RSS Feed

Lanie’s small-batch Chili

It’s a rainy Friday, and I had time to start dinner early, so it was a perfect afternoon to make chili. Today I experimented with cutting down my recipe (October 2013 archives) so the Sage hubby & I don’t have such a huge quantity of chili leftover for the two of us. This is my small-batch chili recipe:

1 lb chili grind beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 small/medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1/2 beer
“What do you do with the other 1/2 a beer?” you ask. Pour the cook a small glass is an obvious solution. I recommend also making Trader Joe’s beer bread to serve with the chili, but the bread recipe requires its own full bottle of beer.
3 beef bouillon cubes
1 small can tomato sauce (I prefer no salt added)
1 15 oz can sliced tomatoes (I prefer no salt added)
1 Tbs chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano leaves
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp Louisiana hot sauce
1 can light red kidney beans

In a cast iron skillet, brown meat in batches, 1/2 pound at a time. Season each batch with kosher salt + fresh ground pepper + oregano + paprika. As each batch browns, push it to the edges of the skillet to make room in the hot center of the skillet for the next batch. When all meat is browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a large chili pot.

Pour off most of the excess fat from the skillet but reserve some plus the brown bits. Add a little olive oil to the skillet; saute the onions and garlic. Transfer the sauté mixture to the chili pot. Add a splash of beer to the skillet to deglaze the pan, and scrape all the brown goodness from the skillet into the chili pot. (Pour a small glass of beer for the cook so 1/2 beer is left for the chili.)

Add to the chili pot the rest of the beer + bouillon cubes + tomato sauce + tomatoes, including the liquid + spices + hot sauce. Simmer, simmer, simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings.

When about ready to serve, add kidney beans, including the liquid. Simmer, simmer for a little while longer to warm the beans.

Serve with Trader Joe’s beer bread or any crusty bread or corn muffins. Use leftover chili to make Frito pie by serving over corn chips and topping with shredded cheddar cheese. A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt is good to mellow the spices.

Advertisements

Michigan Cherry S’mores

One of my childhood friends posted a list of all the treats she had indulged in over the 4th of July: cherry pie s’mores… I stopped right there. She had me at Cherry Pie S’mores. As we posted back-and-forth about the inspiration for a new treat, her husband chimed in with the idea for Michigan cherries. Well, yes, my friends’ parents treated me to vacation at their lake house with my friend when we were little, so I will honor the memory of lake house vacations by specifying Michigan cherries.

Since I’m baking in my Houston home kitchen I created this campfire treat by broiling marshmallows in the toaster oven, but, obviously, the ideal way to toast marshmallows is over a fire on the beach. While traditionally assembling s’mores is simple, I added a step of creating cherries jubilee. So, while someone runs to the market for graham crackers, dark chocolate bars and marshmallows, someone else can prepare the cherries. Here’s my cherry twist on s’mores:

Cherries Jubilee:
Rinse about 20 Michigan cherries; cut in half; remove pit. Yes, this is some tedious work. No, biggie – put on music and imagine you’re on vacation at the lake.
Sprinkle pitted cherries with 1 tsp sugar + 1 tsp Tahitian vanilla. If the party is adults only, maybe add 1 Tbs brandy. Give the cherries a stir and let them macerate.

Assemble s’mores:
Start with a graham cracker square; place 4 cherry halves flat side down; then half a Hershey’s Special Dark bar; then a toasted marshmallow; top with another graham cracker square. Smash s’more lightly together to smoosh marshmallow and melt chocolate. Indulge!

This is not the order pictured because trial-and-error. I don’t think there’s a wrong way to assemble a s’more, but I like that the cherries don’t slip on the graham cracker and the chocolate melts better when the toasted marshmallow sits right on top of it. I encourage you to make several to discover your best method of assembling s’mores.

 

Small Batch Italian Meatballs

Years back, one of my girlfriends shared a recipe for authentic Italian meatballs. I label them “authentic” because she got the recipe from her daughter, who got it from her Italian roommate, who got it from her Italian grandmother. Any recipe which can be traced back to an Italian grandmother is authentic Italian cooking! The secret ingredient is raisins. Isn’t that wild? The challenge for me, cooking for the Sage hubby & me, is Italian grandma’s recipe starts with 4 pounds of meat. So I edited the recipe to be more appropriate for empty nesters or a single. Here is my recipe for a small batch of authentic Italian meatballs:

8 oz 80/20 ground beef
1 link mild Italian sausage, casing removed
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp Italian herbs – basil, oregano, whatever you like
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup raisins, coarsely chopped
Marinara sauce (Newman’s Own Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic Pasta Sauce)
Pasta for serving

Use your hands or a flat whisk to mix together ground beef+sausage+egg. Sprinkle spices over meat mixture, and mix. Add bread crumbs+parmesan to meat mixture, and mix. Add raisins to meat mixture, and mix. Use medium scoop to gather generous portion of meat mixture and use your hands to form into meatballs. This small batch should give you 12 meatballs.

Heat olive oil in cast iron skillet on medium/high heat. Place meatballs in hot skillet one at a time, and let the meatballs sit for about 2 minutes to sear. As the meatballs develop a good sear, use tongs to turn them to sear all sides.

When the meatballs are browned on all sides, add marinara sauce. If you’re up for a big day of authentic Italian cooking, by all means, make homemade sauce. For me on a work night, this is enjoyable chopping and mixing and cooking to relax, so I am good with adding about a half jar of marinara sauce.

Stir the sauce about the meatballs while it comes to a simmer. Then transfer cast iron skillet to 300* oven to finish. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, boil water and cook pasta. Maybe have a glass of wine, or maybe you already did. Buon Appetito!

 

Lanie’s Summer Blueberry Pie

As promised this long holiday week, I made a blueberry pie as a follow-up to the 4th of July Cherry Pie (July 2018 archives). For blueberry, I had the idea to add a fresh herb. I again checked the tried and true “plaid cookbook,” and I googled for herbs to pair with blueberry and found a helpful article on Driscoll’s berry farm web site. Here is my original recipe for Summer Blueberry Pie:

Blueberry Pie Filling

3 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed+drained
1 cup sugar
Rounded 1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
Zest+juice from 1/2 lemon
2 Tbs softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Additional flour, salt, shortening for pie crust

Whisk together: sugar + flour + salt + rosemary. With a fork, mash in softened butter. Add and mix in with fork: lemon zest + lemon juice + vanilla. Toss in blueberries.

Set aside blueberry mixture to macerate. Meanwhile, make pie crust…

Homemade Pie Crust

Sift together: 1+1/2 cups flour + 1/2 tsp salt.
Cut in: 1/2 cup shortening.
Add and toss lightly with a fork to mix dough: 4-5 Tbs cold water, adding and mixing 1 Tbs at a time.
Gather dough into a ball and knead a couple times. Do not over-handle the dough. Form dough into a ball; cut ball in half; form each half into a disk; wrap each disk in plastic wrap; refrigerate to chill.
Roll one disk of dough onto floured board; roll out enough that dough will hang over edge of pie dish. Roll pie dough onto rolling pin and lift gently to transfer rolled dough to pie dish.
Give blueberry pie filling a stir and pour it into pie shell.
Roll second disk of dough onto floured board; roll out enough that dough will cover pie. Roll pie dough onto rolling pin and lift gently to transfer rolled dough to top of pie; fold ends of dough under and crimp top and bottom pie crusts together to form sealed edge. Cut slits in top pie crust to allow steam to escape as pie bakes.

Loosely cover edge of pie crust with foil to protect from burning. Bake at 425* for 40 minutes. Let pie cool completely on a wire rack to set filling before slicing.

Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream. I’m convinced leftover fruit pie makes a healthy breakfast.

For ambitious bakers, it would be fantastic to make both a cherry pie and a blueberry pie for the 4th of July! God bless America!

Up next: I had the crazy decadent idea to make cherry pie s’more…

Lanie’s 4th of July Cherry Pie

Over the weekend I was inspired to make a 4th of July cherry pie. While apple would be the all-American choice, I like the patriotic color of cherry. I checked the tried and true “plaid cookbook,” called my Mom, refused to add red food coloring to my food, and came up with my recipe for 4th of July Cherry Pie:

Cherry Pie Filling

1 16-oz bag frozen pitted dark sweet cherries (I shop at Trader Joe’s)
juice from thawed cherries + cherry juice = 1/3 cup cherry juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbs softened butter
1/2 tsp almond extract
Zest from 1/4 orange
Additional flour, salt, shortening for pie crust

Pour frozen cherries into a bowl to thaw. When cherries are thawed, reserve cherry juice and add more cherry juice to equal 1/3 cup juice.

Whisk together sugar + flour + salt. With a fork, mash in softened butter. Add and stir cherry juice + almond extract + orange zest. Toss in thawed cherries.

Set aside cherry mixture to macerate. Meanwhile, make pie crust…

Homemade Pie Crust

Sift together: 1+1/2 cups flour + 1/2 tsp salt.
Cut in: 1/2 cup shortening.
Add and toss lightly with a fork to mix dough: 4-5 Tbs cold water, adding and mixing 1 Tbs at a time.
Gather dough into a ball and knead a couple times. Do not over-handle the dough. Form dough into a ball; cut ball in half; form each half into a disk; wrap each disk in plastic wrap; refrigerate to chill.
Roll one disk of dough onto floured board; roll out enough that dough will hang over edge of pie dish. Roll pie dough onto rolling pin and lift gently to transfer rolled dough to pie dish.
Give cherry pie filling a stir and pour it into pie shell.
Roll second disk of dough onto floured board; slice dough into long strips with a sharp knife or pizza wheel; lay strips of dough in a lattice design over pie filling; fold ends of dough strips under and crimp top and bottom pie crusts together to form edge. Try to make it pretty, but don’t worry; it will be delicious.

Loosely cover edge of pie crust with foil to protect from burning. Bake at 425* for 40 minutes. Let pie cool completely on a wire rack to set filling before slicing.

Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream. Definitely eat leftover pie for breakfast – that’s why there’s no photo of my weekend creation.

A couple notes: 1) When I was ready to learn how to make pie crust, my Mom came over and made it with me. It’s best if an experienced baker will help on the first try, and then it takes practice to make a pretty pie crust. 2) For additional cherry juice, I pour from a jar of maraschino cherries which I have in the ‘fridge for making Super Cutie Cherry Muffins (February 2017 archives). 3) For orange zest in July, I froze orange rinds in quarters when I peeled oranges in the winter season, but you can buy oranges any time of year.

Up next: the Sage hubby requested a blueberry pie…

Lanie’s Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

One of my first and best friends from Kingwood, Texas, is moving. I am honored to be included in her celebration at my old office where I began the tradition of pot luck parties. To secure my invitation since I’m no longer affiliated with that office, I promised homemade ice cream. While all of my ice cream flavors seem to be appreciated, I wanted to make something special for my friend. I was inspired by the mint plant on my patio and decided on mint chocolate chip. Many recipes I referenced cautioned that it takes peppermint extract to get a strong mint flavor. The recipe author I trusted most admitted he doesn’t get enough mint from his plant so buys it at the market to make ice cream, so I left the mint on the patio for iced tea and bought a 1 ounce bunch of big mint leaves. I was determined to make mint chocolate chip ice cream with real mint and my usual easy method, so I made up my own recipe and gave it a whirl. The ice cream was delicious and definitely minty. In fact, the fresh scent of mint lingered in the house the next day. Here is my fresh and simple ice cream creation:

In a pot, combine:
1 cup whole milk;
2 cups heavy cream;
3/4 cup sugar;
1 oz mint leaves, rinsed and patted dry.
Turn heat to medium, and gently stir cream mixture to dissolve sugar. Heat and stir until cream mixture is hot and steaming. Turn off heat; cover pot; let mint leaves steep in hot cream for an hour.

Strain cream mixture into a 4-cup heat-proof measuring cup. Mash mint leaves with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much mint flavor and color as possible. Discard mint. Stir in 1/2 tsp Tahitian vanilla. Cover cream mixture with plastic wrap and set in freezer to chill until very cold.

Turn on electric ice cream maker, and pour in cold ice cream mixture.
Let mix until beginning to thicken, about 15-18 minutes.
Add in 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces. (While big chunks of chocolate look appetizing, smaller pieces of frozen chocolate make a nicer bite in a spoonful of ice cream.)
Let mix another 5 minutes.
Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer to firm up.

I made this ice cream to serve at an open house as a trial run, and my friend said it was delicious. I will be making the exact same recipe again for her celebration and sending the extra with her, and I will remember my best friend every time I make fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream.

 

Spring Mint Sweet Tea

 

As we are receiving hot spring weather in Houston, I name this Sweet Tea Season. Sweet Tea Season runs from the first weekend of hot, sweaty yard work until pumpkin spiced latte month. Last year I started experimenting with making a variety of sweet tea flavors and shared my recipe for peach tea (July 2017 archives). Today I kick off Sweet Tea Season with refreshing mint tea. Here are the simple steps:

  1. Heat kettle of fresh water to a boil.
  2. While water is heating, pour 1/4 cup honey into heat-safe, 4-cup measuring cup. It’s best to use local honey.
  3. Unwrap 2 family-size tea bags and set them aside. Our house brand is Luzianne decaffeinated so we can enjoy iced tea all day and evening.
  4. Pour boiling water over tea bags and into honey to a little over the 4-cup measure mark. Stir gently to melt the honey. Steep tea for 8 minutes.
  5. While tea is steeping, thinly slice 1/2 lemon and harvest 5 mint leaves.
  6. Fill pitcher with ice cubes, about 3/4 full. Add lemon slices and mint leaves.
  7. When timer goes off, use a large spoon to remove tea bags and squeeze excess tea into measuring cup by pressing another spoon against them.
  8. Let tea cool for several minutes until it is safe to pour tea into your pitcher. Pour cooled tea over ice.
  9. To serve, fill a glass with ice cubes and pour tea over ice. Garnish with another mint leaf. Store pitcher in ‘fridge. It’s okay if the ice melts, but drink the tea in the next day or two.

Happy spring, y’all!

 

%d bloggers like this: