Thursday, July 31, 2008

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Burrito

I first heard of huevos rancheros in Canada – not on the menu of a Tex-Mex restaurant but on the radio. It’s actually the name of an indie rock band in my hometown of Calgary. Years later I saw the term on a menu, and finally figured out what huevos were (I grew up with French as a second language). Later still, I learned that huevos is also slang for a part of the male anatomy.

This recipe is a bastardization of the authentic huevos rancheros (literally “ranch eggs”), a Mexican breakfast dish which consists of fried eggs and tomato salsa served on a warm corn tortilla. Traditionally, refried beans (which are not re-fried at all!), potatoes or black beans accompany the dish. My version includes scrambled eggs and hearty additions of cheese, corn and chicken.

Serves 2

1-2 tablespoons butter
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos, shredded
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded chicken meat (from a roast chicken or grilled chicken breast)
2 large corn or wheat tortillas
salsa, guacamole and/or sour cream, for serving (optional)

1. Place butter in a skillet on medium heat.
2. Beat eggs with a fork until well mixed. Add milk, salt and pepper and beat again.
3. Mix in cheese, corn and chicken.
4. When butter is foaming, pour egg mixture into skillet.
5. Use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to slowly stir the egg mixture until thickened.
6. Cover tortillas with a damp papertowel and microwave for 10-20 seconds. Warming the tortillas make them easier to fold.
7. Divide egg mixture evenly between warmed tortillas. Top with salsa, guacamole and/or sour cream before folding – or serve these on the side.
8. Fold into a burrito (instructions here).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Oatmeal Chocolate Date Cookies

In the last couple of decades, oatmeal has experienced a renaissance. Studies that linked oatmeal consumption with lower blood cholesterol came out in the 1980s, and in 1997 the US Food and Drug Administration allowed products with oat bran or rolled oats (which contain beta-glucans) to claim that they reduce heart disease when combined with a low-fat diet. Oatmeal is high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. It has long been a staple in the diets of athletes and labourers who benefit from a slow-releasing source of glucose.

Oatmeal is a product of ground oat groats. It is a staple in Scotland where it is well-suited to the short, wet growing season. The Scots use oats in baking and a wide variety of dishes including poultry stuffing, porridge, haggis, and black pudding. In the United States, Vermonters consume more oats per capita than any other state. Traditionally, the oats are soaked overnight, cooked and then served with sugar and spices.

Before its health benefits were clear, I was a huge fan of oatmeal cookies. My father made his with honey and they were large, thin and chewy. My recipe makes dense and satisfying cookies that are perfect for breakfast or as a snack. The dates add an unusual, natural sweetness that complements the hearty oat and chocolate flavors.

Makes 24 cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups quick oats (reduce to 2 cups for lighter, larger cookies)
1 3/4 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cups dried date pieces (use dried cranberries or dried cherries if dates are unavailable)

For lighter, healthier cookies change ingredients as follows:
Increase flour to 1 1/2 cups
Reduce butter to 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup applesauce and 2 tablespoons canola/corn oil
Reduce granulated sugar to 1/4 cup
Reduce chocolate chips to 1 cup

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture and beat until incorporated.
4. Using a spatula, stir in quick oats. Then stir in chocolate chips and date nuggets.
5. Drop batter in two tablespoon pieces onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light brown. The cookies will not spread very much. If you use 2 cups of oats, the cookies will spread so space 2 inches apart.
6. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 3 months (to defrost leave at room temperature overnight).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

On my last blog post before Aly’s return, I have selected a classic summer treat: strawberry rhubarb pie. Yes, I know I promised authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, but I was swept away by long, ruby red stalks of rhubarb and juicy strawberries in their natural, non-genetically modified state. As much as I am a pre-planner—and I am—I decided to let the ingredients drive my cooking. Seeing farm-to-market fresh produce reminded me (in an excruciatingly mouth-watering way) why cooking can be so vibrant, creative, and plain fun. After buying two pounds of rhubarb, two pints of strawberries, a bag of hand-picked oranges, and a handful of lemons, I headed home to give it all a new life form. Rhubarb is an ancient and quite versatile plant; the stalks, with their bitter taste, complement sweet fruits; the roots function as a laxative; and the leaves, well, should be avoided because they are poisonous. The earliest evidence of rhubarb comes from 2700 BC in China where rhubarb was used for medicinal purposes. Europeans took note of rhubarb after Marco Palo’s travels through China. In 1777, a British horticulturalist near Oxford was the first in Europe to mass cultivate the plant and his rhubarb farm is apparently still in existence today.

My rhubarb came from a small farm in East Palo Alto, California. As a former resident of the Palo Alto area, there was a nice symmetry in seeing my Oxford and California lives intertwine. I brought in a bit of my childhood by making my mothers’ famous orange pie crust (hint: orange juice is used instead of ice water). Once the crust is made, the rest is as simple to make as, well…pie. The fresh fruits are combined with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice and allowed to marinate for a bit before being zapped into a gooey, yummy paste in the oven. The result is a culinary yin-yang: tart bits of fruit encased in strawberry goodness. Enjoy the quintessential summer flavor, and thanks for indulging me in cooking fun these last three weeks!

Pie Crust
· 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
· 1 cup of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
· 1 teaspoon salt
· ½ teaspoon of sugar
· 1 teaspoon of orange zest
· 5 tablespoons of very cold orange juice

1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and zest in a large bowl. Add the unsalted butter cut in cubes and using two knives ‘cut’ the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas.
2. Add the orange juice and stir using a fork. Add more juice or flour, as needed, until the mixture yields two round balls of dough.
3. Wrap the dough balls in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator and roll out onto parchment paper covered in flour.
5. Place one rolled out piece into a 9-inch pie pan and crimp the edges. Save the second rolled out piece for the top crust.


· 2 cups chopped rhubarb
· 2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
· 1 cup of sugar
· 2 tablespoons minute tapioca
· 1 tablespoon flour
· 1 teaspoon lemon zest
· ¾ teaspoon lemon juice
· 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 2 tablespoons butter, cubed small
· 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the chopped rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, zest, juice, cinnamon, and extract. Carefully mix the ingredients together and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture into the pie pan and add the cubed butter.
4. Place the top crust on the pie, using a fork to poke holes into it and to crimp the sides together.
5. Brush on the egg white and sprinkle with a bit of sugar and cinnamon.
6. Place the pie on a baking tray and put into the oven at 425 F for 15 minutes.
7. Decrease the heat to 375 F and bake for another 45-50 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
8. Let sit for at least thirty minutes before cutting. The longer you wait, the more set the pie will become.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mexican Gazpacho with Lime-Cilantro Shrimp

In the middle of a summer heat wave, cold, colorful, and flavorful food can be the antidote to lethargy. Gazpacho is the epitome of cold, colorful, and flavorful. It also has a rich history. Originating in Andalusia during the Middle Ages, gazpacho was a pulverized pulp of garlic, almonds, bread, olive oil and vinegar. Tomatoes and peppers were not added to the mix until after Columbus. Regional varieties of gazpacho abound, some with a bread base, others without. Often called a ‘liquid salad,’ the now standard tomato-garlic-bell pepper-cucumber base is quite forgiving. So I attempted some Tex-Mex fusion. Cilantro (aka coriander), cumin, ground chili powder, and jalapenos are quintessential Mexican flavors; combined, they serve as a sturdy platform for most salsas and sauces. Stir in a few drops of Tabasco, or my Texas favorite—‘Kick Ass Hot Sauce’ made from habanero and serrano peppers—and you’ve got a bit of extra ferocity. The challenge then, was to balance the simplicity of freshly pureed vegetables with the boisterous Mexican spice. Integrating lemon and lime juice plus a dab of honey yielded equilibrium. To turn a light soup into a more substantial meal, I garnished with fresh avocado, Manchego cheese cubes, fried tortilla strips, and lime-cilantro shrimp. The result, according to my dinner companion, was ‘pure summer.’

Mexican Gazpacho
44 ounces of V8 juice
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, chopped
2 large Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
A fistful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
21/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Mexican chili pepper
½ teaspoon of Mexican paprika
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried whole basil
11/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Tabasco or ‘Kick Ass Hot Sauce’ a few shakes to taste

  1. I know the ingredient list is long, but the directions are fairly simple. Chop up all the veggies, coarsely, and place into a large bowl.
  2. If you’re like me and didn’t know how to peel a tomato, drop it in boiling water for about 30 seconds until the skin disintegrates. To de-seed a cucumber, cut it in half, and with a spoon remove the inside layer of seeds.
  3. Add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon and lime juices, spices, honey, and hot sauce.
  4. Pour some of the vegetable mixture and chilled V8 juice into the blender. Pulverize, do not fully blend.
  5. Repeat until all of the vegetable mixture and juice has been used.
  6. Refrigerate in an airtight for at least four hours before serving.
Lime-Cilantro Shrimp

About a pound of fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
A lime
1 Tablespoon of Butter
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
Garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons of cilantro
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
¼ teaspoon of chili powder
¼ teaspoon of paprika
¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
¼ teaspoon of cumin


  1. Heat a skillet with butter and olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  3. Add the shrimp, juice of one lime, and spice mix.
  4. Cook both sides until browned.
  5. Add the fresh cilantro
Other Gazpacho Garnishes
  • Corn tortilla, cut into strips, and fried in a bit of butter with dashes of chili and onion powder
  • Manchego cheese, shredded or diced in small cubes
  • Fresh avocado, cubed

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Margarita Ice-Cream w/ Lime-Pistachio Biscotti

The thought of filling Aly’s chef hat for three weeks is daunting so I’ve needed to reframe. My goal will be to complement his diverse repertoire with a little down-home Tex-Mex flare. I should introduce myself first: My name is Sarah and I am a Tex-Mex girl at heart, having been born and raised in Austin, Texas. For the past seven years, I’ve been a nomad, living in California, DC, England, Russia, and New Zealand. With the exception of California, Mexican food has been hard to find, even the ingredients have not been readily accessible. And I hate to admit it but California’s take on Mexican food is far too healthy, hippie, and chic for Texas (think sprouts!).

Good ‘ol Wikipedia reports that TexMex is a modern invention, with the word first entering everyday speak in the 1940s. Further Internet digging tells us that TexMex is a blend of Northern Mexican peasant food with Texas farm and cowboy fare. That blending yields such favorites as enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, refried beans, chimichangas, chili con carne, tacos, and tamales. We certainly can’t forget our favorite imported beverage: the Margarita. Margaritas are a Texas staple any time of year, but on July 4th when the weather reaches the high 90s and uncomfortable 100s, they gain particular potency. In addition to the heat, my July 4th memories are clouded by an absurd amount of sweet things: cookies, pies, and of course, ice cream. Vanilla BlueBell ice-cream is a Texas indulgence and with red licorice and blueberry sauce it becomes a very patriotic treat.

So this week in honor of the cross-cultural melding that, I think, gives us a reason to be patriotic, I’ve attempted to blend margaritas and ice-cream into one. Funnily enough, the recipe on which the margarita ice-cream is based comes from a Brit, Nigella Lawson. Ah, what the wonders of globalization bring! Indeed, I’ve paired the margarita ice-cream with a lime-pistachio biscotti draped in white chocolate to fully embrace the globalized, melting pot theme. Both the ice-cream and biscotti are minimalist recipes involving few ingredients and taking less than an hour to make. You don’t even need an ice-cream machine!'

Margarita Ice-Cream


2 ½ tablespoons of tequilla

3 tablespoons of triple sec

½ cup of fresh lime juice

1 ½ cups of powdered sugar

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons of orange and lime zest


  1. Mix the alcohols, lime juice, and zests together.
  2. Add the powdered sugar until it dissolves.
  3. Add the whipping cream and, with an electric hand mixer, whip until soft peaks form.
  4. Spoon in to an airtight container and freeze overnight. Enjoy!

Strawberry Margarita Ice-Cream

  1. Add ½ cup of pureed fresh strawberries to the liquid mixture, prior to adding the powdered sugar and whipping cream.

Lime-Pistachio Biscotti


2 ½ cups of flour

¾ cup of sugar

1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

1 cup of shelled pistachios

3 eggs

3 tablespoons of lime juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract

Zest of one lime

Zest of ½ an orange

White chocolate bar, melted


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and shelled pistachios. Make sure to take off the brown outer layer so the green nut is fully showing.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, zest, juice, and extract.
  4. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.
  5. Add flour until the dough can be rolled into a ball.
  6. Cut in half and roll each into a log. Place the two logs on a prepared cookie sheet and press down.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Turn down the oven to 300 degrees.
  9. Once cooled, cut the slabs into ¼ inch pieces and place onto the second cookie sheet. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until hardened.
  10. Once cooled again, dip the top half of the biscotti into the melted white chocolate. Decorate with pistachio pieces. Enjoy!