Monthly Archive for September, 2010

I’ll take the whole enchilada.

This is no average enchilada- this is something I’ve been plotting since May. Then opportunity knocked at my door, and I was given the opportunity to try out Tortillaland tortillas. While I don’t do many product reviews, I am sucker when it comes to Hispanic food. And with harvest season peaking around the bend, I felt it was a match made in heaven when my mother showed up at my front door with a box of apples from the acclaimed Apple Hill. It was a serendipitous recipe waiting to happen.

Kickin’ Apple Pie Enchiladas


2 TBS cornstarch
8 TBS water
2 cups apple juice, sweetened
8 medium tart apples (Gala or Gravenstein are good options)
1 TBS lemon juice
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, canned (this is the kick in your kickin’ filling)
2 tsp butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
10 (6-inch) flour tortillas (I used Tortillaland flour tortillas)
additional sugar and cinnamon
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
vanilla ice cream (optional)


In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water and stir until dissolved. In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add cornstarch mixture and apple cider and heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Once mixture starts to thicken, continue to boil another 30 seconds. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Core, peel and dice apples until you have approximately 8 cups. To prevent apples from browning, place in cold water mixed with the lemon juice.

Remove seeds from chipotle peppers. Chop and set aside. Be sure not to accidentally touch your eyes. Wash hands well with soap and dry with a towel.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter. Drain the apples and add them to the pan. Cook over medium heat until apples begin to soften, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add in cinnamon, 1/2 tsp chipotle pepper and 1/2 cup of apple cider sauce. Cook another 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9×13 glass baking dish.

If using Tortillaland flour tortillas, which contain zero additives, I recommend that you first pre-cook the tortillas in a pan, according to package directions. If using other four tortillas, you do not need to precook them.

To assemble the enchiladas, place 1/4 cup of the cooked apples in the middle of the tortilla. Roll tightly and place seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Pour remaining apple cider sauce, along with any remaining cooked apples, over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with additional sugar and cinnamon and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until sauce is boiling and the enchiladas begin to turn brown.

Serve with sharp cheddar cheese and vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6-10

Note: I can attest that the tortillas from Tortillaland are fantastic. They have a wonderful melt-in-your mouth texture. I did find that when reheating them it is best not to use the microwave, but rather the oven for a crisper consistency. I am told that these will be on sale at select Costco locations soon!

Apple juice and cornstarch sauce.

The apples cook down with all the flavors combined.

Cooking tortillas - apples on the back burner.

Cooked tortillas await their filling.

Stuff it! Cannelloni Gone Garden

The story behind this dish? I must confess, there are not too many twists and turns on this tale – the garden is in full belated summer veggie mode. With tomatoes, garlic, basil and zucchini at the ready, I was inspired to make a versatile dish. This recipe has so many options, you will be amazed:
diabetic adaption: substitute mushrooms for carrots and eliminate the pasta shells. The filling can be fried to make vegetable shrimp cakes or baked in an oven proof dish.
vegetarian modification: eliminate the shrimp.
lactose intolerant version: eliminate the cheese.
child-like adaption: with no recognizable vegetables on the plate, call this dish ‘Crabby Patties’ (alla Sponge Bob) for added appeal.

Bottom line, make this dish work for you. I think you will find the flavors are delectable for nearly any diet or palate. Manga bene!

Shrimp & Garden Vegetable Cannelloni


1/4 cup + 1 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups (1/2 lb) green zucchini, grated
1 1/2 cups (1/2 lb) yellow zucchini, grated
1 medium carrot, grated
1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 TBS white wine, dry
1 egg yoke, large
2 TBS fresh basil, chopped
2 cups bread crumbs, not finely grated (or 1 cup bread crumbs and 1/2 cup ricotta)
12 cannelloni shells, cooked
3-4 cups tomato sauce **
2 TBS Italian parsley, chopped (optional)


Note: For best flavor, make the filling recipe, which immediately follows, one day in advance to allow flavors to amalgamate.

In large saute pan, heat 2 TBS of olive oil with garlic on medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the hot pepper flakes into the oil and stir until coated. Add in the zucchini, carrot, salt and pepper and cook until soft and dry, approximately 15-20 minutes. Set aside on baking sheet to cool.

Using the same pan, heat 2 TBS of oil on medium heat with the sliced garlic until it starts to turn light brown. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper and saute until opaque, approximately 2 minutes, do not over cook. Deglaze the pan by adding wine and scraping any pieces stuck to the bottom of the pan. Transfer shrimp to baking sheet with vegetables and allow to cool. Pour remaining wine in pan over the shrimp and vegetables.

Divide cooled shrimp and vegetable into two batches, pulse in food processor but do not puree the mixture. Transfer into a bowl. Taste the mixture and adjust the salt and pepper to your taste, mix well. Add the egg yoke, bread crumbs, ricotta (if using) and basil. The filling mixture should be dry and hold together. At this point you can refrigerate up to one day.

Cook the cannelloni shells according to package directions. (Be careful not to over cook the shells, as they will become too soft once filled and cooked in the oven.) Carefully remove the past with a slotted spoon, and place onto a prepared a tray. When pasta is cool enough to handle, cut each length-wise to lay flat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9×13 baking dish. Fill each piece of pasta with 1/4 cup of the filling, and make into a snug roll with a slight overlap of the pasta. Place pasta seam side down in baking dish. Repeat until all cannelloni are filled. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan, cover with foil and bake 25-30 minutes.

Warm tomato sauce in sauce pan. Transfer cannelloni to individual serving plate, spoon sauce over top, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and parsley (if using).

Serve immediately!

Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce (Sugo di Pomodoro)


2 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt


Puree tomatoes in a food process or pass through a mill. In a large pan, on medium-low heat, add olive oil and onion. Cook approximately 10 minutes, until onion is translucent.

Add tomato puree and salt. Stir well and bring mixture to a low boil. Do not allow sauce to burn, cook approximately 35-40 minutes until most of the water evaporates and sauce starts to thicken.

This sauce can be refrigerated one week or frozen up to three months.

Makes 3 cups.

Please pass the pickles

One of my resolutions for this past summer was make time to reconnect with treasured friends. On one particular trip, I headed to Capitola to see one of my good college friends, affectionately known as Nit. We spent time walking on the beach, reading endless recipe books and laughed more than I thought was humanly possible. The result, I brushed off a few of her old time recipe books and came across this gem of a recipe. It sounded so unusual that my curiosity got the best of me and I had to make them before summer’s end. The critics vote- RAVE reviews – even Prima and Secondo liked them. While I realize that many of you may not ever try to make these, I hope you will be as intrigued as I was to learn more about them. They proved to be quite a conversation starter at parties, and they are so unusual, I just may make them again next summer.

Old-Fashioned Watermelon Rind Pickles

Makes 5 (12-oz.) jars, 4 pints

Prep: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Stand: 16 hours


1 large watermelon (about 7 lbs)
¾ cup salt
2 quarts ice cubes
1 TBS whole cloves
1 TBS whole allspice
1 (3-inch) square cheesecloth
kitchen string
9 cups sugar
3 cups white wine vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
5 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks


Quarter watermelon and remove pink flesh and reserve for another use (like dessert!). Peel green skin from watermelon rind. Cut enough rind into 1-inch cubes to yield 12 cups and place cubed rind in a large container. Discard any remaining rind.

Stir together salt and 3 quarts water and pour over rind. Add ice; cover and let stand 8 hours, or overnight in refrigerator. Rinse well, multiple times, and drain.

Cook rind, on high, in water to cover with lid for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and place in large non-metal container.

Place cloves and allspice on a 3-inch square of cheesecloth; tie with kitchen string. (If you don’t have any cheesecloth, you can also substitute a new nylon stocking cut down to the needed proportions.)

Stir together sugar, vinegar and 3 cups water in pot; add cheesecloth bundle and bring to a boil. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Add the drained watermelon rind. Boil gently until rind is transparent and syrup is slightly thickened, about 45 to 55 minutes. Stir in lemon slices. Cover and let stand 8 hours, or over night in the refrigerator.

In a large pot, bring rind and syrup mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour. Discard cheesecloth bundle.

Pack rind mixture into 5 hot (12-oz.) jars, filling ½ inch from top. Add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with metal lids and fasten lids.

Process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes.

Releasing your Inner Beast for a Bit of Beauty

(Traditionally known as Beauty and the Beast)

The San Francisco production of Beauty and the Beast was a treat to behold. The costumes, special effects and acting was nothing less than Disney-tacular. The story line mapped so closely to the animated film that at times I had to remind myself that I was watching a LIVE performance.

Liz Shivener, who played Belle, gave a fantastic performance, transporting the audience away to her small provincial life. And Sam Zeller, who played Gaston was spot on his self consumed, narcissistic character, as he proclaimed, one of my favorite lines of the play, “I use antlers in most of my decorating.” (What a catch!) The cast of characters was fun- Gaston’s side kick, Todd Schlader, gave a great gymnastic performance as he rolled with each of Gaston’s punches while Carl Danielsen, who played the suave Lumiere, added his flirtatious flair to the show. Cogsworth, Gene Brundage, and Arlene Thomas, Mrs. Potts charmed the audience with their love and affection for the Beast and their newly found potential spell-breaking Belle. The Beast, Mark Campbell, added a touch of fun to his tumultuous story as he learned how to properly woo the young woman whom would ultimately grow to love him and break his transformative spell.

In honor of this event, I’ve whipped up a drink to help you release your inner beast and celebrate the beauty of the moment.

Mandarin Beastie


3 oz Mandarin orange vodka
1 oz lemonade or fresh lime juice
1 oz club soda


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka and lemonade. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Add club soda. Garnish with the twist.

Note: a fun alternative is to add ice, vodka, lemonade, 2 large slices of peach in a blender. Mix well. Add a splash of club soda or 7 Up.

Thanks for prompting me to come up with a drink recipe and a concept JoJo!