Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Crusty Italian Bread

What goes better with lasagna than a big loaf of Italian crusty bread? Not much. Well, maybe a bowl of salad and some wine. Ya, that sounds fantastic! The first loaf of bread I really made was a recipe my sister gave me for no-knead bread. It was super easy to make, but I didn't feel like it rose enough. It was more dense than airy, so this time around I wanted to try a true yeasty bread-y bread. I searched through all of my favorite cookbooks at home and even some of my favorite blogs when I finally came across the ultimate bread that I knew I needed to make - crusty Italian bread. Italian lasagna. Italian bread.  What a perfect match!

Let me tell you - this made a HUGE, no MAJORLY HUGE loaf of bread. The outside was crusty and brown and the inside was fluffy and light. Even better, this bread is super easy to make. The one exception to making this bread is that you need to spray it down with water a couple of times during the initial baking phase. I didn't have a spray bottle on hand, so I picked one up at the dollar store for cheap. No need to spend $5 on a "kitchen" spray bottle. There is no skipping this step (it's crucial!), so go and get one. You will most likely need it for other bread recipes in the future, so it will be worth it. Promise.

Now, let me tell you what happened with my bread. I did everything right and followed the directions perfectly. I don't know how crusty this bread was meant to be, but I felt it was just too crusty for my liking. If this happens to you while baking this bread, or in the future, do not throw the bread away. Save it and make bread crumbs or homemade croutons. Can you guess which one I did? Homemade croutons! I must admit, I have a slight crouton addiction. I will just eat them sans salad. Munch, munch, crunch, crunch. So good. When Ryan and I were up in Oregon visiting his Dad and Barb, Barb had made some fantastic croutons. I had never made them before and decided that this was a must. There will be a whole separate blog on this soon, so you will just have to wait until then. Neener neener.

Just a few ingredients

bloomin' yeast

kneading that dough!



loaf rolled and ready to bake

look how big!

it's the growing loaf of bread. now even bigger!

see, super crusty
Crusty Italian Bread (from

2 cups lukewarm water (~100°F)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 5¾ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt


Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.

Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size. Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the dough on  an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the dough lengthwise about 1/4-inch deep, keeping the blade at a 45 degree angle. Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).

Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.

Bet you can't wait for that homemade crouton recipe now. Garlic and parmesan croutons to be exact. I wish I had a bowl of them to eat right now!

Grandma Patty's Lasagna

Okay, I am back. Finally. After a couple of weeks of being MIA from my blog, I have a TON of things to post. Seriously, a TON.  Let's get to it. Time for lasagna.

I bet after all that turkey from last week that you are looking for something different than the bird and a side of stuffing. Ew, I hate stuffing. Sorry, I know. I just don't like it. Soggy bread and celery, ew. Sorry, I get side tracked easily. Back to lasagna. This lasagna is not like any other lasagna. This is my grandmother's lasagna. It's meaty, it's cheesy and it's full of yumminess. It's not hard to make at all, but it does take some time and patience since you need to let the sauce simmer for a couple of hours (or longer if you can). The longer it sits, the better it gets. In fact, if you have any after dinner for leftovers, it will get better as each day goes by. If it lasts for that long. I don't know what it is about spaghetti sauce or a dish that has it in it, but I really want to know what makes them better as the days go by. Maybe it's all the flavors absorbing and expanding. Who knows. All I know it this is yummy and everyone who I've given this recipe to says they love it. It must be good then, right?

The sauce for this starts out similar to the same sauce I taught you how to make in the previous post "homemade" lasagna. Of course you could always substitute the jarred sauce for Italian canned tomatoes (san marzanos), but they are so expensive, and the jarred sauce (which ever brand you like) always work great. It's what you add to it that makes it special and super delicious. Trust me, no one will ever know and you will be a star after making this. I can never get mine to taste just like my grandmas, but it comes pretty close to what I remember hers tasting like. Hers is different in the fact that she just doesn't use ricotta and mozzarella cheese. She uses cheddar too. At first, I thought this was weird, but after I tried it - YUM. Who would have ever though that cheddar cheese in lasagna would be good! Wow, my whole mouth just filled up with saliva. Yikes. Keep in mind that if you have any extra sauce, freeze it and keep it on hand for a quick pasta dinner another week. There is so much you can do with pasta sauce. You could even use this as pizza sauce for homemade pizza. Wow, why didn't I think of that sooner? I am so doing that with the sauce in my freezer.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Hi readers! I have been neglecting my blog over the last few days since I haven't been feeling well the past week (the doctor put me on some antibiotics, so my tummy has been a mess and all I want to do is sleep when I get home from work) and I have just been pooped from normal and busy schedule. I promise to get back in to the swing of things and get you those recipes you've been waiting for. I have at least 20 - yes 20 - recipes in the queue and can't wait to get posting about them. They range from sweets, to savory, to canning (I hope you love canning as much as I do now) and even product reviews. I've even been able to cross a few more items off my fall cooking to-do list too! So stay tuned over the next day or so as I start blogging like a mad woman again.

Hope you all had as great of a thanksgiving as I did and are still relaxing and enjoying all that left over turkey. Yes, there will be a blog on my families thanksgiving experience. So much fun cooking with the family and so much fun documenting it all. Question - do you even have turkey left over? My family does and my mom is whipping up her leftover turkey soup with stuffing dumpling recipe tonight. Last year I missed this goodness, so I can't wait to try it. If you're lucky enough, my mom may even let me share this recipe with you. Maybe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Lasagna (Vegetarian & Gluten Free)

Don't get me wrong, I love lasagna - cheesy, tomato-y, noodle-y lasagna. Even better, all the wine, bread and salad that always seem to accompany it. Wow, are you starting to salivate like I am? Yikes. I love the traditional lasagna, but I am always looking for ways to spice it up and to step away from the tomato based sauce (as much as a I love it). I really wanted to make something new and something that screamed fall.

A couple of weeks ago, Ryan and I took our friends Matt & Lauren (hiiiiii!), up to Apple Hill and then we came back to my house for dinner that night. Since I knew we would be gone all day, I wanted to make something that I could put together the night before and then just pop in the oven while we were all hanging out and relaxing. The first thing that came to mind was lasagna. You can make it ahead, you can freeze it for another time - lasagna is the perfect make ahead meal for tomorrow or for a month from now (that is your tip of the day). I knew I would make my grandma's lasagna recipe for the boys, but I wanted to make a super scrumptious vegetarian lasagna for Lauren. I thought I could just do the same one I was making for the boys sans meat, but I wanted to step it up. No plain jane lasagna here. Let me just make it clear that my grandma's lasagna is not plain jane. It is amazing, but I will explain all about how to make her recipe later this week. It's another must make. Yum!

I was doing my normal nightly blog reading and came across the ultimate fall vegetarian lasagna - roasted butternut squash & sweet potato lasagna. Seriously - how good does that sound? This recipe called for no-boil whole wheat noodles, but I ended up using brown rice (gluten free) lasagna noodles. Whole Foods was out of them, and I shockingly found them on sale at my local Safeway. If you are trying to eat gluten-free, these noodles are great and I am sure you can find them at your local store. Lots of stores these days are selling brown rice noodles as well as all other varieties of gluten-free products. They cook up just like regular lasagna noodles, but still have a slight bite to them. Not crunchy. More like al dente. I like my noodles that way. No one likes a soggy noodle.

With roasted fall veggies, sage, mascarpone and shallots what is not to love? I give this one two thumbs up. It's rich, but it is so good. Next time I make this, and I will be, I will be having a small piece with a big salad and a glass of pinot grigio. I think that would be perfect. The recipe says it could serve 2-4 for a main meal or 4-6 for a side dish. I think the 4-6 size piece would be perfect. Maybe that is just me though. Once you take a bite of this, you may want to eat the whole pan. At least I did. Mmm crispy sage.

delicious ingredients

roasting those veggies

here are the brown rice noodles that I used. You can use any noodle you have or want

butter, garlic and shallots. best smell ever.

sauteed garlic and shallots mixed in with mascarpone. I could eat this with a spoon or spread it on bread. YUM.

look at those layers of goodness


post baked. look at those crunchy edges. I would just eat those.

 Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Lasagna (from

9-12 whole wheat lasagna noodle sheets (preferably no-boil)
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups cubed)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1 1/2 cups cubed)
12 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
a bunch of sage leaves
olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degree

For squash & potatoes: Lay cubed squash and potatoes on a baking sheet, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil (only about 1-2 teaspoons). Use your hands to coat the squash and potatoes with olive oil, then sprinkle with nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Roast for 50 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes or so. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, mash with a potato masher or fork. After mashing mine, I actually used a hand mixer with beaters to “whip” them a bit more, but that isn’t necessary. The consistency is up to you. Just make sure it is spreadable.

For mascarpone filling: Heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter. Add in shallots and garlic, and whisk every 30 seconds or so for 2-3 minutes. The butter should brown and the shallots and garlic should be fragrant. You don’t want the butter to burn –  if it seems too hot, reduce the heat. If it does burn, start over (sorry – totally worth it though!). Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
In a bowl, combine mascarpone, 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, remaining salt and pepper, and the shallots, butter and garlic. Mix until somewhat smooth and spreadable.

Layer lasagna: Spray an 8×8 pan with non-stick spray, then lay 2-3 (depending on size/brand) noodles down. Spread half of the squash mixture evenly over top, then spread/crumble half of the mascarpone on top of that. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella and remaining parmesan on next, then repeat with one more set of noodles, squash, mascarpone, and cheese.

Top the dish over with a bunch of sage leaves that will crisp up in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or until cheese on top is golden and bubbly.

There is not much else to say other than go make this now. Run. Wait, now that I think about it, this might be a great dish to throw in some of that extra thanksgiving turkey into if you want to add in some more protein. Right in between the roasted mash and the creamy cheese layer. Ya. That sounds fantastic. I might have to try that out. I bet it would be great with a little cranberry sauce on the side too. Oh no, here comes the saliva again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Sherbet

Warning! Over the next several weeks you will see lots of pumpkin recipes. I love pumpkin and am going to trying to use it in many ways. Got to get in the pumpkin goodness while I can!

Let me tell you about sherbet. I love it. That is all. Just kidding. Sherbet is more or less a sorbet with a little bit of dairy in it. My all time favorite kind of sherbet is rainbow sherbet. There is just something about it that is so delicious and comforting. Whenever I had surgery, my mom would always get me some. It just make me always feel better. Not sure why, it just did. I'm pretty sure the next time I have surgery, my mom will be there after with a big bowl of rainbow sherbet (yes, my mom is better than yours. Sorry). I can even remember the first time I had it. The day care that my sister and I went to always had a day during the month (during the summer) where we would go on a long adventure walk to Thrifty to get an ice cream cone. All of the other kids got chocolate or vanilla, but I always got rainbow sherbet. I love when you get to the end of the cone and you can push all the sherbet in the grid and then eat it. YUM. I so want a big bowl of that now. I guess the cup of fat free hot cocoa will have to do for now. Darn.

Back to pumpkin sherbet. I was looking for a low fat and rather low cal creamy pumpkin recipe and came across the perfect one. Pumpkin sherbet. Sherbet and pumpkin together? I was sold! It was creamy, it was spicy, it was a pumpkin pie party in my mouth. If you love pumpkin and are looking for a healthy alternative to pumpkin pie ice cream or to that big slice of pumpkin pie, try this one out. Totally refreshing and totally delicious.

forgot to take a picture of the ingredients oops. here is the milk. I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk, but use whatever milk you have in your fridge.

milk and pumpkin


adding spices to the bubbling pumpkin and milk

swirling spices. mmm.

ready to chill

churning sherbet


Pumpkin Sherbet (from
2 1/4 cups almond milk (or whatever milk you have)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of clove
pinch of salt

In a saucepan, combine milk, sugar, pumpkin, and heat over medium heat. Bring to a full boil while whisking, then reduce heat to low, and simmer for thirty seconds. Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove, and stir. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and chill in the refrigerator until cold, about an hour.  When chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The best part of this is a 1/2 cup serving is just about 153 calories and 1 gram of fat. I wish I still had some of this in my freezer. If you want to add a little topping to this, try crushed up graham crackers for extra crunch!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kale Chips

If you love potato chips and are looking for a great way to stop eating half the bag in one sitting (let's be real here - who can just have a handful or two?), well then I am here to tell you about my new love. Kale chips! When you are at the grocery store, I'm sure you've seen kale and I'm sure you've run far far away from it. I'm one of those people that love dark greens, but I must admit, I don't eat enough of them.

Kale chips are now on my favorite veggies and snack list. It's super simple and they taste fantastic. If you've had kale steamed or in another dish, you know that it is bitter and the flavor is kind of, uhm, not the best. Don't let that scare you here though. All you need to do is grab a bunch of kale, which is super cheap (I found mine for under $1!), some olive oil and seasonings to taste. I used just simple salt and pepper, but you could add cayenne for a kick or even garlic powder. Once you get the basics down on making these, you can try all kinds of flavors.

My town recently became home to a new Whole Foods store and boy oh boy am I in love. It's definitely not a store for my every day shopping, but they have awesome items, especially those lactose free items for me. I found my new favorite lactose free yogurt the other day. Even sour cream! I will be posting about this soon in my next product review, so stay tuned for that. Lots of items and lots of things I think you will love as much as I do. Now why did I start talking about Whole Foods? Oh ya! On the shelf behind the yougurts I saw kale chips. In all kinds of flavors - everything from plain to ranch to BBQ. I was about to try the BBQ ones when I saw the price. Almost $4! I just did not have the heart to pay that much when I knew I could make them at home.

Like I said, this a low cost and low calorie snack that I am sure you will love. If you love potato chips, try these. If you don't like them, well, at least it didn't cost you that much to make them (but I know you will like them).

three ingredients - kale, olive oil and seasonings

de-ribbed kale

tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper

look how much they shrunk!

crispy and delicious!
Kale Chips (from

1 bunch Kale
1 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper (to taste)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale (pat dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner), then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet (I used two since I had so many leaves!) Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

I wish I had some of these right now. Talk about guilt free snacking! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Was brave enough to sign up for this today!

What happens here is that you get the address of three other bloggers and send them each one dozen of the cookie you've decided to make. In return, you will also get three shipments (all one dozen each) from three other bloggers so you can test out their cookies. Once all the cookies have been received, you then blog about your recipe so that all can see how you made them (and even try making these themselves). How fun, right? I think it will be. I definitely don't need three dozen cookies around tempting me during the holiday season, so I sure hope that Ryan, my family and colleagues at work can help me eat them. 

Now comes the question - What type of cookie should I send out? I am thinking something fun and new. A cookie no one would expect. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, but does anyone have any recommendations? Shipments go out on Friday, December 2nd!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple Cider Caramels

Since it's officially fall and true chilly fall weather has arrived, it is only perfect that the apple recipes start coming in full force. Fall is my favorite season - it's chilly, but not too cold and it's time to pull out the boots, scarves and sweaters from the closet. I love how the trees change color. I love how nice it is to curl up with a big bowl of soup and a big snugly blanket. Best of all, I love those cool rainy days that make you just want to snuggle in bed all day. Doesn't that sound nice? I think so. 

Speaking of snuggling, you might just want to snuggle up to a big bowl of these apple cider caramels. They are appley, cinnamony and so so so good. It's like eating liquid apple pie. No joke. Keeping with the theme of fall and apple goodness, in comes Apple Hill. If you are in the Sacramento area, you have got to go. There are tons of orchards, tree farms, wineries and even a brewery too. You can pick your own fruit, or do like Ryan and I do and go wine and pie tasting. Best combination ever, right? Heck yes! Each place makes their own pie and it's really fun to taste them all and pick out the subtle differences. A couple of weeks ago we took our friends Matt and Lauren up there for their first time, and we had a ton of fun. I love me a good piece of apple pie, but I must say, the apple strudel we had at the first place (my favorite - Boa Vista Orchards), was pretty darn good. 

Wow, I really get off topic quick don't I? I could talk about apples and fall all day, but let's get to caramels. I've never made caramel before in my life, and I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous. I shouldn't have been though. Caramel is not hard to make, you just have to be patient to let the boiling sugar lava come up to temperature. You all know that I am not very patient when it comes to these things, but I am slowly learning.  If you are scared about making homemade caramels, don't be. It was way easier than I thought and the most important thing to have is a candy thermometer. I picked one up at a local store for under $5, so don't go spending your whole paycheck on one. That and you want to use good apple cider. Not apple juice. Apple cider. You can of course get this up at Apple Hill, but you can also use anything you find in your local grocery store. I used Simply Apple (they also make lemonade and orange juice), but I have seen cider at Trader Joes. I'm sure with the fall season in full force, that cider should be easy to find.

Ready to make caramels? Let's do this! Once you make these, you will want to make them for everyone. They are like little bites of fall in your mouth. 


apple cider reduction. make this about an hour before you want to start. it will need to cool before you can start making caramels!

here is the candy thermometer I bought.

apple cider spices added to the cream

prepare your pan before you start so you can pour in the caramel right away.

boil - round one. cream, water, sugar and corn syrup
add that butter

add the cider and the rest of the cream and bring up to temperature.

getting impatient - almost to temperature!!

caramel ready to cool - this take a couple of hours.

I got too excited after making these and forgot to show you how I wrapped them up. All you will need is wax paper and then wrap them up like a tootsie roll. I packaged mine in a chinese take out box (one I got from Michaels craft store, not a used box) and put a bow on them. Not only are these perfect to have as a treat, but they are perfect to give away as a little hello. Plus, saying that you made caramels -  Hello, winner!
Apple Cider Caramels (from

2 c. high-quality apple cider (like Simply Apple)
1 c. heavy cream or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp. ground cinnamon*
Pinch nutmeg*
1/4 tsp. allspice*
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
1 stick (1/2 c.) real butter, cubed
*If you’d rather, you can use 1 tsp. apple pie or pumpkin pie spice + 1/2 tsp. cinnamon instead of the full teaspoon of cinnamon plus the nutmeg and allspice.

Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. (keep a glass or silicone measuring cup handy so you can pour it out and back in again if you need to). Set aside to cool.

Line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave about 1″ hanging over the edges for easy removal. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.

Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.

Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cut the caramels into 1/2″ squares and wrap each caramel in wax paper. Store in an airtight container or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
 One word of advice for making these - do not be in a rush. It does take time to reduce the cider, make the caramels and let them cool. All in all, the whole process takes a good 3 hours at least (depending on how fast the caramels cool). Also, the first time I made these, I didn't think they needed to be kept in the fridge, but I think they are best kept in the fridge. If you don't they will get all squishy and hard to eat (Sorry Bea & Chris!).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cookie Dough Hummus

I know what you are thinking - she's crazy. Cookie dough hummus? No I am not kidding. I am dead serious. 

My sister came across this recipe about a month ago and told me how good it was. I must admit, at first, I was not sure how chickpeas and a few other ingredients would taste like cookie dough, but boy was I wrong. I guess I should have known when my sister said she almost ate the whole recipe in one sitting. I knew it had to be good! I had everything I needed to make it (chickpeas, peanut butter, baking powder and a few others), so I decided to whip it up one night for a quick and easy dessert. Let me tell you, IT WAS SO GOOD. Of course it's not going to be just like cookie dough, but for what was in it, it was pretty darn close. If you love hummus as much as I do, pretty pretty please promise me you will try this. I promise you won't regret it. I think my sister would agree too.  

This is best served with apple slices, at least that is how I ate it. I bet even honey graham crackers would be great too. Or you can just eat it with a spoon. I would have been tempted to do that if I didn't have any apples. Your fingers would work well for this too. Just don't let anyone see you do that!

I used a bit of agave nectar to sweeten mine, but you can use brown sugar instead

rinsed and draining those chickpeas!

everybody into the mini chop!

blend baby blend

stir in chocolate chips after all smooth

serves with apples!

Cookie Dough Hummus (adapted from

1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained) 
1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons peanut butter (you can use any nut butter here)
up to 1/4 cup nondairy milk (Start with 1 T, and add more as needed)
1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar (or brown sugar)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips and serve!

If you are lucky, maybe I will show you how to make the hummus that tastes like snickerdoodles. Yes, a hummus that tastes like snickerdoodles. Who would have ever though, right?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Turkey Chipotle Chili - Chili Cookoff!

A couple of weeks ago, there was a sign up list for a chili cook-off at work. The first ten people to sign up would participate and if they won, their chili would be featured in the cafeteria at work for a week. The deadline came and went (I was so busy with work, it slipped my mind), and I thought I had missed out on my chance to try and win this thing. I was wrong. I went to the cafeteria to get my silverware and glass of water during lunch and noticed that there were only a few people on the list. I guess it was meant to be. So I signed up.

The first thing that came to my mind was that I did not want to make just plain ol' chili.  Don't get me wrong, I love regular beef and bean chili, but I wanted to spice it up and do something the judges would love (hopefully). I few years ago my mom got me hooked on this turkey chipotle chili. It has the right amount of spiciness from the chipotles in adobo (more on this later) and the right amount of heartiness from the cannelini beans and crushed tomatoes. It's quick, it's easy and you can have it ready to eat in just about 30 minutes. Seriously, 30 minutes. How awesome it that. Who doesn't love a quick dinner. I know I do. Especially after a long day, who wants to slave in the kitchen. Not me. Okay, I am getting away from the reason we are here - chili!

This is easy and I bet you already have everything you need to make this. Well, maybe not the chipotles in adobo, but you can find those in just about any store these days. They will most likely be located in with all the other Spanish or Mexican ingredients in your grocery store. Here are what the ones I picked up look like. They are usually in a small can and about $2, give or take. For this recipe you will only need two plus a little of the sauce, so make sure not to throw the extras away. Put them in a plastic baggie or small tupperware and toss them in your freezer. Trust me, you'll be wanting to make this recipe again after you try it.

Like I said before, this one is super easy. It's more or less a throw everything in and let it simmer until you are ready to eat. Cook the onions and garlic until soft and then add the seasonings and chipotles. Then add the ground turkey meat and cook until fully cooked and browned. Add the beer (I used Firestone here, but I am biased for San Luis Obispo beer, but use what you have on hand), beans and tomatoes and simmer. See, told you. Easy!

if you can, use the leanest ground turkey you can. This will make for an even lower fat chili!

love this garlic - pick it up and keep it in your freezer! One cube = one clove. Find it at your local Trader Joes!

onions, garlic and spices. smells heavenly. too bad this picture is not scratch and sniff.

cut open the chipotles and remove the seeds. Keep them in if you like it hot.

turkey meat. gobble gobble.

beer and tomatoes added


simmer simmer boil boil

Now, let's take a break and let me know you how how to make your own oven baked tortilla strips and chips to top your chili with. All you will need is corn tortillas (white or yellow, whatever you like or have on hand), salt and some non-stick spray. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut you tortillas into strips or small little chips. Spray the pan with non-stick spray, lay your chips on the pan in a single layer. Then spray the tops with the non-stick spray. 

ready to bake!

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye on them. I would say, check on them at about 6 minutes just to be safe. If they are at your desired level of brownness, take them out and sprinkle a little sea salt on them. You can omit the last step, but if you do add the salt, do it as soon as you take them out and toss them around a bit. Warning - don't sample these as soon as they come out of the oven. You will burn your tongue. At least I did. Ouch.


Once the chili has simmered for about 30 minutes, you are ready to eat! I serve my with a dollop of low-fat or fat free sour cream, green onions and some of the strips.  Where is scratch and sniff when you need it.

this is almost too pretty to eat.

Turkey Chipotle Chili (slightly adapted from Rachael Rays 30 minute chili)

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 chipotle chile en adobo, coarsely chopped, with 2-3 tablespoons sauce
1 pound ground turkey
1 (12-ounce) beer
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced, with their juice
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt, chili powder, and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and the chipotle chile

Ladle the chili into bowls and serve with the garnishes of your choice.

How good does that sound? I always double this recipe and save the left overs in the freezer for a day when I don't want to make dinner or need an easy lunch. As for the results of the chili contest, I did not win, but that is okay. It was a blind tasting and the winner had more of a traditional chili. I still feel like a winner though. My old boss LOVED my chili. In fact, he thought it was the best one and he had no idea it was mine (remember, blind tasting). He told me the next time we have a  company party, that I have to make the chili. YES SIR!