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The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Tag Archives: Mexican

Okay, how great is this? Chili Pizza! My kids idea for what to do with leftover chili.

It’s store bought pizza dough, rolled out and topped with chili, jack cheese, a smattering of mozzarella cheese, scallions and jalapeños. I was skeptical of the idea for which there is no accounting. It was so good and it couldn’t have been easier. It’s beginning to look like we’d all be better off if I could just turn the kitchen over to the children.


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I used to be really daunted by this chilaquiles recipe – so many steps & bowls & ingredients halved and mixed with other ingredients. But now that I’m thinking about cooking differently – trying to understand technique – I was able to simplify it for myself. The recipe is by Grace Parisi from Food & Wine. I cut out the sour cream & the scallion from the original recipe and added an onion. I do not cook the sauce as she does and I use more chips. I rewrote the recipe, breaking it down into sections that help me understand the process and thereby feel like less of a slave to the directions. The changes have made it quicker and less stressful to prepare and somehow I’ve convinced my daughter, the last hold out, of its merit. For me this is true comfort food. Basically warm, flavorful mush. My son calls it the soggy chip thing which is just about right.

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Meal Plan day; I delegated to the children. They came up with an all-mexican plan and I obliged because I am a firm believer that when you delegate you must also abdicate some fair measure of control or you’re not really delegating at all. So that explains why tonight’s Tortilla Soup will be followed later in the week by Chili Pizza (their idea), Chilaquiles and Burritos.

But the real beauty came when I brought them along for the shopping. They decided that they would come up with the “surprise” meal and went off in search of ingredients together. That gave me enough time to invent a salad to go with tonight’s soup: mixed greens, radishes, corn, cherry tomato, grilled red onion and avocado. It was a good combination (and I got the pleasure of using the mandolin successfully on the radishes) but I didn’t like the dressing I made. I’m not sure if it’s because I mixed lime and vinegar or because I shouldn’t have used lime at all. But I quibble; it was deeply satisfying to watch the kids (who didn’t eat any salad when I started the blog) eat a salad which contained that many vegetables.

Every time I begin to question whether or not the blog is a worthwhile endeavor, something always pushes me to continue. Today it was the kids; I can’t help thinking that if I wasn’t paying quite so much attention to how I cook and what I cook, they wouldn’t be quite so interested themselves.

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Cheap. Easy. A little Burnt.

Used up our leftover steak, onions, mushrooms and jalapeños by making quesadillas for dinner. But I enjoyed piling on the fillings a bit too much and didn’t realize how high the heat was. So we had crunchy quesadillas, which was alright.

I was shamed into making my meal plan tonight. Aesthetically shamed. I deleted last week’s menu and put tonight’s meal at the top. Then it looked so pathetic hanging out there by itself under the heading “Weekly Meal Plan,” I was forced to give it company. I’ll thank myself in the morning.

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Leftovers from leftovers. It doesn’t get better than that.

We took the leftover sauce from Wednesday’s leftover chipotle chicken tostadas, mixed it with rice and made breakfast burritos with eggs & black beans. My husband cooked making the whole thing even more exciting. I got a burrito rolling technique lesson too: fold the bottom up, fold the left side over, roll once, fold the right side over & the top down, roll again. He also made a wonderful side dish of tomato corn and spinach to go with it.

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A night like tonight is when I love my meal plan. I didn’t get home until 11:30 but my husband was able to make a homemade dinner fast ’cause I’d taken out the ingredients in the morning.

We used left over poached chicken from the freezer and stewed it in chipotle pepper sauce (La Morena, from a can, also leftover in the freezer) and lots of crushed & fire roasted tomatoes. He made tostadas & topped them with the chicken, jack cheese, thinly sliced onion, cherry tomatoes & cilantro. It’s a new family favorite.

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Last night I went to an infuriating reading. It doesn’t have much to do with nachos, I know. But it did mean that I didn’t get to have dinner with my kids so that I could listen to an old white man tell a young white man that he couldn’t hope to become a public intellectual. What he meant by this was that there was no such thing anymore as an agreed upon canon of text by which the world could be understood and judged. The definition of what an intellectual needed to know had changed (the writers and philosophers the old man loved were falling out of favor) and therefore, the young man could never hope to be what the old man was. In the same breath, the old man professed to be a liberal and a fierce supporter of democracy. Clearly, what he meant by that was that people who didn’t look like him (think black or with breasts) should be educated enough so that they could think like him but not educated so much that they actually dared to change the the world of ideas he lived in. He, like all of us, was overwhelmed by the profusion of information now available and his conclusion was that nobody could hope to make sense of it.

The kids were in bed by the time I finally got to eat my nachos; my husband and I had a rare dinner alone. I made him promise that we would never get old that way. That we would never condemn those who come after us for not being us; for having been necessarily changed by our ever changing world. I was thinking of my children, of course. And I was thinking of how strong the conservative tug is that pulls at our sleeve as we age. Be careful, it can rip your shirt right off.

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