Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Daily Dinner: Crockpot Turkey Chili

In my late, much missed mama's words "To make a long story short," (though she never did), we had a horrible late night visit to the emergency room with SC, aged 19. And it turns out she has gallstones and needs her gallbladder removed.

This isn't happening till December. Meanwhile she is on a walking regimen and a low fat diet, and I am working to find lots of good things she can eat. I need to do the same myself--no gallstones as far as I know, but I am suffering from stress/menopausal weight gain and it's time to get back to doing things the right way.

I'd tried another version of turkey chili a few weeks ago--wanting to make something similar to a prepared version that I'd liked, but that suddenly disappeared from my grocery store. That one didn't work, but this one did. JR raved about it, and SC and the Man agreed with her. And this one is doubtlessly healthier than the grocery store brand--and less expensive!

It's very simple to make.The only fiddly thing I did was draining the turkey thoroughly after browning it.
I did the same with ground beef a few days ago only with the beef I went even further, putting it in a paper towel lined colander to remove even more fat. And the Man said it was some of the best spaghetti sauce I'd ever made!

It was a little too thin, so I used my favorite cornstarch and water slurry trick and it came out just as we liked it. If you like it soupy, you can probably leave it as is.

And next time, I think I'm going to have to make a double recipe!

Turkey Chili

1 package (1.3 lbs usually) ground turkey
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
(I used 1 plain can and 1 can with mild green chiles. You could also use a 28oz can of tomatoes and a small can of diced green chiles)
1 15 oz can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed.
(You can use any combination of beans you like)
1 chopped yellow onion or 1/2 package chopped frozen onions (always in my freezer)
1 red pepper  (you could use green, but red are prettier and sweeter and have more vitamins)
2 Tbs chile powder
1/2 - 1 tsp cumin

  • Brown the turkey in a nonstick pan. You won't need any oil, but stir frequently so it doesn't burn.
  • Remove the turkey with a slotted spoon and put it in your crock pot/ slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and the beans.
  • Wipe out the frying pan with a paper towel to remove fats. If you are using fresh onions, spray the pan with cooking spray and add the onions. If you are using frozen onions, just toss them in.
  • Let the onion begin to cook as you slice up the pepper. You can dice it with a knife--I just cut it in strips and tore it into smaller pieces. Add the pepper and cook till the onions begin to turn translucent,and until the pepper has softened a bit. Add them to the crock pot.
  •  Add the chili powder and the cumin. 
  • Cover and cook--all day if you set it on low, 3-4 hours on high.
  • If the chili is too thin when it's done, you can thicken it with a cornstarch/water slurry. Shake equal parts of cornstarch and cold water in a small jar, or stir it in a bowl. Add some of the slurry and stir, wait a few minutes and check the consistency. Add more as needed.
  • Great topped with a little cheese, or stir in some yogurt or sour cream. I like to eat this atop lettuce like a taco salad, along with some crumbled tortilla chips. We recently discovered the Xochitl brand, which are lower in fat, not overly salty and delicately delicious.

Friday, September 26, 2014

L'Shanah Tovah: Apple Cake For a Sweet New Year

I am a cultural Jew, not a religious one. My way of celebrating that ethnicity mainly comes from foods that I make and share with my family (most of whom are Catholics), my co-workers and my friends.

We have had a very hard 2 years in my family, so celebrating a New Year right now, and hoping for a sweeter one is a good thing. I often bake challah rolls, round to symbolize the circle of the year, and I will do so this weekend, and bring some to work for my co-workers/friends to eat with butter and honey. 

But I also baked one of these apple cakes, and I am going to make one for home this weekend.
This what the cake looked like when I brought it to work on Wednesday:

And this is what it looked like the following afternoon: 

I got that final square home and fed it to the Man. But I scraped up the various remnants before I took it home and ate them myself :D

This cake is based on a cake on the "Smitten Kitchen" blog. I have been annoyed at the author since hearing her on Diane Rehm's radio show last year, going on about how "New Yorkers don't cook as much because their kitchens are too small."  Ha!  You can read my rant about that elsewhere on this site, but this recipe came from Deb's mother, who like my own very much missed mama was a fine baker.

The original recipe called for making this in a tube pan, and some commentators on that blog have made it in a bundt pan. I tried making it in a bundt pan I inherited from the other fine baker I miss, Nanay, my mother-in-law. It was delicious, but really hard to remove--in fact it collapsed.

So, in the footsteps of Maud Hart Lovelace's "Emily of Deep Valley" (and if you haven't read Maud's immortal books, you should), I "mustered my wits", consulted commentators on the blog, and tried baking a second cake in a standard 9x13 glass pan.  The result was the cake that you see above, and it's a simpler, easier method than using tube or bundt pan. It's also easier to serve to a large group.

Peeling the apples is time consuming, but otherwise this is an easy cake to prepare. Baking times will vary. If the cake is a little too wet on removal, cooling and resting should take care of that. This cake, in fact, looked too dry when I got ready to take it to work the following morning--but it wasn't. And the dish felt heavy.

But I cut a piece of it at work to check it, and to make it look more inviting for staff to help themselves I put that piece in my office, and it's a good thing I did. Because it's the only piece that I got.
And everyone raved about it!

L'shanah tovah.
Wishing you a happy and a healthy New Year!

Apple Cake
Note: You can use any kind of apples that you like. But both the original cook and I are McIntosh fans. Macs tend to be small, so if you are using larger apples you may need fewer. 

6 apples, plus more for the top  (probably 2-3 more)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish

Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla.

Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Put a thin layer of batter at the bottom of the dish. Top with the apples.
Pour the remaining batter over the apples.
Slice several more apples into thin wedges, toss with more cinnamon sugar  and arrange them on top. Bake for about 1 hour, then check the cake.If it's browning reduce to 325
Bake for up to another half hour, or until a tester comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cucumber Salad from "The Frugal Gourmet"

I owe Jeff Smith, once known at TV's "Frugal Gourmet" a lot,  especially for my infamous NYC cheesecake and for this recipe, which is fast, basic and delicious. Yes, Mr Smith did end his life with scandal and disgrace, but as Alton Brown said, "his recipes worked."

And so does this one. It's a very basic cucumber salad, what Jews call "a new pickle", because it only spends a short time fermenting. In fact, I often make this in the afternoon and serve it an hour or two later. Usually with Korean bulgogi. We're that sort of a family. And my Filipina sister-in-law loves this so much that she often asks me to make it for family get togethers.

The only essentials are the cucumbers, the sugar, the water, the vinegar and the onion. You can add dill or other seasonings, but this is fine on its own. Thinly sliced cukes will pickle quicker, but thicker ones last longer in the fridge.  Little "pickling" cukes are idea, but regular large ones work too.

You can also julienne the cukes, which makes for something similar to a Korean banchan side dish. For this same reason, radishes--regular or daikon-- or carrots--sliced or matchsticked--also are great in this dish.

Cucumber Salad               Adapted from "The Frugal Gourmet" by Jeff Smith
2 cucumbers (or a batch of picking cukes, maybe 6-8), peeled andsliced
1 yellow onion thinly sliced
¾ Cup sugar
½ Cup water
1 Cup white vinegar

1. Combine the cucumbers and the onions in a large bowl with a lid or a large canning jar.
2. Combine the sugar, water, white vinegar  in a saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Or heat this in a microwave until it begins to boil
3. Pour the liquid over the cucumbers and onions, stir well and chill. Several hours or overnight is best, but you can eat it as soon as you think it's ready!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Better Than Drakes: Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

I never was and never will be a Twinkie fan. They have them in NYC, but the prime local brand was Drake's, whose Yodels, Ring Dings and Devil Dogs were favorites of mine because I am a true chocoholic.
Drake's is apparently a subsidiary of Hostess. Not sure if that was the case when I was a kid.

But I also loved their crumb cakes, sold in little round servings. The cake was slightly dry, but the moist cinnamon/sugar crumb topping balanced it well.

So during this incredibly cold weather (6 degrees is NOT an average temperature in Northern Virginia in January), when I decided I needed to bake something new, I went looking for a coffee cake with those Drake's cakes in mind.

I read the recipe for the one at "Sally's Baking Addiction", read the comments and decided to try it the way one of them suggested, increasing the recipe by 1/2 and baking it in a 9X12 pan.

I cut the cake in half and took one half to work. It disappeared in an afternoon. And this is all that is left of the half I kept at home. We have all been devouring it over the past two days!

This is actually a moister cake than the Drake's and less crumbly than I remember those little cakes being. That makes it a lot nicer (and neater) to eat.  The top was a bit uneven, not picture perfect pretty, but no one seemed to mind.

Sally's blog credits the original recipe for this to a Cook's Illustrated cookbook. Personally I think that Christopher Kimball is a pompous, phoney know it all, and a lot of "America's Best" recipes don't strike me as that wonderful.  And if they're so durn smart why don't they suggest making the crumble for this with a food processor?

I made the flour/sugar/butter mixture the same way I do for the delicious Berry Crumble Cake I got from Baking Bites. No need to cut the butter in by hand or with a fork--it takes minutes in the machine and comes out nicely blended.

I also used part oil and part butter for the fat. An all oil crumble would have been easy even with a fork, but it's not as tasty as butter. I may reverse proportions next time and see if there's any difference in taste or texture.

Speaking of which, I replaced one cup of the flour with a cup of King Arthur's High Fiber blend. It doesn't effect baking at all, and mitigates a little of the guilt when I'm standing at the counter scarfing another piece. Hey,it's FIBER!

You could also get powdered buttermilk at King Arthur Flour, but why pay their shipping charges? Sacco brand buttermilk powder is available at most grocery stores--look for it near the non-fat dry milk or in the baking section.

This is 1 1/2 times the amount in the original recipe, which also uses a springform pan.
The eggs for this should be at room temperature. Put them (still in the shell!) in a bowl of lukewarm water when you start the recipe, and they should be ready to go in when they're needed.

Blend in a food processor or blender:

3 cups all purpose flour (or 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup King Arthur Flour High Fiber blend)
1 1/2 cups + 3Tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into small pieces
5 Tbsp canola oil

Blend until the butter is cut in. You can pulse this, but simply blending work just fine, just stop and check things occasionally. When this is ready, it will resemble coarse sand.

Set aside one cup of the mixture and put the rest into your mixer, or you can use a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer.

1 1/2 tsp    baking powder
   3/4 tsp    baking soda
1 1/8 cups  buttermilk OR  4 1/2 Tbsp buttermilk powder and 1 1/8 cups water (lukewarm)
      2          eggs  (see note about egg temperature)
      1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup          brown sugar (light or dark)
      1 Tbsp cinnamon

Mix in the baking powder and soda, then beat in the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and thick--this will take several minutes.

Grease (I use cooking spray) and lightly flour a 9x13 baking pan. Pour the batter in, smoothing it on top.
(A rubber spatula or plastic knife is good for this)

Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon with the reserved crumb mix and sprinkle it all over the top of the cake, pressing it down lightly.

Bake at 350 degrees. Check after 50 minutes, but this should take 50 minutes to an hour depending on your oven.

Cool completely before serving. That is, if you can stand not cutting into it with that smell of cinnamon filling your house................

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