Super Bowl 2013: A few good recipes

The Super Bowl is only one week away and there’s a lot to look forward to. Watching football is always fun, and while neither team playing is “my” team, I’m looking forward to a good brotherly showdown. It’s also the only time I don’t fast-forward through commercials. And of course, you can’t beat football food and beer.

Over the past year I’ve written a few good football food recipes on my blog, so I wanted to bring them back and highlight some of the recipes I’ll be making for the big game.

Let’s start with my most recent football food post: Mom’s Crazy Chili. In fact, last year my group of friends had a chili cook-off for the Super Bowl. I don’t think we ended up awarding a winner, but I will say that there wasn’t a drop of my chili left by the end of the game (I admit, I ate a lot of it). Chili is great for the game watch because it’s so versatile. Put it over the top of nachos, smear it on a burger or hot dog, or even use it as a dip – I’ve even dipped potato chips in it, yum!

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it's delicious.

You can never go wrong with chili!

Speaking of dips, I make this Simple Spinach and Artichoke Dip every year. It’s so delicious and it’s so easy! Make it ahead of time and reheat it for the game; it takes only about 10 minutes to make.

This little kick of cayenne makes this seemingly ordinary Spinach Artichoke Dip extraordinary.

This little kick of cayenne makes this seemingly ordinary Spinach Artichoke Dip extraordinary.

Of course, I couldn’t let a Super Bowl pass without a giant bowl of homemade guacamole. Try my Los Gol Inspired Guacamole for a little taste of Southern California.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don't cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don’t cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

Pulled pork sandwiches are also a great entree for Super Bowl Sunday. I have a super easy 2 Ingredient, 3 Step, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe that you can set and forget while you watch the game and enjoy at halftime.

So delicious. So easy. You really can't go wrong with this dish.

So delicious. So easy. You really can’t go wrong with this dish.

If you’re looking for super healthy alternatives to typical football food, I have those for you, too. Make the chili with ground turkey instead of beef, or use low-fat cream cheese in the spinach and artichoke dip. But you can also make turkey meatballs, which are great by themselves on a toothpick or in a lettuce wrap.

The beauty of this is that it leaves you completely satisfied without feeling heavy - if you've ever eaten a giant meatball sub you know what I'm talking about.

The beauty of this is that it leaves you completely satisfied without feeling heavy – if you’ve ever eaten a giant meatball sub you know what I’m talking about.

I also have this super healthy Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip that’s a delicious addition to any veggie plate. Plus, you can save money by cutting up your own carrots, celery, broccoli, and tomatoes instead of buying the pre-packaged plates.

This one was inspired by my favorite health expert - Bob Harper.

This one was inspired by my favorite health expert – Bob Harper.

Munch on some Sweet Potato Chips or Kale Chips instead of feasting on a giant bag of greasy Doritos. These healthy chip alternatives will satisfy your salty, crispy craving while allowing you to indulge on more beer.

There's a reason why I always save

This may look like a heap of veggies, but with a little salt and a quick roast in the oven, these are crispy and delicious.

I’ve listed a handful of dishes that would be great for watching the big game, but feel free to browse through the rest of my recipes for other ideas. I have chowders, healthy mac n’ cheese, fajitas, steak tacos, pasta salad, and more. Enjoy!

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Mom’s Crazy Chili

Nothing sounds better on a freezing cold night than a big bowl of chili. It’s warm, hearty, delicious comfort food – but it can be healthy comfort food! The best thing about chili is that you can pretty much add whatever ingredients you want as long as you have the basics: meat, beans, beer, and the right spices (that’s right: beer).

I may be biased, but I believe my mom makes the best chili. When I called her to ask her for the recipe (for about the 15th time), she replied, “Well, I just add a little of this and a little of that.” I asked, “Well do you know how much chili powder or cumin you add?” She answered, “I add enough to make it taste good.” So I improvised. That’s why I call it my mom’s crazy chili recipe – there really isn’t any set recipe. But those basics I mentioned are in there, and that’s the key. I also truly believe that beer is the secret ingredient to setting this one over the top.

I’m going to break down necessary ingredients and optional ingredients. I’ll also give you healthy and indulgent options. Lastly, you can make this either on the stove or in the crock pot, so I’ll give you both options there, too. However, there is one area where you don’t have an option: you cannot make just a little bit of chili. You have to make a giant pot. But that’s a good problem to have because chili makes the best leftovers!

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it's delicious.

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it’s delicious.

What you’ll need:

Necessary ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1.25 pounds ground meat – use ground turkey for a healthier option, but I love the taste of ground beef.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic – not necessary to have fresh garlic, but garlic in general is necessary. Use more garlic powder if you don’t use fresh garlic.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder – garlic powder is necessary, even if you use fresh garlic. If you don’t use fresh garlic, too, then triple the garlic powder.
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can or bottle of dark beer – ales, nut browns, stouts, or porters are the best. In a pinch, you can use a light beer, but stay away from IPAs.
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed

Optional ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, chopped – I like green because it adds color; I use 2 bell peppers
  • Cayenne pepper – adjust the amount to make it more or less spicy; I use 1/2 teaspoon
  • Celery, chopped – it adds a nice crunch to the chili, just use however much you have in the fridge
  • Carrots, chopped – it adds a little sweetness to the chili, again, use however much you have in the fridge
  • Bacon, crumbled – either turkey bacon or regular bacon is delicious, turkey bacon is healthier
  • Rice – it’s traditional in my family to serve chili over rice
  • Cheddar cheese – I love topping my chili with cheese!

What you’ll need to do:

Brown your meat in the two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove for about 5-7 minutes. If you’re going to use a crock pot, use a large pan. If you’re going to make the chili in a pot on the stove, just brown the meat in the pot. As the meat is browning, constantly break it apart with a wooden spoon. You want the meat to be smaller crumbles instead of large chunks.

Or, as an alternative, cook the bacon in the pan first. Cut or tear the bacon into smaller pieces and put them in the pan so that they cook faster and so you don’t have to crumble it later. If you’re cooking turkey bacon, cook the turkey bacon in the olive oil. If you’re cooking regular bacon, don’t put any oil in the pan. Then brown your meat in the same pan with the bacon drippings.

When the meat has browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. If you’re using fresh garlic or bell peppers, add those at this time, too. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the onion has turned translucent. Add all your dry spices, except the bay leaves, and stir with the spoon until the spices thoroughly coat the meat and veggies.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

If you’re cooking in a crock pot, transfer the meat and veggies into the crock pot. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, beer, and bay leaves, either in the crock pot or big pot on the stove. Stir to mix.

Cover and let cook for many hours. If you’re using the crock pot, set on low heat for at least 6 hours – you can let this cook all day if you’re making it on a work day. If you’re cooking on the stove, turn the heat to low and let simmer for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally. The chili generally tastes better the longer you let it cook.

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

In the last hour of cooking, add your kidney beans. You can also add celery or carrots at this time if you’re using them. Stir and cover.

I love serving my chili over rice and topping it with cheddar cheese. In my family, we’ve also been known to put chili over tamales, but that may be a Southern California thing. Of course, chili is also delicious on hot dogs, fries, or other ballpark food. I’ve also heard of people putting chili over noodles. If you want to make it healthier, chili would also be good over quinoa. But you don’t have to pair it with anything at all – this chili is also delicious all by itself.

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving: The Turkey

When I first offered to host Thanksgiving, nothing intimidated me more than cooking the turkey. Potatoes and stuffing are easy and very forgiving with flavors and cooking time. And besides, turkey is the main event. But I’ve tasted way too many dry, overcooked turkeys in my life to think I could cook one easily.  How do I defrost the damn thing? How long do I cook it? What kind of seasonings do I use? Is it the stuffing that adds the flavor? (Remember, I don’t like stuffing in the turkey). How do I get the crispy outside and juicy inside? I was lost. I read recipe after recipe trying to figure out the trick to keeping it moist and tasty. And, I admit, I called the Butterball Hotline. My fears weren’t assuaged, but I figured there was nothing left for me to do but jump in and give it a shot.

I narrowed down my recipe collection to one basic, easy-looking recipe. I figured it was a good start and I could always add more or edit later if I needed to. By some stroke of luck, it was delicious. The turkey was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. And I have used the same turkey recipe without any changes or additions every year since.

The trick, I learned, is brining. Soaking the turkey overnight in a sugar-salt mixture makes the turkey super juicy, and I don’t really add much seasoning past that!

It turns out that cooking a delicious, juicy turkey is really easy. It takes a long time, but not a lot of attention. So if you’ve ever been too afraid to cook a turkey, fear no more. Give it a try and I promise you’ll find it’s a lot easier than you think.

Golden-brown, juicy, and delicious. There's never a reason to be scared of cooking a turkey again!

Golden-brown, juicy, and delicious. There’s never a reason to be scared of cooking a turkey again!

What you’ll need:
2 gallons water
2 cups salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 12-13 pound turkey
8 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons garlic salt
4 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 small onions
4 stalks celery

**Tip: You can scale the ingredients up or down based on the size of your turkey.

What you’ll need to do:

The night before Thanksgiving, start by cleaning and brining the turkey. Remove everything from the cavity (giblets, neck, and plastic bag) and discard. Place the turkey in the sink and thoroughly rinse the inside cavity and skin with cool water. This helps remove any bacteria within the cavity or on the skin.

In a very large pot, heat about 2 quarts of water, salt, and sugar over high heat. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the remaining gallon and a half of water to help it cool faster. Cool to room temperature then submerge the turkey in the brine. This takes about an hour to prepare the brine, so don’t do it too late! Refrigerate overnight.

Be careful, that thing is heavy!

Be careful, that thing is heavy!

Remove the turkey from the brine. Pat the turkey dry and place in a roasting pan. Brush the turkey all over with melted butter, and season with garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Cut your two small onions in half and remove the skins. Cut the celery stalks into 4 pieces each. Stuff the turkey cavity with the onion halves and celery stalks for added taste and juiciness.

This guy is ready to go in the oven!

This guy is ready to go in the oven.

Put the turkey in the oven at 325 degrees. Here’s a timetable for roasting the turkey from the USDA:

  • 8 to 12 lbs: 2 3/4 to 3 hrs
  • 12 to 14 lbs: 3 to 3 3/4 hrs
  • 14 to 18 lbs: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hrs
  • 18 to 20 lbs: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hrs
  • 20 to 24 lbs: 4 1/2 to 5 hrs

Every hour or so, brush the turkey with more melted butter. This makes the skin nice and crispy. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

**Tip: I can’t stress the importance of having a good meat thermometer. They’re not expensive, but they really help when cooking meat in the oven. They save you from having to cut open the meat to check doneness and letting the juices all run out!

After the turkey is done cooking, transfer to a cutting board and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 30 minutes before carving.

Enjoy!

Turkeys don’t have to be cooked only for Thanksgiving. Try cooking one in the off-season. I already have a couple small turkeys in my freezer waiting for a good winter weekend.

Thanksgiving: The Gravy

If you read my Sourdough Bread Stuffing recipe, you know I’m not the biggest fan of cooking inside the bird. Sorry if I offend anyone, but it grosses me out. The same goes for gravy. I like other, non-inside-the-bird ingredients in my gravy, too. More than anything, I think it tastes better.

Plus, then you can make either the stuffing or the gravy even if you’re not making turkey. It is packed full of flavor from garlic, rosemary, thyme, and shallots without tasting like the inside of bird. This gravy would be delicious over chicken or potatoes, on a sandwich, or even over beef. Added bonus: it only takes about 10 minutes to make, so it’s easy to pop on the stove while you’re cooking everything else.

What you’ll need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 sprig thyme leaves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

**Tip: Fresh herbs are better, but you can raid your spice cabinet if you don’t want to make the trip to the market. If you use dried herbs, double the amounts.

What you’ll need to do:

Place a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add your olive oil. Add the minced shallot, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook until the shallot is tender, or about 3 minutes.

The smell of this is incredible. I can't imagine making gravy any other way!

The smell of this is incredible. I can’t imagine making gravy any other way!

While the shallot mixture cooks, make a paste with the butter and flour in a small bowl.

**Tip: The flour is going to be what thickens the gravy, and it’s really important to make this paste separately – do not add the flour straight into your gravy or you’ll get little lumps. Whenever you’re making a roux, always make a paste with the flour before your add it into your gravy or sauce.

Add the broth to the shallot mixture and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the butter/flour mixture. Boil until sauce thickens to make a gravy, or about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Enjoy!

Cranberry Pear Sauce

Cranberry sauce out of a can is fine, but cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries is phenomenal. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, and I encourage everyone to steer clear of the can. Making fresh cranberry sauce from scratch is so easy! It not only tastes better, but the texture is night and day different from the canned jelly kind and it only takes 15 minutes to make.

I love the pear in this cranberry sauce because the sweetness of the pear balances the tartness of the cranberry. I also added honey to sweeten it up a little more, but you could use Splenda or Truvia instead if you want to save some calories. Whatever you decide to do, I promise you’ll want to make this more often than late November.

Sweet, tart, and totally delicious. I could eat this year-round.

Sweet, tart, and totally delicious. I could eat this year-round.

What you’ll need:
12 ounces fresh cranberries
2 ripe pears, cubed
1/2 cup honey
1 cup water

What you’ll need to do:

Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a medium pot. After the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, or for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and let it cool before refrigerating. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

It’s that easy! Enjoy!

Sourdough Bread Stuffing

One thing I love about hosting and cooking the entire Thanksgiving menu is that I can choose what dishes I want on my table. Traditionally, we have had stuffing that was cooked inside the turkey and came out (in my opinion) soggy, colorless, and boring – it was definitely not my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. Since I have cooked my own Thanksgiving dinner and had complete control over the menu for the past few years, I have been making a new Sourdough Bread Stuffing that’s packed with flavor, has a nice crispy texture on top, and has definitely become a favorite on the menu.

Perhaps it’s the Californian in me, but I love sourdough bread. It adds so much more flavor to the stuffing than regular white bread. Fresh thyme and sage make this taste like an expensive, gourmet dish. And since the stuffing is baked in a casserole dish instead of inside a bird, it gets a golden-brown crisp on top that gives the dish a nice texture.

I was excited to share this new tradition with my family when they came out to visit for Thanksgiving this year. Of course, my mom thought I was insane for changing a Thanksgiving tradition, but I insisted on making my sourdough stuffing anyway. My brothers, however, couldn’t be more delighted. It was the first time I remember seeing them get seconds of stuffing at Thanksgiving! And sure enough, I converted my mom into an outside-the-bird-stuffing lover, too.

The sourdough bread is what makes this dish so special!

The sourdough bread is what makes this dish so special!

What you’ll need:
1 pound loaf sourdough bread
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
10 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
12 fresh sage leaves, chopped
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch cubes and spread it evenly on a baking sheet. I recommend cutting instead of tearing the bread, because tearing sourdough bread can also tear apart your fingers. Toast the bread in the oven until completely dry and beginning to crisp and brown, or for about 20 minutes.

These don't have to be perfect cubes, just cut them roughly. I think it makes the dish a little more rustic anyway!

These don’t have to be perfect cubes, just cut them roughly. I think it makes the dish a little more rustic anyway!

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and add your onion and thyme. Stir frequently until the onion has turned clear, or about 5 minutes. Add the sage and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. After the butter has melted, add the chicken broth and celery and stir to combine.

Transfer the toasted bread to a large mixing bowl. Pour the chicken broth mixture over the bread crumbs and toss to combine until the bread cubes absorb the liquid. Pour the mixture into your baking dish and sprinkle with parsley.

This is one dish that will make your house smell AMAZING while cooking.

This is one dish that will make your house smell amazing while it’s cooking.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow the stuffing to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Sandy’s Sweet Potatoes in Orange Cups

Every Thanksgiving, there is one dish I look forward to more than anything else because I only get it once a year on Thanksgiving Day: Aunt Sandy’s sweet potatoes in orange cups. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel back to California for Thanksgiving for the past few years so I haven’t been able to enjoy the dish from Aunt Sandy herself. So, I begged her for the recipe so I could make them myself.

I love these sweet potatoes because they’re different than the traditional heaps of sugary, one-note sweet potato casserole. These come in little individual servings inside hollowed out orange peels, which is not only convenient but also gives the sweet potatoes a little citrusy kick. I love the citrus in these because it cuts the over-the-top sweetness. Don’t worry, I still add marshmallows and this could still pass as a dessert. But the orange adds another layer of flavor to an otherwise simply sweet dish.

This delicious side dish comes in individual servings and tastes like candy. Yum!

This delicious side dish comes in individual servings and tastes like candy. Yum!

What you’ll need:
8 sweet potatoes
1 stick of butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
12 oranges
4 eggs, beaten

What you’ll need to do:

Start by boiling the sweet potatoes in their jackets in a large pot of water for about 45 minutes. Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork to check tenderness.

While the potatoes boil, cut your oranges in half, juice them, and then scoop out the flesh. This is by far the most time-consuming part of the job – luckily I had my Mom here to help me this year! Be very careful of scooping out the flesh because you don’t want to tear the orange cups. Save the juice because you’ll need it later. Arrange the hollowed out orange cups in a casserole dish.

When the sweet potatoes are soft, peel the skin from them and mash. Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer. Add the eggs. Next, add the sugar and spices. Add 1/4 cup orange juice from your reserves to the mixture – the rest of the fresh-squeezed orange juice is a treat for the chef! Mix the potato mixture thoroughly.

Scoop the sweet potato mixture into the orange cups. Cook for 40 minutes on 350 degrees.

You can even make these ahead of time and freeze them!

You can even make these ahead of time and freeze them!

When you have about 10 minutes left in cooking, top the sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pop them back in the oven.

Enjoy!