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Here is one of Shelly Moran’s past columns that bears repeating. I do not remember when I first heard of Ro-Tel (r) but once I found out about it, it became a regular feature in cooking.

From March 2, 1994:

Shelly emphasized that although her column was not intended to promote brand names, occasionally a worthwhile special interest item comes along. Such as a news release about the Blue-Ribbon winners from the first Ro-Tel(r) competition, held at the 1993 Texas State Fair.

Ro-Tel(r) diced tomatoes with green chiles was first introduced in the 1940s in Texas and became a staple in southwest kitchens - in Arkansas, perhaps the most widespread use is in Velveeta(r)-Ro-Tel(r) cheese dip.

Shelley said she figured that many readers shared her fondness for hot and spicy foods, and decided the Southwest-inspired recipes would probably be popular.

At that time, although the growing popularity of southwestern dishes was taking Ro-Tel into new areas of the country, it was largely a regional specialty. Shelley told of speaking with her daughter, Kelly, in Dallas, who told of speaking with a sales representative in Los Angeles who asked, “What is that?” when Ro-Tel(r) was mentioned.

“Seeing the growing market, other food processors are offering versions of tomatoes and green chilies. Hunt’s has come out with a similar product; Best Choice, available at Price Cutter in Cabot, has a product called simply “diced tomatoes and green chilies” that I think is superior to Ro-Tel because it is thicker,” Shelley wrote.

These are the winning recipes in each of the categories of the Texas State Fair Ro-Tel competition - dips, stews, entrees, casseroles, party foods and salads.

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First Prize Dips:

RO-TEL APPETIZER CHEESE BAKE

1 can (10 oz.) Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, drained

1 cup mayonnaise

1 egg lightly beaten

1/8 tsp. black pepper

3 cups (12 oz.) shredded sharp

Cheddar cheese

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 tsp. minced garlic

No stick cooking spray

Preheat ovet to 300 degrees F.

Thoroughly combine Ro-Tel, mayonnaise, egg and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in cheese, onion and garlic. Spray a l-qt. baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon cheese mixture into dish. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with crackers. Makes 3 cups dip.

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First Prize Party Foods:

RO-TEL JALAPENO MEATBALLS 2 lbs. ground beef 1 can (10 oz.) Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies

1 cup cracker crumbs

2 eggs

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup Chopped fresh jalapeno peppers

1 Tbsp. granulated garlic

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. Pepper

Ro-Tel Tomato-Chili Sauce (recipe follows) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Thoroughly combine ground beef and next 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into 1-inch balls; place in two 13x9xl2-inch baking dishes.

Bake in preheated oven fui 20 to 25 minutes or until done. Serve with Ro-Tel Tomato-Chili Sauce. Makes about 72 meatballs.

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RO-TEL TOMATO-

CHILI SAUCE

2 cans (10 oz. each) Ro-Tel

Diced Tomatoes and Green

Chiles

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cornstarch

While meatballs are baking, combine ingredients in a small

saucepan. Simmer over low heat until sauce is thickened, about 15

minutes. Pour over meatballs; serve

with party toothpicks. Makes 2 cups.

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First Prize Salads:

RO-TEL GAZPACHO SALAD Salad:

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced

1 large green pepper, cut into thin

strips 1 large yellow pepper, cut into thin strips 1 large red pepper, cut into thin

strips 1/4 cup sliced black olives 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Dressing: 1 can (10 oz.) Ro-Tel Diced

Tomatoes and Green Chilies

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. chopped chives

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix cucumber, peppers, olives and cheese in a large bowl. Shake dressing ingredients in a tightly covered container. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Makes 6 servings.

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First Prize Stews:

RO-TEL CUBAN BLACK BEAN, CHICKEN AND RICE STEW

4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup uncooked rice

2 cans (13 3/4 oz. each) chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. lemon pepper

4 boneless chicken breast halves, skinned

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans

2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans

1 can (10 oz.) Ro tel Whole Tomatoes and Green Chilies

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes

Dash of white cooking wine

1/4 tap. Oregano

1/4 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. Tabasco

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. (about 1/2 pkg.) taco seasoning

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh

cilantro

In a medium saucepan sautÈ garlic in 2 tablespoons hot oil until tender. Stir in rice, broth, bay leaf and lemon pepper; heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 18 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pan, saute chicken, onion and poultry seasoning in 2 tablespoons hot oil over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink. Cut chicken into small pieces.

Add rice mixture and remaining ingredients to chicken in stock pot. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Makes 12 one-cup servings.

(Shelly’s note: I have tried to find canned black beans on the grocery shelves in Cabot with no success. I have bought them in Dallas under both Green Giant and Progresso labels, but I’ve been told they are not available here The local stores do have dried black beans, but not the canned ones. I wonder why it is

so difficult to obtain them? Do any readers know of a central Arkansas store that has them?)

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First Prize Casseroles:

RO-TEL DINNER-IN-A-DISH

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 can (10 oz.) Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Green Chilies

4 large potatoes (about 4 cups)

peeled, cubed and cooked

4 Tbsp. butter or margarine,

divided

1 bag (1 lb.) frozen French style green beans, thawed

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large skillet, sautÈ ground beef,

onion and garlic until meat is

browned; drain excess fat. Stir in

Ro-Tel; simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread in the bottom of a 3-quart casserole.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat potatoes and 3 tablespoons butter until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper. Melt

remaining butter; stir into green beans. Season with salt and pepper. Top meat with green beans then mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until hot. Makes 4 servings.

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First Prize Entrees:

RO-TEL - IT’S CHICKEN FIESTA TIME

8 boneless chicken breast halves,

skinned

1 can (10 oz.) Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, drained, reserve tomato pieces for Monterey Cheese Sauce

2 Tbsp. lime juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

1 cup finely crushed corn tortilla chips

2 tsp. paprika

Rice stuffing (recipe follows)

Monterey Cheese Sauce (recipe follows) Cut a horizontal slit in each

chicken breast to form a pocket; be careful not to cut all the way through. In a large, bowl combine

liquid from drained Ro-Tel (reserve tomato pieces for cheese sauce, lime juice, garlic, salt and poultry seasoning. Add chicken; cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove breasts from marinade; discard marinade. Stuff each breast with about 2 tablespoons rice stuffing; close pocket carefully. Dredge each piece in crushed tortilla chips. being careful not to open pocket.

Pace in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish; sprinkle with paprika. Bake in preheated oven 35 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve with Monterey Cheese Sauce. Makes 8 servings.

RICE STUFFING

1/4 cup uncooked long grain rice

l 10-oz. can Ro-Tel Diced

Tomatoes & Green Chilies

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup (1 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese with

Jalapenos

1 small ripe avocado, diced Combine rice, Ro-Tel and water in

a small saucepan. Heat to a boil;

reduce heat, simmer on low for 20

minutes or until rice is tender aid

liquid is absorbed. Stir in cheese

and avocado.

MONTEREY CHEESE SAUCE

3 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. flour

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. seasoned salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 cup milk

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey

Jack Cheese with Jalapenos

1 can (10 oz.) drained Ro-Tel (from above)

In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, cumin, salt and pepper to form a smooth paste. Gradually add milk; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Add cheese and drained Ro-Tel (from above). Continue to cook over low heat just until cheese is melted.

Serve warm over chicken breasts.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.

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Regional dish of the weekCalifornia Avocado Pie

Including a regional recipe is an idea picked up from one of Shelley’s columns. It does not mean I have tested it, but it does mean I would eat the results if placed in front of me. Here is a quick and easy, no-bake recipe from What’s Cooking America; makes 8 servings -

Filling:

1 9-inch Graham cracker piecrust (store-bought or make your own, recipe follows)

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

3 medium-size very ripe avocados

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Topping:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup sour cream

Chill the Graham cracker crust if it is homemade.

Combine lime juice, lemon juice, and unflavored gelatin in a small bowl; let stand 4 to 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened. Combine gelatin mixture, mashed avocados and sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl or food processor; blend or mix until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared graham cracker piecrust. Refrigerate two hours or until the filling is firm.

Whip heavy cream and sour cream together until stiff peaks form; spread on top of the chilled pie. Place the pie pan in hot water for a few seconds to loosen the crust before serving.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust - makes 1 piecrust.

Takes about 20 minutes from start to finish – best chilled before using.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup melted unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs or 10 to 12 whole Graham crackers*

1/4 cup granulated sugar

If starting with whole Graham crackers, use a rolling pin to crush them in a plastic bag, then measure 1 1/2 cups of crumbs.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or microwave.

Combine Graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a medium-sized bowl or a food processor; mix/blend until the texture of coarse meal.

Press into a 9- or 10-inch pie pan; try to make the crust about 1/8-inch thick all around, make sure there are no gaps or holes. If the crumb mixture does not stick when pressed, add a teaspoon or two of water to the mix. Chilling the crust for an hour before baking will help prevent crumbling when served.

Bake about 8 to 10 minutes, the edges might brown slightly – be careful to avoid over-browning.

Remove from oven, let crust cool then chill for a couple of hours before filling.

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