Quick Holiday Foods Ideas From MJ’s Kitchen

The holidays are a very busy time of the year for SO many reasons. Therefore, it’s nice to have some quick ideas to help save time in the kitchen. Below are a few of the things I do to make life a little bit more relaxing and fun without sacrificing the comfort of good food.

Quick and easy food ideas for the busy holiday | mjskitchen.com

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New Mexico Chile Spice Blends

Spice blends made with New Mexico red and green chile powders | mjskitchen.com

 

What do you do when you find yourself with over two pounds of New Mexico red chile powder and almost a pound of green chile powder?  Just to put this into perspective, a typical large jar of chile powder that you buy at the store is between 1.6 to 2.0 ounces (16 ounces = 1 pound). So 48 ounces of chile powder is a lot!  Yes, I do go through quite a bit of chile powder, but, like most herbs and spices….if you keep it too long, it loses its punch.  Thus the motivation to create these chile spice blends.

The Green Chile Spice is a blend of mild and hot New Mexico green chile powder with a variety spices and herbs.  The Red Chile Spice is a blend of New Mexico red chile powders, a couple of other chile powders, spices, and herbs. The red chile powders that I used are from Diaz Farms and Dixon. The green chile powders are from Diaz Farms and Chimayo Chile Brothers.  As I’ve mentioned before, not all chile powders are alike, so using powders from different parts of the state or from around the world for that matter, yields a very interesting blend.

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Stacked Crepes with Chicken and Red and Green Chile (Christmas)

Stacked Crepes with Christmas chile (red and green) | mjskitchen.com

 

If you’ve ever been to New Mexico or have been following my website for a couple of years, you are probably familiar with the question “Red or Green?”.  If not, then let me briefly explain. When you place an order in a New Mexican restaurant you will most likely be asked “Red or Green?”… red chile or green chile.  Of course your answer could be either one of these, but there is actually a third answer … “Christmas”. When you order Christmas you get both red and green chile.  Therefore, in the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I would make a Christmas Pathiri (stacked crepes with red and green chile).

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Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup

Pumpkin Beer Cheese soup with Zamorano and Parrano cheese | mjskitchen.com

 

This Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup was inspired by my Conversation with a Cheesemonger (Derrick Sanders).  During this conversation I asked Derrick for a cheese that could be used as a topping on my Roasted Pumpkin and Red Chile Soup, a sweet and savory, spicy soup.  After looking at the recipe, he recommended a “hard, salty grating cheese: Piave, Parrano, Podda, Capra sarda, and Zamorano.”  All of these cheeses sounded so good, and gave me the inspiration to start from scratch and come up with another pumpkin soup that was still sweet, savory and spicy, but also, deliciously cheesy.

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Conversation With a Cheesemonger

A conversation with Derrick Sanders, Cheesemonger at the Nob Hill La Montanita Co-op.

Derrick Sanders, Cheesemonger @ La Montanita Co-op | mjskitchen.com

The other day I was perusing the cheese section at the Nob Hill La Montanita Co-op looking for a particular cheese. When I couldn’t find it I asked Derrick, the cheese clerk for help.  You know what it’s like having a sommelier help you select a wine to go with your meal?  Well, that’s how I felt with Derrick helping me select a cheese.  This guy knows his cheese!  So rather than keep Derrick’s knowledge of cheese to myself, I thought I would share some of it with you.

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Black Bean Mole’

Black beans cooked with a deconstructed black mole | mjskitchen.com

 

The first time I tasted Oaxacan Black Molé (Molé Negro) was about 30 years ago when I had the privilege of eating Molé Negro Chicken made by a Oaxacan immigrant. Each bite produced a flavor sensation that I still relish to this day.  Years later I found a recipe for Oaxacan Black Molé in Diana Kennedy’s Book, The Art of Mexican Cooking and decided to give it a try. The result was heavenly but it took many hours of work and 2 days.  So when I decided that I wanted to make this Black Bean Molé dish I chose to make a deconstructed molé instead of making the sauce separately.  It saved quite a bit of time and simplified the process tremendously.

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Refrigerator Chicken and Vegetable Soup

How to make Chicken and Vegetable Soup from what you have in the refrigerator |mjskitchen.com

 

Do you ever find a refrigerator full of a little of this and a little of that?  Well, this happens to me 2 to 3 times a month.  Once the refrigerator gets to this point, it’s time to make a pasta or soup.  This week the ingredients screamed SOUP.  This Chicken and Vegetable Soup was made using the last of a roasted chicken from which we had already had two meals, some leftover green beans, and fingerling potatoes, and few other fresh vegetables I had in the fridge.

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A Collection of Kabocha Squash Recipes

A Collection of Kabocha Squash Recipes | mjskitchen.com

Kabocha Squash, also referred to as Japanese squash, is my favorite winter squash.  It is a touch sweeter than most winter squash, and to me, has a creamier texture, making it the perfect squash for a creamy winter soup.  It roasts beautifully, using the same method as you would a pumpkin or butternut squash, but it does have a couple of differences. First of all, it’s one hard squash to cut open.  You need a big knife and a strong arm.  Secondly, the peel is edible which, for some recipes, is a good thing since this a very difficult squash to peel.

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Tarragon Lemon Quick Bread

A slightly sweet quick bread flavored with lemon and tarragon | mjskitchen.com

 

The first time I made this Tarragon Lemon Quick Bread was out of curiosity.  I saw it over at From My Sweet Heart, and after reading the list of ingredients I just couldn’t imagine how a bread with tarragon, lemon and black pepper would taste, so I had to make it.  Well…it was love at first bite!  Over the past year or so, I’ve made this bread several times, with a couple of minor changes to the original recipe, but nothing that affects the final flavor of the bread. The changes are noted in the Kitchen Notes.

If you love tarragon like I do, then you are going to love this bread. Not only does it just taste good, it’s so easy to make. You can have it in the oven within 20 minutes from the start, and, even with an ingredient change now and then, it never fails. It always comes out perfect and delicious.  It’s not a tall quick bread, but it’s not dense either.  It’s light and moist with a touch of sweetness, making it a wonderful breakfast bread as well as a nice complement for your afternoon tea.

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