While this winter has been pretty brutal for most of the United States and huge portions of Canada, Seattle has been blessed with remarkable weather. Sure it’s been a bit drizzly every now and then, but when it’s sunny and blue skies in January and February, I can’t help but think how lucky I am. Earlier this month I saw people wearing shorts just blocks form where I live and just yesterday we hit a record high for March (70 degrees, which, for Seattle, is awfully warm for the time of year).
My one critique of this unusually lovely winter is that weather was rarely bad enough to really get in the mood for rib-sticking, hearty, comfort food. Sure I made some decadent and rich braises and argues, but for the most part I kept it pretty light and healthy. As Seattle is having yet another lovely day, I bring you an incredibly hearty and comforting chili recipe, that manages to not be too heavy. I could enjoy this in the middle of a blizzard, but would be perfectly content eating it on an impossibly sunny and warm day.
Chipotle and Adobo Chili
Adapted from Ellie Krieger
- Olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef (I used 85/15)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are my favorite)
- 1 12-ounce beer (I used an ESB)
- 1-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and minced (use to taste)
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can of chipotles (more or less to taste)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add ground beef, breaking up with a large spoon into small chunks, and brown, stirring infrequently, until the beef is nicely browned (about 8-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion and pepper, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes. Add cumin and garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, beer, chipotles and adobo sauce, oregano, and an additional sprinkling of salt and pepper. Reduce heat.
Simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rinsed beans and cook an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.
I like this served with sour cream, cheese, scallions, and avocado; perhaps with some chips, roll, or cornbread on the side. And of course beer.
I’m not a huge fan of the greeting card industry’s holiday Valentine’s Day, but any holiday that encourages me to eat excessive amounts of chocolate can’t be all bad. My recent, frequent, and increasingly difficult trips to the gym have been rather torturous, yet they’re obviously a necessity since I’ll be eating my weight in chocolate this week. I’m well on my way of setting a record for most chocolate consumed, and I owe part of that accomplishment to the 1.5 slices of this cake I had for lunch yesterday (followed by the 1.5 slices I had for dessert after dinner).
From the moment I saw this recipe from the NY Times, I was intrigued. I love the dense richness of a poundcake and was beyond fascinated with the thought of a slightly salty strussel on top (and bottom!). Needless to say I was beyond impressed with this recipe and there’s very little I would change (which is rare for me, I almost always tweak a recipe in some way).
If you’re looking for other chocolate ideas, here are my favorite chocolate recipe posts:
- Quadruple Chocolate Cookies
- Beatty’s Chocolate Cupcakes
- Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake
- Chocolate and Red Wine Cake
Chocolate Streusel Poundcake
From the NY Times
For the streusel:
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
- ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
For the poundcake:
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup whole milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, then line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment on the bottom of the loaf pan.
In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate for the cake, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool while you prepare the streusel.
Prepare the streusel: In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Using fingers, fork or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it is evenly distributed and forms large, moist crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scatter half the streusel evenly into the bottom of the loaf pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until baked through.
Prepare the cake: In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat melted butter, both sugars and salt together until combined. Beat in egg, vanilla extract, yogurt, milk and melted chocolate. Fold in dry ingredients until just combined.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and top with remaining streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake emerges with one or two crumbs, about 1 hour (start checking at 55 minutes, although could take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes). Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool completely before turning out and slicing.
Serve with whipped cream and/or fresh berries.
I think one of the most challenging quests I’ve conquered as a home cook has been finding a decent Mexican Rice recipe (or Spanish Rice recipe [anyone know what the difference between the two are?]). The first time I made Carnitas I made a Mexican Rice recipe so awful I would have preferred something from a box. The 6 or 7recipes I tried after that were all so sucky that I had almost given up. Far too often I made recipes that were mushy, had an abundance of unnecessary vegetables, greasy texture, and lacked any kick.
Thankfully, the wonderful people at America’s Test Kitchen must have read my mind (well, they must have predicted my predicament because this recipe came out a while ago) and published an impeccable recipe for Mexican Rice that manages to be packed with flavor and was in no way mushy or greasy. While this recipe was a bit fussy for a simple rice side dish, I promise it’s worth it.
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces) cored and quartered
- 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
- 3 medium jalapenos
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (you can use veggie broth to make this vegetarian/vegan)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Lime wedges for serving
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro (optional, if you’re a weirdo who likes cilantro)
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position in oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse tomato and onion until smooth. You should have two cups (discard excess if you have more than 2 cups).
Remove the ribs and seeds from 2 of the jalapenos and finely mince; set aside. Finely mince the third jalapeno and set aside. The logic behind removing the seeds and ribs in 2 out of the 3 jalapenos is that the majority of the heat are in the seeds and ribs. If you’re really averse to heat, remove the seeds and ribs of all three.
Place the rice in a large, fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear, about a minute (this removes the starch and results in a non-mushy rice). Shake vigorously and remove all excess water.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or 12-inch oven proof sauté pan. Drop 3 or 4 grain of rice into the oil. You want the rice to sizzle, and if it does, the oil is sufficiently hot. Add remaining rice and stir frequently until lightly golden brown and mostly translucent (about 6 to 8 minutes).
Reduce heat to medium, add the garlic, and seeded minced jalapenos, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1.5 minutes. Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, chicken broth, tomato paste, and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover the pan tightly and transfer to oven.
Bake 15 minutes and stir the rice. Cover and return to oven and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Fluff with fork, stir in the third reserved jalapeno and optional cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.
There’s a local cupcake store in Seattle, Cupcake Royale, which has some of my favorite cupcakes. They have exceptional seasonal/monthly flavors and whether I’m enjoying a blueberry crumble cupcake in the middle of summer or a boozy eggnog cupcake in December, I’m always a happy customer.
My last trip to Cupcake Royale involved buying one or two (or like ten) cupcakes, one of which was practically life changing: a stout gingerbread cake. Beer, ginger, and cream cheese frosting are in the top 20 of my favorite things, and it was all I could do not to inhale this delicious cupcake. I immediately made it my goal in life to replicate this cupcake.
My results definitely weren’t a match in flavor as I ended up with something that packed a lot more heat from ginger and had a delightfully forceful taste of molasses, but I am in love with them. Definitely not for the faint of heart as the flavors are in no way subtle. They’re quite bold, in fact. So bold some may call the flavor overpowering. I, however, find them very nicely intense.
FYI, I used Dragonstooth Stout, a beer made in Seattle, that has a very intense coffee taste to it. If you’re really into stouts or porters, feel free to use your favorite! The most common and easily accessible one is Guinness.
Oh, and these stayed surprisingly moist for 3 days. Best when they’re freshly made; however, a day or two in advance would be fine if you’re short on time.
Gingerbread Stout Cupcakes
Adapted from David Lebovitz
- 4 ounces fresh ginger
- 1 cup mild molasses
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup stout or porter
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 24 capacity cupcake pan with 20-21 cupcake liners (recipe made 21 for me).
Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (or use a grater)—or, pulse in a food processor until very fine (which is what I did, very easy). Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
Bring the stout/porter to a boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the beer mixture into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pan(s) and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with only a one or two moist crumbs.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until slightly fluffy and well combined. Add in vanilla extract, mix slowly, and gradually add powdered sugar. Pipe on to cooled cupcakes.
I’ve spent a solid portion of the last 11.5 months looking for Christmas cookie ideas. Before the holiday season of 2013 had even ended, I was already dreaming up what kind of treats I could bake for the next year. While the White Chocolate & Cranberry Shortbread, Spiced Ginger Cookies, and Russian Tea Cakes I made last year are crowd favorites that I will be making again, I was eager to try out some new and different recipes.
There’s a substantial list of cookies and desserts I plan on trying out this year, one of them being biscotti. I’m not entirely sure where my desire to try biscotti came from since I don’t really like biscotti that much. They’re usually loaded with almond extract or almonds (neither of which I particularly enjoy) and what’s with the texture? I can rarely tell if they’re freshly baked or stale as they can get super dry and crumbly.
While I may not be rushing to order every biscotti I see at a café, this particular recipe has definitely made me a convert. Lightness from orange zest along with tartness from dried cranberries does an exceptional job of cutting sweetness from sugar. These are crumbly and crunchy, but still manage to be light, delicate, and somewhat soft. Goldilocks would be really happy with these. Not too sweet, not too tart, not to soft, not to crunchy. Win win!
These would be perfect alongside a cup of coffee any time of the year, but they seem to work especially well during the holidays. Best of all, they’re infinitely adaptable. Add half a cup of chopped pistachios for a lovely green and red combination. Or fold in some chunks of white chocolate. Or mix in toasted chopped pecans. Or even drizzle the finished product with melted white chocolate, as the recipe this is based off of specifies.
Cranberry and Orange Biscotti
Adapted from Epicurious
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
- 1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or an electric hand mixer), beat sugar, orange zest, and butter for 2 minutes, or until slightly fluffy. Add one whole egg and mix until incorporated before adding the second egg. Reserve remaining egg white.
Gradually mix the flour mixture into the wet batter (add about 1/3 of the mixture at a time) and mix until just barely combined. Using a spatula, fold in cranberries by hand.
Divide dough in half, and place halves on prepared sheet tray. Using lightly floured hands, form each half into a loaf, approximately 1.5 inches high, 3 inches wide, and 7 or 8 inches long. Be sure to leave plenty of space in between, as they spread out a fair amount.
Whisk the remaining egg white until slightly frothy. Brush egg white mixture on top of each loaf. Bake for 35 minutes.
Leave loafs on the sheet pan and let cool for 30 minutes, or until mostly cooled. The cooling process helps from crumbling too much when you slice them for the second bake.
Once cooled, move loafs to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut logs, diagonally, into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices cut sides up (or down, depending on how you look at it), on the baking sheet and return to oven. Bake 15 additional minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on sheet pan. You want to leave these to cool on the sheet pan as they’re very tender, soft, and slightly crumbly when you first take them out of the oven. Leaving on the sheet pan to cool allows them to firm and crisp up.
Who out there has found a recipe, followed it to the letter, and thought part way through that it would be a total disaster?
When I made a no-knead roll (perfect for Thanksgiving) I was positive it was doomed to failure. The initial dough mixture resembled paste and was impossibly sticky. I was hoping to make a dinner roll that was flaky and delicate, but I was left with dough that was so sticky all I could do was messily plop it into a greased muffin tin. While I felt incredibly defeated, certain I had made one flop of a bread, I just tried to finish and make a roll that was at the very least edible.
I’m so incredibly happy I followed through with the recipe instead of tossing it, as I ended up with a roll so delicate, slightly crusty, buttery, and flaky it completely melted in my mouth. My initial misgivings about the recipe entirely disappeared as I enjoyed a roll, fresh out of the oven, which was one of best carbs I’ve had in months. Best of all, these rolls are great to make ahead, then freeze, then let defrost before serving.
Adapted from Pioneer Woman
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 9-10 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 packages (4 1/2 Tsp.) active dry yeast (be sure you don’t use the instant or rapid rise kind)
- 1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt (if using table salt, use 1 heaping tablespoon)
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
Pour 4 cups of milk into a large saucepan, stock pot, or Dutch oven. Add one cup of sugar and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir to combine, cooking over medium to medium-high heat, until simmering, but before reaching the boiling point. Remove from heat, and let mixture cool.
When mixture has cooled to approximately 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit, add 4 cups of flour and yeast. Stir to combine (I used a wooden spoon). Once mixture has partially come together (don’t worry, it will still look very clumpy), slowly mix in 4 more cups of flour (again, don’t worry, it will look like a disaster). Let rest in a warm spot, lightly covered with a lid or dish towel. Let rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, divide stick of butter in half. Use half of the butter to generously grease 24 muffin tins. Set aside the remaining half of butter.
Once dough has doubled in size (the top of the mixture will look poofy and slightly bubbly), vigorously stir in 1 additional cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. At this point your dough may still be impossibly sticky. If so, slowly stir in additional flour, up to 1 cup more. The dough may still be very wet and sticky, but that’s okay.
Divide dough evenly between the muffin tins (you’ll want the dough to come close to coming level to the top of the muffin tin) (again, don’t worry if you have to messily plop the dough in, it will be lovely once it’s risen and baked), lightly cover with a dish towel or lightly greased saran wrap, and let rise for and additional hour, or until rolls have puffed.
Right before baking, melt remaining half stick of butter, and lightly brush over the top of the rolls.
Bake in a 400-degree oven until golden brown, about 17 to 20 minutes. Rotate the pans 10 minutes into baking.
Cranberry sauce has to be one of my favorite condiments. On Thanksgiving, a holiday full of delicious, but often rich food, the tartness of cranberries does a great job of cutting the heaviness of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes. I’m still a bit obsessed with the lime and ginger cranberry sauce I made last year, but wanted to spice things up a bit this year.
The spiciness and savory aspect jalapeno and pepper bring to this cranberry sauce is most welcome at the dinner table. Extra bite and spice further enhances the cranberries’ ability to lighten up Thanksgiving dinner. Just enough sugar balances out the spice and tartness, but this is still a very bright and fresh tasting condiment. I promise this isn’t excessively spicy, but if you’re worried about too much heat feel free to reduce to just one jalapeno. And if spice really isn’t your thing at all, removing the pepper and jalapeno entirely results in a very pleasant traditional cranberry sauce.
Pepper and Orange Cranberry Sauce
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 jalapenos
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 16 oz cranberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, let defrost)
- Pinch of salt
Seed bell pepper and jalapenos; chop the pepper into a small dice and finely mince the jalapenos. Add to a large sauce pan, pour in water and sugar, cook over medium-high heat for approximately 8-10 minutes, until peppers have softened. Meanwhile, zest the orange, then juice the orange. Rinse the cranberries then pick through and discard any all white cranberries or mushy or shriveled cranberries.
Once peppers have softened, add the orange zest, orange juice, ginger, cranberries and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid has dissolved and the cranberries have mostly burst, with a few remaining whole. Let cool before serving.
This is a great make ahead recipe. If covered tightly and refrigerated it should stay for a minimum of two weeks.