Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Got Salsa?

Back at the beginning of May, I saw that Foodbuzz was having a recipe contest sponsored by Herdez® Salsa. I submitted my Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe, figuring "you can't win if you don't play" but never really thinking I'd win. Well, guess what? I did!! As part of the prize, I was told to expect a sampling of Herdez products. Imagine my surprise when my "sampling" arrived in a 40 lb. box last night! After wading through packing tape, peanuts and bubble wrap, we uncovered....
...2 CASES of salsa! (1 medium and 1 salsa verde)

Good thing I like salsa! I've got several recipes that call for salsa - and of course, it's always good straight out of the bottle with chips - but I'm always open to new ideas, especially for the salsa verde. What's your favorite way to eat salsa?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Potato Salad Even a Husband Could Love

I promise I won't go on and on again about Mr. ValleyWriter's lack of love for potatoes. Suffice it to say, he wasn't thrilled when I told him we were having potato salad as a side dish with dinner. That is, until, I told him my inspiration to kick it up a notch - BACON! Yes, I think most of us will agree, bacon makes almost everything better - potato salad included. So, if you're looking for a little something different for your next picnic - I highly recommend throwing a handful of crumbled bacon into your favorite potato salad recipe. 

Here's mine:

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. red bliss potatoes
2 eggs
4 slices thick cut, nitrate-free bacon
2/3 c. light mayo
2 Tbsp. honey mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Method:
1. Scrub and rinse potatoes, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large pot and cover with hot water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for 7-10 minutes until a fork slides easily through the potatoes. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Repeat 2-3 times until potatoes feel warm, but not hot. Lay potatoes out on a large cutting board or baking sheet, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper and allow to cool completely.
2. Place eggs in a small saucepan and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as water reaches a full boil, cover saucepan with a tight fitting lid and remove from heat. Let sit 15 minutes. Carefully remove eggs from the saucepan with a spoon, place into a small bowl and rinse repeatedly with cold water (or submerge in ice water) until eggs feel cool.
3. Place 4 strips of bacon in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes on each side until bacon is nice and crispy (but not burnt). Remove from pan and drain between 2 paper towels.
4. In a small bowl, combine light mayo and honey mustard. Mix well.  

Now put it all together:
Shell the hard boiled eggs, chop and add to a large bowl. Crumble bacon into small pieces into the bowl. Add cooled potatoes. Pour mayo/mustard mix over the top and fold into the rest of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop. I actually thought the bacon flavor got more pronounced the longer it sat, so next time, I'll make it the night before.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just in time for Cinco De Mayo - Chicken Tortilla Soup

Being so close to Mexico, we have a lot of Mexican-inspired restaurants near us now. (I say "Mexican-inspired" because my limited experience with Mexican food leaves me with little authority to judge it's authenticity. Though I can tell you it's tasty!) One popular menu item is tortilla soup. And while I do enjoy eating it at restaurants, sometimes you just have to have homemade.

The problem is (or, rather, was) that I'd only ever made it in my slow cooker. But, I figured adapting my recipe to the stovetop wouldn't be that hard since I'm working from home and can spend leave a pot boiling for a couple of hours (not a luxury everyone has on a weeknight). Fortunately, even with my ancient cooking equipment, the soup turned out very yummy!
If you don't have recipe planned for Cinco De Mayo yet, I highly recommend this one. Serve with a margarita for an extra festive feel!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
1 large (8 ounce) chicken breast
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup salsa (I use medium heat salsa; adjust to your spice preference)
1 clove garlic, minced
kernels from 2 ears freshly cooked corn (or 1 cup frozen/canned corn)
1 tsp. ground Ancho chili pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 lime, cut into segments
2 cups tortilla chips
1/2 cup shredded cheese, if desired

Method:
Place chicken breast in a large pot. Pour chicken stock and salsa over top. Mix in garlic, corn, chili pepper and cumin. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and let cook 45 minutes.
Remove chicken from pot and let cool 5 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, take 2 forks and pull apart/shred the chicken breast.
Put shredded chicken back into soup. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
To serve, top bowls of soup with a handful of tortilla chips (which get crushed into the soup to soften), a wedge of lime and a sprinkle of cheese, if desired.

(To make this in a slow cooker, dump the first 7 ingredients in the crock and cook on low for about 6 hours. Remove chicken from crock, shred and return to crock for 1-2 hours to allow the flavor of the broth to penetrate the chicken. Follow instructions above for serving.)