Friday, December 31, 2010

world peace chicken enchiladas verdes


     My eldest daughter and her friend concluded that my chicken enchiladas and the friend's mother's homemade fudge were SO good, that they could be used in brokering world peace, hence the name.
     The enchiladas, followed by a couple pieces of fudge would be served to heads of countries who don't get along. They would be SO happy and satisfied that they would become agreeable to almost anything. I've eaten the fudge... it could work! I'd be willing to give it a whirl.
     I really can't think of one bad to say about these enchiladas, except that they're addicting. They are super simple to make, using precooked chicken or even leftover turkey and take mere minutes to assemble.
     Another huge plus is that the filling freezes well, so only roll what you need for a meal, store the rest for another time. This recipe makes between 20 and 24 enchiladas, depending on how plump you fill them.
     IF you can't abide a tiny bit of spicy heat, use regular Monterrey Jack cheese or cheddar jack instead of pepper jack and only one can of the green chilies.  
Ingredients:
6 c. chicken, cooked and chopped
4 c. pepper jack cheese
1 c. reduced fat sour cream, divided in half
1 c. fat free Greek yogurt, divided in half
1 -2 cans, diced, mild green chilies
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
20-24 small flour tortillas
16 oz. jar Frontera Grill tomatilla salsa, (or any green salsa)
topping:
chopped fresh tomatoes
chopped fresh avocado
mixed greens
fresh cilantro
lime wedges
Directions
Blend together sour cream and yogurt. Divide in half and reserve the rest for the sauce. Finely chop the fresh cilantro, reserving half as garnish. Mix chicken, cheese, half of yogurt mixture, green chilies and half of cilantro together in a bowl.
Fill tortillas w/ mixture. Place in glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Spray top of tortillas in dish.
Bake @ 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. All of the ingredients are already cooked, so we're merely melting everything together into divine yummi-ness. The enchiladas will appear slightly crispy and lightly browned.
While the enchiladas are baking, prep toppings. My faves are diced, fresh tomatoes, fresh cilantro, chopped avocado dressed with salt, pepper and a little lime juice; and lime wedges to squeeze. I sometimes place mixed salad greens on the plate and place enchiladas on top.
Whisk together remaining yogurt/ sour cream mixture and green tomatilla salsa. I LOVE the salsa from Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. The tomatillas have been fire-roasted, which gives it a slight smoky taste. (You could make your own, but this salsa is under three dollars, so the time saved is worth it to me.)
Spread blended sauce sparingly over warm enchiladas. (Don't drown them. There's enough for 20-something enchiladas.)
You can sprinkle a bit of additional grated cheese and a couple of pinches of fresh cilantro over the top to make it look nice, if you'd like. Scoop out and place on plate.
Pile the cool, fresh topping ingredients on the hot enchiladas. Oh. my. goodness... I'm getting weak in the knees just thinking about it!
Sprinkle with cilantro and squeeze a lime wedge over the whole thing. You're so smart and sneaky... you're serving a salad in disguise and these are so fresh and delicious, the anti-veggie whiners won't even notice!
Buena Apetit!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

is "love' or 'obsession' one step away from hoarding?

     I have been acutely aware lately of how much stuff I have to keep up with and how many places I have stuff. I live in a house full of stuff. I have an office and a large commercial kitchen at work... more stuff. I have a car, which often serves as a liaison office between home and work. I really should be cleaning it out right now, instead of blogging about it. I think George Carlin had a comedy bit about this very topic.
     While reading my friend the Housewife's blog about her visit, I noticed all the books in her pictures of my home. Cookbooks and food essays are in the most accessible spots throughout the house. Doing a fast inventory, I counted eighty-eight. In the dining room, huge floor to ceiling shelves flank the picture window. It is nicely organized by subject. Childrens' books are positioned on low shelves, ready for small hands to grab. Old college books live on the very highest shelf. Travel, history and biography are at MY eye level. Just seeing them makes me giddy. A large selection of Nancy Drew from various decades inhabits the older children's section and my favorites to reread are stacked on my dresser, my nightstand, under my computer desk, etc. In my mobile library, i.e. my car, at least one or two copies of something can be found... just in case.
     I am starting to see a pattern that could be considered hoarding. But they are BOOKS! My husband once cautiously inquired about my collection. Him: "How many books do four people need???" Me: "I'll let you know when I find out." He was not amused. My passion for the written word in paper form runs deep.
     A couple of months ago, my eldest daughter posted on her Facebook status that I had 24 jars of mustard in my pantry. Her friends were shocked and appalled, but curious. I have a very good explanation for this phenomenon. The mustard in question is an expensive Dijon import named Maille and sells for over $3 a jar. I am only slightly obsessed with mustard. I love them. Whole grain Dijon, sweet hot, horseradish, mustard with porter or caramelized onions, spicy brown, smooth Dijon and plain old yellow.
     I also love a bargain, so when stopping by the mustard aisle one morning, I spied the fancy Dijon on clearance for $1.05 each. To make the deal even sweeter, a manufacturer's coupon was tied around the neck for a dollar off. SO... what would you have done? Exactly! I bought them all for five cents apiece. My grocery total was somewhere in the $2.25 neighborhood... and you can imagine how excited the cashier was to scan all those $1 coupons individually. I bought 40-something jars and kept 24. The rest I took to the church's kitchen pantry.
     After all of those tee-ninetsy details, you want to know what I'm going to use it for, don't you? I posted a blog about the best (in my humble opinion,) vinaigrette. It contains Dijon mustard. I don't buy store bought dressing for salads, we eat quite a bit of it and there you have it! A short story long.
     My in laws, having succumbed to the economic downturn, lost their house to foreclosure in August. They moved in with us until they could get on their feet again. Before their arrival, I had to clean out several of my closets to make room for their stuff. Do you see a recurring theme? So, now that they are gone, I can spread my junk back out again... or just get rid of everything I haven't missed in five months!
     Hmmmm...

Friday, December 17, 2010

let's review: houlihan's savannah

     Thursday, belatedly celebrating my November birthday, I lunched with a friend at Houlihan's Restaurant in Savannah, Georgia.
It is located near the intersection of Georgia Highway 204 and I-95. In May of 2009, locals were deprived from eating there, due to a kitchen fire that shut the place down for six months. I have a bit of lost time to make up! As we studied the entertaining and extensive menu, we changed our minds frequently. It is deliciously descriptive and makes me hungry just reading it. After much mulling and a tiny bit of indecision, I chose the Wood-grilled Salmon, substituting the red bliss mashed potatoes for a creamy, Lemon-Asparagus Risotto. It also came with sauteed green beans. My lunch date chose the same thing. What we lacked in variety we made up for in enthusiasm.
     The fish was cooked to perfection, arriving hot off the grill. The outside was crispy and brown while the inside, tender and moist. The flavor of wood permeated the salmon giving it a smoky flavor. Our risotto, studded with fresh asparagus chunks, was light and fresh tasting. The chef included a half lemon garnish, which I squeezed over my entire plate. The beans were still crisp and bright, hinting of garlic and olive oil. We both were members of the Clean Plate Club that day. With sated appetites and coffee in hand, we managed to share a dish of their famous creme brulee. I definitely won't need any dinner!
On other occasions I have chosen the fish tacos. Tender chunks of white fish tossed in panko crumbs, served in flour tortillas and topped with Chipotle mayo and napa cabbage dressed in a honey-cumin dressing. (Pardon me, I drooled just a little. I will have to go back soon for those.) My girls love the Blackened Chicken Quesadillas and the three mini hamburgers.     
     The overall assessment of Houlihan's was again a positive one. The restaurant's consistency is good and originality great, a characteristic prized by chains everywhere. The eclectic menu ranges from a simple, but delicious soup and salad to rich pot roast. This inventive quality is one of the reasons I enjoy dining at Houlihan's.
So, next time you're in a quandry over where to eat in Savannah, give 'em a whirl... you won't be disappointed.

Houlihan's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

seasons greeting, eating and tweeting

     Last week was a fun week in my house. My good friend from Tennessee, the Housewife of Blogger fame was here for a visit.
     We began each of the six mornings with my customary double espresso followed by a huge helping of laughter, which really is the best medicine. We cooked, we ate, shopped and laughed even more.
     We wrote down the details to recount later in a blog and posted enough photos on Facebook to suitably annoy our friends. We sat by the fire each unseasonably cold night, discussing blogging and tweeting, the world's problems, respective families and our lives so far apart from each other.    
     We strolled through downtown Savannah and camped out in the Booklady Bookstore. We invited ourselves on a visit to Flannery O'Connor's childhood home with one daughter, ate pizza at Vinnie Van Go-Go's and shared decadent desserts at Lulu's Chocolate Bar with the other.  
     The Housewife and I lunched at Soho South Cafe, enjoying the view provided by Juan, our handsome server. This cheered the three study-weary girls who tagged along, on a much needed break from finals week. And I finally got to introduce her to one of my close Savannah friends.
     A few Christmas gifts were found at the Paris Market on Broughton Street and the Savannah Bee Company provided us with a taste of sweetness plus some apiary education. I had to pull the Housewife out of there. She has empty hives at home and is planning for bees in the spring of 2011. We both departed a little bit sticky from the samples of honeycomb, fruit and goat cheese.
     This week it is back to reality. I am cooking for my church family on Wednesday, for the last time in 2010. Where did this year go?
     I'm wrapping presents by the fire, while sipping homemade cocoa...Oooh, I forgot to tell you about the enormous, homemade marshmallows from Back in the Day Bakery.
     They make vanilla as well, but Peppermint remains my favorite! Make a big mug of hot chocolate and plop them in! They fill up the entire mug, so be careful!
Here is the recipe for cocoa. Serves two. (Forget that powdered artificial stuff):
2 c. milk
4 T. sugar, or less, to taste
2 T. cocoa
dash of vanilla
pinch of salt
pinch of instant coffee or espresso powder
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan to heat on the stove. Heat until piping hot, whisking to blend. Pour into mugs and top with sweetened whipped cream or homemade marshmallows. It will warm you all the way through!
      I am making lists, dreaming of sugarplums, stacking firewood and trying to avoid the Christmas rush. I remain in exile in Coastal Georgia, missing my far-away friend. 
     My house is a little too quiet since she flew away to the west... Well, until all three of the dogs begin to bark in unison at the arrival of my husband. Warm wishes! 

glut'tony, n. Excess in eating; extravagant indulgence of the appetite for food.

     I really don't understand the world's fascination with excess and gluttony. We as humans and as a nation are obsessed with having more. More food, larger portions and selections, a food court training us to need instant food gratification, and of course... the new terminology: upsize me! 
          I came across a wildly popular show the other night called Man vs. Food. Here is part of the Travel Channel's bio on the host:
     Food fanatic Adam Richman has held every job in the restaurant business, and now he's on a journey to explore the biggest and best eats our nation has to offer, including some of the craziest eating challenges around. In Man v. Food, Adam travels coast-to-coast from Richmond, VA, to San Diego, CA, and more.
     Adam will attempt to conquer a massive grilled cheese sandwich in Cleveland, OH, a 7-lb. seafood feast in Long Island, NY, and race to finish 50 wings in 30 minutes in Boulder, CO.
Whether it's a gigantic omelet packed with toppings, a diabolical plate of hot wings, or a monstrous mountain of nachos, Adam will square off against the best of the best.
     As I watched in horror while Adam consumed large amounts of fat laden food, a question popped into my head... Are the producers of the show making any long range plans for a replacement host? Adam Richman's impending death must worry them just a little. Will they be prepared? Will he die while filming the consumption of an enormous hunk of meat? Now that would be reality TV! As a female, I just want to set the record straight... this practice is not attractive to most women!
     The portions in restaurants have become so enormous, my husband and I usually share one meal. And as I was researching a recipe for work on a restaurant supply site, I was shocked to find a recipe for one person was made with a half of a pound of pasta. When I made it at home to see if I liked it, it fed three of us for dinner.
     I read somewhere that it takes your stomach 15 or 20 minutes to tell your brain it is full. Meanwhile we continue to shovel it in like it is the last meal we will ever have. Lest you think I am making judgements on society without any ownership, let me assure you that in this respect I am as guilty as anyone else. My love for food will never diminish. My cravings probably won't subside. I am making a resolution, however, to change my thought process. I haven't completely figured out HOW this will happen, but I'll let you know when I do.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

take thanksgiving leftovers from YUCK to yummm!

     On Sunday, I had in mind to make something with turkey... one more time. My family was not interested in the least. Then, as if by divine intervention, I walked into Publix at just the right time. I could smell something wonderful as I came through the door.
     The lovely Publix lady was making a budget friendly meal that literally takes no more time to complete and serve than it took to boil a box of corkscrew noodles.
     It calls for cooked chicken, but I had all of the ingredients at home except the grape tomatoes and crumbled Gorgonzola. After making it according to directions, I found a couple of things I would change.
     First, I doubled the amount of Gorgonzola cheese. The one in the store was creamy and gooey. She had just finished preparing it, so as far as I can tell, it did not have time to soak up all the sauce. When I made it, I called everyone to lunch, as usual, it took a few minutes for all to arrive. In that five or ten minute span, the sauce seemed to disappear.
     I also decided to forgo the expensive European garlic butter, using regular salted butter and sauteing garlic before starting the sauce. I tossed in a splash of white wine and added red pepper flakes to give it some zing. Italian parsley gave it a touch of green, but I wonder if some arugula or spinach would be good... Maybe next time.
     We enjoyed steamed veggies and fresh bread with this lunch. It took about 10 or 15 minutes from car to table. The Publix recipe card says that it costs less than $15 to feed a family of four. I submit that it costs less than that, providing you have leftover meat from your faithful Thanksgiving bird!
Ingredients
1 pound corkscrew pasta, prepared according to pkg. directions, reserving 1 c. pasta cooking liquid
4 T. salted butter
4 cloves minced garlic
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
10 oz. cooked chicken or turkey
1/4 c. dry white wine
8 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
Italian parsley, finely chopped
black pepper
Directions
Prepare pasta, reserving liquid, just before draining. Preheat large saucepan. Melt butter, saute garlic and red pepper. Add chicken and tomatoes and cook until chicken is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Pour in wine, cheese and parlsey. Toss with pasta until cheese is melted. Add freshly ground black pepper. If pasta dish is dry, add a small amount of reserved pasta liquid, mixing well.