Appetizers, Recipes

Mystery Dish: Watermelon Salsa

A sweet watermelon salsa that has just a bit of kick to it… this may be my new favorite summer snack! Watermelon Salsa | thepajamachef.com Hey hey! This was my month to host Mystery Dish and it was so fun! I got to invite a guest to participate with us and chose to ask my lil sis, Kathleen at Two Happy Bellies! So glad she could bake up a yummy treat this month. 🙂 These ingredients I chose included:

  • coffee [grounds or brewed] – an unexpected summer ingredient
  • sour cream – for something creamy
  • farro – because I have a bag in the pantry I’ve been trying to use up…clearly that didn’t happen
  • almonds – for a crunch
  • cherries – they’re in season
  • watermelon – my favorite summer fruit…even more than berries [I know!!!]
  • cantaloupe – if you get a good one, they’re like candy
  • jicama – crunch crunch
  • cucumber – they’re super cheap at the farmer’s market and I love them
  • tomatoes – never buy these when it’s not summertime…just not woth it
  • infused or flavored olive oil – see farro
  • fresh herbs [any kind] – because fresh herbs rock
  • cornmeal – I have no idea, but thought it could be good for a crust or something
  • hot peppers [any kind] – spice, spice, spice it up! 

I hope my other Mystery Dish gals had fun with the ingredients I chose for them to play with…and now they know a little bit about why I chose the ingredients I did. I asked them to choose three for their dish. I used five–watermelon, cucumber, infused/flavored olive oil, fresh herbs, and hot peppers, and I meant to use a sixth–jicama, but forgot. Oh rats.Watermelon Salsa | thepajamachef.com This salsa is like the stuff of my dreams. Though I love your basic smooth tomato-based salsas, sometimes a chunky fruit-based salsa just hits the spot. This salsa combines some of my favorite summertime fruits and veggies [watermelon, peaches, and cucumber] with some spicy jalapeno and chili powder for the tiniest kick to make things interesting. 🙂 If spicy salsa isn’t your thing, leave out the jalapeno or use some bell pepper instead. Watermelon Salsa | thepajamachef.com Now, I know that some of you may  be a bit hesitant to make a spicy watermelon salsa, or even to use watermelon in salsa to begin with. I have to admit, that not too long ago I was right there with you! I love eating watermelon in the summer [really, all year round but they are only GOOD in the summer] and rarely use it in recipes because I just love it plain. But I wanted to stretch myself and try a spiced up watermelon dish because I’ve seen tons of recipes doing just that. And I’m really glad I did. Yay for Mystery Dish! The salsa isn’t really too spicy, so don’t worry… the watermelon and cucumber cool everything down and the peaches provide a bite of sweetness. It’s pretty much a perfect combo. Watermelon Salsa | thepajamachef.com I served this salsa with regular tortilla chips as well as the pictured multigrain tortilla chips [my fave!], but I think some cinnamon sugar tortilla or pita chips could be really good too! One last thing: be sure to make this salsa right before serving it. The watermelon definitely makes it pretty liquidy the longer it sits so eat up! 🙂
one year ago: Blueberry Buckle
two years ago: Mango Coconut Granola 
three years ago: Lavender-Lime Scones
four years ago: Creamy Baked Spaghetti

Watermelon Salsa

  • Servings: 6
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Watermelon Salsa | thepajamachef.com
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups watermelon, chopped into small cubes and drained in a mesh colander for 10 minutes
  • 1 small peach, chopped into small cubes [about 2/3 cup]
  • 1/3 cup cucumber, chopped into small cubes
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno, seeded and diced – optional
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coconut white balsamic vinegar [regular white balsamic vinegar is fine too]
  • 1 teaspoon blood orange infused extra virgin olive oil [some orange juice/zest mixed with a bit of evoo is fine too]
  • pinch of chili powder
  • garlic salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • tortilla chips, for serving

Directions: In a small bowl fold together watermelon, peach, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. In a measuring cup, use a fork to whisk together vinegar, olive oil, chili powder, garlic salt, and pepper. Pour mixture over watermelon, then stir to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately with tortilla chips. Would also be great over fish, chicken, or pork, with tacos, or even with a spoon!

July Mystery Dish via thepajamachef.com

  1. Watermelon Salsa – The Pajama Chef
  2. Farro Salad – Chez CateyLou
  3. Cherry Almond Coffee Cake – Two Happy Bellies
  4. Watermelon Fruit Salad with Mint Lime Dressing – Yummy Healthy Easy
  5. Toasted Almond Caramel Mocha Gelato – Culinary Couture Blog
  6. Cherry Galettes with Almond Sour Cream Crust – The Well Floured Kitchen
  7. Cherry Watermelon Granita – Joyful Healthy Eats
  8. Cherry Almond Mocha Smoothie – Baking a Moment
  9. Pepperoni Pasta Salad – I Want Crazy
  10. Almond Cherry Bars – I Dig Pinterest
  11. Cucumber Salsa – Weary Chef
  12. Cherry Almond Popsicles – Blahnik Baker

 

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

30 Before 30, Beans, Chicken, Main Dishes, Other, Recipes, Salads, Sides

Mystery Dish: BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing

Today I have the BEST SALAD EVER to share with you!! I am so psyched, I can hardly wait to tell you about it [even though it is not original at all. But that’s okay.] But first, this recipe qualifies for not just one, but two challenges. Woohoo! First of all, I created this recipe for Mystery Dish. But since it includes a fantastic homemade ranch dressing, it also helps fulfill one of my 30 before 30 goals. Score!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

This month for Mystery Dish, Chez Catey Lou is our host. Cate is so sweet and gave us such a creative list to work with! We had to use at least two ingredients from this list: raspberries, peanut butter chips, edamame, lemon, yeast, whole wheat pastry flour, bacon, buttermilk, basil, and zucchini. There were a thousand ways I thought about going [I probably say that every month…sorry] but my craving for a salad won out in the end. I used a few of Cate’s ingredients [lemon, buttermilk, and basil] to make an awesome Jalapeno Ranch Dressing to dress up a BBQ Chicken Salad.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

I have long searched for a good homemade ranch dressing. I’ve made this recipe once before and let me tell you..it’s a keeper! It’s creamy, spicy, and best of all… clean! No weird mystery ingredients in the powder, thankyouverymuch. The key to this recipe is the jalapeno. It just elevates this creamy, herby dressing with a bit of spice. Oh so good!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

You know what else is good? This salad! I know a zillion restaurants have variations of BBQ Chicken Salad and this was mine. I just used seven ingredients so it’s pretty basic: lettuce, chicken, BBQ sauce, corn, tomatoes, black beans, and ranch dressing. You could also add avocados, onions, bacon, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

I kept it simple though so the flavors could really shine. You will really want to make it again and again. One bite of this and Ben was swooning. Seriously! This is a man’s salad, and definitely fancy enough for a restaurant. Hope you enjoy it as much we do!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

one year ago: Strawberry Muffins
two years ago: Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad
three years ago: BAST sandwich

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing

  • Servings: 4 meal-size salads or 8 side salads; 2 cups dressing
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chicken [leftovers from a roasted chicken work great]
  • 1 cup bbq sauce [I used Sweet Baby Ray’s]
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups fresh corn, cut from 3 ears of corn
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • Jalapeno Ranch Dressing, recipe below

Directions:

Stir together chicken and bbq sauce in a skillet set over medium-low heat. Heat for 5-7 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, toss together romaine lettuce and Jalapeno Ranch Dressing in desired amounts. Divide lettuce between four plates, then top each with a quarter of all ingredients: chicken, tomato, black beans, and corn. Toss together and enjoy!

Jalapeno Ranch Dressing [slightly adapted from The Lively Kitchen]

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk [for this I use real buttermilk, a substitute could be kinda weird]
  • 4 green onions, chopped, with white bottoms removed
  • 1/2 of a chopped, deseeded jalapeno [~2 tablespoons]
  • 3 tablespoons  fresh parsley, chopped [or 1 teaspoon dried parsley]
  • 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped [or cilantro, basil, etc.]
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIrections:

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. An immersion blender works great!

Dressing thickens in the fridge so add some extra buttermilk before serving leftovers as desired.

Please check out the other awesome recipes from this month’s Mystery Dish!

May Mystery Dish Collage

1. Raspberry Lemon Sweet Roll Cake with Buttermilk Glaze – Baking a Moment
2. Twice Baked Zucchini Boat – Chelsea’s Messy Apron
3. Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Raspberry Mint Compote – Blahnik Baker
4. Lemon-Raspberry Bundt Cake – I Dig Pinterest
5. Peanut Butter Chip Cookies – The Dessert Chronicles
6. Mini Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – I Want Crazy
7. Zucchini Noodles with Meat Mushroom Tomato Sauce – Joyfully Healthy Eats
8. Baked Wonton Cups Filled with Edamame Corn Salad – The Well Floured Kitchen
9. Easy 30 Minute Orange Rolls – Yummy Healthy Easy
10. BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing – The Pajama Chef
11. Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes – Culinary Couture
12. Zucchini Muffins with Lemon Glaze – The Weary Chef
13. Lemon Bundt Cake – Chez CateyLou

Main Dishes, Recipes, Soups

Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup

Updated March 30, 2014… so today, I was looking through some blog pics and realized I made a terrible error! The soup that had been pictured here was NOT this wonderful Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup, but rather a Minty Tomato Soup. Whoops! Somehow I mixed up my labels. Sorry about that! This soup is still delish no matter how it looks, but I wanted to come back and make it right with you. 🙂 Forgive me? 

Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup | thepajamachef.com

I hope you’re okay with another soup recipe this late in March! If you aren’t, look away. But be forewarned: you’ll miss some awesome soup. It was snowing in Nashville yesterday [not enough to stick, but still], so soup is entirely justified I think!

Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup | thepajamachef.com

Earlier in the year, my mom texted me a picture of her dinner: a delightful orange-y colored soup. I asked for the recipe and received a text with a picture of the recipe, which I immediately made for lunch the next day. Yay for iPhones and technology! 🙂 That soup is the one before your very eyes now… a creamy, flavorful, filling Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup. I’ve made plenty of black bean and pumpkin soups in my day–but never together, and never this good. The soup is a cinch to throw together and definitely gets better as it sits. With just a hint of spice and a bit of sweetness, this soup is unlike any I have ever tasted. Next time I make it I will be sure to stock up on sour cream, green onions, and pumpkin seeds because the [unpictured] toppings are the very best part! Enjoy!

one year ago: Roasted Chickpea, Carrot, & Radish Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing
two years ago: Cinnamon Curry Tuna Wraps
three years ago: Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

Black Bean-Pumpkin Soup

  • Servings: 8 servings/2 quarts
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slightly adapted from a magazine via my mom

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups loosely packed spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil [STAR Fine Foods Grilling Cuisine Cooking Oil is what I used; extra virgin would also work]
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded [optional]
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups chicken [or vegetable] broth
  • 1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons molasses or bourbon [optional]
  • sour cream, for topping
  • sliced green onions, for topping
  • pumpkin seeds, for topping

Directions:

In a food processor, combine black beans, tomatoes, and spinach. Process until smooth.

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium. Add onions and jalapeno [if using] and cook until soft. Add garlic and cumin and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Then stir in broth, pumpkin, vinegar, and pepper. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in molasses if using, then serve with sour cream, green onions, and pumpkin seeds as desired.

Appetizers, Main Dishes, Pork, Recipes

Sweet Potato Pork Quesadillas

Apparently February is National Sweet Potato Month! Who knew?! I know no better way to celebrate than with these awesome Sweet Potato Pork Quesadillas!

Sweet Potato Pork Quesadillas | thepajamachef.com

Please forgive my less than stellar photos. I am so over this winter weather, it’s really killing my photos! But anyway–these quesadillas are ridiculously good. Though they require a few extra steps than a usual quesadilla, since you have to cook the ground pork and saute some jalapenos, they are well worth it! These quesadillas are the perfect combination of sweet and spicy goodness. We’ve made them for dinner a couple times, but I can definitely see them as a wonderful party appetizer too. As you can see, I served them with quite a bit of sour cream and some sauteed jalapenos. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Sweet Potato Pork Quesadillas | thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies
two years ago: Caramel S’more Cups
three years ago: Bacon-Wrapped Feta & Almond Stuffed Dates

Sweet Potato Pork Quesadillas

  • Servings: 4 meal-size servings, 8 appetizer servings
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from Food Network Magazine
Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1/2 pound ground pork [chorizo would also be a great substitute]
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder [ancho chili powder or chipotle chili powder also works well–but scale back depending on your tolerance of spice]
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • butter or oil, for cooking
  • 4 burrito-size flour tortillas
  • 2 cups cheese [cheddar, jack, Mexican blend, etc.]
  • sour cream, for topping
  • sliced pickled jalapenos [or saute a few fresh jalapenos]

Directions:

Prick a medium sweet potato all over with a fork and microwave until soft, about 8-10 minutes. When sweet potato is cooked, let cool for a few minutes and then remove the skin. Gently mash sweet potato with a fork, then set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and cook pork with chili powder, breaking up with a wooden spoon until browned. Add garlic, green onions, and cooked sweet potato to skillet and stir together. Cook for a minute or so, then remove to a bowl. Stir in cilantro.

Wipe out the skillet and add about 1 teaspoon of butter or oil to the skillet. After a minute or so, add tortilla to skillet. Evenly top tortilla with 1/2 cup cheese and 1/4 of the pork mixture. Reduce heat to low. After cheese is melted, fold the tortilla in half over the filling and cook until tortilla is golden brown. Remove from pan and cut into four wedges. Repeat to make an additional 3 quesadillas. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a few slices of jalapenos, if desired.

 

Recipes, Rice, Sides

Mexican Rice

Oh my goodness. This RICE! Normally, rice is Ben’s obsession, but this time, it’s mine. This Mexican Rice is seriously amazing. It’s the closest restaurant-style replica recipe that I have ever successfully made. Ben agreed, and thought this was better than something you could get at a restaurant. And for a guy who likes to eat out, that’s saying something!! So many recipes online or in cookbooks claim to be restaurant-worthy, but most of the time, they’re lying. Well this one? Not so much. It’s just like the rice you’d get at your favorite local hole in the wall Mexican place.

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

When I first saw that the recipe called for three jalapenos, I have to admit that I was a little nervous [even considering my recent love of spice]. But really, I needn’t have been afraid–this rice had the perfect amount of kick. Not too spicy, not too bland. Stirring in cilantro at the end and adding a squeeze of lime juice to each serving definitely balanced out the flavors and gave the rice a little something special.

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

At first glance, this Mexican Rice recipe might look a bit intimidating. Even if it has good flavor, isn’t it a bit overkill to go through all these steps of rinsing and sautĂ©ing the rice, then cooking it on the stove and in the oven? NO! Not at all. Don’t skip a step–each is necessary to make this light and fluffy without a bit of gloopy, gloppiness that can all too easily happen when a bunch of stuff is added to rice. The texture isn’t sticky or mushy. It’s just perfect. And when paired with homemade tacos and refried beans, well, it’s just like eating at a restaurant  But at home, for a fraction of the cost… and with all the leftovers you could want. 🙂 I know I’ll be making this rice over and over again for many tacos nights in our future, and I hope you will too. Enjoy!

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

Mexican Rice [from Food.com]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes [15 ounces]
  • 1 medium onion [yellow or white]
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 medium jalapenos, minced and divided [deseed as desired–I deseeded two]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lime, wedged

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor or blender, combine tomatoes and onion. Puree until smooth, then pour into a measuring cup and reserve 2 cups. Discard excess [or save for something else, like salsa, or eat with a spoon…].

Add oil to a large [10-12 inch] straight-sided sautĂ© pan or Dutch oven [with a tight fitting lid] and set over medium-high heat. While oil is heating up, place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for about 2 minutes or until water runs clear. This is similar to rinsing quinoa–it removes the starch from the rice to make it nice and fluffy. Do not omit this step! Shake rice to remove excess water.

Next, drop a few grains of rice in the oil. If they sizzle it is ready. Add rice to oil and cook for 6-8 minutes, constantly stirring, until rice is lightly golden and translucent. Reduce heat a little if the oil starts to splatter, and add up to another 2 tablespoons of oil if it seems too dry.

Reduce heat to medium, then add 2 jalapenos and garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions and chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove and stir well.  Return to oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from oven and stir in remaining jalapeno and cilantro. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze on each serving before enjoying.

Time: 55 minutes [20 minutes active].

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Notes: You can use 12 ounces fresh ripe tomatoes but since I made this before tomato season, I opted for canned. If you use fresh tomatoes, the recipe recommends supplementing with salsa if you need to get up to 2 cups AND to add 1 tablespoon tomato paste to the mix as well.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.