Acronym awesomeness: the CB&J


fig cheese crostini 2


When it comes to odd flavor combinations, this is nothing short of a revelation. Holding a tray of these out to my fellow party-goers on Christmas Eve, reactions ranged from “what the heck is cashew butter?” to “Blech. Figs. I hate figs.” Others just stared, smiling and nodding unconvincingly as I promised that, as weird as it sounded, these would be the best things to ever cross their taste buds.

I set the tray down next to the usual suspects—Spinach dip, shrimp cocktail, cheese and crackers—sure these melty beauties would go untouched. Fortunately, I was wrong.

“What are these?”

(right?)

“Is that BACON I taste??”

(no bacon, just cheese, fig and cashew AWESOMENESS)

“Are they all gone?!?”

(no, we hoarded a stash in the basement by the bar)

I have to admit, I can’t take creative credit for this recipe. The flavor combo is courtesy of Hopleaf in Andersonville.

CB&J crostini

You’ll need:

1 jar cashew butter (I made my own by blending one lb. of salted cashews on high until creamy)

1 jar fig jam or “fig butter” (I got the Trader Joe’s Fig Butter and it was perfect)

8 oz cheese (either raclette, morbier, comte or mild gouda—any other quality swiss-type cheese would probably be good too)

1 sourdough baguette

3-4 tablespoons butter, melted

Slice sourdough baguette into crostini-sized slices. Brush generously with melted butter. Toast under broiler until they begin to turn golden—careful, it only takes a couple minutes. Remove and allow to cool enough to spread ingredients on toasts.

Start with a layer of cashew butter, then fig jam, then a small slice of cheese.



cashew fig crostini



Toast under the broiler again for a few minutes, until cheese is nice and melty.

Serve hot. Next time, try this combo as a grilled cheese as Hopleaf does. Or  on a cracker! Or as a flatbread!! The possibilities are endless.



fig crostini



 

A haunting in Roscoe Village







I like horror—maybe a little too much, judging by my Netflix queue. Many a night, Dave flings the bedroom door open to find me in the glow of some weird B-grade horror movie.

What can I say, I love things that are a little sick and twisted. Which is why I say, screw the cutesy Halloween decor—give me fake bugs and terrifying zombie props. Scouring Pinterest, I found some equally spooky Halloween bites:







Spider web dip

Refried beans, covered in a layer of guacamole, surrounded by a ring of salsa and shredded cheese, decorated with a “spider web” of sour cream. I put the sour cream in a plastic bag, cut the tip and piped circles onto the guac, then took a toothpick and dragged it from the innermost circle to the outside. Worked like a charm.







Rice Krispies treat vampire skull

Just follow the good-old-fashioned Rice Krispies treat recipe. To form the skull, I scraped the mixture out of the bowl and onto a sheet of parchment paper. Then, I sprayed a sheet of plastic wrap with a little Pam, placed it over the mound, and started forming the skull with my hands.

My new GIR Spatula arrived just in time (thanks for the preview GIR folks!) to do the heavy lifting. When tasked with testing/reviewing the strength and functionality of a spatula, the ever-challenging Rice Krispies Treat Stir test is about as tough as it gets. The GIR Spatula passed with flying colors.







Anyway, back to the spooky stuff:

Mummified treats: Mummy hand baked brie and mummy cocktail weenies







For the mummy hand, simply cover a wheel of brie with a full sheet of puff pastry or crescent roll dough (I used the pre-made full sheets of crescent roll dough you find in the same area as the pre-made pie crusts). You’ll need another sheet of the dough to cut up in strips and wrap around the wheel to make it look “mummified”. To form the fingers, roll a strip in a sort of spiral around itself. For the longer fingers, you can stretch it out a bit. Push each finger onto the palm part of the hand and blend the dough together. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown. Make things really spooky by drizzling “blood” (i.e., fruit jam) on top. Serve with crackers.

For the cocktail weenies. cut thin strips of pie crust dough (again, go with the pre-made stuff if you want to maintain your sanity) and wrap them around the weenies. Cover the top of each weenie with a little pie dough “cap.” Bake at 375 until golden brown.

Maggots ‘n’ cheese (mac ‘n’ cheese in a bread “coffin”)







This was one of my favorites. Cut off the very top of a loaf of bread (we used ciabatta), so it’s still “hinged” onto the bottom portion. Hollow out the bottom half of the bread and fill it with mac ‘n’ cheese (I maintain that Alton Brown’s mac ‘n’ cheese recipe is the best ever, but my sister and I usually doctor it up with about double the cheese). Sprinkle the top with more cheese and panko crumbs and bake at 400 degrees until the bread is looking a little toasty and the top layer of the mac ‘n’ cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Top with a little plastic skeleton.

Finally, the least scary, but possibly most addicting of the Halloween foods …

Pumpkin Better Than … Cake

This stuff is like crack, so consider yourself warned. I assume no responsibility if, after eating this, you wake up with a sugar-induced hangover, covered in cool whip and clutching an empty, caramel-streaked baking dish.







Cupcakes made for easier party eating, but I think the cake is the way to go in terms of maximum deliciousness.

Mix all of the above with ridiculously awesome Pinterest-scavenged DIY halloween decorations, fun people in costumes and lots of liquor, and scary things are bound to happen.

Happy Halloween … MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

 

Guilt-free snacking that actually tastes good







It’s amazing how our expectations change in the face of dietary restriction. Case in point: My recent experience with these crackers …

Sister walks into my kitchen.

“Ooooh, homemade crackers?!”

Nom, nom, nom … confusion … sad face …

Me: “They’re low carb.”

Eyes light up … expression turns to delight and ravenous hunger … dives in for more …

“OMG, SOOOO good!”

And despite her initial reaction, they truly are yummy—as long as you realize that nothing that has absolutely no carbs can taste like a food item that is typically made almost entirely of them. These almond-meal crackers will never taste like a crumbly, buttery Ritz, but when you know that you can eat them on your gluten-free/carb-free/Paleo diet, they’re suddenly the best thing since sliced … uh … well, you get my point. Loaded with flavor and great with soft cheeses, these little snacks get rave reviews—assuming you under-promise (they’re wheat-free!!) and over-deliver (wow, they don’t taste like cardboard!!!). Have to give a shout out to my friend Nicole for turning me on to this delicious-yet-nutrutious concoction.







Gluten-free, carb-free, Paleo* super crackers

*For the Paleo version, simply substitute more almond meal for the parmesan cheese. 

You’ll need:

2 cups almond meal (You can make this by grinding almonds in a food processor until they are fine. Be careful not to over-blend or you’ll have almond butter.)

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon mixed herbs (I used basil, oregano, chives, rosemary and parsley)

Sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients thoroughly with your hands. Divide into four parts and roll out flat on parchment paper with a rolling pin or other cylindrical object (I used a glass). Roll out to about 1/8 or 1/10 of an inch thick and cut in desired shape with a pizza cutter. Place individual crackers about one-half-inch apart on a parchment- or tin-foil-lined cookie sheet. Brush the tops of the crackers with olive oil, salt generously and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until crackers are golden brown and crispy.







Devil is in the details







As a cook, there’s nothing better than converting the non-believers. I’m talking about the moment when someone says “I don’t like (insert food item),” tries your variation anyway, and becomes wide-eyed with surprise and delight. “I DO like (previously detested food item)!”

My Italian take on deviled eggs elicited this response. The potentially disastrous ingredient combination wasn’t lost on me—but I pushed ahead, mixed the yolks anyway, and came out with finger-food gold. You won’t be embarrassed to show up at your next party with these babies—even if they are in one of those ridiculous pastel-colored deviled-egg carriers.

 Uovas Diavolos (Italian-style deviled eggs)

You’ll need:

A dozen hard boiled eggs

1/2 cup mayo

1/4 cup pesto

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

cooked pancetta for garnish







Peel and halve your hard-boiled eggs. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a bowl. Mix in all other ingredients. Careful when salting to taste—consider the fact that pancetta is very salty, and you’ll be topping your eggs with it. Pipe yolk mix into egg white halves and top with pancetta (cooked to crispy beforehand in a skillet—be sure it is cooled before topping eggs).







Bacon cheddar hush puppies







The smell of spring—and bacon grease—is in the air, and both are equally intoxicating. If you care to fill your kitchen with the latter, these little fried morsels will do the trick. While I’m tempted to recommend them alongside more fried food (fried chicken anyone?) they’ll probably seem less gluttonous as an appetizer shared among friends. I had to troubleshoot a little with these because my first batch was a little dry, so I suggest dropping one in the frying pan first to test, then adding a little more butter, cheese or perhaps a little dollop of sour cream to the batter if you need to moisten them up a bit. I served mine with some garlic-herb aioli, but I suspect they’d be even better with a really creamy ranch dip.

Bacon cheddar hush puppies
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 8-10

 

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal, plus extra for coating
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar
  • 1 package bacon (12 oz or so), cooked and crumbled
  • 1 stick melted butter







Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Form dough into 1-2 inch balls. They will be a little gloppy, which is what you want, so roll them in a little corn meal to help them keep their shape and to keep from sticking to the plate.
  3. Fry in small batches in oil over medium heat (keep temperature at around 350 degrees) for about 3-4 minutes per batch or until a deep golden brown.
  4. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately with ranch. You can also save them and store in the fridge for a day or two, then heat them up in the oven at around 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

 

Beet “Lasagna” (and a new camera lens)







Beets are one of my recent obsessions. The taste, the color, the nutritional benefits—what’s not to love? Even the most thrown-together beet and goat cheese salads look fantastic, but I wanted to really up the ante to break in my new Sigma 70mm f2.8 EX DG Macro Lens.







The result of some kitchen experimentation and a little consultation with the The Flavor Bible was my very own Beet “Lasagna”: delicious slices of roasted red and golden beets sandwiching creamy goat cheese, crushed walnuts, razor-thinly sliced shallots, topped with crisp micro greens and drizzled with blood orange balsamic vinaigrette. It looks beautiful, tastes better, and is easy as can be. And the new lens rocked it out.

Beet “Lasagna”: A beet, goat cheese and blood orange salad

(serves 2-4)

You’ll need:

2-3 medium sized red beets

2-3 medium sized golden beets

1/2 cup of walnuts

1 small container of micro greens

small package of goat cheese (about 6 oz)

one shallot, sliced thin

1/2 blood orange, sliced, for garnish

Blood orange balsamic vinaigrette dressing

1/2 blood orange

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic or balsamic reduction

1/2 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees scrub beets and remove greens. Place on a sheet of tin foil and drizzle generously with olive oil, then cover with another sheet and fold the edges in to create a foil packet. Put in the oven and cook for about an hour, or until beets are tender and the skin easily slides off when scraped with the side of a fork.

Meanwhile, blend all the ingredients for the dressing and refrigerate. Prep other ingredients by slicing shallots, crushing walnuts and peeling and slicing blood orange half for garnish.







When beets are finished roasting remove from oven and *carefully* open the foil packet. Let the beets cool slightly and scrape the skin off with a fork.







Cut beets in thin slices and begin to layer your “lasagna”. Start with a red beet, spread a small bit of goat cheese, sprinkle with walnuts, place a slice of shallot on top of the goat cheese/walnuts, and top with a golden beet slice. Repeat once more and top the final red beet with a dollop of goat cheese and micro greens.







Garnish the plate with whole walnuts and blood oranges, and drizzle with dressing. Top with fresh-ground pepper.













 

The one day a year when bingeing is socially acceptable …

… is nearly upon us!! Hip-hip-hooray!!!







As far as food goes, holidays don’t get much better than Thanksgiving. Last year’s Thanksgiving post pretty much covers things so I’m posting the link again (hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). There’s also my Southwest Thanksgiving post and the Paula Deen post to give you a little turkey-day inspiration. Also keep an eye out for a special Thanksgiving Day post. Happy gorging!

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Giving gracias

fried turkey

I’m still recovering from the 48-hour cooking marathon, gluttonous spread and absolute debauchery that is our misfit-full, southwestern Thanksgiving celebration.

Let me paint the scene: Colorful characters mingling over excessive amounts of tequila, criminal quantities of turkey (2, 15-pounders and a 20-pounder to be exact), all the trimmings with a southwestern flair, ridiculously perfect, sun-shiny, 75-degree weather, football broadcast on a backyard pool-side cabana bar TV…

2009_11_24

… and me slaving away in a hot kitchen. I kid, I kid. I have to admit I enjoy it. Besides, if I didn’t cook, we’d be eating pies from Costco (no offense Don) and canned cranberry sauce. OK, so we ate those things (and LOVED it) anyway, but I digress.

Anyway, back to my food. You simply can’t mess up Paula’s corn and potato casseroles, so I surrendered those to my sister. I made Rick Bayless’ Chocolate pecan pie, which I first attempted for me and Dave’s anniversary dinner, acorn squash and goat cheese tamales, chorizo stuffing, fiesta salad with avocado jalapeño ranch dressing, Mexican five-layer dip and chorizo bean dip. Let’s not forget the tequila: our poison came in the form of three different tequila cocktails.

My mother, who taught me the fine art of microwaving, muttered “my poor baby,” and looked on pityingly the entire time, as if all this cooking was some sort of cruel and unusual punishment.

Everything was a big hit, especially the chocolate pecan pie with Kahlua whipped cream, which my mom hid from our guests to save it all for herself. You think I’m kidding—I had to sneak inquiring party-goers out to the garage fridge to smuggle a slice behind her back. You already have that recipe, and here are the others:

Acorn squash, corn and goat cheese tamales

corn tamales_5

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cups masa harina

1/2 cup shortening

3 tablespoons softened butter

1 roasted acorn squash

2 cups corn

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

3/4 cup water

20-25 dried or fresh corn husks

about 6 oz. goat cheese

about 3 oz. cream cheese

1/2 jalapeño minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

First, brush the squash, cut in 3-4 pieces, with a mixture of half butter, half olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the squash is soft. Meanwhile, soak the corn husks (if dried) in water for 1-2 hours. Once the squash has cooled, mash and mix in thoroughly with the shortening, butter, masa, corn, baking soda, salt and cumin. Slowly whip in the water with a mixer, and beat the mixture for about 5 minutes.

The mixture should be light a fluffy. To test it, drop a marble sized chunk in water—if it floats it’s ready. If not, continue to beat the mixture and add a little more shortening if necessary.

Make the filling by mixing the goat cheese, cream cheese, minced garlic and jalapeño. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pat each corn husk dry  and cut 3-4 into long strips that can be used to tie the tamales. Spread a 1/2-inch layer of the masa mixture in a 4-5-inch square on a corn husk, spread a teaspoon-sized portion of the goat cheese mixture on top of the masa. Roll the corn husk so that the masa encompasses the goat cheese, twist each end of the husk and tie off with a strip of husk.

2009_11_25You can cook these several different ways, and if you’re like most normal people and don’t have a tamale steamer, this is as good a way as any: lay your tamales on a sheet of foil (you can stack them), add 3 tablespoons of water for every ten tamales, lay another sheet of tin foil on top and roll up each side tightly to create a foil packet. Cook at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes. These freeze well too.

2009_11_26Chorizo stuffing

Chorizo stuffing

You’ll need:

2 packages of jiffy cornbread, prepared

1 tablespoon thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

1 stick of butter, divided

1/2 pound chorizo

3 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 each chopped green pepper and red pepper

1/2 minced jalapeño

2 cloves minced garlic

2 cups chicken broth

Cut the cornbread into 1 inch cubes and spread on a sheet pan. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and brush on the cornbread, then season with thyme, salt and pepper and toast under the broiler. Watch carefully—they burn easily. Set aside. Cook the chorizo in a stock pot until browned and set aside. Pour out excess grease and cook the vegetables in the same pot with the remaining butter for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and heat until the broth is hot but not boiling. Stir in the chorizo and cornbread croutons and mix thoroughly. Use to stuff your turkey, or pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes before ready to eat.

Chorizo stuffing_4

Fiesta salad and avocado jalapeño ranch dressing

2009_11_261

You’ll need:

1 bag romaine lettuce

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1  green pepper, chopped

1/2 large red onion, chopped

one cucumber, chopped

2 avocados, chopped

shredded mexican cheese

tortilla strips for garnish

Dressing:

1/2 bottle of ranch dressing

1 avocado

1 jalapeño

1 teaspoon cumin

Mix all salad ingredients together in a large salad bowl. Blend dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and toss on salad or serve on the side.

Five-layer dip

5 layer bean dip

For the longest time, we called this seven-layer dip. Alas, it’s really only five. We’ve been know to add a sixth layer in the form of seasoned cream cheese (cumin, garlic powder and chili powder), green onions or diced tomatoes, but I’m not really sure where this mythical seventh layer comes from. Anyway, this is an easy, fool-proof crowd pleaser at any party and it always makes an appearance at ours.

You’ll need:

1 can refried beans

guacamole

sour cream

salsa

shredded cheese (Mexican blend, pepper jack or colby jack)

Layer the ingredients in a dish in the following order: refried beans, guac, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese. I like about a 1-2 inch layer of beans, an inch layer of guac, a half-inch of sour cream, a thin layer of salsa and a generous sprinkling of shredded cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.

five layer bean dip

Chorizo bean dip

chorizo bean dip

You’ll need:

1/4 pound cooked chorizo

8 oz. cream cheese

1 cup shredded mexican cheese

16 oz. Velveeta

1 teaspoon cumin

Mix all ingredients, minus 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Spread in a oven-safe dish. Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top of the mixture. Heat in a 375-degree oven until the mixture is bubbly and golden brown on the top. Serve with tortilla chips.

Phew. That’s a lot of food. Now onto the cocktails. You may remember the description of the different varieties (plata or silver, reposado and anejo) from my tequila tasting post. As a refresher, silver lends itself to typical vodka mixers, reposado: rum and anejo: whiskey.

I got a list of recipes from our gracious Tres Generaciones tequila ambassador, Mando, and I tweaked a couple to make my own recipes. As far as my personal brand recommendations go: Tres Generaciones, Don Julio, and 1800.

Silver/Plata: El Cosmopolitano

cosmo_2

You’ll need:

2 parts plata tequila

1 part triple sec

1 part cranberry juice

½ part fresh lime juice

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker over ice and strain into a glass. This was my sister’s favorite

Cosmo

Reposado: Mojitarita and Pina reposado

Mojitarita

mojitarita_2

You’ll need:

2 parts reposado tequila

8 mint leaves per cocktail

1 part simple syrup

1 part club soda

½ part fresh lime juice

Muddle mint leaves and mix all ingredients over ice. This is a refreshing and less sweet version of a mojito—my dad couldn’t get enough of this one.

Pina reposado

pina repasado_2

You’ll need:

1 1/2 parts reposado tequila

2 1/2 parts pineapple juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar per cocktails

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker with ice. Strain into a glass. My mom, who rarely drinks, was guzzling these like a drunken sorority girl. They’re my favorite too.

Anejo: Prickly ginger

2009_11_262

You’ll need:

1 part anejo tequila

1 1/2 parts ginger ale

½ part prickly pear syrup

Mix the tequila and prickly pear syrup together in a shaker with ice and add the ginger ale. Strain into a glass.

The iceberg sunk this Titanic

Tomatillo2“Kate and Leo Tomatilllo (salsa)”

Whaaaaa???

I know. I said the same thing when Dave suggested the name for my … errr … “his” tomatillo salsa for the Cars.com salsa competition.

We were trying to think of something that rhymes with tomatillo (there isn’t much), when Dave blurted out “Kate and Leo” … as in Kate Winslett and Leo DiCaprio.

*awkward silence*

“Yeah, c’mon … cause, y’know … this salsa is TITAAAANIIIIC!!!”

“Ummm, the Titanic sunk and hundreds of people perished.”

“Well … yeah … but how funny would it be to put a still shot of that ‘I’m flying Jack … I’m flying!’ scene on the blog???”

So there you have it.

Kate and Leo Tomatillo.

Oh, and by the way, it tied for second place in the competition, losing to “Fuego de Gallo.” My salsa ran out before every voter got a taste, so I like to think I lost by default.

Also, technically we came in third thanks to Dave’s inadequate rock-paper-scissors skills. The winner of the 2nd place tiebreaker?

Pineapple Iceberg Delight. Oh the bitter irony.

Kate and Leo Tomatillo (a.k.a. Titanic Tomatillo Salsa)

You’ll need:

10 tomatillos

1 medium sized onion

1 small- to medium-sized head of garlic

1 small tomato

1 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped

juice of 1/2 lime

1 jalapeno, sliced

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Roast the onions and garlic (tossed lightly in olive oil) under the broiler until the onions are translucent and the garlic and soft and fragrant. Puree in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Onion garlic

Toss the tomatillos lightly in olive oil and roast under the broiler. Remember these purple tomatillos? These should look just as battered and bruised.

Roasted Tomatillos

Blend the tomatillos with the jalapeno and mix in the garlic/onion and the cilantro. Dice the other tomato and stir it in. Add in the spices and season to taste.

Tomatillo salsa

Redemption and bear-shaped tostadas



Football Game Food



Last week, I made some delicious game-day food for the return of Sunday Football at Jim’s place.

Unfortunately, as a result of Cutler’s awful debut performance, I was too dejected to actually post about it.

Since I went to great lengths to make bear-shaped food, and the Bears redeemed themselves tonight in an exhilarating win, I think I’ll get around to posting about that meal now. Plus, this tortilla soup is way too good not to share.



Tostada and tortilla soup



Black Bean Bear Tostadas and Tortilla Soup

For the Tortilla Soup you’ll need:

3 chicken breasts

1 cup chicken stock

1 zucchini finely chopped

1 onion finely chopped

1-2 jalapenos (depending on how spicy you like it) minced

2 small tomatoes or 6 cherry tomatoes

1 red bell pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 can refried beans

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons corn flour or corn starch

For the Black Bean Tostadas you’ll need:

corn tortillas (recipe follows)

2 cans black beans

1/2  medium-sized onion, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

vegetable oil for frying

Let’s start with the tortilla soup. This recipe is easy-as-can-be thanks to the slow cooker. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use a large pot or dutch oven, but you’ll have to stir frequently, keep the stove at a low heat and keep a close eye on your soup. And if you don’t have a slow cooker, you really should invest in one.

Brown your chicken breasts in a skillet with some olive oil. Meanwhile, roast your red pepper and tomatoes with a little olive oil under the broiler until they get a nice char on them.



Roasted Red Pepper_2



Remove the blackened skin from the peppers and tomatoes—plastic sandwich baggies work well for this:



Roasted Red Pepper_3



A little char left on is OK. Blend your tomatoes and red pepper together until smooth.



Roasted Red Pepper_4



Add all the ingredients except for the corn flour to the slow cooker and cook on high for three to four hours or low for six to eight hours. Towards the end of the cooking, shred the chicken (I used two forks) and add the corn flour to thicken the soup. Garnish with tortilla strips (I made my own—see the tostada recipe below) and shredded cheese.



Chicken Tortilla Soup_2



For the black bean tostadas, first make your refried black beans.

Cook the minced onions in the vegetable oil until they become translucent. Mix all of the other ingredients (except the corn tortillas and vegetable oil for frying) in a skillet over medium heat. You can use the liquid from the black bean cans, as it will cook out over time, or reserve it and use it later if the beans dry out too much as you cook them. As the beans cook, mash them with a fork and continue to stir with a rubber spatula.



Black Beans



Cook the beans for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has cooked out, stirring frequently. Set aside.



Black Beans_2



To make the tostadas, fry corn tortillas until golden brown. I made my own corn tortillas so I could shape them into bear faces (don’t call me a loser, I’m just a really devoted fan). They’re easier than you might think—no tortilla press required. First, mix two cups corn flour (masa) with 1 1/8 cup water. Roll the dough out very thin on a floured surface with a rolling pin.



Corn Tortilla_2



Assuming you aren’t forming your tortillas into cute animal shapes, use a cookie cutter or the lip of a cup or bowl to cut circles in the dough and use a spatula to scrape them off the table:



Corn Tortilla_3



I, on the other hand, made bear faces using a shot glass to cut out ears (then cutting the circle in half) and affixing them to the sides of the bigger circle with a dab of water.



Corn Tortillas_6



Cook the tortillas in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. They take about two to three minutes each.



Corn Tortilla_7



After they’ve cooked, deep fry them in vegetable oil until golden brown, about two minutes. Sprinkle the tostadas generously with salt and garlic immediately after they’ve been fried.



Tostadas



Top the tostadas with warm refried black beans and crumbled queso fresco.



Black Bean Tostada



These are great together:



Tostada and Tortilla



So even though the bears suffered an embarrassing and demoralizing loss last week, at least the food was good.

Sheesh, and I call myself a fan—sorry for focusing on the negative guys, congrats on your awesome win tonight—keep up the good work. A post on tonight’s football feast to come.

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