Friday, July 27, 2018

Spicy, Smoky, Sweet Chili

I found this recipe on Iowa Girl Eats and was so intrigued and wanted to try it so badly that I made it that night.  We love chili, but had never had sweet chili before.  The reviews on the blog were glowing and the woman who writes the blog said it is their all time favorite, so how could I resist?
As usual for me, I have messed with the recipe in a few ways.  I use extra lean ground turkey and that basically produces no fat for sauteing anything, and I actually cut back on the amount of chili powder (usually I add more than recipes call for!).  Chili powder intensity varies wildly according to what kind you get.  Mine is from Mountain Rose Herbs.  It's very delicious, but quite potent and spicy.  The original recipe calls for 6 tablespoons (this is with the recipe doubled as written below), but I recommend you add 4 to start with like I did and then you can add more if it's needed.  I also left out the cayenne because it was spicy enough without, thanks to the chili powder.  I also saute the spices with the onion, garlic, and meat to help the flavors develop, something not specified in the original recipe.
The other big change is that I use all black beans instead of part canned baked beans so the sugar could be reduced a bit, but the first time I made it, I did use the baked beans and it was very good. Usually I prefer main dish recipes without added sugar, but figure making this once or twice a year will not hurt anything.  It would not be the same without the sweetness!  This recipe makes 12 generous servings and each serving has 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, which isn't too bad, all things considered.
So, the verdict?  Pretty amazing and unlike any other chili I've either made or eaten.  It is indeed spicy, smoky, and sweet!  The trifecta of perfection.  The flavors really combine beautifully and it turns out sweet chili totally works.  I had a pretty specific idea in my head of what this chili would taste like (guessing the result of me cooking half my life), and it was exactly how I expected.  It became an instant favorite in our house and I now make it in double batches so we can freeze some of it.  We still love Stout Chili and White Chili (which I still need to post on the blog, funny considering it's been a favorite of mine since childhood!), but we have love enough in our hearts for 3 "essential" chili recipes and the many other quick chili recipes I've posted here.  Plus, this chili recipe is quite different in flavor from Stout Chili and White Chili.
If you don't want to cook this on the stove, you can do it in the Instant Pot or a slow cooker.  For the Instant Pot, just cook everything as described on Saute, then put the lid on and set it to Chili for 20 minutes, do a quick pressure release, and serve.  For a slow cooker, cook everything as described on the stove top, but instead of simmering it, transfer the chili to the slow cooker and cook it for 6-8 hours.
Quick Note:  Have your cup of water and cans of tomato sauce open before you start.  The spices can burn quickly so you want to have that liquid ingredient ready to go!
Spicy, Smoky, Sweet Chili
4 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
2 lb ground turkey
 8 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 C water
2 28 oz can tomato sauce
2 28 oz cans black beans, drained
4 Tbsp brown sugar
First things first, have your spices in a small bowl so you can add them quickly and all at once.  Set aside.
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until they turn translucent, then add the ground turkey.  Cook the turkey and onion together, being sure to break up the meat with your spoon.  When the meat is no longer pink, ad the minced garlic and spices.  Saute for another minute or so, being very careful not to burn the spices.  Immediately pour in the water and tomato sauce, then add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to medium low.  Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Yield: 12 servings

Friday, July 20, 2018

Speedy Greek Salad

This is one of my favorite lunches and something I have pretty often!  It's super quick to toss together and is definitely one of those "more than the sum of its parts" concoctions.  The crunchy, mild cucumbers, sweet, acidic tomatoes, super salty and slightly bitter olives, tangy, salty, creamy feta, and pucker of vinegar are just perfect together.  You don't even need any oil, though a splash of olive oil wouldn't hurt anything.  I'm not sure it actually qualifies as a recipe, but who cares?  The amounts for all these ingredients are completely up to you.
Speedy Greek Salad
cucumber, cut into small bite sized pieces
halved cherry tomatoes (or big tomatoes cut into bite sized pieces)
pitted kalamata olives
feta cheese
salt to taste
small sprinkle of oregano (sometimes I add it, sometimes I don't)
a splash or two of raw apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
Consider how many people you'll be serving and whether this will be the main dish or a side.  Put however much cucumber and tomatoes you want into an appropriately sized bowl and sprinkle with salt, toss.  Add however many olives and how much feta you want.  Sprinkle with the optional oregano then drizzle on a little vinegar.  Toss to combine.  Taste and add more of anything.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Baked Cheeseburger Sliders

These sliders are one of the easiest things you can make for dinner and involves less than 10 minutes of prep if you are working slowly.  They're also fun and yummy!  
For the rolls, this is the kind I mean.  You don't have to buy that specific brand, but the rectangle of stuck together rolls is what you're looking for.  I have a couple of Crow Canyon enamelware baking pans and they are the exact right dimensions for the giant beef patty to match up with the rolls, but a regular 9 by 13 pan will be fine as well.
Baked Cheeseburger Sliders
1.25 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
sliced cheese
rectangular pack of 12 dinner rolls
desired toppings like ketchup, mustard mayo, and sliced pickles
Preheat oven to 425.
Squish beef evenly into 9 by 13 baking dish.  Mix together seasonings in small cup and sprinkle evenly over top.  Bake 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Slice rolls in half to make a giant bun.  Lift giant burger patty onto giant bottom bun.  Pour out any accumulated grease from the baking pan and put the giant bottom bun and patty back into the pan.  Top with sliced cheese, then top bun.  Place plan in oven, turn off heat, and leave until buns are toasty and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Cut into individual sliders with a large knife.  Top individually with desired toppings and serve!
Yield: 4-6 main dish

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Rhubarb Crumble with Custard, aka My Favorite Dessert

This has become my all time favorite dessert.  Yes, of all the wonderful desserts that I love, rhubarb crumble is It for me.  The tart rhubarb, sweet and buttery crumble with a tiny hint of cinnamon, and custard poured on top all just come together to make something truly amazing.  It tastes like joy. comfort, love, and well being.  I urge you to try it if you have access to rhubarb and want a really special treat.  Lucky for us, we have a ridiculously huge and robust rhubarb patch!
This recipe is from the book Great British Cooking: A Well-Kept Secret by Jane Garmey.  She apparently got the recipe from a nun in cooking class while in school, very cute little story.  I altered it a bit by moving the cinnamon from the filling to the topping, increasing the filling amount by half, increasing the baking temperature, and baking it much longer than the original recipe states.  The book says to bake it for 20 minutes and you'd be crunching your way through raw rhubarb if you made it like that!
Rhubarb Crumble with Custard
1 1/2 lbs rhubarb, cut in 3/4 inch pieces
3/4 C sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 oz cold salted butter, cut into small cubes
warm vanilla custard (I used Bird's custard powder, but you could look up a recipe)
Preheat oven to 350.  You do not need to grease the baking dish.
Place filling ingredients in a 2 quart baking dish and toss with a spoon to coat.
Combine dry ingredients for crumble in bowl and mix well.  Add butter.  Rub mixture together with fingers until the ingredients are well combined and look like wet sand with pea sized clumps.  Sprinkle evenly over filling.
Bake for 45 minutes, then check on it and cover with foil if the crumble starts looking like it's browned enough.  Continue baking until rhubarb is tender and bubbly throughout.  It should be bubbly in the center and a fork stuck in should not meet any resistance from the rhubarb.  This will take about an hour and a half total.
Let the crumble sit for 10-20 minutes before digging in.  Serve crumble in a bowl with warm custard poured over top.
Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Chocolate Coconut Bars

My husband loves these chocolate coconut bars!  He requests them for special occasions.  They're essentially a no-bake cookie base topped with coconut buttercream and a thin layer of chocolate.  The first time I made them with Oreos, like the original recipe over at Taste of Home says, but they were so over the top sweet that I've made them with Nabisco Famous Wafers since.  They're still very sweet, but not as sweet as with Oreos.  Someday I would like to make them with chocolate graham crackers, but I can never find them at the store when I'm planning to make these.  My husband has a huge sweet tooth though and you probably won't mind all the sugar if you do, too!
The recipe below has a few changes from the original, other than the type of cookies used.  I basically added more coconut flavor.
Also, if you ever find yourself needing a coconut buttercream, you could use the coconut filling recipe and end up with a really delicious frosting!  Just double the recipe and only add powdered sugar until it reaches a normal frosting consistency.  As written, the filling recipe is quite stiff, which is needed for this bar recipe, but less powdered sugar will change that.
Note that the cream of coconut is not canned coconut milk, it's the sweetened goopy stuff used in mixed drinks.  The brand we purchase is called Coco Real.
Chocolate Coconut Bars
cookie base:
3 C Famous Wafers crumbs or chocolate graham cracker crumbs (this is about 1 1/2 packs of wafers)
2 C sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 C cream of coconut
2/3 C butter, melted
coconut filling:
1/3 C butter, softened
4 Tbsp cream of coconut, or more as needed
1/2 tsp coconut extract
3 C powdered sugar
chocolate layer:
1 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chips
4 tsp canola oil
To make the base layer, just stir together all of the base ingredients until well combined.  Press it evenly and firmly into the bottom of an ungreased 9 by 13 dish.  Refrigerate for an hour so it can firm up, then make the coconut filling.
To make the coconut filling, beat together butter, cream of coconut, and coconut extract, then mix in the powdered sugar.  It will be quite thick, you want it to be thin enough to spread but still pretty thick so it doesn't squirt out the side of your bars when you slice them.  Add more cream of coconut if you need to thin it any more.
Spread the coconut filling evenly over the cookie base and set aside while you make the chocolate layer.
To make the chocolate layer, melt the chocolate and oil together however you'd like: over a double boiler, or on 50% power in the microwave for 1 minute to start with, then 20-30 second increments afterwards, stirring between stints in the microwave.  Don't let the chocolate get too hot or it will seize.
When chocolate is melted, pour it over the bars and spread with a spatula.
Refrigerate bars until the chocolate has firmed up.  After that, you can store the bars at room temperature.
Cut into pieces and enjoy!
Yield: about 12 servings