Friday, January 30, 2009

"Soup" for the Super Bowl

For the Super Bowl I'm serving a simple meal of chili with corn chips and a green salad. Yes, I know it's not technically a soup!

Cincinnati’s 5-way chili is famous and many “fast-food” restaurants feature it. Skyline Chili is the best known and is no longer limited to Cincinnati. There is now an outlet on Clearwater Beach (right next to Mc Donald’s). Chocolate and spices make the flavor different from standard chili.

Serve it 3-way, 4-way or 5-way chili for hearty meal. Five way chili starts with meat sauce and is built with spaghetti, kidney beans, chopped onion and lots of shredded Cheddar cheese. In Cincinnati it is served with oyster crackers but I prefer corn chips or cornmeal muffins.

Cincinnati Chili

Serves 6 to 8

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cans (14.5 ounce) stewed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
1 cup beef broth
1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin

12 ounces spaghetti, cooked, drained and kept warm
1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
Chopped onion
2 to 4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Brown ground beef, onions and garlic in 5-quart Dutch oven. Stir occasionally to help browning. Pour off any fat. Add stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce and broth.

Combine chili powder, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and cumin small bowl. Stir into beef mixture. Heat chili to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chili can be prepared ahead and refrigerated until serving.

Reheat chili if needed. To serve Cincinnati style, place warm spaghetti in pasta bowl or plate. Spoon hot chili over the pasta. Top with beans, onion and lots of Cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tough Beef Cuts for Tough Times

Because of our weak economy, it seems like everyone is working with a budget- a hamburger budget not steak! For celebrations most of us choose steak, but for family meals try less tender cuts of beef. In addition to costing less, they also have lots of flavor.

Try a chuck roast slowly braised in red wine with savory vegetables. I also have a recipe for a beef eye-of-round roast braised with tomatoes (lots of healthy lycopene)that I serve for two meals. The first meat, tender beef slices top polenta and later in the week the beef makes great sandwiches. Short ribs and stewing beef are other choices.

I think the secret to braising is to brown the meat thoroughly before adding the savory ingredients and liquid. There is a world of flavor developed as meat browns. I don't have a gas range that can simmer gently on low heat, so I find it easier to bake pot roasts at 325 degrees F. Use the pan juices to make a rich sauce to ladle over fork-tender slices.

Ground beef is the basis for many casseroles and of course, hamburgers. Dress up hamburgers with slices of tomato, bacon and avocado. Lately I have been buying ground beef (85% lean) from organic cattle and have been amazed with how good it tastes.

One of reason I favor these slow roasted one-dish dinners is that they bring back memories of my mom's pot roast, true comfort food for blustery and frigid winter weather.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Vitamin D- The Sunshine Vitamin

It's a cold cloudy day today and so it seems like a good time to discuss Vitamin D. More and more research is showing that Vitamin D makes a difference in preventing cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and other diseases. We think of it as the "sunshine vitamin" because our bodies produce it when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet light in sunshine.

On the other hand, because of skin cancer and the recommendation to use sunscreen, few people produce enough of this vitamin even on sunny days. In northern parts of the country such as Minnesota, it is impossible to get enough from exposure to the sun in the winter.

Few foods contain adequate amounts of Vitamin D but with fortification, good sources include dairy products, juices and breakfast cereals. Fatty fish such as tuna and salmon are also good sources but health professionals are suggesting Vitamin D supplements for everyone. Look for multi-vitamins containing 1000 IU's of Vitamin D.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Baklava Ice Cream

Last week I was in Utica, NY visiting my new grandson. We were able to eat out one night (the first time my daughter had been out) and went to their favorite restaurant, Symeon's, which has traditional Greek food.

One dish from that dinner stands out, Baklava Ice Cream. It consists of a phyllo cup with ground walnuts in the bottom covered with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The classic honey-lemon syrup if drizzled over the whole thing. It is a clever update of a traditional food that is familiar to everyone.

I prepared a few extra meals for them and discovered that pasta is ubiquitous in "hot dishes". I also discovered Barilla Plus Pasta. It contains whole grains but is much lighter that whole wheat pasta and I intend to use it more often. In addition to spaghetti and meatballs, I made a casserole similar to Chicken Tetrazini (from Cooking Light) and a Northern Italian Lasagna. It's called Green Lasagna on Emerils web site but I just used regular lasagna and didn't make my own green noodles. Instead of ricotta cheese is has a bechamel sauce (white sauce) and is rich and creamy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eating Healthy Meals

I've decided the best way for me to serve healthier meals is to concentrate on adding more vegetables. This time of year that can be challenging because most vegetables are out of season. Cauliflower is available year round but when it is in season from December to March it is usually less expensive. It is usually white but newer varieties are appearing in colors such as purple, orange or green. It is an excellent source of Vitamin C and K and folate. In addition it provides fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Cauliflower is easy to prepare. I cut it into large florets and microwave it but it can also be steamed or roasted. Be careful not to overcook it because that releases strong bitter flavors. I serve it plain as I don't think it needs anything but maybe a little salt. When it's just the two of us it provides enough for more than one meal. My favorite vegetable is any that can be cooked once and provide enough for more than one meal.

With cauliflower, the second time I usually toss it with a little lowfat raspberry vinaigrette or warm it and sprinkle with cheese. This time of year many magazines have recipes with cauliflower so I suggest trying something new.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dinner with Friends

To night we are going to a friend's house for a dinner with our gourmet group. Our group 0f five couples has been meeting almost 30 years. We meet every other month so each couple hosts one time and we take the summer off or go out to dinner. The host couple prepares the entree and guests usually provide two appetizers, a salad and a dessert. The hostess can make any adjustments or requests she likes. Tonight we're having tuna for a main course and I'm really looking forward to it.

I've been asked to bring an appetizer and have decided on Warm Cheese Tarts with Cranberry Chutney. I'm using the Cranberry Chutney recipe that I demonstrated on Showcase Minnesota (KARE TV) on December 2 and I've purchased phyllo mini tart shells. I'm using brie tonight but also like using soft goat cheese.

Each tart will have a 1/2 inch piece of brie that is covered with a teaspoon of chutney. The tarts bake at 350 degree F. for 5-10 minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese.

Cranberry Chutney

Makes 1 ½ cups

1 (12 oz) bag cranberries
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped shallot (1 medium)
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange rind
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. grated gingerroot

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Cranberry Chutney and Brie

Serves 4 to 6

½ cup cranberry chutney
1 (8 oz.) round Brie
Crackers and Apples

Remove rind from top of Brie. Place in a small baking dish and cover with chutney. Refrigerate until serving.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake cheese until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with crackers and fruit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Soup for Supper

One of my favorites meals this time of year is a bowl of hearty soup accompanied with with warm homemade bread or rolls. I often add mushrooms to soup because mushrooms are one of the foods that have "umami" Umami is described as the fifth sense- it adds a savory intense flavor that is especially welcome this time of year.

Making yeast bread can require a lot of time, but most of the time needed is not active time in the kitchen. The recipe for Herb Dinner Rolls is from my cookbook, Baking Basics and Beyond (Surrey Books, 2006) is a favorite because it is easy and using quick-rising yeast makes it fast, too. It only requires one rise and the rolls bake quickly. The most important step in preparing yeast doughs is to use the proper temperature for the water so that the yeast isn't killed.

Easy Herb Dinner Rolls

Fast-rising yeast makes these rolls easy enough to make any time. I actually purchased herbes de Provence at a market in the South of France. It usually includes basil, marjoram, sage, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. You can use any combination of herbs you like.


1 (1/4-ounce) package fast-rising yeast
1 cup warm water (105–115°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening
2 1/2–3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast into warm water in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add sugar and shortening and stir. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and herbes de Provence and beat until well mixed. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Save at least 1/4 cup of flour to add while kneading the dough.
Place dough on well-floured surface and shape it into a ball. Place your fingers on top of dough ball, curled slightly, and pull dough toward you; then push it away, using palms of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes.
To judge whether dough has been sufficiently kneaded, place it on work surface, pull both ends gently, and release. Dough should be elastic and spring back. Little blisters of air should be visible just under the surface.
Cover and let dough rest 10 minutes. I just invert a bowl over the dough.
Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Punch dough down and divide it into 12 pieces. Shape dough into balls by pulling the sides underneath forming a smooth top. Place in prepared pan.
Cover pan and let dough rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until rolls have doubled in volume. Test by pressing dough lightly. If your finger leaves only a slight imprint the dough is ready.
Heat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. After rolls are removed from oven, brush them with melted butter.

SECRETS TO SUCCESS: To form the rolls, I divide the dough in half and then continue to divide each half until I have 12 pieces. If the pieces are very uneven, pinch dough from larger balls and add it to smaller balls so the rolls bake evenly.

Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair, Surrey Books 2006