Thursday, May 5, 2011

Feliz Cuatro de Mayo!

No, I'm not dense. Well, I'll leave that for you to decide after I show you the photo evidence of my little kitchen mishap. But I totally meant to say "cuatro." Why? Because I didn't celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year. I celebrated the day before. All because of my husband. My poor, poor husband. You see, tonight he is on his 12th hour at the restaurant where he works thanks to a party the owners booked. He deserves a medal for all that he does, really. Underpaid, under-appreciated, and overworked, to be sure. Since I didn't want him to miss out on la fiesta, I prepared a little Latin feast for the two of us last night, topped off with an evening of John Leguizamo's stand-up special. Latin food and latin stand-up? Eat your heart out, folks.

Before we jump into our night of good food, it's probably only right that I address my long, long, looooong absence. To put it simply, things got rough. My illnesses and hospitalizations and my husband's own hospitalization after his diabetes diagnosis were nothing compared to the hardships we were about to face, and we were so miserably unprepared. It was as though our lives were a snowball of bad luck and misfortune hurtling down the side of Mount Everest. Once the hits started, they just kept on coming. The one bright spot took place on Friday, March 11, 2011. That was the day my husband and I got married in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The snowball kept right on tumbling when we got back home, and a few weeks ago, we made it to a point that pushed me to some pretty hard decisions. Decisions that forced me to turn away from the life I have known for many years now, and I had to seriously analyze where I was going. I have to admit, I am worse off than I have ever been in my entire life. I truly have never faced such hardship. But when things got to the worst point we have seen so far, I was no longer able to cry. Instead, I laughed. And I've been laughing ever since. And in a strange way, it was freeing.

I'm now well on my way to finding a new way of life. I'm setting goals and considering my own well being a lot more now. That is not to say they are the most ambitious goals, but for someone who has lived for anything else but her for so long now, they are a pretty big deal for me. My goals, you ask? I'm starting small, for now. First, I plan on watching one classic film every week. I used to live and breathe for old movies, but I haven't been able to indulge this hobby for some time now. Another goal? To start reading books for pleasure again. The other day, I figured out the last time I read a book for pleasure was when last Harry Potter came out. That is just... sad. So very sad. My last goal is the reason you are seeing me now. I wanted to jump start my food blog. I'm sorry I was gone for so long, but I'll be the first to acknowledge I have not been ready to come back until now. And it is my intention for you to see a lot more of me.

Now, back to la fiesta. I could have gone a lot more traditional for our Cuatro de Mayo feast, but there is one recipe that I have been craving for weeks now, and there seemed like no better time to indulge my craving. The recipe is one that I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. The first word that comes to mind when I think of this recipe is ugly. That's right. This is one of the ugliest recipes I have ever seen. But it's true what they say: it doesn't matter how it looks. It's all about the taste. And this tastes so yummy. You would never believe that it is a "light" recipe. From first bite to last, it is cheesy deliciousness.

My cooking buddy.

The original recipe called for just under two pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts, and from the very beginning this seemed absurd to me. That is a lot of chicken for one little casserole! Aren't casseroles supposed to stretch your buck by stretching your protein? What happened to this recipe? I use around a pound of chicken, and then I fill out the casserole with rinsed canned beans. Corn would also be a fantastic addition, but I can't say this from experience because every time I make this recipe I am inexplicably out of corn.

We ended our meal with a new recipe that I adapted from one of Nestle's websites. I have never made a Margarita Pie before, but I was excited to try it knowing full well my husband's love of Key Lime Pie. I knew this pie wouldn't exactly be a leap for him. This pie is far lighter than other Margarita Pie recipes I've seen because it does not use sweetened condensed milk at all. Instead, unflavored gelatin and Cool Whip give this pie its texture. The end result was so tasty, I will freely admit my husband and I had two slices. Each.

I hope you say "Ole!" when you taste these recipes, and I'll be back very soon with plenty more posts.

Mexican Chicken Casserole


1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 chipotle in adobo, minced, with 1/2 teaspoon of the adobo
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, divided
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk
2 cups shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese
3 ounces 1/3 fat cream cheese
1 can of black or kidney beans, rinsed
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce (Don't skimp--get a name brand. I don't know why, but store brand enchilada sauce just always tastes... off... no matter where you get it from.)
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 ounces tortilla chips, crushed (about 6 chips)


1. Combine one can of chiles, the chipotle and adobo, and the chicken broth in a large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add the chicken breasts and let simmer for 7-8 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken, reserve the remaining liquid and chiles, and set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautee the onions until softened, 3-5 minutes. Return the reserved chile mixture to the pan along with the other can of chiles and 1/4 cup water and sautee for a few minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

5. Add the evaporated milk to the skillet and mix thoroughly, followed by the cream cheese, a cup of the shredded cheese, the beans, and the chicken. Stir until the cheeses melt and all of the ingredients are combined.

6. Add the enchilada sauce and stir until combined.

7. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and spray a 2-quart casserole dish or a 9 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 4 corn tortillas on the bottom and top with 2 cups of the filling mixture, followed by 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese. Repeat with 4 more tortillas, 2 more cups of filling, and another 1/4 cup of cheese. For the final layer, start with 4 torillas, the last of the filling, the crushed tortilla chips, and a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.

8. Bake the casserole at 350˚F for 30 minutes.

You'll see what I mean about this dish being ugly when you serve it, but just wait until you taste it!

Margarita Pie


1 cup crushed mini pretzels
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons water
1 cup + 1 tablespoon Splenda for baking or granulated sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 envelope (7 grams) unflavored gelatin
1-12 ounce can fat-free evaporated milk
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1/2 cup lime juice (4 to 5 medium limes)
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon tequila (optional)
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
Coarse sanding sugar, fresh limes slices


1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Combine the pretzel crumbs, butter, water, and 1 tablespoon of Splenda and press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish.

2. Bake the crust for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown.

3. Meanwhile, combine the water and the gelatin in a saucepan and let sit for 2 minutes. Then whisk in the remaining 1 cup of Splenda and the evaporated milk and heat over medium heat until the gelatin and Splenda dissolve. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until cool to the touch.

4. Once the mixture cools, add the lime zest, juice, orange extract, and tequila, if desired, and stir until combined.

5. Fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping and pour the filling into the crust. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the pie sets.

6. Top with a dollop of the remaining whipped topping to serve.

Oh yeah... about that little kitchen mishap?

This is what happens when you completely forget that the stove was just on and go for those few strands of shredded cheese inches away from the still hot burner.

Lesson learned: just say no to the cheese. Just say no, kids.

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