Chile Chili

It seems like, as the winter marches on, I only want to eat soup or stews. That's it. Screw salads, toss out the sandwiches, forget nachos (yeah, I said it) and just give me a steaming bowl of hot deliciousness. But I've found myself bored with my standard vegetarian chili recipe. It never seems to have that intense flavor that I want so I took a trip to my local El Guero, and picked up a bag of dried pulla chiles. The small red chile has a sharp bite and before rehydrating, you'll want to chop off the stem and shake out the seeds, which contain the real heat, unless extremely hot inedible food is your thing.

I found that the addition of real chiles in my chili, really took my standard bowl of tomatoes and veggies over the edge (that's a good thing).

Pulla Chile Chili

one bag pulla chiles (about 12-15 chili pods)
3 stalks celery
3-4 cloves of garlic
small 8oz can of tomato sauce
a couple squeezes of tomato paste
one small onion
one can of black beans
one can of corn

garnish: crushed Saltines, chopped cilantro, sour cream, and lots of chedda' cheese!

1. Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles. (careful - don't touch your eyes or face until washing hands. the heat stays with you)

2. Place chile pods in boiling water, seasoned with veggie or chicken stock, salt, cumin, celery, chopped onion & garlic and tomato paste

4. Boil for about 15 - 20 minutes and puree in food processor, until chiles and onions are soft

5. Pour mixture into large saucepan, add corn, beans, season to taste and serve! (If mixture is too thick, add stock until you reach the desired consistency)


Mystery Vegetable

LA blogger Smitty here with a vegetable challenge
Can you name this vegetable? I bought it at the LA farmer's market the other day, but I can't remember the name of it. The lady at the stand told me what it was, but the name was at least 3 syllables and impossible to remember. She said I could chop it and put it on salad, or I could roast it, and that it would taste like celery. Well, tonight I chopped it (looks like an apple when you chop, only there's no core) and roasted it and I can't say it tasted like celery -- more like a radish crossed with a zucchini. Anyway, take your guesses in the comments!


Armando in the Kitchen

Name: Armando
Age: 29
Occupation: Lover
Resides in: Ukie Village, Chicago

1. Fav restaurant in Chicago - brand spankin' new or an old stand by:

Kuma's Corner. I'm 2/3 through their burger menu and the make your own mac n cheese isn't too shabby either. Oh yeah, did I mention their beer list? I already know which burger is next on my list. Led Zeppelin will be conquered soon!

2. If you could have dinner with any chef or food personality, who would it be and where would you go?:

Lidia Bastianich. I get excited every Saturday morning because I love watching the cooking shows on PBS. I considered Rick Bayless but he seems kinda corny, although certainly the food would be terrific. Lidia, on the other hand, seems cool and would be fun to hangout with in the kitchen. My exposure to Italian cuisine is minimal at best. Lidia's Italy is a great show and make me curious about trying more Italian food. Also, importantly she always pairs wine with all of her meals. It would be awesome just to hang around her kitchen drinking wine and listening to records while she makes dinner.

3. What hasn’t been battered and fried that you think should be?

Yes Please! Hmmm, I have to think about this one. Fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sound pretty freakin' amazing or how about a piece of chocolate cake. Could be lovely, don't you think? I have a feeling someone somewhere in the world may have already tried either though. Too bad The Prodigal Son had to go and burn down.

*Footnote* The Prodigal Son was a great dive bar in Lincoln Park that had free baskets of bacon on Wednesday nights. They also allowed you to bring in any food you wanted and would drop it in their deep fryer for you.

4. What’s in your freezer that you should have gotten rid of 2 years ago?:

I have an open bag of corn in my freezer that I brought with me to my new apartment. I'm throwing it out right now. I swear.

5. What's the one food item in your pantry you can't live without? For instance, Ranch dressing or perhaps Nutella.

Almonds, a handful goes a long way and they're good for you.

6. Do you think the CTA should add a snack-car to each train?:

No way, I don't think I could eat with the stench of pee in the air.

7. Speaking of, what was your favorite childhood snack?:

Homemade flour tortillas with butter. So nice. Thanks mom.

8. It's the year 2042 and our new robot government has insisted that we all eat the same breakfast every day, day after day. What would you choose?

McGriddles, I rarely get them but they're a treat. I would be totally happy with a McGriddle every morning.

9. What is your favorite comfort food meal? We’re talking wintery-cozy-belly-filling goodness here.:

Without a doubt, grilled cheese and tomato soup. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. I guess I know what's for dinner tomorrow. I make my grilled cheese with caramelized onions and avocado. I prefer my tomato soup creamy with chunky tomato bits, and topped with Parmesan cheese.

10. Give us the Rodney Dangerfield of veggies - what vegetable doesn’t get the respect it deserves?

Brussel Sprouts. I just had them for the first time a couple of years ago. I was thoroughly impressed. Sauteed with garlic and butter made them very tasty.

10. And finally, is Dippin' Dots really the ice cream of the future?

No thank you, I'm not interested.


Easy Mary

On this snow-covered evening, use this photo from a recent trip to Easy Bar as inspiration to get you through the blustery week in one piece. Secret ingredient: Barbecue Sauce. It's amazing. See you at brunch.

Easy Bar
1944 West Division St
(773) 227-4644


Spaghetti Squash Soup

Most people enjoy spaghetti squash for the fun spaghetti-like strands that are contained inside of the large football-shaped gourd. I mean, it is The Fun Squash! But in this soup, you puree away the spaghetti threads and focus on the flavor of this winter vegetable. I have to say, I even impressed myself with the high level of deliciousness contained in this simple soup. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash Soup
One large spaghetti squash
Olive oil (I used truffle olive oil - thanks Peen!)
Curry Powder
Chicken or vegetable stock
Sour cream and green onions for garnish

1) Split the squash in half (the long way), scrape out the seeds and drizzle with olive oil.
2) Fill a baking pan half-way with water, place the squash in the pan (meaty side up) and roast until soft - about 45 minutes - at 400 degrees.
3) Once soft, scrape out the spaghetti interiors. Add squash, stock, curry, and seasoning to a large pot and puree with an immersion blender.
4) Boil until you're happy with the flavor.
5) Finely chop up the green onions and mix with sour cream. Add as a delicious garnish and enjoy!

Squash, post-roast.

The finished product, with green onion-sour cream garnish

Jenny is known as the "Fun Girl" so this meal was inspired by her!


Turkish Delights

In the process of transferring old photos off my old camera, to save for posterity, I found some real gems from my trip to Istanbul, Turkey with my friend Lindsay and her (Turkish) family in 2008. The country was beautiful, the people were generous and the food was absolutely amazing. I'd eat a Turkish breakfast - olives, white cheese, tomatoes, and fruit - every day for the rest of my life.

Zeytins! Olives! They were everywhere and this made me happy.

In the amazing spice market(I could live there), you could shave pieces off from these towers of pistachio candy.

The spice market! The sellers there are very smooth, using lines like "You are so beautiful, for you, I charge only 10 lira!" on every woman who walks by. You can also bargain in these markets - in fact, it's expected.

Breakfast - olives, cheese, jam and bread. Not pictured: the strongest coffee you've ever had.

This was a little cafe right off the jelly-fish filled Bosphorus, the winding river that separates Europe from Asia. Freelance fishermen caught fish off of the bridge, and sold them directly to the restaurant. They then chop off the fish's head, grill it and serve it on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and lemon juice. And that's all they serve. Talk about fresh, Uncle Turan was proud to bring us here.

Coffee in Turkey is strong, thick and will give you the shakes. Those who wish for less of a caffeine buzz should opt for the tea, which is just as prevalent. Here, I went for an artistic shot while on a bargaining break in the Grand Bazaar.

We did a lot of this.

Turkey had some amazing snack food advertisements. America should take note and step up their game.


Bacon Cupcakes #2

Alright folks, we've got the recipe! Enjoy and if you attempt to make these precious treats, please let us know how it goes!

(recipe courtesy of Meghan Brasuell via Shannon Dedman)

Chocolate Bacon Guinness Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes

and it begins

1 cup Guinness (or another dark Stout. But I say stick with the original)
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweeted cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tbsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 pound crispy cooked bacon (save the grease. yep.)

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
2. Bring Guiness and butter to a simmer in large saucepan. Add cocoa and whisk until smooth.
3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
4. Beat together eggs and sour cream in a different bowl (yes you need a lot of bowls for this project), add Guiness and beat until fully mixed.
5. Add flour mixture to the egg/Guiness bowl and beat briefly on slow speed.
6. HERE WE GO. Add the crumbled bacon but save 1/4 cup for later.
7. Fold batter until completely combined, fill lined muffin tins with the batter and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Yes, please.

2/3 cups butter
2 tbsp. bacon grease (YES I SAID IT)
2/3 cups cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup Guinness
1 tsp vanilla

1. Melt butter, stir in bacon greasem then the cocoa until smooth
2. Add Guinness, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating smooth each time you add more
3. Stir in vanilla and chill slightly until thickened.
4. Frost it up!
5. Sprinkle finished cupcakes with bacon bits.

Um, enjoy. I feel guilty just typing this out. Let us know how your preparation goes bacon-breath!