Spicy ancho chile baked kale chips

I love baked kale chips, but have you seen what they charge for them in the grocery store? It’s a crime! That’s why I started making my own baked kale chips at home with a Mexican twist: Spiced with ancho chile powder. It’s just enough spice to give the kale chips a little kick, but not too spicy. Trust me when I say you’re going to want to eat them all in one sitting… and it’s OK if you do, because these chips are healthy for you!

baked_kale_chips_ancho_chile_spicy_TOSOTTThe chips are easiest to make with the flat leaf kind of kale (called dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale or lacinato kale, and called col rizada in Spanish), and you really don’t have to use that much cooking spray to coat them. I’ve been making my own kale chips for a few years and have experimented with other chile powders to make them spicier, using ground chile morita for a smoky chipotle flavor and even ground chile de árbol for a really spicy snack. Ancho chile powder is perfect for kids or anyone who doesn’t like very spicy snacks but still like a little chile flavor. I got a great deal on kale at the farmers market in Mar Vista this weekend, so I made a few batches of these spicy kale chips to snack on during the week. I hope you like them as much as I do!… 

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Salsa mexicana for one

I often get asked how to make pico de gallo by my non-Mexican friends and, sometimes, new readers here. If you’re a regular reader or you know me personally, you probably know where this is going. In our house, pico de gallo is not the typical fresh salsa you may be familiar with, made of tomato, onion and cilantro. Instead, pico de gallo is a snack made with jicama, red onion, cucumber, orange, serrano chile, lime juice and sprinkled with Tajín. So, if you come to my house and ask for some pico de gallo, now you know what to expect.

What a lot of people call pico de gallo, though, we call salsa mexicana. And it’s extremely easy to make! To be clear, in most places if you ask for pico de gallo, the recipe below is what you’ll get. Since I’ve been asked several times in the last week how to make this easy, fresh salsa, I decided I might as well share it here for anyone who doesn’t already know how to make it. It’s easy to assemble in a big batch because you can play with the amounts of each ingredient to taste, but it’s a little more difficult to get it right when making a very small batch for only one or two people for a single meal, so I’ve provided directions below for the portions that I use.

A note, first: The chile is optional. I always put it in my salsa mexicana, but you don’t have to if you’re averse to spicy food. Or, if you want to go kind of half-way with it, you can cut a serrano chile open, remove the seeds and veins and chop it very finely. If you do that, you may still want to use half of the suggested portion and add more to taste as you can tolerate. But if you leave it out all together, just increase the amount of cilantro to taste. You’ll still have a nice salsa and no one will know anything is missing.

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VEGETARIAN: Tacos de hongo, chile poblano y cebolla

I’ve really been wanting to reduce the amount of meat we eat on a daily basis in order to be a bit healthier. I love veggies and don’t mind vegetarian meals, but when you live with a serious carnivore, it’s sometimes really difficult to convince them that a vegetarian meal is a) good and b) filling enough to be a meal and not just an appetizer.

Sometimes the mere mention of serving a vegetarian meal summons an apocalyptic response in my household. If you can’t get your family to eat a full vegetarian meal, this dish makes a great appetizer to ease them into enjoying it; just double or triple the recipe depending on how many people you’re feeding. They may soon see that an all-veggie meal isn’t so bad after all.

And if you’re truly desperate to get them to eat veggies, you can always add a little crumbled chorizo to this dish. It’s not meatless, but hey, at least they’re eating veggies, right? (You could also attempt to substitute soyrizo for chorizo if you’re brave, but I can’t be held responsible if they figure you out and throw chanclas at you.)

Regardless, whether you’re vegetarian, trying to get your family to eat less meat or just trying to observe meatless meals during Lent, this is a quick and easy recipe you’re bound to enjoy.

I like to use baby portabellas for this recipe, but you can use  just about any kind of regular-sized mushroom you like so long as you slice them somewhat thickly so that when they saute with the onions and butter, they don’t shrink too much or get too thin when they’re fully cooked…. 

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AGUA FRESCA: Agua de mandarina

As the weather starts to get warmer, I’ve gotten an itch for making aguas frescas. This happens to me just about every year. Toward the end of the winter, I always seem to fall into a rut in the kitchen as I wait for spring to arrive. And like clockwork, as soon as we get our first day of warm weather, I head to the store looking for fresh fruits to make aguas frescas. This year was no exception, and the first fruit I spotted was a large bag of mandarinas, mandarin oranges.

I love mandarin oranges both because of the refreshing, sweet juice they produce and their portability as a vitamin-packed snack. In fact, I’ve been carrying two mandarin oranges my purse at all times for the last few weeks so that I always have a healthy snack at the ready.

But I’ve also got some cherished memories of the early days of hanging out with my cuñada, when she used to take me out for aguas frescas and where we almost always ended up with agua de mandarina, one of her favorites—and consequently, now, one of my favorites too.

This is an incredibly simple recipe, but one I’ve been asked for time and again by friends. It’s perfect for serving with any meal, and any gathering—large or small.

A few notes: my husband likes his agua de mandarina to be a little sweeter, but I prefer mine to be more natural and without sugar. My advice: try it without sugar first and perhaps leave out the lime juice. If you feel like it’s not sweet enough for your liking, you can mix about 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/4 cup of warm water to get it to dissolve, and then mix it with the remaining 1-1/2 cups of cold water.

I also like to use a handheld citrus press for this recipe because I found that my electric juicer doesn’t always extract all the juice due to the small size of the mandarin oranges.

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Wordless Wednesday: The last enchilada

I made enchiladas verdes for dinner earlier this week. To make them a little healthier, I changed up the recipe a bit and didn’t lightly fry the tortillas as usual; instead I just heated the tortillas on the comal to make them pliable enough to roll up with chicken inside. And I used just a little less cheese for melting on top. They were still so good! These were the last two that ended up as lunch the next day.

  • What do you do to cut calories, but not taste, from your family’s favorite dishes when you’re trying to eat healthier?
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