Sunday, November 20, 2011

Slow Cooker Chili & Honey Brown Sugar Cornbread

Pin It Now! Are you ready for Thanksgiving??  I swear just yesterday I was thinking that Halloween was almost here, and now Thanksgiving is staring us in the face.  I'm so excited!  Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays of the year.  I can't wait for the Montalvo family to be together again.  Tuesday evening will find me in the kitchen baking up a double batch of pumpkin cranberry cookies.

This morning I woke up to one of my favorite sounds... rain!  Typically I would sleep in on a Sunday morning, but the rain was so beautiful that I was perfectly happy sacrificing sleep for cuddling with Chico and listening to the drops fall on the roof. 

Rainy days call for comfort food.  Something that will fill the house with yummy smells while bubbling away on the stove - or in this case, the crock pot.  (The crock pot gets a lot of love during the chilly months.)  This chili recipe is simple, easy and definitely qualifies as comfort food.  This would be great as a vegetarian chili; leave out the meat and toss in some seasonal squash and voila!  Or sub chicken for the beef for a lighter dish.  I think next time I'll add in some diced green chiles for a little variety.

Slow Cooker Chili
1-2 lbs stew meat, trimmed
1 large bell pepper (any color)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp cinammon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt & pepper
2 cans beans (any variety you like.  Drain & rinse one can)
3 cans diced tomatoes (preferably low sodium)

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on high heat. Saute stew meat, bell pepper, onion and garlic for 5 minutes, or until the meat starts to brown on all sides.  Add in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinammon, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.  Let cook for a couple minutes more.  In the meantime, pour tomatoes and beans into the crock pot and turn on high.  Add meat and veggies to the crock pot and stir to mix.  Cook on high 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally.

Honey Brown Sugar Cornbread
1 prepared recipe for cornbread (I cheated and used the Trader Joe's cornbread mix)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp packed brown sugar

Stir honey and brown sugar into cornbread mix and bake as directed.  There, wasn't that a complicated "recipe"?  The leftovers are great to dry for croutons!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ginelle's "June Cleaver" Chocolate Cake

Pin It Now! A couple of weeks ago, my friend Ginelle surprised me with the most stunning scrapbook I have ever laid my eyes on.  Ginelle is extremely creative and unbelievable talented when it comes to scrapping (not to mention cooking and pretty much everything else!)  Any time she would share her latest project with me I was always blown away.

Well let me tell you...  she really outdid herself this time.

She created every element of this scrapbook herself, right down to the pages, literally hand cutting the heart shape over and over for each page.  We share a love for all things Twilight, and the paper she found for this project is undoubtedly very Twilight-esque... deep reds, black gothic details... very romantic.  My bumbling words don't do this piece justice (neither do my photos).  It is absolutely one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received and one that will be cherished.

On to the cake...  Last year when I asked Ginelle what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she answered, "A homemade, very June Cleaver-y chocolate cake."  And I knew exactly where I would go for just such a cake.

Ina Garten's cookbook, "Barefoot Contessa At Home", features this decadent cake.  It is, without a doubt, the absolute best chocolate cake you will find anywhere.  Trust me.  I've eaten a lot of chocolate cake from a lot of different places, and this is the real deal. I've never come across a cake that stays as moist as this cake, and the buttercream is sinfully rich.  Note: the recipe for the buttercream calls for an egg yolk to give more depth to the flavor and give the icing a nice shine.  I leave this out as most people aren't comfortable with the idea. 

Ginelle loved this cake, so what better way can I say "thank you" than with her very own June Cleaver chocolate cake?  :)

Always make sure your ingredients are at room temperature (yes, even the eggs and buttermilk).  It truly does make a difference.

Ginelle's "June Cleaver" Chocolate Cake
from Ina Garten
1 3/4 c flour
2 c granulated sugar
3/4 c cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 8" round cake pans and line with parchment.  Butter the parchment.  Dust pans with flour.

In your mixer, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt on low speed.  In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.  Carefully beat the wet ingredients into the dry until just incorporated.  Then (SLOWLY!) mix in the hot coffee.  Divide batter evenly between both prepared pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes in the pans, then invert onto cooling racks.  Once cakes are completely cooled, frost with chocolate buttercream.

Chocolate Buttercream
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter - softened
1 lg egg yolk (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
1 c + 1 tbsp sifted powdered sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee granules, dissolved in 2 tsp hot water

Melt chocolate and set aside to cool.  In mixer bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add in egg yolk and vanilla and beat for one minute, scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula.  Slowly beat in the confectioner's sugar on low speed (unless you want a sugar storm!).  Add the coffee and chocolate and beat until fully incorporated.

Set one layer of the cake on a cake stand, flat side up.  Spread 1/3 of the buttercream across the top.  Add the second cake layer and frost with remaining buttercream.  Summon all your willpower not to immediately dive into the cake.  Enjoy!!

I promise this isn't waiting for you in that cake box, G ;)


Sunday, November 13, 2011

{Healthy!} Oven Crisped Slow-Cooker Carnitas

Pin It Now! I know "healthy carnitas" seems like an oxymoron, but hear me out.  Carnitas - literally translated "little meats" -  is a braised pork shoulder that is shredded and then fried in lard until the top is crispy.  I'd rather not feed my hubby a plate full of lard, so I had to come up with a more health conscious method.

Thanks to my beloved crock pot, putting this together literally took five minutes.  Several hours later the meat was fork tender and easy to shred, so dinner was a snap!  I didn't measure my spices, so I'd guess that I used about 2 tsp of cumin and coriander. 

Slow Cooker Carnitas
1 4-lb pork shoulder
ground cumin
ground coriander
salt & pepper
cinnamon (about 1 tsp)
cayenne pepper (about 1 tsp)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 c chicken broth

Let the pork come to room temperature for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle the cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cinnamon and cayenne pepper on all surfaces of the meat.  Pour about 2 inches of broth in the crock pot and carefully lay the pork shoulder in.  Toss in the garlic, onions and bay leaves.  Cook on high for 6-7 hours, turning the meat halfway through.

Once the meat is cooked, place it in a 9x13 baking pan (or on a baking sheet) and shred with two forks.  Spread the meat out in an even layer and crisp in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Spoon some of the cooking liquid over the meat when it comes out of the oven and squeeze half of a lime over the whole pan.  Serve in burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, nachos... whatever you like!  We made burrito bowls with cilantro rice and pico de gallo.  Enjoy!

Sous chef :)

Next Day Update
Round Two: Breakfast for dinner...  carnitas hash!  Top skillet potatoes with carnitas and fried egg.  YUMM!


Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies with Apple Cider Glaze

Pin It Now!

I love fall.  I really do.  I love the orange and red leaves falling, I love the goose-bumpy mornings and evenings, I love that it gets darker earlier, I love that my beautiful scarves and boots get to come out and play... I love it all.

And did I mention I love the food?  I LOVE fall food!  Fall is squash, cinnamon, sage, pumpkin, cranberry, nutmeg, allspice.  Fall is cozy warm kitchens filled with delicious smells and the sound of family.

This year is Thanksgiving Montalvo style.  R&B will be coming in to town and us wives will be in the kitchen while the hubbies make "Noes" (Fresca with a splash of tequila - or is it the other way around??) watch football or play with Captain America.

I've decided to make cookies as part of our Thanksgiving dessert table.  Pumpkin anything is right up my alley, but I wanted to make more than just plain ol' pumpkin cookies.  Cranberries and a special glaze kicked things up a notch and were so simple to put together!  This was a trial run/recipe test and worked out beautifully.  The cookies stay very soft and moist.  For Thanksgiving I'm going to have two types: ones with cranberries, and one with walnuts.

These would also be great with chocolate chips, leaving out the glaze and cranberries.  Wanna make it quick?  Spread the batter in a greased 9x13 pan and make cookie bars!  Easy peasy!

Pumpkin Cranberry Cookies
Adapted from Very Best Baking

2 1/2 c AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I love cinnamon, so I did a heaping teaspoon)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg at room temperature (it really does make a difference)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup(ish) dried cranberries
Glaze (recipe below)

Directions for cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  In a large mixer bowl, beat sugars and butter until fully mixed.  Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla until smooth.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Lastly, mix in cranberries until just beaten through.  Don't over beat.  Drop by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until edges are just firm. They won't look done, but that's how you want them.  Cool slightly on the baking sheets and then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Apple Cider Glaze
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 tbsp apple cider

Combine all ingredients and whisk until very smooth.  Add more powdered sugar (Sift!) or cider as needed.  The consistency should be a bit syrupy.  Too thin and it will run right off the cookies.  Drizzle over the cooled cookies and let dry completely.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Chicago Metallic.