Pot Roast-Style Meatballs

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Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving Everyone!

Did you all have a great holiday with their families? Cook a lot? Eat too much? Watch lots of TV?

Was anyone brave enough to venture out this morning for Black Friday- I hope not. Honestly I just don’t think it’s worth the effort anymore. The Internet and online shopping has (I think) done a good job of making it so that there doesn’t necessarily have to be such a rush or panic for good deals. Granted, there are some things that you have to go and stand in line to get, but c’mon, honestly: are they REALLY worth it?

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Alright, alright. I confess: I have participated in Black Friday a handful of times before. But it was mostly during the 90’s, when online shopping was just getting started and stores were only making their deals available in-house. It does give you a weird kind of adrenaline rush, but not a particularly enjoyable one. Me, I’m a worrier: so naturally, the build up to Black Friday for someone like me would be the fear that I’m getting up early in the morning, risking my safety and raising my stress level for something I’m not even 100% guaranteed to get. What if I can’t run fast enough when they open the doors? What if I’m next to some psycho crazy woman who elbows me in the face as we’re reaching for the same thing? What if someone literally tries to take it out of my cart or hands even if I do get it?

Not that any of that has actually happened to me before (in fact, on the few occasions I did go out for Black Friday, I got what I wanted), but I say all of that just to emphasize that my personality is just not suited for all that craziness. I don’t like conflict, chaos or mean people…and that’s basically what Black Friday is ALL about. So I just stay out of it now.

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So, this is Pot Roast weather. You have to make pot roast during the winter. It’s pure comfort food that sticks to your ribs and just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Problem  is, depending on the size of the meat, it can be a little time consuming. I encountered this problem a little while ago when I wanted some pot roast, but #1, didn’t have enough time to make it, and #2, didn’t really want to pay full price on a piece of good beef that wasn’t on sale at the grocery store. What was on sale though, was the ground turkey, which gave me the idea of trying to replicate the flavors typically found in pot roast, in a meatball. It worked out very well with my Pizza Meatballs, so I didn’t see why it would be so bad to try it out here.

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This may not be true pot roast, but I am still really happy with how it turned out. The flavors still REALLY do come out in the meatballs, and because they’re ground turkey, you can feel a little bit better about having them versus red meat (if you care about watching your red meat intake anyway). If you read the recipe, you will see that I did cut some corners and used one of those Liptons packets to make my gravy. If you’re a purist who believes in only flour-roux based gravy, then that’s fine. Make it that way. I was just in a hurry and needed some gravy for my pot roast meatballs, and this does the job in a pinch. All in all, this is dish turned out really good. It’s not pot roast, but it definitely still has that comforting, stick to your ribs quality that’s really good for this time of year.

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I was very glad that Angie@TheNoviceGardener asked me back to co-host this weeks Fiesta Friday #44 with my good friend Prudy@ButterBasilandBreadcrumbs. It’s a real treat, and I hope all of you can join us, as we always have a lot of fun. If you’re interested in swinging by to contribute, or even just to see what the rest of us are bringing to the party this week, then just click the icon link below. Hope to see you there!

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Pot Roast-Style Meatballs

Recipe by Jess

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Ingredients

For Meatballs

  • 3 lbs. ground turkey
  • 1 lb. Turkey sausage
  • 1 packet (.87 oz) of onion (or brown) gravy mix (Like Liptons)
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. ground thyme
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (and 1/2 cup more, if needed)
  • 1 egg, beaten

For Gravy

  • 1 packet of Brown gravy mix (Like Liptons)
  • 1-2 tbsp. flour

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place a wire rack over a half sheet pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside

2. Combine all ingredients for meatballs together in a large bowl. If mixture feels too wet to shape, then add remaining half cup of breadcrumbs.

3. Shape meat into golf-ball sized meatballs and place onto wire rack. Bake in oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until meatballs reach an inner temperature of 165° F.

4. Follow package instructions for gravy, adding additional flour to thicken, if desired. Drizzle on top of the meatballs and serve with white rice or egg noodles.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

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There are certain important, iconic historic events that when they happen, you’ll always remember exactly where you were.

I was very young both times around, but I remember where I was when President Bill Clinton was elected. Both times in 1992, and in 1996: my grandparent’s living room, watching TV with my grandpa.

Strangely enough, I remember where I was the day that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murder of his wife: again, my grandparents living room watching the verdict unfold on Geraldo Rivera.

I remember where I was on December 31st/January 1st, 1999 when everyone was holding their breath, thinking the world was going to end in the year 2000. I was at my other grandmother’s house in Detroit with my Dad and sisters and we all were laughing about it.

I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001; my 7th grade English class. My teacher had left in the middle of class for a few minutes, then come back into the room and without saying a word to us, just turned on the TV and switched to CNN. I still remember that first image I saw of the smoke billowing out from the World Trade Center, and not fully realizing what it was I was really seeing.

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I remember where I was when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005; I was visiting my Aunt in Atlanta and was horrified at the images and video footage the news was reporting, not just from the hurricane itself, but also from the aftermath. The first few weeks when I got back to high school, several of the student organizations I was apart of were collecting food, toiletries and clothe donations to send down there to help out.

I remember where I was when President Barack Obama was first elected; in 2008 me and Jas were in our dorm room, watching the election results on our tv through tears of joy and near disbelief. To date, that night is one of the best nights I’ve ever had in my life. (I remember where I was the night of his re-election in 2012 too, but that night in 2008 will always and forever be particularly special to me)

I remember where I was when I found out that Michael Jackson died in 2009. I was in the kitchen cooking and my Mom came in and told me that the story was trending on the internet. I refused to believe it for a really long time. When it finally was confirmed as true, I felt an unexpected sadness and depression that lingered with me for a few days.

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Right up there with all those super duper important, iconic historical events I’ve lived to see, I’m gonna go ahead and add another to that list.

I’ll always remember where I was the day that I first made pork carnitas. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was in the kitchen, while my mom and sister Ashley were watching the tv show The Blacklist in the living room.

Yep. This recipe is that important and life-changing to me.

You have to understand, I’ve never done this before. I didn’t even really know what I was doing, I just knew that carnitas was something I’d always wanted to make for myself.

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So when my grocery store finally put their pork butt (shoulder)on sale, I just went out and bought one of those bad boys, along with some basic ingredients that I knew were traditionally used in making carnitas.

The first good sign was the smell coming out of my slow cooker when I woke up on Sunday morning after letting the shoulder do it’s thing overnight. It was friggin glorious, people. I went in the kitchen and pressed my face up against the glass lid like a kid looking through the glass of a candy store, trying to see what ind of magic was going on in that crockpot that smelled so delicious. The steam and heat had created too many bubbles for me to see unfortunately, so I had to exercise an INCREDIBLE amount of self-restraint from yanking off the lid and let it keep cooking for another few hours. I wasn’t taking any chances. I wanted to make sure I had that type of pork that’s been cooked to low and slow perfection. It needed to practically melt off the bone with little to no force or resistance.

Kinda like the way I get after watching “The Avengers” and seeing Chris Hemsworth’s arms and Chris Evans work a punching bag.

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Good things come to those who wait. I found that out when I finally couldn’t take it anymore and lifted my crockpot lid. The steam from the pork hit me in the face. It was like, the best kiss I ever had

Okay, maybe not the best kiss I ever had. But pretty darn close. I wanted to break out in Snoopy dances when I took a fork and pierced the meat. I didn’t even have to pull, guys. I just touched it. And it FELL off the bone. Fell, I tell you. If I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was wrong. Because a few minutes underneath the broiler elevates these carnitas from mere mortal (albeit delicious) viddles, to the Food of the Gods.

Moist, fork-tender pork that literally melts in your mouth. A hint of crusty caramelization. This is living.

Something this simple to make really shouldn’t taste this good. It just shouldn’t. It almost feels like I’m cheating. Life’s not a fairy tale like that, am I right?!

So why did this dish turn out SO GOOOOOOOOD?!

I’m going to the Fiesta Friday #43, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tracy @Scratch It and Stephanie @The Cozy Cook. I’ll also be bringing these carnitas. See you there…

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Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Recipe by Jessica@Cooking Is My Sport

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Ingredients

  • 4-6 lbs. pork shoulder, slightly trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tbsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 oranges, sliced in half
  • 1 lime, sliced in half

Directions

1. Combine garlic salt, chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, and sweet paprika.

2. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the pork. Place pork in the bottom of a slow cooker (minimum of 6 quarts)*

3. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and limes over the pork. Place rinds pulp side down in slow cooker over the meat.

4. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours, or until pork is tender and falling off the bone. Use a fork to pull away from bone and discard it.

5. Preheat oven broiler. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and arrange pork in a single layer. Place underneath broiler until tips of pork are browned and slightly crisp, about 3-5 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it. Keep an eye on meat to make sure it doesn’t burn or become overly browned).

6. Serve finished pork in corn/flour tortillas, or over rice.

*I had to use 2 slow cookers too cook a 6lb. pork shoulder that I ended up cutting in half, so keep that in mind when buying your meat.

Champurrado-Mexican Hot Chocolate

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I absolutely love the movie “Chocolat” starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

I’ll be honest, when I first watched it years ago, it was for one reason and one reason only: so I could moon over the physical perfection that is the The Johnny. (That’s what we call him in my house.) However, once we actually finished it, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie itself. It had some of my favorite actors in it (Alfred Molina, Judi Dench, Juliette Binoche), and the plot itself was very creative; a woman and her daughter travel from country to country opening chocolate shops and selling sweets with healing/magical powers to fix the lives of the people that buy them. It’s one of those cute, heartwarming, happy ending films to watch on sad rainy days, or on quiet Friday nights on your lonesome when you have nothing to do.

Not that I’m speaking from my own experience or anything.

I still watch Chocolat on a pretty regular basis, but nowadays, I find my attention caught by more than just the good plot and The Johnny’s smoldering gaze ( which God knows is enough of an incentive all on its own).

I also love watching it for the food. But you guys knew that about me by now, I’m sure.

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Kudos have got to go the director of photography of this movie for filling it with so many gratuitous shots of rich, decadent chocolate. Word of warning: don’t sit down and watch this if you’re hungry and without any access to food. By the time it’s over you WILL be hangry (yes hangry: hungry AND angry. A lethal combination for me).

Juliette Binoche’s character in the movie descends from the Ancient Aztecs, who believed that the cacao bean held magical powers. As such, they would grind it up  and melt it down into a thick, rich drink that became hot chocolate. Aztec hot chocolate is shown throughout the movie to have a very strong effect on everyone who comes to the chocolate shop to try it. They take one sip and this mysterious music starts playing in the background- as if all their dreams were coming true from just drinking this stuff. Overly dramatic? Oh yeah. Justified? I wasn’t sure…until now.

Don’t quote me on it, but I think that today’s Aztec Hot Chocolate has more or less trickled down into what we now know as Champurrado, or Mexican Hot Chocolate. I’d always wanted to try it, and recently all the stars came into alignment in my pantry (i.e., I finally had all the ingredients to make me quit procrastinating).

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Before I get into how Champurrado tastes, let me be clear about one thing: this is NOT what you would typically think of as ‘Americanized’ hot cocoa. For one, the masa harina makes this drink thick, almost to the point of a gravy consistency. Second, the masa gives it a slight corn-y aftertaste and although that may not sound appetizing, for some reason it just really works. Please, for the love of God, don’t try to use any substitutes for the Mexican chocolate. This recipe just doesn’t count at all if you do. You can’t beat that dark, rich flavor that the Mexican chocolate disks give to it. The one thing I would give you a free pass on would be the piloncillo because for a while, I didn’t even know what that stuff was.My mom ‘just happened’ to bring some home one day and since I didn’t know what the heck else to use it for, I decided to use it for my Champurrado. It’s a funny looking cone of solid sugar that you break down and crumble- I softened mine in the microwave for a few second increments.But brown sugar will also work fine.

Once again, this is not American cocoa. Having said that, I have to let you all know that this Champurrado is the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. It’s rich, smooth and creamy; slightly bitter from the chocolate, immediately sweet from the sugar, and the masa harina finally providing a delicate balance between the two in the aftertaste. I’m never going back to my old, misguided Swiss Miss ways, you guys. I’ve seen the light now.

If that doesn’t sell you on this drink, then let this do it’s job:

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Credit to giphy.com

The Johnny.

Drinking Mexican Hot Chocolate.

Those eyes. Sigh.

….Excuse me. I need a minute to myself now.

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Champurrado-Mexican Hot Chocolate

Recipe Courtesy of GOYA®.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Instant Corn Masa
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) Brown Sugar Cane (Piloncillo), chopped, or 8 oz. brown sugar
  • 2 disks (3 oz. each) Mexican chocolate, like Abuelita, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Add corn masa to large, heavy sauce pot. Using whisk, slowly add 4 cups water, whisking constantly until smooth and combined. Place saucepot over medium-high heat; bring corn masa mixture to a boil.

2. Add milk, sugar cane, chocolate and cinnamon to pot. Bring milk mixture to boil, whisking constantly, until chocolate is melted and sugar cane is dissolved, 5-7 minutes more.

3. Remove pot from heat. Divide champurrado evenly among serving mugs.

Chewy Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies

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So, I know I haven’t posted anything since last week. That’s pretty lame, especially since I try to put out 2 posts within a seven day period. I had two smokin hot posts with smokin hot recipes ready to share with you all on Tuesday and on Friday.

But it didn’t happen.

Don’t be mad at me. It wasn’t my fault. I’m as ticked off about it as you. The truth is, I didn’t post because I literally didn’t have access to a steady internet connection for 5 days.

You guys want to hear a good story? Cause I’ve got one.

We’ve had the same cable and internet provider for about 5 years. We’ll call them “C”. We never really liked C. Nobody really likes C. Their customer service is sloppy, unprofessional and all around crap. The equipment they stuck us with is almost always out of date and malfunctioning.   But the price has always been right (i.e. affordable), so we put up with C’s crap and went with their service anyway.

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Until Monday- when suddenly out of the blue, our cable and internet was completely cut out. After resetting routers, cable boxes, unplugging and re-plugging all the plugs, we finally braved the terror’s that s C’s customer service line and called to try and find out what is wrong. What we received for our efforts was an automated voice message system informing us that they were aware of an outage of cable & internet in our entire apartment building, they had technicians working on it and power should be restored at 2:00 pm.

2:00 pm came. No restoration. We called and got the same message- except this time, they said the power would be restored at 5:00 pm.

5:00 pm comes. No restoration. We called. Got the same message- but now, it wouldn’t be until 9:00 pm.

9:00 pm rolls around. Do I really need to continue here or can you guess what they said next?

Eventually, technician from C shows up later the following day,does some poking around and determines that the cord that connects C cable and internet to not just us, but our entire apartment building has been cut.

Seriously. Someone cut the cord. My first thought was: Who DOES that?! My second one was: When do I get my Internet back?

We made an appointment with C for Wednesday to come and fix the cord and restore the cable and Internet. Not only did no one should up, but when I called to complain they informed me that someone had gone ahead and canceled the entire appointment and the soonest they could come out now was Friday. I thought that this was more than enough to get me heated, but oh no. There was more to come. C calls us the next morning and says that they will now be unable to come at all to fix the cable and internet. Why?

Because they’ve been completely banned from our apartment complex by the landlord.

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Not kidding guys. C is no longer allowed to service anyone living in our building, or even so much as step foot on the premises of our apartment complex. This was a decision made without the notification or knowledge of ANY of the tenants, mind you. We just had to find out the hard way. When we called him to find out why such a drastic action was taken we were told that it was because in spite of the expensive renovations that our building has underwent over the past year, C had refused to update their wiring system from outside, to inside like they were asked to by our landlord.

So he banned them completely. Two words: Cat. Fight.

But apart from all that, this also meant that not only would we be without cable or internet for yet ANOTHER day, we now had to research and shop around for an entirely new service provider, then hope, pray and wish that they could make it out sometime soon to get us set up. A few hours go by, and we settle on another provider. Let’s just call them “A”. A had a package that was very similar to what we had with C. Not only that, but they said they would be able to come out on Friday to get us set up. How’s that for service?

Friday comes. The A technician shows up- on time (which is more than anyone could ever say for C), and starts to get to work. You’d THINK this would be relatively simple fix. But no.  Not at all. Care to guess why?

Someone also cut the  existing “A” cord that’s supposed to provide cable and internet to the building. Still not kidding.

At this point, I told my older sister that this whole thing was a lost cause. The Gods were against our cause. They just didn’t want us to have cable and internet anymore. She told me to cheer up and have a little faith.

Well God Bless those A technicians. They arrived at our place around 11:00 a.m. Friday morning, and didn’t leave until 7:30 pm….when we FINALLY got our internet and cable back.

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After an ordeal like that, I need some kind of compensation- y’know, for the  pain, suffering and whatnot that 5 days without internet does to someone. And what better than recompense than chocolate chip cookies?

Do me a favor: hold out your hand, palm facing up. Measure the distance between the edge of your palm to about the middle knuckle of your thumb. That’s a pretty big space, right?

Well, that’s about how big these cookies are.

And they’re not just any chocolate chip cookies, guys. That won’t work here. I’m talking about the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve EVER made or had, and that’s not an exaggeration. They really are.  Apart from being ginormous, they’re also incredibly soft and chewy on the inside with just a hint of crunch at the rims. Which is how homemade chocolate chip cookies ought to be- anything else is an impostor. If you want crunchy chocolate chip cookies then go out and buy some Chips Ahoy.

This recipe says you can bake the cookies from 10-14 minutes, but listen: don’t go over 11. Just don’t do it. I took mine out at 10 minutes and thirty seconds. Yes, I most certainly did wait in front of the oven with my phone timer to count the seconds. That’s what it takes for perfect chocolate chip cookies.

Once they’ve cooled, store them in an air-tight container with a slice of bread- that will make sure they stay soft for days on end. Microwave for about 20 seconds on a napkin- they’ll practically melt in your mouth.

That’s it guys. I’ve got nothing else, besides heading over to the Fiesta Friday #42 super late to share these cookies, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Tracy @Scratch It and Stephanie @The Cozy Cook.

How was YOUR week? As eventful as mine? I doubt it, but I’m willing to be surprised.

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Chewy Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Land O Lakes.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoo nsalt
  • 1 1/2 cups Butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups)real semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chocolate chips

 

Directions

1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl; set aside.

2. Combine butter, sugar and brown sugar in another bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.

3. Add eggs and vanilla. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

4. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks.

5. Refrigerate dough for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

6. Heat oven to 375°F.

7. Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-14 minutes or until light golden brown. (Do not overbake.) Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack.

Thai Marinated Chicken Skewers

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So I know I’ve mentioned before in my Shepherd’s Pie post that I would never, ever, ever EVER think about going to Culinary School or setting out to be some kind of professional chef in a restaurant. This is definitely still the case. I haven’t changed my mind. It’s not gonna happen.

Having said that, I am willing to say that I wouldn’t completely rule out having some kind of career role that has to do with food. In fact, I think I can visualize the perfect culinary career for me.

If there are any people reading this that work in the food industry and are looking to hire someone to do these duties, feel free to look over my conditions and shout me a holler if it sounds like a good fit.

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My ideal work space is a high rise studio loft in NYC with tall windows and high ceilings- this’ll give me plenty of ventilation and natural light.

I’m gonna need a Kenmore fully furnished kitchen with the latest appliances- and I mean the WORKS; two to three double wall ovens with advanced temperature control, one convection oven, both a flat top and standard grill, two French door refrigerators, a chest freezer, 3 Kenmore Elite dishwashers (because I hate washing dishes), 2 standing mixers, 2 food processors, a hand blender, 2 slow cookers, one deep fryer, and one panini press.

I need the pantry that comes on Master Chef or Iron Chef America- just to make sure I’ve got the ‘essentials’.

While they’re at it, Kenmore could also go ahead and furnish the cookware and dishes too- (just call it for promotional purposes).

And counter space. Lots and lots of counter space. If you could see what I’m working with in our apartment right now, you would definitely understand the desperation behind that request.

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I know, I know. All of that sounds really demanding. But it really wouldn’t go to waste, I swear. See, in my dream culinary job, I would go into work in this space every single day putting every single one of these tools to good use in simply recipe writing, testing and perfecting.

You’re scared of baking, and you need someone to bake a cake for your kid’s birthday? Tell me what they like, and I’ll make it for you.

You want someone to give a review of a cookbook? Send it over to me and I will make every single recipe and give my rating.

Are you a really bad cook and engaged to marry someone who’s used to good homemade eating? We’ll go over some of their favorite foods and I’ll teach you how to make them so that you guys don’t have to starve or order take out after you say ‘I do’.

I could also envision a community service aspect of that job where I would link up with the local homeless shelters or churches and organize a weekly night  where I can serve all the food I spent my ‘workday’ making to a number of people down on their luck who are in need of a good home cooked meal.

So yeah, that’s my dream job: a life where all I do is is cook simple, comfort food all day long, then give the food away to other people. And get paid to do it. That would be the life.

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Hey, it’s another chicken kabobs recipe. And I STILL chose not to make it on the grill like I was ‘supposed’ to. How about them apples.

As yummy as the Sambal Chicken Skewers I made a little while ago were, my family said that they thought these tasted even better. I think it’s the spices in the marinade that does it: I’m just a huge fan of curry powder and all of it’s subtle sweetness with just enough bite to pack a punch. In fact, I love it so much that I don’t even care that I have to scrub and scrub my counter tops super hard to get those dark yellow stains out when I accidentally spill some. And that’s saying something.

Don’t skip on making this peanut sauce. It’s just too good to miss out on. Plus, what else are you going to use to drizzle over the chicken and rice you’re going to eat this with? Nothing, that’s what. You can’t make Thai chicken without a peanut sauce. That’s just not the way the world works.

Whoa, I just remembered it was Fiesta Friday #41. Good thing I’ve got something to bring and share with all of you, huh? Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting, and especially to Nancy @Feasting With Friends and  Loretta @Safari of the Mind for co-hosting. See you at the party!

 

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Thai Marinated Chicken Skewers


Recipe Adapted from Cooking Channel

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1- inch cubes
  • 24 wooden skewers, soaked overnight in water

For the Marinade

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Peanut Coconut Sauce

  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste

Directions

1. Place the chicken in a medium bowl. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a separate bowl.

2. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage the meat with your hands for 1 minute to coat the cubes well.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper on 2 half sheet pans and place a baking rack on top of each. Spray racks with non-stick cooking spray.

5. Thread 4-5 pieces of chicken one each skewer, and arrange on top of baking racks. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until chicken reaches inner temperature of  165 degrees.

6. While chicken is baking, prepare peanut sauce: Combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, and red curry paste in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. When chicken is done, brush finished sauce over chicken cubes, and serve.

Pan de Muerto- Day of the Dead Bread

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Last night was (as we all know) Halloween. However, it was also the start of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It was something that I hadn’t even heard of until I was in middle school, and a traveling performing arts troupe did a short dramatization for us. To this day, I still remember being intrigued by it, and that started what continues to be a mild fascination with the Day of the Dead.

For those that haven’t heard of it, don’t freak out. It’s not a morbid, gothic thing exactly. In fact, after studying the history behind the holiday itself, you find out that it’s actually a very meaningful part of ancient Hispanic culture.

Pan de Muerto2

So let’s take it back. Way back. Back into time. When the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs around 1521, they tried to force Catholicism upon them in an attempt to try and eradicate their ancient religious rituals. In Catholicism, there are holidays called All Saints Day and All Souls Day that takes place November 1st and 2nd of every year. Although a large part of the Aztec culture was suppressed by the Spaniards, they still managed to preserve bits and pieces of their culture even in the midst of their oppression and cultural suppression. The Day of the Dead was one of those results.

Celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd, it’s a shortened version of the Aztec Mictecacihuatl festival that gives honor and memoriam to loved ones who have passed away. One of the most common practices for the Day of the Dead is to build beautiful altars with flowers, candles, pictures of dead loved ones, as well as various Mexican foods. One of the most important of these foods is the Pan de Muerto- or in English, the Bread of the Dead.

Pan de Muerto3

I’ve been waiting for months now to make this bread, not just because I thought the ingredients sounded great, but also because I think it’s just really cool to look at. The bread’s shape is representative of the Day of the Dead itself, with the dough being shaped into bones that are topped with a skull.

I’ll be honest, this reminds me a lot of the Jewish egg-based Challah bread, with the very notable exception of the anise in the Pan de Muerto that gives it a slight licorice aftertaste, as well as the delicious cinnamon sugar that gets sprinkled on the top just before it goes into the oven. It’s very tender and soft on the inside, and would also be perfect for later use in bred puddings or french toast.

Plus like I said: isn’t it just SO cool to look at?

Oh yeah, and those people in the picture? My great-grandparents, Isaac and Lily-Mae Haynes. They’ve passed away, so in a way I guess this bread is for them. Happy Día de los Muertos!

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Pan de Muerto- Day of the Dead Bread

Recipe Courtesy of “Bake” by Edward Gee

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Put the yeast into a large bowl with the water, stir to dissolve, and let stand for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the milk into a saucepan set over medium heat, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and add butter, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the salt. Stir until dissolved. Add the milk mixture to the yeast mixture.

2. Add one egg and the flour to the liquid ingredients, mix to combine, then knead until a smooth, silky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into four pieces. Set one piece aside. Using the palms of your hands, shape each of the remaining pieces into three ropes of equal length.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper. Weave the three dough ropes into a braid and join the ends to make a round loaf. Take the reserved piece of dough and shape it into 2 bones and a skull. Arrange these on top of the loaf and press lightly. Put on the prepared baking sheet and let rise for 45 minutes, to an hour.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F. Mix together the anise, cinnamon, and the remaining sugar in a small bowl. Beat the remaining egg and brush it onto the braided dough (do not brush the skull and bones), then sprinkle with the anise mixture.

6. Bake the bottom of the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden. If it’s browning too quickly, cover with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.