Thursday, February 11, 2010

Grass-Fed Beef Chili

One of the benefits of going to the farmers' market is being able to purchase locally raised meats. Not only do you support your local farmers, you also know how the meat was raised. I haven't seen Food Inc. yet, but a friend recently did and gave me his take on how he is changing his meat consumption patterns as a result. In addition to reducing the amount of red meat in his diet, he decided to stop eating beef unless it is grass-fed and hopes that everyone else follows suit (in time). The challenge in doing that is the availability of products to meet the demand. Hopefully we'll move toward a change in the beef industry to increase the supply and availability.

Have you seen Food Inc.? Have you changed your eating habits as a result of the movie or to be more environmentally concious? I'd love to hear about it - please leave a comment!

During our last trip to the market, we picked up some grass-fed ground beef from Springdell Farms. Visit their website to read about how they treat their Black Angus cattle. It comes through in the texture and taste of the meat. A good tip that they gave us for cooking was to make sure not to overcook the beef. The beef we bought that day was extra lean (and grass-fed beef can be overcooked easily).

Veggie chili is a frequent menu item at our house. With the meat in the fridge, I decided to make a beef chili for a hearty meal for the New England February climate. We had this for Super Bowl Sunday topped with guacamole and fresh grated Colby-jack cheese. I chopped up the usual suspects - jalapeno, red bell pepper, and yellow onion and then got to work!

For the liquid, I used some leftover chunky veggie tomato sauce we had in the refrigerator. I also used the spices in my spice rack - dried cilantro, ground cumin, and chili powder. You can use any color beans you have in the pantry and throw in any other veggies you might have on hand. It's a great meal to use up any ingredients leftover from other meals.

Instead of the quick 20-minute chili that I usually make, this is a slow-cooking chili that simmered for 2-3 hours before the big game. The addition of cornmeal creates a rich (a little 'creamy'), flavorful, and satisfying result! The leftovers made tasty lunches throughout the next week.

Game Day Grass-Fed Beef Chili
Makes about 6 servings
1 pound ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1-2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1/2 a jar tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon dried cilantro
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Olive oil
Shredded Colby-jack cheese and guacamole to top it off

Heat a medium stock-pot over medium-high heat (a 6 on my range)
Add a small amount of oil to the pan
Add beef, garlic, onions, jalapeno, and pepper and cook until just browned, stirring the beef and breaking it up as it cooks
Drain and excess fat from the pan and return to the heat
Add in beans, sauce, spices, and salt and pepper, stir
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2+ hours, stirring occasionally
Top with cheese and guacamole and serve with cornbread or tortilla chips

Haiku from the Hubby:
Grass fed and so lean
Chili with spice and on top
Mmmmm Guacamole

Thanksgiving, Part Two

We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner in November, but my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and new nephew couldn't make it in for the holiday. Fast forward a few months and they packed up the baby and headed east for a visit.

I decided to make them a Thanksgiving dinner to make up for their missed meal. With a smaller crowd, it was a little easier to get everything cooked and ready in just a few hours. I scaled back the menu (only 4 components instead of 8+).

To start, I whipped up a quick and easy mustard-dill white bean dip served with veggies and pita crackers. The menu for dinner was my grandmother's southern style dressing (stuffing), roasted ginger-maple root vegetables, cranberry sauce, and roasted turkey breast. To the dismay of my guests, I didn't have time to make the pumpkin and pecan pies from Thanksgiving. Instead, I made a tasty apple crisp with a recipe from my friend Megan over at Delicious Dishings.

When I make turkey breast, I usually like to flavor it with orange juice and fresh orange slices. For this version, I decided to use the blood orange marmalade I picked up at the winter farmer's market. I also used the marmalade to make a quick gravy.

This was a manageable meal to make on the weekend. The turkey and stuffing cook at the same temperature. The vegetables can be cooked first, and then reheated just before serving. Here are the recipes for you to try:

Mustard-Dill White Bean Dip
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled (more if you like it strong!)
2 tablespoons prepared mustard-dill sauce (or, Dijon mustard + dill)
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place garlic, beans, and mustard-dill sauce into a food processor
Pulse and stream in olive oil until desired consistency
You can serve immediately, or let chill for at least an hour to let the flavors develop

Roasted Turkey Breast with Blood Orange Gravy

Printable Recipes

2 turkey breasts, skin on
1/4 cup blood orange marmalade
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (or sage & thyme)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Rinse and pat the turkey breasts dry
Cut 1" slits across the top of the breast into the skin with a small paring knife
Using your hands, rub marmalade into all the slits
Using your hands, rub olive oil all over the turkey breasts, making sure to coat well
Sprinkle salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning over the turkey breasts
Place the breasts into a foil-lined roasting pan
Cook uncovered at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees (use a meat thermometer)
Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing

Quick Blood Orange Gravy
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons blood orange marmalade
Pan drippings from roasting pan

Pour all ingredients into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat
Bring to a boil and cook for about 5-8 minutes until marmalade has dissolved
Serve hot

Marilyn's Southern Style Dressing
Makes 1 9"x13" pan (enough for 2, 4, or 6 depending on the crowd)

1 loaf sandwich bread (I used whole-wheat potato, challah is the best)
1 stick of butter, melted
2-3 medium yellow onions, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1.5 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave on high for 3 minutes
Add celery and carrots to the bowl and mix, microwave on high for 10 minutes
Add seasoning and mix well
Cube bread into a large bowl (you can cut or tear by hand)
Add vegetables, eggs, and chicken broth to the bread and mix gently
Pour into 9"x13" pan and spread evenly
Dot the top with pats of butter
Bake uncovered for 1.5 hours, basting with chicken stock for the last half hour
Serve hot

Roasted Maple-Ginger Root Vegetables
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup pecans
Salt and Pepper
(I also threw in a few sprigs of rosemary)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 2-3 minutes (be careful not to burn them)
Remove from the oven and set aside
Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, nutmeg, and salt and pepper
Spread in a single on a large baking sheet (or 2)
Roast for 30 minutes until just starting to brown
Sprinkle with ginger, maple syrup, and pecans
Continue to roast for about 20 minutes
Serve immediately, or reheat for a few minutes before serving

Apple Crisp
For the full recipe, click over to Delicious Dishings. Megan made cute mini-crisps in a number of small baking dishes. I used one large casserole dish for easy cleaning. I followed her recipe (but forgot the vanilla and orange juice by mistake). It was scrumptious and a perfect ending to a great dinner!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fresh From the Oven: Homemade Breads

I have a lot of experience with baking quick breads, but I've never tried to make homemade breads before. I was intimidated by the process and didn't think I had the skills or the time. On a grocery shopping trip, I passed the bakery and saw a loaf of cherry chocolate bread that looked so good I decided to make my own chocolate bread at home.

I found a recipe online and set out to make chocolate bread! Long story short, the bread did not turn out as desired. It didn't rise, didn't look very pretty, and was quite dense. While it wasn't a nice fluffy bread, it would have made a great base for a dessert bruschetta. I imagined toasting it and topping it with fresh strawberries and cream. But that is for another post - this is all about the bread.

After my failed attempt, I was motivated to conquer the bread baking challenge. Not too much later, one of my favorite new foodies posted an article entitled, "Yes, You Can Bake Bread" on Local in Season. Inspired by Jane's can-do attitude and seemingly easy recipe for cinnamon raisin whole wheat bread, I gathered the ingredients, got out my red KitchenAid mixer and got to work!

A key learning from my first experience was that my kitchen is not warm enough for dough to rise. To remedy this I put the oven on warm for about 10 minutes (while I kneaded the dough) and then turned it off before putting the dough inside. With the door cracked, the dough doubled in size as specified in the recipe. I think I didn't quite let the dough fully rise the second time and I left in the oven a little too long trying to get the right color. But, much better than the first try! You can get the recipe at I used honey for my sweetener and regular raisins. I also used my KitchenAid mixer to do the kneading.

After my success with Jane's recipe, I felt confident and decided that I could make my own breads every weekend. The next week I found a few recipes on the King Arthur Flour website and picked two to try - honey oatmeal and a white sandwich bread. The honey oatmeal was a very hearty bread - with oats, instant mashed potato flakes, and flour. The white sandwich bread was a more traditional milk bread.

Honey Oatmeal

White Sandwich Bread

I fired up the mixer, heated up the oven, and started the 6 hour bread breaking process. Both breads rose according to plan (a small miracle) and baked to a nice golden brown. The honey oatmeal was great toasted with a little peanut butter. The sandwich bread was a little sweet for my taste, but got rave reviews from my chief food tasters - my hubby and my friend Renee.

I am glad to know that I can add breads to the list of foods that I make at home instead of buying at the store. Plus, bread baking works well with my usual Sunday homework plans. Mix the dough - study for 2 hours while it rises - punch down the dough - study for 2 hours while it rises again - bake - watch TV - and then enjoy!

I would love to hear about your bread baking adventures - both failures and success!

Photos of my breads are in the running to win a picture contest through a drool-worthy website, Refrigerator Soup. If you have a minute, please click through and vote (it's by popular vote). Leave a comment here and let me know that you voted - I'm going to pick one lucky winner and send them a freshly baked loaf of bread! Vote here!
***New Feature***
Haikus from the hubby, of When He Fends for Himself.
Out of the oven
Two pieces toasted and sliced
Crumbs are everywhere


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