Beefy Corn and Black Bean Chili

We’ve had the first week of sustained 60 degree days, so I decided that I needed to put on a pot of chili to warm the cockles of my heart. Because I’m using canned beans, jarred tomato sauce, frozen corn, etc it doesn’t need to simmer for hours on the stove. In about thirty minutes, you can have a delicious chili with a southwest flavor on your table.

I usually eat this chili with corn tortilla chips instead of the saltines I choose when eating my Chili con Carne. Other toppings you can bring to the table include sour cream, cheddar cheese and slices of jalapeños, if you want some heat.

Such delicious comfort food and so pretty, too!

Beefy Corn and Black Bean Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) black beans, drained
2 cups frozen corn
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can Ro-tel diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 cup beer (or water)

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until golden, about 10 minutes. Add in the ground beef and brown. Once the meat is browned, siphon off the fat. Add in the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add in the rest of the seasonings and stir to bloom their flavor.

Stir in beans, corn, tomato sauce and Ro-tel. Pour in beer (or water) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasonings and serve.

Chickpea Shawarma

I was searching for barley in my pantry (never found it) and came across a bag of dried garbanzo beans. As it was dated 5 years ago, I figured I should go ahead and do a chickpea shawarma recipe that I’ve wanted to try.

Dried chickpeas triple in size after they’ve soaked at least 8 hours. If yours are anywhere near as old as mine, they might not have tripled even after soaking overnight. Therefore, I transferred them to a large pot and covered them in water before bringing it to a boil. I turned off the heat after ten minutes and left them there in the hot water for an hour and that did the trick to soften them enough for cooking.

I didn’t make traditional hummus as I didn’t have any tahini but the spice mixture and olive oil makes for a tasty paste that spreads like a charm. The roasted chickpeas make for a lovely crunch in your sandwich and as a snack, too.

Once finished, I made chickpea shawarma sandwiches. Delicious and packed with plant protein and soluble fiber! I ended up eating all the roasted chickpeas watching a football game before I remembered to take a picture with them in it.

1 lb of dried chickpea/garbanzo beans
1 bay leaf
Shawarma spice mix (recipe below)
Olive oil

Soak beans overnight. Place softened beans in a large pot with the bay leaf and cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until tender. Strain and then place in cold water and stir with your hands to release the tough outer coatings. Skim those off. Repeat at least twice more to remove as many of the outer coatings as you can.

Once the beans are cooled, divide in half. That is about three cups for each of the next stages of this recipe.

Process half with two teaspoons of the shawarma spice mixture, three tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse to mix and scrape down the sides as necessary to make sure everything gets incorporated into the paste. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil if you’d like it creamier.

Roast the other half by preheating oven to 400 degrees. Dry the chickpeas well before placing in a bowl and tossing with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of the shawarma spice mixture. Spread in a single layer onto a 9×13 baking pan. I prefer a baking pan over a baking sheet as the high sides mean I can toss the beans better.

Bake on the lowest rack on oven and, every 15-20 minutes or so, shake the pan so nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. Cook until beans are browned and crispy, about 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven and while still warm toss with more shawarma spice mixture.

To make sandwiches – spread chickpea paste into halves of pita bread or onto flatbread. Place slices of tomato and cucumber into the pita and add some of the roasted chickpeas for crunch.

After cooling, store roasted chickpeas in a zip top bag on the counter and eat within a couple of days.

Store chickpea paste in the refrigerator.

Shawarma Spice Mixture

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
⅛ teaspoon cayenne

In a small bowl, combine the spices. Store any extra in an airtight container.

Boozy Brain for Halloween

I like making what my English friend called milk jelly. as the addition of evaporated milk to Jell-o cuts the sweet and makes a pretty color, too. The past couple of weeks have been a little crazy, so I decided to adultify this batch with some alcohol and put it in my brain mold for the Halloween celebrations.

While jello-shots are typically made with vodka, I am using blackberry flavored gelatin mix so I decided to go with my bottle of cassis – its a black currant liquor. I could have also used one of my flavored rums and I just might when I make it again as it was so delicious. When using a less strongly flavored alcohol, you can up the amount to 3/4 cup, depending on how hard you’ve been adulting.

Pretty cool Halloween treat!

Boozy Brain for Halloween

2 cups boiling water
2 1.4 ounce packs of Royal blackberry flavored gelatin
2 5 ounce cans evaporated milk
½ cup Cassis

Refrigerate the evaporated milk cans overnight.

Mix boiling water and gelatin. Stir until dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes and then add in the cold evaporated milk and the liquor. Stir well and pour into mold.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, better yet, overnight. Dip mold in warm water for a few seconds to help ease the dessert out of the mold.

The tasty fake blood is just corn syrup, corn starch and a five to one ratio of red to blue food coloring.

Cardamon-Honey Cocktail

For pre-dinner cocktails ahead of the tikka masala chicken and rice, I went for a cardamon-honey cocktail. I wanted to keep with the flavors of dinner and figured that making a simple syrup would be a good replacement for agave nectar I usually use with my paloma recipe.

To make the cardamon honey simple syrup, I brought to a boil an equal amount of honey and water. I then poured it over cardamon pods that I had lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle. I let the simple syrup steep until it cooled to room temperature. After I strained it, I placed it in the fridge until happy hour.

The tartness of the grapefruit is tempered by the honey simple syrup. The cardamon and star anise supply a lovely fragrance to make a light and refreshing cocktail.

Cardamon Honey Cocktail

per cocktail:

2 ounces Tequila
2 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 ounce cardamom-honey simple syrup
Star anise for garnish

Combine the tequila, juice and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and then pour into a cocktail glass. Float a star anise pod on top.

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala Chicken and Rice

I’ve been working on recovery from Hurricane Ida and wanted something easy but delicious for dinner with friends on a weeknight. I have a jar of Maya Kaimal Tikka Masala simmer sauce and I decided to use the method of one of my favorite chicken and rice meals from when I was a kid, updated and with a subcontinental flavor.

A great casserole for my working mom was to put rice and water in a baking dish in the morning. She’d top that with a can of condensed soup (cream of mushroom, cream of celery, cream of broccoli, etc), chicken breasts and maybe some frozen veggies and/or cheese. Covered tightly and refrigerated while we were at school and they went to work. Whoever was home first was responsible for putting it in a 350 degree F oven an hour before dinner time.

Transferring it to a slow cooker meant it needed to get a head start so I used boiling water. To not dilute the sauce, I waited and added the tikka masala sauce after at least 90 minutes of cooking.

The overnight marinade makes the chicken tender and moist. All the flavors of the marinade and tikka masala simmer sauce coming together will make your mouth happy. Using strips of naan to pick up chicken and rice sure beats using a fork and it is a very tasty way to get deliciousness in every bite.

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala Chicken and Rice

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken – breasts or thighs
½ cup yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ginger, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons garam masala (optional)
1 cup jasmine rice
1 12.5 ounce jar of Tikka Masala sauce

Cut chicken into inch size pieces.

In a bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, ginger, salt and garam masala, if using. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly. Place in a zip top bag and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Mix together rice with 2 cups of boiling water in the slow cooker. Place the chicken into slow cooker and cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours. The rice should have absorbed most of the water by then, if not let cook for 30 minutes more or until rice is soft and chicken is fully cooked. Pour the jar of Tikka Masala sauce over the chicken and stir to mix well. Cook for thirty minutes more for the flavors to come together.

Serve with naan flatbread.

Elderflower Lemon Sponge Cake

I was browsing some British cooking/recipe sites and came across several recipes for Victoria Sponge Cake that looked really good and were lighter than my go-to pound cakes (here, here, here). I wanted something with elderflower and, since lemon goes so well with it, I used a recipe with tonic instead of cordial.

I used a bundt pan but a 9×5 loaf pan or another cool shaped cake pan would make a nice presentation.

So good with a nice cup of tea! Floral and lemony and delicate in texture. Please note that after a day or two, the elderflower scent disappears but the lemon is still deliciously strong.

Elderflower Lemon Sponge Cake

For the cake:

1 stick (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup sugar 
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 

For the syrup:

¼ cup elderflower tonic (I’m using Jack Rudy Cocktail Company Elderflower tonic)
Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter and flour a bundt pan or 9×5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Sift together the flour baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Gradually add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture (about 1 tablespoon at a time), beating well after each addition. Take up to 5 minutes to slowly and completely incorporate the eggs.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture into the rest of the batter. Mix just until all the flour is incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven until a tester comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

While the cake cools slightly, combine elderflower tonic and lemon juice.

After 10 minutes of cooling, prick the still-warm cake all over with a skewer. Drizzle 3/4’s of the elderflower and lemon syrup over the cake so that it seeps into the holes.

Cool cake completely, then remove from the pan. Pour remaining syrup over the top.

Wrap leftover cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Small Batch Elderflower Ice Creams

I recently bought some elderflower tonic for cocktails and, whilst sipping, thought the flavor would go really well in ice cream. I do so love being right!

While using syrup would make for a more intense and sweeter ice cream – the tonic from Jack Rudy Cocktail Company is light and adds a delicious floral scent and taste to ice cream.

Elderflower Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
1 tablespoon elderflower tonic (I used Jack Rudy’s)

Mix together cream, milk and sugar and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Whisk in the seeds and then toss in the vanilla pod. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the vanilla pod and whisk lightly to ensure everything is well mixed. Place in your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place in an airtight container and freeze until firm.

The cocktail I first made with the elderflower tonic used muddled strawberries, so I decided to try it as ice cream. Winner!

Elderflower Strawberry Ice Cream

2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Elderflower Tonic (I used Jack Rudy’)

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until cold and then process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze until firm.

Sausage Olive Cheese Balls

So, I like olive cheese bites and I really like cheese straws (even with bacon) and I love sausage balls. I figured why not put them all together into one delicious bite?

And I was right! Briny, meaty, cheesy – all that is delicious.

Make sure you grate the cheese yourself – the preshredded cheese is coated with a moisture absorber and it keeps the ingredients from sticking together.

balls

Now, if only I had a bridge club or majohng group to share them with.

Sausage Olive Cheese Balls

½ lb bulk sausage
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup Spanish olives, chopped fine

Brown sausage and drain. Set aside to cool.

Sift  the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining spices.

Mix the grated and softened cheeses, olives together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment on low speed until combined. Slowly add in the flour mixture. Sprinkle in sausage and continue on medium speed until the mixture comes together. Place bowl into the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the mixture from fridge and form into balls. Place on parchment paper covered baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating pans midway between cooking.

Smoking Beef Ribs on the Grill

I picked up a 3lb vacuum pack of beef riblets because I wanted beef but not a steak. I also didn’t want to have to wait as long as something like a brisket or shoulder would take to smoke.

I started with the rub. I wanted one with no sugar as that doesn’t taste as good on beef as it does on pork. For brisket, I usually use a dalmatian rub of equal parts salt and black pepper but I wanted to put some additional flavor on the ribs. Once I put together granulated garlic and onion and some paprika, it needed a little something morish, so I added dry mustard. Excellent! You could put in some cayenne but the ribs I’m using are thin and I don’t want too much heat.

I cooked them in my Weber kettle grill over indirect with chunks of hickory wood for the smoke. Remember to give yourself plenty of time – smoking time on the grill was three hours but you need to add another hour of rest.

Definitely use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp but you know they’re getting near done when the meat has pulled away from the ends of the bone.

This is what you’re looking for – nice color, they crack a little at the bend and there is at least a finger width of bone showing. If you’ll be patient for just a little longer, you’ll have tender, juicy meat with a lovely flavor from the rub and the smoke.

After the long rest, they were very good and toothsome! Luckily no one else was around to see me eat the whole thing.

Smoking Beef Ribs on the Grill

¼ cup kosher salt 
¼ cup black pepper 
1 tablespoons garlic powder 
1 tablespoons onion powder 
1 tablespoons paprika 
1 tablespoon dry mustard

3 lb rack of beef ribs

Combine the rub ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Rinse the meat and pat dry. Remove the silver skin from the ribs. Loosen with a dull knife and use a paper towel to pull the membrane off. Coat both sides of the beef with the rub and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Store any unused rub in an airtight container.

Remove the meat from fridge and set on counter while the grill is prepped.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking and to last 3 hours. I do this by putting a ring of unlit coals around my Weber kettle grill, making sure all the briquettes are touching each other. I fill a chimney with charcoal and, once the coals become ashy, I spread them on two sides of the grill, layered on top of some unlit coals. This way, they light the coals beneath them and slowly ignite the rest so the grill should maintain 225-250 degrees F for at least three hours.

Put a drip pan in the center of the grill and add water to the pan. This will keep things moist while the magic happens. Place the rack of ribs bone side down in the center of the grill. Add dampened hickory chunks to the fire to smoke. Let the ribs cook until they reach an internal temperature of 200-205 degrees F. Carry over temperature will bring them to 210, which is ideal for beef ribs. Take ribs off the heat and tent with aluminum foil. Let ribs rest for at least an hour before eating. If it will be longer than an hour before eating, place the ribs in a cooler lined with towels.

You can cheat once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees and wrap them in aluminum foil or butcher’s paper and let them finish cooking in an oven at 235 degrees F. While keeping them uncovered on the grill will allow for the best bark, I totally understand using the Texas crutch (and I have done so plenty of times myself).

While I don’t tend to use bbq sauce, the time to do so is when you wrap the ribs or for the final hour of cooking. Give them a generous baste and it will allow for another layer of flavor. Try my coca-cola bbq sauce. I avoid commercial sauces as they have a lot of sugar which can burn and add a bitter taste.

LA 23 BBQ

I was lucky to get invited to a tour of the Southwest Regional Flood Protection Authority facility on the West Bank with NOSHA and the local Sierra Club group. Absolutely fascinating about how much storm surge they stop and how much water they can pump out and how fast – to fill the Superdome from top to bottom would only take an hour and 45 minutes with their 11 pumps!

Regional Director Nicholas Cali begins the tour in front of the West Closure Complex

After the tour, I stopped for lunch with my friends Charlotte and Thomas at LA 23 BBQ. The entrance is right across from the Belle Chase Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.

The building isn’t much more than the smokers and kitchen with a bunch of picnic tables under a metal roof. They are mainly open for lunch during the week. The food is good and comes out fast.

I had the pulled pork sandwich. It comes with the slaw on the sandwich but I had them put that on the side. Tender, juicy meat with a good flavor that hardly needed sauce. The mac and cheese was very tasty but a little grainy.

They’ve got a good selection of things besides sandwiches if you wanted to get a rack of ribs, whole or half chicken, turkey or brisket. They offer meat by the pound to take home or have meals for 10, 20, 30 people catered in addition to eating there in the open air. Check out their menu for the full list of options.

So, next time you’re over on the West Bank and want good food, fast – go to LA 23 BBQ

Oh, and if you open carry, you get a free drink!

LA 23 BBQ
9661 Highway 23
Belle Chasse, LA 70037
(504) 657-3693
11am to 4pm Tuesday-Saturday