{April 19, 2009}   food, glorious food (baked potato & chili)

mmmmm, food. :) I just finished dinner. it was yummy.

for the last few months here, everyone in the house has been cooking dinner once a week. it works out pretty well. when we started this in january I was quite nervous – I’ve had hardly any experience cooking, and there were lots of basic things I didn’t know, the kinds of things that recipes always assume everyone knows. by now, I’m really enjoying it, and I feel quite confident. :) with some help from friends and google I’ve been learning a lot, and cooking’s not so scary any more. figuring out new delicious things to try is kinda fun, even.

the dinners here are all vegan (sometimes with optional dairy products – I like cheese). sometimes I’m frustrated by this, sometimes it’s an interesting challenge. :) I’m quite surprised at how well soy milk replaces milk in stuff like mushroom soup. the other challenge is cooking for 6-7 people; everything has to scale up well. some stuff that works for 2-3 people would take far too long when cooking for six. anyways, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been making – especially since I’m starting to wander away from recipes now, and I don’t want to forget how I made these yummy things. :)

tonight I did baked potatoes with chili. the potatoes are easy – explains that quite well. I didn’t go for the wrapped-in-foil method because I had eight of them, so this way scales better. I also didn’t bother with putting the potatoes directly on the oven rack. I just lined them up on a tray and shoved it in the oven, checking them halfway through.

as for the chili, I had a bunch of spinach that needed eating, and I was craving mushrooms (ok, I’m *always* craving mushrooms), so I looked up some chili recipes, especially ones with mushrooms in. there was a lotof variation in chili recipes, so I ended up asking aaron to explain what makes chili chili. :) (answer: chili powder, cumin, lots of beans, a fair amount of tomatoes, and whatever other veggies you like. and apparently molasses is good, but I didn’t have any.)

I ended up kinda making it up as I went along, based on aaron’s advice and several online recipes. I chopped two small onions and a half dozen cloves of garlic (almost every recipe starts with onions and garlic) and tossed them in a large pot with a dash of oil. (yes, I’m explaining things that will be obvious to anyone with cooking experience. it’s hard to learn this stuff when everyone assumes you already know it.) I chopped up three tomatoes while that was heating up, then tossed in the spices… a lot of chili powder (the bag slipped, so I’m guessing there was well over a tablespoon in there), and nearly as much cumin. then I chopped up some old chili peppers that were conveniently sitting beside the garlic, and one… um.. I think it was a jalapeno pepper. it was green and small and pete wanted me to put it in. :) I tossed those it with the tomatoes, and a couple of teaspoons of tomato paste. I think next time I’d use a fourth tomato, I’d like a more tomatoey flavour.

next I chopped up a few small carrots, and two bags of mushrooms. according to the receipt, two bags is 1.26lb. I added the carrots first (secretly hoping they’d dissolve; I don’t care much for chunks of carrot but I like the flavour ;) and the mushroom stems, turned the stove down to about 3 and covered the pot to not lose too much liquid, then went and dealt with the potatoes.

once the potatoes were in the oven I tossed the rest of the mushrooms into the pot. I added two 540ml cans of kidney beans and one of black beans. there wasn’t much left to do by then… pete chopped up some peppers for me, but said they shouldn’t go in until 15 minutes before the end. I chopped the stems off the spinach and rinsed it, but that hardly needs to cook at all. I grated some cheese, cleaned some dishes, checked on the potatoes, and waited…

almost an hour after the potatoes first went into the oven, I added the peppers to the chili. it was actually looking, and smelling, like chili by then. :) ten minutes later I added the spinach, took the potatoes out of the oven, and took the fake sour cream out of the fridge (tofutti- it’s a pretty good fake). another 5 minutes and dinner was ready. :) baked potato, cheddar cheese (for some of us), chili and sour cream. yumm. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, especially since I had no idea how chili was made 12 hours ago. :)

…and I’m really tired and have another exam tomorrow, so last week’s awesome dinner will have to wait for another blog post.

Psychotron says:

You could put dark chocolate into your chili. Might sound strange, but tastes delicious! In fact I haven’t had anyone up to now telling me that he/she did not like it .. or they were just too polite :) Just not too much, it shouldn’t become a chocolate soup …

jensp says:

Very nice, I’m also just starting to learn how to cook properly for myself and I’m vegan, so this was a very nice post to read, keep ’em coming :)

Bill says:

Had grilled pork steaks last night, with a multiple-vegetable salad. Happily not vegan.

ffejery says:

@chani(“here were lots of basic things I didn’t know, the kinds of things that recipes always assume everyone knows.”):
I feel the same way, but I should have more motivation to cook next year, in the TH dorms.
@psychotron: I haven’t tried dark-chocolate chili, but I have had chili dark-chocolate, and that was darn good (although admittedly a bit weird). Hmm… I may have to try that some time. What proportions do you recommend?

Psychotron says:

@ffejery: Uhm .. for like 6 persons I use 50g of dark chocolate, I think. Scales linearly ;) For an estimation of the amount of chili that equals to: I put 3 big cans of tomatos (with a net weight of 400something gramms of tomatos in it) plus 500ml of broth. And all the other stuff of course. As always you might like more or less, just try it.

Tom Cook says:

Sounds like you are coming on really well and you should give yourself a pat on the back! I second the comment at the top around dark chocolate with Chili, works especially well when used in Chili Con Carne (only about 2 small squares) and provides a very distinctive flavor all of its own. Chili is a good recipe for budding cooks, you should give this a try when the vegans are away next….

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