Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chili from Leftover Taco Meat

On Sunday nights, I have practice with Acoustic Rooster, and my husband and sons are on their own for dinner. They have deemed it taco night -- and when they make tacos, there are no veggies and no fish. For them, tacos are comprised of shells (hard or soft), taco meat (ground beef with packet taco seasoning), cheese and taco sauce. That's it.

On most nights there's leftover meat, but not enough for a second meal of tacos (and when you're already having tacos once a week, do you really want them again?). Seeing that leftover meat go to waste makes me nuts so now I make the leftovers into chili. I've never measured the amount of meat I put in it from week to week but it always seems to turn out OK. Now, my husband has decided he likes the chili at least as much as the tacos, so he's threatening to make even MORE taco meat! I can't win!

Basic Chili from Leftover Taco Meat
(Makes two good-size bowls of chili)

1 cup (or so) leftover taco meat.
8-ounce can tomato sauce
15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few twists of freshly ground black pepper
SPinch of sugar
Optional (my husband doesn't eat them): 15-ounce can kidney beans (with liquid)
Optional: cayenne pepper, if you like it hot. Add 1/4 teaspoon at a time until the spice is to your liking.
Garnishes: grated cheese, sour cream, etc.

In a large saucepan, combine the all ingredients, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Taste and adjust seasonings until they are to your liking. Cook, stirring every few minutes, for a half hour or more. I keep it partly covered while it simmers.

If you like it really hot, use hot petite diced tomatoes with chiles, such as the various ones from Redpack. You can also vary the flavor by using petite diced tomatoes with sweet peppers or other variations.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Penfield Cupcake Shop on Cupcake Wars!

Trends -- whether they be food or fashion -- seem to be slow to hit Rochester. Case in point: cupcake shops. Cupcake shops had been around for years before they came to Rochester. Now, cupcake shops seem to be all over the place. In fact, the town of Penfield has three cupcake shops in the span of a few blocks. And one of them is going to be on Cupcake Wars!

Dollop was the first cupcake shop to arrive in Penfield -- it opened in June of 2010. (It's located on busy Route 441, which makes it hard to get a good picture of it.) It has an unusual take on cupcakes. It has a cupcake bar, where you pick your cupcake, frosting, topping and filling, and they prepare your cupcake to order. It's kind of like what Coldstone Creamery does with ice cream. The shop is pretty much a carry-out place -- there's not much seating.

Truth be told, we're not the kind of family to routinely go to a cupcake shop to spend about $10 for three cupcakes, because we do a lot of baking ourselves. But we did stop in awhile back to give Dollop a try. I had a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and chocolate chunks. One son had a vanilla cupcake with cookie dough topping. The other son had a chocolate cupcake with coconut topping. Neither son recalls the flavors of their frostings. We all enjoyed our cupcakes, but it's not like any of us have been itching to go back.

I think the Dollop approach is great for fussy eaters and people who like things just the way they like them. I personally prefer a more artfully decorated cupcake with a perfect balance of textures and flavors. That balance is more likely to happen when a chef carefully prepares all the elements to work together. But that's just me. Coldstone Creamery is clearly a popular place, so Dollop may be on to something.

All in all, I want to see local businesses succeed, so I'm pulling for Dollop in Cupcake Wars. The episode is on a week from tonight, on February 19. (The name of the episode is "Monster Jam.") Best of luck to Dollop -- I'm hoping for a win!
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