Don’t Pass Me Over!

We had a quiet Easter this last Sunday, which is probably just as well, as beloved was recovering from a bad cold and I was struggling with coming down with a cold. And, I still don’t really have my cooking mojo back.

In trying to develop a menu, I remembered that we had a (relatively small, at just over four pounds) beef brisket in the freezer. After some thought, I decided to give a nod to Passover by making a brisket and, after some Googling, a Potato Kugel to go along with it. I mean, I’ve never eaten kugel before, much less made it, but whenever has that stopped me? I decided to round the meal out with green beans almondine: I purchased fresh French green beans in a microwaveable package (to steam them); once steamed, I tossed with a bit of butter, sprinkle of salt, sprinkle of pepper, and toasted almond slivers. Easy but special enough for a holiday.

Oh, and of course, I made some deviled eggs.

This menu also would be easy to adjust for more servings if the kids and grands would be joining us; if they came, I would increase the volume of the sides; if they didn’t, we could have leftover brisket for several days and just a few more servings of the sides. (We are never wholly certain when we’ll see them for holidays or not, so I try to keep somewhat adjustable menus in mind.)

I have my take on a Jewish-style Spiced Beef Brisket, and it’s very yummy, but the rich, spicy flavors of it put me more in mind of fall and winter than spring. However, there is a brisket recipe that I’ve long wanted to try. I first heard about it when watching a Lidia Bastianich holiday special several years ago wherein she — and her grandchildren, it was very sweet — visited different families to partake in their cultural holiday traditions. One of the families they joined was a Jewish family for one of the nights of Hanukkah, and a woman — whose name escapes me, but who I believe is now known as an accomplished cook/chef — brought her mother’s brisket. She’d said her mother, ironically, was not known as a good cook, but that her brisket — which was brisket coated with a bottle of ketchup — always earned raves.

My intrigue for this type of recipe increased when, upon Googling “Passover Brisket,” while I came across a variety of brisket recipes, a simple one made with onion soup mix and ketchup (or chili sauce) popped up. With some additional Googling for “Passover side dishes,” I came across Potato Kugel, and decided to make it as a side.

NOTE: To be Kosher for Passover, foods consumed must be free of chametz (any one or more of five types of grains) and foods containing yeast…more or less a gluten-free diet. I did not make efforts to make the brisket and kugel Kosher for Passover. If you want to make these foods Kosher, then 1) ensure all products used are designated Kosher and 2) for Passover, substitute the cornstarch used in the kugel with matzo meal, potato starch, or a similar Kosher for Passover option.

So, using this Pioneer Woman recipe as starting point, I decided to give Passover Brisket a try. Me being me, I opted to do half (no-sugar-added) ketchup and half chili sauce. I also added a splash of Worcestershire and some red wine. Other than trimming fat from the brisket (it was a flat-cut trimmed brisket, but there was still a rather significant fat cap on one side, which I trimmed away), it was an incredibly easy recipe to do, mostly hands-off, and because it cooks “low and slow,” it didn’t overheat the kitchen on a warm spring day. The chili sauce gives it a hint of heat, while the (no-sugar-added) ketchup gives it a bit of tang and hint of sweet.

As for the Potato Kugel: As with many classic dishes, there are a number of variations, from very basic versions with only a few ingredients to more complex ones that incorporate a variety of ingredients and seasonings. I opted to use Tori Avey’s recipe as a springboard. Because it was going to be just hubby and me, I made a relatively small kugel that I baked in a 1 1/2 quart (6 cup) casserole. Bonus: I baked it in my toaster oven, which meant I didn’t overheat my kitchen on a relatively warm spring day!

20190421 Easter Potato Kugel

Potato Kugel — Crispy on the Outside, Moist and Soft on the Inside

Potato Kugel requires peeled and grated potato and grated onion, which makes it a more labor-intensive dish, especially if you’re making a larger-sized batch. You can use a hand grater, the grating attachment on a food processor, or, as I did, use a “VeggettiPro” or other type of implement that can “spiralize” vegetables. While it was delicious made with onion, I think it would be even more fabulous made with leeks.

Hubby enjoyed it well enough to have it be a repeat, so I told him that whenever he gets a hankering for it, just ask for the “Passover Brisket.” 🙂

Whether you make it for a holiday or not, I promise you, it will be YUMMY!

Passover Brisket (Number of servings depend upon size of brisket; for a brisket more than 5 or so pounds, suggest you increase the amount of sauce accordingly)

  • Beef brisket, trimmed of most fat (you want to leave a bit, but not too much)
  • 1 bottle (12/13 ounces) ketchup (I used no-sugar-added ketchup)
  • 1 bottle (12/13 ounces) chili sauce
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Dry red wine (eye-ball it, I probably used a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of wine, you may use more or less as you wish)
  1. Mix together ketchup, chili sauce, dry onion soup mix, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour wine into empty ketchup and chili bottles, shake to release any remaining ketchup and sauce, and stir into ketchup/chili sauce/soup mixture.
  2. Place brisket in a 13″x9″ pan. Spread half of ketchup/chili sauce mixture over meat. turn meat and spread remaining mixture on other side of meat.
  3. Cover and let marinate in refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
  4. Remove from refrigerator. Turn meat and ensure it is coated on all sides. Cover pan securely with foil.
  5. Bake at 275F (no  need to preheat!), turning and basting half-way through, until fork-tender, approximately 6 to 7 hours.  NOTE: Brisket, like ribs, can be unpredictable and can sometimes take much longer to bake than anticipated. Remember — it can be easy to keep it warm, but you can’t rush cooking it, so err on the side of caution as far as the amount of cooking time needed.
  6. Slice meat against grain (I sliced it in its baking dish) and serve with rendered sauce.
  7. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

 

Potato Kugel  (Serves 5 as written, can be adjusted up or down, just adjust size of baking vessel accordingly)

  • Five small to medium-sized potatoes (I didn’t weigh them, but it was probably around 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and grated or spiralized
  • 1 small onion, grated or spiralized (NOTE: I think a leek would yummy, as well)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons corn starch (I eye-balled it)
  1. Grate or spiralize potatoes, keeping them in a dish of iced-cold water as you go to prevent their discoloration.
  2. Grate or spiralize onion; set aside.
  3. Pour 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of oil (I used Canola oil) into casserole dish. Place dish in oven as it preheats to 400F.
  4. While oven is preheating, beat together two eggs. Drain potatoes in a colander and use paper towels or clean dish towels to squeeze water from them.
  5. In a medium-sized bowl, toss together potato, onion, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste. Pour in egg and toss potatoes and onion with eggs. Sprinkle in cornstarch and toss.
  6. Once oven is preheated and pan is hot, CAREFULLY remove hot pan from oven. Using a heat-proof brush, brush oil up along sides of pan.
  7. Give potato and onion mixture one final toss and pour/spread into hot pan.
  8. Brush another tablespoon or so of oil on to top of kugel.
  9. Bake until crispy on top (and hopefully on sides) and baked in the center, approximately 70 to 90 minutes (things tend to take a bit longer in my toaster oven). NOTE: If it’s browning too quickly, cover top with foil. If it is baked all the way through but not browned on top, then broil for 3 to 5 minutes to brown the top.
  10. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
  11. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Do You Dip?

Cajun FiddlerIt’s Fat Tuesday today. It’s a low-key celebration for us this year, as I’ve yet to regain my cooking mojo after losing my mom the day after Thanksgiving last year (23-Nov-18).

So for an easy but festive Cajun-style lunch today, I opted to do a take on the shrimp basket available at Razoo’s:  beer-battered shrimp (store-bought and baked),  jalapeño hush puppies (store-bought and baked), and crinkle cut fries (store-bought and baked).  To make it Cajun, I made a batch of Cajun Dipping Sauce.

This zippy sauce is great for sea food as well as fries — it adds a nice zip to almost anything that is dippable — and will make you consider dipping things that you might not dip otherwise! 😉

Light Miracle Whip, light mayonnaise, ketchup, chili sauce, lemon juice, Cajun seasoning, and hot sauce to taste — that’s all it takes! Stir it up and let it hang out in your ‘fridge for an hour or so for the flavors to meld before you start dipping.

Although I’ve shared my Cajun Seasoning recipe before, I’ll include it again here, for convenience. You can, of course, purchase Cajun Seasoning in most stores — myself, I’m partial to Tony Chacere’s Creole Seasoning — but as part of my Googling, I came across recipes for making one’s own Cajun seasoning. Making your own seasoning has the benefits of not only being more affordable, but also of being made to suit your tastes (such as being hotter or milder, lower in sodium, reduced in sugar or sugar-free, and so forth). Using Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for inspiration, I whipped up my own version of Cajun Seasoning to suit our tastes.  I just mix it up in a Ziploc baggie and keep it in my pantry.

Oh, and what’s on our menu for tonight? Blackened catfish made with my homemade Blackened Seasoning, New-Orleans style beans (tinned) and rice, my take on Rachael Ray’s corn sauté, and “Frenchy” bread (a Razzoo’s staple, it is sliced French bread buttered on both sides and grilled).

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

 

Cajun Dipping Sauce (All measurements are approximate; I eye-balled it; adjust quantities as desired)

NOTE: 1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt could be substituted for the Miracle Whip and mayonnaise

  • ALL MEASURES ARE APPROXIMATE
  • 1/4 cup light Miracle Whip (salad dressing)
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • Roughly 1/4 cup ketchup
  • Couple of tablespoons of chili sauce
  • Squirt/splash of lemon juice
  • Cajun seasoning to taste (I used a couple of teaspoons total)
  • Dashes of hot sauce (I used Razzoo’s Cajun sauce) to taste (optional)
  1. Stir together salad dressing, mayo, ketchup, chili sauce, and lemon juice. Add in seasoning and taste; add in more if needed (remember you can always add in more, but you can’t take it out!). Stir in hot sauce if desired.
  2. Store in refrigerator. Let flavors meld together at least one hour before serving.

Cajun Seasoning (Adjust to suit your own tastes)

Don’t fret over exact measurements; rounded spoonfuls are fine.
Note that 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon.

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (dried)
  • 2 teaspoons thyme (dried or powdered)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used reduced sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Mix all ingredients together. (I like to put them all in a Ziploc bag, close it, and shake it together to mix them.)
  2. Store in a sealed container (I use a Ziploc bag).

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Now That’s a Spicy Meatball!

Hot Turkey Italian Sausage

Growing up, sometimes as a special treat, Mom would make spaghetti with spicy Italian sausage. It was yummy — as all of Mom’s meals are — but it was a very occasional treat because pork Italian sausage is so fatty.

So many years ago, I was THRILLED to find spicy turkey Italian sausage in my grocery. Both Butterball and Jennie-O make Italian sausages, available as sweet or hot. I don’t care for the sweet Italian sausage — never have — but the hot turkey Italian sausage is YUMMY, peoples! Whenever I would find it for sale, I’d stock up on it, wrapping the sausages in cling wrap and freezing them.

Hot Italian Turkey Sausage

Over this past year, though, despite searching stores everywhere — including Tyler — I’ve only been able to find the sweet turkey Italian sausage. I can find spicy pork Italian sausage, but I really don’t want to spend the calories on it.

Remembering that I’ve made breakfast sausage in the past, I began wondering if I could make my own spicy Italian Sausage. I wouldn’t bother with putting it in the casing, because that wouldn’t really be necessary for my purposes, but I did want to be able to use it for Fabio Viviani’s “Lazy Meatballs,” where he squeezes bite-sized pieces of Italian sausage from the casing, rolls it into a meatball shape, and drops it into simmering pasta sauce to cook.

Also, of course, I would still be able to brown the sausage to use in any other recipes. The only thing I wouldn’t be able to do without the casing is make an Italian sausage sandwich, but given that I hardly, if ever, make those, I think I’ll be fine without the casing — and I could always make a Lazy Meatball sandwich, which would be similar. (NOTE: If you want your sausage in a casing, you can get them for use at home, and stuff them by hand or, if you plan on making a huge batch of them, you can get a machine that will help you stuff them.)

So, I began Googling recipes. Many call for using pork shoulder or pork butt, which is finely chopped/ground in either  a meat grinder or food processor. There are a variety of spice combinations, also, from very basic and simple (salt, fennel, and red pepper flakes) to a myriad of spices and methods (including toasting spices and/or infusing them in olive oil) combined for a more complex flavor. Most of the recipes yielded anywhere from 2 to 20 pounds of sausage, but I only wanted to make a pound, especially on my maiden run.

After reviewing a variety of recipes, methods, and descriptions, I devised a plan to

  • Use extra lean (90/10) ground turkey,
  • Include a splash of olive oil (which I thought would help with the texture and flavor),
  • Employ a variety of spices to make a flavorful “sausage,” and
  • Give the “sausage” a couple of hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld before using it in a recipe (some recipes used the sausage mixture right away, others insisted it must be mixed one or more days ahead).

I thawed out a pound of ground turkey, made a list of the spices and their amounts that I wanted to use, mixed it all together, and then put it back in the ‘fridge for a couple of hours. To test it out, I made Fabio’s Lazy Meatballs with a Lucini pasta sauce (I opted not to make my own pasta sauce this time, as I wanted to focus on the “sausage” and its flavor).

Peoples: It. Was. YUMMY! Beloved loved the spicy flavor and the texture, and we’re both very happy to have Spicy Italian Sausage back in our lives!

Some notes:

  1. I used extra lean (90/10) ground turkey, but you can use ground chicken, ground pork, or even extra-lean ground beef. You could also use ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast, but you’ll get a richer flavor and better texture, I think, with 90/10 or 93/7 ground meat.
  2. If you use ground breast, I think I would add in a bit of finely minced carrot and onion to improve the texture and provide moisture.
  3. The recipe is for a pound, but you can scale it up or down fairly easily. If you like, you could make a large batch and freeze it in desired portion sizes for use later.
  4. Although you could probably use it right away, I do think giving it a couple – three hours (or overnight) for the flavors to meld and enhance will make for a more flavorful mixture.
  5. Making this yourself, of course, you can adjust the level of spice and heat. We like it spicy and hot, but if you want it milder, you could cut back on the red pepper flakes and/or the paprika, as well as the cayenne (or leave it out all together). And of course, if you want it hotter, you could add in more red pepper flakes, paprika, and/or cayenne. For us, the recipe as presented here gave us a yummy, fragrant, spicy, but not too hot, flavor.
  6. Dried herbs (as opposed to fresh) are the better choice for this recipe. With the exception of the powdered herbs and the pepper, I crushed/rubbed the herbs between my palms to make them finer and release more of their flavor. You could also whiz all the spices together in a food processor, if you prefer, before sprinkling them on the meat.

So here you go — homemade Spicy Italian Sausage. Buon Appetito!

Hot Italian Sausage (Makes 1 pound, easy to scale up or down)

  • 1 pound lean (90/10 or 93/7) ground meat (I used turkey)
  • Splash of olive oil (I used garlic-infused olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon basil (rub between your palms)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (rub between your palms)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed (rub between your palms)
  • 1 teaspoon parsley (rub between your palms)
  1. Place ground meat in a bowl. Add in spices and drizzle with olive oil. Mix together thoroughly. (I wear disposable, non-powdered gloves — like those for first aid — when doing messy chores like this.)
  2. Cover and place in refrigerator for two or three hours or overnight for flavors to meld.
  3. Refrigerate or freeze after cooking OR freeze, uncooked, for later use.

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Potato? No, Pâté!

Céad míle fáilte! (A hundred thousand welcomes!) 

As per usual, my beloved and I celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day this past Friday, and happily, my mom felt well enough to join in the festivies. As Wikipedia tells us:

Saint Patrick’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is a religious holiday celebrated internationally on 17 March. It is named after Saint Patrick (c. AD 387–461), the most commonly recognised of the patron saints of Ireland. It originated as a Catholic holiday but is now celebrated by Protestants also. It became an official feast day in the early 17th century. Over time, Saint Patrick’s Day has gradually become more of a secular celebration of Irish culture….

Originally, the color associated with Saint Patrick was blue. Over the years the color green and its association with Saint Patrick’s day grew. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick’s Day as early as the 17th century. He is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, and the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a ubiquitous feature of the day. In the 1798 rebellion, in hopes of making a political statement, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on 17 March in hopes of catching public attention. The phrase “the wearing of the green”, meaning to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing, derives from a song of the same name.

This year, I decided to try out some new things as part of our celebrations, either with new recipes or by cooking something familiar in a different way.

While the potato famine made potatoes one of the foods synonymous with Ireland, Irish cuisine is also known for its seafood. Inspired by some recipes I found at http://www.ireland.com, I decided to give Cliff Academy: Lesley Keogh’s Smoked salmon pâté a try.

“Guinness is good for you!” in Celtic

Of course, me being me, I made a few adjustments, mainly substituting Neufchâtel (reduced-fat cream cheese) for the full-fat cream cheese and using dried dill instead of fresh.

Our Saint Patrick’s Day lunch was an al fresco affair with an assortment of Irish cheeses, assorted crackers, fresh fruit, a variety of olives, and this Salmon Pâté, which is now officially one of my favorite things. Oh, and of course, we had some Guinness on hand — because, as we all know, Guinness is good for you! (Please forgive me, as I have absolutely no idea how to get these images to be side by side. *sigh*)

A trio of Irish Cheeses: Dubliner, Aged Cheddar, and a Gouda.

The Salmon Pâté takes center stage!

Blueberries, Strawberries, and Two Types of Seedless Grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the next time you are looking for a delicious but special appetizer that comes together 1-2-3, then give this easy, elegant Salmon Pâté a try. Because it calls for equal parts smoked salmon and cream cheese, it’s very easy to make as much or as little as you like! I made mine with 6 ounces of smoked salmon and 6 ounces of reduced-fat cream cheese. I think it might also taste delicious on a bagel — just call it Lox Pâté. 😉

I promise you, it tastes so yummy, you’ll break out into an Irish jig!

 

Salmon Pâté

  • Smoked salmon
  • Reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel)
  • Horseradish to taste (I eyeballed mine — use pure horseradish, NOT the horseradish “sauce” or creamed horseradish)
  • Lemon juice to taste (I eyeballed mine)
  • Dried (or fresh) dill to taste (I eyeballed mine)
  1. Place EQUAL PARTS of smoked salmon and cream cheese into a food processor. Season to taste with horseradish, lemon juice, and dill. (Remember, you can always add in more, but you can’t take it out.)
  2. Whiz together in your food processor until smooth. Taste; add additional seasonings if needed.
  3. Serve with crackers, cocktail breads, or cocktail-sized toast squares or points. Refrigerate leftovers, tightly covered.

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The Big Ragu!

laverne__shirleyIf you ever watched Laverne & Shirley, then the chances are good that you’re familiar with Carmine “the Big Ragu” Ragusa, one of the recurring characters on the show portrayed by Eddie Mekka.

While I’ve learned to make a yummy Bolognese Sauce, there are times when a meat sauce — or a Ragù Carne (I’ve also seen it as Ragù di Carne — as I’m not an Italian speaker, I don’t know which is correct, or if they both are) — will do just fine, such as when making lasagna or Penne al Forno con Ragù Carne (Baked Penne with Meat Sauce).

A few months ago, I was going to be out for the day, and I wanted an easy supper. We wanted spaghetti, and so I decided to try making my meat sauce (Ragù Carne) in my slow cooker. I kept it simple: browned meat (extra lean ground turkey, ground beef, or even lean ground bulk sausage will work), onion, carrot, a tin of diced tomatoes, a tin of tomato paste, splash of Worcestershire, healthy splash of wine, and seasonings.

Peoples, it…was…YUMMY! Although not a Bolognese Sauce, it does made a lovely, thick, rich tasting sauce. This is currently my favorite way to make meat sauce!

And of course, if you like, you can add in some additional vegetables to the sauce — in making the sauce today, for example, I added in some fresh mushrooms that were reaching a “use or lose” status.

In December, I made a double batch of this sauce — a mix of ground turkey and ground bulk turkey sausage — and made two lasagnas: one for us and one as a gift for a friend.

If you don’t have time to put this sauce together in the morning, you can brown the meat the night before, put everything in your slow cooker, and put your slow cooker in the ‘fridge (or just refrigerate the browned meat and then put it all together in your slow cooker in the morning, or put the mixture all together in a separate container and refrigerate, then transfer it to your slow cooker in the morning).

TIP: To make clean-up easier, I suggest you use a slow cooker liner, lightly sprayed with cooking spray or oil. I use one even in my removable crock slow cooker.

VEGETARIANS: To make this sauce meatless, you can just leave out the meat, of course (and the Worcestershire sauce, if you want), although you might want to add in a small can (8 ounces) of tomato sauce or about 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of V-8 juice to increase the volume of sauce, or you can add in vegetables in lieu of the meat, such as a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, diced eggplant, mushrooms, and/or diced zucchini. Because the additional vegetables will add additional liquid, you might want to double the tomato paste.

This sauce is SO EASY and yet SO YUMMY, I’m sure that Carmine “the big Ragu” would approve. 🙂

 

Buon Appetito! Salute!

Slow Cooker Ragù Carne (Makes enough for one pan of lasagna or approximately 6 servings over pasta) (Vegetarians: See note above)

  • 1 to 1.25 pounds extra lean (90/10 or greater) ground beef, ground turkey, or lean/reduced-fat ground bulk sausage
  • 1 can (14 – 15 ounces) diced tomatoes, UNDRAINED
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Healthy glug (1/4 to 1/3 cup) dry red wine (white wine would likely work, also) OR splash or two of red wine vinegar
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 onion, finely diced (I whiz mine up in my wee food processor)
  • 1 carrot, finely mined/diced (I whiz mine up in my wee food processor)
  • Minced garlic, if desired
  • Seasonings to taste: bay leaf (1 or 2), basil, Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes (for a bit of fra diavolo flavor)
  • NOTE: IF USING FRESH HERBS, stir in after sauce has cooked, UNLESS you want to add in a sprig or two of fresh rosemary, then remove the sprig after the sauce as simmered.
  1. Brown ground meat. If desired, add in some minced garlic and sauté for a minute or two once meat has browned.
  2. Stir all ingredients into slow cooker. (I recommend using a liner for easier clean-up.)
  3. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours. (NOTE: It won’t hurt the sauce if it cooks a little longer.)
  4. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

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Traditions

christmas-holidaysFor most of us, that’s what holidays are about — tradition!

Anyone who knows me knows that I love festive occasions, and I especially love the fall and winter holidays. Holidays combine the traditions and history of our culture with the memories of our childhoods.

Mom, From Before I Was Born -- Beautiful, Isn't She?

Mom, From Before I Was Born — Beautiful, Isn’t She?

My mom loves the fall and winter holidays, too. She’s the reason I enjoy cooking and why I pay attention to things such as setting a table properly even for the most casual of meals. She built many happy holiday memories for us.

One holiday tradition that Mom always did for Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings when I was growing up is making us a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Another is her absolutely delicious Broccoli with Cheese Sauce, which always made any meal a special one.

When Googling around for some new ideas and/or ways to make holiday meals easier, I came across a recipe from McCormick for Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole.

This recipe appealed to me for several reasons:

  • It calls for frozen vegetables (fresh could be used, I’m sure, but fresh frozen are typically more affordable)
  • It can be made up to a day ahead
  • It reminds me of the yummy flavors of my mom’s Broccoli with Cheese Sauce, but unlike that dish, it doesn’t have to be made at the last minute.

So, I decided to give it a try. Of course, me being me, I made a few changes and adjustments, making the dish a bit lighter and more suiting our personal tastes.

Let me tell you, peoples — it was YUMMY! Mom said she likes it better than her own Broccoli with Cheese Sauce! I’m not sure about that, but it is mighty good.

McCormick’s suggests two seasoning variations — either all Italian Seasoning or a mixture of lemon pepper and basil seasoning. I went the lemon pepper and basil seasoning route, as I felt that would complement my Thanksgiving menu better, but the Italian seasoning would be yummy, as well.

I also think that a two pound mixture of almost any vegetables of your choice would be yummy, too!

And while it’s too early to tell, I’m thinking I may have started a new tradition with this dish! 🙂

 

So the next time you’re looking for a yummy but easy side dish, give this Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole a try — it just may become a new tradition for you, too!

Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole (Serves 10)

  • 1 slice wheat bread run through a food processor and turned into crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (VEGETARIANS: Substitute another cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning PLUS 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves, mixed together OR 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen cauliflower florets, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons flour
  • Squirt of yellow mustard
  • Sprinkling of garlic powder to taste
  • Sprinkling of coarse ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat (Neufchâtel) cream cheese, cubed
  • 3 or 4 ounces shredded or sliced cheeses of choice (Use an assortment of whatever you have on hand)
  1. In a large non-stick skillet or Dutch oven, sauté onion in 2 tablespoons butter over medium to medium low heat until onion is tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour and 1 teaspoon of seasoning (either the lemon pepper/basil blend or the Italian seasoning), lightly browning flour. Stir in a squirt of yellow mustard. Gradually stir in milk, stirring all the while to prevent lumps and scorching. Stir in cubed cream cheese and other cheeses, stirring constantly over low to medium heat, until cheeses melt.
  3. Gently stir in thawed broccoli and cauliflower. Season to taste with garlic powder and coarse ground black pepper. Pour into lightly buttered (or sprayed with cooking spray) 3 quart (13″x9″) baking dish.
  4. TO BAKE LATER: Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours, then proceed to next step. (You can prepare and refrigerate the bread crumb mixture.)
  5. Mix together the bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning. Sprinkle evenly over top of casserole. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
  6. Bake at 350F until heated through and bubbly (about 40 – 45 minutes in a pre-heated oven; about 55 minutes if oven isn’t pre-heated).
  7. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Pssst…Wanna Cheat?

potatoesWell, cheat on Potato Salad, that is. 😉

As with many foods, there are numerous variations on Potato Salad. As Wikipedia tells us:

Potato salad is a dish made from boiled potatoes that comes in many versions in different regions of the world.

It is a popular menu choice of cooks preparing food for a large number of people, because it is easily made in large quantities, it can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until needed, and requires inexpensive ingredients.

[In the United States,] Potato salad is often served with barbecue, roasts, hot dogs, fried chicken, hamburgers and cold sandwiches. Although it is enjoyed any time of year in the United States, it is commonly associated with summer and picnics. White and/or red potatoes are commonly used; it is customary to leave a bit of the skin on red potatoes—especially when Americans make it German-style.

Basic ingredients for traditional American potato salad include: cubed, boiled potatoes (typically russet potatoes), mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-like substitute such as yogurt or sour cream, yellow mustard and/or mustard powder (dry mustard), black pepper, salt, celery seed, sugar, dry dill, chopped pickles (pickled cucumber), chives, finely chopped red or white onion, chopped green or red bell pepper, thinly sliced/finely chopped celery and sometimes chopped hard-boiled egg whites (usually one egg per batch of salad). Vegetable ingredients (not including the potatoes) are incorporated raw and never cooked. The salad is often topped with paprika and chives, and generally served cold or room temperature.

I myself have several variations, including an Oil and Vinegar Potato Salad, a garden potato salad (it has lots of additional veggies), a baked potato salad I make with fat-free Greek yogurt instead of the more traditional sour cream, and a German-style potato salad. But when it’s just hubby and me or just a small crowd, I sometimes want a smaller, easier batch of potato salad.

And that’s where those boxes of dehydrated potato casserole mixes come in! You know the kind I’m talking about: the box contains dehydrated potatoes and a seasoning packet, and there are typically a variety of flavors available, such as scalloped, au gratin, baked potato, and so forth. You add boiling water, milk, and a bit of butter. Me being me, of course, I use reduced-fat milk (typically 1% or 2%) and cut back a bit on the butter.

Inspired by a recipe on the back of a box of a store-brand of boxed potatoes, I make a potato salad from it, and let me tell you — it was tasty, relatively easy (no slicing, dicing, or peeling of the potatoes!), and it can be a fun, easy way to vary up the flavor of your potato salad.

Also, it only makes about 5 to 6 servings, so it’s perfect for a smaller group, such as when it’s just my hubby and me (it gives us potato salad for a couple or three meals).

IMPORTANT TIPS:

  • The recipe is based on a boxed casserole mix that provides 5 (1/2 cup) servings. If your mix has more or less, adjust the recipe amounts accordingly.
  • I’ve made this with scalloped potato casserole mix, sour cream and chives potato casserole mix, jalapeno cheddar potato casserole mix, and Applewood smoked bacon potato casserole mix — it’s really fun to mix up the flavors.
  • Vary the add-ins to suit your tastes, what you have available, and what you think will best complement the base flavor of the casserole mix.
  • I used the same pan for all the steps: cooking the potatoes, hard boiling the eggs, and then mixing the seasoning packet.

So go ahead — the next time you find yourself craving some ‘tater salad, but you wanna take it easy on yourself, don’t be afraid to cheat. 😉 And don’t worry, there’s no need for your heart to feel guilty. 😉

 

Easy Potato Salad (Serves 5 to 6)

  • 1 box (5-serving size) potato casserole mix (e.g., scalloped, au gratin, sour cream and chives, whatever flavor you choose)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon oil (suggest canola oil)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (or 3 tablespoons, if you want it tarter)
  • 1/4 cup light salad dressing (such as light Miracle Whip) or reduced-fat mayonnaise (I eyeball it)
  • Squirt of yellow mustard (approximately 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • Sliced celery to taste (1 or 2 stalks)
  • Other additions as desired, such as chopped onion, chopped chives, chopped green onion, radish slices, grated carrot, crumbled bacon, etc.
  • Coarse ground black pepper to taste
  • Paprika (if desired)
  1. Empty potato slices into a saucepan. Add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for approximately 3 minutes. Drain. Rinse gently in cold water until cool enough to handle. Drain, place in bowl, and refrigerate.
  2. Mix together the seasoning packet, 1/2 cup water, and the oil. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil (it will begin to thicken). Remove from heat and cool. (I rested my pan in a sink with cold water.)
  3. Once cooled, stir the salad dressing or mayonnaise, the vinegar, and the mustard into the seasoned sauce. Add in coarse ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Gently toss together the potatoes, hard boiled egg, celery and any other desired additions (onions, chives, pickles, crumbled bacon, whatever), and the dressing.
  5. If desired, sprinkle the top of the salad with paprika and/or crumbled bacon. Or, if you prefer, reserve one of the hard boiled eggs and use sliced or diced hard boiled egg as part of the garnish, or sprinkle with some chopped chives or green onions — really, whatever you like that seems to fit with the flavors of the salad.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers.
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Feeling Retro?

I have many, many variations on meatloaf.

OOOPS! Wrong Meat Loaf. Sorry, Mr. Loaf! 😉

I mean this kind:

While many of my meat loaf recipes don’t require a meat loaf pan, my recipe for Old Fashioned Meatloaf bakes up best in a meat loaf pan, and the drippings can be used to make a delicious gravy, if you so desire.

As with most meatloaves, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you let it rest for AT LEAST 30 minutes or so before serving — otherwise, you’ll have meatloaf crumbles instead of meatloaf slices. The crumbles will be just as yummy, ‘though not quite as pretty as the slices. 😉

Along with adding lovely nutrients and a bit of fiber, the vegetables (always onion, and then a bit of whatever other appropriate vegetables I have on hand, typically some celery, and sometimes a fresh mushroom or two or a bit of grated carrot) impart a delicious flavor and moisture to the meatloaf (a boon, as I use lean ground meats), as does the ground sausage.

Taking inspiration from the re-printed Betty Crocker’s Big Picture Cook Book that my mom gifted me several years ago, I use one pound of extra-lean ground meat (beef or turkey work equally well) and 1/2 pound reduced-fat bulk ground sausage (pork or turkey sausage work equally well), which yields a flavorful, moist meatloaf. The sausage is an easy way to add lots of flavor, and it also adds a nice texture to the meatloaf, as well.

Leftovers make excellent sandwiches — I like mine on wheat or grain bread with a bit of steak sauce.

I typically give the onion and carrot a whiz through my mini food processor to help give the meatloaf an even texture, but I prefer to hand chop any other vegetables so that the mixture isn’t too fine.

TIP: Making foil “strips” will enable you to lift the meatloaf from the pan more easily.

Meatloaf pan prepped with foil strips.

Using your favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce as part of the liquid and the topping in this meatloaf adds some sophisticated zip, and it tastes so yummy, it’s no mystery why you’ll find yourself feeling nostalgic for this meatloaf! 😉

Old Fashioned Meatloaf (Serves 6)

  • 1 lean (90/10 or greater) ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound reduced-fat bulk ground sausage (pork or turkey)
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • Plain bread or cracker crumbs as needed (equivalent of 2  slices of sandwich bread)
  • Healthy splash of liquid (I like to use a splash of wine or sometimes a couple of splashes of my favorite steak sauce; the more veg you have in the mixture, the less liquid you will need)
  • Seasonings to taste: Worcestershire sauce, squirt of yellow mustard (this complements the sausage nicely), parsley, sage, marjaram, garlic powder and/or minced garlic, & coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 onion (red, yellow, white), finely chopped
  • Finely chopped celery (1 or 2 stalks)
  • Finely chopped or grated carrot (OPTIONAL, approximately 1/2 to 1 carrot)
  • Finely chopped or grated mushroom (OPTIONAL, 2 to 4 mushrooms)
  • Finely chopped bell pepper (OPTIONAL, 1/4 to 1/2 bell pepper)
  • Your favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce, for topping
  1. Place bread/cracker crumbs in a bowl. Beat in egg, healthy splash of liquid (you can add in more later if need be; ditto with the bread/cracker crumbs), and seasonings to taste.
  2. Stir in minced/chopped veg.
  3. Add ground meat and mix thoroughly. Add more liquid and/or bread/cracker crumbs and other seasonings if needed.
  4. Spread into meatloaf pan.
  5. Top as desired with your favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce.
  6. Bake at 350F for 1 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 hours (I do NOT preheat my oven before putting the meatloaf in).
  7. Let rest at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make It Ahead of Time: You can mix up the meatloaf and place in meatloaf pan, cover, and place in ‘fridge for up to 24 hours before baking.

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Charlotte Knows Her Apples!

Apples_supermarketI first became intrigued with making Apple Charlotte after Mrs. Patmore’s refusal on “Downton Abbey” (due to her failing eyesight) to attempt to make the recipe when Lady Cora requested it for Sir Anthony Strallan. Apple Charlotte is also the dessert proposed for the Heritage Christmas Dinner in my Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining Cookbook. 

I became further interested in preparing an Apple Charlotte when I saw Jacques Pepin and Julia Child prepare one as part of a “Cooking in Concert” program that also includes a turkey roulade:

http://www.pbs.org/video/1333042208/

So a few weeks before Christmas, when I was searching the grocery store for a rib roast (also a facet of the Heritage Christmas Dinner), I texted my hubby to ask him to please double-check the recipe for me in regard to the size of the roast. (Not that I needed a roast of the size specified in the recipe, but I wanted to make sure I was gauging the number of servings properly.) He verified what the recipe told me, and then a few minutes later, he texted back and asked if I would also be making an Apple Charlotte with brandied whipped cream and apricot sauce.

He had been teasing, and thought I would respond with a sarcastic “Oh, yeah, right!” but instead I said, “Yes, I could do that.”

And what’s more, I was confident that I could make it sugar-free successfully, and also with less fat. Some Apple Charlotte recipes call for a very rich bread — such as sliced brioche — and most all recipes also instruct that the bread be dipped into melted butter. Given how much butter the bread would absorb, I thought that simply brushing on some melted butter would still make the bread a lovely golden brown and also keep the apple filling from soaking through the bread, but would reduce the amount of butter needed overall, and also make the bread a bit easier and less messy to handle.

There seems to be doubt as to the origins of Apple Charlotte — is it another version of Charlotte Russe, perhaps? — but regardless of its origins, Apple Charlotte is essentially a thick, thick filling of apples encased in buttered bread mold.

It is that simple. And oftentimes, simple flavors are the best.

There are, of course, many variations on Apple Charlotte, but based on my research and my recent experience in making — and eating! — this for the first time on Christmas, here are what I think are the key points to making the delicious dessert:

  • The filling must be thick, almost like a puree or overly thickened apple sauce. You CANNOT simply substitute pie filling.
  • You need the right kind of apples. Williams-Sonoma recommends McIntosh, Empire, or Rome Beauty apples. I could not find those, and so after my hubby did some research for me (I was at the store, he Googled away at home and texted me answers), we opted for Honey Crisp apples. Fuji apples would also likely substitute well.
  • Use a good white bread that is sliced about 1/4″ thick. I purchased a sliced Italian loaf (about 14 ounces) from the WalMart bakery for $1. It worked great.
  • Taking a tip from Jacques and Julia, I placed a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of my baking dish, as well as a strip of parchment (rather like a “handle”) that extended beyond the edges of the dish. This help ensures that the Charlotte will remove from the dish.
  • If you want to break up the labor of making this dish, prepare the apple filling a day (or even two!) before and gently reheat it before assembling the Charlotte.
  • The Charlotte must cool for at least 30 minutes before un-molding. You can make it earlier in the day, let it rest, and then gently reheat it in a warm oven for about 15 – 20 minutes — while you prepare the whipped cream and the apricot sauce, say — and then un-mold it.
  • Place your bowl and mixer beaters for the whipping cream in the freezer for at least 30 minutes (to several hours) before whipping the cream — it will whip up better!
  • I suggest you make 1 1/2 to 2 times the recommended amount of whipped cream — because yes, it’s that good!
  • If you can’t find fresh apricots — I couldn’t! — you can reconstitute dried apricots by pouring boiling water over them and letting them soak several hours or overnight. (Thanks, Mom, for that suggestion and for reconstituting the apricots!)
  • Use the proper-sized baking dish.  You need a baking dish that holds 6 cups. I used my two-quart (8 cup) Pyrex baking dish — sans the lid, of course!
Pyrex Baking Dish, 2 Quart

Pyrex Baking Dish, 2 Quart

This dish has simple flavors, but is elegant in presentation. Williams-Sonoma claims the recipe serves 6; I would venture to say it can serve 10 – 12 easily.

To break up the labor on the dish, I pared and prepared the apple filling the day before, then reheated the apples and finished assembling the Charlotte the next day. The apples were a bit too juicy, I thought, to serve their purpose as the firm filling, so I stirred in a few tablespoons of cornstarch before reheating them, which turned it into the nice, thick filling it needed to be.

This turned out utterly delicious and impressed the heck out of all of us.

So the next time you’re wanting an elegant dessert with simple flavors that’s sure to please, give Apple Charlotte a go. You can watch an episode of Downton Abbey or listen to Charlotte’s Song as you pare those apples. 😉

Although the recipe looks as though may be complicated, it REALLY isn’t it — it’s apple filling in a buttered bread crust with whipped cream and an apricot sauce!

Apple Charlotte (Serves 10 to 12)

For the Charlotte:

  • 12 McIntosh, Empire, or Rome Beauty apples, peeled, cored, and cubed (NOTE: I couldn’t find any of those varieties, so I used Honey Crisp apples. Fuji apples would also likely work.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1/2 cup), melted
  • 3/4 cup Splenda granular or other artificial sweetener of choice (just make sure it measures spoon for spoon like sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Lemon zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I eyeballed it)
  • Corn starch (2 to 3 tablespoons), IF NEEDED
  • White bread, sliced 1/4″ thick, trimmed of crust (I used a sliced Italian loaf from the WalMart bakery; it took about 2/3 to 3/4 of a 14 ounce loaf)

For the Brandied Whipped Cream: (Suggest you make 1 1/2 to 2 times this amount)

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup Splenda granular (or other artificial sweetener of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons brandy (optional, but I recommend it)

For the Apricot Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar-free apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional, but I recommend it)

Garnish (Optional):

  • Apricot halves or orange peel
  • NOTE: If you can’t get fresh, dried apricots can be reconstituted by pouring boiling water over them and letting them soak for several hours or overnight

FOR THE FILLING:

  1. Peel, core, and cube the apples. Place them in a LARGE (12″), deep non-stick skillet. Add in 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook apples over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter melts and apples begin to soften. Add in the 3/4 cup Splenda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the lemon zest, and vanilla. Cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until the apples soften and reduce, about 15 to 25 minutes. You should end up with about 5 to 6 cups of apples.
  2. TIP: If you prefer to break up the task of making the Charlotte, you can let cool and then refrigerate the apple mixture until the following day — or probably for even two days — and then rewarm it before assembling and baking the Charlotte.
  3. NOTE: If apple mixture is juicy/liquid at all, stir in two or three tablespoons of corn starch and simmer, stirring gently but constantly to prevent scorching, to thicken. I made the apple filling the day before, then added the corn starch to the apples before reheating them when I assembled the Charlotte the following day.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CHARLOTTE:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper that will fit along the bottom of your baking dish and place it on the bottom.
  3. Cut a long strip — long enough that it extends from either side of the baking dish, like a “handle” of sorts — and place it along the bottom and let it extend up and beyond the sides of your baking dish.
  4. Trim bread crusts (reserve for another use or feed them to birds). With a pastry brush or sauce brush, lightly brush the side of the bread that will be placed against the baking dish/mold and assemble the bread in the mold. Do not overlap, but do fit bread edges together closely to prevent gaps. Trim slices as needed to fit gaps.
  5. Lightly brush the other side of the bread with butter (the side that will have the filling).
  6. Gently spoon in the apple mixture. Top with bread, brushing each side with butter.
  7. Bake on LOWER RACK of oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes, until bread is golden.
  8. Remove and let rest for AT LEAST 30 minutes before un-molding. OR, let rest for several hours and then gently reheat in a warm oven for about 15 to 20 minutes before un-molding.
  9. TO UNMOLD: Run knife gently around edge to make sure the Charlotte has not stuck. Place your serving plate on top of the Charlotte, then invert. Remove the mold and remove the parchment paper.
  10. Garnish with apricot halves and/or orange peel, if desired.

TO PREPARE THE BRANDIED WHIPPED CREAM:

  1.  For best results, chill bowl and beaters before whipping cream.
  2. Whip cream and 1/4 cup Splenda until soft to medium peaks begin to form.
  3. Fold in brandy, if desired.

TO PREPARE THE APRICOT SAUCE:

  1. Gently heat apricot preserves and water in a small saucepan.
  2. Stir in brandy, if desired.

TO SERVE:

Place individual servings on a dessert plate and garnish as desired with whipped cream and apricot sauce.

REFRIGERATE ALL LEFTOVERS.

Freshly UnMolded Apple Charlotte with Apricot Garnish

Freshly Un-Molded Apple Charlotte with Apricot Garnish

 

Apple Charlotte Topped with Some Brandied Whipped Cream and Apricots

Apple Charlotte Topped with Some Brandied Whipped Cream and Apricots

Apple Charlotte: The Thickened Texture of the Filling Keeps it From Collapsing

Apple Charlotte: The Thickened Texture of the Filling Keeps it From Collapsing

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How Have You Bean?

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk

I have a little Slow Cooker cooking magazine by Betty Crocker. One of the recipes in it that I’ve tried is for a Three Bean Chili (you can find Betty’s recipe at this link on their website and my take on it here). It’s a tasty recipe and I’ve made it a few times, but I’ve been wanting something a bit different.

So, inspired by another bean chili recipe I read in one of my old Diabetic Cooking magazines, in combination with the Bean and Lentil chili, I decided to try making Four Bean Chili in my CrockPot yesterday.

Peoples, this makes for an easy, yummy, hearty, low-calorie, fat-free dish that is incredibly affordable! You can enjoy it with tortilla chips, rice, pasta, crackers — any accompaniment you normally enjoy with chili. I made some cornbread for ours, which was quite yummy with it.

While this dish is perfect for the slow cooker, you cam make it on the stovetop, as well.

When making in the slow cooker, I recommend using a liner for easy clean-up.  This packed my 3 1/2 quart CrockPot to the top, but it didn’t overflow!

Important Food Safety Tip: This recipe uses tinned beans, both for convenience and for safety. As Betty Crocker points out, “Tomatoes and tomato products keep dry beans and other legumes from softening even after hours of cooking.” Furthermore, as Wikipedia tells us:

Some kinds of raw beans, especially red and kidney beans, contain a harmful toxin (lectin phytohaemagglutinin) that must be removed by cooking. A recommended method is to boil the beans for at least ten minutes; undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans. Cooking beans in a slow cooker, because of the lower temperatures often used, may not destroy toxins even though the beans do not smell or taste ‘bad’ (though this should not be a problem if the food reaches boiling temperature and stays there for some time).

Draining and rinsing the beans not only reduces the sodium, but it also reduces the gas-causing impact that legumes and other healthy, fresh vegetables often have. Additionally, on those occasions when I do use a chili seasoning mix (such as for this recipe), I like to get Williams Chili Seasoning, as it has no added salt.

Don’t have a good chili seasoning mix on hand? Season to taste with chili powder, garlic powder, red (cayenne) pepper, paprika, and cumin. I typically like to “boost” the flavor of the chili seasoning with these spices, anyway.

Dress each serving of Four Bean Chili as you would any other chili: grated cheese, oyster crackers or tortilla chips, diced onion, dollop of sour cream, sliced jalapeños — whatever makes you happy.

I used four different types of beans for contrast in color, flavor, and texture, but you can make it with all pinto beans, all black beans, or a mix of just two types of beans.

However you make it, you’ll likely be finding yourself singing “The Bean Goblin” song. 😉

Four Bean Chili (Serves 8 to 10)

  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 packet (1.25 ounces) chili seasoning mix (see note above if you don’t have a good chili seasoning mix on hand)
  • Bay leaf (one or two)
  • 2 cans (14 -15 ounces EACH) diced tomatoes, UNDRAINED (I used fire roasted tomatoes with garlic)
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped or sliced, if desired (NOTE: Wear disposable gloves when handling fresh jalapeños, as they can burn or blister your skin when raw)
  • Hearty splash of vinegar (suggest white or apple cider vinegar)
  • Healthy squirt of ketchup
  • Additional seasonings to taste, as desired: Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder or minced garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes, onion powder or onion flakes, and splash of Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians: leave out Worcestershire or use a substitute)

TO MAKE IN A SLOW COOKER:

  1. If desired, place a slow cooker liner in your Crock Pot to make cleanup easier. Place all  ingredients into your slow cooker. (I placed the onions in first, then one of the tins of tomatoes, then the jalapenos, two tins of beans, another tin of tomatoes, the seasonings, the remaining beans, and spread the tomato paste on top). Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  2. Gently stir to combine all the flavors and ingredients. (NOTE: You can give it a gentle stir before it starts cooking, as well, but my slow cooker was packed too tightly for me to be able to stir it until after it had cooked.)
  3. Dress each individual serving as you desire: grated cheese; oyster crackers, saltine crackers, or tortilla chips; diced onion; dollop of sour cream; sliced jalapeños, cornbread — whatever makes you happy.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

TO MAKE ON THE STOVE TOP:

Place all ingredients in a large Dutch oven, soup pan, or other cooking pot. Add in liquid (water or beer) as desired — I’d probably start with about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water or beer. You can add in more liquid if it’s too thick; or simmer it uncovered to cook it down if it’s too thin. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through — it can be ready in as few as 10 or 15 minutes of simmering, but the longer it simmers, the better the flavor.

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

 

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Posted in Chili, Main Dish, Soup/Stew, TexMex, Vegetarian/Meatless | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment