Chicken Enchiladas

A week or two ago, I decided I wanted some Mexican food. Something reminiscent of the area south of the wall that He Who Shall Not Be Named wants to build. Tonight, I finally made it - really simple chicken enchiladas using flour tortillas. Okay... not exactly traditional, but I'm in Pennsylvania, not Mazatlán where my Uncle Dick was born. I take liberties.

The filling was pretty simple - diced onions, diced bell pepper, minced garlic, and a can of diced green chiles, cumin, chili powder, Mexican oregano, and Monterey Jack cheese. It was wrapped in a flour tortilla. I used Trader Joe's Salsa Verde as my enchilada sauce. The Salsa Verde was one of the products on the shelf when I started working for them back in 2001. It's passed the test of time and besides working as a dip, makes a really good green enchilada sauce.

I baked them in the oven at 350°F for 45 minutes.

I made four enchiladas, but when they came out of the oven it was evident that there was no way we were going to eat that much - so I cut them in half and we have another meal for another day. I made a Goya Amarillo Rice as a side - and we have more of that, as well.

Going south of the wall for our dinner sent us south of the wall for a bit of a pre-dinner imbibe of Patrón Añejo. We do have good taste in liquor.


Trying to hold a glass in one hand and take a selfie with the other is not easy.

We're in the midst of planning a bit of a southwestern USofA trek for our 25th Anniversary in November. Phoenix to the Grand Canyon to Taos, a bit of a ramble down Route 66, a stop at the Petrified Forest, some Anasazi cliff dwellings... Neither of us have been to the Southwest since the '70s, when we were young and foolish. It's time to revisit the area.

In the meantime, we'll continue with our bastardized versions of Mexican cooking until we can get down there are get the real deal. I wonder how many Hatch chiles I can stuff into a suitcase?!?


Chicken Enchiladas

Dia de los Muertos

I didn't know anything about Dia de los Muertos growing up. November 1st was All Saint's Day - a holy day of obligation. November 2nd was/is All Souls Day. Not surprisingly, Christian and non-Christian holidays all seem to coincide with one another.

Then, again, I don't think I knew much about any ethnic holidays growing up - other that St Patrick's Day - and that was corned beef and cabbage and The Clancy Brothers. In grammar school I was part of a quartet that serenaded shoppers at Fairlane Market on two St Paddy's Days and I was in at least one parade. I don't even remember Cinco de Mayo being much of anything. Of course, that was before I was thrown out of Tijuana at the tender age of 16 or so. Long story...

There was Chinese New Year, of course, growing up in San Francisco, but I have to admit I was in the Navy and in Hong Kong before ever knowing what Gung Hay Fat Choy was. And there was also Columbus Day - an Italian holiday - but it wasn't Italian like Italy Italian, just like St Patrick's Day wasn't Ireland Irish.

I think it's great that kids, today, have so much more opportunity to learn about other cultures and different customs, traditions - and foods. If we're ever going to change minds about different races and cultures, we need to teach our kids to embrace the differences - not fear them.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Well... this isn't exactly where I was headed when I started this little missive - it's amazing how things can take on a life of their own, sometimes!

My plan for dinner tonight was to make something vaguely Mexican in honor of the day - and even make my own corn tortillas. I've never been really good at making corn tortillas - the flour ones come out pretty good - but corn always eludes me a bit. I have seen Mexican women make them by hand - merely patting the dough back and forth in their hands. It's an art - and I am not an artist. I don't have a tortilla press, but little things like that never seem to stop me.

Agin, my tortillas didn't come out as I wanted, so I decided to make an enchilada casserole instead of enchiladas.

Chicken Enchiladas

The tortilla recipe is pretty basic:

Corn Tortillas

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Add 2 cups masa harina and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the warm water and stir until the water is absorbed.

Slowly add the rest of the water to finish the dough.

Form into balls and press in a tortilla press or smash with a flat-bottomed pan or bowl.

Fry in a hot dry skillet for about 2 minutes per side.

Mine didn't quite come out like the hand made ones those lovely ladies made, but they tasted pretty good. I broke them up and layered cooked chicken, cooked Mexican Chorizo, green chiles, and cheese - along with chipotle powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, ancho chile powder, and a pinch of salt. I used a jar of Salsa Verde for my sauce.

375°F oven for 45 minutes.

It wasn't exactly traditional, but it was a nod to all of my friends south of the border.

Compartir la comida en la amistad - Share food in Friendship.


scallop tortillas

Homemade Flour Tortillas

The downside of our new eating regime is I haven't been baking any bread. Baking bread is one of my more favorite things to do, and while I will be getting back to it, I haven't taken the time to start reworking recipes for smaller loaves and the like. One of the things I'm learning is I need to make what we need for the meal at hand and not cook with abandon - as was my wont.

I have been thinking about making tortillas for quite a while, now - I have not made them in years and years - and tonight proved to be the perfect time to do it. Cooking Light had a recipe this month for Tilapia and Summer Squash Tacos and it set the thinking gears a'spinnin'.

I had just bought some fresh scallops, I had fresh corn, I had tomatoes and peppers from the yard. All I needed were the tortillas - and since I have a pretty foolproof recipe, my bread-making needs were being met. Dinner started coming together...

Tortillas are easy to make - they're just a bit time-consuming to make for a crowd. I cut this recipe in half to make four tortillas, so I definitely didn't have that issue.

Flour Tortillas

Makes 8 tortillas


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp lard or vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cups warm water


Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Rub lard into flour mixture using your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add warm water and work dough with hands until completely combined and no dry flour is left in bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces; roll each piece of dough into a ball. Cover dough balls with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rest an additional 15 minutes.

Preheat cast iron skillet, griddle, or comal to 500°F. Place one ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and pat down into a flat disc. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out to an 8-inch round.

Place dough in skillet and cook until bubbles form on top side and bottom side has brown spots, 30-60 seconds. Flip tortilla and cook until second side develops brown spots, 30-60 seconds longer.

Transfer tortilla to a plate and cover with clean dish cloth. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Serve immediately while still warm.

I had guacamole in the freezer, so that came out, and I then made a corn salsa.

Corn Salsa

  • 2 ears corn, roasted and cut from cobs
  • 2 hot peppers, roasted, skinned, and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, roasted and chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper, as desired

Cook corn, peppers, and onion on grill until each is done. Cut kernels from the corn, skin and mince the peppers, and chop the onion. Place it all in a bowl with the chopped tomato, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.

For the scallops, I just liberally doused them with Penzey's Salsa and Pico spice blend and quickly sauteed them in a hot skillet. I added a splash of vermouth because... well... old habits die hard.

It really was a great combo. The corn salsa was spicy, the guacamole mild, and the scallops nicely flavored, and with a fresh, warm tortilla to hold it all together, it was the perfect dinner!



Shrimp and Grits - Mexican-Style

July 1st. Independence Day weekend. 241 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

My, how times have changed.

We live 21 miles from the Liberty Bell and the Constitution Center. 2 miles from Valley Forge. The entire area is steeped in history and lore. And the Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves, today.

When you go to the Constitution Center and visit the Liberty Bell, you hear the words of the Declaration of Independence, the words of The Constitution.

It's a great show of the ideals we have sought for in these United States.

As you listen and watch, you realize how far short we have been in attaining these goals and ideals. You realize that "We, the People..." really only meant white male landowners back in 1776. Women, slaves, and common laborers weren't included - and Native Americans were really excluded - to the point of near-extinction. Like George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, much of our history has been based upon myth.

We've never really been as good as we've said we were, but it seemed that even as we were falling short of those lofty ideals, we were still working towards them. It seemed.

241 years later we see just how a government can make a mockery of those founding words. How they can be blatantly ignored while waving the flag in support of them.

The Fourth of July. A day of barbecues and fireworks. A day we should be celebrating our history and reaffirming our commitment to the ideals we have always wanted to stand for. Instead, our politicians will be telling us how great we are as they try and take away health care. How great we are as they try and take away every social safety net we have ever had. How great we are as they give even more money to themselves and their corporate masters - from the meager wages of all of us who are purported to be free. How great we are as they continue to drive wedges between us.

What we all should be doing is reading the Declaration of Independence. Actually reading it and seeing how it relates to the United States, today.

Scroll down after tonight's dinner and read it!

It's interesting to note that Shrimp and Grits pretty much originated in South Carolina - one of the original 13 colonies. Grits came to us from the Muskogee preparation of corn. Shrimp was cheap and plentiful. It was lowcountry food. Fast-forward to the 1980s. It went upscale.

Today, you find it everywhere in the USofA. There are hundreds upon hundreds of recipes. Noted southern food maven Nathalie Dupree wrote a cook book with 80 different Shrimp and Grits recipes. It's everywhere.

A dish that has Native American and African Slave roots is celebrated as American food. A blending of cultures making something uniquely American. It's amazing that we can enjoy the foods of so many cultures and have such disdain for the people who created it. Mr. Spock would call it illogical.

Tonight's Shrimp and Grits was an illogical blending of a Southern staple with Mexican spices - a further blending and celebration of cultures. And it was damned good, too.

The concept came from Fine Cooking magazine. The end result was solely what we had in the house.

Shrimp and Grits - Mexican-Style.


  • 3 tbsp chopped chipotles in Adobo
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp annatto
  • 1 lb shrimp

Place all ingredients except shrimp in blender and puree. Pour over shrimp and marinate a couple of hours.

Remove from marinade and cook in a lightly-oiled hot skillet just 'til cooked through.

Serve over grits.


  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup grits
  • 6 oz goat chevre with honey and jalapenos
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • S&P, to taste

Bring milk and water to a boil with a bit of S&P. Slowly add grits, stirring all the while. Lower heat and continue cooking according to the type of grits used. When cooked, remove from heat and stir in chevre and 2 tbsp butter. Check for seasoning and add additional salt or pepper, as desired.

To serve:

Place grits on plate and top with shrimp. Sprinkle with chopped green onion, if desired.

Properly spicy. We cleaned our plates.

And now, here is the promised copy of the Declaration of Independence: Read it.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton






Tonight's dinner was brought to you by the fine people at Goya.

I was passing through the frozen aisle at the grocery store on Monday and espied Goya Empanada Disks. Impulse buy of the day. I have not made empanadas in quite a while according to a blog search - or - I just didn't write about it. More likely the former since Nonna really doesn't do Mexican food...

Mexican/Central American/Southwestern-style flavors used to be my go-to dinners when I didn't have any idea what I wanted. The first solid food I ate as an infant was a chili bean, according to my mother. That pretty much set the tone. I love chilis, spice, and that blend of flavors.

I have never been into Mexico, proper... I've been to Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas - all in the '60s and '70s - but haven't yet made it into Mexico City. Maybe one of these days.

I have, however, eaten the foods of 24th Street in San Francisco back when immigrants could afford to live there.

Empanada dough is pretty easy to make, but, impulse buys being what they are, I decided to go for the frozen ones. They're actually pretty good - and really easy to work.

I made a filling of ground pork, fresh sweet peppers, cumin, ancho chili powder, Mexican oregano, garlic, hatch chili salsa, green onions, and a bit of S&P. Not exactly authentic, but close enough for a gringo dinner. The beauty of empanadas is you really can fill them with anything.

The package has 10 disks.  I had filling for about 16, so I made taquitos with some corn tortillas in the 'fridge. They went into the freezer with the empanadas I didn't cook.

I need to work on my crimping technique, but they came out really good. I fried them, but you can bake them, as well. I like them fried, better.

I made yellow rice and refried beans as side dishes - with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa for dipping and dunking.

Nonna had a ground beef patty, yellow rice, and her favorite canned green beans.

All-in-all, a successful south of the wall dinner!


South of the Wall-Style Chicken

Tonight's recipe was brought to you by I'm really tired of the same old chicken. There are a bazillion things to do with chicken and I keep doing the same things over-and-over. And over.

Can you say rut, boys and girls?!?

Once upon a time, I would just make dinner. Ya know... head into the kitchen and just put something together. Usually pretty good, and usually never to be replicated because it was made with whatever I happened to see and fancy at that moment in time.

And that's how tonight's dinner came to be.

I had a vision of stuffed chicken breasts for dinner, tonight. Mexican-style, although I had no idea what I wanted to do. I just wanted those comforting spices. And then I took out thin-sliced chicken from the freezer. Thin-sliced chicken breasts are just not conducive to cutting open, making pockets, and adding a filling. They do, however, fit into individual baking dishes and accept a filling on top.

When I finally realized my chicken breasts were thin-sliced, I grabbed a couple of ceramic bowls and went to work.

I oiled them and coated them with bread crumbs, and then fitted the chicken into them. In a skillet, I sauteed onion, bell pepper, garlic, and mushrooms. I added cumin and ancho chili powder and cooked it off a bit, and then added a can of drained black beans and about 4 ounces of crumbled queso fresco. All of that went into the chicken breasts and they went into a 375°F  (190°C) oven for about 35 minutes.  The rice was just yellow rice - basic white rice cooked in chicken broth with some annatto and coriander.

The chicken breasts lifted right out of the containers - and they were huge. I could have easily split one for the two of us - but that wouldn't have made a pretty picture - and it's all about the picture.

So... we both ate half and the rest went into the 'fridge for lunches.

Tomorrow we're back to normal around here. The snow has stopped and I'll be off to work in the early morning. We'll have to see if we can continue the rut-breaking for another day...

In the meantime, there's lots of Peach Rice Pudding in the 'fridge...


Chicken and Chorizo

We don't often eat spicy foods, anymore. Nonna doesn't care for the heat and I'm usually not in the mood to cook two dinners. But every now and again the spice-urge gets to me and it's damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.

Like tonight.

We had some fresh Mexican chorizo in the freezer I had picked up down at Reading Terminal Market that had been calling to me for a couple of weeks. I had thought of a dozen and one ideas to use it, but they all meant cooking something else for Nonna. Tonight, I hit upon an idea that let me cook everything in one pan and parse out the spice when dishing things up.

And it worked!

The basic recipe came from Bon Appetit about 5 years ago - fairly current in my stack of recipes I haven't yet made. I think if I started cooking right now, I wouldn't get through the recipes I've clipped or collected before my 90th birthday. So many ideas, so little time.

I took the basic idea and played with it - and Nonna cleaned her plate, completely. Afterwards, she said, "the sweet potatoes were a bit hot, weren't they?" But she ate every bite. Go figure.

You could make this with cured Spanish chorizo, if you wanted - it would just be a bit different, texturally.

Chicken and Chorizo with Sweet Potatoes

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 links fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed, crumbled
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick
  • 1 red onion, large chop
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • S&P, as desired
  • Quesso Fresco
  • Green Onions

Marinate the chicken in the apple cider vinegar and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In an oven-proof skillet, slightly brown the crumbled chorizo. Push chorizo to the side of the pan and add the chicken breasts. Lightly cook on one side maybe 3 minutes - just enough to brown a bit.

Meanwhile, peel and slice the sweet potatoes, mixing them with the garlic, white wine, rosemary, onions, and a bit of S&P.

Remove the chicken breasts from the pan and add the potato and onion mixture - wine and all - to the skillet. Mix things up and nestle the potatoes down into the pan. Place the chicken breasts on top and place, uncovered, into the oven.

Bake about 25 minutes or until potatoes and chicken are cooked through.

Place chorizo and potato mixture on plate and top with the sliced chicken breast. Finish it off with crumbled quesso fresco and chopped green onions.

The quesso fresco balances the heat of the chorizo really well and the green onions add a bit of freshness.

It really hit the spot with a lot of oohs and ahhs throughout the meal. I see more spiciness being snuck into dinner...


Sunday Supper Times Three



Spicy pulled pork atop cheesy, creamy polenta! A kinda Mexico meets Italy via the Bronx. Or something.

I've been jonesin' for polenta for a while, and when Victor came in with the latest haul from the garden this morning, I knew what I was making!


A few tomatoes and lots of hot peppers. I could make this work. Of course, I only had to make it work for two, because Nonna doesn't like polenta or hot peppers. The polenta is a childhood thing, she says. It reminds her of having to eat cornmeal mush in the orphanage. The peppers are more recent. But, whatever the reason, if we're going to have polenta, I have something else set up for her. Tonight it was her favorite stuffed shells.


She likes them, it makes her happy, I'm happy, ya know?!?

The pork was easy enough to take care of... I placed a semi-frozen 2-pound boneless pork roll in a pot with water, chipotle powder, garlic, onion, Mexican oregano, salt, and pepper, brought it to a boil, covered it, reduced the heat, and let it simmer for about 3 hours.

I pulled it out of the broth - it was properly falling apart - added chopped tomatoes, bell pepper, and a few hot peppers and let it reduce by half. I then added the shredded pork, mixed it all together, herated it through, and put it atop creamy polenta.

Perfect Polenta

  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup cheese of your choice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring milk to a boil.  Add polenta slowly, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and continue cooking as per package instructions.  Stir in garlic and cheese.

And since I was cooking separate dinners for Nonna and us, i figured I might as well get something going for Cybil, as well.


Since she can't eat most of what we're eating, anymore, I have to make sure she has more than that damned prescription diet stuff in her bowl. Two of the burgers, above, were broken up and mixed into elbow macaroni, portioned off, and frozen. We have beef, rice, and vegetables, chicken, rice, and vegetables, and now hamburgers with macaroni sitting in the freezer to augment the special diet.

It's rough being our dog.

Three meals, everyone is full, and everyone is happy.

That really is all it's about.

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas Tim and Victor's Totally Joyous Recipes www.tjrecipes.com


They may not be much to look at, but dayum! these little suckers had some flavor!

I have made enchiladas almost as long as I have been able to reach the stove. They're just a part of growing up out west.

But one thing I have continually done is used too much sauce. Less Is More is a mantra I often don't follow. I know better. I do it, anyway.

So I started off this afternoon with a plan to make enchiladas with the leftover chicken from the last Beer Can Chicken I made the other night. I wanted a chile verde enchilada but only had one jar of sauce. I had a large can of red enchilada sauce, I had a jar of sofrito sauce.  I wanted verde. I agonized. I opened cabinets, looked in the 'fridge, trying to see how I could stretch the lone jar. My kingdom for a tomatillo. Everything in the house was tomato-based. I decided to just go with the single jar and, if need be, add a bit of water to thin.

I made a filling of cooked chicken, a can of diced green chiles, and 3 kinds of cheese that I shredded - monterey jack, cheddar, and the rest of the mozzarella from last night. Waste not, want not, and all that.  No other spices. I wanted a simple filling.

I poured a bit of sauce into my 9x13 pyrex baking dish and went to work, filling and rolling the tortillas. When they were finished, I poured the rest of the jar of sauce over. And it actually looked like enough sauce! I covered the enchiladas with parchment paper and then tightly covered it with foil - and placed it into a 350° oven for about 50 minutes. I almost always cover dishes with parchment paper before covering with foil. It's so much neater and none of those pesky foil-spots...

I actually buy parchment paper by the case from a restaurant supply house. I can get 1000 sheets of full-sized paper for about 40 bucks and it lasts me 4-5 years. The deal of the century.

But I digress...

The enchiladas came out perfect. They had the perfect amount of sauce, the tortillas were perfectly tender, the entire dish was perfectly tasty. Indelible proof that I don't need as much sauce as always think I do - and they're better with less.

The key will be remembering this the next time I make them!

While the enchiladas were bubbling away in the oven, I made a simple Spanish Rice. Nothing overly-fancy, just simple flavors to compliment the chile verde.

Spanish Rice

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bell pepepr, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 can tomato sauce - 8oz
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • S&P to taste

Saute onion, pepper, and celery in a pat of butter unbtil wilted. Add garlic and cook another minute or so. Add cumin and cook until fragrant.

Add the rice, tomato saucxe, and water, along with a bit of S&P. Stir it all together and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 20 minutes.

Stir it well before serving.

Nonna cleaned her plate. Always a good sign.



Start with a Chicken


It starts with a chicken. A whole chicken. And a pot.

It's clean-out-the-freezer-time and I had a chicken and a container of chicken stock taking up valuable real estate. It was time to put them to use.

Simmering a chicken on the stove is one of the most satisfying things you can do. The possibilities are truly endless! From soups and stews to salads and sandwiches, there are just a zillion things to do.

With this chicken, I did three.

First was yesterday's chicken soup. I put the frozen stock in a soup pot and melted it all down. Then, I added the whole, frozen chicken. The giblet bag was still in it. I added water to cover everything, brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer - for hours. When it had thawed enough to take out the giblet bag, I did - and then added everything but the bag back to the pot. Over the course of the afternoon, I added more water now and again to keep the chicken submerged.

When it reached its falling-off-the-bone stage, I took it out and strained the broth.

Into the pot went 1 andouille sausage that I diced, and 1 onion, minced. When they were looking good, I added 2 cloves of minced garlic.I skimmed the fat from the broth and added it back to the pot.

And then I started building the soup.

First thing I did was pull all the meat off the legs and thighs. I put the cooked breasts away for today.

Soups like this are clean out the refrigerator and/or use up what's in the house. It's no-rules cooking - if it's laying about, it goes into the pot. This batch had the leg and thigh meat, a few stalks of chopped celery, several chopped carrots, a can of drained and rinsed red beans, a half-bag of frozen mixed vegetables, and maybe a cup and a half of elbow macaroni I cooked separately, and then added. Spices were minimal - a bit of thyme because it goes well with both chicken and andouille, and salt and pepper. The sausage added enough flavor that I just didn't need a lot of other things competing with it. I always have frozen mixed veggies in the house. They're perfect for soups, pot pies, and the like.

A fresh loaf of bread and butter, and dinner was served...

I had the chicken breasts in the 'fridge, so tonight was Chicken Enchiladas Verde.


It's kinda hard to make an enchilada picture-worthy, but suffice to say, they tasted pretty damned good!

I started off with a can of green enchilada sauce. I know, I know... canned sauce... but it's pretty good stuff.

I shredded the chicken and added shredded cheeses. We had a bit of monterey jack, Italian truffle, and fontina. Not exactly queso fresco, but I wasn't going to buy more when we had this already in the house. I then added a can of chopped green chilis and a pinch of salt and pepper.

I heated the sauce, placed a corn tortilla in it to soften, and then added the filling, rolled them, and placed them in a casserole. I topped them with a bit more sauce, and then covered them and baked them at 350° for about 45 minutes. Refried black beans and black japonica rice finished the plate.

The third thing I made was some chicken salad.


Chicken, celery, onion, chopped pickle, mayo, salt and pepper. As basic as basic can be - and really, really good. Piled onto some nice toasted bread... It doesn't get much better.

Two dinners and three lunches. One chicken.

Not bad.

Chorizo and Chicken Paella

So my leg's been bothering me for a week.  With hardly any nagging from Victor, I actually called the doctor on Friday when I got home from work.

It was then a trip to the ER because my doctor needed to rule out a blood clot right away.  Long airplane flights can bring them on.  Fortunately, it wasn't a blood clot, and armed with a few Percocet, I headed home for a quiet weekend and a requirement to call my Dr on Monday.

After a visit to my Primary Care doctor, this morning, I left with a request for an x-ray of my lower back and a prescription for Methylprednisolone(Alas, no more Percoset!) Fun side effects include getting speedy, trouble sleeping, and increased appetite.

Now... I know I'm getting old, but back in my day, when a pill made you speedy and kept you awake, it DECREASED your appetite!  Jeeze Louise!  These damned pharmaceutical companies are screwing everything up!  I mean, c'mon.  I do not need a pill to increase my appetite!  Really.  I mean, after getting weighed at the Dr, who knew my wallet and phone weighed 25 pounds?!?  I could, however, use something to get me back into those disco pants of yore... I see another Dr visit in my future...

I had shopped earlier, and knew that dinner was going to be comprised of at least Mexican chorizo and chicken.  After getting home and taking all of my drugs, I decided a Mexican paella was in order.  Quick, easy, and let the oven do the cooking.  It's a primordial swamp outside but the air conditioning is working just fine indoors.

For being a wing-it recipe, I have to admit it came out pretty good.  The difference between Mexican and Spanish chorizo is Mexican is fresh, and Spanish is cured.  Mexican is also usually ground, where the Spanish is chopped.  Actually, the similarities between the two are more in the name and that the main ingredient is pork.  Otherwise, they are pretty different in looks and taste.

Mexican Paella

  • 2 links Mexican chorizo, casings removed
  • 1 chicken breast, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup short-grained rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can cherry tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can posole, drained
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper

Brown chicken and chorizo in ovenproof pan.  Add onion and garlic and cook.  Add rice and cook until slightly translucent.  Add 1 cup of white wine and, stirring, cook down until almost evaporated.

Add broth, tomatoes, posole, corn, and herbs and spices.

Bring to a boil, cover, and place in 375° oven for about 40 minutes.

It did come out good.  And there's leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I may have to come home for lunch - being that I should be extra-speedy and ravenous, and all...


Tamale Pie

Besides the obvious things like family, friends, and liberal politics, two things I really miss about San Francisco are Chinese food and Mexican food.  There just aren't a lot of decent ethnic restaurants out here in the Wonder Bread Suburbs.

Andy's Excellent Chow Mein or Gordo's Burritos are things I dream about.  Especially since both of them were within walking distance from our front door.  ::sigh::

Nowadays, if I want Mexican, it's easier just to make it, myself.

So last night it was Mexican.  A tamale pie. Not the most authentic of recipes, perhaps, but the flavors were there.

The filling was a combination of chiles, onions, green peppers, ground beef, garlic, cumin, roasted corn, a can of pinto beans (rinsed and drained) and enchilada sauce.  The topping was a tamale masa.  As I said - not exactly authentic, but it worked, well.

I do make tamales every now and again and have a (now nearly empty) bag of Maseca Masa Flour in the cabinet.  Corn flour is very different than cornmeal and is quite reasonably priced - even out here in 'burbia.  The recipe for making tamales is very simple - equal parts of masa and water, a third as much lard (yes, lard!) a pinch of salt and a bit of baking powder.

I cooked off the onions, garlic, and peppers, added the cumin, chipotle powder, and then the ground beef.  When it was cooked through, I added the corn, beans, and the enchilada sauce.  I tasted and added a pinch of S&P and then spooned the masa topping over everything.

I covered it and placed it in a preheated 350° oven for about an hour.

I topped it with some shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

It wasn't Gordo but it worked.  And it was really good for lunch, today!