Jalapeno Popper Dip

Jalapeno Popper Dip
adapted from THIS recipe

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained & chopped
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
chives for garnish

Combine all the ingredients above except for chives and mix thoroughly.
Place in baking dish and bake for 20-23 minutes until warmed and bubbly OR place in mini crockpot to keep warm.
Garnish with chives.
** I made this a day in advance and replenished my mini crockpot as needed.

Tostaditas with Black Bean & Scallop Ceviche

Tostaditas with Black Bean & Scallop Ceviche
(sadly, no picture available since we ate it all up!)

For the black bean spread:

original Joelen recipe
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
3 tablespoons light sour cream
salt & pepper to taste

In a bowl, mash black beans to paste, leaving it slightly chunky for texture.
Add remaining ingredients and fold in until combined and incorporated; set aside.

For the ceviche:
adapted ceviche recipe courtesy of Food Network
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cilantro
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 pound fresh diver-harvested sea scallops or any other fresh scallop of high quality
1/4 cup diced red or yellow onion
1/2 minced, seeded jalapeno
1 plum tomato, seeded, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh minced cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine lime zest, juice, and spices. Set mixture aside. Clean and wash the scallops, then cut each 1 in 1/2 lengthwise. Add scallops to lime juice mixture, stir well and set aside in cooler. Add the vegetables and cilantro to the scallop mixture. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.

To prepare & assemble the Tostaditas:
prepared black bean spread
prepared scallop ceviche above
tortilla chips
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 tablespoons water

Spread black bean spread on a tortilla chip.
Top with scallop ceviche.
Combine sour cream and water in a small bowl and drizzle over the top of the tostadita.
Serve immediately or have guests make them as they eat.

Roasted Pineapple Pork Tenderloin

Roasted Pineapple Pork Tenderloin
adapted recipe courtesy of Epicurious

1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon mild or hot chili powder (or achiote paste)
1 jalapeno, finely minced
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 small golden pineapple (about 1 1/2 pound), diced into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup pineapple (or orange) juice
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped
Vegetable oil cooking spray

Heat a large pan over high heat to the smoking point, 3 to 4 minutes. Brown pineapple 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pineapple juice and stir 1 minute, scraping up brown bits from pan. Remove pineapple from heat. Combine in a bowl with pepper, onion and basil. Mash together and set aside.
Mix tomato paste with chili powder.
Combine with orange juice, lime juice and oil in a double resealable bag.
Add pineapple mixture to the bag.
Add tenderloin and marinate at least 3 hours.
Heat a grill or grill pan over high. Coat with cooking spray.
Remove pork from marinade; place on baking pan. (Discard excess marinade.)
Bake marinated pork in a preheated 350 oven, until pork is no longer pink and internal temperature is 160°F 18 to 20 minutes. Let pork rest 5 minutes before slicing.
Garnish with cilantro leaves before serving.

A Margarita Sandwich…

In an effort of eating “clean” and healthy these days, here’s a dinner that adds some fun. I came across this recipe for Margarita Chicken. It seemed interesting and easy so I gave it a go. I did add about 1 tablespoon of McCormick’s Baja Citrus seasoning to give it some additional kick. We loved the flavor this chicken has. But rather than serving it on a plate with just some veggies, I figured making a panini with whole wheat bread would allow us to incorporate some fiber into the meal. To accompany our panini, I roasted some butternut squash with additional Baja Citrus seasoning and some fresh blueberries for sweetness.

Here’s the adapted recipe for Margarita Chicken:

4 boneless and skinned chicken breast halves
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tbsp. Triple Sec
1-1/2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon Baja Citrus seasoning (dry)

Combine all ingredients in a zip-top bag. Marinate in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. Grill or bake chicken in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until juices run clear.

Our panini was simple – the baked chicken breast above with lettuce, tomato and a 1/2 slice of low fat swiss cheese on toasted whole wheat bread.

*I’m also submitting this to the Welcome to Wonderland blogging event, hosted by Indigo. Indigo is looking for creative dishes that would be a fit for a fun party. Because alcohol is part of the ingredients, how could this not be a party friendly recipe?! Check out Indigo’s sometime next week for the blogging event round up!*

Roasting a Chicken… or Two

Freeze space is a hot commodity in my kitchen. I had 2 large whole chickens staring at me when I opened up my freezer and decided to make room in my freezer by roasting them both. What I’m going to do with 2 roast chickens, I’m not sure… but the possibilities are endless. I’ve deboned the chickens and will probably use the meat in various ways for when I’m short on time.

For lunch today, we just enjoyed the legs with some roasted jalepeno potatoes and corn on the cob. Simple. Satisfying. As for the recipes, I kept it as effortless as possible:
Here’s my recipe for roast chicken:

1 whole chicken
1-2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2-4 tablespoons spice/rub seasoning of your choice
(today I used Montreal Chicken Seasoning)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse and pat dry your chicken.
Drizzle oil over the chicken.
Sprinkle the seasoning all over the chicken until you have it completely covered. Add more seasoning if needed.
Place your chicken on a rack, set inside a roaster pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 3o minutes, or shorter/longer depending on size of your chicken. Bake until juices run clear.

** You could also stuff the cavity with lemons, limes, onions, garlic, etc… just use your preference for additional aromatics. I chose not to stuff the cavity since I didn’t want additional flavor into the chicken. I haven’t yet decided how I want to use the chicken so keeping it neutral and simple was my intent.

Here’s my recipe for rosemary jalepeno diced potatoes:

1-2 potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
1 jalepeno, seeded & finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Drizzle oil on a baking sheet.
Place potatoes on a single layer and toss in the oil.
Sprinkle the rosemary, salt & pepper & toss to coat.
Add jalepeno and toss.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until browned & crispy.

Killing Two Birds with One Salsa!

Salsa is quite a popular condiment and in fact, I believe it’s even more popular than ketchup! Today I wanted to try making a variation of the traditional tomato salsa and to use it as a way to kick up the flavor in other dishes. I found a Tomatillo Salsa Verde recipe from Simply Recipes and it worked out beautifully. After I made the salsa, I used it to make Salsa Verde Chicken Quesadillas.

Here’s my adapted version of Simply Recipe’s Tomatillo Salsa Verde:

1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.

Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, Jalapeño peppers, sugar, garlic & red pepper flakes in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are coarsely chopped and mixed. (You can process it finer to your preference but because I planned on using it further, I chose to do it coarsely.) Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator. Serve with chips or as a salsa accompaniment to Mexican dishes. Makes 3 cups.

Using the recipe above, here’s my recipe for Salsa Verde Chicken Quesadillas:

1 1/2 cup prepared salsa verde
2-3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
stack of flour tortillas
1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
cooking spray
sour cream, salsa verde, chopped tomatoes for garnish

In a freezer bag, place salsa verde with chicken breasts. Allow it to marinate for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place marinated chicken on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 mins.
Remove chicken from oven and cool. When cooled, chop up.
Place chopped chicken in a large bowl.
Add cheese and a tablespoon of prepared salsa verde.
Use chicken mixture as a filling for quesadillas.
Spray one side of flour tortilla with cooking spray and lay sprayed side on hot skillet over medium high heat.
Add 1-2 tablespoons chicken filling on top pof the flour tortilla and place another tortilla on top.
Spray the top of flour tortilla with cooking spray and flip in skillet when bottom is lightly browned.
Continue cooking until filling is melted and quesadilla is lightly browned on both sides.
Service with sour cream, additional salsa verde and chopped tomatoes.

California Guacamole

The following recipe was shared during my Chef Spotlight Dinner highlighting recipes of Chef Wolfgang Puck. You can view other recipes and pictures of the event HERE.

California Guacamole
shared at the event by Abbie
Original recipe here

3 medium, fully ripe avocados
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon salt

1. Halve one avocado, remove pit and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Repeat with remaining avocados. Pour lime juice over avocado flesh.

2. Using a fork or potato masher, mash lightly until mixture is still a little chunky. Stir in cilantro, shallot, roasted garlic, jalapeno and salt.

3. Serve with tortilla chips. (Guacamole can be made ahead and covered with plastic wrap and kept refrigerated for up to 8 hours. Return to room temperature before serving.)

Fantastic Fajita Bowls!

As a result of doing some rearranging and spring cleaning in my kitchen, I’ve been on a cookbook kick lately. I took for granted all the wonderful cookbooks I have in my collection and figured I better put them to use. So having gone through 8 of my America’s Test Kitchen Companion Books, I made notes of what recipes I could make using what I have on hand.

For lunch today, I used a recipe from the 2005 America’s Test Kitchen Live! cookbook and the 2007 America’s Test Kitchen Favorites cookbook for a Mexican-inspired meal. We enjoyed chicken fajitas sans tortillas, but over Mexican rice instead. As always, everything came out fabulous and I learned some great tricks that really made a difference in the dishes.

To make the chicken fajitas, the 2007 America’s Test Kitchen Favorites recipe (pages 148 – 151) was made for cooking on an outdoor grill; however I made some adaptations to cook it indoors. What we wanted: Chicken fajitas that don’t rely on a truckload of toppings for flavor – just smoky grilled vegetables and tender, well-seasoned pieces of chicken that taste great on their own.

What we learned: Briefly marinate the chicken breasts in an acidic mixture of lime juice and oil (along with a little Worcestershire for smokiness and depth and some jalapeno and cilantro for brightness) for best flavor. A combination of green and red bell peppers creates a pleasing contract of bitter and sweet…. Toss a small amount of extra marinade with the chicken and vegetables just before service for an added burst of flavor.

Keys to a Better Marinade: This marinade transforms bland chicken in just 15 minutes. We found that a generous dose of lime juice and a shot of Worchestershire sauce (or soy sauce) were key. The lime juice adds acidity, while the Worchestershire lends smoky, salty depth.

I really have to agree with the reasoning behind the recipe itself. It really had some amazing flavor – mildly spicy with citrus tones that really made it fresh. Here is my adapted recipe for Chicken Fajitas (Indoors on a Grill Pan):

1/3 cup juice from 3-4 limes
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 jalapeno chile, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
salt & ground black pepper to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium red onion, peeled & cut into rounds
1 cup frozen, sliced multi-colored bell pepper strips

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the line juice, 4 tablespoons of the oil, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper. Slice the chicken breast into strips. Place the chicken and marinade in a quart sized storage bag (Ziploc) and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.

2. After the chicken has marinated, heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Place chicken and marinade in grill pan, tossing until cooked and the marinade is absorbed/evaporated. The chicken will start to brown and caramelize.

3. When the chicken starts to brown and caramelize, add the sliced red onion and frozen (or fresh) bell pepper strips. Cook until onions and peppers begin to caramelize.

4. Enjoy with flour tortillas or Mexican Rice.

For the Mexican Rice I served my chicken fajitas with, I normally prepare it quickly over the stove top with canned tomatoes. However using a recipe from the 2005 America’s Test Kitchen Live! cookbook (pages 167-169), I learned some new tricks that made even better Mexican Rice.

What we wanted: Mexican rice that was rich tasting without the greasiness.

What we learned: Rinse the rice to remove excess starch and then fry it in a modest 1/3 cup of oil for a rice but not greasy flavor. Use fresh tomatoes for the best flavor, but add a little tomato paste for color. Bake the rice to ensure even cooking and finish with chiles, cilantro, and lime juice.

Again, America’s Test Kitchen didn’t fail me. I was a bit skeptical about the recipe because it was much different from how I normally prepare it… however delivered some amazing results. The rice was flavorful, tender and even better than what I’ve had at local Mexican restaurants. Here is my adapted recipe for Mexican Rice:
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cored & quartered
1 1/2 medium white onions, peeled & quartered
2 medium jalapeno peppers
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 cup water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Process the tomatoes and onions in a food processor or blender until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds, scraping down the bowl if necessary; you should have2 cups. Remove the ribs and seeds from the 2 jalapenos and discard; mince the flesh and set aside.

2. Place the rice in a large fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, about 1 1/2 minutes. Share the rice vigorously in the strainer to remove all excess water.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed straight-sided 12-inch ovenproof saute pan or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Drop 3 or 4 grains of rice into the oil if the grains sizzle, the oil is ready. Add the rice and fry, stirring frequently, until the rice is light golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and jalapenos, and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, chicken broth, water, tomato paste, and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the cilantro to taste. Serve immediately, passing the lime wedges separately.

Spicy Chicken & Cheese Quesadillas

Spicy mexican inspired food pairs really nicely with Sauvignon Blanc. I made these quesadillas for my Sauvignon Blanc Wine & Dine event so that everyone can taste how spicy food reactives with the wine.

Spicy Chicken & Cheese Quesadillas

2 lbs chicken breast, diced

1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon lime zest

2-3 cloves minced garlic

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 cup sliced green onions

1-2 diced jalepeno peppers

6 burrito sized flour tortillas

olive oil for cooking
cooking oil spray

In a pan, brown chicken in some olive oil.
Add all the seasonings, garlic and onion.

Add lime zest and juice.

Allow the chicken to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 400.
To prepare the quesadillas, spray cooking spray on one side of tortilla.

Place sprayed side down on a baking sheet.

Fold tortilla in half.

Open up the folded tortilla like a book and add chicken to lightly cover one half.

Sprinkle cheese over the chicken.

Sprinkle with sliced green onions.
Close tortilla.
Repeat with other tortillas.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 7-10 minutes or until browned.