Monday, July 27, 2009

Three-Bean Chili

The heat of summer is sweltering, the humidity is suffocating, and the best place to be is inside with the AC cranked up and the ceiling fans whirring away. So what better time of year to make a huge pot of spicy chili?
Yeah, I know, it's a little too hot for a bowl of spicy peppers, onions, and beans, but boy is it good!

Despite cooking soup/chili/stew at least 3-4 times a month during the winter, I rarely make the stuff during the summer since it is so hot outside and you don't really want to eat anything too heavy because of the heat. But, it was time for a vegetarian meal (especially after eating potato chips, burgers, and sour cream & ranch dip for dinner the night before at our first pool party of the year). I didn't feel like making black bean and bacon smash, which graces our table at least every other week, so I turned to my favorite vegetarian chili recipe.

This is yet another adaptation of a Rachel Ray recipe (the original can be found here). I was forced to make some changes after some of the ingredients were not to be found in the cupboard. This chili is spicy, but you can always adjust the spices to suit your taste.
Start out by heating a couple tablespoons of oil a big pot over medium heat, and then add the chopped onion (if you love onions like me you can use 1 1/2 to 2), bell peppers, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, then saute for a few minutes until the veggies soften. Then, deglaze the pan with beer or stock. Fortunately for my dinner, some poor person had left behind a bottle of Corona Extra after our pool party on Saturday. His loss was my gain-- the beer gives the chili a little kick.

After deglazing the pan, add the tomatoes (please use the fire-roasted! They taste so much better. But, if you can't find them, use regular tomatoes-the dish is still great.). You could use crushed tomatoes, but I like a chunky chili so I use the diced.

Fire roasted tomatoes-- good in chili, tomato sauces, soups, and any other recipe that requires canned tomatoes.

Follow that up with the two cans of whole beans (we'll add the refried beans later), the can of Rotel (or can of green chiles), the cumin, the chili powder, chipotle in adobe sauce, salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes. In the meantime, mix up a batch of Jiffy corn muffins to serve on the side.

About 10 minutes before you serve, mix in the can of refried beans. It helps if you add the refried beans in spoonfuls, that way they beans "dissolve" into the stew faster. The refried beans help thicken the chili.

Last night I ate my bowl plain, with a Jiffy corn muffin on the side, in front of the TV. In spite of the fact I was overheating by the end of the bowl due to the spiciness, the chili hit the spot and providing a filling (and guilt-free) meal.

This is also good topped with cheese (Monterrey Jack, please), and I'd imagine sour cream and guacamole would be good, too.

Three-Bean Chili (serves at least 6)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 onion
2 or 3 bell peppers (any color)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 16-oz. cans of beans (any kind you like- I usually use black, pinto, or kidney)
1 cup of beer or chicken stock
1 small can of minced green chilies OR 1 can of Rotel
2 16-oz cans of fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can of vegetarian refried beans
1 tablespoon of cumin
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder
1-2 teaspoons of chipotle in adobe sauce (you could dice up a chipotle and toss it in)

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Pizza! Pizza Hut? Papa John's Pizza? Papa's Pizza to Go? Domino's Pizza? Mellow Mushroom Pizza? Homemade pizza?

Yeah, that last one sounds just right. No need to worry that the customer service rep answering the phone will mess up the toppings, no need to go pick it up, or hope that the delivery guy will find his way to your house before the pizza gets cold. Nope, homemade equals all the toppings you want and piping hot from the oven and a crisp crust.

Hubby and I haven't had pizza in forever, and I had just enough tomato sauce left over from last week's spaghetti and meatballs to top a couple of pizza crusts. Due to my new-found love of baking, I just had to make a homemade crust. I turned to one of my favorite Food Network Chefs for a recipe. A very time-consuming recipe. After mixing the dough, I kneaded it in the stand mixer for 20 minutes, keeping an every watchful eye on the KitchenAid to make sure it didn't walk off the counter.

After all that time, measuring ingredients, babysitting the mixer, the darn dough didn't rise. The recipe advised to put the dough in the fridge overnight, but the darn stuff didn't puff up one bit. Terrified the pizza wouldn't be the best it could be, I discarded the dough and turned to The Bread Bible, hoping Mrs. Beranbaum wouldn't steer me wrong. It was the third recipe I have made from this book, and the third time was the charm.

This dough was so simple to put together. All I had to do was mix water, flour, yeast, and salt until it just came together to form a dough, put it in a measuring cup, coat it with olive oil, and LEAVE IT ALONE! No kneading involved!

The dough right after mixing. It's not very pretty.

Since my dough wasn't rising fast enough for me (remember, I was making up for lost time after the first dough debacle), I put it on a heating pad to warm it up. It worked rather well.

You don't leave it alone forever. Since I made mine the same day, I let it rise on the counter for an hour before putting it in the fridge for the afternoon. About an hour before you want to eat, you take it out of the fridge, and divide it into two pieces (well, you could leave it intact for one 10-inch pizza, but personal pizzas are more fun).

Tuck the edges of the dough under to form two balls and place them on an oiled baking sheet, and leave it be for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes is up, shape the dough into two discs, and let those rest for at least 30 minutes.

The shaped dough. I was going for rustic.
Next, put the baking sheet in a 475 degree oven (one that preferably has a pizza stone on the bottom rack), and bake for 5 minutes. Remove, and top the dough with your desired toppings.

I topped our pies with leftover tomato sauce, fresh parsley, thyme and basil, and mozzarella, Parmesan, and provolone cheeses. The fresh herbs made a huge difference in the flavor.

If you have a baking stone, place the pizzas (which are on the baking sheet) on the stone for two minutes. Then, using a large spatula, transfer the pizzas to a higher rack in the oven for three minutes. Then, remove, slice, and enjoy!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Chicken pot pie, roasted chicken, mashed potatoes-- that's what a lot of people think of when "comfort food" comes to mind. Not me- one of my favorite comfort food would have to be a bagel. I'm not sure where this comes from-- my family lived in a small town when I was growing up where it was nearly impossible to get a real, chewy bagel. You know, the kind with the thick crust where you have to really sink your teeth into it and tear off a taste of the chewiness inside. We did get them occasionally, though, usually after a trip to Atlanta.

I remember my dad eating a bagel ripped in half with a big dollop of cream cheese on his plate. I remember my parents eating bagels with lox. And I remember that while my parents topped their bagels with cream cheese and salmon at dinner, I usually ate a bagel slathered with deli mustard or peanut butter. (Yes, deli mustard-Hebrew National please!)

Fast forward a couple of decades-- those big hunks of dense bread that try to pass themselves off as bagels in the bread section of the grocery store are the only thing resembling a bagel within 30 miles of my town. So that led me to take an extreme action-- bake my own bagels! The main reason I bought a copy of The Bread Bible was that Rose Levy Beranbaum included a recipe for bagels. So, last weekend I set out on a mission to try out her recipe.

The key to a chewy bagel is the gluten in the flour, and Mrs. Beranbaum suggests using King Arthur bread flour if you don't have a high-gluten flour on hand (which of course I didn't).

The recipe begins by making a sponge, which is so cool because you get to see it grown and get all bubbly (IT'S ALIVE!!!). Basically, it's just yeast, flour, and water, and then you whisk it together (I used a stand mixer). Then you top it with the rest of the ingredients. I let that sit at room temperature for about an hour, and then put it in the fridge overnight.

Mixing up the sponge ingredients...

The sponge/flour mixture after a night of resting in the fridge...

After a good night's sleep, you bring the sponge/flour mixture up to room temperature, then mix all the ingredients together and knead them for several minutes. Then you let the yeast go to work and raise up the dough.
The dough after the first rise (look at those bubbles!).

I will say that this is a time consuming process. After the first rise, you punch the bread down and let it rest in the fridge before shaping the dough. Shaping the dough is rather easy, just divide it into balls, poke a hole in the center of the ball and stretch the dough until you have a 2 1/2 inch hole (it will shrink up once you let go).
A shaped bagel...

While the dough was taking a break, I set a big pot of water to boil, and added molasses and baking soda once the water was bubbling (the water resembled a boiling pot of Guinness after the molasses and soda were combined.) Then, the bagels went into the pot in batches, and cooked for 1 minutes on each side.

Boiling a bagel...

After the bread boiled in the water, it drained on a kitchen towel, and then was brushed with an egg wash. Next, the bagels went into a 500 degree oven (which you knock back down to 450 degrees) for about 20 minutes.

Baked bagel

My bagels came out really brown. I think the oven may have been too hot. They were also rock hard right after baking, which scared me. However, the crust softened up after it cooled.

Fortunately, my taste for bagel condiments has grown more sophisticated than deli mustard. I love to eat them with cream cheese spread with fruit preserves, or simply with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Lately, I'm on a cashew butter and apricot preserves kick. Yumm....

These bagels were good, but not quite what I craved. They were not chewy enough since I could only find bread flour at the local stores (the texture was more of a donut with a crust), and they didn't have that bagel-y taste because I left out the malt powder. Still, they did remind my of my deli mustard-covered bagel from my childhood.

I will definitely be making these again, as soon as I order some high-gluten flour and malt powder online!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Slower Cooker BBQ Beans

We had to barbeque on the 4th of July. To do anything else would just be, well, not patriotic. Come rain or shine I was determined to lounge by the pool and cook dinner. We had grilled chicken, corn on the cob, and beans. Since I try to avoid foods out of a can that I can cook at home, I went hunting for a recipe for baked/BBQ beans. In the past, I used a recipe from the Joy of Cooking, but I found that the beans baked in the oven weren't cooked enough or were way too mushy.

I stumbled across a recipe at Cooking Light's website for stovetop "baked beans." And of course I had to tweak it a bit. I like really tender beans (just shy of mush), so I decided to use the slow cooker. The results were tender and sweet.

2 slices bacon, chopped

1 tablespoon of butter

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup of ketchup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup of maple syrup

2 tablespoons of Worchesshire sauce

2 teaspoons of Liquid Smoke

2 teaspoons of prepared yellow mustard

1 (16 oz.) can of red beans, drained

1 (16 oz.) can of Great Northern Beans, drained

Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for about 5 hours.

Unfortunately there isn't a photo of the finished product (maybe it was the heat... or the adult beverages), but I forgot to take a final picture.