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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Southwestern Thanksgiving Appetizers

During the holidays, appetizers are important. They whet the appetite for the meal and provide a reason for guests to sit around the kitchen while the cook prepares the meal. Try something different from the usual cheese and crackers this year.

                                           Spicy Black Bean Hummus

1 garlic clove
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, reserve liquid. (Fresh cooked black beans reduce calories.)
2 Tablespoons black bean liquid
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons Tahini paste (Below is a quick recipe)
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
Dash of hot sauce or 1/4 tsp. minced Ancho chili in Adobo sauce.

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until a smooth paste. More black bean liquid can be added if needed to thin.

Homemade Tahini Paste

5 cups sesame seeds
1-1/2 cups olive oil

Toast seeds in 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes, mixing often so they don't burn. Blend in blender or food processor until smooth. Keep refrigerated.

                                        Southwestern Boursin Cheese Spread

2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz. butter, room temperature
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesean or Asiago cheese
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Mix softened butter and cream cheese thoroughly in a bowl. Add grated Parmesean or Asiago cheese. Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate until firm. Serve at room temperature with an assortment of crackers and tortilla chips.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Slow Cooker Cajun Chicken Stew

A friend of mine is reduced to Crock Pot cooking for a while. Here's a recipe for you, Mara. Anyone who likes Cajun food, chicken stew, or the easy convenience of a slow cooker will enjoy this one. I often substitute chicken breasts for thighs, but thighs and legs have a little deeper flavor.

                                      Slow Cooker Cajun Chicken Stew

2# bone-in chicken thighs, or a mixture of thighs and legs.
1 medium white onion, small diced
2 carrots, peeled and medium diced
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, washed with peeling left on, medium diced. This keeps potatoes from getting too mushy.
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 cup chicken stock (If salted stock, use less salt in seasoning)
1/4 cup tomato sauce (Tomato juice will work. If you prefer, substitute 1 diced whole tomato near end of cooking time, but tomato sauce is more convenient.)
1/4 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning, or some type of Creole or Cajun seasoning. Old Bay is great.
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce (About 3 shakes. Add more for additional zing)
Salt/pepper to taste

Add onion, carrots, potatoes, garlic, butter, and flour to slow cooker on low heat. Stir to mix flour with veggies. (The flour mixed with the butter and the juice from the chicken will make a nice roux as it cooks.)

In a skillet, heat oil on high heat. Add chicken and fry while turning for 5 minutes until brown.
Add chicken to slow cooker.
Reduce heat of skillet to medium. Add chicken stock and tomato sauce. Stir to de-glaze pan of chicken bits. Reduce liquid by 1/3. Add to slow cooker.

Season slow cooker contents with thyme, salt, pepper and half the Old Bay Seasoning.  Cook on low heat for 4-1/2 hours. After about 4 hours, lightly stir, add the rest of the Old Bay and Tabasco Sauce. Add additional salt if needed.

This hearty meal is great for cool weather, but don't wait until winter to try. Cajuns eat it year round.