Friday, February 19, 2010

Veggie Chili

I am not usually a fan of veggie chili. I just feel there should be some type of meat in it. After all, authentic Texas chili doesn't even have beans. But I think the secret to enjoying a veggie chili is getting enough CHILE-WITH-AN-E flavor in it. In my verson, I use one fresh jalapeno, two chipotle chiles and a teaspoon of adobo sauce, and one dried Chile Pasilla Negro. This adds a nice smoky flavor, and combined with a can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes, the chili creates a warm feeling for your cold winter night.

Balancing heat and flavor is a tightrope act when you are cooking for others,. My wife does not like as much heat as I do. This version is just right, where she said it was hot, but ate her portion, and took the leftovers to work for lunch.

Veggie Chili

2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1 chopped shallot
1 chopped onion
~1" squares of butternut squash
4 skinny carrots chopped
1 chopped red pepper
1 chopped de-seeded jalpeno
1 chopped de-seeded chipotle pepper
1 tsp adobo sauce
28 oz fire roasted tomatoes
12 oz Ale
15 oz red kidney beans
8 oz frozen corn
Mexican Oregano
Cayenne Pepper
Chile Powder

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. Saute the garlic, shallots, and onion until translucent. Layer with salt and pepper. Add the carrots, squash, red pepper, and chopped chiles and cook for 10 minutes. When the carrots and
squash start to soften, add the fire roasted tomatoes, beer, beans, adobo sauce, corn and spices. I used about a tablespoon of mexican oregano and cumin, and about a 1/2 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and chile powder. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for roughly 30 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste along the way.

Top with grated cheese, sour cream, green onions, tortilla chips. Or serve over rice.

It came out really well. If you're a meat chili lover, you may not even miss the meat.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Down Under a Carrot Cake

The latest pause in our lives came as we tried a raw diet for a week. One tangible benefit of such an extreme menu is that my jeans fit better. I had noticed that after a horribly sprained ankle set my exercise schedule back, my clothes were not fitting me the way I was used to. So now we're back eating cooked food with a vengeance. There's nothing like a birthday and valentine's day to kick-start the sweets eating festival.

For my wife's birthday, I always bake a carrot cake; that's her favorite. I usually save recipes we like, but this year I opted for something new. I found a carrot cake recipe inspired by the cake served at the Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills, NSW, Australia. Honestly, it was great. It was light, moist, and not-too-sweet. The perfect cake to fall off the wagon of healthy dieting with.

Giving credit where credit is due, I found the recipe at the Almost Bourdain food blog. I'll re-post for convenience.

Bourke Street Bakery's Carrot Cake Recipe

(Adapted from Bourke Street Bakery's Cookbook)

Bourke Street Bakery - "It's necessary to work quickly to make this recipe succeed. Everything is whipped to incorporate a lot of air and the dry ingredients are quickly folded through at the end. The whipped egg whites result in a fantastic crisp meringue-like top on the cake. We have a number of mixers. So we can have everything mixing at one time, but for a home kitchen you will get the best results working in the order listed within the recipe.

70 g (2 1/2 oz) walnuts
150 g (5 1/2 oz / 1 cup) self-raising flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
55 ml (1 3/4 fl oz / about 2) egg whites
60g (2 1/4 oz / 1/4 cup) sugar for egg whites
1 egg
1 egg yolk
160g (5 3/4 oz / 3/4 cup) sugar for egg yolks
170 ml (5 1/2 fl oz / 2/3 cup) extra light olive oil
125 g (4 1/2 oz) carrots, peeled and grated

Cream Cheese Frosting:
20 g (3/4 oz / 1 tsp) icing (confectioners') sugar, plus extra, for dusting
20 g (3/4 oz / 1 tbsp) butter, softened
145 g (5 1/4 oz) cream cheese (preferably Neufchatel)
40 ml (1 1/4 fl oz / 2 tbsp) pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Grease an 18 cm (7 inch) round cake tin and line the base and side with baking paper - the paper should protrude about 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the tin.

2. Place the walnuts on a baking tray and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly roasted. Cool and cut into thirds. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a bowl. Repeat to ensure they are evenly mixed.

3. Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks start to form. Slowly pour in the sugar for the egg whites, while the motor is still running, being careful not to overmix - the meringue should reach soft peak stage. Quickly transfer the meringue to another bowl and set side until needed.

4. Put the egg and egg yolk in the bowl of the electric mixer and add the sugar for the egg yolks. Mix on high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture doubles in volume and is quite airy. With the motor still running, slowly pour in the oil in a thin stream being careful that it doesn't split or deflate too much.

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a spatula or gloved hand, gently fold in the flour mixture until combined. Fold in the carrots and walnuts. Quickly and lightly fold in the meringue - do not fold it through completely, you should still be able to see streaks of meringue through the mix.

6. Pour into the preapred tin and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into centre of the cake comes out clean. You may need to drop the oven temperature to 180C (350F) after the first 30 minutes if the top is browning too quickly) (* The top of my cake was browning too quickly and I had turn down the oven temperature as instructed but still a little too burnt. I would suggest to monitor the temperature very closely for the first 30 minutes.)

7. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting. Cream the icing sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and smooth. Add the cream cheese in small amounts, allowing it to completely incorporated before adding the rest. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl during this process to ensure even mixing. Add the cream and mix until smooth, being careful not to overmix at this stage or the cream may curdle and separate. If using a different type of cream cheese for this recipe you may need to add a little more cream - the frosting needs to be of a spreadable consistency but not at all runny.

8. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrate knife, slice horizontally through the centre of the cake to form two even-sized layers and fill with cream cheese frosting. (* I like my carrot cake to be eaten warm. I frosted the cake before it was completely cool. Hence, the slightly melted looking cream cheese frosting)

9. Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar to serve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Featured in Another Blog

I have been included in the House of Annie "Grow Your Own Roundup." From the website...

This edition of GYO features 61 different dishes from 8 different countries. The “Grow Your Own” food blog roundup, created by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes, features dishes using ingredients which have been raised in our own (or someone else's) gardens or have been hunted or foraged. Why grow your own? Because it saves money and makes for better tasting food!

I am in awe of the variety of great food that's being made in what is Winter for a majority of food bloggers out there. I'm also very thankful for the participants from Australia for showing off their homegrown produce.