Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's Nice To Be Nice To The Nice!

My friend Tanna over at My Kitchen In Half Cups just gave us an incredible compliment. She gave the zebras the Nice Matters award and I am thrilled, shocked and surprised! The blue zebras are so new to the blogosphere. Each day is a learning experience on blog etiquette and blogging in general.

I can understand Tanna receiving the award. Her site is enormously popular and yet she goes out of her way to welcome new bloggers and visitors to her site and to the blog world. It’s been said before of her but bears repeating, she doesn’t only visit the “big bloggers”. Instead, she visits and encourages the small guys and new guys or like me the small and the new! :D I’m sure her time could theoretically
be so much better spent with posting to the large volume bloggers because that would inevitably send new readers to her site. But she doesn’t “roll” that way and I for one am glad she doesn’t! I feel fortunate in this short amount of time to be able to count her as a friend and fellow Texan!!! :D

I think it boils down to the words my Mom gave me long ago. She said, “Treat each person you meet as you would like to be treated.” Now I realize that Mom did not dream up this basic life value. It came from someone much bigger than Mom (ahem, Jesus) and ultimately the big guy upstairs so although I am incredibly human and screw up every day, I still try hard to live up to this one. Feel free to remind me of this if I go forgettin’, ok?

Mom also taught me that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Fiddle dee dee, now that is a true Southern sayin’ and I do believe every momma this side of the Mason Dixon line teaches their little ones growin’ up. Hear me now, it works! :D But maybe my most favorite “Nice-ism” in existence was said by Frank Burns on M*A*S*H, the television show. He said, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice…”

Indeed it is nice to be nice to the nice. It’s also remarkably easy as well! In the short time Mulligan Stew Me has been up and runnin’ in the zebra pen, we have had the good fortune to meet the nicest people! Everyone is helpful and cheerful and the blog friends I’ve made never fail to make me smile. I will try to live up to this award and not let you down Tanna!

And to all my other friends both known and unknown it’s nice to see your smilin’ faces visitin’ and settin’ a spell! Hugs all around!

It is my honor to get to pass along this award to seven nice friends. It’s very tough to choose because my cup truly runneth over. How do you measure a cup run amok? :D So, part of the criteria I used to sift through was: Who goes out of their way to reply to visitors to their site and who has helped me as a newcomer when I was sooooo wet behind the ears? I barely managed to narrow it down. It was incredibly difficult!

I hope you enjoy visiting these Nice Bloggers sites. I wish I could give this award to everyone! Please be sure to congratulate them. Also please don't forget to go see what's happenin' in Tanna's kitchen at My Kitchen In Half Cups. She's so talented both as a writer/photographer and as a cook!

Congratulations you Nice Bloggers! Nice Matters! :D

Sue at Coffee and Cornbread
Lynn at Cookie Baker Lynn
Kristen at Dine and Dish
Lisa at Champaigne Taste
Sandi at Whistlestop Café Cooking
Jen at Milk and Cookies
Gattina at Kitchen Unplugged

Blue Zebra NOTE:
It's funny the way God speaks sometimes. Seemingly coincidental incidents link together into cosmic understanding! Tanna was gracious enough to extend this award and here I am days later getting a lightbulb moment when seeing an ad for a book that is gaining popularity. "The Power Of Nice".

Now, I haven't read it, but you can bet that I will be ordering it shortly! It's all about the success of an advertising company who grew their business based on the power of extending kindness to others and advising their clients to adopt this philosophy in their advertising and business culture.

Apparently the movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Not a moment too soon, wouldn't you agree? Here is the website for The Power Of Nice. (By the way, clicking on the Buy Now Link will not take you to their website. That is simply a button still attached to their book image. To buy the book you must visit their website.
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Oh Tostada Of Mine, How You Tempt Me

Oh tostada of mine, I love you so, you towering pillow of TexMex joy. Your piles of deliciously fresh ingredients layer perfectly. Each separate, but giving up a little of yourselves to the next. A testimony to team work, striated excellence, crunches on my fork with each delicate bite. Could you be any more sublime, tostada of mine?

By now you may be tired of hearing my “growing up” stories. If so, please drop me a note and I promise I will take your objections seriously! But growing up, Mom must have spent many hours dreaming in her head about ingenious ways to include TexMex meals into our weekly menus so that it felt like we ate what we called
“Mexican Food” at least twice a week. So much was her love that we had meals of tacos one night, tostadas another and occasionally she would break down and make enchiladas.

We all loved TexMex, even our dachsunds! Green gobs of guacamole frequently left a taste here or there for one of them to enjoy. I seem to remember eating beans a lot as well; as borracho beans but also as refried beans and even remember chili rellenos a time or two. Chili was of course a staple and you know my feelings about that! We had nachos, then a very sophisticated and unique dish, and her very favorite, tamales at every turn. And when she could scrape up a couple of pennies we would eat at Monterrey House or Loma Linda on the southwest side of a very young suburban Houston. Back then you could get the deluxe meal at Monterrey House for $3.00. It included a chili con queso, taco, tostada, guacamole, cheese enchilada in chili sauce, tamale, rice, beans and a piece of Mexican candy for dessert.

I don’t have to think too hard to include TexMex in our weekly menu and indeed, there are many weeks we eat it two or three times! I’m blatant about it. Lucky for me B enjoys it just as much as I do. One of my favorite things to make are homemade tostadas. You can make them full fat with mounds of ground beef and fried corn tortillas, or choose to make a slightly lighter version as I have here, made with ground turkey, oven baked corn tortillas and light sour cream (you could even use yogurt if you really wanted to go low fat.) Although low fat and TexMex sounds an awful lot like an oxymoron, don’t you think?

Anyway, please enjoy these tostadas of mine, these lovely towering pillows of TexMex joy!

TexMex Tostadas
By Blue Zebra
Yield 8 tostadas


For ground meat mixture:
1 lb ground turkey (ground beef may be substituted)
1 onion, chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 jalapeno, fresh, stemmed and chopped finely with seeds
1/4 cup cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped coarsely
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp ancho chile powder*
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup water

For tostadas:
8 corn tortillas (ready made tostada shells may be substituted)
1 - 1/2 cup refried beans, heated and spiced correctly
4 cups shredded lettuce (I use Romaine)
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup Longhorn cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream (light sour cream may be used)
1 large avocado, ripe, seeded, and cubed (guacamole may be substituted)
Olive oil spray for tostadas
1/2 cup salsa
salt and pepper to taste


For ground meat mixture:
Crumble ground meat into large sauté pan and combine with all ingredients except water. Cook over high heat, stirring every now and again to allow all the meat to brown and the onions to cook. When meat is browned and onions are translucent, add water and reduce heat to medium low. Allow to cook at a slow simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

For tostada shells:
If using ready made tostada shells, follow package instructions to heat the shells. If making your own shells from corn tortillas you can choose to either fry them in a shallow sauté pan using a small amount of vegetable oil or lard, or you can mist the tortillas on one side and place them directly on the rack of your oven. Cook at 400 degrees until the top side starts to get golden. Flip them and mist lightly with a bit more oil then let them complete the toasting process. Remove and allow tocool a bit. The tostada shells will continue to crisp as they cool.

For tostadas:
Place tostada shell on plate. If using beans, spread a small layer of beans on shell. Top with a spoon of meat mixture. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, guacamole, salsa and top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.
Eat immediately! Yummmm! Then write your own salute to the TexMex Tower of Treats, the tostada! Arrrrrrribbbbbaaaaa!!!

Blue Zebra Cooking Tip:

Homemade Chile Powder
So let's pretend you hate prepared chile powder as badly as I do, ok? If so, then go out and choose what flavor of chile you prefer. Do you want a pure powder of ancho chile? How about a blend of Ancho and Pasilla? All you need to do is grab a handful of your favorite dried chiles and a cast iron pan and go to work!

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high to high heat. Place your hand about two inches above the bottom of the pan and if you can let it stay there to the count of nine, your pan is hot enough. Be careful not to actually touch the bottom of the pan! Add your dried chiles (I wash mine and let them dry the night before). Let the pods toast in the pan, this is called dry roasting. Flip the pods after a minute or two. You will start to smell them toast. If necessary, adjust heat in pan so they toast and don't burn.

Be sure to turn your vent on over your stove! One toasted, remove stems and empty out all the seeds from inside the dried chili pods. Place chilis in blender or tear them into pieces and place in your spice/coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder.

Place powder in air tight jar or canister. Use in place of commercial chile powders in all your favorite recipes. Just know that you will need to adjust for salt in your recipes since your chile powder is pure and has no additives or salt added, unlike commercial blends.

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