, either way works. Toss shrimp in marinade, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Start the grill and let it heat to medium-high.
  5. Drain the skewers if soaking and thread papaya and shrimp (1 shrimp and 2 papaya pieces per skewer for appetizer bites and more for meal-sized portions) on the skewers. Saving any leftover marinade for brushing.
  6. Grill skewers, brushing with marinade occasionally until shrimp are pink, firm, and cooked through. The timing on these will depend on how hot your grill is. Mine was pretty cool, so they took about 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle skewers with a little habanero salt if you'd like and serve with lime wedges.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

A big thanks goes out to Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours for the beautiful photography and to Melissa’s for supplying the fresh produce!

Comida Latina, Mains, Recipes

Stacked Enchiladas Suizas with Chicken

May 17, 2017
These Stacked Enchiladas Suizas combine creamy layers of green chile-coated tortillas, poached chicken, and two kinds of cheese into the best comfort food!

For the most part I like to keep things healthy around here. Armando can’t eat dairy, therefore most of my recipes have no cheese, sour cream, or anything of the sort. Because we never eat cheese my kids don’t even like it (what kind of insane beasts am I raising I ask you?!!!) But sometimes I get cravings. Like real. bad. And Enchiladas Suizas have been high on the cravings list for a while now.

One of my first jobs was waiting tables at this Mexican restaurant in Des Moines where I grew up. What I really wanted to do was work in the kitchen but no one wanted to hire me for that job. Probably because I was 16 and more likely because I was a girl. Girl’s waited tables or looked pretty at the hostess stand so that’s what I did. I was not a good waitress. One time a swinging door slammed against a fully loaded tray I was carrying and all the plates of bubbling enchiladas and smoking fajitas went flying everywhere. It was an awkward time.

One thing I did like about that restaurant were the Enchiladas Suizas. Tender chicken and cheese rolled up and coated in a creamy green chile sauce then covered with more cheese and broiled until bubbling, golden perfection. I never even used silverware to eat that dish, just scooped up all the rich, delicious bites with a chip. At least I could eat my feelings.

As mentioned, I don’t make this kind of food very often but bit the bullet and did last Monday because I knew we had dinner guests coming and I wouldn’t embarrassingly eat the whole thing myself. Besides this is the perfect thing to feed a crowd. If you have a graduation or any family celebration coming up I recommend making one or two of these. Initially I thought making them stacked would be remarkably easier than rolling and filling each tortilla but turns out it took me just as long. I loved how each layer revealed hidden pockets of cheese or chicken or sauce so in the end I’m going with that it was a good idea.


Stacked Enchiladas Suizas with Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
These Stacked Enchiladas Suizas combine creamy layers of green chile-coated tortillas, poached chicken, and two kinds of cheese into the best comfort food!
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 pieces chicken (about 2 pounds--I used legs and thighs)
  • 1 large onion, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 pound tomatillos, papery husks removed and washed
  • 3 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeds removed if you'd like it less spicy
  • ½ cup cilantro (about ¼ bunch)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
  • 12 large corn tortillas (6-inches or as big as you can find)
  • 1¼ cups queso fresco, crumbled
  • 2½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • Crumbled cotija cheese, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Place chicken pieces, ½ of the onion cut into slices, 2 cloves of the garlic, the bay leaf, black peppercorns and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a large saucepan.
  2. Cover with water by 2 inches and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Remove chicken from broth (strain and save broth for another use) and let cool. Shred into bite-sized pieces discarding any skin or bone and set aside. You can do this step the day before or use store-bought rotisserie chicken.
  4. Combine tomatillos, remaining onion half, sliced, remaining garlic cloves and, serrano chiles in a large saucepan. Cover with water by an inch and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Drain and transfer to a blender with the cilantro, 2 teaspoons salt, and sour cream. Blend on high until smooth. Be careful when blending hot liquid, cover the blender with a thick paper towel instead of the lid to prevent explosions. Pour sauce into a large pie plate or shallow baking dish.
  6. Heat oven to 400°F and grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  7. Heat ½ cup of the vegetable oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once shimmering, place 1 tortilla into the oil and fry until golden on both sides, about a minute. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining tortillas, adding more oil ¼ cup at a time as needed.
  8. Dip a tortilla in the green chile sauce until coated on both sides and place in the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Continue with three more tortillas spreading them out in the bottom of the pan to cover as much surface area as possible.
  9. Top with half of the chicken and a third of each cheese. Repeat with another layer of sauce-coated tortillas, remaining half of the chicken and another third of the cheese. Coat the remaining tortillas in the sauce and place on top and scrape any remaining sauce over the enchiladas spreading to coat evenly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the tortillas.
  10. Place the enchiladas in the oven and bake until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the sides of the pan. Sprinkle with crumbled cotija cheese if you'd like.
  11. Slice into wedges and serve. Enchiladas can also be cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw completely, then remove plastic wrap, cover with foil and bake at 400°F until heated through, about 20 minutes.

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Breakfast, Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes, Snacks

Mexican Mollete Bar for Mother’s Day + A Wolf Giveaway

May 8, 2017
A Mexican Mollete Bar is a fun idea for Mother's Day or any brunch. Toast and toppings like beans or avocado come together to make a treat everyone will love!

We have a winner! CONGRATULATIONS to Carey Cole!! And thank you to everyone who entered. We had over 350 entries!! Follow me on Instagram today for a chance to win a spice gift box from The Spanish Tin.  

¡Hola! ¡Hola! I am jumping into this week with a massive giveaway and a really fun (and easy) idea for Mother’s Day brunch. How are you?

I am so excited to partner with Wolf Gourmet and am especially excited about their Four Slice Toaster. This is like the Bentley of toasters you guys, with extra-wide bread slots, self-centering for perfect toast every time, and even a setting to keep your toast warm if you’re not ready to eat it right away!

Mexican Mollete Bar

I will admit, until I got this toaster I used either my broiler or comal to make toast. I felt a toaster was kind of a space hog and that I could easily use one of my other appliances to make toast, but I’m kind of in love with this toaster and it can take up as much room on my counter as it wants. I mean you can put a bagel in this thing—a bagel!!— with plenty of room to spare.

Mexican Mollete Bar

I am so excited about my new toaster I am giving one away to you!! Wolf Gourmet has generously agreed to send one lucky reader their very own Four-Slice Toaster (valued at $400)! See below for details.

Mexican Mollete Bar

Now on to Mother’s Day. Have you heard of Molletes? Have you eaten them? If you answered YES to both then skip to the bottom. If not, molletes are basically like the Mexican version of fancy toast. Mexicans have been doing fancy toast for like, ever….they be calling that molletes and they most commonly are toasted bread topped with beans and cheese and broiled like an open-faced sandwich situation. But wouldn’t it be fun to create a whole mollete bar?!! If you answered yes to that question, then I’ll meet you in the next paragraph.

Here’s what I’m thinking; we can set out a bunch of options for our favorite toppings for toast and people can mix and match as they please. I’ve provided a few suggestions for combinations, but they are mere suggestions and I highly encourage creativity.

BLACK BEANS + COTIJA

Mexican Mollete Bar

This is the most traditional option. Spread the warm refried black beans which you can buy or make this black bean recipe and lightly mash. Then top with what is essentially a deconstructed pico de gallo; halved cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced jalapeños and scallions, cilantro leaves. Sprinkle the whole thing with crumbled cotija cheese and thinly sliced red cabbage. Make sure there are plenty of lime wedges on the bar for squeezing.

BANANA + LAVENDER

Mexican Mollete Bar

This one is like the most luxurious peanut butter toast ever. Spread peanut butter on the toast, top with ripe, halved bananas, and sprinkle with culinary lavender or if you are lucky enough to have a lavender bush you can pick the flowers and sprinkle those on top.

AVOCADO + EGG

Mexican Mollete Bar

Everyone loves avocado toast so this is a no-brainer. You can use mashed ripe avocado or go all the way and make guacamole or go all, all the way and make my sweet pea and mint guacamole. Top with a hard-boiled egg half, a few slices of aged white cheddar cheese, and a splash of hot sauce (Valentina is my favorite). Sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

GRAPE + TOASTED ALMOND

Mexican Mollete Bar

Call me crazy, but I love grapes on toast. Try it! Butter a slice of toast, top with halved grapes, toasted almonds, and cinnamon sugar. Become a believer.

HOW TO SET UP THE MEXICAN MOLLETE BAR

Mexican Mollete Bar

To set up the bar, get some lovely bread or go big and make your own (!!). Set all the components for the molletes out in a pretty display and place your brand new fancy toaster nearby (see below). Slice and toast the bread then let everyone top it however they choose. Serve some fresh juice and brunch cocktails, coffee and tea and you’re all set.

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day my loves. Enjoy slowing down and spending time with the ones you love the most. And if you’re a Mama…have someone else make your toast. xoxo

Mexican Mollete Bar
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A Mexican Mollete Bar is a fun idea for Mother's Day or any brunch. Toast and toppings like beans or avocado come together to make a treat everyone will love!
Author:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
For the Grape and Toasted Almond Mollete:
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • Toasted sliced bread
  • Soft salted butter
  • Red or green grapes sliced in half
  • Toasted sliced almonds
For the Black Bean Mollete:
  • Toasted Sliced bread
  • Refried black beans, warm
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • cilantro leaves
  • thinly sliced red cabbage
  • thinly sliced scallions
  • thinly sliced jalapeños
  • crumbled cotija cheese
  • lime wedges
For the Banana-Lavender Mollete:
  • Toasted sliced bread
  • Peanut butter
  • ripe bananas, halved
  • culinary lavender
For the Avocado-Egg Mollete:
  • Toasted sliced bread
  • Ripe avocado, smashed or guacamole
  • Hard-boiled egg, peeled and halved
  • aged white cheddar, sliced
  • hot sauce, such as Valentina
  • Flakey sea salt
  • Ground black pepper
Instructions
For the Grape and Toasted Almond Mollete:
  1. Combine cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.
  2. Spread butter on the bread, top with grapes and almonds and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over everything.
For the Black Bean Mollete:
  1. Spread black beans on the toast, top with tomatoes, cilantro, cabbage, scallions, and jalapeños. Sprinkle cotija over the top. Serve lime wedges on the side for squeezing.
For the Banana-Lavender Mollete:
  1. Spread peanut butter on the toast. Top with banana halves and sprinkle with lavender.
For the Avocado-Egg Mollete:
  1. Spread avocado on the toast. Top with an egg half, a couple slices of cheddar and a dash of hot sauce. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top.

THE GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive a Wolf Four Slice Toaster. Winner will be announced May 15, 2017. Open to US residents only. Good Luck!

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Breakfast, Comida Latina, Mains, Recipes

Beet Chilaquiles with Fried Eggs & Crumbly Herb Cheese

April 28, 2017
These beet chilaquiles with fried eggs are crisp tortillas covered in a spicy beet salsa then topped with a crumbly herb cheese, sour cream, and fried eggs.

The biggest takeaway from my Baja trip last fall was (no surprise here) the food. I expected to eat some really enjoyable meals, of course, but I was not expecting the sophisticated twists, the bold turns, the eye-popping flavors.

One of my favorite meals was at Alma Verde in Tijuana; an organic juice bar/brunch spot that served flights of chilaquiles…I mean, come on. A beet version landed at our table and I immediately was drawn to it by the deep magenta hue, but one bite and I loved it for the earthy, nutty sauce that left a tingling in your mouth. I knew I was going to be making this again and again.

beet chilaquiles

HOW TO MAKE CHILAQUILES

Chilaquiles are made in 3 steps (with a fourth optional step if you so choose).

  1. The Sauce
  2. The Chips
  3. Combining the sauce + the chips
  4. Adding stuff on top, i.e. fried egg, Mexican crema, cheese, cilantro, etc.

THE SAUCE

beet chilaquiles

Traditional chilaquiles are made with either a red (dried chile) sauce or a green (tomatillo) sauce. In this case we are using beets.

beets + sesame seeds + serrano chiles + garlic

THE CHIPS

The best chilaquiles are made with freshly fried tortilla chips, not store-bought. Use manufactured corn tortillas, not homemade you go-getter, you.

corn tortillas + oil + salt

ALL TOGETHER NOW

beet chilaquiles

This is the make-or-break moment. You want to cook the chips just long enough in the sauce to coat them, but not too long that they get mushy. Fry the sauce in a little bit of the leftover oil from making the chips, add the chips to the sauce, and turn to coat.

sauce + chips

OTHER STUFF

beet chilquiles

My favorite part of chilaquiles are all the garnishes. I like to prepare a bunch of things and put them on the table for people to help themselves. A few ideas:

fried eggs, sliced radishes, baby arugula, cilantro, grilled chicken, sliced serranos, queso fresco, Mexican crema, sliced scallions, chopped cooked beets, lime wedges

I shared my recipe for Beet Chilaquiles over on Salt & Wind to get you excited about their upcoming trips to Baja, so hop on over there and check it out! And right now, they are offering an exclusive deal for ¡Hola! Jalapeño readers: $100 off one of their trips when you use promo code HOLABAJA at check out!

beet chilaquiles

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

 

Comida Latina, Condiments and Salsas, Mains, Popular, Recipes

Roasted Sweet Potato and Sprouted Lentil Tacos

April 18, 2017
Sweet potato and lentil tacos made with roasted sweet potatoes, DIY sprouted lentils, & jalapeño yogurt salsa wrapped in homemade sprouted lentil tortillas.

{This #SpringCleanse post is sponsored by Lentils.org}

If spring is all about renewal than spring cooking should reflect that in some ways too. There is a freshness and light in the air and that feeling has made its way into my kitchen.

sweet potato and lentil tacos recipe

I love lentils and traditionally have used them in heartier cooking—soups, stews, with sausage, and so forth but this time I wanted lentils to add lightness and a tender bite to what I was cooking. I’ve read a lot about making your own sprouts from beans and seeds and such but had never actually tried it at home. The added nutrient boost was reason enough to get me excited; lentils are naturally loaded with protein but sprouted lentils also have antioxidant benefits as well as being excellent for digestive health. But it really wasn’t until I realized how easy they are that I decided there was no excuse not to try.

How to Sprout Lentils

sweet potato and lentil tacos recipe

You can buy all sorts of fancy equipment to sprout with, which might be handy when sprouting smaller seeds, but sprouting lentils is so easy all I used was a colander. The lentils have to be soaked overnight then I strained them through a large colander, spreading the lentils out as much as possible and cover the colander with a kitchen towel. I left them on my counter and rinsed them a few times a day to keep them from drying out. After a couple of days, little sprouts emerged and they were tender enough to eat. You can keep going for up to five days to get the sprouts to grow bigger but I used mine after three. I’ve used the sprouted lentils in all kinds of things—tossed in salads, in sandwiches, I’ve even been topping my eggs in the morning with a handful of lentils. Their texture is just addictive and they have a subtle sweet, earthy flavor that is delicious with just about anything. It was these tacos though that got me really excited.

Sweet Potato and Lentil Tacos

sweet potato and lentil tacos recipe

Sweet potato and lentil tacos are one of my favorite veggie taco combinations. The lovely thing about these tacos however, are the sprouted lentils don’t need to be cooked, they add a wonderful crunch to the tender roasted sweet potatoes and soft tortilla. As for these homemade tortillas they really take the idea of spring cleanse to a whole other level. Corn tortillas are pretty good for you but a soft homemade corn tortilla spiced with turmeric and sprouted lentils are something you can feel good about eating two times over. I know homemade tortillas aren’t something you’re going to whip out after gymnastics practice on a Tuesday night but when you have the time, I encourage you to give them a try. Get the recipe and all the details on how to make them and just think about it.

Jalapeno Yogurt Salsa

sweet potato and lentil tacos recipe

This salsa is like a breath of fresh (if not pretty spicy) air. It pulls all the flavors of these tacos together; creamy but still very light, made with yogurt instead of the more traditional sour cream. With the leftovers I added a bit more olive oil and vinegar and made a fiery salad dressing that was great on a sprouted lentil, radish, apple, dried currant, and arugula salad—uses for these lentils are just sprouting up everywhere (pun fully intended)!

Let Lentils.org inspire you to clean up your act this spring and enter the #SpringCleanse Canadian Lentil Sweepstakes! Check out the details below.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Sprouted Lentil Tacos
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Sweet potato and lentil tacos made with roasted sweet potatoes, DIY sprouted lentils, & jalapeño yogurt salsa wrapped in homemade sprouted lentil turmeric tortillas.
Author:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
For the sprouted lentils:
  • ½ cup whole dried lentils
For the sweet potatoes:
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground New Mexico chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the salsa:
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the tacos:
Instructions
To sprout the lentils:
  1. Start at least 3 days in advance; cover lentils with about an inch of water and let sit overnight.
  2. The next day strain and spread lentils out in the strainer, giving them as much room as possible. Set the strainer over a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Leave at room temperature.
  3. Rinse lentils at least 3 times a day for at least 2 days or until they start to sprout. Continue rinsing and leave them covered at room temperature for up to 5 days, depending on how large you'd like the sprouts to be.
  4. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate. Sprouted lentils will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
For the tacos:
  1. Heat oven to 425°F and arrange rack in the upper third.
  2. Combine sweet potatoes, olive oil, and spices in a large bowl. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until just tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the salsa. Place jalapeños and unpeeled garlic cloves in a dry comal or skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until charred on all sides (garlic will take less time so remove that first).
  4. Remove garlic peel and the stems from the jalapeños. Cut jalapeños in half and remove seeds if you'd like it less spicy.
  5. Place charred vegetables in a blender with yogurt, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and blend on high until smooth. Taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed.
  6. To serve, toss sweet potatoes with cilantro and sliced spring onions then divide between the warm tortillas and top with sprouted lentils. Drizzle with salsa and enjoy!
Notes
Sprouting your own lentils is super easy but it does take some planning. The lentils take at least 3 days to sprout so plan ahead.

Serving these tacos in homemade tortillas make them extra special but store-bought corn tortillas also work here.

 

#SpringCleanse Canadian Lentils Sweepstakes

One More Thing

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it. Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too! This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Lentils.org. The opinions and text are all mine.