Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Healthy 16-Bean Vegetarian Chili


So, my mom was recently put on a special diet by her doctor to help her get her system back in check. She has to go totally, completely vegetarian for a while and she really wasn't all that happy about it at first. I can understand this.

We eat really well around here -- tasty barbecued meats, yummy side dishes, and even the occasional dessert. I would be sort of bummed, too. Naturally, this called for the making of something really awesome (that also happened to be vegetarian) for her first day on her new diet though. That is the story of how this chili was born yesterday, but trust me when I say that the world is a better place for its existence. Seriously... praise this chili! It was a masterpiece.

As with before, this is my best guess at a recipe, because you know I don't really do the recipe thing. I wing it Rachel Ray style all the way. However, I do like sharing these things with you and helping you duplicate them, so I always give it my best shot.

Ingredients


1 package of 16-bean soup mix (it's just the beans -- no seasoning or anything like that)
1/2 package of Morning Star vegetarian crumbles
1 large onion
2 medium-sized jalapeno peppers
4 cloves of garlic
1 jar of Prego Heart Healthy tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)
Water

Directions


- Do a rough chop on the onions and peppers so they're ready to go. Mince the garlic. Remember that leaving the ribs and seeds of the jalapenos in as part of your mixture adds heat, so include them or eliminate them according to your personal tastes.

- Toss the soy crumbles, onion, and peppers into a large pot or saucepan and sautee briefly over medium-high heat. After 5 minutes or so, throw in the garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne if you are using it. Sautee for maybe 5 minutes more.

- Add your beans. (I like to soak mine overnight, but it's fine if you don't want to. Just allow for a longer cooking time.) Also add your tomato sauce (the whole jar). Add enough water to your chili to cover all your ingredients.

- Bring to a boil and then promptly turn your heat down to low. Let your chili simmer and make your house smell f-ing awesome until beans are tender and chili is well cooked. If you soaked your beans, allow maybe 3 hours. If you didn't, allow at least 4.

- Eat and enjoy.

- Come back to this blog and offer to give me all your money for creating such a kick-ass healthy recipe. (Just kidding... sort of.)

My mom, Seth and I all loved this chili. It's only 24 hours later and it's already all gone, leftovers and all. I totally recommend this to anyone on a low-calorie, low-sugar, low-salt, low-fat diet like my mother is right now... or really anyone who loves chili and is looking for a healthy way to enjoy it more often.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lucky Finds: Vintage French Cookbooks Via My Mother

A lot of you guys already know how much I love the movie Julie and Julia and pretty much anything to do with Julia Child in general. (Yeah, I know. Me and pretty much everyone else who considers themselves a foodie or runs a food blog, right?)

I have, of course, read Julia's My Life in France. That and the movie are where I really learned to truly appreciate the whole process behind Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the development of her career as a food expert. Julia's tales of how she fell in love with food, fell in love with cultures different from her own, and ultimately learned to cook relatively late in life (her late 40's) were so rich and descriptive -- a true pleasure to read.

Then there was how passionate and positive she was about pretty much everything that happened during her journey. Her attitude really remained the same whether she was talking about a triumph or a setback. Like a lot of people -- including Ms. Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame -- I naturally tend to let setbacks infuriate me, so I really feel Julia Child has taught me a lot that extends way beyond cooking basics. I would love to be just like her someday, the kind of person that inspires other people to do and be their best regardless of what they are looking to accomplish.

Anyway, after learning so much about Julia's Mastering, I naturally began to wish I had a copy to browse through. It's been on my to-buy list for a while now, but I really haven't had new cookbooks in the budget lately. It turns out my mom has a paperback copy she actually bought in France years and years ago back in the 60's though. That's it above along with another book on French provincial cooking she gave me to look at.

This is even one of the editions that still has the original artist's drawings in it!! Really, I was thrilled and consider it a real treat to see those, especially since I'm an artist myself.

I've always wanted to know more about French cooking in general. Growing up in California, I certainly know my share about Mexican food. I've also been borderline obsessed with anything to do with England for years, so I know lots about British cuisine as well. France is a relatively new obsession though. I'm still in the process of learning about its history, it's culture, it's language, and especially its culinary point of view. I really can't wait to try some of the recipes.

The advice on proper cooking techniques will be a big help as well. I've always wanted to get better at making certain foods (like omelets, for example -- more egg experiments for me!) and executing more advanced techniques. This is totally the book I'd like to learn it from, too.

Don't even get me started on how cool it is to me that this copy of Mastering belongs to my mother. Julie Powell's copy that she cooked from for her blog belonged to her mother as well. This copy actually came from France, too. Much, much better and more special than buying my own copy with no personal history or nostalgic value!

Grilled Chicken Potato Enchiladas


Today was my mom's birthday (or I guess yesterday was, since it's now after midnight). As you all know, on your birthday, you get to choose any meal you like and the people who love you will cook it for you! She had never had the grilled chicken and potato enchiladas I like to make, so that's what we had for dinner tonight. 

I'm going to try doing something a little different with this post as well, which should make a lot of you happy. I'm going to attempt to write down a passable recipe that you can follow so that you can duplicate these yourselves. I'm not much of a recipe-follower-type person. In fact, I don't think I've ever really followed a recipe to the letter before. 

I own and collect cookbooks like any good foodie, but I usually just use recipes as jumping off points and wing it most of the way. I can't help it. I'm one of those creative sorts that doesn't know how to follow directions, but seems to manage pretty well anyway. I just eyeball everything and magically come out with the right amounts and more or less exactly the flavors I wanted. It's how I roll. If you follow this, let me know how it turns out so I can assess how I did at recipe writing.

Ingredients
  • 1 lb white meat chicken (we used tenderloins, but breasts would be fine, too)
  • 1 medium-sized sweet red onion
  • 2 medium-sized jalapeno peppers
  • 5 new potatoes (any color you want, but we used a mixture of red, white, and blue)
  • 6 fajita size flour tortillas (or you can use white corn if you prefer)
  • 1 20 oz can of mild Rosarita enchilada sauce
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (or whatever you normally use to season taco meat)
  • Garlic salt
  • A bottle of Frank's sweet chili hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh cilantro
You'll also need a large baking dish that's at least a couple of inches deep and long enough to hold the six tortillas with filling side by side. If you don't have a dish that big, you can always split the recipe between two smaller square baking dishes.



Directions

- Pre-grilling the chicken for this dish over charcoal really makes a difference in how it tastes. We barbecue a lot, so we pre-cooked the chicken in advance along with the sliders we had the other night and set it aside for these enchiladas. Then we chopped it into 1/2-inch pieces like you see above. You don't need to get out a ruler and measure or anything. Just chop it so the pieces aren't too big, but don't make mincemeat out of it either. Then set it aside.



- Next, prep your veggies -- onion, jalapenos, and potatoes. Slice your onion, but dice your jalapenos. If you want mild enchildas, take the ribs and seeds out of the jalapenos before dicing. If you want more heat though, feel free to include them. (We left the ribs in one of the peppers but not the other.) Then dice up your potatoes, too. 



- Once you've got a pan with hot oil in it ready to go, go ahead and drop all your veggies in. Add half your taco seasoning, as well as a pinch or two or the garlic salt. Pour in the 1/3 cup of water. Then lower your heat to medium, cover, and allow mixture to simmer until the potatoes are tender. 

- Once your potatoes are tender and your veggies are cooked, add your chicken, the rest of your taco seasoning, and a few tablespoons of the sweet chili sauce. You can add more (or less) if you prefer. Cover it again and let it simmer until the chicken is heated through. You should preheat your oven to 400 now as well.



- When your filling is done, you can turn the heat off and let it cool down a bit if you want. I personally don't like to. I like to get everything going in the oven right away and am blessed with invincible Bobby Flay asbestos hands, so I just go ahead and start rolling tortillas immediately. 

Prep your baking dish by coating the bottom with a small amount of the enchilada sauce, just enough to coat it nicely. Then divide your filling among the six tortillas, roll them, and add them to the dish side by side. Pour the rest of your sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle Cheddar cheese over the top to your liking. If you're a cheese lover, you can include a little extra in each tortilla as you prepare them as well. (We did!)



- Bake until heated through (uncovered), sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Chop or tear cilantro and sprinkle over the top as garnish... like so. Then nom your little hearts out.

These really turned out wonderfully. They go great with refried beans, rice, or both. Actually, Seth and I both agreed these were pretty much the best enchiladas we'd ever made or eaten anywhere. My mom was also very pleased with these as her birthday dinner as well. Feel free to substitute your own favorites as far as ingredients, too. This is a very simple dish, so it's a good one to play around with even if you're not used to cooking.


And because this is a birthday post, I'm sure you'd like to see what kind of cake we got my mom. We didn't make this ourselves, but it is seriously one of our favorites. It's a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake from Safeway and it's amazing. If you like ice cream cake and have any kind of access to a Safeway, you really need to try this sometime or else your life just can't be called complete. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In Which Cat Eats an Egg

A long, long time ago, I talked about wanting to get over my lifelong phobia of egg-eating for the simple reason that I just up and decided it was downright dumb to not even be able to tolerate such a simple, common food. However, as any good procrastinator knows, it's one thing to talk about eating something that scares you and quite another to actually put said thing in your mouth, chew it up, and swallow it. Last night, I finally decided I was ready and it actually went pretty well.

I consulted Seth as to what the least offensive form of egg would be for a nervous egg virgin such as myself and he said "scrambled" (no gooey, runny yolk to try to get past), so last night I took his advice and scrambled up a couple. (Those aren't them in the picture, but they look like them... and since I forgot to take an actual picture myself, they'll just have to do.) I added garlic salt, cayenne pepper, and cheddar cheese to make sure they had plenty of flavor. Then I put some on a fork and went for it. I expected to really not like eating them at all, but much to my great surprise, I didn't gag or have to fight a reflex to spit it out. They actually weren't that bad! If I hadn't had such a huge mental block built up against eggs all these years, I probably would have even found them delicious.

In fact, I could see how with practice I could actually get to the point where I semi-enjoy eating eggs and voluntarily do so on a somewhat regular basis. They make a nice alternative protein to meat and would be a great choice for when I just don't care to eat a soy burger instead. One of these days, I'll go all the way and try fried or poached eggs as well, but I might have to work my way up to that. In the meantime? Flavorful scrambles and non-threatening omelets it is. If I come up with any interesting recipes, I'll definitely post them for your culinary pleasure.

Do you guys have any weird, for-no-good-reason food phobias like the one I've always had in regards to eggs? Have you ever wanted to get past them?