On Cinco de Mayo this year, my husband and I arrived at a ski resort in California where we were hoping to do some forest-y hiking (I packed only shorts to hike in because California, right?). It was snowing, we were literally the only humans there and as we were driving in, the local radio station was explaining in great detail what not to do (with no mention of what to do) when (not if) you come into contact with a mountain lion.
This may seem very asparagus princess naïve of me, but we’re from BC and are used to the ski resorts that don’t have off seasons, just times when the skiing and mountain biking cross over, the local hikes are so heavily populated that unless you go deep woods, the wildlife usually know how to not put a human between themselves and their babies, and if you pack wrong, you can probably find yourself a touristy hoodie or toque to make up for it.
It was really beautiful and I know it would have been some better prepared person’s cup of tea, but we hit it at the wrong time and it felt like The Shining to me, and no. But it was Cinco de Mayo and we didn’t really have a backup plan, so by some miracle, we found a little Mexican place open for lunch and decided to go for it. By go for it, I mean get lunch and think about it.
Hypothetically, Mexican food can be a pretty healthy food option. It’s not overly refined, they celebrate veggies and have lots of veg options and as long as you remember to request no dairy, and go easy on the chips and salsa that magically appear on the table before you’ve even ordered, you could come out of it feeling good.
Chile relleno, a stuffed pepper baked in tomato sauce, sounds like a healthy but delicious party, right? I love stuffed veggies; so much promise for tasty filling and ample vegetable-y-ness, but chile relleno is stuffed with cheese, which is tricky to circumnavigate, and is often battered and deep-fried. So you’d be better off with veggie tacos/fajitas, or the kale chips from Starbucks that were sitting in the cup spot of your car, even if they do contain sugar (side not: Starbucks, thank you for your clean bathrooms but why on earth do your kale chips contain sugar?!)
Chile relleno is my husband’s favourite wild card thing to order at a Mexican restaurant. He only orders it when it’s been long enough since the last time he had it to forget what it really is, and how it makes him feel. It’s what he ordered in that little Mexican place in the Stephen King novel that day and this is what arrived:
We both laughed so hard and decided not to check into our hotel and instead roll down the windows and take our chances with the open road (aka our next stop, Palm Springs –very rugged).
Weeks later, when we finally got home, I had to make a clean version of this, a version that I would totally order and that I wish existed in the world. Keep in mind, I am Canadian, we learn (and promptly forget) French in school and try to stay warm and dry most of the year. I wasn’t looking for authenticity here, just the version that I always have pictured in my mind when Wes orders it and I secretly wonder if I’ll be jealous when our food arrives.
My version is dairy-free (obvs) and the filling is, among other things, a purée of white beans and cauliflower. It’s hearty and delicious (even Wes liked it and ate it two days in a row, which is truly a miracle in our house) but if you’re looking for something resembling a more authentic cheesy filling, try filling it with this cheese recipe or this one or this one. The recipes for the black refried beans and cauliflower rice (pictured) can be found here. If you’re feeling wild, you could stuff the peppers with either of those too, you would just have to cut them open more (make a slit up the side and then roll them over to bake them with the cut side down). Serve with lots of guacamole and fresh salsa.
- Stuffed Pepper:
- 4-5 Poblano Peppers (or any pepper)
- ½ tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- 500 g Cauliflower (about half of one), cut into small pieces
- ¾ c Canellini/white beans
- ½ Onion, diced
- 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsp Hemp Hearts
- ½ tsp Cumin, ground
- ½ tsp Chili Powder
- ⅛ tsp Turmeric, dried (1/4 tsp if fresh)
- Sea(weed) Salt to taste
- ½ tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- ½ Onion, diced
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- ½ Jalapeño, diced small (optional)
- 1 bottle (750 ml/ 3c) of Passata (or 5 c puréed fresh tomatoes)
- 3 c Water
- Fresh Cilantro
- Fresh Lime
- Preheat the oven to 350*F
- Sauté the onion in the coconut oil and a splash of water until translucent and soft.
- Add the garlic and and spices and sauté for another minute.
- Add the cauliflower, beans and ½ c of water and put a lid on top so that the cauliflower steams.
- Once the cauliflower becomes very soft (add more water if you have to), remove the lid and cook off the excess water.
- In a blender or food processor, blend until very smooth. Season to taste.
- Cut little doors into the top part of the peppers (see picture)
- Transfer cauliflower filling to a piping bag (or ziplock with the corner snipped off)
- Pipe the filling through the door of the pepper (if this is too finicky for you, cut the top off of the pepper or cut a slit up the side and spoon the contents in).
- Put the stuffed peppers on top of the tomato sauce, in a casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes or until peppers are soft.
- Top with chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
- Serve with guacamole, salsa (and cauliflower rice and refried black beans!)
- In the coconut oil and a splash of water, sauté the onion until soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté for another minute.
- Add the tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil, then turn the heat off.
- Pour the (watery) tomato sauce into a casserole dish (it will continue to cook down in the oven).