Kitchen Tip—Party Time Saver

When I host a party I like to have as much done in advance as possible. This allows me extra time for visiting with my guests. I found this timesaver online and loved it.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted my son’s second birthday with over 25 people. That is a lot of ice cream to scoop while people are anxiously waiting for desert. To cut down on that wait I prepped my ice cream scoops in advance. The day before the party I removed the ice cream from the freezer and allowed it to soften for a few minutes before scooping. Working with softened ice cream made scooping a breeze and saved some wear and tear on my wrists. I lined my muffin pan with paper cups and scooped the ice cream directly into the cups getting perfectly formed scoops. I then put the entire muffin pan in the freezer so that the scooped ice cream could harden back up over night. With this time saver, serving desert at the party was such a breeze! This was not only convenient and easy, but it was also a nice presentation for a simple scoop of ice cream. Nowadays you can find muffin cups in so many colors or fun prints that you can really have fun with this and get something to match your color scheme or theme.

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Recipe—Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Mexican food is a staple in our household, we typically eat it at least twice a week. Yes, I am a total gringa that can cook up some mean Mexican food. Enchiladas are one of my husband’s absolute favorite meals that I prepare. An enchilada is typically a tortilla rolled around filling and topped with sauce. However, this recipe could easily be served as an enchilada casserole by layering the ingredients to save a few minutes. These are fairly time consuming to make, which is why I typically make them on the weekends. But they are ohhhhhh so worth it.

Note: This recipe makes 12–16 enchiladas when made with soft taco sized tortillas. If you are having a dinner party, then this recipe will be perfectly sized and affordable.  For my family this recipe makes enough for three meals and some leftovers. These enchiladas freeze incredibly well, so I typically split it up into three or more containers and freeze some of them. If you would like to freeze the enchiladas, I find that the foil containers you can buy at the supermarket are perfect. Some even come with lids. Best of all, they are disposable, which makes for an easy dinner, and even easier cleanup after a long day of work. (See frozen cooking instructions at the end of the recipe.) I like to seal mine up using my Food Saver bags. This really does help keep them fresh and I find that they last at least 6 months without getting freezer burn.

INGREDIENTS
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (7oz) can of diced green chilies
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
1 c green salsa
2 (28 oz) cans Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
12–16 soft taco sized tortillas
4 c grated cheddar cheese
2 (6 oz) cans sliced black olives
Sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo are all great as garnishes.

STEPS

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add chicken breasts.
  • Boil chicken breast for 20–25 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from pot and place on a large cutting board to cool.
  • Using a large fork shred the chicken breasts to pieces.
  • Preheat oven to 375º.
  • In a large skillet combine onions, garlic, and oil.
  • Sauté onions and garlic until soft, about 5–7 minutes.
  • Add in chilies, garlic powder, chili, cumin, salt and pepper, green salsa, and one cup of the green chile enchilada sauce.
  • Cook over medium-high heat until bubbling.
  • Add in shredded chicken breasts and heat through. If the chicken mixture still seems dry after stirring, add in additional green salsa or enchilada sauce until wet and saucy.
  • Remove skillet from heat.
  • Wrap tortillas in foil (6–8 tortillas in two packs) and place in oven just long enough to heat through. (I prefer to microwave my tortillas 4 at a time to expedite the process. If microwaving, just place tortillas between two paper towels and heat for 30–60 seconds.)
  • Pour some of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of your baking to dish(es) to evenly coat.
  • Lay tortillas out flat on an oversized cutting board.
  • Place a handful of cheese on the tortillas and sprinkle with sliced olives.
  • Top the cheese and olives with a handful of your chicken mixture.
  • Roll up the enchiladas and place seam side down in the baking dish. Continue rolling up enchiladas until you are out of chicken. (Be sure to save extra cheese and olives for the top of the enchiladas.)
  • Pour remaining enchilada sauce over your enchiladas and top with remaining cheese and sliced olives.
  • Bake in oven for 25 minutes. If cheese has not started to brown after that much time, turn on the boiler for a couple of minutes just to finish it off.
  • Remove from oven and allow to set for 5 minutes before serving.

Frozen cooking instructions: Preheat oven to 425º. Cover loosely with foil and place on a cookie sheet. Bake covered for 45–55 minutes or until cheese and sauce are bubbly. Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until cheese just starts to brown on top.

Recipe—Beef Wellington with a Red Wine Mushroom Gravy

Beef wellington with mashed potatoes covered in red wine mushroom gravy and green bean bacon bundles

Still trying to rack your brain about what you will be cooking up your sweetie for Valentine’s Day? If you’re looking for a meal sure to impress, search no further. Beef wellington is very elegant and full of flavor. This has become my favorite dinner for special occasions. It is certainly a little more time consuming to make, but it is relatively easy and well worth it. I was skeptical of the liver pate at first, but paired with mushrooms and fresh herbs, the flavor is rich and fabulous. If you have never had a “foodgasm,” this will certainly cause you to have your first.  My husband and I were moaning through the entire dinner when I made it for the first time.

Note: This dish can be made with individual beef filets if you are unable to find a small tenderloin roast. You can prepare the pastry wrapped meat a day ahead of time for an effortless meal.

BEEF INGREDIENTS
2–3 lb beef tenderloin roast
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 c butter
4 tbsp brandy
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 (4 ounce) can liver pate
2 green onions, chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

RED WINE MUSHROOM GRAVY INGREDIENTS
1/4 c yellow onion, minced
6 large mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 c red wine
1 (10 1/2 oz) can beef broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

PASTRY INGREDIENTS
1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets at room temperature
1 egg, beaten

BEEF STEPS

  • Rub roast with garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Melt butter in large skillet.
  • Sear the roast in skillet over medium-high heat for 4–5 minutes on each side.
  • Pour brandy over the roast and be sure to evenly coat it. (Flame brandy if you are comfortable with doing so.)
  • Remove roast from pan and set aside uncovered.
  • In the same skillet, sauté chopped mushrooms for 4­–5 minutes and set aside. Allow mushrooms to cool for a few minutes.
  • Mix pate with cooled mushrooms, green onions, and parsley.

RED WINE MUSHROOM GRAVY STEPS

  • Over medium heat, sauté yellow onion and sliced mushrooms using the same skillet.
  • Stir in flour and gradually add wine, broth, and bay leaf.
  • Stir until sauce bubbles and is thickened.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

PASTRY STEPS

  • Roll out pastry sheet and spread your pate mixture evenly leaving a one-inch border around the edge.
  • Place the cooked roast at one end of the pastry sheet and roll away from you.
  • Fold in the ends of the pastry being sure that the entire roast is covered.
  • Place seam side down on a cookie sheet or in a Pyrex dish.
  • Using the second sheet of puff pastry, finish off your wrapped roast with decorative elements if you’d like. I recommend using a festive cookie cutter. This extra step yields impressive results. Dough can be attached using beaten egg.
  • Brush pastry with the beaten egg.
  • Bake at 425º for 20–25 minutes, or until pastry is browned.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Transfer to cutting board and allow to rest for 3–4 minutes.
  • Slice roast and serve.

Kitchen Tip—Measurement Conversion Chart

Sometimes when trying to double or triple a recipe all that math makes my head hurt. And who wants to measure out 12 teaspoons when you can just do 4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup instead? This handy measurement conversion chart is a must have for anyone that cooks. Yes, something like this is probably in one of your cookbooks, but do you really want get it down off that top shelf? Print this cheat sheet out and put it on your fridge or tape it inside one of your cabinet doors for a quick and easy reference. Hope this helps you out in the kitchen!

 

 

Recipe—Western Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend I thought I would share one of my favorite finger food recipes. There are many variations of jalapeño poppers out there, but these are my favorite. They are absolutely evil and they are sure to start your Super Bowl party off with a bang. These are perfect balance of spicy, salty, and tangy. Make three times more than you think you will need, just trust me on that. Most people end up inhaling several. They really are that good.

Note: Poppers can be prepared a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge right before cooking if needed. These can also be finished off on the bbq instead of the oven to give them a nice smoky flavor.

INGREDIENTS:
5 jalapeños, seeded and deveined based on desired heat
5 slices (about 1/4” thick) of cheddar cheese cut in half lengthwise
5 slices of bacon cut in half
¼ c of your favorite bbq sauce

STEPS:

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Place bacon in a large pyrex dish so that the slices do not overlap.
  • Pre-cook the bacon in the oven for 8 minutes flipping once halfway through. You do not want the pieces to be overcooked. They should still be partially raw and flexible so that you can easily wrap the slices around the poppers.
  • While the bacon is cooking, place a block of cheddar cheese in each jalapeño half. You may need to cut the cheddar block slightly shorter to fit within the pepper’s cavity. The pepper will fill in with the cheese once melted.
  • When all of the jalapeños are filled, and the bacon has cooled, wrap the half slice of bacon around each jalapeño. Secure the bacon with a toothpick if necessary.
  • Place wrapped poppers on a baking sheet and dab with bbq sauce.
  • Cook in the oven for 10–14 minutes or until bacon looks cooked through and cheese is melted and bubbly. If you want to give the bacon a little extra crisp turn on the broiler for a minute before removing from the oven.
  • Dab with additional bbq sauce before serving.