My 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Competition for ICE

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I almost completely forgot to share my recent entry into the Institute of Culinary Education’s 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest!  So here’s the deal:

I’m entering to win a full scholarship (valued at $160,000 dollars) to perfect my cooking skills, learn the business aspects of running a restaurant or catering business and to bring professional cooking classes to group homes like The Mentor Network in Ewing, NJ.

I’ve dreamed of having a restaurant but have been told many times to do something else because most restaurants don’t succeed, and on and on, etc.  While that may be true, I have never lost my passion for cooking for others and for learning.

While home visiting my family on the west coast, they always say, ”Dena, you should cook professionally.”  Oh sure, I say.  This last visit home my father flat out said, “Do what you’re passionate about,” and my daughter Emma said, “Mommy just cook for others, you know you love it.”

So, along comes this contest and here we are.  Please vote for me to win a full scholarship to The Institute of Culinary Education. Your vote would mean the world to my kids and I!

Please Vote for Me Here!

 

 

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Turkey Chili Layered with Smokey Rich Flavors

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Did everyone try the South Beach Diet ten years ago? My close friends and I surely did. I couldn’t imagine starving myself and depriving myself of much of the food they said we couldn’t eat in those first weeks. So, naturally I modified and scoured the internet for food they considered acceptable; turkey chili was top of the list. Soon all my guy friends were ordering batches of it from me on a weekly basis. I don’t think I ever lost weight from the diet, probably didn’t need to at the time, but these guys sure did and they loved the chili.

So here’s my recipe but first, full disclosure: this recipe is kicked up a bit by roasting, sautéing and grilling my veggies before they go in with the turkey just to give them an extra layer of smokey rich flavors. I never did this for the boys back in the day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion chopped
  • 1 cup celery stalk finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic oven roasted and chopped
  • 2 pounds ground turkey 70% lean
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes chopped with seeds kept in
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of hot Hungarian paprika
  • 2 to 4 small sweet red peppers or 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional)
  • dash or two of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup of bone broth
  • 1 32oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 to 2 15 oz. cans of beans depending on your preference (kidney, black or pinto)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large heavy pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and celery. Fire roast the peppers or grill on pan while oven roasting the garlic. I oven roast the garlic by wrapping it in aluminum foil with a little olive oil and place in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or so. Once those two are done, add your garlic and peppers to the onions and celery. (You may want to do this ahead of time). Add your spices and herbs and sauté for another 5 minutes until mixed well. Add the ground turkey and cook until lightly brown breaking down the meat with a wooden spoon.

Add the tomatoes, broth and tomato sauce, bringing to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the beans (do not strain) and salt and pepper to taste. Stirring, cook for another 10 minutes. Serve in bowls with grated cheddar, fresh oregano and green onions – or any combination you prefer. I sometimes top mine with homemade tortilla chips and a slice of avocado, lime and cilantro.

I should note that I also like to make my bone broths ahead of time (following Thanksgiving and Christmas I had a lot to work with) and freeze them in ice trays, ziplock bags and repurposed quart containers. I also slow-cooked this for another 4 hours in the oven on low (about 275 degrees Fahrenheit) just to be sure all of those flavors get married, make love and have babies! If you do this too you may want to add another cup of broth, it’s up to you!

I hope you and your friends enjoy this recipe as much as we will tomorrow in the snow!

Happy eating and stay warm!

I still get orders for this dish and when I do, I usually get about 4 quarts out of the recipe. I will add more broth as needed if I’m slow cooking it in the oven as liquid tends to evaporate. This batch is filled to the rim and topped with chopped green onions and flat leaf on parsley!!

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole: A Satisfying and Fun Last Minute Dish

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole, Photo by Jason Homa

Beefy Nachos with Guacamole, Photo by Jason Homa

Monday nights a lot of friends go to a NYC Mexican restaurant for “Fajita Night,” but this is not the Mexican food I grew up on in California. Fajitas came later and were more common in the Texas region that was once Mexico (ode to Joaquin Murrieta Carrillo).  I was raised on handmade tortillas, (my friend Amy Sierra’s mom used to make them) with chorizo and eggs, chile relleno, refried beans, tacos, salsa picante and enchiladas.  This is what I considered “real Mexican food.”  Everyone is entitled to their taste.

One of my favorite (and real simple to make) snacks was nachos.  I thought about them last night on our way home and stopped and grabbed a couple of avocados, vine tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, lime and a variety of corn and sweet potato chips and here is what I came up with.

Again, before I let Jason go at them, he took this beautiful photograph.  It was one of our quicker shoots, since, by the time we ate, we were starving. This recipe is for my brothers, my mom and dad and all my friends in Cali!!!  Good eats, good times and good memories!

Oh, and if you’re in the Bay Area of northern California, here were some of my favorite spots:

La Pinata

Tito’s Mexican Restaurant

La Taqueria

Beefy Enchiladas with Guacamole

Preheat Oven to 325

1 Lb. Ground Beef
1 Cup Beef Broth
1 Tbsp. Flour or Cornstarch
1/2 Lb. Sharp Cheddar Grated
1/2 Lb. Monterey Jack with Peppers Grated
1 Yellow Onion Minced
3 Cloves of Garlic chopped
1/8 Tsp. Hot Hungarian Paprika
1/8 Tsp. Smoked Spanish Paprika
1/8 Tsp. Cumin
1/8 Tsp. Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Small Jalapeno or Serrano Chile (more if you like to sweat a little)
Salt & Pepper

Guacamole
1 Large Haas Avacado
1 Tsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Small Jalapeno or Serrano Chile
1/2 Juice of Lime
Dash of Cumin
1/4 Yellow Onion Chopped
1 to 1 1/2 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Chopped and Seeded Vine Tomato
Salt & Pepper

Final Topping
1 and 1/2 Medium Vine Tomatoes Chopped
1 Tsp. Chopped Fresh Cilantro

Be creative:  Add your favorites at this point.  I have to be careful with how spicy I make it for some guests and others love it when I load on more chile peppers.

In a skillet coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Saute onions and garlic until caramelized. Brown meat in a separate oiled skillet (I coat the meat with a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch).  Once browned, add to caramelized onion mixture and adding jalapeno, paprikas, cumin, and oregano, mixing well.  Add beef broth, while stirring, add the cilantro and bring to a boil.  Simmer on low while preparing guacamole and chips.

For the guacamole I simply cut my ingredients into quarters and throw into my food processor until the texture is to my liking.  (I prefer a slightly chunky guac).

Assemble chips of your choice in a pyrex baking pan, layer with grated cheeses, repeat and pop in oven for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted through. Using a slotted spoon, top with beef mixture and put the nachos back in the oven for another 5 or 10 minutes (watch closely).  Take out and top with guacamole and tomatoes.  Serve immediately while catching up on Game of Thrones or The Good Wife!

Enjoy!