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Spicy Baked Corn Dogs

When I was a kid, my Mom would occasionally fry up some corn dogs made completely from scratch.  Now that I'm a Mom I thought I'd do the same thing for my little one.  That being said, I'm not fond of frying since I manage to burn myself or ruin an article of clothing every time.  Plus baking is a far more healthy method of cooking.

Preheat oven to  425˚

2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix, 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 stick melted butter, 1 ½ teaspoons cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper, 1 ½ teaspoons garlic, paprika, 1 package of 8 hot dogs, 16 popsicle sticks

In a shallow mixing bowl mix together Jiffy mix, flour, eggs milk and melted butter.  The batter will be sticky.  At this point I typically set aside about 1/2 cup to make 2 corn dogs for Ava, this recipe is too spicy for her little taste buds.  Add the cumin, cayenne pepper and garlic.  Mix until the spices are thoroughly blended into the batter.

Cut the corn dogs in half and stick the popsicle stick in half way.  They are much easier to work with half sized.

Spread the batter evenly over each dog.  Don't make them too thick, about a 1/2 inch thick will do nicely.  Try not to leave any of the dog exposed and seal the bottom by the stick.  This will keep the dogs from drying out while they bake.  Sprinkle with paprika and bake for 12 - 15 minutes on the middle rack.

Now you are ready to serve.  You can serve alone or with a dipping sauce of your choice (honey mustard?).  My neighbor, a major meat eater, eyed one cautiously before taking a bite.  On his way out the door, he grabbed a second for his 50 yard walk home.  Don't be discouraged if they crumble a little, the batter is very muffin-like.  You can cover the popsicle sticks with foil if you don't want them to brown.  I don't usually have that kind of time, and I have yet to start a fire... expect that one time at Thanksgiving... story for another time!

Hot & Cool After School Snack: Fluffy Popcorn & Smoothie

Hot extra buttery microwave popcorn used to be one of my favorite snacks, but after reading several articles about how bad it was for you I switched to air popped corn.  The best part is that I've come up with a way to satisfy all 3 sets of taste buds in my house.  Salty for Ava, sweet for me and spicy for Eric.  I pair Ava's with her favorite Strawberry Mango Smoothie and it's enough to hold everyone over until I've cooked dinner.

Fluffy Popcorn: Salty, Sweet & Spicy

INGREDIENTS:  1/2 cup popcorn kernels, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon white cheddar popcorn seasoning, 1 big bowl for popping and 3 smaller bowls for serving

Begin by popping 1/2 cup of popcorn into a large bowl.  While this is happening melt 4 tablespoons of butter.  Once the popcorn is finished popping, thoroughly coat it with the melted butter.  I recommend using a large flat wooden spoon to turn the popcorn so you don't get your fingers dirty.

Separate the popcorn into your 3 serving bowls, about 4 cups per bowl.  Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt evenly over the popcorn in each bowl and turn to coat.  SALTY is done, set it aside.

The second bowl is going to be SWEET.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Turn with your wooden spoon to coat thoroughly.  Set aside.

Rinse and dry your spoon and we'll finish up the last bowl, SPICY!  Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon white cheddar popcorn seasoning.  Turn with your wooden spoon to coat thoroughly.

The sweet and spicy look similar so I recommend using colored bowls so little ones don't get confused.  You're almost ready to serve.

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

INGREDIENTS:  1/2 cup unsweetened frozen strawberries, 1/2 unsweetened frozen mangos, 4 oz. yogurt (2 tubes), 3/4 cup apple juice

Measure strawberries, mangos, yogurt & apple juice into your blending device.  I love my magic bullet.  Be sure not to overfill the cup.

Blend until smooth and now you're ready to serve.

Snack time!  Use a ziploc bag or tupperware to store uneaten popcorn for tomorrow.

Homemade Tamales-South Texas Style

I've eaten tamales all my life but hadn't mastered the "art" of tamale making. In Spanish, a tamalera is a an expert and this year I decided if no one else called me a tamalera, I wanted to at least give myself the title. So my mom and I put together a plan to spend a weekend making the best tamales in the neighborhood. We drew on the experiences of friends and relatives and I'm ready to share a great recipe!! This recipe makes 9-10 dozen chicken tamales. If  you choose, you can substitute pork or beef.

Ingredients:

5 lbs masa ( You can purchase this at a grocery store that services Hispanics.)

2 lbs lard ( I've heard you can use shortening instead of lard but we used the real deal.)

2  chickens, uncooked

black pepper

ground cumin

1 full pod garlic

6 oz. chile ancho (These are dried and 6 oz.=about 6-7 pods)

1 pkg corn husks

 

Do Ahead- Step One

Boil and debone chickens ( I encourage you to season your chickens with your favorite seasoning as they boil). Mince finely with a butcher knife or place in a food processor and  add 1 t black pepper, 1 t cumin and 3-5 cloves garlic. (I'm way heavy handed with the garlic.) Set chicken aside. In fact, this step can be done days or a couple of weeks in advance. I got my chicken ready a week before, seasoned it, and then placed it in the freezer until the big day.

Do Ahead -Step Two

This part of the recipe can also be done in advance and then kept in the refrigerator.

First, place chilies in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Soak  for 20-30 minutes until they're soft and pliable. Remove chilies from water and reserve the water. Remove stems and seeds by opening them up and rinsing repeatedly to ensure that no seeds remain. Add 2-4 cloves of garlic, salt and 1 tsp of cumin to the water. Place chilies back in the water and cook on medium until they're cooked and completely soft. Cool then  blend to make a thick paste. (This paste is the foundation of my enchilada sauce which I'll be posting in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for it.)

 

The Night Before

You'll need one large package of corn husks and, in order to work with them, they need to be soft and pliable. They need to soak at least two hours, but we placed ours in a large pot, covered with water, and then weighted them down with something heavy overnight.

 

You're Ready to Start

On the day of tamale making, you'll first prep the masa. The ultimate goal is for cooked tamales to roll out of the husk. For this to happen, you need to make sure the masa isn't too dry. Add 1-11/2 lbs of lard to the masa. Knead it well so that the lard is evenly distributed. Then  add about 1 c of the chili paste, 1 heaping T. black pepper,1 heaping T. cumin and salt to taste. Yes, I said taste. When all is mixed well, pinch the masa and give it a little taste.

If you're able to purchase seasoned masa, you can do that and skip making the chili paste altogether.

As you prepare to assemble, a team approach is best, especially if you're a novice. We laid a vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table then divided up the duties. Some of us spread the masa on the corn husk and others filled them with chicken and rolled them up. If you're a novice spreader, you'll make a mess, like me!

 

The actual spreading of the masa can be tricky.  Rather than write a lengthy description, I'm including a quick video of  the process.Click here for video.

Once you've got them all rolled up, it's time to cook!!

1. Create a bed of corn husks in the bottom of your cooking pot. Cover a metal measuring cup or a small coffee mug with foil and place it in the center to provide stability for stacking.

2. Stack tamales, open side up, somewhat vertically. They should look like a teepee inside the cooking pot. This is the time you add water to the bottom of the pot, about 1/2"-3/4 " deep.

3. Cover with  a foil tent to keep the moisture in.

4. Place a dishtowel over the foil as the final step before cooking. (To be honest, no one we asked could identify the purpose of the dishtowel but everyone said,"That's the way my mother did it!"

How long do they take to cook?

Turn the stove on high until you know the water's boiling. When it boils, turn the temperature to medium and let them steam for 45 min. to 1 hr. This worked well for us when we cooked 3-4 dozen at a time. (We weren't very successful when we cooked about six dozen. They seemed to take forever and the ones on the inside cooked while the ones on the outside didn't.)

After about 45 min., pull one out and give it a taste test. The masa should be firm and cooked thoroughly. Allow them to cool, then wrap in foil by the dozen,  label and freeze for your next family gathering or party.

 

See Our Finished Product

At the end of our weekend, I felt successful because I'd always looked at tamale making as a feat that was beyond my capabilities and I proved myself wrong. However, the best part of  the entire process was the time I spent with my mom. Hours of planning on the phone for three weeks, the entire day of spreading and rolling, and then serving freshly made tamales to family members that evening and waiting for their approval.

Many life lessons can be learned  when the pot is boiling and ideas can be exchanged over a cutting board. A kitchen is an easy place to leave your Fingerprint on someone's life, letting them know their value and what they mean to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Rice, Mexican Style

Anywhere there's Mexican food, you'll find rice. Enchiladas and rice, tacos and rice, beans and rice. My mother, grandmother and mother-in-law each prepared rice with their own twist and now I've added mine. I hope you'll try this easy, yummy recipe which takes brown rice, full of nutrients, and packs it with flavor that will fill your kitchen with a heavenly aroma.

Mexican Brown Rice

Ingredients

1 c. brown rice

2t. canola oil   

1 T. chicken boullion

2 c. water

½ t. ground cumin

2 cloves minced garlic

1/3 c chopped onion

3/4 c diced or crushed tomatoes

1c chopped vegetables –combination of any of the following: mushrooms, cooked garbanzos, chopped carrots, celery, bell pepper, frozen peas)

Cilantro (optional)

 

Pour brown rice  and canola oil into 2 qt. saucepan, stirring continually until toasty. ( This will make cooking time shorter and rice will have a wonderfully  firm texture.) When rice has browned sufficiently, add water, cumin, tomatoes and garlic. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to a simmer.  Add vegetables and cilantro after rice has been cooking for 20-25 minutes.Cook an additional 15-20 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is al dente.

Makes 4 c or 8-1/2 c. servings

Eat the Heat: Jalapeno, Mango Salsa

Salsa comes in all intensities and there are innumerable ways to prepare a tasty one.They are low in calories, usually contain no fat and  if you eat 1/2 c. of  fresh salsa, you can check one of your daily recommended fruits or veggies off the list. This recipe asks for jalapeno which will make a mild-medium salsa. If you want more of a bite, use serrano peppers and if you live on the edge, use habanero peppers.

 

Ingredients

12 roasted tomatillos

2 medium tomatoes

2 c. fresh mango

3 lg. seeded jalapenos

1/3 c. red onion

2 T. fresh ginger root

1/8 c. lime juice

a handful of fresh mint

salt and pepper to taste

Makes 5 c. ( great for a party)

 

 

                                   

         Salsas are a great playground for a creative mind and they're simple to put together.

 

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and chop!!

 

 

 

                                                                    That's it!! The salsa is ready!!

                          

This recipe is great with chips, or as an accompaniment for baked or grilled fish or chicken.

 

Connect to the Future

Whether consciously or subconsciously,women imitate other women. We draw from those we admire and those who take time to teach us . The best way to  "become who we are created to be" is to be led by our mothers and sisters. We might be biologically connected to these women or they might be people whose paths have crossed with ours  any place in the world. As a woman with a gift or talent (we all have them), we can then teach and lead others.  In our family, cooking and eating are  times to link generations and we begin to teach the culinary arts early in a child's life.  

 

 

Today is no exception as my daughter Kala and granddaughter Ava prepared a quick and easy summer appetizer.

 

 

Fresh Fig Appetizer

Ingredients

8 fresh figs

1/4c. honey or blue agave sweetener

1 fresh lime

cracked pepper corns

goat cheese

 

First, mix  the juice of one lime with the honey or blue agave.

 

 

Next, slice the figs in half (Ava is given a spreader and a couple of figs). Fill each fig-half with  1t. of goat cheese. Arrange figs on serving plate and drizzle the sweetener over them. Finish off with fresh cracked pepper.

 

While it takes a little time and patience to include a little one in food preparations, gardening or whatever it is that you do well, the payoff is great. Legacy is established, mentorship is birthed and trust binds lives together.

Time and love connect us to the future.

Tasty Mac and Cheese

Some say that macaroni and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. While I agree, this old-time favorite makes a special appearance  just a few times during the year in my household.  As well,  holiday meals are simply incomplete without this cheesy indulgence.  Just a few years ago, I remember making a special trip to the grocery store on Christmas morning because this all important dish was not included on the menu -- the family was in uproar!!

Try it out and you may never go back to the 'box'!

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups organic whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ - ¾ cup Sautéed Onion & Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups grated Cheddar (about 6 ounces)
  • ½ cup Asiago Cheese
  • Tex-Joy or season salt

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.
  • Sauté onion and garlic in the remaining 5 tablespoons butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the flour, and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown.
  • Using a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth, 4 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Add the salt, pepper, Tex-Joy or Season salt, and 2 cups of the cheese, and stir well.
  • Add the noodles and Asiago cheese and stir well.
  • Pour into the prepared dish.
  • Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Sweet potatoes can be found year round, but November and December is peak season for them. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) ranked the sweet potato number one in nutrition of all vegetables. This quick and easy recipe is yummy and packed with Vitamins A & C, beta carotene and fiber. To top it all off, one medium sweet potato only has about 130-160 calories! Ingredients

4 servings

2c. baked sweet potatoes, mashed ( about 2 small potatoes)

2 T. canola oil

1/2 c. chopped red bell pepper

1/3 c. chopped cilantro

3T. canned enchilada sauce ( any brand will do)

fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

8 flour tortillas

Heat oil in medium size pan. Saute red pepper 3-5 min. until tender. Add cilantro and enchilada sauce and heat through.  Add sweet potato and maintain on low-medium heat until mixture is heated. Spread mixture onto a tortilla, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to taste. Place another tortilla on top and heat on a griddle until toasted.

Use a pizza cutter and cut them in halves, fourths or in eighths to be used as an appetizer.

The great thing about these quesadillas is that they can be served immediately, sit out for a while and eaten at room temp or as a midnight snack right out of the frig!!

I served them as a late night snack to overnight guests. Everyone loved them and my nephew said,"Tia, as a meat lover, have you ever thought of throwing in a little chicken?"

Sooooooo, next week I'm going throw a little smoked chicken (that means rotisserie chicken from the grocery store) in the mix and see what happens.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I would share one of my favorite side dishes.  This effortless recipe is the perfect compliment to any holiday meal.  Roasted garlic, warm heavy cream and buttery Yukon Gold potatoes are a few elements that help create this unforgettable dish.  Mashed potatoes are traditional fare for the holidays and this tasty side is a definite departure from the ordinary. INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 - 2/3 cup warm heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

METHOD:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place garlic cloves on a small square of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Wrap foil around garlic and bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden.
  • If you prefer, peel the potatoes.
  • Quarter potatoes and cover with water in a large pot.
  • Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and return to hot pot and mash with masher or hand held mixer.
  • Mash in the roasted garlic. Mix in butter, heavy cream, salt and pepper.
  • Transfer mashed potatoes to an oven proof dish and sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until top is golden

These garlicky spuds will have your family and friends coming back for more!  Enjoy

Chicken Tacos

Coming from El Paso, Texas, I have a special love for Mexican food.  Known for it's varied dishes, spices and flavors, Mexican cuisine is without a doubt my favorite. Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 onions minced
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced into 1/2-inch chunks
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Tex-Joy* seasoning - to taste
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water

* Tex-Joy is one of my favorite seasonings and can be used in a myriad ways.  I cook with the salt-free variety which allows my family and guests to add salt at the table, if they prefer.

Method:

  • Heat a medium to large saute pan over medium heat and pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the garlic and onions and cook until soft and nicely caramelized, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  • In the meantime, season the chicken with Tex-Joy and pepper.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the chicken and toss to coat.
  • Heat another medium to large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Cook the chicken until it is lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Once the onion mixture is caramelized and softened, add the serranos, paprika and Tex-Joy.
  • When the chicken is done, transfer it to the pan with the onions. Pour in water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce cooks down and  is thick and delicious, approximately 20 minutes.
  • Adjust seasoning with Tex-Joy and pepper.
  • To serve the tacos: Place the toppings and chicken filling in bowls and allow guests to build their own tacos.

Toppings:

  • Chopped romaine lettuce
  • Diced red or yellow onions
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Avocado slices or Guacamole
  • 1 to 2 packages corn or flour tortillas

Serve chicken tacos with a salad or go all out by adding rice and beans and your family/friends will sing your praises for days!

It's muy sabroso . . . enjoy!