Save the Ales

In the summer we like to visit the Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham Washington. They have great food, but more importantly to a certain family member, great beer. After living with only the likes of mediocre to poor Asian beers, or the occasional Carlsberg or Heineken, the return to the land of microbrews is more than welcome.
On a visit last summer I finally got around to trying their much talked about Yam Alechiladas. A sweet potato black bean enchilada with Mole Poblano.  Why had I spent any time ordering anything but this dish? It was exceptional, sweet, salty, creamy, spicy....good enough to make me ask the chef for the recipe. My request was denied (I have to go on record to say that I hate that) but I was given a list of the ingredients.

Gee thanks.

My thoughts of the enchiladas dropped off the radar, only every so slightly, until I spied a butternut squash lingering on our kitchen counter begging to be used. I have been trying to make a point of using up as many ingredients in our cupboard as I can since I really don't want to ship things and risk them spoiling as they sit in the hot African sun for a few months awaiting our arrival in Tunisia.

To go along with the squash I found some chipotle peppers, black beans, chicken broth and tortillas. A quick Internet search to review other similar recipes and I came up with this version.

I'll even share the recipe with you.  I'm just that kind of gal.

I used the butternut squash but I wrote the recipe with sweet potatoes in mind.  Use whichever you like, I think you'll find either is just delicious! How good were they?

There was a race to the last one.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Quick Mole Poblano

Serves 4-6
4 large Sweet Potatoes scrubbed clean, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon of cumin
1 medium onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1, 4oz can of diced green chiles
1-2 chipotle peppers canned with adobo, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1, 14 oz can of diced tomatoes drained
2 tablespoon peanut butter
2 cups of chicken broth
1 cup Ale of your choice
8 flour tortillas
1 ½ cups of grated Monterey Jack cheese
Garnish (optional): sliced avocado, cilantro, sour cream, sliced green onion

Preheat the oven to 400.

Place the sweet potato into a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake the sweet potatoes for 45min to 1 hour or until they are soft and caramelized. Remove from oven, transfer to a mixing bowl, and lightly mash. You want a slightly chunky mixture. Add the black beans and cumin. Gently mix together.

Reduce heat to 350.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic and diced green chiles and sauté for 2 minutes. Add chipotle pepper, chili powder, and cumin, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder. Sauté until fragrant about 1 minute and then add sugar, tomatoes and peanut butter. Stir quickly to melt the peanut butter. Add the chicken broth and Ale, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove mole from the heat and strain. Puree the solids in a food processor until very smooth. Return the pureed solids to the liquid, stir well to combine and taste for seasoning.

To assemble: Place ½ of mole in the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish. Divide the sweet potato mixture evenly among 8 tortillas, roll up and place in the baking dish. Pour 2 cups of mole over the enchiladas and sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and the tortillas have lightly browned, about 35-40 minutes.

Serve with diced avocado, sour cream, cilantro, or green onions if desired.

*Note: My family isn’t big on a lot of heat so we used the lesser amount of chili powder and chipotle pepper and found this dish to be nicely spiced. You can also replace the sweet potato with butternut squash with good results.

Queen of Crazy Town

Queen of Crazy Town, Crazy McNutty Pants, She Who Scares the Living Daylights out of Small Children. Yep, that's me at the present.  I've had a few moments of extreme mood shifting related to our upcoming move and all the details involved in carrying this out. Thankfully they have mostly been private melt downs. Thankfully bathroom mirrors can't talk.

Really, awfully, grateful the mirror can't talk.

So what is a gal to do. Bake.

I made zucchini bread. We had one lonely, on the verge of starting to go dodgy, zucchini.  It happily obliged in making a very moist, nicely spiced loaf that my family devoured in less than a day. I even found my youngest, who had previously snubbed her nose at it, claiming the last slice as her own.

And now, I'm off to finish a conversation with the mirror.  Don't judge me.

Zucchini Bread

One 9 x 5-inch loaf
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

You may also substitute 1 cup of pureed pumpkin for the zucchini.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄3 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
Coarse sugar, optional for sprinkling on top before baking

Please don't be tempted to use an electric mixer with this, a mixing bowl, something to stir with and a good strong arm is all you need. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves and set aside. In a small bowl mix together the buttermilk, vanilla, eggs, and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Add the grated zucchini and then mix well until the batter is just combined.

Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.

Croque Star

Having out of town visitors is one of life's great joys.  Okay, let me rephrase that, sometimes having out of town visitors can be one of life's great joys. I know some people think that having a houseguest is nothing short of torture, and some houseguests can be tortuous, but by and large I think it's a lot of fun. If said houseguests happen to be good friends, are adventruous, like to laugh, and understand that you will nod off to sleep even mid sentence after 9pm, then you're all set for a really nice visit.

Friends of ours were here from Nepal. They came to the "big city" for a break from the daily adventure that is Kathmandu.  They marvelled at our ability to drink water from the tap, walk on sidewalks, and the orderliness of daily life.  They have only lived in Nepal for 9 months, and while I'm really proud of the way they have adjusted to their new jobs and life, I totally get their need for a break from it.

While they were here we treated them to all the things we think are great about our adopted home of Singapore.  Chinatown, Little India, the food, the shopping, Marina Bay Sands Resort, and Fish Spas.  Fish Spas you say?  What is a Fish Spa?  It's not a place to take your goldfish if it's got a sore fin.....Fish Spas are a place you go to for a very special pedicure. You place your feet in a tank of water filled with a gazillion little fish (or big fish if you want) and they swim around and eat all the gnarly bits off your feet. I know, I can hear the Ewwww coming from you now. They were really good sports.

We also went out to eat a lot.  Really a lot. It was great until I stepped on the scales.


Our last morning together we met up with some other friends downtown at PS Cafe for breakfast. The restuarant had a great vibe, the goodies in the bakery case were beyond tempting and the coffee good. It was really hard to make a decision on what to order, Banana Pancakes, Eggs Benedict, or the Big English Breakfast to name a few.  I settled on the Croque Madame: Ham, Ementhal cheese, Bechamel Sauce toasted brown under the broiler with a fried egg on top for good measure.  The picture I took of the sandwich blows, but the taste was stellar!
Croque Madame for Croque Star Friends

Serves 4

8 slices good quality bread such as Pain de Campagne
4 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
12 oz sliced ham
6 ounces of Ementhal cheese grated
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Béchamel Sauce
1 shallot minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 large eggs
Room temperature butter and olive oil

Begin with the Béchamel sauce. In a medium sized saucepan melt the butter over medium high heat. When the butter begins to bubble add the minced shallot and sauté for 2 minutes to soften. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, bring to a boil and cook until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and season to taste with the salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Preheat your broiler, and then set aside a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Working quickly butter one side of each slice of bread and sauté until lightly browned on one side. Remove the bread to the baking sheet placing it toasted side down. Spread one teaspoon of mustard on 4 slices of the bread, top each with 3 ounces of ham, and then divide the Ementhal cheese equally on top of the ham. Top the ham and cheese with the other slice of bread. Spoon the Béchamel sauce over the sandwiches, sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese and the Béchamel sauce begins to bubble and brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile in a sauté pan over medium high heat melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot crack the eggs into the pan and then season with salt and pepper. When the whites are opaque carefully flip the eggs and cook to your liking on the other side.

Remove the sandwiches from the oven and top with the fried egg before serving


Gout sucks.  If America's enemies really wanted to take over they would find a way to inflict us all with a raging case of gout.  Gout is just plain mean.  If you've ever had it you understand, and if you haven't I hope you never do. That is unless you are the person who cut me off yesterday on the on ramp. You deserve a painful, aching big toe. It might improve your driving habits, or at the very least keep you off the road. Anyway.... My sweet husband has had a few flareups of late which has made us rethink our diet. The timing of this unfortunately corresponds with a delivery of 5 cases of fabulous wines from Margaret River Australia. Okay, before you start to think that I need a holiday at the Betty Ford Clinic, most of the wine is destined for our shipment to Tunisia. Some of it however is for sampling.  Sort of a quality control exercise.

Along with wine and beer being relegated to the sidelines there are a whole host of other foods that need to be shunned. Some are easy to avoid. Since we are not fans of offal, not eating brains, hearts and kidneys won't be a problem. My husband must also steer clear of partridge and grouse, which thankfully don't make up a huge part of our diet. Does anyone really eat grouse?  The boy does love lamb, pork, and salmon, which are all off limits. He can eat his fill however of Fettuccine Alfredo, followed by a cheese plate, and chocolate.

Since these diet modifications we have had to do without one of our family's favorites, Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan. Cauliflower is on the naughty list. Now cauliflower has never been a favorite vegetable in our house but that all changed after a friend raved about this recipe. The first time I tasted it out right of the oven, I went mad for it and there was hardly enough left in the serving bowl for dinner. It has since then made a twice weekly appearance at the table, but not so anymore. So sad for us, but not for you. I just know you'll love it as much as we once did.....Incidentally, it goes really well with a Semillion Sauvingnon Blanc.  You know, in case you wondered.

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan

Adapted from Kayln’s kitchen

1 head cauliflower, core removed and the head broken down into florets. The florets should all relatively be the same size.
1-2 tablespoon of olive oil, more or less depending on the size of the cauliflower head
1 tablespoon of macadamia nut oil
kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, more or less again depending on the size of your cauliflower head

Preheat oven to 400F Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl place the cauliflower florets and then toss with the olive oil, macadamia nut oil, salt and pepper. Make sure all the pieces are all lightly coated with the oils. Spread the cauliflower evenly on the parchment lined sheet and scatter the Parmesan over top.

Roast the cauliflower, turning it every 10 or 15 minutes, until the edges are nicely browned about 45-55 minutes.