Appetizers: Beans and Rice & Shrimp with Corn Salsa

IMG_8086When it comes to the Super Bowl, I need to be honest…I’m only in on the action for the commercials and the food. Most likely I’ll be on the computer half reading blogs or whatever, and half watching the game. And for me…most importantly, I won’t be watching the end of the game. It’s way too sad for me. While most people are focusing on the winning team, and the interviews of players as they discuss their upcoming vacations to Disney, I’m focusing on the losing team. Their faces and their tears show the disappointment and devastation of the loss, and it makes me feel sad for them…and then I think of their moms, and how sad they must feel for their sons….and then I feel sad for the moms…..

It’s a vicious circle.

So, while I’m caught up in the hype of the Super Bowl, it’s because I’m planning the menu for that night, and getting really excited to see what the advertising teams have come up for Doritos, Budweiser, Coke, etc… ~And~ the halftime show….looking forward to the conversations at work the next day, as to the singer/band’s success or failure in performance, wardrobe malfunction, or whatever might happen in that very brief time on stage.

I’ve never been sports minded.
I am, however, food minded.

Which brings me to a couple of appetizers that are really great to serve at a Super Bowl party, or any party for that matter. I love to serve both of these appetizers together, as they really complement each other.

IMG_8084

The first one is beans and rice. A mini meal served in mini bowls, with mini spoons. Though I have to say, there is nothing mini about the flavor, with the corn, beans and rice… sweet and savory all in one.

IMG_8085

The next appetizer is shrimp with corn salsa. Like the rice and beans, it has huge flavor, and the corn and the shrimp bring a wonderful sweetness to the tartness of the lime and heat of the pepper.

…. And if you’re in on the Super Bowl action because you actually have a team you’re rooting for, then I hope your team wins…

IMG_8026

Beans and Rice

This is one of those recipes that turned out to be unexpectedly versatile. I love that. I love it when you take that first taste, and realize that the dish can be just about anything you want it to be…

It’s truly a meal in itself… It can be served hot, as beans and rice in a bowl, melted cheese on top, and with a dollop of sour cream. Wrap it in a soft tortilla, or in a hard taco shell. Serve it cold as a corn and bean salad. Make it with rice, or make it without rice. Use it as a baked potato topper. You can serve it hot, or even cold with tortilla chips as an appetizer!

½ cup olive oil
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
½ sweet red pepper, diced
½ medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 cups cooked rice
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp chives
1 – 15 oz can black beans, drained
1 – 15 oz can kidney beans, drained
1-1/2 cups frozen corn

In a large frying pan, saute the carrots, red pepper, onion, and garlic in the olive oil, vinegar, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper until the carrots are softened. (About 15-20 minutes).

Add the cooked rice, parsley, chives, black beans, kidney beans, and corn. Heat through for about 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot or cold. Garnish with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

IMG_8074

Shrimp with Corn Salsa

Just like the beans and rice, this recipe is just as versatile. I love making shrimp tacos with this. It’s just as delicious with chicken, or even fish!

1 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp chili powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp honey
1 tsp hot sauce
2 cups frozen corn
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2  English cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced (I used a medium heat pepper instead)
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1 cup mango, diced

Tortilla chips

In a large bowl, combine the lime juice, chili powder, garlic, honey, hot sauce, corn, cucumber, red onion, jalapeno pepper (or your choice pepper), pineapple, and mango.

Refrigerate and let flavors marry for at least an hour.

Avocado Cream
1 cup sour cream
1 avocado, removed from shell
Juice of ½ lime
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

In mini food processor, pulse the sour cream, avocado, lime juice, salt, and pepper until well blended. Move to a small bowl, refrigerate until ready to use.

IMG_8086

To assemble the tortilla chips:
Place a generous spoonful of the corn salsa on each tortilla chip. Arrange one shrimp on top of the salsa, and top with a dollop of avocado cream. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

Pork Chili with Polenta

Here we are, at the end of the weekend…and I didn’t get a chance to do any cooking.  My husband and I spent the weekend at our cabin.  Jon built the cabin about two years ago, but with a temporary kitchen, because with all new cabinets, refrigerator, etc., it was going to be an expensive endeavor.  He rigged up some countertops and shelves…and hung some old cabinets.  It worked just fine for the time being. We just had to recoup financially after the initial building of the cabin.  But after falling into a really great deal on cabinets at the Home Depot, and this crazy (shaking my head, I’m still in shock) deal at Sears for a new fridge and microwave, and a new countertop built by Jon’s friend, we were able to do the kitchen a little bit sooner than we had anticipated, and for way less money than we had thought.

IMG_6766

Anyway…getting back to the not cooking.  For the last three weeks or so, Jon had been installing the cabinets and countertop.  I haven’t been going to the cabin, because it’s hunting season..and that’s really not my favorite time to be down there.  I don’t know…there’s something about having a couple months of weekends to myself… I love it. But this past weekend, it was just going to be Jon going alone, so Sophie and I decided that we’d go along to keep him company. Not to mention, I was anxious to see the new kitchen! He decided to install the ceramic tile backsplash, which meant that the kitchen was going to be out of commission.  He got as far as he could (he forgot to bring the tile cutter thing), but the photo pretty much gives you the grand scheme of things. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, Jon really did a great job..and honestly..I’m so proud of him for building this cabin pretty much by himself..he’s quite a talented carpenter.

IMG_6688

I have this wonderful and really cool pancake recipe inspired by my daughter Katie and her boyfriend Ryan that I was going to do.  I’ll try to get that made tomorrow night.   In the meantime, I have a pork tenderloin chili recipe that I made for dinner last week that I’ll share tonight.  The reason I didn’t post it sooner is because I didn’t want to post about polenta so soon after posting the chicken over polenta recipe.  I was worried that it was going to look like I have tunnel vision (or should I say tunnel cravings) when it comes to some ingredients or food, i.e. cupcakes, polenta, gnocchi… which isn’t really the case, it just happens that these things come up in groups, rather than here and there… if that even makes sense!!

In all honesty…
I do get “tunnel cravings”
Pasta.
I could eat it every night.
And chocolate.
But chocolate is a necessary evil, so that doesn’t count.

So..back to the chili.  The night I made it, I was hungry for chili.  But I wanted meaty chili… not just ground beef chili, but big chunks of meat chili.  I had a pork tenderloin and some ground beef in the freezer. I defrosted them both, and sautéed the pork and beef with some onions, peppers, and garlic.  And then, you know me… I started building the recipe…thinking that I should make this into a Cincinnati chili…you know…over spaghetti (there’s a surprise..) with chopped onions on top..   But then, as I was looking in the cupboard for spaghetti, I came across the package of polenta..and any thoughts of Cincinnati or spaghetti flew out the window… I can happily say that the polenta won!! I decided that I would cook the polenta until it was nice and thick, cut it into mini squares, and then I’d fold it into the chili, just like the very first time I ever tried it.

What I really love about this chili, is that you can get home from work, and have it cooked up in a short amount of time. Just throw everything in the pot, and let it do it’s own thing. I can honestly say that this was such a satisfying meal… a close your eyes and say “Mmmm” with every spoonful, kind of meal.  Life is good. It’s pork tenderloin and polenta in your chili kind of good.

IMG_6684

Pork Chili with Polenta

Just a quick note… this recipe will serve six generous servings. While I used a sweet red pepper, please feel free to use a green pepper. I tend to buy more red peppers than I do green, only because I think that the red tend to be way less bitter when cooked, than the green. Don’t get me wrong, I still love green peppers, I just use more red. I used all tomato sauce because of my finicky eaters at home. If they found any remnants of tomato in a dish, you’d think that the world was about to end…(rolling my eyes here). So if you like tomatoes, use one can of sauce, and one can of crushed tomatoes. It would be delicious! Also, even though the polenta won this time around, I’m still thinking that this would be awesome served as Cincinnati Chili. Do whatever tickles your fancy…

The Chili
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into chunks
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 15.5 oz cans light red kidney beans, drained
2 – 28 oz cans tomato sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (or more if you like the heat)

In a large pot, sauté the onions, pepper, and garlic until tender.  Add the pork and ground beef, and cook until browned. Add the sauce, kidney beans, brown sugar, chili powder, Worchestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper on medium heat.  When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chili thickens, about an hour and a half or so.

While the chili is simmering, go ahead and cook up the polenta.  That will give it plenty of time to thicken and set…

The Polenta:
2 cups water
1/2 cup instant polenta
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup romano cheese

Bring the two cups of water and salt to a boil. Slowly pour the polenta into the boiling water, whisking constantly. Simmer on lowest heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and romano cheese. Pour into a shallow 9 x 9 baking dish that has been sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Let it set while the chili is cooking, and then cut into mini squares. Carefully fold the squares into the chili. Serve in bowls… sprinkle with your favorite cheese if desired..

Enjoy!

IMG_6681