Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And Everything Nice

Recipe Below: Cinnamon Spice Zucchini Bread

It’s zucchini season! Zucchini abounds! Those lucky enough to be growing their own are overwhelmed with hoards of gourds (Ha! I rhymed!), and those not so lucky (like me, *sigh*) can get theirs on the cheap at the farmer’s market and grocery store. Win!

Do I even need to tell you where I’m going with this?

Zucchini bread of course! How can you not make zucchini bread when faced with it? I happened upon 3 such gourds of summer heaven, grown fresh from a local farm, recently, and it was never a question in my mind what to do with them. I got them at the farm, actually. What can I say? Having a Corgi gets you connected. Especially when the woman who owns the farm has 2 Corgis herself, and often invites a dozen other Corgis over to romp around her grounds.

You know what’s great about zucchini bread? You know, besides the fact that you get to essentially make a dessert, get away with calling it breakfast, and tell yourself it’s healthy because there’s a modicum of vegetable in it? It’s like a blank canvas. Well really, that’s what’s so great about quick breads in general.

What’s a quick bread?

Time out! Pull up an uncomfortable desk with gum stuck to the bottom. School is in session.

Ahem. Quick breads, for those not hip to the lingo, are breads that use leaveners like baking soda and baking powder instead of yeast. Without yeast you don’t have to worry about things like kneading, rising, and gluten development. You just apply heat to the mixture and they puff right up. Quick! Also, obviously, they have a completely different texture and flavor than yeast breads. Besides loaves like zucchini, banana, and pumpkin breads, other examples of quick breads include muffins, pancakes, biscuits, and waffles.


That’s all for today class!

Quick breads are like blank canvases because they take on a variety of flavors and ingredients well. They can be breakfast or dessert, sweet or savory, decadent or healthy! You can easily elevate them with the addition of fruit, nuts, chocolate, and my personal favorite, booze! Which brings me to this zucchini bread. I happen to love this zucchini bread. This is my go-to recipe. But as the above spiel points out, you can modify it any which way to make it your own. So let’s talk a little about what I put into mine, and ways you could possibly make it yours...

I think zucchini is the best place to start. First off, you don’t even have to use zucchini. Any summer squash will do. Heck, swap it for carrots if you want! Some people would peel the skins off first, but I left them on. That’s where all the nutrients are, and by now you know how I am about throwing out the healthy parts! They softened right along with the flesh, so it definitely wasn’t a textural issue. Plus, they added cool green flecks to the bread!

Did you know that a great way to lighten up quick breads is to replace some of the oil with a mashed fruit or vegetable? Of course you did! Banana and pumpkin are excellent choices, but applesauce works great when you have another fruit or vegetable you want to be the star. It adds fluff without taking over the flavor. I use it in muffins all the time, so I try to always have a small jar on hand. I like the ones advertised as “naturally sweetened”, which just means no added sugar. If you have one with sugar, you might want to lessen the sugar in the recipe a bit.  [Edit: A reader with far bigger brain mass than I pointed out that naturally sweetened really just means they added fruit juice concentrates and other essentially-sugar-like products, and you're better off buying an applesauce that actually says no sugar added.  I agree 100%!  If you can find it, use it.  I could not, but that just means I have to look harder.  Apparently Motts sells a version.] 

I used only whole wheat pastry flour. It’s whole wheat flour that is ground finer than regular whole wheat flour, so the texture stays a bit lighter. I don’t see it sold at the big chain grocery stores, but any health food store (like Whole Foods) should have it, and in San Diego, places like Henry’s and Sprouts and Jimbo’s sell it. I love having it on hand, so I would recommend the purchase, but I definitely understand picking and choosing flours to stock your pantry with. AP flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, bread flour, self rising flour, cake flour... Who has room for all that?! Not me. I stick to 4...okay, 5. AP, white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, bread, and cake. And sometimes regular whole wheat (i.e. red whole wheat).

Hi, my name is Julie, and I have a problem with flour. 

Also, I need a bigger pantry!

If your sponsor is telling you to be strong and resist yet another bag of flour, or you just aren’t interested in a special trip to the store, you can, as always, use all purpose flour instead. It’s all purpose! But if you have some form of whole wheat flour, I would suggest half and half. It really adds a nice density to the bread that goes great with the spices. If I gave you some speech about the whole grains sopping up the booze for a boozier flavor, would you believe me? Ok fine, but it does add fiber and protein! So there!

Did I mention booze? Of course! What’s a quick bread without booze? Besides, you know, kid friendly. Heh. Bourbon, naturally. Bourbon goes awesome in quick breads. It imparts a deep, smokey flavor that goes great with nuts and spices. Oh the spices! Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg...oh my! But the spice of all spices. The spice that makes this bread “the recipe” for me is the cardamom. Ever baked with cardamom? It’s magic. Almost floral. And potent! A little goes a long way, so be careful. It’s that ingredient that will make people go, “What is that hint of deliciousness I am tasting?” It can be a bit tricky to find, but I managed to find some at one of the big grocery chains. You just have to train your eyes away from the generic brand and over to the expensive ones right beside them. I know, I usually don’t bother either. But it might just be there! If you don’t have it, just leave it out. It’ll still be great. And if you’re going for a simpler palate, you could always nix everything but the cinnamon.

Nuts are always optional, but I like the texture contrast from their crunch, and the flavor they add. I prefer walnuts, but Husband isn’t a fan, so I use pecans instead.

If you’re wondering what those cinnamon-colored splotches are on my bread, that would be cinnamon chips! You know, like chocolate chips, but cinnamon. Again, they’re sold in all the big chain markets, right in the baking section along with the toffee chips or peanut butter chips. It was my first time baking with them, so it was a bit of an experiment. I didn’t expect them to melt, but since they’re essentially just flavored sugar, it does make sense.

Why do I love this zucchini bread so?  First off, it's moist!  Dense but moist, as good bread should be, thanks to the applesauce and zucchini.  The bourbon and pecans give a wonderful deep flavor, while the orange zest and spices make everything party together in your mouth.  And it's healthy.  What?  It is!  It's 100% whole wheat, it has vegetables, fruit, and nuts for protein.  And that tiny bit of oil wouldn't hurt a fly!  We just won't talk about the sugar.  Husband was so convinced by my argument that he went ahead and ate it for breakfast.

What do you put in your zucchini bread?

Cinnamon Spice Zucchini Bread
adapted pretty heavily from Serious Eats

Makes 1 loaf+

3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce (preferably “naturally sweetened”)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest
2-3 TB bourbon
2 cups zucchini, shredded (about 3 small zucchini)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup cinnamon chips (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9x5 loaf pan with butter spray. 
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs, oil, and sugars until light and thick, a few minutes.  Add the applesauce, orange zest, vanilla, and bourbon and beat until combined.
  3. Place the shredded zucchini in a kitchen towel (or a stack of paper towels), and gently squeeze out any excess moisture. Stir the squash into the wet mixture. 
  4. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until just barely combined. Don’t overmix! Gently fold in the pecans and cinnamon chips if using. 
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until a cake tester (i.e. toothpick!) comes out clean. It’s a good idea to rotate the pan halfway through. 
  6. When it’s cool enough to handle, turn the bread out onto a cooling rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes. 

Note: I ended up with a bit of extra batter, so I filled about 2 muffin cups with the extra, and pulled them out after about 30-40 minutes. They’re great for testing for poison while your bread is cooling. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Bright Side of Car Troubles

Recipe below: Somewhat Authentic Thai Green Curry

Speaking of bright sides, my life is such a comedy of errors at the moment, that I’m constantly focusing on the positives to keep sane. I’d rather laugh at my misfortunes than cry over them any day...and laugh I have! Small talk with my neighbors usually begins with their inquiring after any new disasters that have sprung up since last they saw me, and I can usually deliver on a good story to make us both chuckle. Usually centering around my car, lately. Batteries, tires, radiators. I’ve dealt with it all!

Sure, a leaking radiator isn’t exactly roll on the ground hilarious, but what about when I add that the extended warranty on the car just so happened to expire about a month before said leakage? Yes, that really happened.  Of course it did! 7 years and never a problem that the warranty would cover. But 7 years and 1 month? see what I mean. Ridiculous!

I also answer to Murphy.

What does all this complaining have to do with anything? Well that brings me to the particular bright side of my constant car troubles. The Asian Market! It’s right down the street from the dealership, and since that neighborhood is about 15 miles away from my house, it’s not very convenient to go regularly. So when Husband and I have to make the trek for some mechanical misfortune or other, we secretly look forward to the stop at 99 Ranch right after. Did I mention they have pork bao the size of my head? And the best darned red bean paste sesame balls, my personal favorite! We always stop at the bakery first to stock up before making the long trek up and down the many aisles.

Sure, most of the ingredients we save up to buy at the Asian market we could easily get in any well-stocked grocery store. But they cost twice as much, and the selection sucks! Did you know there are brands of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar that aren't Kikkoman? I know! Blew my mind when I first found out too.

Then again, there are ingredients that are essential to authentic Asian cuisine that for whatever reason haven’t made it into any of the 10 or so grocery stores in my area. Disappointing, isn’t it? It’s where I buy my miso paste, rice flour, red bean paste, and oodles and oodles of seaweed! I love the seaweed sprinkles that are tossed with toasted sesame seeds. It’s a great topping for rice, popcorn, or any dish that needs a little salty pizazz. Husband loves the sheets of the hot and spicy seaweed so much he buys them 8 containers at a time! It’s really a healthy snack, nicely filling without containing any substantial calories, and a wee bit of protein. Yum!

Don't eat that keffir lime leaf!

But what I really get excited about when I go there are the fixings for Thai food! Sure, a lot of stores now carry lemongrass, but what about keffir lime leaves and Thai basil? My favorite Thai restaurant would never offer my favorite dishes without them! And since I usually only frequent the store when the heavens decide to break my car (more often than I’d like!), I always take advantage of at least a couple of specialty ingredients I can’t buy anywhere closer. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about curry!

I love curry. I used to talk food constantly with a former manager, and she would always marvel at my love of sauce. I love food drenched in a rich and flavorful sauce. Who doesn’t? It makes everything taste fantastic! And curries are the epitome of big flavors: warm, spicy, earthy, and herbaceous. They taste so complicated, but like so many dishes, curries are totally doable! Yes, I mean doable for you!  You know what the trick is? Finding a good quality curry paste. I’d like to make my own at some point, but if you don’t want to go through all the trouble, 99 Ranch has an excellent selection of tasty curry pastes, and your local Asian market probably does too! I went for green. It’s spicy from lots of chile peppers! Husband and I like spicy! You could just mix the curry paste with coconut milk for the sauce base, it would be deliciously simple. But I wanted to brighten the dish with some fresh ingredients already in the paste to make the flavor a bit more definitive and lively.

Now I’m the first to admit that this curry is anything but authentic. Or rather, I was going for authentic curry flavors, but I threw in some other totally inauthentic veggies along with it because they’re delicious and it’s my curry, so I’ll cook what I want to! I opted for classics like onion, carrots, baby bok choy, and mushrooms, but that just wasn’t substantial enough for me. I wanted more! So I also threw in celery and frozen peas because I love greenery, water chestnuts for their lovely crunch, and some red potatoes for texture. Yum!

As far as the sauce goes, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass are the holy trinity of deliciousness. Lemongrass is an ingredient I haven’t experimented with extensively, but I love the sunny, grassy flavor. When preparing the fibrous stock for consumption, just cut off most of the the top and the nub at the bottom and remove the first few layers until you’re left with a tender bit a few inches long. It doesn't look like much, but it goes a long way.  Make sure you mince it up nice and tiny so you get the flavor without any chewy bits. Keffir lime leaves, like lemongrass, are wonderfully aromatic. I treat them like bay leaves and throw them in with the simmering sauce for flavor, but remember not to eat them! I’ve substituted regular Italian basil for Thai basil before, and it certainly works in a pinch, but Thai basil is such a better compliment to the dish. Trust me. Nothing beats the intoxicating aroma of Thai basil.  And with no booze in this recipe, we need our kicks somehow, right? And then there’s the fish sauce. You’re not afraid of fish sauce, are you? I used it think it was nasty, but it turns out it was just an inferior product I had purchased. Good fish sauce is delicious! Not by itself, of course, but just a little bit added to the dish adds a salty, deep flavor (umami!) without being fishy in the slightest! The trick is just to show a little restraint. Don’t skip the fish sauce, trust me!  I opted not to get the Thai peppers.  I could only buy them about 20 at a time, and yikes!  That's a lot of heat!  Also, that's kind of the point of the curry paste.  All the heat are already in there!

This dish was awesome. Better than I expected. I love it when that happens! The flavors all came together so amazingly well, and the spicy kick was just right, so they weren’t masked. I usually go for brown jasmine rice, but this time I served the curry over quinoa. It’s a vegetarian dish, so I wanted the complete protein quinoa gives. Not to mention it cooks twice as fast. It’s seriously the best grain ever!

Now, with any luck I'll go many, many moons without being in the neighborhood of the Asian market again!

An aside: I tried to talk a little bit about the more exotic ingredients in this dish, but I didn't want to get all educational on you if you already know what the heck I'm talking about.  If you want to know more, feel free to email me or leave me a comment!

Somewhat Authentic Thai Green Curry

Makes about 8 servings

1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium red potatoes, cubed
6 bunches of baby bok choy, chopped
8oz beech mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch nob of ginger, minced (about 1 TB)
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed and discarded and the tender core minced
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp white pepper*
approximately 2 TB green curry paste (more or less to taste)
1 can coconut milk (I used light)
1 tsp fish sauce
5-6 keffir lime leaves**
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
1 package frozen peas
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
4 stalks green onion, sliced into rounds
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  1. In a large saute pan or wok over medium heat, sweat the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes until they give off their water and begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add the baby bok choy and mushrooms, and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, stir to incorporate, and cook another 2 minutes or so. Everything should be smelling amazing!
  2. Stir in the coriander and white pepper, and let it cook for a minute, then add the curry paste, and let it cook for another minute. [Note: If you are concerned about the level of spice, add just 1 TB to begin with (or less!), and incorporate the rest after you add the coconut milk in step 3.]
  3. Add the coconut milk (be sure to shake the can before you open it!), fish sauce, and lime leaves. Now is the time to adjust the seasonings if it’s needed. Bring the mixture to a light boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and the curry is thick and fragrant.
  4. Stir in the Thai basil, frozen peas, water chestnuts, and green onion, and cook for just a minute or two, until warmed. 
  5. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve over brown jasmine rice or my choice, quinoa!
*I don't think I've mentioned white pepper before.  It's basically just like black pepper, but milder and it blends in more, color-wise, to a dish.  It's totally optional, or you could use a few pinches of black pepper.  I just like pepper!  I bought the white pepper at Ranch 99, but I've seen it in regular grocery stores too.

**There's not a perfect substitute for keffir lime leaves, but if you're going for a less fussy curry, a splash of lime juice at the end will help give it that brightness it needs.  Just go easy, you don't want it too acidic.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Feature, A Feast, And Some Ice Cold Fruit

Recipe below: Tropical Summer Sorbet

Look out, people. I’m going to get all personal on you here. Talk about feelings and issues. Deep ones even. Just skip over it if you’re of a squeamish constitution, I completely understand.

When going through tough times, it’s so important to focus on the positives. Like, sure, I’m looking like a total porker after stuffing my face at my 4th of July feast...and again on the 5th...and then again today. I can’t stay away from the leftovers! But on the bright side, my boobs look awesome! Very full and vollllllluptuous. See? Bright side. 

Some aspects of life have been a total downer the last few months. I’m unemployed. Things in my house and cars keep breaking and requiring tons of money to fix, so now I’m poor. And I’ve recently deduced that apparently because I worked the first 5 years out of college in one profession, it’s impossible to move to any other. Because I would just leave the new position as soon as something better came along. Because people never do that within their own profession. People in college and younger beware this little fact.

But, the positives abound! The likes of the Pioneer Woman and her fabulous underlings have recognized my recipes on her Tasty Kitchen food community home page three times now! That’s three more times than I ever expected. And what’s more. So much more! Is that I've made it. My blog has made it. What is “making it”, and how do I know that I’ve done it? Well a certain co-habitating biped of the gentlemanly persuasion has been reading regularly. This individual does not read blogs, could care less about the random ramblings of his fellows, even those of his life companion. But he reads this modest one. Hi Husband!

Can I just run this food blog full time? That would be my first choice. I would get a fancy Apple laptop with the latest Photoshop software. I would get a top end digital camera and take lessons on how to actually use it. I would cook and bake in the kitchen all day long, concocting boozy creations and share them with you! Man, wouldn't that be nice?  Cross your fingers I win the lottery one of these days!

Oh, right. The small matter of the leftovers I mentioned. It was my second annual 4th of July barbecue feast! We had a few friends and one very adorable Beagle over to help us consume what can only be described as a smorgasbord. It’s all Husband’s fault, you see. I couldn’t decide between serving hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ pulled chicken, and he adamantly insisted that we have all three.

“How about all three?” He said.

Do you see what I have to put up with?!

And with all that meat, I couldn't serve just one salad. One measly side. Oh no. I had to do appetizers, grilled vegetables, a slaw, grilled mashed potatoes, a pie, and of course, bake my own buns. I was in the kitchen all weekend. It was awesome. And all Husband’s fault.

I think my guests were a bit overwhelmed by the variety of food available. I hope they don’t think I make that much food every time I have people over. Except that I kind of do. I have a problem. But I’m determined! I will have a few guests over sometime in the future, and I will cook a simple meal. One protein, one side, one veg. And one appetizer, and one dessert. And maybe some homemade bread. See? Totally not overboard. Right.

Well if you ate as much as I did to celebrate our Nation’s Independence, you’re probably in the mood for something a bit...simple and light. I’ve got you covered! This tropical fruit sorbet! It’s sweet. It’s delicate. It’s the perfect treat for a sunny Summer day. And best of all, it’s boozy! The hefty helping of rum not only adds an awesome tropical punch, but it lowers the freezing temperature of the sorbet, so it stays nice and scoop-able!  Heck, it’s even sugar free.  It's so delicious that it could just be a bright side to your own trying day.

Tropical Summer Sorbet

6 kiwis, skin removed and cut into pieces
1 mango, skin removed and cut into pieces
1/2 cup rum (I used light)
1/4 cup agave syrup (or more to taste)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until liquefied. You may need more agave syrup, depending on the sweetness of your fruit. Chill mixture for at least 30 minutes. Add to an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Move sorbet to a freezer-safe container and freeze for a few hours to harden.
Note: If you don’t have agave syrup, you can always substitute simple syrup instead.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meal Fiesta Caliente!

Recipes below: Fiesta Black Beans, Chipotle Lime Pulled Chicken, Caliente Yogurt Sauce, and Watermelon Lime Margaritas

Let me just start this post off by saying that not only do you get recipes for a whole flipping meal in this post, you get a drink too!  Take that Guy Fieri and Guy's Big Bite!  So it may be a doozy of a post, but this is like 4 posts in one.  You're welcome!

Beans get a bum rap. They’re always an afterthought, an easy side. They’re baked with a pound of sugar, or fried with a pound of lard. They rarely have any real flavor imparted. Fat and sugar are not flavors. They are nutrients that Mitochondrial Eve and Lucy evolved to salivate over because it meant the food they were eating was a good source of calories. Not so much a problem for homo-folk nowadays. But real flavors are just as easy, and way more delicious! And it’s really too bad because beans are so versatile and healthy! They are full of fiber and protein, which fills your tummy up, and they take on all kinds of seasonings in all kinds of dishes. Really, what’s not to like?  

Oh right...they are the magical fruit.  Eh, get over it.  Take some Beano if you're worried.

I’m curious how other people build their meals. Me? It usually starts with one ingredient I feel like eating. In this case, I was craving black beans. Then I thought I wanted to do a play on refried beans because I wanted a creamier consistency. That got me thinking about Mexican flavors, and the meal just took form from there! I ended up with black beans, slow-cooked pulled chicken, and steamed broccoli, all flavored with chipotle chiles, lime, and tequila. Yum!

Limes are a fantastic way to bring Mexican-flavored food to life. They’re bright and acidic and a beautiful compliment to chiles. Chipotles in adobo sauce are deep and smokey, which I absolutely love, but regular jalapenos would have been good too. And of course, being me, I threw in some tequila because it’s an obvious pairing and delicious!

I steamed the broccoli, which I tossed with the caliente yogurt sauce, because I was just in the mood, but in hindsight, I think roasting the broccoli would have been even more delicious, and taken the sauce a little better. Also, even better would be just a simple slaw with cabbage and carrot. But really, anything that tickles your fancy would work. Also, a great vegetarian option would be to nix the chicken (duh) and toss some cooked brown rice in with the beans.  Oh, that sounds good! I'll be trying that next time!  You do know that rice and beans make a complete protein, thus serving as a suitable replacement for meat, right?  I'm sure all the vegetarians out there do, but all you looking to jump on the meat-light bandwagon (good for you!), take note.

With the 4th of July coming up this weekend, any of these dishes could be a great addition to your celebratory fare! I’m super excited to be hosting a barbecue with just a few friends, mostly neighbors, and their pups! I have to admit, I have kind of a problem when it comes to hosting. Besides my neurotic anxieties, I mean. I always make too much food! I just want to feed people all sorts of delicious foods, and it of course ends up being way more than anyone can possibly eat. But that’s ok. I figure Husband and I just won’t have to worry about meals for the next decade or so. Or Theo and his friends would be more than willing to help us out, I'm sure.

I’ll be serving some roasted red pepper and garlic hummus, and some spinach artichoke dip to start. Then, since we couldn’t decide between proteins, we’ll have hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches (we are insane, I am fully aware). Yum! On the side, simple grilled veggies, a mango, corn, and jicama salad, and a curry coleslaw. And my grilled mashed potatoes are going to make a second appearance! This time I’m making a sauce with this blue and jack cheese blend they sell at Sprouts. It’s milder than blue cheese by itself, and I think will be delicious with the potatoes! And for dessert I’m trying out Alton Brown’s apple pie featuring apple brandy! I’ve been waiting to try this recipe for months!

What are you doing to celebrate the second runner up for biggest grilling holiday our Independence Day?  What's for dinner?

Fiesta Black Beans

makes about 8 servings for a side or 6 servings for a main

2 TB butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chile powder* (ancho or chipotle)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cans black beans (I’m approximating because I used dried beans, it may have been a little more)
1 7oz can diced green chiles
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, deseeded and minced
1 TB adobo sauce
1/4 cup tequila
2 limes, juiced
8oz frozen corn, thawed
3-4 stalks green onion, sliced

*I highly recommend against buying just generic chili powder. First off, it’s awful, and second, you’re not looking to make the dish taste like chili, but chile. Most stores sell ancho or chipotle versions that are pretty good. I made my own!
  1. In a pot over medium heat, melt the butter, and sweat the onions and garlic until soft.
  2. Add the salt, coriander, paprika, cumin, chile powder, and cayenne pepper, and cook for a minute, until your kitchen starts to smell amazing (i.e. the spices release their oils).
  3. Add the black beans, green chiles, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, and tequila, and cook until soft and incorporated, about 5 minutes. At this point I took out a potato masher and loosely mashed the mixture, but that’s optional.
  4. Add the lime juice, corn, and green onions, and stir to combine. Remove the mixture from the heat and serve.

Chipotle Lime Pulled Chicken

1 whole boiler chicken
1 jar of your favorite chipotle salsa (I'm partial to Trader Joe's)
6 cloves garlic, whole
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup tequila
8 oz frozen corn, thawed
  1. In a slow cooker, place the chicken in the bottom of the pot. Pour half the jar of salsa over the chicken, then sprinkle in the garlic cloves. Cook on high for 6-7 hours, until it is falling apart and delicious.
  2. About 3 hours into the cook time, flip the chicken over for even cooking, and add the rest of the salsa, tequila, and lime juice.
  3. When the chicken is done, fish out the carcass and bones, shred it up, and stir in the corn. Make sure you get all the bones! Some are very small and easily detach from the carcass, and these can be a big time chocking hazard!

Caliente Yogurt Sauce

Makes a little over 1/2 cup

1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt (I used 2%, but any will do)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, deseeded and minced (2 was pretty darn spicy, so start with 1 if you're scared)
1 TB adobo sauce
2 cloves garlic
3 stalks green onion, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp chile powder
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and mix until incorporated. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serving suggestion: Toss with roasted broccoli or shredded cabbage.

Did I mention I chased this delicious meal with a cocktail? Indeed I did! A watermelon and lime margarita, to be exact. Just pretend that picture below is in a margarita glass rimmed with salt, m-kay? Went perfectly with my Mexican fare! Just the limeade would be a refreshing treat anyone could enjoy on a hot Summer day.

Watermelon Limeade

5lb watermelon, chopped into chunks
3-4 limes, juiced
1/4 cup agave nectar or simple syrup, or more to taste
pinch of salt
  1. In a food processor (or blender if you have a descent one), mix watermelon until it’s a liquid. You’ll probably have to do it in batches to avoid the juices spilling out. Pour it through a mesh strainer to remove any pulp. 
  2. Add the lime juice, agave or syrup, and salt, and stir to combine.  Add more sweetener as needed, it'll depend on how sweet your watermelon is.  
To make this an adult beverage, blend with ice and tequila and serve in a margarita glass, or for a margarita on the rocks, pour a shot of tequila and the limeade over ice cubes.