Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl Chili

For some reason, I associate chili with the Superbowl and so I found myself craving it all weekend. Even though we had plans to hang out with friends and eat gourmet food during the actual game, I ended up making us Chili and Corn Muffins (I used Betty Crocker's classic from-scratch recipe) for lunch. All I can say is that this chili might be my new favorite variety.

Superbowl Chili (Serves 6)

1 bag dried small red beans
2 cubes veggie bouillon ("Not Beef")
2 bay leaves
1 dried chipotle pepper
Soak 1 bag small red beans in cold water for 2-3 hours.
Dump beans into a nice tall pot filled with enough water to cover, plus 3 inches of water. Add a couple of bay leaves, 2 cubes of veggie bouillon (I use "not beef" for extra richness), and one large dried chipotle pepper. Turn on high and get a nice rapid boil going. Let boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer till beans are tender but not falling apart. (About 1 hour).

2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion - finely diced
2-3 large cloves of garlic- minced
2-5 green serrano chilis - minced with seeds (I used three and this wasn't spicy enough for us)
4 parsnips - peeled and finely diced
1 28 oz can organic diced tomatoes

2 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Hot Sauce (I used Belizean style habenero hot sauce)

In a large saute pan, heat oil and saute onions until caramelized. Add parsnips, garlic, and chilis. Saute until golden. Stir in cumin and cocoa powder. Sautee until fragrant. Turn off heat. When beans are ready - tender and broth has reduced. Scoop out chipotle pepper and bay leaves. Add veggies and diced tomatoes with juice into pot of beans. Turn up heat to get a boil going, and then reduce heat to medium and cook 15-20 minutes until flavors have melded together. Season with hot sauce to taste.

Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, and corn muffins.

Yum - I just had leftovers for lunch :)

The most amazing birthday cake (that I ever made)

I'm a pretty good cook, but I generally suck at baking. I'm way too experimental to ever follow a recipe and I never have everything that one needs to complete said recipe, so I wing it! And winging it never seems to work in baking, though it is mighty successful in regular cooking.

In the last few months, I've decided to become a better baker. It started with my immediately successful production of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread (as popularized by Mark Bittman) in December. So I decided to make Brad, a guy who really doesn't love sweets, the birthday cake of his dreams. Since Brad likes English toffee a lot, I wanted to find something that had the richness of chocolate and the salty-sweetness of caramel. I was lucky enough to find this recipe and I think this will be my go to birthday cake forever.

A couple of tips:
1) I used parchment - it was revelatory. I will never bake a cake without parchment again.
2) I baked and cooled the layers and then drizzled the caramel in between. I then boxed this up and took it to my in-laws for the weekend with my prepared ganache in a tupperware. I thought that the caramel would keep the layers together, but it still slipped around and got cock-eyed. Next time, I would use toothpicks and then remove before frosting.
3) The icing was super hard after chilling for two days, so I tried to patiently bring it up to room temp. The impatient, ADD kid in me got bored and ended up nuking the icing in the microwave for about 30 seconds. I then stirred in 1 Tbs of milk and voila - perfection. I spread a think layer all over the cake, so it looked more like a birthday cake, then the drippy-ganachey look in the photo on the recipe site.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip-Cranberry Cookies

I've been craving sugar like crazy lately - over Christmas, I consumed thousands of calories (tens of thousands?) of Ghiradelli Filled Chocolate Squares, Toblerone bars, and my mom's amazing peppermint brownie things (which I believe to be laced with crack because they are that addictive). Since my insane desire for all things sweet seems to be ever increasing and I have no desire to either a) weigh 500 lbs or b) slip into a diabetic coma, I decided to bake a "healthier cookie" today. And the cookies that I came up with are totally delicious, so delicious in fact that I am blogging about them after almost a year of blogging about cooking (despite the fact that I cook every single day)!

So here goes ...

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip-Cranberry Cookies, loosely adapted from the back of the Craisins package (which is totally a phrase I never expected to write)

Makes 30 cookies (121 calories each, 5.9 grams of fat, 2.0 grams of protein, 7.1 grams of sugar, 1.1 grams of dietary fiber)

2/3 cup unsalted butter chopped into chunks (approximately 1 stick plus 1/4 of a stick)
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbs flax meal (optional)
2/3 cup Craisins or other dried cranberries
2/3 cup Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Using a Kitchenaid or other mixer, mix the butter and sugar until smooth-ish.
3. Add eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon to butter/sugar and mix until smooth.
4. In a regular mixing bowl, stir together the flour, oats, salt, baking soda, salt, and flax meal.
5. With your mixing running, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.
6. Use a wooden spoon, add the craisins and chocolate chips into the mix stirring until well distributed.
7. Drop cookies onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 11 minutes.

These cookies don't have a ton of butter, so they stay the same shape as when dropped. They are pretty chewy and not that sweet. (Pictures forthcoming)