September 29, 2008

A Garden Grows in Baltimore

The Husband and I are huge chili aficionados, and a few years ago, we were lucky enough to be judges at the National Kidney Foundation’s Chili Cook-Off in Washington, DC. We tasted some mighty fine chili as judges and have been working on our winning recipe ever since. We almost have our wining recipe for red chili down pat, but since it’s not winter yet, we opted for a bowl of green chili last night to help use up the plethora of peppers I harvested from my rooftop garden.

According to the International Chili Society, green chili is only competition-worthy if you use only green chilies but I think purely green chili looks a little bland, plus it was impossible to time the garden harvest just right, so I used mostly green, but some ripened, red chiles in this dish.

The recipe is a little involved but the end result is totally worth it!

(Mostly) Green Chili
[Chef's Note: Don't overlook this recipe just because it's not that photogenic! It's really good.]

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and ground black pepper
3-5 medium Jalapeño peppers (stems, seeds and white pith removed and cut into pieces)
3-5 Serrano pepper (stems, seeds and white pith removed and cut into pieces)
3 Poblano peppers (stems, seeds and white pith removed and cut into large pieces)
2 Anaheim or Cubanelle peppers (stems, seeds and white pith removed and cut into large pieces)
1 large sweet onion, cut into large pieces
3 cloves garlic
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 (14.5-ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1½ cups chicken broth
1/3 cup masa flour (or 20 crushed tortilla chips)
Juice of one lime
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
Sour cream, scallions, lime wedges, fresh cilantro and fresh diced jalapenos for serving.

Wearing gloves or working very carefully, remove and discard the ribs and seeds from the Jalapeño, Serrano, Poblano and Anaheim chiles. In a food processor, pulse the chiles, onions and garlic for about 15-20 times. Set aside.

Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large pot over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook without moving it until the outside is golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Adding additional oil to the pot, if necessary, add the pepper/onion/garlic mixture and cumin to the pan, and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes.

While peppers are cooking, add ½ of the can of beans and ½ cup of broth to a food processor and process until smooth, about 20 seconds.

Add the bean/broth mixture, the remaining broth, the masa flour (or tortilla chips) and the seared chicken breasts to the pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to cutting board and shred it, or alternately, slice it very thinly.
Stir in the shredded chicken, lime juice and cilantro into the chili and return it to a simmer. Add salt and pepper as needed and serve the chili with sour cream, diced onions, diced jalapenos, fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

How to Be a Man Magnet

Lesson 1: Make my “It’s Raining Men Dip.” The minute you put this on the table, every man in a 50-mile radius will be at your house drooling over this delicious concoction.
If you already have a man, try the recipe anyway. This’ll keep him happy for a long time to come! This dip is perfect for Super Bowl Sunday, or any football day for that matter.

It’s Raining Men Dip
(aka Buffalo Chicken Dip)

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
½ cup blue cheese salad dressing (Ken’s brand is best)
½ cup Buffalo Wing Sauce (Sorry, Frank, but Ashanti brand is the best)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken (from a grocery store rotisserie chicken)
2 scallions, sliced (green parts only)
Celery Sticks and Tortilla Chips for Dipping

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the cream cheese into a medium-sized microwave safe bowl. Microwave the cream cheese for 45 seconds to soften it slightly. Whisk in the salad dressing, Ashanti Wing Sauce, Salt and Pepper until smooth. Stir in the shredded chicken until just coated (over mixing here will make your shredded chicken gummy). Spread the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and drizzle the top with additional wing sauce, if desired. Bake the dip for 15-20 minutes, until mixture is heated through and edges are bubbly. Cool slightly and top with sliced scallions. Serve with celery and tortilla chips.

September 08, 2008

“I’m Sweet Enough Already”

That’s my silly excuse for never eating dessert. Though, the truth is, I just don’t have much of a sweet tooth and I really don’t like to bake all that much. However, every once in a while, I feel a hankering for some cake and this Reduced-Fat Lemon Blueberry Bunt Cake is my a standard “go to.”

I really made the cake for myself the other day, but I was nice and shared some with my mom, the Husband and my office girlfriend. They all gave raving reviews. See what your friends and family have to say, that is, if there are any leftovers after you cut yourself a generous piece.

Reduced-Fat Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

Cooking spray
2 Tablespoons sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) container Reduced-fat sour cream
2 cups blueberries (Fresh or Frozen)

¾ cup powdered sugar
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a Bundt pan with cooking spray and dust it with the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and then set it aside. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place 1¾ cups granulated sugar, butter, and rind in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition (about 4 minutes total). Beat in the vanilla and the sour cream. Add the flour mixture slowly and beat at medium speed until it is just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for about 20 minutes and then remove the cake from the pan. Cool completely on wire rack. To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle over cooled cake.

September 05, 2008

Useless Holiday or Culinary Inspiration?

August is National Goat Cheese Month so in honor of this ever-so-important US holiday, I featured the delicious heirloom tomatoes I bought at the Baltimore Farmer’s Market in a modern caprese salad.

I know you’re thinking that I haven’t blogged in a month and this is all I came up with, but I’ve been away from home more than I have been there this summer so this is it for now. Excuses aside, this is a very yummy salad and I suggest you try it while fresh tomatoes are still available.

Goat Cheese Caprese Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

3 medium-sized fresh tomatoes (heirlooms if possible)
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
A small log of your favorite goat cheese
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Process the basil, olive oil and vinegar in a blender or food processor on low until everything is combined (about a minute), scraping down sides of mixer bowl as necessary. Drizzle the dressing over alternating layers of sliced tomatoes and sliced or crumbled goat cheese. Sprinkle salad with salt and pepper to taste.