Enchiladas with homemade sauce and pico de gallo

Sometimes in Europe, it feels like 1993. Some things just take a really long time to get here, like Mexican food. Tex Mex seems to be hugely popular right now, we even saw a few Tex Mex / Saloon type restaurants in Latvia, but try as they might, these places are missing something…and that something is usually anything remotely spicy.

That said, I thought I’d take a crack at making enchilada sauce. I’m not entirely sure what constitutes an authentic enchilada sauce and my research could not answer this either, but we really enjoyed this and it was a great opportunity to use some dried Mexican peppers we have in the pantry. Pantry space in our European flat = so very precious. Oh, and fun fact, enchilada comes from the verb enchilar, which means to add chilis to something. Yum!

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Mini Beef Pies for Picnic Day

Oh, summer, you’ve been eating up all my time with swimming, adventures, bridesmaid duties, house renovations, among other fun things. Today is picnic day and I am currently blogging in my bathing suit. Just keeping it classy, you know. Having said that, here is a quick recipe for a great picnic lunch. Something other than the ubiquitous sandwich-that-sits-in-the-sun-all-morning. To break up the time spent in a steaming hot kitchen, I made the filling the night before and assembled and baked the pies this morning. Enjoy!

Mini Beef Pies for Picnic Day

yields 12 mini pies

1 package prepared pie crust (I use pillsbury, 2 crusts per package)

1 lb extra lean ground beef

1 medium onion, minced

1 medium carrot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 knorr homestyle beef stock cube (or 1 bouillion cube but they are just not as good!)

1 cup water

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp BBQ sauce of your choice

2 tbsp flour

1/2 cup frozen green peas

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet until no longer pink. Drain excess fat, return beef to skillet, and add onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until veggies begin to soften, about 4-5 minutes.

2. Add stock, water, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and BBQ sauce to the beef mixture. Stir until well combined, turn heat to low, and let simmer 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle flour over the beef mixture and stir until well combined. The flour will absorb the excess liquid and thicken the mixture. Set aside.

3. Roll out one prepared pie crust so that you increase the size of your crust by 50%. This gave me enough crust to make 12 mini beef pies in my muffin tin. Using a large, round cookie cutter or plastic container, cut out 6 circles of crust and fit them into your muffin pan. Put your your pastry scraps aside and repeat with second crust, reserving pastry scraps, so that you have the shell for 12 mini pies. The remaining pastry will form the lids.

4. Fill muffin cups with your beef filling. For me, this meant one large spoonful per muffin cup. Roll out your remaining pastry and, using a small, round cookie cutter or a drinking glass, cut out 12 pastry circles. Place pastry circles on top of your mini pies and, using your fingers, pinch together the pastry so the pies are sealed. Cut a slit in each mini pie to vent.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve hot or cold or on a picnic.

Liam’s Mancave Chili

Well, that was certainly a long hiatus! Believe me, a lot longer than I expected. I am just getting over an unbelievable bout of bacterial bronchitis (say that 5 times fast). The good news is that I have a back-log of recipes to post. I also have a lovely new header (see?) thanks to the fabulously talented Miss Andrea Q., whose kindness I hope to repay in cookies. ‘Cause, you know, you can’t mail chili…

On to the good stuff…

I named this chili after two Liams: my brother Liam, and my faithful taste-tester, house-sitter and overall wacky guy, our good friend Liam. My brother had chatted with me recently about wanting to make a chili that was elevated to new heights of meaty-deliciousness. And had bacon. While I didn’t have bacon on hand while I was concocting this chili, I did have leftover pulled pork. I think it gives another layer of meaty yumminess to the chili. Plus it was a great way to use the last of the pulled pork. Our friend Liam was lovely enough to pop by our house and take home some of what turned out to be a massive pot of chili. He declared it “Mantastic”.

Please be warned: this is no veggie lover’s delight. I did not follow the “I need to use up X vegetables – let’s make chili!” train of thought. Veggie chili is good, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t right for the Liams in my life.

One more thing, may I suggest finding a butcher who makes sausages? In my experience, buying directly from a butcher means amazing flavour with very little or no fillers/additives. This means no wheat, excessive fat, etc.. just meaty goodness.

Liam’s Mancave Chili

Serves 6 to 8

1 lb ground Beef

1 lb hot Italian Sausage, removed from casings

1 large red onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 small can black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1.5 cups leftover pulled pork (optional) or

5 thick slices bacon, cooked until lightly crisped, drained and chopped (optional)

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 tsp salt (optional)

1 packet stevia or 1 tsp sugar (or sweetener of your choice – brings out the flavour of the tomatoes)

3 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp garlic powder (or granulated garlic)

1 tbsp cumin

1 to 2 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you don’t like heat)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef and sausage (removed from casing) over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain off all but 1 tsp of fat and set aside.

Add your chopped red onions and cook over medium-low heat until onions begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. This step will add some sweetness to your chili.

Once onions have begin to caramelize, add your minced garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes until garlic is very fragrant.

I recommend roasted red peppers that have been packed in water, NOT vinegar.

Add your drained and chopped red peppers to your chili pot.

Add your can of crushed tomatoes and your black beans. At this point, you can also return the ground beef/sausage mixture to the pot along with any leftover pulled pork you may have (or bacon if you’re really feeling crazy).

Add your lime juice and spices. Allow to simmer one hour and then taste. Adjust seasonings if it’s not how you like it. More lime juice will temper your chili if it’s too hot. You may need to add salt but I prefer to use little to none, if possible. A couple of drops of liquid smoke might be good at this point, too. After your adjust the seasonings, you can serve the chili if pressed for time or continue to simmer for another hour (my preference).

Served topped with your favorite add-ons. JD’s is shown here with some shredded Monterey Jack cheese and a side of baked tortilla chips I made in the oven. I prefer mine plain with some chopped green onions on top and maybe a little sour cream.