February 24, 2020

Veggie Packed Beef Chili


1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb cubed sirloin stew meat
1 15-oz can jalapeño and habanero diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can chili-seasoned tomatoes
1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick half-moons
1 (loose) cup matchstick carrots
2 cubanelle peppers, chopped
2 15-oz canned kidney beans, drained
1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne
freshly ground black pepper


If prepping the night before, layer the ingredients in a resealable plastic bag or non-reactive bowl: from bottom to top onion, garlic, beef, canned tomatoes, vegetables, beans then spices. Refrigerate overnight.

Pour all ingredients into a 4-quart slow cooker so the beef/onions are near the top. Cover. Cook for 8-10 hours on low. If you have time before the timer goes off, give it a stir and then recover until ready.  Stir and serve.

Yield: about 6-8 servings

My thoughts:
It's been a surprisingly long time since I've posted a chili recipe! I recently found these cans of hot diced tomatoes with jalapeño and habanero at a local supermarket and was intrigued. Would they actually be hot? As it turns out, they really are! I have a high spice tolerance and was surprised at how spicy they were. So often products will say "hot" but really be, in my opinion, pretty "medium" or "mild" in actuality. Feel free to sub in tomatoes with green chiles or a second can of chili flavored tomatoes for a milder chili. 

I was making this chili on a day I was volunteering at a local high school helping the students with their essays for a small local scholarship. Little scholarships like that made a big difference to me when I was a college student so I was happy to help! I prepped everything the night before so in the morning I just had to start it cooking. Using flavored tomatoes like this is a great way to add a ton of flavor without having to measure out a bunch of different spices or chop a ton of various peppers.

I love beef chili but it can be kind of heavy. Instead of having a ton of beef in this chili I used beans and added some bulk and extra nutrition by adding a ton of vegetables. I think it's always a good idea to reduce beef consumption both for health and environmental reasons and this is a good step in that direction-all of the flavor but using only one pound of beef. 

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February 21, 2020

Tennessean Corn Light Bread


2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter, cooled slightly


Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk and butter over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool, in pan, on a wire rack for 5 minutes then invert and continue to cool on wire rack.

My thoughts:
I came across a reference to a regional cornbread from the middle of Tennessee that seemed like a mix between northern and southern-style cornbread and had to make it. I can never decide what style of cornbread I like best so something in the middle of the two was very appealing. It's apparently most often made in a loaf pan which is perfect for me because I like a good surface area to butter! Cornbread baked in an 8x8 inch pan doesn't give you an easily sliced edge to butter but these slices have plenty. The name seems to come from it being lighter in texture than traditional cornbread--more like that of what used to be called "light bread", sandwich bread made with wheat and yeast. Some very old recipes call for making this cornbread with yeast but the majority of mentions I found referred to it as a quick bread; one leavened by the combination of buttermilk and baking soda which is much easier to whip up on the spur of the moment.

The batter was surprisingly light and fluffy! Maybe because it doesn't have eggs? The buttermilk? I was using buttermilk leftover from making red velvet cake which had a similarly light and fluffy batter so maybe that's it?

I used melted butter because I think it adds a nicer flavor than oil or melted shortening (other suggestions I found for making this bread) but I bet bacon grease would also be good if you have that on hand.

The cornbread has a light texture, is slightly sweet but rich in corn flavor and has a pleasingly crunchy crust. Traditionally served with barbecue, it's also great with soup or chili.

February 12, 2020

Spaghetti and Salami, Dominican-style


1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup chopped mixed olives
8 oz your favorite hard salami, sliced into roughly 1/4 inch half-moons
28 oz diced tomatoes
6 oz jarred roasted red pepper, diced
splash of olive brine or vinegar

to serve:
1 lb spaghetti, cooked to package instructions

In a large skillet, saute the onion, garlic and olvies in some oil until the onions are transulucent. Add the salami and lightly brown. Add the tomatoes, olive brine/vinegar and peppers and simmer until warmed through and slightly reduced. Add the hot spaghetti to the pan and use tongs to toss. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I was reading a book and in it the characters take a container of spaghetti and salami to Coney Island for the afternoon. I remeber doing nearly the same thing years ago with a friend and I can't believe I haven't made it since.  It's so easy and so delicious! It's the perfect meal to make when you don't have much on hand but still need to make dinner (or lunch). I feel like there is a bit of a divide over whether you make it "wet" or "dry" but I've only had it dry. I strayed a little bit from what I've add by adding in a fire-roasted pepper for some extra flavor (versus leaving them out all together or using fresh) and using the leftover mixed olives I bought from the local Italian store instead of pimento-stuffed green but feel free to use whatever you'd like. So savory and so delish.

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February 05, 2020

Veggie Packed Chicken Lo Mein for Crowd


for the chicken:
6 chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 lb), cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1 1/2-inch knob ginger, grated
2 big cloves garlic, thinly sliced


1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon corn starch (optional)

for the veggies:

1 small onion, sliced into half-moons
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 napa cabbage, sliced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced into batons (I actually used 8 baby zucchini)
2/3 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup mung bean sprouts
8 ears (fresh) baby corn, halved lengthwise
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup snow peas

20 oz dried lo mein noodles


THE NIGHT BEFORE (or at least 8 hrs) you want to make the lo mein, place all of the chicken ingredients in a marinating container or resealable bag. Refrigerate.

When you want to make the lo mein. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the noodles. Whisk together the sauce ingredients, set aside.

Add the chicken and the marinade to a large, high walled skillet and saute until the chicken is cooked. Remove to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan the chicken was in. Saute until the onions were softened. Add the remaining vegetables. Saute until the vegetables start to cook. Add about half of the sauce. Cover for 5 minutes or until the cabbage is well-wilted. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain. Uncover the vegetables and saute until tender. Remove the vegetables to a very large bowl and cover to keep warm.

Return the chicken to the pan and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in the noodles and remaining sauce. If it looks dry, add a drizzle of any (or all) of the sauce ingredients except the cornstarch) Toss until well combined. Add the chicken and noodles to the vegetable bowl. Use tongs to toss and evenly distribute all ingredients. Serve immediately.

Yield: about 6-8 servings

My thoughts:
There are a few things to keep in mind about this recipe. One, it is really, really delicious! Two, it is a fair amount of work for a dish that (three) is almost certainly cheaper to buy at your local American-Chinese takeout place.

That said, it is totally worth making (at least once) because it is very tasty and I always think it's fun to make homemade versions of my favorite takeout dishes. You can really customize it with whatever vegetables you like in lo mein. I lucked out and found some mung beans and a mix of "baby" vegetables (snow peas, baby zucchini, and baby corn) marked down for quick sale when I went to pick up some snow peas so I used that instead of a whole large zucchini and added in baby corn which was really cute and added some crunch. I also cheated and picked up a bag of matchstick carrots so I didn't have to cut them up. Another trick is to spiralize the carrots and/or zucchini and then cut the "noodles" into 2-inch pieces. So much is going on right now, I've been trying to give myself a break and use some prepped vegetables like the carrots when it isn't much more expensive and the results would be the same as me doing it myself. Is that self care? 

The results were amazing--all of my favorite lo mein vegetables and super flavorful marinated chicken thighs--and super filling! It made a ton. Way, way more than two people needed, even with lunch the next day so halve this recipe for save it for a day when you are feeding a crowd. All of the lo mein noodles I can find at any store are 10 oz a bag which is a little small for 4 servings as a main (read: only) dish but doubling it leaves you with a huge amount of food. Not a bad problem to have when it is is this good! 

February 01, 2020

Coconut Toffee Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups flour
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup toffee bits
12 oz mini bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a stand or electric hand mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms.

Fold in the chips, coconut and toffee.

Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping tablespoon of dough two inches apart (I like this cookie scoop that holds 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough).

Flatten slightly then bake until light brown on the bottom, about 12-13 minutes.

Slide them out on the parchment paper onto a wire rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the parchment or Silpat on the wire rack before removing the parchment/Silpat and allowing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Cool completely before storing in air-tight containers.

Yield: around 4 dozen cookies. Recipe can be halved.
My thoughts:
These cookies were a bit of an experiment. I had a bunch of mini chocolate chips leftover from making black bottom cupcakes, coconut from making the vegan coconut lime bundt cake over the holidays and a bit toffee leftover from way back in October when I made the roasted pumpkin Rice Krispies treats. I have such a lack of storage space in my house, the thoguht of getting rid of some of these bags sitting around all in one baked good was great. I also wanted to make a cookie that I thought might be able to be frozen once baked because I knew I was going to see my parents but not until a couple days after I thought the cookies might be getting stale. I know a common idea is to freeze the dough but I don't have room in my freezer for a cookie sheet of scooped dough but I did have room for  a bag of already baked. If they didn't thaw well, oh well. It was worth a shot.

I have never made chocolate chip cookies with tiny chips before. Years ago, it was a struggle to find mini chips to make my family's black bottoms but in more recent years, they have been readily available year-round. I wasn't going to waste the few precious bags I had for black bottom cupcakes on cookies when full-sized chips would do! As it turns out, I rather liked them in cookies! Literally every bite, every tiny nibble had chocolate in it. The toffee added a bit of chew and caramel flavor and the coconut was, well, coconut-y. I, unfortunately, wasn't able to use up the whole bag of coconut and have cookies that were scoopable so if you know any recipes that use only about half a bag of coconut or less, throw them my way. 

As it turned out, the baked cookies froze and defrosted just fine. My parents swooned over them and it was a nice treat for them before my mom went and had her second brain surgery for her cancer. 

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