Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chocolate & Lager Turkey Chili

If you have 'chocolate' in the title of your chili recipe, I'd better be able to taste it. I've tasted numerous turkey chili recipes that claimed to have chocolate as an ingredient, but I haven't been able to taste it. This disappoints me. I'm still new to the world of chocolate; it's not something I've been able to enjoy my whole life. So if a dish claims to contain this wonderful treat, I want - nay need - to enjoy every morsel to make up for lost time.

I had planned to try out my own recipe, but was waiting for winter on purpose. Chili just tastes better in the winter. However, even though I'm in Florida, it should not be 80 degrees outside - in January. Last week it was snowing! And, no, I'm not making that up, nor was it frost or dew - it was actual, real snow...from the sky.

Anywho, a cool rain rolled into town today, so I decided to open the doors and windows and try out my chili recipe. I used mostly basic chili ingredients, but wanted something a little over the top, which is why I chose to include chocolate - and also lager. I'm not a beer drinker, but believed a smooth lager would pair better with the chocolate than chicken broth. I went to my local organic co-op for a quick tutorial and they helped me chose a pale lager, or pilsner, by Lagunitas. Lagers are bottom fermented in a cool environment, and pilsner originated in the Czech Republic. I tasted the pilsner before incorporating it into the chili to ensure the flavor would not be overpowering. The pilsner was light and smooth, just what I was looking for. I was surprised I enjoyed the flavor and the lightness did not leave an aftertaste. I might have to start testing out more to see what else is out there...

The pilsner also did not take away from the amount of chocolate I wanted to come through in the recipe. No one will have to guess what's lurking in this chili. I also made it thick and dense. I think a chili shouldn't be runny or soupy. The taste of this chili is a perfect marriage of flavors. None are overpowered and a little goes a long way. I chose to use hot cocoa mix instead of regular cocoa so the chocolate was more predominate. I also couldn't resist making some more cornbread to have on the side.

I'd recommend having the vegetables chopped and the spices pre-measured before starting the recipe. Also, this is the type of dish that requires tasting along the way. Keep a small spoon handy and taste as you go (making sure not to burn yourself!) to ensure the amount of spices are to your liking. My taste buds do not fair well with spicy dishes, so the heat level in this chili is mild.

Chocolate & Lager Turkey Chili

4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb ground turkey
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 oz package taco seasoning
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
4 tbsp hot chocolate powder
12 oz lager (Lagunitas Pilsner)
14 oz crushed tomatoes with basil
15 oz kidney beans
15 oz black beans
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
(sour cream and green onions for garnish)

In a wide, shallow pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook the turkey until brown. In a large pot, add 2 tbsp olive oil and sweat the bell peppers for 5 min over medium heat. Next add the onions to the bell peppers and sweat for another 5 min. Add the garlic to the vegetables and cook for 1 min.

Add the browned turkey to the vegetables. Then add ingredients of cumin through hot chocolate and cook for 1 min. Add the lager and cook uncovered, without stirring, for 10 min. The pot should have bubbles, but should not be boiling. Next add the crushed tomatoes and both beans; cook uncovered on medium-low heat for 15 min, stirring occasionally. Finally, add the dark chocolate chips and stir until melted. Serve immediately.

~Yields 4-6 servings.

~Original by Brie.

Friday, January 8, 2010


One of my favorite things to do every day is enjoy the web comic Surviving The World by Dante Shepherd. I love his sense of humor and think his approach to sharing witty advice about our world in a white lab coat in front of a blackboard is pure genius. He also earns bonus points for naming his dog German...get it? German Shepherd. Hilarious! German is also featured in a few of the comics, like Canine Math.

These are a few of my all time favorites: Lesson #191; Monkey Feet; Lesson #45; Slurs; Recitation #20; Lesson #409.

It's because of this one, Breakfast, that inspired me to create the masterpiece known as the Cromufini.

I needed to start with the zucchini bread first, and I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to use: Food Blogga's. I've had her recipe saved in my favorites for months and hadn't had a chance to indulge yet. Perfect excuse!

The only thing I chose to do differently was use freshly grated coconut. I honestly believe the reason why many people claim they do not like coconut is because they've never taken the opportunity to enjoy it fresh.

Fresh coconut isn't a kick-you-in-the-face-sugary-sweetness-coconut-overload like that processed bag of coconut flakes tastes like. I promise people will be converted if you have them munch on a real piece of coconut. A fresh, mature coconut has a mild flavor with more of a coconut aftertaste, in my opinion. I love the energy I get from eating coconut. I never feel weighed down or have a sugar crash afterward.

Coconut and coconut oil is very healthy. The saturated fat contained within the coconut is high in medium-chain fatty acids, unlike most fats in the Western diet which are long-chain acids. The shorter carbon chain means the body moves the medium-chain fatty acid more swiftly through the blood stream into the liver where it is converted into short term energy use, instead of being converted into fat stored throughout the body. Coconuts are also high in lauric acid, also a medium-chain fatty acid, which is converted into a monoglyceride compound in the body which exhibits antiviral and antimicrobial properties. This means it helps the body fight against common diseases to serious lipid-coated viruses.

If you'd like to take a crack at eating fresh coconut, which I highly recommend, here's what to do:

Using a hammer and a nail, poke holes in all three of the coconut eyes and drain the coconut water into a glass. (Make sure when you're picking out your coconut to shake it around. You want to hear lots of sloshing and the coconut should seem heavy for its small size.) The coconut water is very sweet, so if you're unable to drink it straight, then dilute it with water or freeze and use in cooking, like with rice.

Next, you'll need a heavy towel. Wrap the coconut in the towel and then whack away with the hammer on a hard surface, like concrete. Try not to smash it into a million little pieces, because peeling it will be harder. Separate the hard outer shell from the meat. I rinse my coconut pieces under cool water to remove debris before shaving the coconut.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin brown skin from the coconut. VoilĂ ! Delicious, healthy, fresh coconut!

The zucchini bread came out perfectly! Within the sweet bread, I could taste the pineapple and the crunchiness of the coconut and walnuts. Mmm! I am sticking with Food Blogga's recipe from now on. Next time I might sneak in some golden raisins though. Shhh!

Next came the muffins. I came up with this Orange Marmalade Muffin recipe because I knew the muffin would need to stand out against all the wonderful flavors of the zucchini bread. These turned out with more of a cake consistency than I planned, but the flavor was wonderful. Adding some glaze or icing on top would be a nice touch.

Orange Marmalade Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup turbinado
3/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup apricot jam
3/4 cup raw milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350*F and butter a muffin pan. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and set aside. In a small pan, melt the butter slowly on the stove. This should take about 5 min, until it starts to brown very slightly.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients on low. Slowly pour in the melted butter. Next add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the muffin pan, leaving room at the top for the muffins to puff up. Cook for 15-17 minutes.

~Yields 12 muffins.

~Original by Brie.

Oh, look! Zucchini bread inside muffins!

Finally, came the croissants. And this is where it all goes downhill.

I chose to make an original, simple croissant recipe by Julia Child via Mamaliga, which has great step-by-step instructions.

However, I've never made croissants before. I have always heard how time consuming these are, but figured I needed to make a go of it anyway. Things started out normal enough, but my first bump in the road was during the first rise of the dough. I discovered this does not work in the middle of the winter in a cold house. All my dough did was sag where I had snipped it.

Oh, well. It was time to move on. Next came all the many stages of rolling the dough, to make the many delicious layers within the croissants. I could not get my dough to stop sticking - to everything! The roller, the counter, me. It was ridiculous.

Also, see here where I rolled the butter on the counter. Don't - just don't do that. Such a rookie mistake, ugh. I had to scrape all the butter off the counter, so rolling it on that surface was worthless.

Then, when it came time to shape the croissants into their famous shape, my dough kept shrinking back up into little flat pieces of dough. I couldn't even bring myself to take a photo of what they looked like, it was so embarrassing!

This is the closest thing I got to a "normal" looking croissant. Pathetic.

I do have some good news though. My croissants were absolutely scrumptious! I giggled and ate my way through several of them.

In the end it was all worth it. I proudly present to you: Cromufini!

Dum...Dum...DumDumDum! Dum! Dum! Dum! Dum! (a la Space Odyssey)

It took me three days, but there it is, in all it's glory. Needless to say, I would recommend enjoying each of these treats on their own.

I know this post was super long, but thank you for enjoying my Special Project - Operation Cromufini.

Oh, and remember Lesson #324!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Luck - Black Eyed Peas with Brown Rice

Happy New Year!

Here in the South, our good luck charm for the new year is to make black eyed peas with rice. An old myth mentions the peas looking like old coins, although I don't see a resemblance. A few people even throw a dime into the dish to see who comes out the luckiest, but knowing my luck, I'd be the person who swallows it instead - and that's not how I want to start out my year.

I chose to cook everything together in a crock pot, but I had never cooked rice in a slow cooker before, and it came out over done. It still tastes great, but it's not a looker. Preparing the rice and peas first, then placing the sausage and extras over the top might make for a better presentation.

Black Eyed Peas with Brown Rice

32 oz black eyed peas
14 oz brown rice
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
2 organic chicken sausages
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves

Rinse and drain the black eyed peas and add to a crock pot set to high. Next add the ingredients of brown rice through coriander and stir well.

Add the olive oil to a shallow pan and set over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken sausages and cook until all sides are browned. While the sausages are cooking, roughly chop the onion and garlic. Once the sausages have browned, move to a cutting board to cool, and in the same pan, add the onion and garlic. Cook for 5 min until translucent. Slice the sausages thinly, and add to the crock pot with the onion and garlic.

Allow the dish to cook for 4 hours on high heat, or cook for 6-8 hours on medium heat. Check within the last hour for water level and for the softness of the rice. Garnish with green onions or parsley if desired.

~Yields 6-8 servings.

~Original by Brie.

Make sure to have some cornbread on the side! I used a cornbread recipe from Herbivoracious which was delicious!