chicken wings

Red Rub Chicken Wings

The first few years we lived in Mexico, we began to notice that at social gatherings with the group of friends we had met, we would often see the same things on the table: guacamole, tacos, chicken wings.  It also seemed that everybody had the same recipe for chicken wings, and I thought maybe said group of friends all shared this sauce recipe and I was the only one who was left out.   I eventually learned that the grocery stores here sold them with this marinade on it.  Trouble was, I wasn’t a big fan of the marinade.  I thought, no biggie, I’ll just go and make my own sauce/rub/marinade.

I couldn’t find chicken wings that weren’t marinated.  FOR YEARS.  Finally, when what I am sure was the one millionth time I asked for ‘alitas natural’, one of the deli guys said ‘Si’ and I almost passed out.  But wait, it’ll probably cost an arm and a leg.  Anything new that’s catered to foreigners usually costs more than what the locals regularly purchase.  Wrong.  They were cheeeeeeap.  I think I bought 100 that day I was so excited and was afraid it was a mistake so bought as many as the store would allow me.

Chicken wings are readily available ‘natural’ now, although they only provide so many in a day.  That means if you’re going in on a big American football day, forget it, all the foreigners have snapped them all up.  They fact that they are so cheap and everybody loves them, make them a popular item to bring to any event.

A friend of ours from Canada who used to live here directed us to this red rub a few years ago.  We really liked it and make it all the time.  This recipe makes A LOT of rub, and so that’s why the amount of chicken wings is also high.  I have used all of this rub for the 8 lbs of wings, but my husband prefers a little less rub so maybe don’t coat them down the first time, it may be too much spice for you.

We made our own BBQ to go with this, there is a link to it below.  It’s one of Bobby Flay’s and you don’t mess with anything BBQ that Bobby Flay doesn.  Of course, you can just buy your favorite brand from the store, which saves a lot of time and frankly, it’s what we usually do.

Enjoy your game day or pub night or just week-night dinner!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup paprika, smoked or regular
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup raw turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 TAB dark chili powder
  • 1 TAB garlic powder
  • 1 TAB onion powder
  • 1 1/2 TAB black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 lbs chicken wings

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all spices together in a bowl and whisk.  Season wings with rub.  Lay foil on a sheet pan and lightly oil it.  Place wings on pan, do not crowd.  You will need two pans for this amount of wings.  Place in oven and cook approximately 35 minutes.  Warm sauce (use store bought or this Carolina Style BBQ sauce) on stove.  Toss wings with sauce if desired and serve immediately.  Or, toss wings, return to oven for 5 minutes under the broiler and remove.  Serve immediately.

Adapted from: Food Republic

 

 

Cochinita Nachos

Cochinita Nachos

I have a feeling over the next few months we will see a lot more nacho recipes popping up on the social media sites of food bloggers.  With football in full swing, it seems Sunday is for snacking . While we don’t live in a football frenzy area, we do live in a constant state of snacking.

You know how you feel in summer? When the weather is so nice you just want to sit outside and enjoy it for all it is, with good food and drink and friends? Well, it feels like that almost always here on the coast, especially though in winter when we have more tourists and visitors and everybody wants cheap Mexican beer, tacos, guacamole, and anything easy to snack on while spending the day on the white sands of the Mayan Riviera.

Nachos may be on of the easiest meals to make, I am not sure why I don’t make it more often.  Especially here, where corn chips are cheap, and you can buy a kilo of any fabulous Mexican style meat like cochinita that I don’t have to cook in the ground for two days.  I know I say happiness is homemade, and technically this is, but the best family run cochinita joint in town.  It is family owned and they only make two kinds of meat for tacos, and, as many places do here, only stay open until they run out.  They could make so much more money and stay open all day, but they prefer to make enough to live off, and not be a slave to their business.  I so do admire that way of life here.

Some days I’ll be there at 10:30 a.m. and they’re closed up.  Sold out.  Some days they’re still there at noon if I’m fortunate.  They are a family run business, he calls me by name when I drop by, and man, his cochinita is the best.

So for nachos here, I had to put cochinita on it.  I bought a kilo and shredded it finer, and tossed it onto those chips, and added the rest of my toppings, including the pickled onions that they include when you buy a kilo of meat.  Oh my, it was good.

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I am aware that you probably can’t go down the street and pick up authentic Mexican Cochinita.  But keep an eye out for it if you are in a big city, I am sure there are local markets where you can buy it.  Otherwise, toss some pulled pork on there for a change from beef.  Or if you want to keep it vegetarian, we see a lot of black bean nachos here too.

This is another loose recipe, it’s all how much of everything that you like.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large bags corn chips
  • 1/2 kilo pulled pork
  • 2 cups mixed grated cheese (I used cheddar and Manchego, which is similar to mozzarella, nice and stringy)
  • 1/2 cup pickled onions (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Lay tin foil down on large baking sheet.  Spread corn chips in a thin layer.  Add meat, cheese, onions.  Repeat with another layer of chips, meat, cheese.  Bake in a 400 oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Add additional toppings to baking sheet or let people add their own.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I finally found my pumpkin!  I’m sure that’s boring news to all of you at this time of Autumn in Canada or the USA, but when we moved here to Mexico, the stores did not sell the normal pumpkins that you all have in abundance to choose from in your local pumpkin patches.  Yes, we have canned pumpkin, but when it comes at about $9 a can and you need to make 25 pumpkin pies, it’s not the most cost efficient way to go.

So I was happy to see pumpkins show up last week in our local grocery stores.  I purchased one medium sized one to start and this morning, roasted my pumpkin. It sure did heat up my kitchen so on went the air conditioning.

Before roasting my pumpkins, I took all the seeds and middles out.

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I felt like this was harder the last time I did it, maybe I got a more cooperative pumpkin this year?

After I separated the larger chunks, I put the seeds in a bowl and covered them with water. I let it rest for about five minutes and then drained.  It was almost perfectly cleaned, with a few stubborn strands of pumpkin hanging on.  I dried them well on a tea towel.

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In a bowl, I mixed a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and tossed the pumpkin seeds well.

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They got laid out on a sheet, roasted for ten minutes, and voila, a delicious, crunchy snack.  There are quite a few variations on what you can season them with, look around the web for ideas for ranch and pizza flavored seeds, I am a classic seed (and popcorn) girl so salt and pepper it was for me.

Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS

  • raw pumpkin seeds from a large pumpkin
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup olive (or coconut) oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Remove seeds from pumpkin.  Pour clean water over seeds and let sit for 5 minutes.  Drain and remove any stubborn pumpkin strands.  Thoroughly dry seeds.  In a bowl, combine olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss seeds well.  Put wax paper down on a baking sheet and lay seeds out so they have room (mine were a bit crowded).  Roast at 400 for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Watch so that they don’t burn.  Let cool and serve.  Can be stored in an air-tight ziploc bag.

 

Bruschetta Feta

This year, in March, was our 20th wedding anniversary.  Five years earlier, my husband had planned to take us to Europe for our 15th wedding anniversary.  Unfortunately, because of some major changes to his job, that trip never happened.

Fast forward five years and we were determined to make it happen.  In a way, it was better timing, because our children were now 16 and 14 and leaving them behind didn’t seem as difficult as it would have been five years earlier.  We found some decent flights from Cancun to Milan and started planning away.

We toured three countries: Switzerland, Italy, and Greece.  I had been to Italy and Greece before, but my husband had not.  Now that we have lived in a beach town for so long, we don’t really crave beach or sun vacations, we want history, architecture, mountains, rolling hills, and of course, food that is very different from what we eat here.

I knew food would be a HUGE part of this trip, and it did not disappoint.  My husband, even though his favorite food is not Italian (????), claims his favorite meal of the trip was in Venice, where he ordered a ‘seafood soup’ but came out as the most glorious array of seafood with a bit of sauce to soak up the seafood goodness.  Needless to say, this first meal in Italy was one to remember.  ( I know this has nothing to do with this recipe, but I just had to share it with you).

seafooditaly

We ate our way happily through Italy, carbs and cappuccinos daily.  When we got to Greece, we welcomed the change from carbs every hour and were eating feta, lamb, gyros, and one of my personal favorite meals of the trip, the Santorini salad, which included food only grown locally, (caper leaves, kefalotyri cheese) and therefore, un-copy-able (yes I know it’s not a word) for a person like me who would have absolutely no access to such ingredients.  What’s even worse, I was so dazzled by it, I forgot to take a picture.  Ugh.

When we returned from our trip, we went into post-awesome vacation depression.  Has anyone else experienced this?  I tried to re-create some of the food we ate, and some of it was good, some of it didn’t even compare.  I did though, in sadness one night, combine these flavors from two different countries to come into one yummy bite.

I’ve been making Ina Garten’s Whipped Feta for a few years, but I never topped it with Bruschetta before.  The flavors blended so well together, it brought me back to sunsets in Santorini and castles in Tuscany.  It’s a nice twist on a classic appetizer.

Grilling the bread gives it a nice crust, so that the oil from the Bruschetta doesn’t drop in the bread and make it mushy.

 

WHIPPED FETA

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz feta, crumbled, room temperature
  • 3 oz cream cheese, room temperature

DIRECTIONS

Put feta into a food processor.  Puree for about 2-3 minutes until smooth.  Add cream cheese and process another minute until smooth.

 

BRUSCHETTA

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 good quality baguette
  • 6 tomatoes, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Combine tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil in bowl. Season with salt. (You can make this earlier in the day and let the flavors marinate together at room temperature).

 

DIRECTIONS FOR BRUSCHETTA FETA

Slice baguette in half.  Grill both sides for a few minutes, so the bread is crispy and golden.  Smear feta/cream cheese mixture over bread.  Spoon Bruschetta over slightly cooled bread, top with more basil if desired.  Serve immediately.

 

Whipped Feta adapted from: The Food Network

 

 

Goat Cheese Bites

My favorite type of entertaining is the Wine & Cheese party.  I love it for many reasons but the two main reasons are that I don’t have to worry about who is sitting next to who at the dinner table and if there will be enough people to keep the conversation going,  and, more importantly if one of my h’ors d’oeuvres doesn’t turn out, I usually have 12 more to serve, taking any uncertainty about the main course not turning out and having no back up.

I used to spend daaaaaays making adorable bite size food, making lists of in what order they would be served in, what time they needed to go in the oven to space out the evening, and so on.  It brought me much happiness.  I love people moving around a room, with wine or a cocktail in their hand, where there is a nibble for everyone, meeting new people, it always feels like a no pressure evening.  In winter, around a warm fireplace, in summer, on a patio with a cool summer breeze.

As much as I love the fancy Wine & Cheese Party, sometimes I want the hors d’oeuvres without the work and the fuss.  This is one of those nibbles.  You can have it ready in under 20 minutes.  It’s just another thing in the loooong list of food items that you can flour, egg, bread, and fry.   Really, once you do this with one thing, it seems you can do it with anything.

Here’s a few tips for this recipe: put your goat cheese in the freezer for about 15 minutes before cutting, to make it easier to slice.  Wiping the knife clean after each cut helps keep it clean.  Don’t worry if cheese crumbles a bit, just form back together with your hands.  Also, any time you use this method it can get messy.   I keep one hand for the dry (flour and panko) and the other for the wet (eggs). Then you won’t have to wash your hands every round and make this procedure soooo long.

Serve them warm and the cheese ooozes out.  I promise, if your peeps like goat cheese, they’ll love this.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Two 8 oz goat cheese log, plain or with herbs
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • olive oil to fry

DIRECTIONS

Put your goat cheese in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make it easier to slice.  While it is chilling, in a medium size bowl, combine panko, parsley, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and stir to combine well.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Scoop flour onto a plate or a shallow bowl.  Remove cheese from freezer.  Slice into slices between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick, using a sharp knife.   Dip cheese in flour first, then eggs, then panko, coating well.

Heat a medium sized skillet with a good coating of olive oil.  Gently put goat cheese bites in oil, cook until golden brown and flip over, about 2 minutes each side.  Let drain and slightly cool on paper towel.  Serve alone or with a marinara sauce.

 

Adapted from: The Hungry Mouse

 

Green Guacamole

When I first moved here, I must admit, I did not like avocado.  I am a big texture person, and to me, it seemed eternally mushy.  But, when you move somewhere in which every party has a guacamole on the table and every restaurant has it on the menu, you start to partake. Then perhaps enjoy. Then perhaps can’t imagine your life without.

A very good friend of mine here in Playa has made guacamole for pretty much every gathering we’ve had over the years.   She is not one who likes to cook, she would rather sit and entertain us with her stories while we bring food to her, and then she groans in delight over everything, yes everything, you bring her.  She’s a great person to have at dinner because she makes you feel like you are a master chef.  She even claims to like my dry risotto.

She’s also a very last minute person, whereas when I moved here, I still moved on Canada time: planned months in advance and had list after list to get through.  Ironically, she also had lists, but I think she once claimed she wrote things down after she did them and then crossed them off the list, just so she would feel she’s accomplished something.  (I realize now, many of us do the same).  She would waltz into my house about (what felt like) 1 minute before people were coming over, tell me the stories of her day, while mushing avocado, chopping cilantro and onion, and asking me if the guac needed more salt.  It seemed to be done in a flash, was done with entertainment, and was always perfect.  I never bothered learning to make it because SHE, in my mind, was my guacamole girl.  (Sounds like a superhero name, she’d love that too).

One day I was with a friend who wanted to stop by someone’s house for a few minutes.  I went in and tried to follow along with their rapid-fire Spanish, but soon, my brain hurt and I faded out.  But not before she presented us guacamole to snack on.  Except her guacamole had no red tomatoes in it.  I asked my friend to ask our hostess where were the tomatoes and she replied that she put green tomatoes in her guacamole instead, which gave it a consistent color.  I loved it.  I felt it gave it a more solid consistency and a stronger taste.

After my dear friend deserted me (moved to Guatemala, yes I still make her feel guilty for it), I figured it’s time to make my own guac. So I thought back of all the years of watching her make it, changed red tomatoes to green, and presto, I was enjoying guacamole perfection.

Here in Mexico, the white onion is most commonly used in cooking, not the yellow onion that you are perhaps used to.  While they do sell yellow now in certain stores on certain days (usually when you want them they’re not there of course), use white onions for guacamole, they give a strong, sharp, not sweet taste to whatever you are using them for.  Use less in the recipe if you like, especially if you’re going somewhere you need to have nice smelling breath!

guac2

While the cost of avocados has gone up significantly since we have lived here, we still eat guacamole all the time.  It’s the first thing guests ask for when they visit with us (after Mexican beer of tequila of course) and so I can now proudly say that I can whip this up in a flash, like my dear friend, except not with as many entertaining stories as she could.

 

GREEN GUACAMOLE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ripe avocado
  • 2-3green tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 jalapeno, diced OR a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
  • 1 lime, sliced and juiced
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Slice avocados in half and remove pit.  Scoop out flesh and put into a large bowl.  Mash with a fork, leave some chunks in it, do not puree.  Add tomatillos, onion, cilantro, jalapeno or hot sauce, lime juice, and salt to taste.  Combine well.  Add more heat or salt if desired.  Serve with corn chips.

*Note: leaving one pit in will help keep it from going brown.  Leftovers can be kept in the fridge, covered, but it will go a little brown.  Just stir or scoop out the brown part if desired and it’s still good to eat.

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Cakes

When I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to refuse food.  I distinctly recall a time we were eating a meal at my aunt’s house.  A platter of some vegetable I don’t recall was being passed to me and I said ‘no thank you’, to which my mother subsequently plopped a large heap of them on my plate.  She felt it was rude to not eat the food that people had lovingly prepared for you, and, that if I didn’t try everything presented to me, I wouldn’t have a varied palate.  I am grateful for this now, much different than my feelings then.

I tried to teach my children the same thing.  I wanted them to experience foods as they grew and their palates changed, and mostly, never to insult people by refusing their food simply out of preference. I recall  some parents bringing a separate meal to my home when their family came for dinner, because, ‘the kids really only like chicken nuggets and fries’. I vowed never to limit my children in the same way.   Plus, there was no way I was making two meals in my house every night.

Sweet potato is not one of my favorite vegetables,  but of course I ate it many different ways growing up when it was presented to me. Being the mom who plans the meals, it means I don’t often make foods that don’t interest me.  So when my son recently told me he loved sweet potato, I was surprised.  I’m not really sure where this love came from, probably from him eating something at Grandma’s house (she’s still a cooking machine at 82) and loving it.

My mom has made potato pancakes for long as I can remember.  It was always a quick meal to her: grated potatoes, diced onion, egg to bind and seasoning.  Fried and served with a dollop of sour cream.  Simple yet delicious.  So when my son asked for sweet potato, that’s the first thing I thought of.

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These sweet potato cakes are quite delicious.  They are packed with flavor, bright and easy to whip up.  They would also make a great appetizer or hors d’oeuvre.  You can make them earlier in the day and keep them covered in the refrigerator, and then fry them up quickly later.  They’re a refreshing way to eat your veggies!

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Enjoy!

 

Sweet Potato Cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1.2 cup corn kernels
  • green onions
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • cloves garlic

Directions:

Cook the sweet potatoes.  You can either microwave or boil them. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them open and scoop the flesh into a large bowl.

Slice the green onions and chop the cilantro. Add the green onions, cilantro, corn, salt, cumin, cayenne, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, and egg.  Stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While potato mixture is resting, make garlic sauce.  Combine yogurt, garlic, and handful of cilantro. Stir until combined and refrigerate.

Remove potato mixture from refrigerator.  Shape into small patties.  Heat oil in a skillet. Cook patties until golden brown on each side, about 2/3 minutes per side. Remove from skillet, let excess oil drain on paper towel lined plate.

 

Adapted from: Budget Bytes

CHICKEN AND ZUCCHINI POPPERS

A few years ago, my husband and I were going on a two-month trip. We wanted to drop some weight before we left, but didn’t know which way to go. He heard from somebody at work about Whole 30, anybody heard of that? I’m sure you have, it’s become pretty popular over the years.  If not, I’ll fill you in.  It’s a not carbs, no dairy, no sugar plan.  He tried it for a month and along with a lot of walking, he dropped weight quickly and felt a lot better. I joined him for the second month.  The hardest part for me was the no wine (waaaaaaa) and no cheese.  I was so used to having a snack every day of diet coke and a cheese stick.  I would go to the refrigerator without even thinking the first few days like a robot and open the door, only to remember both of those items were not on my food list.  Insert sad face here.

But after a few days I got into it and the challenge of making good meals within my guidelines.  It was easy to cut some things out, but not others.  But I sure did feel better.  And I didn’t cheat for a month! The first meal we had after was a hamburger …. On a bun with red wine.  The carbs were great, the wine was even better.  And the best thing? I kicked my nasty diet coke habit.  The first time I tasted it after a month it tasted like metal in my mouth.  My husband was thrilled I kicked my two diet coke a day habit.

I made these poppers for lunch one day and I was thrilled with the outcome.  The rest of my family put them into a pita and covered them with onions and tomatoes and ate them gyros style. We just ate them as is with a Whole 30 approved sauce and loved them just the same.  I made a few tweeks.

NGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. ground chicken breast
  • 2c grated zucchini (leave peel on and squeeze out some of the liquid with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel)
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced
  • 3-4 Tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • (optional: ¾ tsp cumin)
  • olive oil, for cooking (or coconut oil, avocado oil, or ghee)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Toss chicken with zucchini, green onion, cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper (and cumin, if using). Mixture will be quite wet.

To cook on the stovetop:

  1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Use a small scoop or a heaped tablespoon to scoop meatballs into the pan. Cook 8-10 at a time for about 5-6 minutes on the first side. Flip and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown and the centers are cooked through.

To bake:

  1. Drizzle a bit of olive or avocado oil onto a baking sheet. Scoop meatballs onto the greased pan. Drizzle a bit of additional oil over the meatballs. Bake at 400 degrees 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through. If desired, place under the broiler for an additional 2-3 minutes or until browned on top.
  2. Serve with guacamole, salsa, or your favorite dip.