winter-steppe (enchiladas, enchiladas)

snow field

The roads are bad, the snow is falling, and despite my best intention to exercise, I’ve decided I should just succumb to reading and tea-time all afternoon. The daffodils and crocus buds might be out in the island paradise I used to call home, but here in this tiny mountain town winter has just set-in. All fall it was dry with much praying for winter. High snow-line. Green riverbank. Eagles feasting on an open salmon buffet. Orange breasted songbirds out the window mirroring fall leaves settled dry on the ground. No powder. Occasional rain. Running in a t-shirt. Rock climbing in January. No cabin fever here. Over the last few months most of my work appointments have revolved around how pleased all the pregnant ladies are that it is a terrible ski year. No one wants to miss out on mountain time. Then it snowed and my midwifery skills have expanded to include the art of gently suggesting that maybe dropping large heli-lines isn’t the best after gestating for eight months. Oh Squamish. But I can’t totally say no. The powder is finally that sweet.

frozen over

If you were to stand outside my balcony right now the world would appear a swirl of milky stars. A mini blizzard taking me straight back to that winter when I was four and my dad built a skating rink over the front lawn. Before my hip was a problem and my parents started publicly not getting along. Afternoons like today, and the time a week or so ago when all the lakes froze over take me right back. Total clear glass. The sound of hockey sticks and pucks bouncing off frozen-in-logs sent me away to then, from full jumpsuits and learning to skate perched over a wooden chair, to teenage friday nights at the ice rink where we would refuse to wear our coats, go in the same direction as the boys, or dare to skate fast or fall at all. Something deep in me associates this kind of weather with cozy mittens holding you safe and together with their tight string connecting left-to-right arm, with a present father, with the scent of the hot cinnamon donuts my mom once made after hours circling our tiny rink.  Snow smells like hot chocolate in a paper cup with tiny plastic marshmallows and apple tea. Seasonal spice seared into the love of winter cold on my nose.

So why a Mexican meal this week? Snow doesn’t really smell like enchiladas. In fact, they continentally disagree. But, the thing with my version of winter is that it can get too nostalgic, slow, and stuck in white snow. Ski days aside, I’ve been drenched in too many hours reading on the computer and needed a long recipe project to distract and call away from all the round-about thoughts in my head. This week tortillas wrapped in Rebar’s mesa red sauce was up for the task of tugging me straight. Its not donuts, tea, or chocolate drinks, but maybe some southern heat can give you winter memory love too. (Or, if you are not in the mood to be brightened by enchiladas, there is always buying a parrot and some lemons…….). Whatever you pick, happy snow-day!

hee hee

Enchiladas with Corn, Yams, Black Beans, and Zucchini

(adapted from The Rebar Cookbook)



1 small yam

1 recipe “mesa red sauce”

2 T vegetable oil

1 red onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 t salt

1 t coriander

1 t cumin

1/4 t red chili flakes

1/4 t chili powder

1 red pepper, diced

3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

2 c zucchini, diced

3 c frozen corn

1 can of black beans or 1 cup dry black beans soaked and cooked.

1/2 t cracked pepper

1/4 c cilantro, chopped

3 c cheddar cheese, grated or cashew-cheese (recipe below)

20 corn tortillas or 5 full-size flour or teff ones.


  1. Begin by preparing the mesa sauce.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Poke the yam with a fork, and bake on a tray for 45 minutes. When cooked, mash in a bowl with some oil until somewhat smooth.
  3. Heat oil in the skillet and saute the onion until soft. Add in the garlic, salt, coriander and chili flakes/powder. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, jalapenos, corn, black beans and zucchini and saute until tender but still firm. Turn out the vegetables into the bowl, let cool.
  4. Heat a clean skillet over medium heat. Brush each tortilla with oil and place one at a time in the hot pan. Flip when small bubbles appear on the underside and heat the other side briefly. Transfer to a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9×13 glass baking dish. Ladle just enough mesa sauce into the pan to cover the bottom. Lay one or more tortilla out before you. Spread a big spoonfull of the yams on the tortilla. Next, take about 1/4 cup vegetable/bean filling and a handful of cheese into the centre of each tortilla and roll to form a cylinder. Place seam side down into the pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spoon mesa sauce over the enchiladas, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese (or spread “cashew cheese” over top and bake until cheese is melted and golden. Sprinkle with some green onions if you don’t use real cheese or it will look mighty gross. Serve hot with slaw, avocado, and roast potatoes for a total time-consuming feast.  *In a pinch, you could always use a jar of green tomatillo salsa in place of the mesa sauce, or store-bought enchilada sauce. Cut out the yam and you have an easy weeknight dinner.

Mesa Red Sauce

(from The Rebar Cookbook)

2 T vegetable oil

1/2 onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

4 T masa harina (or flour)

4 T ancho chile powder

1/2 t cumin

1/4 t cayenne

1 t salt

1/2 t cracked pepper

1 T oregano

4 c vegetable stock, heated

2 T tomato paste

1 t brown sugar

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until just brown. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the masa harina and stir constantly as it cooks and turns golden.

2. Add the spices and oregano and stir for another 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and whisk in the tomato paste and sugar.

  1. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Season to taste.

Cashew Cheese

1 cup cashews, soaked in 2 cups water for 2 hours

1 cup water

Pinch Salt

Squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon

Tablespoon nutritional yeast.

  1. Soak the cashews for at least 2 hours.
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Put cashews, lemon juice, salt, and nutritional yeast with 1/2 cup new fresh water in the blender for a minute. Add additional water if needed for texture and smoothness. As a tip, the longer you soak the cashews, the smoother this will be.

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