Pineapple potato tacos

potato tacosOne of my favourite meals while my sister and I were in Mexico were the street tacos (Vine video at the bottom of this post). We had no idea what the different options were, and weren’t able to find out past “carne” (meat) or “pollo” (chicken) with the language barrier. So, we would point to one of the delicious looking options… and devour the result. Of these options, the one that surprised me the most was one that looked highly-textured that turned out to be potatoes and pineapple. I liked it so much that when we got home, my hubby and I tried to replicate it. This is his recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium sized red potatoes, chopped
  • half a pineapple, chopped (or one can of pineapple nibblets, mostly drained)
  • 1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 a small can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine (if you’re not vegan, you can use butter)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable stock
  • Soft-shelled tacos

Garnish:

  • Grated cheese of your choice (we used Okanogan’s Soy Co. vegan mozzarella)
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • 1/4 of a lime

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Queso: A great side dip or topping for your chips or main

cheeseWhile visiting friends in Austin, Texas last week, I was introduced to queso. If you’re not familiar with queso, it’s a delicious cheesy sauce that often comes with your chips or that you can top up your tacos or other dishes with. I have to admit, it was a new discovery for me, and the verdict: delicious! The good news – it’s very easy to make. This recipe is one that is based on what was described to me by my friend’s hubby who is Mexican and grew up on his momma’s made-from-scratch Mexican meals. The great thing about queso is there are many variations – you can put what you want in it.

I made a vegan variation.

Ingredients:

  • 250g of cheddar cheese, sliced or grated. Other kinds of cheese can be used. Cheddar is what was recommended to me. Many recipes call for “Velveeta cheese”, which is a processed cheese that’s softer in nature. I try to avoid processed foods, so didn’t use it. For the vegan variation, I used Okanagan’s Soya Co. cheddar.
  • 1/4 cup of cold water (for a non-vegan version, you can use 1/4 cup of half and half cream)
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you prefer mild heat)
  • 1/2 sprig of green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a medium sized white onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt

Start your queso by melting the cheese. You can do this directly in a saucepan or pot. I didn’t want to have to transfer the gooey cheese from pot to serving bowl, so I placed my sliced up cheese in the serving bowl directly and placed the bowl in a larger pot that had 2 inches of water in it. The heat from the pot and water melted the cheese directly in my serving bowl.

Once the cheese is melted, add the water (or cream for the non-vegan version of this recipe) and mix until smooth.

Add the peppers, onions, tomato, and salt.

If you prefer a runnier dip, you can add a little more water and mix until it’s at the consistency you like.

Pulled pork tacos

My hubby-to-be and I were having a couple friends over for dinner this week, and wanted to have something fun to eat that was communal, and also hearty for the winter months. In the end, we settled on pulled pork tacos. What’s better than sitting together, assembling our own tacos? (Okay, possibly a fondue or Chinese hot pot, but that’s for next time.)

The most labour-intensive part of this recipe is the pork, which I’d recommend making the night before you want to eat it. The longer you cook it, the softer and tastier the pork becomes. What’s great about this recipe is that it practically makes itself. All you need is a slow cooker or a thermal cooker. I use a thermal cooker for all my slow cooking and soups, which is probably one of my most highly recommended (and well-used) kitchen items I have. It keeps the heat, and cooks without requiring electricity or monitoring. More on the thermal cooker in a future post.

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)

  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped coarsely into eighths
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1/2 can of crushed tomatoes (which usually come in a large can)
  • 1 (3 pound) boneless pork butt, cut into large 4-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 orange, halved and juiced
  • 1 lime, halved and juiced
  • 1 package of soft shelled tacos

Garnish:

  • 1/2 sweet onion, peeled, chopped into strips
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/4 ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon, cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 cup of grated cheese of your choice (we love mozzarella or gruyère)
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole (optional)

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Guacamole

We love guacamole. Every chance we get, we’ll order it at a restaurant or make it ourselves. On one occasion, after eating at one of our favorite spots that has what we think is one of the best guacamole in town, we were on mission to reproduce a similarly tasty guac.

This is the result.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1 vine tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 to 2 tablesoon lime or lemon juice
  • Ground pepper to taste

Peel and pit the avocadoes and mash them in a bowl with a fork. Mashing it with a fork keeps the texture a little uneven and chunky, which we prefer. If you want a more even, smooth texture, you can also use a hand blender to smooth it out.

Chop up the vine tomato, onion, and cilantro and add to the mixture. Add the salt, lime juice, and ground pepper. Stir so everything is mixed thoroughly.

Serve with chips.

Tomatillo salsa

Image credits: Vivian Chan

We received some beautiful, fresh tomatillos in our foodshare this last week, and decided to whip up a quick salsa out of them.

Tomatillos are a mainstay in Mexican and Latin American cooking. Chances are, if you’ve ever had a green salsa or sauce at a Mexican restaurant, then you’ve had tomatillos. They are part of the nightshade family (same family as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and gooseberries), and are usually bright green in colour, although there are tomatillos that are a green-purple. They have a firm texture, tart flavour, and grow with a paper-like covering over the fruit. Needless to say, we were really excited to get them and to make our own version of the tart salsa. The great part is that this salsa is really simple, quick, and easy – perfect to whip up for an appetizer or snack.

Ingredients: (makes about 2 cups of salsa)

  • 5 tomatillos, chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of either parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper, or to taste
  • Chips!

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