Mexican Dinner Menu: Tangy Green Guacamole

December 31, 2010 at 11:07 am | Posted in Appetizers, Mexican/Southwest | 30 Comments
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Looking for an interesting twist on Guacamole? Traditional guacamole is so delicious that I have to admit I found it difficult to add odd ingredients in order to try a different version. But this one turned out to be a surprisingly tasty addition to my Mexican dinner. It was my idea to put the green pimento-stuffed olives on top and we thought it complimented and even added more tangy zest to the overall flavor. Plus the recipe introduced me to a great new Frontera brand sauce. I look forward to trying it in some other recipes.

Tangy Green Guacamole, adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe:

  • 3 large ripe Hass avocados
  • 1/2 C. Frontera tomatillo salsa
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 6 sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • Tortilla chips, sliced radishes and jicima for serving
  • ½ cup Frontera Tomatillo Salsa
  • sliced olives for garnish
  • Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon

Cut each avocado in half by slicing straight down through that spot where the stem was attached until you reach the pit. Then rotate the knife all the way around the pit. Twist the two halves apart and take out the pit. With a spoon, scoop out the soft flesh from the skins, collecting it in a large bowl as you go. Coarsely mash with the spoon (you could use an old-fashioned potato masher or large fork). 

Gently stir the salsa into the avocado mixture, along with the cilantro. Taste and season with salt. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Top with the sliced green olives and serve with tortilla chips, or sliced cucumber, radish and jicama.

This is the last post for my Mexican Christmas Dinner. I did serve a delicious non-Mexican Easy Cranberry Cake from Ina Garten. I saw this beautiful dessert over at Cathy’s blog, Wives With Knives.  After looking at her gorgeous photo, who could resist. Also not pictured is the crock of chow-chow as a topping for the beans, warm soft corn tortillas and sour cream for the pork and pickled onion tacos and of course the people.  Note to self, take photos of people.

Happy New Year To Everyone and look forward to seeing what on your New Year’s Eve Celebration Table.

Tangy Green Guacamole…It’s What’s For Jicima And Radishes…and chips

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Mexican Dinner Menu: Mexican Christmas Eve Salad

December 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Mexican/Southwest, Salads | 42 Comments
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When researching salad recipes for my Mexican Christmas dinner, this colorful Christmas Eve Salad jumped out with festive enthusiasm in almost every search result.  Each recipe was a little different but the list of ingredients usually included lettuce, beets, oranges, bananas, jicima, pomegranate seeds, peanuts and even small hard candies.  A pinata in a bowl if you will. 

I really couldn’t find much of a history, or where this recipe originated,  just the reoccurring theme of beets and fruit, served in a glass bowl and is a traditional salad during the holidays in Mexico and in the Southwest. All in all, you couldn’t ask for a more eye-catching dish. With the glass bowl and layering of colorful ingredients,  it almost reminded me of an English trifle. It was promptly placed on my menu and all I had to do was pick through the array of ingredients and decide upon a creamy or vinaigrette dressing. Yes, there were as many versions of dressings as salad ingredients. I chose a creamy. Let’s take a look.

Mexican Christmas Eve Salad (my version):

  • 2 red beets, roasted peeled and sliced
  • 2 golden beets, roasted peeled and sliced
  • 1 small jicima, peeled and sliced
  • 1 navel orange, peeled and sliced
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
  • Seeds of one pomegranate
  • 1 handful chopped peanuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Layer all ingredients in a glass bowl lightly salting and peppering as you go.

I decided on a creamy dressing recipe that I found on one of my favorite blogs, Homesick Texan.

For the dressing:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream (Mexican brand if you can find it)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 canned chipotle chile, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste

The results:

  • A salad that you practically had to wear sunglasses to look at
  • A salad that was a little hard to dish up, I would chop next time instead of slice
  • A salad that was incredibly festive on my Mexican Feast table
  • The creamy dressing was absolutely delicious, especially using a Mexican style sour cream
  • A delightful concoction that has now found a place in my recipe database (minus the hard candies)

Mexican Christmas Eve Salad…It’s What’s for the Holidays.

Mexican Dinner Menu: Josie’s Crock Pot Pinto Beans aka Cowboy Beans

December 26, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Beans, Side Dishes | 20 Comments
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Here’s another side dish from my Pre-Christmas Mexican feast with friends.   These beans were a nice compliment to the main course, Slow Roasted Achiote Pork.

Have you ever taken a bite of a straight forward simple ingredient dish and asked yourself, “why is this so darn good?” We did just that with this Rick Bayless Cowboy Bean recipe.  Here’s my opinion on why it turned out to be “so darn good”.

1.  I used pinto beans from this year’s Colorado Fall harvest. I purchased them in October at the Farmer’s Market. I’ve read that some of the dried sacks of beans we purchase off the shelf can be 2-3 years old.  My farmer’s market purchase was creamy in texture and outstanding with a flavor that I’d never experienced. 

2.  A spoonful of lard added to the slow cooker…nuff said.

3.  Used good quality thick-cut bacon.

4.  Slow cooked them in the crock pot for six hours.

Rick tells us that in Mexico beans are not soaked overnight as doing so bleeds the color from the bean. So, taking two cups of dried fresh Colorado pinto beans, I sorted through them for any misfits, rinsed them  in a colander then put them in a stove-top sauce pan.  Covering them with water, I brought them to a quick boil. 

I promptly removed them from the heat and poured them into the crock pot. I added a big scoop of lard, put the cover on and let them cream themselves into a heavenly goodness on high for four hours.

In the meantime I cooked four slices of bacon until not quite crisp and added four cloves chopped garlic until fragrant. Then I added the bacon and garlic to the beans and let them steep on low for a couple more hours. 

All in all they cooked for about six hours, however, the beans were tender in the first four hours on high. The freshness of the bean will dictate the cooking time. The fresher, the less time to reach a tender state.

A side note. In talking with my coworker Josie about the process of her pinto bean cooking, she chuckled at the fact that this recipe even had a name.  It seems her family has been making these beans this exact same way for generations. She adds more lard than I did, however.  She uses a pressure cooker when she needs a quick fix. They’re going in my data base as “Josie’s Beans”. 

Josie’s  Beans…They’re What’s for a Side Dish.

Christmas Eve Lasagna

December 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments
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I tried a new lasagne recipe for Christmas Eve dinner this year.  A huge hit, delicious and more flavorful than my stand-by recipe.   Also loved the easier no-boil noodle process.  Thanks to Larry and Bev for the recipe

Hub took this close up photo of the Christmas ornament with the lasagna and the camera in the reflection.  I loved it so thought I would share.

Hope Santa’s sleigh was good to everyone and that you’re enjoying a wonderful time filled with family and good food.  Merry Christmas from our home in Colorado to yours.

Mexican Dinner Menu: Pickled Red Onion Recipe

December 21, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Mexican/Southwest | 42 Comments
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Friends don’t let friends eat Mexican food without pickled red onions!

Our first Christmas celebration was with friends Greg and Cauleen. I decided on serving up a Mexican theme. Stay tuned for more dishes from this dinner, but for now let’s start out talking about pickled red onions.

So easy and with so much impact, there’s absolutely no excuse not to give these a try. Tart and sweet, add a hot bite from the onions, some heat from the red pepper and these onions bring the Fiesta to any Mexican meal. Scoop a heaping spoonful onto tacos, enchiladas, tostadas or even a hearty serving of pinto beans and you’ve got yourself a new flavor experience.

The first time I had pickled onions was as a topping for fish tacos at a local, now sadly defunct restaurant, Chama, created by my favorite local restauranteur, Sean Yontz. I thought they were the best thing since sliced bread.  Yontz has since opened up a new restaurant, El Diablo, and the fish tacos topped with these beautiful onions live on. 

This is my third attempt to duplicate Yontz’s recipe, combining ingredients from several versions I found on the Internet.  I believe I’ve come pretty close.

Pickled Red Onions

3/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
5 allspice berries
5 whole cloves
a small, dried chile pepper (I used 1/4 of a dried ancho chile for medium heat)
1 large red onion, peeled, and thinly sliced into rings

In a small non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings and chile until boiling. Add the onion slices and lower heat, then simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool.

Transfer the onions and the liquid into a covered container and refrigerate. These should keep for a couple of months in the refrigerator.

Pickled Red Onions….They’re What’s for a Mexican Dinner.

10 Mushroom Soup

December 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Soup | 26 Comments
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You’ve heard of 10 Bean Soup…here’s my version using mushrooms.  How do I describe this soup; hearty, earthy, flavorful, complex, creamy, chewy, delicious, mushroomy, rich, divine. If you like mushrooms, you’re gonna love this soup. And if you don’t like mushrooms, this just might be the dish that begs you to reconsider.

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to receive samples of gourmet dried mushrooms from Marx Foods. These mushrooms have been staring at me since then asking “what’cha gonna make”? Now that soup weather is upon us, I finally found some inspiration and decided to make an over the top cream of mushroom soup using any kind of mushroom I could get my hands on.

Augmenting my stash of dried mushrooms from Marx Foods, I made a trip to Whole Foods to grab a handful of several types of exotic wild varieties to join the party.  Adding white wine to the broth, finishing with sherry and cream, I ended up with layers of compatible flavors and a wonderful soup. What started out as a vision of elegance, actually ended up to be a hearty bowl of comfort food that we couldn’t stop eating.

In the end, I had a small amount of about 10 different mushroom varieties in this soup and they all shared the spotlight quite nicely. Surprisingly, each mushroom retained its individual flavor and unique texture. The sweat cream was a wonderful compliment to woodsy flavors and the ever congenial chicken broth and white wine offered a fabulous beginning for these ingredients to come together into a tasty bowl of soup.

I just love the combination of a good flavored chicken stock and a dry white wine for chicken or vegetable based soups. For this soup I used a Pinot Grigio, but have also used a Chardonnay on the dry side. Whichever you choose, wine brings acidity which elevates the flavors. It’s much like lemon zest, but with a different flavor result. And, as we’ve been lectured by professionally trained chefs, never use a wine that you wouldn’t drink.

Let’s take a look.

  • 4 cups chicken soup
  • 1 oz each dried black trumpet, lobster and porcini mushrooms, soaked in water for two hours to reconstitute
  • 1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
  • 1/4 pound fresh button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/4 pound exotic wild mushrooms such as morels, oysters or tree ears or any available varieties, washed and sliced
  • 2 C. dry white wine
  • 3/4 C. wild and brown rice mix (packaged mix from Costco)
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 C. flour
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme
  • three grates of fresh nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T. Sherry

In a Dutch oven, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Add the white wine and continue to simmer. Stir in the wild/brown rice mix and simmer according to package instructions, until the rice is tender. 

In a skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about five minutes. Add all of the fresh sliced mushrooms and drain the soaking dried mushrooms, rinse to clean, pat dry and slice.  Saute until mushrooms soften, are fragrant and on the edge of browning, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and gradually add the cream until smooth and starting to thicken. Season with thyme, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the simmering pot of wild rice, chicken stock and wine as soon the rice is tender.

Stir in the sherry and let simmer on low for about twenty minutes.  Do not boil. Stir often.

Note:  I only use the tops of wild mushrooms. I remember reading somewhere to discard stems. Not sure if this is common practice.

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup…It’s What’s For Dinner.

Caramel Corn with Bacon, Cashews and Cayenne

December 12, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Posted in Appetizers | 50 Comments
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I’ve always wondered which was worse, a conniption fit or a hissie fit. Whichever, I threw it when I saw this recipe in Food and Wine Magazine.

I mean c’mon, take my all-time favorite snack food, add bits of my all time favorite meat, toss in chunks of the most decadent of nuts, sprinkle on some spicy heat, add some caramel for that sweet and salty factor and I’m in full fit.

Let’s begin this post by talking about a kitchen gadget I bought about a year ago.  My friend Vickie in Montana wrote in her blog about buying a Whirly Pop popcorn popper.  Once I laid eyes on this, with 20% off coupon clenched in fist, I couldn’t get to Bed Bath and Beyond fast enough. I love this thing. It turns out beautiful popcorn every time and I think it cost all of $20 dollars. If you love popcorn like I do, I’d suggest getting one. Simple technology with a handle that is connected to a prong thing on the bottom of the pan. It’s always moving the kernels to avoid any old maids.

Going back even further, about two years ago a new restaurant named Colt and Gray opened up in Denver. Everyone raves about it. I’ve never been since it would mean traveling out of my suburban bubble and venturing downtown. Last month, Food and Wine Magazine did an article about the Best Bar Food in America. Colt and Gray was one featured with this popcorn recipe.  Let’s take a look.

Pop 1/2 C. popcorn in 3 T. vegetable oil

In a very large bowl place popcorn, 6 slices of fine chopped cooked bacon, 1/2 c. chopped raw unsalted pecans and 1/4 t. cayenne pepper.  Mix well.

For the caramel sauce, in a saucepan add 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup water and 2 T. light corn syrup.  I used dark corn syrup because that’s what I had on hand and it worked fine.  Heat over medium low until sugar dissolves.  Raise heat to bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes until mixture turns amber. Remove from heat and immediately add 1/4 c. of warmed whipping cream.

Spray two wooden spoons with Pam.  Slowly pour caramel mix over your popcorn mixture and start mixing with the spoons until popcorn is coated.  It really helps to have someone else drizzling the caramel sauce…trust me.  🙂

Transfer popcorn to a baking sheet, lined with aluminium foil that’s also been sprayed with Pam.  Spread caramel corn mixture onto pan and in a preheated oven of  300 degrees, bake your popcorn for about 20 minutes or until caramel is shiny.  Let cool and break up clumps.

  • Was it worth the incredible mess?  Yes
  • Was it crazy good? Yes
  • As a snack, did it help ease the horrid Bronco loss?  No
  • Is 1/4 t. cayenne enough heat?  Yes
  • Could we stop eating it?  No

Caramel Corn with Bacon, Cashews and Cayenne…It’s What’s For A Football Snack.

Pumpkin Pie Ravioli

December 7, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Pasta | 45 Comments
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Last week when making pumpkin pies I had about a cup of the pie filling left that wouldn’t fit in the pie shells. Showing the cup to the Hub I said “I might as well throw it out, what am I going to do with it?”  He quickly replied, “Put it in ravioli”.  Genius, I say…he’s a genius!

Only one problem, I’m doughaphobic.  I’ve had my fair share of bread making disasters so pretty much all recipes that have anything to do with flour and water are pushed to the side burner.

So, with all that said, let’s pretend we’re on the show Fear Factor and get started.

I bought this little ravioli press over a year ago and this is the first time I’ve used it. Worked like a charm. Look at those perfect little ravioli squares.

And big enough to easily manage a dollop of the pumpkin pie filling. I used my mom’s homemade noodle recipe. I rolled it out as thin as I could get it with a rolling pin… however, I would have liked it a little thinner. Dear Santa: pasta rolling machine, please.

My pumpkin pie filling is a custard style recipe. So before filling the raviolis, I baked it so it would thicken, adding about 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper to the mixture.

Look at these beautiful little pockets.  A very proud moment in the Mangoes Chili and Z  kitchen.

I boiled them in salted water until they were all floating. Drizzled on some browned butter sauce with sage, a couple twists from the pepper mill and served with side dishes of slow roasted tomatoes (thank you Vickie and Karen for this recipe) and Brussel sprouts sautéed in bacon drippings and onions. This was a pretty darn good little meal.  Hub raved, unimpressed mom said “tastes like pumpkin pie,”  and I didn’t care how it tasted…I was just so happy that I successfully made ravioli.

This recipe is a definitely a work in progress. Changing a few things up, it could make a fabulous and devilishly clever dessert course.  I could add a dab of marscapone cheese to each ravioli to add more of a sweet/salty factor…maybe incorporate some pears and blue cheese?  But for now I give this an A for its think outside the box factor.

Any suggestions?

Pumpkin Pie Ravioli…It’s What’s For Dinner…or dessert?

Endives Apples and Grapes

December 5, 2010 at 6:50 am | Posted in Vegetables | 33 Comments
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It’s Sunday and over a week has went by since you’ve heard from me. I wanted to write a blog post this morning that simply read “I got nothing for ya”.  I can’t remember the last time I was so busy at work that I couldn’t find time to cook dinner for this many days in a row. If  it hadn’t been for a big pan of  Turkey Tetrazzini and a box of DOTS, we might have all starved to death around here.  

So, let’s talk about a side dish I made before Thanksgiving, Endives, Apples and Grapes.

My mom is here for the holidays. Her visits are always a great excuse to whip up exotic dishes containing  ingredients that she can’t find in the middle of Kansas…dishes containing things like pancetta or any type of cheese other than Velveeta. Yes, I’m making fun of Kansas. But on one trip back  home I wanted to prepare Chicken Picatta and spent the better part of an afternoon going to every Dillons store  in Reno County  looking for capers. Store managers looked at me like I had two heads …” Capers???”, they’d ask. The next trip home a bottle of capers made the 400-mile trip with us from Denver to Hutchinson just so I could make Chicken Picatta.

I want to make this dish again this week, since she’d probably have to make the five- hour drive to Kansas City to find endive.

I’ve already mentioned this, but a couple of weeks ago, I won this WONderful cookbook, Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan,  from Barbara over at Movable Feasts.  Love..love…love…this book.  Thanks again Barbara for this great gift.

This recipe caught my eye because I had a counter full of Gala Apples that I needed to use up.

And our grocery stores have had a supply of some unseasonably delicious green grapes. Where they’re coming from I don’t know. With all that said, let’s take a look at this recipe.

In a skillet melt about two tablespoons of salted butter over low heat. Take two plump heads of endive and split length wise. Quarter and core two apples. Place the endive flat side down, apples skin side down, sprinkle in some grapes and sprigs of rosemary and cook undisturbed for 20 minutes. Gently turn everything over and cook for another 20 minutes. Voila…done and delicious.

You end up with this wonderful flavor combination of sweet oozy crunchy carmelized goodness.  The bitter endive retains its flavor and the grapes and apples become even sweeter. Throw in the flavor of Rosemary and you look like a gourmand.  As Ina would say “How Easy Is That?”

Endives, Apples and Grapes…A Beautiful and Exotic Side Dish.

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