Enchiladas A La Gringa

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When it comes to Mexican food, I’m totally lost. I’m more literate in Italian cooking, but I realized that they are both very similar in spirit – focusing on comfort foods, made from fresh ingredients, and meant to be served family style. Yes, for this recipe I use a few short cuts, but these enchiladas taste pretty authentic to me!

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INGREDIENTS:

16 Small Corn Tortillas

1 Rotisserie Chicken (with juices)

1 Lime

1 1/2 Cups of Corn

1/4 Cup Queso Fresco

1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella

1/8 Cup Chopped Cilantro

I Can (4 ounces) of Diced Green Chiles

1  Can (19 ounces) of Las Palmas Green Chili Enchiladas Sauce

1/2 Tablespoon of Both Salt and Pepper

1/4 Tablespoon of Cayenne Pepper

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The biggest time savor to this recipe is grabbing a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It’s already cooked, super tender, has tons of flavor and no one has to know! Just pull apart the whole chicken removing any fatty bits and skin. Make sure the pieces are  bite size.

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Add chopped cilantro, canned green chiles, corn (fresh or canned works), the juice of one lime, salt, pepper, cayenne and 1/2 cup of the juices from the chicken. I like to let the mixture sit and marinate for about an hour if I have time – otherwise it’s ready to assemble as is. If the corn tortillas are a little dry or stiff just throw them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel for 15 seconds.

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Take the corn tortillas, add a spoonful or two of the chicken mixture, top with a little mozzarella and roll.

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Line the enchiladas in a baking dish. A 10×15 dish can hold about 8.

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Cover the enchiladas with the green chili sauce. I like a lot of sauce to keep everything moist and fill the baking dish up about half way. I usually I prefer to make everything from scratch, but this canned enchilada sauce is so good I’m sticking with what’s simple.

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Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and queso fresco and pop into the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remember everything is already cooked – the oven is just to heat everything up and make the cheese all brown and bubbly.

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What’s great about this recipe is you can prepare it in advance, and all you have to do it cook it for 15 minutes when you’re ready. I’m no Mexican chef, but I hope you enjoy my enchiladas a la gringa!

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Cinco de Mayo Margarita Bar!

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I thought a fun way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo was a do-it-yourself margarita bar, because let’s be honest – I can’t always be the hostess with the mostest – so make your own damn drink!

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I put out 3 different kinds of juice: classic lime, orange and grapefruit, and raspberries, blackberries, and lime slices as garnish.

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Can’t forget the tequila and Cointreau!

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I put out instructions for a classic margarita – but let my guests decide what fruit juice and garnish they’d like.

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Two combinations I liked were 1 ounce of lime juice and 2 ounces of grapefruit, mixed with both blackberries and limes.

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My other favorite was simply using orange juice with raspberries.

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I think mango and pineapple could be a fun addition to this margarita bar as well. What are some of your favorite margarita recipes?

Sauteed Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

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I hated zucchini my whole life – all squash for that matter. My boss gave me some huge zucchini from her garden and I had no idea what to do with them but didn’t want to say ‘no thanks’. I decided to mix it with my favorite vegetable- tomato, and my favorite herb – basil, thus starting my obsession with zucchini!

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INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes

2 Medium Zucchini

1/4 Cup Chopped Basil

1 Tablespoon of Butter

2 Chopped Garlic Cloves

1 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

Salt & Pepper to Taste

First chopped the basil, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide slices.

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Melt butter on high heat and add the zucchini. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and garlic.

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Sautee for about five minutes until the zucchini is tender and slightly browned.

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Add tomatoes until they are heated through, about 3 minutes. And finally add the basil for the final minute.

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Now that all the veggies are warm and tender they are ready to serve. This salad can stand alone, or be served along side a protein like my whole grain mustard salmon…

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or tossed with pasta. You decide!

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Easy-Peasy Picnic

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I was so excited to go on a picnic with my friends this weekend. I normally would have loved to whip up some fun sandwiches and dips, but I was just too exhausted. Lucky my local grocery store came to the rescue!

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Instead of just grabbing sandwiches and calling it a day, finger foods from pretty much any market can make for a more fun and special meal. There’s no science to the perfect combination of food – see what’s fresh at the store and what you’re in the mood for!

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I chose 2 cheeses – a soft Bree and Humboldt fog goat cheese, 2 cured meats – prosciutto and salami, a crusty sourdough baguette, herb bread sticks, strawberries, sparkling water, mixed olives, a marinated artichoke, red pepper and mushroom salad and almonds.

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( I like that you can eat all of these items with your fingers )

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In addition to food some good things to pack are: plastic cups, napkins, cheese knives, a cutting board and sunscreen!

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Malibu Winery was the perfect escape for our picnic. What are other great spots?

Budget Bouquets

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These homemade arrangements are so easy make, and would make the perfect centerpiece for a bridal or baby shower.

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I found these adorable pantry jars at Marshalls for under $4 to use as the vases.

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These ranunculi and viburnum from my local farmers market made this arrangement look both rustic and elegant. I love the bright green and pink color combination.

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No need for a florist! These budget bouquets were less than $15 dollars each and were a huge hit.

A Little Bit Country

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This weekend I flew home to Sacramento to celebrate my baby sister’s 16th birthday. My mom and I whipped together some fun country-themed decorations with the help of Rustic Event Rentals. They supply great custom accents for any occasion. Check them out at: http://www.facebook.com/RusticEventRentals

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Some sand blasted glass jars, tied with burlap and twine made the perfect country lanterns.

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We used these colorful cowboy hats as both party favors and as garland to decorate!

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My favorite inside-tip from the girls at Rustic Events was the cowboy boot center pieces!

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All you have to do is place a regular glass jar or vase inside a cowboy boot.

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Just add water and flowers!

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Yes, that is a mechanical bull– what country-themed party would be complete without one?

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So, my sister insisted on having Taco Bell to serve for dinner.

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Rustic Event Rentals provided the cutest wooden containers to display all the tacos and burritos.

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It was a great way to feed hungry teenagers!

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Chalkboards are an instant way to personalize an event.

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I loved all different shapes and sizes and scattered them around the party.

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Other decorations were simple items we found around the house – like jean jackets.

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The party was definitely a success thanks to Rustic Event Rentals! Thank you for some great ideas and supplies!

Not Your Average Pasta Salad: Lemon Orzo

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This is my favorite go-to pasta salad. Combining orzo with tart lemon juice, peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese and juicy shrimp makes this recipe a show stopper, and it’s so simple to make!

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INGREDIENTS:

1 Box of Orzo

1/4 Pound of Peeled Shrimp

3 Cups of Baby Arugala

2 Ounces of Lemon Juice

2 Ounces of Olive Oil

1 Cup of Artichoke Hearts

1 Cup of Cherry Tomatoes

1/2 Cup Goat Cheese Crumbles

1/4 Cup Chopped Basil

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

1/2 Teaspoon of Pepper

1/8 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

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Cook the orzo in boiling water for nine minutes until al dente.

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While the pasta cooks, I like to make the lemon vinaigrette. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Immediately pour over strained orzo in a salad bowl and mix through until it coats all the pasta. Let the orzo sit for ten minutes to absorb.

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Once the orzo has cooled slightly, toss with the baby arugula.

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Peel the shrimp and remove the tails. I like to use a medium sized shrimp so that it’s easy to eat. Lightly pat them down with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture. Season both sides with remaining salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper.

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Sautee on high heat with a little olive oil for about five minutes, until the shrimp are slightly browned and no longer translucent.

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While the shrimp cook, I like to prepare the other ingredients. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, cut the artichokes into bite size pieces and chop basil.

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Add everything to the orzo and serve! This can be eaten warm or cold – it’s great both ways.

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Sometimes I replace the shrimp with sausage which is also a big hit! What I like about this salad is that there is a treat in every bite. You don’t have to dig through it to get to the good stuff because it’s all delicious. I hope you enjoy!

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This orzo recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s which is always fantastic: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/orzo-with-roasted-vegetables-recipe/index.html

Quest for the Perfect Cafe Table: Rose Bowl Flea Market

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For the first time in my adult life I have a backyard! (well in reality a 3×6 foot balcony). But it’s just enough space for some flower boxes, herbs and potted tomato plants. What was missing was seating to enjoy it all.

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I searched all the usual places: Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Craigslist – I wasn’t impressed. I fell in love with a perfect garden table at a store on Montana but it was $400. Finally I found this adorable metal cafe table and chairs at the famous Rose Bowl Flea Market for $100. Not cheap, but still a great deal.  It’s the perfect addition to my ‘backyard’.

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This flea market is enormous. You can find vintage clothes, antique furniture, old records, estate sale jewelry – pretty much anything you could possible imagine. It’s open the second Sunday of the month. Don’t miss out this weekend! My next search will be for some cute upholstered stools to put by my fire place. I found this photo from http://thetwinsfashionblog.wordpress.com – check it out for more information on the market.

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I thought this lantern from Cost Plus World Market (www.worldmarket.com) was a great accessory for the table. I can’t wait to have a dinner date out here on a warm spring night!

Fresh Meatball Subs

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When I moved into my first apartment-style dorm with a kitchen, I freaked out. I really had never cooked for myself before. My first meal? Meatballs. Cooking those first meatballs is what sparked my love affair with cooking. My recipe has come a long way since my dorm days and I hope you enjoy!

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MEATBALLS:

1/2 Pound of Ground Beef

1/2 Pound Ground Pork

1/2 Pound Ground Veal

5 Garlic Cloves (grated)

2 Eggs

1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs

1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

1 Teaspoon of Salt

1 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper

1/2 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

FOR THE SUB:

2 Cups of Tomato Sauce

1 Bunch of Fresh Basil

2 Large Balls of Fresh Mozzarella

1 French Baguette

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I’m a big fan of combining all three of these ground meats when making meatballs. The pork and veal add a great depth of flavor. To ensure that they are moist and hold together, don’t try to save calories by buying the lean meat. To start, preheat your oven to 350.

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I love garlic, but I don’t love crunching down on raw pieces in my meatballs. To get the maximum fresh taste without that hazard, grate the cloves on a microphone or cheese grater. I usually use about 5 cloves, but you can use less if you don’t love garlic as much as I do.

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After the garlic also grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

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Combine the ground meat, eggs, garlic, Parmesan, salt, pepper, cayenne and Panko bread crumbs. Your best tools are your hands, so just get in there.

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Once everything is mixed together evenly, you can start rolling the balls! Each should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, but they don’t have to be exact. This should make about twelve meatballs.  Place them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.  (If these were going on pasta, cook for 15 minutes and then throw them in the simmering tomato sauce to finish cooking)

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Now that they are all golden brown, it’s time to assemble the sub! While the meatballs cook, slice some fresh mozzarella, basil and a french banquette so everything is ready to go.

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STEP 1: Place meatballs on bread

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STEP 2: Cover with tomato sauce

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STEP 3: Layer mozzarella on top.

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Pop the sandwich back into the oven at 500 for five minutes until the cheese is all gooey and the bread is toasted. Sprinkle with some basil and serve!

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Spring Cleaning! Polishing the Silver

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Polishing sliver seems so far away to me, like it’s from another Downton Abbey-esk world. But sure enough it still needs to be done in 2013. I have three silver pieces in my home: a pitcher (from Napa Style  http://www.napastyle.com/), a little hand mirror and a cosmetic jar. I’ll be honest I probably polish them once a year, and today is that day.

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ImageIt is definitely time.

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My go to products are: Hagerty Silversmiths Polish, and Goddard’s Silver Polishing Cloth.  Both can be found at Bed Bath and Beyond.

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Coat each silver piece generously with polish and let sit for a minute or two. Once it has dried, rub it off with the polishing cloth in back and forth motions, not circles. You can use a little muscle to really make it shine!

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Silver may seem like a hard metal, but it is extremely delicate and can scratch easy. My first time polishing my pitcher I decided the rough side of a sponge would really make it shine, WRONG. I completely dulled the mid section which you can still see when you compare it to the nice shiny top. A soft sponge will do, but I would really recommend this polishing cloth.

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This whole process took about 10 minutes. A small sacrifice to feel a little more fancy.