26 September 2016

Cooking With Spiced Pantry: México

Celebrating the cuisine of México with July's Spiced Pantry box! Yes, I know it's September. I'm still a little behind from the summer's busyness.

Spiced Pantry is a monthly food subscription box featuring a different cuisine each month. Every box includes four ingredients (custom spice blends, grains, legumes, etc), an information card introducing that month's cuisine and ingredients, and the recipes to make with them. Recipes usually serve 4-6 people so, if you are small household like mine, either expect leftovers or be prepared to halve the recipes.

Subscribers can chose between the standard or vegetarian plan. While I selected the standard plan, several of the meat-based recipes I've received include easy modifications to make them vegetarian, anyway. As with many subscription plans, it renews automatically every month until cancelled.

Ingredients in July's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Al Pastor Spice Blend
  2. Ancho Chile Powder
  3. Dried Guajillo Chile
  4. Masa Harina

Recipes in July's Spiced Pantry box:
  1. Al Pastor Tacos (Tacos Al Pastor)
  2. Elote (Grilled Corn)
  3. Enchiladas Rojas
  4. Tortillas
  5. (Bonus Recipe) Mexican Hot Chocolate

Enchiladas Rojas

These enchiladas were quite a lot of fun to make! I did cheat and use the meat of a rotisserie chicken, rather than poach a pound of boneless breasts, and doubt anyone could have told the difference. The recipe came with a black bean option and, next time, I think I'd use a combination of beans and chicken for extra flavor and texture.

I'd never cooked with dried peppers before and the whole experience was very interesting. Happily, the recipe's instructions were clear and, by following them as written, I ended up with a sauce I was quite proud of. While the sauce tasted quite spicy licked from a spoon, the overall dish was only mildly spicy -- by which I mean we could feel a gentle bloom of heat at the back of our throats and a very slight tingling on the lips.

Al Pastor Tacos ("Tacos al pastor," goshdarnit)

(omit grilled pineapple because James will not eat, garnish with salsa fresca in produce section, & cilantro, serve with lime wedges)

I followed the recipe for "al pastor tacos" recipe exactly as written, using a bork butt I picked up from the meat market and letting it marinate overnight, and the tacos were quite tasty.

A Hankering for Cake; Or, a Cake Emergency Is Averted & there is rejoicing

I was experiencing a powerful hankering for cake, but didn't have the energy to commit to baking a full-size scratch cake, and then remembered the Duncan Hines Perfect Size Red Velvet Crush Heart-Shaped Cake mix kit I'd picked up on clearance just after Valentine's Day last year and put away for a "cake emergency." (What? You don't have cake emergencies? Get on with you!)

These Perfect Size cake mix kits are really quite a clever gimmick. In each kit, there's a bag of glaze or frosting mix, a bag of cake mix, and a twee little baking pan. You just add a bit of egg, butter, water, and milk and *ta-da* you're off to the races. Each cake serves 2-4 people, depending on appetite, and we did manage 4 servings from this heart-shaped one.

Threw on some red confetti sprinkles to make it look less homely. Did not succeed.

What did this red velvet cake taste like? Like a light, mildly chocolate sponge. The glaze was also only mildly chocolate-y, but quite sweet. Happily, the unsweetened whipped cream I served with this cake helped to balance out the sweetness of the glaze and we scarfed it down with big cups of tea. A quarter of the cake per person (or one ventricle, as The Husband called it) was the perfect sized serving -- cravings were assuaged without leaving anyone feeling uncomfy around the waistband.

Would I buy this cake mix kit again? Not the red velvet (the heart-shaped kit was a limited edition, but there's an all-season round version available), no, but I wouldn't mind trying the Perfect Size Strawberries and Crème cake mix kit (garnished with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, obviously).

15 September 2016

Improv Challenge: Sausage & Mustard

It's time for September's Improv Cooking Challenge! The ingredients were sausage and mustard and, for all my excited talk of mustard greens on Facebook, I weenied (heh) out and stuck with the condiment ...

When my parents downsized to their "retirement" home a few years ago, I assumed custody of a number of Mom's cookbooks, including two fabulously funky Campbell's Soup cookbooks, Cooking with Soup: 608 Skillet Dishes, Casseroles, Stews, Sauces, Gravies, Dips, Soup Mates and Garnishes and More-For-The-Money Main Dishes. They're loaded with "creative" ways to use tinned soup and frankfurters and sausage crop up unexpectedly in more than one recipe. While it was a toss up between "Frankfurter Skillet Barbecue" and "Southwest Frankfurters" (it's the corn that makes it "Southwest," I guess), I went with "Frankfurter Skillet Barbecue" because "Southwest Frankfurters'" use of relish ... scared me a little. (I'll still try it one of these days, of course).

I did make a few alterations to the original recipe -- I used four Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa Links instead of frankfurters and cut them open so they were hinged like a book before browning. I used Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard as the "prepared mustard" and sriracha instead of Tabasco. I served this dish on slices of hot, buttery toast as if it were a riff on beans on toast, because I simply had a hard time visualizing how else to serve it. On more rice, maybe? Certainly, not on the suggested frankfurter buns ... that just sounded like a disaster waiting to leap down someone's shirtfront. No, this is a definite knife-and-fork dish.

And, bless it, it may look like the dog's breakfast, but it tastes good. Surprisingly good. If you like tomato-based baked beans, I think this might very well be something you would enjoy. It's tomato-y and tangy with just a hint of molasses and heat. If you want it spicier, simply add more sriracha or use spicy frankfurters/kielbasa links. Personally, we enjoyed it just as it was and it's something that will serve well in the deep, dark winter as a quick and comforting supper.

For anyone new to my blog, Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the third Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.

improv cooking challenge logo (aqua rolling pin, spatula, fork, whisk suspended from rack)