Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Simple, Perfect Chili

These last few weeks have been just crazy at our house ... which would help explain my lack of posts! My son turned 4, and we had a house filled with family to celebrate that. (Has it really been four years? That means this blog is almost four years old! Wow!) And my oldest daughter turned 7 this past weekend, and she celebrated with eight of her closest friends. (That was the longest four hours of my life!)

So when Sunday rolled around, I took it easy and caught up on the DVR. One of the shows I watched was "The Pioneer Woman" on the Food Network. I just love Rhee and her recipes, which I've been following for years over on her blog. But her show is just wonderful. Her family is adorable, and I love how she shares their lives with us. And her food? It's even better!

I've shared a few of her recipes over the years ... Crash Hot PotatoesRestaurant-Style Salsa and Spicy Shredded Pork. All three are absolutely delicious. I'm never disappointed by her food, and this recipe, which was featured on her show over the weekend, didn't disappoint either!

It truly is simple and perfect. Just the way chili should be!

Simple, Perfect Chili
Source: "The Pioneer Woman"

2 lbs. ground beef
2 cloves garlic, chopped
One 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ cup masa harina (corn flour, found in the Mexican food section of many supermarkets)
One 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Chopped onions, for serving
Tortilla chips, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic. Cook over medium heat until browned. Drain off the excess fat, and then pour in the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne. Stir together well, cover and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes overly dry, add ½ cup water at a time as needed.

After an hour, place the masa harina in a small bowl. Add ½ cup water and stir together with a fork. Dump the masa mixture into the chili. Stir together well, and then taste and adjust the seasonings. Add more masa paste and /or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor. Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with chopped onions, tortilla chips and lime wedges.

Tip: I didn't have masa harina on hand and didn't want to run to the store just for that, so I substituted corn meal that had been given a whirl in the blender before mixing it with the water. It worked great!

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chicken Patty Pockets with Cucumber Sauce

As a well-deserved gift to myself upon graduation from college, I took a trip to Greece prior to starting my new job. Greece is just incredible and beautiful. And the food? Not bad either! Lots of fresh ingredients and yummy things like yogurt, feta cheese, olives and seafood. But the food that was the most tempting? Gyros!

Gyro shops would roast these huge hunks of meat right at the front of their shops, so the smell would just draw you (and all the other tourists!) right inside. Hard to resist!

Roasting huge hunks of meat on a rotating spit isn't the easiest thing to do at home, so when I came across this recipe, I knew I just had to make them. The meat is broiled. So much easier!

These awesome little pocket sandwiches usually come topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce called tzatziki. I was able to adapt a recipe to create a dairy-free version of it. Of course, you could probably just skip the sauce all together, but I definitely recommend making it!

Emeril’s Chicken-Patty Pockets
Source: Adapted from Everyday Food

1 lb. ground dark-meat chicken
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup MSPI-friendly plain dried breadcrumbs, such as panko
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. coarse salt
¼-½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tbsp. olive oil
MSPI-friendly pita pockets, for serving
Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers, for serving

If using the Cucumber Sauce (recipe below) prepare it first. 

Heat broiler, with rack in highest position. In a large bowl, combine chicken, egg, panko breadcrumbs, onion, parsley, garlic, salt and spices and mix until well blended. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Divide chicken mixture into 8 portions (about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces each) and place on sheet. Shape each into an oval patty and use your hand to flatten slightly. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over patties.

Broil until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until cooked through, about 4 minutes more. Serve in pita pockets, with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and Cucumber Sauce, if desired.

Cucumber Sauce
Source: Adapted from Food.com

1 large cucumber, seeded and grated (see tip)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. dried dill
¼ tsp. sugar
black pepper, to taste

Put the cucumber into a colander. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow extra juices to escape the cucumber. Gently squeeze the cucumber in a paper or cloth towel.

Mix cucumber with remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours prior to using (if you have time) or serve immediately.

A turn or two in the food processor or blender will yield a smoother sauce but isn’t necessary.

Tip: If you prefer your sauce to be whiter in color instead of greenish, then peel the cucumber before grating it. Also, if you are using an English cucumber, you can skip the seeding.