April 25, 2009

It's Still Chilly enough for Chili!

To enjoy the last few humidity-free days in South Florida, I decided to work on my chili recipe. A camp friend from way back, Ian, has an annual Chili Bowl, and since I can't go to Minneapolis to compete, I browsed his friends' winning recipes from previous years and picked one for the basis of my own. Bud's Batch was the perfect recipe to play with, as I can control the amount of jalepeno, chili powder, the type of meat and the bean varieties. Here is the basic recipe:

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic
2 red jalepeno peppers
2 green jalepeno peppers
1.5 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/3 cup chili powder
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
15 ounce can of black beans
15 ounce can of kidney beans
15 ounce can of chili beans

I used the ground beef but also added cubed beef tenderloin I had in the freezer. I couldn't find red jalepenos so I used green, finely diced. I omitted the seasoned salt, added corn and doubled the whole recipe so we would have a lot left over to freeze since I don't plan on making chili during the summer months. TLMM made the best cornbread recipe ever, and I mean ever- and that will be my next post!

Veggies, after all the chopping.

Place 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers (including jalepeno), garlic and beef and brown until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes (all of the times in this post will be more if you double the recipe). Add the tomatoes, salt and chili powder. Wait for it to boil and then partially cover it and turn it down to a simmer, stirring once in a while. Now leave it alone at a simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add beans and bring back to a boil. The recipe says it can be eaten now or left to simmer. I let it cook for another couple of hours.

This chili is so good because the flavors - first you taste the beef, chili powder and the beans and then the peppers start creeping in. The addition of the tenderloin added a layer of texture reminiscent of chili con carne.   We garnished with grated sharp cheddar cheese, chopped onion and cooked some white rice as an afterthought.  We froze what we didn't eat because no matter how good it is on day one, for some reason, chili is always better after a deep freeze. Now I feel more comfortable tweaking the recipe even more, maybe with a different type of protein to really mix things up. Before the weather gets too warm, put on a pot of chili. It will make your house smell divine and will keep in the freezer until you are ready for some more...and the eggs.

April 14, 2009

Happy 50th Birthday, JAM!

My brother in law turns 50 years old today!  We celebrated with him over the weekend with a pool party (what else?!) and some family favorites, including ambrosia salad, "funeral beans" (which, while they may not be pretty, are the best baked beans going) and pickled eggs and beets made by his parents.  

His cousin, Cynthia, won the prize for traveling the furthest for the occasion- she drove from Panama City to bring him this hideous gift we pass back and forth every few years.

We had a fun day, I hope he did too. Now if he would just get that lamp out of my house.  Happy birthday, JAM --and many, many more...and the eggs.

April 13, 2009

Finnegan's River

On the Miami River, you can pull your boat right up to Finnegan's and have a meal, a drink, play pool and swim in the pool. The space is amazing- it's huge. There's outside seating as well as inside. It was hard to go just for a quick lunch, but I will be back.

First and foremost, the food. It took too long to get service which was the only major glitch in our plans. Finally, it was straightened out and we ordered drinks and meals.

One of the specials- Suzy ordered a salad with fried calamari and fish fingers. The calamari was tender and perfectly seasoned and cooked.

Another special was Finnegan's version of shrimp scampi. David loves pasta so his order wasn't a surprise. Huge shrimp! It looked fine, it's hard to mess up shrimp scampi.  

Blackened dolphin sandwich- of course, Ed the Cowboys fan had to eat a dolphin for lunch! Look at that grin. He said it was very good.

I had to try a plain old burger because unlike shrimp scampi, it is easy to mess up a hamburger. It's all about the flavor of the meat, and this one was very, very tasty. Thumbs up.

If I hadn't had to return to work, I would have had a beer or two and played pool.

It was a beautiful day as we sat and ate and watched boats of all shapes and sizes float by. We saw at least two incredible yachts.

There's ample outside seating including a few gazebos with benches and swings. Remind me that this is where I want to go the next time I venture out for happy hour!!!

Every Sunday, these folks roast a whole pig and you can buy it by the plate and enjoy a dish that has real local flare.

They also have a large selection of sushi on the menu. Finnegan's internet site is here.

The food was fine- I would say above average but not spectacular. The atmosphere is spectacular. I highly recommend a trip to Finnegan's but if I were you, I'd go for lunch and take the rest of the day off to enjoy the scenery...and the eggs.

Finnegan's River on Urbanspoon

April 4, 2009

Nut Rolls!

Nothing says home like the smell of hot fresh baked goods coming out of the oven (that I didn't have to bake)! TLMM's mother, Marilyn Moon ("MM"), is getting ready for Easter. That includes baking her famous nut rolls. I better hurry up and have a slice before Passover starts.

MM and TLMM's father, Jack, recently relocated to Miami from Pittsburgh. Fortunately for us, baking was almost like a competition for the women at the various congregations Jack served as a Methodist Minister for 35+ years. You should see the recipes this woman has in a fireproof lock box! They take their baking seriously, and this recipe is one of my favorites.

This recipe makes 8 nut rolls- so share them with your friends or wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and freeze them until the "churchers" as I call them come over for tea.

The day before or the morning you make the rolls, throw a bag of recipe ready walnuts into a food processor and blend until fine. You'll need these as you assemble the rolls.

9 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup sugar
4 sticks softened butter

Put the above ingredients into a large bowl and mix well by hand. Break up with fingers into small pieces. Yes, with your hands. Wash them first please.

Mix 4 eggs into mixture. Add 1 cup of canned milk (not fresh). Dissolve 1 1/3 cake of yeast into 1 cup warm water; stir until dissolved. Put in mixture.

Knead with your hands. This will be sticky so put flour on your hands and fingers. Plastic bowl is best to put it in. Cover and let it rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Divide dough into 3/4 pound pieces (makes about 8 pieces). Let it sit for awhile- about 10 to 15 minutes.

Knead each in hand with floured hands. Roll on floured board to 1/8 inch thick (very thin!). Keep the edges clean as you add the following ingredients on top of the dough.

Melt butter. Brush on dough generously.

Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and spread over dough.

Put 1 cup of finely chopped walnuts on that and spread over dough.

Remember the edges that you kept clean? Dip your fingers in water and spread it on the edges so it will seal. Roll the roll tightly. Wet end again if necessary to hold it together. Place edge on bottom. Put two in the pan at a time- don't bake more than two at a time or they will go together. Poke a few holes across the top with a fork to vent. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Let them sit for 15 minutes and then brush with melted butter.

These are so good, you can't have just one slice. I don't even like nuts in my food- but they are so finely chopped in this recipe, they aren't like nuts, they're more like textural candies.

Sure, they are a little work but if you can catch someone else in the holiday baking spirit, maybe they'll make them and share them with you. That's what I did! Seriously, MM was making them anyway- I just asked her if I could blog it. So happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring...and the eggs.