Sunday, November 16, 2008

Homemade Pumpkin and Banana Breads

I was feeling very culinary when I woke up yesterday morning. Plus I knew I had to bake something for a brunch the next day.

I have modified my mother's original recipes for both of these sweet breads (cakes are a more fitting description). Instead of white flour I used whole wheat flour. Instead of milk, I used soy milk. Instead of candied Maraschino cherries, I used dried Goji berries (it was either those or dried currents). Everything else was more or less according to her recipes.

The result is a denser, less sickeningly sweet bread, though still sweet because of those chocolate chips that must go into the Banana Bread. Once you starting using chocolate chips, you'll never go back.

My sister modified the Banana Bread recipe by adding cocoa powder to it. It was different from my mom's, yet tasty, too!

[I'm tired and will post the recipes later.]

Vegetarian Chili (from scratch)

I started making this chili when I was teaching English in China in 2002-03. We had very cold winters but very warm apartments and nothing better to do but have potlucks in each other's places. I think I made chili at least 3-4 times. I discovered the beans in the market place and the vegetables were just so dang cheap then!

Other people brought over the fixings and sides to go along with the chili such as: corn bread, grated cheese (a luxury in China!), vegetables, drinks, etc.

Beans are not for "hurry up and eat" kind of people. This takes time: at least 4 hours must be set aside for the process.

The Beans
I generally like to use black beans, but a variety of beans can also be fun. More recently I used a combination of black, red and Peruvian dried beans.

Be sure to wash and pick through the beans to take out any non-beans (such as pebbles).

For this recipe I used 1 cup each of the black, red and Peruvian beans and used the quick cooking method. Place the dried beans in a really big soup pot and a good 6-8 cups of water. Bring the dried beans to a boil for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour.

During this 1 hour wait time I like to prep my add-ins.

The Veggies
1 1/2 - 2 bell peppers (capsicum): green and/or red, diced
1 onion, diced
2-3 large tomatoes, peeled* and diced
1 can tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
Chili powder, to taste
Garlic powder and/or freshly minced garlic, to taste
Salt, to taste

*To remove the skin from a tomato, stick a fork in it and hold it over open flame if you have a gas stove. You will hear the tomato hiss and pop. If you're unfortunate enough to have only electric, gently drop them in already boiling water, remove quickly and place in ice water. The skins will be ready to slip right off!

Back to the Beans
When your 1 hour is up, pour the beans and water into a colander (which is already in your sink). Rinse well, then put back into your big soup pot. Add all the above ingredients except for the spices as that can be done later. You can add a little water to this if you think it's too thick.

Boil the mixture for up to 2 hours, or until the beans are softened (you can tell by tasting), stirring occasionally. In the last 1/2 hour, add the spices and make sure you taste it until you have the right combination.

Some other stuff
While the beans are cooking you can bake some cornbread, prepare some garlic bread, grate some cheese, cook up some rice or spaghetti.

In China we ate a lot of rice and since there were 11 mouths to feed (plus 3 young men), we prepared a lot of rice to put in the bowl of chili to make it go farther.

My mom likes to have chili over spaghetti for some reason. I grew up eating it that way, too, and now it's kind of like a comfort food.

Once your beans are finished, you will have tons to eat! Why not make your chili into an event or special day and invite people over to enjoy the fruit of your cooking. Maybe even ask them to potluck the fixings and sides? Or, bring over 1/2 the pot to a neighbor (that's what we do!) Otherwise I recommend freezing at least 1/2 of the pot to savor later.