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Friday, February 4, 2011

Chicken Nachos

Chicken Fest continues with Chicken Nachos...perhaps in honor of Superbowl Sunday and all the game day party spreads out there. (It is this weekend...right?)

Leftover chicken and some other basics inspire nacho night
Typically, nachos are a cinch for me to pull together because I tend to have the basics on hand. (At least this used to be typical. Now that we're on the Husband's money diet, I'm planning meals in advance like a school cafeteria, buying only what I need week to week, which means my pantry is no longer as well stocked as it used to be!)

Nachos are a great way to use some leftover ingredients, like the chicken (roasting of which was outlined in a previous post), some shredded cheese, and a can of black beans. If I am planning ahead for a nacho night, I will also pick up a can of refried beans, some Roma tomatoes (which aren't as seedy as other tomatoes), and an avocado or two. (Price permitting, of course. At this point in the winter one avocado costs almost $2, which is a little too steep for me!) 

A quick note on avocados: the Husband got me hooked on them back in our vegetarian days....I don't think  I ever ate them growing up. He and I love, love, love them (!!!) on sandwiches and mashed or diced on nachos, tacos, quesadillas, etc. (Yum!) Meanwhile, the Bear could take or leave this strange green fruit. When she was just starting solid foods, I discovered the magical joy of mashed avocados mixed with pear baby food. Yes, I tasted it (I tasted all the baby food...Had to), and it was super delicious...the Bear just spit it out and refused to take any additional bites. (Oh well, more for Mommy!) 

Speaking of our vegetarian days, nachos are perfect for mixed crowds because diners can choose whether or not to add the meat.  This is why I often include both refried beans and black beans...to fill out the meal a little for the vegetarians at the table (although I'm sure the meat eaters benefit as well!).

Before I go on, I should probably list what I consider the bare bones ingredients for chicken nachos:
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Cooked Chicken, shredded or diced (shake a little cumin on it if you'd like)
  • Beans (refried and/or just plain beans. We prefer black beans)
  • Shredded Cheese (like cheddar, monterey jack, or a blend)
  • Tomato (in the form of diced tomatoes, salsa, taco sauce, some, or all of thee above! Salsa verde is also a very viable option.)
Some other fun ingredients that we like to include on nacho night:
  • Minced Onions 
  • Avocados
  • Red Bell Peppers (I prefer it diced and either sauteed or roasted, but raw will work as long as it is a finer chop)
  • Black Olives (I add these, but the Husband does not! My love of black olives stems from my dairy free days nursing a Baby Bear who presumably suffered from a dairy allergy that she has since outgrown. Olives were one ingredient that compensated, somewhat, for the lack of cheese in a Mexican dish. The flavor must have passed through the milk, because today, unlike her father, the Bear loves olives!)
A few other ingredient options, that we rarely include, but are still worth a mention:
  • Zucchini (diced, and either sauteed or roasted) 
  • Corn (frozen corn heated in the microwave)
  • Sour Cream (delicious, but rarely makes it into my shopping cart these days in an effort to cut calories and save money)

Frontera Roasted Tomato Taco Sauce, 8-Ounce (Pack of 6)Finally, let's talk taco sauce, which is not pictured above but should be because it is my absolute favorite ingredient on nacho night. For years I relied on salsa alone, but then I was eating tacos at a friend's house when I rediscovered mild Ortega and fell in love. Interestingly, Ortega has some chemical ingredient in it that forced me to bar it from our pantry. (I cannot remember exactly what it is, as I do not have a bottle handy to consult, but I will find out and get back to you).  I have scoured the Internet for a DIY taco sauce recipe with no luck. About a year ago I discovered Frontera's Roasted Tomato Taco Sauce at my local Whole Foods, which has such a tangy, rich flavor...I can see now that Ortega was just puppy love...but Frontera is the real thing.

The beauty of nacho night is that it is so easy to have everything chopped and ready hours in advance. (You could even do this the night before). Before dinner, I get everything out, nuke the chicken and beans, and then let diners assemble their own plate of nachos. It is also fun to put the chips, chicken, beans, and cheese on an ovenproof plate (think Fiestaware) and broil until the cheese is melted. This step is not necessary, but gives the tortilla chips a roasted corn taste that I love.

Our plates are probably never as fancy as the picture below, but I wanted it fancy for you!


   



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"We Have to Go Together"

As you know, in my last post, I whined a lot and somehow managed to take out my winter blahs on the two Senators from Kentucky. At the time, I anticipated Mitch McConnell's appearance on Meet the Press would be a sharply critical, obstructionist attack on everything President Obama laid out in his January 25th State of the Union address...

However, Egypt changed everything. I can only assume McConnell's booking was cut short so that David Gregory could talk with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton about the continued unrest in Egypt -- and rightly so.

Still, McConnell made an appearance* and even moved on from talk of Egypt to domestic issues. True, he did not once utter the words "Kentucky" or "Kentuckians," but he did make one compelling statement that I can't seem to forget: "We have to go together."

He said this not once, but twice: "We have to go together."

McConnell was responding to the question of entitlement reform, which folks all across the political spectrum agree is an essential component of cutting back on the U.S. budget deficit.  (According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid comprised more than 40% of the Federal Budget in 2010. The Department of Defense adds another 20%. These programs are often seen as untouchable, but it is becoming more and more clear that we will not be able to bring down the deficit if 60% of the Budget is untouchable and, therefore, cannot be cut.**)

Republicans promised to cut spending in the 2010 Midterms. The problem is, now that a majority of them have been seated in the House, they are much more cautious about tightening the federal government's belt.  You see, spending cuts are not so popular with constituents who don't want their benefits slashed, making such legislation a risky move for representatives who want to get re-elected in 2012.

And it's not just Republicans; the hesitancy to enact unpopular, but necessary reform exists for Democrats as well. No one wants to be attacked as the politician who stole from senior citizens...especially in a 30-second TV spot during the next election cycle. 

And yet, the fact remains: We cannot afford to continue down this path. 

On Sunday David Gregory alluded to the political maneuvering that ensues. Who will present their plan for entitlement reform first: Republicans or Democrats? In typical Washington style, it is projected that whichever side goes first will have the disadvantage of being cast by the other side as the party who robbed the American people of benefits -- even though both parties believe that benefits must be cut to sustain programs like Social Security. The hypocrisy and double-dealing turns my stomach!

The solution to this strategic dilemma? As McConnell wisely asserted: "We have to go together."

Only time will tell if my Senator (or anyone else in Washington) will stick to all the good faith that's been percolating about Capitol Hill in the wake of the Tucson Massacre...but here's one Kentuckian, one hopeful citizen who would like to see Congress and the White House "go together" on entitlement reform and many of the other big issues we face.

So, enough of the political maneuvering, Congress. Enough strategic power plays. We did not elect you to acquire power for yourselves or your party. We elected you to solve problems. So do it! Go together. Get in a room, figure it out, and then tell us all about your plan -- your bipartisan plan to make Social Security sustainable for another generation.

Now...is that too much to ask?

Jaelithe, the Librarian @ Home, (who has become a little more politicky than she ever intended to be)

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*Click here to read a transcript of the January 30, 2011 broadcast of Meet the Press

**What's a Librarian to do? After about 30 minutes of plowing through the 2010 Federal Budget, I gave up on my quest for a primary source of this data and succumbed to the CBPP's data. The CBPP describes itself as "producing materials that are balanced (and) authoritative" and even have a shout out from Ezra Klein on their webpage. So...I am using this source and moving on. If I were your friendly neighborhood reference librarian, being paid by the hour and benefiting from ridiculously low premiums on health insurance, then believe me, I wouldn't give up so easily! However, this SAHM has potatoes to peel and laundry to fold...