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October 11, 2019

Sweet Potato Lentil Chili

I'm about to turn on the heat in my apartment, and I'm thinking of doing my big seasonal clothing swap in my closet this weekend. It may not be as bad as Denver's 60 degree drop in 24 hours, but October finally hit and it's definitely chilly outside. That means I'm ready for cozy soups and hearty chilis, and I will eat them bundled up in my cute sweaters and fuzzy blankets with my cat as sunset creeps earlier and earlier.


Matzo Ball Soup is my go to and Southwest Chicken Chili is a family favorite, but I'm always looking for more recipes to add to my files. This chili is plenty filling and warms you right up, plus it's accidentally vegan, not that anyone would know unless they asked. Yes, this is one of those unicorn recipes that tastes delicious, suits all sorts of dietary restrictions, and is ready in under an hour. I'll wait while you grab your grocery list.


A lot of times I have multiple steps in my soup recipes to sear of the meat and saute the veggies just so to build the proper layers of flavor. This recipe is basically an exception, since you only saute off one batch of veggies (specifically the onions) then add everything else right in. You don't even have to cook the onions first if you're pressed for time. If you do want to do the onions separately and maybe add a little more flavor with another step, you can cook off some bacon or ham at the very beginning, plus it makes a great snack if you can't wait for the chili to finish.


The onions, garlic, and jalapeno are cooked first until fragrant. Another way to jazz it up (besides the bacon or ham, of course) is to add some bell peppers here too. After that, you add in the tomato paste and all the spices. There's nothing crazy, just some chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder. You should already have them all in your pantry, and if not I highly recommend buying them since you'll use them in plenty of other recipes too.


As with pretty much all my recipes, you can adjust the jalapeno and spice levels to suit your taste or even sub in a spicier pepper if you're feeling bold. I let those spices toast for just a minute until they become fragrant to boost the flavors even more. After that, you just stir in the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, and veggie broth and let it all simmer together until tender. The keys here are to use petite diced tomatoes with green chiles for bite sized tomato pieces with some extra kick and dice the sweet potatoes fairly small so that they're also bite sized and cook quickly and evenly. If you can't find any petite diced tomatoes with green chiles, just use two cans of petite diced tomatoes and a small can of diced green chiles. You can also swap in your favorite bean (or add in a few kinds) and add in any other miscellaneous cans you have rolling around in your pantry that could go well. This recipe is extremely fast and flexible, so go forth and retreat into hibernation this fall.

1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
2T Tomato Paste
1 T Chili Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 10oz Cans Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 14.5oz Can Kidney Beans, Drained
2 lbs Sweet Potatoes, Peeled & Diced
1 1/2 Cups Lentils
4 Cups Vegetable Stock

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes or until tender and fragrant. Add the garlic, jalapeƱo, and salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 minute more. Add the tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, lentils, and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender and the lentils are al dente.

Serves 6-8
Recipe Adapted from Brewing Happiness

September 15, 2019

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies

We're only halfway through September, and everyone is already obsessed with pumpkin everything, Halloween costumes, and the 3 crunchy leaves on the sidewalk. I do love fall, but I don't think I'm quite ready to fully immerse myself in the pumpkin-spiced, dark-at-4pm cold. It's still 80 degrees outside! I need to ease myself into fall, which is why these maple brown sugar cookies are perfect. Maple is great all year round, but it reminds me of fall in particular. It pairs really well with all sorts of other fall flavors (apples, pumpkin, pears, and spices, just to name a few). Here, I'm keeping it simple with just maple and caramel-y brown sugar so the maple flavor really shines through. It's a great first hint of fall flavor without fully committing, and it's the perfect treat for kids, coworkers, or just yourself for surviving the awkward summer-to-fall transition.


Cookies are generally pretty easy to make, and this recipe is no exception. You don't even have to soften butter since you have to melt it all anyway, which gives you the perfect excuse to brown the butter for that extra caramelized, nutty flavor. The melted butter gets mixed with the brown sugar, then you add the maple syrup, egg, and vanilla followed by the dry ingredients.


Since one of the main flavors is brown sugar, I only use brown sugar here, no white sugar since the maple syrup also adds some sweetness. The brown sugar helps keep the cookies soft and chewy, too. What gets tricky is that the maple syrup is some extra liquid that you usually don't have to account for in cookies. I compensate by adding some extra flour, chilling the dough, and also knowing the limits of just how much maple syrup you can cram into the cookie itself. About a third of a cup is good to balance flavor and texture.


However, you can still get more maple into these maple cookies. One option is to use maple sugar, but that's expensive and would take away from the chewy brown sugar. My preference is to make a maple glaze, which is only two ingredients and can be slathered on to your maple-obsessed heart's content. It makes transport a bit difficult, so I'd either frost them just before serving or far enough in advance that they have time to set and dry in the open air a bit before storing. These cookies are soft and chewy but also cakey, so you could also sandwich them with some of that frosting for the extra maple flavor but easier packing.


1 Stick Butter, Melted & Browned (Browning Optional)
1 1/4 Cups Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Cups Flour
2 T Cornstarch
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

Glaze:
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1 - 1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together. Add the maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then add to the dough.

Scoop the dough into balls and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm.

Heat oven to 375F and line cookie trays with parchment. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until just set.

For the glaze, whisk the maple syrup and powdered sugar together. Drizzle on the cooled cookies.

Makes 32
Recipe Adapted from Sugar Spun Run

August 25, 2019

Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Judging by the crazy spike in traffic in the past week and the Halloween decorations looming in Target, it's back to school season. I know everyone's schedules got a lot more hectic, and it's already easy enough for me to cave and just get food delivered, meaning that the need for easy but tasty dinners is much higher. Meals like this roasted pork dish only take an hour, make me feel super fancy, and make enough to feed the whole family and/or make leftovers for the next couple of days. They're perfect for weeknight cooking when you want something delicious, reasonably healthy, and in your stomach before Bachelor in Paradise is on.


Regular pork tenderloin is already a great starting point, but this filling really kicks it up a notch. It starts by sauteeing some onions, then adding mushrooms, garlic, and spices. This step is critical because mushrooms contain so much liquid. It's better to cook it all off now than have it all seep out from the pork during roasting. Fresh herbs will enhance the flavors, but dried ones will still taste great.


The one problem with the stuffing is that you need something to stuff it in, in this case the pork tenderloin. It's already so perfectly round and ready for roasting, and it can be a bit intimidating to cut it up and tie it back together. There are plenty of videos to make butterflying a bit more approachable, but essentially you're going to make one cut down the length of the loin, open it up, and make two more lengthwise cuts, one on each flap. It's helpful to take a meat mallet to the butterflied pork loin to make sure it's all even (especially at the seams), plus it makes it even more tender.


Once your pork is butterflied and your filling has cooled, you're going to spread the filling along most of the pork and roll it up, just like you would with cinnamon buns. Unfortunately, pork won't adhere back to itself like dough will, so it's best to use butcher twine or toothpicks to hold it together. Searing it prior to roasting will get some great color on it and help keep its shape. You'll still need to finish cooking the pork in the oven so it cooks through, but that frees up your searing skillet to make an irresistible pan sauce. Add a bit more garlic to the pork fat, deglaze with white wine, and stir in some chicken broth and herbs. Again, fresh herbs will brighten things up but dry herbs will work in a pinch. Once it simmers and reduces while the pork finishes cooking, stir in a splash of cream for some velvety richness and a little bit of luxury on a crazy weeknight. Serve it up with simple sides like some veggies and a mound of mashed potatoes and you've got quite the impressive dinner (the pan sauce makes a fantastic gravy).


1 Yellow Onion, Diced
8 oz Mushrooms, Sliced
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 1/2 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1 1/2 lbs Pork Tenderloin
1 Cup White Wine
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 Cup Cream

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add the mushrooms and 3 cloves garlic. Season with 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper. Saute for 6-8 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Seat aside to cool.

Butterfly the pork and pound until thin. Spread the mushroom mixture evenly on the pork, leaving a 1-2" barrier along one of the long ends. Roll tightly and use butcher twine or toothpicks to close.

Heat oven to 400F.

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Wipe out the skillet, then add some oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to an oven-safe dish and roast for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, pour most of the fat out of the skillet. Add the remaining 2 cloves garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Deglaze with the wine and simmer for 3 minutes or until reduced. Add the chicken broth and remaining 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the cream and heat until warm.

Serves 4-6