Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baked Bean & Chicken Soup

Close your eyes for a moment, please.  Yes, you too.  Thanks.  Now, imagine if you will the last BBQ you went to this summer that served dark and delicious baked beans.  I'm not talking about the dreadful "pork 'n beans" you dump out of a can and heat.  No.  I mean those brown sugar, bacon-covered, smoky and tantalizing beans that you desperately want more of, but you know they're so full of bad stuff that you just can't go back for seconds.  Yeah, you know which ones I'm talking about.  Okay, open your eyes!

This recipe is a rendition of those most sinful beans, but in soup form.  This soup is sweet and spicy and hearty, but without the morose heaviness that baked beans imbue.  

4 slices bacon
1 C. chopped onion
1 16 Oz. can Northern beans
1 16 Oz. can black beans
1 16 Oz. can Kidney beans
1/3 C. Ketchup
3 T. Worcester Sauce
3 T. Liquid Smoke
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1 Small Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1/4 -1/2 C. brown sugar
2 T. Molasses
1/2 rotisserie chicken, shredded 
1-2 C. Chicken broth or water, or as needed
Tortilla Strips, cheddar cheese & cilantro, for garnish

In a large pot, brown bacon and remove to drain on a paper towel.  Add onion to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until soft, but not brown. 

Add beans and each of the other ingredients.  Bring to a simmer.  Add broth or water as needed to create desired consistency.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with tortilla strips, cheddar cheese and cilantro.  Serve with good, fresh bread. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cranberry Apple Crisp

Attention ladies and gentlemen:  Fall has officially arrived.  Repeat, fall has officially arrived.  And I'm very excited, if you couldn't already tell...

One of the things I'm looking forward to most this fall is heading out to some real live apple orchards.  It's been years since I've gone to one, so I'm due for some apple picking, hay rides and good old-fashioned apple cider and doughnuts.  

As soon as I have a pail of freshly picked apples, this is what I'll busy myself making.  Cranberry Apple Crisp.  There's something so comforting about a warm bowl of cinnamon apples covered in chewy and crisp oatmeal streusel and then topped with melting vanilla ice cream.  A spin on a family favorite from our time in Illinois, this is the epitome of cold weather desserts.  

3-4 apples
1/4 C. frozen cranberries, thawed
3/4 C. flour
1/2 C. oatmeal
1 t. baking powder
1 1/2 C. sugar, plus 1 T. 
3/4 t. salt
1/3 C. butter, cut into small cubes
1 unbeaten egg

Preheat the oven to 350.

Peel apples and slice into cubes.  Place the apples and the cranberries in an oven-safe dish and sprinkle with 1 T of cinnamon and 1 T. sugar.  Toss to combine.  In a bowl, mix flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add cubes of butter and crumble in your fingers until the butter is the size of peas.  Add egg and cut it into the mixture with a knife and fork until the mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the apples and cranberries.  Top with a sprinkle more of cinnamon and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and crunchy.  Serve while warm and top with vanilla ice cream.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dinner Across the Country

Sean and I arrived in Ohio on Monday night.  We are currently visiting his family on the border of Ohio and Kentucky and will head up to Columbus later this week.  Our road trip across the country was fun, laughable, educational and delicious!  Even though our days were filled with hours upon hours of driving (you don’t realize how long this country is until you’re trying to get across it), we were able to stop at a few great cities and restaurants across the way.  Here are a few of the dishes we tried from driving across the country!

1.  Frontier Restaurant, Albuquerque, New Mexico
             A popular hot spot near the University of New Mexico, this restaurant serves everything from classic New Mexican chile to burgers and sweet rolls.  We rolled into Albuquerque at midnight and this place was still hoppin' with UNM students and locals.  

             Green Chile
             Carne Adovada Burrito with a fried egg


2.  Tomasita's, Santa Fe, New Mexico

             I have to say that Santa Fe, New Mexico was my favorite part of our trip.  The town was drenched in vibrant art and history and deliciously spicy food!  We took a couple hours to walk around the city center and to eat lunch, but I easily could have stayed for a week.  I can't wait to go back and explore all the nooks and crannies.  For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant suggested by my friend, Ted.  The food was hearty and so spicy I almost ordered a glass of milk.  I ordered my chile like a local:  Christmas style, with both red and green chile.  We also tried the biggest sopapillas I've ever seen!

             Burrito on a river of green chile
             Sopapilla stuffed with ground beef
             Giant sopapillas with honey butter

3.  Springfield, Missouri

            Our next culinary adventure was in Springfield, MO (sorry Oklahoma - we didn't get to try your BBQ).  When I was planning our drive, I came across several specialties that seem to have originated in Missouri.  One was Brad Pitt.  The other was Springfield-style Cashew Chicken.  Needless to say, we didn't find Brad Pitt.  But, the chicken was pretty good.  Simply put, it was fried chicken in a salty brown gravy.  Later, I'll attempt to jazz this dish up, so stay tuned!  We also found some really tasty toasted ravioli when we visited my brother in Fulton, Missouri, which we scarfed down after a couple hours of bowling.  

             Springfield-style Cashew Chicken
             Toasted ravioli

Along the way, we also stopped in St. Louis and rode the "time capsules" to the top of the Gateway Arch.  The view from the top was breathtaking.  We also learned all about the history of this entry point to the west.  All in all, it was a great trip and we arrived safely in Ohio.  I miss my Arizona friends and my family, but I'm glad to be starting a brand new adventure.  But the cooler weather and all the green seem to be making the transition easier.  Stay tuned for some new, fall recipes on Natural Sugar!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sparkling Limeade

As many of you know, Sean and I have decided to make a BIG change and move to Columbus, Ohio.  We will miss our friends and family very much, but we're ready for a new adventure - one with slightly cooler summers and 4 seasons.  I hope you'll wish us luck!  Natural Sugar's posts will continue like normal, so stay tuned as we drive across the country and adopt some Midwestern flair.  

As an ode to Arizona and the southwest, today's recipe is for a sparkling, quenching beverage that is perfect for hot summer days.  [Technically, this recipe is from Mexico, but who's counting?  Close enough, I say].  Several years ago, my family took a summer vacation to Mazatlan, Mexico.  We spent wonderful, long days on the beach, by the pool and eating delicious Mexican specialties like Molcajete.  One of my favorite recipes that I brought back from the vacation is this sparkling limeade.  My dad and I actually spent weeks perfecting it so we could drink this amazing and refreshing concoction at home.  It will always remind me of good memories near the border.  

Surprisingly persnickety for such a simple mix of ingredients, this beverage will impress you and your entire pool party.  Adjust the sweetness and acidity to please your own palate and spike it with a shot of Tequila if you need an extra kick. 

Equal parts of sugar and water 
Lime zest

Juice from 8 limes (only use fresh, the bottled kind does not work well for this recipe)
Club Soda
Lime slices, garnish

Shot glass, to measure

In a small saucepan, combine equal amounts of water and sugar.  When mixture has dissolved, remove from heat and add the zest of 2 limes.  Allow mixture to cool and set in refrigerator.  Squeeze 8 limes and strain juice.  In individual glasses, place a slice of lime and fill with ice.  Separately, combine 1 shot of lime juice, 2 shots of simple syrup and 1 C. of club soda.  Stir to combine and pour over the ice.