Beef w/Porcini Risotto en Croute

Italy, often regarded as the home country of pasta, still has a deep love for another popular dish called risotto. Risotto like pasta can be dressed with an endless variety of ingredients.

Mushroom risotto is a delicious variation on this classic dish. The beauty of mushroom risotto is in its earthiness of the mushrooms you choose. Italians make mushroom risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms when they are in season in spring and fall. If you are unable to find some at an Italian store, dried porcini mushrooms make an excellent substitute in this recipe.

The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until its golden brown, is how long the item will spend in the oven.

Normally, Beef En Croute can be an expensive proposition. By using a well seasoned ground beef instead of ‘Beef Tenderloin‘, it can be transformed into a more economical meal but still have a degree of richness & elegance to it.

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Beef w/ Porcini Risotto en Croute
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Servings
Ingredients
Risotto
Porcini Mushrooms
Pastry
Servings
Ingredients
Risotto
Porcini Mushrooms
Pastry
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Instructions
Risotto
  1. Dice onion & garlic finely. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a saucepan & cook until tender soft. Add risotto mix along with hot chicken broth. The rice should be soft cooked in about 20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan & 1 1/2 tsp butter. Your mixture should not be loose or dry. Set aside to cool.
Beef
  1. In a saucepan, saute ground beef along with diced onions, garlic & spices. Cook ONLY until beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Mushrooms
  1. Brush mushrooms with a clean damp cloth & slice. Heat oil in saucepan & saute mushrooms with thyme to release some of their moisture. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Brush one of the puff pastry sheets with egg white. Down the center of the pastry sheet, spread the risotto & top with half of the mushrooms. Next, top with the spiced beef & remaining mushrooms.
  3. Lay the second sheet of pastry on top & either braid the edges or press pastry together with a fork. Beat together egg yolk & remaining white plus a bit of water. Brush pastry evenly with beaten egg. Bake until golden about 20 - 25 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • When using dried mushrooms for this or any dish, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes, strain the liquid, & add it to your dish or save for another day. In this preparation, add it to the broth.

Loaded Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes are a type of potato dish, not a variety of potato. In their simplest form, hasselback potatoes are nothing more than whole potatoes cut in such a way as to resemble a fan or accordion when roasted. The outside of the potato becomes crisp and brown while the inside is soft & creamy.

This Swedish dish gets its name from Hasselbacken, the Stockholm restaurant where it was first served. You might say, they are a cross between baked and roasted potatoes. What distinguishes the two is the way the potato is prepared for roasting. The potato, which may or may not be peeled, is cut into very thin slices but without completing the cuts, leaving all slices connected along the bottom of the potato. As the potato cooks, the individual slices separate slightly and give the finished dish its distinctive look. The original recipe drizzles them with melted butter and seasons with salt & pepper which creates their crispy exteriors.

Over time, many variations have been made and are simply products and preferences of the individual preparing them. It is the slicing and roasting that distinguish the dish as hasselback potatoes rather than the variations on seasonings or toppings.

Today, I’m doing a ‘loaded’ version, taking it from a side dish to the main course.

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Loaded Hasselback Potatoes
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Instructions
Potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Make a row of deep cuts in each potato from end to end, they should be just under 1/4-inch apart. Take care not to cut the potatoes all the way through. See 'Recipe Notes' below.
  2. Place the potatoes in a casserole dish, brush them with melted butter & sprinkle with salt & pepper on top. Bake potatoes for an hour OR until TENDER but crispy. Allow potatoes to cool a little then place a small piece of cheese in each gap. Set casserole with potatoes in it aside.
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp oil & add onions & garlic; saute for a few minutes then add beef & continue to cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain any extra oil/fat from saucepan. Stir in tomato paste (if using) & beef broth; simmering until liquid has been reduced so only a small amount remains.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour & cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil; add salt & pepper to taste, lower the heat & cook, stirring 2-3 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Assembly / Baking
  1. Divide the filling between the potatoes, which should still be in the casserole dish. Pour the sauce evenly on top & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place the casserole back in the oven (350 F) for another 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • The secret to making hasselback potatoes is to use a large wooden spoon. Place the potato onto the spoon & cut thin slices across the potato. The edges of the wooden spoon will stop the knife from cutting all the way through the potato.

Hamburger & Caramelized Onion Pizza

Pizza is one of those foods that works for just about everyone. From meat eaters to vegetarians, kids, adults and everyone in between. Year-round, its the perfect entree for family or party events.

Brion & I always enjoy pizza, preferably homemade. Usually my go-to toppings would be veggies, chicken or seafood, but nothing says it can’t be ground meat.

One of the things that seemed to improve on the flavor of this pizza was the caramelized onions. It takes only a few extra minutes but is worth it. For the sauce, I tried a blend of prepared lite Alfredo & marinara and then used a combo of cheeses instead of just one. Its always interesting to me what develops when you ‘step out of the box’.

Of course, if you have time to make a full fledged pizza crust it will take it all to the next level. But, I never hesitate, when I’m too busy, to use a purchased, refrigerated pizza crust. Pizza is just good, so do what works for you!

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Hamburger & Caramelized Onion Pizza
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Instructions
Pizza Crust
  1. For my PIZZA CRUST RECIPE, you can find it in either JULY or AUGUST 2019 blog entries on this site. It is a yeast dough so it will take a bit of time to prepare (but worth it).
Pizza Toppings
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp butter & add onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 20-25 minutes or until onion is browned & caramelized. Remove onion mixture from skillet; set aside.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp butter to skillet & saute mushrooms until tender & moisture has evaporated. Remove from skillet; add to onion mixture. Place ground beef & garlic in skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until browned. Drain off fat. Stir in caramelized onions, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper.
Assembly
  1. Spread Alfredo/marinara sauce blend over either homemade or purchased PIZZA CRUST. Sprinkle with a small portion of your cheese blend. Top with ground beef mixture, red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced green olives & remaining grated cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is nicely golden brown.
Recipe Notes
  • To grill pizza, heat one side of gas grill on medium or charcoal grill until coals are ash white. Place coals to one side in charcoal grill. Place pizza onto grill opposite coals. Close lid; grill, rotating once 12-15 minutes or until heated through & cheese is melted.

Bacon Cheeseburger Onion Rings

There are many ways to make and eat a burger and onion rings. I think this version is about the most efficient there is. Burger meat stuffed with onion rings, cheese and bacon, then coated with french fried onions and baked!

I don’t use a lot of the purchased french fried onions but sometimes you just need to switch things up. Breadcrumbs are good ….. without them there would be no crispy, breaded, pan-fried fish or oven baked chicken tenders.

The history of the french fried onions is somewhat sketchy, but they are believed to have been created in the thirties by a company called Olney & Carpenter.

Fried onions became famous in the fifties as an ingredient in the classic ‘green bean casserole’. Several companies acquired the product through the years until French’s took it over in the eighties. The onion pieces do not resemble onion rings and are more like onion chips. They are crispy right out of the container and should remain crispy for several weeks if stored properly.

I found they added extra flavor and crunch to these ‘burgers’. I myself, am not much for burgers but I have to admit I did enjoy these.

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Bacon Cheeseburger Onion Rings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet; set aside. Season meat with salt & pepper. Divide into 4 equal portions; roll each into a ball & then flatten into patties.
  2. Peel onion, cut off ends & slice into thick pieces. Place a large onion ring in the center of 2 patties.
  3. Cut the cheddar cheese so that it is the same height as the onion rings & place the cheese pieces around the inner wall of the onion rings.
  4. Put a smaller onion ring in the middle. Place a cooked slice of bacon inside the smaller onion rings, followed by an even smaller onion ring, followed by a cube of mozzarella cheese.
  5. Cover the layered onion rings with 2 bacon strips each & wrap the ends under the onion rings.
  6. Place the remaining 2 burger patties on top of each of the bacon wrapped onion rings. Seal the top & bottom layers of beef so that the center is fully covered.
  7. Place flour on a plate & roll stuffed burgers in it to coat. Whisk egg & dip the floured burgers into the egg mixture.
  8. Slightly crush french fried onions & dredge burgers in them. Place stuffed burgers on wire rack on baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, instead of making 2 large stuffed burgers, divide the meat into 8 portions & make 4 smaller ones.

Mashed Potato-Meat Cups with Cheese ‘Gravy’

There is no one way to create ‘meatloaf’ and it is precisely this capacity for re-invention that has allowed meatloaf to maintain a continued place on our dinner tables. The limitations for the iconic dish are none. The criteria is ground meat primarily and whether it is beef, pork, chicken, turkey or a blend of, doesn’t matter. The meat must be cut with a filler or the loaf becomes to dense. Bread crumbs, oatmeal, crackers, Japanese panko crumbs, rice, minced vegetables are all good choices. Egg and/or dairy of some kind is essential to bind and moisten. Seasoning is definitely a personal choice. The loaf shape is classic but the top can be glazed, sauced, as is, or baked with strips of bacon over it.

At one time, trying to find a casual restaurant that didn’t serve meatloaf would have been like an Italian one that didn’t serve pasta. Some believe meatloaf was born during the Depression of the 1930’s. To stretch the small amounts of meat people had, it was ground and mixed with stale bread crumbs. At times, these loaves actually contained more ‘loaf’ than meat.

Whether you love meatloaf or hate it, the fact that it is still around after all these years is incredible. Today’s entree puts another spin on this old classic. This a recipe that was published in a  Better Homes & Gardens  magazine in the 70’s. Interesting!


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Mashed Potato-Meat Cups with Cheese 'Gravy'

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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients
Meat Cups

Mashed Potatoes

Cheese Sauce

Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients
Meat Cups

Mashed Potatoes

Cheese Sauce

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Instructions
Meat Cups
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & saute onions & garlic until translucent. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan, parsley, cooled onions & garlic, egg, breadcrumbs & milk. Combine well.

  2. On 4 squares of waxed paper, shape into 4 patties with a 5-inch diameter. Shape each over an inverted custard cup; discard paper. Chill about an hour.

Mashed Potatoes
  1. Peel & cook potatoes. In a large bowl, combine cooked potatoes, butter, seasonings, Parmesan & a splash of milk. Mash & add more milk gradually until potatoes are desired texture.

Cheese Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter; whisk in flour, salt & pepper until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil; cook & stir while adding cheddar cheese. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Cook frozen peas.

Baking & Serving
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place inverted meat cups on a shallow baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until meat is cooked. Lift baked meat cups from custard cups & turn upright; fill with mashed potatoes. Place on serving plates, spoon cheese sauce over filled meat cups & top with green peas.

Potato & Brussel Sprouts Gratin

One of the supper dishes I remember my mother teaching me how to make was scalloped potatoes. The recipe read something like this:

  • Wash, pare and slice potatoes. Put a layer in a buttered baking dish, season with salt and pepper. 
  • Dredge lightly with flour, dot with small pieces of butter; repeat until dish is almost full.
  • Add hot milk until it comes almost to the top layer.
  • Cover with buttered crumbs. Bake until soft, about 1 hour. A little chopped onion is an improvement.

Gratins are very popular in Germany. Potato & brussel sprouts gratin is a typical dish during fall and winter season. There are numerous variations such as adding ham or combining it with other vegetables like cauliflower, zucchini, peas and carrots. You could also add an egg to the cream if you like.

I always enjoy looking through mom’s ‘vintage’ recipes. I notice there were definitely lots of casseroles — no wonder they still hold appeal for me. Brion is not big on brussel sprouts but I’m going to incorporate this German specialty into our supper meal and see how it goes?!

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Potato & Brussel Sprouts Gratin
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Course Main Dish
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Instructions
  1. Clean brussel sprouts, cut in half. Peel potatoes, cut about the size of your brussel sprouts. Boil potatoes & brussel sprouts for about 10 minutes in salted water.
  2. In a skillet, add a small amount of butter & fry onions with ground beef. Combine cheese with 1/2 & 1/2 cream, (add some milk if needed) & spices to your taste.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a 9" buttered casserole dish, layer potato/brussel sprout combo & ground beef. Then pour cream/cheese mixture carefully over all. Combine bread crumbs with Parmesan cheese & sprinkle top of casserole. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven & sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese. Serve.

Pita Pockets

From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather  simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam. 

Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.

The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.

Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.

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Pita Pockets
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.

German Bierocks

With my passion for food history and preparation, there is always a draw that pulls me back to my German roots. A lot of these recipes I recall my mother making but some are new to me that I just can’t resist trying.

In 2016, I posted a couple of recipes ( one in April and the other in August) for Potato Bread that had a meat filling baked inside. These take sandwiches to a whole new level and are so great for picnics — the perfect meal all in one.

The hand held meat ‘pie’ has a worldwide history. The British serve Cornish pasties, while empanadas are found throughout Central and South America. Italians are drawn to calzones (which are often made without meat). That brings me to eastern Europeans with their bierocks.

A bierock is made from a yeasty dough stuffed with ground or shredded beef, cabbage and onions. They were created to be carried by miners and farmers to work so they could enjoy a hearty lunch. What began as a ‘pocketful’ of beef and cabbage eventually led to the Reuben  that we know today. The BIEROCK  is a characteristic food of Germans from Russia.

These bierocks freeze well, so making them ahead of time is no problem. Just take them out of the freezer in the morning to thaw by lunch time. You can warm them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes in 30 second increments to heat through if you wish.

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German Bierocks
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
Dough
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
Dough
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a large bowl, place milk & butter. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until butter has melted. Add sugar & whisk to dissolve. Whisk mixture until it has cooled to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over milk mixture & allow to stand 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Whisk again, adding in 2 cups of flour, egg & salt.
  2. Stir in remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time until dough comes together. On a floured surface knead dough 10-15 minutes until soft, smooth dough forms, adding flour as needed. Dough should be tacky but not sticking to your hands.
  3. Shape dough into a disk; place in a greased bowl, turning dough to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, brown meat until almost cooked, 5-7 minutes. Drain grease from pan, add onions & cook 2-3 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add cabbage & cook 7-10 minutes, until cabbage is tender. Remove from heat & season with salt & pepper.
Forming Bierocks
  1. Place dough on a floured work surface, knocking it back. Divide into 8-12 balls (about 85 g each). Flatten each ball to a circle 4-5" in diameter. Spoon 2 large Tbsp of filling onto the center of each circle, leaving edges clear. Bring the edges together & pinch them to seal dough completely. Continue with rest of the filling & dough.
  2. Place the shaped 'bierocks' on a greased baking sheet & allow to rise, covered 30-45 minutes until roughly 1 1/2 times the original size. Preheat oven to 375 F. during the last 10 minutes of rising time. Brush bierocks lightly with milk & bake 20-25 minutes or until golden & hollow sounding when tapped. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes

Bacon-Wrapped Burgers

HAPPY CANADA DAY !

We are celebrating our country’s 150th ‘birthday’ this year. July 1st marks the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867. This important holiday celebrates the birth of Canada as an independent nation.

Our July 1st holiday is comparable to the July 4th, ‘Independence Day’ holiday celebrated by the United States. Along with numerous parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals and firework displays, Parks Canada entrance fees are being waived in 2017 to mark this occasion.

Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day.

For ‘our’ barbecue, I am going with some BACON-WRAPPED BURGERS, POTATO SALAD  with BLUEBERRY-LEMON CHEESECAKE CUPS. Yum!

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Bacon Wrapped Burgers/ Potato Salad/ Blueberry Cheesecake Cups
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Blueberry-Lemon Cheesecake Cups
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Blueberry-Lemon Cheesecake Cups
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Instructions
Bacon-Wrapped Burgers
  1. In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients & 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce. Crumble beef over mixture & mix well. Form into 12 thick patties. Wrap a bacon slice around the sides of each patty & secure with a toothpick.
  2. Barbecue at 350 F. until meat is no longer pink. Baste frequently with remaining barbecue sauce during latter part of cooking.
Blueberry-Lemon Cheesecake Cups
  1. Add boiling water to jelly powder; stir 2 minutes until dissolved. Refrigerate 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix graham crumbs & butter; press about 3 Tbsp onto bottom of each of 8 -125 ml, pyrex custard cups. Place on rimmed baking sheet; bake 6 minutes. Cool.
  3. Beat cream cheese & sugar with mixer until blended. Gradually beat in half & half; Stir in jell-o. Spoon into cups; top with fresh blueberries.
Recipe Notes
  • You can find the potato salad recipe in the June 2016 blogs.

Chili Con Carne with Cornbread

At this time of year, this hearty, easy to prepare meal seems to fit in nicely. Here in northern Alberta, Canada we are still in the midst of those cold winter temperatures.

Since the first recorded recipe, chili has been reinvented to include different spices and ingredients changing basic things like beef to chicken, chili peppers to jalapeno peppers and tomato sauce to chicken broth. The fact remains, it’s a great meal no matter what recipe you use or what the weather conditions are. 

Chili con carne, which is Spanish for ‘chili with meat’,  is a spicy ‘stew’ containing meat (usually beef) chili peppers or spice, tomatoes, garlic, onions and beans. Geographic and personal tastes involve different types of meat and ingredients. There has been much discussion and dispute that the word ‘chili’ applies only to the basic dish, without beans and tomatoes.

When Brion and I spent three months in Ecuador, we had rented a furnished apartment. The kitchen was very basic, but I could still enjoy preparing our meals. Being in Ecuador, one would have thought something as common place as ‘chili powder’ would be no problem to buy. After much searching, we finally gave up and I concocted my own version using black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne powder, onion powder, dried oregano and cumin. It actually tasted quite good. Cooking in Ecuador was a real learning curve. Due to the fact that even though you could buy similar ingredients to home, they tasted somewhat different.

Thinking back to my mother’s cooking, I don’t recall much about her chili but the cornbread she served with it was ‘to die for’. Once again, I’m sure so much of it was time and place.

Cornbread is a generic name for any number of quick breads containing cornmeal and are leavened with baking powder. The quintessential late 20th to early 21st century recipe contains baking powder for convenience, sugar for sweetness and flour and eggs for lightness. Cornbread is an interesting recipe to track through the past few centuries. It is such a prolific crop, grown in America, that it was consumed across class, race and regional lines. Corn lends itself to change very easily, giving way to variations of cornbread recipes. Although traditional cornbread was not sweet at all, regional preferences for sweetness in the recipe have developed.

In order to bake some cornbread in Ecuador, we purchased a package of yellow corn meal. Although it seemed to be very finely ground, I was able to make it work and we really enjoyed it. One day, while we were out walking we came upon a street vendor selling something called ‘Humitas’. We purchased a couple to take back to the apartment to try. Humitas are made of ground young corn, seasoned with egg, butter and possibly cheese wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. These had a bit of anise flavor which gave them a real unique flavor. Humitas are one of the most traditional of Ecuadorian recipes. The ingredients can vary by region, town or even in family recipes and can be sweet or salty. They differ from corn tamales in that they are steamed rather then boiled or baked. The corn used in making them is called ‘choclo’, also known as Peruvian or Cusco corn (named for the capital city of the Incas). This Andean corn has extra large, bulbous kernels almost five times larger than North American corn with a creamy texture. Every so often during our stay in Ecuador, we made a point of treating ourselves to some.

My story has got a little ‘long winded’ today, but I hope you have enjoyed it. I am posting my ‘tried and true’ recipes for Chili & Cornbread.  Hope you give them a try and enjoy!

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Chili Con Carne with Cornbread
One of those 'stick to your ribs', comfort food meals!
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chili
  1. In a large skillet, brown beef, onions, green pepper & spices until meat is thoroughly cooked & any liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans & water. Cook over medium - high heat until bubbly. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper or a mini loaf pan. In a food processor or blender, pulse first 5 ingredients for a few seconds. Place in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together melted margarine, milk & egg. Combine wet & dry ingredients, mixing only until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Pour into baking pan(s) & bake for 20 minutes or until test done. Serves 8