Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rick’s Tacos with Serrano Coleslaw

Taco/burrito meat filling is one of the first dishes I learned along with Filipino adobo, meatloaf, and beef liver with bacon and onions. There was no real recipe; I made this by eye and taste. It used to include Ortega canned salsa, but they do not make that any more. It was more of a cooking salsa than one using for dipping or as a condiment. The original version of this was ground beef, onions, celery, garlic, Ortega mild green chiles, cumin, chili powder, garlic, paprika, and the Ortega canned salsa. 

Back in 1984 when my Grandma Mac was helping out after my mother’s surgery, I was going to a church function. It was taco and movie night with the youth group. I agreed to make taco meat. A friend, who also went to the same church youth group, came over while I was cooking. He saw me put in celery and went, “Ewww celery,” in disgust. I put in onions and he said, “Ewww, onions.” Grandma Mac overheard this exchange. She asked him what his mom used to make taco meat. He said she used the pre-packaged seasoning packets. Grandma Mac chuckled; she informed him that every ingredient I used was in the packet but in powdered form.

In August 2015, I made them again with a twist. This time I made a vinegar based coleslaw with them. I found a great recipe online. The vinegar based coleslaw was inspired by Portland, Oregon’s Bigg-Ass Sandwiches. One of the first times I went there I had the Pork Hammer with a serrano chile coleslaw. When they opened their brick and mortar location in June of 2015, I discovered their coleslaw again. This time it did not have the chiles. I still liked this. The mayonnaise versions of coleslaw seem too heavy to me anymore. The vinegar based coleslaw is light, bright, and crisp. The vinegar based recipe has less calories of fat than a mayonnaise version which was good for me. In October 2015, I made the tacos again; both times I used ground turkey. I added one half a serrano to a batch. I ended up making two batches. It has some kick but not enough.

On February 9, 2016, I made the tacos with ground turkey and made beef and bean burritos on February 12, 2016. The burritos used ground beef. I forgot to drain the fat. When using beef, brown the meat first and drain the fat. I ended up sautéing the onions, garlic, and celery, then browning the meat. I then added the spices. That was a mistake. For the coleslaw with the tacos I used two serranos and seeded and veined only one. It had a wonderful heat and kick. This is an easy way to make taco/burrito meat.

Rick’s Taco/ Burrito Meat

2 lbs ground beef or turkey
4 cloves of garlic
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 table spoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ancho powder
½ teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
¼ teaspoon New Mexican hot chili powder
4 or 6 oz can tomato paste
14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
4 oz can of diced mild green chiles

In a skillet, Dutch oven, or stock pot brown meat. Drain fat if using beef. Add garlic, onions and celery. Simmer till onions are clear. Add dry seasonings. Cook till spices  give off their oils (3-5 minutes). Add tomato paste, chiles and tomatoes. Simmer on low heat till all excess liquid evaporates (15-30 minutes). 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Enchiladas Suizas and Calabacitas Ralladas

This was the first dish I made from 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore. I had eaten this dish in a microwavable TV dinner format for years. I wanted to try a fresher version of the dish. Enchiladas Suizas is typically chicken enchiladas with cream and tomatillos. In some recipes the cream, either Mexican crema or sour cream, is added to the tomatillo salsa. In this recipe, they are separate. The salsa verde is added to the meat, then over the enchiladas, covered in cheese, and finally Mexican crema is drizzled on top. 
I was happy to find this recipe in my newly purchased Mexican cookbook. The ingredients for this dish are chicken, tomatillos, cilantro, onion, oregano, serrano chiles, jalapeño chiles, poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, chicken broth, honey, corn tortillas, scallions, cheese, and Mexican crema. On September 18, 2015, I made this dish. I had overdone it in physical work and strained my abdominal muscles. My Mom had to help me finish the dish. I did a few changes: I added Anaheim chiles; I replaced the serrano with jalapeños, and replaced Monterrey Jack with Mexican cheese blend. At the time I bought the Anaheims the store also had Hatch chiles. The two are related, Hatch chiles are higher on the Scoville scale. They also look identical. The spice on this made me believe I purchased Hatch not Anaheims. I loved the way it turned out.

                                                   Enchiladas Suizas

Due to the injury I did not take a picture of this dish. It was one of two dishes I lamented not getting a picture of. I wanted to make it again for two reasons: A) I liked it a good deal, and B) I wanted a picture. On February 5, 2016, I made enchiladas Suizas again. This time I kept the jalapeños and added one serrano (seeded and veined). The original recipe calls for two serranos. I added Anaheims again, but I was sure these were really Anaheims. Like the previous time I used the shredded spiced chicken recipe, which includes ancho powder and allspice. I was able to get my picture and these turned out amazing, but not a spicy as the previous batch.

                                                Calabacitas Ralladas

My dietitian had asked me to increase my intake of vegetables in January 2016. With the second batch of enchiladas Suizas, I served Calabacitas Ralladas, shredded Mexican zucchini. This is another recipe from 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore. The recipe called for standard zucchini, but me being me I decided to use the Mexican variety of zucchini. Mexican zucchini are called calabacitas in Spanish although that term is used for all zucchini. The calabacitas are shredded with skin on like hash browns. They are sautéed with onion and oregano in olive oil. They are then garnished with cotija cheese. This dish is definitely going to be a great side dish to any Mexican entrée.

These two dishes together created a perfect meal. It spurred me to look up other recipes with calabacitas and chayote, another squash used in Latin cuisines. I even thought about using the Calabacitas Ralladas as a taco or burrito filling. Expanding my scope of Mexican dishes is part off the reason I bought Mexican Cooking for Dummies and 1,000 Mexican Recipes.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Indian Saag Paneer

Back in the 1990’s, Newberg, Oregon had an Indian restaurant. I forgot its name after all these years. It was only open for a handful of years. Newberg was not ready for Indian food. When I went there, I had Saag Gosht, a curried spinach and lamb dish. During that time a friend gifted me the cookbook Curries with No Worries. The cookbook had recipes for Saag Gosht and Saag Paneer, curried spinach with paneer cheese. I lost the cookbook in one of my moves. I enjoyed this dish. I have had the Saag Paneer in microwavable format, but it was not as good as the Saag Gosht was fresh.

I decided I could not afford the lamb, it is expensive and hard to find in the grocery stores I can afford to shop in. Plus choosing the paneer helped me decrease my meat intake. I went looking for the paneer version online. I found a recipe on Food Network’s website by Aarti Sequeira. Aarti Sequeira is a chef of Indian descent and winner of Food Network Star Season 6. I liked what I saw in the recipe. Some versions have coconut milk in them, this one did not. It also included a recipe for garam masala, a typical Indian spice mix, and a recipe for paneer cheese, an Indian cheese. Originally I had planned to make this in January of 2016. I was unable to afford it. I moved the dish to the February 2016 menu.

I was able to find garam masala and paneer at Fred Meyer in Newberg, Oregon. The ingredients were turmeric, cayenne, salt, olive oil, paneer cheese, spinach, onion, ginger, garlic, serrano chile, garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin, and yogurt. This recipe uses yogurt instead of coconut milk. It is usually serve with roti, an Indian flatbread, or basmati rice.

I made this on February 4, 2016. I served it over basmati rice. It was not as spicy as I wished. I will not seed or vein the serrano next time. I loved this dish. The paneer cheese has a crispness to them during the fresh serving. In reheating the dish the cheese loses that texture. More heat is something I wished for. Overall this was a tasty dish and positively worth making again.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Thai Chicken Massaman Curry

I had eaten Pad Thai, Noodles in Thai Peanut Sauce, and Satay. It was not until the early 2000’s that I started going to Thai restaurants. Part of the reason was there were two Thai restaurants nearby, one in Newberg, Oregon, the Golden Leaf, and one in McMinnville, Oregon, Thai Country. Before that most of the Thai places were 40 minutes away. I have frequented the Golden Leaf more often. Typically I have the fried squid and either a curry or a Thai fried rice dish. The two curries I typically buy are the yellow curry and the Massaman curry.  

Massaman curry is one of my favorites and I decided to make my own in January 2016. This has been a trend lately. I have preferred to make my own if I have eaten the dish before. Massaman is an antiquated term for Muslim in Thai. This dish is the Thai interpretation of either a Persian dish or this dish comes from southern Thailand where it was influenced by Indian and Malay cuisines. There are multiple theories as to the origin of this dish. It is typically made with chicken, but duck, beef, goat, and mutton are common. I have had this with shrimp, squid, and seafood. The pork version is the rarer, since pork in forbidden in Islamic dietary laws.

Typically, I have had this with a thin curry sauce with onions, potatoes, and carrots. I found a recipe online for this. I decided to go with a canned curry paste instead of making my own. The recipe did not include carrots but I wanted them in my dish.

On January 30, 2016, I made Thai Chicken Massaman Curry. The ingredients were olive oil, Massaman curry paste, ginger, chicken, honey, fish sauce, tamarind paste, peanut butter, potatoes, coconut milk, lime juice, and carrots. I replaced brown sugar with honey as I tend to do. The sauce was very thick, which was great by me. The sauce was a little on the sour side. The tamarind paste had seeds and other inedible plant material (parts of the pods, stems and so on). When I make it again I will cut the amount of tamarind paste and lime juice. It was not as spicy as I like so I may add more curry paste and possibly a Thai chile. I served it over jasmine rice. It was a very successful dish.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules

Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules is a traditional Puerto Rican dish of rice (arroz) and pigeon peas (gandules). I have a long and storied history with rice. On my first day at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, I discovered the cafeteria always had a rice cooker full of rice for lunch and dinner. Back then, I ate it with butter, or soy sauce, or both. When I did this, the Hawaiian and Islander kids laughed. They said I was like them. My Aunt Gloria taught my mom how to cook rice and how inexpensive it was. It became a regular staple in our diet. My mom would buy fifty pound bags of rice at least every six months. When we moved to Oregon full time, she would get looks every time she went to an Asian market. They had never seen a Caucasian lady buy so much rice. 
A friend of Puerto Rican descent gave me a Puerto Rican cookbook, A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz, for my birthday in 2015. They had given me suggestions on what to order when another friend and I went to a local Puerto Rican restaurant. This was at the top of the list. This is the friend who gifted me the cookbook’s favorite dish. This dish was an adventure. The recipe called for recaíto, it is a green base sauce for many Puerto Rican dishes. I found it pre-made in a jar by Goya. It had some preservatives I wanted to avoid and my cookbook included a recaíto recipe. The recaíto calls for cubanelle peppers (also called Italian frying peppers or aji cubanela) and a sweet peeper. I decided banana peppers would b my sweet pepper of choice.

                                                   Second Attempt
Finding cubanelles and banana peppers in Oregon, specifically the Greater Portland metropolitan era, is difficult as can be. Finding Mexican chile or peppers is fairly easy. I did find online some substitution options, Anaheim chiles for cubanelles and pepperoncinis for banana peppers. Due to my mom’s issues with cilantro, I substituted that with parsley. I decided to buy the pre-made recaíto. The idea was to make the homemade recaíto with substitutions, then taste the pre-made and homemade to see which I liked better. The other unusual ingredients I found fairly easily. One of the local Asian supermarkets had the cultanro and the Mexican markets had the annatto (achiote in Mexican Spanish).

My mom preferred the fresh homemade and I preferred the pre-made recaíto. I figured I would use half of each. On January 13, 2016, I made my first batch. I burnt the bottom of the dish. I misinterpreted the directions. The flavor was good, but the burnt flavor over powered that. My friend, the one who gifted me the cookbook, asked how the pegao was. The pegao is the crunchy bottom layer of the dish. I told them it was black as night. They said, “It was Batman. You do not want your pegao to be Batman (Dark Knight).”

My second batch was made on January 18, 2016. Once again I misunderstood the directions and overcooked the rice to a porridge consistency. I now know what to do. After making this twice in the same month I needed a break. The pegao was perfect. My mom loved the pegao. The idea of the pegao comes from Spanish paella. Most Latino and Hispanic rice dishes come from paella. It is made in a huge pan and one of the goals is a crispy and crunchy bottom layer of rice.

I will make most assuredly this again. One idea is I may need to grow my own cubanelles and banana peppers. I used to help with my mom’s garden, but that was over three decades ago. I love my rice dishes and this is great. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Salumi Pizza

This was a comedy of errors dish, my salumi pizza. Salumi are Italian cured meats, salumi literally means salted meats. Specifically on this pizza were prosciutto, Genoa salami, capicolo, and pepperoni. I tried to make this on January 8, 2016. I also put on the pizza mozzarella, parmesan and homemade marinara sauce. I washed the surface I was using to put the pizza together and then placed the pizza shell on it while it was still wet. Due to that it stuck the oven rack. I got it loose and was transporting the pizza to my rooms, when I dropped it.

I still had one pizza shells left, but in removing the shells I tore one, the one I did not use at first. I decided to use a baking sheet. The pizza stuck to that. I then removed half and tried cooking the other a little longer. The half I cooked longer became too done. First, I have never used the whole grain thin crust shells before. Second maybe I need thicker shells for these wetter pizzas. I had issues with sogginess with the veggie pizza. Since this was the first time using whole grain shells, maybe I need to avoid those. It tasted good, what I ate of it. I was upset because this was a rare cheat dish. Some of the meats were not on the cheap side. I do one dish a month that could be considered a cheat.


A few days later I tried to make it again. My mom saw how upset I was with the issues I had with this dish. She helped out with getting the ingredients for the third and fourth attempts. I used foil and olive oil Pam both of those times. The third attempt taught me I needed to lower the rack. The fourth attempt taught me that I went too low. I was trying to find the Goldilocks zone for this dish. I did not use the whole grain or whole wheat pizza shells on either of these attempts.

January 2016 was the fourth month in a row of pizza. I decided I needed a break from it. I also had finally used all of my homemade marinara sauce, and did not feel up to making a new batch at that time. When I get a place of my own, I will look to making my own dough again. I know how to properly toss pizza dough. I have also thought about the possibility of buying a pizza stone too. For now I will take a break from pizza. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

California Roll Nachos

 In December 2015, I was surfing the internet came upon a lift of recipes. It was the best cheese recipes from each of the fifty states in the U.S.A. I was really intrigued by the California entry, California Roll Nachos. A few years ago I appeared on the In One Day Radio Podcast. They asked me their 5 questions, one of those questions was did I prefer pizza or nachos. For me that is a no-brainer, nachos. California Roll Nachos consists of crab meat (fresh lump or imitation preferred), kewpie mayo, sliced green onions, salt, freshly ground pepper, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, avocado, nori (seaweed) strips, and sriracha. 

I have eaten seafood nachos before. La Casuela is a defunct restaurant that existed in Newberg, Oregon. One of their signature dishes was Nachos Casuela, which was bay shrimp with Monterrey Jack cheese. California Roll Nachos hits my sweet spot of merging two of my favorite cuisines, Mexican and Japanese. I saw ways to make this more Mexican and more Japanese. More Japanese would be replacing tortilla chips with thin rice chips, no cheese, adding sesame seeds, adding some pickled cucumber, and on the side pickled ginger and wasabi. In order to be more Mexican replace the cheddar with Mexican blend, or Monterrey Jack, or with some Mexican cheeses, replace the mayo with Mexican crema (sour or regular), no nori, and replacing the sriracha with a Mexican style hot sauce.


The California Roll is one of my favorite sushi dishes. I was first introduced to sushi at a Japanese all you can eat buffet in Oxnard, California on Channel Islands Boulevard. I do not believe it is there anymore. The last time I was there was 30 years ago. As a kid I never was afraid of trying anything new. I was told if I did not like it to not eat it again. However, I was also taught you had to finish what you ate, even if you did not like it. Since going to that buffet I have a love of Japanese food, there are holes in that knowledge. I have not had true ramen or udon. I have had ramen in the brick or cup of noodle formats, but to me that is not real ramen. Like a frozen convenience store burrito is not a true burrito. I by no means consider myself an authority of any of the cuisines I love. 

I made my first batch on January 7, 2016. I added sesame seeds and replaced cheddar with a Mexican cheese blend. I took the picture before remembering to add the sriracha. I forgot to put the half the green onions on top and forgot the avocados completely. I still loved the flavors. On January 8, 2016, I made my second batch. This time I did not miss anything. The flavors on this were perfect. Both times I used imitation crab. It was what I could afford at the time. The crab and it fishiness worked well with the brininess of the nori. The creaminess of the avocados offset the heat from the sriracha. I was pleased with this dish and will make it again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Winter Holiday Dinner 2015

I had not made any holiday meals since Thanksgiving 2011. In the past I cooked using either my ex’s family’s recipes or those belonging to my family. I decided that for 2015 I would create my on traditions. I have wanted to make pipián sauce for years, specifically pipián rojo de pepitas. Pipián rojo de pepitas is a red pipián sauce using pumpkin seeds which are known as pepitas in Spanish. I first found this in a jar from Doña Maria brand sauces. I loved the heat and the depth of flavor. I used to have a cookbook with a pipián de pepitas recipe, but it was lost.  

When I decided to go looking for Mexican cuisine cookbooks, one had to have a version of that recipe. That is why I bought 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore. It did not hurt it had other recipes I liked. This was going to be my gravy for the winter holiday dinner. I decided if I was making pipián de pepitas, I would go with Mexican or Mexican inspired dishes. Since I made this on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2015, and ate it again on Christmas Day, I refer to it a winter holiday as opposed to the specific day.

Pipián rojo de Pepitas

I made the pipián rojo de pepitas twice, once following the recipe and the other swapping the dried anchos for the dried guajillos. I preferred the guajillo version. The ancho version was tasty, but it had no kick or heat. I found a pipián rojo using guajillos, but it was a sesame seed version. To go with the season, I wanted pumpkin seed pipián. Pipián is a sauce using seeds or nuts and is a form of Mexican mole sauce.

Since I was just cooking for me, I only planned on making a turkey breast not a whole bird. I was going to adjust the recipe accordingly. I found this wonderful roasted turkey recipe. It used a guajillo chile pepper marinade and roasted the bird in banana leaves. After watching a few Mexican cuisine cooking/food shows I was intrigued about using guajillos. Guajillos were easy to find. I had to go to an Asian market to find the banana leaves. This turkey was most succulent turkey I have had in long time.

Turkey breast  in guajillo marinade roasted in banana leaves

As my side dish I decided to make esquites. Esquites is a Mexican roasted corn salad. It is related to elotes, a Mexican street food. The main difference between the two dishes is that elotes is corn on the cob and esquites is corn off the corn. Both have lime juice, chile powders, mayonnaise, cotija cheese, cilantro, and of course corn. I found a great recipe online. However next time I will tone down the lime juice just a tad.


I found a recipe for Masa Stuffing online. Masa is the flour used to make corn tortillas and tamales. I changed the recipe since I was already making a corn side dish. I replaced corn with canned diced tomatoes and black beans. This recipe also needed more water or broth, because it resulted in being too dry. The pipián sauce and cheese were used to moisten the stuffing after making the dish.  

Masa stuffing

This was a fantastic winter holiday meal. I loved all the dishes, some needed some tweaks. That is always the case with new recipes. I will include links to the online recipes. 

Roasted Turkey with Pipián Sauce

Monday, February 15, 2016

Rice Noodles in Thai Peanut Sauce

I discovered this dish in the early to mid 1990’s. It was a cold dish I found in various grocery store deli counters. Their version more than likely used standard wheat noodles. This is the dish that led to my love of Thai peanut sauce and satay sauce. It has usually been spicy and served cold. Originally when I made this I bought pre-made sauces and various Asian wheat noodles found in the refrigerated sections of the grocery store next to the tofu.  

I have to be honest; I have a peanut butter addiction. As a kid I loved peanut butter sandwiches. I am not talking about peanut butter and jelly or jam, but straight on just peanut butter sandwiches. I grew up on all natural peanut butters that meant peanuts and salt. The typical peanut butters like Skippy and Jif are too sweet in my opinion. Mind you, I used to eat peanut butter and honey. I controlled how sweet it was. My love of peanut butter extends to sweets, specifically candy bars. My biggest weaknesses are Hershey’s 5th Avenues and Hershey’s Whatchamacallits. I do not care for Butterfingers; they taste like artificial peanut butter to me. 


I have always wanted to make my own and I decided to do so in December 2105. I looked around at various recipes. I found one I wanted to try online. On December 11, 2015, I did my first batch. I used all natural peanut butter, but not the unsalted variety. This recipe had two salty elements, soy sauce and fish sauce. It was a little too salty, due to the salted peanut butter with the fish sauce and soy sauce. It was less salty when mixed with the rice noodles. That was the other thing I did, I used rice noodle sticks. I am still trying to trim down my wheat use. Another issue was the ginger was a bit too prominent in this version.

In January 2016, I wanted to make another attempt. This batch used a peanut sauce recipe with fewer ingredients. It called for red curry paste. This dish was at my ceiling of heat tolerance. Two tablespoons of red curry paste per recipe was too much and I doubled the batch so I used four tablespoons. That was a little strong. I used an unsalted peanut butter this time. I am developing my own recipe, using both previous recipes and a satay recipe I found. We will see where this takes me.

The Best Thai Peanut Sauce (1st Batch)
Thai Peanut Sauce (2nd Batch)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

10 Layer Salad

This is another family recipe that comes from my Grandma Mac. This is originally called 7 Layer Salad, but when I made this for the first time since coming back to cooking it had 10 layers. There is cooking involved, one needs to cook up the bacon. You could use pre-made bacon bit, but I prefer fresh. The layers can and do vary between who cooks it.

In my mother’s family this is a winter holiday dish. Someone makes it for the family gathering. I was that person for the longest time. I tailored it to the tastes of my ex, my parents, my brother, and my brother’s family. It usually has peas in it, I stopped using those. I added olives.


The typical ingredients are lettuce, cabbage, celery, onions, shredded carrots, peas, sliced black olives, Miracle Whip, sugar, dried minced onion flakes, bell peppers, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits. Grandma Mac added crab (canned, fresh lump, or imitation works) or small salad (or bay) shrimp from time to time. This is another dish I made frequently in the old life. It was perfect in the summer, when cold salads that fill you up are great. You could also use cooked chunks of chicken breast. To make it spicy you could add sriracha or any other hot sauce to the Miracle Whip dressing. Colby and Colby Jack are good alternatives to cheddar.

I made this on December 21, 2015. I did not use enough shrimp. It still was tasty. I purposely chose to make this close to the winter holidays. It brings back a good deal of fond holiday memories to me. This is a great dish and I am glad to share it with everyone.

7 Layer Salad

1 quart or long glass dish
1 head of shredded lettuce fill pan to ¾ to ½ inch thick
1 cup of dice celery
1 green bell pepper sliced
10 oz of frozen green peas
1 purple onion sliced
2 cup of Miracle Whip
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ to 2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup of bacon bits (diced cooked bacon works too)

Layer the lettuce, celery, bell pepper, peas, and onions in that order. Mix Miracle whip and sugar together. Layer that next then Cheese and bacon. Put in refrigerator and let set 4- 8 hours.

Lettuce, 1 cup of shredded carrots, peas, 1 cup of shredded purple cabbage, 2 cans of shrimp or crab (both can or imitation works too), Miracle Whip with on 2 Tablespoons of mince/ flaked dry onion and two teaspoons of sugar. Top that off with cheese.

Rick’s Variations
Lettuce, purple cabbage, celery, diced onions, shredded carrots, Miracle Whip with sugar and dried onion flakes, cheese, bacon and 2 cans sliced olives I know this is a nine layer version but I like it. The ten layer version add shrimp and/or crab before dressing (Miracle Whip, sugar & flaked onion).

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Rick’s Veggie Pizza

In December 2015, I had been continuing my addition of more vegetarian dishes to my diet. I wanted pizza, so I decided to make a vegetable AKA veggie pizza. I still had quarts of my homemade marinara. As to what vegetables, that was the question. Among the vegetables I put on my pizza are spinach, sun dried tomatoes, diced tomatoes, onions, mushrooms (yes, I know actually they are fungi), zucchini, scallions (green onions), bell peppers, and black olives. I decided to go with mushrooms, black olives, pickled jalapeños, and green bell peppers.

On December 4, 2015, I made my Veggie Pizza. I once again used Mama Mary’s thin crust pizza shells. I layered the olive oil, marinara sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, bell peppers, olives jalapeños, more mozzarella, and parmesan. The amount of veggies led to the first pie being a little soggy on the crust. I cooked it longer on the second pie.


I had been working on my tolerance for spicy, hence why the jalapeños appeared on this pizza. There already was a small amount of red pepper flakes in the sauce. Other possible vegetables are Ortega chiles, roasted Anaheims, roasted poblanos, pepperoncini peppers, banana peppers, cucumbers, and squash blossoms.

I will make a pie like this or use pesto sauce with the Veggies. It is a healthy alternative to the meat heavy pizzas. I have not experimented with creamy garlic sauce as the base sauce for a pizza. I would need to find a recipe I liked. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rick’s Chili con Carne

I have a long and storied history with Chili con Carne. As a kid I remember eating Denison’s and Nalley’s (as a kid this was a Pacific Northwestern brand). When I was in college, a cousin made Texas style chili with London broil using Carroll Shelby’s Chili con Carne kit. Texas style is all meat and sauce no beans. I had not experienced this.  

I started to make it myself with said Carroll Shelby’s Chili kit. One problem I did not read the directions for using other cuts than ground beef. In order to make it work I used steaks, sirloins, T-Bones, and Rib Eyes mostly. At the time my family was raising our own meat (beef, pork, lamb, mutton, chicken, turkey goose, and duck). When my parents found out, I was banned from steaks other than chuck and round. I learned to use those cuts and stew meat. I learned I had not been simmering the chili long enough. During that time I changed my canned chili brand of choice to Stagg as well. During my time with my ex, I changed to eating solely the bean-less variety. She had an aversion to beans.

Chili con Carne is not as some Americans think a Mexican dish. According to what I have gathered it was a dish made popular in Texas, after it was a state. In the 1850’s it was a brick of dried meat, suet (fat), dried chiles, and salt. This was then boiled in a pot to make chili. Canned chilis replaced the bricks with the new techniques in canning. By the early twentieth century, there were chili parlors all over Texas which had started in San Antonio. The confusion to the origins of the dish is, because the dish was made by people of Mexican descent. However they were U.S. citizens and their home was part of the U.S. when the dish was popularized. There are countless variations: Cincinnati Chili (over spaghetti), Texas Style (beef and typically bean-less), Chile Verde (green using tomatillos and pork/ this is considered a Mexican dish), and White Chili (poultry with white beans).


When I came back to cooking, I reintroduced myself to the Carroll Shelby’s chili kits. I used these kits in May 2015, July 2015, and September 2015. In July 2015 and September 2015, I added corn, mild green chiles, diced tomatoes, and various beans. Starting in September 2015, I was using ground turkey. In October 2015, I decided that I needed to make my own spice blend. I found a Carroll Shelby’s knockoff recipe that I used as my foundation. I finally made my version on November 25, 2015. My version included chipotle powder, ancho, powder, and Hungarian hot paprika. I removed the beer from the recipe. I do my best to avoid alcohol, no reason than I do not care for it. I made this close to Thanksgiving, because I wanted some familiar dishes. This and the Chile Relleno Casserole are definitely my comfort dishes.

I made it again in January of 2016. I wanted to be sure of my new recipe. I was more than pleased. I was gifted some gourmet hot dogs from Omaha Steaks. I made chili cheese dog burritos with them. I typically use two of the following beans in my chili: black beans, red beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. I have thought of adding  calabacitas (Mexican zucchini), and chayotes. I have added zucchini, guajillo chili powder, California chili powder, black olives, sweet peppers, and New Mexican chili powder. Typical garnishes are corn chips (like Fritos), tortillas chips, sour cream, Mexican Crema (regular or sour), guacamole, avocados, and cheese.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Chile Relleno Casserole

Here is a dish that I kept during the cooking hiatus. There are a handful of these. My Seven (or more) Layer Salad, Honey Mustard Chicken, and this were the top of the dishes I made in my old life. It was introduced by my mom in the early 1990’s. I made it in May 2015, September 2015, and in December 2015.

I am very particular about my Chiles Rellenos. Why? After moving to Oregon, I discovered the Oregon Chile Relleno abomination. What is this? Some Mexican restaurants in Oregon make a dish that is a chile stuffed with cheese that has an egg omelet flipped over it that they cover in ranchero sauce and cheese. In Yamhill County there are very few places that make the Chile Relleno I grew up on. Traditionally it is a stuffed Chile pepper (traditionally a poblano, but Anaheims, Hatch chiles, pasillas, and jalapeños are used) that is then battered with an egg or corn flour batter. The chile is then fried. The stuffing can be cheese or meat. That cheese depends if you are going traditional or more American. Typical cheeses are queso Chihuahua, queso Oaxaca, asadero, asiago, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Colby, or a blend. The reason I do not get irritated with the Chile Relleno Casserole, is the name says it. It is a casserole using the same flavor profiles as a Chile Relleno.


This casserole is simple and it consists of cheese, mild green chiles, eggs, Bisquick, evaporated milk, and salsa. I also usually add slice black olives. It is what a chile relleno is in casserole form. I can easily see someone roast their own Poblanos or Anaheim chiles, peel them, and use them instead of the canned variety. One could also substitute various Mexican cheeses as well. Salsa choices are also up to the cook, but jarred salsas are the typical desired consistency, like picante sauce, or restaurant style salsas. Other than that you could use red, green, fruit, black bean, or tomato base with roasted corn. Another Idea is to use an enchilada sauce.

I last made this on November 24, 2015. This was near Thanksgiving. I chose this because I wanted a familiar dish for the holiday. This is a comfort food dish for me. It is also easier than frying the standard egg battered chile relleno. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have over the years.

Chile Relleno Casserole

3/4 lb each of Cheddar and Monterrey Jack (or a 1 & 1/2 lbs of Mexican blend or Cheddar Jack Blend)
4-7oz cans of whole Ortega chiles
12 oz can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup of Bisquick
6 eggs

Slice chiles open. Layer chiles and cheese in a rectangular casserole dish usually a 9 x13 works. Combine Eggs, milk and Bisquick. Then pour over the chiles and cheese. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Cook for 45 minutes. Remove from oven top with salsa cook for another 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes then serve.

I have been known to put slice black olives on top over the salsa.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gazpacho Mexicano

This is the second recipe I made from 1000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore. I had heard of gazpacho. It is a traditional Spanish dish. It is a cold tomato soup. This had a Mexican twist to it with jalapeños and spicy tomato juice plus cilantro and lime as garnishes.

Having grown up with Mexican cuisine, I have been seriously curious about Spanish cuisine, Caribbean cuisines, and Latin American cuisines other than Mexican. I wanted to see what else was out there. With places like Hilda’s in Eugene and Cocina Del Sol in Tualatin I got some exposure.


This dish includes tomatoes, spicy tomato juice, onion, cucumber, celery, salt, red wine vinegar, jalapeños, garlic, and olive oil. I could not find spicy tomato juice, so I used a teaspoon of Valentina’s hot sauce and a ¼ teaspoon of chipotle powder. This dish is also garnished with lime wedges and cilantro.

I first made this on November 19, 2015. This was a wonderfully refreshing dish. It had the right amount of kick and spice. I tried this without the jalapeños, lime, chipotle, Valentina’s hot sauce, and cilantro. I did put in some cumin and paprika. To be true Spanish style I needed to add bread. I did not want to do that due to my working to reduce wheat intake. I made the Mexican version again in December 2015. I love this dish and I will make this again. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Vegetarian Tacos with Spicy Crema

One of my Facebook friends posted this list of Vegetarian Taco options. First thing, I love tacos, especially with tortillas de maiz (corn tortillas). The crunchy and crispy varieties are my favorites. That means I love the hard shells, the crispy deep fried shells, and the puffy tacos too. If there is a crunchiness or crispiness to the tortilla, I am all happy. With tostadas I am not much of a fan, the flat service is likely to spill. I encountered soft tacos with steamed corn tortillas in my twenties. I love those too to a lesser degree. Tacos with tortillas de harina (flour tortillas), I am also not a big advocate of. Flour tortillas, I associate with burritos. 

Growing up in Oxnard, California, good authentic tacos were available everywhere. Later, I discovered Tacos al Carbon and Tacos al Pastor. I discovered that Tacos al Pastor if done traditionally are cooked on a large skewer called a trompo. These are made with pork and cooked in a style similar to Doner Kebabs or Gyros. Let’s get back to the Tacos at hand. I was continuing my work to lessen my meat consumption, so this recipe sounded so good.


I did change the recipe up. Instead of using Old EL Paso taco seasoning, I found a copycat recipe for the spice mix online. I made my own. I used Anaheims chiles instead of bell peppers. When I make this next time I may use calabacitas (Mexican zucchini) and chayotes instead of the zucchini and summer/yellow squash. I also added some chipotle powder to the crema. I may use the sour variety of crema next time.

I made this on November 19, 2015. These were very tasty. Some possible additional garnishes would be pickled peppers, black olives, avocados, esquites (Mexican grilled corn salad), and some variety of salsa. The vegetable medley was flavorful and had a bite, meaning they were not overcooked. I advise to make sure you do not overcook the veggies. I loved this and would definitely make them again. 

9 Vegetarian Taco Recipes for Meatless Monday

Monday, February 8, 2016

Spaghetti Squash Enchilada Boats

I have vegetarian and vegan friends. Seeing what they eat has helped with a few menu selections. One friend posted this dish on their Facebook page. It looked and sounded delicious. In the past I have had spaghetti squash with marinara sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan. This I thought was similar but using a Mexican cuisine flavor profile.

You bake the spaghetti squash, hollow out the flesh, mix the flesh with other flavors, and return it to the skin. Then you put cheese on top and bake it again. Surprisingly this dish has spinach in it. You do not taste it over the squash, onion, tomatoes, chiles, and so on.


I made this on November 17, 2015. It was delicious. I loved the flavors in this. I did change the recipe some. I used olive oil instead of coconut oil. I also used regular cheddar cheese instead of the goat variety. I could not afford the goat cheese version of cheddar. I could see the addition of pickled jalapeños, oregano, and chipotle and/or ancho powder.

Now it turns out there is a traditional Mexican dish very similar called chayotes rellenos. It is chayote squash hollowed out with similar ingredients mix with the flesh the returned to the skin with cheese and baked. After eating and making the spaghetti squash dish, I now want to try the traditional version of the dish. I plan of doing both this recipe again and making the traditional version. 

Spaghetti Squash Enchilada Boats

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Asparagus and Mushroom Salad

This is the fourth recipe I have made from Best-Ever: 500 Simply Delicious Recipes cookbook by Bay Books. I chose this because I was working on decreasing my meat intake seriously. I had to do some translating with this recipe. Rocket equals Arugula. Capsicum equals bell pepper. The ingredients are asparagus, button mushrooms, arugula, red bell pepper, garlic, honey, stone ground mustard, lime zest, lime juice, orange zest, orange juice, lemon zest, and lemon juice.


The honey, juices, zests, and mustard make the dressing. The asparagus is blanched. The mushrooms are sautéed in the dressing. Then all is combined. It is a very simple up front salad.

I made this dish on November 14, 2015. The pepperiness from the arugula contrasted with the fresh flavor of the asparagus and the bright notes from the citrus. The tanginess from the mustard was cut wonderfully by the honey and the earthiness of the mushrooms. I liked it.

Next time I have to be careful not to get white rind when zesting the citrus. Other than that I pretty much nailed this recipe. I am most assuredly going to make this again. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Spinach Pesto Pizza

This dish has also been known as Greek pizza. It consists of pizza crust, olive oil, pesto sauce, fresh spinach, sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, and parmesan cheese (either grated, or shaved, or both). I used to make it or eat versions of it. I made a version of this for my ex and her family early in that relationship. That was the last time I made it until my reconnecting with cooking. Like said in the Pepperoni Pizza write-up, for the longest time I preferred non-marinara pizzas. This was one of those.

I used Mama Mary’s Thin Crust pizza shells for this dish. First you brush a lite coat of olive oil on the pizza shell. Then you add the pesto, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, feta and parmesan in that order. You follow the pizza shell’s directions for cooking.


I made this dish on the week of November 12, 2015. I had planned to make my own pesto, but the cost of fresh basil made it prohibitive. I decided to buy a pre-made version. A friend who is a trained chef told me that is what he does when basil is out of season.
The first pizza was a little lite in spinach and tomatoes. The crust was a little to dark on the edges. I rectified that in the second pie. I put more of both vegetables on that pie. One could put pre-cooked chicken chunks on the pizza, but I was working to lessen my meat intake at the time.

I forgot I how missed making this on my own. Some places do not put enough sun dried tomato or spinach on the pizza. The other thing is most places put pickled artichoke hearts on the pizza. I do not mind them, but they overpower the flavors I want to taste in the dish.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hungarian Pork Steak with Paprika Gravy and Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

This is actually three different elements put together. It is Hungarian pan-fried pork steak, Hungarian paprika gravy, and garlic mashed cauliflower. The pan-fried pork steak and paprika gravy are from the Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook. The garlic mashed cauliflower I found online. When I started to cook heavily from the Immigrant Ancestors cookbook in the early to mid 1990’s, I came across this dish. I made it, back then with mashed potatoes.

I loved the paprika gravy. It was the first place I was introduced to Anaheim chile peppers. They are a wonderful mild chile pepper. This gravy is the best. This was also where I first learned of the wonders of Hungarian paprika. It is so good. I grew up using paprika a good deal. The Hungarian varieties have a wonderfully sweet earthy flavor. It is sweeter and richer than the standard American version of paprika.


When I decided to add this to my menu, I was trying to eat lower carbohydrates. In July 2015, I ate too many potato dishes and also ate a cornbread dish. I had eaten a shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower and loved it. I started hunting down mashed cauliflower recipes. I found one I liked. It included cream cheese and parmesan cheese.

I had planned to make it in both July 2015 and August 2015. It got bumped both times. I planned to make it in October 2015, it got bumped a third time. On November 6, 2015, I finally made this meal. I learned that next time to use my food processor before using the Vitamix blender for the mashed cauliflower. The mashed cauliflower went quickly and I still had left over pork steaks and gravy. I used rice instead. By the time I ran out of pork, I still had a considerable amount of gravy. Let’s just say, I had meals that were just rice and gravy till the gravy was gone. This is a rich and bright gravy. The Anaheims lift its flavor. The paprika gives it a sweet and earthy flavor. 

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower Recipe

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Shoyu Chicken

Shoyu chicken is another family favorite. We were introduced to it in the late 1970’s/early1980’s. Where I my mom found it I do not know. It is a dish found in both Hawaiian and Japanese cuisines. The funniest thing is for the longest time my mom called it Shoe chicken. The spelling varied from Shoe to Shue to Shu. While I was going to Pacific University in Forest Grove Oregon, I had friends from Hawaiian and other Pacific islands. They informed me that it was shoyu chicken. Shoyu is Japanese for soy sauce. 

This is a simple dish and I have made it in every variation possible. I have made it baked, slow cooked, grilled, and braised. Just before I started cooking from scratch I made it for my brother’s family in the slow cooker method. This was in April 2015. We always serve it over rice. For my brother’s family it was made with skinless boneless chicken breasts.


If you go to various Hawaiian plate lunch restaurants you will most assuredly find this on the menu. Part of the reason I was able to befriend many of my Hawaiian and Pacific Islander friends was due to my familiarity wish dishes they grew up on too. The other dishes I knew that my Islander friends were surprised I knew about were Filipino adobo, Filipino pancit, Filipino lumpia, and various Japanese foods including sushi.

October 28, 2015, I made shoyu chicken in my personal style. I cut the meat into chunks, braised it for 30 minutes to an hour, and then thickened the sauce. This is similar to what I do with Filipino adobo. It makes it easier to serve over rice. It was everything I remember gingery, salty and rich.

Shoyu Chicken

1 whole chicken cut up into parts
¾ cup of soy sauce
1 quarter sized piece of ginger crushed
3 cloves of garlic minced
½ cup of honey
1 cup of water

Bring to a boil in a sauce pan the soy sauce, ginger, cloves, garlic, honey, and water. Simmer sauce for 10 minutes.  In a baking pan place the chicken, pour sauce over. Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes turning halfway through cooking time. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thai Chicken and Lemongrass Soup

This was another recipe from the Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors. My sister-in-law and I had gone through my cookbooks years ago when I first moved back to the family farm. This was a recipe she was very interested in. Certain dynamics made me hesitant to start cooking from scratch, but my health issues made it imperative. I added this on my June 2015 menu. 

My experience with Thai cuisine has been limited to a few local restaurants, some pre-packaged foods by Thai Kitchen and A Taste of Thai. There also were a few places offering Thai peanut chicken burritos or wraps. This would be my first attempt into cooking something from this culture from scratch. There were a number of ingredients I had not worked with before in this dish: galangal root, red curry paste, coconut milk, and Kaffir lime leaves. I went to H-Mart, my closest Asian market, and was able to find everything I needed.


On June 5, 2015 I made this dish. I was hoping to leave most of the aromatics in, but they were not edible. What I mean is they were too hard or tough to chew. I strained them out of the broth. I was amazed on how good this was the richness from the coconut milk with the flavors from the ginger and galangal root were divine. My sister-in-law loved this dish too.

I made this again in October 22, 2015. This time I left the lemongrass, Kaffir Lime leaves, ginger, and galangal root in larger pieces making them easier to remove. I served it this time over jasmine rice. It lasted a little longer this way. Overall it was a success again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pasta in Tonnato Sauce

The fist time I learned of tonnato sauce was during the fourth season of The Mind of a Chef on PBS. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton talked about the sauce. It consists of canned tuna, anchovies, lemon, olive oil and capers. Traditionally it is served over sliced cold veal. In July 2015, I was told by my doctor to increase my consumption of seafood. I was looking for interesting ways to do that. 

The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian cookbook includes a recipe for Spaghettini Tonnato, Spaghettini in Tonnato sauce. I wanted to use wheat free pasta and I found quinoa spaghetti. On October 16, 2015, I made quinoa spaghetti in tonnato sauce. I garnished with parmesan cheese, parsley and black pepper. I loved the flavor, but the quinoa pasta broke apart too easily for my taste.

My mom bought me a Veggetti device. It turns vegetables into two sizes of flat noodle/pasta shapes. In December 2015, I had the harebrained idea to use zucchini or cucumber noodles instead of any form of grain based pasta. I finally decided on cucumber. Why? In a traditional American tuna salad you have tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, pickle relish, and sometimes capers. Pickles and pickle relish are made from cucumbers, so I thought that would make them perfect with tonnato sauce. This was the best version of the dish so far. The raw cucumber noodles did not break apart easily at all.

The tonnato sauce has a fishy flavor from the tuna and anchovies. The lemon gives it a bite that cuts some of the fattiness of the tuna. The capers bring brininess to the sauce. The olive oil has its own flavor although most used in this as a emulsifier. The version with the cucumber noodles will positively be used again in my menus. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Tangy Cold Avocado Soup

In the beginning of September I bought two cookbooks on Mexican cuisine. One of the books was Mexican Cooking for Dummies by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. I wanted to cook Mexican from scratch, no more pre-packaged sauces. The cookbook is great and it gave me so many ideas and has recipes for things I have never made myself, various sauces and salsas. 

I love avocados. That is not an exaggeration. My childhood home in Oxnard, California had an avocado tree in the backyard that yielded fruit 3 to 4 times a year. It sat above the septic tank, so it was huge. It also produced softball sized fruit, or at lease larger than any you can find in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up eating them plain, plain with salt, plain with mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, in guacamole, and as a garnish on various dishes. I ate tons of guacamole, to this day it is my favorite condiment.


One time my mother was sick when I was 15 in the early 1980’s and my Grandma Mac came to help. At the time we had two American Cocker Spaniels. They loved the avocados. They were also very smart and they would pick the low lying fruit by jumping. They then would cover the fruit with leaves in a small area between the backyard cinder block wall and tool shed. My Grandma Mac saw avocados going to dogs as a waste. She lived in Oregon her whole life. Avocados were not that common there for the longest time. When they did get them in Oregon they were not as good as the ones from the family tree. She began a war against the poor dogs. She would raid all the hidey holes for avocados. They were not happy with her one bit.

I found this wonderful recipe in the Mexican Cooking for Dummies cookbook called Tangy Cold Avocado Soup. It is a simple easy recipe. The ingredients are tomatillos, jalapeños, lime juice, orange juice, salt, black pepper, avocados, and cold water with scallions or cilantro as a garnish. On October 8, 2015, I made this. It was like guacamole soup. The tanginess from the tomatillos and the sourness from the citrus cut the fattiness of the avocados. I could see garnishing this with crema Mexicana, and tortilla chips as well. If you use Mexican crema do not use the sour variety. I made this again in December 2105. This is definitely in my repertoire.