My recipes are meant to be shared and enjoyed. I welcome you to re-post my recipes and text. I ask only that you credit me and include a link to my blog if you post any of my content.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gordon's Amazing Easy Chili Recipe

This is my honey's time-tested crowd-pleasing recipe with a few adaptations we've made over the last couple of years. And yes, it has beans ... and yes, we're Texans ... you wanna make something of it?

2 1/2 pounds 80/20 ground chuck
2 1/2 pounds beef stew meat or beef roast cut into small cubes
2 cups of diced onion and/or shallot (whatever you have handy)
1 head of garlic, minced
1 46-ounce can of V-8 juice
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 packet of Goya sazon (whichever version you prefer)
1 beef bouillon cube (we like Knorr brand)
2 cans Bush's Texas chili starter*
2 dried chipotle chile peppers (more or less to taste)
Red wine such as Cabernet to deglaze pan

* Bush's chili starter has become almost impossible to find. You can substitute a can or two of chili beans, and add cumin and regular chili powder to taste.

In a Dutch oven brown the ground beef. Pour into a colander to drain off fat, but leave a little fat in the pan to brown the stew meat. Brown the stew meat on all sides in stages in a single layer in the Dutch oven. Pour into colander to drain excess fat, again reserving just a little fat in the Dutch oven to cook the onion/shallot/garlic.

Add the onion and/or shallot. Stir and cook until slightly softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add a nice splash of red wine to pan to deglaze. After deglazing pan, return all browned stew meat and ground beef to Dutch oven.

Add V-8, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sazon, and beef bouillon cube and stir well. Add 2 whole dry chipotle peppers (or to your taste) and stir gently to avoid breaking the peppers so you can remove them before serving.

Remember that as the peppers simmer and rehydrate, the smoky spicy flavor will become stronger. Also keep in mind that you can always add more chipotles to make it more spicy, but once you go overboard, too bad, so sad. I recommend tasting the chili every 15 minutes or so to see if the spice level is to your liking.

Simmer the chili gently for several hours and let the liquid reduce. Add Bush's chili starter or chili beans plus cumin and regular chili powder to taste and continue simmering until chili is as thick as you like. Fish out the chipotle peppers.

This is nice served with all the fixings, Fritos, grated cheddar cheese, chopped red onion, sour cream, chopped cilantro, maybe a side of cornbread.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Planning Our Spring 2010 Garden

We have just a tiny veggie garden space in a nice, sunny corner of the back yard. It's time to start planning what we'll grow this year. We've decided to plant only one tomato plant and only one or two chile pepper plants and plant lots of herbs.

The Love Of My Life has already said I'm not allowed to plant sunflowers in our little veggie garden space this year :) I know they're not really food plants for us, but they're like crack for the bees. And yes, they do reach 5, 6, 7 feet in height and start falling over and shading out everything else in the garden, but hey, they attract bees and birds, right? Okay, so I guess I'll plant some sunflowers in our front flowerbed instead.

If we plant tomatoes and/or chile peppers we'll have to devise some sort of protective cage around the plants to keep out the birds, squirrels, or whatever vermin stole all the fruits of our labor last year. It was like we were operating an all-you-can-eat buffet for all the wildlife in the area, and they were inviting all their friends! If I'm going to go to the expense and trouble to buy the plants, fertilize the plants, and water the plants, I want to harvest some of the peppers and tomatoes too!!! Seems pretty fair to me :)

We've had wonderful success with parsley, basil, cilantro, and oregano. We had such good results with parsley, basil, and cilantro growing from seed last year that I think we'll sow seed for those three this year and not bother with buying plants. I'd love to get some really strong rosemary plants going. I need to find some of the hardy ones that can make it through the couple of days or couple of weeks of cold we get here in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Shouldn't be too tough.

We're in Zone 8, so if anyone has any recommendations of easy-to-grow veggies or herbs, let me know. I love this time of year. It's warm enough that I can feel the promise of spring coming soon ... but not so warm that I have to move my sorry, lazy self from the couch and actually go outside to tidy up the patio and the yard and prep the garden. Life is good ... sigh ...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Victory Garden And Beyond ... Frugal Cooking As Patriotism ... Cool!!!

I saw this cool poster on the fabulous blog,

Here's a link to a Web site that describes how our government has historically encouraged us to garden and be frugal in our cooking in order to help war efforts,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Homemade Fried Rice

I find the fried rice from Chinese takeout/delivery restaurants inedible. Try this recipe for homemade fried rice which is very tasty, easy to prepare, and has lots of fresh, nutritious ingredients.

Homemade Fried Rice

3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
10 medium to large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into small pieces
4 ounces ham, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1-3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 large eggs, beaten
4 green onions, thinly sliced
pinch of salt
a few grinds of black pepper
2 cups cold leftover cooked white rice
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp, ham, and peas and cook for 1 minute. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce and transfer to a plate or bowl to keep warm.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the frying pan. Add the eggs, green onions, salt and pepper. Scramble the eggs in the frying pan. Once the egg mixture starts to cook, add the rice, shrimp mixture, and sherry or rice wine. Adjust the seasoning with additional soy sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Tip: Use cold leftover rice. Freshly cooked rice will just make a sticky mess.

Adapted from a recipe in "The Take-Out Menu Cookbook" by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds. I highly recommend this cookbook for all home cooks who wish to replicate ethnic restaurant food at home.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Be Creative, Improvise, And Be Frugal

I get so tired of hearing the cliche, "these tough economic times," but you know what, this economy is making almost all of us tighten our budgets and be cost-conscious. Be creative in your cooking, improvise, and let frugality work to your advantage.

My stepdaughters were here this weekend. They're pretty picky, but both love lasagna. We always put lots of shredded or chopped veggies into the sauce to sneak some nutrients into their diet, and we did that this time. We had leftover meatloaf that we made earlier in the week, using lots of shredded veggies and oatmeal pulverized in the food processor. TLOML chopped up the leftover meatloaf and added it to the lasagna sauce instead of plain old ground beef ... genius! The sauce was so healthy and nutrient-rich, but it tasted so good you'd never know it was good for you.

Normally we mix ricotta, shredded parmesan, and egg for the ricotta layer in the lasagna. When we started mixing up the ricotta layer we found that the tub of ricotta in the fridge was only half full and we only had about half a cup of ricotta, so we added some leftover cream cheese and sour cream, mixed in the shredded parmesan and an egg, and voila, an improvised ricotta layer that turned out to be pretty darn good.

Be frugal, be creative, use what you have on hand ... it's fun and yields surprisingly tasty results.