• Grilled Polenta with Spicy Steak

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    This dish is fantastic!  Definitely tastes like something you would get at a restaurant.  The best part…it’s quick and easy.  Certainly company worthy.

    Recipe is adapted from a recipe in the June 2010 issue of Cooking Light.

    Ingredients:

    • 3 tsp. olive oil
    • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle chile powder (1 dried chipotle, ground)
    • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
    • 1 lb. flank steak or flat-iron steak
    • 1 (18oz) tube of polenta, cut into 8 to 10 slices
    • 1 avocado, sliced
    • 1/4 c. crumbled queso fresco
    • 2 c. pico de gallo (simply mix grape tomatoes, chopped jalapeno, chopped cilantro, garlic, salt and lime juice together)
    • Limes, quartered

    Directions:

    1. Combine 2 tsp. olive oil, salt, cumin chile powder, and pepper; rub evenly over steak.
    2. Heat grill; grill steak until done.
    3. Brush polenta with 1 tsp. olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place a piece of foil on the grill and add the polenta; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.
    4. Arrange sliced polenta on a plate; add steak, top with pico, queso fresco, and avocado; then squirt with lime.

    Grilled Polenta with Spicy Steak:

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  • Tex-Mex Chowder

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    This chowder is quite tasty.  It’s vegetarian, which is nice.  Most chowder recipes have bacon or ham hock in it for flavor, so it was nice to find a recipe without those ingredients.  This chowder had lots of flavor too.

    This recipe comes from The New Vegetarian Grill cookbook.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced
    • 2 c. water or more to cover potatoes
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tsp. ground cumin
    • 3 TBSP olive oil
    • 6 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
    • 1 red pepper, halved
    • 1 green pepper, halved
    • 2 green chiles (2 poblanos or 1 poblano and 1 jalapeno or 1 poblano and 1 anaheim)
    • 2 c. whole milk
    • 1 TBSP cilantro, chopped
    • salt and pepper to test

    Directions:

    1. Prepare grill
    2. Combine potatoes and water in a medium size saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside; do not drain.
    3. Combine garlic, cumin, and oil in a small bowl. Brush the mixture on the corn, bell peppers, and chiles.
    4. Grill the corn, bell peppers, and chiles, turning occasionally, until tender and grill marked about 10 minutes.
    5. Scrape the corn from the cobs and add to the pot with potatoes.  Remove the outer skins from all peppers and dice, then add to potatoes.  Stir in the milk and cilantro.  Simmer over medium heat until the flavors have blended, at least 15 minutes; do not allow the soup to boil.
    6. Use an immersion blender and puree.  Season with salt and add more cilantro if desired.  Simmer gently for 5 minutes.

    Tex-Mex Chowder:

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  • Chili Gravy

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    This chili gravy is delicious and works well as a sauce for tamales or enchiladas.  The secret to this gravy is making your own chili powder.
    The recipe comes for Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex Cookbook.

    Homemade Chili Powder
    Ingredients:

    • 5 whole ancho chile pods, stemmed and seeded
    • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

    Directions:

    1. Spread the chile pods out flat.  Toast the chiles in a skillet over medium high heat until they become aromatic, then remove and cool.
    2. Cut the chiles into small strips with scissors.  In a spice or coffee grinder, grind the strips in several batches until powdered.  Combine the powdered chile, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin in a bowl.  Grind the coarse powder in batches for an additional 2 minutes or until finely ground.
    3. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

    Chili Gravy

    • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
    • 1/4 c. flour
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
    • 2 TBSP chili powder
    • 2 c. chicken broth or water

    Directions:

    1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, utnil it makes a light brown roux.  Add all the dry ingredients and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending the ingredients.  Add the chicken broth, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens.
    2. Turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes.  Add water to adjust the thickness.

    Chili Gravy:

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  • Tamales

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    We love tamales, and this recipe is by far my most favorite.  I love them more than any tamales I’ve had at any restaurant (except for maybe Berry Hill Bar and Grill).

    This recipe is adapted from the Helena Tamales recipe in the April 2005 issue of Southern Living.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 package of dried corn husks
    • 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
    • jar of your favorite salsa
    • 2/3  c.  vegetable shortening
    • 1 1/2  c.  yellow cornmeal
    • 1  c.  warm chicken broth
    • 2  tsp.  salt
    • 1  tsp.  paprika

    Directions:

    1. Soak corn husks in hot water to cover 1 hour or until softened. Drain husks, and pat dry.
    2. Chicken Filling: Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Add shredded chicken and enough of your favorite salsa to coat the chicken.  Mixture should not be too wet.
    3. Cornmeal Dough: Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Stir together cornmeal and warm chicken broth in a medium bowl until well blended. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to shortening, beating at medium speed just until blended after each addition. Add salt and paprika, beating just until blended. Cover dough with plastic wrap, and set aside until ready to use.
    4. Assembling Tamales: Spread 2 TBSP Cornmeal Dough into a 3- x 5-inch rectangle on one side of 1 husk, leaving a 2-inch border at bottom narrow edge and a 1/2-inch border at one long side.  Spoon 2 heaping TBSP Chicken Filling down center of cornmeal dough rectangle, creating a 1-inch-wide strip. Roll husk up, starting at the long side with 1/2-inch border, enclosing meat filling with the first turn. Fold bottom end with 2-inch border over. Repeat procedure using remaining Cornmeal Dough and Chicken Filling.
    5. Line the bottom of your steamer with corn husks.  Add tamales to steamer.  We stack the tamales up to 4 high.  Steam over high heat for 1 hours.
    6. Top with your favorite salsa or with Chili Gravy or Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa.

    Tamales:
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  • Black Beans and Rice

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    Black beans and rice are a great winter food.  They are warming and very filling.  They are also very healthy.  The key to this dish is to soak the black beans in water over night.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. dried black beans
    • water
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 7 garlic cloves, smashed
    • 1-2 jalapenos, diced (can omit)
    • 2 TBSP dried oregano
    • 6-7 c. chicken or veggie broth
    • Hot cooked Rice
    • Pico de gallo to top the dish (simply mix some tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, salt and lime juice together)

    Directions:

    1. Place black beans in a pot and cover them with water and soak overnight.
    2. Place soaked beans, onion, garlic, jalapenos, oregano, and broth in a slow cooker, and cook on HIGH for 6 hours or until beans are soft and tender.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
    3. Serve over hot rice and top with pico de gallo.

    Black Beans and Rice:

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  • Creamy Jalapeno and Cinlantro Dressing/Sauce

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    This dressing is so good.  It’s good on salads and fish tacos.  We loved this dressing on fish tacos so much that we had fish tacos 2 times in one week.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 c. mayo
    • 1/3 milk
    • 2 tsp. chopped cilantro
    • 1-2 jalapenos, minced
    • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp. onion, minced
    • juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tsp. white vinegar
    • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp. ground cumin

    Directions:

    1. Whisk all ingredients together.
    2. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
    3. Top your favorite salad or taco and enjoy!

    Creamy Jalapeno and Cilantro Dressing/Sauce:

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  • Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa

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    Tila’s in Houston has the most delicious tomatillo sauce.  Luckily we found a recipe that tastes pretty much identical to Tila’s, and we’ve been making this sauce ever since we lived in Houston…almost 9 years ago!

    This recipe is from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen (the photo on my cookbook is different, but I assume it’s all the same recipes).

    This sacue is excellent for just about anything: with chips, enchillada sauce, tamale sauce etc.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
    • 1 to 3 serranos
    • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
    • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
    • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
    • 2 c. chicken stock
    • 1/3 c. roughly chopped cilantro
    • salt, 1/2 to 3/4 tsp., depending on the saltiness of the broth

    Directions:

    1. The tomatillos and chiles: lay the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot broiler.  when tomatillos and chiles blister, blacken and soften on one side, about 5 minutes, turn them over and roast the other side.  When all sides are roasted, transfer tomatillos, chiles and any accumulated juices to a food processor or blender.
    2. The puree: heat 1 TBSP oil in a deep skillet.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often until deep and golden, about 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook a minute longer; then scrape the browned mixture into the processor or blender.  Pulse to a rough looking puree–smooth enough to hold together but rough enough to keep it from being too smooth.
    3. Finishing the sauce: Heat the remaining oil over medium high heat.  Add the Puree and stir constantly for 4 or 5 minutes.  The sauce base sears and sizzles into a darker and thicker mass.  Stir in the broth, return to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer briskly until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, then taste and season with salt.

    Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa:

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  • Spicy Chicken Tacos

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    I so love salsa fresca, and I thought it would taste really good with some chicken tacos.  And not just as a condiment, but as part of the flavor of the chicken.

    I was right.  It was delicious!

    Ingredients:

    • 1 TBSP olive oil
    • 3 1/2 c. cooked shredded chicken
    • 3/4 c. salsa fresca
    • Tortillas and guacamole

    Directions:

    1. Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add chicken and salsa and simmer until chicken is nicely coated and heated through.
    2. Serve with desired taco condiments.

    Spicy Chicken Tacos:

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  • Arepas

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    Arepas are a delicious Colombian treat.  Don’t know what an arepa is, then think gordita/chalupa with a Colombian flare.  Delicious with just about anything, and especially delicious topped with guacamole or an avocado salad.

    This recipe comes Fiesta! A Celebration of Latin Hospitatlity by Anya von Bremzen.  The cookbook is out of print, and the cover of my cookbook is different than the one Amazon has, so I can’t be sure the recipe is actually in there.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 c. milk
    • 4 TBSP butter
    • 1 1/2 c. white or yellow arepa flour (aka masarepa or arepaharina) (we use Goya brand and I prefer yellow)
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1 1/2 TBSP sugar
    • 1 c. grated mozzarella cheese

    Directions:

    1. In a small saucepan bring 1 1/2 c. milk to a boil.  Pour boiled milk into a bowl and add the butter.  Let stand.
    2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the arepa flour, salt, sugar and cheese.  Make a well in the center and pour in the hot milk.  Stir the masa and milk together  utnil there are no lumps.  Knead the mixture, sprinkling the remaining 1/2 c. milk, until you have a smooth sticky dough.  This should take about 5 minutes.
    3. Roll the dough into a 1/2 inch thick sheet between two pieces of wax paper.  With a cookie cutter, or the rim of a glass, cut out 3-inch circles.  You should get 8.
    4. You can either fry the arepas in oil or skillte fry them in a nonstick pan with just a bit of oil or cooking spray.
    5. Top with guacomole or whatever you like.

    Arepas:

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  • Southwest Chicken Taco Filling

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    This chicken taco filling is quite good, and it’s made in the crockpot.  It’s important to use a flavorful salsa (I used Arriba! Fire Roasted Mexican Chipotle Salsa), and DO NOT use a mild salsa as there just isn’t enough flavor.

    After the dish is cooked squeeze some fresh lime juice to give the dish a nice bright flavor, and then adjust the seasoning.  Since all salsas are different you may need to add some additional salt.

    Next time I think I’ll try adding some ground cumin to the crockpot.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 bag of frozen corn
    • 2 large frozen chicken breasts
    • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 16 oz jar of medium salsa
    • 1-2 limes, juiced
    • salt to taste
    • Top tacos with: avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, cheese, sour cream guacamole etc.

    Directions:

    1. Spray your crock with cooking spray; then add the frozen corn; then add the frozen chicken breasts; then add the black beans; then top with the salsa.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour and then turn to LOW for 4 hours.
    2. Shred the chicken and then add the lime juice and salt and any other seasonings you like.

    Southwest Chicken Taco Filling:

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