Recipe for Life

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The Schell Cafe has been turned upside down with excitement this week.  We have three special visitors from Uganda staying with us.  Jackson and Christopher are members of the African Children’s Choir and are in town to perform this evening at our church.   

I’m having a hard time processing the magnitude of the blessings we are experiencing, so for now I’ll share with you snapshots of our time so far with Jackson, Christopher and their chaperone Patrick.  You know, a picture speaks a thousand words….

Just know our family is definitely on the receiving end of blessings this week.  

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Bison Chili

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Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam…

I couldn’t resist.  And, now you’ll be singing Home on the Range all day too.  Sorry.

One of my New Year’s Hopefuls (I don’t do resolutions) is to buy a side of beef.  Is that normal?  I would love to have an assortment of cuts of local, grass-fed beef stashed away in the deep freezer.  Only we don’t own a deep freezer which is a technicality of sorts.  I actually thought about giving this (the side of beef not the appliance) to Husband for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not sure I can pull it off by then.  In the meantime, I’ve stocked up on various cuts of bison from Thunder Heart Bison which I gratefully find at our Farmer’s Market.

If you haven’t stumbled upon all the reasons you should love bison, you should know that it has more protein, iron and good omegas than beef or chicken.  Plus, it has fewer calories and less fat.  It’s delicious and if you are a hearty meat eater, you should really add bison to your rotation.

This is a super easy recipe. Measuring out the spices is the hardest part!  You’ll love the flavor and your heart will thank you.

Bison Chili

1 lb ground bison

1 cup onion, chopped

1 cup bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbs chili powder

1 Tbs ground coffee

2 tsp cocoa powder (I use Scharffen Berger)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/4 tsp allspice

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes + their juices

2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce

2 (15 oz) cans beans, rinsed and drained (I used one can of kidney beans and one great northern)

1 – 2 cups water

1 (7 oz) can diced green chilis

In a small bowl, mix together all the spices.

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In a large pot, brown the bison until nice a crumbly.

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When the bison is browned add the onion, bell peppers and garlic.  Continue to saute until the veggies are soft.

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Add the spices and stir for a minute or two until all the meat and veggies are covered.  Then add the rest of the ingredients.

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Stir until well combined and simmer for an hour.

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Ask a hungry eight year old to taste the chili for you.  Ask the same hungry eight year old to please save some chili for the rest of his family.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Homemade Croutons

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What do you do with the heel at the ends of the bread loaf?  Honestly? Do you reach right past secretly hoping someone else will use it? Do you try to conceal it from your children by placing it out of sight on the bottom of the sandwich?  Or do you simply toss it?

I don’t know about your household, but around The Schell Cafe no one will voluntarily eat the heel of the bread.  Husband will on occasion, but only as an act of frugality not because the heel is his chosen choice of bread slices.

Rather than torture the Littles by making them eat the heels, I’ve started making homemade croutons.  Which, as it turns out, is a double bonus as they started liking salads when I began garnishing their greens with homemade croutons.

You can get as fancy as you want making croutons.  It’s a great way to use flavored olive oils or tasty combinations of herbs and spices.  If I have just a tiny bit of chives or other herbs leftover, I toss ’em in.  Once you’ve made  your own croutons a few times you’ll start noticing all kinds of extras lying around the kitchen that will serve as great flavor boosters.

Homemade Croutons

Heels of bread loaf or slightly stale slices (anything destined for the trash!)

olive oil

salt

herbs or seasonings to your liking

First, cube the heels of the bread loaves.

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Next, toss the cubed bread with a splash of olive oil and desired herbs or seasonings.  I just used coarse sea salt for this batch of croutons.

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Spread the oil bathed croutons on a foil-lined baking sheet.  I use my toaster oven.  No sense heating up the kitchen for such a small task.

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Bake at 200 for twenty or thirty minutes, until the bread is dried and crunchy!  Store in a baggie or tupperware container for up to a week.

You can also put the croutons in a small food processor and pulse to make bread crumbs. I do this to make the Littles breaded chicken tenders…but I’ll save that for a Kids Cook posting soon.

*** Gluten Free Update: We now use the heels of our Udi’s bread for croutons and breadcrumbs! Freeze until you are ready to make.

Haricots Verts in a Roasted Shallot & Sherry Vinaigrette

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I’ve had several requests lately to share some of my favorite side dishes, specifically vegetables.  I immediately thought of these yummy haricots verts I made last week.  I served them with grilled amberjack and it was a perfect combination.   Make the roasted shallot & sherry vinaigrette in advance and keep it stashed in the fridge for up to a week.  You’ll find other uses for it once these delicious green beans are eaten up.

Haricots Verts in a Roasted Shallot & Sherry Vinaigrette 

1  lb haricots verts 

8 shallots

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs country style mustard

2 Tbs sherry vinegar

1 tsp lemon zest

2 Tbs fresh parsley

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

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Peel the shallots and gently toss in 1 Tbs of olive oil.  

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Place shallots on a foil lined baking sheet and roast in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for about 35 – 45 minutes.  Cool.

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Zest the lemon straight into a small blender or food processor.  Be careful not to use a heavy hand and slice into the white pith or your zest will be very bitter. 

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Next add the mustard. I use Grey Poupon.

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Add the sherry vinegar.  

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And the parsley.

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 Blend all the ingredients.  Add 1/2 of the  shallots and blend until the shallots are well incorporated into the sauce which will be very thick at this point.  Slowly add in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing emulsifies.  Quarter the remaining 4 shallots and add to the dressing.  Taste for salt and pepper.  

Trim the haricots verts (did I mention this is French for green beans?).  Typically haricots verts are thinner and longer than American green beans.  When I can find them I snatch them up in a hurry as I think they taste better.  And they certainly sound better, don’t they?

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Quickly blanch the beans in boiling water for three minutes.

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Then quickly drain into a colander filled with ice.  Most experts recommend that you drain the boiling vegetables and then plunge them into a bowl of ice water.  I’ve tried this but I can get the same results by tossing ice into my colander which means one less bowl for me to wash!  

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Drain the beans well.  Sometimes I lay them out on paper towels to really make sure all the extra moisture is off.  Too much moisture and you’ll end up with soggy haricots verts.  Which doesn’t sound very good.

Toss the beans into a saute pan with a tiny bit of oil and saute until just crisp, about 2 minutes.  Add a spoonful or two of the roasted shallot & sherry vinaigrette and toss until well combined.  

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Enjoy!

Nana’s Olive Balls

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I love family recipes that have precious memories.  My Nana passed away when I was two, so I cherish stories like this that Mia passed along to me.  I’ve nibbled on these olive balls all of my life and at some point along the way added the martinis too.  I think Nana would be thrilled to know her great granddaughters enjoy making her delicious olive balls.  And, for the record the Littles have not had martinis yet.
From Mia:
Mother made these almost every time she entertained…and that was often. When Poppy built the walk-in bar and he became quite adapt at making a fabulous martini the olive balls made history among friends and family.
Mother introduced me to a martini at a restaurant/ bar in Dallas. I honestly don’t remember where, but my guess is the Melrose as she loved to stay there because of family history living in the Penthouse. In fact, remember that the first time you were ever in a swimming pool was at the Melrose Hotel’s pool?
Sorry, got lost in memories. Here is THE  recipe. Remember they freeze great!
Nana’s Olive Balls~~With or Without Martini’s
2 cups of grated sharp cheese
1/2 cup of soft BUTTER (remember butter wasn’t used often)
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of paprika
48 stuffed green olives
Blend cheese with butter, add flour, salt, paprika
Take about a teaspoon of mixture, place into palm and put an olive in it.
15 minutes at 4oo degrees
These freeze and can be taken out as many as you want at a time.

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Try these as an appetizer for your next get-together with family and friends.  They will disappear in a flash!

The Soup Peddler

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I’ve been testing my social networking skills for the last few months by goofing off learning my way around Facebook and Twitter.  Facebook came first and started with a group of high school friends just trying to keep up with each other.  Needless to say, I dove in head first and have a slight full-on addiction to checking status updates, photos and musings of friends.  Facebook has remained personal for me.  I know everyone I’ve ‘friended’ and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting and keeping in touch with people from various ages and stages of my life.   

I’m still figuring Twitter out.  Tweets (status updates that are limited to 140 characters) move fast and there are some hard-core, serious tweeps (people who tweet) out there.  On Twitter you have ‘followers’.  The last time I checked (5.7 seconds ago) I had 131 followers.  I’m following 119 people.  Relationships on twitter are not mutually exclusive.  Some people garner thousands of followers, yet only follow a handful of people themselves.  This is generally considered bad tweeting manners, and even the uber-popular tweeting elite will try to follow the lesser known tweeps, like me.  Of my 131 followers I personally know about 5.  Yet my addiction interest in Twitter is just as time consuming as my beloved Facebook.  Twitter for me is 90% food related.  I follow the LA Times food section, a handful of restaurants, and tons of food bloggers like myself.  

My point is….I spilled the beans on Facebook and Twitter this morning that I have a dirty little secret.  I don’t cook every day.  There, I said it.  If you are a Facebook friend or follow me on twitter this is old news as I made this confession much earlier today.  But in fairness to all, I will share my passion for The Soup Peddler here at The Cafe.  The Soup Peddler has an amazing story and is a great contingency plan for me on days that life just gets in the way of my desire to cook.  

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On Wednesdays, I leave this cooler on my front porch and by mid-afternoon my order is delivered and dinner is done.  This week I ordered Straight – Up Vegetable Soup, a Spanish Cocido filled with brisket, chorizo and garbanzos, and The Quiche of the Week (mushroom and spinach).  I’ll get at least three or four meals out of this for our family of six.  Tonight we will feast on the veggie soup and I’ll make grilled cheese sandwiches.  And the Littles will enjoy the quiche for dinner tomorrow and later in school lunches.  

So, that’s what I do when I’m too busy on Facebook and Twitter to cook for my family.  Now you know.

Gulf Red Snapper En Papillote

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Husband is a fisherman.  He truly loves to fish.  In fact he’s spent the majority of his life either fishing or wishing he was fishing.  So I love it when I am able to make him dinner featuring fish that awes him.

When we scored the best looking red snapper straight from the gulf coast at Farmer’s Market, I knew I had to come up with something special for this fisherman of mine.  I’ve cooked en papillote before and thought it would be the perfect technique for our snapper supper.  En papillote is just a fancy term for cooking in parchment paper.

To make this recipe you’ll need to make a romesco sauce.  You can make this sauce in advance and keep it in the fridge for a week.  When you are shopping for fish if your market doesn’t have fresh red snapper ask your fish monger to suggest a good recommendation for this recipe.  Husband gave me The Big Book of Fish & Shellfish for Christmas and I adapted this recipe to work with snapper.  So, don’t worry if you can’t find snapper.  This is a very versatile recipe.

Gulf Red Snapper En Papillote

Parchment paper

Butter for greasing parchment paper

1 lb red snapper, cut into 3 -4 fillets

2 shallots, minced

1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

8 ounces lump crabmeat (optional)  I had crabmeat so I tossed it in, but it’s not necessary

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Isn’t the snapper gorgeous?  I had just under a pound.  If you are buying fish from a market, go ahead and have your monger cut smaller sized fillets.

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Tear off three to four (one for each snapper fillet) generous sized pieces of parchment paper.  Trace a half heart just like you were going to make a valentine. This is a great activity to get kids involved in the preparation.

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Once you have your parchment hearts made, butter the entire surface generously with a stick of room temperature butter.

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Place each fillet on a parchment heart and top with shallots, chives, salt and pepper.

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Add a generous amount of romesco sauce and crab meat, if you choose.

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At the point of the heart, begin folding and overlapping the parchment paper so that you create an almost air-tight seal all the way around the fish.

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When you have all of your fish en papillote, place the packages on a baking sheet and bake for 10 -12 minutes at 475 degrees.

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If you want to please a fisherman in your life or if you just want to make a delicious and easy fish supper, you need to try this! It’s simple, healthy and the thrill of tearing open the fish en papillote will surely cause smiles around your table.  The taste of the fresh fish in the savory romesco sauce will delight too!