Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chocolate Bark

Here's some pictures of a Christmas treat I gave out as food gifts. It's homemade french chocolate bark and who doesn't love the mix of salty, sweet and tart!?!?  It has cashews, cranberries and apricots.  I received some last year from my aunt and thought it would be nice to pass it on to others this year because it was so, so good!

There are a ton of recipes online for it, and many variations, and it's super easy.  I used a recipe from Ina Garten.

The first picture is the slab of bark as I cut it up.

The next is the packaged treat with a label I bought online from a vendor from Etsy - I love that website!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Minty Marshmallows

So far this December there hasn't been any snow upstate, but temp's are dropping and it's the perfect time for hot chocolate with marshmallows!

At the grocery store I saw these giant-sized marshmallows. They were almost the size of baseballs and I thought they'd be a great addition to my drink. These dipped marshmallows are a fun way to make a plain old cup of Swiss Miss look fancy and festive. The extra chocolate on the marshmallows adds more chocolaty flavor and when the candy canes melt it makes it minty.

These are ‘top-heavy’ so the dipped part will bob down when you put it in the cup, but they are still pretty to look at!

You will need:

1 ½ cups of bittersweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups of semisweet chocolate chips
24 giant roaster marshmallows (or a bag of regular size)
12 candy canes, crushed


In a double boiler or in a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate until smooth. Dip each of the marshmallows about a half-inch into the chocolate and let the excess drip off. Sprinkle with the crushed candy canes and set aside on a baking sheet or plate lined with waxed paper. Let cool for a few hours until the chocolate is hardened. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

***Chocolate melting tips: if you are using a double-boiler, do not let any water or steam get into the chocolate. This will cause the chocolate the to seize, which means clump up. It doesn't look pretty! If you are melting the chocolate in the microwave, set the time for 30 second increments, stirring after each cycle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Egg Noggin'

Well, I've come out of my Thanksgiving turkey coma and it's full stream ahead with Christmas! I can't believe it is already December!

We started the Christmas decorating early this year and while decorating I whipped us up some homemade egg nog. I grew up enjoying this holiday drink at Christmas and can't bear to drink the store bought stuff. This recipe is light and creamy, but not too sweet or heavy. Since this recipe does use raw eggs, I feel I need to put in a disclaimer here: use fresh, clean eggs; don't drink this if you're pregnant or have a compromised immune system. In all the years I have drank this, I've never gotten sick...maybe the booze in it helped kill any bacteria! I made a half-batch since it was just us two and added about 3 ounces (shots) of Makers Mark and that was just the right amount.

Homemade Egg Nog

6 eggs, separated
Sugar, total of 3/4 cup
1 pint light cream
1 pint whole milk
3 to 6 ounces Bourbon, like Makers Mark (optional)

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy and form peaks. Once they are whipped enough, add 1/2 cup sugar and mix well. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and add 1/4 cup sugar.***Beat the egg whites first. Mixing egg yolks into the whites will not allow them to get whipped***

Add the beaten egg yolks into the larger bowl with the egg whites. Then pour in the milk and the cream and gently mix everything together. Add the whisky, if using, and mix well.   Pour into mugs and sprinkle with some nutmeg and serve.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is one of the most traditional side dishes for Thanksgiving, but it doesn't get much recognition more than something you always 'need' to have on the table and those hockey pucks that come from a can. In my house, it was something most of us at the table just kept on passing on and on.

Sure this won't be as easy as opening up a can of cranberry sauce and 'slicing' yourself a serving, but you'll get a tangy, sweet, fresh and delicious accompaniment to your turkey and trimmings. And it is easy! Who knows, you might never go back to the canned stuff! 

This is for a traditional cranberry sauce but there are lots of other things you can try to mix in like red pepper flakes or jalapeno for a bit of heat; dried fruit for more sweetness; nuts for some crunch; or spices and ginger for depth of flavor. You can go really basic, too, and leave out the liqueur, orange and lemon juices and the orange peel.

If you're worried about getting that same consistency as the canned stuff, don't worry. Cranberry fruit contains pectin that is a natural thickener. This sauce can be made a few days in advance of your holiday dinner because the acidity of the cranberries will keep the sauce fresh.

Cranberry Sauce

1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 1/3 cups sugar
1-2 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
1/4 cup water 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup orange-flavoured liqueur or orange juice

In a nonreactive 4-quart saucepan, mix everything in the pot. **If you are using the liqueur, do not add this in until you are done cooking - alcohol + heat = fire, and that's not good right now**.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved.  You'll start to hear some of the cranberries pop after few minutes-kind of like popcorn.  Cook about 10 minutes more until it looks like most of the cranberries are have popped and the sauce starts to thicken up.  Turn off the heat from the stove top and add the liqueur if you choose to use it at this point.  Refrigerate the sauce for about an hour, or until completely cooled, before serving.

Orange zest to add to saucepan
Everything in the pan

Foamy as it cooks down
The finished sauce

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Fall Classic...Apple Pie

You didn't think I'd let Fall pass me by without making an apple pie, did you?!?!

Someone brought Apple Pie into the office this week and it just boosted me to get on with the pie making. I had apples from apple picking staring at me in the fridge just waiting to be made into a pie, but I kept putting it off. One of the things, to me, that is most tedious about making an apple pie is not the pie crust, it's peeling, coring and slicing all those apples! Maybe I should invest in a gadget to do that for me.

This is a recipe from Martha Stewart. You'll see that the pie dough recipe calls for the dough to chill for about an hour. So make the dough first and then while it is in the fridge, you can prepare the other components for the pie. You can use a food processor or your two hands and a pastry blender to make the dough. I do not have a food processor and so I've always made the pie crust by hand. One tip I came across was to freeze the sticks of butter and grate them into the flour. This will give you the same kind of texture that you would get with using a food processor. Whichever you route you take, you should remember to measure your ingredients accurately, use cold butter, and don't over mix the dough mixture. Also, make sure your pie is completely cooled before you cover it up. If there is any steam left inside, it will just turn the top of your crust soggy and make it collapse.


Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
12 baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
3/4 cup sugar, plus additional for pie top
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten

Directions for making pie dough:

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour.

Directions for filling and assembling the pie:

Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into two 1/8-inch-thick circles to a diameter slightly larger than that of an 11-inch plate. Press one pastry circle into the pie plate. Place the other circle on waxed paper, and cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine apples, sugar, lemon zest and juice, spices, and flour. Toss well. Spoon apples into pie pan. Dot with butter, and cover with remaining pastry circle. Cut several steam vents across top. Seal by crimping edges as desired. Brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake until crust is brown and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour. Let cool on wire rack before serving.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

June's Zucchini Pie

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables. You can use it in so many ways: grill it, roast it, mix it into baked goods, savory pancakes, but my new favorite way is June’s Zucchini Pie. This recipe came from my friend Kims’ mom who is a great cook.  Kim said she's been making this since she was little.  In all my time spent at their house as a kid, I never had it but I realize now that is probably because it was eaten up so quickly!

Aside from some slicing, this is super easy to make and smells delicious baking! You can make it in a pie dish or pour it into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. It is similar to a quiche in the consistency, but the best part is that you don’t have to make a pie crust.

Serve it along with a salad for a light lunch or dinner, as a side dish, or just as a snack as is the way I enjoyed much of it. I literally could not stop myself from cutting off little squares of it each time I went into the kitchen…I think I ate half of it alone the afternoon I made it!  Enjoy!

June's Zucchini Pie

Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare your pans by smearing with shortening or a spray of PAM.

3 cup thinly sliced zucchini (about 4 small)
1 cup Bisquick mix
½ cup finely chopped onions
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp parsley
½ tsp salt
½ garlic salt
½ tsp oregano leaves
½ cup (Mazola) corn oil
1 clove garlic (chopped)
4 eggs – slightly beaten
Dash of pepper

Mix all ingredients together; pour into 2 pie pans or a 9 by 13 inch oblong pan and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Brown Sugar Pound (Cup) Cakes

I'm one of those bakers who needs to have a reason to make a dessert. It doesn't have to be a good reason, but a reason, and I often make one up or find one. As I was looking through an old Martha Stewart Living magazine that featured cupcakes, I realized I needed to have a reason to make and share some of these delicious little cakes. My 'found' reason this week was that two co-workers of mine were celebrating birthdays.

Not knowing anyone's chocolate or vanilla preference, I chose a pound cake type with a glaze. The glaze was great because it was so much more easy to make than frosting - no beating cups and cups of confectioners sugar into a bowl!  There were compliments all around and not a single cupcake left!

Brown Sugar Pound Cupcakes with a Brown-Butter Glaze

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk** (see note at bottom)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablelspoons whole milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line your cupcake tins with paper liners. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl (except brown sugar)l. In another bowl cream butter and brown sugar together with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating each on in before adding the next.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Measure out the buttermilk and set aside. You will use this as your wet ingredient. Next you'll begin adding the wet ingredients (buttermilk) and dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) into the butter and brown sugar mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet and ending with a dry ingredient addition. Scrape sides of bowl as you mix the batter. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. I use an ice cream scoop with a wire scraper to measure out the batter evenly.

Bake cupcakes until a toothpick tester inserted into centers comes our clean, about 20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the tins. 

Once the cupcakes are cooled, make the glaze. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to turn a golden brown color, about 10 minutes. Then pour the butter into a bowl being careful not to pour the little brown bits at the bottom of the pan into the bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk to the melted butter and stir until smooth. If you want a thinner glaze, add another tablespoon or two of milk. Spoon about a tablespoonful of the glaze on each of the cupcakes and let them stand until set. I preferred a thicker glaze because I wanted a nice dollop on top, but a thinner one would spread out more. 

**No buttermilk? You need the acidity of the buttermilk to help the cupcakes rise so you can't substitute regular milk. So, take a 1 cup liquid measuring cup and put in a tablespoon of cider vinegar in then fill up with milk for a full cup. Stir and let stand for 10 minutes and you've got buttermilk. Use the 3/4 cup you need for the recipe - you'll have a little bit left over, but not as much you would if you bought a whole quart as buttermilk isn't the type of milk you want to add to your cereal!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family Reunion Weekend in LBI

Last weekend we wrapped up summer 2011 with our annual family reunion at my parents house in Long Beach Island.  We had family from New Jersey, Delaware, PA and Maryland.  As all of us 'kids' have gotten older we've moved away and so we don't get to see each other as often as we used to so it was great to see everyone; meet the newest addition to the family, baby Audrey; and celebrate a birthday!  The weather didn't work out so well so our party was moved indoors, but we still were able to take our annual group photo without getting rained on.  Here we all are!

Photos courtesy of E.O. Photography
I took over dessert duty this year again with this cake.  My sister and I collaborated on the cake idea and our emphasis was more decoration and theme than trying a new recipe.  It was decorated with blue buttercream icing for the ocean, ground up graham cracker crumbs for the sand, some drink umbrellas, crab candles and a plane pulling a banner...a common sight during the summer on the Jersey Shore.  We all got a laugh when serving the cake, "Would you like a piece of 'ocean' or 'sand'?"

I hope you all had a great summer!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Timer Tip #2 - Fresh Thyme

Check out my video for a quick tip on using fresh thyme for a recipe!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


This summer I planted an herb garden with parsley, cilantro, thyme, basil and rosemary.  The curly leaf parsley ended up becoming food for a few caterpillars that will soon turn into Black Swallowtail butterflies...who knew they were big fans of parsley?  I was happy to let them have it since I had the flat leaf variety too.  I wanted to use up some more of the herbs in something else besides as a garnish or just an ingredient in a recipe.  I wanted the taste of the summery herbs to stand out on their own.  I decided to make up a batch of herb butter to go along with all the delicious corn we have been enjoying this summer.

There are a lot of variations for making herb butters with the different herbs and other complimentary ingredients you have on hand - I used flat leaf parsley and a little bit of basil.  You can take out the garlic and add crushed red pepper flakes instead or some lemon zest would be a great addition too.  Some other uses for herb butters, sometimes called compound butters, are putting a pat on top of steak, baked potatoes or steamed vegetables or fish for some added flavor.

Herb butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup of herbs, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Place all ingredients into a small bowl and mix well.  You can also put all the ingredients into a small food processor but I would suggest mincing the garlic as it sometimes doesn't get chopped as well and it is not enjoyable (for most people) to bite into a big chunk of garlic.  I used my magic bullet-type mixer to blend everything together.

As far a presentation goes, it is up to you.  You can spoon it into a small dish to serve, or the mixture can be spooned onto a piece of parchment paper, formed into a log shape and then rolled up in the paper, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated until firm.  Once the butter is firmed up, you can slice the log into individual pats.  I have also seen the butter piped onto a plate using a pastry bag, but that is getting fancy and I wasn't about to get all crazy for my weeknight barbecue.  I opted for spooning it into a small dish for serving and adding a little garnish.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Banana Crunch Muffins

Last time I went to the store I bought too many bananas and didn't get around to eating them before they got too ripe.  Instead of chucking them into the garbage, I found a recipe so that I could use them.  The perfect time to use very ripe bananas actually is for baking, even if they have some brown spots.  The moisture they have keeps your muffins, cake or bread from drying out and the sugar that has developed as they ripen adds natural sweetness to your baked goods.

These are Banana Crunch Muffins adapted from an Ina Garten recipe.  I say "adapted" because I didn't have the granola that the recipe called for.  What I did have in my pantry were some assorted flavors of instant oatmeal.  I investigated and contemplated and decided that the "Cinnamon Roll" flavor would do best...Ina is probably having a heart attack right now at the thought of this!   Coconuts, walnuts and cinnamon - great combination.  Well, they turned out delicious and I thought that the oatmeal packet actually might have given it some more flavor.

The recipe lists that dried banana chips, chopped walnuts, granola, or coconut can be sprinkled on the tops of the muffins before baking.  You can mix it up and add a mixture of all of them, or just some.  I did not think that the dried banana chips would have softened up enough and been too "crunchy".  I chose to do a mixture of coconut and chopped walnuts.

Banana Crunch Muffins
Ina Garten, 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 bananas, mashed
1 banana, diced
1 cup diced walnuts
1 cup granola (or one packet of flavored oatmeal)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Dried banana chips, granola, chopped walnuts or shredded coconut to sprinkle on top of muffins before baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.  Sift the flour sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the melted butter and blend.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour and butter mixture.  Scrape the bowl and blend well.  Don't overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola (this is where my substitution came in!) and coconut into the batter and mix until combined.  Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top.  If desired, top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola or coconut.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Homemade Bread

Some of my kitchen endeavors include making creme brulee, panna cotta, gnocchi and homemade bread. I had some extra time this past weekend and decided to try out a bread recipe that I came across a recipe in a magazine that I've randomly been receiving (that's another story). It was for a basic white bread that didn't seem to complicated. So I looked up some other recipes to compare and it seemed like a good recipe. There is nothing like the smell of homemade bread whafting through your house and I love the sense of accomplishment making something that most people take for granted that they just pick up at the grocery store. After making the bread, I realized two things: the first is that making homemade bread is actually very easy and, second, it takes a long time. Most breads require time for the yeast to make the dough rise and it is usually two hours total combined with a baking time of about 45-50 minutes. So if you wanted to make some fresh bread to go along with tonight's dinner, then you should start your bread making by noon.

The recipe that I ultimately went with was for Ina Garten's Honey White Bread. This makes 2 loaves.

Honey White Bread

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups warm whole milk
6 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
2 large egg yolks
5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar. Add the warm milk, butter, honey and eggs and mix. Add the flour a bit at a time but don't add too much, just until the dough stops sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl - about 8 minutes. You don't need to use a stand mixer to mix the bread. You can use your hands and knead the bread on a lightly floured surface adding flour as needed so the dough doesn't stick to your hands.

Add the dough to a buttered large bowl, cover with a damp towel and leave in a warm place for one hour to rise. The dough should rise to about twice it's size. Then turn the bread out onto a lightly floured surface again and knead for another few minutes. Divide the dough into two equal size loaves and put into loaf pans that have been greased and floured, making sure that the ends of the dough touch the ends of the pan. I find that while the dough rises it doesn't fill out to the ends of the pans. Let the loaves rise again for one hour. Towards the end of this hour is a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. At the end of this rise, brush the tops with egg whites and you're ready for the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine Treats

These are homemade buckeye candies: peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. They are named after the shiny, dark nuts of the Buckeye tree - the official state tree of Ohio.

Normally, buckeyes are not completely covered in chocolate, but left with the top undipped so that it resembles a buckeye nut. But it's Valentine's Day and I was feeling fancy.

After making the buckeyes, I melted some red colored Wilton melting chocolate in a decorating bag so that I could make my designs. The sprinkles were put on before the chocolate hardened after dipping, whereas on the others I waited to decorate with the red melted chocolate until after the chocolate hardened. Here is the recipe...Enjoy!

Buckeyes (makes about 3 dozen)

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet.

Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.

Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes. Put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Favorite Roast Chicken

When I was living in NYC there was a place in Spanish Harlem near my apartment called El Coqui. It was a small take-out restaurant that had some counter seating and they served "cuchifritos", which are fried snacks.  They also had these awesome rotisserie chickens that they served with yellow rice and beans.  The meat was really juicy and had great flavor along with this perfectly browned crispy skin.  I sometimes get a hankering for the chicken and since I'm far away now, I've had to think up a recipe to satisfy our craving.  This one comes pretty close!  I serve this with a yellow rice mix and some Goya black or red kidney beans warmed up with a teaspoon of dried minced onion and some salt and pepper.

My Favorite Roast Chicken
4-6 pieces of chicken (skin on, bone in, dark and/or white meat)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 lemons each cut up into 8 chunks
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon Adobo
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
3 Tablespoons white wine (optional)
fresh ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wash and pat dry the chicken and place in a roasting pan big enough to fit all the chicken and lemon chunks snugly in the pan.  Mix the parsley, Adobo, garlic powder, and Lawry's together in a small condiment dish.  Pour the olive oil over the chicken and lemons and make sure it covers everything evenly.  Then sprinkle the dry ingredients over the chicken and lemons.   Splash over the white wine and a few turns of the pepper mill and it's ready to go into the oven.  Cook for about an hour, basting a few times throughout, or until the juices run clear and the skin is browned.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Timer Tip #1 - Lemony-fresh

To banish strong odors on your hands from cutting up onions and garlic, try rubbing a cut up lemon on your fingers and massaging in the juice. Hopefully you haven't nicked yourself while chopping said onions and garlic or this may sting a bit.  Pat dry and your hands are odor free!  If you don't have any lemons, you can keep a soap on hand that contains lemon extracts.  My mom turned me on to this one made by C.O. Bigelow Chemists.  If I had a blindfold on I'd think there was a lemon right under my nose!  It smells so good!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chili Warm-Up

We're right smack in the middle of winter in Central New York.  We've got cold weather, along with a lot of (beautiful) snow...a record 70 + inches for December alone!   This is the type of weather that makes me want to cook comfort food like Chili!  Here is a recipe I tried out this week.  It's not too hot however if you do like it spicier, you can adjust the heat to your liking.   One important thing to remember about dishes like chili and soups is it will taste MUCH better the second day.  So make this one night, put it in the fridge overnight and enjoy for dinner the next night.

adapted from the Marlboro Chili Roundup Cookbook
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 pound of ground beef
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 of a milk chocolate bar, broken into small pieces
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes (regular or fire-roasted)
2 Tablespoons of tomato paste
1 15-oz. can of kidney beans, drained
1 15-oz. can of black beans, drained (or you can use all kidney beans)
Garnishes: oyster crackers, grated cheddar cheese, chopped onion, sour cream, etc.

In a large pot, saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften, then add garlic.  Stir frequently, to avoid burning, for about 5 minutes until the onions have carmelized.  Remove from pot and set aside.

In the same pot (add a teaspoon more oil if needed), cook ground beef.  Stir frequently, breaking up the beef so it looks crumbly.  Once the beef is cooked through, drain the fat from the pot.  Return the cooked onions and garlic back to pot with the meat and add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the beans.

If there is not enough liquid to cover the mixture, add just enough water to cover (maybe 1/2 cup).  Mix well and bring the chili to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Add beans and simmer for an additional 15 minutes and then serve.  Makes 4 (hefty) portions.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Paste Makes Waste

Have you ever used tomato paste in a recipe and ended up with most of it leftover and wished it didn't have to go to waste? Sure, there are ways to save it by freezing it into tablespoon-sized portions by using a ice cube tray, then putting them into a plastic bag once they're frozen and then back in the freezer, but that is, well, a bit of a pain. In an issue of Food Network magazine in the 'Hot Tips' section they touted the reasons to use tomato paste in a tube. You can use just a small amount for a recipe and since the tube is airtight and can be resealed, it will keep in the refrigerator for a long time and there will be no need to defrost those little ice cubes of tomato paste! I picked up this tube of Amore brand tomato paste at my local supermarket. They have other kinds like herb and garlic pastes as well. So unless I have a recipe that calls for a whole can of paste, I'll be reaching for the tube from now in tonight's chili recipe!  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year all! I hope you enjoyed your holidays with family, friends and, of course, good food. One of my favorite gifts this year is this book: Encyclopedia of Cooking. It is 768-pages of everything cooking - not just recipes. It gives information on all the different types of food (i.e. oils, butter, vinegars, salt, pasta, fish, fruit, meat and grains) and the best to use for a particular recipe, how to select fresh food and the best techniques for preparation. The recipes range from simple to imaginative and there are tons of pictures, which I love in a cookbook. This book also lists staples you should have on hand such as baking items, rice, spices and extracts, for example, that can be used in a number of recipes. There is also a section that lists basic equipment that is useful to have on hand. It's like having your own culinary instructor in one book!

Needless to say I'm excited to dive into this book and am sure it will inspire many new posts this year! I'll leave you with a quote for the New Year that a colleague at work emailed me.

"We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and the first chapter is New Years Day."
-Edith Lovejoy Pierce