Monday, February 22, 2010

Want to bring a little heat to the dinner table? Try Fast & Feisty Chili

I’ve been playing with this chili recipe for some time. I originally tried it because I wanted one of my first forays into making chili to be an easy one. Sure, it was easy, but working with chipotle chiles in adobo was a completely new experience, and it left everyone at the table in tears.

Since then I’ve worked with each batch, trying not to not go overboard with the chipotle, as these little guys pack a slow burn of a punch. The recipe I started with calls for a tablespoon of adobo sauce, and I like to split that up into three teaspoons — the first two go into the pot early, and the third is optional, depending on how things taste once everything’s had a few minutes to simmer.

Even if you take it slow, this recipe takes less than an hour from start to finish.

Fast & Feisty Chili
Adapted from the Food Network
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 chipotle chile en adobo, seeds removed, chopped, with 3 teaspoons sauce, divided
1 bottle light-to-medium Mexican beer (I like Dos Equis Ambar)
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Heat olive oil in skillet or other large frying pan over medium-high heat. I omit olive oil when using a non-stick pan. Add onion, garlic, salt, chili powder and oregano and cook, stirring often, for roughly 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and the chipotle chile and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, cooking for a minute more. Add turkey, breaking it up with your spoon or spatula, and cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in beer and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes — crush them with your hands over the skillet — it’s just as messy as chopping the tomatoes beforehand, but at least you won’t have to wash a cutting board! Also add tomato juice, kidney beans and another teaspoon adobo sauce. Bring to a boil and cook until thick, about 10 minutes. Taste for heat, and, if you want more spice, stir in that third teaspoon of adobo. Serve in bowls and garnish with cilantro, grated cheddar and tortilla chips.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Making wine syrup turns drink into dessert

We were so full after a delicious Valentine’s Day dinner at home (steaks from Roseville Meat Company, spicy asparagus and scalloped potatoes made with an awesome truffle cheese I found at Trader Joe’s) that we didn’t get around to dessert.

We also didn’t get around to finishing the beautifully bold Luna Canto we’d cracked open for our special meal, and it sat out on the kitchen counter in the decanter overnight. There was just around a serving left, and while the wine was probably fine, I thought I’d try turning it into wine syrup. I put equal parts wine and sugar (in this case, about a half cup each) in a saucepan and stirred over medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar had dissolved and the mixture developed a syrup-like consistency.

Because I’m impatient, I spooned the still-warm syrup over scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with blueberries and chopped strawberries to make a sort of adult ice cream sundae. The syrup tasted just as sweet, and had thickened a little more, when pulled out of the fridge the next night for ice cream, round two. I’m sure this would work just as well with white wine as it did with red.

On a side note, forgive me for not posting for a few days, as our Internet has been on the fritz for a good chunk of the week ... keep your eyes peeled for more new posts in the next couple days!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Got bananas in your freezer? Make some muffins

I’ve got a freezer full of frozen bananas, and they’re not getting any prettier.
There’s nothing wrong with freezing overly ripe bananas, as they’re great to have on hand for banana bread. I’ve got at least half a dozen black, gnarly bananas on ice right now, and because I’m sick of hearing “Oh my God, when are you going to do something with these nasty things?!?!” each time the special man friend opens the freezer, I decided to take action.

I absolutely love banana bread, and have been trying to make it healthier by scaling back, or cutting out, the oil and/or butter many recipes suggest. I’ve also played around with baking muffins instead of a loaf because it cuts the bake time and the muffins are more portable and make for a great eat-at-my-desk breakfast.
The following recipe is my favorite to date.

Banana Pecan Muffins
Adapted from SELF

4 overly ripe bananas
2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup skim milk
½ cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup chopped pecans
Paper muffin cups

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and pecans and stir or whisk to blend. In another bowl, combine bananas, milk, yogurt, egg and vanilla. Pour batter into bowl with dry ingredients and fold together until combined.
Place muffin cups in muffin tins and fill each cup to just below the top. Bake for roughly 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of muffin comes clean. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Panko, pecans dress up chicken breasts

I’ve been craving fried chicken, but rather than make it at home and make a huge, fatty mess, I decided to try a more lean and (slightly) less messy baked alternative.

A couple notes about this recipe:

Panko breadcrumbs are something I try to keep in the pantry because I like their crunch factor, even when baked instead of fried. You can find them at almost any grocery store with other Asian food products.

I incorporated pecans into this recipe because I have a ton of them and am trying to find new ways to slowly pick away at them.

The chicken breasts I bought were huge, so in order to maximize my crust-to-chicken ratio, I opted to butterfly each piece. As a result, Chris and I will be eating this chicken for lunch all week, which is just fine by me.

I rounded out this meal with rice pilaf and some chard sautéed with three chopped, fried strips of turkey bacon and a couple shakes of red pepper flakes.

Panko pecan chicken
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
½ cup panko breadcrumbs (also known as Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ cup pecan pieces, ground
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 egg
¼ cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk panko, pecans, Parmesan, paprika, cayenne, onion powder, salt and pepper together in a glass baking dish. Whisk egg and milk together in another glass baking dish. Dip each piece of chicken in egg and then dip in dry mix, making sure each side of each breast piece has a thin, even coating. Place chicken breast pieces on a baking rack set inside a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheets in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 15 minutes, testing thickest part of the meat to make sure it’s fully cooked.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Two to try in Truckee

While up in Truckee over the weekend, we ate at a couple restaurants worth mentioning. Man, I wish I had some leftovers to snack on right about now…

FiftyFifty Brewing Co.
11197 Brockway Road, Truckee
(530) 587-BEER

FiftyFifty’s shrimp scampi was quite the hefty, flavorful noodle bowl packed full of goodies, but the pizzas were what truly won me over. I’m still dreaming about both the Agean (photo above), a great combination of chicken, feta, pesto, onion and basil, and another one loaded with goat cheese and Portobello slices.

JAX at the Tracks
10144 West River St., Truckee
(530) 550-7450

JAX at the Tracks, a classic diner in downtown Truckee, makes a mean breakfast. I always have to try the biscuits and gravy — I’ve loved this stick-to-your-ribs dish ever since I was a little girl, and, in high school, insisted my Nana Dollie teach me how to make it — and enjoyed the homemade taste of the ol’ B&G at JAX. Chris ordered the Crab Hash Benny (photo above), a take on Eggs Benedict featuring poached eggs, crab hash, avocado and Hollandaise sauce perched atop house-made English muffins. He definitely won this round of “Who ordered best?” but the biscuits and gravy was also such a solid pick that I didn’t need to stop for lunch while skiing.