Lunch Express at Whole Foods has become a monthly ritual for me and my girlfriends. You can’t beat a delicious cooking lesson for $18! This month, we hit up the Healthy Tex-Mex class taught by Chef Dan Marek. The menu included Mango Pico De Gallo, Spanish Rice, Portobello Mushroom and Black Bean Burritos, Sweet Potato and Corn Salad and Coconut Dulce De Leche.
I wasn’t sure what healthy aspect Chef Dan was going to incorporate since I felt the menu sounded pretty healthy. For starters, there was no cheese or dairy in any of the recipes. Everything was plant-based and natural. The corn tortillas only had corn, water and lime (Margarita Tortillas)! He also used an interesting method to replace the oil used to saute the onions. Just add water to the pan until it covers the onions. Cook the onions until the water disappears and the onions start caramelizing. Then add a little more water allowing the caramelized flavor to coat the onions. Yum! This method can be used for other veggies, bell peppers, etc.
The Mango Pico De Gallo was lovely. The mangoes were sweet and juicy but were balanced well with onions and lime juice. You could easily replace the mangoes in the recipe for tomatoes. I may try green tomatoes next time I make the recipe. I noticed Chef Dan added cayenne pepper, surprising since there is already jalapeno in it. I didn’t taste it, but it was probably ’cause I was too busy enjoying the mangoes.
Our second course – Portobello Mushroom & Black Bean Burritos (ended up being tacos instead), Guacamole, Sweet Potato & Corn Salad and Spanish Rice. It was all good but I wanted more portobello mushroom and less black beans. The natural corn tortillas were a nice touch. I definitely noticed the tortillas had more flavor than your typical corn tortilla. The tortillas do fall apart due to the lack of fat but it something I’m willing to overlook. The guacamole was chunky and tangy, just the way I like it. It helps mixing it by hand. I finished off my plate with the sweet potato and corn salad. Never had that combo before, but I dug it. The Spanish rice was more like a risotto but the creaminess hid the fact that the white rice was replaced by brown rice. It was delicious.
Dessert was my absolutely favorite from the day. At first the presentation wasn’t really appealing but after the first bite I was hooked! I could have easily finished it in 2 secs but I decided to savor each bite. It was worth it me pacing it.
Coconut Dulce De Leche
1 Can of Coconut Milk
3 Tbsps Agave
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 Tbsp Arrow Root
Combine coconut milk, agave and vanilla in a sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer, add the arrow root and stir constantly. After 10 minutes, set the heat to very low and continue to cook until caramel color appears and the sauce thickens (about an hour). You will need to continually stir the mixture so it does not stick to the pan. When reduced to a thick paste, put into small bowls (about 2 oz per bowl) and put into the freezer. After 10 minutes in the freezer, place in the refrigerator until cold. When eating, break the top with the side of a spoon and enjoy!
Frankly I can’t imagine a world without greasy, cheesy Tex-Mex but I’m willing to substitute healthy alternatives from time to time! Or maybe when I cook Tex-Mex at home for my lactose intolerant boyfriend!
Next month, I’m thinking about going raw and seeing what Chef Dan can do work Italian cuisine.