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Joni Woolf: Mexican food is always popular

Americus is fortunate to have some fine Mexican restaurants. They are popular eating places, at lunch and dinner time, and have faithful followings. What this often means is folks don’t bother cooking Mexican at home: it’s too easy to drop into one of the local restaurants and for a modest price have a good and sustaining meal.
Today I am doing my own cooking, getting ready for a simple Lenten supper at church, where we will dine on soup and breads. I’m making a big pot of black bean soup; it’s good, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive. It’s hard to mess it up. Someone asked me if I would bring jalapeno cornbread, and I agreed. My recipe, which I rarely prepare because of the high fat/calorie content, is better than most. So, I went looking for it. Buried in the back of a stack of ancient files, I found it. It is written in my handwriting on the back of a calendar page from Aug. 7, 1982, with a note to my husband saying, “Gone to Kroger.” I suppose I was going to get the ingredients to make this delectable bread. There are no instructions, just a list of six ingredients, and I must depend on memory for the how-tos.
While looking for my old recipe, I came across a cookbook that Beth Alston, the ATR editor and publisher, had given me a couple of years ago. Called “The Fire ‘n’ Ice Cookbook,” it is filled with a variety of Mexican recipes, from appetizers, through main courses, to desserts. I decided to check out their recipe for jalapeno cornbread. I like mine better. However, their recipe for Pollo Mexicana, a great-sounding chicken dish, is included in today’s column. It sounds easy, inexpensive, and good for you. I plan to prepare it next week. Mexican food is always good, filling, and generally nutritious if you limit the butter and cheese and eat more lettuce, tomato, and avocado. So, enjoy these recipes, and serve the cornbread only once in a while. Restraint, in this case, is a virtue.
Jalapeno Cornbread
1 stick butter
3 eggs, beaten slightly
1 cup grated sharp cheese
1 small can cream-style corn
1 ½ cups corn meal
Jalapeno pepper to taste, cut into small dice
½ cup self-rising flour (I added this ingredient years after original recipe was given)
– Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Melt butter in large iron skillet. Mix eggs, cheese, corn, corn meal, flour, and jalapeno pepper dice in mixing bowl, adding the melted butter at the last. Pour mixture into hot skillet and bake for 25 minutes, checking after 20 minutes. If top is beginning to brown, it is done. Remove, let rest 5 minutes, cut, and serve. It hardly needs more butter for topping.
Pollo Mexicana
This recipe is intended to be a quick and easy, all-inclusive meal which is simplified further by the use of cheese spread.
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 garlic clove, minced
2 whole boneless chicken breasts, skinned, halved
4 green onions, chopped
1 small sweet green pepper, chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
3 cups cooked rice
½ cups cheese spread (I would grate ½ cup extra sharp cheese instead)
1 cup salsa
– Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat and saute garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken breasts and cook for five minutes. Turn chicken over and place green onions, green and red peppers around edge of skillet, cook for 5 minutes, or until chicken is brown and thoroughly cooked.
Make a bed of rice on a serving platter and place chicken on top; cover and keep warn.
Add cheese spread (or grated cheese) and salsa to vegetables in skillet. Heat until cheese melts and sauce is hot. Pour over chicken and serve. Serves 4.
Mexican food is good year-round. This recipe, served with a tall glass of sweet tea, or a tangy Margarita, would be good right now.

-Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net.