Friday, August 31, 2007

(Almost) Vegetarian Chili - Royal Foodie Joust

[VeggieChili+012_edited.JPG]Family-friendly, tex-mex dishes have a special place in our hearts. This Vegetarian chili is great for dinner parties or family gatherings. For this month's foodie joust that The Leftover Queen forum is sponsoring, the three ingredients to create a recipe are chipotle, zucchini and buttermilk. The only ingredient I can easily find in Brazil is zucchini. I had never even tried chipotle before. Luckily, a few months ago, my brother gave me a can of chipotle in adobe sauce, a gift from a Mexican friend, that was standing on my kitchen counter, waiting for the right recipe. As for the buttermilk, I usually make a homemade version of it, because I have never seen it on grocery stores here either. But that's what challenges are all about! Here's my "almost" vegetarian chili. I could not resist and added a cup of italian smoked sausage... Friends and family told me the chili would taste good even withouth it... and I agree!

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons each basil, oregano and thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 large onions, chopped
2 cups zucchinis, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups red bell pepper (or green)
4 cups cooked white beans (or a mix of black and red beans)
1 14 1/2-ounce/400g can peeled tomatoes, undrained and crushed
4 cups water
2 cups italian smoked sausage, cubed (optional)

Chipotle cream sauce
1 chipotle in adobe
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plain yogurt

1) In a large pot, saute the cumin, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, onions, zucchinis, corn, carrots, pepper, sausage and garlic in the olive oil until vegetables are tender.

2) Add the cooked beans, water and peeled tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, and let mixture simmer for about 20 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, make the chipottle sauce: blend yogurt, honey, buttermilk and chipotles. Let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.

4) To serve, ladle chili into bowls. Garnish with chipotle cream sauce, tortilla chips, chopped green onions and cheddar cheese if desired.

Recipe adapted from Wild Oats.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes - Grow Your Own #1

To celebrate the bounty of her garden Andrea created the "Grow your own" event to motivate the use of ingredients we grow in our own backyard. As I live in a condo, I looked at the aromatic herbs corner in our laundry room and the first thing I laid eyes on was a thyme pot. The recipe that came to my mind I learned about 10 years ago with a friend, when sun-dried tomatoes were not very popular in Brazil. So, I asked my friend if I could post her recipe, and to my surprise she was making a batch of sun-dried tomatoes on the same day as me! This recipe requires some patience and time, even though it is so easy! Here's the whole recipe, but you can make enough to fill a roasting pan.

30 ripe tomatoes (romas work best)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons salt
Fresh thyme (you can use oregano or Italian seasoning)
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Olive oil and black pepper


Preheat oven to 200°F/90°C.

1) Rinse the tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Place the tomato halves, cut side down, on a rack to dry for about half an hour and remove excess juice.

2) Place tomatoes onto tray, cut side up. Sprinkle with sugar and salt, drizzle a little olive oil over each tomato; add thyme, black pepper and garlic slices.

3) Bake in the oven for at least two hours. With a spatula, gently turn the tomatoes over, and bake for one more hour. Take the tomatoes from the oven, put them in sterilized jars, and pour olive oil on top so that all the tomatoes are covered. Keep them refrigerated and use within two weeks.

My serving suggestions: pizza (I will post it soon), dips, risottos, pesto, spaghetti sauce, etc.

The homemade sun-dried tomatoes have a milder flavor and a finer texture than the store-bought variety.

Update: The old-fashioned sun-dried tomatoes are dried out in the sun and this may be time-consuming. It can take you from four days to two weeks. You place the tomatoes skin-side down on clean plastic (not metal) framed screen, add salt, cover them with cheesecloth, raised so it does not touch the tomatoes, to keep off bugs and dust and provide proper ventilation. Bring them in during the night and return them outdoors when the sun is bright.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gifts and things I miss

My husband has proven the old saying that men do not ask for directions is wrong. He was in Texas on a work assignment not long ago and went shopping at Kitchen Collection. He asked Joe, the nice salesperson at the store what gifts he could buy for his wife who has a food blog! So, Joe read my mind and suggested a kitchen scale, which was one item I was willing so much to have in my kitchen! Thanks Joe!

We have lived abroad, and there are a few things we miss... So, my husband got Chips Ahoy cookies for the kids, cookies and biscuit mixes, Tollhouse chocolate chips, seasoned salt, spices, Chai tea that Celestial Seasonings makes (my favorite tea), and Masa flour so we can make real tortillas! Oh, and shotglasses for our collection!

When you are abroad or traveling, what are the things you miss most about your country or special places you have lived?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Buttermilk Pancakes

Every weekend we try to cook an all-American breakfast. This family ritual is a good opportunity to spend time together, with no rush to leave for work or our daily chores. Our kids got used to this and even help out in the kitchen, setting the table or fixing treats, like scrambled eggs, etc.

This recipe was adapted from an Australian blog I visit quite often, the Kitchen Wench. Two things caught my attention: the confectioner's sugar makes these pancakes slightly sweet and the beaten egg whites make them light and fluffy!

Buttermilk pancakes

1 1/4 cups (150 g) self-raising flour*
1/4 cup (50 g) pure icing/confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups (310 ml) buttermilk**

2 tbsp vegetable oil
20g unsalted butter

1) Sift together the flour and icing sugar and set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk and vanilla, then pour into the flour and whisk together to combine.

2) Beat eggwhites till you have soft peaks, then use a large metal spoon to carefully fold them into the pancake batter.

3) In a separate frying pan or griddle, heat half the butter and oil over low-medium heat and fry 1/4 cup of the mixture at a time, cooking each side for 2-3 minutes or till golden brown.

Serve these pancakes with butter and your favorite syrup.

Substitution list:
* Self-raising flour: add 1 teaspoon baking powder and one dash salt to a cup of flour.

** Buttermilk: add 1 tablespoon of lime juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Maple syrup:
The maple flavoring was a gift from a dear friend and here's how I make my own syrup:
- 1/2 cup corn syrup - in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave on high for 30 seconds or until it melts
- Add a few drops of maple flavoring, combine, and serve warm.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Eggplant antipasto

I could not believe the beautiful color of this eggplant antepasto. The secret is probably because the eggplant is peeled and then baked in the microwave. A recipe that is ready in just a few minutes! Antipasto is the italian equivalent of hors d’œuvre, also known as appetizers, meaning "before the meal" or before the main course is served.

Eggplant antipasto
10 oz/300 g eggplant peeled and cubed
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup wine vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 red bell peppers chopped
1 onion chopped
3 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup sliced black olives (I did not use)
4 large garlic cloves, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a glass casserole. Place it in the center of the microwave and cook it covered on high for 12-15 minutes. Either serve immediately or cool at room temperature and serve with crackers, crostini, italian bread, cheese eclair, etc.

To slice the garlic for this recipe I used this garlic slicer that I got a while ago and has been very useful in our kitchen. Besides slicing garlic, I use it to slice mushrooms, softer nuts and some other vegetables when cooking.

Recipe adapted from Eliana's kitchen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Bread Pudding Souffle with Whiskey Sauce


This bread pudding turns into one of the most delicious souffles I have ever eaten. I used leftover italian bread as it was the only bread I had available. The flavor of the sauce is fantastic because of the whiskey (I have used brandy too). I first saw this recipe on Epicurious and then later on the Commander's Palace website, one of the finest restaurants in New Orleans.

My advice is to bake the bread pudding and the sauce in advance. Then, about half an hour before dessert, you bake the pudding again, this time as a souffle. Or, if you do not want to leave your guests waiting while you fix the souffle, you can bake it sometime during the day and then warm it up in the microwave before serving. Your choice, both work wonderfully.

You will need an 8 x 8 x 2 (aprox. 20 x 20 x 5 cm) inch square baking pan and 6-8 ramekins.

Bread pudding

3/4 cups Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Nutmeg
3 Medium Eggs
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla
5 cups New Orleans French Bread, 1" cubed
1/3 cup Raisins

Whiskey sauce

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 Tbsp. Corn starch
1 Tbsp. Water
3 Tbsp. Sugar
1/4 cup Bourbon


9 Medium Egg Whites (I reduced to 6 egg whites)
3/4 cups Sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar

To make the bread pudding, first preheat oven to 350°F/180°C degrees.

1) Grease the square baking pan. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs until smooth, then work in the heavy cream. Add the vanilla, then the bread cubes. Allow bread to soak up custard.

2) Place the raisins in a greased pan. Top with the egg mixture, which prevents the raisins from burning. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the pudding has a golden brown color and is firm to the touch. If a toothpick inserted in the pudding comes out clean, it is done. The mixture of pudding should be nice and moist, not runny or dry. Cool to room temperature.

3) To make the whiskey sauce, place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Whisk corn starch and water together, and add to cream while whisking. Bring to a boil. Whisk and let simmer for a few seconds, taking care not to burn the mixture on the bottom. Remove from heat.

4) Stir in the sugar and the bourbon. Taste to make sure the sauce has a thick consistency, a sufficiently sweet taste, and a good bourbon flavor. Cool to room temperature.

5) To make the meringue, preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter six 6 ounce ramekins. In a large bowl or mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add the sugar gradually, and continue whipping until shiny and thick. Test with a clean spoon. If the whites stand up stiff, like shaving cream, when you pull out the spoon, the meringue is ready. Do not overwhip, or the whites will break down and the soufflé will not work.

6) In a large bowl, break half the bread pudding into pieces using your hands or a spoon. Gently fold in one-quarter of the meringue, being careful not to lose the air in the whites. Add a portion of this base to each of the ramekins.

7) Place the remaining bread pudding in the bowl, break into pieces, and carefully fold in the rest of the meringue. Top off the soufflés with this lighter mixture, to about 1 1/2 inches. Smooth and shape tops with spoon into a dome over the ramekin rim. Bake immediately for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately. Using a spoon, poke a hole in the top of each soufflé, at the table, and pour the room temperature whiskey sauce inside the soufflé.

Recipe adapted from Commander's Palace.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Chicken Kabobs

These circle skewers were a gift from a friend. They are not only very useful, but they also make a wonderful display on your plate and can be used in a skillet. My marinated chicken recipe is just so simple.

1) Put boneless and skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs cut into cubes in a large zip-lock bag with salt, pepper, lime juice, garlic (powder or minced), onion, parsley, and some water. Marinate for 2 hours or overnight.

I was concerned the lime would wreck the chicken if marinated overnight, but I learned that I was not alone, Andrea had the same doubt and we both came to the same conclusion, chicken turns out great!

2) Discard the marinade, thread the chicken and onion pieces onto skewers alternately, adding green pepper or other vegetables of your choice.

3) Heat a skillet with 4 tablespoons olive oil (that really makes the difference), place the skewers and cook until browned, 5-6 minutes. Flip, and cook covered another 4-8 minutes or until done.

This recipe works great with indoor/outdoor electric grills. I serve with rice and barbecue sauce.

Barbecue sauce
(Adapted from Karo syrup)
1/2 cup Light or Dark Corn Syrup
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup ketchup
/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup prepared mustard
/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1) In 1 1/2-quart saucepan combine corn syrup, onion, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Stirring frequently, bring to boil.

2) Reduce heat; boil gently 15 minutes or until thickened.

Or, sometimes I don't boil and just blend everything together, in this case I use onion powder.

The barbecue sauce can be used to brush on chicken, ribs or beef, turning frequently, during last minutes of grilling or to serve with meat. It makes a good marinade for ribs on the barbie.