Improv Challnege: Corn and Butter

I’m so excited to be participating in another Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! For those of you keeping track (I know I am for now), this is my third month participating in the challenge. Each month I strive to come up with something a bit more exciting or creative than the last.

Check out my previous Improv Challenge creations:

This month, the challenge ingredients are corn and butter. This combination of ingredients was especially difficult for me. Not that it isn’t a great combination, but because I love a simple cob of corn with butter. I rarely feel compelled to go beyond this with the ingredient combination. Generally, I will grill a few pieces of corn on the cob (husks on), roll it in butter, and season with salt and pepper.

This challenge forced me outside my comfort zone. I’m glad it did. The resulting salad is easy to make, affordable, and delicious. Best of all, the cilantro was fresh from my garden!

Cilantro Tomato Corn Salad with a Lemon-Butter Dressing

Adapted from Cilantro Tomato Corn Salad at AllRecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1/4 cup butter – approximate cost $0.50
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice – approximate cost $0.15
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped – approximate cost $0.75
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05

Method

  1. Soak the red onion pieces in a bowl of cold water for a minimum of 20 minutes.
  2. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat.
  3. Allow butter to brown.
  4. Add corn and lemon juice.
  5. Cook until corn is a vibrant yellow and heated through.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  7. Drain the onions and place in a large mixing bowl.
  8. Add tomato pieces, jalapeño, cilantro, sea salt, pepper, and corn.
  9. Toss well so the lemon-butter coats the ingredients.
  10. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $2.04 per serving).

Serving suggestions

Best if enjoyed the same day the salad is prepared. If kept in the fridge, tomatoes will lose some of their flavour and the butter will harden.



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Chicken Hearts, Gizzards, and Liver Stir-fry

The weather has been so gorgeous here lately, that I’ve been taking the opportunity to walk more often rather than driving or taking the bus. I decided to take a detour through the park on my way from school to UpTown the other day, expecting to make a short stop by the petting zoo and continue on my way. Somehow, I’d forgotten that there would be baby ducks and geese everywhere, and stopped to take a few photos of the fuzzy ducklings and goslings. So cute!

I think the ducks thought I would feed them, which worked out well for a close-up photo!

The geese, as you could imagine, weren’t as welcoming. The adult goose was hissing at me while I snapped this photo. They are very protective of their goslings. I managed to get this photo and get away safely. The babies are just so adorable, I had to stop! Seeing all the animals return after winter, and the cute little ones is one of my favourite things about spring!


While I was out taking pictures, dinner was marinating in the fridge at home. I’m quite excited to share this recipe with you. It looks like a giant mess of a stir-fry, but it was really tasty. Bryan thought so too, but he rarely complains about anything I serve him, he’s such a good sport when I try out new recipes!

Normally, I avoid cooking liver. It’s cheap, yes, but it’s not always my favourite. It tends to have a weird texture and a strong flavour. It’s one of Bryan’s favourites, so I make try to buy it every month or two and eat it for one meal, leaving Bryan to finish off any leftovers. However… this adapted stir-fry recipe is a hit. I enjoyed it and didn’t really notice the things I normally dislike about liver. I will be making this again. In fact, I will probably make this often. On top of being delicious, it was very affordable!

How do you usually prepare liver? Any tips for having it turn out delicious every time? Please link to recipes if you can!

Chicken Hearts, Gizzards, and Liver Stir-fry

Recipe adapted from Simple Chicken Liver And Gizzard and How to make the green seasoning paste that’s so unique to Caribbean cuisine, both recipes from Caribbean Pot

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken livers – approximate cost $2.00
  • 1/2 pound chicken hearts – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 pound chicken gizzards – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 Vidalia onion, diced – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved – approximate cost $3.00
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.45
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, de-seeded and minced – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 lime, juiced – approximate cost $0.75
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil – approximate cost $0.05
  • 2 cups of uncooked Basmati rice – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/2 cup water

Method

  1. Cut the chicken hearts, gizzards, and livers into bite-sized chunks.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken hearts and gizzards (set the liver pieces aside for now), lime juice, salt, pepper, tomato pieces, garlic, jalapeño pepper pieces, thyme, cilantro.
  3. Mix well and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours (or longer).
  4. Cook Basmati rice according to directions.
  5. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the onions and cook until softened (about 5 minutes).
  7. Add the chicken and marinade to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes, the chicken pieces should brown a bit.
  8. Add water, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce and reduce heat to simmer.
  9. Cover the pot with a lid and allow mixture to cook for 30 minutes (stirring occasionally and adding water if liquid begins to boil away).
  10. Turn heat up to medium.
  11. Add liver pieces.
  12. Remove lid from pot and cook for 5-10 minutes (until the liver is cooked through, watch it closely at this point, because liver cooks quickly).
  13. Serve over Basmati rice and enjoy!

Makes 5 servings (approximate cost: $2.13 per serving).

Guacamole

On Saturday, we decided to have a Mexican food themed dinner. It being Cinco de Mayo gave us an excuse to enjoy some of my favourite foods. On the menu was some yummy homemade guacamole, followed by spicy chicken enchiladas. But, by the time I got home at 8pm (a very late dinner time for me!), I didn’t have the enthusiasm necessary to cook the entire meal. So I started by making the guacamole, deciding that if we were still hungry afterwards then I would attempt to make the enchiladas.

The guacamole was quite filling. I’ll be making the enchiladas later this week. It was a very casual dinner/large snack. We shared the guacamole and a bag of tortilla chips while sitting on the couch watching Heroes.

I tried guacamole for the first time at Gabriel’s restaurant in Santa Fe, NM. In fact, I think this was also the first time I’d tried avocados! I remember the experience so clearly! It was my first visit to New Mexico (to meet Bryan’s family). The restaurant is famous for having fantastic guacamole made right at your table. The ingredients arrive on a cart and you choose what you want in your guacamole. The avocados are sliced and the limes are squeezed in front of you. All of the ingredients are fresh.

The first time I tried making it at home on my own, the avocados were not ripe and I was impatient. I wanted to share this recipe with my family, and decided I couldn’t wait for the avocados to ripen. Big mistake! I couldn’t cut through them (in fact, when I tried to anyway, I ended up cutting through the pit in the center of the avocado). I put the chunks I was able to peel away from the skin into a blender and they were roughly chopped, but not creamy nor tasty. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that waiting until the avocados are ripe is a very important step. Sometimes they are already ripe (or even over ripe) when you find them at the store. You can tell that an avocado is ripe when it is firm, but squishes slightly when you press on the skin. If the avocados aren’t ripe, that is, they are as hard as a softball when pressed, be patient! Let them sit on the counter (not in the fridge) for a few days to allow the avocados to ripen. You’ll be glad you waited!

What Mexican foods did you enjoy this weekend? What is your favourite Mexican or Tex Mex food?

Guacamole

(adapted from a recipe on a magnet purchased at a museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico)

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe Hass avocados – approximate cost $3.00
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.25
  • 1 lime, juiced – approximate cost $0.50
    • Or 2 tablespoons of concentrated lime juice – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro – approximate cost $0.15
    • Or 1 tsp dried cilantro if fresh cilantro – approximate cost $0.10
  • Sea salt (to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon) – approximate cost $0.05

Optional ingredients (not pictured)

  • Lemon juice (if lime juice is not available) – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 roma tomato or other variety (if grape tomatoes not available) – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1/4 – 1/2 red onion, diced – approximate cost $0.30
  • 1/2 – 1 jalapeño pepper – approximate cost $0.12

Method

  1. Prepare all of the ingredients you would like to add to your guacamole (except avocados, lime, and salt) and set aside in a bowl.  Preparing these ingredients first keeps the avocado from turning brown before serving the guacamole.
    1. Slice tomato into small pieces
    2. Mince garlic
    3. Mince cilantro
    4. De-seed and mince jalapeño pepper (See a tip on easily de-seeding hot peppers in an earlier post)
    5. Dice red onion
  2. Slice and scoop the “meat” from the avocados into a large bowl.
  3. Mash the avocados with the tines of a fork.
  4. Pour lime juice over the avocado and mix (this helps keep the avocado from browning).
  5. Add your choice of optional ingredients (tomatoes, garlic, etc.)
  6. Mix until the ingredients are coated in avocado.
  7. Salt to taste and mix well.
  8. Serve and enjoy with tortilla chips.

Makes 2 servings as a meal (approximate cost: $2.95 per serving) or 5 servings as an appetizer (approximate cost: $1.18 per serving).

We also tried the wine I brought home from Virginia. We passed the Peaks of Otter Winery (however, I picked up this wine at the market in Roanoke) on our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was slightly sweet with a hint of apple flavour. I enjoyed it. Bryan did not.

Slow Cooked Texas-Style Chili

I’m going to derive from my original plan to post about Thai food today. Sorry if you were looking forward to it, but I couldn’t help myself. I’m excited and inspired to write about the Texas-style chili I made over the weekend.

Why is it so exciting? Because this is one of my blogging “firsts.” This is the first time that a reader has asked me to post a specific recipe!

Over the weekend I posted a tweet about the chili:

Texas-style chili in the slowcooker for #dinner it seems wrong to have planned comfort food on a beautiful day! #sunny #warm #SundaySupper

One of my Twitter followers responded asking for the recipe!

I served this chili to a group of friends. It went over well for the most part. Unfortunately, one friend turned it down, I didn’t realize he dislikes kidney beans. I felt bad that everyone else enjoyed the chili and he resorted to snacks for dinner. I’ll remember next time. And hopefully I’ll learn to ask about people’s likes/dislikes before showing up with food.

My Texas-Style Chili recipe is constantly changing. It’s adapted from my parent’s recipe and reading a bunch of Southwest-inspired cookbooks.

I’ve divided this recipe into indicate the usual and optional ingredients. I’m including approximate pricing for the items I included in the chili I prepared this weekend.

I hope you enjoy it!

Slow Cooked Texas-Style Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef – approximate cost $4.00
  • 3 cups of dried, mixed beans (at least 2/3 of which are generally red kidney beans with a mixture of garbanzo, white kidney/cannellini, navy, and fava beans) – approximate cost $3.00
    • Alternately, if you can use canned beans (2 cans of red kidney beans and 1 can of bean medley)
  • 1 bottle of beer (alcoholic or non-alcoholic, I used a honey brown this time) – approximate cost $1.50
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 can of tomato paste – approximate cost $0.75
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced – approximate cost $0.25
  • 4 tablespoons of chili powder – approximate cost $0.15
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (or to taste) – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Optional ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried cilantro – approximate cost $0.10
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 3/4 cup of frozen corn (or 1 can)
  • 3/4 cup of frozen green beans (or 1 can)

Optional toppings and sides

  • 2 cups of shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, and/or colby)
  • Toast (for serving)

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add mixture of dried beans, turn the stove off, put a lid on the pot, and let the beans soak for at least 1 hour (skip this step if you’re using canned beans).
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Sautee the minced garlic for 1 minute.
    1. If you’re adding onion, add it to the frying pan at this point and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Add the ground beef and cook until browned.
  5. Add the chili powder and cumin, cook for about 1 minutes (or until the spices become fragrant).
  6. Add the beer and bring to a boil then cook for about 5 minutes (the liquid should be about half evaporated).
  7. Add the tomato paste and stir into the mixture.
  8. In a large crock pot, combine the meat and spice mixture, beans, diced tomatoes (don’t drain the liquid), salt (to taste), water, and any additional ingredients.
  9. Cook at low temperature for 5-6 hours (or high temperature for 3-4 hours).
  10. Serve as is or with any additional sides and toppings.

Makes about 8 servings (approximate cost: $1.36 per serving + any additional ingredients).

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