Mexico-Inspired Feast

As the weather starts warming slowly, I try to move my body more, breathe the fresh air even though it's cold, and eat more spicy food. Spice from the capsicum family (peppers and paprika) awakens the digestive system, accelerates the metabolism, and improves circulation.

I am inspired to share a Mexican-style meal, which reminds me of my visits to the Yucatan Peninsula. Every part of Mexico has its own regional cuisine. These dishes are familiar to me from my time in Chiapas.

Many of these ingredients, including garlic, cinnamon, and rice, have incredible healing properties.

With chills and weakness brought on by a cold, cinnamon's (cinnamomum sativum) anti-microbial activity stops the development of pathogenic bacteria. The active components in its essential oils warm the body. Try sprinkling it on buttered toast or adding it to applesauce.

Garlic, alium sativum, is one of nature's most powerful antibiotics. Its sulfur compounds reduce inflammation in the body. Effective in treating both viral and bacterial infections, fresh crushed garlic is a potent remedy. If your belly can tolerate it, mince or press 2 cloves of garlic, mix with 1/4 cup honey, and eat with toast or rice. You may also place a spoonful of fresh minced garlic in chicken soup.

Rice, oryza sativa, is the most common cereal grain world-wide. It is nourishing and soothing to a system that's depleted by cold and flu. It stops diarrhea, nourishes dehydrated tissues, and is one of the easiest grains to digest. When you are sick, make rice porridge with 1 cup rice and 3 cups water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to ensure that you are getting sufficient electrolytes. You can season it with thyme and cinnamon if you like.

Shopping List

  • cornmeal (non-GMO if possible)

  • long grain brown rice

  • black beans - please soak overnight

  • eggs

  • sour cream

  • milk (almond or cow)

  • olive oil

  • apple cider vinegar

  • canned / jarred tomatoes

  • salt

  • cinnamon

  • cumin

  • coriander

  • oregano

  • red chile flakes

  • onions

  • garlic

  • carrots

  • lime

  • orange

  • spinach

  • mushrooms

  • fresh cilantro (optional)

Black Bean Stew

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 2 carrots, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, oregano and salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon chile flakes (optional)

  • 1 cup cooked black beans

  • 2 cups water

  • juice of 1 orange

  • freshly chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Soak beans overnight or for 8 hours. Rinse, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer.

Skim off and discard any foam that rises to the top of the pot.

Simmer for 30 minutes or until beans are tender but still well-formed.

Rinse, drain, and set aside.

Chop onions, garlic, and carrots.

Place in a stock pot with olive oil and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add spices and black beans. Stir well and sauté for 3 more minutes, or until you can smell the spices.

Add water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the juice of 1 orange. Stir well.

Turn off heat and enjoy with cooked rice and a garnish of freshly chopped cilantro if you like.

Cornmeal Casserole

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a glass baking dish (9x9 or so) with olive oil. Set aside.

Mince:

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/2 pound mushrooms

  • 1 carrot

  • 1 onion

Place these in a deep skillet with 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Turn heat on high and then reduce to medium low once vegetables start to sizzle.

Add 1 teaspoon each: oregano, cumin, and coriander - mix well.

Splash with 1 tablespoon lime juice, stir once more, and cover.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. 

Turn off heat, add 2 packed cups spinach, stir well, and spread into baking dish.

For the topping, whisk together these ingredients in the order listed:

  • 2 cups cornmeal

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3 eggs

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 1/2 cups milk (almond or cow)

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Add a bit of water if the dough is too dry. You need to be able to handle it with your hands without it cracking or crumbling.

Shape dough into a flat disc and place over vegetables.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Remove from oven and serve with sour cream chile sauce.

GET CREATIVE! Avoiding cream and cheese? Put a fried egg or braised cod on top.

Sour Cream Chile Sauce

In a serving bowl, mix:

  • 2 cups sour cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

  • 1 teaspoon each: coriander and chile flakes

  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Serve immediately or keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

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Terrific Rice Dishes

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Rice, oryza sativa, is the most common cereal grain world-wide. It is nourishing and soothing to a system that's depleted by cold and flu. It stops diarrhea, nourishes dehydrated tissues, and is one of the easiest grains to digest.  

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recommends choosing whole grains such as brown rice rather than refined grain like white rice or flour to maintain a healthy body weight; high in fiber and selenium to ensure healthy digestion and mental clarity; contains phenolics, antioxidants that work to prevent disease and soothe the nervous system.


Pair any of these dishes with grilled meats, cooked beans or sauteed tempeh for a lovely meal!

CAULIFLOWER RISOTTO

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large shallot, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon each: thyme and rosemary

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • black pepper to taste

  • 1/2 head cauliflower, chopped

  • 1 cup short grain brown rice

  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

  • parmesan cheese if desired

In a medium-sized pot, heat olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, and spices and saute for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant and translucent. 

Add cauliflower and saute for 5 minutes, covered.

Add the rice, toast briefly, and then cover with vegetable broth.

Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 40 minutes.

Stir, add parmesan cheese if desired (about 1/4 cup), and serve piping hot!


NUTTY RICE FLATBREAD

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a spice grinder, grind:

  • 1 cup sweet nuts (almonds or pecans)

  • 1 cup savory nuts (walnuts or hazelnuts)

  • 1 cup seeds (pumpkin or sunflower)

Mix together in a bowl with1 cup leftover rice. Make sure you have cooked the grains down into a porridge-like consistency before mixing them in with the nuts and seeds.

Add ½ teaspoon salt and any spices you like.

Try one of these combinations: cumin, coriander, turmeric OR thyme, coriander, oregano.

If mixture is a bit dry, add a few splashes of olive oil. Mix well before adding any additional oil – the nuts already contain oil.

Grease a cookie sheet with oil and spread mixture in a thin layer.

Bake for 1 hour. Enjoy!


SWEET POTATO RICE CAKES

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a cookie sheet with vegetable oil (I like grapeseed or sunflower oil).

Combine these ingredients in a mixing bowl:

  • 1 cup rice flour

  • 4 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ground flax seeds)

  • pinch salt

  • ½ teaspoon each: nutmeg, coriander and cinnamon

Make a well in the center and add:

  • 1 heaping spoonful almond butter

  • 2 heaping spoonfuls coconut oil

  • 1 cup steamed, mashed sweet potatoes

Make a well in the center, combine the wet ingredients and stir until thoroughly blended.

Incorporate wet and dry ingredients until they are well combined.

Shape into cakes/patties, place each one on cookie sheet, and bake for 25 minutes.