Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mexican Fiesta

I knew I was going to be home this past weekend, and since the husband and I don't celebrate Christmas, I was going to have some time on my hands. Wednesday night I told him I'd have all day so I'd make him anything he wanted for dinner. I'll admit this was a bit of a loaded question. I was hoping he'd tell me he wanted a nice ham, or maybe a roast. You know what I'm saying- something that tastes like it was a ton of work, but really wasn't.

He said "I want a Mexican Fiesta!"

So that's what he got. Thursday night I compiled a list of recipes and ingredients and on Friday I headed to the store. Allow me to pause for a moment here. Do you know what day Friday was? That's right, it was December 24- the day before Christmas- the day before all stores in the area shut down- D-Day!

Christmas Eve is not a good day to be at the mega grocery store sin the area. I had to park so far from the entrance I would have been better off walking from my home. That wasn't so bad, but then upon entry of the store I realized what I had done to myself. There was a battle going on over a free cart (Why? I don't know. There was a whole row of free carts right next to the door). I quickly slipped in, grabbed a cart, and rolled it toward produce.

This was my first time at this particular super mega grocery. I wasn't familiar with the layout. As normal, when you first walk in you're in the produce section. This was a good thing, as produce was numero uno on my list. However, the aisles at this store were not set up very well. There was barely enough room for one cart to eek down them, but sure enough in the center of each aisle there was a great power struggle over who would turn back with their tail between the legs and allow the other to pass, and who would come out victorious and just roll on by.

I quickly grabbed 5 produce bags at the end of the pepper aisle, left my cart there, and ran down to grab my peppers. I repeated this process for each aisle, getting dirty looks each time.

Then I made my way to the special dairy section, where they had 2 of the 6 different kinds of cheese I needed.... Thank god I braved the big store :-/

Next was to the meat section, where for some reason every person in the store had congregated into a huge pile of stupidity- mouths hanging open, no real words coming out. It was craziness. That's when I was run over by the most people at any time during my visit to the store. The people in front of me apparently wanted to hang out and gab. The people behind me wanted to push their way through the store, and those ahead of them along with it. Those of us sad suckers stuck in the middle couldn't do anything but look at each other and grumble.

I don't know where the baking aisle in that store is. I never did find it. However, I did find the International Foods aisle. "Great," I thought to myself, "I'll be able to grab the taco seasoning packets I need!" Well, let's put it this way. Christmas Eve was not my day. International Foods had food from every country I could think of, with the marked exception of Mexico. There was even a small Latino section, which of course did not have taco seasoning.

Next was frozen foods, where I made the quick decision to get the hell out of that store and make my way back to my friendly neighborhood grocer for the remainder of my ingredients. So on to the cashier, who was gabbing to the poor soul in front of me about Christmas shopping. The customer in front of me left, and the cashier said to me "So do you have your Christmas shopping done yet?" Hm.. let's see, I'm sitting in your register line right now. What do you think? I gave her a quick uh-huh, and stood in complete silence as she rambled on about her gifts. She couldn't finish with my order fast enough.

Thankfully the rest of my shopping trip was much less eventful. Customers all over the local place were complaining about what a madhouse it was, but had they been in the 7th circle of hell I'd just returned from they would have been happy as clams where they were.

So then Saturday was cooking day, but it also turned into cleaning day because the husband invited his family over for dinner (I was perfectly okay with that, but would have liked a little more notice so I didn't have to do it all that day). In order to get all 8 dishes done on time (we eventually decided to scratch 2 dishes off the list because we had so much food and I didn't have the energy for them), and also get the apartment clean, I had to get it all started around 7:45 am. And on I went until after 8 pm, when I finally got a chance to sit down on the couch and promptly fell asleep.

Since I had so many dishes to make, I used other recipes instead of formulating my own. So I'll link the recipes I used from here. I did alter some of them a bit, but I'm sure they're equally delicious the way they are, so I'm leaving my alterations out of it.

We started out with a Queso Blanco Dip

Then we moved on to Stuffed Peppers

Then Corn, Jalapeno, and Cheese soup

Then we had Steak Quesadillas

Then came the Chicken Fajitas, which I failed to get a picture of, and also didn't find a recipe for. I ended up basically chopping up onions and peppers, boiling the chicken in chicke broth until it was almoct cooked, and then adding the chicken, veggies, and some of the broth to a skillet with taco seasonings. I cooked that until the sauce was thickened, added a bit more broth, and then let that simmer for a few minutes before serving.

Lastly was the Mexican Chocolate Pie for dessert.

All in all we were happy with the Fiesta. I was exhausted by the end of the day, but all the food was delicious and it was well worth it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Chipotle Chicken Wings

This is another one that I came up with on the fly because I happened to have a ton of apples left. That means it's not very precise. I wasn't very pleased with the results, but I have some ideas to improve it so I'm posting the improvements, rather than the original recipe. We found it had the perfect amount of sweetness, but not nearly enough spice.

You may be wondering why I'm posting an untested recipe. Well, I'll tell you. I mentioned the wings on a forum and someone asked me to post it. When I test it again I will update the recipe.

What you'll need:
4 Dry Chipotle Chilies (This is all I could get my hands on and I'm sure it was the downfall of my wings. If you can get fresh peppers do that and use to your taste preference.)
About 1 cup apple juice or cider
12 Chicken wings (when you cut them up you'll get 2 dozen wings.)
About 2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
2 Large apples, cored and sliced
About 1/4 cup sugar
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of ginger

1. Heat cider, break open chilies, and put chilies into cider for about half an hour. (At this point I still couldn't cut into the dry chilies so I put it on the stove for a few minutes. I should have cut the chilies up and gutted the inside, but we were concerned it would be too spicy. Next time I'm going to do that)

2. Cut the tips off the chicken wings at the tip. Separate the wing at the elbow joint so you get two of what is commonly thought of as "chicken wings."

3. Heat the oil in a pan and pan fry the chicken wings. They should take about 10 minutes. Remove chicken wings and about half of the oil from the pan (discard oil).

4. Add apples, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, chilies, and cider to the pan with the oil. Allow this to caramelize until the apples begin to soften, stirring frequently.

5. Add the chicken wings back into the pan and stir. Cover the pan and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. At the end of the time the chicken wings should be coated and the apples should be falling apart.

6. Remove the chicken wings and pour the remaining sauce over them.

7. Allow the wings to cool for a little while before eating them.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Apple Cranberry Pork Loin

We went apple picking today so of course we had to have an apple based dinner. I looked around online for some ideas and ran across an apple cranberry pork loin. "Hmmm... That sounds pretty good," I thought to myself. I didn't even open the recipe, just headed to the store, which is why the following is a not so precise recipe for deliciousness.

What you'll need:
Pork loin (I used a 1.5 pound loin and had more a lot more of the sauce than I needed.)
1 clove garlic
A couple of apples (I used 2 large empire apples.)
1 can whole cranberry sauce
Dash of pepper
Dash of salt
Sugar to taste ( I used 1/4- 1/3 cup)
Cinnamon to taste

1. Cut the garlic in half and rub the open sides on the loin. Mince one of the halves.
2. Core and cut the apples into large chunks.
3. Mix the apples, sugar, cinnamon, cranberry sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic.
4. Layer the bottom of a slow cooker with some of the mixture.
5. Add the pork loin and the rest of the mixture.
6. Cook in slow cooker until meat is tender.
7. Slice the loin and mash the apples up a bit with a spoon so it becomes a thicker sauce.
8. Top the loin with some of the sauce.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This was always a favorite in my house growing up. My mom made it when we were young, and eventually found an easier recipe that just didn't taste as good. My brother's, sister's and my favorite is now back!

What you'll need:
4 pieces boneless chicken breast (fresh or frozen will both work)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 chopped onion
3 Tbsp ketchup
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp cornstarch

1. In a large frying pan, over medium heat, saute chopped onion, in oil, until soft.
2. In a small bowl combine ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper. Add this mixture to the onion in the skillet.
3. Add the chicken to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.
4. Remove the chicken from the pan and put on serving platter.
5. Dissolve cornstarch with 2 Tbsp water, and add to pan with sauce.
6. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened.
7. Slice chicken into strips.
8. Pour sauce over chicken and serve warm.

Cream Porter Chili

This recipe was adapted from the chili recipe that can be found previously in this blog. We wanted to try making it with a porter beer that our local brewery makes.

What you'll need:
2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 small green pepper
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 to 1/3 cup chili powder
2 cans stewed tomatoes (drained)
2 cans kidney beans (drained)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 bottle porter beer (you won't use the whole thing)

1. Chop up onions and green peppers.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
3. Fry onion, pepper, garlic, and meat until meat is cooked.
4. Pour meat/vegetable mixture into crock pot.
5. After draining tomatoes, replace drained fluid with porter.
6. Empty tomatoes and kidney beans into crock pot.
7. Pour in some extra porter. The more you use the thinner the chili will turn out..
8. Allow to simmer for a few hours.
9. Serve and enjoy.

Mulled Cider

We had a party this weekend where we served mulled cider. The cider was awesome, and we've been drinking it ever since. We made this in the crock pot. I adapted a stove-top recipe for it. The next time I make this cider I plan to remove the spices a bit earlier in the process. After 8+ hours in the cider the spice flavor was a bit too strong.

What you'll need:

8 cups cider
4 Tbsp light brown sugar or honey
22 whole cloves
11 lemon slices (I cut the lemon into eighths, so you'll need about 1-1/2 lemons)
10 cinnamon sticks
1 cup light rum

1. Put 2 cloves into each lemon slice. I make a small cut in the rind of the lemon to slide the end of the clove into.
2. Put all ingredients into the crock pot and stir.
3. Allow to cook on low heat for a few hours.
4. Once the cider is warm and all of the flavors have integrated, remove the cinnamon and lemon.
5. Serve hot. More rum can be added at the bottom of each cup before pouring the cider in. To dress up the mug serve with a cinnamon stick in it.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

This dip was delicious. Everyone who came to the party that I served this at asked for the recipe.

What you'll need:
8 ounce package of cream cheese
2 cups cooked chicken
2 Tbsp butter-melted
1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup ranch dressing (you can substitute blue cheese dressing if you prefer that)
1/4-1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1. Cover the bottom of a glass dish 9x9 or larger.
2. In a medium sized bowl combine the chicken, hot sauce, and butter and pour the mixture over the cream cheese.
3. Top with just enough ranch dressing and mozzarella cheese to cover. Be careful to not use too much cheese or it will be difficult to dip anything.
4. Cook in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving warm.