Cantina Mexican Grill

Happy Cinco de Mayo!! Today Nadira and I celebrated with lunch at Cantina Mexican Grill. I drive past this restaurant about 10 to 12 times a week, but today was the first time I stepped inside. They were very busy, but as soon as one party left they had the table ready for the next to be seated. We got in after just a few minutes, even though the restaurant was packed!

We didn’t actually have the famous bean dip. I’ll have to find out if it’s vegan ’cause if it is, I must try it next time.

It’s so cozy in the main dining area (there’s a basement, but it’s only open for dinner). Each booth is in one of the sort of alcoves in rows on either side of the bar. We couldn’t really see the other tables over the bar, so it felt nice and private. The one problem for vegans is…the booths are lined with what appears to be calfskin. Furry calfskin. I think they also had non-booth seating, might check that out next time. Anyway.

We started our meal with a couple Coronas. I had already looked over the menu and knew I wanted the Mexican pizza, if it could be veganized. The waiter was super helpful and offered to add extra veggies, and add a side of guacamole.

The pizza turned out beautifully. Ranchero sauce with refried beans, black beans, black olives, onions, green onions, tomatos, and jalapenos.

All of this on a flaky, fried tortilla crust. The waiter said he had never seen anyone eat an entire pizza before 🙂 He asked if I thought it was good enough to put on the menu, and I said DEFINITELY! I hope they really do add it.
I’d like to go back again for dinner, check out more of the menu & the room in the basement, and maybe play a game of pool with my dad. I hope I don’t ruin their pool table. Oh, and when it’s not rainy and gray you can sit outside!

Did you do anything special for Cinco de Mayo?

Vegan Veggie Quesadillas

Just wanted to quickly show off the quesadillas I made using my vegan coconut milk cheese & the oat mozzarella recipe I found on another blog. The oat mozzarella was moulded in a greased bowl and came out really shiny looking, like jello! But it works just fine, and looks a little cheezlier once you cut it 🙂

So, the oat mozzarella is pretty soft. You can cut it if you’re careful, and it spreads very easily.

I added a little Frank’s Redhot Sauce, and a TON of onion.

Spread some avocado on the other tortilla, and you really don’t need anything else.

I heated these for a few minutes on each side, in a dry pan over low medium heat.

Both the oat mozzarella and the coconut milk cheese got nice and melty. I ate them on their own, but they’d be great with a bean dip and cashew cream!

Oh yeah, and they’re oil free, perfect for a strict fasting day. Aaaaand in these corn tortillas, they’re gluten free!

Vegan Sofritas at Chipotle

Not too long ago, Chipotle restaurants in Michigan finally started selling Sofritas. Hooray!! And I recently had a chance to try it.


Sofritas comes from sofrito, a Spanish word meaning, “gently fried.” In Spanish and Latin American cooking, sofrito is an aromatic combination of sautéed garlic, peppers, onions, and tomatoes often used as a base for stews, rice and beans, and meat dishes.

(Thanks, google!)

As you can see, the Chipotle sofritas is made of tofu braised with chipotle chilis and roasted poblano peppers. Ordering tofu always seems a little scary to me because it was just recently tofu went mainstream, and people figured out how to prepare it in a way that actually tastes good. Still, every time I order tofu I try not to get my hopes up. I expect it to taste, well, kind of like Nothing.

I always enjoy watching the burrito artist try to wrap my burrito. I had black beans, rice, salsa, veggies, guacamole, and the star of the show…a big ol’ spoonful of Sofritas. I have no idea how anyone eats these things without making a huge mess.

Anyway, I’m giving the Sofritas an A+. There was no weird tofu texture, I’m not even sure I would’ve guessed it was tofu if I hadn’t known. And by braising it, the tofu really absorbed all the flavors. It had a mild taste that reminded more of tomatoes than peppers, but in a very good way. The veggie burritos are pretty filling anyway, but with the addition of Sofritas and a side of chips & salsa, I didn’t need to eat dinner after having this for lunch.

In case you’re wondering about the other ingredients, here’s the Special Diet Information from Chipotle’s website.

Have you tried the Sofritas yet? What did you think?

Part of my Restaurant Week 2014

Lindo Mexico Restaurant

Last week, Mumra and I were driving around 28th street when we passed this little Mexican restaurant and decided to check it out.

Lindo Mexico Restaurant. It was at an odd hour on Monday, so not many people around…

There’s just the one entrance on the side of the building, you go up the ramp to get in.

Cute place. I’m not sure why we hadn’t been here before!

As usual, we were starving (in a first world way). Luckily the menu is very vegan-friendly!

Chips and salsa (mild & hot) were free! We ordered a small bowl of guac, and bean dip – refried beans with onions and cilantro on top. The beans are cooked with vegetable oil, but you’ll have to ask for no cheese to keep it vegan. If you’re a salt person, you may have to add salt to both the beans and guacamole. I did…I love salt.

You could almost have a meal with just the appetizers, but we decided to try the vegetarian burritos.

The one in the foreground is mine, with a mild red sauce. Mumra’s in the background has the spicy green sauce, and is topped with onions and jalapenos. Once again, to keep it vegan ask for no cheese and no sour cream.

The burritos were really filling because of the rice. We added avocado to kind of replace the dairy, but it wasn’t necessary at all. The veggies inside were more traditional: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini. They were nice and tender, the cauliflower was my favorite. The mild red sauce really was very mild, I ended up adding a little hot sauce. Adding a bit of the red salsa was good, too.

We liked everything about the place. Our waitress was very friendly and happy to answer questions about the menu, and make whatever changes we wanted. The prices were reasonable, the portions big enough for Mumra to bring leftovers home. I shamefully ate all my food even though I should’ve stopped halfway through the burrito.

Hopefully we’ll be back sometime for Happy Hour, or the Tuesday night drink special featuring a bucket of Coronas 🙂

Roasted Veggie & Mushroom Tacos

Okay, I’m finally getting back into cooking, I’ve been doing pretty well the last few days. I’m on a tight budget, but I figured $1.33 for a huge pack of corn tortillas wouldn’t break the bank. Everything else I had at home already. So…let’s make tacos! Preheat the oven to 425. You will also want to have some sort of bean dip on hand. I humbly recommend:

Bean Dip #3
Bean Dip #2
Tahini Bean Dip

Or any bean dip of your choosing. I always just throw something together.

Slice three medium potatoes not quite all the way through, chop a couple carrots and as much onion as you want. Put everything in a baking dish and drizzle with oil of your choice – make sure there’s enough oil so you’ll be able to baste the veggies. Season with sea salt, black pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove foil and baste veggies with oil. Then place uncovered baking dish back in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until veggies begin to brown.

Everything should be nice and tender. Meanwhile…

Heat some oil in a pan, and cook onion, bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and fresh garlic. I simply seasoned mine with salt & pepper. Stir occasionally until veggies are soft.

I like to scooch the veggies over to one side of the pan and cook my tortillas in the oil, a minute or two on each side.

While the tortillas are heating, add a squeeze or two or three of lime juice to the veggies. 1/2 to 1 whole lime should do it.

Now, spread some bean dip on the tortillas, and arrange veggies on one half. I added a bit of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce to one, and Just Mayo brand Srircha mayo to another.

Fold like so.

I had four wonderful tacos and still had lots of the roasted veggies leftover because I used more of the sauteed veggies and mushrooms than I did potato & carrots. If the veggies are distributed evenly, you should be able to get 8 tacos (although the potatoes are great leftover!!!).

I don’t know why, but tacos are so satisfying…what are your favorite taco fillings?

Crunchy Kidney Beans

Sometimes it’s hard coming up with names for things, I apologize if the title of this recipe made you think it’s kidney beans for hippies. It’s not. These beans are for everyone.

So anyway. Start by sauteing chopped onion, sprinkled with salt, in oil over medium low heat until the onions begin to soften. Add a can of drained & rinsed kidney beans, and as much minced garlic as your little heart desires. Stir it up and cook a few minutes.

Season to taste with black pepper, cumin, a little chili powder, and smoked paprika. Dash of chipotle powder optional, a little dill would also be nice. Stir and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Chopped red bell pepper. Stir it up.

A couple handfuls of crushed tortilla chips, and lots and lots of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

And maybe a little extra drizzle of olive oil. Remove from heat…

No need to get a plate dirty if you’re eating these all by your lonesome. A nice, big meal for one, or a side for two. OR serve it with Mexican rice and make it a meal for two. Or, or, or.

Anyway. It’s really good, especially if you let the beans brown a little so they have a firm texture. Eat it right away so the chips are still crunchy, and try to get a piece of everything in each bite. It is wonderful.

belated super bowl post: eggplant tacos & nachos

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I love the Super Bowl, basically because it’s another excuse to make a bunch of food. This year I made dinner for Amanda. When pressed about whether or not we’d actually be watching the game, I admitted, “It will probably be on in the background while we eat and talk about boys.” But you know – we actually did watch most of the game! After we finished eating. And talking about boys.

Anyway. Poor Broncos. The whole time we were watching I couldn’t help thinking, “They are getting Qrunched!” Because Denver is home to the Qrunch Burger. Oh well. On to the food.

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I was thinking of making eggplant pizza, but I didn’t have the stuff for a gluten free crust for Amanda. So, why not tacos? I cut the eggplant into strips the size of chunky french fries and cooked them with onions in oil over medium heat, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic & a little cumin. Cook until the eggplant is soft, brown if desired.

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Meanwhile I made a bowl of guacamole with three mashed avocados, a shot of tequila, a sprinkling of salt.

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Next I whipped up some extra garlicky refried beans. Cook as much garlic as you want in oil over medium heat for a minute or two to infuse the oil with the garlic flavor. I did at least 2 Tbsp, maybe 3.

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Add a can of refried beans. I seasoned mine with pepper, Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and a little nutritional yeast.

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Turn the heat down to low and the let flavors cook in for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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We must have a tahini sauce, for the tacos and also to make nachos. Add tons of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, and onion powder to taste. Turmeric for color. Nutritional yeast optional, just for a little B12 boost. A tiny squirt of mustard is good. A little water to thin it down.

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Gorgeous. Mince some veggies for the nachos – I used bell pepper, onion, and tomato.

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Here’s our meal.

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The corn tortillas are filled with eggplant & onions, guac, and refried beans. We thought the eggplant made a great substitute for meat. I felt bad I didn’t do a big spread like last year, but we just kept eating and eating and eating until, once again, we were too full for our dessert.

And after writing about it and looking at the pictures, I’m really hungry for tacos and nachos again. Do you have a favorite food you could every single day and never get tired of?

fresh salsa bean dip tacos

20131203 veggie tacos

Just a quick one here, this is another meal I threw together when I was going through my taco phase a week or two ago. I had some refried beans to use up, so…

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I made a fresh salsa with finely diced tomato, onion, green pepper, lemon juice, dill, and salt.

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Add it to the beans (you may season the beans as you please with Mexican-ish spices)…

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stir it up…

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taco it. I used soft corn tortillas warmed in a hot, dry skillet. I heated the beans just until warm so the veggies in the salsa wouldn’t cook, but you can cook them if you’d like.

Unless you’re using beans with oil, this is oil-free and perfect for a strict fasting day. On on non-strict fasting day, you can add olive oil to the salsa for a little extra somethin’.

bean dip #4

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To go along with the taco theme, yet another bean dip. I ended up being too lazy to make tacos the night I made this, but the next day I used some leftovers in a taco salad for lunch. I’ll post that later.

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Saute onions and garlic in oil for a couple minutes, then add one can of drained and rinsed kidney beans. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and whatever else you like. I usually add a little dill and onion powder.

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Stir it up. Let it cook at least 10 minutes over low medium heat.

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Then add one can of refried beans. At this point I also add Frank’s Red Hot Sauce to taste, along with a little vinegar. You could also add some olive oil.

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I also added corn to this one. Since it’s sweet, I added a little more salt. You can add some turmeric, too, if you have some. If you’re adding bell peppers, add them now. Cook another 10 minutes.

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Unless you want them to cook down to nothing, add the tomatoes at the very end. Stir them in and cook just long enough to heat.

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Serve with your favorite tortilla chips. Or put it in tacos or burritos or taco salad, add it to chili, put it on nachos…there’s a lot you can do with it.

Tahini bean dip (for Oil Free Fasting Day)
Spicy, saucy bean dip
Garlic bean dip

El Arriero Mexican restaurant

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Last night we went to a Mexican restaurant in Kentwood, El Arriero. I read online they have a few good vegan options and large portions, so I was excited to check it out. For the past several months, the only Mexican I’ve had is from On The Border – they’re pretty good, but there’s really only one vegan meal on the menu. So.

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I ordered the vegetable fajitas, just ask for no cheese or sour cream.

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It came with three small corn tortillas,

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a huge dish of grilled onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and mushrooms,

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and another plate of beans (made without lard, of course), guacamole, rice (no chicken stock or anything), and some kind of fresh salsa over lettuce. The three tortillas didn’t even come close to holding all the stuff that came with them,

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and I ended up bringing home basically a whole second meal. Which I ate later in the evening. It was really good, and I liked that the staff called us amigos 🙂 They were friendly, although a bit hard to joke with in English. Our food came quickly. They didn’t use a ton of spices, so you could taste all the different components kind of in their “natural” state. I just added a *little* salt.

My giant Mexican dinner was only $9.99, well worth the price. Definitely recommended.