Tex-Mex: Now in Your Kitchen! (Chicken Enchiladas)

I make no secret about one of my favorite things about Houston: the delicious, incredible Tex-Mex. What’s not to love about it? Wonderful flavors, edges of heat and spiciness, a nearly endless variety of food, refreshing margaritas… It’s almost impossible to go wrong.

Until I try to make it myself. I can make a mean taco, but I’ve never had much success with much else. My food is never as flavorful; the meat never as moist.

Until now.

in pan

Red-chili-sauce-chicken enchiladas. They are, in a word, amazing.

Fair warning: my kitchen was a mess after this. It took about an hour & a half from first chop to taking out of the oven, so it’s not a quick & easy recipe.

But oh my. So worth it.

The original recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes book, with only slight modifications. I highly recommend the book. It’s easy to following, has interesting stories, and so far, delicious food.

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Sauce:
olive oil
1 small onion (or 1/2 medium)
2 cloves garlic
2 chopped jalapenos
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin, oregano, sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in 1/4″ strips
1 16-oz can of tomato sauce
3/4 cup water

Filling:
1 lime
1/2cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
8 small corn tortillas

Toppings:
1 cup cheddar cheese
sour cream, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, limes

1. Make the sauce: Finely chop onion & garlic, saute in a meduim/large skillet in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add chopped jalapenos & stir for several more minutes; then add spices, sugar, and salt. Stir constantly for 30 seconds.

2. Add chicken and stir until coated (about a minute). Add can of tomato sauce & water, bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove from heat, and strain chicken-sauce mixture, collecting the smooth sauce in a bowl. Strain as thoroughly as possible. Mix chicken/jalapeno/onion remainder with cilantro, cheese, and squeezed lime. Transfer chicken to freezer to cool until filling.

4. Prepare tortillas: Spray both sides of tortillas with cooking spray & lay on baking sheets. Warm in 300 degree pre-heated oven for 5 minutes  (don’t skip this! This will keep the tortillas from getting soggy & make it MUCH easier to fill), then remove & set out on countertop. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

5. Roll enchiladas: Cover bottom of 9×13 casserole dish with sauce. Place 1/2 cup filling in the center of each tortilla, roll tightly, and place (seam down) in the baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over the enchiladas, and top with cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, until heated thoroughly.

Remove, garnish with lime & other toppings, and serve immediately!

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Fresh, Tasty, and Easy: Twice Tomato Bruschetta

I had some leftover tomatoes & extra basil to use up, so I decided to try the bruschetta recipe I had stumbled upon earlier this week. I stopped by the store on the way home from work to pick up a baguette, and that was honestly the hardest part making this.

eating

Perfect for a bite-sized dinner side or appetizer!

Doesn’t that look delicious? It’s healthy (bonus if you’re using whole grain bread!) and tastes amazing, especially if you’re using fresh herbs.

3 roma tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 c sun-dried tomatoes (in oil)
1 clove minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4cup fresh basil
salt & pepper to taste
French baguette
6-7 basil leaves, de-stemmed
mozzarella cheese

1. Cut the baguette into thin slices, brush with olive oil, and toast for 3-4 minutes until browned. (Important! If they’re not browned now, they’ll be soggy at the end)

2. De-seed and chop tomatoes, garlic, and basil; mix together in large bowl. Roughly chop sun-dried tomatoes (a messy step since they’re in oil, but I know I have trouble eating the whole ones without making a mess!) and add to the mix.

ingredients

Look at those bright ingredients. Just like Christmas!

3. Add splash of olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper, mix well. Heap mixture onto toasted baguette slices, add whole basil leaves, and top with chunks of mozzarella cheese.

4. Broil for 6-7 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately, while hot!

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I made mine in a toaster oven, which worked wonderful. They toasted quickly and kept my kitchen from overheating (bonus in the Houston weather! Which is still hot).

Original recipe here.

Growing Season (Stuffed Zucchini Balls)

One of the big advantages to the hot, humid, & sweaty Houston summer is the growing season that comes with it. When I came down here (in late August), I was astonished to see tomato plants & herbs still being sold. Combine that with the farmer’s market within walking distance of my apartment, and I’m in fresh fruit & vegetable heaven.

Going to the farmers market has been a learning experience in itself. I’ve always been a suburbanite, going to the grocery store and getting used to uniform size & colored produce all year long. The farmers market, though… all shapes & colors of peppers, differently colored tomatoes & eggplants, and, I discovered, zucchini balls. I had never never seen a zucchini ball before. Upon seeing my first, I thought, wow. Think of all the OTHER vegetables you could stuff inside!

That led to stuffed zucchini balls.

zucchini 2

They were easy and delicious. I altered several recipes to come up with this one, and it’s flexible – use what you have on hand! I made mine vegetarian, but it wouldn’t be hard to add ground turkey or beef – saute it with the onions at the beginning, making sure to cook thoroughly.

2 zucchini balls
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 med onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
handful of fresh basil & oregano
3 tomatoes, chopped & drained
roasted red pepper
1cup bread crumbs
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt & pepper to taste
3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese

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1. Cut off the tops of the zucchini balls & scrape out the insides. Set aside the meaty part of the inside, toss the seeds. Make sure to drain it well, otherwise it’ll end up watery (same goes for tomatoes below) Cook in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for around 30-40 minutes, until tender.

2. Saute the onion & garlic in olive oil for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, then add chopped basil & oregano. Let cook for 2 more minutes, or until onion is transparent.

3. Combine chopped (drained!) tomatoes, roasted peppers, 1 c breadcrumbs, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper. Mix well, then add to onion mixture. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, then take off heat & transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

4. Chop mozzarella cheese & remaining basil, add to stuffing mixture, and mix well.

5. If you’re serving it later or planning on leftovers (and they keep well), save this step until you plan on serving it. Remove the zucchini balls from the oven and add stuffing. Make sure to fill it to the top – you want as much of the yummy insides as possible! Top with Parmesan cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted & insides warm through.

zucchini 1

Enjoy!

Starting Out Hot

Graduating college, moving to Houston, beginning a new job…and starting a blog! Seems like a logical progression of things.

I’m starting out this blog to keep myself accountable (and to intersperse some words into my days filled with Excel & numbers). I have grand plans (in cooking, as in life), and I always do better if I’m keeping track of myself. Otherwise, before I know it, my grand plan has fallen by the wayside, I’m living off cereal & raw carrots (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those). I love cooking, almost as much as I love eating, and I want to make sure I remember that. Because cereal can be awfully convincing in its call after long days.

This blog will follow my grand plan of cooking adventures. I’ve used so many blogs & recipes from the internet, it only seems fair to give back with what I’ve done!

With that, the first adventure: raspberry scones.

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They were delicious. Fresh out of the oven, still warm, buttery, and not at all like the slightly hard, dry pastries I’ve eaten in coffeeshops. Adapted from an Allrecipes site:

2c light flour (White Lily or similar cake flour)
1/3c sugar
1tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp butter (unsalted & frozen)
1/2c sour cream
1 egg
raspberries (or cranberries, raisins, chocolate chips, blueberries…)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop frozen butter into chunks, then cut into flour mixture.

Whisk egg & sour cream until smooth, then add to flour mixture. It’ll be dry & take a while to mix in, but it’ll end up together.

Form dough into circle around 1″ thick, and add raspberries. I did the technical method known as “shoving them in the dough.” Sprinkle with sugar and cut into triangles. Place onto cookie sheet & bake 15min @ 400 degrees. Cool for 5 minutes, or as long as you can wait, and enjoy!