Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mexican Fiesta Thursday

Southwestern Cornbread Strata with Sausage and Cheese

Cook's notes: This recipe was adapted from
It was the perfect dish for me to use up leftover cornbread squares and muffins from a recent chili dinner. Two boxes of cornbread mix were used. Once cornbread is baked in a 9 x 13 pan cut into cubes and dry out on a cookie sheet for several hours before assembling the make-ahead strata. It's a great brunch and company meal.

  • 12-16 oz. Andouille sausage (I tested with Jimmy Dean Sausage-reduced fat)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup mini sweet red and yellow peppers, diced
  • 1 cup of frozen corn, defrosted or 1 cup of drained canned corn
  • 1 cup thick salsa (drain off excess liquid)
  • 8 cups dried out cornbread cubes 
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tb. chives
  • 1 Tb. parsley flakes 
  • optional add in minced chiles or roasted red peppers
  • 2-1/2 cups shredded Mexican Blend Cheeses 
  • Grease a 13 x 9 pan.
  • Cook sausage, peppers and onion in 1 TB. oil (5-7 minutes) crumble meat.
  • Remove from heat, stir in corn, salsa and cornbread until combined.
  • In a blender add spices with milk and eggs, blend until smooth. 
  • Spread cornbread mixture in pan and pour milk mixture over. Press lightly with a spatula so bread soaks up the liquid.
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.  
  • Bake in a preheated oven uncovered 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from the center.
  • Sprinkle cheeses on the last 15 minutes of baking time. 
  • Strata should set 10 minutes before cutting-top each piece with a spoonful of salsa.
Sombrero Spread
Serve with chips

  • 1/2 can of refried beans
  • 3/4 lb. ground beef or chorizo sausage, cooked drained and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1-1/2 TB. chili powder
  • 1 medium jar chunky salsa
  • Brown ground beef or sausage with onion,drain and crumble.
  • In a saucepan heat 1/2 can refried beans, chili powder, salsa.
  • Stir in cheese and meat, heat slowly until almost bubbly.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl, top with diced green onion or cilantro -serve with a spoon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Fudge Brownies with Chocolate Ganache 
Cook's notes: A heavenly treat for all those chocolate lovers. Recipe comes from Crunchy, Creamy Sweet site.
Ingredients for the brownies:
  • 10 TB. unsalted butter
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • ¼ c packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ c + 2 TB. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ c all-purpose flour
for the ganache:
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
  • ¼ c + 2 TB. heavy whipping cream
  • 1½ TB. granulated sugar
  • 1½ TB. corn syrup
  • additional:
  • 9 Hershey's Chocolate Hearts
  • sprinkles
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Line a 8"x8" baking pan with foil. Set aside.
  • In a double boiler, melt together butter, sugars, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk together.
  • When all the butter has melted and everything is mixed together, remove the bowl from the heat and set aside to cool. It should be warm but not hot or it will scramble the eggs.
  • At this point, I poured the cocoa mixture into a mixing bowl and mixed for 2 minutes. You can use whisk or wooden spoon.
  • Add vanilla and stir.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • When your batter looks shiny, it's time to add flour. Add it all at once and beat until it disappears in the batter.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared pan and spread evenly.
  • Bake 25 - 30 minutes.
  • Cool completely before cutting.
to make the ganache:
  • Place chocolate in a small mixing bowl.
  • Bring the cream, sugar and corn syrup to boil. Pour over chocolate. Do not stir. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Pour over brownies. Let set for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with sprinkles. Arrange the chocolate hearts. Chill the brownies in the fridge until set, about 1 hour.
Who can resist this easy sweet Valentine's Day treat.  All you need is Cherry 7-Up, vanilla ice cream and a red licorice straw.
Cupcakes decorated with red hots candy.
Remember my puff pastry hearts from last year? Check out the easy recipe that will impress your guests.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Popular Mardi Gras Dish

Mardi Gras also called Fat Tuesday refers to events of the Carnival celebrations. beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three King's Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.

Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc. In many areas, the term "Mardi Gras" has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day. In some American cities, it is now called "Mardi Gras Day".

Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish of Spanish and French influence. It originated in the Caribbean Islands. The meal was paired with chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting sprinkled with purple, green and yellow sprinkles (Mardi Gras colors) and roasted asparagus. 
Cook’s notes: You will need to add more chicken broth on the second day to serve the dish, since the rice absorbs the liquid. Recipes serves 8.

  • 1 box Zatarains's New Orleans style Jambalaya Mix 
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2-3 cups diced Andouille sausage
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz.)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes (basil, oregano, garlic)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 cup of water
  • ¾ cup diced onion
  • 1 small green pepper-diced
  • 4 celery ribs (stalks) diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • ½ tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 bay leaf
Optional: substitute cooked shrimp for chicken and add in last 15 minutes of cooking time

  • Cook chicken breasts at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and sausage for 20 minutes.
  • Cool and dice both meats-set aside.
  • In a large skillet sauté onions, celery, green pepper and garlic.
  • Add in water, broth, spices, jambalaya rice mixture, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, bay leaf and diced meats.
  • Simmer 45 minutes on low heat covered. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Happy Chinese New Year-The Year of the Monkey begins on February 8 and lasts until Jan. 27, 2017
People born in the Year of the Monkey are characterised as lively, quick-witted, curious, innovative and mischievous, but it is also believed to be one of the most unlucky years in the Chinese calendar. The general image of people in this zodiac sign is of always being smart, clever and intelligent, especially in their career and wealth.
Taboos, traditions and superstitions dominate the auspicious time. If you want to ensure you have a lucky, prosperous year, here's a list of what to do and what not to do.
1. Clean the house thoroughly on Sunday, New Year's Eve. A clean home means sweeping away any misfortunes to make room for a fresh, ordered start to the New Year.
2. Look out if you're a monkey. According to Chinese philosophy, those born with the same zodiac sign as the year's designated animal are going to have a particularly difficult year. Those born in the Year of the Monkey – 1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 and 2004 – are urged to lie low.
3. Decorate your home with red lanterns and the "Fu" or luck character.
Come together as a family, travelling home to relatives, especially for a reunion dinner on New Year's Eve, celebrating togetherness.
4. Eat fish, which is essential to the reunion feast. The words for carp sound like "good luck" and "gift". Place the head in the direction of the most distinguished or oldest guest, who eats first, then utter the lucky saying "Niannian you yu". Spring rolls resemble gold bars. Tangerines stand for success and pomelos bring wealth. Celery (for wisdom), plums (for a sharp mind), chicken (with the head and feet attached), steamed buns (piled high), lettuce (for being alive) and sweets (for a sweet year) are also customary. Dumplings, or "jiaozi", resemble old Chinese currency, while long noodles and peaches symbolise longevity. "Niangao" or steamed rice cakes, are a southern delicacy, "gao" meaning "high", as in to make better or improve.
5. Paste spring festival couplets around your front door, calling for blessings on the home and land. Written on red paper in black or gold calligraphy, the scrolls must have parallel structures and antithetical meanings, such as: "丹凤呈祥龙献瑞 Dragon and phoenix bring the prosperity / 红桃贺岁杏迎春 Peach and apricot blossoms welcome the spring / 福满人间 Blessing on the Land".
6. Wear new clothes. Out with the old, in with the new – particularly if they are bright, happy colours. Red symbolises prosperity, so monkeys are advised to wear red to up their good fortune quotients.
7. Give red envelopes, or "hongbao" filled with coins and notes.
8. Set off firecrackers to drive away evil spirits.
9. Move slippers and shoes indoors before going to bed, to protect them from the thieving hands of evil spirits.
1. Use sharp objects in the three days or so of the New Year.
2. Buy, give or do four of anything. The word for four has the misfortune of sounding like the word for death.
3. Wear white or black, which are traditional colours of mourning.
4. Eat congee or rice porridge on New Year morning. It symbolises poverty.
5. Buy new shoes until after day 15 so as to avoid rough seas in the year ahead.
6. Give sharp objects, scissors and knives as presents. In fact, gift no-nos extend well beyond things that cut, to include shoes, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, clocks, pears, cut flowers, black or 
white objects or mirrors.
7. Sweep the house on New Year's Day, so as to avoid sweeping away good fortune.
8. Swear and use foul or negative language or talk about death, ghosts and the past year. Now is a time to be positive and look ahead, not at times gone by.
9. Take medicine or break any household objects over the holiday. Illness or harm done during the festive season are believed to cast negativity on the year ahead.
10. Wake family up or use their name to wake them on New Year's Day for fear of rendering them bedridden and lazy all year.
11. Wash hair or visit the hairdresser, so as to not wash or trim all that freshly accumulated luck away.

Well now that you have had Chinese 101 to get off on a good start for the New Year how 
about a reading list. Here are some of the top picks from
Weekend Links: Happy Chinese New Year with Great Kidlit Books

and 24 Year of the Monkey kid friendly crafts.
This week's recipes from Ever Ready will focus on celebrating the Chinese New Year  

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Weekend Round-Up of Healthy Dishes

Some of the week's best

Roasted Root Vegetables
Cook's notes: A healthy side dish that pairs well with a roast, roasted chicken or baked pork chops.

  • A mixture of vegetables such as celery root, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes and red onion slices 
  • One ripe pear
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dice or slice all veggies the same size. 
  • Slice one ripe pear. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Mix 2 TB. fresh thyme and 2 TB. fresh Rosemary or ½ tsp. dried thyme and1/2 tsp. dried Rosemary with 3 TB. olive oil 
  • Toss veggies with olive oil/spice mixture 
  • Arrange veggies in a single layer on baking sheet and drizzle with balsamic vinegar 
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until veggies are tender al dente. Be sure to stir mixture once halfway through the baking time.
  • Add in pear slices the last 10 minutes of cooking time. 
Easy Ideas to Adapt Your Recipes reducing the fat but not the taste

For bread puddings and fruit breads:
Use this: Mini-muffin pans
Not that: Souffle or baking dishes
In puddings and pudding pie fillings:
Use this: 2% milk
Not that: Heavy cream
In fruit pies:
Use this: Half the sugar
Not that: All the sugar
For every cup of sugar you don't use, you'll save 744 calories. "It doesn't change the chemistry of the pie, so you can go as low in sugar as you'd like. In fact, a fruit pie's natural sweetness is often all you need."
In cookies and crusts:
Use this: Half whole-wheat pastry flour and half all-purpose flour
Not that: Just all-purpose flour
Whole wheat has 12 grams of filling fiber in every cup, and your guests probably won't notice the difference.
In brownies, chocolate cake, and fudge:
Use this: Three tablespoons of cocoa powder
Not that: One ounce of baking chocolate
Substituting cocoa powder peels off 85 calories and 13 grams of fat.
In cheesecake:
Use this: Part-skim ricotta cheese
Not that: Cream cheese
You'll double the amount of hunger-fighting protein and cut the fat by close to 60 grams for each cup you use. "It's much less heavy and caloric than cream cheese," Gans says.
In brownies, cakey cookies, and fruit breads:
Use this: Pureed pumpkin
Not that: Oil
Pumpkin puree keeps baked goods deliciously moist, and for every half-cup you sub out, you'll save more than 900 calories and 100 grams of fat.

French Choucroute Garnie
Cook's notes: Choucroute garnie is French for dressed sauerkraut. It is a famous Alsatian recipe for preparing sauerkraut with sausages, other salted meats and potatoes. Families in Alsace generally eat choucroute garnie during the wintertime, because it's such a hearty, filling dish. So put this dish on your list of recipes to try some winter's evening.
If you are not a huge fan of sauerkraut it can be omitted. The aromas from this dish while it cooks are amazing. You will not be disappointed with the flavor.
Adapted from BHG serves 8-10

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced about 1-1/2 cups
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-12 oz. bottle of beer or ale (I cut back to 3/4 of the can/bottle )
  • 1-1/2 cups apple juice
  • 3 TB. cornstarch
  • 2 TB. brown mustard
  • 1 TB.caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/8 tsp. cracked pepper
  • 12 potatoes peeled and cubed (around 6-8) 
  • 1-1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 3 pork chops- cut up into chunks
  • 7 oz. (half a package) smoked kielbasa 
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
  • 1 small can sauerkraut, drained, rinsed and squeezed dry

  • In a pan cover potatoes and carrots with water and cook covered 15 minutes or until tender but still firm, drain. 
  • In small fry pan heat olive oil and fry garlic with onions about 3 minutes.
  • Mix cornstarch with 1/2 cup apple juice. 
  • In a large saucepan add 3/4 to 1 can or bottle of the ale, apple juice and apple juice mixed with cornstarch, mustard, caraway seeds, rosemary, pepper and sauteed onion and garlic. Cook on low heat until slightly thickened and bubbly.
  • In a casserole dish layer cut meat, onions/garlic, apple chunks and potato/carrot mixture. Pour apple juice/ale mixture over top. Sprinkle with Herbes de Provence. 
  • Warmed sauerkraut can be added right before serving as a side dish or added in with meat and potatoes before cooking. 
  • Bake covered with foil for 35-40 minutes.There will be a lot of juice so use a slotted spoon to serve.
The relationship between imagination and knowledge is how we best tell the critical stories of the desert. [Photo of rock wall with scorpion poem illuminated by blacklight]
Blacklight Scorpion Poem by Alberto Ríos, photo by Rhonda Spencer

This picture was taken today in Tubac, AZ mid afternoon. I was a bit awestruck noticing the diffusion of light in the sky behind the mountain contrasting it against the starkness of the desert landscape.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Chicken Enchiladas and Coconut Shrimp

Recipe serves 4-6 and adapted from gimmesomeoven
k's note:  A timesaver using deli rotisserie chicken. 
  • 2TB. oil 
  • 1 cup sweet onion,diced
  • 1/2 cup green peppers, diced
  • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into small 1/2-inch pieces 
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Adobo seasoning or Mexican Seasoning
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained and patted dry on a paper towel 
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans or lentils, rinsed and drained 
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 8 large flour tortillas 
  • 3 cups Mexican-blend shredded cheese(low fat) 
  • 1 batch homemade red enchilada sauce (recipe posted below) or 2 cans (10 oz.) store-bought red enchilada sauce 
  • (optional: 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If making homemade enchilada sauce prepare.
  • In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers, saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced chicken, green chiles, and season with Adobo or Mexican seasoning, salt and pepper. Saute for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  • To assemble the enchiladas, set up an assembly line including: tortillas, enchilada sauce, beans, corn, chicken mixture, and cheese. 
  • Lightly grease your 13 x 9 baking dish. Coat bottom with some of the enchilada sauce. 
  • Lay out a tortilla, and spread two tablespoons of sauce over the surface of the tortilla. Add beans and corn in a line down the middle of the tortilla, then add in a spoonful of the chicken mixture, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Roll up tortilla and place in baking dish. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Then spread the remaining enchilada sauce on top of the tortillas, and sprinkle on the remaining shredded cheese. 
  • Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro if desired.
Red Enchilada Sauce
Cook's notes: This homemade red enchilada sauce is WAY better than anything you can buy in the can, and quick and easy to make as well! Prep time 5 minutes. Makes a great homemade gift.

  • 2 TB. vegetable oil 
  • 2 TB. all-purpose or gluten-free flour 
  • 2 TB. chili powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin 
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock 
  • Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir together over the heat for one minute. Stir in the remaining seasonings (chili powder through sugar). Then gradually add in the stock, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until thick. 
  • Use immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.
Cook's notes: This coconut shrimp is made with a quick 3 step process. It is only one of 12 game day foods that are sure winners. Check out 
and recipe for coconut shrimp with orange sauce at