Mexican Chipotle Field Roast Sausages

20150727_184911

Mexican Chipotle seasoned sausages.

Though I do soy hotdogs occasionally, this is my first time to try a vegan sausage. It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? I mean, traditional sausage is about as far opposite to vegan, vegetarian, or healthy as you can get. The Field Roast people do perhaps too good of a job of imitating the whole sausage experience. These are good. I tried the Mexican Chipotle version. Spicy!! They also make sausage with Italian seasoning, and one which is apple and sage. I pan fried these but the packaging says they can be pan-fried or grilled. They seem substantial enough to hold up to grilling, and I’ll try that next.

There are a couple of not-great things you should be aware of.  The individual sausages are encased in a very tough plastic wrapper, which naturally needs to be removed before cooking. They recommend slitting the casing lengthwise to remove them. I agree, but cutting the plastic was delicate process, trying not to damage the sausage, and the plastic was tough to cut. On the other hand, despite the thickness and toughness of the plastic, the sausages started leaking in the fridge after we bought them, so we had to clean up the orange grease and put them in a baggy until we cooked them. So even with tough plastic, be aware that the twisty tied ends may leak alarming orange grease. And that alarming orange grease is the other thing that I had a problem with. I get that sausages are supposed to be greasy, and the grease was orange because of all the spices, but by the time I managed to get the plastic on the sausages off, my hands were covered with thick orange grease, the sink was splattered with orange grease, the counter had orange grease drippings and splatter on it. Do not make these sausages wearing anything that you can’t afford to get grease on! Because it was basically everywhere.

But once past the unpleasant unwrapping and clean up, it was smooth sailing! There are four sausages per package. They are bigger than hot dogs and will really fill a hot dog bun! The sausages held up to pan frying well, though they did tend to stick a little (probably because all the grease ended up everywhere except the pan, probably should’ve opened the package over the pan). They didn’t brown up substantially. They were naturally rather brown, so it was hard to tell when they were “browned”, but I cooked them for a while, then slid them into buns. There was some discussion about what condiments to put on these Mexican Chipotle sausage dogs, given that they were already stuffed full of seasonings. My husband liked the traditional mustard option. I didn’t think mustard really complimented the spices, so I tried a little mayonnaise. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I preferred the bare bun option. These sausages are so packed with flavor…and the flavor is hot and spicy…that my best guess is that BBQ sauce would be the best thing on it, if it wasn’t a super spicy BBQ sauce. This Mexican Chipotle version of the sausages has plenty of kick. You could have a satisfying hearty, spicy meal on a bare bun. Even though I love spicy food, I’d hesitate to add anything with much more spiciness to this. A regular not-too-hot BBQ sauce, or a very bland chili for a chili dog. (If your chili didn’t turn out as hot as you’d hoped, put it on these dogs for extra zing!)

For these Mexican Chipotle seasoned sausages, I recommend refried beans as a side dish. The flavor was complementary and it seem to cut the heat a bit when the spiciness built up after a few bites.

 

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

With a holiday in the U.S. this weekend, it’s prime time for a summertime party. We have lots of cookout ideas on the blog, some of which I covered at the beginning of summer with my Cookouts post. Here’s one more salsa recipe to add to last week’s Deadly Green Sauce. Unlike last week’s salsa recipe, this is a uncooked salsa, and it’s relatively mild. I suspect that the way I make it isn’t traditional. It is, however, flavorful, and makes a lot. The proportions of ingredients are a matter of individual taste. The amounts below are guidelines. Some people don’t like cilantro; you can substitute parsley, but keep in mind that the flavor will be radically different if you do. The amount of jalapeños depends on the size of the pepper as much as how hot you want it. Because this is a large batch of salsa, the amount of jalapeños in the recipe isn’t as excessive as it might appear. Use more if you want it to have more of a kick. Freshly chopped jalapeños can sometimes cause skin irritation so food handling gloves are recommended.

This makes about 6 cups.

2 onions
2 med or large tomatoes
3 average sized jalapeños (or 2 large)
1 clove garlic (2 if they’re small)
Bunch of cilantro
A little bit of parsley (optional)
5 Tbls vinegar
5 Tbls olive oil

The tomatoes should be diced by hand. I use regular slicing tomatoes for this. They’re very juicy and you’ll have a very wet mess of tomatoes when you’re done. Slide it, juice and all, from the cutting board into a large non-metallic bowl. Dice the onions finely either by hand or in a food processor. Dice the jalapeños very finely. The texture I go for is that the onions are cut finer than the tomatoes, and the jalapeños are diced more finely than the onions. The garlic I run through a garlic press. Chop up a supermarket sized bunch of cilantro as finely as you can, but don’t worry about it if some leaves slip through. I use the whole bunch, but use as much or as little as you want. I usually throw in a little parsley because I have Italian Flat Leafed Parsley in my garden almost year ’round. How much I add depends on whether it’s taking over the garden. 😉

The oil and vinegar give this almost the character of a chopped salad, albeit one in which cilantro and parsley stand in for the leafy greens. I learned to make it like this right after college; I had some that tasted great, so I asked what was in it. That’s how I found out about using an oil and vinegar dressing, which I think helps the flavors to meld.

Stir all the ingredients together well. Chill thoroughly before serving. This is good to make up ahead of time; the flavor will improve the longer it chills. Give it a good stirring before serving. As a dip, it’s fairly chunky. This is often used as a flavorful addition to wrapped-in-tortilla things.

See the Cookout for Vegetarian, Vegans and Friends who aren’t too sure about this post for cookout suggests for this Independence day. Also check out the snacks, yummy dips, and salsa tags for more recipes.

Deadly Green Sauce

This is the hottest thing I’ve posted here, so if you think some of my other recipes are too spicy, buckle up your safety harness ’cause this is rocket fuel (though the formula can be used with other, milder, peppers, if you prefer). It’s an authentic Mexican recipe and too hot to make often. But it really has a great jalapeño flavor, once your taste buds have adjusted to the assault. I also like the way it handles the jalapeños; you don’t have to use gloves or burn your fingers on chopping jalapeños. This is a good way to use up your heavy-bearing pepper plants in the summer. It’s a very, very, basic recipe. Fast and easy.

  • 15-20 whole jalapeño
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small onion, sliced (it doesn’t matter how thick or thin)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Put the tomato, jalapeños, and onion into a saucepan and simmer until the peppers are done. Test the peppers with a fork; they’re done when they’re soft. Scoop out the tomato, onions, and peppers with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Put the vegetables into a blender and add the garlic powder and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Blend until homogeneous. If the sauce is too thick, add more juice. Cool. Serve with chips. Warn your friends!

Terrific alternatives: As I mentioned above, this is a pretty basic recipe and if the idea of packing that many jalapeños into sauce horrifies you, there are less dangerous alternatives. There is a milder variety of jalapeño called the TAM jalapeño (developed at Texas A&M). If you want something hotter, try using habeñeros (though you might need to use fewer of them). I honestly wouldn’t want to recommend it because I don’t want you to hurt yourself. This jalapeño recipe ought to be more than hot enough for most people. This is a good formula for making a cooked chile pepper sauce. Try other types of peppers with different flavors and levels of hotness. You’ll need to guestimate how many to use since they’ll be a different size than the peppers used in the recipe. Choose a pepper (or assortment of chiles) you like the flavor of because this is mostly cooked pureed pepper, so that will completely dominate the flavor. It’s also a good way create your own custom salsa; experiment with mixing a variety of peppers until you get the blend of hotness and flavor you want.

At this point you may be curious what my own custom salsa recipe looks like. I should probably come up with one, but what I usually do is just fake my way through with whatever peppers I have on hand in the garden, which varies throughout the summer and from year to year. There was one year in which I let the jalapeños and a few other chile peppers (7 varieties total) ripen all the way to red…and it was an unusually hot summer where I lived at the time (temps over 100 on a daily basis, which results in hotter peppers). I showed up at a friend’s house bearing a container of sauce that stopped him dead in his tracks. “That’s a scary shade of red,” he said. It was, indeed. We emptied his cupboards of tomato sauce trying to dilute it down enough to use as an enchilada sauce. It was great, but we couldn’t really see the food because our eyes were watering so much! So, if you grow your own ingredients for this, be aware that letting chiles ripen all the way to red will result in a hotter pepper, and places with hotter climates will produce hotter peppers than places with milder summers. Mix and match with whatever you’ve got on hand from the garden or whatever is available from the supermarket. Summer through early fall is prime time for peppers. Experiment and enjoy!

Spicy Quesadillas

20150407_191601

This is made similar to my Mushroom Quesadillas with Chiles and Chipotle Cheese, only instead of mushrooms and chiles, I’ve used a spicy soy protein mixture. These meatless crumbles soak up liquid and seasonings very well, and because it’s frozen loose in a package, you can scoop out as much — or as little — as you need for a dish. You do not need a quesadilla maker to make quesadillas. All you need is a good skillet (I use a big cast iron skillet, but a non-stick skillet would probably work as well.)

The trick, as always, is to not overload the quesadillas with too much filling in addition to the cheese. The whole idea is that the cheese acts as glue. There’s always a chance of filling falling out when you eat quesadillas, but if you don’t overload the tortillas, cheese will do a pretty good job of holding things together.

I used Mexene chili powder. Most pre-mixed chili powders aren’t extremely spicy, but if what you use has a strong kick, you might need to adjust to your tastes. Most chili powder combinations also have cumin, but I add a bit more to balance things out since some of the quesadillas’ spicy flavor is coming from the chipotle cheese. If using plain cheddar or some other unseasoned cheese, you could increase the spiciness of the soy crumbles by adding red pepper, Hungarian hot paprika, cayenne powder, or Tabasco, etc. Also be aware that there are now a number of different brands of chipotle cheddar cheese on the market and the heat of the cheese may vary between brands.

This makes enough filling for at least 5 quesadillas, maybe 6, depending on how much filling you use in each one. It also depends on the size of tortilla you use. I prefer the medium sized which are larger than taco-sized, but significantly smaller than the big burrito size. I’ve tried using both the smaller and larger for quesadillas and the small just seemed too small and the large was extremely awkward to turn over — even with my big spatula.

  • 1 1/2 cups Simple Truth Meatless Crumbles
  • 2 Tbls chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Block of chipotle cheddar
  • medium sized flour tortillas

20150407_190543Simmer the meatless crumbles in a small amount of water with the spices, stirring well, until it’s cooked down. Use just enough water that it can soak it up and simmer for just a few minutes. The filling will be moist but it shouldn’t be liquidy.

You can assemble the quesadillas either on a plate next to the stove, or in the skillet itself. Place a generous amount of the cheese on the tortilla, but not all the way out to the edge. I used sliced cheese; it’s faster and easier than grating and I seems like I have a better idea of how much cheese and what the coverage of the cheese will be with slices. Do whatever works best for you.

20150407_190823Spoon two generous spoonfuls of the seasoned meatless crumbles onto the cheese. Top with another flour tortilla. Toast each side of the tortilla on the ungreased skillet for a couple of minutes on medium heat. It should be browned and slightly crispy. This only takes one or two minutes, depending on your stove. Flip using the biggest spatula you have and toast the other side. (I have an enormous round spatula that I use for many things.) The cheese should be melted enough to hold the thing together when you turn it over.

Cut each round into 6 wedges and serve hot with salsa on the side. People will eat them as fast as you make ’em, so make the first one for yourself to snack on while you toast up the others. 😉 Prep on the filling (slicing, simmering) takes mere minutes and assembling and cooking just a few minutes more. This is a fast fun meal and one that can usually be made from ingredients on hand. (I always have flour tortillas, meatless crumbles, and some kind of cheddar on hand.)

 

More Vegetarian Tacos!

20150318_191921You may recall my previous Taco recipe using Mexican style Smart Ground. This is similar, but the seasoning has been adjusted for a different filling. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable local source for the Mexican flavored Smart Ground, so I’ve adapted that recipe to use Simple Truth’s Meatless Crumbles. This soy protein meat substitute is significantly different from both the Mexican Smart Ground and the regular Smart Ground (which doesn’t work well for tacos). For one thing, the Simple Truth Meatless Crumbles comes in a bag in the freezer section, not packed in a tight block in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. This gives it a longer storage life, and because you can break up the icy package a bit (like the way you do frozen peas), it means that you can measure out specific amounts rather than use the whole package. I do use the whole package for this recipe, but I like the versatility of the Simple Truth Meathless Crumbles.

Another way the Meatless Crumbles is versatile is that it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of flavoring added to it, unlike the Smart Ground….And since I was using Mexican flavored Smart Ground (when I could find it) I had to adjust the seasoning quite a bit. The Meatless Crumbles seem like a good option for a lot of recipes because it doesn’t bring so much in the way of a distinctive flavor to a dish, so that it can just really soak up the flavors and seasonings you add.

And “soak it up” is a very apt phrase. One thing you’ll notice as soon as you add any liquid is that this stuff just sucks it up. It’s a very moist meat substitute. I had to double the amount of water I used because one cup was absorbed so quickly. It may take a bit longer to cook down, but you won’t really cook this mixture dry. I like simmering because it gives the flavors time to blend and be absorbed. If 2 cups of water seems a bit much to you, start with one cup and than just add as much more as you like. It does need to have enough liquid to simmer on low heat for a little while.

1 pkg. Simple Truth Meatless Crumbles
Approximately 1-2 cups water
1 Tbls dried minced onion
1 Tbls chili powder (I use Mexene as my basic chili powder.)
2 tsp ancho powder
1 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
small amount of salt and black pepper
12 Taco shells
Toppings such as lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese or vegan cheese

First brown the Meatless Crumbles in a small amount of oil, on medium heat, stirring continually and breaking up frozen clumps. It should be a bit browned, but definitely thawed. Don’t worry if it sticks to the bottom a bit; water is a universal solvent and you can deglaze the pan as soon as you pour the water in.

Add the water and the seasonings, scrape the pan if needed, and lower the heat to low or medium low. Stir and simmer until it has cooked down to the consistency you want. This makes a fairly moist filling; you’ll want to cook away the liquid, but not simmer it so long that the filling becomes dry or starts to stick to the pan again.

Heat the taco shells according to package directions. Some shells call for adding the filling and then heating, some you heat and then fill. I prefer the latter, but if you grab a box of taco shells that calls for filling the shells before heating, do it: otherwise the shells will shatter spectacularly when you bite into them.

Using one package of Simple Truth’s frozen Meatless Crumbles makes easily enough to fill a dozen taco shells.

This recipe is pretty spicy. If you like things not-so-hot, omit the hot paprika. If it’s still a bit much, then pare back the chili powder a bit. For my previous Vegetarian Taco recipe, I used 2 tsp chili powder and 1 tsp ancho powder, but without the added seasoning of Mexican Smart Ground, that combination (which also included the hot paprika) was disappointingly bland. So you’ve got a couple of options for tweaking the seasoning: you can either start with this recipe and dial it back, or start with the other recipe and crank it up! 😉 A lot of the kick comes from the hot paprika, though. If you’re leary of spicy food, that should be the first thing to go. The chili powder you use also affects the flavor. I use Mexene chili powder. It has a good flavor and makes a nice base to build on.

20150318_191958

No room for lettuce in these tacos!

 

Christmas Tamales

Christmas Tamales, one still wrapped, one unwrapped with a splash of sauce.

Christmas Tamales, one still wrapped, one unwrapped with a splash of sauce.

Tamales are a traditional Mexican or Latin American Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day meal. Big families often spend a day preparing massive quantities of tamales assembly-line fashion for the holidays. If you don’t have a huge family, it doesn’t take all day (or night). The thing that takes the most time is cooking: the tamales must be steamed for an hour (some recipes call for boiling them). If you’re making more than a dozen and have only one double-decker bamboo steamer, then you have to cook multiple batches. Add to this the time soaking the corn husks, and you should plan on the whole thing taking a few hours from prepping the husk to the plate.

The recipe below makes about 21-24 tamales. That’s 2 batches in a double-decker steamer for an hour each, plus prep time. It takes a bit of time, but not all day — and you’re not in the kitchen the whole time. That’s enough for 7 servings of 3 apiece.

I’ve tagged this post “Tex-Mex” because I’m not Mexican or of Hispanic descent, but rather a Texan. This is my version of this classic dish. 🙂

1 6 oz pkg corn husks
1 pkg Gimme Lean sausage style soy
4 Tbls chili powder
2 Tbls cumin
1.5 – 2 tsp ancho powder
1 poblano pepper
1 small onion
Masa (aka masa harina)
Baking powder
Salt
Vegetable shortening

To prepare husks:
Boil for 10 mins, then weigh with plates and let soak for at least an hour. The package contains way more husks than needed. Some husks may not look good so sort and cook as many as needed; handle the dry husks carefully and try not to tear them.

While husks are soaking, prepare the filling, then the masa.

For filling:

Slice and de-seed 1 poblano pepper, slice in strips. Peel and slice the small onion. Simmer the pepper and onion in 4-5 cups of water until the onions are translucent and the pepper strips tender. Scoop out with a slotted spoon, reserving all the liquid. Puree onion and pepper in blender with 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

To prepare filling:

Mix Gimme Lean, chili powder, and cumin with a fork or (pastry blender). Add pepper and onion puree, stirring and mixing well until it’s homogenous.

To prepare Masa:

3 1/2 cups masa
2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 – 2 tsp ancho powder
1 cup (or more if needed) reserved cooking liquid

Mix masa, salt, baking powder, and ancho powder. Cut in shortening until it is evenly incorporated. This will makes a soft mealy mixture. To this add 1 1/2 cups of the still hot liquid the pepper and onion were cooked in. Mix well with the fork, and then with your hands until it makes a soft — not wet — dough. It should have just enough moisture to hold together (not too crumbly), but not be wet or sticky. I think this dough works because it has enough shortening that given an ounce of encouragement it will hold together and it may pull moisture from the husk, and the comparatively wet filling. Also steaming is a cooking method that ensures that whatever you’re cooking will be moist, not dried out. So don’t worry about the dough not being especially wet.

Remove the corn husks from the hot water with tongs. Press a strip of the masa dough just to the left of the center of the husk, spreading it out so that it’s about 4 inches wide and doesn’t go all the way to the top or bottom of the husk. (The ends will be tucked under.)

Spoon (or I use the fork still) one small scoop of the filling in the center of the masa, leaving all edges clear. For a particularly big husk/masa patch you may use more than a forkful. Roll the tamale left to right, rolling the filling up in the masa dough and corn husk.

Tuck ends under when placing the tamales in the bamboo steamer. Steam over a big pot of water for 1 hour. Using a bamboo steamer with two levels, I have to do this in two batches. I can fit about a dozen in the first batch, then steam the rest in the second batch.

Makes approximately two dozen tamales.

I like these plain, as is, but if you want you can dress the finished tamales with a prepared salsa or a light tomato sauce. Here’s what I make:

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatos
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
2 Tbls fried onion flakes
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried cilantro (adjust amount to taste if you use fresh)

Simmer covered over a low heat about an hour.

If you want to serve “Spanish-style” rice as a side dish, prepare plain rice your usual way, then stir in a bit of this sauce a spoonful at a time until it looks right to you.

Mushroom Quesadillas with Chiles and Chipotle Cheese

Quesadillas, ready to serve with salsa!

Quesadillas, ready to serve with salsa!

These are a favorite around here and are eaten as fast as I can cook them up! This recipe makes four. You may want to keep the first ones someplace warm as you cook the rest — if you’re not serving them out as you make them! You can make quesadillas with smaller or larger tortillas. Adjust the amount of cheese and filling accordingly. The medium-sized tortillas seem the best choice to me; the small ones just seem too small and the bigger ones are really tricky to turn over, even with my super-sized spatula. The skillet pictured below is a 12 inch skillet and medium sized tortillas are just about the right size for it.

1 poblano pepper
5-7 white button mushrooms
8 tortillas, 7-8″ diameter
1 block Cabot chipotle cheddar

There are a number of variations you can make to moderate (or increase) spiciness. You don’t need a “quesadilla maker”, just a skillet. The trick to quesadillas with any kind of vegetable inside is to cook the veggies first, because the actual cooking time for each quesadilla is mere minutes — just enough to toast the tortilla a bit and melt the cheese.

Deseed and slice the poblano pepper in strips, then cut the strips in pieces not more than a couple of inches long. Saute in a small amount of oil while you clean and remove stems from the mushrooms. Slice the mushrooms, then give them a brief coarse chopping to make the pieces a bit smaller (unless the caps are very small). Throw them in with the poblano peppers and saute until the mushrooms have changed color and the peppers are done. Remember: they’re not going to get any significant amount of cooking after they’re added to the quesadillas, so cook them to the amount of doneness you want.

You can grate the cheese for this, but I just slice it. For this amount (four 8 inch quesadillas) you won’t use up the whole block. Put the cheese in the center on the tortilla, leaving an inch or an inch and a half around the edge. Scoop a small amount, about a quarter of the amount cooked up, on top of the cheese, leaving the same margin around the edge. Place another tortilla on top, then place the quesadilla in a moderately hot skillet. (I cook these on about 4 on my electric stove.) See slideshow below for pics of  cheese, amount of filling, cooking, etc.) Let it cook briefly, pressing with a spatula a bit, until the tortilla has gotten toasty and brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted. This will only take a minute or two. Turn it over carefully. (I use my favorite round spatula, which is larger than the usual.) Brown the other side, taking care not to scorch either side. You may want to turn them more than once until you get a feel for how long they need on each side based on your stove. The cheese is the glue that holds the ingredients and tortillas together. Give it time to melt before you flip the first time.

Cut into quarters and serve hot with salsa.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can make these with just the chipotle cheese, if you need to throw something together a little more quickly. The spicy cheddar makes even plain cheese quesadillas special.

If you want a much milder version of these quesadillas, substitute a milder cheddar, one that doesn’t have peppers in it, or perhaps a plain jack cheese or queso blanco. The poblanos are mild peppers, but flavorful. If you want a hotter quesadilla, substitute a hot pepper for the poblano, but be careful!

I like the combination of flavors with the chipotle cheddar, poblano, and mushrooms but there are a lot of combinations of different types of cheese and other ingredients that can be put into quesadillas. The only things you need to keep in mind is to cook the vegetables first and not to over-load the tortillas when filling them. The filling should be a single layer, not heaped up on the cheese, nor should it completely cover the cheese. Never use more filling than you have cheese to glue it all together.

Spicy Vegetarian Tacos

IMG-20130202-02164I’ve discovered Smart Ground Mexican is perfect (with a some added seasonings) for taco filling. I’d tried regular Smart Ground for tacos a number of times, adjusting the seasonings, but I could never get it to taste right. It always tasted “off”. But the adjustments LightLife made in flavor for the “Mexican” version works well for tacos. I didn’t try it plain, but instead added a mixture of spicy seasonings, figuring that the Mexican version of Smart Ground would be mildly flavored to allow it to be used in a number of recipes, and appealing to a wide variety of tastes. (You can always spice up something basic, but you can’t remove spices.)

So I spiced it up! 😀 If you don’t want your tacos to have quite as much kick, you can cut back (or eliminate) ingredients.

Approximately 1 cup water
1 Tbls dried minced onion
2 tsp chili powder (I use Mexene as my basic chili powder.)
1 tsp ancho powder
1/4 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
small amount of salt and black pepper

The package says to coat the pan with a non-stick spray. I prefer to coat a skillet with a small amount of Boyajian Roasted Chili oil. The oil is to keep the Smart Ground from sticking when you begin heating it up in the skillet. Stir a bit, then add the water and seasonings. Simmer on med-low heat until it has cooked down to the consistency you want for the filling. Stir occasionally. While it’s simmering, slice tomatoes, shred lettuce, and grate cheddar cheese.

Heat taco shells according to package directions. Fill warm shells with spicy filling, top with tomato, lettuce, and cheese. Enjoy!