It’s cold out, you need to eat! – Sweet Surprise Chili

It’s January and no matter where you are in the Northern hemisphere, it’s probably a few degrees colder than usual.  Here in LA it’s been coat and sweater weather.  What better time to make chili??  I have a recipe that my family makes but I decided to try one out of the Taste of Home Casseroles, Slow Cooker, & Soups cookbook I got for Christmas.  I’m fairly pleased with the result.  This recipe was easy to make and you can clean house or do homework, etc while it’s cooking.   The plums add an interesting sweetness to the taste.  I’m taking this to work with me for lunch this week.

IMG_15453 pounds beef top sirloin steak, cubed (in an effort to keep costs down I just got regular stew meat)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage

1 large onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups water

1 can (16 oz) chili beans, undrained

1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce

1 can (14 1/2 oz) beef broth (I measured it out from a box instead of a can)

1 package (12 oz) pitted dried plums, chopped (aka prunes)

3 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

3/4 teaspoon salt

Dash cayenne pepper

IMG_15461. In a Dutch oven (for those who don’t know what this is, it’s a big, heavy cast iron pot that you could put in the oven if you wanted to), brown beef in oil in batches.  Remove and keep warm.

IMG_1547Add sausage and onion to the pan; cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.  Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

IMG_15482. Return beef to pan; stir in the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.


Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 3/4 to 2 hours or until beef is tender.

IMG_1554And that’s all she wrote!  I served mine with brown rice.  Easy and perfect for a cold winter night.  Happy cooking!







Hemp Pesto Halibut

We’re back to regular photography sadly, but I do have a new cookbook and so far its a good one!  The Hungry for Change cookbook is rocking my world right now!  Remember the last time I did halibut and I said I would never do it again?  This recipe changed my mind!

IMG_15501 medium beet, finely diced (equal to roughly 1 cup)

1 clove garlic, diced

1/2 cup hemp seeds

Juice of two lemons, plus thin lemon slices as needed

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for the fish

1 pound halibut, cut into 4 fillets (or any wild-caught fish, such as cod or haddock)

1 to 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large handfuls of lettuce greens tossed in a mix of olive oil and lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the pesto, place the beet, garlic, and hemp seeds into a food processor (I used my Vitamix blender).  Pulse until finely chopped, then add lemon juice and basil, plus salt to taste.  Keep processing while drizzling in the olive oil.  This pesto is best on the thicker side, so add only enough oil to help puree the mixture.  Puree to the smooth consistency of a typical pesto, then set aside.


To prepare the fish, coat fillets with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place them in an oiled baking dish, covering each fillet with thin slices of lemon.   Bake uncovered for 10 to 25 minutes, or until the fillets are cooked through (check with a fork).

IMG_1552To serve, divide the lettuce greens between four serving plates.  Top each bed of greens with a baked fillet, then place a scoop of the pesto onto each piece of fish.  Serve warm.

IMG_1553This turned out super delish!  Halibut is back on my good list.  Happy cooking!

Guest Photographer! – Japanese Curry

The photos are here and its finally time to post about my evening with Yelp Elite reviewer and student food photographer Mary Colleran! First, a little background, Mary is one of my fellow LMU MBAers.  She recently graduated and expressed an interest in learning how to cook.  I, on the other hand, have been wondering how to get some better pics of my cooking.  I LOVE my little Canon Elph but it’s not really up to the task of really great up close food pics.  So Mary and I decided to do a collaboration.  I cook, she watches/learns and takes photos.  Problem solved!  I wanted to cook her something she really likes since she’s taking the time to drive to my place and wait around while I put everything together so when she said she was really loving Japanese curry at the moment I thought “why not?  I’ve never tried that before!”.  I found a recipe from the Japanese Food Report.  I wanted it to be as authentic as it could be coming from a “white girl’s” kitchen.   So here it is!

IMG_1346 (2)All photos are styled, shot and chosen by Mary Colleran.

IMG_1359 (2)10.5 oz beef brisket (you can also try short ribs or other cuts but I used brisket), cut into bite-sized cubes

Salt and pepper for the beef

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

14 oz onions, sliced as thin as possible

2 teaspoons ginger, finely grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into wedges, ringiri style (I had to Google this one.  See photo)

1 large apple, peeled and coarsely grated

5 cups beef stock

1 tablespoon salt (I used half this)

10.5 oz new potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces


4 tablespoons butter

7 tablespoons flour (I wanted to use whole wheat but there was an unfortunate mishap the prevented it.  White flour was fine)

2 tablespoons curry powder (Japanese preferred but I used Madras and it worked well)

2 tablespoons garam masala

1. Season the beef with salt and pepper.

2. Melt the butter in a stock pot large enough to hold 5 quarts of liquid, over medium heat.

IMG_1365 (2)Add the onions, ginger, garlic, carrots and beef.

IMG_1373 (2)Stir and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions become translucent and the beef browned.

IMG_1377 (2)Add the apple, beef stock and salt, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

IMG_13783. Meanwhile make the roux.  In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat

IMG_1381and add the flour.

IMG_1383Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir until the butter and flour fuse and swell.

IMG_1384Don’t stop stirring or the roux will burn!

IMG_1386After about 20 minutes or so, the roux will become the “color of a fox” as the say in Japan, or a deep tan color.


At this point, add the curry and garam masala, and cook and stir for 30 seconds, until the spices release their aroma.  Turn off the heat, add a ladlefull or two of cooking liquid from the stock and mix into the paste.

IMG_14014. Add the roux paste into the stock pot and stir to combine.  Add the potatoes.

IMG_1409Simmer uncovered on low heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook for about 1 hour, or until the beef becomes tender and the curry thick.  Serve the curry with Japanese short grained rice (I used brown to be healthy) on the side.

IMG_1423I have to give a big thanks to Chef Nobuko-san from the Japanese Food Report.  I don’t often brag about the food I make but I honestly think this is the best thing I have ever made.  It was so delicious that after Mary had gone for the evening, I stood over the pot on the stove eating spoonfuls of the stuff.  It really turned out well.  I hope it does for you too!  A huge thank you to Mary!  Happy cooking!

This is not a healthy recipe! – Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Frosting

Okay so this may not be the best way to start out the New Year, to tempt you with sweet deliciousness, but they turned out so well I had to share! I did use some organic ingredients but with sugar it really doesn’t make any difference.  Sugar makes you fat, period.  So proceed at your own risk!  I made these for a New Years Eve party and they were a hit!  I will add notes as I go on what I could have done to make these more healthy.


3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped (obviously organic would have been best but I couldn’t find it!)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (whole wheat would have been better but I was worried how it would turn out)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used raw which is what you should do!)

1 1/4 cups sugar (rapadura would be the best but it’s very hard to come by!)

2 large eggs (got this one right too with pasture raised eggs)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (organic)

1/2 cup sour cream (I haven’t found raw yet but that would be best)

1/2 cup water


Put the chocolate in a heat proof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler).

IMG_1505Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

IMG_1506Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

IMG_1507In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (yay I get to use the big blue bad ass!) on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Stop and scrape the bowl as needed during mixing.

IMG_1508On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate.

IMG_1509On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter.  Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute.

IMG_1510Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain.

IMG_1511On low speed, add half the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it.  Mix in the water.  Mix in the remaining flour mixture until the matter looks smooth.

IMG_1513The batter is ready to bake! Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.

Fill each paper liner with a generous 1/3 cup of batter, to about 1/8 inch below the top of the liner.

IMG_1514Bake until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Cool cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.

IMG_1515Use a small knife to loosen any tops that have stuck to the top of the pan.  Carefully place the wire rack on top of the cupcakes in their pan.  Protecting your hands with pot holders and holding the pan and rack together, invert them to release the cupcakes onto the wire rack.  Turn the cupcakes top side up to cool completely. (I just stuck a fork under each cupcake and took it out with that so I didn’t ruin the top of the cakes).


IMG_15162 1/2 cups powdered sugar (there is no healthy option here, sadly)

1/4 cup unsalted butter

6 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl.  Heat the butter and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the better melts.

IMG_1517Remove pan from heat and stir in peppermint extract.  Pour the warm mixture over the powdered sugar,


then whisk vigorously until smooth. The icing will be soft but thick enough to cling to the top of the cupcakes.


Use a small spatula to spread a scant 2 tablespoons of icing over the top of each cupcake, spreading carefully to the edges.  Leaving about 3/4-inch plain edge, sprinkle  about 2 teaspoons of the crushed candy over each cupcake.  The cupcake can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

IMG_1520I had some problems with these guys. When I’ve made this batter it’s risen up a lot more but these were very flat.  I think it had something to do with the baking powder’s age.  The frosting was very thin and slid right off the cupcake as well.  But they tasted super yummy so that’s all that counts right?  Happy baking!

Happy 2013! – Forgotten Jambalaya

Happy 2013 to you all!  I hope you had a wonderful NYE with friends and family.   Tonight I am serving something new.  Usually I cook a traditional Brazilian meal for New Years but I decided to go back to some different roots and serve Jambalaya!  My paternal grandmother is originally from New Orleans so this is my tribute to that part of my heritage!  I used my brand new slow cooker to make this and my brand new slow cooker cookbook, both things I got for Christmas from my cooking wiz mom.

IMG_14871 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (14 1/2 oz) beef or chicken broth (I used boxed and weighed it out with a kitchen scale)

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

2 medium green peppers, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

3 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound smoked sausage, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Hot cooked rice

1. In a 5-qt. slow cooker (mine’s 6-qt but it worked fine), combine the tomatoes, broth and tomato paste.

IMG_1489Stir in the green peppers, onion, celery, garlic and seasonings.


Stir in chicken and sausage.


2. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until chicken is tender.

IMG_1502Stir in shrimp.  Cover and cook 15-30 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink.  Serve with rice.

IMG_1521This one turned out really tasty.  Rob mentioned that next time I should add okra and I couldn’t agree more so if you feel so inclined, toss some in!  Happy cooking!