Baked Chilaquiles – an amazing breakfast on a beach in Mexico or in your own kitchen

chilaquiles with egg
I remember this one year, my friend Cali, actually paid me to go to Acapulco, Mexico and shoot her wedding.  We had moments like this:IMG_8371bridegroom
It was also the hottest I’ve ever been in my life, so I went ahead and cashed her check. ūüôā ¬†However, there were extremely enjoyable moments, and one of them was having chilaquiles for breakfast, along with various fresh-squeezed juices. ¬†I had never had chilaquiles before (pronounced: chee-lay-quee-les) and it was a bit of a revelation. ¬†Tortilla chips softened with a rich tomato or chili or black bean sauce, mixed with tender bits of chicken and plenty of cheese. ¬†This is actually a pretty typical breakfast for Mexico. ¬†That may be ignorant of me to say, as I’m sure they have cereal, too, but when we got to go back with Cali and Alex to visit ¬†Alex’s home in Mexico City a few years later, (um, yeah, we’re lucky to know them) it was pretty common to see things we’d associate with dinner, served for breakfast. ¬†Like enchiladas or tostadas. ¬†Not everything had to have an egg on it like we feel compelled to do, here. ¬†Case in point: our version of chilaquiles sure enough had eggs on it. ¬†However, it’s a delicious addition! ¬†Matt made us this breakfast and I shot the picture, so once again, this is a true Family Meal kinda post. ¬†We all contribute in different ways throughout the week and I’m always so happy when he has a plan for Saturday breakfast!

chilaquiles topped with scrambled eggs

chilaquiles
Baked Chilaquiles*
serves 6

10 oz thick tortilla chips
1 – 28 oz can whole tomatoes, drained
3 serrano peppers, seeded and roasted
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2  cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt to taste,about 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
5 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded cheese, such as Monterey Jack or Mexican Chihuahua cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Scoop tortilla chips into 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

In the oven, place seeded serrano peppers, cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast until blistered.  We did this under the broiler.  Take out and let cool.
Coarsely puree tomatoes and serrano peppers¬†in a food processor or blender. Heat oil in large saucepan; add onion and saut√© until golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute, then stir in broth, tomato puree and salt. Heat to boil. Stir in cilantro. Set mixture aside. ¬†In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and scramble the eggs and a half teaspoon of salt till they’re almost done. ¬†Remove from heat. ¬†Pour the sauce over the chips; coating them evenly with the sauce. ¬†Layer the almost-done scrambled eggs on top of the sauce. ¬†Sprinkle with cheese and bake until lightly browned on top and bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Garnish with extra cilantro and a few extra chips on the side.

*adapted from Rick Bayless’ recipe,¬†Chipotle-Baked Tortilla Casserole

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Dark Chocolate and Ricotta Pancakes

dark chocolate ricotta pancakes

 

Chocolate or coffee? ¬†Which ingredient controls my mind the most? ¬†Coffee may win out just a hair with its zero-calorie-yet-complex-and-indulgent attribute, but chocolate comes in at a close second. ¬†I received an amazing cookbook for Christmas from Matt. ¬†The Mast Brothers Chocolate cookbook. ¬†It’s stunning. ¬†A voyage in pictures and recipes in the lives of Rick and Michael Mast – two brothers who make and sell chocolate in New York City. ¬†The pictures are dark and stunning and the stories are as wholesome and exciting as the product they sell. ¬†Everything from a sustainable source, every ingredient in their chocolate from a farmer they literally know and have probably had dinner with. ¬†Nothing they do is the easy way out and it’s an amazing way of life to aspire to, and a joy of a book to read through like a novel.

One of the recipes that caught both Matt’s and my eye was the dark chocolate and ricotta pancakes. ¬†I’m usually on the lookout for something special to fix us for breakfast on Saturday and that recipe just jumped off the page. ¬†The picture showed these nearly-burned pancakes (although not burned – just super dark chocolate) and browned butter frothing around the edges. ¬†Sold. ¬†All the recipes in this book (if you can procure some really great chocolate) are simple and straight-forward. ¬†Hardly any recipe takes up more than a paragraph and so it all seems so accessible. ¬†I used Lindt 70%, our favorite dark chocolate that you can actually find in a grocery store. ¬†The results were amazing – your classic chocolate chip pancake bumped up a notch. ¬†Enjoy and take your Saturday morning a bit slower!

Dark Chocolate Ricotta Pancakes*
makes 10-12 small pancakes

3 eggs, separated
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
2/3 cup AP flour
3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with ricotta cheese, milk, sugar, and salt.  Add flour and chocolate and combine.
In a separate bowl using a handheld mixer, beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Fold the egg whites into the flour-ricotta mixture.

Melt one tablespoon of butter for each batch of pancakes in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Ladle batter onto pan in 4-inch circles.  When the edges brown and batter bubbbles, flip pancakes.  They are pretty messy, so just do your best.

Serve with maple syrup and a cup of black coffee and rejoice.

*adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

Crustless Asparagus Quiche and the End of All Dieting

asparagus custard

I was first introduced to a savory custard by the wonderful food blogger, Helene Garcia of French Foodie Baby.  The first savory custard I made was her leek and chive flan and I was a bit afraid at first because we just have ingrained in our minds that custards and flans are supposed to be sweet, but this was a very happy and luxurious surprise.  Basically, in American terms, this is a crustless quiche.  Only waaaaay better of a texture than the quiche of your childhood.  Please do refer back to my quiche post on how its texture should be.  I was happy that it was such a silky texture and that Olive could eat it just fine with her limited spoon wielding skills.

I stumbled upon this asparagus and bacon custard in a book called French Women Don’t Get Fat, which I’m reading and working my way through the steps to reshape my life and my patterns of eating. ¬†The book presents a bit of a strict start (a cleanse, which I don’t think is totally necessary for success, just optional) followed by three months of self evaluation of the patterns you’ve made over the years and ways in which you could cut back without feeling deprived. ¬†After three months, by the book, you should only be HALF WAY to your goal weight. ¬†If you are, then she advises to add back a few more pleasures and get on with your life! ¬†If not, then keep going with the plan, making additional adjustments if necessary.

I’m happy to have finally found a book that doesn’t restrict you, doesn’t say that a particular food or food group is bad, and doesn’t push supplements. ¬†I’m DONE with that vicious cycle of crash dieting and then giving up, gaining back and doing it all over again because every new diet makes a new promise. ¬†Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? ¬†I found myself having an epiphany the other day that a diet that promises you’ll lose all the weight you need to lose in a few weeks will only work if it only took you a few weeks to gain that weight.¬† And like me, I’m sure most of us with serious weight issues have struggled a BIT longer than weeks or even years with our weight. ¬†So why does it not register in our minds that in order to keep a good, healthy weight, we should logically change the way we do things for 10-15 years at least? ¬†Personally speaking, I’ve struggled with my weight for about twenty two years and most of that time was wasted, going through diet after diet that restricted too much, left me wanting and frustrated and ultimately, feeling like I am a loser and can never succeed.

After 11 days of following this book and eating what I personally feel was a bit too indulgent of a menu, I’m down seven pounds. ¬†I know what you’re thinking: all water weight, and besides, wasn’t she just preaching that weight loss shouldn’t be sudden?! ¬†You’re right, it shouldn’t. ¬†But for one, I have a lot to lose and the more you have to lose, generally, the quicker you will drop pounds (at first). ¬†Second, I’ve completely cut out all snacking and all second helpings.¬† Man, that adds up to a lot with just those two bad habits! ¬†Especially if you snack several times a ¬†day! ¬†The only other thing I’ve given up has been cream in my coffee and that, for me, was the biggest challenge because I love my coffee. ¬†But, for these first three months of “readjusting” how I do things, I don’t consider it that much of a burden to give up roughly 200 calories a day that used to be dedicated to cream in my coffee! ¬†I have even started to prefer it black with just a little sweetner (stevia, for those concerned). ¬†I haven’t been stressed about working out – I just have been taking more walks and enjoying the new, cooler fall weather and I’ve been pulling a few weeds here and there. ¬†This is my new life. ¬†I was done with diets a few years ago, but I was still engaging in bad habits. ¬†It’s hard to undo years of emotional eating, but I’ve found that the distraction of Olive is a grand one. ¬†Or, if I just HAVE to ingest something in the afternoon, I make a cup of cinnamon tea (it’s naturally sweet) and get productive!

This custard recipe was breakfast for a few days last week. ¬†Again, I know what you will say. ¬†This has cream, eggs, bacon AND it’s in a “diet” book? ¬†Yep. ¬†Moderation + Fulfilling Meals = Success. ¬†Moderation + Drab, Restrictive Meals = Failure. I really recommend you picking up this book IF and only if you are done yo-yo dieting, ¬†if you like to cook and you are ready to stop restricting yourself and feeling guilty for eating things like butter. ¬†I’ll keep you posted on my progress and I hope that I can encourage some of you to stop the fad madness and just start “eating real food, not too much, mostly plants.” (from the omnivore’s dilemma) ūüôā

Asparagus custards

Asparagus Custard (crustless quiche, if it makes you feel better to call it that)
makes 6 – 1 cup ramekin servings

16 asparagus spears, tough ends cut off and peeled
4 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 sprigs chives, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. Boil the asparagus in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Chop each stalk into a small dice and set aside.  Saute the bacon in a nonstick frying pan till crisp. Drain on paper towel and set aside.  Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl (reserving some chives for garnish). Pour the egg mixture into individual ramekins. Sprinkle in the asparagus and bacon. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the custard is set but not dried out.  Serve with pieces of toast, crackers, or with some fresh fruit and enjoy your day!