Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Authentic Chicken Tacos

Seriously, how much Mexican food can one family eat?

Some of my favorite Mexican  food is the simple "authentic" kind.  Not the Tex-Mex that most of us are used to.

By simple I mean . . . simple. 

Yummy flavors that pop.

Minimal ingredients that are maximum on taste.

And finally, not covered in yellow, stringy, gooey cheese (like Tex-Mex can be).

Here's a recipe for authentic chicken tacos.  You might see it called pollo asado, which means "roasted or grilled chicken."  That's pretty simple!

Chicken Tacos

Choose what type of chicken you're going to use.  It does need to be with the bone and skin.
I used quarters (which includes the leg and thigh). 
My package of quarters had 3 quarters -- which was enough for my family of 4.

Marinade:

1/2 cup of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 cup lime juice
2 lemons, juiced
2 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Pour the marinade over the chicken in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and marinate at LEAST for 24 hours.  Yes, if you're short on time you can cheat yourself -- and if you've already planned into next month, you can go a little longer than 24 hours.  The point is this:  let it marinate!

Pre-heat the grill.  You'll want to cook this chicken H.O.T!  You want the inside to be done (Really!) and you want the outside to be crispy, without being burnt!  See the picture above!  You do have to watch this while it's cooking.  But it's worth it!

Once the chicken is done, bring it inside and let it rest for a few minutes. 
Pull the chicken off the bone.  If you're lucky, you'll have some crispy, grilled skin with the chicken.  If that grosses you out -- pull all the skin off before you pull the chicken.

To assemble the tacos you'll also need:

white corn tortillas (my preference -- the cherubs like flour tortillas)
fresh pico de gallo
cotija cheese (found in the dairy case in most stores.  It's a white Mexican cheese that crumbles)
(This is a picture of cotija cheese)

That's it!

Take your tortilla, put a bit of grilled chicken, topped with fresh pico and a sprinkle of cotija cheese.
Fold over and bite into your Mexican concoction!

Ole!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rootin' Shootin' Good Times


City livin' can be for the birds! 
Sometimes you have to go out and create your own fun!

 . . .and that always involves b.b guns!

My girl cherub -- waiting her turn.


My boy cherub -- walkin' to the shootin' line.
To make it fair, everybody shoots from the same spot!


Lookin' down the barrel as my girl cherub takes aim.

Not one of my cherub's -- but he could be! 
I'm old enough to be his mother! 
That's devastating!
He's a college kid that's livin' with us this Summer.
My cherub's L.O.V.E havin' him here!

My boy cherub -- using his sister's pink gun!
All man-hood has been put aside!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Even When it's Hot


Who, in the right mind, wants to cook when it's so hot outside?

The thought of turning on the stove can make you go insane.

Not to mention the oven!

At our house, in the Summer, if it can't go on the grill, then we don't have it.

Until now!

I remembered, in the garage, in a box, down on the bottom shelf was this!


The roaster oven!

It's transformed our Summer menu!

I've roasted a turkey in it this weekend.

Then I made or turkey and dressing casserole.

Then I baked the blackberry cobbler in it.

I could go on and on, but for sake of boredom, I won't!

The point is this:  the roaster oven is a great!

Pros:
  • Works like your oven
  • But doesn't heat up your house
  • Easy to clean up
Cons:
  • It's bulky -- so storing it can be an issue when not in use
  • Only holds one 9X13 pan -- so industrial-sized cooking isn't an option
There you have it -- the pros win!  And so will you if you use a roaster oven this Summer!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday

Friday morning, as the Mr. and I are driving back home from taking
the car to the shop, I say:

"What do you want to do today?"

His reply:
"Well, if you don't have anything planned, I can rip the tile up in
the kids bathroom."

"And then do what?"

(Why did I ask?)

"I can get the new tile laid."

Really?

He's never laid tile before.

Guess what went on around our house on Saturday?



Old tile gone and the game plan made for the new tile.

Using the tools of his friend, the Mr. tackles his project.


Well, using his friend too!


And the gutter people come today.
Of course!


My little cherub wants to decorate the extra cookies that I had left over.

Because I made birthday cupcake cookies for my friend's
birthday!

Whatever happened to "nothing to do on a Saturday?"

Friday, July 22, 2011

Easy Chocolate Cake


When we got back from vacation, we've made the commitment to get back to better eating;  more fruits and veggies, grilled lean meats,  . . . and chocolate cake!

After all, you need something to wash the cold skim milk down with!

Chocolate Cake

1 package chocolate cake mix
1 small package instant chocolate pudding
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract*
1 cup chocolate chips


Chocolate Frosting

1 stick butter
3 TBSP cocoa powder
4 TBSP milk
1 tsp. vanilla*
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted.

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly spray a 9x13 pan.

Mix cake mix and next 5 ingredients with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Stopping to scrape down sides, if necessary.  Gently stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips.

Pour into pan and bake for 38-42 minutes or until done.  Test for doneness:  when cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Cool on rack for 10 minutes.

For frosting:

Place butter, cocoa powder and milk in a pan over medium heat.  Stir until butter has melted and the mixture comes to a boil, for 2 minutes.  Removed the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  By hand, quickly stir in the sifted powdered sugar, a bit at a time, until your frosting is smooth.  Pour the frosting over the top of the cooling cake, spreading the frosting to the corners of the cake.

Allow the frosting to set for about 15 minutes before serving.

*You could substitute almond extract for the vanilla -- if you wanted!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stuffed Tomatoes

My little cherub was watching the Food Network, when the show chef made stuffed tomatoes.

Ever since then, that's been my cherub's request.

Doesn't that seem strange?

While at the store I grabbed some large tomatoes and it thrilled her soul!

Today, after swimming, she decided that a stuffed tomato would be a great lunch.

Together, we made her first-ever stuffed tomato.

It was simple; but that's what she wanted.

"Momma, I wish we would have done this sooner this Summer.  This is delicious!" 

When it's their idea -- it's so much tastier!

Stuffed Tomatoes

2 large, ripe tomatoes
Salt
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the top off of the tomato and scoop out pulp and seeds. Salt insides and rest upside down on a paper towel for about 15 minutes to drain.

In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs, pepper, grated Parmesan and oil. Stuff tomatoes with the filling, sprinkle with some extra Parmesan, and bake until tomatoes are cooked through and tops are golden brown, about 30 minutes.









Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Real Strawberry Shortcake


This is the real stuff.

Not angel food cake with some strawberries.  Which, by the way, I dearly enjoy.

This is shortcake -- delicious and tender. 

Baked to perfection, cooled just a bit; split open and piled with fresh strawberries.

I would have taken a picture of the shortcake while making them -- but it's hard to operate a camera with shortcake dough stuck to your fingers!

Shortcakes*

1 1/2 cups flour
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup butter*
1/3 cup heavy cream*
1 egg, beaten

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and cream of tartar.  Stir until incorporated.

With a pastry blender, mix in butter until it resembles coarse meal.

Stir in cream and beaten egg.  With a fork, stir until well mixed, but not over stirring.

Flour a surface and dump the dough on the flour.  Knead the dough for about 2 minutes until your dough is not longer sticky.

Using a biscuit cutter or knife, cut into desired size/shape.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool on rack before cutting in half.

Top with fresh cut strawberries.

*This recipe is halved for my convenience.  Feel free to double it if you want or need more shortcakes.  I was able to make 6 - 3 X 4 square shortcakes.  If you double it, the cream of tartar would be 3/4 tsp. (I know, that's not 1/3 doubled!)

*I used 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of solid shortening.  Because I wanted to -- no other reason!

*No heavy cream on hand today -- I substituted evaporated milk.  If it changed the taste or texture, I have no idea!  I'd do it again the same way!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creamy Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas

I'll say it again.

We love Mexican food.

There are so many dishes that I'd love to learn to make.

But when we're hungry -- that's not necessarily the time to try something new!

Tonight was a Mexican kind of night.

I'm not sure what constitutes a "Mexican kind of night" but I'm certain that's what was happening around our house.

Here's a quick throw together that I made.

It's my own recipe and it's as adjustable as you want it to be!

Creamy Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup green salsa
1/2 of an onion, chopped
grilled chicken, chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can green chilies, drained
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
tortillas (for gluten free, use corn tortillas)

Put everything except the tortillas in a bowl and stir until well incorporated.  Taste it -- do you like it?  Make any adjustments at this point.  You may want more salsa or throw in some cumin or chili powder.

Smear some of the delicious mess on a tortilla.  Fold in half and place in a warm pan that has a smidge of butter and olive oil in it.  Heat until tortilla is golden on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside.

Cut into cute triangles and serve with sour cream and salsa.

The only thing that's a "must" is the cream cheese.  That's your binder.  You can use a little more or a little less.  All depending on your taste!
  • don't have/or like green salsa.  Use red -- or substitute an enchilada sauce.  You don't need a ton, just enough to make it "wet."
  • no left-over grilled chicken.  No problem.  Use cooked ground beef or go vegetarian.
  • No black beans -- use pinto. Be wild and leave them out! 
  • Throw in some frozen corn or well drained canned corn too.
  • No cheese.  That's ok -- it's not a must.  You can also substitute Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, or even Mozzarella in a pinch. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

More Good Uses for Pickle Juice

I've always finished the pickles and poured the pickle juice down the drain.

I didn't know there could be other purposes for pickle juice.

Then, in the same weekend, I learned there are two new uses for the juice.

It's amazing!

First, and really the only legitimate use for the leftover pickle juice, is to use it to thin out mustard.  You know, when you get towards the end of the bottle of mustard and it's hard to get any out.  That's when you put in a little bit of pickle juice to help!

Really!  That's pretty cool!  I didn't know you could dilute mustard with pickle juice!

I asked my friend how she knew that! 

"I used to work at Dairy Queen.  That's what we always did!"

Well!  If it's good enough for "The Dairy Queen" then it's good enough for me!

The second use for pickle juice was told to my little cherub by our dear family friend.  This is what she used to do when she was a little kid.  To quote her, "It was a real treat!" 

Really!

Take your glass and dip it in the pickle juice and dip it in salt.

You see where this is going, don't you!

Pour a bit of the pickle juice in the glass.  For a "real treat" you can add a squirt of lemon juice.

Really!

Drink up!

"It's delish!"

Really!

I'm thinking, that was WAY BACK when my friend was young -- we've come a long way -- and drinking pickle juice isn't really an option!

But guess who likes this new drink concoction?

That's right!  My cherub -- wearing the red bandana!



OK -- so after this post, a friend of mine wrote to me, sharing more uses for left-over pickle juice! 

Who knew!

With bread and butter pickle juice, you add canned beets (drained) and let them marinate!  Yum!  (Seriously, NO!)  But her mother in law does this!

Also, to left over regular pickle juice, she adds baby carrots and cucumbers and let those marinate until ready to enjoy. 

You might wonder who you know when they're "ready?"  I'm not sure -- maybe when they taste "pickly!"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Something Better is Coming

It's hot.

H.O.T!

There are no other words for it.

You can try not complain about it.

You can try to ignore it.

It doesn't matter what you do - there's not getting around it.

It's H.O.T!

But guess what's coming!







BRRRR!  I can't wait!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chocolate Oreo Cream Cheese Bars

I had Oreo's in the cabinet.

I don't usually buy Oreo's unless I need them for a recipe.

These Oreo's were a "gift!"  They had sat there long enough that I decided I'd do something with them.

So here's my little concoction.

I'm not sure if it's a new favorite of mine or not -- but the Mr. and two Cherubs really loved it.

Chocolate Oreo Cream Cheese Bars

Cake Layer

1 cake mix; I used milk chocolate
2 eggs
1 stick of butter, melted
Oreo cookies, broken

Cream Cheese Mixture

1 package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
4 cups powdered sugar (1 pound)
1-2 tsp. vanilla, depending on taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.



Mix cake mix, 2 eggs, and butter together.  You'll have a very stiff dough.

Grease a 9X13 pan and press the dough into the pan evenly.



Using your hands, break the Oreo's and evenly sprinkle them on top of the dough.  I used 15-20 cookies; you can use as much or as little as you like . . . and.that all depend on how many Oreo's are left in the package!

Cream the cream cheese and eggs together.  Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time, mixing thoroughly.  Alternate with a bit of vanilla.  I used 2 tsp. of vanilla because I like my vanilla. 



Pour cream cheese mixture over Oreo/cake mixture.  Using a spatula, push the cream mixture over the entire surface.



Place in oven.  Bake for 35-45 minutes; checking after 30 minutes.  You'll want the top to be golden, but the cream cheese mixture, although thin, should set up similar to a cheesecake.  It's hard to test for doneness. 



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Remember this Cute Craft

OK -- so 4th of July is over but this little firecracker craft is too cute not to show.

It's easy to put together and your kiddos will have fun doing it . . .next year!  My youngest cherub made this during Sunday School.  That tells you 1) it's a fast craft and 2) perfection isn't necessary.

Supplies:

Lifesaver rolls
Red, White, Blue electrical tape
Sparkler picks (found at craft stores.  Now would be a good time to get these -- they'll be on sale!)

Wrap the lifesaver rolls with electrical tape, alternating colors, as seen in the photo.
Stick the sparkler pick in the top!

Celebrate!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Firecracker Cupcakes


Not only will you say, "Ooh and Aah!"

But you'll also say, "MMM!"

These firecracker cupcakes will be a hit!

They're easy to make, but truthfully, the icing is a bit time consuming to do.

If you decide to make these, you'll need a #233 icing tip and an icing bag.

Easy Cake Recipe

1 boxed cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup of oil
1/2 cup of water
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (or almond or butternut or whatever goes well with your cake)

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix 1 minute on low, to incorporate ingredients.  Scrap down sides and mix 2 minutes on medium speed.

Line a muffin tin with liners.  Fill cups 2/3 full.  Using a cookie scoop makes for easy and even filling!

Bake 18-23 minutes or until done.

Cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup of shortening
3-4 cups of sifted powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. of vanilla
2 TBSP milk

Cream butter and shortening together.  Begin adding powdered sugar and mix well, alternating with vanilla/milk.  Your amount of powdered sugar and liquid will depend on the desired consistency of icing.

Divide the frosting and color, if desired.  Since blue was my outer most circle, I colored more of the icing blue, then a little less for the red, and leaving a small amount for the white.



Using tip #233, start on the outside of the cupcake, making concentric icing circles.  Alternate colors if desired, or make each cupcake a solid color.






It's your cupcake -- celebrate however you want!



"MMM!" 

I mean, "AAHH!"

Forget it,  "Let's eat!"


Friday, July 1, 2011

Potato Salad

I love potato salad and so does the Mr. and the cherubs!

The best recipe only recipe I make of potato salad is from my mother-in-law.

Since Independence Day is just around the corner; a day where family and friends gather under the giant oak trees for the iconic 4th of July picnic celebrating the occasion with good food, family and friends, I thought I'd give this recipe for you to enjoy!

Not my picture!
But it does resemble my potato salad!
Potato Salad for a Crowd

5 lbs. potatoes, cleaned, peeled, and diced (I've used white, red, and yukon gold potatoes)
1 dozen eggs, boiled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (sweet or purple onion)
1 cup sweet relish
2 oz jar pimento, drained
1 tsp. celery seed
2 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP vinegar
2 cups mayonnaise (or miracle whip, if that's what you like.  I only use real mayo)
1/4 cup mustard
1tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Have all of the ingredients prepared, except for potatoes.

Boil potatoes until fork tender.  Drain cooked potatoes well.  Place in a large bowl and add all other ingredients.  Mix together until well combined.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours.  Best when served well chilled.

*When mixing all of the ingredients with the warm potatoes, this allows you to create the perfect texture of potato salad.  We like our with some remaining chunks of cooked potatoes.

I have halved this recipe with success.