Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Birthday Love: Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta Pasta Salad

Very festive birthday weekend!  From my birthday cupcakes from Amanda at work, to cards in the mail and dropped at the door, to a legit dinner out on Friday night with Greg and my parents, to double yoga on Saturday to a bountiful haul of facebook love and a classic dinner club celebration at Lance and Dawn's made for a wonderful weekend.

Amanda baked the cutest cupcakes in my favorite flavors:  vanilla cake and lemon frosting and vanilla cake and coconut frosting.  The lemon frosted ones were decorated as tennis balls.  Adorable and really good!

Friday night dinner was at the fabulous "The Northside Social" in Broad Ripple on College in a vintage strip mall.  Swanky lounge areas and very metro white/black seating.  Very polished.  Loved it.  Potato-crusted basa fish with lemon-butter sauce is truly as silky delicious as it sounds.  Deconstructed banana cream pie for dessert.  Very nice treat!

Lance is quite the chef, serving lovely roasted lamb shanks and his signature twice-baked potato casserole. Dawn surprised me with birthday decorations and peach cobbler because she knows peach anything is my favorite.

And now it's my day off and I'm completely grounded with a sore throat and a pounding headache cold.  I was going to be so productive today, but instead I finally crawled out of my sweats at 10 and headed out for one quick appointment before turning around and calling it a day.  Working in the mall has turned out to be the germ-fest I dreaded volunteering in the girls' elementary schools.  Yuck.  I am defenseless against germs from children.  Sorry, but it's true.  Kind of like how I hated cats when I was little because I was allergic to them (a logical defensive mechanism).  I just don't love being around random children because they always make me sick (a logical defensive mechanism only to me).  I'm so far removed from little ones that they barely annoy me anymore.  In fact I think most are just adorable when happy (we're being honest here, not all of us are made to be preschool teachers but thank goodness some of us are), but their little sneezing noses, coughing mouths and sticky hands just destroy me.  So if you don't see me out and about the next few days, I'm doing us both a favor trying to rest and not spread the crud.

The silver-lining here is that I feel better sitting up than lying down, so I'll be able to catch up on paperwork and blog-posting.  I'm going to have a recipe published Friday in the Indianapolis Star and I'm pretty excited about it.  The paper will link you to this blog, so it might be nice if there were some recipes here for new readers to enjoy.  Today's post is a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa that I never tried until a great cook, Kathy (friend of Tammy and fellow Purdue alumnus and tennis girl), brought it to Greg's birthday tailgate at Purdue.  So many recipes, so many cookbooks it's awesome when you find a good one you originally overlooked.  Remember it was my birthday and I really don't care for olives, so this dish that I'm sure would be greatly improved by the addition of olives is shown on my blog without them.

tossing the pasta salad

Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta Pasta Salad

1/2 pound spiral pasta
kosher salt
olive oil
basket of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
3/4 C kalamata olives, pitted and chopped or sliced (optional)
1 C (plus another 1/2 C if you love it) feta cheese crumbles
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp capers, drained
1 C Italian/flat-leaf parsley leaves, packed
2 T red wine vinegar
6 T olive oil (I used 4, the salad is just not as loose without extra oil)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 C freshly grated Parmesan

Cook pasta as directed on package with a good tablespoon of salt in the water.  Drain and allow to cool.  In a large serving bowl, toss together pasta, tomatoes, olives (if using), feta and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
For the dressing combine sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, capers, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Toss dressing into salad along with grated Parmesan.

Serves 6-8

dressing in food processor

see how thick my dressing is?  feel free to add more olive oil  

Friday, February 24, 2012

sucker for samples: Whole Foods goat cheese gouda and sour cherry preserves grilled cheese

Since I am almost always hungry, the whole "never grocery shop when you are hungry" is always tested on me.  I generally have a list, have my coupons ready (not easy when you really don't eat prepared food, most of my coupons are for Target purchase kind of things) and have some kind of meal plan in my mind or evolving as I see what looks good.  I shop all over the place.  Yesterday it was Trader Joe's and Costco.  Today it will be Meijer.  Tomorrow it will be Super Target.  Saturday it was Whole Foods after yoga.  That's a pretty reliable path.  Super sweaty, hungry and into WF we go.  There are plenty of us who make the same circuit.  Sorry if you get too close in the aisle.

The samples from both sides of the cheese island always call me over to at least take a gander or a look as they say.  Last week it was goat cheese gouda which looks like a fairly firm wheel of goat cheese instead of a log.  The week before it was some triple creme with Dalmation sour cherry preserves and those ridiculously good rain coast crips.  That's what I had in the backroom for my working girl, husband on the road Valentine's dinner.  Wine and cheese without the wine.  Still good.  Anyway, they paired the goat cheese gouda with the sour cherry preserves and some whole grain goodness and the cheese gal tells me all about the grilled cheese they made blah blah blah, you had me at grilled cheese.  So good that I've made it for the last two lunches or brunches.  I could add spinach leaves or some chicken or turkey, but straight up has been pretty darn tasty.  I made white bean and kale winter soup with chicken for dinner.  I got my meat protein for the day, don't worry.  If you are not yet a fan of goat cheese, try the goat cheese gouda and try it hot.  My work pal, Chloe is working on loving goat cheese and I told her one of the first ways we got acquainted (goat cheese and I, Chloe and I met at lulu) was in a baked appetizer of goat cheese, marinara and fresh herbs.  Try them both!

lunch in my greenpan skillet

Goat Cheese Gouda and Sour Cherry Preserves Grilled Cheese

thick slices of whole grain bread (pictured is a ciabatta from Trader Joe's)
butter or olive oil
goat cheese gouda
sour cherry preserves (a chutney would be good too, if this sounds too much like dessert)

Heat a non-stick pan and brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil or spread with a little butter.  Put buttered sides of bread down in the pan and get the bread heating.  Top one slice with a slice of cheese and the other spread with preserves.  Heat for 2-3 minutes and then carefully put the halves together.  Press down with spatula (not too hard or everything will squeeze out) and cook a minute or two on both sides until hot and just a bit melty.

Baked Goat Cheese and Marinara with Fresh Herbs

8 oz log plain goat cheese
28 oz. jar of good marinara or favorite pasta sauce
fresh rosemary, thyme and or basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour some sauce in a baking dish (I use an 8-inch square or 1 qt oval dish) sprayed with cooking spray.  Cut goat cheese log in half and place side by side in center of dish.  Pour over additional sauce (you might only use half or 3/4 of the jar).  Top with some complimentary fresh herbs.  Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve with crostini, fresh crusty bread or crackers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

early shift breakfast: baked oatmeal with berries

Some days at lulu I "open" the store which means arriving at 9:00 and doing all the behind the scenes retail magic things before the store opens.  When you open you work until mid-late afternoon and in theory have an hour or two before dinner to get in a workout or get some housework done.  So I get up and mentally plan my day thinking go to work, run to the grocery, do a little housework, make dinner, do a little more and then settle in for the evening.  But then I go to work, run a few errands, sit down at the computer and check in on all my social media and e-mail, get sleepy, do half the housework I planned (maybe), make dinner and then sit back down at the computer (it's a magnet especially when I'm home alone because it's right next to me on the kitchen island just calling me to come waste some time), fell all full and sleepy (again), pry myself out of my barstool to do the dishes and then admit that indeed my productive day is over and I'm just too tired to do anything else.   Unless the weather is warm and sunny or there is an amazing class that all my co-workers are attending, that working out after a full day on my feet is so unlikely to happen.  If I workout after dinner forget about falling asleep at a reasonable hour.  So I try to get up early and get in some cardio or if I'm really motivated a 6 a.m. hot yoga class.  Today was one of those crazy days.  Luckily it was my plan all along so last night I mixed up frozen berries, greek yogurt, uncooked oats, a little peanut butter and a little honey and put it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.  So brilliant.

Other days I get to "merch" the store which means a 7:30 arrival, but merch-ing is when the real magic happens.  We move everything around, dress mannequins and usually have some seriously funny conversations.  By the time the store opens for business the merch team is in desperate need of Starbucks to keep the fun rolling.  The early arrival time always means packing breakfast and lunch.  Tomorrow I'm bringing a little breakfast for the merch team.  It will be nutritious, warm and hopefully delicious.  I'll post the recipe now and then tomorrow or the next day I'll give you a full review.  Can't imagine it will be anything other than yummy.

*Yep, it was everything I thought it would be.  Warm, hearty, easy to fix and serve.  Took it to work with a warm berry compote (cooked about 1 C of frozen berries with a little sugar).  Rave reviews.  Might try it next without berries and with bacon or sausage and maple syrup thinking ahead for next tailgate season.  

breakfast goodness

Baked Oatmeal with Berries

2 C rolled oats (I like Bob's quick oats)
1/2 C chopped walnuts, toasted (bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes)
1/3 C organic cane sugar or real maple syrup (next time I'll try agave nectar)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 C skim milk
1 egg
3 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tsp vanilla
2 bananas, sliced
2 C berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or a mixture) fresh or frozen (and partially thawed)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Stir together oats, half of the walnuts, sugar/syrup, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, melted butter and vanilla.
Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.  Add sliced bananas and half the berries to the bottom of the pan.  Spoon the oat mixture evenly on top of the fruit.  Pour the milk mixture over the oats and use a spatula to make sure the milk is evenly mixed in with the oats.  Top with remaining nuts and berries.  
Bake in for 35-45 minutes at 375 degrees until the top is golden and the oatmeal is set.  If desired serve with additional syrup, melted butter or powdered sugar.  

ingredients, bananas and vanilla missed the photo shoot

oat mixture

bananas and berries in bottom of dish

topped with oat mixture

pouring milk mixture into dish

all mixed together

topped with berries and walnuts

all done!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

weekday basics: buttermilk oven roasted chicken

One of the dairy items regularly residing in my refrigerator is low-fat buttermilk.  I only buy the quarts and even then I don't always use it all up, but buttermilk is a great addition/substitution for moist and lower fat recipes.  I love it in my Texas sheet cake, banana oatmeal snack cake and too good cornbread.  For Valentine's day this year I took a nice still a little warm chocolate, cinnamon, buttermilk Texas sheet cake in to work for my lulu valentines.  Quick, easy and not as ridiculously fattening as brownies (not hating on brownies, however).   I bought a nice little jar of buttermilk ranch spices at Penzey's and use buttermilk and nonfat Greek yogurt to make fresh salad dressing.  Buttermilk also works miracles as a brine for chicken.  You can let your chicken absorb all the tenderizing, taste-boosting goodness for as little as two hours, but plan ahead and go for twenty four to forty eight hours.  Your chicken will be amazing.  This recipe is an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe.  The roasted chicken will have the layered taste of fried chicken, but without the fat and the mess of frying.  It's really good. 

Buy chicken pieces, a whole chicken cut-up or have your butcher cut up a nice little happy chicken from Whole Foods or your local grocery.  Commercial chicken all 'roided up and plumped with a salt solution just does not have the same delicious taste along with it not being good for the planet or you.  Watch for sales and stock up if you have a nice freezer.  Or just think of it this way, so the good for you and good for the earth chicken is $4.99 a pound.  If you are an omnivore, how much do you spend on a good steak?  Or just do what I do and buy a whole chicken for $1.99-$2.49 a pound and butterfly it yourself or have the nice butcher cut it up for you.  Put on your prettiest smile and make that butcher's day.  Be kind and friendly and you will have chicken just how you like it without wrestling with chicken cartilage.  

Buttermilk Oven-Roasted Chicken

2 C low-fat buttermilk
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/3 T kosher salt (4 tsp)
1 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp paprika, plus more for sprinkling
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts
olive oil

Whisk buttermilk with garlic, salt, sugar, paprika and freshly ground pepper.  Place chicken in a covered baking dish or gallon ziploc bag and pour buttermilk brine in to cover.  Refrigerate for 2-48 hours, the longer the better.  Once or twice rotate chicken a bit to ensure even soaking.  

When ready to roast chicken, preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a shallow baking dish with foil (you don't need to do this, but it does make clean-up super easy).  Remove chicken from brine and arrange in baking dish.  Drizzle chicken lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with additional and paprika.  Roast for 30 minutes or so, breasts may take 5-10 minutes longer until instant read thermometer reaches 160 degrees in the thickest parts and the chicken is nice and brown.  Serve immediately. 

finished product 

chicken all naked in the dish

buttermilk brine and whisk

I used ziploc bag in dish just for good measure


drizzled and sprinkled

taking their temperature

serving platter of yummy chicken (too hungry to dress this up any prettier)

Monday, February 13, 2012

adventures in solo cooking: grilled rosemary chicken thighs

There are only so many days without real cooking that I can take.  You'd think I could just appreciate the break from putting a full meal on the table when it's just me and the cat at home, but you would be wrong.  I love the break for a meal or two, but then I'm just too hungry for freshly prepared anything and I run to the store or raid the freezer, fridge and pantry and whip something up.  One day this past week I stopped by the store and found some boneless, skinless chicken thighs marked for quick sale and logged on to Fine Cooking to find some new way to prepare them that used ingredients I have on hand.  My home is ridiculously well-stocked with food.  Especially considering how many people are generally gathered around the table (or the kitchen island as is sadly the case all too often), I am in no danger of going hungry.  

Growing up I would only eat the dark meat chicken parts.  I seriously drove my parents to the edge one vacation where if I couldn't have a chicken leg or drumstick for dinner, I would not eat.  I do not have the vault like memory of my childhood that both my brothers have, but I do remember that trip to Florida and back.  I like to think I was a lovely child, but really when the truth is told (and my memory often glosses right over the truth) I was a bit of a trial.  Good grades, high achiever and talented in my own ways but easy to love was probably not how anyone would remember me.  Back to the chicken:  seriously, I only wanted dark meat?  For the last 30 years my light to dark meat ratio is about 99:1.  My children have never eaten the dark meat.  My husband will eat the dark meat off the bone like a jungle cat.  Not a morsel left.  So now that it's just me or just the two of us, when I make a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken I have a few nibbles of the dark meat and remember why I loved it when I was small.  It's pretty tasty.  Sure, it's not as low-fat diet friendly but I'm not eating the skin and I'm trimming the visible fat.  Chicken thighs are super budget friendly and the ones I rescued from their sell-by crisis were just a steal.  Live a little, have a bit of dark meat.  

The recipe I deemed worthy of a free evening spent in the kitchen?  Grilled rosemary chicken thighs with orange dipping sauce.  The Fine Cooking recipe calls for skewering the chicken thigh meat, but I decided just to use my grill pan on my cooktop and skip the skewers.  The chicken rub is spicy and full of flavor.  The orange sauce is quick and delicious.  I made a brown/wild rice blend and roasted some broccoflower for my own well-rounded meal.  And I had leftovers.  After a week on the road, there's nothing like leftovers for Greg.  Love that.  

voila, dinner

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs with Orange Dipping Sauce

1 T and 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp and 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper 
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of visible fat
one cup orange marmalade (I used low-sugar marmalade)
1/4 C rice vinegar

In a small bowl, mix 1 T of rosemary with the brown sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  In a shallow pan, drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken and toss to coat.  Sprinkle the chicken with the rosemary mixture and rub or toss to coat evenly.  The chicken can wait in the refrigerator for a few hours if needed.

Grill the chicken (skewered or not) over medium-high heat on your grill outside or inside on a grill pan until marks are visible on one side, 4-6 minutes.  Turn and continue grilling until marks are visible on the other side and the thighs are cooked through, and additional 4-6 minutes.  Let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat marmalade, rice vinegar and remaining 1 tsp of rosemary and stir until the marmalade is melted and the mixture is uniform,  3-5 minutes.  Serve chicken while hot with the dipping sauce warm.


chicken with rub and olive oil

dipping sauce (melting marmalade with rice vinegar and rosemary)

thighs on my grill pan

Saturday, February 11, 2012

weekend lunch: Broccoli Spinach Soup with Avocado Toasts

Fresh from a feature in Whole Living Magazine (a Martha Stewart publication), "Naturally Brilliant", a beautifully photographed spread on eat-your-colors I bring you a light dinner or weekend lunch suggestion.  You might have noticed that I am just not a big fan of cold food for meals unless it's mid-summer or if it's peanut butter sandwich day (which it is quite often when I work).  I am struggling with cooking dinner for myself after working, but I've always made a nice hot lunch when I've been lucky enough to be home.  Some days my lunch is so delicious I lose the hunger, and therefore the motivation to cook dinner for the family or the husband or just me as it were.  This pretty and tasty green palette meal is a light one which will keep me going, but not ruin dinner.  Good news for Greg.

When Sara was home she really drove the fresh whole foods centered on veggies meal-planning.  And it was so much easier to be veggie centered when the Farmer's Market was bursting with fresh, local produce.  My body misses it.  It's my goal to bring more color to my plate.  Join me and let's go green first!

The nutritious and bright broccoli spinach soup takes about 20 minutes start to finish if you have an immersion blender.  I just had a discussion of the merits of a good immersion blender with Amanda one of my co-workers/work daughters (truly, I was married before almost all of them were born and they all have wonderful real mothers).  If you've been reading for a while you know the story of my lucky purchase of my Cuisinart Smart Stick hand blender with the beaker, whisk and chopper attachments for the price of just the immersion blender due to a misplaced price sticker.  Anyway, I love that thing.  I put all my smoothie ingredients in the beaker and puree it with the immersion blender and pour it into my go cup on warm work mornings.  If I only have a small batch of something to chop, I use the little chopper/mini food processor bowl attachment instead of my gigantic 11-cup food processor (which I also love).  So, if you are in the market of saving yourself from pouring hot soup in a blender in batches (messy and dangerous) or you have a small kitchen and need a multi-tasker, here's a link.

There's my commercial endorsement for the day.  The soup is creamy without cream and hearty from just the pureed vegetables, tahini (sesame seed paste sold in a jar and needing stirring) and a little Parmesan.  Now onto the crazy goodness that is avocado toasts.  I still have a few avocados from Super Bowl weekend that have been ripe and chilling in my refrigerator.  I bought a nice artisan loaf of 7 grain bread at the grocery yesterday and cut a few slices for this recipe.  I made three toasts with about 3/4 of the avocado and managed to eat them all with the soup.  So very wonderful.  In the summer you could omit the lemon juice and put fresh acidic tomato slices in their place.  You could use the grill for toasting.  Mmmmmm.....the possibilities.  I will be eating these little toasties for lunch on a regular basis.  Now if I can just get a toaster oven in the backroom at lulu......

Broccoli Spinach Soup

1 T olive oil
1 leek, well cleaned, white and pale green parts only thinly sliced
4 C chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1 bunch broccoli, including stems, chopped to yield about 6 cups
6 oz. baby spinach (6 cups)
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan
2 T tahini paste, well-stirred
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in large saucepan or small dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Cook leek until tender, stirring for about 3 minutes.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  Add the broccoli and cover and cook for 2 minutes until bright green.  Turn off heat and stir in spinach, tahini and Parmesan.  Let cool for a few minutes and  either puree in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree in the pan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Toasts

4 slices artisan whole-grain bread
1 or 2 avocados, pitted and sliced
1/2 C radish or spicy sprouts, rinsed and patted dry
1 lemon
good olive oil (I love Luccini for drizzling and dipping)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place bread slices on baking sheet and toast for 5-7 minutes.  Top with avocado slices and sprouts.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Squeeze lemon juice over each toast and finish with a light drizzle of olive oil.


leeks softening

stock, leeks and broccoli

adding the spinach, tahini paste and parmesan

stirred in, wilted and seasoned


avocado toasts!!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

where's winter? thick and spicy chipotle chili

Many thanks to Mother Nature for all the warm and sunny weather for Super Bowl week.  It's the Monday after and we're headed to 50 degrees again with clear blue skies.  Snowdrops are blooming along the woods and my windows are open a bit (heat is off) with Rio watching the world go by.  Where's winter?  Who cares!  So nice to only throw on a cozy Scuba hoodie (a lululemon classic) and go.

Friday after work the weather was fine so Kelly and I grabbed an early dinner on the way and went into Indy for a Super Bowl Village adventure.  Our main objective was to be near the stage to see Fitz and the Tantrums before LMFAO closed out the evening's entertainment.  Not that we don't like LMFAO, we just knew better.  The highlight of our evening happened early hanging out at the ESPN stage in Pan Am Plaza Clay Matthews walked right by us and then we were just feet from Drew Brees, the pride of the Purdue nation.  Awesome.  After a drink at the outside Fire and Ice Lounge we made our way to the stage and found ourselves about 20 yards from the center of all the chaos.  Good Lord.  In the two and a half hours we held our ground (you didn't need to effort standing, you were just held up by the crowd), listened to super annoying drunk people and the really quite good Fitz and the Tantrums the downtown crowd had morphed into over 200,000 spilling down every street.  I've lived in Tokyo, I've been to the track (aka the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and I've never been amongst a crowd that large in such a small area.  Crazy.  After the police directed us down a thankfully brightly lit alley, we pushed on back to our car and drove out of the parking garage into complete chaos, parting the pedestrians and making one lane out of town on a 6-lane stretch of road.  Kelly wondered where her Indianapolis had gone.

Here's a link to an amazing time-lapse video from Friday night courtesy of the Indianapolis Star.  I bet there is someone I know in there somewhere.  Maybe even Kelly and I!
Super Bowl 2012 Friday Night Time Lapse Video

Saturday before heading off to my final volunteer shift at the NFL Experience I cranked out a new chili recipe from Fine Cooking and made the margarita pie from my previous post ostensibly for pictures, but in reality because it sounded so delicious.  The chili had a new twist:  pureeing part of the beans and tomatoes with  the chipotle chiles.  Turns out that's a genius idea.  The chili was quick to make, but very hearty and full of flavor.  For lunch today I toasted a whole wheat bun and topped it with leftover chili like a sloppy joe.  Also very tasty.

But let's discuss that margarita pie.  I have not fixed it in years and why the heck not?  So smooth, cool, refreshing and popular.  Greg and I shared it with the Wedes as we watched all the Super Bowl eve festivities live from Indianapolis of all places.  I'm pretty sure the four of us could have devoured the entire pie if we hadn't just had dinner.  So good.  I  made too much crust, so my crust to filling ratio was off, but as Tammy noted it's impossible to have too much graham cracker crust.  Amen, sister!  So if you make my recipe, note that you may have too much crust so either make the bottom and sides thicker or just enjoy too much!

blurry chili photo

Thick and Spicy Chipotle Chili

3 15-ounce cans beans, drained (I like one can each of black, pinto and light kidney beans)
2 15-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 medium chipotle chile plus 2 T adobo sauce (from the can of chipotles packed in adobo sauce)
2 T olive oil
2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey (veggie friends, try the soy crumbles)
kosher salt
2 large white or yellow onions, finely chopped
3 T chili powder
1 1/2 T cumin
one lime, juiced
1/2 C chopped cilantro
one ripe avocado, cut in medium dice
sour cream, optional
tortilla chips, optional
shredded cheddar, monterey jack or mexican blend cheese, optional

Rinse and drain all cans of beans in a colander.  Put one-third of the beans, one can of tomatoes with their juices, chipotle and adobo sauce in a food processor and process until smooth.  Set aside

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the beef or turkey, season with 1/2 tsp salt and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula and cooking until meat loses it's raw color, but is not browned (3 to 5 minutes).  Transfer meat to a colander and drain.  Add the onion and 1/4 tsp salt to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring frequently until onion is softened, about 3 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium, add the chili powder and cumin and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the remaining beans, tomatoes and the pureed bean mixture to the pot along with the meat.  Simmer, stirring to blend flavors for 10 minutes.  Add half the lime juice, half the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss diced avocado with other half of the lime juice, other half of the cilantro and about 1/4 tsp kosher salt (season to taste).  Serve with chili.  I like mine all layered with a few crushed chips on the bottom, chile, avocado topping and a little light sour cream.

Serves 8

one-third of beans, half of tomatoes and chipotle ready to puree

pureed goodness

chili goodness

avocado topping

my bowl (it was the Purdue-IU game that night, no red chili bowls could be used)

lunch the next day (open-faced sandwich variety)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI in my town! Boilermaker Bean Dip and Margarita Pie

Hey there, it's Super Bowl week everywhere but here in the HOST CITY of Indianapolis it's just a Super good time 24-7.  The weather gods are smiling on us, because this time last year we were encased in 7-inches of frozen sleet whereas today we are enjoying 60 degrees and sunshine.  The good people of Indianapolis have surely been doing something right.  Greg and I took in the sights and sounds of Super Bowl Village Sunday night after my first volunteer shift at the NFL Experience (awesome, by the way) and it was bone-chilling cold but ever since then it's been lovely.  Really lovely for January-February.  I'd like to say I've been back downtown, but I'm pretty sure my first foray into the party netted me the stomach flu which has kept me grounded since the wee hours of Tuesday.  At least I've been able to open the windows around the home and let the cool air work it's magic.  Rio, the cat has spent hours sitting on his windowsills tracking birds and squirrels today.  Yesterday when I was completely down he wouldn't leave my side on the couch.  I swear I've made him part dog.  But I'm feeling better now and hopeful I will return to a productive member of society tomorrow so I can enjoy the business of out or town guests at lulu the next few days and the craziness of my last shift on Super Bowl Eve at the NFL Experience.

two Indy passions in one very Indy place:  33 race cars
in NFL team colors (plus one for SBXLVI) and the Super Bowl logo on Monument Circle
I borrowed this one!

clearly, I did not take this either but this is the view of the circle from Exact Target HQ

I've volunteered through the Indiana Sports Corporation for years.  In the late seventies Indy set it sights on being the amateur sports capital of the world hoping to elevate itself into a world class sports mecca.  Ta-da!  The Super Bowl is here.  If that's not the definition of sports mecca, what is?  We know how to host a big event.  The Indianapolis 500 and 500 Festival, Final Fours, Big Ten Championships, World Swimming Championships, Pan Am Games, PGA Championship, Solheim Cup, Senior Open and the list just goes on.  So if you live here, join in and volunteer the next big thing that rolls into town.  You get the swag.  You get behind the scenes.  You have "brushes with greatness".  You make new friends.  You get to put on your brightest and most sparkling smile and engaging Midwest personality and share the love of sports and community and people are grateful for it.  I've tried that open and dazzling personality out in other parts of the country and people think you are nuts.  But here, we're really just that open and friendly and it works amazingly well.  The city is in the words of a guest reporter from London, "effervescent".  I love being effervescent!  I love spelling effervescent and saying it.  So go live it and have a Super day like we're having here in Indy!

The problem with the flu, is now that I have some time to write I can't actually cook or eat anything beyond chicken soup, toast and jello.  Those would not make a Super Bowl viewing party very festive.  So we'll go through the archive of unpublished and unfinished posts (there are a few of those around these days) and come up with something you definitely should make for Sunday.  But, I'm not hungry (critical component for cooking and writing about cooking) and so as we'll pull from the posted archives and go with an Indiana theme and slow roast some pork shoulder.  My favorite way to enjoy slow roasted pork is with lots of salt, lime juice, sour cream, cilantro and some corn tortillas.  If you're going that route, make my guacamole.  Get those avocados now!  You can always put ripe avocados in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.  You really can't hurry up the ripening however, so go to the store pronto and find some that are anything softer than rock solid.  While you are at it, get some tomatillos for some salsa verde.  Maybe buy a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, another can of tomatoes with chiles, a block of light cream cheese and a pound of light velveeta (it's a Super Bowl party and queso with velveeta is just how we do it here in Indiana, please show me how to get authentic Mexican cheeses that creamy) for my queso.  Make it a taco bar with classic ground beef filling if pork alone may not be that crowd pleasing for your crowd.  Whatever you do. do not buy red salsa in a glass jar and serve it to your guests.  If you aren't going to make your own salsa (and it's tough to make good red salsa without fresh tomatoes grown under the summer sun), at least buy the refrigerated salsa (love the Margaritaville versions with peppadew peppers).  Make a big batch of my pinto beans.  Chop up some romaine lettuce for the burrito bowl lovers in your crowd.  Tortilla chips, cheese, hot sauce and jalepenos need to be on the menu too.

As I was about to post this, I remembered a cookbook I have yet to reference but is worthy on this occasion, "The El Paso Chile Company Margarita Cookbook".  Vintage purchase from Crate and Barrel way back when I had to go to the "Mothership" store on Michigan Ave. in Chicago to get my fix.  Anyway, lots of drink recipes plus some party winners.  Here are two of my favorites.  This first is for a bean dip which I had to try because of it's name:  Boilermaker Bean Dip.  Named, obviously for the beverages used in the recipe not my alma mater.  The second is a spin on key lime pie:  Margarita pie and it's not the frozen one you may make or have enjoyed.  It's a little more seasonally appropriate chilled but not frozen.  I'll remember to make them again soon and post some pictures here when I do.

Boilermaker Bean Dip

2 15-oz. cans refried pinto beans
1/2 C Mexican beer (Corona or Negro Modelo or whatever)
1/4 C tequila
1 T minced canned chipotle chile in adobo
2 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced thin
tortilla chips for serving

Mix all ingredients except 1/2 C of the cheese and 1/4 of the scallions in crock pot.  Heat on low until warmed through.  Top with remaining cheese and scallions and serve.  Or heat beans, beer, tequila and chiles in a non-stick pan on the stove.  Stir in 1 1/2 C of the cheese and 3/4 of the scallions and stir until cheese is melted.  Transfer to a heated serving dish and top with remaining cheese and scallions to serve.

Margarita Pie, oh my goodness

Margarita Pie

2 C finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/2 C butter, melted
1/3 C sugar
OR store-bought graham cracker pie crust

4 egg yolks
one 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 C fresh lime juice (no cheating there)
2 T tequila
4 tsp minced lime zest (no white pith)
1 T triple sec

one pint unsweetened whipping cream and confectioner's sugar for topping

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar until well-combined (I use my food processor to grind the graham crackers and then pour in the butter and sugar and process until combined).  Pat evenly along the bottom and up the sides of your pie plate.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove crust to cool slightly and lower heat in oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl whisk together egg yolks and condensed milk.  Add lime juice and whisk and additional minute.  Whisk in tequila, zest and triple sec.  Pour mixture into the pie shell and bake at 350 degrees until filling is lightly but evenly set and edges of the shell are lightly browned, about 12 minutes.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 2 hours.

Whip cream with a little confectioner's sugar (1/4 C to start) and serve with the pie if desired.


graham crackers in the food processor

pulsing in the sugar and melted butter

zesting the lime

crumbs patted into pie plate and baked

sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks

juicing the lime (zest before juicing, way easier)

juice and zest added to the condensed milk/egg yolk mixture

ready for the oven

Yum.  Even I'm hungry now.  I'll just be eating jello.  You eat something yummy for me.  I work Super Sunday until 6 and Greg will be in Dallas because imagine this, he really can't fly out of Indy late Sunday or early Monday for his Monday meeting down there.  So Rio and I will probably enjoy something a little less grand than full on taco-burrito bar, but we will be watching every minute.  Love the commercials and must see the halftime show because on of my fellow lulus will be on stage as on of Madonna's boy toys (please remember that I could be the mother of everyone I work with except for four of them).  If you are in Indy and haven't been downtown, GO!  You will be able to park.  You will still love it even though there will be crowds and lines.  Get Super crazy and come to the NFL Experience on Saturday afternoon/early evening.  I'm hoping to work the fly route game near the NFL Network stage.  I love those guys and need to do a little celebrity creeping.  And, go Eli and the Giants!  We may be Super friendly here in Indy, but we will be tested if we have to watch Tom Brady hoist the Lombardi trophy in Lucas Oil Stadium.

really cool 3-D art piece in the IPL windows on the circle