Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pressure Cooker Chili


Chili, in the pressure cooker.  It's what pressure cookers were made for.  Really, quick, easy, delicious, food.  

Pressure cooker chili doesn't take many ingredients and you can get the 'cook all day' flavor from a little chopping, a little frying and 15 minutes of pressurized cooking.  It takes about 10 minutes to come up to pressure, even with that added time, this is a quick, rich, rib sticking bowlful of goodness that will make you happy.

You can spend time having a glass of wine, listening to your friends good news or you can draw and play with your new watercolors.  That's what I did. 

This is what I did while I waited on the meat to cook...I'm no artist but it makes me happy to play around with various mediums and it's not that I CAN do it it just that I DO do it.  

Apparently I was thinking about flowers today.
    

IN any event, you didn't come by to see my little doodles, you came to see this: 

TRACY'S (basic but yummy) PRESSURE COOKER CHILI

1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or chopped chuck)
bacon fat or oil
1 large carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 celery, diced
3 garlic cloves (sliced!)
3/4 can tomato paste
1 can chopped tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)
1 cup chicken stock or water or beef stock (or more or less depending on how thick you like it)
taco seasoning (to taste or not)
salt/pepper
3-4 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons cumin
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
bay leaf
any other spice that makes you happy to add

OPTIONAL:  add a little cornmeal dusted over the chili before you lock and load.  Stir it in so you don't get dough ball lumps and it'll thicken the chili while adding a nice background flavor and it adds body to the chili as well, you should try it.  Alternatively, you can add it after you've pressure cooked the chili and boil it a minute or so for the same affect.

QUICKIE instructions: 

Brown meat in (a little bacon fat) in pressure cooker. 
Add veggies and tomato paste and fry until softened.
Add spices and fry for a moment to bloom flavor.
Add garlic, tomatoes, stock, seasonings to taste. 
Add stock/water and bay leaf.
Pressure cook on HIGH for 15 minutes, release pressure naturally or leave on warm until you're ready to eat. 
EAT in big bowls, topped with whatever makes you happy.

Long winded, loads of pictures and commentary instructions: 

I love my new ORANGE Cuisinart mini chopper, I'm looking for things to chop so in this recipe, today, the veggies were chopped and the tomatoes were pureed.  I have a new toy, I will play with it!  

My OTHER new toy, a most fantastic new toy is a Pampered Chef Garlic Slicer given to me by my forever friend, Cindy.  She's been a victim of my cooking for years since she lives 2 blocks away from me.  She's had to sample all my kitchen alchemy and so far, has lived to tell!  She found this most marvelous of gadgets and bought me one for Christmas.  She's a keeper.  

Oh sure, I agree with you, that a garlic slicer sounds stupid.  WELL, it's NOT!  It's AMAZING!  Seriously, go now and log onto the site and order yourself one, call your local distributor and get one, these things are crazy.  There's 3 pieces that come apart easily, go in the dishwasher or just rinse out, easily!  The blades are super sharp and you can get 36 slices of garlic from one clove... oh ok maybe not 36 but you can get loads and they are paper thin.  I don't gush over much but this is definitely gush-worthy.
   
Lift the hopper thingy and drop your peeled garlic inside. Push the plunger down and twist and LOOK at the see-through sliced garlic, it's amazing and super and I highly recommend it!
  
I also whirred (in the cuisinart mini chop) the carrots, celery and onion.  I put the beef in the pressure cooker on the BROWN setting and fried up my beef.  When it was brown, I added the chopped up veggies.
  
After the veggies fried up a bit, I put in the tomato paste and a healthy amount of chili powder, cumin, pepper, and some taco seasoning, yeah yeah don't even say anything.  I don't like the stuff on it's own but it adds a nice flavor to the chili and it's a combination of spices anyway so that's how I justify it in my own head.  I also added the cocoa powder here and fried it all up until the color changed from that ghastly bright red to a dark brick.
   
Now is when I add the paper thin garlic slices, seriously, look at this! I also took a can of Rotel tomatoes with chili and whirred it in the mini processor too
  
Add the pureed tomatoes, some stock... Lock and Load, 15 minutes.  Go have a glass of wine or paint something.
  
After the pressure comes down naturally, because I was busy and there's no hurry on this.  If it's thinner than you like, boil it a minute or so to tighten it up, if it's too thick, add a little stock.  I have been known to add a little corn meal to the chili when it's done, it adds a nice flavor and a little body to it.  Stir it up and serve in gigantic bowls with cheese, rice, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, whatever you like on your chili
  
Random beauty shots:
   

It's fast, it's easy, it's cheap, it's a great Thursday night 'what on earth should we have for dinner' meal.  Have a salad on the side and it's complete.  

You'll notice there are no beans in this chili.  I live in Texas and adding beans to chili is an impeachable offense.  Sometimes, however, when no one is looking, I add black beans.  You can add anything else you like to the pressure cooker before the lock and load...  I won't tell ;) 

Go make this, it's yummy. 

/enjoy


Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate Pie, Chocolate Meringue Pie


I have been thinking about pastry.

I hate making pastry. I don't have the patience, the interest, the skill or the cold hands. 

 My mother is the one who told me I had hot hands and I spent years wondering if that was an actual condition. Are my hands actually hotter than the average person? I held people's hands, wondering if their hands were hotter. 

 I never watched my Nana make pastry and I can't remember if she did or if she cared much about it.  I did watch my mother make pastry. She can make pastry in any country, any weather, any time of day or night and it comes out perfectly. Yeah, that bugs me.  It's not a "if she can then I should be able to" it's a "if she can, how can I be such an abysmal failure at pastry...shouldn't there be some genetic mutation that I should at least be able to make a pale comparison?".  Seriously, can hot hands send me into a pie-less future? 

Any time I get kudos about cooking or the alchemy or anything culinary my committee immediately harps on me, "yeah, well you can never make pastry like your mother". Self induced red headed stepchild, culinarily speaking, of the family. I probably cook pretty well, I am confident and when people say I can, I immediately counter with "ANYone CAN, I simply have no fear and DO".

Last time my mother came to see me in Texas, she stood dutifully at the Cuisinart and made me batch after batch of perfect and I mean PERFECT pastry. She divided it into perfect portions and wrapped each in it's official 1 inch thick, 3 inch wide, circle and stacked them neatly in my freezer. I think I need her to rearrange my kitchen next time, she's orderly. I'm chaotic. I remember my Nana would come to visit us and my mother would silently disintegrate at the reorganizing my Nana would do. I wouldn't hate that but then they were both orderly and as I said, I'm most certainly NOT.

All this pastry adoration of my mother's skill and memory lane cruising aside, I wanted to play with pastry today. There are a million website, recipe sites, blogs and YouTube videos of people making pastry. I didn't want to make THEIR pastry, I wanted to master my own. 

After a dizzying hour of online research, I'd had enough of THAT. One of the joys I have at the moment is playing with old recipes and seeing if they (a) still work (b) are timely and doable and (c) are any good at all? I had time today so I went old school. I gathered 5-10 of my most favorite and treasured old lady cookbooks. I have books from 1894 and those up to about 1940 are my favorites. I combed through them and found a pretty consistent 'pat in' pastry. Even someone with hot hands could do THAT I thought so here we go. I made a few batches today and 2 pies and this is my favorite version of the pastry I did and of the pie I did. 

I even emailed this to my mother, the pastry queen, waiting for her input.  I think I may have nailed a pastry that *I* can do and even though mine will always be ugly, I will admit brazenly, this is good pastry! This is crisp and flaky and easier than ANY dessert pie I've ever made.  

I love pie and THIS pastry is going to take to a lot of pie happiness.   Grab a glass of wine, settle in for a read and a look see, this is a goodie.

TRACY'S EASY PASTRY AND MOST DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE MERINGUE PIE

(Yes, I am taking credit because this is a morph of recipes and processes I found today and some I already did so I combined them and this is my version of it)

PRESS IN Pastry:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tablespoon sugar (omit if you want, for a savory pie)
2 Tablespoons cold milk
1/4 cup flavorless oil (I used vegetable)

Dump ALL the ingredients in a pie plate (I think you should use a glass/pyrex one)
Combine them with a fork until they form a stiff dough
press the dough out to line the pie plate
VOILA!
Prick the bottom with a fork (no need to mess with weights and foil) and bake at 350, on the VERY bottom rack of your oven, for 20-25 minutes for use in recipe that calls for pre-baked pie shell.

You can also use this dough raw and just fill it with buttermilk pie filling :D

Yeah, it's that easy.

Chocolate Pie Filling

1/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk (I use 2% but any will work, not skim though, never use skim... skim is awful)
2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vanilla

Meringue

2 egg whites (see, saved from the yolks in the filling, brilliant)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar

Quickie instructions:

Pre-bake pie shell, your own or mine.

Combine filling ingredients, EXCEPT butter and vanilla, in a saucepan.
Cook, over medium heat, using a whisk until it's VERY thick, like pudding or custard, actually even thicker. This is the ONLY cooking the filling gets so what you get here is what you get in your pie.
Take off heat and add butter and vanilla.
Put aside, covered.
Whip whites, salt and sugar to thick, glossy, meringue.
Pour chocolate filling into pre-baked pie shell, top with meringue, be SURE to spread meringue to edges of pastry because if there's an opening, the meringue will weep and you won't be nearly as happy as you would have been if you'd have spread your meringue ALL THE WAY to the edges and slightly over the pastry.
Make lovely, swirly points on the meringue
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, just until the tips start to brown ever so slightly.
Remove to rack to cool and TRY not to cut into it while it's warm. It's so VERY VERY good when it's warm but don't do it. Maybe you should just go out.

Slice, eat, watch all your cares and woes float effortlessly out the window, this pie is this good.

Long winded, full commentary, play by play with pictures instructions:

For the filling, just dump it all in the saucepan and whisk it for about 10 minutes.  Truly easy and it's a good chance to have a glass of wine, look out into space and think about things.  You hardly need watch it, it goes from a half lumpy mess to what looks like hot chocolate to suddenly thick and bubbly and like thick custard or pudding.  Just put it aside to rest a moment while we move on.
  
  

Here's my fresh from the oven pre-baked shell.  You don't need to bother with those chef-y weights and foil and holding it down and covering and uncovering.  Just prick a ton of holes in the bottom, bake it on the lowest possible rack and you'll be just fine.  Look, no puffing!   I used just the egg whites left from the filling to make the meringue and I'll be honest, it was a little wimpy.  Next time I'll use 4 whites and make a really obnoxious meringue to go on this gem of a pie.  The filling is SO very good that it NEEDS a gigantic meringue.  

ALTERNATIVELY, you could omit the meringue all together and just dollop great voluminous clouds of lightly sweetened whipped cream on this pie and you'd be a rock star.  Your choice.  The shell and filling are already cooked so merely putting them together completes the pie.  The baking of the meringue simply guilds the lily...  well, my lily needed guilding today.  The filling stiffens up waiting for you to make the meringue, just give it a whisk and it's ready to go.
  

Fill the shell, dollop the meringue on it, spread to the edges and there you go, pie done!
  

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes and look!! C'mon, you have to admit that's bakery worthy.
 

I gave the pie away so these are the only shots I have of the enormous (still warm) pieces I cut off it.  It's absolutely delicious, thick, creamy, rich, fudgy, chocolaty, crispy, flaky, soft, pillow-y, yeah, I can't think of enough words to describe this.  Sure, it's sort of ugly today, the edges aren't fluted worth anything and the filling is sort of oozy (because it was too warm) but you HAVE to make this, it's ABSOLUTELY delicious.
  

Oh look, there's some left, I'll eat it up, for science of course and perhaps we'll make another pretty one tomorrow

Go on, go make this pie, it's waiting for you to make it.  You will be happy forever, truly, 

/enjoy


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

QUICK whole wheat oatmeal bread QUICK

Ok, this goes fast, don't blink.  

I have been overdosing on the date bars lately and when I sliced up a thick slice of my white bread earlier today to toast I thought that maybe, just this one time, I should try to eat something slightly more healthful like something with some whole wheat and oats and honey... sort of like the date squares!! 

I felt like something dense, on the edge of stodgy, grainy and healthy tasting with honey and oats and I wanted to be able to toast it and eat it fresh and slather it in butter. FOUND IT! 

Tracy's Whole Wheat Oatmeal Quick Bread

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal (quick or old or whatever you have)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp honey
12 oz warm water

QUICK instructions: 

Mix honey and yeast in warm water and let proof a moment while you
Mix flours, oatmeal, salt in bowl of kitchenaid
Combing wet into dry and mix with paddle attachment for a few minutes until it becomes slightly more cohesive, you'll see when you do it. 
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan (prepare it by brushing with butter) and put aside to rest, covered for about 45 minutes, it should just rise to slightly higher than the pan.
Bake 350 for 45 minutes.  Remove to rack immediately to cool a bit. 
Slice, eat, slice, eat, slice, eat

LONG winded, comment and picture heavy, instructions:


I have no play by plays for the mixing, but really I intend on making this again in the week to freeze and I will add more pics then. I have a few when it came out of the oven... here we go: 

Straight out of the oven, it's brown and not too heavy, it deflated a bit when it sat but not much.  It didn't rise too much after the proofing before it went into the oven, that's fine, it's a quick bread so I wasn't too concerned.
   

The crumb isn't damp or sticky, it's light and flavorful!  You can REALLY taste the honey!  I may have put a bit much in but I like it.  I buy local honey at a local business and it's so very evident in this bread.  The crumb on the outside is light and like any loaf.  Yes, I slathered the butter on, c'mon, healthy bread cries out for butter... it's unsalted which satisfies my 'health' requirement.
  
More of the same shots.  I like this bread.  I like it a lot.
 


Grab a pan and a bowl and go make this, it's quick, easy and exactly what you feel like.

/enjoy