Carne con Chile


I haven’t posted here in a while, I know.  But this dish is worth the wait.

Recently my brother (see his blog here, though it’s not usually about food) sent me a text alerting me to check out a recipe for enchiladas verdes that he had found on Youtube.  The video showed a Mexican abuela, Maria Contreras Rico, assisted by her granddaughter, demonstrating her method for making that dish, and after watching it, I was hooked.  I quickly subscribed to her Youtube channel, Abuela’s Kitchen, and watched pretty much every video they had there (except for the ones about tripas and chicharrones, because ew.)

I’ve made a few of Abuela’s recipes now and this Carne con Chile is my favorite so far.  It is not like the chili con carne that I am used to here in Texas (for one thing, it doesn’t contain cumin), but it has an amazingly rich and deep flavor.

Here is the video, and though I’m going to include here the transcription of the recipe as I copied it down while watching, it’s definitely worth watching the video just to experience this very nice lady’s cooking style.  Abuela’s Kitchen has quite a following these days, and I’m happy to jump on the bandwagon.

Carne con Chile
2 lb. thin beef steak (Maria Contreras Rico uses a thin sirloin that is marketed in some areas as milanesa.  In my Latino-influenced area in South Texas, I was able to find the exact cut she uses.  Probably any very thin cut of steak would work)
3-4 good sized tomatoes, cut in quarters and boiled until somewhat soft but not falling apart, then drained
chiles California and a handful of chiles japones (these are dried chiles)
1 clove garlic

On a comal or in a dry frying pan, toast the chiles until they are slightly browned.  In a hot pan this happens very quickly, and as the Abuela says, if you burn them they will make you cough.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Remove the seeds (“so you don’t get sick in your appendix”) and break the peppers into a blender container.  Add a little water just to start to soften them.

Cut the meat into thin strips.  Swish them around in a little water (the Abuela says you don’t know how many people have handled that meat.)  Drain the meat and place in a dry frying pan.  There will still be a little water on the meat and that will help it cook.  Turn on the heat and start to cook the meat; cover the pan and let it cook for a while, then uncover and let the liquids evaporate.  When the meat starts to look dry, add a spoonful of lard (okay, you can use oil, but the Abuela doesn’t like it.)

To the peppers in the blender, add the garlic clove and the tomatoes.  Blend until smooth. Add this salsa to the meat.  The Abuela likes hers with more liquid and adds some water, but I liked mine without it.

This recipe serves about 4 people.  I think the proportions are pretty flexible.  I made beans to go with mine, and white rice with salsa was a good accompaniment.  And tortillas, of course–always.img_3475carneconchile


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Orange-Rosemary Glazed Salmon



I’ve talked before about my love of salmon.  Here, here, and here are some of my other favorite ways to prepare it.  This one is going on the list.  This one is definitely going on the list.

I found the recipe at this site, and made it as written, except that I doubled the sauce.  Well, actually I used half the amount of salmon and kept the sauce the same but…same thing.

I have a huge amount of rosemary growing in my front yard, and it has become one of my favorite flavors, besides making beautiful decorative plants to cascade over my stone wall.  It really comes through in this recipe, and the orange and honey provide just the right counterpoint.  IMG_1221orangesalmoncloseup

Orange-Rosemary Glazed Salmon (serves 2)

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets (1-inch thick), rested at room temperature 10 minutes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
5 Tablespoons chicken broth, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • Heat a large non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil then add salmon and cook until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, leaving oil in pan.
  • Add garlic and rosemary to pan and saute 20 seconds, then add 1/4 cup chicken broth and simmer until mostly reduced. Stir in orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice and honey. In a small bowl whisk together remaining 1 Tablespoon chicken broth with cornstarch. Pour into pan, season sauce with salt and pepper to taste then bring to a boil and allow to boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return salmon to pan, spoon sauce over salmon.IMG_1223orangesalmon


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Mexican Street Corn Salad with Avocado

IMG_9445MSCSalad title

I really like summer food, on the whole, better than winter food.  It can get pretty warm around here in South Texas, so cooking is not always appealing, but if you can throw together a quick salad and it tastes this good, why wouldn’t you?

I found the original recipe here, but I added and subtracted some things and I didn’t always measure, so I’ll tell you what I did.

First of all, I decided to make this a main dish, so I grilled a chicken breast and diced it up and added it.  I don’t really like cheese too much, so I left that out.  I added grape tomatoes because I had some.  Instead of the regular chili powder, I added chipotle powder.  And to make the salad a bit lower in fat, I only used about 1/2 Tablespoon of mayonnaise instead of the 3 Tablespoons called for.  I found it creamy enough, especially with the avocado.  And finally, I used frozen, thawed corn because it’s only April and the fresh corn is not here yet.

Mexican Street Corn Salad with Avocado
serves 4-5

1 boneless chicken breast half, grilled and diced
1 1-lb. package of frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 green onions, sliced
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 fresh jalapeño, chopped
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, cubed
juice of 2 limes, or to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used chipotle)
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise

Heat olive oil in large skillet; put in well-drained corn, add salt and pepper to taste, and cook until starting to char, about 5-6 minutes depending on how hot your skillet is.  Remove and let cool slightly.

Add remaining ingredients to corn and mix well.  Serve cold or at room temperature.
See original recipe for variations.IMG_9451MSCSalad


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Sausage Balls

IMG_6944Sausage Balls title

Do you know Sausage Balls?  I’ve been making them for years and it’s something that I seriously thought everyone in the country knew about.  But from time to time I hear of someone who has never had them, never made them, never heard of them, and I think oh you poor thing.  Because these are seriously good and seriously easy and you can keep them on hand in the freezer.

Even though the recipe is pretty standard, my sister-in-law Mary and I have been discussing our varying results on these.  We use the same recipe, but she gets a lot of grease coming off of hers during baking and I don’t.  We decided that it might be the cheese–we are using different brands, mostly because we live in different parts of the country and can’t both get the same brand of cheese.  And I seem to remember that many years ago, these did have more grease and as a result, they tasted better.  Oh shut up, it’s Christmas.

In any case, Sausage Balls–not pretty, not healthy, but make these anyway.

Sausage Balls

1 lb. Jimmy Dean sausage (I use hot)
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated (do not use pre-grated)
3 cups Bisquick
Combine all ingredients.  I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer to mix these up in no time flat.  Form balls the size of walnuts and place on a baking sheet.  If yours are like mine and don’t give off much grease, you will need to spray the sheet with Pam.  If they’re like Mary’s, you won’t.  I don’t know what to tell you.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.IMG_6949Sausageballs


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Cheesecake Tart with Raspberry Sauce

IMG_6907cheesecake tart TITLE
Not really a cheesecake, but cheesecake-like, this amazingly rich and delicious dessert is a real show-stopper.  I like it best the way the original recipe appeared in Bon Appétit a few years back, with an amazing cranberry and port wine and star anise flavored topping.  But I’ve served it to a few cranberry haters (I KNOW) and so I had to come up with a modification.  Raspberries are a natural substitute, and when I think of raspberries I think of chocolate, so I switched out the crust while I was at it.  An Oreo crust did the trick.

Here is the recipe as it originally appeared in Bon Appétit, November 2002.  The recipe for my raspberry and chocolate variation, pictured here, is at the end of the recipe.

Happy holidays!  And enjoy the extra five pounds this little number will add to your thighs.  You’re welcome.

Cheesecake Tart with Cranberries in Port Glaze


Yield: Makes 12 servings


  • Crust
    • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
    • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
    • 3 cups chilled whipping cream
    • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
    • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into pieces
    • 1 cup chilled sour cream
    • 6 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwiseIMG_6914cheesecake tart
  • Cranberry topping
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
    • 1 cup ruby Port
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 whole star anise*
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 2 whole cloves
    • 2 2-inch strips orange peel
    • 2 cups fresh cranberries or frozen, thawed


  • For crust:
    • Preheat oven to 350°F. Blend graham cracker crumbs and sugar in processor until combined. Gradually add butter and process until moist clumps form. Press crumbs onto bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of 10-inch-diameter springform pan with removable bottom. Bake until set, about 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely.
  • For filling:
    • Place 1/2 cup whipping cream in medium bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 5 minutes. Combine 1 cup whippin
      g cream and cream cheese in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over medium-high heat until mixture is smooth and just beginning to simmer. Remove from heat. Add gelatin mixture; whisk to dissolve. Strain into large bowl. Let stand 45 minutes to cool.
    • Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in another large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; reserve bean for another use. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture thickens and peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture in 3 additions. Transfer filling to prepared crust. Cover and chill until set, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
  • For cranberry topping:
    • Place 1 tablespoon water in small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 5 minutes.
    • Bring Port, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, and orange peel to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Add cranberries and simmer mixture until cranberries begin to pop, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir some of hot cranberry liquid into gelatin mixture in small bowl to melt gelatin; stir gelatin mixture into cranberry mixture in saucepan. Transfer to medium bowl; refrigerate until cold. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)
    • Just before serving, remove pan sides to release tart. Cut cheesecake tart into wedges. Spoon cranberry mixture over each wedge and serve.

*A brown star-shaped seedpod that can be found at Asian markets and specialty foods stores, as well as in the spice section of some supermarkets.

For the raspberry and chocolate variation, I substitute Oreo crumbs for the graham cracker crumbs in the crust.  Instead of the cranberry topping, I thaw a 10 ounce package frozen raspberries, puree, and force through a sieve.  Add about 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste.  I drizzle this sauce from a squeeze bottle over the slices, and alternate with a few drizzles of chocolate sauce (bottled is fine).  IMG_6919cheesecake tart



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Pasta Estivi


From my venerable old 1983 cookbook, Beard on Pasta, by James Beard.  Makes a great summer meal.

Here is the recipe in James Beard’s words, with my changes in parentheses.  Not saying that I know better than James Beard, but I have found I like it better with a few changes.

_MG_2882ingredientsPasta Estivi
(2-4 servings)
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut into sixths (I dice my tomatoes and I don’t peel them)
1 medium onion, peeled and ringed (I slice mine very thinly and then dice)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound green noodles (I use whatever kind of pasta I have available–I prefer linguine)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, if available
Chopped parsley (lots!)
Mix the tomatoes, onion, olive oil, and vinegar.  Sprinkle with lots of pepper, and let sit for at least an hour, to give the onions a chance to lose their sharpness.
Cook the pasta in boiling water, and drain.  Spoon the cold sauce over the hot pasta, and sprinkle with fresh basil and parsley. (I also add crumbled Parmesan).





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Roasted Lemon and Tomato Salad


I guess if I could only have one flavor, one taste, for the rest of my life, I would choose lemons.  Lemons are as comfortable in sweet dishes as they are in savory dishes.

This is the first time I’ve ever had a lemon salad, though.  I loved it–the flavors are so fresh and it’s the epitome of summer.  I ate it by itself, though I think it would be delicious with something as simple as a perfectly grilled chicken breast.  Or a salmon filet.

I found the recipe on Pinterest, and made it from this blog, Platings & Pairings.


These are the ingredients.  If the mint looks a little bedraggled, blame the late August heat, which has just about done for my mint for this year.  I managed to get enough to make this salad, but only just.  I actually think I would add more, if I had it.


To start with, you need to seed the lemons and slice them paper thin.  This is harder than it looks, but the thinner you make them, the better.  You blanch them for a bit first (2 minutes, but I will cook them about 4 minutes next time I make this), mix them up with some olive oil and oregano and salt, and roast them in the oven.  They will get soft, and you will be able to eat the peel, which is what gives this dish its…appeal.  Ha.

After that, mix the lemons with the remaining ingredients and eat at room temperature.  I will definitely be making this again.  It is the very definition of refreshing.

Here are the directions from Platings & Pairings:

  • 2 lemons, halved crosswise, seeds removed, and cut into paper-thin slices
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2⅔ cups baby tomatoes, yellow or red or a mixture of both, halved
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • ½ small red onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced into half rings (about ½ cup)
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
  2. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add lemon slices and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain well. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, sugar, oregano and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Add lemon slices and mix well to combine. Spread the lemon slices out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil
  3. or parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  4. Combine the tomatoes, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, vinegar parsley, mint and onions in a bowl. Add the lemon slices and stir gently to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired with additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately._MG_2764closeup
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Green Salsa–a jalapeño emulsion




A couple of years ago, I wrote about my three favorite homemade salsas.  Now, thanks to my son Bryan, I’m about to add another to that list.

When he still lived in Texas, Bryan became pretty much addicted to a smooth, creamy green salsa that he first tasted when he lived in Austin, and later discovered was duplicated by the regional supermarket giant, HEB, under the name “That Green Sauce”.  It was one of the things he missed the most when he moved to Indiana in January.

I tasted the sauce on his recommendation, and I liked it, but I had never tasted it before.  It is not a San Antonio preparation, but it is well-known and beloved in Austin.  HEB’s “That Green Sauce” is delicious but pricey, coming in at around $3.50 for a small jar, or at least it was the last time I bought it.  But Bryan, removed by roughly a thousand miles from his HEB source, and being a child of the Internet, surfed around from his living room in Bloomington and found a recipe for a likely substitute, and being a really good cook, he tried it.  Then he told me how to make it, and started sharing it with friends.  He made some in the kitchen of our rented vacation house in Tennessee during our recent family reunion, and now I have it on good authority that more than one batch has been made in a New Jersey kitchen by yet another expatriate Texan, my brother.

I just made my first batch, and it is both easy and inexpensive.

This green sauce is, in cooking parlance, just an emulsion of fresh jalapeños.  You take a big batch of fresh peppers, seed them, cover them with water, and boil them until they are soft.  Then you drain them, blend them in a blender with a little salt, and pour warm oil through the blender’s feed tube in a steady stream until you get a nice thick but pourable sauce.  And that’s all there is to that.

The peppers do have to be seeded, and therein lies the toughest part of this recipe–overcoming the powers of the capsaicin in the peppers.  Good ventilation is key while seeding the peppers.  Let’s just say that I discovered that my kitchen sink area does not have particularly good ventilation, as I coughed and sneezed my way _MG_2493through removing the seeds from a pound of jalapeños.  There is a reason that pepper spray is effective.  I did not wear gloves, and by being careful not to touch the insides of the peppers managed to avoid burning hands.  To seed the peppers, I used a curved-bladed grapefruit knife, pictured here.  It worked well, but according to my brother they make a tool just for this purpose.  I don’t have one though.

_MG_2496After the p_MG_2492eppers are seeded, they are boiled, drained, blended, and combined with the oil.



As to spiciness, it’s all a crapshoot.  Even if you seed the peppers, if the peppers you have are really hot, your salsa will be too.  But I have noticed that it doesn’t seem to be as hot after the first bite.

Here’s the recipe, as told to me by my son.

Green Salsa
makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 lb. fresh jalapeño peppers, seeds and membranes removed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup oil, warmed

Place seeded peppers in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes.  Peppers will be soft.  Drain.

Place the drained peppers in a blender container.  Add the salt.  Turn on the blender and puree the peppers completely.

Through the hole in the top of the lid, pour 1/2 cup warmed oil (a neutral oil is best) in a steady stream while blender is on.  The sauce will become thicker.

Eat with some good tortilla chips and prepare to be warmed from the inside out.  Store in refrigerator.


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Mango Cayenne Ice Cream




I’m all about the ice cream.  If I could live in a relatively healthful manner and just eat ice cream, that would be my idea of heaven.

I used to like savory food more than sweet, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed more of a sweet tooth.  But now and then I like my hot and spicy food too.  This recipe gives me both.

My friend Jude sent me the link for this recipe, because we had just had a mango salad and  mangos were on our radar, and she knows that if it says “spicy”, I’m going to love it.  I am also very, very fond of salt on sweet, and this ice cream is garnished with chunky sea salt.  I knew this one would be a winner.

For this you will need an ice cream maker.  I don’t use mine too often, but I keep the work bowl in the freezer for just such an occasion as this.  I had most of the ingredients on hand, and it came together beautifully.

Mango Cayenne Ice Cream (from Chin Deep)_MG_1220e

1 (14 oz.) can full fat coconut milk, chilled in refrigerator
2 perfectly ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 large banana, peeled and sliced
juice of 1/2 large, juicy lime
1/3 cup raw honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh mint leaves (garnish)
coarse pink Himalayan sea salt (garnish)

Place coconut milk in a large mixing bowl. Place mango and banana in the bowl of a blender.


Puree until smooth and add fruit puree to coconut milk in bowl. Add lime juice, honey and cayenne. Whisk until smooth and evenly blended. _MG_1221ePour into an electric ice cream maker and freeze according to the directions that come with your machine. (I allowed mine to go for 1/2 hour.) Transfer ice cream to a container with a tight fitting lid and place in freezer until ready to serve.

Garnish with fresh mint leaves and a sprinkle of the coarse, pink, Himalayan sea salt.



Note on my changes: I used mangos from a jar, because that is what I had–I used one 20 oz. jar, drained.  I did not have a large, juicy lime to use half of, but I did have a shriveled dryish lime, so I used the whole thing.  I used the entire complement of cayenne, but if you’re squeamish or wimpy you can reduce the amount.  I used red sea salt instead of pink, because the color of the pink didn’t stand out.  I don’t think it matters, taste wise.



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Gooey Butter Cake


_MG_4249 When I was young, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no Internet, I got this recipe the way you did back then–you tasted the dish that someone else had made and asked for the recipe, which they would give you on a 3×5 card if you were lucky.  It was called “Gooey Butter Cake” and I didn’t know that there was a history behind it.

Now, thanks to the Internet and Wikipedia, I have discovered that Gooey Butter Cake is something of a thing in St. Louis, where it is said to have originated.  I found out that in many places, it is called “Ooey Gooey Butter Cake”, which is one “ooey” too many for me.  There are a couple of basic versions–one completely from scratch and one based on a cake mix, and there are lots of variations that I never even thought of, like pumpkin and lemon and strawberry.  There is also chocolate, which sounds awesome… because Chocolate.

My ancient, tattered recipe was of the cake mix version, and since I really wasn’t in a baking mood today, I went with that one.

_MG_4257Gooey Butter Cake is not for the faint of heart, the diabetic, or those who don’t like their desserts SWEET.  Because this thing is sweet, and has lots of butter, cream cheese, and a whole pound of powdered sugar.  I’m going to cut it, put it in the freezer, and enjoy it in moderation over a long period of time.  That’s the theory.

According to Wikipedia, Gooey Butter Cake is traditionally served in place of something like a coffeecake, and not as a true dessert.

It is, true to its name, soft and gooey on the inside, but it’s easy to cut and serve.

One nice thing about this dessert is that it’s very easy to make.

Gooey Butter Cake
makes one 9×13 inch cake

For the cake:
1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick butter, softened or melted

For the topping:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cake: Mix together cake ingredients and press in a greased 9×13 inch pan.  Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly browned.

For the topping:
Mix together topping ingredients and pour over cake mixture.  Bake 10-15 minutes (note: I ended up baking it for 20-25 minutes.  It needs to be just past the jiggle stage, but not too far.  You’ll have to watch it carefully) Sprinkle with more powdered sugar when done._MG_4247

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