Eating: Enchiladas

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

When we moved into this Edmonton neighborhood it was because the house wasn’t hideous, it was convenient to my sister, it had a garage, and the landlady was enthusiastic about us ripping up some lawn and planting a food garden.  The bonus, the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, if you will, was that we also got a couple of wonderful neighbors! 

You know the kind – willing to water the garden for you when you go on a two-week vacation (or worry about shutting off the irrigation when it rains every day you’re gone);driving you to the airport 20 minutes away and then offering to (no matter the day or time) pick you up again; invite you over for backyard barbeques that last well into the night even though y’all have to get up and go to work the next day but you don’t care because this, eating and laughing with friends, is what life is all about; offering seedlings and transplants and vegetables and preserves…

Which is how I got around to making enchiladas the other night.

Mirka and Chris, the aforementioned icing on the cake, and newbie gardeners, decided to try growing tomatilloes, a Tex-Mex staple, by the way.  Despite their inexperience and unfamiliarity with this fruit/vegetable, they had such success that it turned into their own version of zucchini  – as in, they were beginning to think they’d have to leave anonymous bags of the stuff on doorways around the ‘hood.  Eventually, as winter approached, the harvest tapered off and they were left with a lovely collection of canned tomatillo salsa to tide them over until spring.

A jar of summer

A jar of summer

Again, because they are the cherry on top, we received a jar of the salsa – which I hoarded for several weeks before deciding what to do with it.  Finally, in a moment of homesickness, missing my favorite dish of enchiladas verde at El Sol y la Luna in Austin, I decided to whip up my own version.

Because all the store-bought versions of tortillas I can find seem to have dough conditioners and perservatives, I decided to make my own version.  Using the Yellow Cornmeal Crepes recipe in my 1976 Better Homes and Gardens Crepes Cookbook, that I’ve had so long I don’t know where I got it from, I created my own facsimile of tortillas.  (Sorry, but I don’t want to do copyright infringement and post the recipe so maybe this will be a good substitute.)

Next, I sauteed half of a diced onion, a minced garlic clove, and half of a diced red pepper until soft in a cast iron frying pan with a little oil over medium heat.  Then I added about a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ground cumin, a quarter of a cup of chopped cilantro, and a tablespoon of chopped pickled jalapenos.  While those ingredients had been cooking, I’d shredded about a cup of meat from a chicken I’d roasted the night before and I added that to the vegetables until the chicken was warm and coated with spices.  I guessed that the amount of filling would be enough for 7 crepes/tortillas.

Ingredients ready to be assembled.

Ingredients ready to be assembled.

I took a casserole dish, big enough to accommodate the rolled enchiladas in a single layer, and popped the top off the jar of tomatillo salsa.  A little taste of the tangy green sauce told me whether I’d need to add more heat (I didn’t) or more spice (nope) – it was good right out of the jar.  I spread a thin layer on the bottom of the casserole dish and then assembled my enchiladas – a tablespoon or so of filling spread in a line in the center of the crepe/tortilla, roll, place seam side down in dish.  Once the enchiladas were all in, I smothered them with the tomatillo salsa and a cup and a half of grated Monterey Jack cheese, and put them into a 350 deg. F. oven until the cheese melted.

If you want to be really authentic a la El Sol y la Luna, you serve the enchiladas with Spanish rice, black or refried beans, and chopped tomatoes.

My apologies for not having a picture of the finished dish but we were so hungry and it smelled so good that I’d dished it out and eaten it before I thought to take a picture!  And the embarrassing thing was that we didn’t even share with the neighbors who’d been so generous to us!  But I’ll remedy that soon; when Mirka found out that I hadn’t taken a picture, she gave me another jar of salsa so I could make it again – next time I’ll be sure to call over the fence and invite the cherries over.



Adding It Up

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
My $20 essential garden tool

My $20 essential garden tool

I’ve often wondered whether my kitchen gardens were worth it – financially, I mean.  There’s no denying the physical and mental payoff but am I really saving any money on our grocery bills?  This year, the first year of this garden, I decided to find out.  I bought a scale and measured all the produce that came out of the garden…well, I attempted to, but we tend to eat our peas straight off the vine while admiring our maintenance efforts, and my husband tends to pull a radish or two while he’s working in the garage so I probably missed a pound or two.  I think I got most of it tallied, however, and here are the results of my 187 sq. ft. of growing space (not including my container garden of herbs).*

  • Basil  1.75 lbs @ $4.00/lb = $7.00
  • Beans  6.75 lbs @ $6.49/lb = $43.81
  • Beets  8 lbs @ $1.99/lb = $15.92
  • Carrots  3.25 lbs @ $1.20/lb = $3.90
  • Cilantro  1 lb @ $4.00/lb = $4.00  (I also let the cilantro go to seed so I could harvest coriander but since I haven’t finished that yet, I haven’t included it in my calculations.)
  • Cucumber  4.25 lbs @ $3.99/lb = $16.96
  • Peas  7 lbs @ $3.99/lb = $27.93
  • Peppers (Jalapeno and Hungarian Wax Banana)  1 lb @ $6.99/lb = $6.99
  • Radishes  2 lbs @ $4.98/lb = $9.96
  • Rainbow Chard  32.25 lbs @ $4.11/lb = $132.55
  • Salad Greens  4 lbs @ $5.99/lb = $23.96
  • Spinach  7.5 lbs @ $5.98/lb = $44.85
  • Tomatoes  48.5 lbs @ $3.29/lb = $159.57

The grand total comes to $497.40!  But wait…there’s more!

  • Canned Tomato Sauce  7 jars @ $5.59/jar = $39.13

Now the total is $536.53!  But before I get too excited, I also need to calculate how much I spent on the garden to put it in.  I decided not to include the $50 rental of the sodcutter since that will get pro-rated down to pennies by the time we move from here, ditto for the small bits of irrigation tubes, and I couldn’t figure out how to calculate the water usage, so that’s not included either.

  • Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer  1/2 a bottle @ $23.90 ea = $11.95
  • Canning Jars 7 @ $0.83 ea = $5.83
  • Bulk Compost 1 cu. yd. @ $50/cu. yd. = $50
  • Seeds and Plants (I had to make a guess because I used seeds from last year’s purchase) = about $100

Estimate for garden investment is $167.78.

That means my garden saved us about $368.75 in grocery bills for three months – or 1 sq. ft. produced almost $2 worth of food.  I don’t know where that falls in the criteria of a successful garden but I’m happy with that.  For a new garden that got put in in a hurry, I think we did pretty well.  Once we get the compost system up and running, start applying some xeriscaping techniques, start my own transplants, and do some seed-saving, I’ll be able to knock the costs down further.

This was an interesting exercise to do – knowing exactly how much I’m saving makes my food taste even better.  

*The dollar figures were obtained from my local grocery store and are for organically grown produce only (and much of it is Canadian grown).