Monday, February 23, 2015

Chili is February Food

Who's tired of winter?  I am!  However, I would take one big snowfall to get us through until spring.  What's the point of winter in Minnesota without enough snow to sled and ski?  Anyway...back to the food. 

I've tried SO many chili recipes but I have yet to settle on a favorite one...until now?  My son requested "Rabbit Stew" for his Minecraft birthday dinner.  While it would have been a cheap option, with all our wild urban rabbits, we decided to make beef chili and call it rabbit stew.  I decided to browse Smitten Kitchen (not to be mistaken with Smitten Kitten, right?!), one of my favorite blogs, for chili ideas and settled on her "Beef Chili" recipe. 

For the Minecraft party, we served the stew (aka chili) over baked potatoes - everything has to be Minecraft related, you know.  Tonight, we served leftovers from the freezer with some homemade corn bread (from Weekend Baker - one of my favorite books).  Smitten Kitchen serves her chili over biscuits - now that's a good idea.

It's February.  Make a big pot of chili and hunker down.

Beef Chili
adapted from Smitten Kitchen which she adapted from Gourmet
Serves 6+

2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 carrots (I diced these, I think sliced would be weird)
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, ground coarse or 3 pounds ground beef (I used two pounds ground)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon crumbled dry oregano
Dried red pepper flakes, to taste
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce 1 1/4 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups or 1 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I used two)
2 green bell peppers, chopped (I omitted, not a big fan of green peppers)
Toppings: red onion, sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, you name it.

In a large pot (large!), heat the oil over moderately low heat and cook the onions in it for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and carrots and cook for one minute more. Raise the heat to medium and add the beef, stirring and breaking up any lumps until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the tomato sauce, broth and vinegar and simmer the chili, covered, for 35 to 40 minutes (if you used ground beef) or 50 to 60 minutes (if you used coarse chuck). Add the kidney beans, bell peppers, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve ladled over biscuits, baked potatoes, or in a bowl with corn bread on the side.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Favorite Salad Dressing

I'm not a huge fan of store-bought salad dressings.  That is, until I tried Salad Girl.  One of the great things about my buying club is that you can see what other people order.  So, a few weeks ago, a bunch of people were ordering this Salad Girl Curry Fig dressing and I decided to join in.  Oh my gosh, I'm SO glad I did!  I loooooooooooooove it.  I typically put it on wraps but I do use it on basic salads, too.

Today, I made a wrap with goat cheese, roasted red pepper, arugula and the Curry Fig dressing wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.  It was so tasty.  This is one of my new found luxuries - making whatever I want for lunch while the kids are at school.  It's kind of amazing, I have to say.

What did you have for lunch?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kickin' Mac N Cheese Up a Notch

Wow, it's been a doozy of a week. From a hit and run accident to a sick kid with strep throat. But, the cooking, eating, and cleaning goes on... Do you guys like kale? I do. My kids do, if it's broiled to a crisp with lots of salt on top. I've been ordering it nearly every week from our Food Buying Club and experimenting a little bit.

Last week, I made this Kale Mac N Cheese and I really loved it. The kids ate around the kale and the grownups put a little spice on top (hello, Cholula). The kale was nicely crisp on the top and the combination of the cheeses hit the spot.

If you're making this for the kids, call it Mac N Cheese, and if you're making it for a dinner party call it by it's original name, Pasta Gratin with Kale. Fancy, right?

Kale Mac N Cheese
aka Sheet Pan Pasta Gratin with Kale from Alexandra Cooks

3/4 pound pasta, penne or campanelle or anything you like
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (2% or whole)
2 cups water
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch or about 8 oz kale or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 cup fontina or fresh mozzarella, diced into small cubes (I used fontina)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt. Boil pasta for 2 minutes less than the box's suggested al dente time. (For example, my campanelle box said 'al dente perfection' in 10 to 11 minutes. I boiled mine for 8.) Drain. Do not rinse. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add flour, whisking constantly for about a minute. Add milk and water, whisking to remove any of the flour-butter mixture from bottom of pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 20 minutes. Note: the mixture will not get super thick, but it will coat the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger through the coating, the trail should stay. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, chop the kale or chard into small pieces. In a large mixing bowl, toss pasta with bechamel and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Fold in chopped kale.

Line a jelly roll pan (I used my 9x12 Le Creuset baker) with a sheet of parchment paper. Spread macaroni mixture over top. Distribute mozzarella or fontina cubes over top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 10 minutes or so. (Note: If it looks too brown after 10-15 minutes, reduce oven to 400ºF for the remainder of the cooking time.) The gratin should be bubbling and golden at the edges. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chocolate Dinner Club

What would the world be without chocolate?  A sad, sad place.  I love chocolate!  You know those people that say they hate chocolate?  Insane.  I'm even eating a Cadbury egg while I type this.  Don't you dare say you hate Cadbury eggs because then we can't be friends. 

Our March Dinner Club's theme was ... chocolate!  A whole meal dedicated to chocolate?  Yes, please!  Laura & Peter, the hosts, are obviously genius.  

Chocolate Covered Grapes and Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream Vodka
Recipe: What's Cooking America

 Chocolate, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Crostini
Recipe: Saucy Pants 


Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate & Rosemary
Recipe: Bon Appetit


Chocolate-Glazed Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Pistascio Tuiles 
Recipes: Tart-Gourmet, Ice Cream-Gourmet, Tuiles- Adapted from Martha Stewart

Somehow, in two years, we've never really had a true dud of a meal.  Either we're all exceptional cooks or we serve good alcohol.  

Have any good ideas for a dinner club theme?  We're hosting in April!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lightning Fast Tacos

I love tacos.  I love mexican food.  I love tex-mex.  I could probably eat it everyday.  One of my favorite tacos is this super easy black bean, avocado, and goat cheese taco.  This can be thrown together in 15 minutes and everyone in my family eats it (well, their variation of the ingredients). 

Black Bean, Avocado, Goat Cheese Tacos
Adapted from Naturally Ella
Serves 4 (2 tacos each)

1 tablespoon cumin
1 pinch dried pepper flakes
1-2 cans black beans, with some liquids (if you use 2 cans, you might want to add more cumin)
2 avocados
8 oz goat cheese
8 corn tortillas
Suggested additional toppings: sour cream, salsa, radish, Cholula
  1. Heat beans over medium-low heat.  Add cumin and red pepper flakes.  Taste and season with salt as needed (if you use canned beans, go easy on the salt or skip it - canned beans are higher in sodium).
  2. Slice avocado and prepare toppings.
  3. If you have a gas stove, turn one burner on medium-low heat, place the corn tortilla on the burner grate and cook for about a minute on each side until warmed (some black spots are good, but watch them carefully!).  If you don't have a gas stove, you could warm them in a skillet over medium heat (cast iron works great).  You can skip this step and warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave but I warn you the tacos won't be as tasty!
  4. To assemble tacos, place a small scoop of black beans in the center of the tortilla, layer avocado and goat cheese on top.  Add additional toppings to taste.
  5. Serve with a side of fruit.  Enjoy!
What's your favorite fast and easy weeknight dinner?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Good Night for Chili

This winter.  It's killing me.  I ended up driving the two and a half blocks to preschool this morning when I saw that the windchill was -25F.  I really try to walk but I draw the line at about -20 (we walked yesterday morning in -15).  We also ended up driving to the bus stop because I had somewhere to go right afterwards.  Tomorrow's predicted wind chill is -35.  Ugh.

My plan for chili tonight was right on.  I was in need of something hearty and warm.  My daughter and I had a lovely coffee-shop play date this afternoon and I was glad to go home and have an easy meal lined up.  But, when I walked in the house, I could smell that my husband had already started the chili.  What a guy!  We put all our meals on a shared Google calendar, with links or notes on where to find the recipes.  So without even chatting, he knew what to get started for dinner.  

I've been looking for a simple chili to add to our rotation and I found it!  Super easy and super tasty.

I really need to say that I think ingredients matter.  Especially in simple recipes like these.  I ended up using canned chili beans (kidney, black and pinto beans), fresh chili powder from the bulk section at the co-op (fresh spices are so much better), and ground turkey from Ferndale Market (local).

We topped with black olives, green onions, shredded pepper jack, sour cream and a few splashes of hot sauce.  My 6 year old ate 3 bowls, my 3 year old ate the toppings.  Good enough!

Easy Chili 
From The Kichn
Serves 8

1 pound ground turkey
1 large white onion, diced
1/4 cup water
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 15-ounce cans beans, rinsed and drained

In a Dutch oven or large pot, cook the ground turkey and onion over medium heat until the meat is browned, about 7-8 minutes. Stir every now and then to help crumble up the meat.

Drain the meat mixture and return to pan. Add the chili powder and stir well.

Add the beans, water and diced tomatoes to the pot and bring to a slow boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low; simmer for 20 minutes. Then uncover and simmer for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle chili into bowls and serve hot. Top with sour cream, cheddar cheese, cilantro or chopped green onion - or anything else that makes you happy. Chili will keep refrigerated for a good 5-6 days. After that, freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.


And, here's how my son styled his plate.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Favorite Muffin Recipes

My picky daughter will eat nearly anything in muffin form.  So, I've tried a lot of muffin recipes.  I like my muffins fairly healthy but not healthy tasting, you know what I mean?  When I find a recipe I like, I make a bunch at a time, freeze them, and pull them out when needed.  They are an easy breakfast, lunch or snack option. 

Here's a round-up of my favorite muffin recipes.  

I used 2% milk because that's what we buy and they turn out just great.  

Sweet Potato
I replace the vegetable oil with coconut oil and cook my sweet potato in the microwave - piercing it with a fork and cooking on high for 8 minutes.   

Morning Glory
I use 3/4 cup sugar, unsweetened apple sauce instead of apple butter, and skip the nut and wheat germ topping.  Sometimes I add the wheat germ into the batter.

Coffee Cake 
Not exactly healthy but oh so good.  I found this in my Baking Illustrated Cookbook (love this book!).

Do you have a favorite muffin recipe?  If so, please share!