Archive for January, 2011

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

I really like Mexican food. It’s pretty easy to make and is usually a hit in my house, which includes a 5-year-old who thinks the world could survive on macaroni and cheese. Since I’m not willing to serve mac and cheese every night, my boy is forced to eat other meals. While making up this week’s menu, it was little surprise that chicken and black bean enchiladas made the short list.

It seems every time I go to a Mexican restaurant I order enchiladas–chicken, shrimp, cheese, beans, you name it. It’s the old standby and for good reason, they’re delicious. Here in Columbia, I think Rio Grande has some of the best ones yet. I attribute it to their sauce.  And since I probably can’t get the proprietary recipe, I had to come up with my own sauce recipe and I’m happy to share it.

Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

  • 1-2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 8 whole jalapenos
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups enchilada sauce* (see recipe below)
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded Mexican cheese

Boil the chicken in a pot of water with 6 halved jalapenos. Once the chicken is cooked, take off the heat and shred. Rinse the beans and add to a bowl with the chicken. Pour 1 cup of sauce over the chicken and beans. In a skillet, add the olive oil, onions and two diced jalapenos. Once tender, remove from heat. On each tortilla, spread the chicken and bean mixture along the center, top with onions and jalapenos, then finish off with a quarter cup of cheese. Roll up tortillas tightly.

In an 8×8 baking dish, pour one cup enchilada sauce in bottom of dish. Place four rolled up tortillas in the dish. Pour two cups of enchilada sauce over top. Add two cups of shredded cheese on the top.

 I usually put aluminum foil over top so the cheese doesn’t brown too fast. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes. Serve with rice.

Enchilada Sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 4 chipotles en adobo
  • 4 large tomatoes, diced
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 cups chicken stock

In a large high-sided pan, add olive oil, onion, garlic and peppers. Once tender, add tomatoes, paste, chipotles en adobo and chicken stock. Now add the spices.

Simmer 15-20 minutes. Now add the entire mixture to a food processor or blender and pulse until thick and smooth. This recipe makes 4 cups.

Melissa’s Notes:

Sometimes I double this recipe and freeze the extra in Zip-loc gallon bags. They lay flat and take up less space than containers. It’s a nice treat to have onhand when I’m feeling lazy but want something tasty to eat.


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Creamy, Comforty, Broccoli-Cheese Soup

This week I had a great opportunity to start blogging for our local newspaper, the Columbia Daily Tribune. I will post an item there every other week talking about food, like I do for this blog. I’m excited about dipping my toes back into the journalism waters again. So, there will be times like today when I refer back to something I posted in the Trib’s Community Kitchen blog.

I certainly didn’t want to skip this post, as it’s one of my favorite recipes and one I tend to use as a back up when I can’t think of something else to make. Check out my broccoli-cheese soup, I’m hope you love it as much as I do. Click here to see my Community Kitchen post.

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

  • 2 heads fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 10 oz. frozen broccoli
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 8 oz. American cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (+ enough water to make it a slurry)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring the 6 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the fresh and frozen broccoli, and onions. Once the vegetables are soft, add the spices and cheese and stir making sure the cheese doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. In the meantime, mix the cornstarch and a little water in a small bowl until it’s smooth without lumps.  Now that the cheese has melted, add the milk and heavy cream. Once the soup is smooth, add in the cornstarch mixture and allow to simmer. The soup will thicken as it heats. Serve in a bread bowl or alone. Makes 8 servings.

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Bookclub Appetizers: Warm Spinach-Artichoke Dip

In September some of my girlfriends decided we all needed some grown-up time. This happens occasionally, given the fact that several of us have small children and husbands. That’s how our bookclub, Reading Between the Wines, was born. Seven or eight of us gather each month to discuss the latest read, take turns hosting and eat really tasty food. I have to admit, I think bookclubs are more about the socializing and food than the books themselves…or at least that ‘s the way it is with my friends. And that’s ok. I think we prefer it. Afterall, hospitality is a point of pride for this Southern girl.

We’ve read several good books lately: Cutting for Stone, The Help, Winter’s Bone, etc. I tried to be one of those people who match the menu to the book, but that didn’t last too long. It worked out great for The Help with homemade caramel cake and sweet tea. But sometimes I just get a hankering for something and just have to make it. That’s precisely what happened for this month’s meeting. I wanted some warm, garlicky Spinach-Artichoke dip, so that’s  what I made–enough for my husband to snack on watching football and enough to share with the girls. So if you want to share with your girlfriends or husband, heck even if you don’t, give this recipe a try.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip

  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 can artichokes, chopped
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. Romano cheese
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pepper, to taste

Add all ingredients to the Crock-Pot and cook over low for 1-2 hours. Serve warm with crackers, tortilla chips or bread pieces.

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Blackberry Muffins, not just for breakfast!

This week as I was cleaning out my refrigerator, I came across a container of blackberries. I think they were on their last leg, so I decided to use them up rather than tossing them. I just hate wasting food, it feels like I’m throwing money out the window. And my husband and I work way too hard for our money to toss it away nonchalantly.

So, blackberries. I do love them. I love them most when I can go to the farm and pick them, when they are so ripe your fingers turn purple just by touching them. But that didn’t happen on this day. I got them out of the container, rinsed them off and began thinking of how to get the most bang for my buck without having to buy more ingredients. That’s when I remembered muffins. We love them not just for breakfast, but to snack on throughout the day.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and feel free to mix in other berries, just whatever is leftover in your fridge.


Blackberry Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • Butter and flour for coating the pan 


Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all together. Add the melted butter. Mix just until it all comes together, over-mixing will yield tough batter.

Fold in the berries. Scoop out into muffin tins or whatever baking dish you want. Bake 10-12 minutes, depending on your dish.

Melissa’s Notes:

I opted to use new bakeware–a silicone mini-brownie pan–that I got for Christmas. I’ve been itching to use it since it makes adorable little squares. It was ok, but the muffins didn’t come out as clean as the commercials say they will.

To be sure your muffins don’t stick to the pan, be sure to butter all sides, then flour it. Shake off the excess flour and then add your muffin batter.

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Kentucky Hot Brown

This is a rich, decadent meal that warms my soul and reminds me of home. Being a Kentucky girl, I love to share tidbits from my homestate with friends, coworkers, and well, just anyone who will listen. The Bluegrass has so much to offer, but I think one of its true gems is this Kentucky Hot Brown. And yes, it’s enough to serve as the entire meal–the richness of full fat butter, heavy cream and cheese is very filling and you won’t even be looking for side dishes, maybe just a pair of stretchy pants. But that’s ok, it’s totally worth it.

I learned to make this dish once I left home and have been cooking it ever since. It doesn’t take much time to prepare  and is easy to whip up. Below, you’ll find the recipe from The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky. That’s where this open-faced sandwich originated in the 1920s. Apparently the guests wanted something other than ham and eggs to nosh on after a night of dancing and the chef served the Hot Brown. Late night, early morning, mid-day…it’s a winner any time. Enjoy!

The Legendary Hot Brown Recipe

Ingredients (Makes Two Hot Browns):

  • 2 oz. Whole Butter
  • 2 oz. All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Qt. Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • 14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast
  • 2 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 4 slices of Crispy Bacon
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
  • Paprika, Parsley

In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk whipping cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven safe dish and cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

A few tips from Melissa:

 I always put my bacon in the oven. All pieces are evenly cooked and stay flat. Who needs that curled up stuff with pockets of uncooked fat, yuck! So, this is a winner every time. Also, I save the bacon grease and put it in a small container in the refrigerator. Pork fat is like liquid gold. Save that stuff!

I know the recipe above calls for tomatoes on the side, but I always slice them thinly and lay them atop the turkey. It seems to add great flavor and makes it a little juicier.

As you can tell, I put my sandwiches in a baking dish. My serving plates are not broil or oven proof, so this works just as well. I use a spatula to lift them out onto the plate.

 You’ll want to watch them closely so they are lightly brown and bubbly before pulling them out of the oven.

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