Chocolate Chili on Roasted Pumpkin

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This is my go-to ground beef chili recipe. It’s easy to mix up and you know how I love a slow cooker of spicy meat this time of year. I had the roasted pumpkin already and it’s turned out to be such a great side dish when I don’t want to serve everything on greens. The combination of cocoa with the chili on top of the slightly cinnamon-y squash is so satisfying. I love tucking into a bowl of ragu and this reminds me of that, but with so much more personality.

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Chocolate Chili on Roasted Pumpkin
Adapted from The Clothes Make The Girl

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
2 Tbs chili powder
2 Tbs ground cumin
1 1/2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1 6 oz can tomato paste
2 cups tomato sauce or 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (preferably fire roasted and garlicy)
4 cups beef or chicken broth

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Instructions:
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the coconut oil. When the oil is melted, add onions, stir with a wooden spoon and cook until they’re translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until it’s fragrant, about 30 seconds. Put the cooked onions and garlic into a slow cooker and set aside. Put the skillet back on the stove over medium-high heat and crumble the ground meat into the pan with your hands, mixing with the wooden spoon to combine. Continue to cook the meat, stirring often, until it’s no longer pink. Add to the slow cooker.

In a small bowl, crush the oregano between your palms to release its flavor, then add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, allspice, and salt. Combine with a fork, then add to the slow cooker, stirring like you mean it. Add tomato paste and stir until combined, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce or tomatoes with their juice, and broth to the slow cooker. Stir well. Cook on high for 2 hours or low for four hours. Do not skimp on the simmer! Serve in deep bowls with big spoons over the roasted pumpkin (recipe below) and top with cilantro, green onions, or whatever your heart desires.

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Roasted Pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Halve a whole pumpkin, remove the seeds, and place face down on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 1-1/2 hours, depending on how big the pumpkin is. Remove from the oven and let cool. (Can be done the day before.) Remove the skin and stem from the pumpkin and chop the flesh into 2″ cubes. Put the cut pumpkin back on the lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a bit of salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Stir a bit and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring half way through. The pumpkin should get a bit crisp with the heat and oil and get a bit of color (and flavor!) from the roasting method.

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Slow-Roasted Leg of Goat with Anchovies, Tomatoes, Lemon, and Rosemary

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This was our Christmas dinner and I’m just a bit slow at posting it. Having a whole leg of any large animal and taking 7 hours to cook it will make any day a holiday. Though this seems a bit complicated and the flavors are triumphant, it really is easy to put together and the long cooking time just makes your kitchen warm and smell amazing.

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Basting the meat every 30 minutes can seem tedious, but what better way to be attentive to a special dinner without actually having to labor over it? Have confidence in a dish like this. It’s unexpected because it’s special and rare, the way the best, big meals should be. The cooking ensures the meat is tender as can be and the anchovies, tomatoes, and rosemary are actually quite traditional pairings.

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This would be wonderful with a leg of lamb, of course, as most lamb and goat recipes are interchangeable. This goat came from my parents farm and he lived a lovely, happy life with hay and sunshine and Aurelia tagging along with her grandparents to feed him. I can’t think of what could have been a better Christmas dinner. It was just delicious. Served with baby kale and bacon salad, topped with an aged balsamic vinegar and roasted squash.

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Slow-Roasted Leg of Goat with Anchovies, Tomatoes, Lemon, and Rosemary
Adapted from Howling Duck Ranch

Ingredients:
For the seasoning paste:
1 Tbs dried rosemary
juice of 1 lemon (about 3 Tbs)
10 filets of anchovies packed in olive oil, drained
3 cloves garlic, peeled, germ removed if any
2 tsp dried mustard
3 Tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs olive oil

For the meat:
5 pound bone-in goat leg
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 large onion, halved and sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3-4 Tbs olive oil

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Instructions:
Using a blender or mortar and pestle, combine the rosemary, lemon juice, anchovies, peeled garlic, mustard powder, pepper, tomato paste, vinegar, and oil. Blend until the mixture turns into a coarse paste.

Place the leg of goat in a baking dish large enough to accommodate it, and rub in the seasoning paste, taking care to spread it well, and on all sides. (Clean your hands meticulously before and after the rubbing.) Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably 3 or 4.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it back to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap from the baking dish. Add the garlic, onion, and tomato sauce around the meat. Drizzle the whole thing with olive oil. (I actually had bacon grease from baking bacon for the baby kale salad, so I used that instead of the olive oil. Why not?)

Cover the dish with a fitting lid or cover with a sheet of foil. Place the dish in the oven to cook for 3 1/2 hours, basting the meat with the cooking juices every hour or so. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and cook for another 3 1/2 hours, basting the meat every 30 minutes or so.

Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes when it’s done roasting. Carve the meat and serve with the tomatoes and onions on the side with the cooking juices. Also, this is lovely topped with garlic Greek yogurt (mince a clove of garlic and add it to a cup of plain Greek yogurt) and capers or green olives.

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Apple Dutch Baby Pancake

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Heaven to breakfast.

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Apple Dutch Baby Pancake
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients:
1 large apple, preferably a tart one
3 Tbs sugar, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbs brown sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
5 eggs

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Instructions:
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and quarter the apple, then cut it into thin slices (1/4-inch thick or less). In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon and ginger and set aside.

Cut the butter into chunks and place them in a deep cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Put the skillet or dutch oven in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, until the butter is melted. Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the 2 tablespoons brown sugar over the melted butter. Carefully spread the apples on top of the brown sugar and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the apples. Put the pan back in the oven to caramelize the apples and sugar.

Sift together the flour with the remaining tablespoon of sugar, salt, and cardamom. In a blender, mix together the milk, vanilla and eggs. Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth and a bit foamy, about 30 seconds. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. By now the sugar should be bubbling around the apples.

Take the pan out of the oven and pour the batter over the apples. Bake for about 20 more minutes or until center is set and sides are lightly browned. The pancake will puff up dramatically but fall after a few minutes after you take it out of the oven. Serve in wedges, plain, or topped with a spoonful of homemade blackberry sauce, like I did. Also lovely with a bit of lemon juice and powdered sugar.

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Almond and Herb Crusted Roast and Sweet Potatoes

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Ah, this was a good dinner. My nighttime kitchen pictures are terrible. But make no mistake. This is real food, healthy, slow cooked winter fare. The combination of tender, hearty beef, soft sweet potatoes, crunchy nuts, and sharp horseradish is just stellar. I layered perfect bite after perfect bite. I happened to use a chuck roast for this, but a rump roast or round or different animal altogether would be wonderful I’m sure. It’s an easy method in a dutch oven and the herbs would be complementary to any meat I can think of. Don’t skip the sweet potatoes. Or the sauce. It’s trifecta – the winning bet for dinner.

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Almond and Herb Crusted Roast and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almonds
5 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 (3 pound) beef roast
2 large (or 4 small) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1″ cubes
horseradish sauce:
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

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Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, blend together the almonds, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper until the almonds are ground in uniform size and everything is well mixed. Add the olive oil and mix again. Spread mixture over beef and save a bit to toss with the sweet potatoes. Transfer meat to a dutch oven, large heavy pot, or roasting pan. Nestle the sweet potatoes around the roast. Cover with a lid or foil. Bake in preheated oven for 2 1/2 hours. Allow roast to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Stir sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, and salt together in a small bowl. Serve with roast.

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Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake with Lavender

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This is my Christmas present to you, dear readers. I’ve finally posted my very favorite chocolate cake … nay, dessert … actually, it really is my single favorite food. I make it on occasions now, otherwise there is no amount of time I could spend in the gym to compensate. Besides, I like to keep special things sacred and this is not an everyday cake. This is an experience, a transformation, a treasure unlike any confection you’ve had before. Think I exaggerate? You’ll get it with the first bite. I’ve made it plain many times, but had a packet of lavender from a local farmer and decided to add it to the mix. The combination may have taken this to a new level of heaven, but if you’re without organic, edible lavender buds, it will be quite alright without. Another variation I love is to replace fresh brewed coffee for the hot water in the recipe. Divine. Don’t ignore the suggestion to wrap it up and wait a day before eating. Really, it’s a million times better than just out of the oven. Plan ahead and create plenty of out-of-kitchen distractions until it’s ready.

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Nigella Lawson introduces this recipe in How To Be A Domestic Goddess this way: “This is the plainest of plain loaf cakes – but that doesn’t convey the damp, heady aromatic denseness of it. To understand that, you just have to cook it. And as you’ll see, that isn’t hard at all … simply sliced, with a cup of tea or coffee, it’s pretty damn dreamy: as damp and sticky as gingerbread and quite as aromatic… The centre of the cake will sink a little as the cake cools, but this is the way of the loaf… It’s meant to look like that. Then feed them a slice, and see if you hear another peep out of them.”

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It’s not a pretty cake. Don’t you dare put frosting on it. But it’s for the purists, the pleasure seekers, the pound cake enthusiasts, and the best chocolate hunters. Definitely for Christmas and perhaps it will show up again on my New Year’s Day plate.

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I love this cake and I love sharing it with you. I even had a slice for breakfast this to mark such a glorious morning of joy with Aurelia. Christmas with her is more than my heart can hold and it grows bigger on days like this. The cake, I’ll admit, helps.

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Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake with Lavender
Adapted slightly from How To Be A Domestic Goddess

Ingredients:
1 cup soft unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbs lavender buds
1 tsp vanilla extract
3.75 ounces best bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water

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Instructions:
Heat the oven to 375°F, put in a baking sheet in case of sticky drips later, and butter and line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with a sling of parchment. Then butter the parchment and dust with flour. The lining is important as this is a very damp cake.

Chop the chocolate in small pieces and put in a glass bowl. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until melted and completely smooth.

Sift the flour and baking soda together into a small bowl and set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and lavender together for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl down half way through. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well. Next, fold in the melted and now slightly cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but being careful not to over-beat. You want the ingredients combined: You don’t want a light, airy mass.

Then gently add the flour mixture, alternately with the boiling water, until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter. Pour into the lined loaf pan, and bake for 30 minutes. (Note: Don’t let this batter come closer than 1 inch from the rim of the cake pan or it risks overflowing. Pour any excess into a smaller cake or muffin pan.) Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so an inserted cake tester or skewer won’t come out completely clean. Place the loaf pan on a rack, and leave to get completely cold before turning it out.

Now here’s the crucial part: once the cake is completely cool, double wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. At least. It improves with a bit of time, so leave it until the next day if you can resist. When ready to serve, just take it out of the fridge, unwrap, slice, and eat plain. I promise there is no better way.

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Cream of Celery Soup

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As a respite from my hourly battle with the Sugar Dragon this Christmas Eve of Delicious, Cooing, Uber-Sweet Treats Coming From All Directions, I made a soup. This is the perfect balance to the feasts we’ll be having and it warmed me through this afternoon. It’s deceptively simple, with the flavors coming from just a few ingredients, brought together with heat and love. Really, that’s how all the best food is made, don’t you think? At least through the chill of winter. Celery is such a forward ingredient, especially in this quantity, so the hint of tarragon and cream just accessorize it’s role. Use high quality, homemade chicken broth, full of gelatin and flavor and this will be the soup for your holiday, over-sweet soul.

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Cream of Celery Soup
Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 1995

Ingredients:
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
8-10 cups celery, chopped (fresh or frozen, about 2 heads, ribs and leaves)
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

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Instructions:
Melt butter with olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery and onions. Cover and cook until very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in salt, celery seed, tarragon, garlic and broth. Cover and simmer until all vegetables are very tender, about 30 more minutes. Puree in blender in batches. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Pour pureed soup into large saucepan. Add cream; bring to simmer, stirring often. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Ladle into bowls and serve.

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Herby Salmon Swiss Quiche

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I haven’t made a crustless quiche in a while and I have no idea why. They’re so easy to mix together, are flexible to whatever clever ingredients you have on hand, and are perfect for lazy Sundays at home when you have time to let it bake. Today was so lazy, this was intended for breakfast and ended up serving as brunch. I was in no hurry this morning and enjoyed reading with Aurelia, drinking coffee, and wrapping presents. We were rather hungry by our brunch time and this couldn’t have been more satisfying. What a proud protein feast, too.

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Herby Salmon Swiss Quiche

Ingredients:
Butter for pie pan
6 oz canned boneless, skinless salmon, drained
3 oz swiss cheese, chopped small
1/2 bunch parsley leaves, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 Tbs dried chives
6 eggs
1 cup milk (I used raw skim)
1/2 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

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Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ glass pie pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt, salt, pepper, and chives. Scatter the salmon, cheese, and parsley in layers in the bottom of the prepared pie pan. Pour the egg mixture on top and pop it in the oven to bake for 40-50 minutes.

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Sesame Beef with Broccoli and Peppers

Impossibly scrumptious.

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Sesame Beef with Broccoli and Peppers
Adapted from FitViews

Ingredients:
2 lbs beef stew meat
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs sesame oil
1/2 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce (I used half and half)
1 cup beef stock
4 cups broccoli florets
2 bell peppers, sliced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs black sesame seeds

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Instructions:
Add all ingredients except the broccoli and peppers to your slow cooker, mix well and cook on low for about 6 hours. Add the broccoli and peppers, stir well, and cook for an addition 1 to 2 hours on low. Ladle into bowls, getting plenty of sauce, and top with some sesame seeds before serving.

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Baked Salmon with Lemon Dijon Sauce

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This is such a classic combination, it hardly warrants any commentary from me. It’s a simple vinaigrette and I think baking salmon in a sauce this way is the easiest way to get a juicy, flavorful filet with little effort. The flavors are perfectly suited to salmon and the fish can stand up to the might of lemon zest, garlic, and mustard. I served it on some garlic smashed potatoes from a rump roast dinner made the other night. Topped with plenty of fresh parsley, this is a filling and delightful meal with lots for your palate to take in. As usual, I made far too much, but I’m looking forward to lunches of cold salmon on greens and Aurelia can finish half a filet on her own in any sitting, smart girl.

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Baked Salmon with Lemon Dijon Sauce

Ingredients:
4-6 salmon filets
zest and juice of one large lemon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, finely sliced

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Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together the lemon zest, juice, mustard, honey, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In a 9″x13″ baking pan, line up the salmon filets. Pour the sauce over the salmon and turn the salmon over to coat all sides before sprinkling the onions on top. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick the filets are. They should be light pink on the outside, but still hold a bit of bright pink in the center of the thickest part. Remove from oven when just done, plate with a scoop of onions and sauce, and serve hot.

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