Saturday, May 05, 2007

Celebrations after the Battles

Last fall, Hubby and I finally, after 10 years in this house, replaced the broken, heaved, and ugly old sidewalks. It was a task that I had been battling for since we had moved into this home, and I was elated when Hubby finally put it on his to-do list. Plans were for the work to be completed early in the summer, but those fell through, and fell through again, and again, and again. At one point, I was so frustrated and just didn't believe that it was ever going to happen at all. I thought that I was cursed to always have hunks of missing concrete and a death trap leading to my door. Finally, in late fall, after much drawn out labor and even me getting some hands on experience with the mucking and finishing of the concrete, the new sidewalks were in place.

However, it was too late to seed grass. Our cold, harsh winter was right around the corner and there just wasn't enough warm weather left for tender new sprouts. I hated the bare dirt that marred our front yard all winter. I loved when it was covered with snow and nobody could see that we were the only house in town without grass and a proper lawn. I couldn't wait for spring and new grass to be seeded. But, spring came and as usual, other responsibilities pulled us away from the front yard, again and again and again. I was beginning to think that the chicken scratched look was going to be mine forever.

Finally, there was a pocket of time to rake and smooth the soil. Finally, there was time to sow the new grass seeds. And, after careful daily waterings and a few sunny days, we have tender little sprouts of grass. I HAVE GRASS! :~) It is far from a lush, full lawn, but it is a beautiful site after a winter of dead, bare earth. I am ready for the celebration after our battle to renovate the front yard.

Cinco de Mayo (May 5th, for those of you not fluent in Spanish) is traditionally a day for celebrating victory after a battle. It commemorates the victory of Mexican forces over the French occupational forces in the Battle of Puebla. While not a federal holiday in either Mexico, or the United States, it is a celebration of culture and overcoming adversity. Food, drink, music, and dancing dominate the events.

Food? Drink? Music? Dancing? I am all over that kind of celebration. In honor of the liberty and freedom recognized by Cinco de Mayo, I think that it is a good day to break out a recipe with Latin influence for my own celebration of the Battle of the Front Yard Renovation. Chicken Rice Pot with Salsa and Avocado Cream is a Rachel Ray recipe that doesn't come together in 30 minutes, but is packed with flavor and ease. Even my not-so-thrilled-with-Spanish-rice Hubby loved the chicken and rice mixture. However, the fresh salsa with the surprising salty addition of olives and the amazing avocado cream really make this dish. (After all, what can go wrong with ANYTHING with avocados?) They are the perfect toppers to elevate what could be a pretty ordinary main dish to celebration level.

I am going to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of the Front Yard Renovation with something spicy on my plate. Chicken Rice Pot with Salsa and Avocado Cream is Yum-O.

Chicken Rice Pot with Salsa and Avocado Cream

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 cups white rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon fajita seasoning mix
1 cup tomato sauce
Olive and Pepper Salsa
1 cup Spanish olives with pimento, drained and chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
3 drops hot sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
juice of ½ lime
Avocado and Garlic Cream
2 ripe avocados
juice of ½ lime
1 clove garlic
1 cup sour cream

Preheat a medium pot over medium heat, add olive oil and butter.
When butter melts into oil, add cut-up chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Stir and lightly brown the chicken, then add the rice and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.
Add chicken stock, poultry seasoning, fajita seasoning & tomato sauce. Bring the stock to a quick boil, 2 or 3 minutes.
When the liquid boils, reduce heat to low and cook 13 to 15 minutes, until rice is tender but still a little chewy in the center.
To prepare the Salsa, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and adjust the salt and hot sauce, to taste.
Next prepare the Avocado and Garlic Sour Cream by adding all ingredients to a food processor and processing until smooth. Adjust seasoning, then transfer to a small bowl.
Stir 1/2 cup of prepared salsa to the chicken and rice mixture. Turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes.
Serve the prepared Latin rice and chicken in shallow bowls with spoonfuls of salsa and avocado cream to garnish. Serve any remaining salsa and sour cream with corn chips for dipping and scooping. (Serves 4-6)

OK. I hadn't had my dinner menu in place more than 30 minutes, and had just posted this blog entry when Hubby called. He made dinner plans to go out with another couple. I guess the Chicken Rice Pot with Salsa and Avocado Cream will have to wait. I am not cooking tonight. I can celebrate new grass with dinner out. :~)
Second Update:
Well...the plans for dinner out changed just a little bit. Heavy winds hit the town where we were going to eat and knocked out power. At the last minute, Hubby and I decided to join friends for a "tornado party", as they were under watches and warnings. I threw together a quick pepperoni pizza, grabbed some beverages, and we headed out into the storm. It wasn't Chicken Rice Pot with Salsa and Avocado Cream or a real dinner out, but it was a lot of fun.

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