Back in July of 2011 I sensed a need to establish mandatory girl time. One friend (also my roommate) was about to get married, one was already living with her beau, I was about to move in with Hugh, and several more of our friends were soon headed for coed co-habitation. We needed a monthly gathering to give us boy-free time to look forward to.
I’d heard of ladies in other age brackets playing a game called Bunco, so after a quick read of the wikipedia article, I sent the following invitation to my girlfriends:
We gathered, we snacked, we learned the rules of the game, and we actually played several rounds of it — and then we did it again the next month. And every month since, we take turns hosting and providing snacks while everyone else shows up bearing bottles of wine. It has often been the shining star of my calendar.
But lately Bunco has evolved. Or rather, it has devolved — we’ve gone from dutifully rolling the dice, recording our scores round by round and declaring a winner at the end of the night to not even bothering to find dice. Instead, we feast on snacks (often pinterest-inspired), share the latest gossip (often wedding-related), sip on glasses of wine (often several), and generally enjoy the company of other women without a trace of the presence of men.
Last night I hosted the first Bunco since our holiday hiatus and it was every bit the Bunco-free Bunco we’ve all come to hope for. I made salsa chicken with make-your-own taco bar and appetizers included a bean dip I’ve reluctantly added to my repertoire (and secretly learned to enjoy). And we only had one red-wine-on-the-carpet fiasco! It was quickly thwarted by cold water and some vinegar and the not-Bunco-playing carried on.
Jessie asked for the salsa chicken recipe, I told her the three easy steps, and she asked me to write it down anyway. Sweet Jessie. So, Jessie, here are my recipes:
- 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about two pounds)
- 24 oz jar of salsa
- dashes of garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper
Too simple. Put some chicken breasts into the crock pot in a single layer. Throw in some taco seasoning — most versions of this recipe call for a packet of taco seasoning, but I don’t keep them on hand, don’t want to buy them, and find them pretty salty. So I use garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and black pepper — large dashes of the first two, medium dashes of the next two, and smaller dashes of the last two. Then dump your jar of salsa on top, put the lid on, and cook low and slow for 4-6 hours.
I use mild store brand salsa and set my crock pot timer for 5 hours, then keep warm. I find that that’s the perfect point of tender shred-able chicken without veering toward dry and overcooked.
When I’m ready to shred the chicken (which pulls apart effortlessly using the two fork method) I drain the cooking liquid through a big strainer and make sure that the majority of the salsa remains intact with the chicken. And voila — it goes great in a tortilla with some cheese, lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, and black olives.
Super Simple Bean Dip (that even I will eat)
- 1-2 cans of refried beans
- 1 package cream cheese, softened
- about 1.5 cups of shredded cheddar
- small can of chopped green chiles, drained
- optional other ingredients for optional other layers
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the refried beans, green chiles, cream cheese, and about 1 cup of shredded cheddar. I promise this is much easier if you’ve let the cream cheese soften outside of the fridge for a while. Season the mixture with your standard taco flavors (I pretty much stick to the same shtick performed in the making of salsa chicken). Pile the mixture into a baking dish, making sure it’s even. Add optional additional layers of black beans (make sure they’re really really drained), corn, salsa, whatever your
husband’s tastebuds desire. Sprinkle the top with remaining shredded cheese, and sliced black olives if you’re me, and bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese does that delicious bubbly thing it does.
I only like beans in a few forms — green beans or chickpeas that have been turned into hummus or falafel — but I threw together this bean dip for Hugh and his friends one night recently and even I liked it. So, much to Hugh’s delight, it has been added to my repertoire of easy go-tos. Must have something to do with the cheese content…