Happy Accident: Lamb Stew

Those of us on the Eastern seaboard are enjoying a day of quiet, as the great Snowpocalypse of 2009 has forced us indoors. It seems that many of us (based on my anecdotal survey of FB statuses) are taking a queue from the best of Americana and have hunkered down with wine, chili (or stew), and holiday goodies. Count me as one of the crowd. However, due to a happy accident of bare shelves, I ended up with ground lamb instead of my usual beef. I've never cooked lamb before, ground or otherwise, so I headed to the Internet. I ended up at americanlamb.com, a website by a lamb industry group, which had a recipe for "Chef Tim Love's Spicy Lamb Chili" (http://www.americanlamb.com/recipes/browserecipes/groundlamb.aspx). I used this recipe as a start, but knew it would be too spicy for my taste and modified slightly. Here's the recipe I ended up with. The result was a savory chili with heat, tang and depth.

Laura's Snowpocalypse Lamb Chili
- olive oil
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 3 cloves garlic (could do more)
- 2 c. onion
(in the future, I think I'll try shallots for sophistication)
- 1/2 c. red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon from Chili)
- 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle chili pepper (could use real)
- 1/4 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper (I will prob. use all chipotle pepper in the future)
- 1/2 tsp. oregano (I will try basil in the future)
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (could up to 1/2 tsp.)
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 1/2 tbsp tbsp chili powder
- 3 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (with juices)
- 14 oz dark red kidney beans (could replace with great northern or cannellini beans)
- 15 oz great northern white beans (could replace with dark or light red kidney beans, but gives nice color)

In large pot sautee onion, lamb, and garlic until lamb is browned. Add red wine. Add seasonings until well blended. Add tomatoes and beans. Bring to boil. Turn down heat and simmer for about 20 min., until juices have thickened.
Takes 15-20 min. to prepare and 30 min. to cook.
Serves 6

I ate it straight away, and did not top with anything, mostly because I was so curious to taste it and I forgot. The chili itself has such a complex flavor of the heat working with the tang from the wine and tomatoes, that I hate to add anything to compete. I did wish I had some really good bread to go with it. I'd like to test different cheeses on it. A smoked fontina might work but runs the risk of being too strong. I'm also thinking something like Swiss might be an interesting counter point to the tang. On the other hand, sour cream and chives might provide just the right balance.


My Hawaiian Stir fry

I never crave vegetables, and certainly not green peppers. I hate green peppers! But, for some reason the other day, I was craving...green peppers. So, I had to find something tolerable to put them in. So, hence, I arrived at Hawaiian stir fry - a nice, light, delicious dinner. Here's the recipe (and a lousy picture).

1 package chicken tenderloins, cut into chunks
1 c. green pepper (1 lg.), cut into 1" pieces (feel free to use whatever peppers you are craving!)
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. celery, chopped
2 c. purple cabbage, chopped
2 c. pineapple in chunks (by pre-cut for ease)
1/4 c. juice (any kind)
1/4 c. soy sauce
10 basil leaves chopped
pepper blend
white pepper
dash ground red pepper

Cut up the chicken into chunks. Cook in the wok with juice, soy sauce, salt and pepper.
Pull chicken out but leave juices in.
Throw veggies and pineapple in. Enjoy the beautiful sight!!
Add basil and other seasonings.
Cook until slightly wilted, but not soft.
Toss chicken back in for a few final minutes.

I served mine on brown rice, but white rice or lettuce are just as delicious.


Delicious Autumn Spiced Apple Coffee Cake

Here's a delicious brunch treat for the fall! This is from the Spiced Apple Coffee Cake recipe in "The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Cook". I have to say that it can only be truly perfect with autumn apples straight from the orchard, and all the more rewarding if you pick them yourself.
The original recipe calls for a cinnamon bun-like icing. I made the one they recommended but wasn't overly thrilled. It's moist and sweet enough to serve without it. And, if you really need something, vanilla ice cream makes a perfect topper. Enjoy!

Williams-Sonoma Spiced Apple Coffee Cake
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tart baking apples (approx. 1 lb.) peeled, cored, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese (secret ingredient makes it super dense and moist!) at room temp.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease and flour a 9" round or square springform pan.

In the first small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a second small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon.
In a third bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the second bowl (brown sugar and spices) to the first and toss to coat.
In a fourth large bowl, mix the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar, and vanilla using a mixer on medium-low. Add eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing until smooth. Fold in apples using rubber spatula. Do not over mix.
Spread evenly into pan. Bake 60-70 minutes until top is toasty brown and toothpick or knife comes out clean.


Light dinner with good company

This is a great, quick and easy recipe - another one from my brother. Pick your favorite lettuce (I like to include a little red/purple), top it with mandarin oranges (straight out of a can), chicken (pick up a rotisserie) and crunchy chow mein noodles (right out of the can). And, Newman's Own Lighten Up Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing is the perfect finishing touch.

My friend, Tina, came over and we had a great evening catching up over this salad, a wheat baguette and red wine. Delish!

Thankful for Thanksgiving!

My lovely, long-time friends, Pete and Kathryn Hunter and their young son, Jay Wesley, were kind enough to have me to their home in London, Ontario, Canada to celebrate American Thanksgiving.

Despite the fact that there were only three of us eating the meal directly, we had a spread fit for an army. Our meal was traditional, including:

-Turkey (we ended up using a turkey breast due to a foibled grocery run in the States)
- Dressing
- Gravy
- Orange cranberry sauce (Kathryn's recipe)
- Mashed potatoes
- Green bean casserole
- Butternut squash, apple and cranberry bake (http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/006160butternut_squash_apple_cranberry_bake.php)
- Pumpkin pie
- Mince meat pie
- Cranberry nut pie (Kathryn's recipe)
- Whipped cream

Most of these recipes are very traditional, like I had in my childhood growing up. And, sometimes, that's the best.

The really interesting recipes were Kathryn's and I'm not telling. :) However, the Butternut squash, apple and cranberry bake is very easy and delicious (esp. if you get pre-cut squash). The recipe calls for butter and brown sugar, but they aren't really necessary if the apples are juicy, so it's an easy recipe to reinvent health-wise.

Kathryn did teach me how to roll a pie dough from scratch, a skill I'm looking forward to putting into action.

Stir fry (11-23-08)

Back in November '08, my brother came down and he cooked me a delicious chicken stir-fry. Never doubt the ability of a large wok, some chicken tenderloins and frozen veggies to provide a tasty, healthy, substantive meal that lasts.


Greetings all! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that 2009 is off to an auspicious start for everyone!

It may have been a while since I flogged, but I've been doing a lot of cooking and entertaining since I last posted. I've been cooking for and/or with friends. I've also been blessed with a few new wonderful and exciting cooking accouterments:
- a Dutch Oven (http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=3&SKU=16048992), something I've wanted for years
- a fabulous new cookbook from my brother: The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook The Essential Recipe Collection for Today's Home Cook

I, of course, have photographic evidence of all this and will post a number of messages to get us all up to date.