Friday’s Hot Tip: Homemade Salsa

When I was growing up, my parents and I would frequently go out to lunch on Saturdays. It was a post-church treat as Momcat didn’t have to cook or clean anything up. One of our preferred lunch spots was Alamo, a Mexican restaurant with a more Tex-Mex flair. The salsa came to the table in a big Melamine bowl and was the perfect consistency: finely blended fresh tomato, onion, garlic and cilantro. This is the place where I first heard Pops say “Don’t fill up on chips! You’ll be too full to eat your tacos.” But they were so good, and the salsa was so tasty, it was hard to stop.

For many years I have searched for the perfect salsa like Alamo makes (yep, they are still in business), without much success. Sure, there have been some strong contenders – I particularly like Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial. Only in recent years did I consider the possibility that making my own salsa could bring me to that same blissful state as Alamo’s chips and salsa did so many years ago.

A few months ago, I had lunch with a friend who makes all sorts of fabulous sounding dishes at home. I mentioned wanting to make salsa and she whipped out a notebook and started writing down a recipe a friend had given her years before. I believe its origins are from someone’s Mexican grandmother. Todo del mundo ya sabe that abuelitas make delicious food, and this salsa is no exception. Even better? It’s super inexpensive to make and all you need is your blender or food processor. I’ve even made a short video to show you how easy it is.

You can easily adapt this recipe to suit your tastes. Can’t get fire-roasted tomatoes? Use regular instead. Don’t like cilantro? Leave it out. (You have made abuela cry, but she understands.) Too spicy? Use mild chiles instead. No lime? Use a lemon, or, if you must, use ReaLemon or ReaLime in the plastic container.

Homemade Salsa

  • 2 14-oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes (Make sure there’s no added garlic, onion or chiles in the can. Trust me on this. You’re going to be adding fresh garlic, onion and chiles anyway, so why do you need it here?)
  • 1/4 C onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 4-oz can diced jalapenos
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed (jam the cilantro – leaves, stems and all – into a measuring cup)
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

Put all ingredients in food processor or blender. Process/blend on low speeds until ingredients are combined. Makes approximately 4 1/2 cups.


Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin’? Chicken with Potatoes & Green Beans

Yep, this is another one-pot dish – we’ve already discussed how I feel about one-pot cooking. This is a recipe I saw on the label of a Swanson’s chicken broth container & I decided to make it for my Christmas dinner. I modified the dish by using a mix of small red, white and blue potatoes – it made the dish much more fun to look at with all the color. I also added a shallot because I’ve recently discovered just how very cool shallots are. It’s a baby red onion, all cute and wrapped up in pale brown onion skin! How can you not love them?

The name of this recipe suggests it’s only for eating in the fall months, which is rather limiting and I hate feeling limited. If you want a good meal and you’ve got chicken breasts and green beans in the freezer and a few potatoes in the pantry, plus a can of chicken broth or some bouillon cubes, you’re good to go.

Golden Chicken & Autumn Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (4-6 tenderloins work fine too)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen whole green beans
  • Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides. Remove the chicken from the skillet.
  • Stir the stock, garlic, shallot, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, potatoes and green beans in the skillet and heat to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low.  Return the chicken to the skillet. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender.

RECIPE TIPS

  • Flavor Variation: for Herbed Chicken Dijon with Wine, add 1/4 cup white wine, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard with the stock.
  • Substitute mixed red, blue and yellow potatoes for sweet potatoes.
  • If you like your green beans crisp and bright, do not add them to the pot until the last 10 minutes.

Friday’s Hot Tip: What’s Cookin’? Chicken with Quinoa & Veggies

When it comes to cooking for myself, I go through phases:

  • Phase 1: buying items that allow me to assemble quick, easy meals
  • Phase 2: having zero interest in making anything that involves a pot, pan or a spatula
  • Phase 3: getting bored with everything I have been making during Phase 1 so seeking out new recipes and experimenting

I’m currently in Phase 3, which can lend itself to some pretty tasty dishes…or some culinary horror stories. Fortunately last week’s experiment turned out very well, and I’m posting the recipe here so you can try it for yourself. I’m a big fan of one-pot cooking, and I eat a lot of chicken at home, so this is my variation on a one-pot chicken recipe I found on Real Simple‘s website.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an itty-bitty grain first harvested by Native Americans. It’s got loads of protein and can be served for breakfast (the texture is similar to oatmeal and you can make it sweet or savoury) or as a side dish with vegetables for lunch or dinner. It can be cooked like rice, so it’s very easy to substitute quinoa in entrees calling for rice. Plus you get the fun of saying quinoa.

Chicken with Quinoa, Mushrooms, Peppers & Spinach

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 C mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 C mixed bell peppers, chopped (I use frozen mixed but fresh red bell pepper would be great here)
  • 1/4 t basil, dried
  • 2 C vegetable broth
  • 1 C uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 C baby spinach, washed, stems removed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and saute until golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate.

Add mushrooms to skillet and saute until browned, about 3-4 minutes (Note: you may want to add more oil or a little water to keep the mushrooms from burning; I added water). Add peppers, garlic and basil. Cook until peppers have softened, about 3 minutes.

Add broth and quinoa, stirring gently to mix with vegetables. Increase heat to medium-high and allow broth to come to a slow boil. Return chicken to pan, spacing pieces evenly. Lower heat and cover pan. Simmer for 12-15 minutes or until quinoa has cooked through and broth has been absorbed. Season with pepper.

Remove lid, turn off heat and add spinach, tearing up larger leaves. Season with salt, then stir spinach into quinoa and chicken mixture, allowing heat from the dish to wilt the spinach.

Serves 2-4.

Got any quinoa recipes to share? Tell me in the comments!

My Own World Series

Being a baseball fan, and having recently adopted the San Francisco Giants as my new team (from the National League, that is; I’ll always be a Baltimore Orioles fan), I watched the last two games of the 2010 World Series and had a blast rooting for the Giants. Nothing like seeing a team who wasn’t on anyone’s radar as even making it to the Series actually win.

As for me, I’ve got my own World Series going on…with technology. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know all about my mutant ways and how electronics will crap out on me or give me fits, especially when I am angry or really stressed out. (Type “mutant” in the search tool and see what pops up. Or call T-Wizzle. She’ll fill you in.) The last scorecard I could find was from 2007, and while much has happened since then, with computers and monitors and phones, I’ll pick up the score from here.

Last we heard the score was Technology 3, Moxie 2. The last three hours have been particularly rough:

my desktop PC keeps crashing. It’s going along fine, I’m happily watching “Modern Family” and then BLAM! The computer shuts down. After doing a little research I think it’s freaking out over all the USB devices plugged into it, so I’ll try unplugging and re-plugging everything in, see what happens.

My food steamer appears to have died. I like to use the steamer for rice, since it’s one less pot on the stove. Tonight I decided to have chickpea curry with jasmine rice for dinner. I plugged in the steamer, filled the rice bowl and the water reservoir according to the instructions, set the timer, and went about making the curry. When the time was up, the rice was still sitting in about 1/4 inch of water and the water level in the reservoir hadn’t gone down at all. I noticed the light to indicate the steamer is working didn’t come on, either. I ended up putting the rice in a pot and cooking it for 10 minutes on the stove – turned out fine but I am sad about the death of what has been a fabulous food steamer. I’ve cooked chicken pieces, shrimp, potatoes and vegetables using the steamer, and it’s been so awesome for rice. Guess it’s time to buy a new one.

These two incidents bring the score to Technology 5, Moxie 2. Might be time to put in a pinch hitter.