Happy Mother’s Day

To all the lovely ladies out there, Happy Mother’s Day.  It does not matter if your children are human children or fur babies, they are still our children and we love them all the same, with all our hearts.  My children all have 4 legs, fur, and tails.  I do not have the regular two-legged children.  I have two Saint Bernards and two cats – Lucie, Vinnie (my Saints) and Otis and Nicodemus (my cats).    They all wished me a very Happy Mother’s Day, and were busy helping me prepare our Mother’s Day celebration for my “sister” and all her family today.

My sister (by choice) and her kids are all vegan, but her husband is an omnivore like my husband and I are.  We eat everything.  My sister’s  kids range in age from 15-5 1/2, and there are a lot of different likes and dislikes had by all, so it can be challenging to come up with something they all like and will all eat.  I’ve learned through trial and error, to just keep things very simple for them.  So I prepared a vegan, kid friendly meal today that also satisfied all the meat-eaters as well.   Nothing really fancy today, just good, hearty food that we all enjoyed.  Most everything was vegan, which is not that much different to cook that non-vegan.  You just have to make sure you are not using any meat or dairy or animal products at all, and when you prepare both, just prepare them separately and wash everything thoroughly in between uses.   The vegan menu was tofu marinated in vegan teriyaki sauce, mashed potatoes, and lots of vegetables, with some vegan iced lemon cookies for dessert.   The only difference between their meal and ours was that we omnivores/carnivores ate bacon wrapped filet mignon, also marinated in the vegan teriyaki sauce, rather than the tofu.

Making the marinade.

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Teriyaki Tofu.

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Wrapping the filet mignon with bacon.

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The veggies and sides were all vegan.  I used soy milk and vegan butter.  Steamed broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower; vegan mashed potatoes and corn cobs cooked in soy milk and vegan butter; and sauteed red onions, garlic, mushrooms and red peppers, cooked in olive oil, and salt and pepper.

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Vegan Teriyaki Sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp minced ginger

1/3 cup tamari sauce or soy sauce

2 TBSP sesame oil

2 TBSP dry sherry

2 TBSP orange juice

2 TBSP brown sugar or agave (I used a little bit of both)

Mix everything together, blending well, and marinate your tofu, tempeh, seitan, or meat.  You can also use this for vegetables as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priscilla’s Kitchen

Today, I actually turn the reins over to my dear friend Priscilla, whom I have known since I was 12.  The kitchen was hers today and she gets all the credit for this beautiful presentation and all the foods.  She is a wonderful cook and is so creative.  She thinks of every little detail, and then adds some more, making sure everything is very special for everyone.  She is such a beautiful, gracious hostess, and all of her events are just spectacular, to say the very least.  Tonight’s celebration was in honor of her daughter Christine graduating from CU Boulder, with her degree in Architecture.   Priscilla made everything with a graduate theme.  And as always, when Priscilla puts her magical touch to things, they turn our beyond perfect and beyond anyone’s expectations.

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Priscilla with her lovely mother Ana.

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The Graduate and brand new architect, Christine and her good friend.

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Surf and Turf on the Deck

Halibut is one of my absolute favorite fish, but I don’t get to eat it nearly as often as I would like because it is so expensive.   Halibut is a cold water fish that is a flatfish like flounder, only considerably larger.  Halibut and flounder can be interchanged in recipes because they are so similar in flavor and texture.  Halibut can be found in the Atlantic and all up and down the western coastline, but some of the best halibut comes from the cold Alaskan or Canadian waters.  It is a white steak-like fish that is very lean, but because it is so lean, it can become very dry if overcooked.  The larger halibuts, that can weigh up to about 200 pounds, are becoming harder and harder to find, which makes it very expensive.  Unfortunately, a lot of the waters are becoming fished out due to over fishing.  So when it goes on sale, I make sure I get some, even if only a little bit at a time.  Tonight we only had a small piece; not nearly enough for both my husband and I to have for dinner, so we added a little left over London Broil, and had a delicious surf and turf dinner on the deck.  I marinated the halibut with some lemon pepper, regular pepper and olive oil, then we grilled it up and topped it with some pesto.  I served it with green beans almondine and lentils with carrots, red onions, garlic and parsley.  We had a very nice, relaxing dinner over-looking our ponds from our beloved deck.  Our wine choice this evening was actually my husband’s choice and I really didn’t care for it too much.  It was a sparkling Sangria.  Normally I love Sangria, but I do not care for sweet wines at all, and this was just a bit too sweet for my taste, plus we needed a white wine to go with the fish, but as luck would have it, I did not have any cold.  Oh well.  It can’t always be perfect.   However, dinner was delicious.

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Preparing the lentils.

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Cooking the carrots, garlic, onions and parsley to add to the cooked lentils.

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Green Beans Almondine

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Green Beans Almondine

green beans

toasted almonds

1 tsp lemon juice

1-2 TBSP butter

salt & pepper to taste

 

Toast almond slivers until lightly golden.  You can toast them in the oven or just in a pan right on the stove (I prefer the pan on the stove).  They do not need any butter or oil, because of the oil from the nuts themselves.  They only take a couple of minutes to cook up, so watch them carefully.

Remove the stems and the ends from your your green beans.  Place them in boiling hot water for about 6-8 minutes or until cooked, then remove from the water.

Get your skillet very hot then add your lemon juice.  Let it reduce down for a few seconds then add the butter and all the rest of the ingredients, including your cooked beans.  Mix well and saute for about 3-5 minutes and serve.

 

 

Leftovers Like First-Overs

Believe it or not, I really don’t cook everyday.  I do cook most days, but with all this cooking, we do end up with a lot of leftovers as well, and it is just my husband and myself to eat all this food.  We are only two people, after all, and can only eat so much.  He is actually really good about taking leftovers for his lunches though.  His co-workers have gotten used to the fact that he usually has something pretty good and different for his lunches everyday, while they are stuck with their typical meals that don’t vary much day after day.  Often they are asking for me to make their lunches as well.  Hahahaha!  Every now and then though I will make dishes for my husband to take into work to share with everyone, like green chili or regular chili or something that serves a larger number of people.   Because he is so good about taking leftovers in for his lunches, we don’t eat them too often for dinner, however, there are those days when we do.  When that happens, I do my best to recreate them so they are vastly different than what they were like before.  A lot of times, if I just have a little bit of meat and vegetables, but not enough for both of us to have as a dinner portion on their own, they go into quesadillas or tacos, which works out just perfectly, especially if I make a little extra rice and beans to go on the side.

Sauces and marinades are very easy to recreate dishes with.   The other day, when I made the Mexican street corn, I had some leftover marinade which I used to marinade chicken, that we later grilled up.  We actually even liked it better with the chicken than we did the corn, although we both really liked the Mexican street corn a lot too.  More so than not, this is just typical of how my creative juices flow.  Both of my parents were Depression babies and WWII children, so I grew up with the motto “waste not want not”.  It has been with me ever since.  I just hate throwing away food if I can help it, so I try my best re-use everything as much as possible.  If you allow yourself to think outside the box, you’d be amazed at some of the creative things you can come up with.

Leftovers as tacos, mixed with a little Caribbean cole slaw and some rice and beans.

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Chicken marinated with the leftover sauce for the Mexican street corn, with some leftovers we had from Cinco de Mayo and a Pesto Sun-dried tomato roll.  (You have seen all of these recipes in past posts.  Now you are seeing them again, only served in different ways).

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Don’t be afraid to “play with your food”.  Have fun.  Think of the plate as your canvas, and create what you like.

 

 

Pistachio Lemon Drops

Believe it or not, these delicious and delicate cookies only have 6 simple ingredients.  They are like little bits of the California sunshine in every bite.   Once you bite into them, they just melt in your mouth.  There are two minor negatives, however.  One, the recipe does not make very many, only about 1 1/2 dozen, which brings me to number two.  They do not last very long, especially since it is very hard to stop at just one.  Fortunately though, they are pretty easy to make.  They are the perfect little treat to go with high tea, or to serve beside a dish of sorbet, or even to just enjoy on their own.

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This is all you need.

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The process of making cookies.

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Pistachio Lemon Drops

1 large egg white

pinch of salt

1 cup toasted, salted pistachios, finely chopped (about 4 1/2 oz) I chopped my nuts in the food processor, by pulsing them until they were finely chopped, but not completely ground up.

1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

1 TBSP flour

1 tsp lemon juice

 

Preheat oven to 325*F.

Separate the egg.  You Are only using the white.  Add a dash of salt, and use a mixer at high speed to beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks.  Add your chopped nuts and brown sugar.  Mix at a medium speed until everything is incorporated and blended together well.  Add your flour and lemon juice and mix again.

Use an ice cream scooper that is about 1 1/4 ” and scoop the dough out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, about 2″ apart.  Bake at 325* F for about 15-18 minutes, rotating them at about the half way point.  Let cool.  These can keep in an airtight container for about 3 days, assuming they don’t all get eaten by that time.

As far as cookies go, these are relatively healthy, since they are mostly chopped pistachios.

 

 

 

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Rolls

If a dish or recipe calls for pesto, chances are I am going to love it.  A good, garlicy pesto is one of my favorites.  I love pesto on just about everything.  I am also a good bread lover, so I am just in Heaven when combining both into a roll.  As far as breads go, this is pretty easy to make, although you still have to allow for at least 4 hours from start to finish to allow for the dough to have the 2 necessary rises.  The bread is a nice, soft dough that just kind of melts in your mouth.  This is like a pull-apart mini pizza, and if you wanted to make it more like pizza, you could also add some shredded chicken or pepperoni.  I made my own pesto, but store bought works just fine too.

After the first rising, add the pesto, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and shredded Parmagiano cheese.  If you prefer goat cheese or mozzarella, or another type of cheese, then use what you like.

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Roll it into a tight roll and slice with a bread knife.

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Arrange the sliced rolls into an 10″ cake pan (preferably with a removable bottom) that has been sprayed with cooking spray, and let rise again for about 45 minutes.

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The Basic Pull-Apart Bread Dough

2/3 cup warm milk

1 TBSP sugar

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

3 1/4 cups flour

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 tsp salt

The Filling

pesto

sun-dried tomatoes

Parmagiano cheese, or mozzarella or goat cheese, or cheese of your choice

In a mixing bowl, add the milk, sugar and yeast, mix together slightly and let rest for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes frothy or foamy.  This is your starter.  Then add 1 cup of flour and mix at low speed until everything is just combined.  Add the melted butter and 1/2 cup of flour, beat until just combined.  Add the eggs, salt and remaining flour until the dough forms.  It is a soft dough, and will be a little sticky.   Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray, cover and let rise for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough is ready, on a lightly floured surface, roll your dough out to about 1/4-1/2″ thickness and let set for a few minutes.  Then add your pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese.  Roll up tight and firm, but not to firm.  Then carefully slice with a serrated knife and arrange into a prepared cake pan.  Cover and let rise again for another 45 minutes, once again, letting the dough double in size.

Preheat the oven to 350*F and bake until golden brown or about 30 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.

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*** As you have probably noticed by now, I am not into fancy designer brands of food.  Most often, I use generic brands or store brands.  My two favorites are the Kirkland Brand from Costco and the Kroger Brand from out local King Sooper’s Grocery store.   I have tried many different brands, and on some things I am very brand loyal, however, both of these brands are very good quality brands that are the same if not better than their more expensive counterparts.

 

 

 

Creativity Sparks Creativity

If you are over a certain age, then you grew up hearing “don’t play with your food”.   I love playing with my food.  I do it all the time, and come up with some pretty amazingly creative dishes while doing so.  When I get together with good friends who like to play with their food as much as I do, and who are as equally creative, adventurous and experimental as I am, I always have a good time.  You never know what is going to happen next, but almost always, the moments are magical.  We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with some good friends who are just like that.  My friend Janet loves to cook and create in the kitchen just as much as I do.  I made the side dishes and she made the pork adobado, which was out of this world.  It is a rich, bold, spicy pork dish made with a variety of chilies, and cooked nice and slow, giving all the flavors time to really come to life.  We were originally going to serve it over tortillas, but when I brought the pumpkin spice biscuits, we both decided to try it over those instead, then topped everything with avocados.  WOW!!!  It came out great!  We were all very impressed with the end result, and will definitely do that again.  I do not have her recipe for the pork adobado, but maybe one day soon I will be lucky enough to get it from her.  This just re-enforces what I’ve been saying all along.  Have fun in the kitchen and don’t be afraid to try something new or different.  You just never know what you might come up with, and you just might surprise yourself in the process.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Biscuits

These biscuits themselves were a creation of mine, inspired by another recipe for sweet potato biscuits.  I had some left over pumpkin puree, and thought “why not?”  I loved how they turned out.  Again, play with your food and be creative.

2 cups flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 cup milk

2 tsp cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 425*F.

Mix all the dry ingredients together.  Mix the shortening, pumpkin and milk together in a mixing bowl.  When well blended then add to the dry mixture and incorporate together.  Form into a ball and then on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/2″.  Cut out your biscuit circles with a round cookie cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned and puffy.

They are also very tasty served with honey butter.

 

Bring on the Summer

We are visiting with friends again tonight and I was always taught you never go empty handed.  It is a potluck and I am bringing one of  my favorite summer salads and a nice tropical dessert.  In the spring and the summer, we love to enjoy all the fresh produce of the season, and my corn and tomato salad is one of our favorite summer salads.  It is so easy and quick to prepare, and so full of flavor.  It goes anywhere, with anything.  Part of what makes this salad so refreshing is the fresh basil and lemon verbena that grows wild in my backyard.  It is just beginning to grow and has not yet taken over my back yard, but we are also just in early Spring too.  By mid summer, I will have way more than I know what to do with, so if anyone wants some, just let me know.   I try to add it to a lot of different things to give a fresh zippy, zesty, lemony flavor.  Anything lemon is just perfect for the warmer days of spring and summer.  It is also known as lemon balm, and  is a part of the mint family.  If not contained, it literally takes over your yard, as does mint.

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Summer Corn and Tomato Salad

Frozen corn that has been thawed, but not cooked

grape tomatoes, quartered

red onion, diced fine

fresh basil, chiffonade (rolled and sliced very thin)

lemon verbena, chopped fine (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

Just mix everything together and chill.  Pretty easy-peasy and so delicious and very healthy for you too.

 

I was also asked to bring a dessert.  I had some left over cinnamon and powdered sugar mixture, and some left over toasted coconut, along with some fresh pineapple, so I went tropical and made a pineapple-macadamia tart with the toasted coconut.

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Pineapple-Macadamia Toasted Coconut Tart

Make your dough or pate sucre dough first, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the dough set before using.

The Pate Sucre (Dough)

1 1/2 cups flour

6 TBSP COLD butter, cubed small

a pinch of salt

1 egg

6 TBSP heavy whipping cream

1-2 TBSP powdered sugar (I used mine with the cinnamon already mixed in)

In a food processor, add your flour, salt, powdered sugar and cold butter.  Blend until everything is well incorporated.  Then add your egg and heavy whipping cream and mix again until the dough forms a ball.  Remove from the food processor and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

 

The Filling

3/4 cup macadamia nuts, cut coarsely

3/4 pineapple (I used fresh pineapple, but canned or dry is fine too)

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup or 5 TBSP butter, melted

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup coffee liqueur (optional)

1/4-1/3 cup toasted coconut

 

Preheat the oven to 425* F

Once the dough is chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to fit an 11″ tart pan (preferably with a removable bottom).  Press the dough firmly into the tart pan and cut off all the excess dough from the edges.  Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 375*F.

Fill the bottom of the pan with the macadamia nuts, pineapple and coconut.

Mix all the other ingredients together in a mixer and mix until well blended then pour over the nut mixture and bake for about 30 minutes or until the tart filling is set and does not jiggle.  Let cool completely, then carefully remove the bottom of the pan, making sure to hold it securely with your hand spread out completely on the bottom of the pan.  You might need to scrape the edges of the fluted top part of the pan with a knife to make sure to remove all the spilled over filling first.  Once the tart is completely cooled, top with whipped cream (again, I used my cinnamon powdered sugar) and toasted coconut, if desired.

 

 

 

Some Non-Traditional Festive Foods from Mexico for Cinco de Mayo

Everyone eats tacos, fajitas, salsa, pico de gallo and guacamole for Cinco de Mayo, and I love and eat all of those all the time.   But I thought I would do something a little different, while still sticking with a Mexican theme, in honor of the American version of the Cinco de Mayo celebrations.  We are going over to some friends’ house for dinner, and we both made parts of the meal.  She is making the main dishes, and I made the side dishes.  We both love to cook and experiment with different foods and recipes, so no matter what, it will be a very festive, delicious meal.  The dishes I am bringing are Mexican rice with black beans and corn, yams con mole dulce (or yams in a sweet, rich chocolate sauce), pumpkin biscuits and some polvorones de canele (Mexican cinnamon cookies).

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Mexican Rice with Black Beans and Corn

3 TBSP olive oil

1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed

1 onion, chopped small

4 cloves garlic, minced fine

1 TBSP chipotle chilies with adobo sauce, chopped fine

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground corriander

1 tsp oregano

salt & pepper to taste

1 can black beans, rinsed

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup rice

12 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered

6 green onions, chopped fine

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine

1 TBSP lime juice

 

Saute the corn, garlic, and the onions all together in olive oil, cooking until they are tender and translucent.  Add the black beans, rice, spices and chicken broth.  Mix everything together well.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.  Combine the green onions, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice, mixing well, then add to the rice mixture.

Yams con Mole Dulce

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2 lbs yams, cut into large chumks

1 stick butter

1/2 cup Karo light corn syrup

2 TBSP cocoa powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

1/3 cup Grand Marnier

1/3 cup chopped pecans

 

Brown the yams in butter and salt.  Mix all the other ingredients together except the nuts, and pour over yams, coating them well.  Add the chopped pecans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

 

Polvorones de Canele (Mexican cinnamon cookies)

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For the cookie dough

1 cup softened butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

The topping to roll the dough in

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 350*F or 175* C.  Spray your cookie sheets with cooking spray.

Cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  Then add the vanilla.  Once those are all combined, incorporate the flour and cinnamon, 1/2 at a time and mix until just blended.  You want a stiff dough.  Roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in size.  Once your dough balls are rolled, then rolled them all in the powdered sugar and cinnamon mixture.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until they are nicely browned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinco de Mayo

Here in the United States, particularly in areas with large Hispanic populations, Cinco de Mayo is a big annual celebration.  It has become a very fun and festive day, celebrating the foods, music and culture of Mexico.  It has also become a big drinking “holiday”, equivalent to St. Patrick’s Day.  On March 17, everyone, no matter what their background, becomes Irish for a day.  The same is true on Cinco de Mayo, where everyone becomes Mexican for a day, on May 5th.  The Cinco de Mayo traditions started in California, in 1863, in response to the resistance to the French rule in Mexico.  Miners up in Columbia (now known as Columbia State Park) started firing guns and setting off fireworks, as well as singing patriotic songs and making speeches upon hearing the news of the victory.  However, celebrating the day really started to come become popular in Los Angeles, CA around the 1940’s, during the rise of the Chicano movement.  From there it started to move around the country, but did not really become a mainstream day of celebrations in the United States as a whole until the 1980’s when marketing started popularizing it, and associating it with drinking beer.

With all the celebrations that occur in the United States, however, Mexico does not really celebrate it much.  To most Mexicans, it is just another day.  The only places in Mexico where Cinco de Mayo is really celebrated on a large scale are Puebla, Veracruz, and sometimes Mexico City.  It is observed and celebrated in Puebla, where the victorious battle between the Mexican army and the French army took place, on May 5, 1862.  However, the celebrations are vastly different in Puebla than they are here in the United States.  In Puebla and Veracruz, the celebrations are more ceremonial and are honored with military parades and re-enactments of the Mexican-French battle.  The event leading to the Mexican and French revolution was when Mexican President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium stating that all payments of all foreign debts would be suspended for 2 years because the Mexican Treasury was nearly bankrupt.  Britain, France and Spain all sent their naval forces to Veracruz demanding payment.  Britain and Spain negotiated with the Mexican Government and withdrew, but France saw this as an opportunity to establish a French empire in Mexico.  On May 5, 1862, The Mexican army, which was less than half the size of the French army, and was not well equipped, defeated the heavily armed and much larger French army.  Hence, the celebrations on that day, although the victory was very short lived.  A year later, the French came in again, with 30,000 troops and once again defeated the Mexican army.  This victory was also short lived though.  In 1867, President Benito Juarez entered Mexico City and installed a new government.  The significance of Cinco de Mayo was more for helping shape the United States though than it was for Mexico.  If Mexico had not won in 1862, France would have aided the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War, and the United States would be very different than how we know it today.

I will honor the day with Mexican food, but then I celebrate most things with food.  That’s just what I do.  I feed people.

We are dining on a spicy, blackened pork roast, with Mexican spices, Mexican street corn, pumpkin biscuits and garlic mashed potatoes (not Mexican, I know, although potatoes are originally from South America), and a bold red blend as my wine choice to complete the meal.

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The dry rub for the pork was a mixture of cumin, crushed Aleppo chilies, ground Ajo Amarillo chilies, oregano, thyme and paprika.  I had the rub on the pork for about 8 hours before we seared it and roasted it.  It came out very flavorful, moist and tender.

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Mexican Street Corn

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I grilled the corn on the cob and rolled the cooked corn cobs in the spicy, creamy mixture.

2 oz of either cotija or Parmagian cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

3 TBSP sour cream

3 TBSP cilantro, chopped fine

4 tsp lime juice

1 large clove garlic, minced fine

2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste

4 tsp olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

Mix everything together except the cheese and roll the hot corn cobs into the creamy mixture.  Once the corn cobs are coated, then roll into the cheese.  This mixture would also be very tasty as a marinade for chicken as well.  Desfruitas y que tengas un buen celebracion grandiote.

 

*** The crushed Aleppo chilies, ground Ajo Amarillo chilies are from Savory Spice, a locally owned and operated spice shop here in the Denver Metro area.