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Cinco de Mayo All-Stars

Happy Cuatro de Mayo, everyone! We’re gearing up for Margarita Madness tonight and an official Cinco de Mayo party tomorrow, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite Cinco de Mayo-appropriate recipes with you today.

  • Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes: These were a huge hit at my Cinco de Mayo-themed birthday party a couple of years back, and I’m making a batch to bring to tonight’s party.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Margarita Cupcakes:  A creamy, citrusy winner. This recipe is a little more complicated than the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes, but the end result is delicious!
Margarita Cupcake
  • Green Chile Stew: This is a recent favorite, and the recipe is easily multiplied for groups. My friend’s parents have made cauldron-sized batches of green chile and pork for parties back in Las Cruces.
Green Chile Stew
  • Watermelon-Mango Salsa: Looking to go beyond the classic pico de gallo? This salsa is sweet and savory perfection.
Watermelon Mango Salsa
  • Coconut Key Lime Pie: I know key lime pie is hardly traditional Mexican cuisine, but the lime flavor pairs so beautifully with margaritas. It’s okay to color outside the lines, right?
Coconut Key Lime Pie
  • Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos: Need to feed a crowd? This is another great way to do it. Taco bars are always fun for parties. Try the recipe with Pacifico, Dos Equis, or another Mexican beer for the holiday.
Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos
  • Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas:  Three years later, and I’m still making this one. (We served it at a dinner party two weekends ago!) This dip is smoky, creamy, and just plain fantastic. Instead of serving it on chips, though, I now serve it in a bowl, sprinkled with queso fresco, with chips on the side.
  • Sparkling Limeade: This is a perfect margarita alternative for children or nondrinkers (although it also can be converted into margaritas – how convenient!).

Thai Vegetable Curry

Today’s dish is one I was sure was on the blog already, based on how many times I’ve made it: Food & Wine‘s recipe for Thai Vegetable Curry. I first made it for a Thai-themed gourmet club meeting back in June of 2011 (along with this fantastic recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil). I typically make the curry every couple of months or so because it’s absolutely delicious, comforting, and incredibly easy.

This particular recipe is great for weeknights or entertaining. When I’m cooking for just the two of us, I serve it right away with a pot of rice. The curry is perfect for dinner parties, though, because it actually tastes a little bit better when it’s made a day ahead. I throw mine together in a Dutch oven, refrigerate it overnight for optimal flavor blending, and then gently reheat it on the stove while we enjoy appetizers with our guests.

Thai Vegetable Curry
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Thai green curry paste (I used red curry paste)
1 2/3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk (one 15-ounce can)
1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup drained canned bamboo shoots, halved
1 pound boiling potatoes (about 2), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound broccoli, thick stems removed, tops cut into small florets (1 quart) (I used cauliflower)
1 tomato, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/3 cup thin-sliced basil leaves

Method:
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and fry, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, bamboo shoots, potatoes, and broccoli. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomato and heat through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and basil.

Variations: Other vegetables that would taste good in place of the broccoli include carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, green beans, and canned baby corn. Try your favorite, or use a combination of vegetables.

Source: Food & Wine

Thai Vegetable Curry

Yum, yum, yum.  Maybe I just love curry and coconut, but this dish is simply delicious.  There’s good textural contrast in the vegetables, and I adore the warm, creamy broth.  My version is very mild since I use red curry paste; try green curry paste instead if you can’t get enough heat.

Earlier, I mentioned that I usually serve the dish immediately when it’s just the two of us and a day later when we’re entertaining.  One other modification I make is that I’ll use light coconut milk for us and regular coconut milk when we have guests.  Light coconut milk makes the dish super healthy (only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving, without rice).  Regular coconut milk doesn’t make it a nutritional disaster, but it certainly adds a richness to the broth that elevates the dish for company.

Recipe link: Thai Vegetable Curry

Ice Cream Truffles

Here’s another easy, make-ahead dessert for Valentine’s Day (or any day, really). Combine your sweetie’s favorite ice cream with their favorite candy bar and serve up some customized ice cream truffles.

Ice Cream Truffles
Adapted from Real Simple

Ingredients:
1 1/2 quarts ice cream (I used Breyers Smooth and Dreamy Chocolate Chocolate Chip)
8 – 12 ounces candy bars, chopped or processed in the food processor (smaller ice cream shapes will have more surface area and will require more candy; I used 4 ounces each of Butterfinger and Take 5)

For round truffles:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.  Freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove one sheet.

Using a melon baller or ice cream scoop, scoop the ice cream and place individual balls on baking sheet.  Return sheet to freezer.  Repeat this process with second sheet.  Freeze the balls for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Place the chopped candy on a small plate.  (Use multiple plates for multiple candies.) Working with 1 baking sheet at a time, roll the ice cream balls in the toppings, using your hands to gently press in the toppings.  Freeze for 30 minutes before serving. For longer storage, place in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze.

For heart-shaped truffles:
Allow ice cream to soften on the countertop until it has a spreadable consistency (or microwave on low until spreadable).  Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment or foil.  Place ice cream in baking pan, smooth top, and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 6o minutes, or until firm.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.  Freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove one sheet.

Remove ice cream from freezer.  Remove plastic wrap.  Invert over a cutting board and peel away parchment or foil.  Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter (mine was 2 1/2 inches wide at its widest point), cut heart shapes and place hearts on baking sheet.  Return sheet to freezer.  Repeat process with second baking sheet.  If desired, scoop ice cream scraps into balls and place on baking sheet as well.  Freeze for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Place the chopped candy on a small plate.  (Use multiple plates for multiple candies.) Working with 1 baking sheet at a time, gently roll the hearts (and balls, if you scooped the scraps) in the toppings, using your hands to gently press in the toppings.  Freeze for 30 minutes before serving.  For longer storage, place in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze.

Ice Cream Truffles

The easy way...

Individual Ice Cream Truffle

Take 5... Yum!

Heart-Shaped Ice Cream Truffles

The hard(er) way...

This is one of those recipes (though it’s barely a recipe, I’ll admit!) that really can’t go wrong as long as you start with delicious ingredients.  Plus, I love that the work is already done and these truffles will taste just as good after dinner on Tuesday as they did the day I made them.  Happy (early) Valentine’s Day, everyone!

TIPS:  I suspect that drier candy bars (like the ones I used, or Heath, Toblerone, etc.) work best with this recipe because they won’t bond into lumps due to an excess of caramel, peanut butter, or other delicious ooey-gooey elements.  If you try a gooey candy bar with these, though, let me know how it goes.  Also, I initially intended to make mini heart truffles, but my mini heart cutter was too shallow to cut through the ice cream in the 8 x 8-inch block.  If you want to make minis, put the ice cream in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead.

Recipe link: Ice Cream Truffles

Green Chile Stew

It’s snowing like crazy here in Denver today, and it isn’t supposed to stop until tomorrow morning.  To me, one of the best parts of hunkering down for a snowy weekend is cooking warm, comforting food like today’s recipe – Green Chile Stew. I’ve enjoyed delicious green chile with pork many times at the Gomez home in New Mexico, but I’d never tried making any myself (probably because it took a long time to work up my spicy food tolerance to the point where I could handle the dish!). Motivated by the batch of roasted Big Jim chiles in my freezer (thanks, C.Go!), I decided to give this one a try.  Our noses ran from the heat of the chiles, for sure, but we enjoyed every bite.

February 3rd Snow

And it's still coming down!

Green Chile Stew
Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds lean pork, cubed (I had a 1.5-pound pork tenderloin in my freezer, so I used that)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 to 8 green New Mexico chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and diced (optional)
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I was not about to deal with peeling a tomato, so I used a drained 14.5-ounce can of peeled diced tomatoes)
3 cups water (or chicken stock) (I used chicken stock)
Salt to taste

Method:

Heat the oil in a pan and brown the pork.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.

Combine the pork mixture and remaining ingredients in a Dutch oven and simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.  Check occasionally and add a bit more water if needed.  Season to taste.

Per serving (with six servings): 245 cal; 8 g fat (2 g sat fat); 2 g fiber; 9 g carb; 33 g protein

Source: The Southwest Table by Dave DeWitt

Green Chile Stew

Ohhhh, this was so good.  Simple and delicious.  I was afraid the pork might be tough or dry after cooking for so long, but it was moist and tender.  I’ll definitely use a tenderloin again the next time I make this recipe.  I loved the broth and the heat from the chiles, and the potatoes were perfectly cooked.  (Though the potatoes bulked up the stew nicely, I’ll admit that I wondered if I was committing green chile sacrilege when I put them in.)  Yay for advancing in our spicy food training!

Recipe link: Green Chile Stew

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

I’m a big dessert person, but I don’t always want to make a big effort in order to have it.  When my friend Christopher came over for dinner recently, I was looking for something that would be fun, delicious, and easy.  The answer?  Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats from the October 2008 issue of Everyday Food.  I love Rice Krispies treats – they so remind me of my childhood – and the chocolate element of this recipe elevates the flavor to something adults can really appreciate. Plus, the treats came together in 10 minutes flat.  Perfection!

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats
Makes 16

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 bag (10.5 ounces) mini marshmallows
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled)
6 cups crisp rice cereal
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Method:
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.  Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both sides.  Butter paper; set pan aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, marshmallows, and cocoa.  Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until melted, about 6 minutes; stir in rice cereal.  Press rice mixture into prepared pan; drizzle with melted chocolate.  Let cool to room temperature; cut into 16 bars.  (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, October 2008

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

These are so good!  I’ve never really been a chocolate Rice Krispies treat kind of girl (I love the original recipe), but I’ll totally make these again.  The texture is perfect, with just the right amount of butter and marshmallow, and I love, love, love the rich flavor of the chocolate drizzle on top.  This would be such a fun dessert for a dressed-up comfort food dinner party.

TIPS:  I was always under the impression that Rice Krispies treats got pretty stale if you didn’t eat them the day they were made, but these keep beautifully.

Recipe link: Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Christopher actually visited my blog (instead of viewing it through Google Reader) and noticed that my header was in need of a face-lift.  (He created the previous one, so he’s allowed to say that!)  He came over recently and created the new one while I prepared today’s recipe as a thank-you dinner.  Many, many thanks to Christopher for my fresh new look.  I love it!

Anyway, both Christopher and I have a thing for pork, whether it’s shredded for tacos, part of a meatball, sauteed with sauce, or – for this meal – roasted with vegetables and drizzled with mustard gravy.  This recipe has an amazing end result and is impressive enough for company; it certainly earned the C.Go stamp of approval.

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pounds carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 pound shallots, peeled and halved if large
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grainy mustard

Method:
Preheat oven to 450°F.   On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots, shallots, and 1 tablespoon rosemary with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, season pork with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium.  Add pork; cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer pork to a plate, and reserve skillet.

Remove baking sheet from oven; push vegetables to sides.  Place pork in center; return sheet to oven.  Roast, tossing vegetables occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers 145°F, 30 to 40 minutes. Loosely tent pork with foil.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

While pork rests, pour off almost all of the fat from skillet.  Add wine, and cook over medium-high, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 30 seconds.  Gradually add 1 cup water, whisking constantly.  Add 1 tablespoon rosemary.  Bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat. Whisk in mustard, and season gravy with salt and pepper.  Serve pork with carrots and gravy.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2009

My notes:

  • The smallest pork loin I could find at my grocery store was 2.7 pounds, so I bought it.
  • Since my roast was large, I used the full 40 minutes of baking time.
  • When I tested the temperature of my pork, it was more like 138° or 139°.  I didn’t want to risk overcooking it, so I tented it then.  I’m glad I did, because the pork turned out tender and juicy, and just barely pink.
  • Peeling all those shallots was kind of a pain, though they are delicious. Christopher and I think it would be fine to use a small red onion (cut into wedges) or pearl onions as a substitute.

Roasted Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

I rounded out the meal with a simple side of green beans, and did we ever enjoy it all.  The pork was perfectly cooked, the vegetables were tender, and the blackened bits on the vegetable edges were over-the-top delicious.  We liked the rosemary in the vegetables but thought it was overkill in the gravy; next time, I’ll leave it out. Also, if you’re feeling a bit lazy, the meal would still be perfectly delicious if you skipped the gravy altogether.  I enjoyed the extra flavor boost, though.  This one’s definitely a keeper!

Recipe link: Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Those of you who are lucky enough to have spouses or partners who love to join you in the kitchen, I envy you.  Dr. O is wonderful (really!) and has many redeeming qualities, but he does not cook.  He does not slice, he does not chop, he does not stir.  He rarely even toasts.

So you can imagine how good Alton Brown’s soft pretzel recipe must be if it’s the one thing that gets him in the kitchen.  He asks for them again and again, knowing that I’ll only make them if he helps.  (These pretzels are so amazing that I might make them even if he didn’t help, but I’ll never tell.)

Here’s the recipe if you want to give them a try:

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Makes 8

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm (110° to 115°F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Method:
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.  Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil.  Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.  Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.  Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.  Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.  Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.  Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Alton Brown, FoodNetwork.com

Soft Pretzels

This recipe produces absolutely amazing results.  This is the best soft pretzel I’ve ever had – at a stadium, a bakery, anywhere.  If you’re a pretzel person (and I am!), we’re talking ecstasy.

We tried honey mustard and spicy brown mustard as dipping sauces; the spicy brown won, hands down.  The pretzels would be fantastic with cheese as well.  We had a few leftover pretzels (hard to believe!); some were sliced horizontally for sandwiches, others were reheated in the microwave for 25 seconds on high.  The reheated pretzels weren’t quite as good as fresh out of the oven, but they still beat the heck out of a SuperPretzel.

TIPS: If you don’t quite get how to form the pretzels, watch Alton do it here.

Recipe link: Homemade Soft Pretzels




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