De-Vegetarianized Three-Bean Chili

22 Jan

IMG_1101

It is flippin’ freezing here in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. My handy-dandy LL Bean thermometer tells me it’s currently 18.2 degrees outside my back door, and the wind is whipping like Harrison Ford in a pit of snakes. (AND the Ravens are going to the Superbowl! Yahoooo!!!) Which means, of course, that it’s a fantastic week for chili.

This is a recipe I cannibalized modified from Cooking Light. Theirs originally had squash in it. Nobody in my house likes squash (yes, we’ve tried. Many ways. Many varieties. Not happening. Sorry.). I tried it with chunks of sweet potato. I loved it; nobody else did (*sigh*). So I did what any red-blooded American mom did when she wants a mostly healthy meal on the table that nobody will complain about, and added bacon.

You heard me. Bacon. To the bean chili. Which is decidedly no longer vegetarian, but is super delicious and very easy to make.

(If you don’t have or don’t want bacon in your dish, get yourself a bottle of smoked chipotle Tabasco sauce and add about a half-teaspoon to the chili instead to give it a similar smokey flavor.)

I made a big pot tonight and am saving it for tomorrow, because this is one of those recipes that gets better the longer it hangs out in the refrigerator. It has joined my list of go-to meals to share with people who could use a home-cooked dinner dropped at their door. Everybody Most of my family loves it (nine-year-olds are impossible to please and I am not taking it personally). And it’s mostly healthy.

One quick note: I am going to tell you how to make roasted red peppers. It is super easy and they’re fun to peel when they’re all crunchy and black, and they’ve become something of an obsession with me lately. If you would prefer not to share my joy in this particular department, go ahead and buy yourself a jar of roasted red peppers and chop a half-cup or so for your chili. I won’t tell.

I hope your house is cozy and warm, and I hope you’ll try this yummy chili, even though it’s not at all what I’m sure the good editors at Cooking Light intended when they came up with the first version. You need:

2 red peppers (or a jar of roasted red peppers already done)

3 slices of bacon, chopped up

1/2 an onion, chopped (I use Vidalia, but any yellow onion is great)

2 tsp ground cumin (roasted if you can find it–McCormick makes one)

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (smoked chipotle if your market has them)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp chili powder

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1 28-oz can or box chopped tomatoes

1 15-oz can red kidney beans

1 15-oz can cannellini beans

1 15-oz can black beans

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and spray it with olive oil. Toss your chopped bacon in there and let it crisp up.

While that happens, slice your red peppers into four slices each. Cover a baking sheet with foil, spray it with oil, lay the pepper strips skin side up on the foil, and stick that under the broiler for about 5 to 10 minutes, until they’re all black. Remove them with tongs from your baking sheet, seal them up in a plastic zip-top bag, and let them hang out in their own steam for about 15 minutes.

Once your bacon is all crunchy, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon, set it aside for later, and drain most of the bacon grease from the pot. Then, dump in your onion, stir it around, and let it get all soft–about 10 minutes.

After your onion is all cooked, add in the spices and garlic and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, being sure to scrape up the yummy brown stuff from the bottom of the pan while you stir it in, and then your tomatoes.

By now, your peppers have worked their magic. Carefully remove them from the bag, lay them on a cutting board, and peel the black skin off with your fingers (chuck it). Chop up the roasted pepper that’s left, stir it into the pot, cover, and let that mixture simmer for 15 minutes or so.

Rinse your beans well, and then stir them into the pot along with whatever bacon you didn’t eat already. Cover again, let cook for about 15 minutes, shut off the heat, and either eat right away or stow in a covered container overnight (I highly recommend letting it sit overnight for best flavor). Enjoy.

Advertisements

Accidental Chicken

16 Jan

**peeks around corner**

**clears throat**

Happy New Year!!

Yes, I’m still here. No, I’ve not been ignoring you all on purpose. Again. Life has intervened, interrupting both my creative and kitchen mojos. But the fog seems to be lifting, I’m cooking again, and we’re going to give this another shot if you’ll still have me (please say yes!).

So. Let’s talk chicken.

DSC02568

Let’s talk about buying a chicken and happily setting it out on the counter to roast on a night your husband is away (because you love, love, love roast chicken and he pretty much hates it) and then remembering that you’d cleaned out the frig and freezer recently and had none of the lovely things you normally stuff inside and set around a bird before it goes into the oven. You have, of course, two choices: sadly put the chicken into the freezer for another time and have cereal for dinner, or improvise.

I chose #2. Because I really had my heart set on roast chicken that particular night. Improvising won, and I rummaged around and put my chicken in the oven with the stuff I had in the house, and he cooked up and cooled off and I carved him up, and guess what?

Best. Chicken. Ever. Seriously–I am in love with the way he got all moist and aromatic and delicious and perfect, and the fact that this was way less work than the usual way I cook a whole chicken, and Accidental Chicken is now my go-to recipe for nights the roast-chicken-hating spouse (freak) isn’t home for dinner.

So now, I’m going to stop rambling on and tell you how to make amazing chicken with a minimum of ingredients or fuss, and I hope you’ll give this a try. OK? Cool. You need:

1 chicken, giblets and guts removed (Thou Shalt Not Cook the Plastic Packet o’ Yuck Inside)

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp salt

2 small oranges (or 1 large orange, or 1 orange and 1 lemon–whatever floats your boat)

4-5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

1 onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup (ish) water

About 1 tbsp of butter

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large roasting pan or casserole dish (I use a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish) with your nonstick goodness of choice. Pour your wine and water into the dish so it covers the bottom (add more water if you need it). In the middle of the dish, lay your onion slices and garlic cloves–this will be the rack your chicken sits on.

Rub the inside of your chicken with the salt and thyme. Cut your citrus into quarters and shove it all down in there. Gently rub the outside of the bird with the butter, and lay it on top of the onion and garlic, breast-side down. Like this:

IMG_1059

Stick your meat thermometer into Mr. Chicken’s thigh and pop him into the oven, being very careful not to slosh your wine/water out all over the place. Let him roast for about an hour or until that thermometer says his thigh is 165 degrees. Take him out of the oven (careful!) and let him cool for 15-20 minutes before you carve him up. You can also enjoy those onions and garlic down in the pan, which I think are God’s own vegetables, if you want.

 

Chicken, Sausage, and Potato Roast

28 Aug

Three things you need to know about this recipe going in:

  1. It dirties several bowls and a roasting pan.
  2. It takes a little chopping and a little more hands-on time than many of my recipes.
  3. My husband walked in the door last night and said, “What is that smell,” in a very good kind of way, and later said, “This is the best thing you’ve ever cooked.” And everyone in my house cleaned their plates without my having to say “eat your dinner” a single time. Which negates the slight negatives posted above.

This dish is comfort food at its finest: warm and a little crunchy and a little creamy and absolutely perfect for fall (or late summer when we’re craving a little fall). It reheats just beautifully, which makes it a wonderful do-ahead meal on days when the dinner hour is chaotic. It would be fantastic football food or take-to-a-friend food, and is guaranteed to make repeat appearances on your at-home-dinner menu plan. It started as a recipe in Food Network magazine, but I added a few things here and took away a couple of things there (and then ran out of stuff so had to substitute), and this is pretty different than their version.

Our family has a disparity in the way we like chicken. My son likes drumsticks. I like whole split breasts on the bone. And my husband and my daughter prefer boneless chicken breasts that are chunked up into bites. This recipe accommodates all of them: because it roasts in the oven at a high temperature, I can put the whole chicken pieces in first, wait about 10 minutes, and then add the cut-up breasts to the pan, and everything is done at the same time.

One other note: this calls for smoked paprika. You should get some, even if you have regular paprika around. The taste difference is significant, and you’ll want the smokiness.

I hope you’ll try this–it really is wonderful. You need:

1 1/2 pounds gold Yukon potatoes, cut into quarters or halves so they’re all about the same size

3 tbsp garlic oil, divided (or 3 tbsp olive oil and 3 cloves of minced garlic)

1 1/2 pounds chicken: on the bone, off the bone, chunked, or a combination

1 14-oz package Polish-style sausage (I use the light turkey variety–this is the kind that comes shrink-wrapped in a U shape near the hotdogs in the grocery store)

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

Put a large roasting pan in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees.

In a bowl, combine your cut-up potatoes, 2 tbsp of the garlic oil (or oil/garlic mixture), a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of water. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and use a fork to poke a few holes in the top. Microwave it on high for 8 minutes.

Put your chicken in a bowl (or two bowls if you’re combining whole pieces with bite-sized pieces). Sprinkle it with the paprika, drizzle it with the remaining tablespoon of oil, give it a stir, and let it sit for a few minutes (you won’t be poisoned. I promise.). Slice your sausage and set it aside too.

When your potatoes are done in the microwave, very carefully pull your hot roasting pan out of the oven and spray it with oil or nonstick spray. Carefully–it’s going to splatter a bit) pour the potatoes and oil into the pan and stir in the onions. Put that back in the oven for 12 minutes.

At the end of the 12 minutes, pull the dish out of the oven and give the potatoes and onions a stir. Sprinkle those with the sausage, top that with the artichoke hearts, and lay the chicken on top (whole pieces only if you’re using a combination of whole and cut up). Back into the oven, and roast the whole thing for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is 165 degrees inside (if you’re combining pieces, roast the whole ones 10 minutes and then add in the bite-size for the last five minutes). Remove from the oven, let sit for five minutes, and enjoy.

 

Baking Beauty: Tips and Tricks

24 Aug

I made a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread yesterday and realized I hadn’t shared my favorite baking tips with y’all yet. Which is not good, because a few simple hints can make baking so much more fun for everyone.

Baking is zen, and I know a lot of people who feel that way–it’s about the process more than the result. Measuring and mixing and sifting becomes meditation. You can’t think about anything else and get baking right, so it’s a great way to give your brain a break, and a fantastic de-stresser. And at the end, you have something yummy to share, which is just as much fun. Having a few tricks up your sleeve boosts that fun even more.

Floating Mix-Ins

Let’s start talking about those chocolate chips up there. How many times have you stirred chips or berries or nuts into batter, only to have them sink to the bottom of the pan by the time the treat comes out of the oven? It’s a bummer, but there’s a really easy way to keep that from happening and getting baked goods like the one up there, where the mix-ins are mixed throughout. Here’s the trick: reserve a quarter-cup of flour from the recipe (so if you’re adding 2 cups of flour, only add in 1 3/4, and save the other 1/4). At the very end of the recipe, when you’re ready to stir in your chips, candy, berries, nuts, or whatever, gently toss them with that last quarter-cup of flour in a bowl, and then stir the flour and the treats into your batter. The flour on the outside of the mix-ins grabs onto the batter and holds tight, keeping them from sinking down to the bottom. Yum.

Room-Temperature Eggs

So you know you’re best off baking with room-temperature butter and eggs, right? The room-temp butter spreads better through your dough, and the room-temp eggs help keep the butter from getting cold in the bowl. Butter’s easy–a second in the microwave and voila. But you can’t nuke eggs, and (I, at least) rarely think to take them out of the fridge a few hours before I bake.

Easy solution: Put your eggs (whole–not out of the shell) in a bowl and cover them with hot tap water. After 10 minutes or so, you’ll have perfectly room-temperature, but not scrambled, eggs. Perfect for baking.

Trash Towel

I’ve never understood the garbage bowl that’s not ubiquitous on Food Network shows. Yes, it collects the trash, but it also gives you another bowl to wash! No thanks. Instead, spread two layers of paper towel on your counter near where you’re baking. Put your butter wrappers, banana peels, apple cores, egg shells, and other food trash on the towel, and use one end of it to rest spatulas, measuring cups and spoons, and other tools that might have food on them but aren’t finished being used yet. When you’re done, fold the whole towel into itself, put the dirty tools in the dishwasher, and chuck the trash in a compact bundle. Your counters are clean, and there’s nothing extra to wash. Awesome.

Tools

You’ve heard me go on and on about my KitchenAid mixer before–I really can’t live without it. Best baking tool ever. But there are other tools you should consider if you’re going to be baking: a sturdy set of metal measuring cups, a sturdy set of metal measuring spoons (don’t use your flatware–it’s not accurate and you’ll be disappointed). The new love of my life is that spatula you see up in the trash towel photo. It’s silicone from the bottom to the top, and it’s one solid piece. It’s dishwasher-safe, never gets hot, and won’t fall apart (I have a collection of silicone tops and wood or metal handles that have fallen apart–ugh!). I got mine at Target, but am seeing them all over the place, and I adore them. The right tools make such a difference.

Give these tricks a shot and let me know if you have more to share! Happy baking!

Sweet Broccoli Magic

17 Aug

I saw you wrinkle up your nose at that title up there. Give me five minutes–I’m gonna change your mind about this vegetable, even if you think it’s bitter or limp or boring. Nothing could be farther from the truth when you use a really easy, hands-off technique to cook it.

We had dinner at a friend’s house this summer; she always makes something that’s simple and amazing, and this time was no exception. Steak and a really good salad (I need to ask her if I can share her salad trick with y’all, come to think of it), and broccoli. But this broccoli was sweet and crunchy and unlike any I’d had before, and I went back for a big second helping of just that. It was that good.

Her secret? Roasting. You know how if you cook a chicken or Brussels sprouts with a little oil and salt in a scorching hot oven, magic happens? The outside of the goodies caramelizes while the inside stays nummy and juicy and amazing? Same thing with broccoli. And why it didn’t occur to me before now to try it is a mystery. Doing it with my new favorite ingredient–garlic oil–makes it just about the perfect vegetable (Confession: The first time I made this, I left the pan on the counter for about 10 minutes while the rest of dinner came together. And at the end of that 10 minutes, the broccoli was almost gone. I picked at it the whole time. Seriously good stuff, and it’s a vegetable! Sweet!). It’s crunchy and sweet and perfect.

Even if you think you don’t like broccoli…even if you’re used to that frozen stuff or boiled stems that flop over on your fork like a wet washcloth…try this. You’ll be a believer, I promise. It could not be simpler or more delicious. You need:

Broccoli florets (I use about two cups)

A tablespoon or two of garlic oil (use regular olive oil if you don’t have this)

About a quarter-teaspoon of salt or No-Salt substitute

(That’s it. See?)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with oil or your nonstick goodness of choice.

Lay your broccoli on the pan and drizzle it with the oil. Toss with your hands to get every bite a little bit of oil (the broccoli will not be coated). Sprinkle with salt, pop in the oven, and cook it about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the tops of the florets are brown and crunchified. Tell me that’s not the easiest, most delicious veggie you’ve ever had.

Party Idea: DIY Brownies

14 Aug

Image

My daughter wanted a cooking party for her birthday this year, bless her heart. And the dessert she chose was so much fun and such a hit that I had to share it with you.

We thought about a cupcake bar, but that’s not really cooking (baking their own cupcakes wouldn’t have left enough time for them to cool to the point that frosting would have worked well), and we thought about making cookies, but that’s not very birthday-ish. We settled on make-your-own brownies, which were super simple and really fun for the girls.

We had a small handful of close friends for this party–trying to cook with more than four or five children at once sounded stressful. Each girl received a red apron and a white chef’s hat to wear during the festivities and take home later (check Amazon.com–they’re inexpensive). Together, we made individual pizza crusts and topped them with sauce, cheese, pepperoni, bacon, and veggies and baked them up for dinner.

After dinner, we all worked together to make a big batch of brownie batter–any one you like will work. I then ladled the batter into ramekin dishes. Each girl got a ramekin of batter and a spoon, and made her way to our stir-ins bar, with bowls of M&Ms, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, mini-marshmallows, and crushed Oreos, to customize her brownie. The candy and cookie pieces were stirred in, the ramekins went onto a baking sheet (I put parchment on it and wrote each girl’s initials next to her ramekin), and the brownies were baked up. They cooled, we topped them further with whipped cream and sprinkles, popped a candle in one, and sang Happy Birthday.

The girls had a wonderful time, the party was super easy to put together, they all ate every scrap of the dinner they’d made, and everybody learned a bit about playing in the kitchen. Happy birthday indeed!

 

 

Image

DSC04988

14 Aug

DSC04988

%d bloggers like this: