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Pay de Pastor (Mexican Shepherd’s Pie)


I am stuck at home on the fourth snow day of 2011 in Georgia.  A record, at least, in my lifetime…  Lucky for me, I have a well-stocked kitchen.  So, I have been cooking quite a bit.  Here is a recipe I whipped up last night.  Now, I know that some sticklers are going to get me for calling this a Shepherd’s Pie (Pay is Spanglish and pronounced “pie” BTW) because it uses turkey (and a little bit of beef because I thought it needed more meat), but that’s okay.

One caveat:  This is my best attempt to write down what I did to make the casserole last night.  I did not measure all of the spice ingredients, so you can monkey with that at will.  Also, you may make any meat, veggie, or cheese substitute you want!  I used the Old El Paso enchilada sauce because it is gluten-free (many enchilada sauces are NOT).

Pay de Pastor: Mexican Shepherd’s Pie with Sour Cream and Green Chile Mashed Potato Topping

Vegetable Filling:

1 onion
2 shallots
4 celery stalks
1 orange or yellow bell pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup baby carrots
1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Fire-Roasted Corn
2 cubes Dorot Chopped Garlic Cubes
3 – 4 cubes Dorot Chopped Cilantro
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil

Chop onion, shallots, celery, bell pepper, and carrots to small dice. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on the stove. Put all of the vegetables in the pan and add the garlic, cilantro, and cumin.  Saute until vegetables are soft, then add roasted corn. Blend corn with vegetables until defrosted.  Put the vegetables aside in a bowl and wipe out pan.

Meat Filling:

1 pkg. ground turkey (19.2 oz.)
1 angus burger patty (5.3 oz.)
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Put the ground turkey and beef patty together in a bowl and mix the meat together. Heat the oil in the large skillet and saute the meat until lightly brown.  Pour the contents of the skillet through a strainer and return to the pan.


1 pasilla chile
1 guajillo chile
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can Old El Paso mild enchilada sauce
1/4 – 1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. Don Julio Cumin/Pepper blend
1 tsp. Penzey’s Ground Red Chipotle Chile Pepper
1 tsp. Penzey’s Smoked Spanish paprika
2 – 3 cubes Dorot Chopped Cilantro
2 cubes Dorot Chopped Garlic

Soak the chile peppers in a bowl until soft.  Discard the stem, seeds, and veins of the chiles and slice into smaller pieces.  Place the chiles in a blender with the tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and some chicken broth and puree ingredients. Pour contents of blender over the meat in the skillet (use some more chicken broth to get the rest of the sauce out if necessary).

Mix the sauce and the meat and add spices as needed.  I added Don Julio cumin/pepper powder, chipotle powder, and smoked paprika.  I also added the enchilada sauce as an afterthought, but it could be added to the blender gravy if desired.

Add the vegetables to the meat mixture in the skillet or in a large bowl and mix them together.  Spread mixture in an 11 by 17 lasagna pan or clear baking dish.  Set aside while you are making the mashed potato topping.

Mashed Potato Topping:

3 large baking potatoes, peeled
1/3 cup light Sour Cream
1 small can chopped green chiles
1 7 oz. package Kraft 2% fat shredded Mexican Cheese blend

Chop the potatoes into approximately equal chunks – about 1 to 1 1/2 inches.  Put cut potatoes into a pot and cover with water.  Allow the water to come to a boil, then cook potatoes until they are able to be broken apart by a fork.

Strain the water out and return the potatoes to the pot.  Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes part-way.  Then, add sour cream and can of green chiles and mash until smooth.  Add half the package of shredded cheese to the potatoes and blend the mixture.

Spread the mashed potato mixture on top of the meat and vegetable mixture.  Place in a pre-heated oven (about 375 degrees), and bake for about 30 minutes.  Take the pan out and sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top of the casserole.  Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly an casserole is heated through.

Remove from oven and allow the casserole to settle before slicing.  Serve with additional sour cream and salsa.


Zapotec Ratatouille


Before I came to Mexico, I made some (okay, a lot.  OKAY, TOO MUCH!) ratatouille in my crock pot.  Until we got tired of it, it was a good way to get our veggies in during the summer.  I am not always good about eating vegetables, and it’s nice to have some around to just heap in a bowl and run through the microwave.  With Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese on top, it was a meal.

There are a lot of recipes for ratatouille, but I definitely wanted to try and make it in the crock pot.  According to my computer, I either used this recipe or this one.  Because I live so close to the awesome and exotic Buford Highway Farmers’ Market, I had in the back of my mind an idea.  The idea was to make a ratatouille using vegetables and spices that come from Mexico.  I brainstormed:  Onion, Mexican zucchini, yellow squash, corn, poblano peppers, chayote, nopales, tomatillos… and I was going to use maybe epazote, dried chilies, cumin, Mexican oregano, and salsa verde to kick it up a bit.

I did a bit of searching on the internet, and of course, there are no new ideas under the sun, so I found a recipe for something called Mayan Ratatouille.  It is from Mario Martinez of A. J.’s Fine Foods in Phoenix, Arizona.  It is on several websites, so since I gave them credit, I will put it here:

Mayan Ratatouille


  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1 large Spanish onion, peeled, cored & coarsely chopped
  • 2 chayotes (also known as cho-cho or mirliton), halved, seeded & coarsely chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded & coarsely chopped
  • 2 Arbol chilies, seeded & coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. achiote paste
  • 1 Turkish Bay leaf
  • 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise & sliced
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded & diced (substitute canned diced tomatoes if desired)
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. dried epazote or 2 sprigs fresh
  • ¼ cup salad olives with pimento (or chopped pimento-stuffed green olives)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper or hot sauce to taste


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until lightly browned. Add the chayote, peppers, achiote and bay leaf and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini, tomato, paprika, cumin, and epazote and cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients except for the cilantro, mix well, lower heat to low and cook another 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in the cilantro, and season to taste with salt and pepper or hot sauce. Serves 6-8.

So, here I am in Oaxaca, with markets all over the place.  I sent my husband to the local equivalent of the WalMart here – interesting that they have a Sam’s Club, but no WalMart – with a translated list of ingredients.  The ones he was not able to find, I made up at the big market called Benito Juarez.  This afternoon, I chopped and chopped, and here is what I have so far:

Zapotec Ratatouille


  • 2 Mexican zucchini
  • 2 chayote squash (also called mirlitons)
  • 1/2 pound of chopped cactus paddles (nopales)
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 1/2 to 2 poblano peppers
  • 3 – 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tequila or mezcal
  • 1 – 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh epazote
  • 2 – 3 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs of Mexican oregano (1 tsp. crushed)
  • 1 – 2 tsp. of paprika (I sort of over-poured…)
  • 2 – 210 gram cans of Herdez salsa verde
  • 1 – 210 gram box of La Costena tomato puree
  • 1 ancho chili pepper

1.  First, crush and dice the cloves of garlic.  Then, chop up the poblano peppers and onions into a dice.  Pour olive oil in to a pan and sautee until fragrant and softened.  Add Tequila or mezcal and let it boil for a bit…

2. While you are doing the cutting, cut up the tomatoes, zucchini, chayote, and nopales (I bought my nopales already chopped).  I added the tomatoes first, then cumin and let it simmer for a while.

3.  I added a can of salsa verde to the mix, stirred a bit, then dumped the rest of the vegetables in.  They needed to cook until they are soft.

4.  Now is when I start to randomly add herbs and spices.  Epazote has a bit of an anise/licorice taste.  I chopped that up, added some parsley, then another can of Herdez, and the tomato puree.

5.  Finally, I soaked the ancho chiles in boiling water.  Then, after they were soft, I put some of the liquid in a blender, added the chiles, some cumin, and a clove of garlic and some tequila.  I used it as a marinade for the chicken I made, and then added the leftovers to the ratatouille.

Okay, so it’s not that scientific.  Obviously, I am not ready to write a cookbook yet…  But play around with it and let me know what you come up with.

Peruvian Yellow Beans, Part 2


verdevallebeansperuanosI think this is my 3rd time cooking these beans.  I have found out a little bit about them, too.  Even though they are called peruanos, or Peruvian yellow beans, they are actually grown in Mexico and are also called Mayo Coba beans.

This time, I bought Verde Valle Brand beans, and pretty much stuck to the directions on the back of the bag.  It was pretty basic: 1 Cup beans + 9 Cups water = 4. But of course, being me, I cooked the whole bag (2 lbs.).  I soaked them overnight (the package suggested I keep them in the fridge.  When my husband came down to the kitchen, he said that the beans had soaked up all of the water, and he added a little more to cover them.

I had a lot of beef stock left over from making beef tongue the day before, which I reserved in a big bowl in the fridge.  I drained the beans and put them in my largest pot, then poured the stock on top of it.  I had bought some mild Mexican chorizo to use instead of the ham and turkey sausage I usually use, but I was a little surprised when it turned out that the “links” were plastic, and you had to squeeze the sausage out like toothpaste. So, it ended up looking like (very red) ground beef.  I added it to the pot with some sauteed onion and yellow bell pepper, then added a little more of my favorite new seasoning, Don Julio ground pepper and cumin.  I also added turmeric and garlic.

I brought the pot to a boil, then turned it down to simmer for 90 minutes. That was about right.  I siphoned off some of the stock – I like my beans thick.  I also added 2 Tablespoons of harina de masa to thicken it and took out a cup of beans and liquid and pureed it in the blender and added it back to the beans.  I just had some and they are great – maybe they need a little salt.  But they sure are yellow!

Tongue in Slow Cooker, Part 1


I know that I have spoken of beef tongue in the past.  Today, I thought I would try and record measurements and ingredients for my recipe.  Today was just the beef tongue braising day.  Tomorrow, I will add more ingredients to make a stew.

Tongue in Slow Cooker, Part 1

Place the following in 6 quart slow cooker:

1 beef tongue, 3 1/2 lbs.
4 cups Progressorecaito_1 beef broth, 4 cups
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
8 – 10 baby carrots, chopped in half
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Then, in 2 cups of water, dissolve and mix the following, then pour into the slow cooker over the tongue (tongue should be completely covered with liquid, so add water if needed):

3 – 4 Tablespoons Goya recaito
1 cube Dorot chopped garlic
1 cube Dorot chopped cilantro
1 Knorr mini seasoning cube parsley
1 Maggi Seasoning Cube, Cumin-flavoredmaggi_cumin_cubes

You may put the mixture in the microwave 30 – 45 seconds to speed the dissolving of the cubes, but it doesn’t have to all be dissolved to pour over the tongue.

And, of course you may use fresh parsley, garlic, and cumin if you like.  I do have to tell those that are sensitive that the Knorr and Maggi cubes have MSG in them.

Top with a bit of extra virgin olive oil poured into the slow cooker.

Cook on High for 1 hour, then change to low for 7-8 hours or until fork tender.

Here is a link to a good-looking beef tongue recipe for taco filling.

While looking for Maggi Cumin cubes, I came across CocinandoConNestle.com.  Anyone interested in Peruvian Chicken Stir Fry?  I know I am!  As for a definitive link, Maggi doesn’t have one.  I have seen them in the Latino food section of Super WalMart and at the Buford Highway Farmers Market.

I always keep three trays of Dorot frozen garlic, basil, and cilantro in my freezer.  I wish that Trader Joe’s would expand into the other products, such as chopped ginger, dill, and parsley.  dorotcilantroThere is even a Tex Mex mix.  I just read here that they are available at Ingle’s.  I will have to see it to believe it.

One other little tip – I have bought jars of the Goya Recaito and Sofrito sauces, and one of them went bad in my fridge.  One thing I think I could have done was to top it off with oil or water.  This time, I bought some small cubical containers and divided the jars among them and froze them.  I added a bit of water to the jar to make it easier to pour.  One jar filled about four little containers.  I am going to see if I can pop them out and put them in plastic bags so I can re-use my containers.

I have also strained out all of the veggies from my beef/tongue stock and am going to preserve that as well.  It smells delicious.

Slow Cooker Turkey Curry


Well, Friday afternoon, instead of battling traffic, I decided to go straight to the movie theater after school.  I was trying to wait to see Julia and Julie with my husband, but when I saw that there was going to be a thunderstorm in addition to Friday afternoon traffic, I tossed that notion and went to see it by myself.

I liked it fine, and even appreciated it from the Julie point of view.  Being a blogger myself, I could identify with the excitement of having someone actually respond to your writing… and the disappointment to find that it was only your mother writing in your guestbook.  Ha!

When I got home, I jokingly threatened to choose a cookbook and work my way through it in a year.  I told my husband I would maybe do the Cake Doctor’s first book.  Of course, my husband in gluten-intolerant, so that would leave me eating all the cakes…  That won’t do.

Anyway, as much as I admire Julia Child and the other chefs that approach cooking as a science (Alton Brown comes to mind), I have a hard time sticking to a recipe.  Just ask my mother…  I usually end up changing something, or substituting an ingredient.  Baking is different – I do try to stick to the directions there, even when the results are not as I would have hoped.

But for me, there’s nothing quite as much fun as throwing a bunch of things into a pot, adding spices or sauces, and seeing what happens.  I am a big collector of pre-packaged herb blends and sauces that I find at the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market – I am fascinated by moles from Mexico, curries from Thailand, Malaysia, India and the Philippines, stir fry sauces from Asia and Morocco.  Fun!

Today, I am experimenting with Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce (the Yellow Curry was fantastic – I think I used it with tuna filets).  Last night, I picked up two turkey thighs with skin and bone for $4.00 (about a pound).  Around noon, I looked through the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry to see what I could throw together.  Here goes…

Turkey Curry in a Crock Pot

2 turkey thighs (about 1 lb) with skin and bone
3 smallish potatoes (gold finns?), chopped
2 onions (Vidalia), chopped
baby carrots (about a cup), larger pieces chopped
1 red delicious apple, chopped
prunes, dried pitted
1 jar Trader Joe’s red curry sauce
2 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1 can petit diced tomatoes
2 roasted red peppers from a jar
2 cubes Dorot frozen cilantro
some flaked coconut
2/3 cup green peas, frozen

In the bottom of the slow cooker, I put in the onions, potatoes, carrots, and apple.  I scattered about 10-12 small dried prunes on that.

I washed the turkey thighs and put those on top of the vegetables.  Then, I poured the bottle of curry sauce on top of the thighs.  I added a little more water and the cilantro cubes and red curry paste and shook it up to get the dregs mixed in and poured that on top of the turkey.

I spread a can of petit diced tomatoes around the edges of the curry sauce, to fill in the space where the sauce was not covering the thighs, then added chopped jarred red bell peppers and coconut (just because I had it) to the mix.

On top, I put the green peas.  I turned the slow cooker to High for 6 hours.

I just found some more coconut milk in the freezer, and may add that later.

Now, I want to make beans and greens soup.  I just need some canned white beans…  I’ll let you know how the curry turns out!

Today seems to be all about Puebla!


Women making China Poblana costumes

Women making China Poblana costumes

Today, all of my internet activity seems to pull me toward Puebla.  I last visited there two years ago with my husband and my mother.  We actually stayed in Atlixco, with our friends the Maurers.  Ever since I was a teenager and first visited the Maurers with my family, I have considered living there.  I even sent my transcripts to the University of the Americas, which is situated in Puebla.

Today, while searching on a bit of information about the Mexican population in Jackson County, North Carolina, I came upon this article called Bridging Spanish language barriers in Southern schools.  In the article, they focus on people settling in North Carolina from San Pablito, which is the part of the state of Puebla that produces amate paintings and paper.

Then, an article on Chowhound mentioned the new popularity of the cemita poblana – a type of sandwich from Puebla.  Here is the description from Wikipedia:

A cemita, also known as a cemita poblana, is a Mexican sandwich and street food that originated in the city of Puebla.[1]

It is distinguished from a torta by the fluffy sesame-seeded egg roll that it is served on. Additionally, the ingredients usually are restricted to sliced avocado, meat, white cheese, onions and red sauce (salsa roja).[2] Recently it has appeared on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and other cities with Mexican food vendors.

Now that I remember, I think it was this kind of sandwich that my husband ate in Puebla on the day before we returned to the U.S.  He had a case of food poisoning or dysentery so bad he though I might have to call a doctor to our hotel room in Mexico City.  I think it was the lettuce, tomato or cilantro on the sandwich.

Anyway, I digress.  From there, I read a fascinating article by a foodie traveling through Puebla – she called it “the Lyon of Mexico”.  The article is in the New York Times – here is the link.

I wonder if they can be found in Atlanta?

Here is another recipe for Chile-Marinated Pork Sandwiches on Cemita Rolls.  Here is a whole article called A Meal in a Sandwich from MexConnect.  Okay, time to go to bed before I get hungry again!

Seafood Lasagna for Dinner


We are busy (okay, at the moment my husband is busy) cleaning house.  We are having a couple from my husband’s church over for dinner and they are bringing their three children.  The wife is bringing dessert, so I am concerning myself with main course and salad.  I found this great recipe for Lasagna di Pesce (Seafood Lasagna) on the Food Network website, credited to Eating Well magazine.  I had a lot of salmon and tilapia in the freezer, as well as some shrimp, so I decided to go for it.

As usual, nothing is as simple as it seems, and I almost never follow the recipe as it is written.  My husband is gluten intolerant, so I decided to make a separate smaller lasagna with rice noodles for him.  Now, this is an interesting recipe, because there is not a ricotta cheese layer, but there is a sauce used that begins with a roux.  That means flour.  Instead, I used masa harina and olive oil to start the dish, then added corn starch in a cup of water to make sure the sauce was thick.  That way, I didn’t have to make two batches of seafood filling.  Below is the recipe, with my notes.

Lasagna di Pesce

  • 8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups bottled clam juice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound fresh medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
  • 1 pound fresh sole fillet, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I substituted tilapia)
  • 8 ounces fresh salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (I used 2 Vidalia onions, chopped coarsely)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I substituted masa harina)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/3 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1.  Place lasagna noodles in a large bowl of warm water and let soak, stirring occasionally, until pliable, at least 10 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, combine clam juice, wine and water in a large deep skillet. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and add shrimp. Poach until pink, about 40 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl.

3.  Add sole and salmon to poaching liquid. Poach until just opaque, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in colander with shrimp. Let drain. Strain poaching liquid through a fine sieve and set aside. Wipe pan dry.

4.  Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, anchovies and garlic and cook, mashing anchovies into a paste, for about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and sauté until browned, about 2 minutes. Add basil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to colander with the seafood. Add any accumulated juices to the reserved poaching liquid. Measure out 3 1/2 cups hot liquid, adding water if necessary.

5.  Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Add the reserved poaching liquid and bring to a simmer, whisking, until smooth and thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, 5 to 6 minutes. Add lemon juice and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Reserve 1 1/2 cups sauce; gently mix seafood mixture into remaining sauce.

6.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-1/2-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

7.  Spoon 1/2 cup reserved sauce into the prepared dish. Drain the noodles and blot dry. Alternate 4 layers of noodles and 3 layers of the seafood mixture in dish, starting and ending with noodles. Spread remaining 1 cup sauce over the top, coating the noodles completely.

8.  Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmesan and bake until golden and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

I sort of doubled the recipe, and made enough to fill one 9 x 13 lasagna pan and one 8 x 8 cake pan (that was for the smaller gluten free lasagna for my husband).  I went ahead and prepared steps 1 thru 5 the night before the dinner.  I wrapped my noodles in wax paper and put the seafood mixture in a big pot in the fridge.

The next morning, I became just a tad obsesses with looking for a lasagna pan.  I finally picked up a nice metal 9 x 13 inch pan with sides higher than 2 inches – I think it was made by CuisineArt.  My 4 layers of lasagna noodles and 3 layers of filling fit perfectly, with no bubbling over.

The final product:  I added 2 cans of artichoke hearts, quartered, to the mix.  I also omitted the crumbs and instead put Italian shredded cheese mix and grated Parmesan to the top.  Because I had refrigerated the filling and noodles, I needed to cook the lasagnas longer.

The final verdict:  A little bland, a little watery.  Next time, I may substitute an Alfredo sauce, Vodka sauce, or maybe even some Amy’s Tomato Bisque and more salt.  I also might like more layers of cheese.