Categories
Main Dish

Potatoes and ground beef make dinner a done ‘dillo’

Picadillo con Papas
Picadillo con papas, or ground beef with potatoes, is a hearty, simple meal that is great for the whole family.

Not long ago, I saw a spirited discussion on Facebook about online food bloggers. 

The general consensus was that nobody wanted to read the person’s back story and long-winded tales from the kitchen—they just wanted the recipe.

Honestly, that made me a little sad. Not only because I was sure that means they are definitely not fans of anything I write but also because I tend to really like the stories that accompany food. To me, food and recipes bind us together as community—across all kinds of divides.

That’s why I really like the blog this week’s recipe comes from. It is written by Sonia Mendez Garcia, who grew up learning how to cook from her parents, who owned a taqueria in Texas. She explains on her website that the goal of her blog is to help maintain the legacy of her family recipes. It’s a very sweet tribute. Plus, if you read a bit, you find out that she has a pretty impressive resume as a cook.

The recipe I tried this week is one of her mother’s. You can find the original post on her blog, “La Pina in La Cocina,” at https://pinaenlacocina.com/moms-picadillo-con-papaground-beef-in-fresh-tomato-sauce-with-potatoes/. I added some extra seasonings to my version below.

Picadillo con Papas
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Picadillo con Papas

Picadillo con papas, or ground beef with potatoes, is a hearty, simple meal that is great for the whole family.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword garlic, ground beef, picadillo con papas, potatoes, Roma tomatoes, Serrano, yellow onion

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1 large Russet potato diced
  • 1 small onion diced (I used yellow)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes cut into chunks
  • 1-2 Serrano chiles cut into chunks

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cover the pan, stirring every five minutes or so until the outsides are crispy and the insides are fork tender.
  • Remove the potatoes from the pan and let them drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Add the onions and ground beef to the skillet. Saute until the beef is cooked through and drain off any fat from the pan.
  • Add the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and garlic, and stir to combine well.
  • While the ground beef is cooking, add the tomatoes and Serranos, along with 1/4 cup water, to a blender or food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, and then pour it into the pan with the drained beef mixture.
  • Bring the entire mixture to a boil. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary, and stir in the cooked potatoes.
  • Reduce heat to low, and allow the sauce to thicken for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and serve over rice or with tortillas, along with your favorite taco toppings.

This was delicious, and the leftovers were awesome, too. It was a filling, flavorful meal. 

We opted to eat our picadillo on tortillas, along with some fresh spinach, but as Sonia explains on her site, you can eat it all kinds ways, so just pick your favorite (or whatever you have on hand in your pantry).

I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, I can accept that not everyone wants to read little stories about every recipe they try. I mean, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry.

But the nice thing about food—especially family recipes—is whether you know the back story or not, eating connects all of us.

This piece first appeared in print on July 29, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Bread Breakfast Dessert

I ‘concha’ take my eyes off this gorgeous sweet bread

Manteconchas are mini versions of the traditional Mexican sweet bread and are loaded with cinnamon.

Several weeks ago, over at our office, we were gifted something I’d never tried: conchas.

If you’re unfamiliar, like I was, a concha is a Mexican sweet roll. It gets its name from its crispy topping, which looks like a seashell.

Well, I was completely hooked after trying them. It was like getting to have bread and dessert all at once, and what midwesterner can resist such a combination?

I looked up how to make them, and of course, it’s an art form, but since I sometimes like a good challenge, I decided to try an easier version in the form of “manteconchas,” a mini version of the classic dish, and they did not disappoint.

The recipe I tried comes from the company website “Bread Stamps.” You can find the original at https://breadstamps.com/manteconchas. I added extra cinnamon and vanilla in my version and converted the amounts from grams.

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Manteconchas

Manteconchas are mini versions of thetraditional Mexican sweet bread and are loaded with cinnamon.
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword conchas, manteconchas, sweet bread

Ingredients

Bread Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons yeast (1 packet)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

Topping Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 drops cinnamon oil flavoring
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Food coloring

Instructions

  • For the bread, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Combine the milk mixture, along with the butter, sugar, salt, egg, vanilla, cinnamon and about half of the flour into a mixer with a dough hook or start by mixing with a wooden spoon. Knead/stir for four to five minutes, and then add the rest of the flour and knead for seven to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. It will be sticky.
  • Spray a bowl with cooking spray (spray your hands, too, to make handling the dough easier), and transfer the ball of dough into it. Cover it and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • For the topping, combine all of the ingredients, adding as much food coloring as you like at the end (you can split the mixture into several sections and get multiple colors, if you want). Knead the topping until it is smooth and then flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for about 20 minutes.
  • Once the dough is done resting, line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners and then separate the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, and place them in the lined cupcake tin.
  • Now split the topping into 12 equal pieces (I rolled mine into a snake to do this, and it was super easy to split evenly). You’ll want to minimize how much you touch the topping, because it will get sticky quickly. I recommend working with it on a piece of waxed paper to make it easier to pick up.
  • Take each piece of topping and roll it into a ball. Using the heel of your hand, flatten the ball out to a disc about the same diameter as the cupcake tin wells.
  • Stamp the piece of topping with a cookie stamp or use another tool to make a shallow design in the top. Do not cut all the way through the disc.
  • Transfer the stamped discs to the tops of the bread, and let the manteconchas rest for another 45 minutes.
  • When the time is almost up, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 13 minutes. The bread that is peeking through the topping should be lightly browned and fully set.
  • Remove the manteconchas from the cupcake tin and let them cool before storing them in an airtight container.

These had a great, warm cinnamon flavor, and they were so pretty, too. The best part about these is that you can choose your color and design for any time of year.

I didn’t have a cookie stamp, so I used my biscuit cutter and just cut partway down to create a bunch of circles or curves. Just be creative with it.

Obviously, this is a bit of a time consuming recipe with having to wait for the dough to rise, but the excitement when you take these out of the oven and the bread has risen through the cracks in the topping is pretty palpable.

And now that I found this recipe, I might just stick to the mini version of conchas. It’s just as delicious but a little kinder to your waistline.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 10, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Condiment

Chipotle sauce is the ‘crema’ the crop

Chipotle crema or creamy chipotle sauce is a spicy concoction that is perfect for Mexican food or anything that could use a little kick.

After the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory, Joey and a friend traveled to Kansas City for the parade.

Apparently, the experience is less than glamorous, and he came home after a long day pretty exhausted from standing outside for hours with no access to food or water and little access to any bathroom facilities. (But with absolutely no dimming of his post-championship enthusiasm.)

They left early in the morning, grabbing some breakfast on the road, and then didn’t eat again until late in the afternoon, and Joey claimed that the tacos he ate were the best he’s ever had.

Now, that could have been the slight starvation and dehydration speaking, but he was insistent that we should try to recreate the experience, specifically because we had some barbecued pork shoulder sitting in our refrigerator, and these weren’t just any tacos: they were barbecue tacos.

With the meat already prepared, it was simple to just saute some onions and peppers to go with it, but the main trick was recreating the sauce Joey said he tried in Kansas City: crema chipotle.

Since Joey always expects me to perform miracles, I started researching the fabled sauce and apparently, I managed a pretty good facsimile, which is what I’m going to share with you this week.

The recipe I found comes from the blog “Laylita’s Kitchen,” by Layla Pujol. You can find the original post at https://www.laylita.com/recipes/creamy-chipotle-sauce/. As you will see, it’s a very simple recipe. I did add extra garlic and some paprika in my version.

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Creamy Chipotle Sauce

Chipotle crema or creamy chipotle sauce is a spicy concoction that is perfect for Mexican food or anything that could use a little kick.
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword chipotle, crema, sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt Mexican crema or crème fraiche
  • 2 small chipotles in adobo sauce remove seeds to keep it a bit milder
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • juice of one lime about two tablespoons
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
  • Taste it and add more seasonings, if necessary. Also, if the sauce is too spicy, add a bit more yogurt. If it isn’t spicy enough, add more chipotles and adobo sauce.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator between uses. Greek yogurt tends to have a one to two week shelf life, but use your best judgment.
  • Serve with anything that could use an extra zip—tacos, sandwiches, quesadillas, etc.

We have been getting all kinds of mileage out of our batch of chipotle sauce. It was amazing on our barbecue tacos, but it’s also been going on turkey sandwiches for lunches lately.

I was glad Joey got more out of his trip to Kansas City than sore feet and a very fleeting view of the Super Bowl champions as they waved to the crowd.

Our sauce is now amongst the other condiments in our fridge in its very own squeeze bottle, so I suppose that’s the highest honor a sauce can achieve.

And unfortunately, I reinforced to Joey once again that if he can vaguely explain a food to me, I can probably figure out how to make it.

As long as he sticks to the less complicated stuff, I think I’m in the clear, but it would probably be to my benefit to keep him away from anywhere fancier than a taco truck.

This piece first appeared in print on Feb. 20, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Air Fryer Appetizer Main Dish

Try a recipe that’s ‘taquito’ happiness

Chicken taquitos are quick to make and can be cooked by frying, baking or using an air fryer.

As a general rule, I avoid a lot of specialty appliances in my kitchen.

While I’ve been tempted in the past to consider a rice cooker or a cake pop baker, I haven’t given in—mostly because I have no idea where I would store such contraptions.

But I do have a couple trendy pieces that make me feel like I fit right in on the food blogs, mainly an electric pressure cooker and most recently, an air fryer.

If you’re not familiar, air fryers are all the rage these days, making it possible to get crispy “fried” foods with little to no oil. Really, it’s just a mini convection oven, but it does seem to work as advertised.

With my new purchase on hand, I decided to try a recipe I’d been eyeballing for awhile: chicken taquitos. The recipe reminded me a lot of some chicken flautas my favorite Mexican restaurant makes, and I needed to see if I could recreate the experience at home.

If you don’t have an air fryer, don’t worry. You can still make these by frying them traditionally in oil or by baking them, and I’ll give you the details for all three methods.

This recipe comes from the blog “Chili Pepper Madness” by Mike Hultquist You can find the original post at https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/recipes/chicken-taquitos/. I added some seasonings to my version.

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Chicken Taquitos

Chicken taquitos are quick to make and can be cooked by frying, baking or using an air fryer.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword chicken, taquitos

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 large jalapeno diced (remove seeds and ribs if you want milder flavor)
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 1.5 pounds chicken breast cooked and shredded
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 packet sazon seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 20-24 small soft corn tortillas
  • 2 cups vegetable/canola oil if frying
  • vegetable/canola spray if air frying or baking

Instructions

  • In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and jalapeno, stirring regularly, until they are both soft, about six to eight minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute for another two minutes or until it slightly browns and becomes fragrant. Remove the pan from heat.
  • In a large bowl, combine the contents of the saute pan with the shredded chicken, seasonings and cheese, and stir to coat the chicken evenly.
  • To properly heat the tortillas and make them pliable, wrap the stack in a damp paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds. Keep them covered with the damp towel while you work.
  • If you are frying, heat your oil in a deep pan over medium heat to about 350 degrees. If you are baking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you are air frying, you’ll set it to air fry at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes (you may have to experiment with the timing a bit).
  • To assemble the taquitos, place a spoonful of the chicken filling on the middle of each tortilla and then roll it up tightly, leaving the ends open. Secure it by placing a toothpick through the center of the taquito.
  • If frying or air frying, cook the taquitos in batches. If frying, fry them for about three minutes until they are golden brown. If air frying, mist the taquitos with cooking spray before frying them.
  • If baking, place the taquitos on a baking sheet and lightly spray them with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the taquitos halfway through.
  • Remove the toothpicks and serve hot taquitos with your favorite salsa and sour cream.

We loved these, and they were really easy. I ended up deboning a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking my own to make the process go even more quickly, and I paired these with some Mexican rice. They also reheated really nicely in the air fryer or the oven. They do reheat in the microwave, but they lose their crispiness.

Making this recipe solidified for me that the air fryer won’t be taking up unnecessary space in our house, and I’m looking forward to playing with it more.

Many people claim it’s a great way to cut a lot of extra oil and fat out of your diet. Of course, as Joey helpfully pointed out, if I keep buying frozen French fries now that I have the option, it may have the opposite effect.

This piece first appeared in print on Jan. 30, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert

Brownies prove spices not ‘cinnamon’ous with fall

Mexican cinnamon brownies have a very simple spice mix of cinnamon, sugar and vanilla and are an addictive, easy dessert.

“It smells like fall in here,” Joey announced this weekend when he came home to the scent of fresh cinnamon brownies in our kitchen.

I forget that cinnamon normally evokes a cold weather feeling from people. I’ll eat it any time of year. Find me some cinnamon ice cream, and I’d be all in.

But I suppose the waning days of summer put me in the mindset to grab my big shaker of cinnamon out of the pantry to try a new recipe.

I wasn’t initially certain what made these Mexican cinnamon brownies rather than just cinnamon brownies, but the recipe’s author explains in his post that cinnamon is widely used in Mexican cooking and these brownies would be a good dessert to show up at a Cinco de Mayo party, and that explanation was good enough for me.

I found this recipe on the website “One How To.” The recipe is by Max D. Gray. You can find the original at https://food.onehowto.com/recipe/how-to-make-mexican-cinnamon-brownies-10574.html. I fixed up some of the directions to make them more clear and added extra cinnamon.

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Mexican Cinnamon Brownies

Mexican cinnamon brownies have a very simple spice mix of cinnamon, sugar and vanilla and are an addictive, easy dessert.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword brownies, cinnamon

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.
  • Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside (an easy trick is to use the empty butter wrappers from the recipe to grease it).
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat together the brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla.
  • Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt until the mixture is smooth and everything is completely incorporated.
  • Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and then evenly sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the top (in full disclosure, I just used a spoon and sprinkled both until I felt satisfied I had good coverage, so I likely used a bit more cinnamon than is listed in the ingredients list).
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let the brownies cool for about 20 minutes and then slice into bars and store in an airtight container.

As Joey pointed out, these made the whole house smell amazing, so if you’re having an open house and want to use the trick where you bake something right before people come over, tuck this recipe away.

They were great warm, but right out of the oven, I thought the cinnamon didn’t come through as much as I would have liked. I was vindicated the next morning, after they sat in their airtight container over night, when the cinnamon flavor popped perfectly in each bite.

They’re also the perfect texture to carry around and eat—no plates or forks required.

So maybe I’m pushing into fall spices too quickly in the year, but I figure any desserts that are good fodder for a Cinco de Mayo party can’t possibly only belong to autumn.

Now to see if cinnamon ice cream really does exist.

This piece first appeared in print on Sept. 12, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish

Deciding to make enchiladas an open and shut ‘queso’

Queso fresco enchiladas have lots of green chile flavor, using the diced peppers and salsa verde in the recipe.

When I was in grade school, our family used to frequent a now defunct Mexican restaurant called Zaki’s. 

For some reason, at that age, I was particularly fond of making bets with my dad, and I can remember two challenges that centered on that restaurant in particular.

The first was a bet I won. The waiter came to the table and asked if we preferred corn or flour chips with our salsa.

“What do we normally get? Flour, right?” my dad said.

“No. It’s corn,” I told him.

And then the bet came into play. Dad ordered the flour, and I bet him a month of him making my bed (these were the things that were important to me back then) that he was wrong about our usual order.

And he was.

It was a glorious month of relaxation as he came through on his end of the bargain each morning.

The second time was more of a challenge than a bet, when I announced that I thought I’d like the cheese enchiladas the restaurant served rather than ones that included meat.

My mom tried to warn me that it might be a bit intense to have an entire plate of just cheese-filled enchiladas, but of course, my dad got me to take up the challenge.

I thought back to that day when I recently made a batch of enchiladas myself—although I included chicken and some other elements in mine.

I didn’t really follow a recipe for this one, although I would give credit to Gina Homolka on her blog “Skinny Taste” for inspiration. If you go to her site at https://www.skinnytaste.com/enchiladas-verdes-green-enchiladas/, you’ll see a lot of similarities to the recipe I present here.

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Queso Fresco Enchiladas

Queso fresco enchiladas have lots of green chile flavor, using the diced peppers and salsa verde in the recipe.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword cheese, enchilada, green chile, queso fresco, salsa verde

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces diced green chile peppers drained
  • 10 ounces queso fresco
  • 16 ounces salsa verde
  • 10-16 six-inch flour or white corn tortillas
  • 2-3 cups shredded Mexican style cheese blend

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Prepare a 9×13-inch baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper, green chiles, and queso fresco. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the salsa, too, and stir to combine.
  • Dump about half of the remaining salsa in the bottom of the prepared pan.
  • Warm the tortillas based on their package instructions to soften them. Place a large spoonful of the chicken filling in the center of each tortilla and roll it tightly and place them side by side in the pan, seam-side down, packing them closely together.
  • Once the dish is full (I ended up having to finish my filling out in a second, smaller baking dish), pour the remaining salsa over the top and then sprinkle liberally with the Mexican style cheese blend.
  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown on top.
  • Let them rest for at least five minutes before serving.

These enchiladas were great and reheated wonderfully as leftovers. I paired them with some Mexican rice, and they were an excellent dinner.

And if you did want to just make vegetarian enchiladas, you could easily leave out the chicken and include some fresh peppers or beans instead.

This recipe definitely turned out better than my cheese enchilada challenge of yesteryear. Being the stubborn kid I was, I finished the plate, but my stomach was unhappy with me for the rest of the evening, and I never ordered that particular dish again.

I guess that leaves my father and I tied when it comes to Mexican food challenges. It’s probably about time I took him out to dinner to see if I can get back in the winner’s circle—although I doubt he’d agree to any bed making this time.

This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 15, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.