P1060171

My husband and I generally shy away from inviting people over for the Super Bowl, which probably seems odd given that I like to cook and we have a ridiculously large t.v. downstairs in the man-cave. It seems natural that we’d be up for throwing a party, and some years we have. Most times though, we go it alone on game day, for several reasons.

Reason 1: If the game is boring or if it’s a blowout and your team is getting their asses handed to them, it’s kind of a buzzkill. In those instances, we want the freedom to turn the game off and do something else. If you have a house full of guests, you’re sort of obligated to watch the whole game, even if it’s making everyone miserable.

Reason 2: We never, ever want to watch the halftime show during the Super Bowl. It always sucks way hard and then you feel cheated and honked off that you wasted 45 minutes watching that crapfest. But if you invite a crowd over, someone always wants to watch the halftime show, so you’re trapped.

Reason 3: As the host of the party, you feel responsible for everyone’s good time, which usually means small talk and being sociable. Quite frankly, my husband and I just wanna watch the doggone game.

It also goes without saying that this year, everyone within shouting distance is very invested in a Broncos win. If Denver plays more like jackasses than bucking Broncs, it’s gonna be a bitter and sour crowd. I mean, when the Broncos lose a Super Bowl, they lose big. It’s a historical fact. The Broncos don’t just lose a Super Bowl, they lay down and die. And while I have great respect for this year’s Denver defense, those Panthers looked scary in the playoffs. S-c-a-r-y.

So yeah, we’re cowards.

And curmudgeons.

We’re staying home, and we’re cool with that.

But it’s still the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl means yummy and festive fare, even if you’re flying solo. The only challenge for me is deciding what to make. When I’m expecting a huge crowd, it’s natural to fall back on the usual suspects–chili, sloppy joes, nachos, giant Italian submarine sandwiches. One year, I made a huge batch of gumbo for 12 (don’t do this–gumbo is a gigantic pain in the ass). If it’s just us, though, it doesn’t really make sense to serve any of those things.

I think I’ve settled on this recipe for chicken tinga tacos for Super Bowl 50. Tacos are great because you can set out a bunch of fixin’s and everyone helps themselves and gets what they want, and they’re easy to eat, and let’s face it, they’re tacos! Tacos are delicious. Even better? The filling for these tacos is made in the slow cooker, so you can make the filling a day or two before the big game. If you have a large slow cooker, you can double the recipe easily.

This recipe is drop dead simple; the only things that take a little bit of finesse are the spice level and the cooking time. You’ll notice that I’ve given a wide margin in regard to the amount of chipotle chiles used in the recipe. If you are a spice lover, go for the more generous amount. It’s probably wise to err on the side of caution at first and then add in more after you taste it–your call. Also, you do need to keep an eye on your chicken, since the recipe uses chicken breasts, which dry out quickly if you’re not careful. My slow cooker cooks “fast” by slow cooker standards, so my chicken was done in 90 minutes. Depending on the type of slow cooker, it could take 3 hours to cook. My suggestion is to test your chicken after 90 minutes and keep checking on it every 20 minutes or so. Alternatively, you could use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead. They’re higher in fat and a little more forgiving than breasts.

Another reason I like this recipe? It features homemade pico de gallo (with the addition of pineapple). Every Super Bowl, there is one food item that I absolutely, positively have to have on the buffet table: a bathtub-sized bowl of homemade pico de gallo. Everyone else can keep their guacamole and their buffalo wings and their sour cream and onion dip. For me, Super Bowl=homemade pico. It’s non-negotiable. I only make homemade pico de gallo a few times a year, because it’s a hassle (especially in large quantities) but it’s worth all of the chopping because nothing else compares. I always joke that homemade pico de gallo is a litmus test for where you stand with me; I only make homemade pico for my most loved and cherished people.

This year, I’ll still make my humongous bowl of pico, but I’ll set a little aside and add pineapple to it for the tacos. The pineapple really adds something to the tacos, so I wouldn’t skip it. We’ll devour the “virgin” pico de gallo at kickoff and then enjoy it again at halftime on tacos. I’d call that a win-win. Even if the Broncos lose.

Whatever team you’re rooting for, and whether you’re alone or with a gaggle of revelers, I hope you enjoy the big game and some festive, delicious fare. It’s good, clean American fun. Except for that halftime show.

 

 

P1060175

 

Chicken Tinga Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

serves 4

adapted from Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution

 

2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1 cup chopped, seeded tomato

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 finely chopped seeded jalapeno

dash of salt, dash of cumin, dash of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon chili powder

4 minced garlic cloves

2-4 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup tomato puree or tomato sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

2 (12-ounce) bone in split chicken breasts, skin removed

salt and pepper

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

garnish: cheddar cheese, cotija cheese, avocado, lime wedges, shredded cabbage or lettuce

 

Combine pineapple, 1/4 cup lime juice, onion, cilantro, tomato and jalapeno in a bowl. Add salt, cumin and cayenne to taste, or leave it out altogether if you’re a purist. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine canola oil, chili powder, garlic, chipotle, coriander and cumin. Microwave for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Transfer to a slow cooker.

Stir in the tomato sauce and sugar to the slow cooker. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and place in the slow cooker, turning to coat with sauce. Cover and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 2 hours on low (check at 1 1/2 hours–depending on how your slow cooker runs, the chicken could be done in as little as 90 minutes or as long as 3 hours).

Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least ten minutes. Shred chicken into small pieces using 2 forks (or your hands). Discard bones. Transfer chicken back to sauce, warm through. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice to the sauce and stir. Taste for seasoning. If the sauce seems too thick, you can add a little hot water to thin it.

Serve chicken in warm tortillas with the salsa and whatever garnishes you like.

 

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P1060146

 

 

While it’s true that Lady Luck has not been on my side lately, I must admit to one bit of serendipity the past two weeks. Strangely, it came in the form of chowder.

Maybe I’m clairvoyant, or maybe I’m like Old Farmer Brown whose bunions start pulsating the day before a heavy storm…I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the day before I whacked my skull into a bookcase, I had the sudden craving for a hearty bowl of chowder. The kind of chowder that’s chock full of goodies like vegetables and chunks of tender meat and comforting starchy stuff; the kind of chowder that’s the perfect antidote to a blustery day or a dark winter night. The kind of chowder that begs for a deep bowl and a sturdy hunk of bread.

Normally, when I need a chowder fix, I turn to this clam chowder, which is lovely and has seen me through many rough winters, but this time, I wanted something a little different. I wasn’t feeling very “seafoody,” if that makes any sense. Problem was, I knew I wasn’t in the mood for seafood but I didn’t know much else. I had no idea what I really wanted, other than something in chowder form.

When I’m indecisive like that, I reach into my shamefully large collection of cookbooks and poke around until something strikes my fancy. Sometimes this takes hours, because I get distracted by glossy pictures and cocktail recipes and then I look up and BAM! it’s dinnertime and I have nothing to show for it. Luckily, this time I was too obsessed by the thought of chowder to dilly-dally around.*

I came upon this recipe, clipped from a very old (as in 2003 old) issue of Cooking Light magazine. Sometimes it pays to be a pack rat, right? I must have made it sometime in the past, because I’d written the notation: Yummy but needs a little “zing.”  Hmph. Not really a very helpful notation there, was it, past self? What the Hell is “zing?” In the end, I decided that “zing” is vague-speak for more flavor and made a mental note to be more specific in the future when I scribble notes on a recipe.

Anyways. I scanned the recipe and it looked promising. The only thing that gave me pause was the serving size–the recipe serves 8 to 10 people. We are a family of 4 and only 2 out of those 4 people would even touch this chowder, since the girls don’t like soup and certainly don’t like soup with chunks of things floating in it.

This meant: hella lotta leftovers. Did I really want to be eating away on that huge vat-o-chowda for days upon end? And that’s what I’d have to do, because this chowder contains dairy, so I couldn’t freeze the leftovers for later consumption.

In the end, I decided to go for it, figuring that if I got sick of the stuff, I could tote some off to the neighbors (the ones who aren’t gluten-free or dairy-free or vegetarian. Wait, this is Boulder County. Do we even have neighbors like that? Oh well).

Since I wasn’t sure what kind of “zing” I needed to add, I started out making the recipe pretty much as written, although I increased the amount of of garlic and pepper called for and added fresh herbs instead of dried. I decided to throw in a bay leaf for good measure, and some chile flakes, because a little caliente never hurt anybody.

The chowder bubbled away and I took Mozzy out on a futile attempt to catch rabbits walk and by the time we returned, it was lunch time. I ladled myself a bowl and dug in greedily, burning my mouth as I always do because I’m a glutton and I never learn. It was worth it, though. Subtly flavored, creamy, chicken-studded goodness. I decided to add a few drops of Valentina hot sauce and some fresh parsley to my bowl, but purists might find this unnecessary. This isn’t a chowder that knocks you over the head with flavor; it sneaks up on you and cuddles you like a warm blanket. I was glad I’d made a big pot.

I was even gladder over the next few days, when I was out of commission with first a concussion and then several bruised ribs, courtesy of some stray computer cables/cords in the study. Oh, I was a pathetic creature, moaning on the couch, clutching ice packs and bottles of painkillers, barely able to hobble to the bathroom (to throw up said painkillers). I felt mighty sorry for myself.

My only solace? I had bowls and bowls of chowder to cry into.

My husband and the Minxes survived on takeout, but all I could manage to eat was that chowder. I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For days. And strangely, I didn’t get sick of it. It was exactly what I wanted to eat and it went down easy and stayed down, which is no small thing. In fact, I ate the entire pot and didn’t share it with even my husband. Go figure–even when I’m a useless, wailing invalid, my greed reigns supreme. Thank goodness he’s a forgiving man.

Don’t save this chowder for a run of bad luck and misery. Make it now, and share it with fellow chowder-lovers. Or don’t share it. I won’t tell anybody.

 

 

 

P1060152

 

 

Roasted Chicken and Wild Rice Chowder

serves 8

adapted slightly from Cooking Light magazine

 

1 (6-oz.) box long-grain and wild rice mix (such as Uncle Ben’s)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped shallot or onion

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup diced carrot

4 garlic cloves, chopped

8 ounces mushrooms, quartered

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence (if you don’t have this, you can leave it out)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4-1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

1 bay leaf

2 cups water

2-3 tablespoons dry sherry (I liked a more pronounced sherry flavor but start with 2 tablespoons and adjust to your taste)

2 (15-oz.) cans reduced sodium chicken broth

1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk (the recipe calls for fat-free but the regular kind is so much better)

3 cups skinless roasted rotisserie chicken, shredded

dash of hot sauce (optional)

chopped fresh parsley (optional)

 

Prepare wild rice according to package directions; set aside.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, celery, carrot and mushrooms and saute until the shallot is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, herbs de Provence, tarragon, thyme, pepper, chile flakes and bay leaf. Cook a minute or two, stirring frequently. Add water, sherry, chicken broth and evaporated milk and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for about 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove bay leaf with a slotted spoon.

Stir in the cooked rice mixture and the chicken. Cook another 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated through. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

 

**Where did the term “dilly dally” come from, anyways? And who uses it anymore? Clearly, I’m about 80 years old.

{ 2 comments }

 

 

Hi Readers,

It’s been a helluva week. There were some good parts–a win for the Broncos (yeesh, what a nail-biter!) but there was also some assholery afoot. Just a few days after I tripped over Mozzy in the middle of the night and whacked my head on a bookcase (mild concussion) I took another hard tumble courtesy of stray computer/electrical cords and ended up in the ER with some very bruised ribs.

I have never bruised my ribs before, so I had no idea how absolutely excruci-fucky-ating that injury is. I am on serious pain meds and they’re barely making a dent. The most mundane things like turning the wheel of a car or getting out of a chair or breathing, for Chrissakes, send bolts of hideous pain screeching through my body. And if that’s not bad enough, I got the sorry news that a) there’s really nothing they can do for you if you injure your ribs and b) the recovery period is long.

I’m feeling quite sorry for myself.

*strange segue but stay with me*

Did you watch the cartoon The Flintstones when you were a kid? I did, although I favored the Jetsons or Josie and the Pussycats, personally.

What amused me about the Flintstones was that my Daddy-o was a dead ringer for Fred. At least in my child-like mind. Adults always remarked that Daddy looked like Jack Lemmon, but I was too little to know or to care about who that was, so for me, Fred was Dad’s doppelganger. I thought that was pretty cool. Who else has a parent with a cartoon twin?

My favorite Flintstones character, though, was Shleprock. Do you remember him? He was the little caveman who walked around with a stormy raincloud over his head at all times, and people were never excited to see him because he was the unluckiest shlep in BedRock and the bad luck seemed to rub off on whoever crossed his path.

“Oh no, it’s Shleprock!” they’d groan, rolling their eyes and preparing for doom.

That always tickled my funny bone, but given the recent turn of events, maybe that’s not so funny.

Because clearly, I grew up to be Shleprock.

Not cool, universe. Not cool.

So, while I wait the long-ass time it’s going to take to recover, I’m going to share a recipe from the archives. It’s a recipe that’s just in time for a place at your Super Bowl party table, and best of all, you can make it a day or two ahead in the slow cooker and it’ll just get better and better. Plus, it’s delicious and pretty healthy.

A healthy choice at a Super Bowl party is a pretty good idea, because statistically, the Super Bowl is America’s #2 Overeating Holiday (Thanksgiving is first, naturally). If you eat a bowl of this, maybe you won’t feel so guilty about hoovering in that queso dip or those wings?

Okay, you’ll probably still feel a little guilty, but live a little. Just eat your chile, too.

 

 

 

 

Old-Fashioned Colorado Green Chile

serves 8

recipe slightly adapted from Anita Edge

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of extra fat and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes (or one 14-ounce can), seeded if desired

1 can chicken broth (14 ounces)

1 cup water

2 1/2 cups diced, roasted green chiles (about 20) seeded and skinned

2 cups diced onion

salt and pepper to taste

1 (14-oz) can white or pinto beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

juice from one lime

Garnishes:

tortilla chips, cubes of avocado, shredded cheese, sliced green or red onion, chopped jalapenos, sliced black olives, sour cream, lime wedges

Brown chicken thighs, garlic and pepper in a large skillet. Add flour; stir and cook 2 more minutes. Place all ingredients except beans in a crock pot and cook on low 2 to 3 hours. If desired, stir in beans half an hour before serving and warm through. Add lime juice, stir, taste for seasoning and serve with garnishes.

 

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