Sunday, March 26, 2006

Chicken: Mexican and Texican

There are days that I don't feel like cooking. I wake up uninspired in the morning, shuffle over to the freezer or fridge and just stare at the insides. I stare at what's on the shelves, at what's hiding in the crisper, I uninterestedly squeeze the celery or poke a tomato and close the doors. After five seconds, I open them again, as if expecting an inspiring new load of groceries, or for the cooking muse to hit me over the head with a stale piece of cheese. But no such luck.

The last three weeks have been like that. Usually my night stand contains stacks of cooking books, a newsletter or two with dates for cooking classes, and several gastronomy travel guides, and I look forward to going to bed and reading for a while. The recipes line up in my head after I have fallen asleep, and when I wake up in the morning, one of the first thoughts is : "Yummmm......I think I'll fix some *insert name of dish here* today", and all is well. I jog over to the freezer, make sure I have all the ingredients and go on my merry way. But lately, I have left the books unopened and even returned the Two Fat Ladies cooking video series back to the library without viewing.

But God is good, and He must have pitied me because last night the Taste of Home Cooking Show (http://www.tasteofhomeschools.com) came to town. Proud as a puppy I entered the premises of the Four Rivers Cultural Center with my ticket in hand, ready to be whipped back into cooking shape, and encouraged to be inspired. It was a fun evening, with wonderful, easy to prepare recipes, tips and suggestions, and lots and lots of material. The next morning, I knew I was back on track, because the first thing on my mind was a great pork barbecue dish that had been prepared at the show. Hurray!!!! I'm not big on pork unless it's in the shape of a slab of bacon, so I'm preparing the meal with chicken instead.

Tortillas with Pulled Chicken Barbecue

1/2 can chopped green chilies (4 oz)
1/2 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons of your favorite salsa
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large chicken breasts
1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
Flour tortillas
Sour cream
Salsa

In a non-stick pan with lid, or a crockpot, add the chilies, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, onion, salsa, chili powder and cumin, and stir the ingredients. Bring to a slow boil, add the whole chicken breasts and the beans, and turn low to a simmer. Set you crockpot to high. Cover and let it cook for 2 1/2 hours. Take the chicken out of the pot, and with two forks, pull the meat in shreds, return it to the pan and stir the meat into the sauce. Heat the tortillas, scoop a generous amount of chicken barbecue in one, fold, dollop some sour cream and salsa on top and enjoy this delicious meal. Serves two for lunch, or four for a snack.

Now what to do with the leftover chilies and tomato sauce? No worries !!

Mexican Chicken and Bean Soup

2 Maggi Chicken and Tomato bouillon cubes (from the Hispanic section in your supermarket)
8 cups of water
2 chicken breasts
3 ribs of celery, cut in 1 inch pieces
2 cups of baby carrots
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thick
1/2 can of chopped green chilies
1/2 can of cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon of dry taco mix

Dissolve the two bouillon cubes in the 8 cups of water, add to a stock or soup pot and bring slowly to a boil. Add the two whole chicken breast, and simmer on low for a good hour. Remove the chicken from the bouillon, cut into bitesize pieces and return to the pot. Add the celery, carrots, onion, chillies and beans, stir and finally add the taco mix. Stir well, bring to a boil, turn low and simmer for another forty minutes, salt and pepper to taste if needed.

This soup is best the next day, with a spoon of salsa, sourcream and some crunchy tortilla chips. Add some cilantro on top for color.

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