Scrambled Rancher Eggs and Beef with Tortilla Straw and Yogurt
Last week, I had the great pleasure of teaching a cooking class for the Food Bank Of Western Massachusetts. The theme for the class was: "Healthy Latin Breakfast On-the- Go". The objective was to teach members of the Food Bank agencies how to prepare healthy and delicious breakfast menus using foods readily available to them. My goal was to develop quick and easy Latin recipes that offered them novel and nutritious options for breakfast, as well as to inspire my students to take a few minutes every day to cook succulent and healthy meals for their families.
Research shows that children who start each day with a healthy meal perform better at school. However many go to school without any real sustenance in their system. Highly-sugared breakfast cereals seem like the most economical breakfast meals at hand but there are healthier options that offer protein--so needed for a lasting feeling of satiety--and vitamins. I wanted to show eager parents how to cook healthier options on a budget. At no other time is it more imperative to remind people to take care of themselves and to include breakfast in their daily routine than when the economy turns sour. Most people react to this situation by attempting to cut corners and skip this most important meal of the day. At issue are the cost of ingredients and the element of time.
However, aided by the generous assistance of food banks all over our nation, many are finding that breakfast is once more available to their families. I had one secret to share with my class: Latin food is not expensive. Ours is a cuisine born of simplicity and need and therefore offers a tremendously exciting array of culinary possibilities that do not break the budget.
In addition to creating these healthy and economical Latin recipes for my students, I added two utterly important elements for each dish: First, the food needed to be quick to prepare and second, it had to have great aesthetic appeal.
As people become more preoccupied with solving their problems they dedicate less time to themselves; therefore my recipes had to take as little time as possible from start to finish, so I provided my students with make-ahead tips and easy steps so they could have breakfast readied in minutes. During my class I reminded them why we all deserve to give ourselves a gift of time for health every day, no matter the level of difficulty of our individual economic situations. It is more than okay to take care of ourselves by feeding our bodies and comforting our souls--this is the meaning of "comfort foods" .
By making each dish look beautiful we automatically start the day with a positive outlook. Everyone deserves to eat healthy, delicious, beautiful, and nutritious food every day. Pretty food is not only for fancy ocassions--a little bit of color, some interesting textural differences, a touch of elegance is at everyone's reach on a daily basis. I encouraged each one of them to claim some beauty for themselves every morning and lift their spirits every day. It is a gift of kindness to self and family; it is a daily offering of love and dignity that is free for all.
My enthusiastic students joined me in shaping delicious Pupusas and helped to fill healthy breakfast Quesadillas; we created my new-fangled version of Huevos Rancheros and made our dishes look gorgeous in the process. What follows below is the menu of my class and one of the recipes we cooked together. I left that evening with the strong feeling that I had shared many exciting options for healthy Latin breakfasts and with a clear reminder of why I love teaching others how to cook. What they gave me in return was worth so much more than anything I offered them: A gift of inspiration and hope for a better future.
"Healthy On-the-Go Latin Breakfast"
Huevos Revueltos a la Ranchera con Carne, Paja de Tortillas y Yogurt (Scrambled Rancher Eggs and Beef with Tortilla Straw and Yogurt)
Sincronizadas con Pico de Maiz (Ham and Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Pico)
Pupusas de Frijoles con Tomate Y Curtido (Black Bean Salvadorian Masa Cakes with Sauce and Slaw)
Huevos Revueltos a la Ranchera con Carne, Paja de Tortilla y Yogurt
4 corn tortillas
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 jalapenos, seeded (fresh or pickled)
1 cup chopped onion
1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes
1/2 pound ground beef
Salt and Pepper to taste
6 eggs beaten
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopoped cilantro
Slice tortillas into very thin strips; place them in a baking sheet and coat them with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the tortilla strips until they are a nice golden color; remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool. (May be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and kept in a bag at room temperature). In a blender combine the garlic cloves, jalapenos, onion, and tomatoes; blend until smooth. In a large non-stick skillet add the ground beef and brown; drain the fat off and add the blended vegetable sauce. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly, over medium-high heat; season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the sauce to a separate bowl (if you need to the sauce can be prepared ahead of time and kept chilled for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to 1 month). Add the beaten eggs to the skillet and cook, while stirring, to scramble them to your liking. Serve the eggs topped with the beef sauce; top with a dollop of yogurt. Sprinkle with some of the tortilla strips and with the chopped cilantro. Yield 4-6 servings.
Copyright. Sandra Gutierrez, 2008; All Rights Reserved.