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Breaking Bad Dinner Menu

Well, hello friends!

Apologies for my unplanned vanishing act. By the end of Day 1 of summer vacation, I was pretty sure I’d never make it out alive. I fought the chaos tooth and nail for the first week. Then I just I surrendered. Summer swallowed me whole and belched as I went down.

I ran on reserve power for most of the summer, focusing on only my most integral functions, like preventing the boys from maiming themselves during their daredevil play routines and rinsing the mud from their summer bodies three times daily.

I thought that once the school year began, I’d be able to climb my way from the pit of chaos and promptly begin posting again, but I’ve been saying that for three weeks now. Alas, the school year brought upon us its own special kind of insanity and I still find myself with too many balls in the air. If only I knew how to juggle…

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Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil.

I’m going to make it up to you today though, with an entire menu’s worth of recipes. Have we got any Breaking Bad fans out there?

I recently read some comment that watched in reverse, AMC’s Breaking Bad tells the inspiring story of drug lord who cleans up his act, beats cancer, reunites his family, and becomes a school teacher. Sounds like a Lifetime movie. In actuality, for the last five seasons, we’ve watched the tale of a seemingly normal man’s struggle with cancer and providing for his family crumble into the most unimaginable chaos, up to the point where last episode left off, with a suggestion that perhaps there’s nothing left of that kind, normal man. The show is widely considered one of television’s best dramas and for good reason. I’m approaching the series finale with mix of eager anticipation and deep sadness for its ending.

In honor of its finale, the good folks at Cinema Blend asked me to put together a little Breaking Bad themed dinner party menu. Though not in any way a show about food, Breaking Bad gives us no shortage for dinner party inspiration. Many of the shows pivotal confrontations occur over some of the world’s most awkward meals. The following menu, designed with a New Mexican flare for the show’s setting, should give you a few good ideas for hosting your own Breaking Bad series finale dinner party.

Check out Cinema Blend for all of the latest coverage, recaps, and reviews of Breaking Bad.

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During the past season, Walt, Skyler, Hank and Marie met for the world’s most awkward double date at a Mexican restaurant. At the height of the tension, an upbeat waiter arrives, eagerly pushing the joint’s signature tableside guacamole. (You can see the clip here.)

Make this guacamole tableside to your guest’s liking, or prepare it ahead of time. *Squeeze a bit of lime juice over the top and cover securely with plastic wrap to prevent browning.

Heisenberg’s Tableside Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados, halved
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, very finely diced
  • 1 small tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Smash the avocado using the backside of a fork, a potato masher, or with a mortar and pestle. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Adjust quantities as desired.

Serve with Walt’s signature blue tortilla chips and Jesse’s favorite Funyuns. To go full Breaking Bad style, wait to offer this to your guests during the most tense part of the evening. Orchestrate tension, if necessary.

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No Breaking Bad menu would be complete without some fried chicken, from Gus Fring’s Los Pollos Hermanos, the fried chicken joint which played heavily into the show’s third and fourth seasons. We served our boneless fried chicken tenders over a spicy salsa verde, drizzled with a bit of chipotle mayo.

Gus Fring’s Los Pollos Hermanos Fried Chicken Tenders over Salsa Verde with Chipotle Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken tenderloins
  • 3 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Soak the tenderloins in 2 cups of the buttermilk in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium/medium-high heat, until sizzling hot.

Whisk together the remaining cup of buttermilk and the eggs in a large bowl. Transfer the chicken tenders to the egg mixture.

In a small baking dish, stir together the flour, garlic powder, salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

Remove the chicken tenders from the egg mixture. Allow the excess to drip off. Press the chicken into the flour mixture until well coated on both sides. Place in the hot oil. Cook for about 3-4  minutes on each side, until cooked through and golden brown. (The chicken should sizzle when placed in the oil.) Drain the cooked tenders on a paper towel. Repeat in small batches until all of the chicken has been cooked.

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Salsa Verde

Slightly modified from Rick Bayless’ Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • 8 tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeno pepper or 1-2 serrano peppers, halved, stems and ribs removed*
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, coarse chopped
  • 10-12 cilantro sprigs, bottom portion of stem removed, coarse chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt, to taste

*Use jalapeño for a spicy sauce. Use serrano for a more mild sauce.

Directions

Preheat your broiler.

Remove the husks from the tomatillos. Rinse. Cut off the stem, then halve. Place the halved tomatillos, garlic cloves, and jalapeño or serrano pepper on a baking sheet. Lightly rub the tomatillos, peppers, and garlic with olive oil. Roast a few inches under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side for about 5 minutes. Once cool, transfer the entire contents of the tray (including the juices) to a blender. Add the onion and cilantro. Blend to desired consistency. Season with lime juice and salt, to taste.

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Chipotle Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 1 chipotle (from can of chipotles in adobo), pureed or very finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of adobo sauce (from can of chipotles in adobo)

Directions

Combine all ingredients until well blended.

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The fifth season’s episode “Fifty-one”, finds Walt, Skyler, Hank and Marie seated once again at a dinner table on Walt’s 51st birthday, reflecting back the past year, with Walt spinning a web of lies while Skyler silently contemplates an escape for herself and her children. Attempting to break the tension, Marie offers a compliment about Skyler’s mashed potatoes, eager to learn how she removed all of the lumps. Skyler distractedly credits the use of a potato ricer, though her potatoes were actually store-bought and microwaved.

It may not truly be Skyler’s trick to creamy potatoes, but a potato ricer is in fact the ticket to smooth, non-gummy potatoes. By pressing the cooked potatoes through the ricer, lumps are thoroughly removed, without disturbing the cooked starches too much. I’ve had my eye on a potato ricer for many years now, though the idea to purchase one always corresponds with the holiday season, when I’m bleeding money and just can’t wrap myself around the added expense. I bought myself one yesterday in honor of this dish. Those are some smooth potatoes!

Skyler’s Creamy Potatoes with Cheddar and Jalapeño

Ingredients

  • 8 large russet potatoes, peel and chopped into 1″ chunks
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1  jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, very finely diced
  • Salt

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan. Add water to just cover the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, until fork tender. Allow to cool slightly. Mash the potatoes in a potato ricer or food mill. Alternately, use a potato masher. Stir in the sour cream, cheese, milk, and jalapeño, just until blended. Do not over-stir. Add more milk, as desired, to reach your preferred consistency. Season with salt, to taste.

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Oh, Jesse, Jesse, Jesse… poor conflicted man, with any chance of living his American dream looking pretty hopeless right about now. Trapped in a concrete cell by some uber-creeps, Todd (no doubt the creepiest one of all) offers him some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, giving him a choice between Peanut Butter Cup and Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream.

Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream combines vanilla ice cream with fudge coated waffle cone and caramel. This ice cream pie is inspired by the crave-worthy Ben and Jerry’s flavor. A waffle-cone crust gets coated with rich chocolate ganache then filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with caramel.

*Did you know that you can make a pie crust out of just about anything that crumbles? Combine two cups of crumbs with enough melted butter to make it stick (I usually use 10-12 tablespoons for 2 cups of crumbs, though other recipes use less butter), then press it into your pie shell and bake for a few minutes to set.

Jesse’s “Americone Dream” Inspired Ice Cream Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ice cream cone crumbs (sugar cones or waffle cones)
  • 10-12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 1/4 cup caramel sauce

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together the ice cream cone crumbs and melted butter, until it sticks together when pressed. Press the mixture into a deep dish pie pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Cool.

Bring the cream just to a boil, then remove from heat. Stir the hot cream into the chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Pour the ganache onto the bottom of the pie crust. Use a spatula to spread the ganache in an even layer on the bottom and up part of the sides of the crust. Cool.

Allow the ice cream to soften at room temperature. Spread the softened ice cream into the prepared crust. Place the pie in the freezer to set.

Before serving, drizzle with caramel sauce.

For more of a Breaking Bad effect, garnish the pie with little bits of blue rock candy or crushed blue hard candy. *You might want to wait until the kids go to bed before adding the crystal blue garnish. It just didn’t seem right to have the kids around pretend drugs, even if they’re clueless about the reference.

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Blue is Walt and Jesse’s signature color. This crystal blue cocktail is oozing with orange flavors. I used an orange infused simple syrup to sweeten the drink, in order to preserve the beverage’s crystal transparency.

*This is a strong one, folks. Drink responsibly.

Crystal Blue Martini

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces orange vodka
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 1 ounce blue curacao
  • 2 ounces orange infused simple syrup
  • Lemon juice, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour off the ice. Garnish with orange peel.

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Orange Infused Simple Syrup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Peel of an orange, pith removed, thinly sliced

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer gently for about 3-5 minutes. Remove the orange peel and reserve for garnish. Cool.

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Here are a few other fun ideas you could incorporate for a Breaking Bad viewing party:

Rooftop Roasted Pizza, just how Walt likes it. – Try any of the pizza recipes in the pizza section of my recipe collection.

Green Beans Almondine, like the store-bought ones that so impressed Jesse during his dinner at the White’s.

Breakfast with a number made of bacon, Walt’s annual way of bringing in his birthday. *This pic is from my son’s fifth birthday dinner. He is nothing like Walter White, except that he like breakfast foods and bacon.

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Tuco’s Burritos

Gus Fring’s Seafood Stew

Huevos Rancheros or this Huevos Rancheros Pizza

Rice ‘n’ Beans – Say it again. Rice ‘n’ Beans. Get it? Ricin Beans ** WARNING** DO NOT USE ACTUAL RICIN. It’s poison.

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Huevos Rancheros Pizza

Back in the spring, I strong-armed a couple of my friends into taking Irish step dancing lessons with me. (I actually didn’t need to twist their arms too hard.) We three became the unlikeliest bunch of dancers you could imagine. It was a blast. We clobbered away through a few classes, along with an (almost) equally novice classmate, before the weather became too hot to continue in our dance space. At that point, we broke for the summer, with the intention of resuming classes come fall.

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Well, fall rolled around and I sent an email to our instructor expressing our eagerness to continue. But we never heard back. After a few months with no reply, we’d become fully convinced that we’d been silently dumped as a result of our utter hopelessness in the field of Irish dancing. We couldn’t really blame her. We truly are a hopeless bunch. But then, just as we were about to pack away our dancing shoes, I received a message explaining an email switch, along with an invitation to resume classes. We accepted, of course.

This time though, there are a few other adults in our class and a second instructor. Apparently, our new classmates danced all throughout their childhood and teen years. They’re just picking up where they left off, which is someplace lightyears ahead of the rest of us. While we practiced basic skips, intently concentrating on not running into each other, one of our new classmates gracefully danced circles around us, quite literally. It feels oddly like being stuck in the ‘guppies’ group, aside out advanced classmates in the ‘shark’ group. They’re reading War and Peace, while we struggle through Ted in a Red Bed. Us four clumsy guppies stick as close together as we can without kicking each other. It’s a level of comfort thing. We huddle close together, executing every drill as a unified group, in a fruitless attempt not to draw too much attention to ourselves.

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It’s a ridiculously fun time, swimming in our guppy group. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long while. Graceful, we are not. Skillful, we are not. Coordinated, we most definitely are not. But for all we lack in ability, we more than make up for it with enthusiasm. We will probably never have the graceful, swift-footed skills of our river-dancing role models, but we’re certainly having fun with it. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it??

The added bonus is that our weekly lesson and all the practice in between burns a bucketload of calories. Now, if I were smart, I’d save those burned calories and let them work their magic on a bit of weight loss. Oh, but I love food too much and the dancing leaves me ravenously hungry. So, I choose to ‘spend’ my burned calories on fun food, like this Mexican-inspired huevos rancheros pizza. Truth be told, this pizza is fully inspired by nothing more than my desire to cook a pizza with eggs baked into it. It starts with a cornmeal crust, in place of the corn tortillas which would typically be used in huevos rancheros. The homemade crust is then topped with beans, taco sauce, Mexican cheese, chiles, and tomatoes. Fresh eggs are then carefully cracked on top of the pizza before baking for a stunning and unique twist on pizza.

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Today’s Focus on Technique – Cooking with Baker’s Yeast

Baker’s yeast is a single cell organism, commonly used as a leavening agent in many breads, pretzel doughs, and pizza doughs. As the yeast feeds on the sugars in the dough, it releases carbon dioxide, which becomes trapped within the dough, causing it to rise and expand. The most common types of yeast used in baked goods are active dry yeast and rapid rise yeast. Rapid rise yeast is made up of smaller particles, which touch a greater surface area of the dough and typically require half as much time to rise. Many people feel that the long rise time required for active dry yeast recipes results in a more flavorful dough.

Typically, many yeast dough recipes begin by proofing the yeast. Proofing is simply a process of dissolving the yeast in lukewarm water. After a few minutes, the yeast should begin to foam, proving that it is alive and ready to work its leavening magic. If the yeast doesn’t foam, it’s time to buy some new yeast. The magic temperature for proofing yeast is somewhere between 110-115°F. To assure you’ve got the right temperature, it’s helpful to use an instant-read thermometer. I usually stick the thermometer in hot water from the tap, then wait until it reduces to the right range before adding the yeast.

Yeast doughs rise best in a draft-free area, on the warmer side of room temperature (around 70°F). If your house is chillier than that, allow extra time for rising. If time is an issue, I sometimes find it helpful to preheat the oven for a bit, then place the bowl of rising dough on top of or near the oven. You don’t need to keep the oven on throughout the rise time; just long enough to release a little extra heat near the rising dough.

** Lots of other interesting information about yeast can be found HERE.


Huevos Rancheros Pizza

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup refried beans
  • 1/3 cup taco sauce
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons green chile (fresh or canned), finely diced
  • 5-6 grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chorizo, chopped (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • Additional taco sauce or hot sauce for drizzling (optional)
  • Cornmeal Pizza Dough (recipe from www.marthastewart.com)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Prepare the cornmeal pizza dough according to the recipe found HERE, except do not divide the dough into smaller portions. Roll the entire dough into one large (approximately 12″) crust. Transfer the rolled dough to a baking sheet, which has been sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal.

Spread the refried beans onto the crust, leaving a 1/2″-1″ lip around the edge. Drizzle the taco sauce over the beans. Scatter about 1/2 of the cheese over the sauce, then sprinkle with the onion, chile, tomatoes, and chorizo. Scatter with the remaining cheese.

Use your fingers to create three shallow wells in the pizza toppings. Carefully crack an egg into each well.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the toppings are hot and melty and the eggs are cooked to your desired doneness.

**Be aware that the egg whites and yolks will maintain a bright, glossy appearance as they bake. In this case, touching the eggs to check for doneness is a more reliable indicator than their appearance. (I made the mistake of relying on appearance and cooked my eggs past the cooked white/runny yolk I was aiming for. The yolks in the photos with this post are actually fully cooked, even though they appear runny.)

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocoflan

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I lied to you a little, about the whole not needing a wine rack because we drink our wine too fast. That statement is mostly true. We buy our regular wine in the big 1.5 liter bottles. It’s sold two for twenty bucks and it’s pretty darn tasty for that price. We are not wine snobs, as you can tell. I mean, we appreciate a fine wine, but we’ll gladly drink the cheap stuff too, as long as it doesn’t taste like grape juice mixed with well vodka. We pick up a few of those big bottles each week and we drink them promptly. Wine storage isn’t really a concern for us.

But we do actually have a small collection of wine in our wine cellar…errr, I mean the basement storage room, right next to the bins of Christmas decorations and miscellaneous crafting supplies. There are probably ten or so bottles down there; mostly wines we were given as gifts, a few mementos from our wedding, and some we picked up on wine tours. For the most part, they are white wines, which are spared from drinking due to our preference for red and the fact that they live unchilled in our basement.

There was a bottle of red down there. Was. I hadn’t forgotten about it. Many a night, I’ve thought about that bottle of wine. We bought it on a wine tour in Virginia, one weekend that we spent at this great little spa hotel. The concierge paired us with another couple and we shared a limo as we toured some the area’s wineries. We tasted several wines that day, including one with an aroma of tobacco that one of our new wine tour friends described as smelling of Colonial Williamsburg. Oddly, we all knew exactly what she meant. None of us purchased that wine. But we also tasted a delicious red called Ameritage Reserve at Pearmund Cellars; a blend of their best malbec, petite verdot and cabernet sauvignon. We were told it would be an ideal wine for aging. So we bought it and we aged it…for 9 years. We probably would have aged it forever if I hadn’t reminded my husband of its existence last night.

But, we were about to start the final episode of Downton Abbey’s second season and we’d exhausted our big bottle of cheapo red. We’d already watched two episodes that evening and were feeling quite regal by that point, as if we were destined for a life of fine wine. We do have a bottle of red, I heard myself say. Well, crack it open, was my husband’s response. And then we cracked open the bottle of 9 year old red. The cork practically crumbled as I pulled it from our precious aged wine. We traded in our standard drinking tumblers for actual wine glasses and took a sip. It was beautiful. It tasted as elegant as the halls of Downton Abbey. I may or may not have spoken with an English accent for the remainder of the evening.

It’s going to be hard to go back to drinking our budget wine this evening.

That wine was a special treat. No regrets.

I’ve got a treat for you too. Sometime in the weeks before our little Mexican fiesta, I picked up a Better Homes and Gardens magazine which featured all Mexican recipes. As I was flipping through the mag, I came across a recipe for a minted cake with a layer of dulce de leche flan on the top. Honestly, the combination of mint and dulce de leche did nothing to excite my taste buds, but in the description of this recipe, it mentioned something called chocoflan. Chocolate cake and creamy, caramelly flan??  Yup. I could get behind that idea. I found a recipe for chocoflan on the Food Network website and made it for my fiesta.

As far as baking goes, this is a pretty cool cake to make. The flan mixture gets poured over the cake mixture and sometime during the baking, the cake rises to the top, while the flan gently cooks in the bottom of the bundt pan. I followed the original recipe exactly as written, as I often do when I’m baking something unfamiliar. Baking is a much more exact process than cooking, so it’s a bit more important not to play around too much with ingredients and procedures until you have a better sense of what you’re working with. So, when the recipe instructed me to ‘giggle a little’, I giggled as told, even though I’m guessing the actual intention was to jiggle the cake.

The end result is delicious and show-stoppingly gorgeous. The cake is rich and dense, almost like a brownie. The flan is as decadent and satisfying as that aged wine; a perfect complement to the chocolatey cake. Though perfect as is, I toyed around with the recipe on my second attempt, substituting creamy melted peanut butter and warm fudge sauce for the dulce de leche in the original recipe. A handful of peanut butter chips, added to the cake batter, spreads peanut buttery flavor throughout the rich dessert.

This cake doesn’t really fall in line with my desire to lose a few pounds, but man is it worth the splurge! Just cut yourself a really, really skinny slice!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chocoflan

Adapted from Marcela Valladolid’s Chocoflan

 Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened (plus additional butter for pan)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter chips

For the Flan

  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Garnish

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup prepared fudge sauce, warmed
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the inside of a 12-cup bundt pan with butter to prevent sticking.

To prepare the cake: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat for another minute. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder. Beat a third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk, and ending with the remaining flour mixture. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Spread the cake mixture in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared bundt pan.

To prepare the flan: Combine all flan ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined. Pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. (Don’t worry if the cake batter mixes a bit with the flan. They will separate during baking.)

Cover the bundt pan with foil. Place the bundt pan inside a larger roasting pan or large skillet. Carefully fill the roasting pan or skillet with about an inch or so of hot water. (The hot water bath will help the flan custard to cook gently.)

Place the pan on the middle oven rack and bake for about 90 minutes*, until the top of the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Carefully remove the pan from the oven, remove the bundt pan from the water bath, and cool for at least an hour at room temperature. Then, give the bundt pan a little jiggle to ensure the cake and flan are loosened. Place a large serving plate over the top and invert the cake onto the serving plate. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

To garnish, drizzle the top of the cake with the melted fudge sauce and peanut butter. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

*The original recipe calls for a cooking length of one hour, but it actually takes a good 90 minutes, as I’ve noted in my adaptation of the recipe.

Water bath set-up

Spicy Mexican Wontons

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A few weeks ago, I opened one of my kitchen cabinets and set my eyes upon a set of margarita glasses which have been long neglected. And what’s a girl to do when her margarita glasses have gathered dust, but wash them off and host una fiesta pequeña.

With the purchase of a few brightly colored decorations, a sombrero, maracas, and a piñata, plans for our little Mexican shindig were coming along. I taught the boys a few Spanish greetings and we practiced dancing in the kitchen to the sounds of a mariachi album, while we cooked up a chocoflan and spicy Mexican wontons.

It wasn’t until the tequila was chilled and the limes sliced that I realized we were hosting our Mexican-themed party on the weekend when many Americans would be celebrating America’s Independence Day. Oops. Arriba? I will celebrate America’s birthday in appropriate patriotic red, white, and blue style on July 4. Honest.

But, our little gathering was un gran éxito; a grand success. Everyone brought a dish to share and we killed a few bottles of tequila shaken with homemade mango and strawberry lime margarita mixes. The kids even enjoyed kiddie margaritas in sugar-rimmed glasses, as their pockets burst full of piñata candy. My three-year-old is already reminiscing about ‘the old days’…way back yesterday when we had a piñata. That was living!

One of my contributions to the party menu were these spicy Mexican wontons; not exactly traditional Mexican food, but I like to dance to the rhythm of my own maracas anyway. They start with a simple combination of shredded chicken, a hefty dose of Mexican cheese, fresh jalapeño pepper, and green onions which are then seasoned with a bit of chile powder, cumin, and cayenne. Spoonfuls of the mixture are tucked into wonton wrappers, then quickly pan-fried until crisp.

They can be completely made ahead of time and reheated in the oven for a few minutes before serving. They re-crisp beautifully in the oven, which means that you can get that messy frying part out of the way and all cleaned up, long before your guests arrive! Perfect party food.

Spicy Mexican Wontons

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, very finely diced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 3 cups Mexican cheese shredded**
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 40-50 wonton wrappers (check the refrigerated or frozen section of your grocery store)
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

* I poached the chicken breasts in simmering water. Alternately, they can be baked until cooked through.

**I used 1 1/2 cups queso blanco and 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend (cheddar, monterey jack, and asadero). If you are unable to get queso blanco, you can use any combination of cheddar, monterey jack, or other Mexican cheese.

Directions

Combine the chicken, jalapeño pepper, green onion, cheese and spices. In batches of about 5 or 6, place a hefty teaspoon of the filling in the center of each wonton wrapper. Wet the edges of the wonton wrapper with a bit of water and fold over into a triangle. If desired, wet two of the corners and fold them in towards the center. Place the prepared wontons on a tray in a single layer as you repeat the process for all wonton wrappers.

Once all wontons have been prepared, heat about 1/2″ vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium/medium high heat. Get the oil good and hot. Test out one of the prepared wontons by placing it into the oil. It should become golden brown and bubbly-looking within about 30 seconds. Flip to cook on the other side. Cook all of the wontons in small batches. Remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon. Drain the cooked wontons on a paper towel. Serve hot.

If desired, the wontons can be served with a chipotle sour cream, made by blending one chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo) with 8 ounces sour cream.

To reheat, place the wontons in a single layer on two large baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 7-10 minutes, until hot and crispy.

Click HERE for more tips on working with wonton wrappers and a photo guide showing an alternate method of folding the wontons.

Bacon Cheeseburger Enchilada Bake

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My two older boys (ages 3 and 4) go together like peas and carrots.

My four year old is the carrot. He’s lean, sweet, and practical. Not a moment passes when he isn’t working on some new plan. He passes out arm massages on his way out the door each morning, loves morning snuggles, and thinks his baby brother is the cat’s meow.

My three year old is the peas. He’s whimsical, hard to get a grasp on, and a bit roly-poly. He speaks in a gruff little man voice and says funny things like, HEY, I’m Iron Man! He wields cooperation (or lack thereof) as his weapon of choice. His favorite joke involves shouting, “Underpants” then laughing until everyone else can’t help but laugh along. He thinks his mommy is the cat’s meow and is still mad at the baby for stealing his place in my arms.

They are different as two boys can be, yet stuck together like glue.

Their differences carry through to all manners of their little lives. Take, for example, their savings goals. My four year old is saving for college. I don’t think he fully understands what college is, but he knows it costs money and that he’d better start saving. My three year old, on the other hand, is saving for a trip to Disney World…because he likes Mickey Mouse and roller coasters (though he’s never actually been on a roller coaster). I support both of their choices with equal gusto.

So, this morning I explained to my little whimsical man that we had a very important mission for the day.

What do we have to do, Mommy?

We need to get the winning Mega Millions ticket.

But, why?

Because Mommy wants to win 500 million dollars.

It’s sort of like money.

Yes, sweetie. It’s exactly like money…an unimaginable amount of money. And we can put it…

…in my piggy bank! For Disney World.

Yes, love. We’ll put it in your piggy bank for Disney World. And college. It would be plenty of money for both. In fact, Mommy could hire Mickey Mouse as your private college tutor if we win.

We bought our ticket this morning. My little man is already packing his bags for Disney World. I sure hope his packing isn’t in vain, because I can think of a few things I would do with the leftover winnings. Geez, can you even imagine?? I feel dizzy just thinking about it. Somebody’s going to win it…and I just hope they share a little with me when they do!

This recipe has been sitting in my queue for months now. Not sure how it got buried in there, but it’s a good one…sort of a marriage between a Mexican enchilada bake and a classic bacon cheeseburger. People always seem to be looking for ground beef ideas and this is a yummy one! It’s easy, delicious, and full of flavors the whole family will enjoy.

So, who else is playing the lotto? And whatcha gonna do with all that moolah if you win??

Bacon Cheeseburger Enchilada Bake

Ingredients

  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 5 slices American cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (plus additional cheese to sprinkle on top)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 small corn or flour tortillas
  • Additional bacon and ketchup, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a pan over medium heat, until crispy. Drain any excess bacon fat. Add the ground beef. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until fully cooked. Add three slices of the American cheese. Stir until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

To prepare the sauce, melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the flour. Stir to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn down the heat. Add the cheddar cheese and two remaining slices of American cheese. Stir until melted. Stir in the chopped tomato. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To assemble, spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place a generous spoonful of the meat filling into the center of each tortilla. Roll the tortilla around the filling and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat until each tortilla has been filled, placing the enchiladas side by side in the baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with additional shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Garnish with additional crumbled bacon and ketchup, if desired.

The Kids Cook Monday – Mexican Chicken Pizza

There are moments when I feel like I’m doing it wrong; this whole parenting thing. Like when my kids are climbing the shelves at Target while making unusually loud and appalling animal noises. Or laughing at me while I’m blue in the face trying to get them to pick up their toys. Or filling their water glasses with bits of salad and pasta while simultaneously stuffing entire slices of Italian bread into their mouths, as we dine with old friends.

And then there are moments when everything seems just fine. Perhaps even better than fine. Like when my boys embrace each other in a loving hug after being separated during the school day. Or when they share favorite toys without prompting. Or when they reach out to take each other’s hands to safely cross the street.

It’s in those little moments that I realize I am not ruining my kids…at least not completely.

I like the way my dad puts it best:

I believe in a heaven and I want to go there when I die. I want my family to be there with me. Have I taught them how to get there? 

When all is said and done, if I can answer yes to that question, then all of the other stuff; the messes, the whining, the salad-filled water glass; is pretty small in the grand scheme of things.

Parenting is hard. There’s hardly ever a day when I feel like I did it all right. But my grandma says I’m doing a good job…and that’s got to count for something, right??

There will always be days when the kids are dancing to the beat of their own drummer, leading me to question who’s really in charge around here. (I’m fairly certain there’s an elaborate governing system being negotiated between the three boys and the dog. I’m powerless.) But if you can’t beat them, get them to join you...in the kitchen, that is!

Spoken from experience, it’s a heck of a lot easier to engage the kids in cooking with you, than fight with them to behave while you try to do it yourself. Almost every recipe has plenty of steps to engage even the littlest chef, and this simple Mexican-style pizza is no exception! Young chefs will enjoy measuring the ingredients, spreading the beans, mixing the chicken and taco sauce, and sprinkling the ingredients. The whole family will enjoy the delicious, cheesy result!

Mexican Chicken Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 prepared pizza crust
  • 3/4 cup refried beans
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1/3 cup taco sauce
  •  1 can diced tomatoes with chiles, well-drained
  • 1 1/2 cups Mexican blend cheese, shredded
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the pizza crust on a large baking sheet. Spread the refried beans over the pizza crust. Stir together the chicken and taco sauce. Scatter the sauced chicken over the beans. Scatter the diced tomatoes over the pizza. Sprinkle the cheese in an even layer on top. If desired, scatter a few slices of jalapeño peppers on top. (We left half of the pizza without jalapeños for the little guys!)

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until hot and melty.

Check out www.thekidscookmonday.org for more delicious, child-friendly cooking ideas!

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