Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras Favorites

Mardi Gras. Shrove Tuesday. Carnival.  Any way you say it, the meaning of this day is known across the world.

It's a time for dancing, tossing beads, and enjoying great music. It's a day for indulging in Paczki (poonch – KEY), King Cake, pancakes, and other delicious foods.

But why?  Well, I'll give you the ultra-short version. In Medieval times, rich foods, like butter, eggs, and cream, a.k.a. fats, were considered off limits during Lent,   the weeks preceding the celebration of Easter. Therefore, traditionally, Fat Tuesday (or Shrove Tuesday) is the the day when devout Christian households purge their homes of the indulgent, fattening foods that might be forbidden during their Lenten observations.

And that, my friends, is why Mardi Gras food is so amazingly delicious!  And it also explains why we're so adept at celebrating it here in Wisconsin.  After all, ours is a state that's ever-overflowing with butter, eggs, and cream!

So, in celebration of Fat Tuesday, we're cleaning out our cupboards and hauling out a few of our favorite Mardi Gras recipes.  Feel free to gawk, drool, and enjoy them.  After all, it's Mardi Gras!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

True Love: Valentine's Day For Food Lovers

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We've never been ones to celebrate Valentine's Day.  It's not like we're the revolutionay sorts who wear all black, don dramatic expressions and stomp around in staunch resistance of pointless Hallmark holidays and wasteful commercialism (though we must admit that occasionally crosses our minds).

But, we're also not the type of couple who makes it a point to buy one another cheesy cards, pricey flowers or spendy gifts.  We also know better than to make Valentine's Day reservations at any area restaurants (yikes! the crowds!)

The fact is, Valentine's Day has kind of a dark, bloody, confusing history.  It's not exactly composed of the sort of stuff we'd normally celebrate.

But, all of that said, we're not party poopers! The fact is, Valentine's Day is a great excuse for food lovers like us to indulge in some of our favorite foods:
  1. Creamy sauces
  2. Expensive seafood
  3. Amazing cheese (like Rush Creek Reserve)
  4. Really great bottles of wine
  5. Or champagne
  6. Indulgences like truffles, foie gras, or caviar
  7. Chocolate
  8. More chocolate...
This year, the plan is to sear up some deliciously fresh scallops and spend a bit of time sipping wine while the saffron carrot risotto finishes on the stovetop. It won't be uber-extravagent, but it will be a nice diversion from our usual weeknight fare.

I'll admit it. I used to boycott Valentine's Day.  But, apparently age makes you soft. In recent years I've even started sending the occasional valentine.  It's fun to be nice, cheer people up, and spread a little bit of joy.   And admittedly ... it never hurts to be reminded that we love and are loved.

So, what the heck ... Happy Valentine's Day!
Celebrate with something delicious.

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Make In, Don't Take Out: Easy Baked Chimichangas

Pin It  Some nights you just don't feel like cooking.  Face it, it probably happens more often than you'd like to admit.  And it's kind of like not being able to find the right outfit to wear in the morning... it's seriously frustrating.

If you're like me, you get home from work, change clothes and waste a few minutes getting your bearings.  Then you spend about 45 minutes standing around in the kitchen, opening up the cupboards and staring into the refrigerator.  Maybe you consult one of your many cookbooks.  Or you start puttering around, looking at recipes on Pinterest -- all of which require some sort of random ingredient that you know you don't have in the house.  Eventually, you realize that inspiration is simply never going to hit.  And that's when you begrudgingly pick up the phone to call for takeout (which always ends up to be "not quite what you wanted," doesn't it?)

It's on those evenings when you need some seriously awesome "Make In" recipes.  These are the types of things that almost always sound delicious, don't require too much fussing, and can be pulled together on the flip of a dime -- even on a busy weeknight.

In addition to keeping frozen chili, tomato soup, and pasta sauce on hand, I have a small cadre of  recipes in my repertoire that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less.  And these are one of them.

The fact is, I'm a sucker for Latin-American food.  Give me Cuban, Puerto-Rican, Mexican, or Tex-Mex and I'm generally a pretty happy camper. Chicken chimichangas are one of my favorite indulgences. Crispy, deep fried tortillas filled with chicken and cheese. Calories galore, but never short on flavor.

Interestingly enough, these baked chimichangas are pretty killer, and they don't require you to haul out the deep fryer (and don't let the nay-sayers fool you... a little bit of cooking oil in a very hot oven gives even the most stubborn of tortillas a perfectly respectable crispy crust). As an added bonus, since you control exactly what goes into them, you can make them even easier, healthier, or more creative with a few small tweaks of your own.

We've been known to make ours with canned (or leftover homemade) refried beans, leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken, or (my favorite) Cuban pulled pork.  Any which way is delicious. It just depends what you have on hand and how much work you're willing to put into it.

I like to serve meat-filled chimichangas with a side of refried beans & some sauteed kale.  But, you could be even simpler and serve them with a quick chipotle-lime dressed side salad.  Or a quick slaw.  The point isn't to be fancy.  It's to make good food, fast.

Got leftover meat or beans and tortillas?  Make chimichangas. Dinner will be on the table in 40 minutes flat, and your kids will think you're a super hero.

Easy Baked Chimichangas

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