Sunday, January 25, 2009

enchiladas cha cha cha

I might be stretching terminology a smidge to call these enchiladas. They're not exactly traditional Mexican enchiladas; I grew up on the border, I know Mexican food and this ain't it. But it is traditional April toss-together-see-what-happens-hey!-that's-good-let's-see-if-I-can-do-that-again fare, which is the birth of most dishes in my standard cooking repertoire. So maybe enchilada casserole. Dang, but I love a good casserole. Enchilada-esque, anyhow.

I took pictures of the whole process. Well, no. I took pictures from the sauce on but I forgot to grab the camera when I whizzed up the sauce. And, you know, when you're talking enchiladas, it's all about the sauce.

So this is what I do. I blend up tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, garlic, and refried beans. Yes, refried beans. A whole can. I have never made refried beans that taste they way I think refried beans should taste. So canned it is. I favor the organic spicy pinto ones from Trader Joe's, if I can get them. My trips there are infrequent these days and half the time, they're out anyway. Now, for a lot of years, the sauce was just that. But because my husband really loves the squash enchiladas with peanut mole sauce at Chez Jose in Portland, I recently attempted to replicate what they've got going with that. So in the sauce you'll see in the following pictures, it's all the stuff I just mentioned, plus peanut butter and cocoa powder. It's really good. Trust me.

I spread some sauce on the bottom of my 9 x 13 casserole dish. I don't grease it otherwise.

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I layer some more sauce on a small corn tortilla and spoon on steamed chunks of butternut squash.

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Next up: black beans and not-cheese sauce. Oh, let's back up a minute. I suppose you could use some other cheesey creamy something here, but I cook up a pan of the nutritional yeast sauce I use for our Macaroni and Not Cheese (with peas, please). I bet google will direct you to a recipe for it if you're so inclined. It's basically a white sauce with nutritional yeast.

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Roll it up and put it in the baking dish, seam side down.

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I can fit 10 rolled up corn tortillas in my dish.

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No worries if they don't all roll up smoothly. Corn tortillas tend to tear and crack and a lot of loose edges stick up. The rest of sauce will keep everything in place. I pour it all over and spread it out with a spoon.

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Cover the whole thing with cheese. The cheese I had on hand was an aged goat cheese.

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There might be a little boy in my house who thinks olives should be a part of any meal, but on top of an enchilada casserole? Absolutely. I sliced up some regular black olives, nothing fancy.

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And then it goes into the oven and stays there until its brown and bubbly and looks done.

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It can be a little too soft when it first comes out, so I try to let it cool for a bit before we cut it up and eat it. It is really super delicious. It sort of all smooshes together in a very creamy spicy filling delicious way. And as good as it is just made, it is even better the next day. Some foods really shine as leftovers, don't you think? Warmed up in the toaster oven and doused with a thick coating of crushed red chile peppers (okay, that part is just me). . . mmm.

leftover enchiladas

Monday, January 19, 2009

nevermore

If we're the real life chatty sort, and the subject (or any related subject, I make sketchy tangential segues) has ever come up, then you probably already know how I feel about old Mister Heavy Breather himself, Garrison Keillor. Two words for you: Heebie Jeebies.

I can't even stomach his daily 1:30 (on my npr affiliate) Writer's Almanac spot without hearing the crusties stuck in his prominent nose hairs. Of course I don't know if he has sticky-outy nasal hairs and whether anything, crusty or not, is stuck in them, so before I'm accused of malicious slander, I'll say it's all a figment of my imagination and is just some sort of synaesthetic sound association, maybe like the way, when I'm tired, lying in bed waiting for sleep, unexpected cracks of sound flash a brilliant white behind my eyes.

But! I get his Writer's Almanac (be well, do good work, keep in touch) emailed to me and while I don't read every single one, I read and enjoy enough of them that I'll give credit where credit is due. Thanks, Creepy Not-So-Funny Public Radio Guy. I never laugh at your small town Minnesota comedy bits, but if not for you it wouldn't have occurred to me that today is Edgar Allan Poe's birthday.

So sometime today, maybe after the girl comes in from reading on her new corner look-out tower (because the lashed rope tree look-out spot plus the very high tree fort/platform were not enough high watching, noticing places for one wee yard, apparently) but before I clean up another puddle of boy pee from the suddenly-interested-in-using-the-potty little boy in the house, I will read some Poe selections out loud. My daughter and I will pick at least a few stanzas for memorization.

You might think that, at three, my boy is behind the power curve on the potty learning. And so be it. That's not the way we work around here. I shrug. As a lady well into her thirties now, I can't say that it's ever, in any of my memories, been a point of interest to anyone, when I started using the toilet. But every little milestone for little ones can be some kind of tiny tot Pulitzer prize. Because, clearly, it's a sign of future success and happiness that Junior started walking at 9 months. These little details can be so ridiculously weighted. I cheer along for my children as they reach new abilities, absolutely, but I think when you put them into perspective, they just aren't that important. The sum of my child's triumphs, the parameters of our parent/child relationship, exist far beyond such a small thing as peeing in the toilet.

So we are on the brink of saying goodbye soon to diapers and wipes. We traveled through, and look over our shoulder now, to remember Nursing. But we're still so close we can almost touch it, and sometimes he asks, but forgets momentarily and moves onto something else. His sister did not wean until she was 3 and a half, which seemed then like a very old age. I didn't have any peers, at that time, who nursed their babies so long. I have lots of them now. I got more than a few raised eyebrows. But I've been doing this gig long enough, I don't know if it's that I have more positive reactions, in general, or if I've grown a callous over the negative rubs. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is this: they are babies for such a short time. And when you have a big girl but ten days away from her 10th birthday, you know that 3 is still such a baby.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

when in rome

I am not a bad ass. You could have seen me ripping plants out of my yard yesterday with my bare hands. Ivy tendrils and ferns with needley underbellies making scratches across my palms. My good jeans down on the ground, knees dirty. But for all the mud and splinters, it wasn't by any particular work ethic or determination on my part, no. Quite the opposite. It was pure laziness. I couldn't find my gloves or my snips but there I was, caught outside in brilliant rays so full of mother loving Vitamin D, I was hypnotized: must. do. yard. work. now. I don't have the gumption to argue with that impulse. Also, any forward thinking planner sort would have gone looking for the right tools. Not me, man. I just started thrashing about wildly, like a pidgeon caught in the bracken, and managed to pull down quite a few raggedy growing troublemakers I'd been wanting to get to, eventually, anyway.

Actually, the forward thinker type probably wouldn't even have to look for the tools, she'd know just where she'd left them the last time. But she wouldn't have needed them yesterday. She would have had a schedule of more important things to do. Which is all very well and good, but I'll tell you what: I have some of my most profound and lovely moments by being decidedly anti-carpe diem; I seize the day in sneak attacks, blowing in with the wind.

The husband and I are watching, just discovered, HBO's Rome series. We rented the first disc from the movie store, but after getting hooked (I almost wrote "by the story line" but it's Ancient Rome, people. You know the story.) we lucked out and found the whole first season at the library. We watch it up close, on the tiny little portable dvd player we never use for anything, in the dark, in the bed. And it's fascinating and sordid and terrible and exciting and I get distracted by the backgrounds, the props, the costumes and pipe up, "wait? they're in Greece now? When did they get to Greece?" and sometimes, I don't deny it, cover my eyes because it's too much -too much!- "tell me when it's safe to look again".

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

on the first monday of the year

I didn't have time, in the last week or so, to really put to mind the notion of making New Year's Resolutions, so busy I've been making something of a New Life Philosophy. Which is less a new life and more the same old life, now with fifty percent more. More moxie, more honesty, more Say What You Mean and Stick To It. Like that. It's funny how such things can work. You might find yourself in a frustrated, venting moment declaring something serious ,with facetious bravado flare. And then you might find, so ironically, the very thing you spoke of ringing your doorbell, unexpectedly, the very next day, giving you no choice but to sink or swim. Do what you said or wimp out. Oh, it's all very well to set fictional boundaries, but navigating tangible ones is always more difficult than it seems like it should be. The self-loathing fall-out though, from walking away from a situation, wishing you'd only said such-and-such instead, is so much worse than any brief awkwardness, the evanescence of hot cheeks and a raised pulse.

So while I didn't say I'd suddenly start going to the gym every day and then actually do it (as a seasonally recognized example, that. seeing as I've never been to a gym and don't so much plan to), I did make a pact with myself to be true and to speak up when it counts, and a situation presented itself to me right away and I did it, with no regrets. Look at that, a week into the New Year and already a smashing success.

And, additionally, I have made quiet commitments for a number of scattered personal and domestic endeavors. Commitments, not resolutions, because I've already resolved to do them long ago, they're so basic and obvious and necessary. I simply aim to steel myself against the sneaky inundation of resentment, to do the things I need to do and not be a crybaby about it. The laundry, the dishes (haven't I re-adjusted my attitude about handwashing all these dishes before? hm. yes. well. here we go again.), the facilitation of my daughter's education. I am getting back on track with other things, kombucha, push-ups, making stuff. I allowed myself to get a little off-kilter (read: lazy) and the new year is as good of a time as any to jump back on it.

But because I'm slow and prone to distraction, let's just cinch it down even smaller: a Monday is a good time to get with it. Maybe that's why Mondays are so dreaded. The weekly re-start wherein we make up for our shortcomings the week before. And two days ago (what with today being Wednesday, clearly I have not made any such commitment to 'regular blogging'), on the first Monday of the year, I rocked it. The kitchen was clean (maybe you can keep your dishwasher-free kitchen effortlessly spotless, but this always feel like such a huge accomplishment to me), my bed was made, the laundry all where it needed to be.

And my family was happy. And why wouldn't they be? In an effort to be evermore committed to surprising them with sweet, special things: I whipped up some stove top caramel corn.

Sometimes I break out kernels and the air popper for a quick (so quick!) salty snack. But this was the first time I coated the popped corn with some sort of caramel-y sauce. It was such a snap and the mmm wow this-is-so-good reactions were well worth it. I used this recipe as a starting point, but with a wee bit more salt, I think, maple syrup instead of corn syrup, and my usual rapadura as my granulated sweetener of choice. It's a tasty sauce; I think the baking soda is the trick to setting up and coating the corn so nicely. It made more sauce than I needed for 2/3 C popping corn (measured prior to popping), so next time I'll make less sauce or pop more corn. Because eating the extra caramel sauce out of the pan w/ a wooden spoon is one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time, but then later, not so much.

My creation

Friday, January 02, 2009

to be fair

I don't have a sweeping disdain for all high range male singing voices, as I might have alluded to in my previous post. In fact, since right around last February or so, I've been listening to Bon Iver pretty much more than anything else. The husband initially caught me in this apparent inconsistency, and dismissed my new favorite music with a sarcastic sneer. But if Justin Vernon depends on falsetto emotion, there's nothing affected and sappy about it. No, I think it's some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard and something about it just creeps into me and sits there and rattles around in a way that makes me feel absolutely supported and known in my lonesomeness. Now I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know. But just in case you haven't heard it, and have yet to form an opinion, I'll do here what I did in my living room some weeks ago: listen! you have to really listen to this. It's the best music of the whole previous year; so long 2008. (and my husband came around and almost agrees with me).