Tres Leches Cake

I made this incredibly moist sponge cake for dessert after our Cinco de Mayo feast this year. It would be perfect served after any Mexican-inspired meal.

The recipe was adapted from my food blog friend Ronit Penso’s Tasty Eats blog, originally posted as a round cake on MySliceofMexico.ca. I modified the method and the baking time for a convection oven, used sea salt and a combination of vanilla bean paste and extract, and modified the amount of topping.

Although I reduced the amount of topping, we found that it was absolutely essential. I also thought that the fresh strawberry garnish made it even more beautiful and delicious. Festive and great.

For the Cake:

  • cooking oil spray, for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 7 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

For the Syrup:

  • 1 can (12 fl oz/354 ml) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 oz/396grms) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • fresh strawberries, sliced
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). (I used the convection setting.)
  2. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9”x13” (23×33 cm) metal baking pan, and dust with a bit of flour. Turn the pan upside down and tap on it, to get rid of excess flour. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, mix the milk with the vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
  5. Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Start whipping on low speed and gradually add the sugar.
  6. Once the sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium-high, and whip until frothy and thick, about 3 minutes.
  7. Lower the speed to medium. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the liquid ingredients (milk/vanilla), in three batches, and beat shortly, about 10 seconds, after each addition. You should have a smooth and frothy batter.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes on convection, or up to 35 minutes in a standard oven, until the cake is deep golden in color and if you gently press on the top it springs right back. The sides should also begin to pull away from the edge of the pan. (I baked mine for 27 minutes on convection.)
  10. Place on a wire rack to cool slightly while you prepare the syrup.
  11. In a bowl with a spout, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.
  12. Prick the top of the cake with a toothpick or fork.
  13. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake. Keep at room temperature until all of the syrup is absorbed.
  14. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. (I chilled mine overnight.)
  15. Just before serving, make the topping. In a large cold bowl, combine the cold heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla.
  16. Whip with a hand blender on medium-high to high speed, until firm peaks form, or as desired. (I stopped whipping the cream somewhere between soft and firm peaks.)
  17. To Serve: Slice cake and top each slice with a dollop of topping and a sliced strawberry.

Poblano, Black Bean & Cheese Enchiladas

Recently, my friend gave me beautiful cast iron baking dishes. I knew that I wanted to make enchiladas in them right away! Our Cinco de Mayo feast was the perfect occasion. Our meal also included chips and guacamole, of course. 😉

The recipe for these hearty, vegetarian enchiladas was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. I modified the proportions and method. We ate them garnished with sour cream, red onion, avocado, and cilantro with refried beans and rice on the side. We topped off our festive meal with a Tres Leches Cake. Perfect.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (I used a food processor)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, plus more for serving, optional
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups coarsely grated mild Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 10 to 12 (6-inch) soft corn or flour tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s corn & wheat tortillas)
  • fresh cilantro leaves and stems, for serving
  • sliced avocado, for serving, optional
  • diced white or red onion, for serving, optional
  • rice and refried beans, for serving, optional
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. (I used the convection setting.)
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onions and chopped poblano chile; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and charred in spots, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cumin and minced garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Transfer half the vegetable mixture to a blender; add the tomatoes, chili powder and chipotle chile. (I used a Vitamix.) Blend until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If your blender isn’t particularly strong and the sauce looks more like a chunky purée, add 1/4 cup sour cream and blend again until smooth.)(I omitted the sour cream in the sauce.)
  5. Add the black beans and 1/2 cup cheese to the remaining vegetables in the skillet and stir to combine. Some canned beans are already salted, so taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  6. Place the tortillas in a tortilla warmer (or on a plate) covered with a damp paper towel. Cover and microwave for 1 minute, or until warm and pliable.
  7. If using individual dishes, spread a few spoonfuls of sauce over the bottom of each dish. (I used 5 dishes.) Alternatively, pour enough enchilada sauce to lightly coat the base of a medium casserole dish or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread it to cover the bottom of the dish(es).
  8. Line up the filling, tortillas and baking dish in a row. Place a heaping 1/4 cup of the bean mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up the tortilla and place in the casserole dish(es), seam-side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. (I placed 2 enchiladas per individual dish.)
  9. Spoon or pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.
  10. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cheese, to taste. (I used 1/2 cup cheese per dish.)
  11. Place the baking dish(es) on a rimmed baking sheet and tent with foil. Bake for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese has melted and has browned in spots, about 10 additional minutes.
  13. Top with sour cream, avocado slices, diced onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Note: The sauce and the black bean mixture (without the cheese) can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The spice level in the sauce can be easily modified by adjusting the amount of chili powder.

Orange-Guajillo Pulled Chicken Tacos

Tacos are always a welcome dinner in my house. New varieties are even more welcome. 🙂

These chicken tacos were a mildly sweet from the fresh orange juice. Because the seeds are removed from the chilies, the finished dish was not spicy at all. They were really delicious with all of the assorted toppings.

This recipe was adapted from 177milkstreet.com. We ate the tacos with refried beans, brown Basmati rice, and street corn on the side. Fresh and fabulous.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 ounce guajillo chilies (5 medium), stemmed, seeded and torn or cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (I used 4 large oranges)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or Mexican oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (I used 9 thighs, about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • warm tortillas, for serving (I used Trader Joe’s corn-wheat tortillas)
  • diced white onion, for serving
  • sliced radishes, for serving
  • cilantro leaves, for serving
  • crumbled queso fresco, feta, or shredded Mexican cheese blend, for serving
  • sour cream, for serving
  • rice and refried beans, for serving, optional
  1. Squeeze the orange juice into a liquid measuring cup.
  2. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, toast the chile pieces, pressing with a wide metal spatula and flipping halfway through, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes total. (I used a 12-inch stainless steel all-in-one pan.)
  3. Transfer to a small bowl and pour in the juice; press on the chilies to submerge. Let stand until the chilies have softened, about 10 minutes. Set the skillet aside. (I placed the chilies in the liquid measuring cup with the freshly squeezed orange juice.)
  4. In a blender, combine the chilies and juice, garlic, vinegar, coriander, honey, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds. (I used a Vitamix.)
  5. Pour the puree into the reserved skillet and bring to a boil over medium-high.
  6. Trim the chicken thighs of any excess fat to prevent the finished dish from becoming greasy.
  7. Nestle the chicken into the sauce, cover and cook over medium-low, stirring and flipping the chicken halfway through, until tender and opaque when cut into with a paring knife, about 20 minutes. 
  8. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large plate and set aside until cool enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Using 2 forks, shred into bite-size pieces.
  9. While the chicken cools, bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring, until thickened and reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.
  10. Stir the shredded chicken into the sauce, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Warm the tortillas. (I microwave them in a tortilla warmer with a damp towel for about 1 minute.)
  12. Serve the shredded chicken with warm tortillas and assorted toppings, as desired.

Buttermilk-Poblano Gravy

This Thanksgiving, we branched out from our favorite wild mushroom gravy to try this roasted poblano version. It was incredible. Because we roasted a much smaller turkey and made less mashed potatoes, I plan to gobble up any leftover gravy as a dip with tortilla chips. 🙂 It would also be wonderful in tacos or as sauce in a pot pie.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Javier Cabral and Paola Brinseño González. I incorporated a shallot as well as the roasted turkey pan dripping and juices. I also reduced the salt. Next time I will roast the poblanos in advance. I am going to start making it year-round!

Yield: about 2 cups

  • 2 large (3 ounce) poblano chilies
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 2 T roasted turkey pan fat (can substitute 2 T unsalted butter)
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted turkey pan drippings plus vegetable, chicken, or turkey stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place chilies on an aluminum foil lined baking pan. Place under a broiler, rotating every 5 minutes, until skin is charred on all sides. (Alternatively, using kitchen tongs, hold 1 chile directly over a medium flame of a gas stovetop. Cook until skin is blackened, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining chile.)
  2. Wrap the blackened chilies in the aluminum foil to steam. (Alternatively, place chiles in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap.) Let steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Rub off skin from chiles, removing as much of the blackened skin as you can. (Don’t worry if all of the skin doesn’t come off.) Remove and discard stems and seeds.
  4. Finely dice the roasted chilies.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add shallot and diced chiles. Cook until onion is soft, about 4 minutes.
  6. Combine shallot mixture and 1/2 cup stock in a blender, and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. (I used a Vitamix.)
  7. Place 2 tablespoons of fat from pan drippings (or 2 T butter) in same skillet over medium.
  8. Whisk in flour, and reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  9. Increase heat to medium and add shallot-chile puree and remaining 1 cup pan drippings with stock, and cook, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  10. Reduce heat to low; add buttermilk. Simmer gently to allow flavors to meld, about 2 minutes.
  11. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note: Poblano peppers can be roasted, peeled, and cut 2 days ahead.

Chile Chicken Nachos

One of my friends has been trying to convince me to make nachos for dinner for quite some time. My kids (who were well aware of this suggestion) were so deprived, they have ordered nachos on several occasions as an entrée when we’ve indulged at a Mexican restaurant. 😉

When I saw this recipe for “party nachos,” I thought that I could (and should) serve them for dinner! Crazy? Nope. My kids were thrilled. After all, nachos are a sheet-pan dinner. This version uses rotisserie chicken meat as a shortcut too.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Rick Martinez. I scaled down the proportions. However, I did prepare the full recipe for the rotisserie chicken and sauce, keeping half to use for tacos, etc., on another occasion.

The bottom layer was reminiscent of a enchilada pie, or taco or enchilada skillet meal- other weeknight favorites over here. The rotisserie chicken meat is coated with a fabulous, full-flavored sauce. This sauce brings these nachos to the next level. I loved all of the toppings too. Very cheesy.

When not being served for dinner, these nachos would also be a great appetizer or snack, of course.

Yield: Serves about 6

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped, divided
  • 1 T achiote paste or tomato paste
  • 8 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded (I substituted 2 ancho chilies plus 4 guajillo chiles)
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped (or 1 T adobo sauce to keep things mild)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled from bones and shredded
  • 1 10-oz bag frozen corn, thawed, drained
  • 1/2 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, chopped
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese (about 1/2 cup) or finely grated Cotija cheese (about 1 cup)
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 8 to 10-oz tortilla chips
  • 1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • thinly sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, avocado cubes, and pickled jalapeños, for serving, as desired
  • sour cream, for serving, as desired
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high until shimmering.
  2. Cook garlic and half of onion, stirring occasionally, until tender and beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes.
  3. Stir in achiote paste/tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until brick red, about 1 minute.
  4. Add dried chiles, chipotle chile, stock, cumin, and 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit until chiles are very soft, about 30 minutes.
  5. Place a rack in the center of oven; preheat to 350°, preferably on convection.
  6. Transfer chile mixture to a blender and purée until smooth.
  7. Return to saucepan, stir in chicken, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat; season with salt. Remove from heat; set chicken aside until ready to assemble. (Reserve half of this saucy chicken for another use; only half is needed for the nachos.)
  8. Meanwhile, toss corn, chopped poblano chile, half of the feta/Cotija cheese, and remaining onion in a medium bowl until combined; season with salt.
  9. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  10. Arrange half of the chips in an even layer on the bottom of the baking sheet.
  11. Top with half of the reserved chicken mixture, half of the corn mixture, and half of the cheddar.
  12. Repeat layers with remaining chips, chicken mixture, corn mixture, and cheddar.
  13. Bake nachos, rotating pan halfway through, until cheese is melted and edges of chips are beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes.
  14. Serve topped with radishes, cilantro, avocado, pickled jalapeños, remaining feta/Cotija cheese, sour cream, and other desired toppings alongside.

Do Ahead: Nachos can be assembled 1 hour before baking. Cover with plastic and store at room temperature.

Duck Tacos with Refried Black Beans

I usually think of duck meat as being too fatty to agree with me. 😉 After seeing Sara Moulton make these tacos, she convinced me to give it another chance. In this dish, the fatty skin is removed and the shredded duck meat was very moist and flavorful.

I often see the vacuum-sealed, cooked rotisserie duck at Costco. On my last visit, when most the fresh poultry was out of stock and the rotisserie chicken was limited to one per visit, there was plenty of rotisserie duck available. 🙂 These tacos could also be made with rotisserie chicken, of course, but this was a nice change. My son thought that they were “next-level.”

This recipe was adapted from Sara’s Weeknight Meals, via SaraMolton.com. I doubled the original recipe to use the entire rotisserie duck and added additional toppings. The leftover filling was just as delicious reheated and served with fresh toppings and taco shells. The healthy and quick refried black beans were fabulous too.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Spice Blend:

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

For the Filling & Toppings:

  • 1 half of a cooked rotisserie duck
  • 1 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 3 T water
  • 12 ready-to-eat regular-size taco shells, warmed according to package directions
  • chopped or shredded iceberg lettuce or finely-shredded cabbage, for serving
  • chopped tomatoes (I used chopped grape tomatoes)m for serving
  • shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese or a Mexican cheese blend, to taste, for serving
  • prepared salsa, for serving
  • light sour cream, for serving
  • cilantro, for serving
  • diced avocado, for serving
  • canned diced chilies, for serving
  • hot sauce, for serving (I used Chipotle Cholula)
  • rice, for serving, optional
  • Refried beans, recipe below

To Make the Spice Blend:

  1. Add the ingredients to a bowl and stir well to combine.

To Make the Fillings, Toppings, & To Serve:

  1. Remove the skin from the duck meat. Shred enough meat from one half of a rotisserie cooked duck to yield 2 1/2 cups.
  2. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the shredded duck and spice blend and stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the water and cook, covered, for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Divide the filling among the taco shells.
  6. Top with the lettuce and tomatoes, and sprinkle with cheese.  Top with cilantro, avocado, diced chiles, and hot sauce, as desired. Spoon on the salsa and sour cream, if using.
  7. Serve immediately with refried beans on the side. (The refried beans can be used as an additional taco filling, if desired.)

For the Refried Beans:

  • 2 T vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (I used 1 large yellow onion when I doubled the recipe)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups thoroughly cooked black beans or one 15.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or water
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
  4. Stir in the cumin and chili powder and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the beans and chicken stock, cover, and cook until the beans are very soft and the flavors are well blended, about 5 minutes.
  6. Use a fork or potato masher to coarsely mash the beans.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Note: Cooked, rotisserie duck can be purchased online @Maple Leaf Farms.com.

Shortcut Vegetarian Enchiladas with Butternut Squash & Black Beans

This crowd-pleasing casserole uses store bought enchilada sauce as a shortcut. I peeled and cut a butternut squash, but using pre-cut squash would be another easy shortcut. It was a wonderful vegetarian dish.

This recipe was adapted from Skinnytaste.com. I modified the proportions, used Monterey Jack cheese, and substituted corn tortillas for flour tortillas. I served the enchiladas with brown Basmati rice, refried beans, and Trader Joe’s Mexican street corn. Great!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 12 oz bottle of enchilada sauce (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut 1/2-inch-dice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 10 oz can “original” Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 15.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 corn tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • sour cream, for serving, optional (low-fat okay)
  • brown Basmati rice and refried beans, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Place 1/4 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. (I used a ceramic 9×13-inch baking dish.)
  3. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add cubed butternut squash, Rotel tomatoes, black beans, water, cilantro, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 30 to 35 minutes. (Add more water if the mixture looks dry.)
  5. At the end of the cooking time for the filling, steam the tortillas. Place the corn tortillas in a tortilla warmer or on a plate and place a damp paper towel on top. Cover tightly (using plastic wrap if using a plate), and microwave for approximately 1 minute, or until they are warm and pliable. Keep covered until ready to fill.
  6. Place a generous 1/4 cup filling in the center of each tortilla and roll to close, placing in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat with the remaining filling. (I used a dry measuring cup to ration the filling.)
  7. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.
  8. Bake, covered with foil until the sauce is bubbling and hot and the cheese is melted, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Top with scallions and cilantro. Serve with sour cream, rice, and/or refried beans, as desired.

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