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Buffalo Chicken Chili

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I have Biz to thank for this amazeballs recipe.  I like a lot of different chili’s (this is the eighth chili recipe on my blog!), but this is definitely a contender for my favorite.  I love the heat level–we like spicy and for us this was perfect.  Spicy but not so spicy that you can’t taste the wonderful flavor.  Your lips may burn a bit, but you can still feel your mouth after eating a bowl, which is a plus in my book.

Since the veggies are pureed and totally not visible, there’s less risk of complaints from picky eaters.  I felt super manly while eating it, with all the meat and beans and spiciness, and apparent lack of vegetables.  But then I couldn’t pee standing up, so that was the end of my manliness.

Also, just an FYI, your chili will not be this thick right after cooking it.  This was the day after I made it, and before I heated up the bowl.  Not many things look good cold, but apparently chili is one exception to the rule. I think it’s so purdy.  (I believe I just lost my man card again.)

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Printable recipe
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2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1-2″ pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 1-2″ pieces
1 large red pepper, cored & cut into 1-2″ pieces
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground chicken
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) black beans, drained
1 (15 oz) chili beans in sauce (do not drain)
salt and pepper to taste

Optional garnish: blue cheese crumbles or Spicy Ranch Crackers

Place carrots, celery, red pepper, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Process until pureed and set aside.  In a soup pot, heat oil and add ground chicken and cook about 10 minutes on medium heat until no longer pink.  Add vegetable purée to chicken mixture and cook about 5 minutes until veggies start to soften.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.  Serve with blue cheese crumbles or Spicy Ranch Crackers, if desired.

Nutrition Per Cup (without garnish): 239 calories, 3.4 fat, 29 carbs, 7.5 fiber and 23.5 protein.

Recipe source: My Bizzy Kitchen

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I won’t be posting Wednesday, so I’m going to take this opportunity to remind you to enter my cookies giveaway by Wednesday at midnight. Good luck!

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Corn, Avocado, and Black Bean Tostadas

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For some reason, before I made these tostadas, I had an aversion to chipotle peppers that came canned in adobo sauce.  I think I made one bad dish with them that turned me off, and I was hesitant to use them in anything again.  This recipe has completely turned me around!  These are the absolute best tostadas I’ve ever made.  I love how the sweet corn balances the smoky and spicy flavor of the chiles.

I really love it when I can find vegan meals that don’t require a lot of fake ingredients, and love it even more when those meals are just as delicious as a meat-centric meal.  I have to say that these tostadas beat the pants off of any tostada I’ve made with meat to date.  Although I did put cheddar cheese on these, you can leave it off for a vegan meal because you get plenty of (healthy) fat from the avocado.

This is a great summer meal because it comes together really quickly and only requires a few minutes of heat on the stovetop.  Enjoy!

Corn, Avocado, and Black-Bean Tostadas

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1 large zucchini, diced
2 cups frozen corn kernels
2-3 medium tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tostada shells
1 cup refried black beans*
Shredded lettuce
1 avocado, peeled & sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Spray a large nonstick skilled with oil and heat over medium-high head. Add zucchini and sauté 3 minutes. Add corn and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes, onion, cilantro, chipotle chiles, lime juice, and salt. Spread each tostada shell with 2 tablespoons of heated beans and top with shredded lettuce. Spoon corn mixture over lettuce, then top with shredded cheddar and slices of avocado.

*To make your own quick refried black beans, drain a can of black beans and reserve the liquid. Place beans in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, along with 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder. Process, adding in liquid through the feeding tube as necessary to obtain your desired texture. Taste and add salt, pepper, and additional seasonings if desired.

Makes 8 tostadas.

Per tostada: 235 calories; 11.6 g fat; 27.5 g carbohydrates; 5.4 g fiber; 8.6 g protein; 6 Points Plus

Recipe source: adapted from Redbook, October 2010

Secret Recipe ClubThis recipe has actually been recreated twice by the SRC. Here is the first blogger who made it (click the box above for the second): Thru the Bugs on My Windshield

My Favorite Cheesecake and BSI: Cream Cheese Announcement

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Fact: I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have 24 sweet teeth and if I hadn’t had my wisdom teeth and first molars removed to make more room in my tiny sugar-addicted mouth, I have no doubt they would be sweet too.  Fact: Despite my sweet teeth, there are certain things I make or buy very rarely because I like them so much that my self-control us utterly nill when in their general vicinity.  These things are: any kind of cookies, but particularly homemade chocolate chip, chocolate éclairs, pecan pie, and cheesecake.

Prior to giving in and making this particular recipe, I hadn’t made a cheesecake in seven years.  But a friend requested one last year and I chose this recipe since I found it through one of my most trusted sources.  After raving over it for two days, my friend let me have a piece while I was at her house (it was a gift to her in exchange for a favor she paid me), and I’ve never made another cheesecake recipe since.  I have now made her three of these cheesecakes, which is a perfect arrangement because she always lets me have a slice and I don’t have to worry about going crazy and eating the whole thing in one sitting since it is not my cheesecake to dominate.  But I totally would if I could, which is why I will never make this cheesecake only for myself.  Never say never, but I’m saying it.  NEVER.  It is just too risky.  (Full disclosure: the last cheesecake I possessed that was only for the two of us was ten years ago.  It was about two-thirds the size of this one, and I ate it all by myself.  In one day.  And now you understand why I make them so rarely.)

This cheesecake comes out perfectly creamy with the best sweet-tangy flavor, enhanced by lemon zest.  Due to the minimal mixing time, it is not prone to cracks caused by air bubbles in the batter.  This doesn’t matter to me since I usually cover my cheesecake with a fruit topping anyway, but if you’re a cheesecake purist, you might dig the perfect top that comes out without doing anything special to achieve it.  No water baths, no pan of hot water sitting in a rack below the cheesecake, no baking it at super-low temps or leaving it in the oven an hour after you turn it off.  It’s a very simple, straight-forward recipe that yields a superior result, far better than any other I’ve tried.  Try it for yourself and you be the judge.

Favorite Cheesecake

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Crust:
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 25 squares)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling:
2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 (16 oz) tub of sour cream

To prepare crumb crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients together with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. Firmly press the mixture over the bottom and about halfway up the sides of the pan, using your fingers or the smooth bottom of a glass. Refrigerate the crust while preparing the filling.

To prepare filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute just until smooth and free of any lumps. Gradually add the sugar and beat just until incorporated.  Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to slowly beat until combined. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest. Blend in the sour cream. The batter should be well mixed but not overbeaten. Overbeating incorporates too much air and will cause the cake to puff when baking, then fall and crack when cooling. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan and poke any air bubbles you see with a toothpick.  Smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 50-55 minutes (mine usually takes a little more than an hour, but I think my oven runs cooler than most). The cheesecake should still jiggle slightly, it will firm up after chilling. Be careful not to overcook! Do not do a toothpick test in the cake’s center, this will make a crack. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours to set up. Demold and transfer to a cake plate. Slice the cheesecake with a thin, nonserrated knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry after each cut.

Recipe source: adapted slightly from Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Cheesecake

BSI Announcement

I’ve chosen CREAM CHEESE for this week’s Blogger Secret Ingredient contest.  You can use regular, low-fat, homemade, or even vegan.  Sweet or savory, snack or main course, you choose!  I know you guys probably have a lot of great recipes using cream cheese and I can’t wait to see what you submit!

How to enter:

  • Make a recipe using the secret ingredient and write a blog post about it.
  • Include a link back to this post.
  • Add your entry to the comments section at the bottom of this post (permalink to your entry, not homepage, please).
  • Older/archived posts may be used as long as they’re updated with a link to this post.
  • If you don’t have a blog, but would still like to enter, please email me your entry (w/ photo) to vraklis (at) yahoo (dot) com

Deadline for submissions is Sunday, April 17th at 9pm (Central).  I will post the roundup and the winner the following day and send a prize to the person whose recipe I like best.  Please let me know if you are interested in hosting next week’s BSI.

For a list of all the previous hosts/choices, check out Biz’s BSI page.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comment area or send me an email and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Caramel Walnut Brownies


These things are killer. But I must apologize because they have a very unique ingredient that can be hard to find:

Seriously! Did you know that this even existed??  Can I tell you how much I LOVE this product now that I’ve discovered it?????  Caramel cake–it’s every bit as delicious as you imagine it would be.  And the mix makes for some seriously excellent “brownies.” (I put that in quotations because they actually have no chocolate in them and I thought that chocolate was essential to a brownie!)

Do I even need to tell you how good these are?  Caramel on caramel with walnuts in the middle.  Ooooh, so delicious and they were a favorite at our family’s Christmas party.  If you haven’t seen the cake mix on your store shelves, see if you can get the store to get it special for you like I did.  It’s worth the extra effort!

Caramel Walnut Brownies

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14-oz. bag caramels
5-oz can of evaporated milk, divided use
1 box Duncan Hines Caramel Cake Mix
1 teaspoon cinnamon
12 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X9-inch pan and set aside.

Place the caramels in a microwave-safe bowl and add 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk. Microwave for 1 minute on high and stir to combine. Continue microwaving on high at 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until the caramel and milk are melted, smooth, and combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, and remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Stir until combined and no lumps remain.  Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Set the remaining cake batter aside. It will firm up as it sits.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Spread the walnuts onto a shallow pan and toast them while the cake is baking. Remove the walnuts from the oven when they are fragrant and golden brown.

Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes. Pour melted caramel over the semi-baked batter and evenly sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top. Take large spoonfuls of the remaining batter, approximately 1/3 cup, which is now firm, and press it between the palms of your hands. Pat it as thinly as possible without breaking it apart. Lay the batter on top of the walnuts. Continue patting the batter and placing it on top of the walnuts. There might be some overlapping of the batter, and there might be several spots where the caramel barely peeks through. Precision is not necessary.

Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack. It is helpful to refrigerate the brownies before cutting them into squares. Serve at room temperature.

*Veronica’s notes: I used an 8×8 pan, which made them a bit thicker, and I had to bake them five minutes longer to get them done.  I also found it difficult to cut them after refrigerating them overnight because the caramel was so hard.  I’d say either only refrigerate them an hour or two or leave them out for at least fifteen minutes before trying to cut them if you’ve left them in there for a long time.

Recipe source: Sassafras Cafe

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Update: I won a blue ribbon for these cookies at the 2011 Kansas State Fair!

Cookies are my favorite food group and I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like, but never had a favorite until fairly recently.

And the winner is… [drumroll]

chocolate chip cookies {insert sheepish grin here}

But these aren’t just any chocolate chip cookies, people.  These are chocolate chip cookies made with brown butter, toasted & ground-up oatmeal, toasted nuts and just enough vinegar to make an extremely tender cookie without adding any flavor.

I suppose I always knew that chocolate chip cookies would eventually beat out all the rest for me, because I have made countless batches of them in an effort to find the perfect recipe.  I’ve never done this with anything else. All were good, but none left me with the feeling that I’d found the best.  Until I found this one.

Allow me to introduce you to the creator of this recipe, Laura Flowers: culinary genius and food blogger extraordinaire.  (If you use that to title your autobiography, Laura, I want 10% of your profits!)  Every week she posts new recipes–most of them her own–for everything from cookies to pizza (those are my favorite) to salads & pasta dishes.  I have tried several and have yet to be disappointed.  And I’m eternally grateful to her for bringing the torture of my endless search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie to an end!

Today I made them for Laura’s “Project Cookie” and mailed them to her friend Ted & his platoon in Iraq.  Well, I mailed most of them (minus the usual dozen I can’t keep from eating every time I make them!)

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (You won’t taste it, I promise.)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional, but add 1/4 cup more flour if omitting)
1 (12-oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 stick of the butter over medium heat until foamy and golden brown. You’ll know it’s ready when the solids have separated and the bottom has lots of brown specks and it starts to smell so wonderful that you get light-headed when you catch a whiff. Pour into a bowl to cool and wipe out the skillet.

3. In the skillet over medium heat, toast the oatmeal, stirring often, until fragrant and some of the oatmeal is light golden in color. About 3 minutes. Transfer the oatmeal to a food processer and grind until fine and powdery. I usually just turn it on and leave it alone for a full minute. Set aside.

4. If using, spread the nuts onto a plate and microwave in 30 second increments 2 or 3 times until toasted, stirring in-between. Set aside to cool.

5. In a stand mixer, beat the softened butter, browned butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and vinegar low to combine, and then on high speed until fluffy and lighter in color. I beat mine about five minutes so that there’s plenty of time for all those sugar crystals to force air into the butter. (Alton Brown has convinced me this is crucial to making good cookies and since I do this and my cookies are always good, you should believe us both.)

6. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Add the oatmeal and baking soda and beat for another minute. Next, add the flour half at a time and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

7. Add the chocolate chips and toasted nuts. Mix on low until incorporated.

8. With a size 50 cookie scoop or a generous tablespoon, drop the dough onto parchment paper 3 inches apart.

9. Bake for 11 minutes or until golden around the edges. I use an airbake pan and usually bake mine about 10 minutes, but oven temps vary so just keep an eye on the first pan to judge the time yours needs. Remove from oven and let set on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. *I prefer to take my cookies out of the oven when they are puffy & still a little raw looking because the residual heat from the pan continues to bake them and this yields a cookie that is slightly crisp on the outside and very soft & chewy on the inside.

Makes about 45 cookies.

Note:   These cookies are best baked shortly after mixing the batter together. There is no need to refrigerate the dough.

Recipe source: The Cooking Photographer, with some slight modifications by me

Now it’s time for some fun! If your favorite cookie isn’t listed below, feel free to leave it in a comment.  You can also leave links–I can never have enough cookie recipes.  Like I said, cookies are my favorite food group. :)

Secret Recipe Club

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