Homemade Pico de Gallo

My family and I LOVE Mexican food, especially tacos; homemade tacos. There are so many varieties and toppings to put on them. They are so delicious, that we enjoy them at least once or twice a month.

Back while I was in college, I used to work at a Mexican fast food restaurant. (I’m not naming names, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out). At least one of their items had pico de gallo in it, and I loved it! I had never eaten cilantro or green chilies before, until I started working (and eating) there.

Several weeks ago we ordered out from the local restaurant, as I was craving that yummy, spicy sauce. Unfortunately the restaurant failed my expectations. Our order was a mess. Food was not wrapped correctly and was spilling out, lids were not completely locked on containers, etc. It looked like it was just thrown together in the bag. I was very disappointed. I decided, after sending a review to the corporate office, that we would not be ordering out from this restaurant again.

Yesterday I was writing out the grocery list and included everything we needed to make tacos. I got to thinking about that tasty Pico de Gallo sauce and my mouth began to water. I had an idea of what went in it from when I had made it during my work days back in college, however, I decided to do a little investigating just to be sure.

Last night we made tacos, and they were, undoubtedly, the best tacos we’ve ever made. My daughter & I were the only ones to use my new recipe since dear hubby and son don’t like some of the ingredients. My daughter said, “It tastes better than **********’s!” (She’s 8 years old by the way).

Ok, I guess I’ve held you in suspense long enough… ENJOY!

CraftyChick’s Homemade Pico de Gallo
makes about 4 cups

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2 large (firm) tomatoes, diced small
1 medium white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (use to your taste)
2 Tbsp lime juice (half a fresh lime)
2-3 Tbsp Green Chile Sauce
salt & pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing well.
Store in air-tight container in the refrigerator.
It may become a bit juicy over-night, so stir and use as normal.

Last night we used it right away, but I recommend making it at least a day ahead so flavors can blend together. I used some again today in my salad at lunchtime. All I can say is… YUM!!

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Deep Fried Calamari Rings

I have been thinking about a food that I used to enjoy when I lived in Canada. Every so often I’d go to a local Chinese Buffet and they had a really good calamari dish. There was a background flavor like egg yolks, and it was cooked with sliced onions, broccoli, and seasoned with chili flakes.

I loved it.

For a few years after moving back to the states, I tried finding a recipe. I even tried to contact the restaurant to no avail.

A few days ago I brought it up to my husband and he went and bought a package of frozen calamari rings with tentacles. I had never cooked that sort of thing before, neither has he. So we did some research and tried our hand at making deep fried calamari.

Last night we tried. And failed… miserably. It was like eating breaded rubberbands.

I asked some of my friends that I knew enjoyed cooking and  there were a few suggestions made. More research was done on my part. It seems most recipes I found, they marinated the calamari in buttermilk or milk.

We didn’t have buttermilk, but I knew you could make buttermilk. So tonight I tried again, and OYM!!! (Oh Your Mom!!!)

It. was. awesome! So tender and good. Hooray! No more eating breaded rubberbands! It didn’t taste like the calamari I had in Canada, but it was still good.

So, without further ado…

Deep Fried Calamari Rings with Tentacles

3 cups buttermilk (or homemade buttermilk–3 cups whole milk + 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, stir; let rest 5 minutes, stir)
2 lbs. frozen pre-cut calamari rings with tentacles, thawed/drained
3-4 eggs
2 cups Flour
Seasonings of your choice (I used paprika and sea salt)
Vegetable oil

Thaw frozen calamari under cool running water; drain.
Prepare buttermilk if you’re making your own.
In a medium or large bowl, add thawed/drained calamari and buttermilk; cover & refrigerate for 4 hours.
Add oil as directed for your deep fryer; heat to 360′ F.
Drain calamari well.
In a small bowl beat eggs. In a medium bowl mix flour and your spices. (OR you could use flour only and add a touch of salt after cooking).
Dredge calamari in flour mixture, then in eggs, and back into flour mixture coating well; shake off excess flour.
Fry in small batches until golden. Serve as desired.

We cooked angel hair pasta, added marinara sauce, and topped it off with calamari rings.

These can be eaten as a snack or as part of a meal. Enjoy!

Tropical Paradise in a Glass

Today I made a new flavored syrup to use with our SodaStream.

I let my kids try it and they said, “It’s like a tropical paradise in our mouths!” (They are 7 and 9 years old).
I tried it and couldn’t claim the same. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. It was because I had brushed my teeth about 20 minutes before and still have the minty essence on my taste buds. So I will give my formal opinion on it later. So for now, here’s the recipe:

Tropical Paradise Flavored Syrup

3/4 cup Pineapple Juice
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (actually about 3/4 full) imitation Coconut Extract

Bring to boil while stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool Completely.

Again, I used 3 Tbsp of syrup with 6 to 8 ounces of carbonated water.

ENJOY!
Reminder: ONLY carbonate water with the SodaStream.

Making Your Own Pop (Soda)

More often then not I drink water, but I’ve been getting tired of the bland taste all the time, and happened to mention it to my husband awhile ago.

Two weeks ago, while he was shopping, he spied a SodaStream Soda maker on sale and bought it. It came with 6 trial sized flavored syrups, three of which we did not try. (We don’t drink Diet, Energy drinks, or Grapefruit). The other three were gone in one day (Root Beer, Orange, & Lemon-Lime).

I had been trying to think of what I could make to use in the SodaStream until we could purchase a few of the syrup flavors. I had searched online for different ideas: infused water, homemade syrups and thought that I could probably come up with something else using simple syrup.

Well… last night, I did just that.

I made a simple syrup, and while it was cooling I added a few tasty extracts and came up with a refreshing low calorie idea:

Strawberry-Lemon Mint Syrup

Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool completely.

Additives:
1 tsp. ReaLemon lemon juice
1/4 tsp. Imitation Strawberry extract
1/8 tsp. Pure Peppermint extract

I added them in while the syrup was still warm. Cooled it almost completely before storing it in a plastic squeeze bottle with a cap.

I’m glad I didn’t double the simple syrup recipe as the 1:1 ratio filled the squeeze bottle and had enough left over to make a cup of pop.

I shared the first cup with my kids; they thought it was pretty good. I think it was too.
It’s sweet, and the strawberry and mint come through. I personally can’t taste the lemon very much, so I might increase it next time around.

I used about 2-3 Tbsp of the syrup per cup of water, about 5 servings–and ONLY 77 calories per serving.

 

If you have a SodaStream, please remember: you’re only suppose to carbonate the water.

ENJOY!

Make Your Own Oat Flour

My kids and I enjoy watching cooking shows on Saturday afternoons. One of our favorites is Lidia’s Italy.

On today’s show she made crepes. I have never tried making them before, but would like to. Anyway, Lidia (Bastianich) was talking about the different flours that can be used to make the crepe batter:

Unbleached Flour (said this was best)
White Flour
Oat Flour

She went on to say that you can make your own oat flour. You take dried oats and grind them in your food processor. I’m thinking, “That’s too simple, there must be more to it.” But, alas! my dear friend Google confirms!

Pulse the oats until they are ground into a powder-like consistency. Depending on the speed and power of yourfood processor, this process should take 60 seconds or less. Stop and stir to ensure that all the oats have been finely ground. One cup of rolled oats will yield approximately 1 cup of oat flour.

How Simple!!

xCraftyChickx’s AntiPasto Pasta Salad

My family and I enjoy this pasta salad as a meal during summertime. It’s not too heavy and there isn’t much cooking involved to heat up your kitchen or house. It can also be a dish on the side. It’s great for summer picnics or for potluck meals.

xCraftyChickx’s AntiPasto Pasta Salad    Serves 8-10

1 (1 lb) package ANY Rotini pasta, cooked & drained
1 package sliced pepperoni, quartered
1 1/2 to 2 (1 lb) blocks Pepperjack Cheese, cubed
1 large can ripe olives, drained & sliced
2 cans diced tomatoes, well drained
1 (8 oz) bottle Italian Dressing

Cook pasta as directed on package; rinse with cold water and drain well.
Meanwhile, quarter pepperoni slices, cube the cheese, slice olives and drain tomatoes well.
In a large bowl combine pasta, pepperoni, cheese, olives and tomatoes. Add dressing; mix well.
Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Variations: You could substitute ONE package of cheese with plain Monterey Jack cheese. You could also substitute 1/2 can of diced tomatoes with chiles (well drained) for 1 can of the plain diced tomatoes.

xCraftyChickx’s Queso Chicken & Rice Skillet

I love the simplicity, and clean up, of a one (or two) pot meal. This is my latest kitchen creation:

Queso Chicken & Rice Skillet           Serves 6-8

xCraftyChickx’s Queso Chicken & Rice Skillet

Rice, cooked (2-qt saucepan 1/2 full)
1 Tbsp. butter
6 bone/skinless chicken cutlets or breasts
1 (14.75 oz) can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 1/2 cans water (I used the empty soup can)
4 Tbsp. Dill Vegetable Dip
4 Tbsp. Salsa con Queso dip
4 Tbsp. Chunky Black bean & Corn Salsa
2 Tbsp. Bacon Ranch Dressing
1 (2.25oz) can ripe sliced olives (or 8 Tbsp sliced ripe olives)
2 Tbsp. Seasoned Bread Crumbs (used as a thickener)
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

Cook rice as directed being sure it’s not too wet and sticky.
In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat, and cook chicken until no longer pink and browning; remove from pan, cube, and set aside.
In same skillet, on medium heat, add soup, water, dill dip, salsa dip, salsa, and dressing; mix well. Stir in olives and bread crumbs.
Re-add chicken and stir in cheese until it begins to melt. Fold in cooked rice.
Serve hot.