Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dutch Oven Green Chili

Last year for my birthday my Mom got me a Le Creuset dutch oven. If you know anything about cookware, you know this is top-of-the-line stuff: cast iron with beautiful coloring, it's a French brand that is pricey but also awesome. And then sadly, I never used it. It's hard when you are cooking for one person as dutch oven recipes typically make many portions. But basically that's an excuse. I just never got around to using it.

My Mom finally shamed me into making more of an effort when she asked me point blank, "do you ever use your dutch oven?" I tried to change the topic, but she knows my tricks. So I resolved then and there to make more dutch oven recipes.

I made my first recipe a few weeks ago when I was hosting one of my D&D groups: it was an Iberian Chicken Stew that turned out pretty well, but since I forgot to take pictures I didn't put the recipe up on the blog (we all know recipes are better than pictures). But earlier today my Mom came over for lunch so I decided to surprise her with something I would cook in the dutch oven. This recipe I found just be scouring the internet for "low calorie dutch oven recipes" and someone had posted it on some cooking forum or another.

I have kind of love/hate relationship with chili. On one hand, I think it's delicious with the beef, and the tomato-based sauce, and the heat. On the other, I really really REALLY hate beans. Loathe. So with most chili, I end up picking out all the beans which is quite labor intensive and means you end up with a half-serving, at best. This chili recipe seemed perfect as it was easy, had no beans, and looked yummy.

In all honesty though, I don't think this is technically chili. Shouldn't chili have chili pepper in it? This doesn't. I ended up using green chilis in my version, though the original recipe called for roasted peppers, but is that enough to make it chili? At this point, I don't really care since it turned out delicious. Perhaps a more accurate moniker for this recipe is beef stew. I leave that to you, gentle reader, to puzzle through.

Dutch Oven Green Chili

1 16oz. package Trader Joe's "Traditional Pot Roast" (fully cooked and seasoned pot roast)
1 half white onion
1 can canned diced tomatoes
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup sliced green chilis (I used two cans of the Trader Joe's brand and that worked out perfectly)
2 splashes hot sauce
1 cup salsa (the fresh type works better)

Chop the onion and then cut the pot roast into small cubes. Coat the dutch oven with cooking spray and cook the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients to the dutch oven. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The wet ingredients will reduce by about half. Salt and pepper to taste and voila! Yummy (faux) chili!

Serves 6, Calories per serving: 210, Fat: 4.6g, Carbs: 30, Protein: 13

I served mine with some corn bread muffin tops (a recipe that was just ok honestly--it needs actual corn in it) and a spinach salad. The entire lunch was under 400 calories!

If you want to continue to cook down the moisture, this would make an excellent tortilla filling. Also, if you don't have a dutch oven, I think you could use a slow cooker in a pinch--thought the cooking time might be longer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shamrock Fest and St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes

Ah, St. Patrick's Day. The one day of the year my red hair is hailed as a gift instead of a curse. Also, everyone pretends to be as Irish and cool as me and there's also lots of drinking. Basically there is nothing not to love about this holiday.

Every year in DC there is a huge party called Shamrock Fest with great food, music, and beer (of course). I've never really been one for music fests (so crowded and porta potties are not my thing), but some of my friends were organizing a big group and I figured, "why not?" Especially when the headlining performers are my favorite band, Carbon Leaf.

So on Saturday, March 16 (the day before actual St. Patrick's Day) we all put on our best green and Irish duds and headed out on the metro to RFK Stadium. We met up early for some pre-partying and I might have been a wee bit tipsy by 10:30 in the morning, but that's all part of the fun, right?

Things didn't end up as crowded as I had feared (probably because of the threat of rain) and we had a grand time wandering around the festival grounds, dancing in the DJ tent, getting beer and cider, and waiting for Carbon Leaf. When the band took the stage at 4:30 there was a brief rain shower, but their one hour set was fantastic, with a great mix of old and new songs. Carbon Leaf has always had a bit of a Celtic rock flair and I was able to score a spot in the front row--for the first time!

By 6:00 I was wiped from being on my feet, drunk, and out in the elements all day, so I called it an early night. But Shamrock Fest proved more fun than expected and I look forward to going back next year.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I also decided to try a new homemade Guinness Chocolate cupcake recipe! I know many of you hear "homemade" and "cupcakes" in the same sentence and panic, but trust me that these are super easy. There is also a certain amount of pride that comes from making something from scratch rather than out of a box. These got rave reviews from my friends--they bake up to a dense, chocolatey cake that isn't too heavy. And the beer doesn't really influence the flavor, it just adds a certain depth and keeps the cake moist. Top off the cupcakes with the Bailey's Irish Cream frosting and you are good to go for all your St. Patty's Day needs!

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout beer (Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used a buttermilk substitute--2/3 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice that you let sit for 5 minutes)

• Prepare muffin tins with liners.
• Simmer together beer and butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
• Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
• Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend.
• In bowl of mixer fitted with beater, beat eggs and buttermilk to blend.
• Add cooled stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.
• Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Batter will be very dark brown and thin.
• Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

 Baileys Irish Cream Frosting 

1 lb (4 cups) confectioner's sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (soft but still cool)
3 ounces (6 TBL) Baileys Irish Cream*
(I also recommend dying the icing green for that perfect Irish touch)

• Beat butter on medium-high until smooth, and fluffy.
• On lowest mixer speed, add confectioner's sugar one cup at a time, incorporating fully before adding more.  • Once all sugar is added, beat about one minute. Incorporate Baileys Irish Cream one tablespoon at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. If too stiff or dry, add more Baileys as necessary.

Rockin out in the DJ tent

 Me and some random dude in a kilt.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fancy and Shmancy in NYC

"Hey Upper East Siders, Gossip Girl here, you're one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite. What's making the headlines on my homepage? Spotted: Margaret Riley walking the streets of New York and staying at the Waldorf Astoria. Looks like there's a new player in town."

That's what ran through my head last weekend as I walked around New York. My friend Caroline from law school and work moved to Manhattan last month so me, Chris, Kent, and Monique decided to spend the weekend visiting her and my other friend from undergrad, Sarah. Monique happened upon an advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria where they mentioned taking the government rate....and well, our fancy New York weekend adventure began!

Of course, the glamour kind of wears thin when you take the Bolt bus up, but hey, we save money where we can, right? After arriving in town and arriving at the hotel (I did a little dance when I told the cab driver to take me to the "Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue, please"), we changed into some fancy duds and grabbed food and drinks at several of the hotel bars. Now, these are nice places so the drinks were kind of expensive (about $20), but they were also really delicious. And you can't beat the ambiance. Plus, I'm going through this phase now where my absolute favorite thing is to get all dolled up and go to fancy restaurants and bars. It's just a thing.

The Waldorf's main lobby

Exploring the hotel and striking a pose. Two of my favorite things.

The next day we also had big plans. After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we met up with Sarah and Caroline for the matinee of the Broadway show, Kinky Boots. It's still in previews, so we felt extra special getting a chance to see it....and if you haven't heard of it, I suggest you get your butt up to Broadway IMMEDIATELY because it's going to be a hit and win all the Tony's. Just you wait. It had a kind of Hairspray feel to it with the fun and the dancing and the brightness and the lesson that it's ok to just be yourself, but it also felt very real to me in terms of the characters and the decisions they made. None of that typical Broadway bullshit plot stuff that sometimes jerks you out of a story.

Did I mention the songs were by Cyndi Lauper? Gayest and greatest show ever!

If you haven't heard of the show before, here's a brief run-down: "Charlie Price (Tony nominee Stark Sands) has suddenly inherited his father’s shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of drag queen Lola (Billy Porter). A fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos, Lola turns out to be the one person who can help Charlie become the man he’s meant to be. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… and discovers that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world."

After the show we checked out Caroline and her husband's Joe's fabulous apartment (basically across the street from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden) and their AMAZING view. I was jealous, not gonna lie. And then it was down to the Lower East Side for dinner, mini cupcakes, and a burlesque show at The Slipper Room, one of NYC's first neo-burlesque cabarets. You might recall that I am going through something of a burlesque phase right now, but this show was racy even by my standards. Typically, burlesque doesn't involve full I was a bit shocked when there was full on vagina on the stage. But it was still all in good fun and what's a little naughtiness among strangers?

Group shot on the rooftop of Caroline and Joe's apartment building!

After a full day of planned fun on Saturday, I had purposefully reserved all of Sunday for just wandering around. I started at MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) and downloaded their free Droid app with all the audio tour info. There was also a special exhibition of Edward Munch's work, including The Scream, and the museum's regular collection was impressive including works by Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, etc.


I then walked over to Central Park, through the zoo, and back along 5th Avenue (ooo la la) to do some couture window shopping and then over the Rockefeller Center, a sandwich shop, and Magnolia Bakery. Hey, when in Rome....And then it was time to head for the bus and ride back to reality. I think I might be spoiled for all other hotels though.

Next time: THE PLAZA! At least in my dreams.