Approximations of the Nachos kind

I’ve mentioned the bountifulness of my pantry in a previous post, but what I didn’t mention was that its bountifulness means that I usually forget what’s in it. Sometimes I come home from the shops with 5 packets of pasta, only to find the pantry overflowing with their identical carb-loaded buddies. And then when I think I’ve got something in there, I actually don’t.

I used to flavour my beef for nachos and burritos with little sachets of Mexican seasonings purchased from the supermarket. Of course, one day when I started to cook nachos for dinner, my pantry yielded not even one little yellow packet.

Now Daddyken wasn’t home at the time, so it would have meant I either had to bribe the Cherubs with some lurid-coloured, sugar-infested sweet, or endure the wrath that is the Cherubs being dragged from whatever life-changing thing they were doing, into the car, in order to go to the shops just to buy a $2 sachet of ingredients that was probably more than 50% not natural.

So I rallied up my spices and winged it… and my family didn’t even flinch. Now the reason wasn’t because of my amazing culinary ability to reproduce authentic recipes based on the ingredients in seasoning packets, but because they’re used to me changing recipes on them. And unfortunately, they’ve never been to an actual Mexican restaurant… We have Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian and Italian restaurants in the suburbs, but Mexican restaurants aren’t common – they’ve only really started to pop up in the city in the last few years.

003

I’ve also found out recently that nachos isn’t actually an authentic Mexican dish. It’s Tex-Mex! Reminds me of when I tasted ‘Beef in black bean sauce’ for the first time in a Chinese take-away when I was a teenager. I couldn’t believe I was Chinese and had never come across the dish before! (there’s a reason why of course – it doesn’t actually exist in the dark, salty, gooey-sauce form that’s offered in take-aways). I have also never ordered it since.

Luckily Daddyken loves my approximation of Tex-Mex Nachos. It’s easy to make and the accompaniments make it light and fresh. And I hope that when we do eventually make it to a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant, they won’t be too startled with the difference in taste!

My Tex-Mex Nachos

Serves 4

Gluten free (if using corn chips)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 500g minced beef
  • Small bunch of coriander (plus extra for serving)

To serve:

  • Avocado, tomato, lettuce, chopped
  • Coriander
  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Lime
  • Corn chips or tortillas (cut into wedges and toasted in oven)

Cook:

  • Heat olive oil on a medium-high heat and add the onions
  • Cook for 3 minutes and add the capsicum
  • When the onion and capsicum is soft, add the spices and tomato paste, and cook for 2 minutes
  • Turn the heat up to high, add the mince and cook until the mince is cooked through
  • Turn the heat to low and simmer for half an hour
  • Add the coriander and simmer for another 10 minutes

To serve, spoon the meat mixture onto a bowl of corn chips or tortillas, add a spoonful of each of the veges, cheese, sour cream, coriander and a squeeze of lime.

060

Notes:

  • The general method is to put the cheese with the meat under the grill for a yummy melted cheese sensation. We don’t – just because we think it’s yummy as it is and it’s also too much effort!
  • Daddyken likes to add store-bought tomato salsa to his nachos, but I think it’s fine without.
  • Eat without the corn chips or tortillas and you’ve got yourself a yummy, filling carb-free meal!

The Carb Curb

I adore a thin, chewy, stretchy pizza base cooked in a wood fired oven sprinkled sparsely with prosciutto, rocket and mozzarella. Sweet, gooey, sugar laden rose pink hued cubes of turkish delight. Thick, toasted sourdough bread spread generously with real butter. Slippery, slurpy noodles lazing in a warm bowl of beef pho…

Carbohydrates, glorious carbohydrates! Those comforting carbs…they just seem to be able to cuddle me in a way that no other food could. Every meal was only complete when there was a whole bowl or plate of them. Empty and unsatisfying without.

pho-263127_1920

But alas, my joyous run of uninhibited carb over-indulgence came to a screeching halt when I was pregnant with Soccer Boy. Gestational diabetes struck.

At the Diabetes Centre at the hospital, I was one of 6 pregnant mums politely nodding hello to each other. The nutritionist did her little talk about how our bodies can’t cope with the extra demand for insulin production resulting in high blood glucose levels, blah blah blah. That we could manage our gestational diabetes by monitoring blood glucose levels blah blah, adopting a healthy eating plan and performing regular physical activity, blah, blah, blah. Of course, I knew that I got this, with my healthy food and occasional exercise. How hard could it be?

She then went around the room asking each of us in turn about our diets. I nodded in sympathy with the other mums. Chapatis? Yes, of course you can still eat them. How many? 3? Oh, just have half. Of one. Yep, I thought smugly, three is definitely way too many. Half is perfect. Toast? No, not 4 slices, just 1 thin slice. If it’s a thick cut, have half of that. From my pedestal, I smirked. Who has 4 slices in one sitting anyway? That’s just gluttony.

And then she took out a small bowl with what looked like 3 spoonfuls of rice in it… I stared… um, how much did you say that I could have? One? Like that is, like, I mean, like that’s one serve you’ve got there in that bowl? In that silly plastic bowl, my carb allowance shrank by 70%. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the mum who ate too much toast give me an uncharitable look of sympathy.

So it turned out that I was eating the right things, just in the wrong proportions. Way, way wrong proportions. Apparently lots of carb, some more carb, just a bit more carb, lots of meat, more meat and a token vegetable, no matter how fresh, in the one sitting wasn’t the way to go. And I needed to spread my meals throughout the day. No more 3 large meals, just 6 smaller ones every 2 -3 hours.

bread-1151398_1920

With effective management of gestational diabetes you’ll reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and the birth of your babies. That darn nutritionist knew how to press my buttons.

So I withdrew from the restaurant scene (silly hidden carbs everywhere), and set my energy into writing a food diary for the nutritionist and started carb counting with military precision. Luckily Daddyken was reasonably patient. Can we have dinner now?

What? Oh, yes, in 23 minutes.

But everything’s cooked and ready.

Yes it is, but we’ll eat in… yep 22 minutes. I had my afternoon snack an hour and 38 minutes ago. It hasn’t been two hours yet.

I was determined to carb it up after Soccer Boy was born. And so after he came out fat and healthy, I totally eased up on my carb counting. But dang it – I found that I could no longer stomach the amount of carbs I used to inhale in my pre-Soccer Boy days. I just felt bloated, heavy and even unhealthy.

Five years on and I’m still working on trying to eat more vegetables and finding a good balance with the food that I eat and cook, although I have managed to curb my carb intake. Especially for the sake of the Cherubs, I try to minimize the amount of salt and sugar I add to our food, serve more whole grains and limit junk food to a bare minimum. But it’s hard when the Cherubs tell me what their school friends are eating (chips and Tiny Teddies) at recess, while they get apple or cucumber. And it’s particularly tough when they come home from a party with a lolly bag… have you ever seen a grown woman wrestle a lolly bag from a child?

lollys-50738_1920

So you’ll find that the recipes I post will have been tampered with – usually the salt or sugar will have been reduced. Oh, but I’m not shy about fat in my food. No carb in that : )