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Jalapeño Cheddar Hamburger Buns + A Giveaway!
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I’m not going to lie to you.  As of a couple of years ago, I was a complete wuss when it came to just about any spicy food.  But somehow, somewhere along the way, my tastes have changed (Kyle loves this) and I’m all about spicy foods now.  If you were at our housewarming party a couple of weeks ago, you would have found me next to the antipasti platter popping hot cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone into my mouth like they were candy.  Totally addicting.

When I decided to make those tex mex sloppy joes sandwiches a few weeks back, I knew I wanted homemade buns…but not any ol’ bun would do.  I’d had my eye on Shawnda’s jalapeño cheddar buns for months and since the buns aren’t really generalizable to the population foods you put on hamburger buns, because you know, they are made with jalapeños, I plucked this recipe as my first choice for the sloppy joes.  And it was the perfect choice indeed.  The buns are an adapted version of these rocket rolls (which I already adore) and with the addition of sharp cheddar cheese and chopped up spicy peppers, you honestly can’t go wrong.  They are unbelievably soft and plush yet sturdy enough for a messy dinner like sloppy joes and I’ve got a few leftover in the freezer for either another round of “joes” or another idea I’ve been cooking up.  Dare I say I’m excited?!

Before you check out the recipe, how about heading over to enter the first of my Holiday Giveaways 2012?  You’ve got the chance to win 5 of my favorite cookbooks, one of which is a signed copy!

 

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese
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It snowed for the first time this winter over the weekend.  And actually, the puny 6 inches that fell to the ground didn’t amount to much, considering the 15 inches we got socked with in October.  Needless to say snow makes me crave grilled cheese.  This probably goes back to my childhood where grilled cheese and tomato soup were standard fare on snowy days but on Saturday, I didn’t feel much like tomato soup.  I was feeling spicy.  Spicy grilled cheese.  Jalapeño popper grilled cheese.  It was a creative sandwich I had seen on Foodgawker months ago and I filed it deep in the recesses of my brain; this was before my Pinterest boards were built, of course.

I already had a opened can of pickled jalapeños in the fridge which needed to be used up and this sandwich was the optimal way to do so.  And let me tell you, I freaking loved this sandwich.  I’m not a crazy hot and spicy lover but the pickled peppers mute the heat and I was sure to remove all of the seeds and ribs from the pepper before adding it to the sandwich.  I surprisingly only had good ol’ deli-sliced yellow American cheese in the fridge, so that’s what I used…and it’s usually my cheese of choice for grilled cheese anyway so I wasn’t making a sacrifice here.  With a mellow level of spice and lots of cheesiness, this sandwich was just like a really good jalapeño popper should be – leaving you craving more.

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese
source: adapted from BS’ in the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • Butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
  • 4 to 6 pickled jalapeños, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed, and patted dry
  • Sliced American cheese (or whatever cheese you choose), 2-3 slices per sandwich depending on the thickness of the cheese

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Lightly butter one side of all the bread slices
  3. Divide the cream cheese between two of the slices, spreading it out evenly on the un-buttered side of the bread.  Lay the jalapeños halves over the cream cheese.  Lay the American cheese over the jalapeños and add the second piece of bread, butter side up.
  4. Place the sandwiches in the pan and cover the pan with a lid or piece of aluminum foil; this will help to retain the heat in the pan and melt the cheese.  Heat each side of the sandwich until desired darkness and until the cheese inside is melted.  Slice and serve warm.

Yields: 2 sandwiches

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)
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I would venture a bet that you’re reading this post as I sit here post-Irene.  No electricity, no water in spite of the deluge of rain we’ve received during the first hurricane the Northeast has experienced in 20 years.  My potted herbs and stringy cherry tomato plants have taken over my kitchen floor.  The patio table stands awkwardly in my living room.  I can only hope that as you read this, that no major damage to our home [that technically isn't even our home anymore] has been sustained, that we are safe, that my family on the south shore of Long Island have weathered this storm in a similar fashion.  That you and your families are safe.  Mother Nature works in such mystifying ways, doesn’t she?  An earthquake and a hurricane in one week.  A winter that us New Englanders will never forget.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa [Salsa Verde]

And through all this, we hunker down and we cook.  We cook to prepare, we cook to pass the time.  Isn’t it in our nature to turn to food and family in times of trouble?  Or is that just the Italian in me?  Either way, I made a big batch of this salsa verde before the hurricane hit this weekend after having made it (and fell in love with it) for the first time for a Tex-Mex-inspired dinner with friends last weekend.  If you’re unfamiliar with salsa verde as I was, put simply, it’s roasted tomatillos and roasted garlic whirred up in the food processor with a bit of heat from the hot pepper of your choice (either a jalapeño or a serrano) added in.  For this recipe, you’ll dry roast the tomatillos and garlic in a hot pan, similar to the method for this rustic roasted salsa.  I can’t say enough about how much we adore this salsa.  Unlike tomato-based salsa which leans towards the acidic side, the roasted tomatillos yield a sweet undertone that blends with a perfect amount of heat from a jalapeño and the addictive flavor of fresh cilantro.  Along with a bag of blue corn tortilla chips on the hurricane preparedness list, this salsa will go a long way to helping you forget about the 80 mile per hour winds howling outside.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4-5 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • about 1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 small white onion, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lay the garlic and tomatillos (cut-side down) in the skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the tomatillos are well-browned. Turn everything over and brown the other side (the tomatillos should be very soft). Remove the tomatillos and garlic and add to a food processor or blender. Allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the jalapeño, 1/4 cup of water, onions, cilantro, and lime juice to the food processor, and blend to a coarse purée. Add Kosher salt to taste. Pour into a dish and add more water if necessary, to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.

Source

source: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, as seen on Pink Parsley

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http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/08/roasted-tomatillo-salsa-salsa-verde/

Pork and Tomatillo Stew
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It’s no surprise that I loved making this stew as much as I did for book club a few weeks ago.  Like most stews, it was an easy meal where you throw all of the ingredients in one pot and let it simmer down for a few hours.  The rewards, of course, are plentiful with gorgeously concentrated flavors and pork that started as a relatively tough piece of meat but ends up falling apart at the slightest touch.  If you’re raising an eyebrow at the ingredient list – orange juice and beer cooked together?? – have no worries.  The strange combination of these two ingredients is one that works beautifully after a few hours of cooking.  There is just enough orange flavor to let you know it’s there and the beer adds such a depth of flavor, perfectly complementing all of the other flavors.   I had never used tomatillos in a recipe before so I didn’t really know what to expect but they were no different than using tomatoes, if a little bit of a PIA to peel the outer skins.

You could most definitely let this stew cook away all day in a crockpot for 6-8 hours on low but I had the day off the day I cooked it and it was great to be able to leave it simmering on the stove while I ran around the house straightening up before book club.  I’m not sure the cut of pork would matter too much, though I think a tenderloin would be dry if used, and I used a regular ‘ol pork roast (not shoulder, butt, or anything that large) from my freezer that I trimmed most of the fat off of before cooking.  As recommended in the recipe, I served the stew over rice and I whipped up some of my favorite cornbread to serve on the side (but I think some chile-cheese bread would be just as great!).   It was a warm and homey meal that went over really well with my book club members (and Kyle who sneaked up for a bowl) and I know you’ll love it too!

Jerk Chicken Chili
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The cold weather is upon us here in New England and when the days turn cold, all I want to do is cook warm food.  I’m no different than anyone else, right?  But I think I may have an advantage.  See, I’ve got Pam Anderson’s Perfect One-Dish Dinners and no matter my mood, there is always a fantastic recipe waiting for me to make in just one pot…err, dish.  So considering I’ve been working 10+ hour days for the past 3 weeks, this Jerk Chicken Chili couldn’t have come at a better time.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for chili.  I love it any which way and this way is a definite winner.  Jerk Chicken Chili.  Rich, warm, and luxurious. The cinnamon brings flavors of the Middle East and North Africa and infused with some heat from the jalapenos and chili powder, you’ve got an incredible chili that makes me want to hop on a cruise ship and head towards the Caribbean.  I love that there’s lots of shredded chicken in this chili and I love even more that I didn’t have to cook the chicken.  Yep, take the easy way for this dish and pick up a cooked roaster from your grocery store – the most laborious part of the whole dish is picking the chicken but I certainly don’t mind doing so when someone else cooked it for me!

I made some small changes to the recipe and the recipe below reflects them.  Basically I omitted half of the tomatoes and drained off some of the bean juices before the beans went into the pot.  The chili starts out with quite a bit of liquid and I was afraid the chili would turn out more soupy than I wanted.  I also added a cornstarch slurry towards the end because the sauce just wasn’t thick enough for my preferences.  Regardless of my changes, this chili is awesome and since it makes enough for a crowd, it’s going on my Thankgiving weekend menu to use up some of that leftover turkey.

Mango Pineapple Salsa
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Every time I say “salsa” I just want to shout out “SALSA!!” and then dance around a little.  I don’t know what it is about salsa but I just love it so much!  Traditional tomato-based salsa is always on our grocery list because it’s just such a healthy snack but I’m also a huge fan of fruit salsa as well…or more specifically peach salsa.  There’s something about the cool and sweet fruit paired with the savory tomato and heat from the jalapeno that is just so addicting to me.  So when my cousin (speaking of my cousin…I’m still in need of some donations for the Relay for Life team that is supporting her recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma!!) was here to visit a few weeks ago, she offered to make this mango pineapple salsa she learned to make in one of her culinary classes at Johnson and Wales University.  Game. On.

The recipe itself is a piece of cake to throw together – it’s really takes no more than chopping up a bunch of ingredients – but it should be noted that the salsa will need a day in the fridge before you serve it to allow the flavors to really come together.  So in addition to my addiction to peach salsa, I’m totally and irrevocably in love and addicted to this mango pineapple salsa!  The lime juice and red onion take the fruit to another level and the roasted corn (which you could grill instead) is a surprise ingredient that adds more flavor than you can imagine.  The recipe is completely adaptable so if you wanted to leave out the cilantro or add some chopped jalapeno, it will all work just fine.  Do yourself a favor and make this salsa now.  Or at least for your upcoming Memorial Day party!!

Chicken Enchiladas
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Sometimes you just know.  You know when you’ve found a fantastic recipe.  One that’s better than anything you’ve made in ages.  One that’s better than anything you’ve blogged about in ages.  One that is so awesome you plan on making a huge batch in order to freeze multiple servings so that you can pull a pan out of the freezer whenever your little heart desires, pop it in the oven and an hour later pull out a no-fuss meal that continues to knock your socks off each time you eat it.  This, my friends, is one of those recipes.

I kid you not.  I know I said the baked shrimp scampi last week was incredible and I meant it but this is incredible on a different level.  On a I-can-finally-make-awesome-Mexican-food-at-home level! While I’ve made and enjoyed two other enchiladas recipes in the past, neither really had the WOW factor both Kyle and I need for a recipe to be compared to restaurant quality. These definitely do.  The red chile sauce was packed with flavor and it wasn’t overly spicy considering there is three tablespoons of chili powder (medium heat) and two jalapeños in it.  The act of simmering the chicken in the sauce brings new life to ordinarily bland chicken and we fell in love with the juicy and flavorful chicken this method of cooking yielded.  I realize this recipe can take on quite a few additions/substitutions so being the black bean lover that I am, I added a can into the mix – you’ll see my little change below along with the fact that I deleted the whole tomato from the recipe since Kyle isn’t a fan of chunky tomatoes in his food.  In all honesty, I never missed the tomato.  As I mentioned before, I plan to make a huge batch of these enchiladas in the next couple of weeks in order to have a bunch in the freezer…you’ll see my oven-freezer-oven-table instructions below…this recipe was that good!

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Let’s talk freezer-friendly.  These enchiladas definitely are a freezer-friendly meal.  I split the full recipe in half, baking 6 enchiladas in an 8″x8″ glass dish for dinner that night and par baking the other 6 in an aluminum pan of the same size.  By par baking, I mean that I baked them for the original 7 minutes then for only 8-10 after that at 400 degrees – without any cheese.  I took them out of the oven to let them cool down to where the pan was cool to the touch (the enchiladas should not be completely cool at this point), wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil, remembering the writing the cooking directions on top with a Sharpie, and put the pan in the fridge to chill completely.  Then I moved the pan to the freezer where it sat for about 6 weeks.  They bake up after this freeze absolutely beautifully and if you can believe it, the edges retain quite a bit of the crunch you get from the original 7 minute bake at 425 degrees.

When you’re ready to bake them, here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. Unwrap the foil (reserving) and plastic wrap (discarded) from the pan, re-wrap it with the reserved foil
  3. Bake for 55 minutes or until the enchiladas in the center of pan are hot inside (check with a knife), add cheese (about 1/2 cup for an 8″x8″ pan), and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Let stand for 10 minutes before you serve.

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Chile-Cheese Bread
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Sometimes you need to get out there and try out some new recipes…this is what I keep telling myself.  When I think of a jalapeno-cheddar cheese quick bread, my go-to recipe for ages has been Ina’s (of course) jalapeno cheddar cornbread.  Why mess with a good thing?  It’s great recipe that beats the bugger out of any from-scratch or boxed cornbread mix I’ve ever tried.  But when I saw this recipe pop up on Josie’s blog (a fellow Ina fan and BB member by the way) I was completely drawn in.  I immediately put it on the menu for the following week and drooled every time I thought about making it.

This isn’t a cornbread recipe so don’t be disappointed if that’s what you’re looking for but I can assure you won’t be let down by it nonetheless.  It’s fantastic!  The bread is soft, savory and full of spicy cheesy flavor. We both loved it as a side to some cheddar corn chowder and won’t hesitate to serve it alongside other Mexican dishes in the future.  Aside from the greatness of this bread, it’s an absolute cinch to throw together.  Some quick breads don’t make good on the name but this one definitely does and it took 5 minutes for me to prep.  I realize that trying to scramble around the kitchen while making different parts of a meal is sometimes overwhelming so don’t pass this recipe up if you need a quick side for a meal!