Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I couldn't resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light was just perfect reflecting off the orange leaves!

I couldn’t resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light on the orange and red leaves made the colors pop out!

Chili is one of those meals that is so easy to make that you can fix it on a weeknight without a recipe and it can be ready to eat in well under an hour. A little bit of beef with some small beans, onions, garlic, and spices, you can throw everything in a pot and it will always be delicious. But my veggie chilis in the past have been less than mediocre, lacking in flavor and texture. Besides some beans and vegetables, I’ve never been able to make a decent pot. But this is one veggie chili I can believe in! Seasoned with lots of spices, with beans and wheat berries as a “meat replacement,” this chili is one for the books and has convinced me that you can make a good veggie chili at home!

Although the ingredient list is long, you definitely can make this on a weeknight, just don’t do like I did and postpone cooking by 30 minutes because you forgot a critical ingredient and had to run out to the store! The veggies can be prepped in advance and the wheat berries can be cooked early, too. The only change was I substituted one tablespoon of tamari in place of the amino acids, since I didn’t have a bottle on hand.

I noticed the “(Meat) Eater of the House” had seconds so I take that as a resounding thumbs up! Topped with a little bit of cheddar, avocado, red onion, and sour cream, it made excellent leftovers for lunch, and enough to pop in the freezer for another meal!

chili

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili
This recipe first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups chili, 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 4 teaspoons onion, and 2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peeled carrot
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
1 cup lower-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
1 cup water
1 cup lager beer (such as Budweiser)
2 tablespoons liquid aminos (such as Bragg)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes in the can into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 cups water, vegetable juice, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.

2. Combine wheat berries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add wheat berries, beer, aminos, and beans to chili; cook 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, red onion, and sour cream.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Candy Corn Cookies
I thought with Halloween just a few days away, I would bring to you one of the most popular recipes I ever posted on my blog for any new readers: candy corn cookies! These tiny sugar cookies are about an inch high in height and are adorable and make lots to share!

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Yup. That's snow. In October!

Yup. That’s snow. In October!

After what may have been one of the warmest Septembers on record, it’s finally getting cold here in Vermont! (And as I write this, it’s snowing rather hard outside!) Which means all I can think about is making soups, stews, bread, anything that will warm the kitchen and my soul.

With this in mind, I started creating a recipe for dinner in my head during the week: a braised chicken dish with tomatoes, white beans, lots of garlic, a touch of cinnamon, and tangy Kalamata olives; also something that could be slow cooked so I wasn’t hovering over the stove for the entire evening, too. I set to work one night as we were watching the movie “Love and Mercy,” which is fantastic movie if you haven’t seen it!

When The Eater of the House asked what was for dinner earlier in the day, I didn’t have the recipe completely sorted out so I described this dish as “sort of a chicken cacciatore.” “With pasta?!” he asked excitedly. “Um, no.” He frowned. I think serving pasta when you already have beans in a dish is odd because that gives you two carbohydrates. But of course, you can serve this with pasta, rice, or just on its own like I did.

I think Chicken thighs are the most forgiving piece of meat out there; you can cook as long as you like and it almost never dries out. Braised with the tomatoes and beans, I was able to go back and watch the movie while dinner simmered on the stove.

This dish turned out just like I had hoped it would; warm and spicy beans with lots of garlic, tender chicken, and briny olives. Plus it’s all cooked in one pan! If you find you have leftover beans but no chicken, just add a little cheese and warm for lunch the next day. It will be delicious!

chicen and white beans
Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives

4 skinless chicken thighs
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup red onion, diced (or half of a large onion)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup small white beans (I used navy)
¼ cup Kalamata olives, halved
Chopped parsley (optional)

1. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil, When it gets shimmery, add the chicken and cook until is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes each side. (Note: The chicken won’t be fully cooked.) Place on a plate to rest.

2. There should be some olive oil and fat left over from the chicken in the skillet, but if there isn’t, add a little bit more oil. Add the onions and garlic, cook at medium heat until they are translucent. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and cinnamon. Add the rested chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the olives, and let everything simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Top with chopped parsley, if you have some on hand.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Oprah Now Part Owner of Weight Watchers!
Imagine my surprise the other morning as I’m on www.weightwatchers.com and see a photo of Oprah. I just happened to go to the website when the company made their biggest announcement in years: Oprah has joined forces with the company, purchasing a 10 percent stake and serving as a Board member! The company has been faltering financially in the last year and they’ve decided to bring in the big guns.

As a WW graduate, I think this is phenomenal news; just like she did for books, my hope is having the Oprah name will encourage people to join and get healthy. The company said while it will continue to focus on weight loss, its mission also will focus on an all-around healthy and happy life.

You can read more about the deal here.

Breaded Pork Cutlets with Root Veg Smash and Sage Gravy with Sauteed Lemony Brussels Sprouts Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I gave myself a cooking challenge one evening. After coming inside from mowing the lawn, it already was 7 p.m. I was tired and really wanted to take a shower plus get dinner on the table by 8 p.m. This dish is what I had planned on making, but could I do it? A long list of ingredients, plus three pots going at once, it wasn’t until I really read the recipe that I wondered whether making this in what Cooking Light says is 40(!) minutes was even possible. But I decided I was up for the challenge, because it looked so good and I was hungry! And not only was I successful, this will taste like you spent hours in the kitchen as opposed to 45 minutes!

Of course, looking ahead, you can do some advance prep that can cut down your cooking time: chopping the turnip and potato, as well as trimming and halving the Brussels sprouts. But I did nothing and was still able to do everything in under an hour. I had a local honeycrisp apple in the fridge, so I used that instead of buying a Fuji, as well as red potatoes instead of Yukon Gold. I cooked each pork chop until it was golden but not completely cooked, and then put them in the oven set at 325 degrees until everything was ready to eat. I only cooked three pork chops and The Eater of the House ate the extra one, so I had leftover veg and sprouts that were even better the next day for lunch!

This meal is a perfect weeknight dinner if you have guests you want to impress or you just want a special dinner for the family. A nice glass of a crisp white or a Pinot Noir will go great with this flavorful meal and is a perfect way to end the day!

Happy Cooking!

pork cutletsBreaded Pork Cutlets with Root Veg Mash and Sage Gravy

These recipes first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1 pork cutlet, about 1/2 cup vegetable mash, and 3 tablespoons gravy)

1 1/2 cups chopped turnips
1 cup chopped Yukon gold potato
3/4 cup chopped peeled Fuji apple
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 (4-ounce) center-cut boneless pork cutlets
1/2 cup quick-mixing flour (such as Wondra), divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 teaspoon chopped sage

1. Place turnips, potato, apple, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Discard bay leaf. Return vegetable mixture to pan. Add sour cream, 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; mash to desired consistency.

2. Sprinkle pork evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place 6 tablespoons flour in a dish. Place egg in a dish. Dredge pork in flour; dip into egg. Dredge in flour.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl. Add 2 pork cutlets; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Remove pork from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 2 pork cutlets. Add stock, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine remaining 5 teaspoons butter and remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Gradually add butter mixture to pan, stirring with a whisk. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and sage. Serve with pork and mashed vegetables.

Sauteed Lemony Brussels Sprouts
Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots and Brussels sprouts; sauté 8 minutes. Add stock to pan; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in rind, salt, and pepper.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Book review: Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser
mr latte
This book has been on my radar since it was published in 2003 but it wasn’t until this fall that I sought it out to read. And while I totally devoured it in less than a week, it seems by reader reviews I read that I’m one of only a few people who found Hesser’s memoir palatable.

A young food writer for The New York Times, Hesser meets her future husband, Tad Friend, staff writer for The New Yorker, on a blind date. After much discussion about where they are going to meet, she quips the selected restaurant is “the Manhattan equivalent of an Outback Steakhouse.” He orders a Budweiser and puts sugar “sweetener” in his lattés. Some readers see Hesser as a snob, but I guess she and I are cut from the same cloth, as I, too, would raise a brow if this was my first introduction to a possible mate.

The book soon takes the reader through the courtship and ultimate marriage of these two people, with a lot of insight along the way. Anyone who cooks knows the protectiveness ones has over his/her kitchen, and I had to nod my head when she recounted Tad washing her dishes for the first time. And she also gives insight as a cook:

“I prefer the solitude of a kitchen; I like to hear the faint crackle as my knife slices into a fresh onion, to watch better and sugar meld into milky fluff as I wish. Sometimes I like to think; dream up travel plans, retrace my day or imagine an argument with my mother in which I win. I like to chop garlic, dice tomatoes, and carve chicken from its bones to relieve tension, just as someone else might go run a few miles.”

Hesser’s food writing is exquisite, as can be seen in the above quote, or whether it’s talking about her single cuisine, cooking dinner for her wedding party, or cooking with her grandmother. Besides Mr. Latte, we are introduced to her close group of friends, family, and now her extended family. Each chapter is peppered with recipes, all clearly written for the new and more seasoned cooks.

This was a wonderful look at a romance melded with food and I would take a second helping of anything Hesser writes.

Full Circle: Homemade Pumpkin Bread Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

 

I just had to pull over when I saw this sky when I was driving home.

I just had to pull over when I saw this sky!

It’s finally fall! The season of crisp weather, crisp local apples, squashes, and pumpkins. The leaves have been slow at changing this year, but on a long weekend drive, I spotted some reds and golds in the hills.

Growing up, every fall my mom would make several batches of pumpkin squares, which was homemade pumpkin bread baked in a 13 x 9 pan and cut into squares like cake. This was an easy snack to take to school and I loved when I found it in my lunchbox; the bread is super moist and I loved the walnuts (not so much the raisins). With all the talk of “pumpkin spice” which is in everything from coffee to vodka, I wanted to make something in my kitchen with real pumpkin spice, not something that is manufactured in a factory. I decided to pull out my family recipe for pumpkin bread one night when I wanted to warm the kitchen. But it wasn’t in my recipe box. I then went to my grandmother’s recipe box. Of all the things I inherited from her, this is the most special; a schoolteacher all her life, many recipe cards have her familiar handwriting that is so clear and recognizable.

So I went through and found a recipe for pumpkin bread, my mom’s, but in my handwriting! I couldn’t believe I was the one to give her this recipe; it must have been after college, so more than 25 years ago. And I could tell I had carefully written it so it was legible. Mom’s recipe makes a batch for a family, but Grandma did the math for me, so I was able to use her measurements for one loaf. (If you have a big family or big eaters, it’s easy to double.) Mom’s recipe to me to Grandma and back again. Full circle indeed.

Using fresh ginger, because that’s what I had on hand, with no clove or raisins, this was delicious. Half a cup of chopped walnuts, it made the kitchen warm and spicy. And it’s what I call a quick bread, just one bowl, add everything, mix and pour into a loaf pan. It takes maybe ten minutes to mix all together, so you can make it on a lazy Sunday morning to serve to guests (or yourself!) if you want. The piece I had with my morning tea was nice and homey and was a pleasant and delicious way to welcome the new season. I hope if you make this, you find it that way, too.

Happy Cooking!

pumpkin brad
Homemade Pumpkin Bread

This recipe is from the files of Nancy B. Koliander.

Since you’ll have about a cup of pumpkin leftover, you can either freeze it or hold tight; I’m working on a future recipe to use it up. Stay tuned!

In a mixing bowl, whisk together:

2 medium eggs
1 cup sugar (scant)
1 cup pumpkin
2/3 cup of oil (the original recipe calls for ¾ cup, but I cut it down a little bit and it was fine)

Add:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. each of salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg
1 tsp. each of cinnamon, ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
½ walnuts and/or a handful of raisins (optional)

Bake 50-55 minutes at 325 degrees in a greased bread pan.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Pumpkin…
Right after I made my pumpkin bread, I came across this article from The Kitchn website, “What’s Actually in Your Canned Pumpkin Puree.” I was going to bypass it because I know my can of One-Pie pumpkin is just that, pumpkin. Well, I’m wrong and I’m glad I read it because I learned something: under USDA rules, since pumpkin and certain squashes are in the same genus they can be categorized as just pumpkin. So unless your can says 100 percent pumpkin (like Libby’s), you are getting a pumpkin/squash combination. I’m miffed and surprised about this piece of information. I think it is a bit of false advertising. Don’t you?