Tag Archive for 'tortilla'

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I am sorry for my absence from blogging, but all of a sudden life has gotten really busy. We only have 2 weeks of the school year left, and every little box in our calendar is full with things to do. Assemblies, performances, concerts, Christmas parties and holiday preparations have taken over my life. And it’s less than 3 weeks until we leave for our annual winter holiday in Massachusetts, which can’t come soon enough, especially after last weeks 39C (103F). It was just a few degrees cooler for the company’s Thanksgiving dinner, which didn’t stop anyone from piling into a fantastic pot-luck buffet, loaded with turkeys, hams, dozens (almost!) of sweet potato casseroles and stuffings of all kinds. Not that this will prevent me from doing it all over again this Thursday, especially now that I foolishly invited some friends over. You can tell, it’s only been just over a decade since my first Thanksgiving dinner and I don’t yet have the tired look on my face like most Americans when they think of another gigantic turkey dinner and all it’s left overs. Anyway, I am getting carried away. Today’s blog is not actually about anything related to fall or winter or any holidays, but about the fabulous Chicken Tortilla Soup I made today. Something else entirely.

I have had my last cooking session for this year today. Yeah! The ladies did a marvelous job and really got to work on the tortillas. We had about 10 left over, and since they don’t really stay fresh for more than a couple of hours, I turned them into crisp tortilla strips for a Chicken-Tortilla Soup. I got to work, checking websites and blogs for inspiration, picking a few ideas here and there and combining them all in a fantastic, super-delicious soup. I used home made chicken stock from the freezer and added left over shredded chicken, slow roasted tomatoes, corn, zucchini for a little extra nutrition and a bit of left over chard. Not necessary and definitely not traditional, but handy. A sprinkle of grated cheese, some fresh coriander (cilantro) and a drizzle of lime juice rounded it all up. The spice came in form of 2 fresh red long chillies and one crumbled up dried chili. Jalapenos would work just as well, so would cayenne pepper. I am no expert on chilies and there is a total lack of variety here in Australia, so if you know your chilies, you’ll probably know which ones and how many to use. If not, start slowly. If the soup isn’t spicy enough, you can always add some more during the cooking process.

Anyway, give it a go. It’s fast, easy and totally delicious. A definite winner which I am already looking forward to cooking again.

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Sweet Potato Quesadillas

I am sorry, these are not exactly the ‘roast chicken, chard, red onion and mushroom quesadillas’ I announced in my previous post. I added another major ingredient – sweet potatoes. If sweet potatoes aren’t your ‘thing’ just leave them out. I felt like trying something different, and I loved the result. I came across the sweet potato idea a few years back, while reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kinsolver and found it quite intriguing. I vaguely remembered the recipe while preparing my quesadillas and googled it. Naturally I got carried away, looking at all the other sweet potato quesadilla recipes and finally found this one, which looked like a winner. It’s originally from the “Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home” cookbook, which just landed in my amazon shopping cart.

I went into my pantry and dug up some sweet potatoes. I cooked them almost like instructed, leaving the onions out to caramelize separately. I then piled the sweet potatoes onto some fresh corn tortillas and added the caramelized onions, shredded chard, sauteed portobello mushrooms and grated Fontina cheese. Fantastic! While my husband and kids liked theirs with shredded roast chicken, I added some left-over adzuki beans to mine, but honestly, I thought they were better with neither on it. I also made some quesadillas with ‘only’ chicken, mushrooms, caramelized onion, shredded chard and cheese, which is my usual go to recipe. Sorry I didn’t take a picture of those, but looking at the pictures below you can just about image what they looked like. Once again, I made the tortillas myself, which for 5 hungry people at the end of the day, is no small feet. The press isn’t working out all that well, usually leaving them too thick and uneven. So I press them first and then roll them to the desired thickness and size with the rolling pin. Go ahead and use store bought fresh flour or corn tortillas if you have the option. It reduces the cooking time at least by half. On the other hand, making them on your own is good fun.

When you go through the list of ingredients, keep in mind that my home made tortillas were quite small and therefore my husband ate 3, I ate 2, our youngest had one, and the boys 1 1/2 each, plus one was left over for lunch the next day. If you want to use store bought ones, buy the burrito size tortillas. You will probably only need 12-16 of those. I grated the sweet potatoes in the food processor, which was quick and easy. As to the cheese, there is no Monterey Jack cheese available in Australia, so I get ‘Fontina’ instead. It melts beautifully and has a mild, subtle taste.

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Yummy Beany Burrito

This was my lunch today:


Now you’ll probably think, “how on earth does she have the time to make herself a lunch like that on an ordinary weekday”, followed by “she must have gone out for lunch”. Actually, I made it myself, but used mostly leftovers from last night’s dinner, except for the corn tortilla, which is fresh and home made. I am getting ready for my next cooking class “Mexican Fiesta” and have been making tortillas non-stop. I went and bought myself a cast iron skillet yesterday, which makes much better tortillas than any of the pans in my cupboard. It wasn’t too expensive, even by OZ standards and is well worth it. I am also getting better at getting the right dough consistency, which just like pasta making, requires patience and practise. I watched about 20 YouTube videos, in English and in Spanish, as well as reading countless blog entries. Now you’re probably wondering why I am not going to the store and buy them instead of going through all this trouble. And believe me, I would, were we anywhere close to a place that sells good tortillas. The only thing you get in Perth is the El Paso brand and it’s relatives, which if you’re like me and religiously read through the list of ingredients, is not an option. Numbers, preservatives and additives galore. That’s why they have a shelf life of a million years.

I haven’t tried to make flour tortillas, mainly because of a good friend who is a celiac and she’s coming to one of the cooking classes. Speaking of which, I seamed to have found my calling. Mexican Cooking classes! Nothing has ever created such an interest before. So far I have 3 full classes for next month, of which all the proceeds go to a post-Christmas shopping trip to NYC! Sorry I made you think they would go to a charitable cause there for a second. Next year, I promise. This is my first profit ever, and I need to reward myself. Bingo! 

Back to food! What you see on the picture is actually a burrito – pre-wrapped. I did wrap it in aluminium foil after I took the picture. It does hold everything together so much better and keeps things warm. But you don’t have to, and for the environment’s sake, probably shouldn’t. What went in it? Pinto beans, tomato salsa fresca, brown rice, avocado slices and a sprinkle of medium cheddar cheese. Of course there are all kinds of ways to make your burrito, but I love beans in all shapes and colors and wouldn’t substitute them for anything. The salsa is straight forward; all you really need is good tomatoes, fresh coriander (cilantro), fresh chilies, onion, garlic, lime juice and salt.

As to the remaining ingredients for my burrito, I have to have avocado. I can’t really have any Mexican food without it. I also love the brown rice in it. It rounds it all up, and soaks up some of the spice, in case you went a little over board. I am pretty ambivalent about the cheese. It’s definitely not a must. That’s pretty much it. Check it out. It’s delicious, fun, good for you and the planet and you can eat it with your hands!

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Lunch Box Wrap

A few weeks ago, I held a lunch box class at my home. Not surprisingly it was my most popular class ever! It quickly became obvious that most parents are struggling to come up with school lunches that are just about healthy and interesting enough to be eaten and not thrown in the garbage bin. And what a delicate task that is! Not only do our kids need to like what’s in the lunch box, but the peer pressure adds an additional challenge. “All my friends have chips with lunch” or “so and so wouldn’t sit next to me, because he hates fish” or “it takes to long for me to chew my veggies and I miss out on football”.  Then there’s the issue with food allergies, or egg- and nut-free schools. You get the point.

I am far from being the queen of lunch boxes, but over the years I have learned what works and what doesn’t and to add to that, I researched, experimented, concocted, baked and assembled everything from super healthy quinoa muffins, sweet potato brownies to wraps, pasta salads, savory muffins and dips of all colors. In the week prior to the class, we ended up with dozens of muffins and even had them for dinner one night. The wraps were one of the biggest hits, and because the children help to make them, they get to choose what goes in them with a minimum requirement of a protein and 2 different vegetables. Hummus and pesto are popular, as is shredded roasted chicken or strips of smoked salmon, shredded carrots and lettuce, strips of pepper, different sprouts, avocado and grated cheese. Here are a few ideas:

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