Very Chilly, Very Easy

June 8, 2009 at 9:18 pm Leave a comment

Blog Food I 003  And it was nippy here this weekend.  A rainy 53 degrees on Saturday, to be precise.  I really thought my chili-making was on seasonal hiatus, but with a gloomy wet day stretched out before us, a simmering pot on the stove didn’t sound amiss.

My Chili Con Carne formula is embarrassingly simple, but I do get a lot of requests for seconds – the ultimate test of a kitchen success, I figure.  Tonight I added a simple Spinach Salad and capped off this “warm your innards” meal with an ultimate comfort food dessert of Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding.

For the chili,

1# lean ground beef             1/2 C finely chopped yellow onion           1 TB powdered cumin            1 Tb chili powder

2-15 oz cans each of dark red kidney, light red kidney, and chili-hot beans (pinto style beans in sauce)           

                                                                               2- 14-oz cans of chopped tomatoes

Brown and crumble ground beef in a large, heavy soup kettle over medium heat.  Add chopped onion (or 2 Tb dehydrated minced onion), cumin, and chili powder, stirring to distribute well, and continue to cook and stir the meat mixture until no pink remains.  Now, for the most challenging part of the preparations:  Open the canned beans and tomatoes.

Add the chili-hot pintos to the pot and stir to mix.  Drain off all but a small amount of the liquid from the dark and light red kidney beans into a storage container and reserve it for thinning the chili later if necessary; chili often thickens after being stored and re-heated.  Add the kidney beans to the pot.  Next, pour the contents of the two cans of chopped tomatoes into a blender or food processor and whir or pulse briefly until coarsely puréed.  Add to pot and mix well.

(My dad, a true chili connoisseur, never liked chunks of tomato in his favorite dish, so I got into the habit of puréeing them before adding them to the pot.  If I want a bit more texture, I sometimes add ½ – can of the diced tomatoes right to the pot and purée the remaining before stirring it in.  The puréeing does make a definite difference in the distribution of tomatoey-ness, though, so I’d suggest trying the recipe once with the all-puréed method, in which case you can use any style of canned tomatoes you happen to have on the shelf.  And if you have time to plan ahead or have concerns about sodium intake and/or financial outlay, by all mean use soaked, dried kidney beans for a considerable cost-savings.  I am still working on approximating the spices and thickeners in the chili-hot canned beans, however.  I’ll keep you posted.)

Cover pot and cook over low heat a minimum of ½ hour, but preferably 1-1 ½ hours. 

For the salad, I washed and dried baby spinach leaves then tossed them with thin-sliced red onion and a peeled, cubed avocado.  My new favorite guilt-free pleasure is Newman’s Own™ Natural Salad Mist, and this salad seemed to call for the Tuscan Italian.  A sprinkling of lemon and a dash of olive oil would work nicely, too, with salt and pepper to taste.

My modest little suburb doesn’t have a downtown district, but it does have some wonderful parks and a library and post office within walking distance for my daily three-miler.  And perhaps most appealing of all, it boasts a wonderful factory-sized bakery where artisan breads are produced daily, and where the surplus is sold the next day at the bakery outlet for a fraction of the retail price.  There I found a French bread style loaf of dark brown chocolate chip bread which then became the basis for one of our favorite company desserts.  To make the chocolate bread pudding,

1 loaf chocolate chip bread        1-1/2 C heavy cream        3/4 C evaporated or whole milk        1/4 C sugar 

3 oz @ semisweet & bittersweet baking chocolate              2 eggs                                                            1 tsp almond ext.

1/3 C semi-sweet chocolate chips                         

Slice and then cut into ½” cubes enough chocolate chip bread to yield 4C.  Chop chocolate.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, blend heavy cream with milk and sugar and stir to dissolve.  Remove from heat and blend in chocolate, stirring until the chocolate melts.  In a small bowl, beat eggs with almond extract and then slowly whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture.  Spread bread cubes evenly over the bottom of a 1-1/2qt glass baking dish and pour liquid over bread.  Cover and refrigerate for up to four hours, stirring well every half-hour or so to allow bread to become thoroughly and evenly saturated.

Let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats then sprinkle with chocolate chips and bake at 300° for 45-50 minutes or until set.  Serve this warm with vanilla ice cream and you’ll swear that you’re seeing sunshine flood into your little corner of the dining room.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Advise with Consent – Attitude and Perspective II Now This is Summer!

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