Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Twisted Dogs


I am a huge dog lover.  I have always had dogs.  Currently we have a mutt named Bentley who is almost 4 years old and a rambunctious Boxer named Cooper who is almost 2 years old.  Bentley is pretty calm, except when he's trying to protect us by barking at the fence.  I trust that, if there is an intruder, Bentley will swiftly take care of them for us.  He is a very loyal dog, but he is socially awkward, as in he tries to get as close to you as he can and will lay on your face if he can get there.

Cooper, on the other hand, is always busy.  He eats everything in sight, leaves, trash, bugs, rocks (yes, he eats rocks).  He is very talkative and extremely entertaining.  He chases the light from flashlights and likes it when the light on the AC is lit up.  He "kills" his toys by violently shaking them from side to side at warp speed.  And he thinks he's a lap dog...a 65-pound lap dog.  While he may not be the smartest dog on the block (or even the city, poor thing), he is a sweet and loving dog.

Anywho, this post is really about dogs as in hot dogs.  Pretzel Dogs, to be exact.  I kind of came up with this on a whim, but I'm sure glad I did.  These were awesome!  I don't normally eat hot dogs very often, but I do enjoy them every now and again.  And don't be afraid of working with yeast.  This recipe is really easy and doesn't take all that long.  I even made a Jalapeno Cheese Sauce to dip them in.  You're welcome.

PRETZEL DOGS
FOR THE DOUGH:
2 packages highly active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 C warm water 110 to 115 degrees
4 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 T vegetable oil
1/2 C baking soda
Cornmeal

8 hot dogs
Pretzel salt or coarse salt
Cornmeal

FOR THE SAUCE:
1/4 C flour
1/4 C butter
2 C half & half
2-4 T chopped jalapenos
1 to 1 1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese (or Monterey Jack)
2 teaspoons garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste

Put the yeast, 1 1/4 C warm water, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer.  Let it sit for about five minutes until it become frothy. Add in the flour, salt, and vegetable oil.  Knead with the dough hook until it forms a ball.  If it's too dry, then add in the other 1/4 C warm water.  The dough shouldn't be sticky.  Put it in a large greased bowl and let it rise for one hour.  

For the sauce, melt the butter in a small pot and whisk in the flour.  Whisk in the half and half and continue cooking until thickened.  Stir in the jalapenos, garlic, and salt and pepper. Turn the heat off and add the cheese in by handfuls, whisking until smooth before adding more cheese, and add the cheese until it's the desired consistency.  Keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  When the dough has risen, roll it out to about a 1/4 inch thick rectangle.  Cut the rectangle into 8 strips.  Twist or wrap the strips around each hot dog.  Let them rise while you wait for a large pot of water to boil.  Sprinkle some cornmeal on a sheet pan.  Add the baking soda to the boiling water.  Drop one hot dog at a time in the boiling water and cook for about 30-45 seconds, flipping it over in the water halfway through. Lay the dogs on the sheet pan and sprinkle with desired pretzel salt or coarse salt.  Bake them for about 12-14 minutes or until the tops are browned and the dough is done through.  Serve with the cheese sauce or mustard.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cinco de Mayo


Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of freedom and pride by Mexican and Mexican American people.  It's also a great time to eat, so here's my Cinco de Mayo feast!  Hope you enjoy it!


Until the last ten years or so, I have been a chicken when it comes to what I'd eat.  I was picky about eating raw onions or tomatoes.  I would usually only eat things I was familiar with, especially with meat.  But, the more I learn about cooking and the more I come in contact with other cultures, especially the Hispanic culture, I have become more and more brave about what I'd try.  

And, since we moved to West Texas, I have learned a lot about the Texas Hispanic culture and foods.  A traditional special breakfast in the Hispanic world is Barbacoa.  I never really knew what it was, and I really wasn't interested in trying it.  But, after talking with a distinguished Hispanic woman that I work with, I thought I'd give it a try.  Now, if you are squeamish, you need to exit out of this page now and go look at rainbows and happy stuff.  Barbacoa is traditionally an entire cow head that's wrapped in leaves and smoked in a hole in the ground.  Now, I told you I was going to be brave, but I'm nowhere that brave.  Lupe, the lady I work with, told me how to make it with only the beef cheeks (yes, the actual cheeks of the cow's face) and in the crockpot so it's easy too. So I discussed it with my husband who is a little braver than me (he ate a cooked chicken heart once), and he was all for it.

So I went to a local Amigo's, which is the Hispanic version of a United Supermarket, and procured said cheek meat.  I did, however, find cheek meat at Walmart too, so that could be an option.  On Sunday morning, we got up and prepared this meat to go into the crockpot with a lot of skepticism.  And it cooked, and we waited.  (We actually ate ours in the evening and not for breakfast.)  Then it came down to that scary moment:  It was done.  Time to test it out.  I had some fresh Pico de Gallo made and some corn tortillas warmed, along with some fresh chopped cilantro.  And the moment of truth.  "You go first, I said."  So he did.  He had a pleasant look of surprise on his face.  "It tastes like roast beef."  Whew.  Safe. So I tried it and it was good!  Makes for a great taco.  I think I will eat it with eggs next time.

So, if you're trying to expand your horizons and try something new, don't be scared.  After all, probably millions of people eat barbacoa on a daily basis and love it.  You just might too.

BARBACOA
4 lbs beef cheeks
8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 T cumin
1 lime
1 C beef stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf

FOR THE PICO DE GALLO:
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C red onion, diced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 serrano pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 small lime
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR SERVING:
Fresh chopped cilantro
Corn tortillas
Lime wedges

Trim as much of the fat off of the beef cheeks as possible. Cut the meat into about 2-inch pieces and place in the crockpot.  Place the garlic, cumin, salt & pepper, bay leaf, juice of the one lime, and beef stock into a crockpot.  Cook on slow for at least 8 hours or overnight until the meat is tender. Remove it from the crockpot and let cool until you can handle it.  Shred the meat with your hands or with two forks.  

Mix the Pico de Gallo ingredients together.  Serve the Barbacoa on warmed corn tortillas with some Pico de Gallo, a little fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.


Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, or Ceviche, is quite different that American Shrimp Cocktail.  The Mexican version is spicy and is more like a cold soup with pico de gallo as opposed the thick chili sauce or ketchup version we have here.  Some people add in clam juice or sometimes even orange soda to their Mexican Shrimp Cocktail.  The cocktail is traditionally served with Saltine crackers, which is my favorite dipping vessel for this. My version uses Clamato juice which is something that I learned from a Hispanic woman I work with. Clamato is like spicy V8 with a bit of clam juice in it. 

My favorite place in the world to eat Mexican Shrimp Cocktail is at a restaurant in San Antonio called La Margarita. Theirs is actually called a Campechana Cocktail which also includes oysters.  The restaurant is located in Market Square where there is always a vibrant atmosphere of fiestas going on and strolling troubadours.  My husband and I love San Antonio so much that we want to end up there. And eat Mexican Shrimp Cocktails.  But, for now, I'll have to make it myself.

You're going to need a sombrero before you make this because you'll eat so much you'll need a siesta.

MEXICAN SHRIMP COCKTAIL (CEVICHE)
12 ounces of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
3 T chopped red onion
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 serrano pepper (or 1-2 jalapenos), chopped
1 1/2 C Spicy Clamato juice (or Spicy V8)
1 avocado, diced
Cayenne (to taste)
1 green onion, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Salt & pepper, to taste
Saltine crackers, for dipping

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Add in the cumin, chili powder and garlic powder.  Drop in the shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes until the shrimp is done and pink.  Drain and cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients together (not the Saltine crackers) in a bowl and season with salt and pepper and cayenne to taste.  Add in the shrimp and chill.  Serve it with the Saltine crackers.  This is even better the second day.


I absolutely adore Tamales.  I usually make them with chicken, but they can be done with pork, beef, or even bean. This is a very time-consuming task, and it helps to have another person rolling them with you.  I am so excited to share this recipe that I'm not even going to babble on with a story!  I can find corn husks in any local store in Texas, even Walmart.  But, if you can't find them, you can find them at amazon.com.  I also use El Pato, which is a spicy tomato sauce, for the sauce.  If you can't find that, you can use regular tomato sauce and some cayenne pepper, to taste. You will also need a very large pot to steam them in.  I have a ginormous crockpot that I can remove the insert and place it over two burners on my stovetop to steam them.  Every time I mention to people that I'm planning on making tamales, I get offers from people that want to buy a dozen.  It makes a lot and get ready to share!

TAMALES
FOR THE MEAT:
5-6 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Chicken stock
Chili powder
Cumin 
Garlic powder
Corn husks (50-70 depending on how big the chicken is)

FOR THE SAUCE:
32 ounces El Pato
1 onion, chopped
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 C chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE DOUGH:
6 C masa harina (corn flour)
5 C chicken stock
2 C lard (or Crisco)
3 T onion powder
3 T onion powder
3 T cumin

Boil the chicken in enough chicken stock to cover with the chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin until done.  Let cool until you can handle it.  Shred the meat.

Soak the corn husks in the sink covered in water for about 15-20 minutes.

Mix the dough ingredients together by hand or in a mixer.  It shouldn't be too sticky.  Set it aside.

Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet.  Cook the onion over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the chicken, cumin, chili powder, garlic, chicken stock, salt & pepper, and El Pato. Cook and simmer until the sauce is thickened and most of the liquid is cooked out, about 20 minutes.  

Take some of the corn husks out of the water and place on a towel.  Fill a small bowl with water.  Spread about 2 T of the dough mixture on the corn husks from the straight edge up about 3 inches, using the water to moisten your hands.  Put about 1 T of the chicken down the center of the masa.  Fold the edges of the dough over the chicken and then fold the empty end of the corn husk up.  Here's a video on rolling tamales if you need a visual.  Line your pot with wads of foil and pour some water over the foil.  Stack the tamales open side up into the pot on top of the foil.  Cover and steam over medium high heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (check your water level frequently and add more when necessary) or until the dough is firm and steamed through.


The Spanish word for this corn is Elotes.  You can eat this corn right off the cob, but at fairs and festivals, at least in West Texas, the kernels are cut from the cob and mixed with the sauce and eaten out of a cup.

MEXICAN STREET CORN
4 ears corn, with husks
1 C mayonnaise
1/2 C sour cream
Juice of one lime
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Peel the husks of the corn back but don't remove them. Remove all of the strings and rinse.  Fold the husks back over the corn.  Soak the corn in the sink covered in water for about 20-30 minutes prior to cooking.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the corn on a sheet pan and roast about 40-45 minutes or until it's tender.

Mix the mayo, sour cream, lime juice, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, cayenne and Parmesan cheese together. Spread it on the corn if eating it off the cob or stir it together with the sauce if you are cutting the kernels off of the cob.


Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake that is soaked in three milks: Sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream or half and half.  I knew of this cake but had never eaten it before now.  And, while I almost never eat sweets, I see myself eating way too much of this cake.  You'll be hooked.  

As you can see in the picture, I did mine as a layer cake just to make a pretty picture.  But it is quite messy, and the milks will run out a little more as it chills.  I think the best and easiest way to make this cake, unless you want a fancy presentation, is to bake it in a 9 x 13 pan so that the liquid stays in the pan and not in the fridge.  And you will need a mixer for this cake or some really strong arms to beat egg whites.  Enjoy!

TRES LECHES CAKE
FOR THE CAKE:
8 eggs, separated
2 C flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 C sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE SOAK:
1 can evaporated milk (12 ounce)
1 C heavy cream or half and half
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:
2 C heavy cream
1/2 C powdered sugar

16-ounce container strawberries, sliced

Generously grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan (or two 8-inch round pans) very well.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the egg whites for about a minute on high in the mixer. Leaving the mixer on high, slowly pour in the sugar while the mixer is running.  Beat egg whites until they are at stiff peaks. Whisk egg yolks together by hand for about a minute.  Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg whites until it is incorporated into the egg whites.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake about 20-25 minutes or until done in the center.  Place on a rack and let it cool completely.

If you are using the 9 x 13 pan, you can leave the cake in the pan.  If you are going to layer the cake, remove the layers from the pans and put on a sheet pan to soak the cakes. Whisk together the soaking ingredients.  Poke some holes in the top of the cake(s) with a fork.  Pour the sauce over the cake(s).  Let it soak up for about 15-20 minutes at room temperature.

Put the heavy cream and powdered sugar into the bowl of a mixer and beat on high until the cream is stiff.  You can spread the cream onto the 9 x 13 cake and garnish with the strawberries.  If you are layering the cakes, put the bottom layer on a dish with high sides (it will be very hard to move, so carefully pick it up) so the milk soak can run out without running off into the fridge.  You can pipe or spread the whipped cream onto the bottom layer, then garnish with strawberries.  Repeat with the top layer.

Worth the Effort


I absolutely adore Tamales.  I usually make them with chicken, but they can be done with pork, beef, or even bean. This is a very time-consuming task, and it helps to have another person rolling them with you.  I am so excited to share this recipe that I'm not even going to babble on with a story!  I can find corn husks in any local store in Texas, even Walmart.  But, if you can't find them, you can find them at amazon.com.  I also use El Pato, which is a spicy tomato sauce, for the sauce.  If you can't find that, you can use regular tomato sauce and some cayenne pepper, to taste. You will also need a very large pot to steam them in.  I have a ginormous crockpot that I can remove the insert and place it over two burners on my stovetop to steam them.  Every time I mention to people that I'm planning on making tamales, I get offers from people that want to buy a dozen.  It makes a lot and get ready to share!

TAMALES
FOR THE MEAT:
5-6 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Chicken stock
Chili powder
Cumin 
Garlic powder
Corn husks (50-70 depending on how big the chicken is)

FOR THE SAUCE:
32 ounces El Pato
1 onion, chopped
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 C chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE DOUGH:
6 C masa harina (corn flour)
5 C chicken stock
2 C lard (or Crisco)
3 T onion powder
3 T garlic powder
3 T cumin

Boil the chicken in enough chicken stock to cover with the chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin until done.  Let cool until you can handle it.  Shred the meat.

Soak the corn husks in the sink covered in water for about 15-20 minutes.

Mix the dough ingredients together by hand or in a mixer.  It shouldn't be too sticky.  Set it aside.

Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet.  Cook the onion over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the chicken, cumin, chili powder, garlic, chicken stock, salt & pepper, and El Pato. Cook and simmer until the sauce is thickened and most of the liquid is cooked out, about 20 minutes.  

Take some of the corn husks out of the water and place on a towel.  Fill a small bowl with water.  Spread about 2 T of the dough mixture on the corn husks from the straight edge up about 3 inches, using the water to moisten your hands.  Put about 1 T of the chicken down the center of the masa.  Fold the edges of the dough over the chicken and then fold the empty end of the corn husk up.  Here's a video on rolling tamales if you need a visual.  Line your pot with wads of foil and pour some water over the foil.  Stack the tamales open side up into the pot on top of the foil.  Cover and steam over medium high heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (check your water level frequently and add more when necessary) or until the dough is firm and steamed through.

Being Brave


Until the last ten years or so, I have been a chicken when it comes to what I'd eat.  I was picky about eating raw onions or tomatoes.  I would usually only eat things I was familiar with, especially with meat.  But, the more I learn about cooking and the more I come in contact with other cultures, especially the Hispanic culture, I have become more and more brave about what I'd try.  

And, since we moved to West Texas, I have learned a lot about the Texas Hispanic culture and foods.  A traditional special breakfast in the Hispanic world is Barbacoa.  I never really knew what it was, and I really wasn't interested in trying it.  But, after talking with a distinguished Hispanic woman that I work with, I thought I'd give it a try.  Now, if you are squeamish, you need to exit out of this page now and go look at rainbows and happy stuff.  Barbacoa is traditionally an entire cow head that's wrapped in leaves and smoked in a hole in the ground.  Now, I told you I was going to be brave, but I'm nowhere that brave.  Lupe, the lady I work with, told me how to make it with only the beef cheeks (yes, the actual cheeks of the cow's face) and in the crockpot so it's easy too. So I discussed it with my husband who is a little braver than me (he ate a cooked chicken heart once), and he was all for it.

So I went to a local Amigo's, which is the Hispanic version of a United Supermarket, and procured said cheek meat.  I did, however, find cheek meat at Walmart too, so that could be an option.  On Sunday morning, we got up and prepared this meat to go into the crockpot with a lot of skepticism.  And it cooked, and we waited.  (We actually ate ours in the evening and not for breakfast.)  Then it came down to that scary moment:  It was done.  Time to test it out.  I had some fresh Pico de Gallo made and some corn tortillas warmed, along with some fresh chopped cilantro.  And the moment of truth.  "You go first, I said."  So he did.  He had a pleasant look of surprise on his face.  "It tastes like roast beef."  Whew.  Safe. So I tried it and it was good!  Makes for a great taco.  I think I will eat it with eggs next time.

So, if you're trying to expand your horizons and try something new, don't be scared.  After all, probably millions of people eat barbacoa on a daily basis and love it.  You just might too.

BARBACOA
4 lbs beef cheeks
8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 T cumin
1 lime
1 C beef stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf

FOR THE PICO DE GALLO:
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C red onion, diced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 serrano pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 small lime
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR SERVING:
Fresh chopped cilantro
Corn tortillas
Lime wedges

Trim as much of the fat off of the beef cheeks as possible. Cut the meat into about 2-inch pieces and place in the crockpot.  Place the garlic, cumin, salt & pepper, bay leaf, juice of the one lime, and beef stock into a crockpot.  Cook on slow for at least 8 hours or overnight until the meat is tender. Remove it from the crockpot and let cool until you can handle it.  Shred the meat with your hands or with two forks.  

Mix the Pico de Gallo ingredients together.  Serve the Barbacoa on warmed corn tortillas with some Pico de Gallo, a little fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Tres Leches Cake (Three Milk Cake)


Tres Leches Cake is a sponge cake that is soaked in three milks: Sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream or half and half.  I knew of this cake but had never eaten it before now.  And, while I almost never eat sweets, I see myself eating way too much of this cake.  You'll be hooked.  

As you can see in the picture, I did mine as a layer cake just to make a pretty picture.  But it is quite messy, and the milks will run out a little more as it chills.  I think the best and easiest way to make this cake, unless you want a fancy presentation, is to bake it in a 9 x 13 pan so that the liquid stays in the pan and not in the fridge.  And you will need a mixer for this cake or some really strong arms to beat egg whites.  Enjoy!

TRES LECHES CAKE
FOR THE CAKE:
8 eggs, separated
2 C flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 C sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE SOAK:
1 can evaporated milk (12 ounce)
1 C heavy cream or half and half
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:
2 C heavy cream
1/2 C powdered sugar

16-ounce container strawberries, sliced

Generously grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan (or two 8-inch round pans) very well.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the egg whites for about a minute on high in the mixer. Leaving the mixer on high, slowly pour in the sugar while the mixer is running.  Beat egg whites until they are at stiff peaks. Whisk egg yolks together by hand for about a minute.  Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg whites until it is incorporated into the egg whites.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake about 20-25 minutes or until done in the center.  Place on a rack and let it cool completely.

If you are using the 9 x 13 pan, you can leave the cake in the pan.  If you are going to layer the cake, remove the layers from the pans and put on a sheet pan to soak the cakes. Whisk together the soaking ingredients.  Poke some holes in the top of the cake(s) with a fork.  Pour the sauce over the cake(s).  Let it soak up for about 15-20 minutes at room temperature.

Put the heavy cream and powdered sugar into the bowl of a mixer and beat on high until the cream is stiff.  You can spread the cream onto the 9 x 13 cake and garnish with the strawberries.  If you are layering the cakes, put the bottom layer on a dish with high sides (it will be very hard to move, so carefully pick it up) so the milk soak can run out without running off into the fridge.  You can pipe or spread the whipped cream onto the bottom layer, then garnish with strawberries.  Repeat with the top layer.

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (Ceviche)


Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, or Ceviche, is quite different that American Shrimp Cocktail.  The Mexican version is spicy and is more like a cold soup with pico de gallo as opposed the thick chili sauce or ketchup version we have here.  Some people add in clam juice or sometimes even orange soda to their Mexican Shrimp Cocktail.  The cocktail is traditionally served with Saltine crackers, which is my favorite dipping vessel for this. My version uses Clamato juice which is something that I learned from a Hispanic woman I work with. Clamato is like spicy V8 with a bit of clam juice in it. 

My favorite place in the world to eat Mexican Shrimp Cocktail is at a restaurant in San Antonio called La Margarita. Theirs is actually called a Campechana Cocktail which also includes oysters.  The restaurant is located in Market Square where there is always a vibrant atmosphere of fiestas going on and strolling mariachi singers.  My husband and I love San Antonio so much that we want to end up there. And eat Mexican Shrimp Cocktails.  But, for now, I'll have to make it myself.

You're going to need a sombrero before you make this because you'll eat so much you'll need a siesta.

MEXICAN SHRIMP COCKTAIL (CEVICHE)
12 ounces of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
3 T chopped red onion
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 serrano pepper (or 1-2 jalapenos), chopped
1 1/2 C Spicy Clamato juice (or Spicy V8)
1 avocado, diced
Cayenne (to taste)
1 green onion, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Salt & pepper, to taste
Saltine crackers, for dipping

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Add in the cumin, chili powder and garlic powder.  Drop in the shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes until the shrimp is done and pink.  Drain and cool.

Mix the remaining ingredients together (not the Saltine crackers) in a bowl and season with salt and pepper and cayenne to taste.  Add in the shrimp and chill.  Serve it with the Saltine crackers.  This is even better the second day.

Mexican Street Corn


The Spanish word for this corn is Elotes.  You can eat this corn right off the cob, but at fairs and festivals, at least in West Texas, the kernels are cut from the cob and mixed with the sauce and eaten out of a cup.

MEXICAN STREET CORN
4 ears corn, with husks
1 C mayonnaise
1/2 C sour cream
Juice of one lime
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 C crumbled Cotija (or shredded Parmesan cheese)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Peel the husks of the corn back but don't remove them. Remove all of the strings and rinse.  Fold the husks back over the corn.  Soak the corn in the sink covered in water for about 20-30 minutes prior to cooking.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the corn on a sheet pan and roast about 40-45 minutes or until it's tender.

Mix the mayo, sour cream, lime juice, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, cayenne and Cotija or Parmesan cheese together.  Spread it on the corn if eating it off the cob or stir it together with the sauce if you are cutting the kernels off of the cob.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Taking Shortcuts


I am a person who is always in a hurry.  I walk fast.  I take long strides when I walk.  I practically run through stores because I'm in a hurry.  I actually did run away from my daughter once in Walmart.  It was rather funny, for me at least.  She was slightly embarrassed.  My husband has to tell me before we go into stores that he doesn't want to sprint through the store.  It pains me a lot to get stuck behind slow people.  Why am I always in a hurry?  Well, for starters, I am OCD.  I am extremely efficient.  I can get more done in one day than a lot of people can in a week.  I plan the route on my errands so that I make a big circle instead of zig-zagging back and forth. I am a little impatient, and my goal is always to hurry up and be done, get home.  

I also sometimes like to take shortcuts in the kitchen.  If I can make things quicker and easier, I will certainly do that.  So I wanted to make Italian Stuffed Peppers, but they take a long time to cook.  Make the rice.  Brown the beef.  Fill the peppers and cook.  A long time to cook.  So I had a lightbulb moment.  I roast poblano peppers and jalapenos all the time in the oven.  Why can't I roast the bell peppers while I prepare the rest of the filling?  Then my cooking time in the oven should be short, right?  RIGHT!  It worked.  By the time I had the veggies chopped, the rice done, the meat cooked, the cheese shredded, and the sauce ready, the peppers were already soft.  All I had to do was fill them, top them with sauce and cheese, and cook for only about 10 more minutes! Genius!  And they were, of course, darn tasty.

ITALIAN STUFFED PEPPERS
5-6 bell peppers, any color
1 lb ground beef
1 C rice
1 onion
1 stalk celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 C beef stock
Chili flakes, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 C Basic Marinara Sauce (click for my recipe)
1 C shredded Mozzarella
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the tops off of the bell peppers and reserve.  Remove the stems and seeds.  If you need to, cut a little off the bottom so that they will sit upright. Brush them inside and out with a little olive oil.  Put them on a sheet pan and roast, turning occasionally, until they are soft, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 2 C water and rice to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the rice is done.  While the rice and peppers are cooking, chop the onion and celery. Cut as much off of the bell pepper tops as you can save and chop that.  Drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet and cook the veggies over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the ground beef, chili flake, salt & pepper and garlic and cook until the meat is done.  Drain if necessary.

When the rice is done, add it to the meat mixture.  Add in the beef stock and cook over medium heat until the stock is absorbed.  Remove from the heat.

Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees.  Put about half of the Marinara sauce in the bottom of a casserole pan.  Place the peppers upright in the sauce.  Fill each pepper with the meat mixture and top each with the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle the cheese over the tops of the peppers and bake for about 10 minutes to heat the sauce and melt the cheese.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tabbouleh


Here's a delightful and healthy salad that you may not have ever heard of.  It's called Tabbouleh (ta-boo-lee).  It's a salad with veggies and a grain called bulghur wheat.  This one also has red quinoa, since I could only find bulghur wheat mixed with quinoa and not bulghur wheat by itself.  And I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out great with the quinoa! Dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, this salad is sure to be a big hit!

TABBOULEH
1 1/2 C bulghur wheat or half bulghur and half red quinoa
3 C water
2-3 lemons
1/2 C olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 C Italian parsley, chopped
2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste

Bring the water and bulghur (or bulghur/quinoa combo) to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook about 10 minutes or until all of the water is cooked out.  Let cool enough to handle.

Whisk together the juice of 2 lemons with the olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper.  When you can handle the quinoa, mix all of the ingredients together with the dressing.  Add in the juice from the third lemon if necessary after tasting.  Chill for at least 1/2 hour.  This keeps for several days in the fridge.

Loaded Potato Salad


LOADED POTATO SALAD
6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 C sour cream
1 C mayonnaise
3 green onions, chopped
1 packet Ranch dip mix
6 boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

Cover the potatoes with water and boil until they are tender. Drain.

Whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, and Ranch dip mix.  Stir the sauce, potatoes, cheese, green onions, eggs, and bacon together to coat.  Chill well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scallops for the Master


Two days ago, I got a brand-spanking new gas convection oven with five burners and it's fabulous!  I'm so excited since the one we got rid of was an eyesore and only two burners worked, one of which only worked sometimes.  It's a wonder that I made such great meals on that oven.  But it's on its way to the appliance graveyard.  Good riddance.

So the very first meal I made with my fabulous new oven was scallops.  And I made them for the master of our household, my husband.  Not master like we are slaves, but like King of the Castle, Leader of the Pack, the Man of the House, King of the Hill.  You get the picture.  When it comes to seafood, scallops are his favorite.  And, since he bought me that new oven, he gets what he wants.

I asked my husband to pick up some scallops on his way home. When I ask my husband to go to the store for me, it's usually interesting to see what he brings back.  He always goes for the biggest and best.  One time he brought back some ginormous 2-inch-thick pork chops.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Those pork chops were darn tasty.  So the scallops he bought, of course, were the big U/10 scallops, which means only about 10 make up a pound. 

I chose to pan sear these scallops.  Pan searing something is a quick way to bring a lot of flavor and slight crispiness to whatever you are cooking.  The browned crust packs a punch of flavor.  I wouldn't recommend using bay scallops for this since they are more delicate and break up easier.  If you can't find U/10 scallops, buy the sea scallops.

To accompany these gorgeous scallops, I made a beautiful Risotto with mushrooms, pancetta and peas.  Only the best for the master.

PAN-SEARED SCALLOPS
2 lbs U/10 scallops (or sea scallops)
1/2 C butter
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Juice of half a lemon

NOTE:  Be careful during this cooking process since the butter and olive oil have a tendency to spatter and spit.  Also, the watch the butter because it can burn quickly.  If it starts browning, turn the heat down a little.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Coat the pan with olive oil.  Place the scallops in the pan in a single layer.  Season the top side with salt and pepper.  Cook until they are browned on the bottom, then flip them over.  Season the new top side with salt and pepper.  Cook until browned on the bottom.  Remove from heat and squeeze the lemon juice over the scallops.




PANCETTA, PEA & MUSHROOM RISOTTO
2 shallots, diced
4 T butter, divided in half
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
2 C arborio rice
4-5 C chicken stock, kept warm on the stove
1 C white wine
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
1 C frozen peas
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 C Parmesan cheese, shaved (shredded is okay too)

**NOTE:  The pancetta, chicken stock, and Parmesan cheese will salt the risotto on its own.  Wait until the risotto is completely done, taste it, and then add salt if it's needed.

Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet.  Heat the skillet over medium high heat and cook the pancetta until crispy.  Drain on a paper towel.

Melt half of the butter in the same skillet and add in the mushrooms. Add in more olive oil if necessary.  Cook until browned and done. Remove from heat.

In a large dutch oven or pot, melt the remaining butter over medium heat.  Drizzle some olive oil in the potand cook the shallots until they are tender.  Add in the rice and stir, browning slightly. Pour in the wine and cook about 2 minutes to absorb.  Add in the garlic now.  Using a ladle, spoon a ladleful of the chicken stock into the rice. Cook and stir constantly until the liquid is almost gone.  Add in another ladleful and keep doing that until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender.  If the rice still isn't tender, continue with about 1 C of water at a time until done.

Remove from heat.  Stir in pancetta, mushrooms, peas, Parmesan cheese, and parsley.  Season with pepper and salt if necessary.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Food Stylings


When I was younger, I loved to stop at Taco Bell for some Mexican eating.  (Song reference...if you know it, you are giving your age away.)  Now I very rarely ever eat fast food, and it's probably been quite a few years since I've eaten at Taco Bell.  Remember the Enchirito?  I used to love those. But I also liked the Steak Quesadillas and Mexican Pizzas.  

As I get older, though, I just really prefer home-cooked food. But, as I was browsing through Pinterest, I saw several pins of copycat Mexican Pizzas.  Taco Bell does have some interesting concepts when it comes to their food, but I'm not so sure anymore about their ingredients.  So I went in search and found the recipe all over the internet.  I also dug deeper and found copycat recipes for the Steak Quesadilla.   So I just had to try them.  And you know what?  I can't believe how close these tasted to the original and it was REAL ingredients!  You'll be amazed at how the sauce on the quesadilla tastes just like Taco Bell's and how close the meat is!  If you are a fan of Taco Bell or a fan of either the pizza or the quesadilla, you're going to be surprised too.  I did cheat a little and bought a jar of the Taco Bell taco sauce, but you can use your favorite.  Even Cholua would be good here.

COPYCAT TACO BELL MEXICAN PIZZA
FOR THE MEAT:
1 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 T masa harina (corn flour)
2 teaspoons beef bouillon paste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 C water

FOR THE PIZZA:
8 flour tortillas
1 C vegetable oil
2 C refried beans (I used homemade, but canned will do)
Taco sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sliced black olives
Sliced green onions
Chopped tomatoes

Brown the ground beef and drain if necessary.  Add in the remaining meat ingredients and simmer about five minutes or until the liquid has evaporated some.  Keep warm.

Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Fry the tortillas about 30 seconds on each side or until they are browned and crispy.  Drain on paper towels.

Heat the beans up.  Preheat the broiler.  Spread four of the crispy tortillas with the beans.  Next divide the meat up among the four tortillas and spread over the beans.  Place another tortilla over the meat.  Spread the sauce over the second tortilla.  Sprinkle on some cheese, tomatoes, black olives, and green onions.  Place the pizzas on a sheet pan and melt the cheese under the broiler a couple of minutes.


COPYCAT TACO BELL STEAK QUESADILLAS
FOR THE SAUCE:
1/4 C mayonnaise
2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno slices (from the jar)
3 teaspoons of the jalapeno juice from the jar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE STEAK:
1 lb thin-cut steak (like flank or skirt or your choice)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

FOR THE QUESADILLAS:
Four 10-inch flour tortillas
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 slices American cheese

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season the steaks with salt and pepper.  Brown and cook the steaks on both sides to your desired doneness.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let it rest before slicing thin.

Mix the sauce ingredients together.  You will need a large skillet, preferably flat, to cook the quesadillas since they won't be folded until they are done.  Take one tortilla and spread 1/4 of the sauce over half of the tortilla.  Place half of a slice of American cheese on the other half.  Put 1/4 C of both Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese over the American cheese.  Lay 1/4 of the steak slices over the cheese.  Cook on the griddle or skillet until the tortilla is browned on the bottom and the cheese is melted.  Repeat with the other three quesadillas.  Fold one half over of each tortilla over the other half and cut into wedges with a pizza cutter.