Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mexican Cauliflower Soup for the Soul

Soup is good for the soul.
Every soul has something that could use a little repair.
I know you know that..
What's up with you?
I'm thinking soup will sooth the raggedy edges and feelings... maybe not permanently, but really wouldn't feeling a little better feel good at any time?

Maybe it's the steam or is it the warmth?
It might just be the smooth texture or the satisfying, salty flavors.
The best soup is the one made for you, or the one that you made for someone to share.
Soup just does a body good.
Soup says "I love you" to those around you, or to yourself, if needed.
I love you.

This one is healthy with no milk or cream, just a little butter and cheese.  Even those could be omitted if you desired. Mexican is applied loosely here  I have no idea if this is Mexican, but it's flavors that inspire me, so that's what I used

1 head cauliflower, broken into flowerettes
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp butter, or olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 cup shredded cheese, optional (I used a Mexican shredded blend from a package)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In an 6 qt stockpot (medium size), add the broth and the cauliflower pieces.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cover.  It should be softened in about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, add the butter (or oil) and the chopped onions. Saute on medium high until they start to take on a little brown color, add the garlic and the chili powder and cook for another 2 minutes.

In a blender, or with a stick blender in your stock pot, add the onion/chili powder mixture to the broth and cauliflower mixture. 

I know this isn't the nicest looking photo... but you get the picture, right?

Blend until smooth. If you are using a regular blender, be sure to be careful, because hot mixtures tend to expand when blended, usually blowing your lid off and making a mess.  Cover the top with a pot holder, and hold that sucker... I mean LID, down.

Reheat gently, adding the cheese (if using), salt and pepper as needed. 
Serve with a little green salsa* and some more shredded cheese.

* I blended cilantro, garlic cloves, lime and little olive oil to make a great side condiment for steak the other day (it's like the best thing EVER if you like cilantro). I used the leftovers of that in my soup.... oh, so yummy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mexican Chilled Prawn Salad

A very happy weekend... friends, writing, sunshine, wine and food, all in a beautiful location.Hey, no one has to have all of those to be happy.
Mostly a little sunshine, a nice meal and someone to share it with is enough for me.
But, you know what?
Actually I am pretty confident I could be happy eating this salad, by myself, on a rainy day.
It's a happy and mostly healthy salad.

I got together with a bunch of gals at a vacation home in Eastern Washington this last weekend. We're all writers and we're all bloggers, hanging together, a little laughing, crying and critiquing the writing. Add some beautiful scenery, hot sun, cold wine and enough meals to make a grown man blush and you might have a perfect weekend.  This was the lightest meal we ate, we laughed that we needed to do some farmer work, but instead used our heavy lifting for writing.  We like to think it burns the same amount of calories.

Here I am writing away, looks like this was coffee time, must have been before 5 o'clock.  

I made this on a Thursday night, and packed it almost 200 miles to eat for lunch on Saturday.  It's an easy to throw together salad that travels, and keeps, nicely.  I brought the tomato, cilantro, lettuce and avocado to assemble at the last minute. The best part of this salad is that the salad already includes the dressing as part of it.  Add a squeeze of lime if you need more...

Serves 6-8
3 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp dry mustard, or dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste... could be more needed!)
3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 lbs prawns, cooked and cooled (I used frozen, pre-cooked prawns from Costco)
4 green onions, chopped
2 jalapeno's, seeded and minced
1 cup corn, either fresh or frozen & thawed
Dressing (from above)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small can sliced black olives, drained (optional, I forgot to add them!)
6-8 cups fresh salad greens
Limes, for serving on the side

In a blender, add the garlic cloves, cilantro, salt, mustard and lime juice. With the engine running, add a thin stream of oil through the hole in the top of the lid.  Continue adding the oil slowly until the oil is all blended in. Test the seasoning, it should be well seasoned and maybe a bit on the salty side. It needs to be well seasoned as the prawns, corn and tomatoes will need that to make a great salad. Set the dressing aside while you assemble the salad.

In serving bowl, or a bowl with a storage lid (like I did), add the prawns, jalapenos, green onions, olives and corn. Add the dressing over the top and stir.  Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes, or as long as a day (like I did).  When you are ready to serve, add the diced tomatoes, the sliced avocados and stir again.  Add to the top of fresh salad greens and serve with some tortilla chips.

Here's the leftovers from our lunch, I carried them another 200 miles home and had it for Sunday dinner with my husband.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jambalaya Sandwich

I saw Guy Fieri do this sandwich about 8 months ago on TV. 
I've been thinking of it ever since.
What's not to like about a jambalaya sandwich?

Some people, purists like my sister, might enjoy it best in the traditional way with rice.
But I have a very nice recipe already on my blog for Jambalaya, and I needed it in a sandwich! 
What an easy way to fill a bun; meat, sauce, veggies and zesty spices dumped into your bread of choice and enjoyed right away.  I wouldn't want to eat jambalaya on a hot day, but I would always, always want it in a sandwich!

What about you?
If so, go for it!

This is easy and comes together quickly too.  My only advice is to use a sturdy roll or baguette for this.  The hoagie rolls I used were too soft and after a couple of minutes made the bread soggy so we couldn't pick these up anymore.... though it just might have been the amount of sauce I added to mine. I love sauce...

Serves 6-8

1 cup peppers
1 cup onions
1 cup celery
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1 lb andouille sausage or hot links, sliced
1 lb prawns, cleaned and tails pulled off
1 can tomatoes, diced with their juice
1/2 can of tomato paste (about 2-3 Tbsp)
1 tsp thyme, dried or fresh
1 tsp oregano, dried or fresh
1-3 Tbsp Frank's red Hot, or other hot sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 300 degrees to warm your sandwich buns, if desired.

In a large dutch oven, over medium high heat, add the olive oil, onions, peppers and celery.  Saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions have started to soften up and take on some brownish color.  Add the garlic and cook 1-2 more minutes. Remove the sauteed veggies to a side plate, and use the same pan to brown the chicken in a little more oil for about 6-7 minutes, add the sausage and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add reserved cooked veggies.

This is what it looked like right before I added the tomatoes. It will be much saucier in a minute...

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices.  Bring to a boil and add the shrimp.  Turn down to medium and cook for about 2-3 more minutes until the shrimp are pink, stirring occasionally.  Add hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste. 

Add to rolls and serve!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Lime & Chili Pepper Chicken Tacos

I'm always taking things out of the freezer and thawing them without having any idea of what to do with them...  sometimes it gets me into trouble.
But then again,  sometimes it makes me come up with a new and creative way to use a basic like chicken thighs. Here's one of them

I buy the big bag at Costco of the boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I didn't like dark meat chicken when I was younger, but I do really think that it is so yummy and versatile in so many dishes now.  And certainly cheaper too.  Some of my favorite recipes using chicken thighs are  Sticky Coconut Chicken and Chicken, Bacon and Prunes.. 

But I was craving Mexican food... which is actually something I do a lot. 
It was Cinco de Mayo last week and all's we had was delivered pizza on the big day since I am certainly NOT going out for Mexican on Cinco de Mayo.  It's like going out for brunch on Mother's Day. I hate eating in crowded restaurants... don't you? 

This recipe has what I like; flavors that stand out and get noticed.  The lime, chili power, garlic and salt add a great flavor to the chicken. I like flavors that I can notice, not some silly subtle flavor, especially in Mexican food! Adding a bit of sugar helps to carmalize the chicken thighs and don't add sweetness.  
Serves 4-6

8-10 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
3 limes, juiced
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp dried garlic granules
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil

Add the chicken thighs to a large ziploc bag.  Add all the marinade ingredients and mix well.  Allow to marinate for 6 or more hours. Overnight would work too.

Barbecue the chicken on medium hot grill for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through.   You want the chicken cooked through, but still juicy and moist. 

 Let chicken sit for 5-10 minutes, then slice the chicken into thin pieces.  

Serve with warm tortillas (either corn or flour will do), chipotle sour cream and some Spicy Coleslaw.  Serve with some salsa, you might even want to try my Hot, hot green salsa if you like it spicy!

Here's some other of my favorite Mexican dishes:
Cilantro Chicken
Lazy Girl Salsa Chicken- Crockpot
Three Citrus Tequila Grilled Chicken

Chipotle Sour Cream

I use this stuff on everything. The whole family loves it, and makes sad faces when there isn't any in the fridge. Three ingredients, so easy that I almost didn't share it....

You will be glad I did.

Makes 1 pint
Serves a bunch

2-3 chipotle peppers with sauce
1-16oz tub of sour cream
1 tsp. salt, or to taste

Add the chipotle peppers in the bottom of the blender, add in the sour cream and salt.  Blend until it’s a nice soft peachy color.  I have noticed that some sour creams become runnier when you blend them, mostly the cheap store brands.  Buy a good sour cream!

Give it a taste test… if you like it hotter, go ahead and add another chipotle pepper. Best to warn others when serving this… as not every likes it spicy and this can really pack a punch.  So easy, we have this on hand in the fridge at most times.  Try this on your eggs, or even on your sandwich instead of mayonnaise!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Marshmallow S'Mores Cupcakes

Cupcakes just make people smile.
Why wouldn't you want to contribute to someones happiness?
Don't hold back folks... let's use all our personality to make their day!
Go ahead, get started. It's not that hard.

I've been thinking of a S'mores cupcake for a while.
Ever since I saw a recipe for "marshmallow" frosting,
I've been thinking; what could be more appropriate for marshmallows than a S'mores cupcake?
Graham cracker crust, layer of melted chocolate, chocolate cake and marshmallow frosting.  All the fun without the bonfire smell in your hair!
It was even easier to do than I thought it would be.
A couple things about the frosting, I would suggest making it and serving it pretty soon after, as it does tend to deflate a bit over night..  The frosting is fluffy and does taste like marshmallows! In the graham cracker crust, I have added some salt... we just thought a little salty/sweet would make this cupcake perfect.... it's up to you!

I made cupcakes last night for a staff meeting to celebrate some birthdays today, and purposely saved a couple to take to the neighbor who left a surprise on my door step last week!  Everyone likes surprises, especially cupcake surprises.
I delivered them and was given a glass of wine in return.
Who's the winner here?  Me!
You give, and the natural side affects are nice. 
Don't hold back, make someone happy today.
Makes 20-24 cupcakes
Graham cracker crumb crust:
1 1/2 cup graham crumb, crushed
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

1/2 cup Chocolate chips, or chunks (optional)

Mix the crushed graham crackers with the sugar and melted butter in a small bowl.  Add 1-2 Tbsp of the graham cracker mixture to the bottom of each cupcake paper liner and press down with a spoon firmly, you should have enough to fill about 24 cupcake liners.

Add 6-8 chocolate chips or chunks on top of each crust. Set aside while you make the cupcake batter.

Chocolate cupcake batter Ingredients:
(This is my basic Vegan recipe, no eggs, but works out beautifully!
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vinegar, white or Cider 
Preheat oven at 350.
Mix together all dry ingredients, then the liquid (water, coconut milk, juice, soy milk, etc), oil and extract, then add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until uniformly moistened.  This batter is a bit more liquid than most batters, but it cooks up nice and moist! Top the graham cracker crust and chocolate with enough batter to fill to a bit over 3/4 of the way full. Bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

4 large egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place all ingredients except the vanilla extract into a large metal bowl which you can place over a pot of simmering water. Whisk the egg white mixture constantly over simmering water until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot to the touch. {It takes around 5 minutes}.

Remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer for 3 minutes. Add the vanilla while beating. After 3 minutes, the mixture will be lovely and fluffy.

Top the cupcakes and serve right away to get many, many smiles from your friends and family!

If you like cupcakes, here's some of my most popular recipes:
Coconut Cream Filled Cupcakes
Junior Mint Cupcakes
Margarita Filled Cupcakes
Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes
Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes with Molasses Buttercream
Reese's Stuffed Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Good Ole Basic Cornbread

It takes 5 minutes to whomp this together.
It does too.
I timed myself while I was bakin' bacon.  
Sunday mornings just mean bacon and a leisurely breakfast at our house.  If you haven't learned you should bake your bacon yet, you really need to try it*. I set my timer for 11 minutes while the bacon was cooking, and I was done by the 5 minute mark with my cornbread! Of course it still had to bake but essentially, I was done!

I lifted this recipe off the Alber's cornbread box many years ago. I'd like to say I'd improved it, but I haven't made any changes that I know of...
I figured "hey, cornbread is their business", why change it! 
Except  I googled it and it looks to me that there may be more than one recipe on Alber's site.  Oh well... here's the one that I like

Our son and our daughter's boyfriend, Danny, were up this weekend, helping us with some outdoor projects. It sure is fun to feed young guys who have been working hard all day... they sure are enthusiastic about food! They are a pleasure to feed!  Danny made a bacon, tomato jalapeno jelly(recipe to come tomorrow) and cornbread sandwich with his breakfast. Oh yeah... that was good! 

Makes a 9x9 pan (easily doubled for a 9x13 pan)

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable or corn oil
1 egg, well beaten

Mix together all the dry ingredients in one bowl (cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder & salt), stir to combine. I used my mixer, but I used a regular bowl and spoon for years.

Here's my trick for measuring the wet ingredients easily; use a 2 cup measure, add 1 cup of milk, then add 1/3 cup il up to the mark on the side, add the egg and beat it all up in the milk and oil.  

Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Don't over mix, but don't over mix either. Pour into a greased baking pan (spray, butter, oil, bacon grease- all work).
Add to a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  I always use a glass pan, so mine tends to cook in 20 minutes, but a metal pan may that 25 minutes.  When a toothpick comes out clean, it's done.

 *Makin' Bacon the Easy Way
Lay out your slices on the pan, it takes about 2 for one pound of bacon. Pop into a 400 degree oven for 11 minutes. (I set my timer, it works).  Sometimes you need to flip your pans, it sort of depends on your bacon.

Here's a delightfully yummy cornbread that is a bit more complicated to make, but oh so delicious.
Sweet & Moist Spicy Jalapeno Cornbread 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Versatile Salad Dressing Recipe- Never buy store bought again!

So dang easy...

I think you should spend your money on yummy vinegars and oils to make your own creative salad dressings, and not on crappy bottled salad dressing. 

This is so base recipe is so easy, I have actually made salad dressing at 5am before work before, maybe that's a little crazy and all, but it IS easy. It takes about 5 minutes to pull together something yummy.

(Raspberry Orange Poppyseed Dressing)
Here's a couple of points about making your own salad dressings
* Keeps beautifully in the fridge
* Use on green tossed salads, chopped salads, fruit salads
* Makes an easy and delicious marinade for steaks, chicken and fish
* No yucky preservatives
* Economical, I bet it costs under $1
* Control the amount of sugar in your dressing... or leave it out altogether

Here's the idea for your own dressing,
1) combine an acid (vinegar, citrus juice, fruit juice etc)
2) with an emulsifier (Dijon mustard or dry mustard)
3) some seasoning (fresh herbs, garlic, honey etc)
4) Blend up.
5) With the blender going, pour in some oil in a steady stream through the hole in the lid of your blender.
6) Adjust your seasoning and serve. Easy.

Here's a shot of everything before you blend and dribble in the oil with the blender running.

A couple of notes on oil,
* I don't usually use all olive oil in my recipe because it has a strong taste, but it is really up to you.  What do you like?  Use it!  I usually mix my oils to get a taste that fits my mood.
* If you use 3/4 cup of oil, you usually get a thicker dressing, use a cup of oil = thinner.
* I also have used 3/4 oil, and added in a 1/4 of water slowly to reduce the amount of fat in your dressing. 

Think of these recipes as guidelines.... you are supposed to make it what you like!!!
Here's the base recipe for Lemon Dijon Dressing:
1/4 cup Lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves (optional)
1-2 Tbsp parsley, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup vegetable oil 

Mexican Cumin & Cilantro Dressing
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp dry mustard
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
salt & pepper
3/4-1 cup of oil

Orange, Raspberry Poppyseed Dressing
1-2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp raspberry vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard, dijon
salt to taste
3/4-1 cup of oil
2 tsp poppyseeds

Asian Sesame Dressing
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp dry mustard powder
salt and pepper
3/4-1 cup of oil

Balsamic Dijon Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
3/4-1 cup of oil
Salt & fresh ground pepper

Greek Feta Dressing
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
3/4-1 cup of oil
1/4 cup crumbled feta, added after blended, OR before if you like

Acids, pick ONE (or combine some...):

Lemon juice
Lime juice
Rice Wine vinegar
red wine vinegar
cider vinegar
balsamic vinegar
Raspberry Vinegar

Oils, pick ONE or two...:
Canola Oil
Olive Oil
Truffle Oil (1-2 tsp for flavoring)
Peanut Oil
Sesame Oil (1-2 tsp for flavoring)

Flavorings, pick what you like:

Herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil, chives, mint, oregano)
Seasoning Salt
Sesame Seeds

Emulsifier (you need this to make it thick):

Dijon Mustard
Dry English Mustard