Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spicy Chorizo Chili

After church today we were both craving something warm and soothing from Panera. But I always have a hard time choosing to go somewhere and pay $5 for a bowl of soup that I could make at home...and a whole pot for that same price! So I set to work developing something that suited our mood. And, well, chili always suits my mood. :D I wanted to use the hot Mexican Chorizo I purchased at Aldi this last week and knew it would work well in a spicy chili. The results were perfect (despite the fact that I burned myself on splattering hot oil.)

1/2 pound chorizo, hot or mild
1/4 pound ground beef (I used 90/10)
1 whole medium onion, chopped
1 whole green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn (I used frozen, could drain off canned corn)
1 (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 (4 oz) can tomato sauce
1-2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
crushed red pepper, sprinkle with discretion

Heat a heavy bottomed 5-6 qt pot to medium. Remove the chorizo from the casing and combine it with the ground beef. Cook through thoroughly. Drain off fat, if desired. Return to pot. Add in onions, green peppers and garlic. Stir in corn. Stir occasionally and cook until vegetables are softened. Stir in kidney beans, black beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce water and spices. Add desired amount of water (to yield desired thickness/consistency). Bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes to 1 hour.

Top with sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, etc.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

French Toast

I hadn't made French Toast in years and whenever I offered it to Kevin as a breakfast option he always turned it down. Some bad experiences, I guess. But this morning he decided he wanted to give it a go. I was kind of nervous. I didn't want to disappoint him. I did my best from what I could remember and the results were scrumptious! Kevin kissed me when he saw his plate of gloriousness.

Next time, I might enjoy a more stale piece of a bread to be used. I know there are some fantastic bread options out there, but I had whole wheat white bread that was going a little dry so I used what I had. You should do the same. The trick here is not to drench the bread in the egg. We don't want scrambled egg on our French toast. That's just wrong.

4 slices dry bread, the thicker the better
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

Beat the eggs. Whisk in the milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Preheat large skillet to medium. Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture, coating thoroughly but not drenching. Place in hot skillet and cook till golden brown on each side (approximately 2-4 minutes each side). Serve with your favorite syrup or fruit topping.

Vegetable Stirfry

We were in the mood for something with rice and something with vegetables. I knew there were a few options and so I started pulling fresh veggies from my fridge. I chopped this and that and pretty soon my kitchen smelled like a Mongolian BBQ. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have in your kitchen--snap peas, broccoli, red peppers, etc. Anything would be a great addition. The trick is to cook the vegetables in the order of their cooking time. (i.e. the potatoes and carrots take the longest to cook so start them first.)

3 cups whole grain rice, cooked
Olive oil
1 small potato, diced
1 large carrot, sliced thinly
1/4 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, sliced into strips
4 mushrooms, sliced
1 large chicken breast, sliced
Teriyaki sauce
Soy sauce

Cook rice.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add in potato and carrot. Prepare garlic and onion and add to skillet. Slice peppers and add to skillet. Cook 10 minutes or until all vegetables are softened (especially potatoes). Add in chicken and cover. Stir and cook until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in mushrooms and approximately 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce.

Serve over rice and drizzle with soy sauce.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hot Cocoa Mix

For many of our Christmas gifts this year I personalized mugs and filled them with homemade hot cocoa mix. I had trouble deciding which recipe of hot cocoa to use, but when I saw an overlap between Annie's and Michelle's I knew I had found a winner. With a bag of mix leftover I had plenty of chances to test the recipe for myself. And Boy! is this wonderful! I loved mixing it with hot milk...the thick creaminess of the chocolate is just heavenly.

When we used up the last of that batch, I had to make more right away. Now Kevin and I have our own little stash of amazingness.

Yield: about 4 cups cocoa mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered nondairy creamer
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk together until evenly blended. Portion into gift packages as desired, and top each with a handful of mini-marshmallows.
Attach tags with the following instructions: “Mix 4-5 heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix with very warm water or milk to achieve desired flavor. Top with mini marshmallows and garnish with peppermint stirrer. Enjoy!”

OR place mix into an airtight container and enjoy the chocolately goodness for yourself! :D

Friday, January 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies

These may very well be the most amazing cookie of all time. Or at least the winner of the "chocolate/chip" category. I'm still a die hard Molasses Spice fan, I must admit. But that's a completely different genre of cookie.

Kevin and I had had an argument. I wanted to bake. It was my way of venting. I didn't know which recipe to try though. I knew it needed chocolate. I've been on a huge chocolate craving streak. But I went through my whole "sweets" recipe box and came up empty. Then I saw the bag of Peanut Butter Chips I had bought at Aldi. During the Special Christmas Season. I didn't have a purpose for them at the time, but knew they would come in handy eventually. Especially seeing as how I'm a peanut butter fiend. On the back of the bag was a recipe. Sounded good enough for me. I adapted a few ingredients--namely the butter/marg/shortening--and these things are amazing.

They're rich.
They're perfectly chocolately.
Perfectly peanut buttery.

Picture a fudge brownie. In cookie form. With peanut butter chips.

1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups peanut butter chips

Cream together margarine, shortening and sugar. Add in vanilla and eggs. Mix until fluffy and combined. In a separate bowl stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In three additions, stir dry mixture into the creamed ingredients. Stir in peanut butter chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
Cool on pan for 1 minute.
Cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vegetable Chili

This could also be called: "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" Chili. (Or as Kevin says, "Stuff In A Pot.") No seriously. It all began when I looked in the fridge and saw the fresh broccoli. I didn't want it to go bad. I wanted to use it. And I wanted soup. But something fattening like cheesy broccoli soup wasn't cutting it for me. I was craving chili. Which happens frequently. Hmm. How could I incorporate broccoli into chili without making something disgusting. I searched for recipes for quite some time and came across a recipe on Betty called "Vegetable and Bean Chili." Most of the ingredients sounded just right, but not all of the veggie options sounded right to me.

So I adapted the recipe to my liking and as I was cooking I continued to find items in the fridge that went well and needed to be used up. Hence the 1/4 lb of ground beef (it was a leftover uncooked burger.) And the half a green pepper. (It needed to be used.) Both of those ingredients could either be eliminated altogether OR you could add up to 1 pound of ground beef and 1-2 whole green peppers.

Honestly, I would give this an A+. It's different enough from my traditional chili but similar enough that it's still chili. We both had two servings and will enjoy the leftovers. (As in, this recipe will serve 6 people or more.)

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 lb ground beef
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 can red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1 can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 tablespoons chili powder
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

In large Dutch oven (5-6qt), heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are softened.
Stir in ground beef, carrot, broccoli and green pepper. Cover. Stir occasionally and cook until softened. Add remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; cook 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chili is hot and vegetables are crisp-tender. (Optional: simmer up to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Faux Onion Rings with Smoky Mayo

The moment I saw Rocco DiSpirito in Rachael Ray's kitchen cooking up these onion rings, I knew they were a must! Just three days later I put the recipe to test. Kevin is a HUGE fan of onion rings, while I have a fairly non-committal relationship with the fried side dish. I prefer french fries. But the non-fried crunchier version of the onion ring really caught my attention and I must admit I loved these! Kevin said they were as good as they could be having not been deep fried...which I'll take as a "I totally want these again, Mel!"

4 large Vidalia onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (any variety of your favorite onion will do)
2 cups skim milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and they were fine. Use what you've got.)
4 large egg whites
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (and other other seasonings of your choice)
Nonstick cooking spray

3/4 cup Rocco’s Magnificent Mayonnaise or store- bought reduced- fat mayonnaise such as Hellmann’s Low- Fat Mayonnaise Dressing
1 tablespoon liquid smoke, such as Stubs’s (I didn't have this. So I omitted it.)
Tabasco sauce (Or any hot sauce)

Separate the onions into individual rings. Use only the larger rings for this recipe; reserve the smaller rings for another use. You should have 20 rings total. Lay the rings in a single layer in a large rectangular baking dish. Pour the milk over the rings and allow them to soak for about 20 minutes, turning them once so that all surfaces of the onion rings have been exposed to the milk.

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Place wire baking racks on each of two foil- lined baking sheets, and set them aside.

Put the flour in a shallow dish. Put the panko in a small dish.In a large bowl, whip the egg whites with a whisk until they are extremely foamy but not quite holding peaks.

Working in batches, remove the onion rings from the milk and dredge them in the flour, shaking off any excess. Add the rings to the egg whites and toss to coat completely. Add the rings, a few pieces at a time, to the panko and coat completely.

Spread the onion rings out on the wire racks. Season the rings generously with salt and pepper, and spray them lightly with cooking spray. Bake until the panko is golden brown and crispy and the onions are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and the liquid smoke. Season to taste with Tabasco.

Serve the onion rings with the mayonnaise for dipping.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chicken-Tortilla Soup

This was a recipe I had copied from a friend's Southern Living's Slow Cooker Cookbook. I was in the mood for soup. Something hearty. But flavorful. Nutritous. and of course Delicious. I believe this hit the nail on the head. I messed around with some of the ingredient quantities (most changes are noted in parentheses), as per usual--namely the chili powder which added lots of zing!
Kevin gave this a two thumbs up and definitely wants it again sometime soon!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cube
1 (10 oz) package frozen whole kernel corn, thawed (I used a little over 1 cup and left it frozen)
1 large onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
2 (14 oz) cans chicken broth (I used 2 chicken bouillon cubes to yield 16 oz, I liked the thicker consistency, though I totally "messed up" on accident.)
1 (10 3/4 oz) can tomato puree (I used a 10 oz can of tomato sauce)
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (my can was 14.5oz)
3/4 tsp salt (optional, as the broth adds lots of sodium)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp (or more!) chili powder
1/8 tsp (or more! to taste) ground or crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf (I'd say this is optional as well, considering I didn't have a bay leaf to add in.)
4 (5.5 inch) corn tortillas
Fresh Cilantro
Sour Cream

Combine first 13 ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 6 hours. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Cut tortillas into 1/4 inch wide strips; place on lightly greased baking sheet. Baked at 375 for 5 minutes. Stir strips. Bake 5 minutes more or until crisp. Serve with soup and garnish as desired.