Homemade Chipotle-style Buffet and Tortilla Salad – Lots of Vegetarian Options

  Taco Salad Bowl

Are you tired of eating the same (or variations of the same) food at almost all social gatherings you go to? For us, it’s usually South Indian food – delicious most of the time – but there are only so many variations I can enjoy before it starts to get monotonous. I wanted a change for when we entertained over the holidays, and decided to do away with Indian food altogether, but we had to have something with similar spices & heat to meet the needs of the Indian palate. Mexican to the rescue!! (Or, at-least, the Americanized version of it :)). I wanted to keep the meal easy and informal, where guests could choose from a variety of items that did not require much attention once laid out. So, Chipotle-style it was.

I apologize for the low quality photos – I forgot to take them before my family arrived, and didn’t realize till I was setting the table. Plus, I had a very hungry mom-to-be hovering by the table, ready to eat and didn’t want to keep her waiting any longer. This will definitely feature again at my house, and I promise to take better photos and update here. In the meantime, you can see the almost-ready table pictures that were clicked by my then-9-year old.




(I fell in love with the Rooster as soon as I saw it at the store. Unfortunately, he had to go back because he was too big for the ledge I had planned on putting him on. At least I have a picture….)

This meal served about 15-20 people. The quantities can be scaled up or down based on the number of people you want to serve. Leftovers freeze well, and can be reheated for a quick meal later.

The menu included:

Baked Tortilla BowlsBaked tortilla bowls

Cilantro Lime RiceCilantro-lime rice (Vegetarian)

Black BeansBlack beans (Vegan)

Pinto BeansPinto beans (Vegan)

Tofu SofritosTofu Sofrito (Vegan)

Taco Chicken in Crock PotShredded Mexican Chicken

Corn & Pepper SaladCorn & Pepper Medley

Homemade SalsaHomemade Salsa


Shredded Lettuce


Diced jalapeno peppers, red onions, tomato


Shredded Mexican-blend cheese & Cilantro


Guacamole, Cheese & Sour Cream

Dessert was Eggless Arroz Con Leche – Mexican Rice Pudding. Creamy, and fragrant with cinnamon, it was delicious. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures, but will post them next time I make it.

Easy Shredded Mexican Chicken for Tortilla Salads or Burritos

Taco Chicken in Crock Pot

I made this chicken as one of the toppings for my Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options) dinner. While I made this in the crock-pot, it can be made on the stove-top too. 3-ingredients is all it takes, and it can be used to top salads, tacos, stuff burritos, make nachos, or served on top of rice or quinoa. The leftovers freeze well, so make a batch and stock up.

Easy Shredded Mexican Chicken

(Serves 10-12 as a salad topping)

  • 2 lbs skinless & boneless chicken thighs ( use chicken breast if you prefer that)
  • 1-2 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 3 cups salsa

1) Spray the insides of a 4-5 quart crock-pot insert with non-stick spray.

2) Add the chicken, salsa & seasoning and mix well.

3) Cook on LOW for 4 hours without opening the lid.

4) Check for doneness at end of 4 hours and shred with 2 forks.

5) Adjust the seasoning as needed and cook for another 30 minutes if necessary.


1) Mix chicken, salsa & seasoning in a wide pan with a lid.

2) Top with about 1/2 cup broth/water and bring to a boil.

3) Reduce the heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes on low. [Keep the lid slightly tilted so that some of the moisture and steam can escape.]

4) Shred with two forks and adjust seasoning as needed.

5) Put back in the pan and saute on medium-high for another 3-5 minutes and serve.

Mexican-style Black Beans (Vegan)

Black Beans

I made this super easy and yummy black beans  to go with the Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options). We filled baked tortilla bowls with cilantro-lime rice, black or pinto beans, tofu sofritos or taco chicken, corn salsa, tomato salsa, red onions, cheese, sour cream, cheese and cilantro for a delicious meal. These black beans can be eaten as-is, or topped on rice/quinoa too. To see pictures of the buffet table and the finished salad, click here.

Mexican-Style Black Beans

(Serves 12-15)

  • 1 lb dry black beans*** (picked through, rinsed, & soaked overnight)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 large cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 large onion (chopped fine)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

1) In a large stockpot, add the beans, water and salt and bring to a boil.

2) Simmer, partially covered for about 30-40 minutes till bite tender.

3) In another pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.

2) Add the bay leaf and saute for a few seconds.

3) Add the minced garlic and the onion, and saute till it starts to lightly brown.

4) Stir in the cumin and oregano, and saute another 15-20 seconds till fragrant.

5) Add the onion-herb mix to the pot of beans and stir well. Adjust seasoning and simmer for another 30-45 minutes, adjusting liquid as needed. (Mixture should not be dry nor soupy and runny.)

6) Can be served over rice / quinoa, or eaten by itself as a thick, hearty soup.

***NOTE: Substitute 4 (15 oz) cans of black beans for 1 lb dry. Drain 2 cans, but save the liquid separately. Saute all the ingredients above (except beans) in a stockpot. Then, add the 2 drained cans & 2 undrained cans of black beans and mix well. Adjust seasoning and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add the reserved liquid if the mixture seems too dry.

No Fuss Crock Pot Ghee (Clarified Butter)



March 31st, 2014 is celebrated as Ugadi – New Year’s Day – in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is also celebrated as Gudi Padwa in the northern parts of India. In Karnataka, the traditional sweet for Ugadi is Holige or Obattu –  and it tastes delicious with a big pat of ghee!

After numerous unsuccessful attempts at making ghee the traditional way – sometimes burnt and sometimes underdone – I have a fail-proof way to make this Indian kitchen staple.



No Fuss Crock-pot Ghee

(About 1 1/2 cups ghee)

Super simple directions here:

1) Drop 4 sticks (1 lb) of butter in a crockpot.

2) Close lid with just enough space (enough to easily slide a dinner knife in and out – about 1/2 inch) to allow moisture to escape.

3) Turn slow cooker to LOW and cook for about 3-3 1/2 hours. (If the butter is frozen, it will take longer. I always use refrigerated butter.)No stirring required.

4) The liquid will have turned a beautiful golden hue, and scum would have floated to the top.

5) Unplug the crock-pot and allow the ghee to cool for an hour in the same insert.

6) Pour into a glass container through a fine meshed strainer or cheesecloth. Once cooled, the ghee will thicken.

7) Does not require refrigeration – Can be stored in the pantry for at least 2 months. Always make sure to use a dry spoon when using.

NOTE: I usually cook 2 lbs of butter in my 6-qt slow cooker on LOW for about 7-8 hours. I pour it into two containers, and store one in the fridge to pull out when needed.

Crock-pot Alu Gobi

I love the convenience of having a hot, spicy Indian dish that can be cooked without the odors getting into my hair and clothes. On days that I’m in and out of the house, this is one of those fix-it-and-forget dishes. It does not turn out completely dry like regular alu-gobi because the moisture  stays trapped in the crockpot. If you prefer a dry alu-gobi, I’m guessing it can be removed when 3/4 done and roasted on the stove in a large wok just before serving. Do not add any water at the start of cooking. Also, remember that each time you open the crock pot lid, you have to increase the cook time.

Crock-pot Alu Gobi

(Serves 4-6)

  • Florets from 1 large gobi
  • 1 large russet potato (peel & dice)
  • 1 medium onion (slice)
  • 1 medium tomato (chop)
  • 2 garlic cloves (grate)
  • 3-4 green chillies (slit)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1Tbsp red-chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam-masala powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 3/4 – 1 Tbsp salt

1) Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a 4-5 qt. slow-cooker insert.

2) Cook 3-4 hours on high, stirring once midway.

3) Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with roti, chapati or rice.

Honey Wheat Bread

This is a delicious & EASY bread I make for weekend brunch or after-school snacks. Turns out nice and moist, and makes the house smell wonderful. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which book I copied the recipe from – hence can’t give the author their due credit.

HONEY WHEAT BREAD (10-15 servings)

  • 2/3 cup powdered milk
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2  1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope or 0.25 oz)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup flour

1) Dissolve powdered milk with warm water in a bowl.

2) Add oil, honey, salt, yeast, and half of both flours.

3) Beat on low speed for 2 mins with an electric mixer.

4) Add the remaining flour and beat on low till combined.

5) Place dough in a greased 4-5qt slow cooker.

6) Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours.

7) When done, remove stoneware from slow cooker  and let it stand 5 mins. Invert on to serving platter while still hot.

8) Serve with honey butter or jam.