Enchiladas

Enchiladas

Enchiladas are basically burritos lain side by side and topped with tomato sauce, cheese and sour cream. What takes them to the next level is finishing them off in the oven.

A couple notes about the sour cream if you want to be creative: You can make your own by beating a bit of white vinegar into cream, or you can substitute with Greek yogurt.

For salt in this dish, I like to use soy sauce because it’s more potent and flavorful than regular table salt.

Ingredients:

4-5 large flour tortillas
1/3 large onion, sliced
1 pack of ground beef
1 can of black or red beans, drained
ground cumin to taste
soy sauce to taste
cheese to taste (I prefer aged white cheddar)
tomato sauce or paste to taste (I prefer marinara)

Saute the onion in a large skillet, add the beef and beans, and keep the heat on until the beef cooks. Mix in the cumin and soy sauce toward the end of cooking, and melt in the cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. When the beef mix is cooked, use it to fill each tortilla. Roll the tortillas and place them side by side in a baking dish. Pour the tomato sauce over the tortillas, garnish with cheese, and cook in the oven until the cheese melts (about 5-10 min). Serve with sour cream and fresh lime if desired.

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Asian Noodles

Asian noodles

I really like Xian noodles for their size, shape and texture. We found a bundle of frozen noodle packets at a local Asian supermarket (T & T) that look like Xian noodles; wide and thick. All they need is a sauce and can be served vegetarian or with a protein such as chicken, beef or pork. I use chicken here, some veg, and a sauce that incorporates salt, sour and sweet notes.

Ingredients:

4-5 individual packs of frozen noodles
6 chicken thighs, chopped
leaves of 3 bok choy stalks, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup black vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
cayenne powder to taste
garlic powder to taste
sesame oil

To create the sauce, heat up the soy sauce, peanut butter, black vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne and garlic powder in a sauce pan and stir into a thick paste. Add more of certain ingredients to taste if needed.

Bring water to boil in a pot and defrost the noodles in the water, then drain them.

Saute the chicken separately, and when it’s cooked add the bok choy leaves, noodles and some sesame oil, and stir in the sauce little by little until you get the flavor concentration you desire.

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , ,

Brunch: Open-Face Smoked Trout Sandwich

Smoked trout open face sandwich

Brunch can be a fun meal on weekends, if you put enough thought into it. I was watching cooking shows last Saturday morning and was inspired to create something new of my own. We had some smoked trout slices in the freezer, which just needed to defrost, and some leftover bread that I had an idea to class up with homemade pesto. We didn’t have basil, so I made arugula pesto. I served open-face sandwiches with sauteed spinach and mushrooms on the side for more veggies.

Ingredients (per sandwich):
2 slices of bread
3-4 slices smoked trout
2 eggs, poached
arugula for garnish

For the pesto:
1/2 package of arugula
Parmesan (I recommend at least 5 one-inch cubes)
olive oil

For the veggie side:
1/2 package of spinach leaves
3-5 mushrooms, sliced

Bring water to a boil in a pot, with a splash of vinegar to help the eggs poach properly. Drop in the eggs and remove when the whites have cooked.

Place the arugula and Parmesan in a food processor and pour in enough olive oil so that when you grind the mix, the result is a somewhat paste-like consistency.

Saute the spinach and mushrooms in a skillet.

Toast the bread, slather with the pesto, place the slices side by side, then place the trout on top. Garnish with arugula, then crown the open-face sandwich with the poached eggs. Serve the spinach and mushrooms on the side.

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , ,

Chocolate Chip, Maple and PB Blondie

Blondie

Blondies never get old. They’re easy to make, you can get creative with the ingredients, and they’re a great snack or dessert. I haven’t made them in a while, and this time I decided to use chocolate chips, maple syrup (from Canada, via Trader Joe’s) and peanut butter. This means that there are several sources of sugar to turn up the sweetness.

Typical blondie recipes call for butter. Now, I’m not against butter. I think butter’s great. I like to cook with it, especially in sauces. But there’s something unsettling about putting whole sticks of butter in one dish (the visual makes me think about what it’ll do to my arteries), so I substitute with oil (in this case, canola). I don’t know if that’s actually a healthier substitute (it’s a psychological thing for me, really), but it does give the same effect as butter: chewiness. The maple syrup enhances the chew factor.

Ingredients:

1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar (I use brown)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 dollops of peanut butter
a pinch of baking soda
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Mix the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl, then spread the dough flat into a baking dish. Cook for 20-25 min. or so. When ready, the inside will likely still be a little sticky because of the maple syrup, but the top should have a shell-like consistency.

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , ,

Muse Winery: Rambling Rosé

Muse Rambling Rose

We recently had our bottle of 2012 Rambling Rosé that we picked up from Muse Winery, located off the highway in between the Swartz Bay ferry terminal and Victoria on Vancouver Island, BC. Several of the bottles we’ve opened from our wine stash have the general effect of: well, this isn’t as good as I remember from the tasting… which goes to show the power of atmosphere when trying a product.

But Rambling Rosé is different. Our bottle at home tasted just as good as when we visited the winery for a tasting in March. That was my first proper wine tasting, and I came away having learned a thing or two about the local varietals. You really can learn a lot from visiting the tasting rooms at vineyards.

The big lesson at Muse for me had to do with the Ortega grape. If I remember the lady at the counter correctly, this varietal originally came from Spain, and at first it didn’t do so well in the local terroir, but the vintners learned how to coax better flavor out of the grape, which is now a local star. Ortega has a strong peach note, which makes it ideal for sipping in the summer. This varietal isn’t part of the Rambling Rosé that I like so much, but I mention Ortega to give you an idea of the local grapes.

Rambling Rosé is a blend of Pinot Gris and Marechal Foch, and at CAD$15 a bottle, it’s a steal (and happens to be sold out at the moment). It’s a very fruity wine, heavy on berry notes, with a good balance between sweetness and acidity.

Posted in Adventure, Food | Tagged , , , , , ,

Try This Cheese: BoMé

Bome cheese
I’m a tomboy at heart, but I’m still a sucker for feminine flourishes. I like pretty things.

That’s why I was attracted to the BoMé Cheese store during our trip to Qualicum. When I see or hear “artisinal cheese”, I get excited.

I got very excited when I saw the BoMé billboard on the highway in Coombs. The label is a small-batch cheesemaker with a storefront that includes the cheesemaking equipment in the building. When we visited, I was hoping I’d get to see real live cheesemakers at work, but, alas, no one was on duty that day. However, there were two friendly folks manning the counter at the store, making treats for the cafe customers (there was a small group of Germans eating on the sunny patio).  We were eager to get to our cabin by the sea, so we just picked up a small block of “Spiced Shepherd” cheese, a feta packed with olive oil and topped with lovely herbs and thinly sliced cornichon.

Bome cheese
Back home, after the trip, I cut it into small slices and served it as a cheese board for an afternoon snack. A salty, tart, pretty souvenir of the sea.

Posted in Adventure, Food | Tagged , , , ,

Qualicum Bay, BC, Canada

Qualicum Bay

Illustration by Aileen Torres-Bennett

I haven’t drawn in a while, so I happily got pen and paper out and created the drawing above as a memento of our recent trip to Qualicum Bay, about a half-hour drive from the Nanaimo ferry terminal on Vancouver Island. Qualicum Beach is where most travelers stay, but we found a better cottage rental deal right on the beach in Qualicum Bay, a more residential area.

The cottage was underwhelming from the outside, but opening the door revealed a very tasteful, modern, cozy interior with an open floor plan and walls of windows framing stunning views of the ocean, coastline and mountains across the water. We made ourselves right at home.

There are barely any restaurants in the vicinity, which we didn’t really mind because we brought groceries from home and picked up some more from The Old Country Market, a small complex of shops that houses goats that feed on grass on the roof; very entertaining when you look up and happen to see them.

Our main activities were kayaking along the coast and picking up gigantic oysters during low tide. The weather was perfect almost daily, which made paddling highly enjoyable. It’s such a pleasure to breathe the cool fall air while getting a workout and seeing the the ocean and mountains illuminated in the sun. Denman Island, Hornby Island, Texada Island and Lasqueti Island were in view as we kayaked through the Georgia Strait in the Salish Sea. The water visibility was amazingly clear, so we were able to look down and see the seabed, which is lined with river type rocks. This is coho salmon territory, but we didn’t get to see any swim by. We were, however, successful in catching a few crabs by leaving out crab traps tied to buoys while we kayaked.

The fresh beach oysters were amazing, first for the experience of gathering them ourselves straight from the source, and second for the fresh flavor. I loved that the oysters were massive. We shucked them with an oyster knife and a mallet and had them: fresh with a bit of lime and hot sauce; grilled; scrambled in an omelette with spinach and cheese; and tossed with fresh pasta. The pasta, fettuccine, came from a neighborhood guy who runs a home-based business called Serafina’s Fine Foods. The oyster pasta dish was the culinary culmination of the trip. I stuffed myself silly with it, then retired to the couch, knowing digestion and exercise would take care of the meal’s after-effects in due time, while the memories of the trip would endure.

Posted in Adventure, Art, Food | Tagged , , , , ,