February 26, 2011


Oh tasty nachos, they are based on a type of food formula I love to make and eat: ingredient layering. This same formula can also be found in waffles, ice cream sundaes, hobo pies, lasagna, you get the idea. I usually find myself eating nachos during a pub happy hour, or perhaps when Lauren makes her chili nachos, but I rarely find myself making nachos myself. If I am craving a taco inspired meal, I usually fall back on my favorites: taco salad, stuffed quesadillas, or tortilla soup (a hidden benefit of all these is they are very inexpensive meals).
On a recent ski trip to Mammoth, we made taco salad, and after having it a couple nights, ended up taking all the leftover ingredients and making nachos for the Super Bowl. A couple nights ago we made tortilla soup, and again found we had some leftover ingredients, which were perfect for whipping up a batch of nachos. Moral of the story? Make up a dinner of your favorite mexican theme, and instead of having leftovers of the same dish for a week, save ingredients to make nachos later in the week.
Nachos are an incredibly flexible dish. They can be made with any toppings you choose, or you have on-hand. They can be made single serving or for a crowd. It takes minimal preparation, and is incredibly affordable. Plus, your nachos will taste so much better than the local pub! The recipe below is merely a guideline, feel free to experiment and add different types of fresh ingredients you have on hand. I would recommend keeping it simple though, so you don't end up with soggy nachos.

What's in it
cooked chicken (perhaps leftover from enchiladas or tortilla soup)
cooked ground beef
can black, kidney or refried beans
can jalapenos
can chile
chopped fresh vegetables - bell pepper, chile, onion, green onion, tomato, olives
grated cheese (I recommend colby jack)
sour cream or mexican table cream
avocado or guacamole
chopped cilantro
tapatio or hot sauce
get crazy - pineapple, cooked squash or potato, peaches, grilled shrimp...

How it's made
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet or oven proof plate/platter with foil (for easy clean up). Make totopos (using Alexis' recipe linked above) or use ready made tortilla chips. Layer about a third of your tortilla chips on your pan/plate. sprinkle cheese on top and a few other ingredients like meat and beans. Layer half remaining chips and sprinkle with more cheese and half remaining ingredients (but not salsa, avocado, cream, cilantro, lime). Layer rest of chips, sprinkle cheese, add remaining ingredients (except salsa, avocado...) then top with remaining cheese. Put in oven and bake until cheese is melted and veggies are at least warm, if not broiled a bit. Turn up the heat if need be. It will probably take 7-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and top with remaining fresh ingredients.
Pictured above: (made from leftover tortilla soup) totopos, colby jack, chopped tomato, chopped green onion, shredded cooked chicken, sour cream, avocado.
Pictured below: (made from leftover taco salad) tortilla chips, cheese, olives, salsa, sour cream, avocado, bell pepper, cilantro, green onion, black beans.

February 21, 2011

Masa Cornbread

All of the contributors to this blog love cornbread. (Check out both the Amber and Kate versions.) Now it's my turn. It's cornbread. It's masa. It's a match made in heaven: masa cornbread. 

I can't begin to tell you how much I love masa. Pretty much any possible thing made of this corn dough wins my overwhelming approval. Fresh corn tortillas? Absolutely. Sopes, tamales? Sign me up. I will make my own one of these days.

In the meantime, though, now I have something else to make with my masa harina (flour made from corn). Cornbread! It's so genius, I wish that I had thought of it myself. It's just like regular cornbread, but with a tiny Mexican twist. It has all of the great characteristics of regular cornbread, but with that distinct and delicious masa flavor. (Imagine the sweet taste of very fresh handmade corn tortillas--not the kind you typically buy at the store in this country. I hope you are lucky enough to know what I mean!)

I have made this masa cornbread two different ways and I will likely tweak the recipe as I continue to make it. I wanted to share it with you, though, because I think it is pretty amazing just as it is now. I will let you know if I figure out an even better recipe. This cornbread would be great with chili, but it is so good on its own, I say just make up a batch just so you can snack on it whenever you want. I'm even thinking about all of the possible add-ins for the next time I make this corn bread: cheese, green chiles? Yes, please.
Masa Cornbread
  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup or 1/2 stick) butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon for skillet
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted (or fresh if it's in season)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk wet ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir to combine. 
  4. Add corn kernels and stir to fully incorporate, but be careful not to over-mix.
  5. Put empty cast iron skillet in the oven for a minute. (If a non-cast iron baking dish, skip this step.) Remove and use remaining 1 tablespoon (you can use less) of butter to grease the bottom and sides of the warmed pan. Pour batter evenly into skillet.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the edges are browned and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan or on a rack slightly before serving.

February 13, 2011

Toasted Pecan Spread (Pecan Butter)

I quite accidentally stumbled upon this tasty treat. A last minute attempt at a peanut candy recipe from Fany Gerson's fantastic My Sweet Mexico somehow led to this sweet pecan butter. I am still going to make the peanut mazapanes soon, but this discovery was worth the detour.

This spread consist of nothing more than toasted pecans and powdered sugar. Besides roasting the pecans, all you have to do is blend the two ingredients in a food processor until it is the desired consistency. This fortuitous discovery makes me want to try making my own almond butter, too. So easy! So delicious! This spread tastes just like sweet toasted pecans, just like pecan pie, just like pecan shortbread cookies! Just like some of my very favorite things.

This spread would be mind-blowingly good on anything you normally put peanut butter on or in: waffles, pancakes, toast, cookies, bananas, anything! (Mix it with melted chocolate to make a pecan/chocolate spread like a pecan version of Nutella?!) I even added some to my oatmeal this morning. Divine.

Sweet Pecan Butter
  • 2 cups pecans
  • Powdered sugar to taste (somewhere between 1/2 cup and 1 1/2 cups)
  1.  Toast pecans in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. This really brings out their flavor, but they'll easily burn, so keep an eye on them! Let pecans cool.
  2. Blend pecans in a food processor for 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and continue blending until the pecans release their oil and the mixture becomes the consistency of peanut butter.

February 5, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with White Chocolate Mascarpone Filling

As I first flipped through my copy of Martha Stewart's Cookies and came across a recipe for whoopie pies, my first thought was, "huh?" I'd never heard of such a thing. Apparently they are more of an East Coast cookie. (Rumor has it they started when left over cake batter was baked into cookie size snacks and filled with the extra frosting.) They sure looked good, but I figured that sandwich cookies took too long to make. Amber, on the other hand, gave them a try early on. She seemed to be easily converted to the whoopie pie camp, and she soon posted her experience here.
Ok, I knew I should try them, but it still took me almost a year to bake some myself. I stumbled upon a pumpkin whoopie pie recipe on allrecipes.com that had me at "pumpkin*." I added nutmeg to the spice combination, because freshly grated nutmeg is my new favorite thing. I happened to have some mascarpone cheese on hand and decided to pair it with white chocolate for the filling. The filling ended up being very rich and delicious, but it was a little too subtle for my taste when compared to the spices in the pumpkin cookies. Next time I will try these cookies with a cream cheese filling--I think would stand up to the cookies better. (And because, well, you know how I feel about cream cheese frosting.)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • White chocolate mascarpone filling (recipe below) or cream cheese frosting
  • Cinnamon powdered sugar (powdered sugar with a little cinnamon stirred in)
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment (or lightly grease them).
  2. Combine the oil, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Mix in the pumpkin puree and eggs, beating until combined. 
  3. Sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into a large Ziplock bag. Cut off one corner, so you have a small tip. Swirl batter into desired size onto prepared baking sheets. (Cookies will puff up, but do not spread much at all.) OR, you can drop cookies by heaping tablespoons if you prefer that. 
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are set and golden. Do not under-bake or the final sandwiches will be too sticky. Cool completely on wire racks before filling cookies.
  6. Frost the flat side of a cookie and set another cookie on top. Dust serving plate and tops of cookies with cinnamon powdered sugar. (This looks cool and tastes delicious, but it also helps the cookies not stick to each other or the serving plate.)
White Chocolate Mascarpone Filling
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz. finely chopped white chocolate (or more to taste)
  • 8 oz. mascarpone 
  1. In a small pan, warm the cream over medium heat. Stir occasionally until cream is hot, but not simmering. 
  2. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Pour heated cream over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate melts. 
  3. Place in an ice bath until chilled, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours, or up to overnight. 
  4. With an electric mixer, combine the mascarpone with half of the white chocolate mixture and whip for 2 minutes. Add remaining chocolate mixture and mix on high until frosting holds a peak.
*In my world, pumpkin never goes out of style or out of season. Don't let pumpkin get relegated to just October and November!