Monday, September 29, 2008

Rancho La Puerta's Huevos Rancheros

Healthy Huevos Rancheros
On Friday our company took me and a few of my co-workers to Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. It is a fabulous spa and cooking school where my friend and chef Michel Stroot, used to work but he has now retired--although he does "guest appearance" classes at the school. If you're interested in the cooking school, it's called La Cocina Que Canta and they have excellent chefs. Our chef that taught us this class was chef Deborah Schneider.

This was the very first time I've been to this spa and it was fabulous. Generally, guests stay there for 7 days but we were able to get a special one-day package. Needless to say, the cooking school was excellent and the recipe below is what I made for our team builder.

These are not your typical huevos rancheros. This dish is healthy and what I found amazing about this recipe is that all the ingredients (except the cheese), came from the ranch. They grow everything there and they have a large chicken coop, too, and I am proud to say this is the first farm-to-table meal I've cooked! The huevos were so yummy and it was even better with the homemade tortillas another one of my co-workers made. This was probably one of the best team-builders I've ever been to!

INGREDIENTS (seves 8 to 10)

  • 8 large tomatoes
  • 1 large white onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped into small dice
  • 1 large green or yellow bell pepper, chopped into small dice
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (low sodium)
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • 2 avocados, seeded and chopped (you do this last, when the eggs are ready)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Have a large pot of boiling water ready. Also, you will need a large bowl with ice (ice-bath) ready.

Cut a small "x" at bottom of each tomato and drop them into a large pot of boiling water. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Immediately remove and place them in the ice-bath to cool and stop the cooking. Once you can handle the tomatoes, peel the skins. Cut tomatoes in half around the circumference and gently squeeze out seeds (or use your fingers or spoon to take out). Chop tomatoes into medium size pieces.

Heat a large, heavy pan on medium-high and add two tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, red and green or yellow pepper, and jalapeños. Add a good pinch of salt and sauté until onions become lightly transparent. About 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if needed. At this point, sauce will be slightly chunky. Add 1 cup stock and simmer a few more minutes. You don't want the sauce to be too watery. This is where you're going to have to eyeball it and add more stock, if needed (I only used 1 cup because tomatoes were a bit juicy already). Lastly, add 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper. Remove from stove and set aside.

In a large clay pot or 9x13 glass baking dish or casserole, add the tomato sauce. With the back of a small ladle, make an indentation in the sauce. Immediately crack one egg and slide it into the well you just made. You can also use a large spoon if you don't have a ladle. Continue doing this all over the sauce until you have all 10 eggs (we used 1 large clay pot and one smaller one to fit all 1o eggs). If you want, you can lightly sprinkle a little salt and pepper over each egg. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until your eggs reach your desired doneness.

Remove baking dish from oven and sprinkle cotija cheese over each egg, then sprinkle with chopped cilantro and chopped avocado and serve, family style!

Chef Deborah Schneider

Monday, September 22, 2008

Easy Chilaquiles con Queso

Chilaquiles are fried tortillas with a tangy tomato sauce and smothered in cheese. In our family, we like to eat chilaquiles with eggs and a side or refried beans.

There are many chilaquiles recipes out there. Some suggest you make your own tomato sauce, while others tell you to bake the chilaquiles. Truthfully, we've never baked our chilaquiles and we always use canned tomato sauce. El Pato tomato sauce is good, but you can also use Las Palmas red enchilada sauce. Now, if you're really, really tired and don't want to bother with the frying of the tortillas, go to your local carniceria or ethnic grocery store and buy good homemade tortilla chips and use those instead (then there's no need to fry!). These are just little tricks I learned from my mom.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 8 corn tortillas, stale and torn in pieces
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 can (7-3/4 oz.) El Pato tomato sauce (yellow can with duck, can use more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup grated Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Oil is ready when small piece of tortilla thrown in bubbles. Fry tortillas in batches, until crisp and golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. Drain oil, reserving enough to leave a nice residue in pan.

Add tomato sauce to pan and stir over medium heat until warm. Add tortillas and stir together until warm. Add salt to your liking. Top with cheese. Take off heat. Once cheese melts, add onions, then top with cilantro. Serve with eggs, refried beans, or with breakfast potatoes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Turkey Albondigas

My brother and sister-in-law just had their first baby 10 days ago. She is a beautiful little girl with so much hair; she's going to need a haircut pretty soon! So, both my mom and step-mom made food for them and stored it in their freezer this way Lindsey and Tom didn't have to worry about cooking for the first few weeks while they got used to their new bundle of joy. One of the dishes my mom made for them is her albondigas soup. To me, this is probably one of the best Mexican comfort foods, and it's really good to eat when you're sick, too (I guess it's the Mexican version of Matzo Ball Soup).

Now, in just about all the albondigas recipes they tell you to use ground beef, which you can substitute, but my mom got us used to ground turkey (or even ground chicken) because there is less fat and the soup is not greasy at all. Also, if there are no zucchinis available, you can add summer squash, or you can just omit it if you want. Anyway, my mom made extra soup and I also got a nice pot of it at home.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6)

  • 2 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

In a large pot combine broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce and water. Add the onion, carrots, celery and potatoes (do not add the zucchini just yet).

Bring to a boil and simmer.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the ground turkey, uncooked rice, cilantro, garlic, pepper, seasosing salt, egg and ice water. Mix thoroughly, but do not overwork the mixture.

Form into small meatballs (you can form bigger meatballs if you prefer, but meatballs may have to cook a little longer).

Add carefully to soup. Cook for 15 minutes, then add the zucchini. Cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through and the rice in the meatballs look nice and plump.

Laddle the albondigas and broth in soup bowls and don't forget to serve warm corn tortillas and butter on the side. Que bueno!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vegetarian Chili for a Funeral

Photo by dipdewdog
It's been quite a scary week so far.

Stock market is down.

The global economy is getting shaken up.

My husband is somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic God knows doing what for Uncle Sam.

Obama's lead is just one point now.

And David Foster Wallace killed himself last Friday.

So, yeah, it's been quite ominous to say the least. But, as always, I'm thinking about food and I pondered: what would David Foster Wallace (DFW) want to be served at his funeral? What would this great writer, who particularly didn't like using periods1 but loved commas—and loved using footnotes—would want his guests to eat while they reminisced, and cried, and laughed, about his great, yet short life? DFW was born in Ithaca, grew up in central Illinois, got his Master's in Arizona and died in California...hmmm, WWDFWE?

But of course, vegetarian chili!2

INGREDIENTS (serves 8)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
  • 2 (12 ounce) packages vegetarian burger crumbles
  • 3 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and season with bay leaves, cumin, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir until onion is tender, then mix in the celery, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and green chile peppers. When vegetables are heated through, mix in the vegetarian burger crumbles. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Mix the tomatoes into the pot. Season chili with chili powder and pepper. Stir in the kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the corn, and continue cooking 5 minutes before serving.
  3. Remeber to have grated chedder cheese, chopped onions, jalapenos, sour cream, and any of your favorite toppings on the side for the chili. Enjoy!
1 For example, in his book Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, DFW's chapter called "Death Is Not the End"—which I just realized it's eerily weird that that's the first thing that came to mind when I wrote this—he writes for two and-a-half pages without using a period. My goodness, man, I had to take a deep breath once the period finally appeared!

2 I know you're probably thinking maybe it should have been lobster, or lobster rolls, but that would have been too easy, don't you think?


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chicken Pad Thai

Not too long ago I found a Thai restaurant near my work called Thai Chadda. The restaurant is in the food court where a lot of us from work go to eat, and they make the food quite fast. It's not one of the best Thai places, but their chicken pad Thai is quite good. It's tangy, spicy and lightly sweet. So, after searching for recipes for this great dish, I finally decided on this one I found on, because it was actually the less difficult one. Anyway, my pad Thai came out fabulous and almost as good as restaurant quality.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2-3)

  • 8-10 oz. thin Thai-style rice noodles - look for linguini-size rice noodles (made in Thailand) at Asian/Chinese stores
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups raw chicken breast or thigh meat, sliced
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 3 spring (green) onions, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup crushed or roughly chopped peanuts
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Lime or orange wedges for serving
  • oil for stir-frying
  • 3/4 Tbsp. tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (look for tamarind at Asian/Chinese or Indian food stores)
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1-3 tsp. chili sauce (depending how spicy you want it)
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar (not packed)
  1. Place noodles in a pot of water and place on the stove. Bring to near a boil, then remove from heat. Allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients (about 10 minutes).
  2. Make the Pad Thai Sauce by combining the sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well to dissolve both the tamarind paste and the brown sugar. Set sauce aside.
  3. Place chicken slices in a small bowl. Pour the marinade (2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. soy sauce) over the chicken. Stir well and set aside.
  4. Check the noodles. Note that you will be frying the noodles later, so you don't want to over-soften them at this point. Noodles are ready when they are soft enough to be eaten, but are still firm and chewy. Drain and rinse through with cold water. Set aside.
  5. Warm up a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the wok/pan is hot, add 1-2 Tbsp. oil plus garlic. Stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds).
  6. Add the chicken (together with the marinade). Stir-fry until the wok or pan becomes dry (30 seconds to 1 minute).
  7. Now begin adding some of the chicken stock. Add only a few Tbsp. at a time, enough to keep the chicken frying nicely. Continue until all the chicken stock has been added and chicken pieces/strips are cooked (about 5-8 minutes).
  8. Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over the noodles. Using two spatulas, wooden spoons, or other utensils, quickly stir-fry the noodles. Use a "lift and turn" method (almost as though you were tossing a salad) instead of the usual stir-frying motion, or the noodles with break apart.
  9. Fry the noodles in this way for 1-2 minutes. If you find your wok/frying pan too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom (but no more broth, or the noodles will become soggy).
  10. Add the bean sprouts and sprinkle over the ground black pepper. Continue "tossing" for 1 more minute, or until noodles are cooked. Noodles are done to perfection when they are no longer "hard" or transulcent. They should be opaque and chewy-sticky wonderful!
  11. Taste-test the noodles for seasoning, adding more fish sauce as needed (I usually end up adding up to 1 more Tbsp. fish sauce, as I like mine on the salty side). Toss well to incorporate.
  12. To serve, lift the noodles onto a serving plate. Top with generous amounts of fresh coriander, spring onion (green onion), and crushed or chopped nuts. Add fresh orange slices or lime wedges (lime is great squeezed overtop), and serve with a bottle of Thai chili sauce on the side, for those who like it extra spicy. ENJOY!

Friday, September 05, 2008


Arañitas are a variation of the tostones recipe. In Spanish, arañitas means little spiders and the recipe gets its name from the shredded plantain, which looks like spider legs when fried. Yeah, I know that doesn't sound appetizing, but these little fried plantains are delish. Serve arañitas instead of bread or as a side to your chicken and rice dish.

INGREDIENTS (makes about 12 arañitas)

  • 1 large green plantain
  • 1 large garlic clove (minced)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive or vegetable oil for frying
  1. Peel the plantain and shred with a coarse grater.
  2. Place the grated plantain in salted water and let soak for about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the grated plantain and dry with paper towels to soak up excess water.
  4. Mix the grated plantain with the garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.
  6. Fry the shredded mix by the spoonful in clumps until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  7. Drain on paper towels, lightly salt while still hot and serve immediately.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake Ever!

Hi friends and family. I apologize I have not updated my food blog, but I have been without a kitchen for a couple of weeks. As you may know, my hubby and I bought a house and we're currently remodeling. So, here's and oldie but goodie recipe that I really like. This is a wonderful treat for any chocoholic out there, and if you're watching your carbs, this is lower carb cake than a regular chocolate cake. Anyway, we're getting the granite countertops installed tomorrow and I hope to have a brand new recipe posted here soon!

xoxo, Armida

I made this cake for Easter Sunday and it was incredible; I'm not just saying was really good! The mixture of bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate gives this cake a superb cocoa taste and the sugar adds just the right balance. I placed my cake in the refrigerator before I served it although it tastes great a room temperature, too. Fresh raspberries or strawberries compliment this cake so well. We had a late harvest Zinfandel with the cake and it was just pure heaven. If you make this cake for your family they will worship you!!!

INGREDIENTS (about 8 servings)

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar (6 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup water (5 ounces)
  • 6 ounces softened butter
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (3 ounces)
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 10-inch cake pan with vegetable cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a 10-inch parchment paper circle. Coat the top of the parchment paper circle with vegetable cooking spray.

Place both chopped chocolates in a bowl and melt over a double boiler. Combine the sugar and water in a 1-quart saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil until all of the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot syrup into the bowl of melted chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is homogenous. Add the butter and whisk until well mixed. Set aside for a moment.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Be careful to mix gently.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place a baking sheet with 1-inch sides in the oven. Place the filled cake pan on the baking sheet. Fill the baking sheet with water so the water covers the bottom inch of the cake pan. Bake until the cake surface appears dull and taut when pressed in the middle, about 40 minutes.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack. Turn off the oven and let the baking sheet and water cool before you attempt to remove them.

The cake will be moist and dense but not overly sweet. Serve with a side of whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Recipe courtesy Jacques Torres