Sunday, August 30, 2009
I was just wondering, because I'm judging the International Chili Society's regional cookoff in San Antonio! If you live near the area (or if you don't... hello! Road trip!), come on out and taste some chili! There will be plenty of beer, food, live music, and everything goes to charity. (www.soldiersangels.org)
Saturday September 5
Cowboys Dance Hall
3030 NE Loop 410 @ I-35
10:00 am- 5:00 pm
The cookoff continues on Sunday, but I'll only be judging (and harshly, might I add) on Saturday. Come out and say hi to me! If you've got the cajones to enter the contest and submit your own chili (hey, I helped you out on that last chili blog), you can still enter by going to www.chilicookoff.com.
Posted by Tricia Lewis, author at 4:10 PM
Monday, August 24, 2009
Dear Tricia, Thank you for your blog about comfort food, however when I need comfort food, I look for something like chocolate cake, a mall sized chocolate chip cookie, or anything slathered in Nutella. Any help?
If I'm going with the basis of my last comfort food blog and assuming that you want something that won't add cellulite to your butt cheeks, then yes I can help you. The Nutella thing throws a wrench in my research, but we'll get to that later.
Welcome to my office. I'm sorry you are currently in need of comfort and its namesake food. Please come in and make a white wine spritzer: I'm already one ahead of you.
Mall size chocolate chip cookies are indeed a comfort when you're in need. And I'm sorry, but Its just plain mean to put up those Great American Cookie kiosks in the middle of the mall so that there's no escape when your blood sugar plummets while shopping, you get a whiff of chocolate chip heaven, and somehow levitate and then float over to the cookies without any recollection of it whatsoever. Those cookie guys deserve to be punished. Or maybe they deserve a medal, I'm not sure. So, what I've found is a recipe for an olive oil cookie that you can bake at home into your own mall sized cookie. Its lower in fat, and the fat is unsaturated and actually good for you. The cookie dough doesn't include chocolate because most of my readers are looking for quick and convenient recipes, and the olive oil chocolate chip cookie recipes all have about 26 ingredients in them. I'm pretty sure if you're in need of comfort food you're not in the mood to go grocery shopping for 26 ingredients. So, its a sugar cookie. We'll get to the chocolate chips after.
Here's your ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
Two egg whites
2-1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup skim milk
Mix up the first four ingredients in a bowl.
Mix up the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add half of them to the bowl and stir it up.
Add half of the milk and stir it up.
Add the other half of the flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir it up.
Add the rest of the milk, stir it up.
(I know the whole stirring in half the flour and half the milk, etc., seems like a pain in the ass. You want to just dump it all in there, right? Well I promise you this saves you time, elbow grease, and extra cleaning up. Trust me. Or don't. But when you waste your precious time that could be spent at Happy Hour, and 12 Clorox cleaning wipes, I'll be the first one to say I told you so.)
Take the dough out of the bowl and wrap it up in plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator for about half an hour before you roll it out. While you're doing that, make another white wine spritzer and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out the dough about 1/4" thick. If you don't have a rolling pin, just use a can of pan spray or a bottle of liquor. You probably have at least one of those, right? Don't use a can of something inedible (like hairspray) just in case you have bad hand-eye coordination and might get it on the food. No one likes AquaNet cookies.
Here's the fun part: Don't cut the dough. Transfer it on to a buttered cookie sheet and bake it as a mall-sized cookie. Bake it for about 10-12 minutes, or until the edges start to turn brown. Beautiful.
To top your comfort cookie, get an 8 oz container of fat free cream cheese. Beat it real good, like the domestic abuse guys say in the back of the squad car on C.O.P.S., and add about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat it until its light and fluffy and spread it on top of your mall sized cookie. And on top of that, you're going to sprinkle MINI chocolate chips. The reason why you want to buy mini chocolate chips is because you get chocolate in every bite but don't have to use as many because they're not as big as regular sized chocolate chips. The portion size is naturally smaller... so try not to use the entire bag, okay? Even in your state of distress, remember this blog and try to resist.
Okay, so what you have there is a mall sized cookie, a basic fat free cream cheese frosting, and your precious little chocolate chips. It's not calorie-free or sugar-free, but come on... I'm not God.
Now for your Nutella request... at 100 calories per tablespoon, this stuff is NOT healthy. Delicious, I know... but it has serious potential to take you on an express train to Cellulite City. So here's what I say when it comes to needing a vehicle for a fatty topping to your mouth: use fruit. It has natural sugar instead of processed high fructose death wish, and it has lots of fiber so you'll feel full faster, along with lots of good vitamins and minerals. When you're buying the ingredients for your mall-sized comfort cookie, go buy a pint of strawberries for dipping into Nutella. Or some bananas, or maybe a mango. Whatever suits your fancy, Fancy Pants.
I hope this helps your need of comfort food! If it doesn't, I'm always ready for another challenge in the battle against big butt cheeks. Just try me...
Monday, August 17, 2009
Dear Tricia, How is white chocolate different than dark and milk chocolate? And why does it seize faster than dark and milk chocolate?
Chocolate is one of those awesome things that people either absolutely love, or absolutely get sick from. I LOVE things like that- nothing says awesome more than being able to only spark a love/hate relationship with someone.
Let's start by talking about what exactly makes up chocolate, aside from magic, which no one lists on the ingredient list but I'm pretty sure its in there. The actual taste of chocolate comes from the cocoa liquor. Don't get your hopes up... there's no booze in it. And on its own, it doesn't taste great: its like chocolate with no sugar in it, and no melt-in-your-mouth feel. But without the cocoa liquor, chocolate wouldn't taste like chocolate. The second ingredient that makes up chocolate is the cocoa butter, which is what gives it its smooth, melty texture. So cocoa liquor (you'll also hear people refer to it as "cocoa solids"), cocoa butter, and the addition of sugar is what makes up dark, or bittersweet chocolate.
What's added to dark chocolate to turn it into milk chocolate is.... da da da dum... MILK. You hear that, vegans? Milk chocolate is yet another thing you're depriving yourself of, you crazies! Milk powder can also be used, and vanilla is often an added flavor.
White chocolate isn't actually chocolate at all: its a confection with a big fat liar of a name. White chocolate is made of cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and vanilla. The cocoa liquor is missing, which is what keeps it out of the "chocolate" category. Sorry, whitey.
So lets break this down:
Dark chocolate- cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar
Milk chocolate- cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla
White chocolate- cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla
Moving on to your next question: why does white chocolate seize faster? First let me explain to the non-experts what seizing means. When you melt chocolate and add water to it, it turns into a gloppy, thick mess that is impossible to melt again. That's called "seizing." Water and chocolate are mortal enemies- they're like the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders of the chocolate world. When you start adding extra ingredients to dark chocolate, (like sugar, milk, and vanilla), it makes the chocolate less stable, which is a nice way of saying it gets fussy and temperamental. So, if you've got a bowl of dark chocolate melting over a pot of simmering water, some of the condensation from the bowl might get into the chocolate and it could be fine. But if any moisture at all gets into a bowl of melting white or milk chocolate, it will seize up immediately. And that's just because it has all the extra added ingredients that make it less stable.
If you ruin a batch of white or milk chocolate that has seized up, luckily you don't have throw it out. That would be stupid and financially irresponsible, and people, we're in a recession! Just add lots of hot milk, stir it up, and voila: hot chocolate. Keep it in the fridge for when you get your late night chocolate craving. (I don't get those cravings... mine are usually for white wine spritzers.)
When you're trying to figure out what kind of chocolate you want to buy, good chocolate will usually have the cocoa liquor content on the label. A higher number means it has more cocoa liquor, and thus, less sugar. So if you're a bigger fan of sweet chocolate and are comparing two labels that say 56% and 70%, go for the one that says 56%.
If you've heard any of the hype about dark chocolate being good for you, yes, it is indeed true. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols- the antioxidants that keep things like cancer and premature aging away. So if you're going to try to eat chocolate for the health benefits, make sure its not milk or white. The higher the cocoa liquor content, the higher the level of polyphenols. I like to think that for every bite of chocolate I eat, it erases one of the martinis I've consumed in my lifetime. I should take stock in Hershey's....
If you read my last entry on chili, you'll know that I was super paranoid of the advice I was giving. This was just in case the International Chili Society read my blog, decided I was giving all the wrong information, and kidnapped me.
Soon after I posted it, I got an email from a representative of the International Chili Society. *Insert ominous music here* Fortunately, they liked my blog and immediately invited me to judge their next chili cook off in San Antonio. I, being so judgmental, was thrilled to oblige.
So, my puppets, if you're near the San Antonio area the weekend of Saturday September 5, go check out the Regional Chili Cook Off from 10 am- 5pm at Cowboys Dance Hall. Come thirsty for beer, hungry for chili, and ready to say hi to me! If you're nice, I'll share my Tums with you. They're still accepting competitors, so if you think you can hang with the big boys, come on down, because the winner gets to compete in the World Champion Chili Cook Off in West Virginia. (Hellooo... bragging rights!) More information is available at www.chilicookoff.com
Also, have you voted for What the Bleep Happened to My Rump Roast as Dallas' Best Blog of 2009 yet? Go to http://polls.dallasobserver.com/polls/dal/bestof2009/
to nominate me- it only takes a minute, lazy bones.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The Dallas Observer will be putting out their "Best of 2009" issue next month and if you love this blog, go nominate it as 2009's Best Blog in Dallas! Please copy and paste the following link to vote: http://polls.dallasobserver.com/polls/dal/bestof2009/
Make sure you pass the word on to all of your friends.
Remember, you can follow me on twitter as whatthebleep1, and become a fan on Facebook.
As always, thanks for your support! And as a teaser, the International Chili Society HAS contacted me about my Unsolved Chili Mysteries blog... but for what? Come back tomorrow and find out!
Posted by Tricia Lewis, author at 2:02 PM
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Dear Tricia, My husband loves chili...but every time I make a batch it either turns out too cumin-y or too chili powder- y. What is the best combination of spices for a hearty chili? Also, what is the best kind of meat to use? Is bison good? And the beans, which kind should I use there? Please help me please my baby's belly!
*I should warn all of you that if I suddenly go missing, I have been kidnapped by the International Chili Society. I'm wearing grey shorts, a white shirt with a the Star of David on it, and ski boots.*
I thought this would be a pretty light-hearted blog entry... its just chili, right? Well I was wrong. The International Chili Society proved me waaaaay wrong. Yes, there is a society for chili and, yes, it is international. And they have rules. I'm afraid to type too loud in case they hear me and read this and tell me I'm wrong. Shhhhhhh.
First of all, I'm going to give you a quick history lesson. There are two groups of people that can be credited with the first chili. Supposedly, Ranch cooks were one of them. Why? Because they usually had meat that was about to go bad and needed a good way to cover up the impending taste of rotten death. Chile peppers did a nice job covering it up. By stewing the chile peppers and meat together (that's what "chile con carne" actually translates to: chile pepper with meat), they came up with a hearty dish, used up what was going to be thrown away eventually, and the cowboys ate it right up. And if you read my Rocky Mountain Oysters post from Monday, you'll realize that throwing away anything was unheard of... even the cow's family jewels. The second group of people credited with making the first chili are the Aztecs, though theirs harbors a lot more anger. Supposedly, they were so angry about the Spanish Conquistadors invading their lands, that they killed and cut up the Spaniards, seasoned the meat with chile peppers, and ate them. Mmmm... cannibal chili. It gives Spanish Chile a whole new meaning, doesn't it? Can you imagine Fox News doing a story on that? "Aztec Cannibals Make Invaders into Chili." They'd probably blame it all on President Obama.
So lets get to fixing your chili, shall we?
First rule: lean meat only, preferably not ground. Lean meat is tougher, but the reason why you want to use it is because you're slowly cooking it in lots of flavorful juices that will tenderize it. So yes, bison is good because its lean. Ground meat will fall apart if its cooked slowly in so many juices, so cube up it up into medium sized chunks. Any stewing meat is ideal, and as a recession bonus, its cheap. Please refer to my "The Beef on Beef and Getting Grilled on Grilling" post for a quick lesson on the different cuts of beef. There's also a pretty picture to look at.
Second Rule: No beans. Since I live in Texas, we're going with Texas-style chili. And Texas-style chili NEVER has beans in it. If you must add beans (Shhhh! Don't let the International Chili Society hear you!), add them after you've finished cooking the chili so that they don't break down into mush. According to the history of chili (and its lengthy), if the cook lived in a poor area, they could bulk up the chili by adding beans, but that was not ideal. If you must disobey The International Chili Society, then just use whatever beans you like, because you're already in going to get in big trouble. And if you don't, then I'm telling on you. You can buy actual "chili beans," but kidney beans and pinto beans are perfectly fine too. Just use what you like best. Its like me and box wine: sure, I'm supposed to drink fine wine out of a bottle, but do I always want to? No. I'm just not that fussy. So... Franzia it is.
Third, we're going to talk about spices. Adding spices to chili is about as personal as picking out underwear, except imagine having 6,000 different types of underwear to choose from. Its exhausting and there is no right or wrong choice. What I learned from "Chili Cookoff Confidential" is that its not so much about what spices you use, but when you put them in. This is what's called a "dump." Go ahead and laugh... I did. And the fact that I'm talking about dumps and underwear in the same paragraph is purely coincidental, I promise. But the chili pros swear by mixing up all the spices at the beginning of the cooking process, and adding them to the chili in 2 or 3 "dumps" along the way. You add the first dump when you cook the meat. The second dump goes in when you're adding liquid to the meat to make the gravy. And the third dump goes in right before you finish cooking the chili. This is actually a really smart idea because spices change flavor as they cook, and in the case of cumin, it tends to get a little bitter. So you're probably adding the right amount of chili powder and cumin, but not at the right time. Whether or not you use two or three dumps seems to remain controversial in the chili world. But again, there are also 6,000 different types of chile powder to choose from, so there is no possible way to be right or wrong here. You'll also get better results by using different types of chili powder together, not using one kind. This makes the flavor of the chili more robust and complex, not just spicy. If you can find it, chimayo chili powder is my absolute favorite. And anytime you happen to travel to the southwest, especially New Mexico, make an effort to buy different regional types of chili powder that, most likely, you can't get at home. That's a much better souvenir than a stupid shot glass with the coyote with the bandanna, howling at the moon. God, I hate those.
So in conclusion, remove the beans, use lean meat, and add your spices in separate "dumps. " That should help your chili dilemma and fill your husbands belly with happy results. For more information on chili, check out the International Chili Society's website, www.chilicookoff.com. And if I suddenly go missing, that should also give you a hint to where kidnapper took me.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Dear Tricia, We were at a Colorado Rockies game and the couple that sat next to us asked what they need to eat at Coors Field. My boyfriend said the brats are good and the famous food at the stadium used to be rocky mountain oysters. They said "Oysters? Weird." I then realized they thought it was weird because we are landlocked, so I asked if they knew what rocky mountain oysters were. After explanation, I want to know if it really was the food known to the stadium and how they were/are served?
*Warning! This entry is not meant for the faint of heart. If you have bad vision and can't read a computer screen very well, then this is one meant for you.*
Hmmmm. Well, how do I begin this one without grossing everyone out? Aw, screw it, I've never been one to be bashful on my blog. Get ready readers, if you don't know what Rocky Mountain Oysters are, we're talking about cow balls. Yessirree, the testicles of male cows, better known as Bulls. Bull balls. Balls. Balls. Balls. Swinging sirloins. Some claim that Rocky Mountain Oysters are balls from bison, and Prairie Oysters are from the bull. But they can also come from sheep or boars.
Now that you've gotten over the initial shock and possible disturbing mental image, lets get to the schooling on serving bull balls, also known as "tendergroin," "calf fries," and "prairie oysters." Bulls that aren't meant for breeding are often castrated when they're calves because it makes them less aggressive and a little meatier for when its time to go "out to pasture." I know that sounds horribly sadistic, but that's what also happens to your dog when he gets neutered. Their little family jewels get removed so that their behavior is less aggressive. Simple as that.
The history behind Rocky Mountain Oysters isn't cut and dry, which is understandable because I don't think that's something Encyclopedia Britannica really wanted to dive into. (Although its a lot more interesting than reading about the history of the flashlight) It seems that ranch cooks used to always be on the lookout for new sources of food, and bull cajones were yet another part of the cow that they didn't want to let go to waste. Stop grimacing... this is something that tribes all over the world since the dawn of time have been practicing. Letting any part of an animal meant for food to go to waste was blasphemous, especially when it came to trying to make it through a cold winter. So, balls it was. Testicles are technically defined as an "offal," which the dictionary defines as "by product or waste from a process," but in the culinary world, it means the internal organ, rather than the meat or bones. Many countries, including our very own, classify some offals, such as liver and kidneys as a delicacy. Bull nads fall in this same category: something to remember if you order the offal tasting at an expensive French restaurant.
But lets get to your precious Rocky Mountain Oysters. RMO's are almost always served fried. The testicle is sliced (ouch) into smaller pieces, dredged in flour and spices, and deep fried. Served with dipping sauce, the flavor is supposed to be pretty neutral, but reminiscent of liver. According to Tom Green, they taste like "fried cowlamari." If you decide to make your very own bull nuts at home , you should be able to special order them from your butcher, especially if you live in Colorado, Montana, or anywhere closer to the Rockies. Most likely, they will be come frozen. While they're still frozen, slice and peel away the muscle around the testicle. What's left is what you will slice, season, and fry. One recipe I found was written by someone who swears by marinating the slices in beer first.
As far as Coors Field being known for this ballpark delicacy, that's absolutely true. After looking up different football and baseball stadiums, it seems everyone has their own style of hot dog and sausage, but yours is the only place that proudly serves up Rocky Mountain Oysters, about 40-50 orders a game, according to one Coors Field representative.
Moving on to something else interesting that I found: in Montana, they have Testicle Festivals every summer, and not just one... you have your pick of a handful. Here, people can drink copious amounts of beer (I'm in), enter Rocky Mountain Oyster cook offs (I'm out), watch Hairy Chest competitions (I'm in), and eat plenty fried bull testes (I'm out.) Seriously, go check it out: www.testyfesty.com Apparently, it's a ball.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Dear Tricia, When I go through a breakup, comfort food is often my new best friend. Although these foods comfort my broken heart, they also comfort my ass and thighs. So what are some comfort foods that won't add numbers to my jeans size? Please help broken hearts everywhere fill the void in our hearts and not our asses.
Oh my sweet, sweet friend... I feel your pain. What's your poison? Mine is an entire wheel of brie eaten cold, and a half a box of wine. Once I even thought about drinking Ranch dressing straight from the bottle, but thankfully, my roommate interrupted that idea. First of all, I'm sorry about your heartbreak, but I know you don't want to hear me spout off all the usual cliches. What you want is comfort food, and that's what I'm going to help you out with, cliche-free. (But I'm going to call him an asshole anyway.)
My idea of comfort food usually involves cheese, and that's where fat-free cheese comes into the picture. Seriously, if you want a big ol' plate of nachos, go rock it out, but use the fat-free cheese to dump some of the guilt. Kraft makes a really good one that melts like regular cheese. I have a recipe that I came up with a few years ago that is a healthy, casserole version of enchiladas, and if Mexican food is comfort food for you, then you're going to love it. It has layers of fat free cheese, refried black beans, and tons and tons of veggies.
Head to the grocery store and buy a few things. And yes, its okay if you're wearing sweat pants that you haven't washed in 6 days. I've totally been there and I'm not going to judge. Here's what's on your grocery list:
1 package of corn tortillas
1 can of enchilada sauce
1 can of fat-free refried black beans
1 red bell pepper
1 bag of baby spinach
1 package of Kraft fat-free shredded cheese
Feel free to take some liberties on what vegetables you want to buy. If you prefer something other than what I've listed, then by all means buy other veggies. Be mindful that carrots and potatoes take a lot longer to cook than squash and onions do, so you may want to avoid those two.
When you get home, pour yourself a glass of wine and start putting together your casserole. Get a casserole dish that is ideally 3" or deeper and no wider than 8" by 11". Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then chop up your vegetables. Don't worry about making the vegetables look nice, just try to make them close to the same size. You'll also only need about half of the bag of spinach, which you don't need to chop. When the rest of the vegetables are chopped, mix them all together in a bowl. Go ahead and pour a second glass of wine... I'll wait. Ok, ready?
Next you're going to start making layers in the dish. Put 2 tortillas in to cover the bottom. On top of that, spread a layer of refried beans using half the can. Then put half of vegetables over that. On top of the vegetables, pour a third of the can of enchilada sauce. Then put a healthy layer of shredded cheese on top. Repeat this one more time using 2 more tortillas, the other half of the beans, the other half of the vegetables, another third of the enchilada sauce, and cheese. Top it off with 2 more tortillas, the last third of the enchilada sauce, and the rest of the cheese on top. Feel free to pour another glass of wine because if you're like me, you may have "accidentally" chugged it.
Bake the casserole for about 25-30 minutes. Depending on how old your oven is, it may take longer to cook the casserole through, but its done when the cheese on top is fully melted and starting to brown.
So here's what you've got in your Comfort Enchilada Casserole (Enchi-role?): more than a full day's serving of vegetables, an easily digestible protein, plenty of fiber, very little fat content, and LOTS of comfort. The only unhealthy part of this comfort food is the sodium content, but its not going to kill you and it has much less sodium than say... a bucket of fried chicken or an entire pizza. (Hey, I'm just stating the facts. I have eaten an entire pizza. It was ugly.) It also reheats really well in the microwave for when you want leftovers at 2 in the morning. When combined with watching a Sex and the City marathon and plenty of wine, you'll be back to normal in no time, with the waistband of your jeans still leaving you free of muffin tops.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Greetings from Chicago, my pets. While I'm on vacation here in the windy city, I'll try to do my best and get in a blog entry, but please understand if I don't get to it until Thursday... In the meantime, I'll be trying to finish the book proposal for What the Bleep and attempting to find the perfect Chicago hot dog. If you've got any ideas for good food that I can't miss here, feel free to shoot me an email. But keep checking back for my next blog, "How to eat your feelings without getting cellulite on your butt cheeks."
By the way, yes that IS a picture of the building that Elisabeth Shue and the car thieves scaled in the 80's gem "Adventures in Babysitting." It's one of my favorite movies of all time. Don't &%$@ with the babysitter.
Posted by Tricia Lewis, author at 9:32 AM