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.

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Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

Dinner was a bust… as in not cooking what I had planned. My hubby picked me up from work and we ended up going to one of our fave Asian restaurants for dinner, Joy Yee’s. If you live in Chicago, you know Joy Yee’s pretty well… and if you live in Chicago and don’t, you better find a way to Joy Yee’s soon!

But I do have a recipe to share… for Key Lime Pie ice cream! I’ve been on a key lime kick lately and I was due for another creamy concoction from my ice cream maker. I initially wanted to use a recipe calling for egg yolks that require no cooking/tempering. Instead, I used this recipe, adapted from My Recipes.Here’s my adaption of Key Lime Pie Ice Cream:

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup bottled Key lime juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
Dash of salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
Key lime wedges (optional)

Combine first 5 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Pour mixture into freezer can of an ice-cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Stir 1/3 cup graham crackers into ice cream. Spoon ice cream into a freezer-safe container, and cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon graham crackers. Garnish with lime wedges, if desired. **I’m also submitting this to the Got Milk? blogging event, hosted by Linda of Make Life Sweeter. She’s accepting recipes using milk, so if you have one, share it!**

Ginger Ale Cranberry Punch

Here are the recipes for the desserts on my Thanksgiving buffet dinner menu. I figured I’d post the recipes now before the kitchen chaos begins (and I’ll post pics of the final products by Thursday)…

Ginger Ale Cranberry Punch

2 cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups cranberry juice
2 ½ cups orange juice
1 cup lemon juice
lemon, lime, orange slices mandarin oranges, drained
2 ltr bottle ginger ale

Chill fruit juices and ginger ale.
To make a cinnamon syrup, simmer water, sugar and cinnamon for 10 minutes. Cool.
Before serving, combine cinnamon syrup, juices and ginger ale.
Add lime slices, orange slices, lemon slices and mandarin oranges w/ice.

Pad Thai-riffic!

One thing I love about our new neighborhood is the close proximity we are to asian markets. There is a thriving neighborhood called “Argyle” that is home to many Vietnamese and Thai Chicagoans. I’m in heaven while grocery shopping within the Argyle neighborhood… because so many of the asian ingredients I use can be found at much better prices here.

While shopping in Argyle, I decided to make some Pad Thai. Making pad thai sauce from scratch is often a lengthy process involving lots of ingredients to get the perfect sweet and spicy flavors reminicent of traditional pad thai. So while shopping in the asian markets, I found a pre-made pad thai sauce that looked promising. With it, I made chicken pad thai.

Pad Thai is a dish of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chili pepper plus a combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts and cilantro. Its normally servied with a lime wedges – the lime juice added to the dish really freshens it up! In Thailand, it is also served with a piece of banana flower.

There have evolved two different styles of Pad Thai: the version most often found in the streets of Thailand, which is relatively dry and light; and the Western version which may be covered in a red oil and can be heavy tasting.

Outside of Thailand, Pad Thai is one of the best-known Thai dishes, and is very popular in Thai restaurants in America and Australia.

Here is my cheater’s recipe for Chicken Pad Thai:

1 bottle pre-made pad thai sauce

1/2 package of bahn pho noodles (small or medium width)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup carrots, sliced in matchsticks
1-2 boiled chicken breasts, chopped
1 block tofu, diced
2 eggs, cooked & scrambled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 stalks green onion, sliced
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
crushed peanuts
lime wedges

In a pot, boil water and add rice noodles.
Cook noodles until softened; drain & set aside.

In a large pan, add oil and prepare scrambled eggs.
Remove from pan; set aside.

In same pan, add oil.
Add garlic, onions and sliced carrots.
When softened, add cooked chicken.
Add entire bottle of sauce; stir to coat.
Add tofu; stir to coat.
Add cooked noodles & scrambled eggs.

To serve, plate noodles and top with cilantro, green onions, bean sprouts, peanuts and lime.

Pretty Pancit Palabok

In light of my asian cooking trend, I made Pancit Palabok for dinner. Its a favorite Filipino rice noodle dish of ours that I made with the help of some help of palabok sauce packets.

Pancit Palabok is also known as Pancit Luglug and are essentially the same dish, with the difference being primarily in the type of the sauce used. Both types of pancit use a round rice noodle smothered with a thick, golden shrimp sauce or other flavored sauce, and topped with:
– Shrimp, (the size and shell-on or shell-off depending on preference)
– Crushed or ground pork rind (chicharron) for toppings
– Hard-boiled egg (sliced into disc or quartered lengthwise or chopped)
– Freshly minced green onion

Palabok is a communal comfort food, and can be found at nearly all Filipino potluck parties. They are best made and eaten in batches for they are easily consumed.

Here is my recipe for a simplified Pancit Palabok:1 package pancit luglug noodles

1 pancit palabok sauce packet
water as directed on sauce packet
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced
1 lb roasted pork, diced
1/2 lb frozen seafood mix (includes shrimp, mussels, calamari, crab, scallops)
2 stalks green onion, sliced
1/2 cup chicharon
hard boiled eggs, sliced
lime wedges

Cook the pancit luglug noodles in boiling water until softened.

Drain noodles and set aside.
In a pan, heat oil and add garlic & onions.
When softened, add pork and seafood mix.
Cook thoroughly.
Add sauce packet & water as directed on package.
Let pan come to a boil and add noodles.
To serve, top with sliced green onion, chicharon, egg and lime.

Sweet Kiss of Lime

On my day off, I checked my cupboards for something sweet I could whip up. Staring at me was a bottle of lime juice. Another cupboard was a box of graham cracker crumbs. On another shelf, I found some forgotten cans of condensed milk. Hmmm… seemed obvious to me that a key lime pie was in order!
Key lime pie usually consisted of key lime juice, eggs, sweetened condensed milk and sugar in a pre-baked pie or unbaked graham cracker crumb crust. The pie is traditionally baked with meringue on top.

Interestingly, canned sweetened condensed milk was used, since fresh milk was not commonly found in the Florida Keys before refrigerators were available. Also, true key lime pies are not green. Instead they are yellow just like the key lime juice and also due to the use of egg yolks in the traditional recipe.

Early recipes didn’t require baking this pie. When mixing the filling, the condensed milk and the acidic lime juice starts to thicken on its own. However, in the interest of safety due to consumption of raw eggs, key lime pies are now usually baked for a short time. The baking also thickens the texture even more producing a firmer pie.
Here is a recipe for Key Lime Pie Bars, which I made in a large pan instead of a pie pan:
(adapted from AllRecipes.com)

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons white sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup key lime or plain lime juice
3 eggs
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cream of tartar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 lime, sliced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Mix graham cracker crumbs with sugar and melted butter. Press into 9 inch pie plate and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Separate 2 of the eggs, placing the two egg whites into a mixing bowl. Reserve the yolks in another bowl.

To the yolks, add one whole egg, lime juice and sweetened condensed milk. Whisk until smooth. With clean mixer blades or a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff, but not dry. Fold whites into filling mixture. Pour filling into partially baked crust.

Bake in preheated 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 10 to 15 minutes or until set. Let cool at room temperature, then freeze 4 hours to overnight. Just before serving, whip cream to form stiff peaks. Serve decorated with whipped cream and lime slices.

I doubled this recipe easily.