Friday, May 28, 2010

Recipe for Boxed Brownies with a Kick

This one's kind of a no-brainer but I can't stop eating these brownies so I had to share...

My two-year-old loves to help me cook.  Everytime I start measuring anything he grabs a kitchen chair and drags it over to the counter saying "Help you! Help you!"  So the other day we were baking brownies together.  Nothing exciting, just regular ol' boxed brownies.  But this time I decided to add a little flair to them: cinnamon and chile powder.

For these brownies, you can really use whatever chile powder you have on hand.  I used the ancho powder  that I bought from when I did a complete overhaul on my spice cabinet a while back (I still need to show you that!).  Ancho powder is made from poblanos, a sweeter, milder pepper.  I bet chipotle powder would be good too or even cayenne pepper if you're looking for a little more kick.

box brownie mix
ingredients for brownie mix (probably water, oil and eggs)
chocolate chips (because I always add chocolate chips to my brownies)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 to 1 teaspoon chile powder

Start with your basic boxed brownie mix.

Combine according to package directions.

Add spices. Mix.

Stir in chocolate chips.  Bake according to package.  Enjoy.

P.S.  These are so easy I'm not even bothering with printable directions.  Brownies-Cinnamon-Chile Powder (1 to 1 to ~1).... you can remember that, right?

Kitchen Tip:
When choosing a chile powder to add to your brownies, remember to look for chile powder, not chili powder.  Chili powder is a spice blend used in chili, often made with ground chiles, paprika, cumin, oregano and garlic.  Chile powder is made from dried, ground chiles.  If you're not sure about your spice, check the ingredients.  The spices will either be listed individually or it will say something like "dried chilis and spices" if it's a chili powder blend.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Menu Plan

Have you noticed I love Mexican food?  My husband and I both grew up [and still live] in California.  Although the Mexican dishes I prepare aren't authentic dishes, you can certainly see that my cooking is influenced by our neighbors down south.

Did you know Cinco de Mayo is not actually Mexico's independence day?  Nope!  We generally think of it as their independence but that holiday is actually in September.  The holiday we celebrate in May as Cinco de Mayo is the day that Mexico won an unlikely victory over the French who attacked the Mexicans in order to force payment of a debt (the French did end up occupying Mexico for many years but this battle was significant because the Mexicans were so outnumbered).  You can read more about it here.

Anyway, Cinco de Mayo is a big celebration around here.  And this year I decided to put together a Cinco de Mayo menu plan!  Try these recipes out this year!

chips & Salsa Verde

Sweet Corn Tomalito Recipe

{print this recipe}
Sweet corn tomalito is that corn pudding that comes on the side of your plate at Chevy's.  Years ago I found this recipe that rivals Chevy's amazing sweet corn tomalito.  I follow the microwave instructions offered by a reviewer on

source: tweaked from
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 1 hour (or 11 minute in microwave)
serves: 8

5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup masa harina
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons milk

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, masa flour, and sugar until light and fluffy. 

In a food processor or blender, blend one cup of the corn kernels with the water and cornmeal just until smooth. 

Stir corn mixture into the masa mixture. Add the remaining corn, baking powder, salt, and milk, mixing until the batter is smooth. 

Pour into an 8x8 inch glass baking dish.

Place the baking dish over a large saucepan of simmering water. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil, and steam for 50 to 60 minutes, or until firm. Check water occasionally, and refill if necessary. Stir pudding before serving to give it a consistent texture. Serve in small scoops.

* alternative, quick-cook method: microwave at 30% power for 7 minutes then at full power for 4 minutes. Stir mixture and serve in small scoops.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles Cookie Recipe

I recently came across this recipe for vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles.  They look amazing but I wanted to see if I could make them non-vegan.  Using a basic snickerdoodle recipe, the vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodle recipe and some of my own tweaks, this is what I came up with...

cookie dough:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

sugar coating:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cayenne and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat beat butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract. 
  4. Slowly pour dry ingredients into mixture and beat until combined.
  5. In a shallow dish, stir together sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Roll dough into walnut sized balls, and roll in cinnamon and sugar until coated. Place dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
  7. Place into the preheated oven and bake until the cookies have spread and are crackly on top, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cookies cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Salsa Verde Recipe {Tomatillo Salsa or Green Salsa}

{print this recipe}
Salsa Verde is a mild and tangy green salsa made from tomatillos, a staple in many Mexican recipes.  When buying tomatillos, choose fruits with green husks (avoid the brown husks) and that are smooth and plump inside (not wilted or wrinkled).

source: Mama Jan original!
yields: 2 cups (or more if you add water to your salsa)

2 pounds tomatillos, husked
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
juice of 1 lime
kosher salt, to taste

tomatillos husked and halved

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Brush a jelly roll pan lightly with olive oil. Halve tomatillos and place skin side up on the pan. Halve jalapeño pepper, removing veins and seeds. Place pepper skin side up on the pan also.

2. Place pan in preheated oven, roasting tomatillos and pepper for about 30 minutes.
3. Using a spoon, scoop tomatillos and jalapeño into food processor. Add remaining ingredients.
4. Pulse until well-blended. Add water if you prefer thinner salsa. Serve at room temperature.

    Avocado Relleno Recipe {Aguacates Rellenos}

    {print this recipe}

    source: inspired by my favorite dish at a local {now closed} Mexican restaurant, beef filling recipe from Mangio da Sola

    3 avocados, halved, peeled and pitted at room temperature
    2 cans black beans, warmed
    3 slices sharp cheddar cheese
    prepared salsa fresca
    2oz. cotija cheese, crumbled

    2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 pounds beef (boneless chuck roast)
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1/2 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    1 cup beef broth
    2 Tablespoons tomato paste
    1-2 chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce
    1/2 large sweet onion, diced
    4 cloves garlic, minced

    I've never purchased Cotija cheese before and wasn't sure what I was looking for:

    Cook beef in your slow cooker:
    1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine the chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika in a small bowl.
    2. Rub the spice mix into the beef, covering each side evenly. Once the oil is hot, place the beef in the skillet and sear on each side. Do not move the meat while it cooks for 2-3 minutes on each side.
    3. Remove the beef from the skillet, and place in the bottom of a slow cooker. Leave the pan on the heat, and add in the beef broth to deglaze, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste and minced chipotle or adobo sauce, and whisk into the pan sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.
    4. Add the diced onion and minced garlic on top of the seared beef in the slow cooker. Pour the pan sauce down over the onions, garlic, and beef. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
    5. Remove the beef from the slow cooker, and shred with two forks. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions from the slow cooker, and mix into the shredded beef.

    Assemble the Avocado Relleno:

    Makes 3 servings.
    1. Scoop black beans onto plate. Place 2 halves of the avocado on top of beans. Lay one slice of cheddar cheese onto avocado. Microwave for 10-20 seconds to slightly melt the cheese (or skip this step!).
    2. Scoop beef onto cheese and avocado, then top with salsa fresca and cotija cheese!

    Avocado Relleno simply means 'stuffed avocado'.  It's a spin on the traditional chile relleno.  I discovered this dish at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants and I was hooked.  I mean, I love avocado but this dish was incredible.  The best use of an avocado that I could have ever imagined.  It was all I would order when I went to this restaurant.  Then one day a few years ago my husband and I hopped in the car to go out for avocado rellenos and the restaurant was closed.  Just out of the blue, no notice - they had been hit hard by the recession and unfortunately I didn't get one last avocado relleno.

    I have been thinking about avocado rellenos since that day and finally decided it was time to make my own.  I knew I would never know their recipe for the meat (I always ordered shredded chicken on top of mine) so I set out to find the best shredded meat recipe I could find.  This one was great - I will make it again but I will also keep looking for the best meat filling for my avocado relleno.

    For the most part, the rest of this dish is just as the restaurant prepared it.  They did layer roasted poblano peppers between the avocado and the meat which I have chosen to leave off my relleno.

    This dish can be made with your favorite chicken, beef, pork or seafood (shredded, cubed, etc.). I would love to know what meat recipe you used! Please be sure to leave a comment on this blog post with a link to your favorite recipe that you used!