- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004


Remember bowls? They’re those handy receptacles for filling with warm, festive winter food, easy stuff to eat when your attention is on a hot football game. Nice to team with other edibles.

Here are suggestions for your menu, to pile into bowls with hand-to-mouth extras for toppings. Chili is taken for granted, made your own favorite way. These are some other candidates for favor.

They are not one-occasion recipes, by the way. They’re good for plenty of other hungry times of year.

Cooking Light magazine puts together a winter dinner from which two items stand out for our bowls: a crunchy snack mix and a beef stew with a Mediterranean flavor, which can simmer away for dipping into as desired. Both are tailored to be lower in fat and sodium than other versions of these standards.

This is one for the snack bowl before serious food play starts. Leftovers can be tossed onto a salad.

Crisp and spicy snack mix

2 cups crisscross of corn and rice cereal

1 cup tiny pretzel twists

½ cup reduced-fat wheat crackers

½ cup reduced-fat cheddar crackers

1½ tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon ginger stir-fry sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon salt

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine the crisscross cereal, pretzels, wheat crackers and cheddar crackers in a bowl. Combine butter, stir-fry sauce, chili powder, cumin and salt; drizzle over cereal mixture, tossing to coat. Spread mixture into jellyroll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until crisp, stirring twice. Makes 4 cups (serving size ½ cup).

Beef stew

If you wish, serve this stew over mashed potatoes. Make it and keep warm in a Dutch oven or slow cooker.

1½ teaspoons olive oil

1½ pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

3½ cups halved mushrooms (about 8 ounces)

2 cups diagonally cut carrots

1½ cups coarsely chopped onion

1½ cups sliced celery

2 garlic cloves, minced

1½ cups water

1 cup dry red wine

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1¼ teaspoons kosher salt

¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2 14½-cans no-salt-added stewed tomatoes, undrained

2 bay leaves

2¼-ounce can sliced ripe olives, drained

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Add mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery and garlic to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to pan. Stir in water, wine, thyme, salt, pepper, tomatoes and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Stir in olives, and cook for 30 minutes or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaves. Stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 6 servings (serving size 1⅓ cups).

Pepper stew and penne, too

The festive contents of “Celebrate” by Sheila Lukins include menus for many occasions. Her choices for a Super Bowl supper for eight diners include chili and ribs, but she also has pasta with a tomato-pepper sauce, something for vegetarians and youngsters to dive into. “The peppers and tomatoes are slow-cooked to coax out their deep sweetness for a flavor that is full and powerful but pleasantly light on the tummy,” she says.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise

Two 14-ounce cans peeled Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices

2 teaspoons sugar

8 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into generous 1-inch pieces

1 cup dry red wine

2 cups torn fresh basil leaves, plus 1 large sprig fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1½ pounds dried penne

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Add half the garlic; cook until it’s soft, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sugar, and cook until thickened, about 30 minutes. Set the tomato sauce aside.

Heat the remaining ¼ cup oil in another heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, and add all the remaining garlic and the bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 30 seconds.

Add the tomato sauce, wine, torn basil and basil sprig to the peppers. Cook over medium-low heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally to blend the flavors, 30 minutes. Add a bit of water if the sauce gets too thick. Remove the sprig of basil, and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the penne to the boiling water, and cook until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the pasta well, and toss it with the sauce. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and serve in a large bowl with the grated Parmesan cheese alongside. Makes 8 servings.

Sloppy Jacks

A book called “Macho Nachos: 50 Toppings, Salsas, and Spreads for Irresistible Snacks and Light Meals” (Potter) by Kate Heyhoe sounds exactly right for our purpose, and it proves so. It’s lively in scope, yet practical and full of bright and hearty variations on the theme; two of them follow.

Sloppy Jacks are a version of sloppy Joes, the homey old meal on a bun. Here, the meaty Joes cover corn chips instead of buns, under a layer of Monterey Jack cheese.


2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground red chili

1 pound lean ground beef (95 percent lean)

3/4 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons minced parsley (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


4 to 5 ounces corn tortilla chips

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 3 cups)

½ cup finely diced green bell pepper

¼ cup finely diced red or green onion

Prepare the sloppy Joe mixture: Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and ground chili, and cook another minute, until the garlic softens. Dump in the ground beef, and cook until crumbly and no longer pink, breaking up large chunks as it cooks. Stir in the ketchup and ½ cup water. Reduce the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should be moist and glazed, neither dry nor liquidy. Stir in the vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper. (The mixture may be made 2 days in advance; reheat before using.)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, or preheat the broiler, with the rack 7 inches from the top of the oven or the heat source.

Assemble the nachos: Arrange the chips on a 12-by-18-inch baking sheet or ovenproof platter. Sprinkle on half the cheese, then spoon on dollops of the meat mixture. Top with the remaining cheese and the bell pepper and onion.

Bake the nachos for 5 to 7 minutes, or broil, until the cheese melts.

Chinese firecracker nachos

Chinese firecracker nachos reflect Chino-Latino tastes. “In each crispy bite, the sweet heat of Sichuan cooking dances to a Latin beat,” Miss Heyhoe writes. Melted Muenster cheese mellows the spiciness, and seasoned cabbage adds a sharp note.


1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon peeled, minced ginger

1 pound lean ground pork (95 percent lean)

2 tablespoons Chinese chili garlic sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


4 to 5 ounces corn tortilla chips

5 ounces Muenster cheese, sliced and torn into smaller pieces, or about 2 cups shredded

3 ounces napa cabbage leaves, very finely sliced

3 to 4 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 green onion, chopped (white and green parts)

Make the firecracker pork: In a large skillet, warm the sesame oil over medium heat. Stir-fry the ginger until it starts to soften, about 1 minute.

Raise the heat to high. Dump in the ground pork, breaking it up into crumbly bits. As the pork cooks, stir in the chili garlic sauce and the hoisin sauce. Continue to cook, stirring and breaking up the pork. Add the sesame seeds. The pork will give off juices as it cooks; then the juices will start to evaporate. Cook until the pork is fairly dry on the outer surface, so the chips don’t get soggy. (The pork mixture can be fried as much as a day in advance; refrigerate if not using within an hour.)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, or preheat the broiler with the rack positioned about 7 inches from the top of the oven or the heat source.

Assemble the nachos: Arrange the tortilla chips on a 12-by-18-inch baking sheet or ovenproof platter. Sprinkle on the cheese and then the pork mixture.

Bake the nachos for 4 to 6 minutes, or broil, until the cheese is bubbly. While the nachos cook, toss the cabbage with the rice vinegar.

Serve the nachos with green onion and the seasoned cabbage sprinkled on top.

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