People stress over what to get their friends and family this time of year. I say lose the stress and get cooking (or baking)! You can jar ingredients like Angela did with these festive baked goods, or you can make dinner on the spot. My brother loves Mexican food, so for his Hanukkah present I decided to buy a ton of ingredients and make a feast.
You know good things are about to happen when you spot this produce on your counter:
I started everything off by marinating two large chicken breasts in paprika, the juice of one lime, two chopped garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Pop that in a plastic bag in the fridge and let it sit for an hour for super limey chicken. Next up I made a hearty pico de gallo with big chunks of two beefsteak tomatoes, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 clove chopped garlic garlic, 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro, the juice of one lime and salt and pepper:
Everyone loved this with multigrain chips. My mom kept flinging the cilantro back into the bowl asking, “What is this stuff?” but she did unknowingly eat it in the guacamole. Simply mash together two hass avocados, a few slices of chopped red onion, 1 clove chopped garlic, 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro, the juice of half a lime and salt. Takes about a minute to make and the same amount of time to eat:
I’m usually too scattered to have all of my ingredients set ahead of time, but I decided to be a bit organized by pre-chopping two red peppers, two stalks of zuchinni and 1/4 red onion, all in thick matchsticks:
Now for the fun. I love to caramelize vegetables. Why? Because it adds delicious, gooey, easy flavor. I’m no professional by any means but I have made some variation of this dish without fail at least 10 times in the past year. Start out by placing your sliced chicken and a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan on medium heat (if you’re not eating meat, just skip to the veggies). Let the slices sit for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they are just starting to brown.
Now make a “hot spot” by pushing the chicken to one side of the pan and adding in your peppers. Flip the peppers over as they begin to brown, lower the heat a drop, and then add the onions to another hot spot. Smother them with the peppers and watch the caramel magic happen. I don’t really know why this works, but it seems that all of the juices from the peppers seep over the onions and turn them into soft brown strings of flavor. Incredible.
At this point the contents in your pan will have decreased in volume leaving room for the zuchinni. Lower the heat again and flip the zuchinni as they begin to brown. If you’re fining that things are about to burn or the brown bits at the bottom of your pan aren’t coming up with the vegetable liquids, slowly begin to add in vegetable stock to calm things down.
Once the zuchinni has started to brown, turn the heat to low, mix everything and let it sit. This is not the sort of dish that you can walk away from; you should play around with it until you’ve found what caramelization technique works for you. Everything ended up looking like this:
You can do the same with the addition of pineapple, or mushrooms, or bean sprouts. Anything really, just keep an eye on it and don’t fuss around with anything until its started to brown.
I didn’t make a cocktail since this was my little brother’s present, but I did decide to make a mocktail. Pour equal parts mango nectar and seltzer into a pitcher and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Rim each glass with a lime wedge and then turn it over onto a plate of salt and turbinado sugar. Fill each glass with the mango spritzer, top with ice cubes and garnish with a lime wedge. How easy is that? This was really delicious and would be made even more festive with a splash of cherry or pomegranate juice to each glass.
I served the chicken and vegetables with brown rice, chips, and the guacamole and pico de gallo. It was a very fun and filling meal! I always love making dinner more interactive by offering a variety of dishes.
Dinner was followed by fried plantains (I sliced two and fried them for about 2 minutes on each side in vegetable oil), which I tossed with a teaspoon each of fresh orange juice, orange zest and turbinado sugar:
Top it with melted dark chocolate (chocolate bar in the microwave, that’s all there is to it) and you’ve got a simply-made but fancy-looking dessert:
We may or may not have dipped marshmallows and pretzels in the leftover melted chocolate. Remember, the best holiday gifts are those that come from the heart!