Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Chili Con Carne

Oh, slow cooker, you make a good chili. You're like a personal chef, working hard all day in the kitchen while I do other, more exciting things - like laundry, doing the school run, and checking Facebook (again). Okay, so while cooking is pretty much my favourite thing to do when I'm at home, I know not everyone feels that way. On days you don't feel like cooking in the evening or life is just too hectic, this yummy slow cooker chili con carne will hit the spot with little fuss. The best part is it makes at least 8 servings, so you can freeze half for another time.

All you have to do is brown the meat first, then stir together all the ingredients in the slow cooker and plug it in. Imagine going Christmas shopping all day and coming home to a house smelling of homemade chili! To dress it up, top your hot bowls of chili with sour cream, grated cheese or chopped green onion, then grab a spoon and dig in.

Slow Cooker Chili con Carne
Makes 8 servings

2 lb (900 g) ground beef, pork or turkey (or a mixture)
2 cups (500 mL) diced yellow onion
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced red bell pepper
1 cup (250 mL) chopped celery
1 can (796 mL/28 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (796 mL/28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (796 mL/28 oz) crushed tomatoes
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp (30 mL) mild chili powder
2 tsp (10 mL) ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt

Warm a large frying pan or pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and any excess liquid is evaporated. Transfer the meat to a slow cooker with at least 5-quart capacity.

Add the onion, red pepper, celery, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, garlic, chili powder, cumin and salt to the slow cooker. Stir to mix it all together.

Cover and cook on HIGH for 5 hours, or on LOW for 8 hours.

TIP - If you want to spice it up, add 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cayenne, or substitute a hot chili powder for some of the mild chili powder. Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, and chopped green onion or chives.

What's meals are you making in your slow cooker this month? Leave a comment and share your family favourites...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Coming next week on Family Feedbag...

On December 1st, I'll be making spirits bright with the 2014 Best Christmas Gifts for the Home Cook wish list, followed by giveaways all week! This wish list has fantastic items from some of my favourite kitchen brands, and Family Feedbag readers will get a chance to WIN some of them to put under your own tree!

So, be sure to be here on Monday, all you jolly, happy souls. Jingle, jingle!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

For the love of recipe booklets

It may be an odd thing to hear from a food blogger, but I love recipes on paper. I just do, and I think a lot of people still do. There's just something about holding recipes and images in my hands that works better in the kitchen. I can mark the pages with a pencil and find my spot in the recipe easily without a screen timing out on me. Plus, I don't worry about splashing batter or dusting flour on paper like I do on my tablet or laptop. Yup, I love my cookbook collection. But it's not the only place I go to for printed recipes.

One of the best resources for home cooks is recipe booklets. About the size of a novel but only 20 or so pages, recipe booklets are responsible for some of my earliest successes in the kitchen. Sometimes these booklets come as a magazine insert, sometimes they're at the grocery store, and often they are produced by brands looking to promote their product. Sure, it's advertising. But, as I often tell my cooking class students, these companies want you to have success with their product, and they're going to use the very best recipes to win you over. Recipe booklets are the home cook's secret to fail-proof baking.

The Robin Hood flour company has been producing recipe booklets for three decades. Company spokesperson, Meribeth Burns, says research into current food trends, innovations and feedback from consumers all play important roles in recipe development. "Our recipe development teams have a strong focus on creating recipes that are easy-to-follow, time-saving, and inspirational, which are three of the most important factors our consumers look for when considering a recipe," Burns tells Family Feedbag. She says a lot of effort goes into creating the best recipes to showcase flour. "The process of creating the Robin Hood Bake Some Memories booklet begins almost immediately following the publication of the previous year's booklet. It is a fully integrated project that involves numerous teams from marketing to development and our test kitchen to advertising and design."

Through my own efforts some hand-me-downs from my grandmother's recipe collection, I have a lovely little collection of current and vintage recipe booklets in my kitchen. Half resource, half relic, I treasure them for the glimpse they offer into the past, and the recipes I might one day make again.

Do you collect recipe booklets? Which ones are your favourites?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

West Coast Fish Chowder

Time to cozy up with a bowl of fish chowder packed with west coast flavour. This big pot of comfort gets its North Pacific flavour from tender cubes of rockfish and smoky bits of candied salmon. Simmered with onion, carrot, potato and kale in flavourful fish stock (or chicken stock, if you don't have it), for me this is Vancouver Island in a bowl.

I don't mind the frosty air when this is on the dinner table at the end of the day. So, let the wind blow. Let the waves crash upon the rocky shore. I'll be by the fire with a warm bowl of fish chowder and some crusty bread.

Get the recipe below and bring on the comfort food, west coast style.

West Coast Fish Chowder
Makes 4 to 5 servings

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) diced yellow onion
1 cup (250 mL) diced peeled carrot
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme
2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour
3 cups (750 mL) peeled diced potato
3 oz (85 g) smoked candied salmon nugget, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 cups (1 L) fish stock (or chicken or vegetable stock)
10 oz (285 g) rockfish fillet, cubed (or other firm white fish)
1 cup (250 mL) roughly chopped kale
1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream
1.5 oz (1 shot glass full) white wine

Melt the butter in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and salt. Cook for 5 minutes to soften, stirring frequently. Stir in the thyme and flour to coat the veggies. Add the potato and candied salmon. Pour in the stock. Turn the heat to high and bring the works to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rock fish, kale and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Stir in the wine.

What dish makes you think of the west coast?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Marmalade Baked Chicken Drumsticks

Anyone who loves canning knows it's easy to end up with more jars of preserves than you know what to do with. That's because filling jars with homemade jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys is just so addictive! To make the most of my homemade preserves, I love to incorporate them into my cooking as often as possible, like these baked chicken drumsticks made with a quick and delicious marmalade sauce. With some rice and steamed veg, this makes a satisfying weeknight supper. And leftover drumsticks are great cold in packed lunches.
Other preserves I like to work into my cooking include chutneys and relishes. They brighten many dishes that need a little flavour boost. Even fruit jellies like grape and apple work nicely to add a touch of sweetness to slow-cooked meats.
Are you using preserves like marmalade in your cooking? I'd love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below about the creative ways you make the most of what's in your canning jars.

Marmalade Baked Chicken Drumsticks
Makes 4 servings

a splash of vegetable oil
3 lb (1.4 kg) chicken drumsticks (about a dozen)
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange marmalade
1/4 cup (60 mL) cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) grated fresh ginger
1 tsp (5 mL) cornstarch
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
2 green onions, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the drumsticks to the hot pan, cooking 4 to 5 minutes a side to brown (you may prefer to do this in 2 batches to avoid crowding the pan).

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the marmalade, vinegar, garlic, ginger, cornstarch and salt.

Arrange the drumsticks in a large casserole or baking dish. Pour the marmalade sauce over the drumsticks. Tuck the lemon slices around the drumsticks. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle with the green onions to serve.

Do you have a favourite dish made with marmalade? Leave a comment and share your recipe links!