Category Archives: Mexican

Carnitas tacos: $1.40/serving

It’s been a very long time since I’ve found a pork roast for less than $3 a pound anywhere except Winco, but I happened to be walking by at the precise moment the Fred Meyer butcher came out with the markdown cart, and snatched this one up before anyone else could even glance at it. It’s not a fabulous deal, but it’s within budget. To celebrate, I’m breaking one of the tenet rules of the $35 a Week Plan: Don’t meat the centerpiece of the meal. This meal is pretty much all meat (save for the tortillas, pickled onions and cilantro), but since I only do it once or twice a year, I’m only slightly repentant. Besides, if you’re going to go all out with pork, carnitas is the way to do it.

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Chicken taco stuffed shells: $2.04/serving

Astute readers recall there have been a couple meals on this blog that veer (in my mind, anyway) dangerously into “Semi-Homemade” territory. Thankfully it’s literally been only a couple—the mini-meatloaves that use prepackaged onion soup mix, and the honey-lime chicken enchiladas for which store-bought flour tortillas are absolutely mandatory. As ashamed as I am of posting those (which I did because, as much as it pains me to admit it, they’re too good not to share), this recipe absolutely takes the cake. I practically had to put a paper bag over my head when it came time to buy prepackaged taco seasoning and taco sauce. The worst part is that I’ve tried quite a few times to make this using my own taco seasoning and taco sauce, and it’s never the same. I will never feel comfortable putting in the amounts of salt, sugar and MSG the big companies do, and it’s all necessary in this dish. This is certainly not something you’d serve at a dinner party, or even admit in public to making, but it’s a quintessential crowd pleaser—perfect for potlucks, parties, kids, bringing to someone who’s sick or has a new baby at home, and so on. A word of warning: They are addictive.

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Baked oat groats with mushrooms, epazote & cotija cheese: 96 cents/serving

Also known as Got Too Excited at the Mexican Market and Had No Idea How to Use Up What I Bought. I didn’t have any immediate plans for a bunch of fresh epazote and the little wheel of cotija cheese I found on markdown for $1. I had originally tried to make Salvadorean pupusas, which were edible, but the creation was too fussy and difficult to inflict on readers. (Believe it or not, I don’t post everything I make here; just dishes that are both worthy of making again and that I feel are possible for folks to successfully re-create on their own.) Instead, I decided to use the oat groats I still had on hand from the oat groats with blue cheese, walnuts & spinach and cook them as one would cook traditional arroz verde, in broth puréed with herbs. It turned out to be a great introduction to epazote, whose flavor can be kind of overwhelming on its own. If you can’t find fresh epazote (I don’t recommend dried), cilantro or parsley, or a mixture of the two, can be substituted.

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Xoconostle (cactus fruit) sorbet: 72 cents/serving

Despite my long-held belief that one did not exist in the Portland metro area, I have finally found a truly great Mexican market.* A voluminous produce aisle, bin after bin of dried and fresh chiles, banana leaves, you name it. It even had something I had never heard of or seen before: xoconostle. At first I thought they were prickly pears, but upon further inspection I discovered they were smaller, paler, and spineless. Throwing caution to the wind, I bought some. Once I got them home and cut them open, I was even more confused. Not only was the flesh pale and all the seeds centered in the middle, unlike a prickly pear, but the things were sour. Like, lemon sour. As in, would probably make a super-refershing sorbet sour.

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Chiles en nogada (fruit-and-pork-stuffed chiles in white walnut sauce): $2.09/serving

As you may or may not be aware, chiles en nogada is the official dish of Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16.  As you no doubt are very much aware, it’s currently March. But here in the land of eating on $35 a week, chiles en nogada is also the official dish of discount pork butt and spectacularly attractive and inexpensive poblano chiles found at the Mexican market. For those who have never had chiles en nogada, it’s a more sophisticated, nuanced and CHEAPER (minus all that cheese) version of chiles rellenos. The contrast of the sweet pork and fruit with the spicy poblano and creamy, nutty sauce is not to be missed. (For authenticity’s sake I’ll note that it usually has pomegranate seeds and not cilantro, so as to depict the Mexican flag, but no pomegranates could be found on sale.)

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Splurge: honey-lime chicken enchiladas: $3.32/serving


This is a recipe I have avoided putting on the blog for some time, as it is not only expensive and somewhat unphotogenic, but uses quite a few processed ingredients, including canned enchilada sauce. However, it is also a recipe that cannot be ignored, because people are obsessed with these enchiladas. Almost unhealthily so. The mere mention of their impending existence can make or break B.’s week, and they’ve been served at conventions (by one of my brothers-in-law, who has a food handler’s license), family gatherings and all manner of celebrations. They’re sweet and spicy and tangy and rich and so utterly wrong they’re nothing but right, and I have no doubt anyone you serve them to will agree.

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Burrito pie: $1.41/serving

As if the name and photo didn’t already give it away, this hot mess of a meal dates back to when I first graduated from college. (The recipe is scrawled in my even-back-then-barely-legible handwriting on a stained, torn-out sheet of binder paper.) It doesn’t really have anything to do with burritos, or pie, but no one has ever cared. It’s not only quick to throw together on a weeknight, but it’s turned out to be one of B.’s favorite dishes. He’s lucky I even made it for him in the first place, but I do admit, even after all these years it’s still pretty good in an early-aughts “Mexican” food kind of way.

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Tofu mole tacos: 42 cents each

Now, I’m not always one to toot my own horn, but I hereby announce that this is the best tofu dish I’ve ever made—or even tasted. I’m not anti-tofu by any means, but even I admit it can be an impenetrable, waterlogged block of blah, resistant to all but the most drastic attempts at flavor or textural improvements. This dish changes all of that. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to even tell this is tofu—it has a firm, almost meat-like texture and really soaks up the rich, chocolatey mole flavor. (This does call for pre-made mole sauce. Back in October I made a super-fantastic version from scratch and still had a bag of it kicking around the freezer, which is how I conceived of this dish to begin with. You can certainly use store-bought, but be forewarned I can’t vouch for it in taste or price.)

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Sopa de lima (Mexican lime soup): 93 cents/serving

Yes, I am aware this looks like the handiwork of a blind and mentally challenged intern at Chevy’s. The blame lies partly with my iPhone “photography” and partly with the fact that I was hungry and didn’t feel like spending 10 minutes artfully arranging tortilla strips and individual strands of cheese. But trust me, you won’t care what it looks like either when you make it. It’s that good. In fact, I usually make this in the summer when I’m craving light, citrusy things, but my husband specifically requested it this week, so I went with it. And, turns out, it’s just as good in the cold-weather months as it is the warmer ones.

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