Fun, Food, and Community with Vegetarian Enchiladas


A couple of weeks ago, one of the blogs I follow, getsetandgo, created a post about “community” with photos of an Indian festival where all sorts of people come together to celebrate–a community.  She requested others post photos of their community events.  After reading her blog post,  I decided to tell about my attempt to start a monthly “community” :

Several months ago, I reached way out of my comfort zone and started a monthly potluck.  When and where I grew up, inviting people over for a potluck was socially unacceptable.  If you invited people over, you cooked everything yourself.  If people wanted to bring something, insisted, well, ok, but otherwise, no, no, no.  Because of work, writing, and singing, I invited a number of friends over only every few months.  In September, I decided it would be far nicer to see people  more often and invited some friends over for potluck.  They asked if we could do this regularly so a monthly ritual began.  More and more friends keep asking to join.  It remains a type of hit and miss thing.  Sometimes 16 people show up, sometimes only five.  My most recent event was a week ago.  Because some of these friends are vegetarian, I invented a recipe, vegetarian enchiladas, just for them.  I also made pork roast and chicken enchiladas.  The vegetarian enchiladas disappeared quickly and everyone wanted the recipe.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Six tortillas (I used whole wheat)

1/2 purple onion, chopped finely

1 large poblano pepper, chopped finely

1/2 medium sized red bell pepper chopped finely

1 package cream cheese

Olive oil

1 tsp Mexican spice mix

1/2 tsp chipotle pepper, ground (I used Spice Appeal-adjust to hotness desired)

Shredded monterey jack cheese

Red enchilada sauce–I used canned because my cooktop is awaiting repair

Saute onions and pepper in just enough olive oil so they will not stick or become too dry.  Mix in cream cheese and spices until thoroughly blended.  Fill the tortillas, roll up, and place in an 8 inch casserole dish.  Cover with a light layer of enchilada sauce.  Sprinkle enough shredded cheese on top to cover.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

In the spirit of the getsetandgo blog, I took photos of my friends as we talked and ate.  The enchiladas were all gone before it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a photo.

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Additionally, I regretted not taking a photo of three of my women friends with long hair.  Another friend who has spectacular, very dark grey, long hair and just turned 70 recently told me a story about how a mutual acquaintance came up to her and told her no woman over 60 should have long hair.  It annoyed me so much in an odd sort of way that I now wear my hair longer than usual.

Vegetables with Coriander, Cumin, and Tumeric


SAM_1010Vegetables are my favorite food.  Interspersed with the poems and essays I publish, I try to post unique recipes.  My recipes come from years of interaction and relationships with people from all over the world, husbands, exchange students who enhance my extended family, travels to Asia and Latin America, my international friends near where I live.  Recently, after a dinner party, I had left over vegetables that needed cooking so one evening home from work, I created this recipe.  It is vegan by accident not intention.  One could add fish, chicken, turkey leftovers (see recent post for turkey curry), shrimp…you get the idea.  The options are endless.  I used the vegetables I needed to use up, but take a look in your refrigerator and try what you have on hand.  Experiment.

1 medium sized beet, peeled and cut into half coins

1 poblano pepper seeded and chopped

1/2 purple onion, chopped

Several pieces of Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped, leaves cut into large, bite sized pieces

Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped–amount to your own taste

Olive oil

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

1/2 teaspoon cumin–or extra to taste

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Saute the beets, chopped Swiss chard stems, garlic, and onions in olive oil until beets are cooked through.  Add spices and poblano pepper.  When  the pepper is nearly done, add the Swiss chard leaves and cook only until wilted.

Serve over rice.  I used equal amounts of black, red, and Jasmine rice.

How to cook rice:

1/3 cup black rice

1/3 cup red rice

1/3 cup brown or Jasmine rice–your preference

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon concentrated broth/bouillon–I use Better Than Bouillon brand which is available Vegetarian as well as Chicken, etc.

Pour enough olive oil into a saucepan to cover the bottom.  Add the rice and chopped garlic.  Saute at high heat until rice starts to stick, stirring constantly.  Add two cups water and the bouillon.  Stir rapidly until bouillon dissolves.  Turn down heat to low, cover the top of the saucepan with four paper towels or a tea towel folded to make several layers.  Put sauce pan lid on the top and cook for approximately one hour.  Red, brown, and black rice take twice as long to cook as white rice.  Do  not peek while rice is cooking.  Lifting the lid to check causes the rice to be mushy.

Costa Rica 5, Fauna


Costa Rica continued to surprise me.  I did expect some of the animals, photos of which are posted below,  but did not expect so many cattle, especially the dairy cattle, including Jerseys, Guernseys, and Holsteins,  that populated the steep mountain slopes.  They grazed everywhere up to their tummies in grass on even the steepest mountainsides.  I kept wondering how they learned to balance themselves and why they did not fall over, catapulting down the mountain.  Everyone in the group commented on the fat, happy cows.  Such abundance resulted in fabulous steaming milk for morning coffee, rich cheeses, and the creamiest ice cream imaginable.

A cow pen near the top of a mountain on the Caribbean side next to the restaurant that sold cheese and where I ate the raw turtle egg.  Most of the cows roamed free up and down the mountainsides.

In the lowlands on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country, Brahma cattle relaxed or grazed in the lush grass.  It reminded me of the landscape near Veracruz, Mexico, where I lived many years ago.

The most common meat besides fish, most of which is talapia, is chicken.  Near the mountain top where the Jersey cow above was photographed, I saw a huge shed and when I asked about it, was told it was a chicken farm. However, pork is frequently served as well and occasionally beef.  I took the following photograph at a small place on a dirt road.  We stopped there to drink coconut water.  The spotted, pregnant pig was due soon.  However, the fate of the black pig remained less lovely–food.  Their girth resulted from eating coconuts; they constantly gorged themselves.

Birds abound, from the protected scarlet macaws on the Pacific Coast to tiny hummingbirds.  Hundreds of species I had never seen before and many I had seen rather often like various egrets and herons. And then there were the monkeys which I did expect to see but found difficult to photograph with my ordinary camera.

These white faced monkeys roamed everywhere near the beaches at Manual Antonio National Park, begging for food and if that did not work, actually stealing it.

While the white face monkeys remained highly visible, the howler monkeys could be heard easily but were much harder to locate because they tend to stay high in the tallest trees.  Without a good telescoping lens, this was the best I could do.

Look for the dark blob in the middle of the photo.  They also move fast so hard to locate and follow and even harder to photograph under those conditions.

Just as we arrived, walking, at the entrance to Manuel Antonio, a downpour began.  Not fond of drenchings, I stayed back, hoping it would stop, and suddenly saw a small sloth, the grey spot in the nearly leafless tree in the middle of this photo.

Lizards of many varieties abound.  The tree near my hotel room in Jaco contained four iguanas that appeared nearly lifeless since they never seemed to move.  Again, without a better lens I could not really photograph them.  However, at Manuel Antonio many other kinds of lizards ran here and there only slightly afraid and relatively easy to photograph.

When I think back as to what I expected, it never occurred to me that huge, brackish (salt) water crocodiles existed in such abundance or even existed there at all.  Near Jaco, on the Rio Grande Tarcoles the Costa Ricans created a preserve to protect the endangered scarlet macaws and crocodiles.  We arrived early in the morning and floated around the river, into a mangrove swamp, watching birds and crocodiles.  The list of common birds included 58 species and we saw others that the guide referred to as “bonus birds”.  The following photos come from this lovely, relaxing river ride.  Truly, I loved this part of the trip.

Entering the mangrove swamp.

Two months old.

Where the Rio Grande Tarcoles enters the Pacific Ocean.

The boat captain feeding the crocodile in the mud barefoot.  I thought about touching this one he was so close until I was told they could swim as fast as 55 miles per hour.  It occurred to me that he could turn around really quickly and snap off my hand so…

Pura Vida: 2, Comida (Costa Rican food)


Costa Ricans appear to be very, very healthy.  Their food mainly consists of rice, black beans, salad, cooked vegetables, chicken or fish, fruit (usually pineapple, papaya, mangoes) and sometimes fried plantain.  In fact fried plantain was the only fried food, except occasionally cheese.  The food is plain with few spices, even though hot sauce, especially their version of tobasco,  is often available if you want it.  The national dish is gallo pinto:  left over white rice mixed nearly equally with black beans and sometimes a little chopped onion and bell peppers sautéed in oil.  This is a breakfast staple, but frequently served three times a day.  Sometimes, although black beans and rice are usually served at lunch and dinner, they are not mixed together then.  Often salad is their version of cole slaw, but tastes nothing like cole slaw here.  Usually both cabbage and carrots are very finely shredded and mixed together.  I never did quite figure out the dressing, in part because it varied greatly.  When the salad was with lettuce, it was also more finely chopped than we usually do here in the US and served with various dressings including olive oil.  The freshness of the salads stood out–no little bits of brown edges in Costa Rica.

The coffee, well, just lets say, I miss it.  Pitchers of steaming, strong, mountain grown coffee served with pitchers of steaming, rich milk.  In the mountains everywhere Jersey, Guernsey, and Holstein cows roamed up to their tummies in grass.  Happy cows for sure, producing rich milk for coffee and rich white cheese, which is served for breakfast.  Yes, breakfast, sometimes plain and sometimes fried.  Oh, and I cannot forget the ice cream.  Beyond creamy and smooth and rich.

There are sweets, usually made as snacks with coconut especially.  This was my favorite.

Obesity appeared to be non-existent.  I did see a few chubby people but no one really excessively over weight.  Perhaps diet is one reason, but they walk a lot even though most have cars.  They appear to drive them only if going some distance.  In the mountains I saw a lot of people riding horses.

The biggest food adventure for me occurred while waiting around near a little family owned restaurant at the top of a mountain.  All but four of us and the bus driver had gone river rafting.  We disembarked from the bus and walked around to kill time, chit chatting about this and that in Spanish.  Suddenly the restaurant owner came out with his grandson, unlocked the fence gate, and invited us in.  While sitting at the bar conversing with him and Hector, the bus driver, I noticed the menu posted on the wall.  It included huevo de tortuga.  Previous information given to us indicated that Costa Rican law protected turtles (tortugas).  I asked how he could serve this.  He told me it depended on the species of turtle and that he could acquire only a limited amount of them.  Suddenly, in front of me, Lisa, the other woman who did not go rafting and is pregnant, and Hector appeared three glasses that looked like giant, triple sized, shot glasses.  Each one contained a raw turtle egg immersed in red hot sauce the consistency of tobasco sauce.  Instructions and gestures indicated this was to be downed like a shot of tequila.  Lisa stuck her tongue in the sauce and said it was ok.  She downed hers first and said, “This is not all that bad.”  The restaurant owner told her it held great nutrition for her unborn baby.  I translated.  It became very clear to me that I had no choice but to down mine as well.  Hector downed his; then I mine.  Lisa’s assessment was correct; it was ok inspite of the turtle egg feeling like a rather solid but squishy mass as it slid down my throat.  The hot sauce made it possible.  Lisa downed a second one; Hector and I declined.  This experience remains one of the highlights of my trip:  relaxing in the middle of nowhere with a local family in their little restaurant.  Pura vida!!!!

Chicken with poblano peppers, sun dried tomatoes and pasta


This recipe is posted as a tribute to Klara Kamper, from Austria.  Klara is an exchange student and nearly every week she has come over to ride my horse, Rosie.  After riding, I fix dinner.  Of all the different dinners I have fixed, this is Klara’s favorite.

4 pieces boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

2 large poblano peppers, deseeded and diced into bite sized pieces

1 large purple onion, chopped

5-6 pieces sun dried tomatoes, chopped into a large dice

Olive oil

Herbs de provence

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil.  Saute the onions until done.  Add chicken and more olive oil if necessary.  With your fingers sprinkle herbs de provence over the onion/chicken mixture.  When the chicken is nearly done, add the poblano peppers and sun dried tomatoes.  Saute until the poblano peppers are cooked but still a nice bright green.  You may also add mushrooms if you like.  Serve over your favorite pasta.  My daughter does not like herbs de provence so when I cook this for her, I use a  mixture of oregano, basil, and marjoram.

I am very, very picky about pasta.  My favorite is organic Montebello pasta produced by Monastero Di Montebello, Isola del Piano, Italy.  I especially like the conchiglie.  However, I use their spaghetti and other shapes as well.

This is Rosie.  She will really miss Klara who leaves for home on June 25.

 

 

 

 

Rosie, who "adopted" Star after Miracle died.

 

A friend joined us to see the horses and for dinner.  Apparently, she took this photo just before I served dinner.