Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Kitchen is My Oasis and Chili Con Carne Salad With Three-Cheese Sauce

Whenever I'm stressed, I find myself in the kitchen.

Some people get stressed with cooking. For me, it's the other way around. There's something zen about peeling garlic, chopping tomatoes and trying to stop tears from falling as the stench of the onion I am mincing slowly wafts up my nostrils and turning the my tear duct switch on.

I guess, having to force myself to focus on my fingers from being bloodied by the knife or  stirring the soup so it doesn't boil over helps clear the mind and provide  mental and emotional therapy from the stresses of daily life.  My kitchen is small and as you can see has a lot of clutter. But it is amidst the clutter and chaos of cooking that I find myself when I need peace.

The kitchen is my oasis.

Having said that, here's my latest stress-busting recipe which I developed after sharing taco salad with some workmates after an exciting day at work.The following week, I made a batch and shared it with the mates.


For the salad-
1 head ice lettuce,  washed, dried and shredded (use a ceramic knife if possible)
2 boxes of nacho chips
6 pc fresh ripe tomatoes, diced and soaked in mango juice for 30 mins, then drained
1 pc big onion, soaked in pineapple juice  for 30 mins. then drained

For the Three-Cheese sauce-
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh milk
3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Edam cheese (Queso de Bola)

For the Chili Con Carne-
1 pack red kidney beans (about 200 g), soaked overnight and drained
2 tbsps vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 head garlic, finely minced
500 g  ground round beef
1 can whole tomatoes (500 grams)
4 pieces bottled hot cherry or jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (add or decrease, based on your preference)
1 small pack tomato paste
1/2  tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2  tsp Spanish Paprika
1/2 tsp dried ground oregano
1/4 tsp All spice 
1/4 tsp dried cloves
1 small bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
dash cayenne pepper, or to taste1 tablespoon chili powder


Soak the beans overnight in water. Rinse and drain right before cooking. Place in a large pan and add 2-3 cups of water. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour, or until tender. Drain.

In a large pan or wok, sautee the onion, garlic and beef in oil. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste peppers and spices. Cover and let it simmer for 1 hour. Uncover and add the beans and let it simmer until the sauce reaches a thick. Remember to stir so the bottom doesn't burn.



Melt the  butter by placing it on a ceramic bowl placed on top of a hot water basin.  Remove from heat. Stir in flour and seasonings. Gradually add the milk and stir until until well mixed. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Slowly add the cheese and stir until smooth and well blended.

Heat the nachos as instructed in the pack. Place on a platter. 
Add a layer of the shredded lettuce.
 Sprinkle with the tomatoes and onions.

Ladle in a hefty amount of the Chili Con Carne.

Pour Three-Cheese Sauce. Serve and enjoy.

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