Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Soup Bowl Weekend!

I'm not standing up & screaming about a team this Super Bowl Sunday...the reasons are simple. A.)The Cowboys~aka: Americas Team, will not be playing (next season,please?? I might have to start a letter writing campaign to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones!!) B.) Don't have the patience to listen to a Super Bowl game here in Mexico with Spanish voice over. For the Cowboys yes... but that is about the limit for me. Imagine Latin Soccer game style sportscasters. I did it 2 years ago & never again. Podcast are less painful here South of the Border. C.) I just don't care this year, no halftime show(hopefully, minus a clothing malfunctioning) or quarterbacks I really care about; so there! The game will be going on regardless & I can enjoy a slow weekend here of warm soups. We are experiencing a cold snap here in Northern Mexico & warm, nourishing meals are fine fare for our rather slow introspective weekend. At my kitchen it's the Super Soup Bowl weekend. In the spirit of cross cultural dining & pleasing a crowd try out the recipes for Italian Ciabotta, Hot Chicken Salad Sandwiches or the Mexican Green Chili Posole Soup.

Broccoli & Zucchini Ciambotta
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 med. onion, diced
5 stalks celery, sliced on diagonal
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, undrained
3 med. zucchini, sliced
small head broccoli, cut into small florets, slicing some stems very thin
3 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
Salt & Pepper to taste
In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, pepper, celery; saute until vegetables are lightly browned & tender. Add tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli florets, stem slices, vegetable stock. Bring to simmer over medium heat & add oregano, fennel seeds, salt & pepper. Reduce to medium low heat & simmer 25 to 30 minutes or till the vegetables are tender. Serve with garnish of fresh sliced basil leaves.

Hot Chicken Salad Sandwich
2 large cans Chicken, drained & shredded with fork
1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup diced onion
Mayonnaise, Tabasco sauce, Salt & Pepper
Manchego or White Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Mix Chicken, artichokes & parsley. Mix in an amount of mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together but not mask the flavors or make overly moist. Add Tabasco, salt & pepper to taste. Toast Bolillo halves then place a mound of Chicken Salad on the bread, top with Manchego cheese & broil till bubbly & serve immediatly.

Green Chili Posole

2 large cans of Hominy (Juanita's) or fresh bagged from Latin market* yield approx 4 cups of hominy.
1 large yellow onion, sliced and cut up
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dry oregano (Mexican oregano if you can get it)
3 Tbsp. menudo spice seasoning, Bolner's Fiesta brand is my favorite
*See above photo of my favorite San Antonio Texas spice brand.
3 canned green chiles, diced, preferably hot or medium strength
1, 2 to 3 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed & cut into cubes.
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot combine the hominy, onions, garlic, oregano, and green chile. Fill with water to cover the ingredients. Salt and pepper the heck out of it, and plan to do so again later. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil while preparing the meat.

Cut the pork up & heat a small amount of olive oil and brown the pork slowly, adding some salt and pepper to the meat.

After browning the pork, add it to the stock pot and stir the meat in.Once it boils, turn the heat back to simmer the stuff. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stir, and boil again. Do this twice, then simmer again on low heat.

Stir about every 30 minutes. Keep it on low heat, just at a simmer, keep stirring now & again. Continue to cook down, hominy will get softened. Add some water as needed to keep the stock covered. It will thicken & broth will become richer. Add salt and pepper to taste, adjust after the Posole cooks, salt might be needed again as the hominy soaks up the salt.
Serve with tortillas, I serve with diced avocado, lime, cilantro & onion. Buen Provecho!
**Total cook time on this dish is 2-3 hours. Do not rush, the hominy must not retain a crunchy texture. My husband had eaten crunchy Posole...not recommended!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dehydrating Fruits & Strawberry Scones

Dehydrated doesn't mean dried out. Quite the opposite actually while preserved/dried foods from the grocery store might contain additives like sulfites, you can eliminate that issue completely by dehydrating food at home. Always the kitchen gadget fiend I was thrilled to be gifted with a dehydrator for Christmas. Fruit & produce dried at low settings, loses almost none of its nutritional value. We are fond of fresh & dehydrated mangoes so naturally it was my first fruit of choice to stick into the dehydrator. Great as that was just like anyone with a new toy we have now dehydrated strawberries & kiwis too! Just like a Ronco commercial..."but no, that's not all". We have also made a round of jerky in the fun new machine. While it would be easy to snack on all of our goodies I did manage to make up a batch of scones with the dehydrated strawberries we had recently made.

Strawberry Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup chopped dehydrated strawberries
1 tablespoon half-and-half
Colored sugar crystals

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, 5 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 2/3 cup half-and-half until just moistened. Gently fold in dried strawberries.
On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently, 5 to 10 times. Pat into a 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 8 wedges; place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, 1/2 inches apart. Brush tops with remaining tablespoon half-and-half; sprinkle with about a tablespoon of colored sugar crystals. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
Yield: 8 servings
This was based on a Martha Stewart recipe which used fresh currants, yum! I myself am a big fan but was looking for a suitable use for my dehydrated strawberries.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Menu Remix & Ex Pats throwing a party!

No A-list celebrities here in Mexico but the Ex Patriot community partied & celebrated as the United States had the 44th President sworn into office. Anytime, in any country there is a peaceful transition of power it should be cause for celebration & joy. Politics & cultural differences aside there were 5 nations represented at the fun event hosted at Tresa Arami's home. The food, beverages & company was truly outstanding. I took a Lemon Dried Cherry Cake as well as some Star Sugar Cookies decorated with blue royal frosting & blue sugar crystals. **late night cookie decorating is horrible on Mexican tiled floors, those sugar crystals seem to have multiplied!

The official Inaugural menu was published this week & the 2009 Presidential Inauguration Luncheon Menu included a recipe for Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing. To see the menu, china & related items go here~ most of us don't have Pheasant close at hand chicken breast is a suitable substitute. Not wanting to stuff the breast with the pulverized tenderloin mixture (on the official menu)I made an adjustment in that area. The size of a Pheasant breast would warrant a modest addition of protein but chicken breast is much more substantial & held very well with the rice mixture minus the extra tenderloin. I'll admit my version is more of an "average Joe" recipe. I've also included the cake recipe I baked in the "American Star" Bundt cake pan. Buen Provecho!

I leave you with these words from Inauguration Day poet, Elizabeth Alexander. "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
Tomorrow morning in Washington D.C. the real work begins~

Herb Roasted Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing (*No pheasant here)
Yield: 4 portions
5 Chicken breast, boneless, skinless, cut small pocket in side of breast for stuffing
½ cup Olive oil with chopped rosemary, thyme and sage *1 round Tbsp each herb
1 cup Wild rice, long grain mixture
2 cups Chicken stock or canned chicken broth
2 Carrots, diced
½ Onion, diced
½ cup Dried apricot, small diced
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon Salt and pepper mix
2 Tablespoons Garlic, roasted
1. Boil the rice with the chicken stock, cook until soft and most of the liquid is gone.
2. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and apricot. Cook until the vegetables are soft and all liquid has been absorbed. Refrigerate rice mixture until cool.
3. When rice is cool, add bread crumbs & 1 egg to the rice until well mixed. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and return to refrigerator until ready to stuff.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
5. Make 5 small football shaped patties of the rice mix, stuff inside the chicken breast, being careful not to over stuff. Rub herb/oil mixture on top & season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and then in a preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. (test chicken to make certain juices run clear & chicken is done) Remove from oven and cover with lid or foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Lemon Dried Cherry Cake
3 sticks butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice*
3/4 cup chopped, dried cherries

heat oven 325* Grease & flour bundt cake pan, set aside. In lg. bowl beat eggs & sugar until light & fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder & salt. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning & ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla & lemon juice, fold in cherries. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325* for 1 hour 10 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pan. Remove from pan & cool, glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar. *In Mexico real lemon juice is hard to locate so I used lime juice. This was still very nice. This recipe came with the Nordic Ware American Star Bundt Pan.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Politics, Meatballs & keeping something warm on the stove!

Molly Ivins the late & sharp witted Texas writer was quoted as saying:
"Good thing we've still got politics in Texas -- finest form of free entertainment ever invented."

As I watched the news about the Obama transition to the White House & see the newscasters gearing up for the upcoming Inauguration activities, I see Ivins was not far from wrong in her statement. However entertaining Texas Politics can be; it's entertaining on a much larger scale in D.C. How can it ever not be entertainment on some level in the high speed digital age of CNN & Fox News? I shudder to think how the transition from one Presidential administration can ever be truly painless or lacking in entertainment. Food likes & dislikes alone from one Presidential administration to the next no doubt can be staggering. Take Ronald Regan's favorite Jelly Beans, Bill Clinton's love of Mango Ice Cream & Big Macs, Jacqueline Kennedy's adoration of the refined French cuisine or LBJ's chili (my own personal favorite). I imagine the White House staff will be most eager to please the two youngest Obama children. The palate of a child can be far easier to please than adults in most cases. Can't wait to hear if the girls will enjoy Mac & Cheese or PB&J while they ease into life in the nation's mansion. I seriously doubt the likes or dislikes will impact my life here in Mexico but it should be interesting in the very least...

In the spirit of Presidential politics, food & favorites here are a couple of faves we've had here South of the Border. A much warmer version of the Kennedy French Onion Soup & a slimmed down Meatball as Meatballs were supposed to be a favorite dish in the Truman White House. My Wilted Spinach recipe is my daughter's favorite & a very healthy dish at that! At one time there was a tradition of the outgoing Presidential family to leave something warm on the stove for the next first family. I do wonder if this tradition still continues?

**A shout out to my niece who will be working on the big day in D.C. with Fox News~stay warm Sweetie & capture it all!

French Onion Soup or Onion Soup with a kick!
1 1/2 lb red onions
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
4 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. fresh Thyme & extra for garnish
2 Tbsp. chopped & crushed chili Ancho
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
Black pepper & salt if needed.
6 slices of toasted french bread or whole wheat bread
10 oz. shredded Oaxaca cheese

Heat oil in large, heavy bottomed stock pot & cook onions over med-low heat till they are beginging to brown. Stir in garlic, sugar, thyme, Ancho chili, reduce heat & continue cooking over low heat for 30 min. or till the onions are slightly golden brown.

Sprinkle in flour, stir in wine. Gradually add stock & bring to boil. Reduce & heat for 30 min. Remove from heat, ladle soup into bowls float a piece of toast in soup & top with cheese. Garnish with sprig of thyme & serve.

Chipolte Chicken Meatballs
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground chicken
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup dry chipotle seasoned breadcrumbs*
Sesame seeds to roll the meatballs in (approx 1/3 cup)

Mix all of the ingredients together well incorporating all of the breadcrumbs then form the meatballs into balls the size of golf balls & roll in sesame seeds. Place on baking sheet & bake @ 375* for 20 minutes. Serve hot with yogurt sauce or as is.

*Chipotle Breadcrumbs are easy to find in Latin grocery stores but using regular breadcrumbs & adding 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper is a good substitution.

Wilted Spinach

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound well washed spinach, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
Coarse salt and black pepper
Sesame Seeds for garnish

Add oil and garlic to a large skillet. Cook over low heat, until garlic is cooked through. Remove garlic. Add spinach to pan, turning to wilt. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Luck & Resolutions

Of all sound of all bells... most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. ~Charles Lamb

Of traditions I don't understand but somehow follow are the odd customs of New Years. Eating certain foods = luck for the New Year & good fortune for the coming year. I enjoy the foods in the South we eat such as Blackeyed Peas & Greens. If these tokens bring fortune we'd better hope Wall Street was enjoying a large share.
In Mexico they have a few traditions of their own which I don't quite get but am certain make as much sense as our eating greens & peas! On the stroke of midnight people stuff 12 grapes into their mouths at once & chewing, swallowing, etc. I am certain this custom has caused choking episodes on a grand scale! Then there is the custom of going out the door & coming back in with suitcases in hand announcing it will be a very prosperous year. This for me won't work as we go & come on a regular basis with suitcases out that door & it seems rather redundant...I'm certain many Expats living abroad feel this same way. The most confusing custom however is the one involving a sheep. I have seen these sheep for years around the holidays & till recently assumed they were for the nativity or nacimientos. I was wrong though. I was told they are for good luck in the New Year. The sheep often have coins tied around the neck & should be placed by the door so as to bring good luck. Hmmm, not sure I am getting it but seems pretty harmless. Frankly if we can have our Blackeyed Peas & Greens then Mexico can have the grapes & little stuffed sheep.(...and that little borrego only cost me 10 pesos, ha!)They do have to be given to someone for the "luck" to actually work... The final odd custom I've recently heard was about red underwear & was Spanish in origin. I am certain that some underwear sales person made this one up & was laughing all the way to the bank in the New Year! Happy New Year~Próspero Año Nuevo.
My Resolutions:
1.) I resolve to use my resources wisely
2.) I resolve to make every moment count with loved ones
3.) I resolve to speak softly & wisely
4.) I resolve to live life while in Mexico 1 day at a time
5.) I resolve to do more for others & not wait for someone else to do it

Thanks to Carolina Blonde with Blonde Appetit I am going to tag the following: Hey ladies...I hope that you try and document your 2009 Resolutions or Predictions: Elizabeth with The Behind the Wheel Chef , Kate with Knitter Gal, & Lauren with Bytes from Texas. Happy New Year ladies and Good luck! I look forward to reading your thoughts!

Braised Greens with Bacon
1/2 pound bacon slices, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. onion chopped
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 lb. Swiss Chard or Mustard Greens, washed, stems removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot heat oil and bacon over high heat until bacon is well browned. Stir in garlic,onion and cook until onions are translucent . De-glaze with vegetable or chicken stock and vinegar. Add sugar and greens and partially cover. Lower heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Makes 8 servings.
*My husband's Grandmother cooked her greens with only the water which clinging to the leaves after she washed them. That works for some of the more tender greens but for sturdier greens such as Chard the bitter flavor cooks out with stock or extra water added.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

She loved Sinatra...

My grandmother left this world this past week a few weeks shy of her 88th birthday. She was a remarkable woman who left an enduring legacy of love, joy, beauty & style. Simple words cannot describe her life or the impact she had upon her family but she left the world around her richer & a seemingly better place to be in. I will continue to use her as the measure of how to live & treat others. Never will I hear a Frank Sinatra tune or the hundreds of other joys I know she had & not think of her. Kindness was her virtue & soft were her words.
Margaret Ann Harrington, 1920~2008

Rare is a childhood memory complete which doesn't include Nana. Sister & I rang in the New Year in 1965 with our Nana & Grandaddy (& Raggedy Ann of course~)

Nana was a beautiful woman lucky enough to marry a man who cooked for her but she had a few favorites which make me think of her. Both she & my Great Grandmother enjoyed making this simple cake with Apricot or Strawberry Nectar. Easy & elegant we made it for the 2009 New Years Eve at our house.
1 yellow cake mix
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. apricot nectar
Place caked mix in a large bowl and add the sugar, butter, eggs, apricot nectar and vanilla. Beat with a mixer for 8 minutes. Pour into a well greased and floured tube pan (A Bundt pan works nicely). Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 55 minutes. Turn off oven and let cake set inside oven for additional 10 minutes. Cool partially and then remove cake from pan. I wait till the pan is cool enough to handle with bare hands & then turn out the cake onto a wire rack. Glaze cake while still warm.
GLAZE: Confectioners sugar and some additional apricot nectar mixed to desired consistency. Sprinkle with light dusting of powdered sugar.
*The Apricot cake can also be a strawberry cake using strawberry nectar instead.