Monday, November 22, 2010

Beef and Two Bean Chili

My husband has recently decided that he likes chili. A lot. All his life he's been a pretty picky eater but that's mostly been by choice. Because I love food and think that it's fun to experiment and try new things I've always encouraged him to be open-minded about food. At first, he resisted and hated trying new things, convinced that the reason he didn't like something was because he actually didn't like it, rather than he had just never tried it. Over time, he quit fighting me and started willing trying new things because he'd been able to find so many new foods that he really loved. We've been together since high school and I can't tell you how many things he has tried and fell in love with. Chinese food. Mexican food. Sushi. And, lately? Chili.

So he's been asking for me to make some kind of soup or chili for weeks now but it's just been too hot for me to think chili sounded good. Plus I hadn't found "the recipe." Over the last couple weeks here in Florida the weather has cooled off significantly (as in, it goes into the 60s on occasion) and I started thinking in earnest about trying my hand at chili. But I still couldn't find a recipe that spoke to me. So I took the things I liked about a few different recipes and adapted them to a recipe that suited our tastes.

Success!! I served this with cheese and sour cream for a garnish and biscuits as a side. Brad loved it and gushed all night long about how great it was! I really loved it too! Plus, it's a one-pot meal (read: easy clean-up) and makes a ton, which will probably serve us for a few more dinners and lunches. (I really love leftovers. Home-cooked meal without the work? Yes, please!) I subbed in green pepper for the more traditional celery (since neither of us are big celery fans) and the onion, garlic and green pepper made for a great vegetable flavor combo. The spices worked great together and the cornmeal gave the chili a great thickness without sopping up all the juices. One bowl is very filling and satisfying on a chili (pun intended) fall night. So here is the recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Beef and Two Bean Chili
(Original recipe by Layne)

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 16-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups beef stock
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
¼ cup cornmeal

In a large stockpot over medium-low heat, saute chopped onion, garlic and green pepper until soft. Crumble in ground beef and cook until brown. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock, beans, spices and cornmeal to the stockpot and stir together. Cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring frequently. Serve with cheese and sour cream.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who isn't looking for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe? And if you aren't, you should be. Of course, there is no one winner. Everyone has different opinions on what a chocolate chip cookie should be. And while sometimes we have different tastes and preferences, Brad and I definitely agree on this! Here's our take:

Chocolate chip cookies should be chewy, on the softer side and have a not-so-subtle brown sugar vibe about them. We also both tend to agree that the cookie part is better than the chocolate chip part. I definitely don't want an overdose of chocolate chips to drown out the wonderful brown sugar and buttery goodness of the cookies that they are suspended in. And, as far as Brad is concerned, the softer they are and the more they taste like cookie dough, the better.

So I decided I wanted to try to make not just good chocolate chip cookies, but GREAT chocolate chip cookies. I had two recipes in mind that held great promise: Alton Brown's "The Chewy" and Baking Illustrated's "Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies," which has been featured on zillions of food and baking blogs. They are both very similar and ended up I deciding on the Baking Illustrated version, mostly because of all the rave reviews.

I must say that these were amazing and did not disappoint. I'm convinced that they are my new go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. They are chewy, with a great texture, and have a wonderful brown sugar flavor. Like all cookies, they are beyond phenomonal straight out of the oven but still hold onto their chewiness and flavor for a couple of days in a well-sealed container. Not much more to say other than we loved them!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Recipe from Baking Illustrated, page 434)

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2-1 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

3. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. (This batch should make about 18 large cookies.) Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

4. Bake until the cookies are light golden gro
wn and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a metal spatula.