Turkey Chili

It’s chili weather out here. A “storm” landed in the San Francisco area tonight so we decided it was time to whip up a batch of our favorite turkey chili to warm ourselves while we watched the Giants win. Storms, by the way, in the Bay Area just mean it’s raining. No thunder…no lightning…people are real lightweights about weather around here. Anyway, I’ve made a lot of chili in my time, and it’s all great, but this is a few notches above all the others.

The chili’s modeled after a recipe for Famous Dave’s Route 66 Truck Stop Chili, substituting ground turkey for the beef that’s normally used. It goes perfectly with with a huge slab of cornbread and a nice little carafe of rich Napa cabernet. I’m warming up already.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • 3 pounds (80/20) coarse ground beef (or turkey)
  • 2 teaspoons Famous Dave’s Steak seasoning
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans hot chili beans
  • 1 (22-ounce) can tomato juice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 1 (10-ounce) can beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons Famous Dave’s BBQ sauce (any BBQ sauce will do)
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • sour cream, for topping (optional)
  • crackers, for topping (optional)
  • cheddar cheese, for topping (optional)
  1. Combine ground beef, steak seasoning, chili powder, black pepper, cumin, Maggi, basil and garlic powder in a stockpot and mix well. Cook until the ground beef begins to turn a crusty brown, stirring frequently. Add celery, onion, green pepper and jalapeno. Cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add undrained chili beans, tomato juice, undrained tomatoes, tomato puree, broth, BBQ sauce, Kahlua and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Simmer until of the desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Ladle into chili bowls. Serve with shredded Cheddar cheese, minced onion, source cream and plenty of crackers.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My wife has her go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, but wanted to try these because they reminded her of our absolute all-time favorite, Specialty’s in San Francisco. She wanted me to have something delicious and homemade to take with me on an out of town trip I’m about to embark on.

The trick to making them thick is to separate the dough in half for each cookie before you put them on the pan, rotate one of the halves 90 degrees and put it back together next the other half.

These are so delicious, perfectly crunchy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside.

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen:

makes 18 cookies

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli recommended) or 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli recommended)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12- inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches).

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking seet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

The Best 3-Ingredient Pizza You’ve Ever Had

Pizza in California is hit or miss, actually mostly just miss. It’s one of the reasons I started making my own pizza.

One of the rare bright spots is A16 in San Francisco where they make super thin Neapolitan style pizza with only a few top notch ingredients. Another is Cheeseboard Pizza in Berkeley, where we found ourselves this past weekend. The place is run by Socialists who, my guess is, have collectively agreed to make truly delicious pizza. They don’t conform to the conventional ways of making pizza either: one type of pizza a day, always vegetarian and never with any pizza sauce. You’d be forgiven if you weren’t tempted to try it based on that, but you’d be missing out on some of the best pizza in the Bay Area. There’s a reason the line stretches halfway around the block each and every day they’re open.


At some point, after being disappointed one too many times with the latest “must have” pizza in SF and surrounding area, I dedicated myself to learning how to make really good pizza at home, with a crappy oven and zero experience. I can’t say I’ve come close to mastering it yet, far from it, but I’m past the point now where I need to attend a pizza-making class – I’ve managed to pick up the basics from an A16 cookbook and a whole lot of trial and error. That, and watching the pizzaolo at Pizzeria Delfina (hint: forming pizza dough does not involve throwing it in the air).

Ingredients: A16 Neapolitan Pizza Dough

Makes 4 (9- to 10-inch pizzas)

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1⁄2 cups warm water (100˚ to 105˚F)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups “00” flour or all-purpose flour
  • Toppings of choice (recipes follow)
  • Extra virgin olive oil

To make the dough, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let proof for 10 minutes. If the yeast has not dissolved into a soft, frothy paste in that time, get a fresher batch and repeat the process. Stir in the olive oil and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and yeast mixture and mix together on low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the dough is shaggy and most of the water has been absorbed. Knead on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smoother. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead on medium-low speed for an additional 10 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth, soft, and warm to the touch.

Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turn the dough so that both sides are lightly coated in oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, punch down the dough with your fist, then fold over the sides and turn the dough over in the bowl. Re-cover and return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. One at a time, cup the pieces in your hands and tuck under the sides until you have formed a smooth ball. Place the balls on the floured work surface, providing plenty of room between the balls, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let the balls proof for 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in volume. I also like to spray a sheet pan with cooking spray and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, also sprayed to avoid any sticking.

To make your oven pizza ready, place a pizza stone on the upper rack, 4-5 inches from the broiler and preheat the oven to its maximum temperature (typically between 500˚ and 550˚F) for at least 30 minutes, 45 min – 1 hour if you can.

To shape a ball of dough into a pizza base, place it on a well-floured work surface. Using the tips of your fingers, pat down the ball, flattening it into a disk. Place the palm of one hand in the center of the dough and gently but firmly press down. At the same time, with the other hand, pull the dough outward while rotating it clockwise to form a flat circle with a slightly raised edge, or cornicione. If the dough feels resistant as you stretch it, set it aside, covered with a damp kitchen towel, while you work on a second ball of dough. This will give the gluten a chance to rest, making the dough more pliable once you return to it. The entire time you are working on the dough, maintain a thin layer of flour underneath it to prevent it from sticking. If you don’t feel confident handling pizza dough, try starting with a rolling pin to ensure you begin with an even circle, and then return to hand stretching. Continue to stretch the dough, allowing time for it to relax as needed, until it is 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Generously dust a pizza peel or a rimless baking sheet with flour. Slide the pizza base onto the peel, and then immediately shake the peel to ensure the dough isn’t sticking to it. Dress the base with the selected toppings. To transfer the pizza to the pizza stone, place the peel over the stone and quickly jerk it back. The pizza should slide smoothly off the peel onto the stone in one piece. It is important to bake the pizza immediately after putting the toppings on it, or the dough will soften and stick to the peel. If you are grilling the pizza, follow the instructions below, making sure not to add any of the toppings until the base has been brushed with olive oil, grilled on the first side, and flipped over.

Bake the pizza for 8-9 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and golden brown and the top is bubbling. Take care not to open the oven door often to maintain the high oven temperature. Using the peel or baking sheet, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, and cut into squares (Tavern cut, as they say in the Midwest) 4 pieces with a knife or pizza cutter. Serve at once. Repeat with the remaining 3 balls.

There isn’t one single trick to making really good pizza, I’ve found. It comes down to setting yourself up with the right equipment and a few other essentials: a good pizza stone, pizza peel, using the right amount of cheese and toppings. I still have a lot of tasty trial and error ahead of me, but I have come a long way from the soggy, often undercooked and sometimes bland attempts I’ve made in the past. The good news is pizza is always very forgiving. You can get away with a lot and it’ll still taste pretty good. The one thing you can’t screw up though, is the crust.

Ingredients – Mushroom and Sottocenere Pizza:

  • Neapolitan pizza dough (recipe above)
  • 3/4 cup sottocenere cheese (Italian truffle cheese), shredded
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup white or crimini mushrooms, sliced, then sauteed with 2 tbsp olive oil, a little thyme and salt
  • olive oil

For this particular pizza, top it like this:

1. sottocerne cheese

2. mushrooms

3. mozzarella cheese

When it comes out of the oven, drizzle a little olive oil on top and slice into squares.

Taco Salad

We are huge fans of Frontera Grill, it’s actually my wife’s favorite restaurant on Earth. It’s a must visit every time we find ourselves in Chicago, which admitedly isn’t very often. Occasionally I’ll make something for her out of one of the Rick Bayless cookbooks. It can’t compare with actually being there, of course, but it’s a reminder of how good that place is.

You can find the Frontera Grill salsas all over the place and I have started seeing the Frontera Grill skillet sauces at Target for pretty cheap.


  • 2 ribs Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 package Frontera Grill taco seasoning skillet sauce
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 ear of corn, either grilled or boiled, kernels removed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Ranch dressing (any will do, but our local Whole Foods carries a killer Ranch dressing)

Cook the ground turkey and chopped onions together over a medium-high heat, crumbling the meat into small pieces. When the turkey’s no longer pink, add the Frontera Grill skillet sauce and mix in with the meat. Reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer while you get the other ingredients ready.

Rub the corn with olive oil and place onto a hot grill for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes so the corn gets a little charred on every side. When the corn is done, remove it from the heat and take a knife down all sides to remove the kernels.

Toss the lettuce in a bowl and top with turkey, corn, pepper, cheese, salsa, the dressing and the cilantro. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Every year my wife makes my favorite fall dessert, pumpkin bars, but this year she discovered these on Annie’s Eats and thought they’d be ideal morning commute food. She is a true baking visionary, it turns out.

These will freeze easily and be just as moist and delicious as when you first baked them. Just take one out the freezer the night before, pop it in the fridge to defrost, then in the morning give it 20 seconds in the microwave. Grab your coffee and warm muffin and hit the road. It makes my 1-hour commute almost enjoyable. Ah, the joys of the Bay Area.

Recipe from Annie’s Eats:


For the filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the muffins:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil

For the topping:

½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (It may be hard to resist immediate consumption, but the cream cheese filling gets very hot!)