February 27, 2010

Chili, the real deal

Growing up I always thought chili had beans. And I thought chili was best from a can. Turns out I had a lot to learn about Chili.

Although I don't assume to really know anything about chili, this is some good chili and it's pretty easy!

2 lbs of beef, a good marbled roast (not ground)
1 can of tomato paste
2 Tb chili powder
1 Tb cumin
1 Tb coriander
1 ts chipotle pepper
1 Tb garlic powder
1 ts mustard powder
1 Tb salt
1 ts ground black pepper
2 cups of chicken stock
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 Anaheim Chilies
5 medium tomatillos

1) Over medium high heat, toast the chili powders, cumin, and coriander in a pan until super fragrant but not burnt. Pour all spices into a bowl with the salt and mix. (Ideally the cumin, coriander and chipotle are whole before you toast them and then grind them in your spice grinder, but I made mine today from powders.)

2) Place meat in a crockpot and rub the spice mix all over. Let it sit while you complete the following steps.

3) Halve Anaheim chilies and remove seeds. Remove the skins from the tomatillos. Place all fresh items on a baking sheet and broil until the skins are dark and crispy.

4) Remove chilies from the oven and place in brown bag for a few minutes.

5) Remove tomatillos from oven and place in a blender or food processor. Blend until finely chopped. Add to the crockpot.

6) Carefully remove the skins from the chilies. Don't stress out about this too much, but get what you can. Add the skinned chilies to the blender or food processor with some of the chicken stock and blend until finely chopped. Add to the crockpot with the remaining stock.

7) Add onion and garlic. Cover and turn on high for a few hours. Then low until you're ready to serve it.

This is good with cornbread, tortillas, rice, inside a burrito or anything else you can think of.

Spicy, meaty goodness.

Easy Honey Cornbread Muffins

I LOVE cornbread, especially when it's sweetened with honey.

Over the years I've made a lot of cornbread that was just ok. There are two recipes that I like, Marie Callendar's mix and this one.

Easy Honey Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 cup milk*
2 eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/3 cup honey

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Beat the wet ingredients together and combine with dry. Don't over mix but make sure all everything is incorporated.

Portion into a greased muffin tin and bake for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Try not to use paper cupcake liners. The crust is one of the best parts.

*I never have milk in my house, but I almost always have half and half. So I use 1/2 cup 1/2&1/2 and 1/2 cup rice milk. Pretty much anything milk-like works. Just be aware of the fat content. This recipe is based on a whole fat milk, soy and rice milks usually have less fat.

February 24, 2010

Vietnamese Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup

I've been stowing my slow-cooker safely in the cupboard for about 2 years. I keep intending to use it---don't get me wrong, I like the idea of throwing some stuff in a pot and coming home after work to a hot and tasty meal just as much as the next person. But somehow I never put it together.

I have been scoping out slow-cooker cookbooks for over a year. Either they are too expensive or they include too many recipes that I wouldn't actual make, so I put off buying one. Then I found the new WW Slow Cook It. It got the price tag to usable recipe ratio right, so I brought it home.

This noodle recipe was the first we attempted out of the book. (Mark actually made it!) The basic recipe is comforting, but kinda plain. But that's ok with me, it leaves a good canvas for decorating with other flavors. We enjoyed adding some hoisin and a dash of habanero hot sauce in addition to the suggested green onion, cilantro and lime juice. Sriracha would probably be good, too. This soup can go which ever direction you want to take it!

Vietnamese Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup
  • 2 chicken breasts, 1/2 lb each (recipe called for bone in, we used boneless)
  • 8 springs fresh cilantro, plus leaves for topping
  • 6 green onions, cut and separated into white and green parts
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and chopped 
  • 3 cloves garlic, bruised
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (we used 1/2 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 2 32-ounce cartons low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 pound rice noodles
  • Basil, mint, lime wedges, hot sauces for garnish
  1. Combine chicken, cilantro springs, white part of green onions, lemongrass, garlic, coriander, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Pour broth over chicken and veggies. Cover and cook until chicken is fork tender, 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
  2. Once it is cooked, transfer chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate and let stand until cool enough to touch. Discard bones (if necessary) and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain. 
  4. Strain broth to remove vegetables and spices. Stir chicken and noodles back into broth. Cover and cook until chicken and noodles are hot, 5-10 minutes.
  5. Ladle soup into bowls, squeeze lime juice over soup and garnish with desired toppings.
Serves 6

February 21, 2010

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Sometimes it's the simple things that are best. This is one of those really easy sides that is fairly healthful and perfectly delicious. We had them with some barbecue tonight and it definitely satisfies the french fry craving. In fact, I like sweet potato fries better than regular fries. I could probably eat them forever. These are, in my opinion, really good when dipped in some homemade mustard, too!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • Olive oil or olive oil spray
  • Salt
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment sprayed with non-stick spray.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and slice into wedges. If using olive oil, put wedges in a boil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat. If using olive oil spray, spread wedges in a single layer on baking sheet, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake wedges for 15 minutes, then flip them over. If using spray, spray the other side and sprinkle with salt. Bake another 10-15 minutes until golden brown and they've reached desired crispness. 
  4. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired. 
Serves 2-3

February 15, 2010

Best Oatmeal

I don't know about you, but I love oatmeal. I eat it nearly every day. It's so warm and comforting and delicious. It's the perfect winter-morning breakfast.

I'd always made my oatmeal the same way, the standard way. Old fashioned rolled oats, stirred into boiling water, cook, add toppings. It's good that way, and why mess with a good thing?

Well, one day last fall I came across a food blog that suggested something that sounded insane--adding a raw EGG to the cooked oatmeal. WHAT?! It sounds crazy. I imagined scrambled egg mixed into my oatmeal and got a little freaked out.

But, wait a minute! She assured her readers that this was not so. When you quickly stir the egg into your oatmeal, it disappears. It's not eggy. In fact, the egg makes your oatmeal into the creamiest, richest oatmeal ever. It becomes divinely custardy and, with the added protein, even more sustaining for a day of playing in the snow...or going to work.

I know you are probably skeptical. It took me three or four months from the time I read about this oatmeal to the day I finally decided to try it. Hopefully it won't take you that long. By then it will be summer and maybe too late for oatmeal.

But, even if it takes you until next fall---try this one day. I bet you'll never go back.

Creamiest Oatmeal Ever
  • 1 cup water (I substitute a little vanilla soy milk for about a 1/4 cup of the water)
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 egg (or just egg white for a lower calorie option)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Toppings: brown sugar, nuts, blueberries, banana, etc
  1. Bring water/milk (and sugar, spices--optional) to a gentle boil. Stir in oats. Return to a boil, then reduce heat medium-low. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of vanilla extract; stir.
  2. In a small bowl (I use one of the measuring cups I already have out), stir an egg with a fork to break the yolk. Remove oatmeal from heat, add egg to oatmeal and rapidly stir for about a minute. The egg will mix in completely, cook, and turn your oatmeal fluffier and creamier.
  3. Pour into a bowl and top with brown sugar, etc. Enjoy immediately.
Serves 1
For a double batch I added cinnamon (I did a couple of shakes--maybe 1 tsp), the vanilla, then after the oatmeal had mostly set I added one mashed banana--the kind that have turned extra ripe/brown and I keep frozen in my freezer. (I defrosted it first in the microwave.) After everything was mixed in and hot again, I took it off the heat and added the egg. Served it with brown sugar and pecans!
Mark said it was the best oatmeal he's ever had!

February 7, 2010

Tortilla de Patatas

Spanish food is not very exciting. I know tapas bars are all the rage here in the U.S., but a lot of the tapas served here are variations on a theme, not exactly authentic. (One of my favorite Bay Area restaurants, Cesar, is a good example of taking tapas to a new level.)

Spanish food is not spicy (hot). Nor is it spiced much, other than with salt and pepper. It is not uncommon for Spaniards to make white rice and top it with a fried egg. When I lived in Spain, I would buy a canned mushroom pasta sauce, then sautee some onions and bell peppers with spices to add to it. My Spanish roommate just bought the plain tomato sauce. When he tried some of mine, the mushroom kind--before I added anything to it--he was blown away at how flavorful it was. Really. It had not occurred to him to get the mushroom kind until then. It was exotic.

Now, I'm not trying to be disparaging here, just telling you what I experienced. There are many things to love about Spanish food, for sure, but my absolute favorite Spanish dish is tortilla. It is only eggs, potatoes, onions, oil and salt, but it is fantastic. Comfort food. Savory and satisfying. (And improved by a dash of hot sauce. I'm sorry, I am from California--the land of ubiquitous Mexican food--and I am used to a little heat.) My favorite meal while living in Madrid was a hot bocadillo de tortilla from a little take out place near my apartment. It cost extra to add roasted pequillo peppers, but worth it. I'd run home and slather on a layer of Cholula (imported from back home) and enjoy every last bite. Especially on a wintry afternoon far from home.

Tortilla de Patata
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 medium-small potatoes, cut into half-inch cubes.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat plenty of oil in a large frying pan over medium. Add potatoes and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and fry for a few minutes, until translucent and potatoes are nearly cooked. Turn up the heat and fry until potatoes are done and slightly crunchy, a few minutes more.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and salt. With a slotted spoon drain potatoes, leaving extra oil in the pan. Add fried potatoes to the bowl with eggs. Pour off any extra oil, leaving a small amount in the pan to cook the egg mixture. 
  3. Reheat the pan over medium. Add egg mixture and cook until mostly firm. (It will be undercooked on top.) Cover the frying pan completely with a very large plate. Here's the tricky part---quickly flip the frying pan over so the plate is on the bottom. Your tortilla is now on the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan, so that the undercooked side is now in the frying pan and the cooked side is up. 
  4. Cook a couple of minutes more, until the bottom has browned and the tortilla is cooked through. 
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Tortilla can be served hot or cold, which means it is just as good as leftovers. You can eat it as is, or turn it into a sandwich like we did.