Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Joel, Ole`!

Joel's birthday was earlier this month, but we finally got around to having his party yesterday.  He picked Mexican food as his theme, and I will be sharing the dishes we prepared this week.  It was a big success, and we have lots of yummy leftovers for the week's lunches!
I love to use Mexican food to entertain, as it often is make ahead, and there aren't a fussy lot of ingredients in the dishes.  I am still kind of slow moving, and have to rest often, so I made most of the dishes the day before.
We had a taco bar set up, and served a marinated slaw salad, and a fruit and panela salad, but the main dish was the beef ancho chile (see earlier post for the recipe for Spaghetti Western).  My good friend Mel brought a crock pot of green chile from the Laredo in Rawlins (YUM!) so people had a choice between the spicy green and the milder red.
At Joel's favorite Mexican restaurant, they always serve a marinated cabbage slaw as a condiment.  We all really love it, and I think I've finally nailed down the recipe.  It is definitely a make ahead, as it needs to develop in flavor, as does the fruit and panela salad.

El Sol Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
3 large grated carrots
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/3 C rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Combine all the ingredients, and put in a sealed container to store in the refrigerator.  Much better the second day, so make ahead!

Panela is a hard white cheese with a very mellow flavor.  It pairs really well with fruit, and with the color contrast of mango and honeydew melon, it was a pretty addition to our buffet.
Tajin seasoning can be found in your grocer's fresh produce section.  It is a blend of chile, lime and salt.  If you can't find Tajin, you could substitute a sprinkle of chile pepper, and salt.
Agave nectar is a syrup that has a low glycemic index, so doesn't cause the spike of blood sugar common to other sweeteners.  It could be replaced with sugar or splenda. 

Mango, Melon and Panela Salad
4 ripe mangos peeled and diced
1 honeydew melon peeled and diced
1 pkg panela cheese diced
zest from one lime
juice from 2 limes
3 T agave nectar
1/2 tsp tajin seasoning
In a large salad bowl, add all ingredients and toss.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Toss again before serving.   

Jalapenos can be very mild and tasty if roasted in the oven.  I stuff mine with Queso Fresco cheese mixed with Neufchatel cheese,  but we have also made them with cream cheese mixed with parmesan.
The hardest part of making these healthier version of Jalapeno Poppers is splitting and cleaning the chiles.  You need to split them length ways and cut out the white membrane and remove the seeds for stuffing.  We have family that shy away from anything spicy, so I also stuffed smaller sweet orange and red chiles.
These poppers are an easy do ahead recipe, and can be either served hot from the oven, or at room temperature.

Jalapeno Poppers

6 large firm jalapenos
2 pkgs small sweet red and orange peppers
1 pkg Queso Fresco cheese crumbled by hand
2 pkg Neufchatel cheese softened
1 tsp garlic Mrs. Dash seasoning
Split chiles and remove membranes and seeds.  In a medium bowl, mix together remaining ingredients, and stuff into chiles.  Place on baking sheets and bake in 350 F oven for twenty to thirty minutes, or until peppers have softened, and cheese is slightly brown.  Serve either hot or at room temperature.

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