Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Chili, Four Ways

Four servings of chili, all a little different, cooked at the same time. Ideal for families where people have allergies, preferences, or tastes.So, what do you do if you need to cook for people who have different likes and dislikes that simply aren't compatible?

What if you want to make a batch of chili and one person won't eat meat, one can't have dairy, and another can't have gluten?

Or maybe it's different levels of spice. Sure, you can add the heat at the end, but that's not the same as when you cook the peppers right into the chili.

Well, that's not my house, but I thought it could be a fun experiment to make a bunch of different chilis all at the same time. And the nice folks at Brod & Taylor made it easy for me when they sent me their latest folding proofer.

A proofer, if you don't know it, is a warm, cozy place where you set your bowl of bread dough to let it rise. Or you put the formed bread in there for a final rise before baking. And there's a little tray included that fits under the rack so you can add water to proof dough in a moist environment.

Folding proofer

The "folding" part refers to the fact that the proofer folds down flat for storage.

Folding proofer

I reviewed one of their previous proofers, but this one has a nifty new function - it has precise temperature control so you can use it as a slow cooker. You can also use it for making yogurt or creme fraiche. Or for cooking sous vide ... the water in your pot wouldn't circulate, but you could keep it at a nice even temperature.

I don't mean that you can dump food right into the proofer. That would be really messy. But you can put food into a pot and put the pot into the proofer and set a temperature and let it cook. Or put your yogurt in jars. Or put whatever food into whatever container it is you want to use.

Folding Proofer.

In my case, I made 4 little pots of chili - each one just about a cup. The pots I used are made from cast iron and hold about a cup, but of course you could use larger little pots. Or little ceramic dutch ovens. Or little ramekins. As long as the containers are heatproof, you're good to go. You should have a lid, but foil would be fine on a ramekin.

Four servings of chili, all a little different, cooked at the same time. Ideal for families where people have allergies, preferences, or tastes.

Here's how it went.

4-Way Chili

Four servings of chili, all a little different, cooked at the same time. Ideal for families where people have allergies, preferences, or tastes.1/2 medium onion, diced
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh, diced
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons small pasta (I used small shells)
4 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
Tomato juice (as needed, about a cup)
1 teaspoon olive oil (optional)

Line up four 1-cup cast iron dutch ovens with covers. Or you could use 1-cup ramekins and cover with foil for baking.

Fill as follows:

Vegan Chili

1/4 of the chopped onion
1/2 of the beans
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Everything but Gluten Chili

Four servings of chili, all a little different, cooked at the same time. Ideal for families where people have allergies, preferences, or tastes.1/4 of the diced onion
1/4 of the beans
1/4 of the chicken
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoon shredded cheese

Dairy Free Chili Mac

1/4 of the diced onion
1/4 of the beans
1/4 of the chicken
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of salt
1 generous tablespoon small pasta

Meaty Bean-Free Chili

1/4 of the onion
1/2 of the chicken
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of salt
1 generous tablespoon small pasta
2 tablespoons shredded cheese

These are just suggestions on how to fill them. You can put cheese on all of them, pasta in none of them, use beef instead of chicken, or go crazy with hot peppers. The point here is that you can make different chilis depending on what people like, or don't.

As you're filling the pots, try to make them relatively evenly filled compared to each other.

Fill each pot with tomato sauce until they're almost full. There will be some simmering, so if you overfill, there will some spillage. Cover the pots.

Place the pots in the proofer set to 195 degrees. That's a nice simmer, but below boiling.

The temperate in the proofer is the temperature of the items in the proofer, not the air temperature, as is the case with your oven. That's something to keep in mind if you're using the proofer for cooking.

For actual proofing, there's a rack that you set the bowl of dough on. For slow cooking, the pots don't use the rack. If I was making a large pot of chili, I'd probably put heat the pot on the stove to a simmer, then put it in the proofer for a long, slow cook. The small pots heated through pretty quickly, though, and then they started simmering just a little bit. Perfect.

Yes, you can make this in your oven. I didn't try it, but I'd suggest 325 degrees and just check it until the chicken is done.

The proofer doesn't have a timer, so I set a timer for 2 hours and walked away. I checked the chilis a couple times during the cooking time and decided they were done after 1 hour, 45 minutes. The ones without the pasta could have happily cooked longer, but I thought the chili mac was definitely done.

These can be topped with more cheese, sour cream, avocado, jalapenos, or anything else you like. Serve hot.

I received the proofer from Brod & Taylor at no cost to me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hummus Bread - Lemon and Pepper

A while back, I visited Hope Hummus and saw how they made hummus. It's a small company, and local. That's something I love. At that visit, I got samples of their hummus and their guacamole. Which I ate. Because it was good.

Recently, I got some coupons for their products, and went hunting for the guacamole. Yeah, I can make guac, but avocados are difficult. Usually they're not quite ripe at the store, so they need to sit around for a while. They're ripe for a couple seconds, then they're overripe.

Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it seems like you have to use the avocados when they're ready for you, rather than having avocados on hand for when you need them.

But ... I couldn't find the guacamole, and the coupons were burning a hole in my wallet, so I bought hummus. Hey, I like hummus, too.

And then I starting thinking about it. Scooping hummus with a pita chip is great, but I wanted to cook with it. The next thing I knew, I was planning on putting in into bread. I knew it would work. I've used alternative flours, potatoes and potato flakes, peanut butter ... so hummus wasn't a stretch.

I decided to use the hummus flavored with lemon and pepper. It added a pretty yellow color to the bread, and gave it a nice, soft texture. But pretty much any flavor hummus you have should be fine. The Sriracha one might be interesting.

I decided to make it in my bread machine, but of course you can knead by hand or machine and then form and bake in an oven.

Lemon and Pepper Hummus Bread

1 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoons Red Star active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
13 1/2 ounces (3 cups) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4  cup Hope Lemon Pepper Hummus

Add all the ingredients to your bread machine and press buttons as appropriate (hey, I don't know what options your machine has, but a basic loaf with a medium crust is what I'd suggest.)

When the bread is baked, remove it from the machine, remove from the pan, and let cool on a rack until it's completely cooled before slicing or storing.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Eating Freshly

I tend not to do reviews here - that's why I have a review blog. But in this case, I'm writing about nearly a full week of food that I received from a company called Freshly, so it I decided to post here. because it's food.

Freshly is yet another service that sends you meals. (and if you want to order, there's a discount offered at the very bottom of this post) The difference between Freshly and some (most?) of the others is that Freshly dinners are completely cooked. No chopping, slicing, or cooking needed. You just poke holes in the plastic film on top, pop it in the microwave for one or two minutes to heat it, and serve.

It's like ... um ... TV dinners? Except that this food is fresh rather than frozen.

I'll have to say that the food doesn't look all that fancy when you first open the package. This is the Chicken Rustica, before I cooked it. It was a chicken breast with sauce and a cauliflower mash.

It looks much prettier when it's plated.

For size, that's not a dinner plate. It's a chicken breast, not a turkey breast. I like eating off of small plates, so that's what I usually use for photos. While it's still not the most stunning plate of food I'd ever seen, the flavor was really good, and the chicken breast was really tender and not at all dry. If you wanted to make it more fancy, some parsley, chopped chives, or even a sprinkle of cheese would do a good job dressing it up.

My one quibble here is that my usual meals have a much larger portion of vegetables compared to the protein portion. On a normal day, I'd probably eat half of that chicken and three times as much vegetable. But that's just me.

This was actually one of my favorite meals of the bunch. I was impressed with the chicken, I liked the sauce, and I'll probably make cauliflower mash really soon. It was quite tasty.

Next came the garlic shrimp dinner. I always feel like if something's going to go bad, it's going to be the seafood. So I wanted to eat that quickly and leave the more robust foods for later.

This was good, but I had an urge to serve it with rice or noodles. Even zucchini noodles. For a meat-eater, I really really like my vegetables. With rice, I could have easily made this two full meals or more, but I ate it as-is for one meal. It had good flavor and plenty of shrimp. They weren't the super-giant shrimp, but they were a nice size.

I chose just one of the many breakfast options from Freshly. The green chili and sausage frittata was the only meal that actually looked good in its original packaging. It's warmed up here, but they only difference between heated and unheated was that the cheese was melted after it was heated.

But that didn't stop me from serving it on a plate. You totally don't need plates for these meals because the containers they come in are sturdy, but I prefer eating off of a plate.

This was a nice breakfast, but I'll be honest and say that I ate it for lunch. It made a really nice light lunch.

Next up was the grilled flatiron steak.

I loved the spinach. Yeah, here's me talking about vegetables again. The potato hash was good and had both sweet potatoes and white. I thought the steak was a bit overcooked, but it was still pretty tender. Still, I would have preferred it cooked a bit less. It reminded me more of pot roast than steak, but the flavor was good.

I loved that this came with a large portion of the spinach along with a petite portion of the potatoes. Yeah, I like my vegetables a lot. I'm going to keep saying that. Get used to it.

I didn't mention this before, but all of the packages for the different foods have a nutrition label along with a list of ingredients, so you know what you're getting.

The steak dinner was 510 calories, which seems pretty reasonable, considering you've got creamed spinach. With, you know, cream. Plus a hunk o' beef. I didn't check all the other dinners for their calorie counts, but this one seemed to be one of the heartiest.

Next up was the Chicken Livorno.

This was another one that I thought was a bit light on the vegetables. It had beans with some greens and tomatoes, but I would have loved some broccoli or green beans or something else that had more of a fresh, light flavor. But, that's just me. I'm sure some of you are shaking your heads and saying that you don't really want more vegetables than what you see on that plate.

I had this for lunch and didn't finish it. Actually, I ate about half of it. And then I had a brilliant idea. I cut the remaining chicken into small pieces, then cooked some noodles in a pot with some Better than Bouillon chicken flavored stock mix. I added the leftover chicken and beans and greens to the pot with the noodles just long enough to warm them. Yup, it was soup. And it was pretty good.

So, what does this tell us? You can adapt these meals if you don't want to eat them completely as-is. And you can stretch them, too, but adding more vegetables or a salad. Or, you know, a promise of dessert.

Last was the meatloaf. I was a little skeptical, because meatloaf can be pretty personal. Everyone loves their own meatloaf or their mom's meatloaf, and other meatloaves never measure up.

That said, this meatloaf dinner was my other favorite. The meatloaf was good, and it came with peas and potatoes, so it was a nice balance.

Overall, I liked what I ordered, and I'd be happy to eat any of them again. I think if I was eating these on a regular basis, and if I wasn't someone who liked to cook, I'd stock up on bagged salads and maybe some frozen vegetables. That way I could eat half of the protein with all the vegetables for one meal and then have the rest of the protein with my frozen vegetables on another day. And probably a salad on both days.

Yeah, I like my salads as much as I like my vegetables.

For people who don't like vegetables as much as I do, these would probably be absolutely perfect as-is.

This particular food box service is geared towards people who don't like to cook, don't want to cook, or don't have time to cook. But who also don't want to bother with all the fuss of going out to dinner. Or people who want a decent lunch at work, as long as there's a microwave to use.

Am I going to order this for myself on an ongoing basis? Probably not. I like to cook, so it's unlikely I'd buy these for all of my meals from now on. But if I knew I had a week coming up where I was going to be crazy busy, this would really work. I mean, seriously, dinner was ready in two minutes. You can't beat that! And it would be great for people who are going through stressful times, people who just moved and haven't unpacked their cooking tools, or people who live in small spaces and don't want to fuss with anything too complicated.

I received this box of food at no cost to me; I've also joined their affiliate program, which means I get a little cash if you order though my link. It won't cost you any extra.

If you're interested in ordering from Freshly, click the link and get yourself a discount:

Chef-prepared, healthy meals delivered weekly. Get 50% Off!