Slow Cooker Chili

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Generally, the Super Bowl is one of my favorite days of the year. It celebrates two of my favorite things — football and food — and makes it generally acceptable to eat heaps of melty cheese with plenty of meat on the side. Since my team never makes it, I generally concoct some sort of reason to root for one of the teams, adopt that team feverishly for 60 minutes of game time, then go to bed pleasantly full, a wee bit tipsy and not at all ready for a Monday at work.

This year, things are a bit different. I hate both teams (or more accurately, the coaches of both teams): my dislike of the smug gum-chomping Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is topped only by my complete abhorrence of all things Belichick. #Deflategate has only fanned the flames of my hostility (though it is my favorite news story of the past six months because I’m actually a child).

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So, rather than focusing on football, I’m all in on the food. There will be dips, there will be wings, there will be nachos and there will be dessert (though most of it will be from Seamless, since I’ll be traveling on Sunday and won’t get home until just before gametime). Oh sure, the game will be on in the background. But my attention will be firmly on the amount of junk I can stuff down my gullet.

But for those of you who are more interested in what’s happening on the field, there’s this slow cooker chili. If you think I’ve been a little slow cooker-obsessed lately, well … you’re right. I’ve already waxed poetic about the benefits of one, and let’s be real: chili is mad easy, whichever way you make it. Honestly, the biggest plus in using the slow cooker here is that it frees up your stove for other recipes.

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Don’t get me wrong though, this chili is bomb. It’s spicy, smoky, beefy, hearty — basically everything you want from chili. It would be excellent on hot dogs, fries, nachos or tater tots (totchos, anyone?), but is equally delicious in a bowl with a bit of cheese, some sour cream, a few jalapeños and an ice cold beer. Finally, something to look forward to on game day …

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Blizzard-Proof Beef Bourguignon

The blizzard-pocalypse is upon us! On the offhand chance you somehow missed it, a large swath of the Northeast is supposed to get 2-3 feet of snow tonight and tomorrow morning. Thankfully, people are reacting calmly. (Don’t worry, that alert only called the storm “crippling.” Oh and “life-threatening.” God I love weather forecasters.)

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And how is your trusty blogger handling the impending storm? By stocking up on all the essentials: wine, junk food, a new Netflix project and bowls of beef bourguignon.

Beef bourguignon is a traditional recipe from the Burgundy region of France. Beef braises in a mixture of red wine and beef stock, and bacon, butter-sauteed onions and mushrooms are also involved. It’s a bit of a project, but nothing too complicated, and besides, what else are you going to do when you’re snowed in?

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The reward for your efforts is a heavenly stew that warms you right up, even on the coldest, snowiest nights. The smell that emanates from the beef bourguignon during its oven time is unbearably delicious, better than any scented candle or diffuser. But the best part: the pearl onions that are sauteed in butter and then cooked in beef stock with a bit of thyme. It took all of my willpower not to devour them immediately after they were cooked, and I still picked them out of the stew at an alarming rate.

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A hearty, warming stew that guards against the cold, fills your home with fragrant aromas and pairs nicely with a glass bottle of wine? What more could a girl ask for during #Snowmaggedon2015? Continue reading

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole

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High on the list of things I’ve always wanted to do but never had the space/wherewithal to put together is hosting brunch. I’ve spent so much of my lifetime waiting in line for brunch that it’s shameful that I haven’t yet decided to ditch the host/hostess overlords and take brunch into my own hands.

Brunch can be daunting, since in theory, it requires one to get up early and start cooking at the crack of dawn. A lot of popular dishes are “make right now” — think poached or fried eggs, pancakes, etc. But there’s a whole world of make-ahead breakfasts that feed a crowd with minimal effort. (This baked French toast, for one, or any of these many frittatas.)

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In an effort to keep my oven from pulling double-duty (I was baking something delicious that I can’t wait to tell you about, and no it wasn’t this epic cake), I decided to lean on my roommate’s slow cooker. She’s had the thing since October, and seriously guys, I cannot stop gushing about this thing. Oatmeal, mashed potatoes, chicken, Chinese-style pork … all with the same instructions: dump ingredients in, walk away, come back a few hours later to an insanely good meal that required zero work.

Case in point — this slow cooker breakfast casserole. The only work involved is browning the chorizo in Step 1. After that, you layer the ingredients a few times, pour a mix of eggs, milk and spices over top, close the lid and let the casserole cook while you sleep. I assembled the casserole before a night out on Saturday, wrapping the top of the slow cooker insert tightly with tin foil and then refrigerating it while I hit the bars on the Lower East Side.

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I came home and set the slow cooker to cook (as it turns out, a slow cooker is so easy to use that even six drinks can’t mess you up). When I woke up the next morning, my little apartment was filled with the heavenly aroma of chorizo, melted cheese, hash browns and spicy eggs, the manna of a hungover human (or a group of hungover humans, if you’re hosting brunch).

This is my kind of brunch recipe — it’s filling, it’s flavorful and it requires less effort than putting on clothes and waiting in line at a restaurant. It allows you to enjoy hosting, rather than slaving away at the stove while your guests sip mimosas and reminisce about last night’s adventures. If hosting brunch is always this easy, I may ditch restaurant brunch for good. Continue reading

Dark Chocolate Stout Cake with Bourbon Frosting

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While a quinoa casserole can certainly lift one out of the winter blahs, we all know what really does the trick: chocolate and booze. While that could be red wine birthday cake (or red wine brownies), it also could be this chocolate stout cake with bourbon frosting. I’m sorry, I meant this epic chocolate stout cake with bourbon frosting, as The Beeroness aptly describes.

Epic is right. There’s beer in the cake batter and bourbon in the frosting, and the alcohol adds flavors that are complex, rich, heavenly … sorry, got a bit lost in my thoughts. I’ve talked about baking with stout beers before, and while they’re good in this Irish porter cake, their deeply toasted malty notes really shine when paired with chocolate. For this cake, I used Allagash Black, a Belgian-style stout with chocolate, coffee and caramel flavors. It adds a subtle bitterness to the cake, one that plays nicely with the espresso powder and super dark chocolate in the batter.

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And let’s talk about that chocolate. There’s a lot here–over a pound–and all of it is dark. I used 72% dark chocolate for the cake, and 63% for the frosting, which keeps the cake from become cloyingly sweet. The bourbon and sour cream keep the chocolate buttercream frosting interesting, and I won’t admit how much of it we ate directly from the bowl with a spoon.

I made this chocolate stout cake for my sister’s 25th birthday (apparently, 25th birthdays are a boozy affair) and it’s a great celebration cake. I mean, chocolate, beer, bourbon — how could it not be?

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Cheesy Southwestern Quinoa Casserole

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Ever since I got back from India, I’ve been stuck in sort of a weird funk. After three weeks of adventures in India, it’s back to the same old routine. And now that the holidays are over, I have nothing to look forward to. Besides for the bone-chilling cold, which makes it extra painful to leave my bed every morning. Have I sucked you into my dark cloud of gloom yet?

This ennui has seeped into all aspects of my life. I’m no longer excited by Friends on Netflix. There’s are no enticing classes at the gym. Even a sale at Anthropologie did little to lift me out of my doldrums. The worst has been in the kitchen: I’ve had such little recipe inspiration and a limited desire to cook, and now have ordered dinner so frequently that I’m bored of Seamless as well.

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Thankfully, I have friends who are as into food as I am and send me recipes all the time. This one comes courtesy of Abby, who raved about it last week. The original casserole, from Good Housekeeping, plays off the always-winning combo of broccoli and cheese, tossing in quinoa and spinach for a hearty vegetarian skillet that’s quite healthy to boot. Given my new interest in food that’s sneakily good for you but 100% delicious, I was hooked.

But of course I had to change a few things. There was a sale on pretty rainbow-colored peppers at the grocery store, so I went with those over broccoli. And I forgot to buy spinach, so … oops. I also threw in some ground turkey, though in retrospect, I think a can of black beans would be just as delicious and preserve the whole “vegetarian” premise of the dish. And of course I swapped Greek yogurt for sour cream, since I always have one and never have the other.

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But the real beauty of this quinoa casserole is that it can be changed up in a million ways. I’ve already envisioned a version similar to my beloved mushroom “risotto”, as well as one that involves Brussels sprouts. The possibilities are actually kind of exciting … could this casserole cure me of my winter blahs? Continue reading