An introduction to homemade chili

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Since I began teaching myself to cook years ago, I’ve always wanted to try making chili. But I was intimidated. It turns out I had no reason to worry. I finally worked up the courage to try it, and used this recipe for my first-ever batch of homemade chili.

It was really quite easy, and it had a much fresher flavor than the canned stuff I’ve been eating my whole life.

The only thing I was concerned about with this recipe was how soupy it was before simmering, but giving it the full hour to simmer helped to thicken it. Next time I’ll probably make it a little spicier and add some fresh garlic, but this was a great recipe for a first attempt.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped yellow bell peppers
1 pound ground turkey
1 (28-ounce) can crushed organic tomatoes, undrained
1 (16-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
11/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

In a large skillet, sauté onions, garlic and bell peppers in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add ground turkey and cook until browned.

Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Keeping it simple with brussels sprouts and apples

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I’ve only had brussels sprouts a few times in my life. My best friend makes them by shaving them and adding bacon—it’s so good. Since I’m trying to eat more vegetables lately, I’m trying to mix it up more, so I bought my first bag of brussels sprouts at the store last week. It was a Wednesday, so I wanted to do something simple to go with the baked chicken thighs I was baking. I also had a few apples from the farmers market that I wanted to use, so I looked up some recipes that used the two and settled on this one.

Keeping it simple worked. Next time I might be a little more adventurous, but this was a great introduction to cooking them for the first time.

Ingredients
1/2 cup diced apple
8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons apple cider
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine apple and Brussels sprouts in an 11×7–inch baking dish. Add apple cider, olive oil, minced fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper; toss well. Bake for 25 minutes or until sprouts are tender.

Swapping potatoes for cauliflower

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One of the great things about Facebook is when someone raves about a recipe they’ve recently tried and loved. This happened last week with one of my friends who tried mashed cauliflower. I reached out to her and she gave me the link. Since I don’t have much experience with cauliflower or how to use it creatively, this seemed like a great, simple recipe to try.

I thought using cauliflower instead of potatoes wouldn’t be able to compare to mashed potatoes. I was wrong. Not only did boiling the cauliflower take a lot less time to boil than potatoes would, but the entire recipe took less than 15 minutes. Just make sure you get the cauliflower as dry as possible after taking it out of the boiling water. My friend said she put the cauliflower in a tea towel and wrung it out.

This is a great addition to any meal where you’re short on time.

Ingredients
1 medium head cauliflower
1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon straight chicken base or bullion (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.

Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done. Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.

In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, chicken base, sour cream, and pepper until almost smooth.

Garnish with chives, and serve.

Savory galette makes a fantastic meal

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Happy new year! Last month I treated myself to a new cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Smitten Kitchen blog, it’s a great one, filled with well-composed photos and recipes that are manageable for the average cook. Sometimes I head there when I’m looking for inspiration.

The first recipe I tried from the cookbook was the recipe for a Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette. While the galette didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped—I halved the recipe and forgot to use half the olive oil, so that overpowered the flavors and made it oily—I loved the recipe for the pastry part. It had a lovely flakiness about it. Since I still had half of it in the fridge, I decided to make my own combination with leftover chicken, spinach, and Parmesan. It was fantastic.

I’ve never had a savory galette before, but I figured the pastry wasn’t sweet and could be used with a different set of ingredients. In all honesty, I liked my combination better than the one with butternut squash because it wasn’t as heavy or sweet.

Keep in mind that I mostly cook for myself, so this galette could serve up to three — or you could have leftovers, which is what I did. I enjoyed every bite.Savorygalette010415

Pastry
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons ice water

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Filling
One chicken thigh, baked with lemon, chopped
1 packed cup of fresh spinach, torn into smaller pieces
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface or between two pieces of parchment paper, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread filling over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the edges of the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. If you want to give it that shiny edge, you can make an egg wash by whisking one egg and two tablespoons of water together and brushing the mixture over the top of the pastry.

Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Christmas wrap-up and a happy new year

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My Christmas eve cookie platter went off without a hitch this year. It was by far the easiest year with my baking. Between the sugar cookies, spritz cookies, wreaths, and Rice Krispies trees, I made about 160 treats, and it ended up being more than enough for the 30-plus family members who gathered at our house for festivities.

I’ve found that the baking gets a little easier each year as I consider what was left over and take notes for the next year. This year I had a cookie press, which I used for the chocolate spritz cookies, and I kept those simple since the wreaths and the sugar cookies are always so involved.

Since I did all that baking last week, I’m taking this week off. Have a happy new year!

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