Dump-it-in-there Chili v1.0

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Chili con carne with fresh Rosemary and Baking Cocoa Powder
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Chili (con carne)! One of our favorite foods to make in the slow cooker—hm, no, let’s not kid ourselves… One of our favorite foods to make. Period. It’s fun because you can just dump everything in the slow cooker and keep adding and adjusting flavors as it cooks. You get plenty of time to evolve the flavors, blend them in, and see what makes sense to add or what’s missing from it.

For us, chili always varies a little depending on what we have in the pantry and fridge. Cans of tomatoes with sauce, tomatoes with green chilies, corn, kidney beans… Then your freshly-chopped jalapeños, onions, carrots… And seasoning with whatever makes you happy—but that still goes well together, of course… You don’t have to, but why would you do that to yourself?—Here, I used adobo, extra salt & pepper, gochugaru, hot Hungarian paprika… Italian seasoning? Indeed. Extra garlic powder, fresh minced garlic… And as shown in the above image, fresh rosemary, (chopped very finely to let it blend into the chili), and baking cocoa powder (unsweetened; not sure sweetened would work well for a chili).

Side note: Dave got the idea to use chocolate for the chili from Cincinnati chili—the one that’s used as a topping for spaghetti… Which still makes me shiver, but alas, my husband likes it.

Dave reminded me afterwards that I had forgotten to add cumin, a staple of chili, so we sprinkled some in after serving… Quick recovery, (certainly wouldn’t have blended in as well as if it had been cooked in, but quick recovery nonetheless).

The best part about having a multi-purpose slow/pressure cooker? You can sear the meat in the slow cooker itself before you start dumping the rest of the ingredients in it. If you are one to embrace the joy of diminished mess, you’ve reached home ♡ Back to the meat, I seared ground beef with a splash of chicken stock. We usually prefer, (for all intents and purposes, not just chili), less than or equal to 85% lean beef for greater flavor, but if you don’t want as much fat or having to drain the fat, you can use a leaner option. For the time being, though, I can’t say with full certainty that I saw (tasted) added value to the searing with chicken stock—personally, Dave’s drifting away from using chicken stock due to its pungent flavor and scent, and I share a bit on his view, though perhaps to a lesser extent.

Finally, two tricks we particularly like to do for chili:

  1. If the chili is too watery/thin, you can use a thickener such as corn starch or, our favorite, corn meal/flour such as Harina PAN or Goya’s Mazarepa.
  2. If the overall flavor of the chili is too heavy from all the meat and sauces, I like to lighten/brighten it a bit with lime.

So as I mentioned above, as the chili slow-cooks, you can keep tasting the chili and think about whatever flavors/kicks it might be missing and continue to add items as needed. My suggestion is: add little by little to make sure you don’t over do it or accidentally overpower items you didn’t intend to.

The slow cooker is your canvas. Have fun.

Happy splattering, 
Kika & Dave

Dump-it-in-there Chili v1.0

  • Servings: 4+
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This first iteration of our Chili con carne does not have actual measurements yet—it was mostly written from memory—so feel free to experiment and add items little by little. Since it takes a while to cook, you have plenty of time to tweak throughout the whole cooking process.

Always prep the ingredients before beginning to cook!

Equipment

  • Slow cooker (with a searing option if possible)

Ingredients for the Beef

  • Ground Beef (~1.5 lbs; 85% lean)
  • Chicken Stock (optional; a splash; either salted or unsalted)
  • Adobo seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Gochugaru

Ingredients for the Chili

  • Tomatoes in Tomato Sauce (1 large can)
  • Tomatoes with Green Chilies (1-2 regular cans)
  • Corn (1-2 small cans)
  • Kidney Beans (1-2 regular cans)
  • Jalapeños (~2; finely chopped)
  • Onions (~1; finely chopped)
  • Carrot (~1 large one; finely chopped)
  • Adobo seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Gochugaru (to taste)
  • Hot Hungarian Paprika (to taste)
  • Italian Seasoning (to taste)
  • Garlic Powder (to taste)
  • Minced Garlic (to taste)
  • Rosemary (to taste; very finely chopped)
  • Baking Cocoa Powder (unsweetened; to taste)
  • Corn Meal / Flour (white; to taste)
  • Lime (squeezed juice; to taste)

Directions

A. Searing the Beef

  1. Turn on the searing setting on the slow cooker.
  2. Once it’s hot enough, (test by flicking in a few water dropletsdrop in the ground beef.
  3. Add the following items to taste:
    • Chicken Stock (optional; a splash; either salted or unsalted)
    • Adobo seasoning
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Gochugaru
  4. Once the beef has browned, turn on the slow cooker setting.
  5. Proceed to step B.

B. Making the Chili

  1. Drop the prepped Chili ingredients in the slow cooker:
    • Tomatoes in Tomato Sauce (1 large can)
    • Tomatoes with Green Chilies (1-2 regular cans)
    • Corn (1-2 small cans)
    • Kidney Beans (1-2 regular cans)
    • Jalapeños (~2; finely chopped)
    • Onions (~1; finely chopped)
    • Carrot (~1 large one; finely chopped)
  2. Season with/add the following ingredients to taste:
    • Adobo seasoning
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Gochugaru
    • Hot Hungarian Paprika
    • Italian Seasoning
    • Garlic Powder
    • Minced Garlic
    • Rosemary (very finely chopped)
    • Baking Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
    • Corn Meal / Flour (white)
    • Lime (squeezed juice)
  3. Continue to mix & taste for the remainder of the slow-cooker timer (~6 hours).

C. Serve

  1. Serve in a bowl to keep warm.
  2. Top with any of the following:
    • Cheese
    • Lime
    • Corn Tortillas
  3. Enjoy.

fin


References

[1] “Chili con carne” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chili_con_carne
[2] “Cincinnati chili” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinnati_chili

Spaghetti alla Carbonara + Asparagus Casserole

Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Asparagus with Cheese Casserole
Dave’s first attempt at Spaghetti alla Carbonara plus a side of Asparagus with Cheese Casserole
Unrelated note: We got a new tile background at Home Depot and were super excited to it try out for the picture.

Sunday November 20th, 2016

Dear Blag,

On a weekend much like this one, except with a different date… Since it was last weekend… Dave (!) got around to finally trying a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara[1].

“The tricky aspect about making carbonara,” he said, “is that the sauce is primarily made of egg, which is dropped raw into the pasta—after drained—and mixed vigorously. If you drop it in too early, when the pasta is still too hot, your risk getting scrambled eggs. If you drop it in too late, with the pasta cooled past a certain point, you risk having raw egg in your pasta. You want to mix it in just at the right moment so that the heat of the pasta combined with the stirring turns the eggs into a nice, creamy sauce.”*

Thursday November 24th, 2016

Dear Blag,

Sorry I didn’t finish my thoughts the other day. Right now we’re super full from my in-laws’ awesomely** delicious Thanksgiving lunch (linner? Since we’re too full for dinner?) to think of much more to add to the carbonara story. Althoooough, long story short, we re-added the pasta to the pan because it seemed like the egg was still a bit raw. Dave thinks it was due to the recipe asking for eggs at room temperature, and ours were still cold from the fridge… The re-throwing in the pan is typically a big no-no, but fortunately the pasta was still pretty creamy afterwards, even though the picture makes it look drier than it was.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is essentially eggs, cheese (some variation of parmesan and/or pecorino), bacon (we used pancetta), and black pepper. There’s different stories behind the origin of pasta carbonara, with perhaps the word “carbonara” implying it was eaten by coal workers or maybe that the black pepper resembled coal flakes.[2][3] Overall, the general consensus seems to be that the dish originated around the mid-20th century in the Lazio region of Italy, which is where my dad’s family is from! And which is where Rome is too. So there you go.

Here’s the recipe for the Spaghetti Carbonara, from the NY Times Cooking section. Below is the recipe for a super quick side dish of Asparagus with Cheese Casserole, which I’m not entirely sure it can be considered a casserole since it’s not cooked slowly, but let’s call it a casserole. It’s one of my favorite side dishes to make to add some greens to the plate.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving,
Kika & Dave.

* I used quotations, though I might’ve embellished his words a bit since it’s been a week already… Still has the “Dave Seal of Approval,” though.
** This is an actual word?? Adverb. Sweet.

Cheesy Asparagus Casserole

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Super Easy
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One of my favorite side dishes to make. Please do not be intimidated by the complexity of this recipe.

Equipment

  • Oven Broiler
  • 9×9 Metal Cake Pan or Casserole Dish (if you have a larger size, just push the asparagus to one side)

Ingredients

  • Asparagus (2 cans, 15 oz.)
  • Sliced Cheese (my preference is ‘Murican Cheese, Dave likes Asiago)
  • Butter (regular, salted)

Directions

  1. Open Asparagus cans.
  2. Drain liquid from Asparagus cans.
  3. Place asparagus in pan/dish; stack in layers of 2-3 asparagus.
  4. Throw in specs/dollops of butter (evenly spaced) over the asparagus.
  5. Place slices of American Cheese over the butter/asparagus stack; (enough so to cover them, layers of 1-2 slices).
  6. Place in the oven. Set to broil high.
  7. Watch until the cheese is browned. (Only a couple of minutes).

fin


References

[1] “Spaghetti Carbonara” by Ian Fisher from New York Times Cooking http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12965-spaghetti-carbonara
[2] “Carbonara” Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonara
[3] “History of Spaghetti Carbonara” by Clifford Wright at CliffordAWright.com http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/4/id/117/

Venezuelan Arepas with Shredded Beef

venezuelan arepas with carne mechada
(Top left) Carne Mechada in the Pressure Cooker (Top right) Arepas on the Pan (Bottom) Arepa with Carne Mechada

Saturday September 10th, 2016

On this day, it was Dia Mundial de la Arepa! (World Arepa Day!). Even amidst the bizarre food shortening situation in oil-rich Venezuela, let us have them in our thoughts—and wish a cascade of good fortune to people like my cousin who opened up his first food business in Caracas!—hoping they can have full pantry shelves again.

Alas! Let us return to the marvelous topic of arepas. Arepas are a form of flatbread made with corn flour which you can stuff with whatever [edible item] your heart desires. It is the breakfast hamburger of sorts, though Venezuelans also have them for dinner, often going to the “areperas” in the wee hours of the night after partying. If you’ve ever had pupusas, yes, they’re similar to them, though each country will swear by their own recipe**, and you can also find Colombian arepas[2], and other recipes, some which are made with the yellow corn flour instead of the white one and make me go, “That’s not an arepa, that’s a cachapa, but I’ll eat it anyway ’cause it’s good,” etc., etc.

So to celebrate World Arepa Day, we made Arepas with Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded Beef) and White Cheese, which ideally would be a semi-firm, slightly salted cheese such as the so-labeled “Queso Para Freir“, but our grocery store had none so we used mozzarella cheese. Worked WONDERS. And for the steak we used skirt steak as one of his suggestions, (the other being soup/stew shank, which I realized just now after translating it with mighty Google, since I didn’t know before how to translate “lagarto”).

Amongst our wondrous wedding gifts, we got the Armando Scannone cookbook, “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” from our beautiful friends the Ferreiras. Here, Scannone provides a superb recipe for carne mechada—which made me all the more excited since it was our first time making it!—with the title “Carne Mechada Frita con Cebolla y Tomate.” In the recipe, though, he cooks the meat a bit in the oven and then pan-fries it, whereas we used one of our other awesome wedding gifts: the mighty pressure cooker (courtesy of my aunt and nonnos in Italy) which turns any hard meat into a juicy soft-skinned delicacy. Now, the recipe does call for a bit of ketchup, which some of you (including Dave) might find preposterous, but believe us when we say that both Dave and I loved it, and the flavors blend amazingly together.

micocinaii
Venezuelan Cookbook: “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” by Armando Scannone

Sunday September 20th, 2016

We’re still extending the celebration and making it for our friends this week, so we hope you get to make them too and share in on the awesomeness! Recipes for the Carne Mechada (Shredded Beef) and the Arepas near the bottom.

We extended the arepa celebration by sharing it with our non-Hispanic friends during game night. Always a big success! *Thumbs up*

Thursday November 3rd, 2016

Hm, took me almost 2 months to post this post… (And now I’m posting about posting a post**).

A few notes to the video at the top:

  • For the arepas: Add the water and milk as well as the salt and sugar before the corn flour, that way you can the latter combo into the former one to make it more uniform before you start to solidify it with the corn flour.
  • Slowly whisk in the corn flour so as to get a uniform mix (instead of a lumpy mix).
  • We realized we should use the brush to butter the arepas, not the pan.

* VENEZUELAN AREPAS ALL THE WAY! YEAH!! *CHEST BUMP*
** WE MUST GO DEEPER. (Hm, lots of yelling in the footnotes)

Carne Mechada (Venezuelan Shredded Beef)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

An iconic Venezuelan item. Great for arepa filling or as part of a larger dish, often accompanied by rice, beans, and plantains.

Carne Mechada Recipe (as modified for pressure cooker) from: “Carne Mechada Frita con Cebolla y Tomate” by Armando Scannone in his book “Mi Cocina II: A la Manera de Caracas”.

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker
  • Medium Sauce Pan

Preparing-the-Beef Ingredients

  • Skirt Steak (1 lb)
  • Onion (3/8 cup [grated])
  • Garlic (1 Clove)
  • Oil (1 Tbsp)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1/2 Tbsp)
  • Ground Cumin (1/8 Tsp)
  • Ground Black Pepper (1/4 Tsp)
  • Salt (1 1/2 Tsp)
  • Red Bell Pepper (OPTIONAL; 1 small Pepper [sliced])

Beef-Sauce Ingredients

  • Tomato (1 Cup [optionally skinless; deseeded; finely diced])
  • Red Bell Pepper (1/4 Cup [deseeded; deveined; finely diced])
  • Onion (1 Cup [finely diced])
  • Oil (1/4 Cup)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (1/8 Tsp)
  • Ketchup (1 Tbsp)
  • Salt (1/2 Tsp)
  • Ground Black Pepper (1/8 Tsp)

Directions

  1. Preparing-the-Beef Steps

    1.  For marinade, add to a bowl and whisk together:
      • Onion (3/8 cup [grated])
      • Garlic (1 Clove)
      • Oil (1 Tbsp)
      • Worcestershire Sauce (1/2 Tablespoon)
      • Ground Cumin (1/8 Teaspoon)
      • Ground Black Pepper (1/4 Teaspoon)
      • Salt (1 1/2 Teaspoon)
    2. Rub skirt steak all over with all of the marinade.
    3. Let marinate for 1/2 hour.
    4. After done marinating, sear the steak on both sides (you can do it directly on the pressure cooker if it gives you that option).
    5. Add steak with marinade into pressure cooker (or leave it in pressure cooker if that’s where you seared it).
    6. **Optional** Add the red bell peppers (a small handful [sliced]).
    7. Add water to the minimum fill line of the pressure cooker.
    8. Lock pressure cooker and cook according to its “meat” settings. (In our case, our pressure cooker‘s default “meat” setting was 12 psi for 40min).
    9. [If making arepas, you can begin making them before proceeding to making the Beef-Sauce]
  2. Beef-Sauce Steps

    1. Add oil (1/4 Cup) in a medium sauce pan.
    2. Heat on stovetop at medium high.
    3. Add the onion (1 Cup [finely diced]), and cook until softened/translucent, typically 3-4 minutes.
    4. Add the following and cook for about 5 minutes:
      • Red Bell Peppers (1/4 Cup [deseeded; deveined; finely diced])
      • Tomato (1 Cup [optionally skinless; deseeded; finely diced])
    5. Add the following and cook for 4-5 minutes:
      • Worcestershire Sauce (1/8 Teaspoon)
      • Ketchup (1 Tablespoon)
      • Salt (1/2 Teaspoon)
      • Ground Black Pepper (1/8 Teaspoon)
    6. [You can then begin shredding the beef and set to low heat once the timer goes off]
  3. Shredding Beef and Mixing with Sauce

    1. Once the beef is done cooking and the pressure cooker is done depressurizing—if it has a release pressure button, you can use that to accelerate the depressurizing process—open the pressure cooker.
    2. Pick up the beef with a set of tongs (or fork or whatever your preference. (Forget the sliced bell peppers or eat them as a side or reuse in another recipe).
    3. Keep the beef broth from the pressure cooker (you might need to add some to the beef sauce).
    4. Set the beef on plate or kitchen board.
    5. Pull apart the beef with the tongs/fork(s) until you have a good set of beef strands.
    6. Add beef to beef sauce currently in sauce pan.
    7. Mix beef and beef sauce at medium heat for about 2 minutes (add beef broth as needed if it seems a bir dry).
    8. Remove from heat.
    9. Stuff and arepa or eat on its own.

fin

Arepas

  • Servings: 4.5
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Equipment

  • Frying Pan
  • Oven

Arepa Ingredients

  • Corn Flour Goya or Harina Pan (2 Cups)
  • Water (1.5 cups)
  • Milk (1.5 cups)
  • Salt (1 Tsp)
  • Sugar (3/4 Tsp)
  • Butter (about 1/4 Cup [melted])

Directions

  1. Making the Dough

    1. Add the water (1.5 Cups) and milk (1.5 Cups) in a medium bowl.
    2. Add salt (1 Teaspoon) and sugar (3/4 Teaspoon).
    3. Mix.
    4. Slowly add and whisk in the corn flour.
    5. Let settle for a couple of minutes (until flour thickens).
  2. Cooking the Arepas

    1. Heat a frying pan to medium heat.
    2. Grab about a fistful of dough.
    3. Shape dough into a round flatbread (about 1/2-inch thick, 4 inches in diameter)
    4. Butter each side of the uncooked arepa.
    5. Place on the pan and add as many arepas fit on the pan.
    6. Flip arepas once browned.
    7. [Arepas may be done once both sides brown, or for better results proceed to step 8]
    8. Turn on oven on low broil setting.
    9. Place arepas (with both sides browned) inside oven, (place them on a baking tray or directly on the oven racks).
    10. Cook in oven until arepa shell is slightly hardened (knock on them to test, they should sound hollow).
    11. Once done, take out of the oven.
  3. Preparing the Arepas
    1. Cut arepa through the side to make a pocket, or so as to open the two circles in half with a joined side.
    2. You can remove a bit more dough or leave it all, butter the inside and fill with beef, cheese, scrambled eggs, beans, or whatever your heart desires.

fin

References

[1] “Mi Cocina II: A la manera de Caracas” by Armando Scannone, 2012. (Earlier versions available from some resellers on Amazon.)
[2] “Latin American Cuisine: Colombian Arepas” by Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/04/latin-american-cuisine-colombian-arepas.html