Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Chili Relleno Casserole: A Southwest Tradition

Mid-August in New Mexico marks the arrival of chili season. Chilies are sold by the 25-50 lb. gunnysack at all the major food retailers, vegetable stands and grower's markets. Roasting vendors manned with their unique tumbler-style roasters begin springing up wherever chilies are sold. The smokey aroma of sizzling chilies permeates the warm desert air as it invites the festiveness surrounding an abundant harvest and welcomes the advent of autumn.

Last week I spent some time in southern New Mexico, and was able to get caught-up with a friend and her husband who own over 100 acres of farmland. Their main crop is growing alfalfa hay for resale, but chilies of every variety common to the southwest were growing prolifically in their massive vegetable garden. It felt rewarding to gather chilies in the hot afternoon sun, yet the dirt and grit on my hands was a reminder of the hard work and toil synonymous with farm living. They wouldn't let me leave without generously packing the trunk of my car with bags of red and green chili peppers.

All the way home our mouths were watering for a chili rellenos casserole, which I began preparing as soon as I walked into my kitchen. I'm going to share with you my most requested recipe for chili rellenos casserole. There are dozens of variations available, however this is one of my favorite because it's easy to prepare and it's forgiving to the waistline. Its flavor is unchanged using several low-calorie and low-fat ingredients, and it doesn't call for flour or leavening. This is a light meal that just doesn't get any tastier or any fresher! Ole'

Fiesta Chile Rellenos Casserole
Cooking Spray
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon jalapeno peppers, chopped fine
1 to 1 1/2 cups roasted green chili peppers, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups low-fat Mexican blend shredded cheese, (set aside 1/3 cup for topping)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup light sour cream
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 ripe avocado, diced
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square glass baking dish and a medium-size skillet with cooking spray.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in jalapeno and green chili peppers; cook for 2-3 minutes more. Spread mixture evenly into bottom of prepared baking dish; sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Place eggs and sour cream in a medium bowl; beat VERY WELL with a electric hand mixer. Pour mixture over cheese layer in baking dish; sprinkle with chopped tomatoes and remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheese.

Bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes depending on your oven temperature. Top with chopped cilantro. Serve with diced avocado, hot re-fried beans and traditional red salsa or tangy green tomatillo salsa (the latter salsa is my personal favorite). Yield: 6 servings
Cynthia Briggs
October Events
October is going to be an especially busy month for me. If you're in the area on Saturday's in October be sure to stop by the Grower's Market and taste my homemade jam. My specialty is Apple Preserves, or if you like your food hot, Apple Preserves en Fuego! Every week I'll have different jams out for sampling...maybe some Tropical Fruit w' Almond Essence, Hot Pepper Dipping Sauce, or Mixed Berry just to name a few. Understandably, I'm on a first name basis with the Fruit Basket employees here in Albuquerque.
  • Saturday, October 3, ABQ Grower's Market, 7 AM to Noon. Location is in the parking lot at ABQ Uptown between Borders and the new Trader Joe's. It's wise to arrive early as it gets crowded and many of the vegetable vendors sell out by 9 or 10 AM. You'll find me at the north end of the parking lot in the arts & crafts section.
  • Saturday, October 10, ABQ Grower's Market, 7 AM to Noon.
  • Saturday, October 17, ABQ Grower's Market, 7 AM to Noon.
  • Saturday, October 24, ABQ Grower's Market, 7 AM to Noon.
  • Sunday, October 25, 2009 Holiday Bazaar at Jazzercise Del Sol, 4902 Lomas Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM, 10 AM to 3 PM. 40 vendors with raffles throughout the day.
  • Saturday, October 31, ABQ Grower's Market, 7 AM to Noon.
  • Saturday, November 7, Alisha Diaz-Bole Holiday Home Show, 8 AM to 4 PM, 9816 Golden Rod Circle, Kirtland Air Force Base, NM. 25 vendors with raffles throughout the day. Explain to the guard who you have business with on base, show your car registration and proof of insurance. This is an enthusiastic group of officer's wives who participate and sponsor the bazaar.

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Monday, September 7, 2009


Pork Chops with Homemade Applesauce

Every year when Labor Day weekend rolls around my mind turns to the fall apple harvest. OK, I think about apples all year-round, but that's just me. At any rate, September is here and all of us will be experiencing cooler night and warmer appetites for heartier dinners.

Homemade Pork Chops and Chunky Applesauce are the first two recipes appearing in the introduction of my nostalgic cookbook, Pork Chops & Applesauce. Find more comfort food recipes at

Homemade Chunky Applesauce
6 - 8 apples, peeled, cored, diced (best to use several different varieties)
1/4 cup water or apple juice
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Place prepared apples in a large saucepan, add water, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and sugar. Do not stir; cover with a tight-fitting lid. Place over medium heat. When apple mixture begins to bubble or steam, reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20-40 minutes, stir only when necessary to avoid scorching. When apples are tender, remove from heat and mash to desired "chunkiness" with a hand-held masher. For a thicker applesauce, cook uncovered, on medium-low heat for 5-15 additional minutes, or until applesauce reaches desire consistency. Yield: 6 cups

Note: The key to making the world's most flavorful applesauce is to use a variety of cooking apples in every batch. Adding 1 or 2 Red or Golden Delicious apples adds extra sweetness to the sauce. For a caramelized type applesauce, avoid stirring the apples during the cooking process. Do not stir after pouring the spices and sugar over the prepared apples, stir only enough while cooking to keep mixture from scorching.

Pan-Fried Pork Chops
6 – 1" thick, bone-in pork chops
3 tablespoons cooking oil
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Sprinkle pork chops with salt, pepper and garlic powder; set aside. Treat a heavy skillet with cooking spray; place skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and when "dimples" begin appearing in the skillet, add seasoned pork chops. Pan-fry over medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes on each side, or until chops are crispy and brown on the outside with no visible pink inside next to the bone. Serve with warm Homemade Chunky Applesauce.
Yield: 6 servings

Note: Grilling has become a more popular cooking method for meat, chops and poultry. When I'm serving applesauce with pork chops I keep the seasoning simple as with pan-frying and then grill to taste. You can hardly go wrong by serving a fall dinner of pork chops and applesauce to your friends or family - it's a sumptuous autumn dinner everyone loves.

Cynthia Briggs

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