When I was a kid in Texas autumn was my favorite time of year. Freed by the oppressive heat of summer and unencumbered by the dread of snow shoveling and mag chloride erosion, pumpkin patches and cheap acetate boxed costumes ushered in the beginning of the holiday season for me. Mmmm, I can still smell the scent that would build up behind the thin sweaty plastic masks on those balmy Texas Halloween nights.
Years later when we moved to England, our Halloween celebrations that had laid dormant for years were reborn. Hungry for anything fun and familiar to share with our children, other American mothers and I would ban together and throw holiday parties that out did anything we ever had at home. Now, even though our children are grown I think we all still really enjoy these holidays more than we ever did before our time in England.
I’ve told you that my friend Karen and her husband Chris in Nottingham host a village shindig for Halloween every year that is quite the occasion. My own Halloween celebration here in Colorado pales by comparison, but usually consists of some really fun food with no consideration for nutrition, calories or cholesterol count. Even though we really enjoy our queso dip, chips and about 100 peanut butter cups each, my son requested something different this year, so I decided to oblige him.
This past weekend I had a brainstorm and went to work on an old favorite from elementary school, cinnamon rolls and chili. Don’t recoil if you’ve never tried this combination. I’ve noticed from doing research on the internet that this is not just a Texas thing. I read comments from people all over the nation reminiscing about how much they loved this sweet and salty lunchroom combination. Well, my son said he wanted something different and I can assure you this is right up his alley.
Trying to improve on perfection, I went out on a limb and embellished my cinnamon rolls by adding some orange zest, forgetting about what a cinnamon roll purist my son is. Well, Mr. Picky turned his nose up at these delicious rolls so I quickly mixed up the ingredients for a recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for a while, Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins. These really saved my son's day and I must admit I don’t know which I liked better with the chili. So, if you are having a big village party or an intimate little dinner for three and one lion dog, treat your Halloween guests with these new tricks.
Company Red Chili
1 – 1/2 pounds lean stew meat (or chili meat if preferred)
1 small onion, very finely minced
1 – 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef bouillon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cocoa
2 tablespoons mild chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon masa flour (or 1 tablespoon fine corn meal in a pinch)
Place all of the ingredients except for the masa in a slow cooker set to high for approximately 4 hours or low on 6 hours, stirring occasionally if possible. Alternately place ingredients in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. Bring to a boil before reducing heat to low, covering and simmering for approximately 1 – 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 15 minutes or so before serving, stir in the masa to thicken and add an authentic Mexican flavor.
Being a Texan, I just don’t believe that good chili has beans in it, but if you must, drain a can of pinto beans and add them to the pot just long enough to heat them through. You may also add some cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon at a time if you want some heat. I really highly recommend that you buy a package of masa for this recipe. I know that they are really big and it's not something you use often, but split a bag with a couple of friends and store it in the freezer. As directed this chili will be mild and mellow.
Makes approximately 6 cups, enough for 4 people
Orange Cinnamon Rolls
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 -3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dissolve yeast in warm water in large mixer bowl and let sit for approximately 5 minutes or until foamy; add orange zest, orange juice, sugar, salt, egg, butter and 1 1/2 c of the flour.
Beat 30 seconds on low, scraping bowl constantly; increase speed to medium, beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally (if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, this makes for easy work). Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle. With stand mixer on low, knead dough for 5 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic, or turn dough out onto floured surface and knead 5 minutes.
Place dough in a large greased bowl and turn over to coat with oil on all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (dough is ready if an indentation remains when dough is touched).
Punch dough down and on a lightly floured surface roll into a 16x9" rectangle; set aside.
For the filling, stir together the granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
Spread dough with the melted 2 tablespoons butter (leaving a clean 1” border along one of the long edges) then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture evenly over the butter.
Beginning at one of the long sides, roll dough up jellyroll fashion, ending with the clean edge. Pinch edge of dough to seal well. If necessary, gently stretch dough slightly to make a 16” long roll. Cut roll into 16 slices about 1" wide. This is best done with a long piece of thread or dental floss that is slipped halfway under the roll and crisscrossed over the top. Then take the opposite ends of the floss firmly in your hands and quickly pull in the opposite direction to cut.
Cut dough in half, then cut the halves in half until you have 16 equal size pieces.
Place slices an inch or two apart in a greased oblong baking pan, 13x9x2", or in greased muffin cups. Cover and let rise until double, about 30 minutes.
Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven until rolls are golden brown, about 20 -25 minutes. Drizzle with glaze while rolls are hot.
For the glaze mix together confectioner's sugar, milk, orange zest and vanilla; drizzle evenly over hot rolls.
Makes 16 rolls
Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins
Resist the temptation to add more hot dogs than what are called for here as the muffins have a tendency to crumble if you stir in too much.
1/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten at room temperature
1 – 1/4 cup milk, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn meal (polenta can be used)
1 tablespoon honey
3 ounces brick style medium cheddar, sliced into 1/4” cubes
4 hotdogs, split lengthwise then across in 1/4" thickness
Non-stick cooking spray
1/3 cup vegetable or light olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream shortening and sugar; stir in egg and milk. Mix flour with the baking powder and salt before adding it to the shortening mixture. Add the corn meal and honey, stir just to combine. Fold in the cheese cubes and hot dog pieces.
Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour about 1/2 teaspoon of the oil into the bottom of each muffin section. Place prepared pan into the preheated oven and heat oil for approximately 5 minutes or until oil is hot and smokes slightly. This will make the muffins crisp on the bottom.
Remove pan from the oven and quickly spoon enough of the batter to fill each section about 2/3 full. Bake in the hot oven for approximately 15 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and the middle springs back when pushed with a finger.
Makes approximately 16 muffins