tomato

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing

Even if you’re not a big sports buff, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that there’s a big sports ball game coming up this weekend.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

I don’t really follow sports ball, but talk of “the big game” is utterly unavoidable on the tv and in public conversations and small talk with customers at work. From what I’ve gathered, the Denver Cows are playing the Southern State Snow Leopards. Or something like that. I wasn’t really listening.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

I generally tune out when I hear any sports talk, especially this time of year. The only thing that ever catches my attention during sports ball season is the TV segments about game day food and recipes. Chips and dips and wings and all things deep fried and heart clogging and delicious. Pizzas and snackadiums and coolers full of beer. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget the guacamole.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

The other day someone on TV mentioned that over the past few years avocado consumption on game day has shot straight through the roof. This year they’re estimating that 53.5 million pounds of avocados will be purchased and pummeled into guacamole, and that the total amount of guacamole eaten that day would fill the stadium to almost 12 feet deep.

Now that’s what I call a snackadium!

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Even though I won’t actually be participating in any game day festivities, hearing about a 12 foot deep stadium full of guacamole definitely got my mouth watering and my wheels spinning.

Instead of just making a killer batch of guacamole though, I wanted to find a way to turn it into a filling healthy meal rather than a bowl of dip to serve with chips.

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

It didn’t take me long to decide I’d be making a big beautiful dinner salad, but I really wasn’t sure what to call it. The most obvious name was, well, “guacamole salad”, but I was afraid that that name would conjure images of a scoop of guacamole plopped into the center of a bed of greens.

I considered calling it a deconstructed guacamole salad since it has all the traditional guacamole ingredients separated and recombined in a different way, but I was afraid that you’d see the word “deconstructed” in the title and roll your eyes so hard they’d get stuck, and then you wouldn’t be able to read all about this delicious salad.

So, guacamole salad it was.

Trust your gut. (Your gut wants guacamole.)

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re not fond of arugula, this salad can basically be made with any greens you want. I like the pepperiness of arugula and think it pairs really well with everything else in this salad, but spinach or mixed greens or some nice crunchy romaine would work really well too. It’s totally up to you!

You could also leave out the grilled chicken if you want to keep things meat-free. I’d suggest that maybe you could add a full can of black beans (instead of the half can listed below) for extra protein, or maybe throw in some grilled mushrooms or zucchini for a meaty bite? You could even swap out the chicken for some thinly sliced steak or grilled shrimp if you’re into that kind of thing. Why not? Infinite possibilities. Whatever you like y’all!

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

This salad is simple, easy, filling, and perfectly delicious. Bursting with creamy buttery avocado and packed with all the fixins that go in to a traditional guacamole. Sweet cherry tomatoes, biting red onion, fresh green cilantro, even a handful of tortilla chips for crunch! It all comes together with a bright and citrusy jalapeño lime dressing that could not be easier to make, especially if you have an immersion blender.

All the flavor of the game day grub, without the food coma!

guacamole salad with jalapeno lime dressing | Brooklyn Homemaker

Guacamole Salad with Jalapeño Lime Dressing

Jalapeño Lime Dressing:
zest and juice (about 1/4 cup) of 2 limes
1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Salad: 
3 to 4 generous cups arugula
2 ripe avocados, cut into large chunks
1 cup halved grape tomatoes, about 1/2 a pint
1/2 a small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 to 1 cup torn cilantro leaves, stems removed
1/2 to 1 cup tortilla chips, crunched up (but not crushed to dust)
1/2 a can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 chicken breasts, grilled and thinly sliced (optional)

Make the dressing:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a small measuring cup or wide mouth mason jar and puree with an immersion blender until creamy and smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender or food processor. Alternately you could just chop the jalapeño and garlic super finely by hand and shake to combine. Set aside.
Can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

Assemble the salad:
Layer all remaining ingredients in a large serving or salad bowl. Once ready to toss, pour dressing over the top and toss toss toss to distribute all ingredients and evenly coat with dressing. Serve immediately.
If you want to assemble the salad ahead be sure to wait until the last minute to cut open the avocados or to add the tortilla chips or dressing.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille

Last Saturday when I got home from work I started making dinner.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

I cut up some broccoli, crisped up some bacon, made a béchamel, boiled some noodles, and grated a heaping pile of aged Irish cheddar. After mixing all the ingredients for my homemade macaroni & cheese together I turned the oven on to preheat while I melted a little butter for my bread crumb topping.

With the weighty casserole ready to go into the oven to bubble and crisp, I reached down to open the oven door. That’s when I noticed it wasn’t hot.
Panic.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

Though you wouldn’t know if from the number of baked goods I turn out of my kitchen, I have been having trouble with my oven for over a year. I won’t get into all the specifics, but it basically starts to preheat but will turn off before coming to temperature. After months of dealing with it I finally figured out that if I switched on the range it would trick the oven to turning back on and I’d be in business.
That is, until the night that I had a big dish of macaroni and cheese waiting to bake. No amount of trickery or tinkering could induce my ancient apartment oven to turn on.

A broken oven. My worst nightmare.
I wanted to cry.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wrapped the macaroni and cheese up and put it into the refrigerator, crossing my fingers that it would miraculously work again the next day. Nope.

Of course my landlord is dragging feet his feet about getting it fixed too. Doesn’t he know who I am?

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few days later we finally got a repair man in to take a look. After less than five minutes of tinkering he blithely says, “Oh it’s just a blown fuse.”
I had just enough time to breath a sigh of relief before he continued, “Of course I don’t have one with me, and it’s out of stock. We’ll have to order it. We’ll call you in a few days.”
Way to toy with my fragile emotions Mr. Evil Repair Man. After he left I microwaved a bowl of never-baked macaroni and cheese and cried into it.

Another day passed before I heard back from them, and just my luck, this tiny stupid fuse is backordered from the manufacturer and they don’t know when it’ll be back in stock. What are the chances?
When it’s my oven we’re talking about? 100%.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

I could use this as an opportunity to make no-bake recipes and experiment with any number of savory stove top recipes. But, of course in the absence of my oven, all I want to do is bake. I even want to bake things I would normally do on the stove top! I’m suddenly overwhelmed by cravings for baked eggs, roasted chicken, twice baked potatoes, roasted cauliflower. My urge to bake cookies, usually strong enough already, is suddenly all consuming. I’m overcome with worry that I won’t be able to participate in this month’s #bundtbakers, which is fast approaching.

Wallowing rather than overcoming, I can’t think of a single thing that I could share here that wouldn’t require a functional oven. Forget the fact that at least half or more of the recipes I’ve posted up until now haven’t.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

Then, one morning I wake up and suddenly I NEED to make jambalaya. I consult my favorite recipe to make a few tweaks. I consult other recipes to see what else could be improved on. Oddly enough, I discover a few recipes that call for the jambalaya to be assembled on the stovetop and finished in the oven! WHAT?!?! WHY!?!!?! Okay, forget that. Back to the original stovetop recipe I was looking at.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

My recipe hunt turned up so many different variations on jambalaya that I decided to turn to Wikipedia for some clarification. As it turns out, there are actually three distinct varieties of jambalaya, depending on the regions they come from and the ingredients used.

The style I made is called a red Creole jambalaya, or a city Creole jambalaya. This is the most common style, and the main difference between this and other varieties is the use of tomatoes. The less common rural Creole jambalaya is almost identical but uses no tomatoes in the recipe. The third, and even less common variety is the Cajun or “white” jambalaya, in which the rice is cooked in broth separately from the meat and vegetables and combined just before serving.

Most people believe Creole red jambalaya was created as a way to make Spanish Paella without using saffron which was very hard to come by at the time. Tomatoes were added in place of the saffron for flavor, but eventually the other two styles came about without the tomatoes.

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

The house smells completely heavenly while this bubbles away on the stovetop (and not in the oven), and the flavor could not be more amazing. Tender rice, perfectly cooked shrimp, soft cooked vegetables, and andouille with a nice bit of bite. The fresh herbs, crushed tomatoes, and spices combine to make one of the most flavorful dishes I’ve had in a good long time. Using smoked paprika really makes a difference to impart a nice smoky depth to the dish and the cayenne adds a welcome bit of heat.

Depending on how spicy you like things, the heat level can definitely be adjusted to your taste. I like mine quite spicy so I used the full teaspoon of cayenne. One teaspoon might not sound like much, but a little goes a long way and gave this big pot of jambalaya some serious heat. Feel free to scale it back to 1/2 or even 1/4 teaspoon if you can’t take the heat, but I beg you not to skip it altogether or you’re not doing it right!

creole red jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, & andouille | Brooklyn Homemaker

Creole Red Jambalaya with Chicken, Shrimp, & Andouille

  • Servings: about 8 to 10
  • Print
adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon for the Fix

1 tablespoon olive oil (or bacon grease, if you have it, will add a bit of welcome smokiness)
12 to 16 oz. Andouille sausage, thinly sliced
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into small bite sized cubes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 to 3 ribs of celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups of corn kernels (fresh is best but frozen is fine)
2 cups long grain rice
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (to your taste)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 (15 oz) can, crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 lb. shrimp, cleaned peeled and deveined

garnish:
fresh thyme, parsley, or green onion

Preheat 1 tablespoon of oil or grease in a heavy stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown andouille for about 5 minutes, remove from oven, leaving grease, and set aside.
Add chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 5 minutes. They don’t need to be cooked through, just have a bit of color on them. Remove and set aside with sausage
Add onions, bell peppers, and celery and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes or until onions barely begin to look translucent.  Season with salt and pepper. Stir in garlic and corn and continue to sauté for 2 minutes more.
Add rice, herbs and spices and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
Stir in crushed tomatoes, stock, chicken thighs, and sausage. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked about 2/3 of the way, then add shrimp by gently pressing shrimp slightly into the mixture. DO NOT STIR while rice is cooking.
Cover again and continue to simmer for 7 to 10 minutes or until rice is cooked through and the liquid has evaporated.
Gently toss jambalaya together to incorporate shrimp and fluff the rice. Top with chopped parsley or sliced green onion, and serve.

best chunky beef chili

Guess what everyone. It’s winter. Surprise!

best chunky beef chili | winter in brooklyn | Brooklyn Homemaker

We just made our way through a bitter cold front here in New York City, and though it was a bit warmer for a few days, today we’re supposed to be hit with another, along with several more inches of snow. I’m no stranger to harsh winters.  I’ve lived in New York for my entire life and went to school in upstate’s Adirondacks, where I lived in the coldest town in the entire state. Winters in Saranac Lake often saw night-time temperatures dipping 20, 30, even 40 degrees below zero. The lakes would freeze so solid that people used them as extra parking during winter games, packing dozens of cars and trucks onto the ice when the parking lots filled up.
There were nights that were so frosty that the three block walk home after work would cause the condensation in my breath to freeze into my facial hair and turn my upper lip into a mustache-sicle. Winters in Brooklyn are nothing in comparison to the extremes upstate, but that doesn’t stop me from being affected by the seemingly unending frigid days and nights.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

If there’s one thing that I’m consistently inspired to do by cold weather, it’s to cook. And to eat. I love making soups, stews, braises and any number of hearty slow-cooked meals during the winter, and one of my favorite cold weather meals is chili. Traditionally chili is thought of as a warm weather meal, something eaten in Texas and the Southwest, but maybe that’s what draws me to it in winter. Cranking the heat and sitting down in flannel pajamas to a big steamy bowl of thick spicy chili helps me forget that outside the wind is whipping snowflakes through the streets of Brooklyn.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemakerbest chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemakerbest chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Chili is a dish that people take very seriously. Web searches will turn up thousands of pages on the subject. The legendary outlaw Jesse James is said to have declined to rob a bank in McKinney, Texas because the town was home to his favorite chili parlor. The American mystery writer Rex Stout once said that, “Chili is one of the great peasant foods. It is one of the few contributions America has made to world cuisine. Eaten with corn bread, sweet onion, sour cream, it contains all five of the elements deemed essential by the sages of the Orient: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter.” That is a big reputation to live up to for such a simple, unfussy food.

Chili has a long history in the United States and there are a great many opinions about how this dish should be prepared. I’ve even seen people go so far as to say that adding beans to chili is sacrilegious. The thing is though, that I don’t really care what the chili experts say. I’m not from Texas. I don’t live in the old wild west. I like chili how I like it, and if some “purists” think I’m doing it wrong, so be it. It doesn’t change the fact that this recipe is friggin delicious.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

In my defense, not that I  believe I really need defending, not everyone takes chili so seriously. Texas native Carroll Shelby had ideas about chili that were closer to my own and said, “The beauty of chili to me is that it’s really a state of mind.”  “It’s what you want when you make it. You can put anything in there you want, make it hot or mild, any blend of spices you feel like at the time. You make it up to suit your mood.”

I was a vegetarian when I lived in the Adirondacks, and chili with lots and lots of beans was one of my favorite ways to warm myself up on cold days. When I lived in Ithaca, New York, I worked at a restaurant that won a chili cook-off with a recipe that used chunks of stew meat instead of ground beef. My love of spice has grown since I’ve moved to a part of Brooklyn that is heavily dominated by Mexican and Puerto Rican culture. All of my past experiences have helped guide me to the recipe we have here today. Chunky beef chili made with stew meat instead of ground beef, with a variety of beans, and a healthy dose of heat and spice.

When I was growing up, chili was only ever made with ground beef, so when I first saw it made another way and started trying it myself, the idea of using stew meat was completely novel to me. Later I realize that it’s not really so uncommon, and that it’s probably how the dish originated. The idea used to be so foreign to me that I wanted to try to change the name to reflect its unconventional ingredients. The problem was that there’s no delicate way to combine the names chili and stew. No one wants to belly up to a steaming bowl of “Stewli”, no matter how delicious.

No thank you.

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

So. Chunky chili it is!

This recipe is thickened with corn flour, but if you don’t have corn flour feel free to use all-purpose flour. I used stew meat that was already cut into chunks at the grocery store, but ended up needing to do some cutting of my own to bring the chunks down to the right size. Most stew meat bought in grocery stores comes in pieces about two or three inches in size. This recipe works much better with smaller pieces and I cut them all down to about one inch cubes. I made this recipe with beef this time around, but I’ve made it with venison before and it’s delicious. If you love venison, by all means, knock yourself out.

I think this chili translates to a slow cooker recipe really well too.  I would suggest that you brown all your veggies and meat ahead as stated in the recipe, and follow the steps through to where you scrape up the browned bits from the pot with half a cup of beef stock. Then you would transfer the browned meat and onions to the crock pot, add the remaining ingredients, and cook on high for four hours, or low for eight. The only thing that might be tricky is to get the chili to the correct consistency, so you may need to add more corn flour to help thicken it.

Since I’m usually just feeding myself and Russell, this recipe made plenty of leftovers for us, and I have to say, I think this chili improves with age. The second day the flavors seemed to have really married perfectly and the meat was even more tender and delicious. I suppose this is what he meant when John Steele Gordon said that “Chili is much improved by having had a day to contemplate its fate.”

best chunky beef chili | Brooklyn Homemaker

Best Chunky Chili

adapted from Emeril Lagasse for Food Network

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
Salt
Cayenne
2 pounds stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons corn flour (or all-purpose)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef stock
28 oz  can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
15 oz can red kidney beans
15 oz can black beans

Directions
In a large heavy bottom stockpot of dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to wilt. Add jalapenos and garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with salt and cayenne. In a large bowl, stir together corn flour, chili powder, & cumin, and toss and coat meat in the mixture. Brown the meat for 5 to 6 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of the beef stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits of beef and corn flour stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir in remaining stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the liquid uncovered for the first hour, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and simmer for another hour or until the beef is fork tender.
Taste and re-season with salt and cayenne if necessary. If the chili is too thin, simmer uncovered until it’s thick enough. If too thick, thin it out, a tablespoon at a time, with beef stock. Garnish the chili with the grated cheese, sour cream and avocado. Serve with cornbread.