Progress and Persistance (Cabin Weekend, Part V)

March 2012

More years ago than I care to admit, I found myself staying in an enviable adobe house in the Arizona desert as part of a volunteering trip.  Each volunteer was in charge of one dinner.  College freshman me was not the With The Grains me, and I was completely out of my element.

My dinner “menu” was a sad “taco” comprised of a canned trio of beans, salsa from a jar and a sad excuse for cheese (I was still under the impression “low fat” was something I should seek on a label).  Though the diners were positive in their reviews, I can only assume that taco meal was lackluster to say the least.  Fast forward to a dinner at the special cabin in the woods, and I do say so myself- I have progressed tremendously!

While I was busy in the kitchen witnessing my full progression, he was busy proving persistance pays off…

… pays off in the form of 1000 pieces forming a sea bass(?).  ONE THOUSAND PIECES!  He did it allllll by himself too!  I literally did not help in the least bit, and my dorky heart fluttered a bit at the sight of his nerdy puzzle persistance [bordering on obsessiveness].

Beef Enchiladas
(A far cry from sad “tacos”)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review 


3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon organic brown sugar
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
~1 lb local beef chuck flat iron steaks
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, chopped (~2 cups)
1 (15 oz) can organic tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
8 oz organic cheddar and monterey jack cheese, shredded (~2 cups)
1/3 cup cilantro
1/4 cup chopped canned pickled jalapeños
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas


Combine the garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, sugar, cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Cook the meat until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a plate. Cut the meat into strips and set aside.

Add the onions to the pot, and cook over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil.

Return the meat and juices to the pot, cover, reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer until the meat is tender and can be broken apart with a spoon, about 1 ½ hours.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Strain the beef mixture over a medium bowl, breaking the meat into small pieces; reserve the sauce.

Transfer the meat to a bowl and mix with 1 cup of cheese, cilantro and jalapeños.

Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a cast iron skillet (I used an 11 inch skillet).

Spread 1/3 cup of the beef mixture down the center of each tortilla, roll the tortilla tightly, and set in the skillet, seam side down.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas and beef mixture (squish if need be).

Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and spread to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese evenly over the enchiladas.

Wrap the baking dish with foil, and bake until heated through, 20-25 minutes.

Remove the foil, and continue baking until the cheese is bubbling and has browned slightly, 5-10 minutes.

Serve to a puzzle pro (who may be convinced to take a break in order to mash up some guac), and enjoy how far you have come in life!

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