My King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken l Scarletta Bakes

I confess that, even as the outdoor thermostat rises, I still crave casseroles; this week will be solidly in the 90s here in the Valley of the Sun, but for the past few days I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a certain cheesy, flavorful, bubbling casserole…

King Ranch Chicken (also known as King Ranch Casserole) is a Tex-Mex heirloom dish that has been around for almost as long as its namesake, although the recipe likely did not actually originate from King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas (King Ranch, one of the largest working ranches in the world, is, after all, known for its beef).

The truth is that no one knows for sure where the original recipe for King Ranch Chicken came from, but it most certainly gained traction in popular culture right around the middle of the twentieth century while canned and condensed soups were also quickly becoming mainstays in pantries throughout the United States. Which is probably why, lineage or no lineage, there is very little question about the ingredients that typically make up a traditional King Ranch Chicken Casserole:  canned cream of mushroom soup, canned cream of chicken soup, canned Ro-Tel tomatoes, and canned roasted green chiles. Other ingredients are common -bell peppers, chicken, tortillas and cheese- but the cans stand out.

So I suppose, both in my abandonment of the can (I didn’t kick them all to the curb!), as well as my craving of the comfort-wielding casserole just as the mercury inches dangerously close to 100º F, I am committing some type of dual heresy.

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Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

Arroz Verde

If you were to ask, I would not claim spring as my favorite season. In fact, it would probably be last on my preferred list, with one exception:  what is means for produce.

Ironically, as many of you are no doubt encountering, although spring has technically already sprung, prime growing season has yet to show its pretty little face. I think that, for some of you, unsnowcapped-ground has yet to show its pretty little face. So it must be the anticipation of things to come that has such an impact on fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of the year…  they just taste better.

A good example is this rice. Yes, rice.

I started preparing this dish several years ago during the spring after I walked by a stand of poblano chiles that were so good looking that I threw a wink their way. Next to a crate full of Mexican limes that were an irresistible shade of bright, bright green. And a stack of leafy parsley that smelled so tempting that I simply could not walk away.

I decided that mixing my finds in with some luscious rice would be perfect; the flavor of my new fresh friends mixed up with plump rice filling enough to respect the fact that spring doesn’t yet feel like it’s entirely in full effect.

So…  arroz verde.

Sticky, satisfying, tasting like sweet promise:  spring is (almost) here. We can taste it.

Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

3 large shallots, peeled and ends removed
4 large cloves garlic
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt for roasting and seasoning to taste
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed and seeded
6 stems parsley
3 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 c. medium-grain rice
4 c. vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the shallots and garlic together with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt, wrap tightly in foil and roast for approximately 50 minutes or until shallots are slightly shrunken and garlic is golden and fragrant. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the poblano chiles, parsley, and lime juice and process to a uniform paste.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains are opaque. Add the processed chile mixture and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the stock, season with salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until all of the moisture has been absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff and stir before serving.

YIELD:  approximately 6 servings

Best Chili For Your Week

Bowl Of Best Chili l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t know exactly what your week will entail.

I don’t know if you’ll have a couple of bonkers work deadlines to meet.

Or maybe you have some Spring Break stuff to be breaking.

Perhaps you’ll need to be reminded of Daylight Savings? Or maybe you’ll do some reminding yourself…

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Red Bean & Rice Burritos

Basket Of Burritos l Scarletta Bakes

Let’s celebrate Mardi Gras!

Sure, we’re a little early. And it’s true that we’re nowhere near New Orleans. But don’t you just feel like you want to let the good times roll right about now? Me too…

Red Beans + Rice l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t have a strong connection with New Orleans or its tradition, but I have often celebrated Mardi Gras over the years; it falls at a time on the calendar when most people are just about begging for the weather to warm up, dying to let loose and live a little, and after the first of the year’s health push, probably looking for a bit of indulgence.

Perfect.

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Green Chile Noodle Soup (Sopa de Fideo)

Green Chile Sopa De Fideo l Scarletta Bakes

Are you surviving this ugly, ugly winter? Just barely? Me too.

Hey! I see you rolling your eyes…

The truth is that the desert floor is a funny thing; it’s completely impervious to water of any kind, be it monsoon- or man-made, but after the sun goes down it seems to draw into itself every single degree of ambient heat.

The desert is a cold, cold place without the sun and temperatures can swing up to thirty degrees in a 24 hour period. Which means you’re going to need a sweater. Or some legwarmers. And for sure an enormous bowl of hot soup.

Cut Fideo l Scarletta Bakes

You may know fideos as Spanish noodles, specifically, semolina pasta commonly sold cut or coiled. Fideos, especially the cut variety, are most often served in soup, which is what we’ve done here. Because we’re freezing cold!

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Cheater’s Green Chili Chicken Pot Pie

Green Chili Chicken Pot Pie l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t like cheating. I really don’t.

I never stole from the bank during a round of Monopoly. I didn’t write answers to math quizzes on my palm. I never tried to avoid the instant replay cameras in soccer. (Did they really use instant replay cameras in soccer games for 8 year olds? That’s what my coach told me. I call shenanigans.)

But in the immortal words of J. Lo, I’m real. Which means that last week my Wednesday night looked like exhaustion, two growling tummies, one irritable dog who had been home alone for way too long, and piles and piles of laundry:  this degree of real required some cheating.

Cheating and comfort! So I busted out this pot pie recipe and cheated with a few shortcuts.

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Pumpkin On Your Arizona Cheese Crisp!

Pumpkin Cheese Crisp l Scarletta Bakes

Because you need some savory to balance out all of that sweet you’re shoving into your face this week.

Because trick or treating requires fuel, so snacks are a major requirement.

Because you’re a very busy person! And you need something that you can throw together in between costume darning, candy stocking, candy sneaking, etc.

Because there just. Aren’t. Enough. Pumpkin. Recipes. Available. On. The. Interwebz. These. Days.

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#TheNewSouthwest Release Day!

The New Southwest l Scarletta Bakes

For Your Information:

The New Southwest cookbook was officially released today! And I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you.

One Quick Note:  While The New Southwest is available for purchase as of today, some online sales outlets are experiencing delays in shipment, most notably Amazon.com. Please know that we are working as hard as our little fingers will work to get some southwestern goodness onto your cookshelf as quickly as possible, and that all orders will be fulfilled. Bear with us and rest assured that all of this deliciousness will be worth the brief wait.

Book Tour Beginnings l Scarletta Bakes

For Your Calendar:

The New Southwest Book Tour is on and popping!

The first few tour dates are shown above but more are already in the works. Check back here early and often to find out where I’ll be – I would love to meet you!

Chipotle Skillet Mac l Scarletta Bakes

For Your Grumbling Tummy:

This cheesy mac.

It involves three cups of cheese. It’s not in The New Southwest, but if you’re reading this anytime around supper on any day of this week, it is in my tummy.

Let’s get it into yours, too, K?

Happy #TheNewSouthwest Release Day!

P.S.  Have you entered to win a KitchenAid® Artisan® Series 5-Quart Stand Mixer in the color of your choice + a signed copy of The New Southwest? Uh…  why not?!? Get your enter on here!

P.P.S.  Make sure to stop by tomorrow for another awesome giveaway! Because I love you! Which is why I’ll give you a hint! Tomorrow’s contest sponsor rhymes with Le You Don’t Saaaaay…

#TheNewSouthwest Release Day!
Serves: approximately 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 c. onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile, ground
  • 1 tsp. cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper, ground
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. whipped cream cheese
  • 2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 6 cups cooked elbow pasta (I opted to use a twisted, ridged elbow shape here, but any short pasta may be substituted.)
  • 1 c. pepper Jack cheese, grated (optional)
Instructions
  1. Melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Stir in the remaining butter, flour, chipotle chile, cumin, coriander and white pepper, carefully mixing until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and whipped cream cheese. Just as the cream cheese is melting, stir in the cheddar cheese. Once the cheddar is completely melted into the other ingredients, stir in the buttermilk and finally the pasta, one cup at a time. Top with pepper Jack cheese and place under a low broiler for approximately 3 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and golden on top. Remove and serve immediately.

 

 

Life-Changing Green Onion ‘Fries’

Roasted Cebollita 'Fries' l Scarletta Bakes

A few weeks ago A. and I decided we needed a breath of fresh air. Literally. Figuratively. And a few other -lys that we just don’t need to discuss today.

So we saddled up our sturdy sedan and abandoned the Valley of the Sun for a day trip into Arizona’s mountains:  specifically, we were headed for the Prescott Farmer’s Market.

Prescott Farmer's Market l Scarletta Bakes

At the risk of sounding like a massive science nerd, the vast extremes in Arizona’s climate, topography and ecosystem life never cease to amaze me. When you grow up in and around New England, where it’s possible to drive through multiple states in a few short hours and, visually, not even realize that you’ve made the transition, this new environment feels nothing short of Martian.

I just can’t get past it. And if you’ve ever made the drive from Phoenix up into the northern mountains, you know what I mean.

Climbing from an elevation of approximately 1,100 feet to one of approximately 5,400 feet.
Watching the thermostat drop from 99° to 75°.
Passing armies of saguaro cacti that are slowly subsumed by hoards of pines.

It’s pretty fascinating even if you don’t have a destination that you’re excited about.

But we did! Or at least I did! Because farmer’s markets are kind of my jam. Especially in the fall, when they (ironically) remind me of being back home.

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Queso-ized Breakfast Burritos

Kitchen Sink Breakfast Burritos + Hatch Chile Queso l Scarletta Bakes

Dang it, Robin Thicke!

Why did you have to come up with such a ridiculously playable song?!?

Why did you have to lure me in with Pharrel and lock me down with a little T.I.?!?!

Your dulcet tones have been the soundtrack of my life for this whole entire summer.

Scrambled Eggs l Kitchen Sink Breakfast Burritos

That soundtrack was playing at full volume the other day as I drove home, back seat stocked with a good three-month supply of assorted groceries.

And that soundtrack was apparently just the thing to scare an entire family of desert doves out of their arroyo home and into the street, Mom Dove, Dad Dove, Baby Doves, Aunt & Uncle Doves, plus a few Grandparent Doves and all.

Right there. Out in the middle of the street. Little legs pumping furiously to the beats that emanated from my car stereo as I unwittingly bore down on this extended aviarus family.

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