Chicken and Okra Stew

IMG_2337 (640x480)

I made this delicious stew using okra, bell peppers, and tomatoes from the farmers’ market and jalapenos from my garden. Make sure to buy smaller okra pods so they will be tender and not fibrous. Serve the stew over hot cooked rice.

Chicken and Okra Stew

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound chicken breast, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 jalapenos, stems and seeds removed, minced
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped (or a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes)
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound fresh okra, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
Cooked white or brown rice

In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil over medium-high heat. Season the cubed chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper, add to the pot, and cook until just no longer pink. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the Dutch oven. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and minced jalapeno to the pot and cook, stirring often until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, and okra and bring to a boil. Add the reserved chicken and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the okra is tender, about 15 minutes. Season the stew with salt and pepper and serve with cooked white or brown rice.


Bread Machine Monkey Bread

IMG_2217 (640x453)

Monkey bread is a special breakfast treat that my family enjoys. There are a lot of monkey bread recipes out there that use canned biscuit dough. I’m not a big fan of those products since the vast majority of them are loaded with questionable chemicals and hydrogenated oils. I’d much rather make things from scratch so I know what is in it. Using a bread machine takes all the hard work out of making dough for this monkey bread. This recipe takes about 2 hours from start to finish, but most of that time is rising time. If you like nuts, sprinkle chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts in between the dough pieces.

Bread Machine Monkey Bread

Dough:
1 cup water
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast (1 package)

5 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Add the first 8 ingredients (flour through yeast) to the bread machine in the order given (or according to your bread machine’s instruction manual).  Select the dough cycle on your machine and press start. The bread machine’s dough cycle includes about an hour of rising time. Once the dough cycle is finished, turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead 12 times. The dough will probably be pretty sticky. Just use a little more flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Place the 5 tablespoons of melted butter in a bowl (I just melt the butter in the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds). In a separate bowl, combine the 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray. With your hands or a pair of kitchen scissors, pull or cut off small pieces of dough (about 1 inch in diameter – it doesn’t have to be perfect). Place the piece of dough in the melted butter and then roll in the cinnamon sugar.  Place the piece of dough into the prepared Bundt pan. Continue cutting off small pieces of dough, dipping them in butter then sugar, and placing them in evenly in the pan until all the dough has been used. If you have extra butter and cinnamon sugar after all of the dough pieces have been placed in the pan, you can pour the remaining butter and sugar evenly over the dough. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for 20 minutes or until the dough rises above the top of the Bundt pan.

This is what mine looked like after 20 minutes of rising time:

IMG_2215 (640x480)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the monkey bread in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Using a hot pad or oven mitts, place a large plate over the top of the Bundt pan. Carefully invert so that the monkey bread comes out of the pan onto the plate. Remove the pan.  Serve the monkey bread warm.


Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas with a Creamy Tomatillo Sauce

IMG_2250 (640x480)

I had mushrooms, jalapenos, tomatillos, and Mexican crema in the fridge that needed to be used and this is the dish I came up with to utilize all of those ingredients. I started by making my favorite tomatillo hot sauce and adding Mexican crema to make the enchilada sauce. The crema added enough richness that the enchiladas didn’t even need cheese. You can find Mexican crema in the refrigerated section of some grocery stores. You can substitute heavy cream if you can’t find crema but it won’t quite be the same. Here’s a picture of the Mexican crema I used:

IMG_2244 (480x640)

I was happy with the way the Creamy Tomatillo Sauce turned out. Seriously, you could put that stuff on anything and it would be good. The spinach and mushroom filling wasn’t bad itself. There was just enough to fill 8 tortillas. If you are a spinach lover, I think you could get away with adding an additional package of frozen chopped spinach.

Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas with a Creamy Tomatillo Sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 ounces mushrooms, rinsed, stems trimmed, and chopped
1 jalapenos, seeds removed, minced
1 package (9 – 10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (squeeze as much liquid as possible)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
8 corn tortillas
1 batch of Creamy Tomatillo Sauce (recipe below), warmed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften. Add the mushrooms and jalapenos cook about 5 minutes more. If the mushrooms release their liquid, just cook until most of liquid is gone. Add the chopped spinach and ground cumin and cook until the spinach is heated through. Season the enchilada filling with salt and pepper and keep warm.

IMG_2240 (640x480)

 

Wet several paper towels and wring them out. Wrap the corn tortillas in the damp paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds or until warm and pliable.

Spread 1/2 cup of the Creamy Tomatillo Sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.

Divide the spinach and mushroom filling evenly between the 8 corn tortillas and roll up (not too tight) to enclose the filling. Place the enchiladas seam side down in the baking dish. Top the enchiladas with the remaining Creamy Tomatillo Sauce. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the enchiladas in the 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Creamy Tomatillo Sauce

4 fresh jalapenos, stems removed (you can remove the seeds if you wish)
1 pound green tomatillos, husks removed and washed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1/2 cup water
2 T. olive oil
1 T. vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup Mexican crema

In a medium saucepan, add the jalapenos, tomatillos, onion, vegetable bouillon cube, water, olive oil, vinegar, and garlic.

IMG_2228 (640x480)

Gently simmer for 30 minutes, turn off heat, and then let cool a bit. Add the cilantro and then blend with a stick blender (or blend in a food processor or blender). Stir in the Mexican crema and keep sauce warm over low heat.

IMG_2234 (640x480)


Quick Pickled Jalapenos

IMG_2119 (480x640)

I planted 8 jalapeno plants in my garden this year. So far they have survived the copious amounts of rain we have gotten, leaf-footed bugs, and hornworms. They are producing a fair amount of peppers, although they are not as hot as we would like.

IMG_2108 (640x480)

Last week my husband was out of town and I picked a bunch of peppers. I decided to pickle them since I could not eat them all by myself. These quick pickled jalapenos are not processed in a water bath, so they are kept in the fridge. I actually like them this way because they stay a little crisper. If you would like, add some sliced carrots to the jalapeno and onion mix.

Quick Pickled Jalapenos

10 fresh jalapenos
1/2 small onion, slivered
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (or pickling salt)

Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat as soon as the solution comes to a boil. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile, wash the jalapenos and cut off stem end. Slice into rings (or cut into quarters), Place the jalapenos, slivered onions, and smashed garlic clove into a clean Mason jar. Pour the pickling solution over the jalapenos and screw on the lid. Allow to cool on the counter and then refrigerate. Let pickle for 2 to 4 weeks in the fridge before eating.


Wild Rice Salad with Snow Peas and a Ginger Sesame Dressing

IMG_2152 (640x480)

Wild rice is not actually rice. Instead it is a wild grass seed/grain that is high in protein and fiber. Wild rice is native to North America and grows wild in parts of Canada and in states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. It was (and still is) an important element of some northern Native American tribes’ diet. Due to popular demand, wild rice is now cultivated in California and Minnesota. It still can be pricey and somewhat hard to find. I have found it in bulk bins in natural food stores going for up to $14.00 per pound.  A couple of months ago, I discovered 8-ounce pouches of cooked wild rice at Target selling for under $2.50 apiece. Jackpot! I was so happy. The next time I went to Target I noticed it was on clearance. Oh no! I bought what they had and was disappointed that the store would no longer being carrying that product. I’m happy to report that the pouches of cooked wild rice are back at Target, just in different packaging and sporting a new brand name, Simply Balanced.

Here’s a picture of the old packaging:
IMG_2174 (445x640)

This Asian-influenced wild rice salad is wonderful. Not only is it pretty and easy to make, it’s delicious too. The wild rice is a bit nutty and has a chewy texture. The colors of this salad are beautiful. The Ginger Sesame Dressing is addicting.  It doesn’t overwhelm the wild rice. It’s also great on a slaw made with green cabbage, shredded carrots, and cucumbers.

Wild Rice Salad with Snow Peas and a Ginger Sesame Dressing

2 cups of cooked wild rice (1 pouch of Simply Balanced cooked wild rice – found at Target)
4 ounces fresh snow peas (about 2 big handfuls) washed, ends trimmed, and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced small

1 clove garlic, smashed and finely minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/4 cup canola oil
1/8 cup sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey (you can use white sugar if you wish)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

In a bowl, combine the wild rice, snow peas, and red bell pepper. In a Mason jar, combine the garlic, ginger, canola oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and sesame seeds. Place the lid on the jar and shake to combine. Pour 1/4 cup of the ginger sesame dressing over the wild rice salad and stir to combine. Let the salad sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so. This gives the wild rice time to absorb the dressing. Taste the salad and add more dressing and/or salt if necessary. Serve sprinkled with additional sesame seeds.


Queso

IMG_2073 (640x480)

I’m a Texan so when I think of chile con queso I automatically think of Velvetta and Rotel. I’m perfectly fine with admitting that. That stuff tastes good. Normally, I would look down my nose at a processed “cheese food” product, but it really is essential for the smooth texture of a Texas-style queso.

I would love to create the perfect Texas-style queso without using processed cheese. I have tried. Over the years, I have made many different versions. Some turned out well, some didn’t. This particular version turned out fine, maybe even better than fine. I even reheated leftovers in the microwave the next day and it was still fine. Sometimes when using “real” cheese to make queso it can clump up or become a stringy, greasy mess. I didn’t have that problem with this version.  Make sure to lower the heat and stir a lot to make the queso smooth (although it won’t be smooth like a queso made with processed cheese). You can add more milk if needed.

I love chunks of fresh avocado (and even pico de gallo) in my queso. You can add other ingredients like black beans, chili, chopped fajita meat, or cooked ground beef to make the queso a little more substantial.

Queso

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely minced (you can substitute pickled jalapeno or roasted poblanos)
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeds removed, and finely chopped (or use1 – 2 tablespoons canned diced tomatoes)
4 teaspoons flour
8 ounces of cheddar and monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a bowl, toss the cheeses with the flour and set aside. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and jalapeno and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and then stir in the cheese and milk. Lower the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve immediately with tortilla chips.