Sunday, July 21, 2013

I had some Tex-Mex cheese and needed something to do with it.

As I've mentioned before, I've been trying to help out my wife by taking care of dinner one night a week. Often this means delivery or take out, but now and then I actually decide to make a mess in the kitchen. This past Thursday was one of those cases.

The plan:

I actually got the plan to cook this on Monday when I noticed that we still hadn't touched the two giant bags of Kraft Tex-Mex cheese I picked up at the last time we were at Costco. During some downtime at work I googled "Kraft Tex-Mex", fully expecting to easily find a bunch of recipes created specifically for this shredded cheese. Oddly I didn't find that. Actually it looks like Tex-Mex is a Canadian thing, in the US they have Mexican but not Tex-Mex shredded cheese. They also don't have the big Tex-Mex recipe section I expected. So I continued my googling; trying a bunch of things like Mexican Cheese, Kraft bag of cheese, Mexican lots of cheese -tacos, etc.

Eventually I found a recipe on called Chicken Nacho Bake. Amusingly it noted that the recipe was submitted by "Kraft Shredded Cheese" This looked rather good and really easy. Just chicken, salsa, tortilla chips and Tex-Mex cheese. It also called for sour cream but I never touch the stuff so I skipped that part.

As Thursday came rolling around I realized I probably should cook more than just some chicken with toppings on it, so I started looking for a recipe for good Mexican rice. You know, the yellow/redish rice with tomato and such in it. It didn't take me long to find a recipe called Best Spanish Rice that used a lot of the same ingredients that I had just picked up; perfect. I also considered some re-fried beans but figured I would probably have more than enough with what I had picked out already.


I started with the rice since it involved chopping stuff and grilling onions and I figured that would take a while. I decided to start with some Cold-Press Canola Oil from Mighty Trio that I received from the Manitoba Canola Growers at the Canadian Food Bloggers Conference earlier this year. That combined with some Dainty Jasmine rice smelled fantastic. 

I followed the rice recipe pretty much exactly. Onions in the canola oil until soft, then add in the rice. Once the rice was brown I tossed in the 2 cups of chicken stock. Next was one 1 cup of salsa, for which I used Garden Fresh Gourmet mild. I think I owe Garden Fresh a lot of the credit for how well this meal turned out. 

The rice had to simmer for 20 minutes so I moved on to the chicken. Here I played with things quite a bit. First of all my wife had grabbed two huge chicken breasts, the original recipe called for small breasts. I'm sorry, but I'm not a fan of small breasts, so these were going to have to do. The recipe suggested slicing into the top of each chicken breast three times. Since I wasn't going to have any sour cream for the toppings to stick to, I thought it would be wise to cut each piece more often than three times, giving some room for the bits to get stuck. For the actual toppings themselves; I put on the required salsa and nacho crumbs but didn't stop there. I also chopped up some fresh cilantro and tossed that on and then put some black olives on for good measure. I was worried that just chicken, cheese and salsa wouldn't be enough. 

Just before putting the chicken in the oven (400F for 20 minutes) I checked on the rice. So, I guess you have to stir simmering rice. The recipe didn't note that. It did tell you to stir the rice earlier and even stir frequently, but once it was set to simmer it just said simmer covered for 20 mins. Well that's a lesson learned and a pan that will have to soak for a while. Despite this problem the rice looked and smelled awesome. Tasting a bit I found out that it tasted at least twice as good as it looked. Nice!

There weren't really any other problems. Everything went smoothly. When the oven beeped the first time I took the chicken out and covered it with about three times the recipes recommended amount of cheese and tossed it back in for 10 minutes. I was worried I was going to end up with a burnt mess and kept checking on things but all was good. Man the house smelled awesome too.

The end result was very impressive. It not only looked great but tasted great as well. The rice was fantastic and is something I think I will be making as a side with any future Mexican dishes I decide to make. The chicken was good. I was glad that I thought to add more to the original recipe though, I'm now certain it would have been very plain without the extra toppings. Actually come to think of it I wish I had tossed some green onions on there as well. 

The thing with both of these recipes though is that I think both of them are going to be very dependent on the salsa you choose to use. If you used a hot and spicy salsa both dishes would be hot and spicy. I'm very happy with out things turned out with the Garden Fresh stuff we grabbed but I worry that a poor quality salsa would result in a lousy meal.

If you try either of these recipes out, the originals or my modified versions please let me know how they turned out.

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