Heidi, Cuckoo Clocks, and Enchiladas

Not quite that old…

The sad, grubby little clipping had been stuck on the fridge forever. I’d torn the recipe from some magazine months, or even a year ago.

But the last time we were in Costco, I decided I was going to put up or shut up. I’d give that recipe a try. So, I bought one of their roast chickens.

I’d like to stop right here, for a moment, and talk about the rotisserie chickens at the supermarket.

I think a few years ago a law must have been passed that every grocery store in the country has to sell a roasted chicken.

Costco has one of the best clucker deals around. For 5 bucks you get something so large, it might possibly have been a pterodactyl.

I got 8 cups of meat from the one I bought. Since I only needed 3 cups, I froze a large zip bag of the rest. I made a big pot of pasta with some of it, and a bunch of chicken salad with the rest. So for $5, I got meat for 8 meals, counting leftovers.

But, back to the recipe.

When I attended, it was “Junior High”.

When I was in the ninth grade, all the kids who had taken Spanish for 3 years went to Mexico for spring break. We visited Mexico City, Jalapa; a university town, and Veracruz; a beach town.

Most of the meals we ate were at the hotels, as part of the package. But one night in Veracruz we went to a restaurant and ordered off a large menu. One of our chaperons ordered fish, and a whole fish (eyeballs and all) was brought to him. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. Freaked me right out.

I finally picked something that the other kids assured me wouldn’t be too spicy for my famously wimpy palate—enchiladas Suizas de pollo (Swiss chicken enchiladas).

They were brought out to me, and my classmates were right on the money. They were zippy, but not crazy-hot. There was an abundance of cheese and sour cream (which is why they are called “Swiss”). I loved them. They have become one of my favorite Mexican meals.

The recipe I cut from the forgotten magazine was a casserole that had a hot red sauce and was a riff on tamales. But I don’t do hot sauce, and once I had changed ingredients, added stuff, and made it my own, the experience was very much like my beloved enchiladas Suizas. The casserole was easy to assemble, and could be done in stages. The traditional enchiladas are more labor intensive and the results are not always consistent. The casserole gave me all the flavor and texture, without the work and drama.

*Recipe note: I used homemade guacatillo sauce, or you can buy some from your local Mexican restaurant. A very good bottled alternative is La Victoria mild green taco sauce. Also, I split the casserole into two 8X8 pans. One pan I finished cooking and we ate that night. The other I got to the point of the second bake, wrapped it up tightly, and froze it.

Chicken enchilada Suiza casserole

1-8 ½ oz. package Jiffy corn muffin mix

1-14 ¾ oz. can creamed corn

1-4 oz. can green chiles, drained

2 eggs lightly beaten

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon Goya bitter orange adobo

2 cups shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese

2-3 cups guacatillo sauce

3 cups shredded cooked chicken (white and dark meat)

Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray 13X9 pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix first 7 ingredients and 1 cup cheese. Pour into pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, and pierce casserole about 12 times with sharp knife. Spread guacatillo over top. Scatter chicken over, and cover with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. Let rest out of oven for 10 minutes, then slice and serve. Makes 8 servings.

I was delighted with the finished dish; we loved it. Poor old Petey overindulged, and got a bit of a tummy ache. But not too much of one, because at lunch the next day I nuked the last slice for him, and he happily devoured it.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at d@bullcity.mom.

Think Penguins and Igloos

I don’t like this hot, gross, humid, maddening weather—at all.  Not even a little.  I don’t like the bugs.  I don’t like the way the scent of a ripe trashcan or a spill from a garbage truck reeks in a malevolent, aggressive way that lingers for days.  I hate the weather turning my sleek bob into a frizzly fright wig.  I hate when it’s hot and muggy and there’s not a fresh breath of air to be had outside; even in the middle of the night. The only good thing about this time of year here in NC is the produce and the fireflies.

It sometimes feels like it’s too hot to eat, but you gotta.  But it almost always feels like it’s too hot to cook.

All the cool kids are doing it…

So, go cool, and when you just can’t avoid using some heat, do it wisely.

A rotisserie chicken is a sweaty guy’s best friend.  Look around and get the best bargain you can find.  Costco sells a hippo-sized clucker for $4.99.  You can usually get at least four cups of meat.  And don’t throw that carcass away.  Throw all of them into zip top bags and freeze.  Once it cools off you can make enough chicken stock to last until Groundhog Day.Use the birds in place of any protein that’s too hot to cook.  Honestly, it’s so versatile it’s the little black dress of food.  Tacos? Yup.  Pasta? Yes ma’am.  Pizza? Why not?  Quiche?  Oui, oui.  Chili? Well, it’s kinda hot for chili, but you do you.      Stock your fridge with fresh greens, fruits, and veggies that can be eaten raw.  Stone fruits are in season, so enjoy cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, and pluots, a plum/apricot hybrid.

Eat salads that are nourishing, but won’t make you feel like you just ate Thanksgiving dinner.  Lots of greens, some type of protein, things that pack a real nutritional bite for your buck, plenty of textures, and a non-creamy dressing with plenty of acid, and no artificial colors and flavors.I offer my own personal salad recipes as catalyst for your taste and imagination: mixed baby greens, shaved red onion, goat cheese, a handful of dried cherries and cranberries, and butter toasted, salted pecans (I do a huge batch of pecans either late at night or during cool-ish rainy days, and keep refrigerated).  The dried fruit and nuts are a terrific take-along snack, too.

My favorite dressing is Trader Joe’s vinaigrette.  But a drizzle of balsamic and a smaller drizzle of olive oil is almost as good.My other salad, which I call my detox is also simple, delicious, and requires not one degree of heat.  It’s just baby spinach, shaved red onion, halved grape tomatoes, and chopped avocado.  I dress it with the juice from half a lemon.  The fat in the avocado eliminates the need for another fat for the dressing.  Just don’t forget the salt—avocados demand a heavy hand with the Morton’s.

This little pint will literally keep my friends and family from mayhem this summer.

When all else fails, ice cream.  Talenti has a chocolate sorbet that is a gift to your taste buds and only 150 calories per serving.  Old-fashioned sugar-free fudgesicles have 40 calories per.  The Kid is a giant fan of Halo Top, a frozen treat with imaginative flavors and very few calories.

One, please.

When you must use heat, do it at night or very early in the morning.  Use a slow cooker, microwave or take it outside and grill it.

And when all else fails, pick up that phone, and let somebody else cook it and bring it to you.

Then after dinner, go run through the sprinkler.

In your nightgown.Thanks for your time.

Cool as a frozen pea

A gorgeous opalescent bowl at 75% off.A never-worn pair of Louboutin pumps in size 10 at a consignment store.

A pot of hydrangeas that are a little past their prime; and half price.

A rotisserie chicken from Costco.All items bought in the heat of the moment because they’re pretty and inexpensive.  Then when you get each one home, you think, “What now?”.

Last week I had the ‘what now?’ moment with a rotisserie chicken.  But, there wasn’t any real stress in the question, because it was, in fact, a roasted chicken.  And having a couple zip-top bags of cooked chicken is never a bad thing.

I could make soup.Avgolemono is a Greek chicken soup with a hit of lemon.  Heat up three or four cups of chicken stock, with a quarter cup of orzo in it.  Combine 3 eggs and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.  Whisk in a little hot soup to the eggs to raise the temp, then pour it all back into the stock.  Cook on medium-low until the orzo’s cooked.  To serve; put some shredded chicken in the bottom of the bowl, then add a cup of the soup.    Sprinkle a little fresh parsley on top, and you’ve got soup for four.

But, it’s been too hot for soup lately.

I could make open-faced chicken sandwiches.

Get some chewy sourdough and lay down some chicken meat and put crispy bacon on top.  Cover with hoop cheese.  Then melt the cheese under the broiler.

But I wasn’t in the mood for sandwiches, no matter how tasty they may be.

I could make tacos.Heat up Chubby’s guacatillo and stir in some chicken.  Pick up some fresh tortillas at your local tortilleria (tortilla bakery), and heat them in a dry skillet.  Layer the saucy chicken on tortillas and top with cilantro and white onion.

But it was Tuesday, and my local tortilleria is closed on Tuesday.

I could make chicken Alfredo.

It’s actually very simple.  Just sauté four or five minced cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of butter.  When the whole house is redolent of garlic, add two cups of heavy cream and 1/8 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg.  Bring it to a boil and let it go until it’s cooked down, thick, and creamy.  While the cream reduces, cook some ridged pasta a couple minutes less than it says on the box.  When the sauce is done, stir in a quarter cup of grated Parmesan.  Place the par-cooked pasta in the sauce and let it finish cooking.  Add a couple cups of bite-size chicken and serve with a green salad.But, it’s bathing suit season.

I could make a cool pasta salad.

Which is what I did.Oh, and that bowl, the flowers, and those shoes?Put some water in the bowl and float some hydrangea flowers in it.  They’ll be a beautiful decoration at your cocktail party where you’ll show off your fabulicious shoes.

Thanks for your time.

Pantry chicken & pasta salad

Dressing:pasta dressing1 ½ cups mayonnaise

1 teaspoon horseradish

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons oil from sun dried tomatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil

½ teaspoon honey

Very hot water

Salt & pepper

2 or 3 tablespoons snipped Chinese or regular chives, or scallions,

very thinly sliced on the bias.

At least 2 hours or up to 24 hours before service:

Whisk together first 6 ingredients.  Whisk in hot water until dressing’s about the consistency of pancake batter.

Season, taste, and season again until it’s right.

Stir in chives.

Salad:

chicken pasta salad

8 ounces ridged pasta

1 ½ cup frozen baby peas, thawed

¼ cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained, rinsed, and chopped

2 or 3 big handfuls of baby spinach

2-3 cups rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-size chunks.

6 slices of bacon, cooked until very crispy

Put cut-up sun dried tomatoes into bottom of colander.  Cook pasta according to directions in very heavily salted water.  When finished, pour into colander over tomatoes.  Let cool.

Into large bowl, place pasta, peas, sundried tomatoes, spinach, and chicken.  Toss with enough dressing to give everything a thin coat.

Plate salad, then top with one slice of crumbled bacon.  Serves 6.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA