Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chili Weather

This is the time of year the Brooks' start to think of chili. Hearty, smoky chili. The recipe below is an adaption of the recipe our youngest daughter used to make her "world-famous" chili when she was 8. The change - CHILE MORITA.

Chile Morita is a revelation. These dried chiles (found at Produce 2000 for the Metuchenites) are extremely smoky with a mild heat and perfect for a kid's chili. If you don't have any in your house, I beg you to go buy them, open the pack and just inhale the aroma. It will change you.


1 lb ground chicken
2 large carrots, peeled and diced in 1/2" sections (great for older kids)
3 large celery ribs, dice in 1/2" sections (great for kids to chop)
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
1 can of black beans, drained
1 can of great northern beans, drained
1 large can of diced tomatoes with juice
1 small can of chicken stock
2 Chile Moritas, stems removed and seeds mostly kept, cut into strips (if you want it milder, remove seeds)
Dried Oregano
2 Bay leaves

1) Heat soup pan on high. Once hot, generously coat the bottom with olive oil. Working quickly add garlic, stir, then add onions, stir, then add carrots and celery. Cook for 2-3 minutes until carrots and onions start to brown. Rub oregano between hands into pan.

2) Reserve vegetables in a bowl. Add ground chicken to the soup pan. When chicken is browned, add the reserved vegetables, beans, tomatoes with their juice, chicken stock, Chile Moritas and Bay leaves. Cover, turn down the heat to medium-low and let cook for about 30 minutes.

3) The chili has only a little broth, so feel free to add a dollop of sour cream to the top and some fresh cilantro.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Olive Mill Pasta

What I've learned over the years cooking with the kids, is that they like to cook. NOT washing and cleaning up, rather chopping, peeling, sauteing and stirring. So, I've let them. It has the added side effect of ownership of the dish. Adding this spice or that ingredient, but not that one! Ultimately, they can't reject trying and eating something they've cooked.

One of the easier dishes to make together is Olive Mill Pasta. The dish requires you to cook the pasta like you would risotto by sauteing the base, adding the pasta uncooked, then slowing adding the chicken stock and lots of stirring. It is a little labor intensive, but three sets of hands or more can work on the dish together - based on how small the hands who are stirring.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium-small onions, minced
1/4 pound uncooked potatoes, peeled and cubed into bite-size pieces
About 5 cups chicken stock, you can use a mix of stock and water or even water and bouillon cubes
Box of pasta, preferably wheat pasta which holds up slightly better
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A vegetable of your choice - I've used Fennel, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Carrots - something the kids eat
1 garlic clove, peeled and diced
Fresh basil or oregano (could be dried, just rub it between your hands before you put it in to release some flavor)
3 ounces/1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add 1/2 the butter. After the butter melts, add onions and potatoes and cook until they begin to brown.

2. If small hands are helping, determine who will start as stirrer and who will be the first pourer of stock. The first pourer should grate the cheese, if you have Parmigiano-Reggiano.

3. Add pasta to pan, stirring to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Add fennel/mushrooms/carrots, garlic and basil or oregano. Add enough stock to come half way up the pasta. Stirring pasta often until stock has mostly evaporated. Add more stock while continue to stir.

4. If smaller hands are helping, switch the stirrer for the pourer after 9-10 minutes since much stirring is required.

5. Continue adding stock occasionally to always keep some liquid in the pan. Pasta should be al dente after about 18-20 minutes.

4. Fold in cheese and the rest of the butter. Have the helpers sample and ask if it needs anything. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Put into bowls and bring over the Parmesan to be added to top if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dad is Cooking

I'm a man driven by pet peeves. My current one is a commercial about a mom trying to hide from her kids that there is a serving of vegetables in their Chef Boyardee. We have to sneak healthy food into our kids? Apparently! There is even a woman who has written a cookbook about "hiding healthy foods in kid's favorite meals." Blah.

This might work for everyone when your offspring are kids, but what happens when they are young adults making food choices on their own? Will they go for the salad or the cheeseburger? Broccoli or the fries? And what about when they have to go grocery shopping for themselves?

This wasn't a dilemma we have to face today because we're part smart and part lucky. We're open with our kids and talk to them about the choices they make with food, exercise and overall health. And in return they've been open to try new things - as long as we don't push too hard. So, now we have adventurous eaters who know and express what they like.

I hope to do more than just post recipes here. I'll also:
1) Give ways to adjust each recipe for kids still learning to be adventurous
2) Highlight ways to alter the recipes if one doesn't have a lot of time to cook
3) Introduce some of my favorite ingredients

Plus, may you enjoy eating great food with your kids.