Monthly Archives: December 2011

En-chihuahua-ladas!

Standard

I’ve always loved cooking and baking the cuisine of mi homeland, but ever since we got back from our recent trip down south, I’ve been on a total Mexican food kick. I’m talking everything from homemade salsas and guacamole (recipe to come) to my Tempeh Fajitas and Mexican stuffed Carnival Squashes (inspired by this recipe). My most recent concoction, however, was something I’ve always been somewhat intimidated by and never before had the nerve to tackle– Enchiladas. I don’t know what it was about enchiladas that always made me fear making them for mi familia. It could have something to do with their being an item that required rolling up and I lack the proper grip and dexterity such as thumbs. Or it could be due to my failed attempt at making cannoli’s three years ago for mi papa’s annual Bocce ball celebration in honor of his Italian heritage. I’ll spare you all the details but just picture a big batch of blackened fried pastry dough, a kitchen full of fire extinguisher powder and mi mama’s number of eyebrows being reduced from two to one. Not a pretty site… and the kitchen looked pretty bad too.

Whatever the reason may be, it wasn’t until two nights ago that I decided to overcome my fear and hesitation and just jump in with all four feet. And much to my amazement, they turned out to be not only incredibly delicioso, but amazingly easy as well. I made mine with chicken but they could easily be made vegetarian by either simply deleting the meat all together, or substituting a batch of chopped homemade vegan sausage or a package of tempeh or pressed tofu. The possibilities are endless. And now that I know how easy they are to make, I’ll definitely be making them again. Check one off my list of New Year’s Resolutions!

Verde Chicken Enchiladas

2 tsp canola oil

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp diced jalapeno pepper

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup fresh or frozen corn

1 cup + 1/4 cup verde picante sauce or salsa, divided

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

6 soft taco-sized flour tortillas

shredded cheddar cheese, enough to top enchiladas

Directions:

1) Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium. Add chicken, onions, bell pepper and garlic. Saute until onions are softened and chicken is no longer pink.

2) Add jalapeno pepper, tomatoes, beans, corn, 1/4 cup verde sauce and spices. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer 10-15 minutes.

3) Heat tortillas in microwave 15 seconds to soften. Spread remaining verde sauce on bottom of 13×9″ casserole dish.

4) Spread 1 cup of chicken mixture down the middle of each tortilla. Roll up like a cigar (or cannoli) and place in dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

5) Top enchiladas with any remaining chicken mixture.

6) Bake in pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Top with shredded cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted.

7) Serve with sour cream, chopped green onions, guacamole etc. and enjoy!

After overcoming this little phobia of mine, I feel like I can finally take on anything else that may cross my path. Like playing a piano concerto in front of a huge audience at Madison Square Garden this coming Sunday. Better go brush up on my ivory tickling.

“While visions of carrot sticks, danced in their heads”

Standard

Hola and Feliz Navidad mis amigos! I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful holiday filled with joy and laughter and are now knee-deep in wrapping paper and bows and ugly sweaters you received from relatives who obviously don’t like you very much.

I, myself, had a very relaxing morning listening to Desi Arnaz’s greatest holiday hits album on Pandora and lapping up a lovely cup of eggnog Evian while making a yummy batch of granola for mi Tio Tony to enjoy once he rises from his slumber. Seeing as how it’s now past noon and there’s still no sign of him waking up anytime soon, he may not get to enjoy this for breakfast after all. Oh well, this stuff is sure to be equally delicioso as either an afternoon snack or even a cure for the late-night munchies.

Orange-Vanilla Spiced Granola

3 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup flaxseed

1/2 cup chopped nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans etc.)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup honey or agave nectar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp grated orange rind

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 unsweetened, flaked coconut

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

2) Mix oats, wheat germ, flaxseeds and nuts in a large bowl.

3) Combine orange juice, honey, vanilla, orange rind and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Heat oven medium-low until honey has melted. Allow to cool 5 minutes.

4) Pour orange-honey mixture over oat mixture. Stir well to combine.

5) Pour mixture onto a large cookie sheet and spread out into a thin layer. Bake 20 minutes, stirring once.

6) Add shredded coconut and bake an additional 10 minutes or until crunchy.

7) Enjoy!

Well that’s about all I’ve got for today muchachos. Have a wonderful day whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hannukah or just the fact that it’s Sunday and you have twelve chances to watch “A Christmas Story” on TBS.

Happy Holidays!

I’m working on someday being able to lick my eyeball.

Pilafs Gone Wild

Standard

Buenos dias mis amigos y amigas! I’m finally back home and ready to get my groove on in the kitchen once again. Please forgive me for my long absence. Mi mama, papa and I were in my homeland of Mexico for mi mama’s best friend’s wedding. She was asked to be one of the bridesmaids and I was there to perform the wedding ceremony. Yes yes, in addition to all my other talents and professions, I am also an ordained minister and wedding officiator. Doesn’t pay very well but it still allows me to be the center of attention even on days when it should be the bride’s. Not to mention a good excuse for me to wear my tuxedo, top hat and tails. I’m fancy.

So now we’re home, all my bags and suitcases are unpacked (thanks Papa) and I’m running around like a Chihuahua with his eyes popped out trying to figure out my menu for Christmas dinner. Hard to believe that day is almost here and even harder to believe that I don’t have everything already planned out given the fact that I’ve already made all the preparations for my 8th birthday party in Vegas and that’s not even until March. Is it wrong that I find my day of birth more important than Baby Jesus’s?

Well even though I don’t have the whole menu planned out, I do know one thing for sure. And that is I will definitely be serving this incredibly tasty Wild Rice pilaf as an accompaniment to whatever main dish I decide to prepare. Trust me when I tell you, this stuff is maravilloso. Mi familia had the pleasure of enjoying it this past Thanksgiving and have requested I make it again for our upcoming Christmas feast. Absolutamente!

Wild Rice Pilaf with Cranberries and Chestnuts

2 cups Wild Rice blend, uncooked

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups cooked chestnuts, bottled or from a package

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 tbsp olive oil

3 large carrots, thinly sliced

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

2 tbsp fresh sage, minced

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Combine rice, broth and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and allow to cook 40 minutes or until rice is tender. Do not drain. Place rice in a large bowl and cover.

2) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

3) Place cranberries in a bowl and cover with warm water. Allow to sit 20 minutes until softened. Drain cranberries and add to the rice.

4) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add carrots, onions and celery and cook 15 minutes or until softened. Stir in herbs and remove from heat. Add to rice mixture along with chestnuts and salt and pepper.

5) Spoon rice mixture into a 13×9″ casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Cover and bake 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

6) Enjoy!

The great thing about this dish is if your main course ends up tasting like a burro’s caca, no one will even notice because this pilaf will be the star of the show.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few phone calls I need to make to some of my canine lady friends. Apparently this funny looking necklace I caught around my head at the wedding reception means I am the next gentleman to be wed in holy matrimony.

I can’t wait til the bachelor party.

Just popping in…

Standard

…to say I can’t stay. So sorry to go M.I.A. for the past couple days. I’m currently in my homeland of Mexico and haven’t had a chance to post. I plan to return to my regularly scheduled blogging sometime early next week. Until then, mi amigos, be good, eat well, and take a little time out for yourselves to just relax.

Reader Request Recipe

Standard

Hola mi amigos! I hope you’re all having wonderful weekends so far. I started my morning off with a hearty breakfast, an intense Pilates session and a little cooking action in the kitchen. The other day a lovely blog reader (hi Allison!) contacted me with a request for a yummy and healthy cranberry sauce recipe that contains little to no real or fake sugars. As it happens, I have an awesome recipe for one that I have been making for mi familia for the past seven years. I’ve been meaning to post this since November, back even before Thanksgiving but realized I had never taken a picture of the final dish. Apparently everyone loved it so much that it was gone before it could be properly documented… or I was just too busy licking the floor and begging politely asking for carrots, that I completely forgot about a picture. So since I was asked so kindly and the fact that Christmas is just around the corner, I got down to business this morning and made my cranberry sauce. It’s oh so delicioso, low in sugar and pretty much the best accompaniment to any main meat or non-meat dish you could find. I hope you enjoy!

Teeny’s Cranberry Apple/Pear Relish

12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped

2 very ripe Bartlett pears, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup white grape juice or apple juice

1/4 cup sweetener of your choice (white sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, Stevia etc)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

Directions:

1) Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil.

2) Lower heat and allow to thicken 15-20 minutes.

3) Cool completely before serving. I think it tastes best the next day after all the flavors have been able to meld together.

4) Serve with a turkey, spiral ham, on a sandwich, on top of yogurt, in a bowl of oatmeal, straight out of the pot with a spoon etc.

So there you have it. And gracias Allison for lighting the fire under my tooshie to finally post this recipe. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I had a very busy morning and I’m ready for a little snooze.

Hmm, I think there’s a pea underneath the blue blanket. It’s making it rather uncomfortable to sleep.

The One Pot Wonder

Standard

I’m all about the one pot meal.  Meals that only require dirtying one pot and then one plate or bowl are the essence of my being. Well, actually being adorable and modest are the true essences of my being, but one pot meals also kind of play a part. Anytime I can throw a bunch of stuff into a pot or pan and call it a meal is awesome in my book (which, by the way, will be coming out just as soon as I can find a publishing company willing to pay the right amount of money). The fewer dishes to do at the end of the night, the better. Not that I’m the one who ever has to do the cleaning up. My diminutive little paws are much to delicate to have to deal with the harsh chemicals contained in dishwashing soap. No no. We leave that job to mi mama. Deep down, I think she secretly enjoys cleaning (OCD, perhaps). Especially when it comes to loading the dishwasher. If mi papa puts an item in the dishwasher, she will smile at him sweetly, thank him for being so helpful, and then immediately rearrange the dish to her liking once he turns his back. I watch this routine play out just about every evening and it always makes me chuckle. I should videotape it one of these days– well, just as soon as I figure out how to use a video camera, that is.

But anyway, back to what I was originally talking about. Yo quiero the one pot meal. Especially on those evenings when I’m trying to make two different dinners at the same time. One of the vegetarian variety for mi mama and one of the not-so-vegetarian variety for mi papa. Even though mi papa is all about eating non-meaty dinners for the most part, every once in a while the man craves a little animal carcass. And when he does, I like to oblige. On those nights, their meals each require one pot, so I guess technically they should be called the Two Potters, but when broken down each meal still comes from only one pot. One pot per each type of meal. Got it? Hmm, that was probably more rambling and too much detail than you needed to be told. I should really cut down on the caffeine in the afternoons. It’s a slight addiction and sometimes just kind of fun to steal a couple licks of mi mama’s Chai tea when she’s not looking–especially right after I’ve licked the floor or some of my boy-dog parts… hee hee 🙂

Last night happened to be one of those nights when mi papa was really craving a meat dish and since he’s my provider and pretty much my sole reason for living (other than chef-ing and scratching myself), I was happy to acquiesce. And being the genius that I am, I managed to come up with two separate meals whose only differences were the protein sources contained within each. Other than that, all the ingredients in it were the exact same. Unfortunately, I still had to use two separate pots but sometimes there’s just no way around that. And like I said, I’m not the one who cleans up the dishes. I just give em a good licking before they go in the wash.

Chicken (or not) Butternut Squash Tagine

 2 tsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 2 cups vegan sausage, chopped into 1″ chunks

1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

1/2 cup raisins, dark or golden

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground red pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and chicken/sausage. Saute until chicken is no longer pink, about 7 minutes.

2) Add the rest of the ingredients. Turn heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat to low, cover and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes or until squash is softened.

3) Remove lid and serve atop a bed of cooked millet, couscous, quinoa or rice. Enjoy!

One (or two, as in this case) dirty pot and two satisfied bellies. Doesn’t get better or easier than that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be going. It’s my turn to enjoy a one pot meal.

For the love of apples

Standard

Is there anything more perfect than biting into a fresh, juicy, straight-off-the-tree, red apple? I mean besides being left alone with an open 10 pound bag of baby carrots. Mi mama went through a faze (we call them fazes instead of crazes so as not to confuse them from the times when she truly is crazy over something… examples here and here and here) where she would consume up to three or four apples in a day. Not all at once, of course, since that would truly be insane, but throughout the course of a day. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of apples. Not to mention a lot of fiber going through that belly of hers. obviously this was before she and mi papa got together. I highly doubt she was dating during this period of her life– probably why she sought companionship in the form of apples. Perhaps we should start calling her Eve. Who knew they would ever have anything in common– besides their both liking to walk around the garden donning a leaf bikini.

She no longer eats this exorbitant amount of apples in any one day, but she does still enjoy at least one a day and considers herself somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to these little round gems, though I think she’s giving herself more credit than she should. Red apple and green apple are not the most accurate way to classify all the different varieties, but hey, at least she knows her colors, right? According to Wikipedia, there are over 7,500 different varieties of apples in the world! And almost 45% of the total supply comes from the state of Washington alone. No wonder those people are so healthy. They practically have apples coming out of their plumbing system– now that would be awesome.

Living in Oregon, we definitely get to partake in some of the pleasures of having an apple supply so close by. During this time of year when many of the apple varieties are at their peak ripeness, the grocery stores and farmer’s markets are overflowing with all kinds of apples and the prices per pound are at their all-time low. 68 cents for a whole pound of organic Galas? Yes please! Naturally once mi mama caught wind of this, she grabbed her keys, sped off to Costco, and came through the garage door carrying (well, mi papa was carrying. she was merely directing him to the kitchen as his vision was blocked from the huge load in his arms) 15 pounds of Granny Smith, Gala and Golden Delicious apples. Looks like someone may be back to her four-a-day habit again.

Despite mi mama probably being able to consume all 15 pounds if given the opportunity, I decided to spice things up a bit and steal a few Granny Smiths for mi Papa’s breakfast on Sunday morning. And spice things up I did, in the form of delicious little muffins.

Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

1/4 cup applesauce

2 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk*

2 cups Granny Smith apples, diced

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

* If you don’t have buttermilk (because who really does), you can substitute 1 tbsp+enough milk to make 1 cup total

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

2) In a medium-size bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt and spices. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, egg, applesauce, oil and vanilla.

3) Working in two or three batches, add the flour mixture and buttermilk and stir until just combined. Do not overmix! Stir in diced apple.

4) Pour batter into prepared muffin pan, filling about 2/3 full.

5) Mix the granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the tops of each muffin.

6) Bake 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

7) Cut in half, smear with peanut butter or jam or whatever the heck you want and enjoy!

So that’s about three apples down and about, oh I don’t know, 37 more to go. I’m sure mi mama will have no problem figuring out what to do with the rest. Looks like someone better get out the plunger.

Well amigos, I better be going now. There’s a big box of Christmas decorations sitting in the middle of the living room floor, and no one seems to want to do the honors. Looks like I’m the perfect man dog for the job.