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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

07/21/2017

~ Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce~

IMG_1650I'm not proclaiming this recipe "easy" because I have an easy or easier version of a hard recipe. I'm telling you it's "easy" because:  it is easy.  It's so easy, I don't understand why anyone who loves enchiladas with red sauce would purchase any of the brand name enchilada sauces (and there are plenty to choose from) -- unless they don't realize how easy red enchilada sauce is to make.  I know, because for a number of years I bounced around from label to label, sampling store-bought brands, trying to find "the one just for me" in which "the spice was right".

A bit about New Mexico-style red enchilada sauce:

New Mexico is known for its fresh and dried red chile peppers, so, it should come as no surprise that any recipe for New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce would revolve around high-quality chile powder, most commonly:  ancho, guajillo and/or New Mexico chile powder (which is pricier than generic chili powder).   Some versions of this sauce contain tomatoes, tomato sauce, or, tomato paste, which add acidy tang and gives it a brighter red color -- my version does not.  I fell in love with New Mexico-style red chile enchiladas in San Antonio, Texas, and, I was told the bold-flavored amber-red sauce (that I couldn't get enough of), got its tang from vinegar, and its color from chile powder -- not tomatoes.  I didn't question it.  Later that afternoon, I went shopping.  

IMG_2459 IMG_2481 6a0120a8551282970b017d4140e28d970cI made a small investment in some Mexican-style chili powder, and, for simplicity, I settled on one high-quality chile blend that's manufactured in New Mexico (Santa Fé Seasons via Apple Canyon Gourmet).  I added some Mexican-style oregano to my spice rack too.

Once you know what the spelling means, you'll know what's in it:

CHILE:  Spelled with an "e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family (example:  chile peppers grow in the garden).

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (example:  white chicken chili, chili con carne, chili sauce).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with and "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more types of dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of chile powder and ground, dried spices (common examples:  ground cumin, garlic and/or onion powder), meaning: the manufacturer has added various spices to pure chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

End the oregano debate:  they're not the same.

MEDITERRANEAN OREGANO: is a member of the mint family.  It grows in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.  It's sometimes called wild marjoram.  Mediterranean oregano has a robust, savory, peppery flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Greek or Italian cuisines.

MEXICAN OREGANO: is a member of lemon verbena family. It's native to Mexico and Central and South America.  Sometimes called Puerto Rican oregano, it has a vibrant, citrusy tang and slight licorice flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Latin American and Tex-Mex cuisines.

IMG_17142  tablespoons neural-flavored cooking oil (avocado, corn, vegetable, etc.)

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce & Gravy flour (or unbleached, all-purpose flour)

4  tablespoons Mexican-style chili powder

2  tablespoons Sante Fé Seasons Chile blend (Note:  This is a blend of New Mexico red chile powder, cilantro and saffron.  If you don't want to purchase it, which I highly-suggest you do, omit it and add 1 additional tablespoon Mexican-style chili powder, to this recipe.)

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon Mexican oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock (depending on what you're filling your enchiladas with:  beef, chicken or cheese)

1  tablespoon white vinegar

IMG_1601 IMG_1605 IMG_1607 IMG_1615~Step 1.  In a 1-quart saucier or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  Add the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Whisking vigorously and constantly, cook until the roux is thick, smooth, bubbly and short of browning, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Lower heat and whisk in the dry spices.

IMG_1617 IMG_1622 IMG_1630 IMG_1639~Step 2.  After the dry spices are added, the mixture will be, grainy, lumpy and bumpy.  Slowly and in a thin stream, whisk in the beef, chicken or vegetable stock, then add the vinegar.  Adjust heat to a steady, somewhat-rapid simmer and cook, whisking frequently but not constantly, until sauce is nicely-thickened and reduced by about 1/3, 15-20 minutes.  You'll have 1 1/2 cups.

Use as directed, or, refrigerate overnight (which I recommend):

IMG_1632Some things are simply better made from scratch:

IMG_1649Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups New Mexico-Style red enchilada sauce.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; 1 quart saucier or saucepan; whisk

IMG_9033Cook's Note:  The tortilla is Mexico's everyday bread.  Corn tortillas are made from corn flour (masa) and flour tortillas are made from wheat flour (all-purpose flour).  Burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos are classic Mexican specialties prepared using a wide variety of fillings.  Tacos and enchiladas distinguish themselves by being the two dishes made with corn tortillas, so please, do not substitute flour tortillas when making my beef or cheese enchiladas. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/18/2017

~ A Very Berry Sour Cherry and/or Blueberry Cobbler ~

IMG_1543While I adore a traditional cherry or blueberry pie (who doesn't), sometimes, especially July thru September, the months when there is so much (too much) going on in our garden, I need to speed things in order to make use of all the fresh fruits and vegetables in a timely, manner.  When it comes "short shelf life" fruits like our sour cherries and blueberries, this cobbler is my solution. All I need is four cups of one or the other or a combination of both, along with 15 minutes of hands-on time, and:  dessert is in the oven.  There's more.  In the Winter months, I can make this cobbler using frozen cherries or blueberries without any compromise in flavor or texture.

4 cups sour cherries or blueberries, or a combination of both +

IMG_15065-6 pantry staples, &, in 15 minutes: dessert is in the oven.

IMG_15024  cups pitted sour cherries or blueberries  (Note:  If you are using frozen berries, thaw them for about 45-60 minutes and use them partially-frozen, not completely thawed.)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1  cup pancake mix

1  cup sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  cup milk

2  teaspoons pure cherry extract (for cherry cobbler), or pure blueberry extract (for blueberry cobbler, or, 1 teaspoon each (for cherry-berry cobbler)

Sugar 'n Cinnamon

IMG_1510 IMG_1515~ Step 1.  If the cherries and/or blueberries are frozen, thaw them as directed above.  Place butter in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish a melt the butter in the microwave.  Tilt the dish to evenly coat the entire bottom with the melted butter.  Set aside.

IMG_1517 IMG_1523 IMG_1524Step 2.  In a large bowl, stir together pancake mix, sugar and cinnamon.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the milk and the extract(s).  Add milk mixture to pancake mixture.  Whisk until a thin, smooth batter forms.

IMG_1529 IMG_1531 IMG_1536 IMG_1550~Step 3.  Pour all of the batter into the baking dish, right on top of the butter.  Do not stir the batter into the butter.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon/distribute the cherries and/or blueberries evenly over the batter.  Sprinkle the top of the fruit with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven 40-45 minutes.  Note:  If fruit was frozen and partially-thawed, baking time will be slightly longer, 55-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool.

Note:  While the cobbler is baking, the cherries and blueberries (or any fruit) will sink to the bottom of the baking dish.  At the same time, the batter is going to bubble and bake up to the surface in random spots across the surface.  The cobbler will be golden brown and will spring back slightly when touched in the center.  Cool 1 hour or longer (3-6 hours) prior to serving.

Cobbler going into 350º oven to bake (40-45 minutes for freshly-picked fruit or 55-60 minutes for frozen, partially-thawed fruit):

IMG_1536Cobbler out of oven & cooling 1-6 hours prior to serving.

IMG_1550Serve slightly-warm or at room temperature:

IMG_1557With whipped cream or ice cream, your choice:

IMG_1563A  Very Berry Sour Cherry and/or Blueberry Cobbler:  Recipe yields 1,  8" x 8" x 2" cobbler/8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; whisk; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish

IMG_4816 2Cook's Note:  Here in my Happy Valley backyard, sour pie-cherry season ended about three weeks ago, blueberries are ripe for the picking, and peaches, both cling stone and free stone, are beginning to ripen on our trees.  While I don't freeze peaches (they don't freeze as well as cherries and blueberries -- peaches get watery and mushy), I water-bath can them in glass mason jars. My recipe for  ~ Alice's Super-Simple Georgia Peach-Pie Cobbler ~, is a great use for them (freshly-picked or canned (even store-bought canned) -- it's divine.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

07/16/2017

~ Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo ~

IMG_1490Over a period of five-six years, Joe and I had occasion to be in the San Diego area once or twice a year, and, on a few of those trips, we had the pleasure of spending time at the La Costa Resort & Spa.  Along with all of the amenities and services one would expect to find at a resort and a spa, they specialized in and excelled at serving lighter and healthier cuisine without being imposing.  On one visit there, I encountered a refreshingly-fruity strawberry-mayo concoction that showed up in a tossed strawberry chicken salad with bitty bits of bacon and blue cheese -- just enough salty, organic pork fat and tangy cheese to pleasure the palate, but not enough to make one feel guilty.  I had it for lunch, with a lovely glass of wine, both of the two days we were there.

IMG_1469La Costa's salad combo was delightful, but, it was the uniquely-fruity, slightly-spicy, thick, creamy mayo-based dressing that got my attention -- it was indeed a savory, rather than sweet use for strawberries that wouldn't have occurred to me on my own (even though I do use strawberries and raspberries to make vinaigrette).  That said, it works.  A tart and sweet purée of fresh strawberries stirred into some mayonnaise, along with some cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt, is simply wonderful.  FYI:  It works great with raspberries or peeled, chopped peaches too.

Turning a superb salad into a stellar sandwich.

While I never would have come up with the idea for the salad dressing on my own, it didn't take me long to come up with the idea to transition the salad into a sandwich. Served on warm, freshly-baked biscuits, I received more than a few quizzical looks when my family and tailgate friends (even the ladies) were presented with pink mayonnaise to top their sandwiches.  That said, not a one, not once, after the first few bites, expressed anything other than the desire for a second sandwich.  Live dangerously -- give this uniquely-different sandwich combination a try.

Part One:  Making the Strawberry Mayonnaise  

IMG_1437For the strawberry mayonnaise:

1  generous cup hulled and sliced strawberries

1  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

2  teaspoons dehydrated minced onion

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/16  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_1441 IMG_1444 IMG_1448 IMG_1451 IMG_1457~Step 1.  Hull and slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade. With motor running, process to a purée, 30-45 seconds.  Add the mayonnaise, dehydrated onion, black pepper and sea salt.  With motor running, process again, until mayonnaise is thoroughly incorporated and mixture is uniform in color, 15-30 more seconds. Transfer to a food storage container, cover and refrigerate, 2 hours or overnight (overnight is best), to chill and thicken.  Keep stored in refrigerator 3-4 days.

Part Two:  Making the Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits

IMG_1477For the sandwiches:

8  biscuits, preferably freshly-baked and warm, sliced in half, or, small, soft sandwich rolls, sliced in half, your choice

12  slices crisply-fried bacon (1 1/2 slices per sandwich)

3/4  cup blue cheese crumbles (one generous tablespoon per sandwich)

3/4  cup each (all tossed together in one bowl):  shredded iceberg lettuce, diced fresh strawberries, and, diced sweet Vidalia onion (a generous 1/4 cup lettuce/strawberry and onion mixture per sandwich) 

2  roasted- or poached- chicken breast halves, pulled into bite-sized pieces

strawberry mayonnaise (from above recipe)

~ Step 1.  In the order listed, place 3 half-strips of bacon atop the bottom of each biscuit half, then scatter a generous tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles atop the bacon.  Top the blue cheese with a generous 1/4 cup of the lettuce, strawberry and onion mixture.  Heap a generous mound of pulled roasted or poached chicken atop the lettuce mix, then, top with the other half of the warm biscuit.  Serve each sandwich with additional strawberry-mayo to the side for dipping or drizzling.

IMG_1483Strawberry Chicken & Biscuits w/Strawberry Mayo:  Recipe yields 2 cups strawberry mayonnaise and instructions to make 8, 3"-round biscuit sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  strawberry huller (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; food processor or blender; rubber spatula; 2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_7872Cook's Note:  In the event you're interested in a crispy-crunchy chicken sandwich instead, feel free to skip the roasting or poaching and try my ~ Happy-Valley-Ranch Deep-Fried Chicken Sandwich ~, topped with ~ Mel's "Happy Valley" Ranch-Style Salad Dressing ~.  I guarantee, it will make you "happy".

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)