Post Turkey Day Detox (sort of) Chili

Is it a soup? Is it a chili? Does it matter? I served this healthy concoction the day after Thanksgiving. Sister-in-law Amy could not believe her taste buds. "So filling!" she proclaimed. She would return for refills three times in two days. I thought maybe she'd like the recipe.


Epic Fails

Ever see the commercial where the turkey flies out the window?  I almost wish that'd happen to me. Dare to dream. Not that I don't have my own epic fails to report.

My earliest kitchen disaster moment is one I don't remember and can only repeat as told to me by my mother. I'm four years old and announce I will cook breakfast my-self. I drop the full carton of eggs and they explode across the kitchen floor. I insist on cleaning up my-self. After using a tree's worth of paper towels I say to my mother, "Will you please punish me and send me to my room instead?" Avoidance technique activated.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese circa 5th grade. Foamy bubbles appear in the pot after adding the noodles to the boiling water. I panic. Surely dish soap had not been properly rinsed at last wash. I dump the toxic noodles for fear of being poisoned. I wash the pot (properly) and begin anew. Second try, same as the first, I am defeated. Later that day my mother tells me all was well and non-dangerous. Two dollars down the drain. I decide to ask Mom to cook mac and cheese for me next time. Avoidance technique reinforced.

Asian stir-fry mid 90s. I borrow my friend's wok. I chop vegetables and chicken. Uncle Ben's Rice in a Bag (ready in ten!) is teed up. I pour in the oil and put on the lid, turn the burner to high. I'm pumped to stir fry the night away. As I lift the lid to begin, poof! Full on fire in the wok, smoke, alarm goes off, I throw the lid back on, turn off the flame and stand back. The fire eventually fizzles. The wok is destroyed and I buy my friend a new one. Back to Ron of Japan. Avoidance technique solidified.

Years pass. I marry. I grapple with my inabilities, trying, failing, takeout and cold cereal for dinner. Yet here I am with a food blog. A pumpkin roasting in my oven right now. It is, after all, almost Thanksgiving and Sister-in-Law Amy and I have pies to bake! I am not afraid of epic failing, partly because I live within one mile of bakeries and grocery stores to save me. I doubt I will need a net this year. Unless of course a pie goes flying out the window. Dare to dream.


Turkey Tacos

Tacos. Kids like traditional crunchy shells. I prefer soft corn tortillas. Husband Todd eats whatever's there. That's the easy part.

The hard part is creating a meat mixture that's not overly salty, greasy or spicy. Using a seasoning packet is one way to go unless you're reading this post. If you live in a taco house (figuratively speaking) keep cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and dried oregano on hand. C'mon who doesn't?

I have my new internet friend Cook's Illustrated to thank for this concoction. Also my human friend Gayle who raved about Cook's Illustrated Best Recipes Cookbook (it's made from paper) then shunned me for not owning a copy. I Googled CI to see what the fuss was all about and found their online magazine. After a free two-week trial I was hooked. Now I'm a full member and have yet to dislike a recipe. Well worth the 30 or so bucks.


Leave it to the Professionals

Here are foods I vow never (okay, likely never) to cook from scratch again.

Hummus: Easy right? Sure as long as you own a food processor and you're not afraid to use it. Meanwhile perfecting the ratios (salt to lemon to tahini to beans) elicits the cry, "Enough already!" Nevermind the price; prepared hummus from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or Chicago's Middle East Bakery all cost less than the price of two cans of beans, a jar of tahini and a lemon.

Tabbouleh: Aye caramba. The parsley, tomatoes, bulghur and so on. Again, Middle East Bakery. Trader Joe's version is okay, sometimes too much onion for me.

Beef jerky: Yeah that's right, lured by a homemade jerky recipe from an unnamed French cooking magazine. Though tasty, I'm sticking with the packaged nitrate-free stuff at Whole Foods or Joe's.

Fried chicken: One and done. Delicious, messy, not worth it. Visit the Whole Foods hot bar for a fine alternative.

Veggie smoothies: So not palatable. Jamba Juice, people!

Risotto: Let someone else stir for 30 straight minutes.

Whole fish head intact: My husband, disgusted by the foggy eyeball staring back at him, nearly ordered a pizza. Instead I deboned the little fishy and we dined in peace. I see only fillets in our future.

Gazpacho: Tried three times, this mess and a jumbo time commitment received, "It's just okay," ratings. I have moved on.

Potato pancakes a.k.a. "latkes": See "Fried Chicken" above. Visit Trader Joe's freezer section for a fine alternative.

Haggis: Just kidding!

Coming soon: Foods I cook so well eating them anyplace else is a travesty.


Indian Vegetable Salad

As a kid here's what ethnic food meant to me. Sunday night Chinese takeout from one of three strip mall restaurants within a five minute drive. Perfect way to end a weekend. Oh and Christmas Day dinner of course.

Teenage years I branched out. Chinese food in Chinatown, NYC on cross country car trips with my parents during which I blasted Rick Springfield cassettes (under 30? ask your parents) through headphones that were cemented to my ears as I clutched something called a Walkman that broke during one trip so my parents landed me a new one, STAT, saving our vacation bliss from ruin.

College. More Chinese food, often when parents were in town. Unless everyone's up for T.G.I. Fridays in which case I'll have the Chinese chicken salad, thank you. There was also a Japanese place where you sit with strangers and pray the flying cleavers don't land on your head. My San Fernando Valley roommate would order California rolls (what is that? what's sushi?!) as my chicken teriyaki sizzled before me.

Now I pretty much eat the globe (aside from Chinese food, go figure). Yet cooking my favorites, like Mexican, Indian, and Japanese, frightens me. Have you ever seen a recipe for mole sauce? Sushi rolls? Tandoori chicken?

Then my friend Donna invited me to join her at Naveen's Cuisine for an Indian cooking demo class. Like manna from heaven! Three hours and and a few days later here's my first Indian recipe which by the way takes less time than waiting for a strip mall Chinese restaurant delivery guy to arrive on your doorstep. Honest.


Basil Marinated Chicken

My friend Gayle finally, FINALLY purchased her first gas grill. A move she's been contemplating for some time. Last night she grilled chicken and after dinner she "had no pans!" As in no pans (or pots) to wash.

No pots or pans to wash after grilling? You don't say! She considered this a miracle then asked me, Think I can cook breakfast on the grill? Of course, I told her. Toast!

I don't know what marinade she used but here's my favorite for grilled chicken. I nabbed this one from Food Network.


Curried Chickpeas and Vegetables

I think I've gotten cocky lately, lost my focus, if you will. At least that what recently botched dinners might say. Of late there's been a 4 1/2 pound corned beef brisket overcooked beyond recognition, a 3 pound turkey breast with a raw center, and a sweet potato falafel thing I desperately wanted to like but couldn't. Be soothed in knowing my debacles continue. Typing recipes on a blog does not lead to perfection.

To get my groove back I needed to prepare a winner dish. I turned to Curried Chickpeas and Vegetables from Joy of Cooking, recommended by Sister-in-law Amy. Under/over cooking nearly impossible. I served this dish to company. And they liked it, or so they said. Either way, focus has been restored.


Roasted Vegetables

In the late 90s, we discovered oven-roasted vegetables at Chicago's now defunct Bistro 110. The first time I saw them on the menu I had to ask the waitress, "What are roasted vegetables?" She explained. I ordered. It was love at first taste.

Fast forward to mid 2000s, my friend Gayle showed up to a potluck dinner holding a tray chock full of perfectly roasted vegetables. I had to ask, how did you do this? She explained, "You need a very hot oven: 425 or 450. Cut everything small and the same size. Olive oil, drizzled, salt and pepper. Take 'em out when they sizzle. Delicious!" I took note.



How to cook a brisket. Such an utterance sets off a chain reaction of controversy among Jewish women across the globe.

"Brown it before roasting; there's need to brown. Lay it in the pan fat side up; no, fat side down. Throw in a bottle of chili sauce and a packet of onion soup mix; douse it in a can of beer or Coke, or water. Potatoes and carrots are a must; no one cares about potatoes and carrots. Baste, don't baste. 325 oven, 350 oven, 375 oven. Twenty minutes per pound, 15 minutes per pound, cook it all day. Slice when it's hot; slice when it's cold. Cut against the grain at an angle...oh, just forget the angle. Hold on; I'm checking with my sister/mom/grandma."

What a mess, and why it's taken so long for me to post this recipe. I succumbed when my Irish-Italian, Catholic BFF from high school needed a brisket wingman. I helped her through this Williams-Sonoma recipe, my current favorite. She rocked it.


Gluten-free Banana Breakfast Cookies

Gluten-free breakfast cookies? Yeah that's right. Here's why.

My number one breakfast choice is scrambled eggs and coffee from a real mug. Yet some mornings there I stand at Starbucks hungry for something other than one of their sugar laden muffins later to cause me jitters. Okay maybe it's the coffee. Either way, this homemade cookie is a fine alternative.