A tale of two cravings: Mexican-inspired pizza

This is what happens when cravings collide.

It is very easy to determine the cause of my hankering for these two foods.  The first craving, my huge desire for Mexican food, can be attributed to the fact that my dear friend Ariel has been talking about all things Mexican food-related for the past week. Sampling her lunch on Monday (some chilli chicken stew thing) was enough to send me over the edge. A spicy meal had to happen sooner or later.

The second of craving, the one for pizza, can be blamed on the constant reminder I have of the gooey dish, thanks to the two pizza parlours visible from my front porch and the fact that in a mere three weeks I will be eating the real deal in Italy.

A quick brainstorm and Internet search later, I decided that the combination of these two things was a go. Since it’s a little hard to see from the picture, let me describe to you the most wonderful part of this pizza: the refried black bean sauce.

Okay, so it wasn’t really a sauce per se, but rather a huge and delicious pile of mush that formed the foundation layer of my pizza.  I mixed a cup of refried beans (they are incredibly solid when coming from a can. This surprised me) with water (to make it more sauce-like) and salsa.  Finally, I tossed in some Old El Paso chilli mix that I had lying around, and the spicy base was complete. It was awesome, and meant that I was getting a protein fix sans meat (this whole semi-vegetarian thing is going okay, huh?).

Piled on top of this black bean base were the most ingredients I’ve ever put on a pizza: tomato, jalapeno pepper, red onion, corn, cilantro and more cheese than you could shake a stick at. All made this pizza taste exactly like an authentic Mexican meal. If I closed my eyes I could have been eating a taco. Wonderful, wonderful craving queller.

Another awesome thing about this pizza: I have SO many leftovers, which means the next two days worth of lunches will not be as sad and disgusting as today’s makeshift meal (some old mixed greens, leftover macaroni pasta, Parmesan cheese and store-bought Italian dressing. I know, I puked a little bit too).

To end on a positive note: Over the next few days I am planning on making fantastic cupcakes using some wonderful cupcake accessories that I bought in Toronto back in April. Anticipate away! Update as of 12:11 a.m. on Friday morning: the cupcakes have been made. They are delicious and gorgeous. Check for post soon.

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Creamy macaroni with sun-dried tomatoes and Kettleman’s cream cheese

At this point you’ve probably guessed that this pasta was kind of creamy, huh?

With the combination of melted provolone and Parmesan cheese, whipping cream and cream cheese, I had no other choice but to include the adjective twice in the title of this post.

Oh, and speaking of cream cheese, this wasn’t just any old Philadelphia stuff.  Nope, this cream cheese was of the light vegetable spread variety, and came to my kitchen from the infamous Kettleman’s Bagel Company located not too far from my house.  Since I never buy bagels (I love them, but I would eat half a dozen in an hour*), I needed to find another way to use up the rest of the cream cheese.  Matt had very kindly bought it for me one morning when he went to get us bagels, back when I was sick a few weeks ago (yes, I do happen to crave bagels when I’m sick, deal with it).  What a dear he is.  I’m not 100% sure what vegetables are in said spread, but I’m thinking there were possibly peppers and carrots, as well as some unidentifiable green item.  Mystery ingredients, ftw.

Anyways, I basically built the rest of the pasta dish around everything else that I had in the fridge, including half a red pepper, two types of onion, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and a garlic-infused olive oil (the latter was not in the fridge).  Toss ’em all together and you have a sinfully delicious, heart-stoppingly creamy (possibly from all the fat) pasta dish.  So delicious.

This is what happens when I half-hazardly decide to create my own recipe. Yes, this is a piece of Rogers junkmail (this is why you didn't get this, Ariel) from our old house.

PS (!!!!!!!!!): I GOT A NEW CAMERA!!!!!  It is a Canon Rebel T3i and I already love it to death! Depth of field! In my food photography! EXCITEMENT!!!!!

*Almost a true story. I once bought Montreal-style bagels in Westboro and walked down the street in the middle of winter stuffing pieces of delicious warm bread into my mouth.  I went through three bagels in 20 minutes.  I am not proud of this (translation: this was the most proud moment of my life).

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Portobello mushroom burgers with provolone cheese and red pepper mayonnaise

It should be illegal for something to taste this good.

Here’s a hint to all you readers (hello, anyone out there? Mom, is that you?): if I post something the day I made it, then you know it was just so incredible that I needed to share it with the world right away.  This was one of those meals – the type that makes you lean back in your chair and emit “oohhh” and “ahhh” sounds with every bite.

This meal was also good enough to make me actually consider vegetarianism as a plausible lifestyle.  I’m serious – the only thing that was holding me back from kicking the cow (forgive me) all together was the fact that I love, adore and live for beef burgers.  Today, July 12, 2011, an alternative was found.  Portobello mushroom caps have a naturally meaty texture and are way more flavourful than the traditional burger.  And god knows I eat enough quinoa that I don’t need the protein…

Anatomy of a portobello mushroom burger

Anyways, these burgers were unreal, and perfectly in sync with my current portobello mushroom phase.  The recipe was inspired by the August issue of Canadian Living (which I managed to rescue from the piles of mail at my old house…I really need to get my address changed).  As an aside, you can always tell which recipes I’ve made in books or magazines, since the page is absolutely destroyed with oil stains and food residue by the time I’m done.  Oh the memories.

Post de-gilling

Now, if you’ve been reading for awhile, you’ll notice that I frequently express my love for preparing certain foods.  In the past, I’ve said I love slicing zucchini, peeling avocados and cutting bouncy eggplants, among many other equally as strange things.

I can now add another neurotic food preparation love to that list: de-gilling a portobello mushroom cap.  It really is a whole lot of fun (this may speak a lot to the type of life I have).  You gently snap off the mushroom stem and use the side of a spoon to hull out the gills (you know, the fun underside of a mushroom that you always want to run your fingers against).

Hey, don’t judge my strange obsessions. You don’t truly love food unless you love every part of it – gills included.  There’s a life lesson for you, kids.

PS: The broil feature on my oven has changed my life.  It’s like a BBQ without the aesthetically-pleasing grill lines.
PPS: The texture of a grilled portobello mushroom is what I imagine the skin of a dinosaur would feel/look like.

And of course, the more delicious a food, the messier it is to eat…

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Chicken pad thai (AKA the chopping olympics)

Oh hello.  Yes, I’m still here.  Blog updates have been sparse, I realize that, but I am still eating and am very much alive.  I just haven’t had time to write about it.  But here we are.

Making this meal made me wish I could chop veggies like the experts (seriously, check this out!!).

As was forewarned by the Canadian Living recipe that inspired this meal, this pad thai required quite a bit of vegetable chopping.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, though.  My dinner positivity came primarily in the form of our amazing garlic mincer, which meant I didn’t have to painstakingly mince six cloves of garlic while leaning over the counter in desperation.  It is my favourite kitchen utensil at the moment, and a god among all other chopping devices.  Get one.  Your life will be changed.

As for the dish itself, pad thai always produces the most crippling post-dinner stomach aches and, as a result, evening plans are often altered to include anywhere from 1-3 hours of lying around like a shlump.  This meal was no exception, and I sat off my food baby by watching an Alfred Hitchcock film at the Mayfair with Ariel.

The meal may have been drowsiness-from-so-much-food inducing, but it was definitely worth it.  The sauce was reminiscent of the pad thai I get at my favourite local Thai hangout, Siam Kitchen.  I think I’m even starting to like cilantro, and the fresh scent and taste of the herb worked perfectly here.

I have three meals worth of pad thai remaining, meaning that my mouth is already watering in anticipation of today’s leftover lunch (kind of thinking I’ll eat early…).  The chopping olympics are over, let the pad thai-eating olympics begin!

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Summer salad 1: Grilled chicken and corn salad with walnuts

Ladies and gentlemen, the season of summer salads is upon us!

For those of you who were around last summer, you’ll recall that almost every meal I blogged about was some sort of unconventional and delicious salad.  This summer, with a newly discovered (and extremely passionate) love of quinoa, I charge back into the world of refreshingly fast dinners and cool patio meals.

Salads are like the soup of summer.  Just like their warm winter counterpart, you can virtually toss in anything you want, making them the perfect meal to clear out the crisper and dispose of your cheeses (not that I ever need help getting rid of my cheese).

Case in point: In a thrifty manner, I used up leftover spinach, walnuts, asparagus and corn in this meal.

My recipe was inspired by the mouthwatering salad that appears on the July 2011 cover of Canadian Living.  A few adjustments were made here and there, and voila!  A new salad was born, à la Hilary Makes.

PS: I really need to get a BBQ – the original recipe in CL called for grilled chicken, asparagus and corn cobs, all of which I had to fry up on the stove.  Boring!  I’m actually considering whipping out my DIY skills and making my own in the next few weeks.  It can be done.  Barbeque dinners (and patio cooking!) may soon be within my reach.  Or I might just light something on fire.  Fingers crossed for the former.

PPS: I added walnuts to the salad at the last minute (which is why you won’t notice them in my pictures).  I felt like there was a void in the salad that only they could fill.  It was the perfect addition, resulting in a honourable mention in the recipe title.

PPPS: I’m sorry that I practically write an entirely new blog post in my postscripts.

Doesn't that slot in my patio look like a place where you would slip a pizza into an oven? I often imagine that my porch is a pizza parlour. It keeps me entertained.

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