Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chili - A Recipe in Pictures

I am definitely all for spreading the love when it comes to cooking, but there is one recipe that I just can't bare to share - my chili.  I'm not completely cold blooded, though. Instead of an ingredient list, I'll give you a recipe in pictures.  If you can figure out the portions, timing, and secret spice mix, it's all yours!  Otherwise, call me and I'll be happy to cook you up a batch.

Always start with some good prep work...

Everyone together now for a pic!

Your other ingredients are just hanging out, waiting to join the fun...

Everything is prepped and ready, it's time to get cookin'...

Onions meet oil...

Onions & peppers reunite...

In goes the garlic! Cook until you can smell it..

Add the jalapenos, seeds an all for a good punch of heat!

Chili isn't chili without the meat...

Getting sauced..

Bean'ed and bay leaf'ed

Spice time...

And... everything's in the pot... tada!

One serious tip for chili - LOW AND SLOW! Did you hear me? LOW AND SLOW!  
Chili should always cook covered on low heat for at least 2 hours. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homeless Heaven in a Hot Dog Bun

I'm a bit of a nomad this summer, graciously hosted by my boyfriend most of the time and by my parents some of the time.  I like to think that, until move-in day on September 1st, I'm splitting my time between my summer home in Rhode Island and my pied-à-terre in Brighton.

The life of a drifter is one of ups and down.  I'm living out of a very large suitcase, leading to many a morning of wrinkled outfits, and half of my kitchen gadgets are packed away in the storage room at my friend's apartment, but I have an excuse for a summer of boyfriend eating.

The phrase "boyfriend eating" may raise a bit of confusion.  You'd think it means being really cute and eating ice cubes and cucumbers so that you're adorable and skinny for your boyfriend all the time. But no no no, it's keeping pace with your boyfriend over countless pizza slices, chicken wings, and cheeseburgers.

Hence, my chili dog late night snack last night.... It was so good though!  I had just made a big pot of chili and Mike makes the best hot dogs - fried in a pan with a buttery grilled bun.  I came to the conclusion that I am always going to keep some chili in the freezer for such an occasion.  Or a chili fries occasion, or a nachos occasion, or an anything-else-that-lends-itself-to-a-helping-of-chili occasion.

So, while this homeless summer has been very tasty, I have a strong feeling I'm going to face a bit of a struggle when it comes time to fit back into my fall clothes.  But, oh well!  That's what Jillian Michaels On-Demand workout videos are for... right?

confession: i just wanted a chili dog.  He wasn't eating one.  It was all my idea.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

Totally Cool Tres Colores

Summer is the best time to kick off your crusade into the culinary world.  Why? Because it's hot and people want to eat cool dishes.  And how do you make most cool dishes?  Without an ounce of "cooking."  So, you can begin your life in the kitchen without the worry of burning the onions, under-cooking the chicken, or ruining the rice.  There are so many summer meals that only require assembly but still manage to impress the crowds.

My favorite no-cook summer dish is an appetizer that, being a single 20-something, ends up often being my main course.  If you're feeling fancy you can call it tres colores.  If you're not, you can just call it avocado, mozzarella, and roasted red peppers.  Personally, I'm feeling a bit fancy so today it'll be tres colores.

All you need is:

FRESH mozzarella - either a ovolini (the large ball) or bocconcini (the little balls)
1 jar of roasted red peppers
1 ripe avocado
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Italian herbs (optional... fresh is best)

Remove the roasted red pepper from the jar and pat it dry just a bit.  Cut up the avocado, mozzarella, and pepper into bite-sized pieces that are as similar in size as you can get.  Arrange them on a plate like you see above.  Salt and pepper liberally and sprinkle fresh herbs.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve with plenty of tooth picks!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Funk at Brown Sugar Cafe

It's your friend's birthday.  You want to treat them to a lovely birthday dinner somewhere special.  You want the wait staff to obnoxiously sing "Happy Birthday" to them, drawing as much attention to your table as possible.  But you don't want them to spend the whole dinner dreading the moment your waiter comes out of the kitchen, candles blazing.  I have the place for you... Brown Sugar Cafe (

Looks unassuming from the outside, right?  Your friend will pull up to dinner thinking they've been spared from the obligatory birthday dessert embarrassment.  They'll walk in past the twin fish tanks as they are escorted to their table by the quiet 14 year old Thai waitress.  You'll order Asian beers, scallion pancakes, spring rolls, and wonton soup to start.  Your entrees will come out five minutes after you put the order in and you'll all enjoy your pad thai, drunken noodles, and curry chicken.  All the while, the birthday babe will be under the impression they are in the clear, happily sipping away on their mai tai and thinking about what wonderful friends they have, so sweet to spare them of a big birthday to-do.  

The little waitress will even come by with a dessert menu, acting coy as she asks which sweet dish you'd like.  After taking the dessert order, she'll disappear into the kitchen for a minute or two.

All will be calm.

But then, the lights will go off and the funk will come on.  The bartender will fumble but eventually get the disco lights to turn on.  The wait staff will come out of the kitchen in a single line, your waitress leading the pack with fried ice cream and a single candle.  The rest of the waiters and waitresses will be wielding flashlights, putting the spotlight on your table.. then the tables next to you.. then the tables across the room. They'll place the dessert in front of the birthday boy or girl and bop around the restaurant dancing to the "Happy Birthday" recording sung by a baritone Asian man.  All the while the rest of the guests will be clapping along as if they were in on it the whole time.

It's a perfect compromise - a meal eaten in peace for the birthday boy or girl, and an extreme amount of surprise discomfort for the enjoyment you and the rest of your friends!

One Word Wednesday


Thursday, July 15, 2010


In my parents' gardren, the most flavorful little strawberries you'll ever taste in your life grow in the early summer.  You bite into one, soft and juicy, and it's as though you've never tasted the flavor of strawberry before.  The hard tangy store-bought strawberries don't hold a candle to these. They sprung up unplanned one season and now we look forward to the adorable red fruits every year.  We have to get to them fast though, they aren't ripe for long and we have a strawberry poacher in the area (our pug Paco who sticks his stubby face through our fence to steal every treat he can find).

I wish we had a larger strawberry patch because there are so many ways to enjoy them!  Here are three ideas for strawberry dishes (that will taste wonderful no matter where your strawberries come from).

Strawberry Idea #1: Fresh Strawberries in Sour Cream & Brown Sugar
I know, it sounds like a strange combination, but we always had this for dessert growing up.  The cool tangy sour cream balances out the sweet brown sugar and fruit to make a delicious (and quick) summer dessert.

It couldn't be easier - wash the strawberries well,  then, individually, dip them in sour cream and roll them in brown sugar.  That's it!  You can either dip all the strawberries in advance, or just set up a strawberry bowl, a sour cream dipping bowl, and a brown sugar rolling plate/bowl.

Strawberry Idea #2: Strawberry Salad with Home-Made Poppyseed Dressing
I try to stick to simple, fresh recipes for summer food.  You can use just a few ingredients and still produce big flavor.

For this salad you'll need:

1/2 cup mayo
2 T strawberry vinegar (red wine or light wine is OK if that is what you have)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
2 T poppyseeds

1 head of romaine lettuce
Strawberries (one small package is more than enough)
1 small red onion

Mix all the dressing ingredients together well.  Chill.

For the salad itself, slice the strawberries (i like to cut them in half, then slice to get more strawberry for every bite) and be sure slice the onion very very thin.  Too much raw onion can ruin a salad if it's cut so thick that the taste is overwhelming.

Dress the salad right before serving.  So simple!

Strawberry Idea #3: Strawberry Jam
If you're like me, you manage to constantly buy too much food.  I've gotten tired of throwing out so much food so I've begun to experiment with ways to use my extras that will give them a longer shelf life. When I realize I've neglected my strawberries and they're at that point where they haven't gone bad but they're too soft to eat raw, I've started to turn them into a jam (or jelly? or preserve?  I have to be honest, I don't really understand the differences).

There are no exacts for this recipe, it really depends on how many strawberries you have.  What i do is shuck the strawberries, and mash them up with the bottom of a ladle or, if your fancy, a masher.  Over a medium heat, heat the strawberries, some water, and some sugar.  Let it bubble but stir and taste often.  Add more sugar if you feel it's not sweet enough and, when it's reached a jam-like consistency, transfer it to a jar and let it cool, then refrigerate.  I don't think that's exactly how you make jam (or jelly or preserves) but its easy and it turns out great for me!

Friday, July 2, 2010

4th of July and Pasta Salad

Happy 4th of July!

The 4th of July means a lot of things to a lot of people.  To me, it means that I'm happy to be an American.  It also means cookout food, specifically pasta salad.  Have you ever been to a 4th of July cookout that doesn't have at least 3 different types of pasta salad?

It’s one those dishes that everyone loves, anyone can make, and no cookout should be without. I have a killer recipe that you can’t go wrong with for a greek-style pasta salad.  It’s so easy and there is no doubt it will bring in rave reviews.

You’ll need:

1 package of tri-colored rotini
1 bottle of Yassou! greek salad dressing (No substitutes unless you absolutely can’t find it at your grocery store)
1 Green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 14 oz package of feta in brine (I always get the feta blocks myself.   Steer clear of pre-crumbled feta because it tends to be a bit dry and NEVER get reduced fat… life is too short to eat flavorless feta)
S & P
Olive Oil

Cook the rotini to the package directions, drain and run cold water over the pasta.

Warm olive oil in a frying pan/skillet over medium-high heat (two rounds around the pan will be enough oil).  When the oil is hot, you’ll be able to smell it, add in ½ of the diced green pepper and ½ of the diced onion.  Sauté until the onions are translucent.  Stir often and don’t burn the onions – if you do, get another onion and pepper and start over, burnt onions ruin a dish. 

Meanwhile, in a big bowl (or direct to Tupperware if you’re taking the dish on the road), combine the pasta, the rest of the diced onion and pepper, and crumble up the feta into tiny tiny crumbles.  Add the sautéed veggies when they’re done. 

Pour the entire bottle of Yassou over the pasta, veggies, and feta (shake first!) and give it a little S&P.  Mix it up well and then chill it for at least an hour.

It’s so simple but so good!