Friday, August 20, 2010

Almost Famous

And so concludes my time on MasterChef... The girl from Texas who missed out on Texas Chili, a memorable exit if nothing else! In an effort to redeem myself ever so slightly, I would like to state for the record that I could have guessed at least 5 or 6 more ingredients in that damn pot, but somehow assumed chili powder was as safe a bet as any. I mean seriously, who makes chili without chili powder? Certainly no one in MY state. My untimely endaside, the experience as a whole is something that I would not trade for the world. While it was unbelievably distressing to leave my three children, I was able to, for the first time in my life, feel independent. I never had the college dorm, the first apartment, or anything really that has ever been 100% mine (and while nothing in a hotel room could be considered really mine, it was at least mine for the moment), and that was unexpectedly liberating in a way that I have never known. I had only myself to take care of, and after the pressure of running a family of 5, I have NO idea why single people have so may problems! I made incredible friends and felt like I actually belonged... Always the outspoken foodophile (among other things) who never fit in, I found true community and camaraderie for the first time as well. On the other hand, it is not as if I was able to frolic about picking daisies. I averaged about 5 hours of sleep a night, sometimes less, ate practically nothing, and awoke every morning with enough anxiety to bring on borderline nausea. By the time the "Pressure Test" came around, I had spent 3 grueling weeks filming, with NO communication with my family, and was so heartsick that I actually wanted to go home. But would I do it over again? Absolutley. The experience changed me in countless ways, and it has opened doors to dreams that I had long since tucked away. As the famous Tom Stoppard quote goes, "Every exit is but an entrance to something else"... So get ready, cause here I come!

Anywho, we had a utterly fabuous farewell party at the house (of course no one actually knew it was to be my last episode as a contestant), featuring mini empanadas, guacamole, flan, spiced chocolate chip cookies, and, of course, chili!

*For all of the great party pictures, including all of my pictures during my time on MasterChef, click on the Confections & Confesions Facebook icon on the right!

Real Texas Style Chili

4 strips of best quality, nitrate free bacon
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 TBS garlic, chopped
2 TBS paprika
1 TBS cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 lb ground bison or organic ground beef
1 lb italian sausage, casings removed
2 tsp sea salt
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can baked beans, drained
1 TBS canned chipotle in adobo sauce, minced (add more for a spicier chili)

-dice the bacon and place in a large pot over medium heat, cooking until the fat had rendered and the bacon is brown, then remove the bacon and set aside
-add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes
-add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano and stir until well combined
-increase heat to medium high and add the meats and salt, stirring frequently until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes
-add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally

serve with green onions, sour cream, and freshly grated cheddar cheese

Fourth Times A Charm Flan

Yes, I actually made this thing four times in one day to get it right, but I think I finally got it. It cost me one shattered pie plate and countless 'Hail Marys' to offset the unspeakable obscenities being shouted form the kitchen.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 TBS water
1 12oz can evaporated milk
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

-preheat oven to 325 degrees
-in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water, bring to a boil and swirl the pan gently until the sugar has desolved, about 3 minutes
-reduce to a simmer and cook, gently swirling occasionally, until the mixture has caramelized into a deep mahogany color, about 7 to 10 minutes
-carefully pour the caramel into a 9 inch pie plate or cake pan and set aside to cool slightly and set
-whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour into the pan
-bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until set.
NOTE: Do NOT insert a toothpick or cake tester to check for doneness, as this will create an air pocket in the flan, causing the caramel to seep out (yes, I know this from flan "take III")
NOTE II: Ideally this should be cooked in water bath to ensure mild and even cooking, which will result in an even more creamy texture, however they can be fussy (I did not do this because I was using a heart shaped pie plate was just outside of fitting into my roaster). To do this simply place your flan dish in a roasting pan and fill the pan with 1 inch of boiling water, proceed as directed.

Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies

The words "these are the best cookies I have ever had" seemed to be floating around (I never even got one)...

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts (if you don't toast them they are not NEARLY as good, I promise)
12 oz best quality semisweet chocolate chips (i.e., something BETTER than Nestle which uses artificial vanilla)

-preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper
-sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside
-cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes
-add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, and blend well
-with the mixer on low, add the dry flour mixture and beat only until combined
-fold in the chocolate and nuts
-level the dough off in a 1 3/4 inch spring loaded ice cream scoop, plop on the baking sheet and repeat, giving them a generous amount of space
-wet your hand slightly and lightly press down on the dough balls
-bake for 15 minutes and cool on wire racks


  1. You will be missed. I am hooked on MasterChef but you brought a real unique point of view that I will miss. Glad I found your blog however. Thanks for sharing your recipes! And yeah duh, chili powder?! Seems like a given to me as well.

  2. Jenna. You are such a sweet young lady. I was rootin for ya for what it counts. Good luck with the rest of your dreams. Never lose yourself. Like the blog too.

  3. Fame is fleeting. The Internet is forever. Congratulations on your good run. Going out for chili powder in Texas style chili is as respectable an exit as one could hope for.

  4. The party was fabulous! The girls will be thrilled to see their picture made the blog as well! We love you and are proud of you! Darn Chili Powder! Whoever made that pot of chili was definitely not from Texas!!! A foreigner and a native Texan imposter for sure!