Vegetarian Chili (sort of) and Cornbread from The Moosewood

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I went to school in Ithaca during the late 1970s , visited the Moosewood Restaurant frequently, and remember seeing the cookbook on display.  So when I saw a deluxe 2014 hardbound edition of the the Moosewood Cookbook at the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis a couple of weeks back, I thought, “Hah! I’ve got the original, from the source!”

After almost 40 years confabulation and real memory collide, as I found when this class assignment was assigned.  In small, neat, red cursive, I wrote “Target, Roseville, Mn, February 15th, 1982.”   OK, at least I bought it at Target #0001 of the 1807 that exist today.

My Moosewood saw many battles in the 1980s, mostly making vegetarian chili with bulghar wheat, but we don’t keep as much wheat in the house as we used to due to my wife’s gluten intolerance.  The assignment was to use on hand ingredients, so I chose brown rice as the grain.

With apologies to Ms. Katzen, here’s the recipe, from page 110 of the 1st[?] edition:

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Substitutions

Based on what was on hand, I  made the following substitutions:

2 cups cooked brown rice instead of 1 cup dry bulghar.
Instead of 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes and 1 cup tomato juice, 1 cup halved grape tomatoes and 2 cups canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes.
For green peppers, orange and yellow sweet peppers.
For 3 tbsp. tomato paste, 3 tbsp. ketchup.
For the juice of 1/2 fresh lemon, 3/4 oz. bottled Realemon juice.
For crushed garlic, minced garlic instead because our garlic press broke a couple of weeks ago.
For 1 1/2 cups chopped onion, 1/2 cup dried minced onions with enough water to reconstitute to 1 1/2 cups.
And, instead of 1 tsp. each of ground cumin and chili powder, 1/2 package of Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Chili Seasoning.
I omitted the red wine since we didn’t have any.

Making It

I soaked pinto beans for about 6 hours in the pot I would later use to boil them.  Toward the end of that time I did my mise en place:

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The reconstituting onions are in the measuring cup to the left.

I used a rice cooker for the brown rice as the thing really does what it says, and I can’t cook rice well any other way.

The pinto beans were ready after about an hour of boiling and I poured off the bean stock, knowing that the cooked rice wouldn’t absorb much liquid.  I kept the stock just in case I need to pour some back in.

Aside from the substitutions mentioned above, I followed the Moosewood recipe as closely as possible.

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And I was pleased with the result.

What Didn’t Work Well

Real chopped onions are much, much better than reconstituted minced onions, especially when sauteing — the tiny reconstituted mincees stick.  My saute pan was too small; I have a larger one that I’d use next time with a little more oil.

The lemon juice is unnecessary as the result is pretty tart.

And, finally, the rice itself tastes fine, but it just doesn’t have a “chili” appearance or texture to it.  So in the end it’s a bean-vegetable-rice hot dish, not really chili.  But definitely tasty.

 

The Cornbread

This was from page 178 of the Moosewood Cookbook.  Again, with apologies to Ms. Katzen:

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Fake Buttermilk

This time I had everything except for the buttermilk.   A quick consult with my classmate [and spouse] Miriam revealed that I can fake a cup of buttermilk by putting 1 tbsp. lemon juice.  I didn’t see anything obvious happen, like curdling milk, so I’ll just trust that it tastes like buttermilk.

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I used a small covered bowl and a microwave oven to melt the 3 tbsp butter for 1 minute.   This was probably too long as there was some splash on the cover.

Instead of real butter I used PAM cooking spray to grease the pan.  Here’s before and after:

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I fumbled with the [new] oven’s timer, overestimated my fumbling time, and set it to 16 minutes instead of the 20 minutes specified in the recipe.

The baked cornbread showed “done” using the Fork Method.  It would have been criticized as under-baked by a professional — a little too moist and dense — but I thought it was great.

 

Dinner

At the end of it all:

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I was happy with this.  I would normally call this a “small” portion.  I should start making this normal.

 

Enthusiastic Cleanup:

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The pot is old and I use HOT soapy water…

 

Quick Chicken Mole

For my first assignment, I gave this a try on Sunday night.  We had lots of leftover rice and beans from ordering takeout on Saturday, so I just needed a protein and we had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the fridge.  I had some 99% dark chocolate that I used instead of the chocolate chips called for by the recipe, and added a little brown sugar.

Mole Ingredients

The recipe was fairly simple and easy to prepare.  I used a stainless steel skillet and canola oil, which worked well and the chicken did not stick to the pan.  Once the chicken was mostly cooked, you set is aside and make the sauce.

Mole 1

Then add the chicken back in to finish.

Mole 2

Turned out great, would definitely make again.  The only adjustments I would make next time is to add a little heat, either by adding chopped peppers or additional dry spices.

Here is the recipe:

Recipe Image

Chicken with Quick Mole Sauce

  • Cook
    35 m
  • Ready In
    35 m
Recipe By: EatingWell Test Kitchen
“Rich, dark and delicious, mole is a signature sauce in Mexican cooking. There are many variations, but the basic ingredients include plenty of chiles and nuts along with a touch of chocolate to tame the heat of the chiles. Traditional recipes can take several hours to prepare—this quick version takes a few shortcuts by using chili powder, nut butter and chocolate chips. Serve with rice and a medley of sautéed zucchini, pepper and onion. ”

Ingredients

    • 1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
    • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
    • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
    • ½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • ¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
    • 1 tablespoon almond butter or natural peanut butter
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (see Note)

Directions

  • 1Season chicken with ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
  • 2Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, chile powder, cumin, cinnamon and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt to the pan. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce, broth, chocolate chips and almond (or peanut) butter; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, return the chicken (and any accumulated juice) to the pan and turn to coat with the sauce. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Home Assignment #1

Hi there!  I always find breakfast to be an easy meal to whip up without having to buy extra ingredients since we always have eggs.

Ingredients (change quantities to suit your needs)

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Red/orange sweet peppers
  • Onion

Step 1: We haven’t used our eggs in a while so I had to make sure they were still good.  I heard that if your eggs don’t float in a bowl of water, they’re still good.  I tested them out and they didn’t float!  Everyone is still in good health several days later so I’d agree with the results of the test.

Step 2: Put eggs in bowl with salt, pepper and a splash of milk and whisk away.  I used 6 eggs, but you could easily change the quantities to whatever suits your fancy.

Step 3: Cut garlic, sweet peppers and onion into small pieces that won’t since to the bottom of your egg mixture.

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Step 4: Mix vegetables in with egg mixture.

Step 5: Grease muffin tin and put egg mixture in muffin tin.  I only filled them about 3/4 full so it wouldn’t overflow when cooked.

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Step 6: Bake in oven on 350 for 20 minutes.

Step 7: Take your egg bake out of the muffin tins.  I put seaweed around a couple of the egg bakes, but they just got soggy from the moisture in the eggs so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Step 8: Make a fun design with what you have!

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Week 1: Sauces and condiments, kitchen basics – Home Assignment #1

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One recipe was for homemade chili using this recipe.

1 Qt tomato juice

2 cans of kidney beans

2 cans of chili beans

2 cans of black beans or northern beans

1 lbs of browned ground beef

Salt & Pepper as preferred

Chili power as preferred

1 cup of chopped onions

Mix together and slow cook until hot.  Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, frito chips etc…  Makes for a lot of lunches.  I think chili gets better with age!

We also made scalloped potatoes from the following recipe which we cut in half.  (The photo to the right is before cooking and after cooking to the left.)
5 lbs of potatoes skinned and sliced
onions
celery
1 can of evaporated milk
1 cup of milk
Salt & Pepper
1 can of cream of mushroom
1 can of cream of chicken
Pour into a buttered 9×13 pan
Place cubed butter on top
bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours

Since we only wanted halve the recipe we cut out the milk and used the one full can of evaporated milk. We also just used one full can of cream of mushroom soup and no cream of chicken soup. We had some bacon bits and cubed ham in the refrigerator and so we added them in an arbitrary amount as we did the onions and celery.

We have a pretty good stockpile of food on hand for making meals but the problem becomes that I tend not to eat much for dinner as part of my diet. I eat a fairly large breakfast and lunch and with 3 out of 4 kids out of the house it is more difficult to make meals without making too much food.

The experience with cooking the meal with my wife and I went well and was fun. We each did a portion of the tasks. I do enjoy using up the odds and ends in our kitchen. Doing that feels less wasteful.

Not a Chef by Trade

Let me start with the hot topic in my life and what has led to my current pantry and lifestyle situation: I recently got divorced. I no longer cook on any regular basis for my ex husband and my three stepchildren. So, going from a regular routine of homework and home cooked meals every night for 5 people to one person has caused my meals and prep to lack significantly.

My lifestyle has changed a lot as my work schedule demands have changed as well. I am much more spontaneous and do a lot less planning than I used to. Therefore I rely a lot more on pastas, frozen veggies versus fresh and other packaged soups and dinners that would lasts and allow for quick meal prep. The kids do come over from time to time so, I do have kid friendly food on hand as well, which isn’t always the most nutritious:) But if they eat it, that’s all you can ask for sometimes, right?!

With my work schedule being demanding with long hours and some late nights, I would love to get more meal planning done and use my weekends to do more weekly cooking. I have seen the lunches you can make online and that looks like a more beneficial option for me at times. I would like more fresh produce but I would need to buy it day of as I know it would spoil too quickly. I have tried some of the Hello Fresh and Blue Apron products for variations and I do like those. Though I have found some of those I don’t finish all the products in and I don’t like the waste.

The meals I chose to make including a childhood favorite of mine that we make every year during the holidays: Cheesy rice with broccoli. It is an old Campbell’s Soup recipe. The second one I made was a classic standby: Mousehouse Grilled Cheese. I have a cookbook all on grilled cheese sandwiches as the kids and I love them. Who doesn’t?!

All turned out delicious and the recipes are simple to make. If I had more fresh items and other produce on hand, I could have made much more of a variety of things. But, I’m not too picky for myself. Worse comes to worse, I end up eating a bowl of Cheerios!

2 Recipes, 1 Assignment

Okay, friends. I have to confess that I felt a bit like a cheater when we got this assignment. Prior to coming to class, I had placed an online grocery order AND confirmed my HelloFresh subscription delivery for the week. Groceries showed up on Wednesday, and HelloFresh arrived Thursday. So I had lots of food on hand and several recipes I was committed to preparing. In general, I think I do a pretty decent job of keeping cupboards stocked. I still fall into the convenience and processed food traps, but not as much as I used to. I like to cook, so that helps.

My cupboards typically have beans, soups, and pastas. I’m not much for canned veggies. Would rather use fresh and prepare them as needed. This works out well with HelloFresh, since most of the veggies they send are fresh. The grocery delivery included bell peppers, avocados, chicken breast, and ground beef (all of which were on sale). So I decided to include one of my HelloFresh adventures in this blog post and also one of the recipes I intended to make from my groceries.

The HelloFresh recipe was Spicy Shrimp Linguine. The photo shows the ingredients that were sent and the finished product. I will confess to adding some garlic bread (the frozen kind that I know is not healthy but have a hard time resisting) to that plate after taking the picture. I was really pleased with the dish overall. I try to always choose a  pescatarian meal if one is offered in the delivery menu, because I like fish but don’t tend to buy it at the grocery unless it’s frozen or on sale. The best thing about this dish, other than the taste, was that it portioned out to three meals. I ate one Friday for dinner and put the other two in the freezer for a future meal.

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The next recipe was chicken chili. This one is my own modification of the recipe on the back of the prepared spice mix (pictured). I shred the chicken instead of cutting it up, because I like the consistency better. I also use chicken broth instead of water and use the pot in which the chicken was cooked/shredded. I think it adds to the flavor. I add green chilies and bell pepper (1-1.5). In this case, I even added some celery because I had some on hand that needed to be used up. I also throw in some extra black pepper, garlic, onion, chili powder, and cumin. I’ve tinkered with this recipe for a while to get it the way I like it. The McCormick’s prepared spices are good, but they don’t pack enough of a punch for someone who grew up in Texas.

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Overall, I am pretty satisfied with the state of my cupboards and refrigerator. I would say my biggest downfalls are putting things in the freezer and leaving them too long or buying things and not using them quickly enough. Part of this is a result of living alone and not always having people to help me consume what I make. Part of it is the result of buying things to experiment and then having more than I need or deciding I don’t care for it after all. (The meal delivery subscription services are helpful here.) The other thing I wish I was better about is having fresh veggies on hand. I do a better job of this– I’m sure most of us do– in spring and summer. As good as I am with freezing, I’d like to learn how to can. I think that would help me take better advantage of summer veggies. Maybe that should be my next cooking class. . .

Pear Tart and Awesome Pork Chops

Since I talked to Bill after class about not knowing what to make and he suggested a  pear tart. I have never made a tart in my life so I found this recipe for a Rustic Pear Tart on Pinterest. It looked simple enough which is what I look for in recipes. I only had canned pears so I drained them really good. My first thoughts were that this is not going to work because its so wet and there weren’t enough pears to make this work. However, after making the dough, which was much smaller than I though and I came to the conclusion that the I had way to much fruit so I made a second one. The first one seemed like there wasn’t enough dough and fell apart on all sides. The second one I made with twice the amount of dough and at least it looks better. I think if I did this again, I would add something more to the dough for favor.

The Awesome Pork Chop recipe, I also got on Pinterest. I have made Pork chops before but usually I throw them in the oven and they turn out tough. So I did something out of my comfort zone and made these following a recipe. It called for Italian bread crumbs but I substituted cracker crumbs. The recipe had me dip the pork chops into eggs and then the bread crumbs, then fry them until golden. The recipe had me bake the pork chops and then 10 minutes before put a sauce of mushroom soup, milk and white wine. I substituted some moscoto wine for the white wine and added garlic powder because I didn’t have the Mushroom soup with roasted garlic as it was called for.  It was wonderful and will definitely make that again.

My cooking style has changed over the years. When my children were growing up, I always had a dinner ready for them with a meat, potatoes/rice and veggies. But since they are on their own, my dinners are more a what can I throw together or drive-thru meal on the fly. I am working to make more meals on the weekends so I have something to take to work for lunches.

When I look in my cupboards for something to eat, I get discouraged because nothing goes with anything. My pantry has lots of miscellaneous stuff from tea to spices, to canned veggies, to dessert making items to jellies. I have tons of spices some of which I don’t know how to use them and usually use the same ones over and over. My spices are also old and wonder if they lose their flavor after years.