Friday, May 7, 2010

A Merry Belated Cinco de Mayo...

I happen to LOVE Mexican food....and I'm not talking about the nasty Americanized version.  We always have Mexican food for Cinco De Mayo...and this year I went all out and it took most of the day...sheesh!  But it was tasty.
My sister-in-law, Cindy, makes the most awesome salsa...(Her mother-in-law is a bonafide Mexican woman that has taught her how to make bonafide Mexican is one of the clear cut advantages of going to visit her...someday I hope to talk her into teaching me how to make tamales.)  Ever since she gave me her salsa recipe, I have become a salsa snob...and it's the only kind I like.  The recipe sounds a lot harder or complicated than it really is...I can usually whip up a batch in about 15 minutes once the veggies are roasted. The salsa is HOT...just the way I like it.  If it isn't taking the skin off the roof of your mouth, it's not hot enough (not really, but you get the picture)
As for tortillas...there is nothing like a good freshly made tortilla.  The ones you buy and cook at Costco are great, but I decided awhile ago that I needed to learn how to make them for myself because tortillas are something we just can't live without.  I don't make them often, but when I do I usually make extra because they freeze well.
So here's my Cinco De Mayo fare...I also made  shredded beef and rice and we had burritos with chips and salsa for dinner!  Delicious!

*A note about this salsa recipe:  I have only made this salsa fresh and we eat it all up...I don't bottle it.  Canning salsa is a scary proposition because if you end up with a bad ph/acid level with tomatoes you can get bolulism. It is recommended that only a tried and true salsa-for-canning recipe should be used when canning.  Besides that, this salsa is so good it will disappear before your eyes. 

10-14 Roma tomatoes (as big as you can find)
4-5 jalapenos (as big as you can find)
3 tomatillos
1/2 medium sized onion
1/2 bunch cilantro
juice of 1/2-1 lemon
3-5 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin

1.  Preheat oven broiler on high.  Wash tomatoes, jalapenos, and tomatillos and  place them on a broiler pan (I usually wrap the pan on the bottom with foil for easy clean up but no foil on the top or the veggies will stick)  Roast the veggies under the broiler until their skins turn black all over, turning them as often as you need to cook them completely.  The tomato skins will pop and rip (and not go completely black). It's especially important to make sure the peppers are black all over so the skins will come off easily.
2.  As soon as the veggies get done, remove them from the pan and place them in a bowl, tomatoes on the bottom.  Wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave them to sweat and cool. (I usually leave them for hours--they are easier to handle when they are completely cool)  The plastic wrap will bubble up on top as the veggies sweat, then will suck down in as they cool.

3.  Now everything is going to go in the blender.  Start with the onion--chop it a little and grind it up.  Next, pull the tomatoes out of the bowl and slip their skins off.  Because they have been sweating, they should come right off.  Cut off the hard round core at the top and toss them in the blender.
4.  Next come the jalapenos.  Since you can get chemical burns from handling hot peppers, I recommend wearing disposable rubber gloves.  Put the pepper on the cutting board and pull the stem off (twist if you need to, but it should come right off).  Slip a knife just under the skin at the end you just opened, sharp end up, and slice down the skin of the pepper. (The skin should almost be like tissue paper.)  Once the skin is cut, it should peel right off.  Slice the pepper lengthwise and open it up.  Run the knife sideways down the middle, scraping out ALL THE SEEDS.  Keep the seeds in a pile just in case you need them later.  You may not want to add all the jalapenos yet, just in case the salsa gets too spicy.  Start with 3 and when you are done and tasting it, you can choose to add more.  The seeds will also heat it up if you need them. (I have gone overboard before and my salsa has turned into liquid remember you can't remove any of the heat once it's in there!)
5.  Cut the small stem part off the tomatillos and throw the whole thing in the blender.  (These don't have skin so don't try to peel them)  Blend all the veggies.
6.  Add the cilantro, salt, minced garlic, cumin, and squeeze one half of the lemon into the blender.  Blend again.  Now it's time to taste it.  You may want to add more garlic, more lemon juice, or more cumin (which makes it spicier) depending on your taste.  If you have reserved any jalapenos, you might want to add more. (Depending on where I buy my jalapenos, some are hotter than others--for some reason whenever I get them from Smith's they are way hotter than any others.  I don't know why) A couple of times I have added a small can of tomato sauce to try and tame the heat...but I don't like to do that unless it's absolutely necessary.
7.  Enjoy!  Beware of dragon breath.  I think it's the onions.  Or the garlic.  Who cares.

Note:  I make both whole wheat and white flour tortillas.  The recipe works well both ways, but is written for wheat.  If you want plain white, just substitute all white flour.
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole wheat flour (I use hard white wheat)
1 cup shortening or oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1.  In a large bowl or a stand mixer, combine both types of flour and salt.  Mix in the shortening or oil until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.  Make a well in the center and add the boiling water all at once.  Mix until the water is all mixed in and knead until the dough is smooth and soft.
2.  Roll the dough into balls (they don't need to be perfectly round).  How big you make the dough balls will determine how big your finished tortillas will be.  I wanted large burrito sized tortillas, so I made mine a little smaller than a baseball.  A dough ball the size of a golf ball will make a small, soft taco sized tortilla.  I ended up with 8 tortillas from one batch of dough.
3.  Place the dough balls on a tray or cookie sheet.  Cover with a couple of damp paper towels (this is necessary because of our dry climate in Utah) and then cover with a towel.  The balls will not rise--they are just resting.  Allow them to stand for at least one hour, or up to 8 hours.
4.  Roll out tortillas on a lightly floured surface.  The dough is soft and quite oily, so it rolls REALLY easily.  Rub the tortilla LIGHTLY with a little flour and then you can stack them as they are rolled and won't stick together.
5.  Heat a griddle or large frying pan over high heat.  Fry tortillas one at a time.  Place it on the griddle for about 10 seconds, and as soon as you see a few small bubbles start to form, flip it over.  Cook an additional 30 seconds or so.  Be careful not to overcook them or they will get hard.  Cover the finished tortillas with lightly damp paper towels and wrap with foil to keep them warm and soft.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The BEST brownies EVER!

Unfortunately, I cannot claim this recipe as my own, but it just doesn't matter because I love it all the same. This one comes from the Worldwide Ward Cookbook which I happen to love.  If you don't have it, you really should look into it.  My mom is the one that sort of "discovered" this brownie recipe in there and it is now my favorite.  These are also Colby's favorite dessert of all time, so imagine his disappointment when he came home and saw them and I told him they were leaving to go to a Relief Society meeting (but I took pity on him and left a few rows).  I don't make them very often because the amount of butter in them is truly horrifying...which is also the reason they are so good.  As Paula Deen says "when you think you have enough butter, add some more..."  By the way, these brownies take awhile to make because each layer has to cool or set up before moving on, so plan ahead!

1 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour

Mint Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
1-3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
green food coloring

Chocolate Topping:
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
Mix butter, cocoa, and sugar; add eggs one at a time.  Stir in flour.  Spread into a greased 9X13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Let cool completely.
Mint Frosting:
Mix butter and powdered sugar.  Add only enough milk to make a smooth consistency (each time I have used the full 3 Tablespoons).  Add mint extract and enough food coloring for a light green color.  Frosting will be VERY thick.  Spread over brownies and refrigerate until firm.
Chocolate Topping:
Melt chocolate chips and butter in microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Stir well to combine.  Pour over frosted brownies, covering frosting completely.  Refrigerate until topping is set and hardened.  Let brownies sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting.  Cut with a sharp knife.

Time for grillin'

In honor of all my fabulous chicken (that I am still smiling about) and because I am trying to wish Spring into existence, I decided it was time for a yummy summer food.  I found this recipe online last year and I've made a few changes and it has turned into one of my favorites.  Now I probably need to go buy some metal skewers so I can quit catching these wooden ones on fire every time we make this.

1 can pineapple slices
1 can pineapple chunks
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup LIGHT soy sauce (or reduced sodium)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
about two pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
12-18 skewers

Drain both cans of pineapple, reserving the juice.  Add enough water to make 2 cups of liquid (you should only need about 1/4 cup water).  In a saucepan, combine the pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic.  Heat over medium heat and remove just before it comes to a boil.
Soak wooden skewers in water while you cut up your chicken (this helps them to not light on fire when you're grilling). Thread chicken and pineapple chunks onto skewers being careful not to cram them on too close to each other or they won't cook thoroughly.  Place all the finished skewers in a 9x13 pan and pour the marinade over the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (although longer is better).
Lightly oil the grill grate.  Place skewers on the preheated grill, reserving the marinade.  Grill chicken for approximately 5 minutes per side.  They cook quickly, so watch them closely.  If they aren't quite done, it doesn't matter because you are going to cook them more on the stove in the next step.
Pour the leftover marinade into a large, shallow skillet.  Whisk in 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch and bring it just to a boil.  Turn it down to low and add the chicken skewers to the boiling marinade along with the pineapple rings.  Use a turkey baster or large spoon to make sure all the chicken and pineapple get covered with sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes.  Not all of the chicken will be sitting down in the sauce, so you can choose to move them around halfway through if you like.