Thursday, May 27, 2010

Viva Mexico!

This year, Greta's been on an Indian food kick. She's been making tons of different Indian dishes and she's been sharing her adventures here on Deliciousness of Yum.

Well, I think it's my turn to embark on an ethnic cooking adventure of my own. For my destination I'm heading to's why: Mexican food is delicious and I have a Mexican mother-in-law who's an amazing cook so I'd love to be able to recreate (or at least attempt to recreate) some of my husband's favorite dishes. (I could get all political and make some comment about the stupid immigration law passed in Arizona and how cooking Mexican food is a minor form of civil disobedience, but that's sort of silly...just like the misguided right-wingers in Arizona!) get myself started, I went out over the weekend and bought a tortilla press and a molcajete. I'll get to making actually food soon enough, but for now, I am in the process of seasoning my molcajete.

So what the hell is a molcajete anyway? Click here for the full wiki on it, but basically it's a Mexican mortar and pestle. It's made of either basalt or volcanic material and is used for making guacamole, salsa, etc.

Like a cast iron skillet, it's important to season a molcajete. Here are the steps to do so:
  1. Soak the molcajete and tejolote by submerging it in water for 2 to 4 hours. At this point, brush/scrub the surface of the molcajete. When I did this, the water in my sink turned gray and small, sandy particles came off it. The molcajete went from gray to dark, almost blackish gray.
  2. Let the molcajete air dry. As it dries out, you can see the color go back to it's original gray hue.
  3. When it's perfectly dry, grind a handful of wet, white rice in the bowl. At first, the rice will take on a gray, gritty hue. Dump the rice, add more and grind, and repeat this process over and over again until the rice no longer turns gray (this could take some time!). Clean out the rice and let the molcajete dry again.
  4. You don't have to do this part, but you can throw some rock salt into the bowl and grind it down so it resembles table salt. Dump it out and do this a few times to shine and smooth the bowl. Clean out the salt.
  5. Throw a few cloves of garlic, some cumin, and salt and pepper into the bowl of your molcajete. Mash everything together to season the entire bowl. Wipe out any large, obvious chunks of garlic and viola! Your molcajete is ready to go.
The seasoning process takes forever. I'm still in the rock salt stage, but I'm hoping to get this thing seasoned and free of grit soon. Then I'll be able to whip up some yummy guac! I'll post more about this soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dream Squares

Pumpkin Dream Squares

We have had these for dessert quite a few times and they are moist and delicious. The actual name of the recipe is Apple Dream Squares, but I have used all sorts of fruit butters to make them and apple just seems to be restrictive.

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound margarine
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup apple butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped nuts
powdered sugar
  • Place the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly.
  • Add all at once brown sugar, apple butter, eggs and chopped nuts. Stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are moistened and blended.
  • Place mixture in a greased 9x13x2 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until center tests done with a toothpick.
  • Cool, cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar.
I have used apple butter, pumpkin butter and cranberry butter to make these and all have turned out delicious! These also always take longer than 30 minutes (at least in my oven) - they usually need another 10 minutes to fully cook. I also think that some raisins would be a nice touch - I never add them though because when these are made, half of the family would not like the addition! Finally, the type of nuts I use are pecans - I think that they have the best flavor with the fruit.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Remember the dinner table scenes in A Christmas Story? Dinner for the Parker family was utter chaos, and the youngest member of the family, Randy, was a terrible eater. When presented with a plate of meatloaf, he responded "Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I HATE MEATLOAF!" And I think viewers, both young and old, could relate.

Growing up, there are certain meals that I absolutely hated. I'd cry my way through dinner, trying not to gag as I choked down a forkful of the disgusting, inedible yuck my mom called dinner.

Don't get me wrong. My mom is a great cook. She really is. And there are so many meals that she made that I loved. But it seemed like the platefuls of yuck were in heavy rotation at times.

Here are my two most hated family dinners:
  • Ham Steak with Rice and Cheese. According to my father, this dish sometimes included sliced olives, only upping the barf factor. I've mercifully blocked this detail from my memory. This dinner of terror consisted of a huge bed of rice covered in semi-melted cheddar cheese, all sitting on top of a frighteningly pink ham steak. My mom served this culinary masterpiece on a silver platter and little rainbow-tinted pools of nasty ham oil dripped off the pink meat, glistening against the silver. My mom used that same platter for pancakes, but not even fluffy, lovely pancakes could erase the image of disgusting ham/cheese/rice that I always associate with that platter. I don't know what it was about the ham/rice/cheese fiasco that was so wrong. I love rice. I love cheddar cheese. Sure, I hate ham, but I think that my ham-hatred stems from this dish. It was just

  • Corn Beef Hash Pinwheels. Pinwheels! That sounds like a fun meal for the whole family! But dear, sweet god--this dish was a plate of hurl. Nasty canned corn beef hash (which is another disgusting thing I cannot bring myself to eat as an adult) was encased in a gummy dough made from Bisquick, sliced and baked. Then, to serve this gourmet feast, mom heated up a can of cheddar cheese soup and poured it over the pinwheel of despair. The bright orange cheese congealed on the pinwheel but didn't quite hide red bits of hash. The whole thing looked like an orange scab with chunks of blood sticking out of it. Gag. To make this a nutritious and family friendly meal, mom boiled the hell out of Brussel spouts as our vegetable. Nothing like overcooked green balls that taste like fertilizer to go with this one. A meal to remember!
I know it's hard to be a have to cook every day and try to make meals that are nutritious and delicious, and that please every member of the family. I also know that as a kid, being served a meal you absolutely hate is an act of torture and only reaffirms your thought that your family really does hate you and is trying to kill you.

Somehow I survived these meals...and others I wasn't too fond of. These epic culinary battles make us stronger as we go through life!

So--what were your hated family dinners?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine

On Thursday, my Mom came home from a trip to the grocery store with a pound-and-a-half of shrimp. I said "Mom, what are you making? I love shrimp." She looked at me and said "What are you making with the shrimp?"

So I was given a challenge and my response was to checkout Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis. I found her recipe for Shrimp Fra Diavolo (Brother Devil) and decided to tweak it a bit and serve it over linguine.

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon oregano
3 tablespoons parsley
3 tablespoons basil
1/2 pound linguine
  • In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes. Mix well and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • In a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute until just cooked through (about 2 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
  • Add onion to the same skillet and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, wine, garlic, oregano, parsley, and basil. Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally for at least 2 hours.
  • Follow the instructions on the box for cooking linguine (I used 1/2 the box or 1/2 pound). While you wait for the water to boil, remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Once you add the linguine to the boiling water, add the shrimp and all of the juices to the sauce; stir well.
  • Drain the linguine and put it in a large pasta bowl. Add the shrimp and sauce to the linguine and enjoy!
Serves 4

This turned out really well and everyone loved it (minus my son who had pizza)! If you wanted it a bit more spicy, add more red pepper flakes. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and slightly briny (but in a good way). I didn't think that any more salt was needed and was very happy with the seasoning of the dish. I served this with a salad and some crusty bread - I would definitely make this again!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"If You're Afraid of Butter Use Cream"

Quick confession: I haven't been cooking anything interesting lately. I've been mooching dinners off my family and have only stepped in my kitchen to make a sandwich for Mister, feed the cats, or throw together a fast, uninspired meal. That's life.

Because I haven't been in the kitchen as much as I'd like, I've been struggling with what to write to cap off the week. So--instead of a recipe, a food essay, or a cookbook review, I'll leave you this week with a few great quotes from an amazing, revolutionary woman: Julia Child.

Julia's an easy person to mock at first glance. She wasn't beautiful. She was too tall. She had a funny way of speaking. But she rocked. And rocked hard. She opened doors to women that had been previously closed and locked tight. She made cooking entertaining. She brought suckling pig to television. The Emerils and Top Chefs of the world owe her much.

So to end the week, here are three of my favorite quotes from the amazing Julia:

"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude."

"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook."

"Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all."

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Side Dishes

So on Monday I told you about a super easy and delicious marinade for flat iron steak, today I have 2 really yummy side dishes that I served with the steak (although they would be good with many other meals too).

First up is cauliflower with onion and tomato (phool gobi ki bhaji) - yes an Indian take on cauliflower.

Phool gobi ki bhaji
This picture does not do this dish justice!

My friend recommended this dish when she gave me the Indian Cooking cookbook and I am really glad that she did - it is delicious!

2 medium sized cauliflowers
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
7 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 small tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 - 1 fresh, hot green chili, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • Break up the cauliflower into florets that are about 1 1/2 inches across at the head and 1 1/2-2 inches in length.
  • Let them soak in a bowl of water for 30 minutes; drain.
  • Put the onion and ginger into a food processor along with 4 tablespoons of the water. Blend until a paste forms.
  • Put the oil in a wide pot and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the garlic. Stir and fry until the pieces turn a medium-brown color. Add the cauliflower and stir and fry for about 2 minutes or until the cauliflower pieces pick up a few brown spots. Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl. Add the onion-ginger mixture into the same pan. Stir and fry it for a minute. Now add the cumin, coriander, and tomatoes. Stir and fry this mixture until it turns a medium-brown color. If it starts to burn, turn the heat down slightly and sprinkle in a tablespoon of water. Add the turmeric, cayenne, green chili, lemon juice, and salt. Stir well and turn the heat to low. Add back the cauliflower and any juices with it. Stir gently to mix. Add 3 tablespoons water, stir again and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat, stirring now and then, for 5-10 minutes or until the cauliflower is done. Remove lid and sprinkle garam masala over the top. Stir to mix.
Next up are Aidan's Potatoes - this is a simple dish and a sure fire winner (in my son's eyes) whenever it is served.


Fingerling potatoes
olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cut the potatoes in to quarters and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Mix well.
  • Pour the potato mixture on to a cookie sheet and cook for 45 minutes. Stir the potatoes every 15 minutes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Popcorn Perfection

Quick: what are you craving? Chocolate? Fried chicken? Something salty? If you're like me, you're a salty/crunchy craver. And when it comes to finding the perfect snack, I can think of one thing: POPCORN!

When it comes to making popcorn, my absolute favorite method is to air pop using the microwave. Sure, microwave popcorn in the little bags filled with bright yellow butter are fine, passable snacks. But if you really, really want to have the best popcorn possible, you should invest in Nordic Ware's Microwave Popcorn Popper.

I've had my microwave popcorn popper for ages--so long that the lid is a bit warped. It's a snap to use: you pour in 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, throw the lid on, then put the whole thing in the microwave. After a few minutes, you'll have perfectly popped corn without any oil or unnaturally colored flavorings.

As much as I love popcorn, I completely understand how boring plain popcorn can be. Popcorn's crying out for toppings. Here are some suggestions that go beyond the classic (and delicious) butter and salt.

Instead of salt, try:
  • Old Bay
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Powdered White Cheddar
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Chili Powder
  • Dill, Italian Seasoning, or other dried herbs
  • Cocoa powder and powdered sugar
  • Cinnamon and sugar
My new favorite way of eating popcorn? Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and then tossed with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Yum!

What's your favorite way to eat popcorn?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time To Get Out and Grill

This past weekend in the Seattle area has been beautiful! I managed to get out and enjoy some of our 70 degree weather - I watched my son's lacrosse games, hit some golf balls and fired up my grill. I love to cookout, be it burgers and dogs or something more fancy - I love cooking on the grill.

To welcome in the nice weather, I decided to cook up a flat iron steak and make a yummy and easy marinade for it. Here is the recipe for a great flat iron steak, you can also substitute in a flank steak too.


2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon fresh spring onion
1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Bad photo of marinade

Add all ingredients together and mix well. Add marinade to 2lbs flat iron steak and marinate 2-3 hours. Allow grill to heat up (~5 minutes); discard marinade and cook steak on grill 7-10 minutes per side (depending how bloody you like your steak).

Remove from heat and let the steak sit for at least 5 minutes. Cut in to thin slices and enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kashmiri Chicken

Another Indian dish from Greta - this dish is really easy, doesn't have a lot of ingredients and you could really use any kind of meat in it and it would turn out to be delicious! I found this in the same cookbook that has Kheer or rice pudding (see post from 01/13/10) in it, Complete Indian Cooking - thank you Lydia!

4 tablespoons vegetable oil3 large onions, finely sliced
10 peppercorns
10 cardamom pods
2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
3 pounds chicken pieces, skinned
1 cup plain yogurt
salt (to taste)
  • Heat the oil in a deep, lidded pot. Add the onions, peppercorns, cardamoms, and cinnamon and cook until the onions are golden. Add the ginger, garlic, chili powder, paprika, and salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Add the chicken pieces and fry until browned.
  • Gradually add the yogurt , stirring constantly. Cover and cook gently for about 30 minutes.
Serves 6


I used chicken breasts and cut them up into bite sized pieces. I also allowed this to cook all day (with the exception of adding the yogurt - I did that toward the end). I also added about 1/2 cup of water to the dish, since I was letting it simmer for about 4 hours. When I served this dish, the chicken melted in your mouth; everything was tender and spiced well. I served this dish with steamed broccoli and basmati rice that was cooked with raisins and toasted almonds.

The family loved this meal! My mother said that this was her favorite Indian dish to date. She really enjoyed the spices (it was seasoned and not hot) and the way the chicken melted in her mouth. The family has already asked me to cook this one again and since it is so easy and yummy, I will be happy to comply!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day Dinner of Luxury! (Part 2)

So yesterday I told you about my super yummy Chicken with Morel Mushroom dish that I made for Mother's Day. I knew the main dish would rock, but I needed to get some decent side dishes as well.

I love rice. It's one of my favorite foods and I think it goes well with just about everything. It's especially good with the chicken dish I made since it sops up all the delicious sauce. Instead of boring old white or brown rice, I found an interesting medley of rice, barley, and spelt from Trader Joe's. It cooked up fast and was very good. It provided more interest and better texture than rice alone. Trader Joe's tends to have items one day and not the next, so the next time you go, be on the lookout for this mix--or other tempting and unique sides!

For the Mother's Day dinner I knew I wanted to make green beans, but I didn't want to just boil or steam them--I wanted to step it up a bit. I did a quick search online and found the recipe below. I was very pleased how the beans turned out. They tasted fresh and very, very good. Try this the next time you have a bunch of green beans on your hands--this comes from Cooks Illustrated, one of my favorite places to get recipes:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off, beans cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  1. Combine butter, garlic, and thyme in small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until just smoking. Add beans, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add water, cover, and cook until beans are bright green and still crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high, and cook until water evaporates, 30 to 60 seconds.
  3. Add butter mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until beans are crisp-tender, lightly browned, and beginning to wrinkle, 1 to 3 minutes longer.
  4. Transfer beans to serving bowl, toss with lemon juice and parsley; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
  • I didn't have any fresh thyme in my kitchen, so I used a few pinches of dried thyme instead.
  • If you like the beans more cooked (less al dente), add a tablespoon of water and increase the cooking time with the lid on a minute or two.
  • I forgot to add the parsley at the end, but it didn't really seem to matter.
  • You could play with the herbs in this recipe to suit your preferences.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day Dinner of Luxury! (Part 1)

I am the only non-mom in my family. That means when it comes to Mother's Day, it's my job to do the cooking--to spoil my mother and sister. (By the way: shouldn't there be an Aunt's Day? We could use some pampering, too!)

I usually cook the family a big Mother's Day brunch, but my mom is not much of a morning person. So this year, I asked Mom: would you prefer a brunch or dinner? She picked dinner. And she requested Chicken with Morel Mushrooms, a dish I've made a few times now, for family celebrations. She and my sister also requested Chocolate Guinness Cake for dessert--click here for that recipe.

Here's the recipe I used for the Chicken with Morel Mushrooms. It comes from Ina Gartner, aka the Barefoot Contessa. This is a heavy, rich dish--one to enjoy on occasion. I am not always willing to shell out the $20+ for dried morels, so I used a dried mushroom medley instead. You could use fresh mushrooms if you don't want to bother with dried.

  • 1- ounce dried morels, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 cups very hot water
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1⁄4 cup clarified butter
  • 1⁄3 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) creme fraiche
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Lift the morels carefully from the hot water in order to leave any grit behind in the liquid. Rinse a few times to be sure all the grittiness is gone. Discard the liquid and dry the morels lightly with paper towels. Set aside.
  3. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge them in flour and shake off the excess. Heat half the clarified butter in a large saute pan and cook the chicken in 2 batches over medium-low heat until browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to an ovenproof casserole.
  4. Add the rest of the clarified butter to the pan along with the shallots, drained morels, and garlic. Saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, tossing and stirring constantly. Pour the Madeira into the pan and reduce the liquid by half over high heat, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the creme fraiche, cream, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Boil until the mixture starts to thicken, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken and bake for 12 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through.
  • To make ahead, refrigerate the chicken and sauce in the casserole and increase cooking time to approximately 30 minutes, or until heated through.
  • I don't use clarified butter--I just don't have time to deal with that. Instead, I add a tiny bit of olive oil to the butter before cooking the chicken.
  • Serve with rice and veggies--check out tomorrow's post for a yummy green bean idea from Cooks Illustrated.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chicken With Cream

To continue with the Indian theme of 2010, I made another recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's cookbook, Indian Cooking - Malai wali murghi or chicken with cream. This dish was super easy to make, was full of flavor, and everyone loved it!
Here is the recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's book:

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepperfreshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chicken pieces, skinned
6-7 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
4 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon garam masala
6 tablespoons heavy cream

  • Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of the coriander, 1/4 teaspoon of the turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and some black pepper on the chicken pieces. Mix well and set aside for at least 1 hour.
  • Put the garlic and ginger into the container of a food processor. Add 1/2 cup of the water and blend until fairly smooth.
  • Put the oil in a wide, nonstick pot and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in as many chicken pieces as the pot will hold easily in a single layer and brown lightly on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Brown all the chicken pieces the same way.
  • Put the chopped onion into the remaining oil. Stir and fry until the pieces turn a medium-brown color. Add the garlic-ginger paste. Stir and fry until all the water from the paste evaporates and you see the oil again. Put in the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Stir and fry for about 20 seconds. Now put in the chopped tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir and cook the spice paste for 3-4 minutes, mashing the tomato pieces with the back of a slotted spoon. Add the yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, incorporating it into the sauce each time before adding more. Put in the chicken pieces and any accumulated juices, the remaining 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Take off the cover. Add the garam masala and cream. Mix gently.
  • Turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring gently every now and then, until the sauce has reduced somewhat and has turned fairly thick.
Serves 6


I used canned diced tomatoes and I marinated the chicken for about 3 hours. I followed the directions up to adding the cream and garam masala - instead, I cooked the dish slowly all afternoon and then completed the dish with the cream and garam masala as directed. I served this with rice and naan and think that some fresh string beans would also go well with the meal.

This was definitely another successful dish from Madhur Jaffrey's cookbook! I have yet to make something that I didn't like or that did not turn out well. If you like Indian food at all and want to try to cook some at home, i would recommend this book whole heartedly!

Thanks again Andrea for such a nice gift!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I love enchiladas and I have made them at home many times. Keeping Cinco de Mayo in mind, I wanted to make something easy, yummy, Mexican(ish) and big enough to feed 6. So instead of hand rolling all those enchiladas and using 2 dishes to put them in, I decided to make a casserole instead.

Here is my recipe, make sure to add anything else you like to it!

Chicken Enchilada Casserole:
1 roasted chicken, shredded
2 large cans verde enchilada sauce (you can use red sauce if you prefer)
1 large onion
1 package mushrooms
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 pounds Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
18 corn tortillas

Add To Taste:
chili powder
salt pepper

salsa (see Lydia's post from 5/5/10)
sour cream
  • Rub a tablespoon of cumin, garlic, salt & pepper on a raw chicken. Roast the chicken at 350 degrees until the internal temperature of the chicken is 180 degrees. Remove the chicken from the oven and let about 30 minutes (you can also use a roasted chicken from the grocery store).
  • Shred the roasted chicken and place in a large bowl.
  • Dice the onion and slice all the mushrooms. Over medium-high heat, saute the onions until translucent. Add mushrooms and season with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.
  • Add the onions & mushrooms to the shredded chicken and mix together.
  • Pour the verde sauce in a large mixing bowl and wisk in 1 cup of sour cream.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the verde & sour cream sauce to the chicken mixture and 1/4 cup of the verde & sour cream sauce to a large casserole dish.
  • Place 6 corn tortillas on the bottom of the casserole dish (it is okay to have them slightly overlap). spread half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas, then lightly cover with verde & sour cream sauce; sprinkle with cheese (this is the first of 2 layers). Repeat the process starting with the tortillas to create a second layer.
  • Top the casserole with a final layer of corn tortillas, then add the remaining sauce and cover with cheese.
  • Cook at 375 degrees until the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown.
  • Serve over tortilla chips and garnish anyway you like!
I had a whole chicken in my freezer, so I thought that this would be a good use for it - in the future, I would use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store to save time. This makes a ton, we had it again the following night and it was still delicious - I did add a little chicken broth to keep it moist. Because it makes so much, this would also be a great party dish that people could scoop at with chips.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Make it Better: Salsa

Did you know that salsa is more popular in the US than ketchup? And for good reason: it's got some personality. Apparently, it can also help kill off salmonella!

While jarred salsa is perfectly ok, you can make it better yourself. Instead of picking up a bottle of Pace picante at the grocery store the next time you have taco night, why not make something better...fresher?

Here are a few recipes to try:

Pico de Gallo
8 Roma tomatoes
1/2 red onion (or 1 small red onion, depending on your taste)
1 jalapeno pepper
2 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Seed and dice the tomatoes. Finely chop onion, jalapeno and garlic. Toss tomato, onion, jalapeno, and garlic together in a bowl. Squeeze lime juice over the chopped veggies and toss well to coat. Add cilantro and salt and pepper to taste; stir well.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The flavor gets better if made a day in advance.
Pico de Gallo with Cabbage (a local Mexican restaurant makes something like this--it's really different and very tasty!) Note: this recipe makes A LOT of pico de gallo--adjust as necessary!
1 head of cabbage
1 large red onion
4 Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of cilantro
3 or 4 limes
1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos with 2 or 3 tablespoons of juice from the can
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Shred with food processor cabbage and red onion into large bowl. Add chopped and seeded tomatoes, juice of limes and chopped up leaves from cilantro. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Can be stored in refrigerator for several days. Stir before serving.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cilantro: Love it or Hate it?

Though everyone in our family generally likes Mexican food, there is one food that causes passionate debate: Cilantro. I love the stuff. It takes so fresh and good and honestly, I can't get enough of it. But my father? He hates it. If there's one cilantro leaf in a recipe, he can taste it and nothing else.

Apparently my dad is not alone. And, since this is always the case, there's even a facebook page and website devoted to the hatred of cilantro. Poor misunderstood herb!

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran an entire story about cilantro and why it is that certain people can't stand the stuff. I'm not posting the article on my site (since I don't have the proper permission), but if you have a couple of minutes, click here and read the story. It's interesting and insightful, and you'll learn what cilantro has in common with bedbugs.

I think my dad (and all other cilantro haters) are off base. I love it, but to each his own. I personally loathe tarragon and can't eat it to be polite. We all have different preferences, but in the case of cilantro, it seems that we're genetically predisposed to love it or hate it. Where do you fall on the cilantro spectrum?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Make it Better: Quesadillas

Cinco de Mayo is this week, and to "celebrate" we're focusing on Mexican inspired food. Our family loves Mexican food--or, to be accurate--Tex-Mex and Americanized Mexican (though we really do appreciate the real deal, it's difficult to get up in the Pacific Northwest. Such is life!).

To start off our week of Mexican yummies, I'm focusing on a simple dish that's super quick and super easy: Quesadillas. We've all had them and know that they're basically the Mexican version of a grilled cheese sandwich. You take two flour tortillas, stuff cheese in the middle, heat it up and viola--quesadillas!

But if you want to elevate your quesadilla, you need to elevate your technique. And I've found the best way to make them. You don't need to use your microwave or only need a decent non-stick skillet.

You can fill quesadillas with anything you want. I like them plain--with shredded cheddar and jack only--but you can add deli-sliced ham (my hubby's fave), cooked chicken, crumbled bacon, leftover taco meat (ground beef, shredded beef or shredded pork), grilled veggies...anything you want. And you can also play with the cheeses you use. Anything that you can slice or shred--that melts well--will work.

Here's how to do it:
  • Gather all your equipment. You need a decent non-stick skillet (large enough to accommodate your tortilla), a pastry brush, a spatula, and a clean, heavy pot (or some sort of heat-resistant, food safe weight).
  • Gather all your ingredients. Have your tortillas, cheese, and filling ingredients at the ready. You'll also need kosher salt and some oil (vegetable, canola, etc. work well--you don't want olive oil for this).
  • Put your skillet on medium-high heat.
  • Prep the bottom tortilla. Using a pastry brush, brush on small amount of oil, lightly coating one side of the tortilla. Sprinkle a little kosher salt over the oil. Place the tortilla, oil side down, in the skillet.
  • Add filling ingredients. Leaving about a 1/4 inch boarder, add cheese and your filling ingredients to the top of the tortilla in the skillet (I usually lay down some cheese, the meat/veggie filling, and then more cheese). Work quickly and neatly.
  • Cover and press. Put your second tortilla on top of the filling and place your clean, heavy pot on top of this tortilla. This will press everything together and will keep the heat locked in so that it melts the cheese and crisps up the bottom tortilla.
  • Cook for a few minutes. Depending on your stove and how high the heat is, keep the tortilla pressed and cooking for a couple of minutes.
  • Prep the other side. Take the weight off the top of your quesadilla. Quickly brush oil on the top tortilla and sprinkle with kosher salt. Carefully flip the entire quesadilla so the top tortilla is now on the bottom. Put the pot/weight back on the quesadilla and continue to cook.
  • Cut and eat. When your tortillas are golden brown (or to your liking), slide your quesadilla out of the skillet and cut into triangles using a sharp knife. Serve with whatever sides you like (I like mine with sour cream and salsa).
Try this the next time you need a quick, yummy, toasty snack. The little bit of salt elevates the normally bland quesadilla and gives it a little more flavor than normal. I also like how crispy and golden the tortillas get using this method. It really is a better way to make a quesadilla!