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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Coles's Round Table

Ok, so our dinner table isn't round. But you get the drift.

In our family, our laughter and conversations revolve around delicious home cooked food. Not a single meal is consumed in silence at our dinner table. You'd be lucky to get a word in with the Coles girls seated next to you. When it comes to planning and making the meals, we lean a lot towards Mexican and Italian. Can't you just feel the love and friendship in these sweet pics?
Mae Maw and her baby girlfriends

Me and my sisters (in law)
Half of the meals were learned through my mother in law Sharon, which she has picked up over her time as an Air Force wife living among a melting pot in San Antonio Texas. Between her and I, we've had our fair share of good eats and are pretty darn good at "figuring out" just how something is made that we've had the pleasure of tasting. If I have a question, she's my lifeline. If either one of us finds a fantastic recipe, or makes one up- you bet your fanny there's a phone call being made to the other starting with "Girrrrl..."

I feel like over the last year, we've gotten away from planning in advance meals. We'd plan around 3 or 4 days, and then get hit with a busy schedule with no food. Which then causes us to eat out or pick up. Spending more then we'd like to a month. With 3 kids, one on the way, and his new schedule of "I'm gonna be late/out of town" I really had to sit down and get a schedule figured out. So I made a list of every home cooked meal, packaged favorites, easy shortcut meals, crockery cooking, copy cat meals, and recipes given that we had. That was a big list. Some didn't need to be listed, but we were trying to have a list so when there's nothing to eat we could choose something and go to the store. So tired of wasting an hour of "thinking" of a meal we "feel" like eating. If we are starving, then the kids are ravishing. At that moment, we then throw our hands in the air and say "What do you want from Taco Bell?"

While living in Florida from 2004 to almost 2010, we had serious food withdrawals living away from Arizona. There ain't nothin' like some CPK (California Pizza Kitchen), Macayo's (DELICIOUS Mexican food), Rio Mirage (another good one), and Islands (awesome burgers and fries). So we tried our best at copying or finding copy cat recipes for certain dishes. And we were ALWAYS in the mood for chips and salsa.

Now, salsa can be made all kinds of ways. I learned from Sharon (MIL), which in turn she learned from her friend while living at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. We don't like to cheat the corner. Fresh is best. You roast whatever peppers you want (uhhh we do a couple of each kind, not just jalapeno. Spicy is goood), blacken your vine tomatoes to loosen the skin, roast a garlic head if you like, cilantro, onion, whatever seasoning you'd like...toss all in the blender and pulse. Like most things, it tastes the best the next day after it's "married" well. Sometimes we like a little chunky salsa, so I add some canned fire roasted tomatoes. BUT that's the only non fresh item used. Sometimes..we'd have chips and salsa as our meal. No joke. Lunchtime was best for this indulging. Just don't go do your workout in the afternoon. Holy heartburn..

Salad. It's so versatile. Summer in Florida was the best. Every weekend you would smell all the grills around base sizzling away. I, myself, love grilling something for a salad. Oh, it's soooo good. Marinade is the best way to add flavor AND tenderize. Our favorite is Lawry's Baja Chipotle for chicken. Best to make your boneless skinless chicken a 1/4 inch thick then marinade for no more then 2 hrs. Grilling is quick, and adds delicious flavor. I do not suggest you bake it. Did that and the marinade just didn't taste the same. Plus..no grill marks. I'm a big fan of southwest salad of any kind from any where. One day, after just visiting Arizona and having a similar salad dining out, I had an amazing wonderful thought. Add the Baja chicken over a salad. The mix-ins were obvious. Corn, beans, red onion, crunchy strips, mexican cheese. BUT the dressing needed to be phenomenal. Just plain ranch wouldn't do. You want to enhance the flavor of the salad, not mask it with anything other then this:
~Court's Baja Chicken Salad~ 
• 2 lbs of chicken tenders (or 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts thinned to 1/4 inch first) 
• Lawry's Baja Chipotle marinade (marinade for 2 hrs then grill, store in fridge 2 hrs or overnight)
• can of southwest corn, drained 
• can of black beans, drained & rinsed 
• 1-2 bags of spring mix salad (or the rectangular container one.)
• 2-4 roma tomatoes diced 
• red onion diced • bag of tri color tortilla strips salad topping 
• Mexican shredded cheese 
• 1-2 limes for fresh squeezed over salad, optional 
• diced avocado, optional 
Salad Dressing
-> needs to marry overnight<- i="">

• 12-18 oz. bottle of ranch (not Kraft, or Hidden Valley- something more of a neutral flavor. Those two are very distinct flavors. I use kens steakhouse) 
• cilantro (leaves removed and chopped REALLY small) 
• can of diced green chiles (heaping tbsp or so, chopped/smashed until its macerated) 
• couple pinches of coarse black pepper
• 7-10 taps/shakes of cumin 
• couple taps/shakes of garlic powder (I prefer not to use fresh b/c you all ready have a lot of chunky ingredients) 
• juice of 1 lime 
• zest of 1 lime, optional *with the canned items no need to cook, and use as much or little as you want.

You. Are. Welcome. 

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