Friday, July 30, 2010

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili and Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

I am SO behind in posting recipes! But guess what? I can get back to catching up and cooking now... We have a house. In our home country. And all of our kitchen appliances are out of storage.

Like the slow cooker.

And the ice cream maker.

I am a huge sucker for kitchen appliances. And since I'm starting law school in just a couple of weeks, you'll probably see a ton more slow cooker recipes from me. It's a super convenient appliance, especially if you aren't home all day and don't have time to get dinner started. (Yes, Kate, I turned our conversation into a blog post!) This chili recipe is as easy as dropping ingredients in the pot and turning it on, and what's better is that you can use up any leftover vegetables you have in the fridge, and the rest of the ingredients can sit in the pantry. Many a day has this been my go-to recipe when we're pressed for time or are too lazy to go shopping.

I bought Adam the ice cream maker as a birthday present when we were dating knowing full well that we'd probably get married and I'd get to use it too. It worked out exactly the way I planned!

And we actually use it quite a bit (when it isn't locked away in storage). Ice cream is one of those foods where it's easy to get fun and creative. Our greatest ice cream hits? Coffee toffee, browned butter pecan, and now fresh strawberry. But I can't take all the credit for making such yummy strawberry ice-cream; we happened to pick out really delicious strawberries from a farm stand that day and I think it made all the difference.

Here's the deal. If you have neither a slow cooker nor an ice cream maker, it's okay. You can come over to my house and eat homemade ice cream and you can stew the chili in a pot over the stove.

It's good to be in our own home in our own country. Get ready for law-school-wife-Andrea to take over this blog. Things might get really interesting!

Vegetarian Chili
Serves 4
I began making this recipe way back when I started cooking solo (i.e., in college without my mom). It started out as a Rachael Ray recipe and morphed and changed in my kitchen over the years... But that's the great thing about chili, right? It's so easy to make it your own. I'm going to give you a starter recipe that is great as is, and then some recommendations on other spices and veggies you might consider adding depending on who's coming to dinner and your own personal level of heat tolerance. We like our chili super hot, but if my in-laws were coming to dinner, for example, I might focus on making this recipe more smoky (extra cumin or smoked paprika, maybe) than hot in my mouth. Comprende? Just keep tasting your chili as you add the spices and you should be good to go.

• 1 medium yellow skinned onion, chopped
• 1 cup of chopped carrots
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
• 1 1/2 cups pale beer or vegetable stock
• 1 (14- ounce) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
• 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (goodbye extra sodium)
• 1 (14-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 cup fat free vegetarian refried beans
• 1-2 chipotles en adobo
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 2 tablespoons chili powder ( I really like Valle del Sol from Whole Foods)
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon coarse salt

If you were me, you might also add:
• Several dashes of jalapeƱo based hot sauce
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Other vegetables options:
• bell peppers
• celery
• zucchini
• corn
• or anything in your fridge you'd like to use up

Toppings and Bottomings for serving:
• 8 ounces (2 cups shredded or crumbled) cheese: I use Cotija (my favorite), but spicy monterey jack or smoked cheddar would be delicious too
• Chopped cilantro
• Mexican Crema or Sour Cream
• Blue and red corn tortilla chips or black bean tortilla chips, for dipping
• Baked or boiled potatoes--Adam's personal favorite
• Corn bread or muffins
• Extra hot sauce for the table

Stir all ingredients (except toppings and bottomings) together in the pot of a slow cooker. Turn slow cooker to low and simmer 6-8 hours.

If you don't have a slow cooker, you may simmer the chili a large pot on top of the stove for a minimum of one hour. Keep in mind however that the longer this chili stews, the more it's flavors will marry and the more delicious it will be by dinner time.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from and Williams Sonoma Mastering: Frozen Desserts
Make sure you choose really fresh and delicious strawberries for this recipe.

• 3 cups half-and-half
• 6 egg yolks
• 1 cup sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 2 cups sliced strawberries
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Puree 3/4 cup of the strawberries in a blender or a food processor.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the half-and-half until steam begins to rise from the surface, 4 to 5 minutes.

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Gradually (VERY VERY gradually so that you don't get scrambled eggs) add the hot half-and-half, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the custard and the pureed strawberries through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl and stir in the sliced strawberries and vanilla. Nestle the bowl in a larger one filled halfway with ice and water and cool the custard to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread

I'm still here. And we're FINALLY moving this weekend so hopefully I'll be able to get back into a more steady routine of blogging! Hooray!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share this

because my lovely second mama, Carrie requested it. Moist, yummy, banana walnut quick bread made slightly healthier with whole wheat flour and less sugar. You can even swap the oil for apple sauce to make the recipe lower in fat. Good deal, right?

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread
adapted from
serves 12
Whole wheat pastry flour is great for cakes and breads as it yields a lighter and fluffier result than regular whole wheat flour. You can substitute whole wheat flour in this recipe if you'd like, but be prepared for a more coarse and dense cake texture.

1/3 cup vegetable oil OR 1/3 cup applesauce for lower fat
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat oil, brown sugar and honey together. Add eggs, and mix well. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix, and then add to batter. Blend in chopped nuts. (You may save a few nuts to sprinkle over the top of batter if you'd like.) Spread batter into greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 1/2 hour before slicing.
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