Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mrs. Big City Eaters Chili Con Carne

Here is a re-posting of my wife's chili recipe as Super Bowl Sunday is coming up this week. Yay!! I haven't had much time do do any writing for the past month or two as I have been very busy setting up my wine importing business. I really miss writing and can't WAIT to get back into it, hopefully very soon. I will re-post a couple of other recipes which may also fit into the Super Bowl theme in the next couple of days. It's the least I can do. Thanks for reading. See you soon. :)



There are about 3 dishes which my wife makes: 1) Chili 2) A grilled cheese sandwich 3) Uuuhhhh.... there is a third, but I have to really think about that for a bit. Oh, ribs baked in BBQ sauce! I knew there was a third...

Anyhow, they're all good in their own right, but she makes a pretty good chili. My mom used to make a pretty good one too. Everyone could eat it as it wasn't too spicy and had good flavors and there were even some health benefits to it with the kidney beans and tomato sauce.

Mrs. Big City Eater makes this dish once or twice a year. It's one of the few times I let her loose in the kitchen as she really doesn't cook and could possibly burn the house down at any point in time . The time for her to make her chili usually happens in the dead of winter, but the cold seems to never want to end so maybe this will scare it away finally. When I tell you this winter has been ugly, I'm not lying. It also followed up a very not-so-nice summer and fall. It was cold almost the whole year and the snow never seemed to stop falling out of the sky this winter. I think it has finally quit, but of course now that I've said that it will snow about 4 feet tonight. Just watch. Speaking of cold weather, has anyone heard anything from Al Gore or any of his cronies lately?

Ingredients

- 4 lbs extra lean ground beef
- 2 439g cans of kidney beans
- 2 439g cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- 1 790g can whole or diced tomatoes
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 red peppers, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 15 white button mushrooms, halved and sliced thinly
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 85g chili powder
- EVOO
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp dried chili pepper (optional)

Directions

1) Prepare all of your vegetables,


funghi,


and take the kidney beans and chickpeas out of the cans, rinse them off and put them all in a bowl until you need them.


2) Place a large soup pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add a little EVOO and when the pot is hot enough, add the ground beef. Cook until no longer red, but not browned.
3) Pour beef into a large colander in the sink to strain the grease out. Make sure you have the hot water running off to the side of the colander while doing it. This makes the grease go down the drain without sticking to your pipes (an old plumbers trick).
4) Place the pot back on the stove and add the onion. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over it and stir. When translucent, add the peppers, garlic, cayenne, chili's and the cumin. Stir to incorporate everything together.
5) When the peppers start to look limp, add the mushrooms, kidney beans and chickpeas. Stir.
6) Take the pot over to the sink and spoon the beef back into the pot. Take the pot back over to the stove and add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir so everything comes together and starts to look like a tomato sauce. Bring to a slight boil, cover and turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 2 hours. Serve
Yield: Serves an army. We freeze a lot of it in plastic containers in individual portions or double for a quick meal.


I love a good bowl of chili and a piece of bread with butter on it to dip into the bowl. Sloppy Joe's are high on the list too, but it's safe for me to say I never eat those anymore, they're too filling. I could eat chili with almost anything except ice cream, like my step-brother Ken did many, many years ago on my dare. If you think of trying it, give your head a shake. Don't disrespect the chili!

She eased off of the spicy elements to this recipe because we wanted O to enjoy some of this as well. There is a little spice here, but it's gives the chili more flavor than heat. Feel free to add more spicy heat if you wish.

There are many health benefits to this dish. We use extra-lean ground beef, which has less fat obviously. If you want to lower the fat even more and add more vitamins and nutrients, use Buffalo meat. I think we will try this next time. It's a little more expensive, but worth it. Kidney beans are little bundles of goodness as they are full of vitamins and minerals, too many to list so check the link. They also help lower cholesterol and help prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking due to the high dietary fibre content and are an excellent source of protein. Red peppers are a huge source of vitamins C and A, and always try to eat organic ones if possible. Like I always say, anything red or brightly colored is a good thing to eat, and I don't mean hot dogs or Barney. Mushrooms are mostly water but add a little fibre, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and selenium to your meal. Eat them only when cooked though, as Dr. Andrew Weil suggests. He states your body cannot break them down unless they are cooked, as is the same with spinach. He's a pretty smart guy, so I'll listen his advice on this. We added the chickpeas

Little O's Menu

She has been eating the chili, meat and all, but in small doses. That's fine, as she is at least trying meat and other different types of protein. This is important for her health as protein is an important part of our body's building process, no matter how old you are. Also, we bought an olive loaf last week. This is a loaf of bread which is loaded with olives. She loves this! What a surprise, but a good one. She will eat one piece at least once a day. Olives are a great source of iron, vitamin E and fibre. The bread may be made of white flour, but the olives can't hurt. I've noticed that women who eat a lot of olives have beautiful skin, so hopefully she takes to eating them on their own as well. I also had her eat a whole kiwi this morning and she loved it. Kiwis are high in vitamin C and have a nice amount of fibre. They are considered a brain food and may help your child avoid any respiratory-related health issues. Researchers also say for us adults to eat them after a night out on the town to help avoid the effects of a hangover, you just have to get up off of the couch to do it.


Quote Of The Day:

"Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili."

~ Kit Carson (1809-1868). American Frontiersman and Mountain Man. Supposedly, these were his dying last words.

The man loved his chili as much as I do.


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mediterranean Frittata

The first time I made a frittata was about 16 years ago. Since then, I have only made it 3 or 4 more times, maybe because I'm not a big omelet-type guy. I can't explain why because I think they are easier to make than an omelet . I like my eggs just as much as the next guy, but I eat them in moderation. If I eat eggs, I like to add flavor to them and around them, such as my Eggs In Purgatory. But, I figure it may be time to start making frittata's more often than omelette's around this household as there's a little more flavor in them than the latter, in my humble opinion.

The best frittata I have eaten anywhere is at a place in Banff called Coyotes. I haven't seen many places put a frittata on their menu, but these guys have 4 and they all look very good. This made me think I should be more inventive at the stove for breakfast. The good thing about a frittata is you can make it interesting and it can keep you interested. What I mean by this is the flavors are more pronounced in it due to the fact there is more cooking involved, so if you aren't paying attention, your frittata could very quickly be a dark brown Frisbee.

Preheat your oven to  400 F (205 C), if you're baking the frittata

Cooking time approximately 15-25 minutes (depending on if you bake or broil)


Ingredients

- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
- 10 grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 large tbsp goat cheese
- 1/2 tsp water
- EVOO
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium low heat. If you use low heat, this will help the eggs set up nicely on the underside without burning. Prepare all of your vegetables and set them aside on the cutting board.
2. Break the eggs into a bowl.


Add the water and whisk until it look frothy on top. Set aside.
3. Add EVOO to the pan and let it heat up for a minute. Add the onions and a little salt and pepper. Stir until they start to turn color. This is a good time to set the oven to boil.
4. Add the red peppers and keep stirring for one minute.
5. Add the tomatoes and mix them in with the other ingredients.


Add the eggs and a little more salt and pepper.


Pinch the goat cheese between your thumb and pointer finger a little at a time and spread it around the top of the frittata and immediately put it in the oven.
6. When the top of the frittata looks a little brown and no longer looks wet, it's done. Slide it out of the pan onto a cutting board or plate. Cut into wedges or eat it whole.
Yield: Serves 1


I don't use a non-stick pan very often, but in this case using it helps limit the amount of oil you use. Another ingredient to use with this recipe is artichokes. They go very well with all of the other ones and add a nice texture. Baking this is a good idea, but I was looking for quick today so under the broiler it went. When I make this next time, there will be some artichokes going on top as they would make the dish a whole lot tastier.

Little O's Menu

Apples are becoming a big hit now. She doesn't like the skin, but she can gobble up about half of one now. We buy the organic red apples from the farmers market and likes it when I take a bite of the apple and peel off the skin before I give it to her. Hopefully she can move on to a Granny Smith next, but I'm not going to rush her on that. I'll stick to putting them in my Curried Butternut Squash Soup and feeding them to her that way for now.

Restaurant Review

For my birthday dinner, Mrs. Big City Eater took me out for a nice meal. She left the decision up to me, so I chose to go to The Ranche, a nice place set in the south end of the city in Fish Creek Park. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, but well worth the drive. The building looks like an old homestead which has been fixed up. We walked in the front door and were a little confused as to where we had to go, but we figured it out eventually. The restaurant is a nice, open room painted in earth tones and covered with lots of wood. Sweet place for a meal with your wife.

We started off with a bottle of 2007 Blasted Church Merlot from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Been to that winery so I thought we would re-visit it by having one of their bottles. The meal started off with the Rocky Mountain Charcuterie Board.


Our waiter said it was more than they usually put on there because it was almost overloaded. We were fine with that and couldn't even finish everything for fear of not being able to finish off the main course. I like ordering charcuterie boars as they give you a chance to mix and match the ingredients to see what taste comes from it.

The main course arrived in a timely manner. The wife had Stilton Crusted Roasted Lamb Rack,


and I had the Grilled Alberta Beef Tenderloin.


Both dishes were cooked to perfection and full of flavor. This is one place where we will be returning. The only knock we had against the place was that it was quite loud in the room. Not a big issue when the food is this good. If you get the chance, check out The Ranche. You will not be disappointed. The pictures were taken on the wife's Blackberry as I don't believe in going for a nice dinner and lugging my Nikon D80 around, taking pictures and generally bothering everyone around us.

Quote Of The Day:

"No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet."
~ C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) British scholar and novelist


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cauliflower Gratin

Mrs. Big City Eater bought a head of cauliflower a few days before she started nagging me to make Cauliflower Gratin. "Cook it before it goes bad in the fridge!" she kept saying. Well, you can't just brush off your spouses needs and wants that easily, especially when it comes to something like this. Cauliflower is very high in vitamin C and is loaded with vitamin K, folate, dietary fiber and a host of other vitamins and minerals which help your body maintain itself in a healthy manor. It helps your bodies detox system, it's inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system and it's antioxidant system. This is huge when trying to ward off any cancer issues. It's also part of the cruciferous vegetable family of which we should all be eating some of at least a couple of times a week, namely broccoli, bok choy, Rapini and of course brussel sprouts. My wife grew up on brussel sprouts, and I still have to keep trying to like them, but I have found ways to make them more palatable and I will talk about how to do that here soon.

I have been looking around for a couple of years for different ways to make this dish. I have put together this recipe with flavor and health in mind. When making this, be careful how you cook it and how long you cook it for. If you cook it the wrong way or overcook it, it's health benefits dissipate rapidly and it won't do you any good, or at least not as much. I have read it's best to saute it it instead of boiling or steaming as it weighs it down with water. I figured it'll add a little more flavor as well if I saute it.

Preheat your oven to  400 F (205 C)

Baking time approximately 25 minutes

Ingredients

- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

- 2 tbsp butter, preferably unsalted
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cup (355 ml) 1% milk
- 1/2 Tsp fresh or ground turmeric
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) Gruyere, grated
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) old white cheddar, grated
- 1.75 oz (50 g) goats cheese
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed but not chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) panko crumbs
- coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- EVOO

Directions

1. Crush the turmeric up in a mortar and pestle. It's extremely hard, but also very brittle. Be careful while crushing it as little bits will fly all over the place. Try not to get any on anything nice as it will stain.


Add the butter to a sauce pot over medium heat. When melted, add the flour and stir around to incorporate the flour into the butter, making a paste called a roux.


Add the milk and stir. You can use either a wooden spoon to stir or a whisk. Either way, keep stirring as to not let any lumps form. Add the Gruyere and the cheddar slowly, a little at a time while still stirring.


When all the cheese has been added, keep stirring for another minute and then add the turmeric. Stir to incorporate into the cheese sauce. When finished, turn heat to low and get started on the cauliflower. Stir the sauce once every minute or so as to not let it stick to the bottom of the pot.
2. Put some EVOO in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic to flavor the oil. Then add the cauliflower and sprinkle with a little salt to get some of the juices to come out.


Stir constantly so the cauliflower doesn't burn. Some of the florets will start to turn a little brown, but this is a good thing. It shows the cauliflower is cooking and it also adds a little extra color and flavor to the dish. After five minutes the cauliflower should be ready to be transferred to a baking dish. Pull the garlic out. You only want to cook the florets just to the point where they are starting to be fork tender. Remember, it still keeps cooking after you take it off the heat and you are putting it straight into the oven. Don't overcook it on the stove.
3. Lightly grease a baking dish with EVOO. Pour the florets into the baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over top. Take the roll of goat cheese and pinch off little bits to spread it around over the mixture.


Sprinkle the Parmesan over the mixture followed by the panko. Place in oven until it gets brown, about 25 minutes. If it doesn't turn brown for you, turn the broiler on high for 2 minutes. Pull out of the oven and let cool for 3-4 minutes. Serve.
Yield: Serves 2


While you are eating this, you will slightly taste the turmeric in the background. It's a nice addition and is a very healthy one as well. Every now and again you will get a nice hit of the goat cheese and the panko adds a nice crunchy texture. A nice meal if you want something for Meatless Monday or just a nice side dish to accompany a main. Don't let the color put you off, it's just turmeric. My wife said it kind of freaked her out a little, but she still loved the flavor.

Little O's Menu

Her ever increasing appetite is allowing her to start eating strawberries again, along with raspberries without them being integrated into her oatmeal. She used to eat them raw all of the time, but lately has been turning her nose up to them. Glad to see she is coming around again as they are a good part of her healthy diet. Today at the Kingsland Farmers Market, she ate some banana bread which was given to us as a sample. Loved it. She never seems to dislike bananas. And, while we were there the other day, she ate half of an organic apple which was also given to us by one the the vendors. I should take her there all of the time. She eats for free!

Quote Of The Day

"Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."
~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) American humorist, writer and lecturer


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark