February 25, 2008

Slow-Cooker Veggie Chili

This is a recipe my mother sent me out of Southern Living. Now, I realize that I made chili a couple weeks ago, but this chili is prepared basically as opposite as possible from that turkey chili. And anyway, it's healthy and good for you so shut up. A note before we get started: I don't own a lot of fancy kitchen equipment, but I've had a "slow-cooker" a.k.a. "crock pot" since college. They're great. You put your ingredients in, turn it on, walk away, and come back eight-odd hours later.

So yeah, the differences between this chili and vegetable soup are, well, minor. I suppose vegetable soup is generally made with ground beef and veggie chili is... not. Anyway, just grab a whole bunch of your favorite, most flavorful vegetables, chop or dice them, sauté them a little bit, and then dump them in the crock pot. I included most of what the recipe requested (aside from what I either couldn't find or simply forgot): carrot, celery, onion, squash, and mushrooms. Season with chili powder (duh), dried basil, and pepper (I used fresh ground red pepper). I halved all the ingredients for this recipe since my mother said it made enough to feed her entire town.

In the crock pot, combined these veggies with the tomato sauce, juice, and a can of diced tomatoes (jalapeño for me, please). Add a couple cans of your beans of choice (I chose pinto and black beans) and corn if you don't forget like I did. I added a liberal dash of Tabasco because it's chili and chili's supposed to be hot. Set the crock pot on low, play Rock Band for eight hours, eat dinner, ???, profit!

Slow-Cooker Veggie Chili

February 22, 2008

Peanut Butter Cups in the Blanket

OK, let's get it out of the way: this dessert dish ended in abject failure. But at least it was a chance for me to use the word "abject". I hope you'll pardon my tardiness. This week turned out busier than I expected and I had wanted to redo this dessert to give you some better pictures. However, I will just admit defeat and describe what went wrong.

There are two basic components here: the chocolate and peanut butter and the puff pastries. "Puff pastry sheets" are the kind of thing I'm embarrassed to say aloud. They're thin sheets of pastry ready for baking. The idea of this dessert is to make Reese's knock-offs and bake them inside the pastries in mini muffin tins. Sounds good in theory, a little complicated in practice.

Here's problem number one: the recipe calls for a ridiculously large quantity of chocolate and peanut butter mixture. If you only want to make a mini muffin tin full (that's 9 or 12), you may as well cut this part of the recipe in half. Or, I suppose, use normal-sized muffin pans, but I'll get to that later. Anyway, it took some work to get those chocolate "baking chips" to a melted state and that's because what you're seeing is one pound of chocolate. You only need half a pound here (two thirds of one of those bags). Similarly, cut the peanut butter concoction by 50%.

Anyway, fill a mini muffin tin with alternating "layers" of chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate, and peanut butter and let them semi-harden in the fridge. Let the pastry sheets thaw and mold them into the shapes of another (or the same) tin. And here's problem number two: these sheets, when cut into ninths (which are even smaller than the recipe requests), are way too big for the tin's trays. You'll see the results of this problem when they come out of the oven below:

The edges of the pastries where they emerge around the tin are excellently fluffy. The chocolate and peanut butter (and marshmallows, yum!) were also well cooked. Unfortunately, the pastry sheets that overlapped in between the recesses were hardly cooked at all (neither were the bottoms). Ewww. Obviously, only the middles and the tops were baked evenly. The sheets were too large and/or the muffin tin too small. How can we rectify this? Well, maybe use a smallish regular muffin pan, cut the pastry sheets into smaller squares, and/or bake for even longer (put the marshmallows on a few minutes into the baking?). I would have liked to try these changes, but, alas, my job didn't not agree with my desires. Here's to wishing you better luck!
Food Network's Recipe: Peanut Butter Cups in the Blanket

February 5, 2008

Turkey Chili

Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. What other day sends everyone to the supermarket in the morning, to their friends' homes in the afternoon, and drunkenly to the interstate that night? Though I had plans to do basically the same thing, this party would interfere with my Sunday cooking. Or would it?! A quick trip to Food Network's website revealed a simple chili recipe I could bring with me to poison feed my friends!

The trip to Price Chopper was not without incident. I nearly got in seven accidents on the way and the store was absolutely packed. I was surprised to find ground turkey already packaged for me and Goya's chiles chipotles was a great way to get a chili pepper with its own adobo sauce. But when looking for kidney beans, I came across giant hole left in the canned vegetable section. As I stared at the markèd absence, a large woman rolled up and, ninjaing two of the last three cans, said, "Not a good day to be looking for kidney beans". Chuckling - and pretending like I knew what the hell she was talking about - I replied, "It sure is". Pause. "I wonder why". She looked at me, exasperated. "Chili," she said, in a voice that let me know my ruse had been exposed for the sham it was. All hopes of pretending to know something about cooking evaporated like the weight she wished she could lose.

Anyway, this cooking thing is getting easier. Chop up some garlic and onions, sauté in olive oil, and add some spices. Smells great. Add the chili and tomato paste, ground turkey, kidney beans, and crush the whole tomatoes. Let cook. Eat. Win. OK, I didn't mention my challenge this Sunday. Jeremy called at 2pm to say that we were getting together at 5. I immediately bolt to buy ingredients, get home and start cooking, and throw the chili into my crock pot to transport down to Delmar. I remembered, then, that I had neglected to take a picture of the finished meal before putting the crock pot in the floor of my car. That photo turned out less than appetizing so I'll spare you.

However, the chili was really great. I made some more tonight, ate half, and bottled the rest for lunch this week. Fuck yeah, bitches. Ooops, sorry. On my mother's suggestion, combining the chili with Fritos and shredded cheese (sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack jalapeño) was a fantastically delicious and healthy(!) dish. Well, I won't be home next Sunday to cook. I'll be spending the weekend in and around sunny San Francisco. Maybe I'll post some photos and stories from my trip? Maybe I'll ignore you because I'm tired and lazy? Maybe both!