Football and/or cold weather often calls for a bowl of chili. With the Superbowl this weekend, I collected all my chili recipes into one post for your consideration. They are quite different from each other with about the only common ingredient being chili and possibly, cumin.

My Favorite Chili, so meaty and thick. It even has a touch of chocolate to bring all the flavors together but you would never guess it.

MY FAVORITE CHILI

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The most important thing you should do when using your bread machine

Your bread machine does not have a brain! A timer and a thermostat maybe, but no brain. I know a lot of people buy a bread machine hoping it will magically make the perfect loaf of bread with the press of a button. You might get lucky and it happens…..if you use the right recipe, and the humidity is the same as wherever the recipe-developer resided, and you measured your flour in the same way the recipe-developer did, and the room temperature where your bread machine sits is exactly the same as theirs was, etc.

Making bread is an art, not an exact science. Sometimes you have to make adjustments based on the environment, the ingredients you use, and the finished product you desire. Knowing when, what, and how much requires experience, a sixth sense, and sometimes, good luck.

The Most Important Thing You Should Do When Using a Bread Machine

Whether you are using your bread machine as a mix-knead-rise appliance (like I do), or you want to mix, knead, rise, and bake in your machine, my #1 piece of advice is to open the lid and check out the dough inside. Do this 5 minutes or so after starting the machine and then again after the machine has been kneading 5-10 minutes. If you walk by 15 or 20 minutes into the cycle, open the lid and peek to see if all is well. The only time you do not want to open the lid is in the middle of the rising period as you will be letting some heat escape, thus prolonging the rising time.

The goal is for the dough to stick to the side, then pull away cleanly as it kneads. The dough in the video below is the perfect consistency for the average loaf of yeast bread. It’s pliable, shiny, smooth, and not too sticky.

Is your dough too dry? Does it refuse to form a ball, or does it make a ball that slaps loudly against the side of the pan? Add a tablespoon of liquid, give it a chance to mix up for a couple minutes, and check again. Keep doing this until the dough looks right.

Is the dough too wet? Does it look gooey and sticky? Add a tablespoon of flour at a time, watching until you see the dough stick to the sides and then pull away cleanly. Allow a couple minutes for the dough to incorporate the flour before adding more. Remember that some doughs need to be quite wet, like brioche or ciabatta. If you are a beginner, I would avoid those kinds of recipes until you have dependable success with a simple loaf.

Another time I recommend you peek inside the machine is at the end of the dough cycle. I will address that topic in an upcoming post.

p.s. If you are new to the bread machine world and want to increase your chances of success, may I suggest you start with a bread machine mix from the grocery store or use a basic recipe from the manual that came with your bread machine. Or, you could use one of my bread machine recipes formulated to be mixed and kneaded in a bread machine, then removed from the pan, shaped, and baked in a conventional oven. Check out my recipe index for lots of possibilities.

 

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Mild Chicken Curry--An easy way to use leftover rotisserie chicken to make a dish that will remind you of Chicken Masala. Freezes well.

My husband harbored a negative attitude toward Indian food most of our 38-year married life. He based his distaste on a negative experience in college with some highly-spiced curry.

Two or three years ago we ventured into an Indian restaurant on a whim and got hooked on the Tomato-Coconut Soup. I decided to exploit that positive experience and asked a co-worker with Indian connections to mark a restaurant menu highlighting all the dishes she thought we would like. We tried several of them and it worked.  My husband was won over although I almost lost him after he popped a handful of fennel seed into his mouth as we were leaving our favorite Indian hangout one night. The seeds are traditionally chewed after a meal as a breath freshener and stomach soother, but it wasn’t the minty flavor he was expecting. The coughing and spitting that ensued was most undignified.

Click here for the recipe and more…

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Do you need to carry a snack or finger food to a New Year’s party or maybe a football-watching get-together? I gathered some of my favorites for your consideration.

Starting with the number one, most popular recipe on this blog (outside of “How to Make Salad in a Jar”.…but that’s not really a recipe), I recommend Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Chicken Bites.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Chicken Bites, a simple snack but extremely popular snack

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Whole Wheat Apple Pie Yeast Bread--mixed and kneaded in a bread machine

Whole Wheat Apple Pie Yeast Bread with Streusel Topping

If you ask Pinterest, one of the most popular posts on this blog is entitled “Apples in a Bag.” It’s super easy with only 4 ingredients and makes a healthy snack or dessert for 1-2 people. Add the apples to a bowl of oatmeal or plain yogurt, or use them to make a “sauce” for bread pudding. My personal favorite is to serve as a dip with cinnamon tortilla chips.

Apples in a Bag

Apples in a Bag–a quick way to make apple pie filling

Since I’m a bread-machine freak, I thought it was high time to create a bread recipe incorporating “Apples in a Bag.”  You probably aren’t surprised to hear it also includes Greek yogurt (but you can substitute buttermilk if you prefer) which results in a tender crumb not unlike my favorite cinnamon rolls. It’s perfect to make in the days leading up to Christmas because it only gets better after hanging around for a day or two. Click here for the recipe and more…

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