Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vegetarian Bean Chili

Imagine a completely hypothetical situation in which you were on vacation in Sonoma for a week, eating lots of food that you don’t normally eat (like chorizo and turkey) and drinking wine all day. Before that vacation, you were so exhausted and burnt out that dinner was mostly spaghetti or black bean burgers or take-out. And then along came Thanksgiving. When you got home, your pants were quite a bit tighter, but you still ate your way through a three-course resident interview dinner complete with a toffee bit-topped flourless chocolate torte. It might be time to get back into a routine of cooking lighter meals.

BUT! There are only two weeks of classes left, 8 zillion pages to write before than, and it’s a gross, cold, rainy night. This chili would come in handy.

So maybe that situation isn’t completely hypothetical, though this time of the year, you can fill in your own blanks about what has kept you out of the kitchen. Either way, this chili will only take you thirty minutes and leave you with leftovers!

Thirty minutes is the perfect amount of time for a healthful, warm, nutritious meal. With the short daylight hours and the holiday madness and all of the other cooking and baking going on in your kitchen, you don’t need a long time to prepare something satisfying and nutritious.


Vegetarian Bean Chili
source: Everyday Food, October 2007
Yields 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 can (15 oounces) black beans
  • 1 can (15 ounces) dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • Preparation

    1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
    2. Add zucchini, carrots, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened and carrots are soft, 8 to 10 minutes more.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake

    *tap* *tap* *tap* Hello? Is this thing on? Let’s talk about what’s been going on in my kitchen lately… *crickets chirping*

    Yep, that’s a whole lot of nothing. What has been going on are papers and sermons and meetings and running and work and social events and a horrible cold and expiring Groupons that have kept me from anything exciting in my kitchen.

    And to make matters worse, I’m skipping out on Thanksgiving. The biggest food holiday of the year, and I’m going MIA. I have a week off from classes and work, and Joe has one of his weeks of vacation, so we’re going here:


    Sonoma County. Six nights. Wineries. Hiking. Local food. A little cabin on a vineyard in Healdsburg. Pretending my senior project doesn’t exist. Absolute heaven.

    And not cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So I made this cake instead. It has chocolate, butter, sugar, and bourbon. I baked it while listening to the Swingin’ Christmas station on Pandora. That is all that you need to know. Oh, it is also very boozy, so keep it away from the kiddos.

    After having a great buttermilk ice cream with a rich chocolate cobbler at Capitol Grille last week, I attempted to make buttermilk ice cream to go along with this, but it didn’t work out as planned. But ice cream is a nice complement to the richness of this cake. And if you aren’t a fan of bourbon? Well then that’s more for me to eat.


    Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake
    source: Erin’s Food Files

    2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
    2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
    5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
    ¼ cup instant espresso powder
    2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 cup bourbon, rye, or other whiskey
    ½ tsp. kosher salt
    2 cups granulated sugar
    3 large eggs
    1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    1 tsp. baking soda
    Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional)


    Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 10-cup-capacity Bundt pan (or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans).

    In a heatproof bowl set over – but not touching – a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate until just smooth, stirring occasionally. Let cool.

    Put espresso and cocoa powders in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Stir until the powders dissolve. Add the bourbon and salt. Let cool.

    Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

    With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with the bourbon mixture. It may seem like there is too much liquid, but don’t worry; it’s okay. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes for a Bundt pan. (Loaf pans will take less time; start checking them after 55 minutes.)

    Transfer the cake, still in its pan, to a rack. Unmold after 15 minutes. Cool completely before serving, garnished with confectioners’ sugar, if you like.

    Note: This cake tastes even better on the second day, when the intensity of the alcohol mellows a little bit.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Stocking the Kitchen

    A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from my friend E noting that I had made several remarks about how much easier it was to create home-cooked, seasonal meals with a well-stocked pantry, and she wondered what a well-stocked pantry might consist of. As a fellow future ordained minister and current student and wife, E and I both try to live balanced and healthy lives, knowing full well that if we don’t take good care of ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually, then we can’t take very good care of others.

    While other websites and blogs have tackled this genre of post with great aplomb (see Cheap Healthy Good’s post on Pantry of the Gods), I thought I would post about what works for me and allows me to cook and bake the kinds of foods that work for a busy, semi-meatless couple on a budget. In some ways, this is an ideal list based on a good day. It’s also incomplete, based on my must-haves rather than on absolutely everything that’s in my pantry. You can adapt it to your own personal preferences based on whether you can’t stand spicy food or never want to make Asian cuisine. It’s simply what works for me!



    • Canned Goods - tomatoes (whole, diced, crushed), coconut milk, broth or Better Than Bullion, pumpkin
    • Legumes – canned or dried beans (kidney, black, white), lentils
    • Grains – brown rice, barley, oats, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, whole wheat pasta (short & long shapes), risotto, grits, cornmeal, flour (all-purpose, bread, whole wheat)
    • Baking – baking powder, baking soda, white sugar, brown sugar, chocolate (chips, unsweetened, bittersweet), coconut flakes, vanilla extract
    • Spices – cumin, chili, curry, garam masala, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano, blends (Cajun, pizza, Mexican, Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning), garlic
    • Nuts and Seeds – almonds, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, peanut butter, ground flax
    • Oils – olive oil, canola
    • Vinegars – white, apple cider, red wine, rice wine
    • Sauces – fish sauce, soy, hoisin, hot sauce (Buffalo, Tabasco, Sriracha), salsa, tomato, Worcestershire
    • Crackers, tortilla chips
    • Fruits and Vegetables (seasonally dependent) – bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, winter squash, clementines, lemons, limes
    • Tea and coffee


    • Vegetables – onion, carrots, celery, something green & leafy (spinach or romaine)
    • Staples – eggs, soy milk, butter, Greek yogurt
    • Condiments – jam/jelly, mayonnaise, mustard (brown and Dijon)
    • Bread – tortillas, Sandwich Thins
    • Cheese – cheddar, feta
    • Tofu


    • Vegetables – peas, corn, edamame
    • Frozen fruit – cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, mixed berry, overripe bananas
    • Yeast
    • Proteins – seafood (mahi mahi, tilapia, tuna, shrimp)
    • Planning ahead – homemade stock, homemade dough (pizza, pita bread)

    Confession: For most of my every day cooking, I use refrigerated minced garlic. I know it doesn’t taste the same, but I loathe peeling those thin, papery skins off of oddly-sized garlic cloves and having my hands smell like garlic all day.

    Also, since our discovery of decent boxed wine, we keep a box of white in the fridge and a box of red on our liquor cart (that’s a whole other post). It keeps forever and serves as a great table wine and makes it easy to cook with, plus it’s more environmentally friendly than glass bottles. Try the Bota Box Pinot Grigio or the J.P. Chenet Cabernet-Syrah for brands we like.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

    Over the years, we’ve developed a tradition when my mother-in-law comes to visit from Wisconsin bearing brats and cheese. It started out with just us and my parents and has grown into a full Bratfest. Since she came to visit this weekend, we prepped the house, invited some friends over, and stocked the fridge with beer for a full-blown party. Our cat loves when people come to visit him, so he was waiting patiently for everyone to show up.


    Usually we ask people to bring sides and dessert, but I spotted a chance to break in my brand-new stand mixer. After browsing through recipes for layer cakes and perusing baking blogs, it hit me. A pumpkin cheesecake would be the perfect addition to our Bratfest. The only problem is that I had never made a cheesecake before, a minor detail in my mind.

    Thursday night, I tackled the cheesecake, carefully pressing the graham cracker crust into place in my virgin 9” springform pan, pressing the water out of canned pumpkin, and letting that stand mixer go to town on the cream cheese. At the same time, I had Creamy Curried Butternut Squash Soup in the slow-cooker and was whipping up some beer bread. This, unfortunately, made things a little complicated. When it rose, the beer bread was caught on the broiler, and I kept having to open the oven while the cheesecake was in there to deal with the beer bread. After the cheesecake was finished, there was the beginning of a crack that started to spread across the top. Fortunately, I had whipped cream leftover, and, never one to let a chance to use that beautiful stand mixer go to waste, I whipped it right up and spread it over the top.

    The cheesecake itself was delicious, like pumpkin pie in cheesecake form. Everyone at Bratfest enjoyed it, and even though it was rich, it tasted light and creamy on the tongue. I foresee more cheesecakes in my future, as long as I have friends to help me eat them!


    Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
    source: Annie’s Eats

    For the crust:
    5 oz. graham crackers, broken into large pieces
    3 tbsp. sugar
    ½ tsp. ground ginger
    ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
    ¼ tsp. ground cloves
    6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

    For the filling:
    1 1/3 cups (10 1/3 oz.) sugar
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp. ground ginger
    ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    ¼ tsp. ground cloves
    ¼ tsp. ground allspice
    ½ tsp. salt
    1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
    3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    5 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 cup heavy cream

    Preheat the oven to 325˚ F and place an oven rack in the lower-middle position.  Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with two pieces of foil.  Spray the inside of the pan lightly with cooking spray.  To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and spices in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to process until evenly and finely ground.  Add the melted butter to the bowl and pulse again until the crumbs are evenly moistened.  Transfer the crumbs to the prepared springform pan and press firmly into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake until fragrant and browned at the edges, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 30 minutes.  Set the pan inside a larger roasting pan.

    Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil; maintain at a simmer.  To make the filling, combine the sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend and set aside.  Line a work surface with a triple layer of towels.  Spread the pumpkin on the towels and cover with a second triple layer of towels.  Press firmly until the towels are saturated with excess liquid.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and softened, about 1 minute.  Add about a third of the sugar-spice mixture to the bowl and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed and repeat, adding the remaining sugar mixture in two additions.  Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla and lemon juice; beat at medium speed until blended, about 45 seconds.  Add 3 of the eggs and mix on medium-low until incorporated; repeat with the remaining two eggs.  Add the heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds.  Use a rubber spatula to give the mixture a final stir by hand.

    Pour the filling into the springform pan, over the crust.  Smooth the top.  Pour enough simmering water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.  Bake until the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken and the center reads 150˚ F on an instant-read thermometer, about 90 minutes.  Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes.  Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.  Cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

    To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan.  Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen.  Transfer to a serving platter.  Garnish with candied pecans and whipped cream as desired.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before slicing and serving.