Monday, September 15, 2014

Cheesy Chicken Tostadas

Everyone knows I love Mexican food.  Good thing my husband loves it too, or we'd be in a world of hurt with most of my cravings, restaurant choices, and at least one meal a week!  And for some reason, Mexican food seems to go great with sports.  I mean, who doesn't love nachos during the big game?  But, let's get real.  Mexican food and game day food are not known for their nutrition factor.  In fact, just the opposite.  And while I fully subscribe to giving yourself some wiggle room over the weekend, I never want to totally derail my diet and exercise program for a few guilt-free hours of gorging myself at the game watch.  Enter this recipe.  Straight out of one of my many South Beach Diet cookbooks, these tasty tostadas are great as appetizers, lunches, or a light(ish) dinner.  I've made them several times, much to the delight of my husband, who has absolutely no idea that they're "chick food"!!  Take them to your next tailgate, and let the ladies know they can have their football, and eat too!!

4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas (except that I typically buy these)
5 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound chicken breast cutlets, cut into thin strips (or thinly slice a boneless, skinless breast)
1/3 cup minced onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 can diced tomatoes, well drained (go for the Mexican varieties, which are easy to find)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat cheese (Mexican blend, sharp cheddar, or pepper jack are great choices)
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Heat the oven to 400.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Place the tortillas on the baking sheet.  Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the tortillas on one side with olive oil, then lightly sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.  Remove from the oven and turn the oven to broil.  Leave the tortillas on the baking sheet.

While the tortillas are baking, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 4 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken, onion, garlic, and jalapeño and sprinkle with salt.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and coriander.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes.

Top the tortillas evenly with the chicken mixture, then sprinkle evenly with the cheese.  Broil 6 inches from the heat, watching carefully to prevent the tortillas from burning, just until the cheese melts.  Top evenly with avocado and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Serve warm.

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from The South Beach Diet Super Quick Cookbook, by Arthur Agatston.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kentucky Derby

The first Saturday in May is a biggie in our house!  It's the Run for the Roses and marks a particularly huge milestone in my husband's and my relationship.  He's a native Kentuckian and shortly after we started dating I jokingly told him he should take me to the Derby.  Well, just two months later, he did, and also took me to meet his parents for the first time.  I'll let you read more of the story as you look through these recipes and plan your own Derby Party!  Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bourbon Street Buffalo Wings

I don't know what it is, but for some reason, nothing screams football more than wings and beer!  I'm not a huge wings fan, but I do enjoy the occasional trip to B-Dubs to watch the big game.  In fact, there was one particular Notre Dame - Michigan game while I was in college where I remember one of my roommates' parents took a bunch of us there for dinner after the game.  That memory spurred me to make my own wings for that same game this year.  Maybe it's because this was this last scheduled game of the long-standing series.  Doesn't much matter, because ND shut the Wolverines out in an epic game under the lights.  I couldn't be prouder of my team!  Go Irish! And, even if you're not a Notre Dame fan, these wings are delicious, so you should try them!

2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 cup sriracha
1 cup BBQ sauce
canola oil, for frying
3 pounds chicken wings
your favorite dipping sauces (I like blue cheese)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the bourbon, brown sugar, and honey.  Heat through, 2 minutes.

Whisk in ancho chile powder, sriracha, and BBQ sauce.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.  Keep warm while you fry the wings.

Heat about 4 inches of oil in a deep skillet or deep-fryer.  Fry wings in batches until golden on both sides and cooked through (mine took about 7 minutes per batch in a small fryer).  You may want to pre-heat the oven to keep wings warm while you're frying.  Remove wings from oil and drain on a platter lined with towels or a baking rack.

Toss the wings and sauce in a large bowl, pile onto a serving platter.  Serve with dipping sauces on the side and shots of bourbon to beat the heat!

Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown, by Bobby Flay.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bourbon BBQ Sauce

I once read somewhere that southern BBQ is like European wine; no two regions taste the same.  (You may have read that on this blog before).  Well, it's true!  My favorite BBQ sauce is both sweet and spicy, but not too much to either side of that spectrum.  This sauce is just right.  I made it on a whim one night, mostly because I was trying to use up some things in my pantry.  I'm so glad I did!  This recipe made enough sauce to baste six chicken breasts and still fill a mason jar to use later on (which I have, as you can see from the picture).  Try it; it's a winner!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons bourbon
1 1/4 cups ketchup
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 canned chipotles in adobo, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon molasses
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add the 1/2 cup bourbon and cook until completely reduced.  Add the ketchup and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes.  Add mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, chipotles, brown sugar, chile powder, paprika, cayenne, honey, and molasses.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour into a jar, add the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon, and cool to room temperature.

Works wonderfully to baste chicken, brisket, or pork chops while grilling out!

Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown, by Bobby Flay.

Monday, September 1, 2014

This Month: Game Day

Football season is serious business in my family. In fact, in the last two years, all three of the colleges my brothers and I attended/are attending have played in the National Championship game (yes, three teams in two years...two of our teams played each other; it wasn't pretty). Between my parents, my brothers, and me, and then adding in my husband's hometown team for good measure, there are a ton of football rivalries every fall. We get loud, we get excited, we yell and we cheer, and boy, do we eat! You can't have a good game watch or tailgate without fabulous game day food, so this month I'm going to share with you some favorite treats (mostly sandwiches) to watch during the big game.

Pimento Patty Melts

Waffle Fries with Smokey Chipotle Cheese Sauce

Steak & Onion Sandwiches

I've only had one Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich in my entire life.  In Philly.  After an Army-Navy game I attended with my family.  Although the sandwich was great, it wasn't something I ever really thought about making on my own.  Until a few months ago when I was flipping through an old cookbook and came across this recipe.  I marked the page to remember for later.  And later came on a Wednesday evening after I'd been at the clinic and working on nursing school stuff all day long.  We'd been having what my husband calls "chick food" for the previous several days, so when he came home and told me he was ordering a pizza for dinner, I knew the time was right to whip up these sandwiches.  My husband's pretty glad I told him to forget about a pizza...and he mentioned at least three times that he'd like to have these again!!

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
4 cloves garlic, 3 minced and 1 smashed
2 medium onions, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
1/2 - 3/4 pound thin "sandwich steak" (also called minute steak)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
2 demi baguettes, or other crusty bread

In a medium skillet (I used cast iron) over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add the minced garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown.  Remove to a bowl.  Preheat a grill pan (again, I used cast iron) or the broiler to medium-high.

Season the steak with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same skillet and cook steaks 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side, or until cooked as desired.

While the steaks are cooking, cut baguettes in half lengthwise, leaving one long edge connected.  Rub the inside of the bread with the smashed garlic clove, then drizzle with olive oil.  Toast the baguette until grill marks appear and bread is nice and crusty.  Remove warm bread from skillet and sprinkle blue cheese crumbles inside the warm bread.

When the steak is cooked, remove to a plate.  Drizzle Worcestershire sauce in skillet and scrape up any brown bits.  Return onions to pan (toss in that last clove of smashed garlic if you like) and warm through.

To build the sandwich, layer steak on top of the blue cheese crumbles, and then onions (along with some of the drippings) on top of the meat.

Serve hot.  These can also be wrapped in foil and kept in a warm oven until time to serve.  Perfect for game day, a busy mid-week meal, or backyard picnic!

Serves 2.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sassy Pimento Cheese Spread

My mama and I have been in Charleston this weekend, celebrating my graduation from nursing school.  And, while I've been thoroughly enjoying the fabulous low country cookin' down here, it's the pimento cheese that had my mouth watering all the way from Virginia!  There are a handful of things that all Southern cooks are expected to know to make, and have the ingredients on hand to whip up in a jiffy, and pimento cheese spread is one of them.  In fact, the just other day I had nothing on hand for lunch, so I put together a bowl of this creamy, cheesy goodness in under five minute (and that was with a three-year old helping!) and had lunch in no time!

8 ounces cream cheese

3/4 cup mayonnaise
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded colby-jack cheese
6 ounces chopped pimentos, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha
dash cayenne

Mix all together in a stand mixer on low speed until well combined.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve over toast, Ritz crackers, as a dig for sweet peppers or celery, or even over a patty melt!