Friday, January 7, 2011

Zesty Popcorn

Looking for a tasty way to enjoy that popcorn? Something snacky for the big party? Well, here's something to try! Zesty Popcorn. It's really quite simple, and not all that fancy, but it's the perfect way to spice things up!
Cooking oil
Jalepeno slices, from a jar
Popcorn Kernals
Garlic and Seasoning Salt
In a large pot, add just enough oil to cover the bottom. I like to use Canola, but I've seen it done with olive or vegetable oil. Place a couple jalepeno slices in the pot, more if you want it spicier, and turn the heat to about 7 (medium high).

When you start to hear a sizzle, add just enough popcorn kernals to cover the bottom, and place the lid on.

While you wait to hear a pop, get out your garlic salt, seasoning salt, and butter. Make sure to give the pot a few good sliding shakes every now and then, to keep the kernals loose.
Just as with microwave popcorn, when you hear the popping slow to one every 2-3 seconds, remove the pot from the heat.
Remove the lid, add the butter and let it slide to the bottom of the pot. This will help it melt. Stir the popcorn until the butter is melted and the popcorn is coated. If you want this step to be easier, simply melt the popcorn in the microwave, however, I think it tastes slightly different.
Add your seasonings to taste, pop in your favorite movie, and snack away!!
Before I finish, I have to credit my husband for the popcorn in our house. He does a much better job of making it, and apparently learned it from his good friend and roommate in college! Thanks Kevin for the delicous idea!!

Pepperoni Bread Pudding

It's wait, it's bread pudding....well, what the heck is it??? It's exactly that....
Pizza Bread Pudding
How, you ask? Easy, take the flavors of pizza you love, incorporate them into a basic bread pudding recipe, and Voila!
Wondering how I came up with this? Well, it was a joint venture, really! After making soup and a double batch of focaccia bread last weekend, I was left with an overstock of focaccia. It was a bit on the dry side and didn't go over as well as it usually does, so I called one of my go-to people, Aunt Liisa, and asked her if she had any ideas for what to do with leftover focaccia bread. Of course she had ideas (I was stuck on crutons). "Oooh, a savory bread pudding" she said. Right...that stuff is gross. It's gushy and slimy and way too milky. "No, bakes up and dries out a bit." wheels were turnin'!
SO, I googled savory bread pudding, put together the basics, and added in what I thought would be a hit with the kids. I think I pleased all but one. Not a bad outcome, if you ask me!
Here's what you need:
4 cups of bread, cubed (mine was focaccia flavored with thyme, oregano, and garlic)
1 to 1 1/3 cups milk
2 eggs
1 to 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided in half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. pepperoni, chopped into small pieces
salt, pepper, garlic salt
grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
sliced black olives
1 tbls each-dried basil and oregano
Place the bread cubes in a bowl, leaving room for the liquid
Saute the onions
Chop the pepperoni
Combine milk, eggs, 1/2-3/4 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste. You end up with about 2 cups of the liquid mixture...I added a little more milk.
Pour liquid mixture into the bowl containing the bread and stir gently to coat. Add in the pepperoni and onions. Let this soak for about 10 minutes.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray, pour bread mixture in, and add sliced olives, tomatoes, and the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes!

This truly tasted like pepperoni pizza, and I will definitely be making it again! Now, I did not give the flavor of the bread enough credit and I think overall, it was a bit on the salty side. So, next time I use less salt and garlic salt, but it still tasted great. The only suggestion I got was to serve it with some marinara sauce on top. Worth a try!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Here's something funny...I sat down to start putting together a schedule/routine for my kids and this picture happened to pop up on the computer. Hmmm...I think I took this picture in July, with the intention of posting it to my blog! Right...well, better late than never :-)

This is the story of taquitos...
Taquito (from the Spanish diminutive of taco) is a Mexican dish, also very popular in Puerto Rico, consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried. Corn (maize) tortillas are generally used to make taquitos. ...
A long time ago my dad taught himself how to make taquitos, and he became the "King of Taquitos" in our family from then on. Every Christmas Eve, it wasn't about the gifts or the party, it was about the taquitos. Quite frankly, it wasn't a party if there were no taquitos! Of course, with a daughter who loves to cook, the tradition (and secrets) had to be passed down. Thus began my quest to learn the ins and outs of this tasty little snack.
Dad told me the key is in how you roll them...did you know that tortillas have a grain? And I don't mean corn! There is a slight impression, if you look closely, of lines that run in one direction. The trick is to roll WITH the grain, rather than against it. This helps keep the tortilla from splitting. Also, through trial and error, dad learned that briefly dipping the tortilla in hot oil before filling and rolling makes for a tastier, crispier finish. Aside from these two tricks, it's really all in how you season the meat.
I don't have any measurements for you...just instructions. I put a chuck roast in the crock pot with enough liquid to cover it and enough flavor to season it. I used cumin, chili powder, ceyenne pepper, paprika, garlic, onion, green chilies, jalepenos, and I may have even thrown in some cans of diced tomatoes. You can use water or beef broth, I don't think it really matters. I let the roast cook over night, then I shredded it the next morning. I added the shredded meat back to the seasoned liquid, minus the fatty pieces that always exist, and let it simmer all day, checking it now and then for flavor. It is also helpful to chop the meat up into smaller pieces, makes the taquitos easier to eat!
When I was ready (AKA: had the kitchen to myself), I began the rolling process. First I warmed corn oil on the stove and then began adding tortillas, a couple at a time. I let them sit in the hot oil just until they started to form bubbles or air pockets. I pulled them out and let them rest on a cutting board covered with paper towels. I made stacks of 10 until I ran out of room, then I began to add the meat and roll. I flipped the stacks over so I could work with the cooler taquitos first. Put a small amount of the meat mixture just shy of the edge of the tortilla (see above), fold the short side over and roll. Place it flap side down on a cookie sheet and go on to the next one. After a few, you get the hang of it and can whip out 50-60 in no time. I recently made about 180 of these babies for a birthday party, with the help Megan, and we were done in about 2 hours.
After the taquitos are rolled, you have some choices to make...freeze them?? fry them? bake them? It's really up to you. Several years back Dad discovered that you can get a nice crunch even with baking, plus you can do about 25 at a time. That was nice for him, as he didn't have 15 people standing over his shoulder waiting for the next taquito to come out of the fry pan! Whatever you decide to do, enjoy these tasty morsels with a nice bowl of quacamole, a cold cerveza, and table full of friends! But don't forget to season the finished product with Lawry's or Johnny's! A MUST! Note: The same directions for the meat can be used for chicken or pork, if you prefer either one of those! Also, flank steak or brisket make for nice shredding meats.