Archive for January, 2013

January 8, 2013

Martha on Satellite & Spicy Chili

Spicy Chili

I’ve become a chauffeur. I know the other moms out there understand all too well. I drive people places and run errands. I’m not complaining, I’ve just had the realization that I spend an inordinate amount of time in my car. I never seem to listen to music. It’s only talk radio these days. NPR, CNN, BBC and my recent discovery, Martha Stewart on satellite. If you follow me, you know I have this tortured love hate relationship with Martha. On one hand I admire her for all her creativity and success. However, I can’t ignore the ridiculousness that is Martha.

The other day I was driving around and Martha had on a segment called “Cat Chat.” An entire show dedicated to cats and dogs. There was a call-in segment featuring a pet psychic who could read your pets thoughts and feelings. A caller said that her cat was peeing in the house. The psychic claimed the cat was feeling too much stress in her life. Another woman called in to say her adopted dog seemed upset. The psychic asked for the dog’s name. The dog owner said Bella. The psychic told her that it wasn’t the dog’s real name and its name at the shelter was Happy. The dog was sad the new owners weren’t using her real name. Really? Who comes up with this stuff? I wonder how much Martha is paying this person? I could do this job!

I’m sure it’s no surprise that during the holidays, Martha had lots of crafting and decorating tips. For example, you could have embellished your mailbox for the holidays. Just tape stripes around it, primer and paint it, paste on a ladybug and pull off the tape. Voila! Your own lady bug, candy cane striped mailbox. What happens to the mailbox after the holiday?

Did you know Martha grows and dries her own catnip? She gave some to Whoopi Goldberg as a gift once. I wonder if she also shares it with the Cat Chat lady?

I listened to 10 minutes of discussion about the benefits of cedar balls verses moth balls. She instructed one caller to dip baby booties in paraffin and use them to serve candy for her baby shower. She has an answer for everything. It’s actually quite remarkable. I do like the cooking show. She has guest chefs on the show, including Michael Symon and Mario Batali. That’s very informative, but the chances of my needing to know how to candy cane stripe my mailbox are slim.

I must mention that I saw her on TV recently explaining that she lost 150 trees on her property in hurricane Sandy. She said she recycles the trees, which is nice. She goes into the woods with a saw and cuts the trees herself. Then, of course, she brings the wood home and makes votive candle holders using her trusty drill. Amazing! We don’t even own a saw. Our fallen trees from the hurricane are now home for the squirrels. If I had a saw, I guess I could be out there now, gathering wood to make stuff.

No kidding, after all this mocking of Martha, my Martha Baking Book has gone missing. I think it’s the Cat Psychic… she’s made it disappear as punishment for disrespecting Ms. Stewart. No disrespect, it’s just that Martha makes me feel lazy and uncreative. On a positive note, she’s providing me with countless hours of entertainment when I’m in my car.

Spicy Chili

* This recipe has nothing to do with Martha Stewart, I just needed an outlet for my Martha obsession.

SPICY CHILI INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and small dice
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and small dice
  • 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4lb lean ground beef or turkey
  • 2- 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2- 15oz cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2- 15oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Few drops hot sauce
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste

Heat a large dutch oven on the stove at medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Saute the peppers and onion until they begin to soften. Add the garlic to the pan and stir, cooking until it becomes fragrant. Add the meat to the vegetables and cook, stirring often until the meat is browned. Depending on how lean your meat is, you can drain off any excessive fat.

Add the beans and tomatoes to the meat mixture, along with the spices, stir to combine. Bring the chili to a hard simmer and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. I let this sit on the stove for 3-4 hours. It just gets better as the flavors come together, so you can’t really over cook it, just keep the heat low.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFT OVER CHILI?

Taco Salad

We made these taco salads the next night. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, sliced avocado, corn, pickled jalapeño and red bell peppers. A big ladle of warm chili in the middle and a handful of crumbled tortilla chips on top. For the dressing, I combined just about equal parts of jarred salsa and sour cream. I didn’t measure. Just “eye-ball it” until it comes to a dressing consistency.

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January 1, 2013

Lidia’s Puttanesca

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Happy New Year! I’m feeling quite positive about 2013. I think it’s going to be a good year for all. I’ve decided to take the “glass half-full” approach. No real resolutions. Do we ever keep them? I’m just going to try to be more positive and block out the negativity. Our holidays had their ups and downs, but just spending time with family and friends, enjoying a delicious meal is what I always look forward to the most.

After too much cooking over the holidays I was trying to think of some easy recipes to make the family as school and work soon kick back into gear. Yes, the holidays are over and it’s time to get back into the old routine… but with that renewed “glass half-full” optimistic approach to things. Make life a little easier. To start, you could make this simple Puttanesca I’ve adapted from the wonderful Lidia. Super quick and perfect for a weeknight dinner.

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Did you know Puttanesca translates to “whore’s style spaghetti?” I’ve also seen it referred to as “in the style of a prostitute” and “made by ladies of the evening.” I recall the history as follows…  since the “ladies” worked late nights and weren’t able to get to the markets for fresh ingredients, they created Puttanesca by using common ingredients they already had available in their pantry. They certainly were on to something. How could the combination of anchovies, olives and capers ever be bad? Brilliant! It’s one of those dishes you find on the menu at most Italian restaurants, but personally I’d never think to order it. It couldn’t be simpler to make at home, includes all the staples you probably already have, and it whips up fast for a perfect dinner.

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I picked up Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen about a year ago. I think I bought it because a friend mentioned it had the best lasagna recipe. Lasagna is such a project, I still haven’t made it. But I have made Lidia’s sausage and peppers, spaghetti with mushrooms, garlic & parsley and this awesome dish of Puttanesca. I need to find time to make more from this book.

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Adapted from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

  • 35 oz can of plum tomatoes (I use Cento brand)
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed firm green olives & kalamata olives (pitted and cut in half)
  • 1 pound thick spaghetti (or other shape of choice)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup tiny capers, drained
  • Big handful chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for your pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions. Remove it about 1 minute early as it will cook for a minute in the pan with the sauce.

Meanwhile, as you wait for the water to boil, pour the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with your hands. Set aside.

Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat in a large (6qt) sauté pan. You want the pan to be big enough to hold the sauce and the pasta.  Add the garlic to the olive oil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the anchovies and break-up with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the olives to the pan and stir for 2 minutes. Pour in the bowl of canned tomatoes, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and toss in the capers. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta when ready and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss the sauce and pasta together and remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the Pecorino cheese and combine again.

Serve immediately with a nice glass of Italian red wine and a hunk of crusty bread. YUM!

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