Devilishly Decadent Cranberry Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapenos

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Kitchenclown has a weakness for all things stuffed, and these little devils just may top the list. They have all the elements for maximum devourability. Sweetness, from the cranberries… saltiness, from the bacon… crunch, from the nuts…and just the right amount of spicy heat, from the peppers. I was fortunate enough, to be introduced to these, by a delightful couple, Kathy and Martin, who served them at a fiesta, while visiting San Miguel de Allende. Bowled completely over by the perfect combination of flavors and textures, I’ve been serving them to delighted guests ever since. Mil gracias to the Koppers! Way up there with the Wow factor!

Ingredients:

10 fresh jalapeno peppers

1  8 oz. block cream cheese, softened in the microwave, in a small bowl

1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped

10 slices bacon, cut in half

Directions:

Cut the  stems off the jalapenos, Slice each in half lenghtwise, and remove the seeds and veins. ( Removing the seeds and veins eliminates the really fiery parts of the peppers, and ensures that they won’t be too incendiary! Using a serrated grapefruit spoon makes the task a snap.)

Add the chopped, dried cranberries, along with the chopped toasted nuts to the softened cream cheese, and mix well

Fill each jalapeno half with a teaspoon, or so of the cream cheese mixture, being careful not to overstuff.

Wrap each half with half a piece of bacon, and secure with a toothpick. Turn the  oven on broil, or you may use a toaster oven.

Place each wrapped jalapeno on a broiler pan, and put into the oven. Broil 10 minutes, on one side,or until the bacon is toasty brown, and cooked through. Turn each one over and repeat, keeping a close watch to prevent burning. Remove from oven, and drain them on paper towels, to remove any excess fat. Remove toothpicks and serve immediately.
Note: Whenever handling jalapenos, take extra precaution and wash hands thoroughly afterwards. Do not rub your eyes, mouth, or nose. Even after careful hand washing, the oils from these little monsters can permeate the skin, and it can take repeated hand washing to remove all remnants.

Yield: 20

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Candelaria has arrived!!!!!

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Each year Kitchenclown awaits the arrival of Candelaria. It is an annual event, which is held here, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on the stunning grounds of Parque Juarez. Plant and flower vendors, from across Mexico, bring their wares to the park to sell them. Hundreds of tourists and residents turn out for the event, and young boys follow them with wheelbarrows…waiting to load up the buyer’s purchases and roll them to their cars , where they will be unloaded. This dazzling event usually begins on the 1st of February, but because most of the vendors were already set up and the Kitchenclown likes to avoid crowds,KC took in a sneak preview today.Here are a few of the stunners on display. Feast your eyes!

Freaking Fabulous Meatless Mexican Fideo

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Some years ago, Kitchenclown owned a whole series of cookbooks published by The California Culinary Institute, including one on Mexican food. I’m quite sure it was absconded, by one of my evil, thieving friends, so if you’re reading this and you are indeed the guilty party, Clown wants it back! I’d tried the recipe, for fideo, from my stolen book, before it went MIA, and was delighted with it’s success. Here, I’ve created  from memory, my version of this remarkably easy dish.This is truly Mexican comfort food at it’s finest.

Ingredients:

1 package fideo or vermicelli

1/2 large white onion, finely chopped

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, drained

1 lime

2 cups well seasoned chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon fajita seasoning

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

extra lime wedges for garnish

salt to taste

Directions:

Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large, non stick saute pan. Heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Remove the onion and garlic, and place in a separate bowl. To the same saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the package of  fideo to the oil. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the pasta is a toasty, golden brown. Add the chicken stock, cumin, chipotle powder, fajita seasoning, drained garbanzo beans, black pepper and the reserved tomato- onion mix.Squeeze the juice from the lime into it. Give it a good stir and cover the pan with a lid.Cook for about 5 minutes, or until all the stock has been absorbed by the pasta. Place into a serving dish. Taste for salt and add, if needed.Garnish with lime wedges and  cilantro.and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings

Roasted Rosemary Garlic Potatoes with Romesco Sauce

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These roasted potatoes with Romesco sauce will surely rock your world! Need something for a tapas party?  These will fit the bill. This spanish sauce is also terrific when paired with seafood, vegetables ,or chicken..

Ingredients:

2 large potatoes

3 large cloves garlic, finely minced

1 Tablespoon fresh, or dried rosemary leaves

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions: Cut the potatoes into 1 inch cubes and place in a  pot of water. Boil until almost fork tender. Drain and put in a roasting pan, along with the olive oil, garlic, rosemary,sea salt, pepper, and paprika. Roast 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until crispy, and golden brown. Serve with the romesco sauce.

Ingredients for Romesco sauce:

2 Dried ancho chiles

1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 Tablespoons

1/2 cup blanched almonds

6 large cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 roasted, peeled red peppers, stems and seeds removed

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 large tomatoes

1 slice stale bread

1 cup roasted tomato sauce. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet , along with 2 cloves of garlic.Drizzle with the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven, and roast for 20 minutes.Remove from oven and slip off the skins. Whirl in blender, until you have a sauce consistency.

For the Romesco sauce:

Cut the stems off the ancho chiles and remove the seeds. Place the chiles in a skillet , over medium heat, and press down with a spatula. Cook for a few minutes, just until they start to smoke a little. Remove from heat. Heat the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, in the same skillet, and add the garlic, blanched almonds, and torn up bread.  Cook, stirring often, until the almonds are golden brown. Remove from heat and place in a food processor or blender, along with any remaining oil. Add the toasted chiles, roasted red peppers, sea salt, hot pepper flakes, black pepper red wine vinegar,  tomato sauce and blend to a saucy consistency. Add a little water, if needed. Taste, and adjust seasonings, if needed. Pour into a bowl and serve with the potatoes. Yields 2 cups sauce. You will probably have extra sauce, so use it to dress up some pasta or  fish, or chicken, or whatever floats your boat!

Yields: 4 servings

Incredibly Easy Black Beans and Rice

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Black beans and rice…so easy, so very, very nice! Looking for a simple dinner that doesn’t shrink the budget, but totally titillates the tastebuds? Lucky you! You’ve come to the right spot! Spicy and completely, utterly, satisfying. If you can’t stand the spice…get outta the kitchen, or just omit the chipotle powder and sriracha sauce.

Ingredients:

1 can black beans

1/2 green pepper, finely diced

1 small white onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 slices bacon

1 squirt of sriracha, or any other hot sauce

sour cream( for topping)

cilantro( for topping)

salt to taste

1/2 cup raw rice

Directions:

Cook the rice, according to directions on package. While the rice is cooking, cut the bacon into small pieces and fry it. Drain on paper towels.To the bacon grease, add the onion, garlic, green pepper, cumin, chipotle powder, and oregano. Saute over medium heat, until the onion is translucent. Add the can of black beans, undrained, and the squirt of hot sauce Stir and let simmer for 10 minutes.Remove from heat. Put some rice in a bowl, ladle some beans over the rice. Top with a dollop of sour cream, bacon, and cilantro. Buen provecho!

Note: If you want to keep it vegetarian, leave out the bacon and just saute the onion mixture in 2 teaspoons olive oil

Jamaican Me Crazy Jerk Chicken with Grilled Pineapple

Kitchenclown loves, loves, loves the flavours that hang with this Caribbean specialty. I’ve paired it with grilled pineapple, because I thought they’d make great mates. Put on some Harry Belafonte or Bob Marley, while devouring this dish, and be transported to a tropical isle! If you’re not a lover of spicy food, and don’t want your socks blown off, just omit the cayenne and serrano chiles. It will still be scrumptious enough to blow your mind!!!!! Also, a terrific marinade for pork.

Ingredients for the jerk marinade and chicken:

1 tablespoon allspice

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons salt

6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup orange juice

2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, finely diced

1 cup onion, finely diced

1/4 cup scallions, finely diced

12 chicken thighs

Directions: Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.

Preheat a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place the chicken on the grill, or grill pan. Cook over medium heat, turning and basting with the marinade, until thoroughly cooked. You can also broil it, or roast it, if a grill isn’t handy.

Ingredients for the pineapple:

1 pineapple

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

Cut the top off the pineapple and remove the skin. Slice into six even rounds. Smear a teaspoon of the butter- sugar mix onto each side of  the pineapple slices, and place on the grill. Cook until nicely caramelized and golden on each side. You may also use a cast iron skillet, or broiler.

Yield: 6 servings

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken Wings

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These chicken wings, from  Nicole Routhier’s cookbook “The Foods of Vietnam”, are glazed in a glorious caramel sauce, with fresh ginger and shallots, and will stop you in your tracks! The first time I made them, I was stunned by their sheer deliciousness. Great for a party, easy, and addictive, your guests will be pleading for more., Note: KC would recommend doubling the sauce…if you want to cover other things…perhaps, Jasmine rice, for a full meal.

Ingredients:

2 pounds chicken wings

1 Tablespoon finely shredded fresh gingerroot

For the caramel sauce:

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce

4 shallots

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Cook the sugar in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, swirling constantly, until brown. It will smoke slightly. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir  the fish sauce into the caramel, being careful to guard against splattering.The mixture will bubble vigorously.

Return the mixture to low heat, and gently boil, swirling the pan, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the shallots and black pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Note: Cool the sauce thoroughly before using. If cold food is added to a caramel sauce that is hot, the sugar will harden instantly, and you will end up with a dish full of candy chips.Yields 1/3 cup

Cut the wings into three pieces: the main wing joint, the second joint, and the wing tip. Discard the tips. In a 3 qt. saucepan, add the chicken wing pieces and shredded ginger to the cooled caramel sauce. Stir to combine. Set over high heat and bring the mixture to a rapid boil.Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is tender. Skim off any fat. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with black pepper.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings