Saturday, October 20, 2007

OldRoses' Blackened Chicken

My host for the impromptu dinner party is one of those rare people who likes spicy food. I decided to risk making my blackened chicken dish for him. I offered to make something “Cajun style” but after reviewing the recipe, I realized that it also has elements of Mexican cooking making the dish more like fusion cuisine.

The recipe was originally an appetizer. I’ve made changes to it that make it a main dish. I’ll give you the original recipe and also make note of the changes that I’ve mad.

Instead of Pico de Gallo, I use regular Pathmark salsa, medium heat. It’s all natural, no additives or preservatives and very tasty. I mix the chicken into the salsa instead of topping the chicken with the salsa. I use flour tortillas instead of mini taco shells. My personal preference is for the Monterey Jack cheese. I like the contrast of the cool, creamy cheese with the spicy chicken. And I like to top it all off with shredded lettuce and chopped raw onion.

Verdict: Yum! This one’s a keeper!

Blackened Chicken Mini Tacos

2 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
⅛ teaspoon salt
Dash sugar
4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound)
4 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 teaspoons paprika
¾ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
24 mini taco shells or scoop-shaped tortilla chips
Finely shredded spinach or lettuce
Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Dairy sour cream or guacamole
¾ teaspoon ground red pepper

For Pico de Gallo: combine tomatoes, red onion; cilantro; ⅛ teaspoon salt, and the sugar. Mix well. Cover; chill for several hours or overnight.

Cut chicken breast halves into ¾-inch-wide strips. Combine black pepper, paprika, dry mustard, red pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a plastic bag. Add chicken to the bag, shaking to coat. Arrange coated chicken in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Using two forks, pull chicken apart into pieces.

To crisp taco shells, arrange on a baking sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes or until warm and crisp. Serve chicken in taco shells. Top tacos with Pico de Gallo, spinach or lettuce, cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese, and sour cream and/or guacamole.

Makes 24

Compost: tomato and onion skins, cilantro stems

Recycle: salsa bottle, seasonings bottles

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blue Cheese Dressing

I had an opportunity to do something that I haven’t done in years: host a dinner party. Well, almost. Someone else hosted, I cooked. By the way, NEVER EVER cook in someone else’s kitchen, especially someone who is not a cook. Unless of course, you bring all of your own pans and utensils.

Like any dinner party, this one featured a salad. Another hint: NEVER EVER allow someone who doesn’t cook to “chop” the salad. They take those instructions seriously! We ended up with chunky salad. You TEAR the lettuce. You THINLY slice, not chunk, the tomatoes and green pepper.

Luckily, my non-cooking friend likes blue cheese dressing. It gave me a chance to make a recipe that I haven’t made in probably 30 years. Blue cheese dressing is ridiculously easy to make and since it has to be made ahead of time, is a real time saver. Just keep one thing in mind when serving it. Take it out of the refrigerator ahead of time so that it can warm up to room temperature. When refrigerated, it becomes almost solid.

Verdict: Yum! This one’s a keeper!

Blue Cheese Dressing
(Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook)

1 package (4 ounces) blue cheese, crumbled
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
⅓ cup light cream (20%)

Reserve ⅓ cup of the crumbled blue cheese. In small mixer bowl, blend remaining blue cheese and the cream cheese on low speed. Add mayonnaise and cream; beat on medium speed until creamy. Stir in reserved blue cheese. Cover; chill at least 3 hours to blend flavors.

About 1 ⅔ cups.

Recycle: mayonnaise or salad dressing bottle

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Blueberry Pie

Fall is late this year. Normally by now the weather has cooled off and I am cooking up a storm. This year the temperatures have stayed in the 80’s and even slipped into the 90’s a few times in September and October. The weather reports keep promising cooler temperatures and much needed rain but Mother Nature has other plans. My annual apple pie has been delayed.

Fortunately, we had a brief cool spell in July so I was able to bake my annual blueberry pie. As I noted on my pumpkin pie recipe, it’s one three pies that I make each year. All of them are straight out of my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook except for the crusts to which I have added extra shortening on the advice of an elderly aunt who made the best pie crusts I have ever tasted.

One important note on this one. The lemon juice is there for a reason. I made the mistake of making this pie once without it. It turned out cloyingly sweet. The lemon juice gives the blueberries a little tang.

Verdict: Yum! This one’s a keeper!

Blueberry Pie
(Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook)

OldRoses’ Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup shortening
5 tablespoons cold water

½ cup sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 425°.

Stir together sugar, flour; mix with blueberries. Add lemon juice. Set aside.

Measure flour and salt into bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly. Sprinkle in water and mix until all flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl. (1 to 2 teaspoons water can be added if needed).

Gather dough into ball; shape into flattened round on lightly floured pastry cloth. (For two-crust pie, divide dough in half and shape into 2 flattened rounds). With floured rolling pin, roll dough 2 inches larger than inverted pie pan. Fold pastry into quarters; unfold and ease into pan.

Turn desired filling into pastry-lined pie pan. Trim overhanging edge of pastry ½ inch from rim of pan. Turn blueberry mixture into pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with top crust; seal and flute. Make slits in top crust to let steam escape. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil last 15 minutes of baking.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.

Makes one 9” pie.

Recycle: lemon juice bottle

Compost: spoiled and bruised berries, berry stems