Sunday, May 27, 2007

Indonesian Coffee Flan at!

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Photo by Yongkie Hurd

During my vacation at Portland, Oregon(see last blog), one exciting event I did was fulfilling Julie's request to present my Indonesian Coffee Flan recipe in her Everyday Dish.TV, a newly born website to present healthy and creative cooking. This is, indeed, a wonderful site with videotaped cooking shows (click on Cooking Show) where you can view what the dishes look like and how recipes are made, in short webtv segments. No measurements of ingredients are mentioned during the videotaping since you can find the recipes on the right hand side of the cooking show page. It is a smart idea for individuals who want to learn an easy-does-it cooking by using simple recipes and simple techniques.

I was, of course, NERVOUS, because the experience was really nerve-wrecking! It was my first experience being videotaped. Just try it, cooking something with someone breathing on your neck and watching you closely or from behind your back. In my case, it was the camera and the cameraman/director/producer, Jay. I was cooking under the shining bright lights everywhere. Hence, I have never cooked like this before. But Jay was very patience with me and methodical. At one time, he offered me a shot of tequila...hhmm....what a good idea! But I didn't take a shot and was able to go through it with his help. Let me know what you think of my video: Everyday presents Indonesian Coffee Flan. You may need to download the latest Quicktime 7 for Windows to view all the cooking shows in this site. If you are an iPod user, you can subscribe and download all cooking shows from this site. DH happens to get an iPod for his birthday and will be able to show his wife cooking to everyone he knows. :-)

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Indonesian Coffee Flan is a recipe I invented because an acquaintance visited an Indonesian restaurant, had this dessert, and wanted to know how to make it. The secret ingredients are Indonesian Palm Sugar called Gula Jawa, Pandan (Southeast Asian flavoring leaf smells like vanila, also called screwpine leaf), vanilla, and a good coffee. I grew up with these ingredients and have always used agar powder in making jello-like desserts. I didn't know that gelatin powder that is used commonly in the US is made of an animal ingredient until I became a vegetarian and was told so. Indonesians have always used agar powder which is derived from seaweed for gelling desserts.

You may say, 'Wow these are EXOTIC ingredients! How can I find these ingredients?' If you live in a metropolitan area, you can find these ingredients in asian markets who usually carry Indonesian ingredients. You may find Gula Jawa (palm sugar) and agar powder in the aisle of Thai or Indonesian ingredients and the pandan leaves in the frozen section. It is very unfortunate that I can't find fresh pandan leaves in the States. The aroma of fresh pandan leaves is so wonderful!

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Agar powder found in Asian markets in small packages

If you live in a non-metropolitan area, you can find on-line sources for gula jawa: IndoMerchant or Indonesian Food Mart; agar powder: or Amazon , and pandan essence (use 1 to 2 teaspoons):

Monday, May 21, 2007

Portland, VegFest, Veganized Molé Rojo, Molé Verde, and Tamales!

I was traveling to Portland, Oregon, from May 10 - 14, 2007. The purpose was to visit friends (Julie Hasson, Bryanna, and Yongkie) and to attend Portland's VegFest 2007.

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It was a delightful journey to be close to friends I met in the Internet. Yes, Internet is a great place to meet friends who have the same taste and ideas.

Take a look at Bryanna's Blog: Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen about this event. I also went to Powell's bookstore and attended Bryanna's and Julie's demos at the VegFest. It was a lot of fun! Then, we all had a vegan asian fusion dinner at Julie's. Yum!

At Powell's (the biggest bookstore I've ever been), I bought new cookbooks. I love cookbooks! The one that was outstanding to me was the Mole! cookbook by Gwyneth Doland. It is not a vegan cookbook but I am able to veganize the recipes. I also want to make tamales with the veganized molé sauces I made from this cookbook.

It was a success! I made Vegan Molé Rojo (red molé).

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The ingredients are guajillo chiles, ancho chiles, new mexico chiles, whole cloves, canela (Mexican cinnamon), whole all spice, pecan halves, almonds, garlic, onions, tomatoes, bittersweet chocolate, and veg. broth.

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The next sauce is Vegan Molé Verde (green molé).

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The ingredients are tomatillos, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), canela(Mexican cinnamon), whole cloves, whole cumin seeds, garlic, onions, fresh pasilla chiles, fresh jalapeno chiles, fresh cilantro, and veg. broth.

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Mole Verde
Adapted and veganized from Mole! cookbook by Gwyneth Doland
Makes about 3 cups
3/4 lbs. tomatillos, husked and washed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 whole cloves
3-inch piece of canela or Mexican cinnamon
2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried
1 teaspoon salt
  1. Put the tomatillos and broth in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain the tomatillos and save the broth.
  2. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas, cumin seeds, cloves, and canela until the seeds start to pop and turn golden.
  3. Transfer the seeds and spices to the blender and puree with about 1 cup of the reserved broth from the tomatillo pot. With a rubber spatula, scrape the puree into a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Transfer the tomatillos to the empty blender. Add the jalapeno and poblano chiles, onion, and garlic. Puree while adding 1 cup of the reserved broth.
  5. Add the cilantro and puree again until smooth. Scrape this puree into a large bowl.
  6. In the cast-iron skillet, heat oil. Transfer the pepitas and spices mixture back to the skillet and fry this mixture in the oil until it browns slightly.
  7. Add the pureed tomatillos mixture to the skillet. Mix well and heat thoroughly. Add more broth if the mixture is too thick. Season with salt. Serve immediately or it can also be store in a freezer until ready to use.
Then, I made tamales' fillings using soy curls, onions, garlic, zucchini, red bell pepper, and cilantro. The fillings were cooked in these molé sauces.

Here is the picture of Molé Rojo Vegan Tamale:

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and the Molé Verde Vegan Tamale:

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BTW, I added Smoked Cheddar Sheese inside the Molé Verde Vegan Tamale and it was delish!

Now, this is a teaser for you. I won't post the recipes here but will include the recipes in Bryanna's Vegan Feast Newsletter . I haven't submitted recipes for a while so I thought I'll share my experience with vegan feasters only in the Readers' Recipes section.
On top of cooking and buying cookbook, I also went to visit my ex-roommate, Carolyn, that I haven't seen for 15 years. She suggested that we visit Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Rhododendrons are also known as Rhodies were flowering at that time. This turned out to be the highlight of my trip. We spent 2 hours in the garden and took a lot of pictures with my new camera, Canon Rebel XT Digital SLR. It was also Mother's Day that day. I promised my mother-in-law and my mom to share the pictures with them as I was thinking of them while strolling in the garden. For viewing the pictures, click here. I can't thank enough to Carolyn and her husband Michael to take me to this beautiful garden.
After enjoying the garden for 2 hours, we were famish. We went to this Lebanese restaurant(Yongkie's suggestion): Nicholas Restaurant for the best lunch I ever had in Portland. It is a family restaurant and very small. It has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options (check out their menu). This is the kind of restaurant I love: informal, family owned, small, located in not so great part of town (not in a mall or fancy location) but the waitresses and waiters are friendly and....the food is GREAT and CHEAP!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Vegan Dark Moist Spice Cake and DH's "Surprised the Guests" Birthday Party!

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It was DH's (Dear Husband) birthday! I made a vegan Dark Moist Spice Cake from More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts by Fran Costigan (my favorite dessert cookbook) for his birthday. This was an unusual request for a cake for DH who likes CHOCOLATE! I guess he wanted to be 'different' this year. Before I tell you all about this scrumptious cake, I would like to tell you about his 'surprised the guests' birthday celebration.

He had a 'surprised the guests' birthday celebration this year. This was how he was going to surprise his guests:

  1. He didn't tell his guests that it was his birthday. This was hard but apparently possible.
  2. He wanted to surprise his guests to tell them that it was his birthday party with a cake that had a Happy Birthday candle on it, at the end of the party, dessert time.
  3. He wanted to present un-birthday gifts for all guests at the party.

His plan worked great so far as the middle of dinner. The phone rang and none of us got up and thought that we let the machine picked it up. It was DH's brother who left a message on the machine loudly "Hi, it's me, your brother from Missouri, Happy Birthday....." Ooops, the cat is out of the bag! Almost all of the guests heard the message and together they yelled "OH, IT"S HIS BIRTHDAY!" It was funny. I was laughing so hard. Of course, everyone said things like 'Oh, I didn't bring anything' or 'Oh, I didn't buy a card for him.' But that's exactly what DH wanted. Indeed, the phone message was a good way to break the news. Then, he gave his surprised un-birthday gifts for all his guests who were suprisingly happy to receive it. The cake was not a surprised anymore but they all were still surprised by how scrumptious it was for a vegan cake.

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It was indeed a delicious cake! It was moist (dark molasses and maple syrup), spicy (ginger, cloves, and cinnamon), and tender. It's topped and filled with Ginger Tofu Whip (tofu, ginger juice, orange juice, maple syrup, vanilla, and a tiny bit of nutmeg). I also used maple sugar. Believe it or not, there is NO WHITE PROCESSED SUGAR in this cake! But yet it was yummy. If you like to know who invented such a healthy but sensational desserts, check out Fran Costigan's website. I recently saw her on TV making her recipe Chocolate Cake to Live For in Get Fresh with Sara Snow in Discovery Health program. YAY, Fran!

P.S.: Dinner menu consisted of (from start to end): Lentil and Walnut Paté and Muhammara dips served with crackers and fresh cut veggies, Tom Yum Soup , Spicy Seitan Stew, Confetti Rice with Coconut (these last 3 dishes were from my last blog entry), stir-fried Variety of Organic Vegetables, and Dark Moist Spice Cake.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew, Spicy Tom Yum Soup, and Savory Confetti Rice

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I am still cooking and trying recipes from Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry. 2 recipes caught my interests: Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew(pg. 173) and
Confetti Jasmine Rice with Coconut(pg. 147). They turned out very very good!

The Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew uses kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, onion, garlic, serrano chili, and ginger. These are definitely Asian spices. But then she throws in 28 oz. can whole tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. That's Italian! It is interesting so I decided to try it. I wondered how it was going to taste. East meet West? Unfortunately, I didn't have fresh basil leaves but I did have some Italian Parsley. I also didn't have serrano chilies but had jalapeno chilies. I changed the recipe a little bit based on ingredients I had at home.

I have fresh lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves since I have been growing them in the last few years. I don't do anything to these 2 plants but once a while feed the kaffir lime tree. It is wonderful to have the 2 plants thrive and available all year long to cook Thai dishes. This is the benefit of living in Southern California. Anything grows here as long as you water it. Here are the pictures of my plants:

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Spicy Tomato Seitan Stew
Adapted from Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry (my changes are in Italics)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass (see note)
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 fresh jalapeno chili
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 14.5 oz. organic diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Thai Thin soy sauce, Healthy Boy Brand
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 pkgs. Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Steak Strips(see note)
1/2 cup chopped Italian Parsley, lightly packed

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. add the onion, garlic, lemon grass, ginger, and jalapeno chilies, and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the bell pepper and saute 3 minutes longer, or until crisp-tender.
  3. Add the 2 cans tomatoes, soy sauce, vinegar, agave nectar, and kaffir lime leaves.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the tomates are very tender.
  5. Stir in the Steak Strips. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the seitan is heated through, then stir in the parsley.
  6. Transfer the stew to a bowl and serve with rice.
  • Lemon Grass stalks are really hard to mince with a regular knife. I recommend using a small blender or spice or coffee grinder to mince it to tiny tiny bits.
  • The original recipe calls for 1 pound Basic Seitan (page 189) cut into thick strips. I thought using Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Steak Strips was easier, quicker and still tastes great. For people who wants to quit eating beef, this is a great substitute and healthy. It is available in any major US market.

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Confetti Jasmine Rice with Coconut
Adapted from Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry (my changes are in italics)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown jasmine rice
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 cup yellow corn kernels (about 1 ear of corn)
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

  1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the curry powder, ginger, and turmeric, and then the rice.
  2. Add the water and salt and bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently without stirring for 45 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, bell pepper, and carrot, and saute for 5 minutes.
  4. Saute coconut in a dry heavy frying pan until a bit brown and well toasted.
  5. Transfer the rice to a cookie sheet(see note). Use a fork to fluff the vegetables into the rice. Spread it to let it cool. Sprinkle the toasted coconut and almonds on top of the rice. Mix and transfer to a bowl and serve.
Note: I decided to spread the rice on a cookie sheet to cool so the rice will separate instead of sticking together when it's cool.

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I served the above dishes with my Vegetarian Thai Tom Yum soup as a starter(with tofu, oyster mushrooms, and bok choy) using more lemon grass, fresh lime juice, jalapeno chili, and kaffir lime leaves in it. Spicy and refreshing!

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Since Julie requested the Tom Yum soup recipe(click on Comments below), I posted my recipe of Tom Yum soup below. There are so many varieties of ingredients you can use in this soup. Sometimes I use vegan shrimps and make the soup a 'seafoody' taste. The most important is combining the Tom Yum stock, the crushed garlic and chilies combination, vegetarian fish sauce, and lime juice together, then, you can add just about anything to it. I didn't post the recipe in the beginning because I know some of the ingredients will be hard to find in some parts of this country. Actually, this time I didn't use any galangal, kelp powder, and kombu, but the soup still tastes great. This is one of my favorite soup that I can have everyday.

A Thai spicy soup that is so popular in Thai restaurants in my area. It has shrimps, lemon grass, kaffir lime leave, galanga, lime juice, mushrooms, roasted chili peppers, and vegetables in it. The herbs and spices in this soup are good for a cold remedy because it really clears a stuffy nose (won't kill germs though! Ha ha). When my co-worker has a stuffy nose she always calls me and said 'Let's go for a Thai lunch and have that soup!' I re-invented this soup recipe with vegan ingredients without loosing the herbs and spices taste nor the 'seafoody' taste. This soup is SPICY, SOUR, SALTY, and REFRESHING!

Tom Yum Stock:
1 large (6 by 8) dashi kombu ( A Japanese seaweed ) , optional
10 cups water or your favorite vegetable broth
6 stalk lemon grass, use the lower thick portion, pounded, and sliced thick
10 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced galangal or 1 - 2 tsp galangal powder, optional

  1. Roll lime leaves and crush them with your hand to release the leaves aroma.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the seaweed, if using, lemon grass, and the leaves. Set aside .
Soup Ingredients:
14 oz. firm tofu packed in water, drained, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 oz. oyster mushrooms or other kind of mushrooms (shiitake, white, etc.), cut into slivers
1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetables such as cabbage or bok choy or napa cabbage or young mini corns in a can or a combination
6 to 8 dry red chilies (chili japones)
Note: These are hot chilies. To reduce the spicyness, cut the portion into half
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
6 Tbs Vegetarian Fish Sauce or soy sauce, Healthy Boy Brand
6 Tbs Fresh squeezed lime juice or a juice from 3 fresh limes
4 to 6 Kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk large lemon grass, sliced thick diagonally
1/2 to 1 tsp kelp powder or granules , optional, if you want to make it 'fishy'
salt to taste
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
1 Tbs vegetable oil
  1. In a non-stick frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon oil. Stir fry red chilies and crushed garlic in oil until the chilies became dark and garlic is brown but not burnt. Set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy pot, put 1/2 tablespoon oil, then, pan fry the tofu in a medium-high heat and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir fry 2 more minutes. Add tom yum stock, vegetarian fish sauce, lime juice, lemon grass, kelp powder, if using, and lime leaves. Simmer in a low heat while working on the chilies below.
  3. Set aside about 3 whole roasted chilies for the garnish in soup. Put the rest of the red chilies and crushed garlic mixture in a small blender like a spice or coffee blender including the oil. Add about 3 to 4 tablespoon of broth from the soup. Grind for 30 seconds.

    Note: Whole chilies won't make the soup spicy (unless you eat it) but looks good in it. So to make it less spicy grind less chilies with the garlic and set aside more chilies for the garnish.
  4. Scrape the chilies and garlic mixture into the simmering soup. Throw the whole roasted chilies into the soup. Taste for saltiness and add salt if necessary.
  5. Add the rest of the vegetables into the soup and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Add cilantro sprigs on top and serve immediately.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Spicy Tortilla Soup!

I bought a new cookbook, The Real Food Daily by Ann Gentry. There are also 2 Real Food Daily restaurants in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, CA. They are great restaurants and have been around for more than 12 years. We visited them but they are way too far for us to visit often. So I am glad to be able to get this cookbook.

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I tried the tortilla soup recipe from this cookbook and it's so goood and spicy! You know me, I like it SPICY! I also tried other recipes from this cookbook such as Mexicali Chop Salad with Crispy tortilla strips and Lime-cilantro vinaigrette and Seitan Enchiladas with Salsa Verde (pg. 104 and 152). If you have this cookbook, try them, they are wonderful for this upcoming Cinco De Mayo (that is if you are celebrating it). These Mexican dishes really satisfied our tummy.

BTW, the Crispy Tortilla Strips on top are so crunchy, salty, spicy, and a bit sweet. DH loves it and said that these are good just to snack on. Whooosh, they are gone in a flash! The crispy strips are perfect for both on the salad and the soup.

A week ago we rented a movie called 'Tortilla Soup' (a funny and interesting movie), so that's how I came up with the idea of making this soup. Surprisingly enough, my new cookbook has a recipe for this soup. This must be a 'coinkidink', oh, I mean a 'coincidence', OR a God's Divine Intervention!

Now, about the tortilla soup, I have never made it before. I have seen it in restaurants' menu (usually has chicken broth in it, don't know why people can't just use vegetable broth?) and have heard of it but never know how to make it until I opened this cookbook. What's interesting about this soup is that corn tortillas are cooked in the soup with other ingredients until they are soft and disintegrate. Then, using a handheld immersion blender(I just love my hand blender), the soup ingredients are blended till smooth in the pot.

Who had this idea of cooking tortillas in a soup, anyway? Was it an accident in the first place? Oops, I dropped tortillas in my soup so let's see what happens if I cook them in it? Oh well, whatever it was, this soup is yummy and filling. Another thing about it, it is EASY to make. Any bachelor can do it, guarantee!

The soup is good with toppings like the Crispy Tortilla Chips, Avocado slices ('Avocado in a soup?' DH asked), and sour cream ( I made Vegan Sour Cream with silken tofu). It was suggested to top the soup with Pico De Gallo (fresh salsa) too but I didn't make it.

Here is the recipe with my changes:

Tortilla Soup
(Adapted from The Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry)

1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno chili, finely chopped
2 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
9 cups vegetable broth
1 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup tomato paste
8 organic corn tortillas, coarsly chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup Crispy Tortilla Strips
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Tofu Sour Cream

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the jalapeno chile, tamari or soy sauce, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper, and saute 1 minute longer.
  2. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender. Add the tortillas and simmer 10 minutes longer, or until the tortillas are falling apart.
  3. Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the soup in the pot until smooth. Alternatively, working in batches, puree in a regular blender. Stir in the cilantro.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with the tortilla strips, avocado, and tofu sour cream, and serve.
Crispy Tortilla Strips
(Adapted from The Real Food Daily cookbook by Ann Gentry)
1/2 tablespoon canola oil or oil spray
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon maple sugar or regular sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the oil over both sides of the tortillas (if use oil spray, spray on both sides). Cut the tortillas in half, then cut the halves crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick strips.
  2. Spread he tortilla strips on a heavy, rimmed bakingsheet. Stir in the chili powder, maple sugar or sugar, and salt in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the chili powder mixture over the tortilla strips, toss the strips to coat, then arrange them evenly over the baking sheet.
  3. Bake, tossing occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-line plate and cool.
Here are the pictures of our Mexican meal, all recipes came from this cookbook(highly recommend to buy):

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Mexicali Chop Salad with Crispy tortilla strips and Lime-cilantro vinaigrette (lettuce, tomatoes, mangoes, zucchini, and avocado). The lime-cilantro vinaigrette dressing is very refreshing. A wonderful starter before we plunged into the spicy soup and enchilada.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Seitan Enchiladas with Salsa Verde, topped with Tofu Sour Cream.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Seitan Enchilada just came out from the oven. It is easy to make your own Salsa Verde (tomatillos, onions, garlic, and green chilies). This enchilada doesn't look pretty but it sure tastes very good. Don't judge food by its look only!