Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Claud's Chili that's only second to Mama MaryAnn's

I got this recipe off of at the beginning of the year and made it for Supebowl and again for the third time this past weekend. Needless to say it was awesome! And coming from me that means a lot afterall I am famous for saying, when asked what I was going to eat at the Orange County Fair, "I'm gonna eat chili cheese everything!"

When I got this recipe I read through the various reviews, which I stronly recommend you do if you take a recipe from this site or any site that offers reviews. Anywho, after reading the many reviews I tweaked the recipe as I saw fit for us. As everyone knows chili is a matter of taste some like it sweet while some like it hot. I like it with some spice and very savory, which I think this recipe does well.

I've noted my changes in red and have converted this recipe from stove top to slow cooker (8qt crockpot) recipe. I'd also like to note that I have never made it as it is written nor have I made it on the stove top. The only way I've made it is how I suggest you make it, but it's completely up to you. You can also easily 1/2 the recipe and still end up with a lot of chilli.

One last thing as you look through some of my "adjustments" they may seem a little unorthodox or like I have a total disregard for health but this is comfort food people not diet food so put that in yo' pipe and smoke it!

Boilermaker Tailgate Chili

2 pounds ground beef chuck (I used stew beef cut into little cubes, so they break up easily)
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I used hot Italian Sausage)
3 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice (Due to crockpot space I used (3) 14.5 oz cans)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped (didn't use, don't care for it)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (only used 1/2 due to space in crockpot)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (only used 1/2 due to space in crockpot)
2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped (I used jalapenos with seeds removed)
1 tablespoon bacon bits (Used 4 bacon strips instead, crumble & reserve grease)
4 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 cup beer (Used one full beer, Pacifico to be exact)
1/4 cup chili powder (For a special kick use Mexican chili powder)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (the first time I made I didn't add it because I didn't have it & honestly I didn't see a difference with it)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano (If you use the Mexican chili powder use Mexican Oregano)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™) (I used Cholula)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 3/4 tbspn)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon white sugar (Didn't use, I like it savory so I added the juice of 1/2 a lime instead)
1 (10.5 ounce) bag corn chips such as Fritos® (Have never used)
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese (I don't "measure" shredded cheese I just shred it and whatever Ryan doesn't eat before hand we use)

This directions are split to show ST=Stovetop & CP=Crock Pot
1.ST:Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble the ground chuck and sausage into the hot pan, and cook until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease.
CP:The directions will be the same, except if you use the beef stew meat do not drain as it will not be greasy just juicy. While you are browning the meat saute the onions in the bacon grease until tender then transfer contents to crockpot, both the meat and the onions.

2.ST:Pour in the chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chile peppers, bacon bits, bouillon, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
CP: Pour the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the fritos & cheese of course, into Crockpot and mix well. And set to cook on HIGH for 10 hours. Keep a close eye on it because it might spill over from being full.

3.ST:After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve, or refrigerate, and serve the next day. CP: In the last 2 hours of cooking give the chili a taste and adjust salt & pepper as needed, I've never had to, at this point if you'd like to make it a little spicier add some crush red pepper flakes. I have done that and it does make it spicier.

4.ST:To serve, ladle into bowls, and top with corn chips and shredded Cheddar cheese.
CP: I do not use the corn chips but I do offer sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese & green onions and I serve the chili in bread bowls.
A couple of last minute notes: I'm sure there are easier ways to make chili out there but I like this one. And believe it or not it isn't greasy at all. One last thing, I recommend you try serving this in Rosemary bread bread bowls. Trust me it's soooo worth it and you can buy the bread in the bakery section of any grocery store. If you want to add a little something different, on one of the blogs I visit the gal revealed the "secret ingredient" in her chili, cinnamon. Which totally made sence and made me wonder why I hand't thought of it before. So if you are feeling adventurous try putting in just a dash to really play up the spices.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Easy Oreo Truffles - The Little Black Balls That Started It All

Picture & Recipe Courtesy of

These little truffles were the ones that gave me the baking bug, which is kinda ironic seeing how these aren't a "baked good" at all. But what they are is delicious!!! Not only are these truffles a must try but they will become one of the most requested items you make.

They are soooo easy to make and yet they look so gourmet when they're done you'll be embarrassed to tell people how easy they were to make, I know I was. So when you make these do as the Mom did in the old Rice Crispies Treats commercials. Pretend you slaved all day in the kitchen and don't forget to throw a sprinkling of cocoa powder in your face for effect. To make these even easier, be sure to check out my notes below.

Easy Oreo Truffles

1 pkg. (1 lb., 2 oz.) OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted
CRUSH 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
DIP balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
REFRIGERATE until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

TIP:How to Easily Dip Truffles
Place truffle ball in melted chocolate to coat; roll if necessary. Lift truffle from chocolate using 2 forks (this will allow excess chocolate to run off) before placing on wax paper. You can also put the balls in the refrigerator to firm up a bit, then poke a toothpick in them and then dip them into the chocolate. I usually use the forks.

NOTE: I take a shortcut that takes these Truffles from easy to fool proof in 30 seconds flat. Instead of melting the baking chocolate in a double boiler. I side step that whole thing by simply buying dipping chocolate, the kind you melt in the microwave. There is no additional clean up & it's sooo easy to do.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Penne Rustica aka Man Pleaser

If anyone has been to Macaroni Grill they know there are two must haves, the Pasta Milano & the Penne Rustica. This rich pasta dish is a luscious mix of penne, pancetta, shrimp & grilled chicken all swimming in a decadent cream sauce. And although it might seem like it's too much work, trust me when you get a whiff of the garlic & rosemary sauteing in the butter, you won't second guess the work! You may have to hit the gym first thing in the morning though, which is why I would only recommend you make this for special occasions or as the AKA suggests to please your man or impress your friends & family.
Overall we liked the recipe very much. The sauce is too die. Is it a carbon copy of Macaroni Grill's Penne Rustica? No, but it's a good rival and I will definately be making this again.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe as the recipe I got off the internet wasn't very complete. I will write the recipe as is, but please see my notes/changes below. So without further a do here is the Man Pleaser, I mean the Penne Rustica!

Penne Rustica

1 tbspn Butter
1 tbspn Garlic
1/2 tbspn Dijon Mustard
1/2 tspn Salt
1/2 tspn Chopped Rosemary
1/2 cup Marsala Wine
1/8 tspn Cayenne Pepper
4 cups Heavy Cream

Saute butter, garlic and rosemary until garlic & rosemary are fragrant. Add Marsala wine and reduce by 1/3. Add remaining ingredients and reduce by half of original volume set aside.

1/2 oz pancetta or bacon
9 ea. Shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used colossal)
6 oz. grilled chicken breast, sliced
16 oz. penne, pre-cooked
3 oz. butter
1/2 Tblspn shallots,chopped
Pinch of Salt & pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tspn paprika

Saute pancetta until it begins to brown. Add butter, shallots and shrimp. Cook until shrimp re evenly pink but still translucent. Add chicken, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly. Add sauce and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and simmer until sauce thickens. In a large bowl, combine shrimp and chicken mixture with precooked pasta. Place this mixture into single serving dishes or one large casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 300* for 10-15 minutes.

NOTES: I baked the Penne Rustica in my 2 1/2 qt. corning ware dish. I strongly recommend you bake it in a dish that is at least 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep for the sauce's sake. First off the sauce, if I would have let it reduce by 1/2 I would probably still be cooking. I did the sauce as the water boiled & the penne was done & the "penne" part was ready for the sauce. And trust me the sauce was thick enough and it didn't reduce by half. Second, I used four slices of pancetta because I couldn't bring myself to ordering 1oz at the deli. Next time I think I would add 1/2 of the 1/4 pound I bought if not all. As for the chicken I used 1 chicken breast and seasoned it with salt & pepper. Third, the Parmesan cheese is wrong. You do add a 1/2 a cup into the the mixture however, you still require more to sprinkle on top. I would sprinkle enough to cover the top but not make a full layer of cheese on top. Also I would finely grate it too as apposed to shredding it. Finally, the paprika I would just sprinkle it liberally & eye ball it. That's what's going to give it that beautiful Tuscan inspired color.

Other than that I would recommend you enjoy it with a special someone or a group of someones with a good bottle of wine and Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder's "Taking Timbuktu". I know what you're thinking this meals requires some Sinatra but trust me this Album brings the romance,sexiness and vibrance of all these wonderful flavors to life!

And just so you are sure to try this here is one last shot. This one, is a shot after we dug in so you can see all the layers of deliciousness!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My First Post

I thought long and hard about this which then led me to think why do I need a blog if I can't even think of anything to write for my first post? Truth is I was over thinking it. I was building it all in my mind as my big inauguration into the world of blogs. Picturing confetti & champagne pouring down on me as I hit "Publish Post". Flash bulbs going off as I heard the paparazzi yell "Claudia over here, over here Claudia" as I stepped away from the computer and onto the red carpet.

So without much of a bang, this is my first post. I hope to share recipe reviews, events in my life, various writings, restaurants I've visited and recommend.

Let's see if all of this is what this blog ends up being. Sometimes these things have a mind of their own.