If you’ve read this blog for over a year or longer, you know that the holidays are not my favorite time of the year. For some reason Jay and the rest of his family have this notion that I hate turkey and therefore hate Thanksgiving. Not true–No, turkey is not my favorite, nor is pumpkin pie, but I make those because Jay and the bambino both really like them. And really, Thanksgiving is a foodie’s holiday. I make almost everything from scratch–Dressing, potatoes, the pie, rolls or biscuits…I will cop to using frozen green beans, but I don’t like the “traditional” green bean casserole. Nor do I like sweet potatoes, and the thought of topping them with marshmallows makes my teeth hurt! So I either make sweet potato biscuits or leave them off the table completely.
What I really enjoy is fooling around with all the leftovers. For example, Café Coteau at the SD Children’s Museum makes a delicious turkey sandwich with cranberry cream cheese. I’ve replicated that at home several times. Thanksgiving aside, it’s the start of the Christmas season that generally gets to me. Part of it is that my Seasonal Affective Disorder is usually in full swing by then, work starts to get stressful because EOY stuff is kicking in, there’s the constant barrage of horrid Christmas music, and the forced holiday warmth and cheer. Part of it too is that even after 10 years in South Dakota, I still miss being around my extended family. I haven’t been home for Christmas since 2009. Not once has anyone in my family made it out here for Christmas–But that’s more because of the risk of truly horrible weather in this part of the country at this time of year. Yes, I’m a Grinch. I admit it.
And if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I often make Cincinnati chili at this time of year, and it’s been our Christmas Eve dinner for a few years now. It helps combat my homesickness and it’s comfort food. Not healthy by any stretch, but it cheers me up when I have a batch of it simmering away on the stove, especially when it’s cold and gloomy out. It makes me think of Downtown Cincinnati, and Reds games, and visiting my dad, and old friends. My childhood.
I’ll (finally) get to the point. For many, the holidays mean cookies and parties and elaborate meals, with turkey or ham and all the fixings. For me, it means Cincinnati chili and a whole lot of cheese:
For the past few months, I’ve been buying block cheeses and shredding them myself. Due to the anti-caking ingredients in pre-shredded cheeses, they don’t melt quite as well. Block cheese also seems to be a mite cheaper, but I suppose you’re paying for convenience if you buy pre-shredded. Thanks to Hamilton Beach, I don’t have to get out the box grater and wear out my arm grating tons of cheese. I was sent the Stack & Snap 10-Cup Food Processor to test out for my holiday cooking and baking.
I’ve wanted a food processor for awhile–I’ve come across many a recipe for doughs and salsas that include throwing everything in a food processor. I’ve worked with enough various doughs since I was a child, so I can make cookies, biscuits or pie crust by hand. Chopping peppers and tomatoes for salsas, though–That’s tough. I made a particularly hot salsa for a contest at work a few years ago, and it took a good 2 weeks before I could bring my hands anywhere near my eyes without them burning (note to self: Invest in food-safe kitchen gloves for chopping future hot peppers)! So when harvest season rolls around again next year, I will be prepared! I have also used this to make homemade Sunflower Butter, for the bambino’s lunches (his school isn’t peanut-free, but I don’t want to be that parent who’s responsible for sending some other child to the hospital for having an allergic reaction). I’ll have that recipe forthcoming. It’s cheaper to buy a pound of raw sunflower seeds and make my own than it is to buy a jar of SunButter at the store. And according to the bambino, it tastes better too!
The processor is pretty cool–There are 2 options for the food chute–A small opening for streaming in water or other liquid if you’re making something like a pie crust, or a larger opening if you decide to shred something like blocks of cheese or slice small, whole potatoes. The top also snaps into place, rather than the traditional twist and lock on most food processors. I have a smaller food chopper from another brand, and I am forever twisting the top the wrong way, and am convinced that one of these days, I’m going to break it. The snapping locks are much easier to navigate (if you’re directionally-challenged like I am!). And it’s dishwasher-safe (as long as you don’t use the sanitation cycle on your dishwasher), which makes clean-up a breeze!
In the meantime, I’m providing you a recipe for a Cincinnati chili-style dish I had when I was in Anaheim for the Fresh Summit Expo. The first evening we were there, the plaza had been set up with about 20 food trucks from all over Anaheim (I just love the idea of food trucks, even though they’re non-existent out here on the prairie). One of them featured a dish called Dragon Eggs:
Which, as you can see, are nothing more than chili-topped tater tots (I have yet to figure out what Viking Ketchup is). So instead I made Cincinnati Chili Tots. I’ve made this dish already, when I attempted Cincinnati Chili Totchos. Yeah, don’t look at those pictures. I thought I’d try it again, with some crispier baked tots, Cincinnati Chili, and a whole pile of cheese.
It was just as good this time around. I left off the sour cream and instead used some cream cheese–Kind of like a Cincinnati Chili Dip but with tots (and minus the onions!). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the tater tots on a baking sheet, and place in the oven. While the tots are baking, prepare the topping. Spread the softened cream cheese on the bottom of an 8x8-inch square baking dish. Spread the heated Cincinnati chili on top of the cream cheese. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the chili is bubbling and the cheese has melted. If the tater tots aren't crispy by this point, flip them and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes, or until nicely browned and crisp. To serve, place about a cup of tater tots on a plate or a shallow serving dish. Top with a scoop (about 1 cup) of the Cincinnati chili dip.
So this is junk food at its finest, but for me, it’s a comfort of home.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the tater tots on a baking sheet, and place in the oven.
While the tots are baking, prepare the topping. Spread the softened cream cheese on the bottom of an 8x8-inch square baking dish. Spread the heated Cincinnati chili on top of the cream cheese. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese.
Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the chili is bubbling and the cheese has melted.
If the tater tots aren't crispy by this point, flip them and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes, or until nicely browned and crisp.
To serve, place about a cup of tater tots on a plate or a shallow serving dish. Top with a scoop (about 1 cup) of the Cincinnati chili dip.
Now, if you’ve made it this far through my meandering ramblings, here’s a chance at a reward: Hamilton Beach is generously allowing me to give away a Stack & Snap 10-Cup Food Processor to one of my readers! As usual, for my giveaways, just leave me a comment. Tell me how you feel about the holidays. Do you go all Norman Rockwell, or are you a Grinch like I am? What would you make with this food processor if you win? How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? Are you sick of my obsession with The Replacements (sorry, but that’s never going away!)? Say whatever you want! I’ll choose the winner using a random number generator, and send that person an email, so make sure you leave me your contact information in your comment (I’m the only one who will see your email address). Have at it!
Giveaway Details: This giveaway will run until 7 PM CST on Friday, December 5, 2014. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator, and will have 48 hours to respond after the initial email informing them of winning has been sent. After that time has elapsed, another winner will be chosen in the same manner. The winner must be 18 years or older and reside in the 50 United States or Washington D.C. Hamilton Beach is unable to ship to P.O. Boxes.
DISCLOSURE: I have been provided a Stack & Snap 10-Cup Food Processor to facilitate this review. Hamilton Beach will provide the same product to one of my readers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.