Chipotle Chilaquiles

This is the breakfast I’d eat every day if I could. Oh chilaquiles, how much do I love you?

Apparently quite a bit, as I’ve been on the Chilaquiles Train ever since getting back from Mexico earlier this month. While I’ve always enjoyed them, I’ve renewed my love by eating them a few times a week already and I suppose I’m making up for lost time.

While I won’t go into the variety of regional differences, chilaquiles are basically stale corn tortillas cooked in a sauce and topped with ingredients as a way to use up any leftovers or stale chips. It’s a concept I love even if I can’t quite understand the thought of having left over chips, let alone stale. Aren’t they always eaten until they’re gone? Maybe that’s just me.

Chilaquiles are miraculously adaptable; you can use almost anything you have on hand. I love recipes that are difficult to mess up and these fit the bill. They’ll forgive you if you add too much sauce, they’ll still taste great if you use too much cheese. I’m guilty on both accounts.

I grew up eating chilaquiles’ close relative, the Tex Mex dish called Migas which is comprised of corn chips, eggs, sometimes cheese, sometimes salsa, but always generous scoops of salsa.  I can seriously throw down some migas every day of the week, but for a change I’ve been digging chilaquiles’ use of various sauces to create that moist crunch that lives in that secret place between soggy and crunchy. To me it’s a very happy place.

This chilaquiles recipes is adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless from Food & Wine. It’s a favorite of mine for its use of smoky chipotle flavors and the fact that it’s simply a base from which to personalize. You can add shredded chicken or keep it vegetarian, use almost any cheese imaginable, top it with cilantro or not, and even make your own chile sauce as the base. His recipe uses canned tomatoes which we always have on hand. Like I said, you just can’t go wrong with this recipe.

Chipotle Chilaquiles adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless

1 can of whole tomatoes (28 oz), drained with ½ cup of the liquid reserved
2 whole chipotles in adobo, from a can found in Latin markets
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 ½ cups chicken stock
8 ounces tortilla chips (please I implore you to make your own if you have time, it’s easy!)
¼ cup freshly grated cheese (it can be Parmesan or any Mexican crumbly cheese)
1/3 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped (omit it if you are Cilantro Hater, you know who y’all are and don’t need to tell me about it, jeeeeeeez)
salt and pepper to taste

If you’re making your own tortilla chips, simply fry pieces of corn tortillas in hot oil until golden brown and then drain on paper towel. Don’t crowd them and don’t overcook them. See? I told you it was easy.

In a blender, add the canned tomatoes, half of the liquid and the two chipotle peppers. Blend until smooth.

In a large deep skillet (you’ll need depth as you’ll be adding all the ingredients here), heat the oil and two-thirds of the large onion (not the green!) and cook over high heat until browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and chipotle puree and simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Add the chicken stock and boil the sauce over moderately high heat for about 2 minutes. You want the sauce to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Gently stir the tortilla chips into the chile sauce, making sure they’re well coated. You want every inch of the chips to be covered in sauce. Top the chips with the remaining onion, some green onions, a sprinkle of cheese, a dollop of sour cream or crema, and cilantro. Enjoy immediately.

Power Foods

You’d never know by looking at my chubby exterior, but during the week we focus on a variety of healthy meals at home in an effort to balance the overindulgence, tastings, and big dinners that usually fill our weekends. And even if it weren’t for this health focus, if anything it’s to give my palate a rest from overactivity. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy sacrificing flavor because I do not; I need meals that incorporate great tastes as well as make me feel fantastic.  When I read that the editors of Whole Living Magazine were compiling their best recipes that feature the healthiest ingredients possible I knew I’d be in for a treat. And Power Foods doesn’t fail.

The book contains recipes that incorporate key ingredients that are not only delicious but good for you — things like berries, tomatoes and nuts. These foods have a tremendous impact on our health but none of that means a thing if you can’t find ways to actually prepare them and like them, a key to maintaining a successful diet. Power Foods gives you hundreds of ideas, but a favorite thing for me is the inclusion of the book’s Golden Rules, a collection of best practices for shopping and the kitchen.

The book begins as a guide to these foods, providing a visual glossary as well as information on buying, storing and eating these healthy ingredients. From there the book is packed with recipes and so much valuable information. And it covers almost anything you’d be looking for, from breakfast and soups & stews to main dishes and desserts.

I had a few minutes to chat with Alex Postman, Whole Living Editor-In-Chief, about Power Foods, some of her favorite recipes from the book as well as our mutual love of kale.  Thank you, Alex!

Matt: What are your favorite recipes from the book?

Alex: One recipe I love is for breakfast: the egg, kale, and ricotta on toast (p. 82). It’s a delicious, nutritious way to start off the day with vegetables, especially one that can be a bit challenging to incorporate beyond dinner!

Staple you’re eating this winter:

Lentil, carrot, and lemon soup with fresh dill (p. 152)
It works for me because it’s only five ingredients, it takes just 30 minutes, it gets its fresh flavor from lemon juice and dill—so healthy! And fiber-rich lentils lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. You can make a double batch and freeze it. My kids eat it too.

Winter salad: oranges with olives and parsley (p. 174)
It’s so easy to make and the surprising combination of oranges, olives, and paprika gives citrus a whole new level of taste.

dinner: roasted salmon and parsnips with ginger (p. 208)
I rarely cook fish but this one is so easy and versatile, as are many of our dressing, sauce, and marinade recipes. This one’s tamari-ginger dressing is great to have on hand for fish, vegetables, and tofu.

Any specific power foods you love?

Well, again, I love kale. I didn’t always love it, but now I know how to cook it right. It’s low in calories and super dense in nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, and K, and fiber, iron, and calcium. It’s also versatile: you can bake it and make chips, eat it raw shredded in a winter salad, blend it in a smoothie, saute it as a side. The options are endless.

I must admit that I wasn’t always a fan of kale. During my early years cashiering at Whole Foods I kept my distance from it, it seemed too tough and leafy. But like you I know how to cook it properly and do love it! What else?

Quinoa is my new favorite. Believe it or not, quinoa is one of the most highly searched terms on—I think this seed (it’s not a grain) is having a bit of a moment! It’s the only plant-based complete protein, and it’s high in vitamin B and magnesium, two nutrients that can help reduce the frequency of migraines. Plus, one cup packs more than 5 grams of fiber. And it’s gluten-free since it’s technically not a grain.

Any that you weren’t eating enough of but now incorporate into your diet?

Quinoa (benefits above). I’ve also found that it’s a great food for any time of the day, especially breakfast when you can cook it like oatmeal: Simmer the quinoa with milk and top it whatever fruit you have, and then sprinkle with cinnamon, nuts, and honey.

These power foods are all nutritional superstars, yet the book never once feels like a “health” book. How do the editors create recipes that seem so obviously flavor-driven yet good for you?

Our philosophy lies in creating balanced recipes comprised of whole, nutritious ingredients. Once you stop focusing on low-calorie this and zero-sugar that, and start eating real, unprocessed foods, you can let the recipes speak for themselves. Plus we wanted to make the photography really mouthwatering.

Amen to that! What is the best way to incorporate these key power items into everyone’s daily diet?

The beginning of the book lists “the golden rules” for wholesome eating. (Download, print, and post them on your fridge: These are what the editors see as the ten pillars of maintaining a healthy and conscious diet, including when to insist on organic, buy grains in bulk, and think of fruits and vegetables in terms of the rainbow—and eat them often!

The book is right up my alley, I love to cook and I love every single incredient (there’s nothing Power Foods that I do not want to eat!)  However, what do you say to those who proclaim that they’re too busy to cook, to make the recipes in the book? Any advice to get them into the kitchen?

It all starts with meal planning. If someone gets off work and still has to schlep to the grocery store before she can make dinner, ordering takeout is probably the more appealing option. Find recipes in the book that you’ll actually want to cook (not hard!) and shop for a week’s worth of meals. Once you have everything you need, many of our recipes take 40 minutes or less in the kitchen. And new cooks won’t feel intimidated by lengthy, exotic ingredient lists; our recipes typically call for easy-to-find pantry staples.

We just said goodbye to 2010 and all those crazy holiday meals. Going forward, what is the best way to enjoy Power Foods and make sure we are cooking and eating the right stuff when the holidays want us to overindulge?

All of our healthy recipes emphasize fresh ingredients that are naturally detoxifying—low in sugar and full of fiber and antioxidants—and are therefore a good option to balance the gluttonous holiday months. We need to learn that feeling “full” doesn’t need to feel like being stuffed, and that we don’t always need sugar at the end of the meal. Use the months before the holidays to build a strong habit of cooking and eating healthy ingredients. Your body and mind will feel so good that you won’t even be tempted by that second slice of apple pie at Thanksgiving—or, even better, you won’t feel guilty about it if you’ve been eating well all year.

Thank you Alex!

Papaya, Endive, and Crabmeat Salad from Power Foods. Serves 4

Matt says: I love the combination of sweet and crunchy with seafood, and this salad hits the spot. I also love how the sweet crabmeat tempers the slight bitter note of endive’s flavor. There’s no cooking and it’s simple to prepare, you’ll only need to slice-n-chop a little bit. I probably don’t need to mention the health benefits like vitamin C and beta-carotene, right? This salad uses grapeseed oil for its dressing, known for its vitamin E and flavonoids. Score.

1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
coarse salt
1/2 large papaya (Mexican or Solo, about 1 pound), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into matchsticks (about 3 cups)
1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
3/4 cup jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over and rinsed

Whisk together ginger, lime juice, grapeseed oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add diced papaya, endive, cucumber, and crabmeat; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Reprinted from the book Power Foods from the editors of Whole Living.  Copyright © 2010 by the editors of Whole Living.  Photographs copyright © 2010 by Romulo Yanes.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.

Sauteéd Pea Tendrils. Hello Spring, you’re early.

Sometimes I feel like I live in a parallel universe. This universe is called California. While social media allows me to check in with friends from all over the place, hearing tales of snowstorms and shoveling during January just makes me feel even stranger, especially when it’s 82 degrees and I’m in shorts at the beach. And no, I’m so not complaining!

No where is this sensation more amplified than when I hit the farmers’ market.  You’d think after 15 years of happy California Livin’ I’d be used to this by now. Nope, I am not. There are still many head-scratching moments as I walk down the aisle of my farmers’ market looking at stacks of winter produce, berries, greens, and those sneaky little things that find life when all signs should be pointing to dormancy. But if it grows I’ll eat it, and for this I’m happy for mild California weather.

Last week while photographing an assignment I came across pea tendrils, those little young curly shoots and leaves of the pea plant that normally pop up during Spring. Ok, so they decided to make an appearance a bit early, I’m cool with that. With 70 and 80 degree weather after plenty of rain I shouldn’t be surprised. But I felt as if I was shopping in a dream, a place where I could have almost anything I wanted, and this jolt of early spring seemed to come out of nowhere.

Is it too early to be hoping for summer now?

Sauteed Pea Tendrils
This is my favorite thing to do with these little babies. And by “do” I mean “not much”. You’ll only need a few ingredients and because it’s so simple I’ll leave the measurements up to you. I like to add a hint of garlic to the pea tendrils but because their flavor is so subtle I try not to overpower them.

Pea tendrils, a handful or so, rinsed and chopped into 2 inch pieces or so
Some olive oil
Garlic clove, cut in half
A sprinkle of sea salt
Chili flakes, if you like heat

Rinse and chop the pea tendrils. I like a rough chop as I like to see the little curlies in the final dish. In a skillet heat a little bit of olive oil and the garlic halves until the aroma and essence of the garlic is released; remove the garlic clove from the pan and save for later if you’d like. Add the chopped tendrils and sauté until they cook slightly, how long will be up to you. But for pete’s sake, don’t overdo it, you want them barely wilted and still flavorful and crunchy!  Serve with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt and maybe chili flakes if you want a little bit of heat. But like the garlic don’t overdo it!

Thoughts On Travel

A collection of old passports. Oh, the 80s!

This morning we’re heading to the Post Office to renew our US Passports. We’ve got a break in our international travel schedules and figured this is a perfect time to renew without having to expedite the process. Updated photos, new addresses, the need for new blank pages, this clerical renewal gives me a moment to reflect on past and future travels.

I haven’t a clue where the decade went. It was 10 years ago that I was updating this passport in preparation for a trip to Spain. Even though I know my little old blue book will be returned, I can’t help but feel sentimental as I flip through pages of stamps from different countries, some legible, some not. We’ve been many places, this little book and me.

I’ve dreamt of travel my whole life, of transporting myself to locations and cultures quite different than my own. Growing up with grandparents that moved from Mexico to the United States at the beginning of the century may have something to do with my fascination for travel. I was always aware that there was another side to them, a magical window one could pass through where everything was different. I knew where they came from and it wasn’t where we were.

Our family travels never took us to far away places; family vacations consisted of regular trips out west to California from Texas and an occasional visit to Mexico. But what I discovered about California at age 7 left an indelible mark on my brain. It was the land of fun in the sun, of television and music, of food that tasted different and an energy and lifestyle that I knew I had to be a part of. Living in California has always been a part of my plan. I love this place with all my heart.

To me, traveling is magic. And it’s a type of magic that engages every single part of my human being. It reaches and overloads all my senses. Yea, I know it’s expensive and it’s exhausting sometimes, but it satisfies me like almost nothing else. But apart from what it does to my wallet and waistline, I think the most important thing travel does is helps me become a better human being. I think traveling helps everyone become a better human being. We learn that cultural differences are nothing more than a set of ways about doing and believing something–underneath that we are all human. We share the same quest for love and happiness, we all want the best for ourselves and our families. We’re much more alike than we are different. Traveling constantly reminds me of this.

And yes, going places and connecting with people is even enough to make the hassles of travel worthwhile, at least to me. Delays, frustration, tedious checkpoints and long lines will never diminish my experiences and memories of travel. There’s no way it possibly could.

So now I ask the travelers out there: why do you travel?

Food Blog Camp 2011 in Mexico

Well hello there! We just got back from a week at Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico where we we attended and instructed at the 2nd Annual Food Blog Camp. To say it was a marvelous experience would be an understatement; it was heavenly! We enjoyed the company of our blogging family and met many new wonderful people, all immensely talented. In fact, I think the greatest thing about teaching is that I learn so much and I always come home energized, challenged and satisfied.

So what was this whole Food Blog Camp about? It’s a series of workshops, hands-on demonstrations and plenty of quality one-on-one time with some leaders and legends of the blogging world. And no, I don’t consider myself either, I’m just lucky enough to be invited so I can usually do something that will embarrass myself!

The camp was held at the luxurious Grand Velas in Riviera Maya. Astonishing architecture, lavish accommodations and stunning views of mangroves and ocean became the backdrop to our daily activities. I’m actually a bit hesitant to even call it a “camp”: there were no cots, no bunks and definitely no need to rough it over a campfire in the mountains. This was first class all the way.

During the day we all shuffled into Grand Velas’ beautiful conference hall for classroom style lectures and presentations. Plenty of information, questions, and insight with tons of valuable nuggets to take home and implement. I always enjoy these brain-flexing sessions.

Ah, the beautiful and gracious team known as White On Rice Couple. They are our dear friends, and any time spent with Todd and Diane are moments for learning what true dedication, professionalism and talent look like. They are the real deal and I knew attendees would have an amazing time learning from them. They spoke on the technical aspects of food photography from camera angles to aperture and shutter speeds, providing real world examples that really cement their ideas home. I love learning from these two, it’s exhilarating.

After the first part of their presentation we all headed into the grand hall to put many of these practices into motion. We also had an opportunity to work with various breakfast items and Kerrygold Butter, one of the Camp’s gracious sponsors.

Sally and Kent Cameron discuss camera settings. I adore those two.

Smooth, slick and thoroughly entertaining. That's Michael Procopio for you.

The second part of Todd & Diane’s workshop involved a hands-on, breakout session that literally had my jaw dragging on the floor. The entire camp took over one of the resort’s phenomenal restaurants for an afternoon of photography. But this wasn’t just about snapping photos of our food; we were there with the entire restaurant staff, closed to the public, with cooking demonstrations and tables set so that every student could experience the restaurant environment.

If you’ve ever had a photo assignment in a restaurant you know it’s a tough job. You never get to indulge your photographic desires because chefs are simply too busy, you don’t want to interrupt the diners’ experience and — this is the worst — there’s never great light! However, this opportunity simply blew me away and I kept running around telling people how lucky we were to be able to do this. I also told them that this type of thing will probably never happen again, it was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Restaurant staff, chefs and servers were our models while wine and appetizers were passed around to enjoy. Wait, was I supposed to photograph them too?

Michael snaps Lucy and Gaby while balancing a glass of wine. He must have taken my previous photo class.

Here’s the lovely Jaden of Steamy Kitchen leading a discussion on brands, blogging and her best practices. I’m loving the stacked chairs.

Another wonderful session included David Lebovitz. He spoke about finding your unique niche and voice as well as the history of hand puppets and shadows which I found completely fascinating! This one is called La Paloma.

Speaking of David, I think he really enjoyed this year’s camp. When you are a successful author and blogger you are always working and I’m glad he managed to find a productive spot at the resort from which to work.

This is a food blogging event so you better believe everyone is wired to the gills! Because my mama didn’t raise no fool I always manage to sit with the beautiful women. Always. Jealous?

Jaden, Diana, Carrie, Gaby and Brooke. I love them all so very much.

After all the workshops were completed (and my apologies to Elise as I cannot find my images of her as I write this, damnit!) it was time for sun and fun. And food. Plenty of food.

And beer. Icy glasses of beer. Enjoying one and staring at the beach or laughing with your friends makes life that much better.

Poolside con cerveza. Photo by Gaby Dalkin.

Not the most glamorous shot of food I know, but still. Tons of ceviche, pulpo, lobster, salsa, guacamole and jalapeños. Not in the photo are the piles of corn tortillas nearby. AMEN.

If there are two things that stand out for me this past week it’s definitely Cochinita Pibil as well as these Huitlacoche Quesadillas. This fungus is known as Corn Smut and while it’s name is less than glamorous it has a distinctive, earthy citrusy flavor that I absolutely love. And if you serve anything small and cute on a little plate I’m pretty much going to love it by default. There you have it.

Speaking of love, you all know one of my best friends Gaby of what’s gaby cooking, right? Not only is she my blogging buddy but my dear friend and I really think someone upstairs is watching out for me by allowing me to have such a special person in my life. She radiates love. And she’s the only person on the planet who can match my love of avocados and guacamole, spoonful by spoonful.

Gaby, Marla of Family Fresh Cooking and Carrie of Deliciously Organic. Powerhouses, all of ’em. And Carrie just celebrated the release of her first book. Congrats, Carrie!

And there I am with my Adam, the man with those famous knuckles. We also taught a workshop on food styling and photography that was part presentation and part hands-on at Azul, one of the Grand Velas restaurants that overlooks the beach. For a wonderful summary of our session check out Jason and Shawnda’s post at Foodie Bride called The Greatest Job In The World.  Hey, I think I agree!

There were so many great moments from Food Blog Camp and it’s hard to cover them all. I think one of the best moments was captured on my iphone one afternoon as we swam and laughed by the pool. Thanks to everyone for indulging me with the Film Strip Hand Wave. Here’s a little movie I’ve put together.

A special thanks to Kate, Grand Velas and Kerrygold. We’re really looking forward to next year!

For more round-ups from Food Blogger Camp 2011 please sure to visit these peeps!