Eat- Spicy Pulled Pork Quesadillas with Peach Poblano Salsa

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We all know how Keri likes it when she can mix food AND booze together, so my Southern Sloshed Pulled Pork gets made  A LOT around The Casa.

I chuckled a bit reading the recipe as written in that link, because I never just make this stuff one pound at a time these days!  I use 4-5 lbs roasts, typically, and double the seasonings (but not the Jim Beam,) in the crock pot.

Why cook so dang much Keri?

LEFT OVERS!!  I always have this pulled pork all cooked up and frozen, ready to be used in different ways.  Pre-seasoned, pre-cooked BBQ pulled pork is a great place to start for all kinds of yummieness you might never consider “BBQ” pork for.

Like what, you say?

THIS-
WHAT YOU NEED:

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Salsa:

1 small peach (or 1/2 to ¾ can peaches well drained)

1 poblano pepper roasted, skin and seeds removed (see below – it’s easy.)

Optional ground cayenne pepper

Salt

Quesadillas:

4 tortillas (I like the “fajita size” – a nice thick quesadilla is plenty filling with all of this goodness oozing out!)

4 oz shredded BBQ Pork (or other meat – 2oz per quesadilla is a good amount without being so much that everything can’t stick together well)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

¾ teaspoon cumin

¾ teaspoon chili powder

Optional diced jalapeno

1 ½ -2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I used a combination of “casserole mix” and mozzarella

*this will serve 2 people/ make 2 quesadillas

WHAT YOU DO:

If you are using a fresh poblano, now is the time to get it roasting so you can do the other prep while it steams.  If you haven’t done this before it is super easy and makes a chile or pepper taste like heaven.  You can do it on your grill, or directly on your gas burner, but here I used a small skillet.

Heat a dry skillet over high heat on the stove, and then place your pepper on the hot surface.  Allow each side to blister and then turn to the next, until all sides are done:

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Take the skillet off of the heat, cover the pepper, and allow to steam for 10-15 minutes.  DON’T take the lid off or you will lose all of that steam!

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While you let the pepper do it’s thing, mix up your filling and start your salsa.

In a bowl, combine the pork with the garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, and diced jalapeno (if you want – I really like the kick and the crunch they add, you can see I used about  1/4 cup of the pickled variety, and I dice them up so they are spread out in the quesadilla.)  Mix well to combine everything with the pork and set aside.

If you are using a fresh peach, remove the skin and the pit.  Add your peach to a blender or food processor.

Uncover your pepper – the skin will be loose from the body of the pepper, so giving it a gentle rub under some cool water will remove all of that blistered skin.  It is also easy to pull the end with the stem off and remove the seeds from inside the roasted pepper.  Add this to the peaches, and blend until any large chunks are gone:

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At this point you want to taste the salsa!  (Taste when you cook!  It is the easiest way to know if you are on the right track, and plus, who doesn’t want to sample the goodness?)   If it is a bit bland (not tasting the actual flavor of the ingredients you just blended,) add a pinch of salt and give it another pulse.  (Go in small pinches, it is easier to add more than to try to offset oversalting!)   If you are looking for a little more heat, add a sprinkle of the ground cayenne (Like I did here.)

When your taste testing results in a salsa that is perfect for you, refrigerate while you assemble your quesadillas.

This isn’t rocket science, and I am not going to pretend it is.  I like to cook quesadillas on the George Foreman Grill (or a sandwich press because  OH! YOU FANCY LIKE THAT,) but if you prefer to bake, or heat in a skillet, then go for it.

What is important for structural integrity of the final product is cheese distribution, people.

Lay your “bottom” tortilla down, and start with a good layer of cheese.  On top of that spread 2 oz (half if you are making two like I did here,)  of the meat mixture evenly over that cheese.  Let some areas of cheese show through.  Then, spread another good layer of cheese over the top of that, and place your “top” tortilla on the whole thing.  Now cook.

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Cheese on both sides ensures that neither of the tortillas will go sliding around up against the filling when everything gets hot.  Allowing some cheesy areas to show through that filling layer means that the two sides will be “glued” together so it doesn’t just split in half on you when you are eating it.

It’s a science AND an art form, folks….  and I have spent years perfecting it.  It is my gift to you.

Cook 6-8 minutes until the outside gets crunchy and you can see cheese oozing on the sides.  Let it stand a minute before cutting (again, this will aid in a structurally sound quesadilla. Trust Keri.)

Serve with the salsa generously piled in a dish for dipping/slathering.  The hot filling and gooey cheese  complemented by the cool, fresh, bright flavor of the salsa make for a perfect bite.
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Hooray for the leftover pork!

 

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Eat – Mac and Cheese YOUR way – Jr’s 3rd Birthday Bash

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When it comes to hosting parties, I believe in providing options for my guests.
With a picky eater husband, I am keenly aware that, be it legit dietary restrictions or just differences in tastes, it is best to hedge bets and offer a variety when it comes to the menu for a larger gathering.

Add some kiddos to the guest list and it goes from being “good idea” to being pretty well mandatory in my mind.

I like to start with one base that everyone uses and then give options to build from there.

Nachos, Tacos, Chili, Baked Potatoes, Personal Pizzas, Big Salad….. they have all seen some action at my informal gatherings.

This year for Jr’s birthday I confess I was stumped.  It was a lunch-time shin-dig, and of late even Jr has been dipping his toe into the “toddler picky eater” waters.  What would HE eat?

Everything I thought of, I kept postscripting in my mind with “and I will make mac and cheese for the kids.”

HELLO!!!   Not AND – Mac and Cheese was the answer!

The Top Your Own Maccaroni and Cheese Bar came into being.

Perfect for all ages – simple for kiddos, with some more adventurous offerings for the grown ups who wanted to branch out.

I started (of course) with my favorite recipe for maccaroni and cheese from Ina Garten, using half medium cheddar and half sharp, and made two big pans of it (too much = always better than not enough when it comes to party food,) which I made the day before and heated up as guests started arriving.

But the fun part is the toppings!! Here is what I had, along with some other ideas

Bacon Crumbles

Green Chiles

Cherry (or diced) Tomatoes

Peas

Different Cheese shreds/crumbles – I had Blue Cheese, Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Feta, and a shredded casserole mix

Mini Pepperoni
Seasoned Bread Crumbs (Good old Stove Top works GREAT for this)

Pulled Pork

Lobster

Shelled Edamame

Broccoli

Sausage Crumbles/slices

Salsa

Hot dog slices or Hot dog “Octopuses”

Grilled Chicken chunks or strips (seasoned however you like)

Fresh chopped herbs

Red onion

Pesto

Let’s be honest, that list can go on FOREVER and only get better and better, but writing it is making me crave a big plate of Mac and Cheese, and it is only 9:30 here. (Breakfast mac, anyone?)

I digress (as usual.)

It was a hit – I felt like a GENIUS – everyone loved it and even the pickiest of people ::::cough cough::: My Husband :::cough::: came away full and happy.

We all know that “full and happy” equals success to Keri.

Happy Birthday Jr -now let’s get you in the kitchen and make some delicious messes together.

 

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Drink – Keri’s Lazy Spring Sangria Blanca

Belly up to my bar and let’s talk Sangria (look, here is your seat):

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Sangria is open to interpretation among my girlfriends.  Showers and luncheons honoring one of the group have included gorgeous, traditional versions – full of a whole salad of fruit, with deep juicy red wine, and brandy and honey drizzled in…. mmmmm.
Bottled versions have been gifted back and forth and shared for all manner of occasions.
Pool days have resulted in some rather liberal interpretations of the term involving leftover white wine from someone’s dinner, some berries rejected from a toddler lunch, club soda, and a generous dump of Citrus vodka or possibly moonshine soaked cherries.   (Hashtag Klassy!)

In spring I fall somewhere in between,  mostly as an excuse to bring my beloved Vhino Verde into the mix. This barely fizzy, blessedly UNsweet white wine is perfect for warmer weather.   Look for it with the Portugeese wines.

Here’s my lightning fast lazy Sangria Blanca – perfect for sharing but easy enough to whip up for one.

WHAT YOU NEED:

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Vhino Verde -  6oz for a single serving,  1 bottle if making a a pitcher

Triple Sec – 1 shot for a single serve,  3/4 cup – 1 cup in a pitcher (Go for the full cup. come on, you know you want to.)

Strawberries – 2 for single serve , 8-10 for a pitcher  , chopped

Ice

WHAT YOU DO:

In a NON BREAKABLE container – a shallow shaker works well for single serve, a bowl if going the pitcher route, add strawberries and some ice cubes. using a muddler ,or if you can’t find yours like me, any other substantial poking device, (eh heh, eh heh, eh heh,) muddle the strawberries until they are broken down and you see red on the ice and in the container (so you could see my awesome muddler, etc, I have this in the glass – but glass and really good muddling don’t mix that well, broken glass is NOT an ingredient of this recipe):

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Add a the wine and the Tripple Sec and stir to mix the mashed strawberry goodness in, (but don’t flatten the bubbles in the wine!)

Transfer to the serving container.  Enjoy.

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(I told you it was lazy.  But it tastes really good, and it looks pretty in a pitcher or a glass.)

 

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Eat – Spicy Brussels Sprout Slaw and Stir-fry Pork

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SPRING IS IN THE AIR PEOPLE!!

(I am a little excited.)

The outdoor eating (and drinking – because patio happy hour is practically a professional sport here in Colorful Colorado,) season is upon us – or at least beginning to creep in for a few choice nights, beckoning and teasing us to strap on the sandals and sunscreen, pop the Vhino Verde, and linger into the evening hours on the patio.

Just glorious.

One other thing always happens when the weather starts to get warm around The Casa:  Keri wants salad.  All.  The. Time.

This one is fresh and fun and dressed lightly – you can shred ahead of time (and super fast in a processor) and stir-frying thin strips of pork is done in a few quick minutes – getting you and your dinner to the patio table to enjoy all the first whispers of Spring with all flavor and no fuss.

WHAT YOU NEED:

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For the Slaw:

1/2 lb Brussels Sprouts

1 Medium Carrot, peeled

1/2 Red Bell Pepper (I used a whole one the first time I made this and it was a bit overwhelming)

For the Slaw Dressing:

1 tablespoon Siracha

1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger

2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar

For the Pork:

1/2 lb Pork loin sliced into thin strips

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Paste (I don’t like chunks in this – minced garlic would work too.)

1 tablespoon Soy Sauce

WHAT YOU DO:

Using the slicer disk on a food processor, slice the sprouts, carrot, and pepper:

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Combine the Siracha, ginger, and vinegar:

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Drizzle the mixture over the sliced veggies and toss to coat evenly, and store the slaw in the fridge while you prepare the pork to keep it cool and crisp.

Combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, and garlic:

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Coat the pork with the mixture and add the pork and excess mixture to a (pre heated) HOT skillet or wok.  Spread to form a single layer and let cook 3 minutes.  Stir to allow the mixture to coat the pork as it thickens and to cook the other side of the pork.  The mixture will thicken until it is a sticky gel on the bottom of the pan – stir to coat pork one last time and remove from heat when the mix is reduced to a thick, sticky coating.

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Serve the hot pork on top of a bed of the cold, crisp slaw.

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Serves 2 generously.
Bonus for Keri – the leftovers of this + fresh tortillas warmed on a burner = PERFECT fusion tacos for lunch or late night snacking.

Bring on the patio dining!!

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Eat- Houston style Green Sauce

Um yeah… so  why so silent,  there Keri?  Not really – I’ve just been caught up in observing the hilariousness that is life in the ‘burbs at Reluctantly Suburban.

But Keri is never NOT cooking – here I am on Hungry whipping up  some Arroz Con Pollo (yum.)

We spent Christmas in Texas with The Hub’s family, and Tex-Mex food in the Houston region includes a heavenly substance known as “Green Sauce.”  Chips and Salsa that come to the table for snacking will include this as well as a traditional tomato-based salsa.
I’m a sucker for regional foods/dishes, and this sauce is on my Houston must have list along with Chicken-fried Steak and Kolaches (mmmmmmm. )

After some research and tinkering,  I have a green sauce recipe I can make to satisfy my cravings for a giant vat little dollop of Houston flavor and my shameless social media boasting led to requests to share it.

Behold, y’all:

What you need
-1 and 1/2 lbs of fresh tomatillos
-2 cloves garlic, mashed or pressed to a paste
-1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
-1 Serrano pepper, roasted, a skin removed
-1 ripe avocado, skin and pit removed
-1/4-1/2 cup Sour Cream

What you do
1. Peel the papery skin off of the tomatillos
2.In a large pot bring to boil enough water to cover the tomatillos,  add them and boil until they are tender – 8-10 minutes
3. In a food processor,  pulse the cilantro,  avocado, Serrano pepper (if you want less heat, remove the seeds and veins from the pepper – I like a bit of spice, and it isn’t overwhelming,  so I leave them in,) and garlic. Pulse to blend.
4. Add the tomatillos to the processor and blend until smooth.
5. Add 1/4 cup sour cream and blend again. Taste. If desired you can add more sour cream for an even creamier texture.
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6. Chill and serve cold or room temp with chips for dipping (or straw for drinking if you love it like I do.)

Tonight I smothered grilled chicken burritos with it. Oh yeah.  So. Damn. Good.
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Enchiladas sauced with it are on my list to try as well.

Make it. Serve it. Receive compliments with a demure “Well bless your heart, y’all!”

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Eat – Dirty Martini Chicken and Rosemary Polenta Fries

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Keri loves a dirty martini.  What’s not to love? It’s briny and strong and perfectly balenced. (Mmmmm.  Mar-teee-neeeeee.  Mmmmmm.)
That salty, earthy balence is kind of a perfect match for chicken as well, and crispy crunchy polenta fries seasoned with Rosemary give you something to sop up the extra sauce. This will serve 2 hungry eaters, or you could pair with a green salad and feed 4 easily

What You Need:

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2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-2 inch pieces

8-10 green olives, minced

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried Thyme

1/4 cup water or stock

1tube polenta

1 tablespoon dried Rosemary

Olive oil

What You Do:

Rosemary Polenta Fries

Preheat oven to 425
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Cut the polenta into sticks I cut the tube in half and then slice each of the halves into sticks, as seen above.

Brush with olive oil

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 Sprinkle with half the Rosemary

Lay sprinkled side down on baking sheet and repeat oil and Rosemary

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Bake for 40 minutes or until desired level of crunch is achived. (Crunch is personal, yo – so you guide you on this one.)

Chicken

Heat a skillet over high heat, and add olive oil to coat bottom.
Add chicken pieces in single layer and allow to brown on one side (give it a few minutes until some color develops)
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Flip each piece, then add stock, lemon juice, Thyme, and olives.
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Allow to cook until sauce reduces down, scraping the bottom of the pan to release all of the delicious goodness that has built up during cooking, (if you would like things a bit thicker, a sprinkle of flour and a stir will do the trick.)

This dish cooks quick since the chicken is cut small, so 12 minutes or so from start to finish is about all you’ll need. (Which means you will want to get the fries well down the road to being done before starting the chicken.)

To serve, pile the fries up in the center of a plate and top with chicken, then spoon extra sauce (and those olive bits,) over the whole magical pile.

Dinner is served.
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BTW, Jr is a big fan of SUPER crispy polenta fries- and Rosemary is only one way to season – try Parmesan cheese, parsley, and garlic mixed together for the grownups, with just the Parm for kiddos. Mmmm

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Drink- The almost classic Margarita

Happy Margarita Day!!! (No really, it’s a thing, and today is it, I swear. I never lie about booze.)

I grew up working in a Mexican Restaurant. Have I said that before?   Ok, “grew up” is a relative term, because I wasn’t in my play pen in the back of the house or anything, (which one owner’s daughter actually was, it was an actual family joint,) but I did plenty of growing up from 16 to 22 in various jobs there, so…..

Our claim-to-fame was the extra shot of tequila we served with every Margarita.  Some stirred it in to their drink, some bombed it right back on its own (some also bombed back others on the table ehhemmm, Mom, ehhemmm,) and some left them on the table.  The latter meant that the bus boys brought them to the kitchen where we bombed them back while frying sopapillas, er, poured them down the drain, how sad.

Anyhoo, that restaurant of course specialized in the syrup-y sweet typical “house Marg” that gets produced in a Margarita machine. Fine and dandy, but we can do better, my dear old friend of a drink.  Try this instead for something a little less like a Slurpie, but still easy drinking enough to be dangerous.

What You Need:

2oz tequila
1oz tripple sec
1oz lime juice (fresh is best, but don’t judge my jug)
1 oz (give or take to taste) Simple Syrup
Salt for garnish (if you are salt-eh like me)

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What You Do:
-wet rim of glass and then invert glass into salt (if you don’t have the marg salt like us drunks savvy veterans have, spread your salt on a small plate to allow for enough space to dip your rim)

-  in an ice-filled shaker combine all the other ingredients.
- lid on, shake doing your best impression of Tom Cruise in Cocktail (refrain from drawing attention to being too young to know that reference. K?)

- pour into glass of your choice.  Here’s my thing with this marg- I like to shake and pour into a bigger glass fille with fresh ice. Much like the simple syrup isn’t traditional, neither is the glass of ice, but I like a little sweetness, and I like a little ice melt in this drink.  Kind of like an Old Fashion, a little icy water-y-ness isn’t really a bad thing to me.   But you do you, and less-or-more the sweetness and the ice in the glass as you see fit.  Mine look like this:
:

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Mmmmmm.

Btw- if you want the pre-fab variety, we can totes accommodate that too, thanks to this stuff from Dr. Sissy (I think it is the sorority girl in her.)

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You just say the word and I’ll bust out the blender.

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