Chili and cornbread muffins

To celebrate our first storm of the season, I made a large pot of chili and cornbread muffins for a dinner party last night. It’s so dreary outside today that I wish I had doubled the recipe for leftovers.

 Chili recipe courtesy of Epicurious

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (Penzeys Chili 3000)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can beef broth
  • 2 medium white potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup chili sauce (I love the Trader Joes chili sauce)
  • 1 15 1/4-ounce can kidney beans (I always used dried heirloom beans from Zursun or Iacopi beans)
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until almost golden, about 8 minutes. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking beef up with fork, about 10 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin and cayenne and continue cooking 3 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, broth, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper and chili sauce. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in beans. Simmer until beans are heated through and vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Serve with diced avocado, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and salsa on the table.

Cornbread Muffins, recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup frozen corn kernels

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg, if you’re using it. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy, and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (12 minutes for minis), or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

I also made these beauties with some frozen wild huckleberries from WA but we ate them too fast to take photos. Yum!



Tagine-Style Lamb Stew

This was a recipe I plucked from the NYT since I had about 3 extra pounds of lamb from an evaluation recipe last week. Not much of a lamb fan myself, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed a small bowl of it. Alex had three bowls so I think it’s safe to say that if you DO like lamb, you should try this.

Recipe courtesy of the NYT

  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, grated (about 1/3 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 20-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Cooked couscous, for serving

1. Trim excess fat from the lamb and cut into 1-inch cubes.

2. In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the lamb, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, apricot preserves and vinegar and cook, stirring frequently, until the aroma of the spices is strong, about 5 to 7 minutes. (Do not allow the meat to brown.)

3. Add chickpeas and stock, bring just to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently until the lamb is very tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

4. Add the raisins and continue to cook, uncovered, until they are nicely plumped, about 10 minutes more. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and lemon juice, and serve with couscous.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Leftover Pot Roast Stew

I never think of myself as being a very creative cook. I am usually pretty good at following recipes (except when I space out and forget to read the preparation time like I did on Tuesday night – oops) and I try to cook a wide variety of foods. However, when it comes to knowing what and how much of what to put in a new dish, I’m not too confident and usually try to piece a few recipes together for guidance. Today I decided to make a stew out of the leftover pot roast all on my own – no cheating and looking up other recipes. It actually turned out quite well!

I softened an onion in some olive oil and added two stalks of chopped celery and two chopped carrots. When that was all soft (not brown), I stirred around a pressed clove of garlic for a few seconds before adding the rest of the ingredients. I added a pinch of salt, the leftover meat (cubed), a box of very expired diced tomatoes (oops- looks like I’m turning into my mother in that I haven’t cleaned out the pantry in a while), a chopped up potato, and half a box of beef broth. For spices, I sprinkled in some rosemary and thyme and decided to hold off on adding anything else until the flavors came together and I could taste it. After bringing it to a boil and simmering for about 40 minutes until the carrots were soft, I was delightfully surprised at how well it turned out. It’s simple but it’s hearty and delicious. I’m going to put it in the freezer and bust it out once all the fog starts to roll into San Francisco in the next few months.

Recipe Testing (Mafe’)

Update: The recipe made it through testing! It’s up on the Leite’s site here.

I am on my second round of recipe testing for Leite’s Culinaria and am happy to say that my latest dish was absolutely delightful! I made a mafe’, a West African stew with meat simmered in a sauce that is thickened with peanut butter and has a sweet-salty flavor.  Traditionally, you can use lamb, mutton, beef, or chicken but the peanut sauce is what truly defines the mafe’. I opted for lamb tonight since I knew Alex would like it (and I’m slowly becoming a fan of lamb myself after a delicious ravioli we had at Cantinetta last weekend). I added butternut squash, cabbage, parsnips, and potatoes to the stew before adding natural, smooth peanut butter to the final product. Wow. I hope this makes it to the website so that I can share the recipe with you! In the meantime, do a Google search for “lamb mafe” and let me know what you come up with.

Using the oven to stay warm while we wait for the snow

Update: Here is what it looked like when the snow finally came!


So much for being good before Hawaii. Today we made brownies and a sausage stew to keep warm in the kitchen. After reading about a simplified brownie recipe using cocoa powder on Smitten Kitchen and Honey&Jam, I decided to test it out for myself using a jar of Penzey’s dutch process cocoa powder.  I haven’t strayed from my usual brownie recipe in years so I was a bit nervous with this one.

They take about 10 minutes to put together (most of this time is spent waiting for the chocolate/butter mixture to cool before you can add the eggs) and about 35 minutes to bake. Surprisingly chocolately and not at all too sweet, I’d make these again. They have a very gooey consistency which is just how I like them. I also like that they make significantly less than my other recipe (an 8×8 pan rather than a 8×13).


  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave for 1:30 minutes. Remove and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smoothes out once the eggs and flour are added.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Herbed white bean and sausage stew


The stew was also quite good though it took a lot longer to prepare and cook. Because you don’t soak the beans overnight and precook them before adding to the stew, you need to allow about 2.5 hours from start to finish. I also added some red chard to the soup since it was starting to look pretty sad.

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced 3/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste.

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.


Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.


When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

Soup swap, round 2

Sharon and I swapped our second batch of soup last week. She made a peanut chicken stew with lots of veggies and I made butternut squash soup. My friend Mark (Thanksgiving Mark) introduced me to it several years ago and I make it frequently throughout the fall and winter – it’s one of my favorites and is very simple to make.

I just had Sharon’s stew for dinner and it was yummy. Who would have thought to add creamy peanut butter to a soup? Not me but I love it. I’d make it again and add some thai basil just to give it a twist.

Mark’s butternut squash recipe

  • Tart apple
  • Yellow onion
  • Decent sized butternut squash (you can use any sweet squash here)
  • Vegetable or chicken broth
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Optional: creme fraiche

Chop and saute the onions until translucent. Add the sliced and peeled apple. Add the peeled and diced butternut. Add enough broth to cover the butternut (don’t use too much) and simmer until the butternut is soft all the way through. Transfer the squash/apple/onion mixture (with a slotted spoon) to the food processor and puree using as little broth as possible. Transfer the pureed mixture to another pot and add the remaining broth until it is the desired consistency. Save the extra broth if you plan to refrigerate the soup and add it when you warm it up. Add spices as desired. Top w/ creme fraiche.

Favorite chili

I have a new favorite chili recipe! Not that I consume a lot of chili or make it that regularly, but I know a good one when I eat it. And this one – well, I’ll be making it again very soon. The original recipe is here. Hot damn!

Two-Bean Chili with Vegetables (adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2001)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 7 ounces beef broth, 8 ounces leftover red wine
  • 2 medium white potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup chili sauce
  • 1 15 1/4-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained


Melt butter in heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until almost golden, about 8 minutes. Add beef and cook until brown, breaking beef up with fork, about 10 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin and cayenne and continue cooking 3 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, broth, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper and chili sauce. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 70 minutes. Stir in beans. Simmer until beans are heated through and vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Serve with creme fraiche, fresh diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, and salsa on the top. Yum!

A Feast of Boeuf Bourguignon and Pumpkin Creme Brulee

With all the rain last week, I decided to go all out with a French fall-themed dinner of beef bourguignon and pumpkin creme brulee on Friday night. I’d never made a bourguignon but something about watching Julie and Julia with my mom last month had me longing to try it. I hadn’t played with my torch in years – I was on quite the brulee kick a few years ago experimenting with Baileys, Kahlua, vanilla, eggnog, pumpkin, and lavender (not all together). Creme brulee is still one of my favorite desserts and I am happy to say that I’m back on the bandwagon.

I didn’t make Julia Child’s version of the beef. Instead, I used Amanda Hesser’s version from The Essential New York Times Cookbook which was as easy as assembling lasagna. I only wish that I hadn’t chopped the vegetables so finely as it would have been nice to eat chunks of mushroom, onion, and carrot like in a stew. I guess that’s the price you pay for using the food processor for everything. The flavor definitely intensified over the weekend making leftovers especially delightful on Sunday. I would easily recommend this recipe to anyone nervous about making a beef bourguignon for the first time as it was simple to prepare and felt quite fancy to feast on.

For the pumpkin creme brulee, I used my old stand-by recipe which doesn’t require heating the cream before putting it in the oven. Simply mix everything together, pour into ramekins sitting in a water bath, and bake. Enjoy!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Notes from the editor:

  • If you make the boeuf Bourguignon a day ahead and put it in the fridge, the chilled fat will rise to the surface and solidify, so you can peel it off with a spoon before reheating it. (This was really cool!)
  • When the casserole is cooking, the liquid should barely bubble.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large slices salt pork or 6 slices bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots
  • One 2-pound boneless chuck or beef rump roast, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/2 bottle (750-ml bottle) Burgundy or pinot noir
  • 1/3 cup Cognac

1. Pour the oil into a large casserole and add 1 slice salt pork (or 3 slices bacon). Add the diced carrots and cover them with 1/3 of the sliced beef in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the meat with half the onions, garlic, shallots, and mushrooms. Cover with a layer of half the remaining beef and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Add the remaining onions, garlic, shallots, and mushrooms and cover with a final layer of the remaining beef. Top with the second slice of salt pork (or remaining 3 slices of bacon). Pour the Burgundy and Cognac over all. Season with additional salt and pepper.


2. Place the casserole over high heat, and when it begins to simmer, cover and lower the heat. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender when tested with a fork.


Pumpkin Creme Brulee

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons rum or vanilla
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (for caramelized tops)

Preheat oven to 300F. Whisk together the cream, rum/vanilla, yolks, sugar, pumpkin, and spices. Blend well. Strain into a large bowl, skimming off the foam/bubbles. Divide evenly among 6-7 ramekins and place in the water bath and bake until set around the edges but still loose in the center (30-40 minutes). Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cool. Remove and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard and caramelize. After caramelizing, chill in the refrigerator for 5 minutes before serving.


Putting my CSA box to use

I finally got around to joining a CSA in Seattle and my first box came yesterday. Thanks Mom!

In it was a recipe for Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens from Bon Appetit which I made last night for dinner. It was a super simple and filling meal with tons of veggies. Yum! Then I got it in my head to make some bread to go with the leftovers today. I used a Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread with Flax Seeds and Oats recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs. This might just be my favorite bread yet.

Barley stew:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only, I used one huge leek)
  • 1 8-ounce container sliced crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed (i used three)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (i only had dried and it was fine)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups (or more) vegetable broth (i used chicken for more flavor)
  • 1 bunch kale (about 8 ounces), trimmed, center stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 8 cups packed) (i used spinach because I didn’t have any kale on hand)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until leeks begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until mushrooms soften and begin to brown, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice; stir 1 minute. Add barley and 4 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until barley is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add kale; stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Cover and simmer until kale and barley are tender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed for desired stew consistency, about 10 minutes.


  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt or 3/4 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Whisk flour, steel cut oats, flax seeds, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy, sticky ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Lay 12X18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6-8 quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2 inch-deep slit along top of dough.

Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature before slicing.


A Sunday full of soup, sun, and sleep

(and some studying but that’s not as fun to write about). Today was a gorgeous fall day and since I still can’t run, Alex and I went for a walk around the lake. The trees are mostly red and yellow now with only small sections still green. It’s such a cool feeling to be in constant awe of my surroundings here.


I decided today was the day to prepare the freezer for winter. This afternoon, I made a spicy roasted-tomato basil soup and a beef and bean chili. The kitchen still smells of onions, garlic, roasted tomatoes, and cumin. Bring on the rain!