Category Archives: Spicy

Cornbread Jalapeño Poppers

I know you’ve been searching for that perfect thing to share with the gang while you watch football.  Or to eat all by yourself while you watch football.  Or while you watch Grey’s Anatomy.  Whatever floats your boat.  In any case, quality snackage is a priority!

I saw a similar recipe to this on Pinterest and added a few of my own touches.  They were easy to make, and soooo delicious!  If you don’t like it spicy, you probably won’t like these.  They definitely have a kick!  If you like the idea but not the heat, you could also use baby sweet peppers, or do a combo if you are making them for a group.

If you’re using jalapenos, I would definitely recommend wearing gloves during preparation.  Otherwise, you may find yourself with stinging fingers for a bit.  I’ve often said I thought they should sell these in the produce department, right next to the peppers.  Alas, “they” don’t listen to me.  I found mine at the pharmacy.

Cornbread Jalapeno Poppers.  So good!

Cornbread Jalapeño Poppers. So good!

Cornbread Jalapeño Poppers

12 (or however many you want) jalapenos
1 box cornbread mix (I use Jiffy, but any will work)
Milk & eggs needed for mix (for Jiffy this is one egg and 1/3 cup of milk)
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup corn kernels
3-4 ounces cream cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Slice each jalapeno down the middle length-wise.

Slice the jalapenos.  I highly recommend wearing gloves.

Slice the jalapenos. I highly recommend wearing gloves.

Clean out the seeds and membranes.  As you can see, I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to this part.  I leave the stems on because it makes a nice little handle.

Little jalapeno boats.  They don't have to be perfect.

Little jalapeno boats. They don’t have to be perfect.

Smear the inside of each pepper with cream cheese.  You can use a spoon or knife, but I found it was easier to use my fingers.  Just grab a little bit and smoosh it in there.

This little touch definitely stepped up the yummy factor.  Mmmm!

This little touch definitely stepped up the yummy factor. Mmmm!

Mix up cornbread mixture according to package instructions.  Add honey and corn and stir to combine.  Put a little cornbread mixture in each pepper half.  Don’t overfill or it will spill out all over as it cooks.  I had a few that were more cornbread blob with jalapeno in there somewhere (still delicious but not as pretty).  I had a little leftover cornbread mix, so I made a few mini muffins for the non-pepper lovers.

Don't go crazy with the filling if you want attractive poppers.

Don’t go crazy with the filling if you want attractive poppers.

Bake for 15 minutes or so, until lightly browned on the top.

If you have any left in the morning, they make dandy scrambled eggs.  Simply chop up and scramble with a couple of eggs in a hot skillet.

Good morning to me!

Good morning to me!

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Seared Tuna Tacos with Tropical Salsa

Sometimes I have an idea for a dish and I just can’t find a recipe for it.  So I make something up.  And when all the planets align and things go like they should, it turns out just how it was in my head.  This is one of those recipes.

I’ve been craving tacos.  But not just any tacos.  Fresh tuna tacos!  Nicely seared with spice and fruit and bright, tropical, summery flavors.  I imagined myself lying on a beach somewhere and eating tacos made from all sorts of island goodies.

Alas, I am not on an island, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t just an absolutely wonderful luau happening right in my mouth.  This is my favorite recipe I’ve made up this summer (so far!).  You can bet your flip flops we’ll be making them again soon!

Spicy Seared Tuna Tacos with Tropical Salsa.  So freaking good!

Spicy Seared Tuna Tacos with Tropical Salsa. So freaking good!

Spicy Seared Tuna Tacos with Tropical Salsa

2-3 tuna steaks
1 small red chile, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Drizzle of olive oil
2 limes
Salt & pepper
1 cup pineapple, diced
1 mango, diced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (or less if you don’t like it spicy)
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped napa or savoy cabbage
2 tbsp. mayonnaise or sour cream

Place tuna steaks in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle with red chile, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime and some salt & pepper.  Rub all over both sides.  Side aside.  Don’t do this ahead of time since the acid in the lime will “cook” the fish if left more than a few minutes.

Just a quick, simple marinade for the tuna.

Just a quick, simple marinade for the tuna.

In a bowl combine pineapple, mango, jalapeno, onion, cilantro and the juice of one lime.  Stir to blend and set aside.

Spicy Tropical Salsa.  So good!

Spicy Tropical Salsa. So good!

In a small bowl combine mayo or sour cream with the juice of half a lime.

Heat skillet over medium high heat.  Drizzle with olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  When pan is hot add tuna.  Sear 1-2 minutes on each side, leaving it rare in the middle.  Remove from heat.  Slice against the grain into thin slices.

Warm tortillas in the oven or microwave.  Build your taco with a few slices of tuna, topped with salsa and cabbage.  Drizzle with a bit of sauce if desired.

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April’s Famous Salsa

I recently reconnected with my stepbrother after a number of years.  The first thing he told me (not kidding!) was that in all the years since we’d seen each other he had yet to find a salsa that measured up to mine.  A proud moment for me as a big sister, a cook, and a salsa lover.  :)

And he’s not wrong.  Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little), but this stuff is pretty awesome.

You can make this chunky by just pulsing in a food processor, or smoother by using a blender.  For this batch, I used the blender.  During the height of tomato season I use fresh tomatoes, but most of the year canned tomatoes work just fine.  I especially like the newish “fire-roasted” diced tomato variety, for a little extra smoky flavor.  You can also roast the veggies before throwing them in for an extra smoky finish as well.

April's Famous Salsa

April’s Famous Salsa

April’s Famous Salsa

1/2 cup red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 – 1 jalapeno, (green or red or a bit of both – stemmed & seeded)
3-4 tomatillos, husked and quartered
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 handful fresh cilantro (about 1/3 – 1/2 cup)
1 can diced (fire-roasted or regular) tomatoes (or use 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped)

In a blender or food processor, add onion, jalapeno, garlic, tomatillos, lime juice and cilantro.  Pulse or puree (pulse for chunkier texture, puree for smoother salsa).  Scrape down sides and add tomatoes, salt and cumin.  Pulse to combine.  Check texture and blend more if you’d like it smoother.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Makes about 2 cups.  Store in an airtight container.  This will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks (if it lasts that long!).

April's Famous Salsa.  I eat this on just about everything.

April’s Famous Salsa. I eat this on just about everything.

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Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta

Even though I love veggies, I still occasionally come across one I haven’t tried before.  This week at farmer’s market, a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard caught my eye.  I had to buy it.

Rainbow Chard.  Isn't it pretty?

Rainbow Chard. Isn’t it pretty?

I asked the vendor how he normally cooks it and he sheepishly admitted that he’d never actually tried it himself.  What?  So…left to my own devices I went home and dug up some recipes online and hit on one that we all really liked.

I’m usually not a big fan of greens.  I didn’t grow up eating them, so I’ve slowly introduced myself to them.  I like almost all of them raw, and just recently have started cooking them now and then.  While I would not consider chard (or any leafy greens really) to be an entry level vegetable, I really enjoyed this.  While raw, it was quite bitter, but a quick saute mellowed the bite substantially.  The sweetness of the shallot and vinegar and smokiness of the bacon complemented the slight bitterness of the greens, adding up to a tasty dish indeed.   Add a creamy, cheesy polenta for contrast and it was absolutely delicious.  If you’re wondering if the kids will eat it, I can only say that mine both cleaned their plates with a smile on their faces.

Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta

Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta

Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta
(from Sunset)

1 cup polenta
1/2 tsp. salt
4 slices thick cut bacon
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large bunches rainbow chard, ribs cut into 1/2 inch sections and leaves roughly chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Cook polenta with salt as package directs.  Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels.

Discard bacon fat and heat olive oil in the same pan. Cook shallots, garlic and chard ribs until softened, about 4 minutes.  Stir in chard leaves, chile flakes and 1/3 cup water.  Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes.

Stir butter and cheese into polenta and spoon into bowls.  Toss chard with polenta and spoon over polenta.  Crumble bacon and sprinkle on top.  Serves 4.

Note:  This meal can easily be made vegetarian by simply eliminating the bacon.

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Can’t Stop Eating Hot Wings!

It’s been a fairly healthy week of eating for me.  Rainbow chard, roasted beets, veggies and hummus.  And after all that…I’ll admit it.  I needed some hot wings.

Spicy, messy, sauce on your face, make your nose run wings!  There is no substitute for hot wings that will give one the same satisfaction.  I don’t make them very often, but when I do, holy cow they are yummy.  Afterward, I sit, looking at the pile of bones stacked on my plate, with my lips still stinging, and feel sticky, blissful happiness.

I make my wings slightly healthier by baking them, but I don’t delude myself into thinking this is health food by any means.  Still, in moderation, I think it’s okay to eat just about anything once in a while.  That being said, make more than you think you’ll need because I guarantee you will want some more!

Independence Day is coming up, and I promise these will be a perfect addition to any barbecue, potluck or picnic.  Bring extra napkins.

Can't Stop Eating Hot Wings!

Can’t Stop Eating Hot Wings!

Can’t Stop Eating Hot Wings!

2 pounds chicken wings (split into wing and drum sections if they aren’t already)
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce (not the wing sauce, just the original kind) plus more for drizzling
1 tbsp. honey
Red Hot and olive oil for drizzling
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Spread out wings in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Shake some Red Hot on the wings.  Bake 20 minutes, turn wings, shake some hot sauce on the other side, bake another 20 minutes.

As if the sauce wasn't enough, I drizzle with hot sauce to bake some of the flavor right into the wings before they take their saucy dip.

As if the sauce wasn’t enough, I drizzle with hot sauce to bake some of the flavor right into the wings before they take their saucy dip.

In a large pan over low heat, combine butter, barbecue sauce, Red Hot and honey.  Stir to combine.  When butter is melted and sauce is hot you can turn off the heat.  Remove wings from the oven and toss in the sauce.  Serve hot!

These paired beautifully with my Italian-ish Pasta Salad on the side.  Cool and refreshing to contrast with hot and sticky.  Mmmm.

Wings with a side of pasta salad.  Yum.

Wings with a side of pasta salad. Yum.

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Going Green…Chili Style!

Just when I thought I had used up all my shredded pork, a gift came in the form of a gallon bag of shredded smoked pork from my uncle.  Not one to look a gift pig in the mouth, I divided it into a few containers and stuck it in the freezer to be doled out to my family at a later date.  Of course I had to cook some of it right away.  And it tastes amazing!  If you aren’t lucky enough to have people giving you pork, you can use leftovers from my basic pork roast recipe, or simply throw in a small pork roast or some chops.  Since this is a crock pot recipe they will cook up just fine over the course of the day.

When I went to school in Denver, I discovered the best Mexican food I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.  The general thinking there is to smother just about everything in green chili.  And I am okay with that!  And if you don’t feel like eating it over the top of a burrito, a nice bowl of it works just fine.  As opposed to most other places I’ve lived, in that style of cooking the green sauce is more spicy; the red sauce is the mild stuff.  I didn’t have a recipe for green chili, so I just winged it and was very pleased with the results!  Since we were planning to eat this as a soup/stew, I made this version chunkier than I remember, and added some black beans.  Not that that will stop me from using the leftovers to smother something – like a breakfast burrito!  Serve with rice and warm tortillas.

That's what I'm talkin' about!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Pork Green Chili

5-6 Anaheim Chiles
3-4 Poblano or Padilla Peppers
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
3-4 cups shredded or chopped pork*
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked and quartered
4 cups chicken broth
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste
2-3 tsp. ground cumin
Rice & tortillas for serving if desired

Looking yummy already!  Tomatillos and peppers.

Looking yummy already! Tomatillos and peppers.

Seed peppers.  You can do this to the small ones by cutting of the top, turning upside down and rolling between your hands or shaking out the seeds.  Or you can cut them in half and remove the seeds that way.

All ready to roast.

All ready to roast.

Lay out on a baking sheet and broil for 4-5 minutes per side until skin is blackened.

Leave them in there until the skin is nice and black.  It will peel right off once it is cool.

Leave them in there until the skin is nice and black. It will peel right off once it is cool.

Place in a paper or plastic bag to steam and cool.  When cool enough to handle, remove skins and coarsely chop peppers.

Add all ingredients to crock pot.  Turn on high for a 2-3 hours, then turn down to low and cook until dinner time.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

* If you don’t have a bunch of leftover shredded pork in your freezer, feel free to use a small pork roast, or pork chops.  Just put the meat on the bottom of the crock pot and pile everything else on top.  At the end of the day, take a couple of forks and pull the meat apart into shreds or chunks and remove any bones before serving.

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Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In my efforts to eat healthy some days are more successful than others.  This meal was probably the healthiest one I made all week, and definitely one of the tastiest as well.  It was a huge hit with the kids too.

If you don’t like it spicy, you will want to reduce or eliminate the Thai or serrano peppers.  Made according to the recipe, these definitely have a bit of a kick!

One note on ground chicken:  I typically don’t like to buy it.  For some reason it seems to always have a bit of a mysterious gritty texture that I don’t enjoy.  Unless you are close friends with the guy at the meat counter, there is no way to know exactly what is ground up in there.  Instead I buy chicken thighs and grind them up myself in my food processor.  A few pulses is all it takes.  It results in a coarser, juicier texture which I like, and no weird grit!  Plus you have the advantage of choosing exactly what parts of the chicken you want to eat.  I usually opt for thighs since I find them a bit more flavorful. That being said, if you’re in a hurry or just don’t want to mess with it, by all means buy ground chicken instead.

Not a fan of lettuce wraps?  Admittedly they are a little messy but I love them.  However, once you’ve made this mixture there is no reason you couldn’t put it in a wrap, tortilla, rice paper, pepper half or pita pocket.  Or just dig in with a fork.  Whatever conveyance you choose, these are just plain yummy!

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Delicious!

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Delicious!

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
(adapted from Cooking Light)

4 tsp. canola oil, divided
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup (or more) thinly sliced red bell pepper
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound chicken thighs (or ground chicken)
2 Thai or serrano chiles, minced (less if you don’t like it spicy)
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped or torn
1 tbsp. lime juice
Lime wedges
Large lettuce leaves (I like to use butter lettuce for this since the leaves are sort of bowl-shaped)

Cut chicken into chunks and add to a food processor.

Making ground chicken.  I prefer this to buying ground chicken.  It only takes a few extra minutes!

Making ground chicken. I prefer this to buying ground chicken. It only takes a few extra minutes!

Pulse until coarsely ground.

A few pulses and voila!  Ground chicken.

A few pulses and voila! Ground chicken.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tsp. oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add shallots and sauté 2 minutes.  Add bell pepper; sauté one minute.  Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  Remove shallot mixture from pan and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tsp. oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add chicken.  Cook and stir 5 minutes or until browned, crumbling with your stirring utensil as it cooks.  Drain well if there is extra juice in the pan.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add chiles; cook one minute.  Add shallot mixture back in.  Stir in fish sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce and black pepper.  Cook one minute or so until everything is heated through and combined well.  Remove pan from heat.  Stir in basil leaves and lime juice.

There is nothing stopping you from just eating this with a fork if you're no fan of lettuce wraps.  Dig in!  Otherwise, load up the wrap of your choice with this yummy concoction!

There is nothing stopping you from just eating this with a fork if you’re no fan of lettuce wraps. Otherwise, load up the wrap of your choice with this yummy concoction!

Serve in lettuce leaves with lime wedges or just dig in with a fork!

 

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Jambalaya Night

A friend asked me recently if I knew how to make jambalaya and I honestly couldn’t even remember.  I’ve EATEN jambalaya.  Does that count?  I seem to recall making it many years ago, but if it’s been that long, obviously it was high time to make it again.

Searching for recipes for this little project, I realized something:  there are about a million variations of jambalaya.  I chose one that was fairly basic for the test drive.  This particular variation has a lot of tomato, which I personally liked.  The Creole spices (which appear to be a mixture mostly of pepper and garlic) give the dish a real kick and the combination of ingredients lead to a wonderful smelling house!

Luckily this recipe also serves 6-8 people, so invite a few friends and have a jambalaya night!

Jambalaya with a side of fresh green beans.

Jambalaya

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes, with juice
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 green onions, chopped

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove sausage with a slotted spoon; set aside.  Add onion, pepper, celery, garlic and seasonings.  Saute 5 minutes or so until veggies are tender.

Veggies and seasonings. Smells so good, but don’t breathe too deep right over the pan, those peppers will get you!

Stir in reserved sausage, tomatoes, broth and rice.

This is what it looks like before the rice sucks up all the liquid. Looks pretty good to me! Is there a jambalaya soup experiment in my future? I think so!

Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.  Stir in shrimp, cover and cook 5 minutes or until done.  Sprinkle each serving with green onions.

**If you are making this for a group that includes vegetarians (which I was), you can saute the meat first and set it aside to serve on top of the rice dish, rather than cooking it with it.  I sauteed the sausage and then added the shrimp for a few minutes at the end and sprinkled it all with a bit of Creole seasoning for some extra flavor.  Vegetable broth can also be substituted for the chicken broth.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Thai Steak Salad

I love Thai food with its complex flavors and fresh ingredients.  A little sweet, a little tangy, a bit of salty, and a zip of heat.  But sometimes I only think about curries and noodles and forget about Thai salads.  This salad is as tasty as it is pretty and comes together in a snap.

Thai Steak Salad

Thai Steak Salad
(from Cooking Light)

1 flank steak (or substitute sirloin or flatiron steak if not available)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. Sriracha (hot chile sauce)
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1 1/4 cups fresh bean sprouts
3/4 cup julienne-cut carrots
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

Heat large grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Sprinkle steak with salt & pepper.  Add steak to pan and cook 6 minutes on each side or to desired doneness.  Remove steak from pan and let stand 5 minutes.  Cut across grain into thin slices.

Combine lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and Sriracha in a small bowl.  Stir well with whisk.  In a large bowl combine cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots and herbs.  Add two tablespoons sauce to beef and toss.  Add remaining sauce to the cabbage mixture and toss well.  Toss steak and cabbage and eat!  Serves 4.

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Easy Roasted Shrimp & Green Beans

Green beans are my favorite vegetable.  Fun to eat, crunchy and good.  This time of year, farmer’s market has them by the bucket so I picked some up last time I went. Roasting is my preferred method to cook just about any vegetable, and the only thing easier is to go ahead and throw the other ingredients for dinner on the pan with it.

This dish has all the yumminess of shrimp scampi (without the gobs of butter) plus the crunchiness of the roasted green beans.  Serve with some simple couscous for an easy, delicious dinner that’s actually good for you.  If you don’t like mushrooms, leave them out.  Same goes with the crushed red pepper. This is one that is very easy to adapt to your own tastes.

Easy Roasted Shrimp & Green Beans

Easy Roasted Shrimp & Green Beans

1 pound of fresh green beans
1 pound peeled shrimp
A handful of small mushrooms, if you like them
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (add more or less to adjust spiciness to your taste)
2 lemons
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400˚. Line large baking sheet with foil or parchment (this is mostly for easy clean up, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to).  Combine shrimp, green beans, garlic, crushed red pepper and zest from both lemons.  Spread out in pan.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Squeeze juice of one lemon over the top.  Drizzle the whole thing with a bit of olive oil (you don’t need much).  Bake for 20 minutes until green beans are tender but still have a bite and shrimp are cooked through.  Cut the other lemon into wedges for garnish and to squeeze over the top of both the shrimp and couscous if desired.  Serves 4.

Fresh out of the oven. Yum!

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