May 24, 2011

Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is my favorite. I make it all the time for family gatherings, birthdays, etc. It is actually two recipes that I morphed together, one is from my mom (she actually made it for my after-wedding lunch!) and the other is from a church cookbook. It is very simple and has a yummy sweet & sour type dressing that kids especially like. I'm planning to make a big batch for family at our upcoming holiday weekend at the lake.

My Pasta Salad

16 oz pasta (any variety)
1/2 c canola oil

Cook the pasta, rinse with cold water, drain well then combine in a big bowl with the oil.

Then, combine these dressing ingredients in the blender-
1 c white vinegar
1/2 c chopped fresh parsley
1/2 medium onion
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1 t pepper
1/2 t ground mustard
1 c sugar

Blend until liquefied then pour over the pasta.

Then, add veggies of your choice. Cucumber, in my opinion, is a must have. I dice one large cuke and mix it in. I also like to add halved grape or cherry tomatoes and chopped green pepper but not if I'm making it just for my three stooges since they are picky like that. Just add what you like, the more you add the prettier it is! After adding the veggies, let the salad chill in the fridge for at least a couple hours before serving.

This batch is kinda boring looking, but it sure tasted good!

And since I had to chop a lot of cucumber for this recipe I thought I'd show off my fancy cucumber slicing machine. It's actually a wonderfully simple little slicer that belonged to my Grandma, and was handed down to me after she passed away. She made some great cucumber salad and I have many memories of her using this or letting me use it while I helped her in the kitchen. This thing is OLD but it is still amazingly sharp and can slice up a cucumber like nobody's business. I love it, I love her and I love that it makes me think of her whenever I use it.

May 20, 2011

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup has always been one of my stand-by recipes that is easy and tasty and uses simple ingredients that I usually have on hand. I like to make it in the crock pot, but our new blender came with a recipe for tortilla soup that I finally tried today. It is close to my recipe but the way it blended up was far superior to anything that ever came out of my crock pot.

Blender Tortilla Soup

1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
1/2 small jalapeno pepper
1 green onion
1/2 medium carrot
2 T taco seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
couple sprigs cilantro
couple dashes pepper
handful of crushed tortilla chips

Combine all ingredients in blender and puree to desired consistency. Warm then serve.

Our Blendtec blender has a "soup" button that completely pulverizes all of these ingredients beyond recognition. I set aside part of the tomatoes then after everything is blended I add those and the chips and pulse it a few times so there is some texture to the soup. I also added some cooked chicken, which is optional along with other additions such as black beans or corn.

For serving, I warmed it up in the microwave then topped it with a little more cheese, some sour cream, chopped avocado and more cilantro.

It was so delicious and I love that there's carrot snuck in there, you can't taste that at all! I'm quite sure this could be made in any blender or food processor just by pureeing then warming up the same way.

May 10, 2011

Salsa Recipe

I've made this so many times this past week, I have the recipe memorized! Since I didn't post the recipe in its entirety in my last post I will here & now with my changes. Again HERE's the original. And here's mine-

Restaurant Style Salsa

1 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 14oz can of plain diced tomatoes
1/2 can of rotel (diced tomatoes w/green chilies)
1/4 c diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, finely minced (no seeds or membranes)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
juice from half a lime

Place all ingredients in the blender and pulse until it reaches desired consistency. Store in fridge for at least one hour before serving so the flavors can combine.

Side note- be sure to buy PLAIN whole tomatoes and PLAIN diced tomatoes. Hubby sort of accidentally bought Italian style whole tomatoes and I dumped them in without even noticing. That is, until I tasted it. Take my word for it, basil doesn't blend well with the rest of these ingredients. And you can up the spice level by using the whole can of rotel or more jalapeno. Hubby likes it hotter, so I take half the batch and spice it up for him.

We are all loving this salsa! Try it!

May 05, 2011

5th of May

I'll pretty much use any excuse to make and eat Mexican food. So...Cinco de Mayo? Yes, we'll celebrate that! I told my son that the holiday was kind of like 4th of July for Mexicans and he went on to tell me in great detail what exactly is celebrated and why. He learned it at school today and knows more about it than me apparently. Smarty.

So, the other week we went out to Cici's for pizza buffet and as always one of my favorites is their taco pizza. And so I got to wondering...why have I never made it myself? Seems simple enough. So, coincidentally I got an email from Eat Better America the other day with a recipe for Mexican Chicken Pizza with Cornmeal Crust. Perfect timing! I did use their recipe for the crust but I changed the toppings somewhat.

the CRUST-
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/3 c cornmeal

1 T sugar
1 t yeast
3/4 c warm water
1 T oil

I used my bread machine and let it rise once then spread it out on the pan and baked it by itself @ 425 for 10 minutes.

1 1/2 c shredded cooked chicken breast (I sauteed mine and sprinkled it with about 1/2 a package of taco seasoning)
1 can refried beans
1/2 c chopped onion
1 c shredded Mexican cheese blend

After the crust is baked, spread out the refried beans on top, then the chicken, onions and cheese. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, just until the cheese melts and everything is warmed through.

Top with shredded lettuce, more cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, whatever you want really!

This pizza turned out muy bueno! One of my favorite things about it was that the crust was substantial enough to hold all the toppings without "bending". Very sturdy crust, I think that's important in a taco pizza.

And I cannot forget to mention my new absolute FAVORITE salsa! I found THIS recipe online and honestly, I do not think will never buy salsa again. It seriously tastes like an authentic Mexican restaurant salsa, it's so good and so easy and just tastes so fresh and yummy, you gotta try it! My only changes were to cut the ro-tel in half cause that stuff is spicy so I replace one can with plain diced tomatoes. And, I only use half a jalapeno too. It's plenty spicy this way, just perfect for our family.

I bought some Tostitos Scoops the other day to dip. Snack Girl recommends them, not because they are healthier than your average tortilla chip, but because your dip to chip ratio will be higher when your chip is perfectly shaped for dipping. Only beneficial, of course, when your dip is healthy, and I believe this salsa fits the bill.

AND, I almost forgot, I made some Mexican Wedding Cookies for dessert. Only half a batch though, they are so buttery and bad (in a really good way), so I figured a small batch was enough and it was. Here they are-

Happy Cinco de Mayo!