Thursday, December 22, 2011

Easiest Gift Ever

Making gifts is a wondeful idea. Though sometimes after hours and hours of prepping, cooking, resting dough, and actually looking at cost, making gifts becomes WAY more expensive and time consuming then just buying one. Now I'm all about the spirit of giving something you put your heart and hands into, but not when it comes at the expense of your sanity. 
Thats where chocolate bark comes in. It's everything I want in a gift, it looks nice and expensive, while being cheap and easy. Now this is one of a billion variations, though I really loved the combination of flavors. I would be careful using ginger because while I could eat ginger all the times, not everyone feels the same way. Ginger is a strong flavor, and even in this decadent dish, the ginger is one of the stronger flavors, so be sure the person you are gifting this too likes ginger. You could sub it for another dried fruit or nut, or just omit it all together.
The only bad thing about this stuff is how addictive it is. It will behoove you to make it for someone else, avoiding any all night chocolate binges that have been known to happen. Not to me of course, but other people. Oh. And me. I know all our big holidays are behind us now, but this is a perfect New Years treat to bring to a festive partay. Enjoy!
Draw a rectangle
Melt that Choc-co-lat. mmmmmmm.
Pour in rectangle, doing a better job than I did. 
Sprinkle on delicious goodies

French Chocolate Bark
Based On Barefoot Contessa's French Chocolate Bark

The Goods: Makes 20-24 pieces
8 ounces good semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup roasted almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/2 inch diced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup candied ginger, 1/2 inch diced

The Deal: 
1. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and draw a 9-inch by 10 inch rectangle on the paper. Flip the paper over.

2. Place all the semi-sweet chocolate and half of the bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir and continue to microwave until all the chocolate has JUST melted, checking every 20 seconds, stirring with each check. Once fully melted, immediately add the rest of the bittersweet chocolate and stir vigorously until the chocolate is completely smooth.

3. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the draw rectangle, doing your best to distribute the chocolate evenly. Use a spatula to get all the chocolate out of the bowl and evenly spread it on the paper. Then top the chocolate in this order: ginger, almonds, cherries, apricots, and raisins. Set aside until firm, about 2 hours. Once firm, but into squares and serve at room temperature.
This will keep for about a week served in a air tight container.

It's Chili Yall.

With the weather dropping, sorta depending where you live, I think most of us want something warm and simple to come home to. And if you are like me, with all this holiday insanity, you need something that doesn't take a lot of time. Soups and Chili are the perfect fix. With only a little chopping you throw everything into a pot and cook it until the flavors meld, which gives you just enough time to open the wine and snuggle up to a book. 

This recipe is a meld of a few different vegetarian chili dishes I found. You can add all sort of other vegetables such as zucchini, sweet potatoes, peppers, etc but I was looking for something with almost no chopping needed. My kitchen had been usurped by my roommate all day so it was 9pm before I could start dinner. Given the circumstance, I needed dinner to be quick so did not add a ton of vegetables. As I said, there a million variations, but this is a great basic chili to add on as you see fit. The flavors are rich and it's healthy to boot! You could also play with beans, using pinto or white northern beans, along with the classic black bean for a variation. As I said chili is fairly versatile, but knowing what spices to use helps your chili stand out.
Most of us will be eating fairly gourmet this weekend, but next week I urge you to make this simple, healthy chili. Make it on Monday and have lunch for the rest of the week :)

Vegetarian Chili
Based on "Vegetarian Pleasures" Black Bean Chili

The Goods: Makes a big ole pot of Chili, serves 4-6
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil 
2 medium onions, diced
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean and cubed
2 cups fresh corn kernels (frozen is fine) 
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes in their juices
3 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more if you want a spicy chili)

Suggested toppings: 
Sour cream and chives
Sliced Avocado
Shredded Cheddar
Fresh Cilantro

The Deal: 
1. Heat oil on medium high heat in a large stock pot. Add onions and garlic, cooking until soft, about 3 minutes. Add corn and mushrooms and cook until soft and browned around the edges, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chili powder, soy sauce, cumin, oregano, ginger, cinnamon, salt and cayenne, stirring constantly and cooking until fragrant about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, black beans, and vegetable stock and mix well while bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, keeping a good simmer until thickened, but not pasty, about 30 minutes. Taste and add seasonings if desired. 

Serve warm over brown rice. This also reheats beautifully, add a bit of water if too thick when reheating in a pot.