Friday, November 29, 2013

Revisiting a Cold Weather Favorite...Senegalese Peanut Butter Stew

For today's post, I'm revisiting a favorite from last winter...Senegalese Peanut Butter Stew. But first, I feel it is only fitting to recap on a great Thanksgiving.

We were 13 people deep, with homemade turkey sausage on top of a turkey, green beans-3 ways, potatoes that rivaled all other mashed potatoes I've eaten before (sorry, Mom) and three awesome pies. At the beginning, I kind of felt like our smallest Thanksgiving guest, in awe of this pumpkin chiffon pie. By the end I was pleasantly plumptified (I am now coining that as a new word), but so happy to celebrate another DC Thanksgiving with friends.

Today, I enjoyed a bit more of the stuffing (thanks Ian!) and tried to hammer through a workday, making the most of the quiet. I'll no doubt be detoxing on food for the next few days and I imagine many of you all are in the same boat. 

But if you're feeling like you want to cook, and perhaps make a little something out of the ordinary, consider making this Senegalese peanut butter stew. It tastes rich and comforting, but it's surprisingly healthy. The only true fat comes from the peanut butter, and the combination with sweet potatoes and other vegetables make this a satisfying detox meal.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 CFC Chili Cookoff

This week, I was one of the organizers for our division's second chili cookoff. The tradition started last year and we decided to resurrect the idea again this year, but on a smaller scale. This didn't mean we skimped on chili, just made it more about our division's efforts related to CFC.

For those unfamiliar with the acronym, CFC stands for the Combined Federal Campaign. The CFC provides federal employees an opportunity to donate pre-tax dollars, right from their paychecks, to charities of their choosing. Through the CFC campaign season, which typically runs from October- December, events are held to raise awareness of the initiative, and also raise a little money for the general fund. This was one of those events.

I'm happy to report that I came in third place in both the official judging, as well as the people's choice. There were some great offerings this year, from a lamb chili to a Filipino-style chili with black rice. I made my traditional Cincinnati-style chili, but with beef as opposed to my typical chicken, and without the addition of pasta. But this pasta was definitely sugar and spice and everything nice.

But even more importantly, we raised more than $300 for the CFC.

Here are some of my previous chili posts in case you are so inspired to make a chili for this chilly weather.

Cincinnati-style Chicken Chili

Savory Chicken Chili with Corn and White Beans

Turkey Chili

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tomato Jam

Whenever I hear the phrase tomato jam, I think of two things.

1) The phrase "tomato jammy jam" which is likely a riff off of an old In Living Colour episode or House Party 2, both gems of the 1990s. Or....
2) Well, I guess since a tomato is a fruit, it would make a good jam.

But until a month ago, I had never tried it. I got to sample a homemade tomato jam for the first time at our local farmers' market and I was hooked. And they just so happened to share the recipe. So I made this jam as an appetizer for a dinner I was cooking a few weeks back. It made a decent amount so I brought it to a few other events and it was a big hit. If I had proper canning equipment, this would make a great gift for others. While tomato season is behind us, I'd suggest bookmarking this to try next year. It is totally worth the effort.

I served the jam on melba toast with chevre cheese.

Tomato Jam (makes 2 quarts)


  • 3 1/2 lbs of tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Put all ingredients in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until thickened to a jam-like consistency, about 3 hours. Be sure to stir on occasion to make sure it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pot. Transfer to glass jars and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sweet Potato Soup

In the second post in this week's "I make mushy baby foods," I made a creamy sweet potato soup. This recipe appealed to me for several reasons, but mainly because it seemed simple, included bacon, and was prominently featured in all its orange glory on the cover of the holiday cooking issue of Cooking Light.

I'm going to post the recipe as written, but I'll let you know why this didn't work out so well for me.

While it was great to do a shortcut by cooking the sweet potatoes in the microwave, I underestimated the power of my microwave so the potatoes became overdone, which made them difficult to peel, and just tough in texture. It's possible that the potatoes weren't the best to begin with as well, but the end result, while tasting fine, had a bizarre consistency. So I encourage you to try this out because the flavors are great, my execution was just poor. See? I'm not the perfect chef. :)

Sweet Potato Soup (serves 6)


  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 2 large)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 TB flat-leaf parsley leaves 

  • Directions:

    Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11 x 7-inch microwave-safe baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly; discard potato skins.

    Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 1 minute or until translucent. Stir in cumin and red pepper. Add stock to pan; bring to a boil.

    Place half of sweet potato and half of stock mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.

    Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining sweet potato and stock mixture. Stir in salt. Divide soup evenly among 6 bowls; sprinkle cooked bacon and Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Garnish with parsley.

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Pumpkin Hummus

    This is the week where I feature fall cooking attempts that resulted in dishes resembling baby food. But some baby food can be good, right? And a lot of it is orange.

    First up is a pumpkin hummus that I made for a Halloween party. This wasn't an overly sweet hummus, which was a nice balance from other pumpkin dips I've had before. If you're a fan of hummus and pumpkin, you'll probably like this. I found the flavor good, but sadly not everybody was a fan. Yes, I was talking to someone who made a "blech" sound after tasting it, not realizing I had made it. Which I then pointed out. And it got awkward. But I stand by this recipe. Because we all have different taste buds.

    I served this with homemade pita chips.

    Pumpkin Hummus (makes approximately 2-3 cups)


  • 4 (6-inch) pitas, each cut into 8 wedges
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 TB tahini (sesame-seed paste)
  • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 TB chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 TB pumpkinseed kernels, toasted (optional)

  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 425°.

    Place pita wedges on baking sheets; coat with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until toasted.

    Place tahini, lemon juice, cumin, oil, salt, red pepper, pumpkin, and garlic in a food processor, and process until smooth. Add parsley; pulse until blended. Spoon hummus into a serving bowl; sprinkle with pumpkinseed kernels, if desired. Serve with pita wedges.

    Saturday, November 9, 2013

    Savory Saturday: A Different Kind of Chicken Chili

    It's starting to get cold out. I finally put the blanket on my bed and turned on the heat. This means it is officially time to break out the comfort food recipes. I have made this white chili several times over the last year. Combining corn, fennel and parmesan cheese, this is not your typical chili. It isn't overly spicy, and tastes more like a chowder. But when the weather turns cold, this will keep you warm.

    I originally posted this recipe around this time last year, but will admit the photo didn't make it all that appetizing. Perhaps I've done better this time around to entice you to make this no-fail recipe.. For the original recipe and post, click here.

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Soba Noodles with Cumin Spiced Lamb

    Even though I'm back to work, and a steady paycheck, I'm still employing some of my government shutdown practices. This includes keeping my grocery bills low and going through existing proteins in my freezer, and in this case, small amounts of boxed ingredients sitting in my cabinet. This past week, I opted to work with the 8 oz. of ground lamb I had in my freezer, in addition to some soba noodles. This was a good lunch meal...with a healthy dose of vegetables.

    Soba Noodles with Cumin Spiced Lamb (serves 3-4)

  • 7 oz. uncooked soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 TB rice vinegar
  • 4 1/2 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp five-spice powder
  • 8 oz. ground lamb
  • 1 TB dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 9 baby carrots, halved lengthwise

  • Directions:

    Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse; drain well.

    Combine chicken broth, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, garlic, and five-spice powder in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

    Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb; cook 2 1/2 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove lamb from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside.

    Return pan to medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to drippings in pan; swirl to coat. Add cumin and red pepper; cook 30 seconds or until seeds begin to pop, stirring frequently. Add vegetables to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add lamb and broth mixture; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until liquid is slightly reduced. Serve over noodles.