South of the border

21 Feb

This weekend, I did my usual cooking for the week and baking. I didn’t put it together until yesterday, but apparently I was wishing for a trip south of the border to Mexico.

I like that song. Because I like Frank Sinatra. And it’s a good song. So there.

For baking, I found a recipe for a spiced up brownie from Smitten Kitchen. The thought of red pepper, spices, and chocolate has intrigued me for a while. So I thought I’d finally try it. It was a bit scary because keep in mind, I’m an Irish Catholic from Minnesota. Not a lot of heavy spices in my world. But the recipe seemed OK – not too spicy for my poor taste buds – so I thought I’d give it a go.

First, I whisked cocoa powder, flour, salt, and spices together. Then I melted chocolate, butter, and instant espresso in a double boiler. The recipe calls for 11 ounces of dark chocolate 65%-72% cacao. I used 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, 3.5 ounces 90% cacao, 3.5 ounces 70% cacao – because that’s all I had at home. Oops. But it worked. I added sugars and let it cool. Then I added eggs and vanilla and mixed well, and then added the flour mixture. Poured it into a 9×13 pan and baked.

I must admit, they were fantastic. The spices just added a touch of heat and subtlety to the chocolate flavor. I’ll make these again, and now I really want to find more recipes for spices and chocolate.

Then last week, my friend Brittany at The Gentle Home posted a recipe for fajitas. I love fajitas, and when I read the post, I suddenly knew that fajitas had to be in my future. Her marinade sounded great, so I thought I’d try it. I changed a few things and used steak instead of chicken – because sometimes you just need steak – and they’re great! I sauteed some onions and peppers to go with the steak, and got some tortillas. I’ve been eating them for lunch all week. I love this recipe!

Yesterday when I was thinking about this blog post, it suddenly hit me that there was a connection between these two things. No idea why it took so long to make that connection. But there ya go. A little bit of Mexico in the middle of a Minnesota winter. Well, a wussy sort of Minnesota winter. But still – makes you think of sun and fun on the beach.

Sorry about the lack of photos. Short attention span this weekend, I guess. Just use your imagination. I’m sure my food looked as awesome in real life as it does in your imagination.

Spiced Brownies from the Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder (I didn’t have this so I used paprika and cumin)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (I didn’t have this so I used nutmeg)
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or coffee
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cocoa powder and spices together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve. Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Garlic Lime Chicken from the Gentle Home

1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
olive oil, about 6 Tbsp
1/4 cup pineapple juice (I used the orange-pineapple juice I had)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Mix well.  Marinate the chicken (or steak!) for several hours before cooking. Grill up the steak (or broil it). Saute some onions and peppers while the steak rests. Add to tortillas with cheese and voila! Fajitas.

(Voila. A French word in my post about Mexican food. Look at me – I’m multi-cultural!)

One Response to “South of the border”


  1. Weekly roundup « The Reinvented Lass - February 27, 2012

    […] a trip to Mexico via […]

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