California Chocolate Chili


A few weeks ago I went to visit my family in Illinois and we attended one of our favorite events – a local tradition for 30 years, the Belleville Chili Cook Off. I hadn’t been thinking about fall food much, as it was still 90 degrees plus here in California. The chili that won “people’s choice” was a delicious combination of savory, spicy and sweet – chocolate chili! I had never tasted chili with cocoa powder and as soon as I came home I started researching recipes. I am still refining, but this my best effort so far. This doesn’t taste exactly like the winner – I am still working back channels to see if I can get my hands on that one – but it is really close. Try it and see what you think about adding cocoa powder to chili. We are having our own neighborhood chili cook off later this month and this is what I plan to make. Tip: I use the food processor to chop the onions and peppers – it makes the prep time much shorter.


2 pounds good quality ground beef, 85/15

2 medium white or yellow onions, finely chopped

3 teaspoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chopped garlic (I use Christoper Ranch, but any jar chopped garlic found in the produce section will work)

4 tablespoons good quality unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Rodelle)

2 tablespoons white sugar

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

2 15 ounce cans dark red kidney beans

2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes

4 cups tomato sauce

sour cream and cilantro to garnish, of desired


In a large dutch oven, brown the ground beef over medium high heat. After 5 minutes, add the onion, chili powder and cumin, chopping and stirring continuously until beef is browned and onions are soft. Next, add the cumin, garlic, cocoa powder, sugar and jalapeño. Mix together thoroughly and cook for 3 minutes. it should look like this:


Next, add in the beans, and cayenne, and cook for another minute or so. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce and mix well.


Cook partially covered on low heat  for 30 minutes, then adjust seasonings to your taste. Cook an additional 30 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro, if desired. Makes 10-12 servings.

Perfect Peach Cobbler

When I was buying peaches for my first Alpha Bakers project, I found a great local source for fresh picked peaches – so of course I had to go back for more. This peach cobbler is super easy to make, uses one of my favorite baking ingredients (those amazing candied walnuts from Trader Joe’s) and tastes delicious!


Filling ingredients:

6 cups ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into 1/2 inch slices

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Topping ingredients:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 ounces (1 stick) butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks

1/2 cup candied walnuts (or chopped almonds, if you prefer)

2-3 tablespoons almond milk or water

pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In large bowl, toss peaches with lemon juice, then add all filling ingredients. Mix thoroughly and set aside to macerate at least 30 minutes. For the topping, place chunked butter in a plastic sandwich bag and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor except almond milk and pulse for 30 seconds.  Add chilled butter, then add almond milk one tablespoon at a time until mixture resembles coarse crumbs like this:

cobbler topping

Pour peach filling in a buttered 9 by 9 inch baking dish. Crumble topping evenly over top of peaches. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until peaches are bubbly and topping is medium brown. Cool 30 minutes, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

My new project – Rose’s Alpha Bakers

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Welcome to the Alpha Bakers bake along, an online project where a group of food bloggers bake our way through The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Most of the recipes made during this project will not be shared, but if you see something amazing and want to know about the recipe let me know and I will get it to you

I will still be posting original content – please check back often.

My first project is the Perfect Peach Galette. I live in northern California and it is right in the middle of peach season. Many of the big (and small) commercial farms are nearby. I love going to the local Farmer’s Markets and grab whatever is in season. This week I saw these amazing tree ripened Elberta Peaches from Auburn. The nice couple who own the farm said they had just been picked Saturday afternoon. I can’t wait to pick up some more next Sunday….


So – this is the first time I have made crust from scratch in a while. This was not my finest effort, as the galette requires a very thin crust, and as you can see, mine is a little “chunky”…it was easy to assemble but getting it rolled out correctly was a challenge.


It did come together pretty easily and looked great when I popped it in the oven. I used a Pampered Chef rectangular baking stone cookie sheet, and because I was worried it would stick, I used parchment paper too. The crust came out perfectly browned cooking it at the prescribed cooking time. I added some finishing sugar and a bit of cinnamon and it was really delicious! So much better than pie when you have fresh fruit. It tasted amazingly good. I will definitely make it again!

The perfect summer cocktail – the watermelon martini!

This is everyone’s new favorite summer cocktail! I bought a sugar baby seedless watermelon from the farm stand north of Yuba City this week. The 4th seemed like the perfect time to try a new cocktail so I juiced the watermelon in my juicer and ended up with the perfect cocktail starter!



8 ounces fresh watermelon juice

3 ounces Absolut vodka

2 ounces simple syrup

juice of one lime

granulated sugar, for rimming the glasses


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled half full of ice. Pour into chilled martini glasses that have been rimmed with sugar. Top with a basil sprig. Serves two, but you will need to make more….

Easy Peach Blackberry Pie

Today we bought some amazing blackberries from the local roadside stand. The owner told us that his wife had just picked them this morning. We dug in as soon as we got home, eating them fresh right out of the box, and they were amazingly sweet and delicious. I wanted to bake something with them, so I dug out some of my old fruit pie recipes and modified one to use with the easy store bought refrigerated pie crusts. This pie is really delicious, flavorful and fresh tasting. It is not too sweet and not mushy or overcooked – the short baking time brings out the taste of the fruit while still keeping the fruit firm. The best way to top this is with a big dollop of homemade whipped cream with a sprinke of nutmeg over it. This pie is super easy to make and so worth it!



3 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced

2 cups fresh blackberries, washed and patted dry with a paper towel

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 box Pillsbury all ready pie crusts

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

fresh whipped cream, optional


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Mix the fruit, cornstarch and sugar in a large bowl. Press one of the pie crusts into the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan. Pour the fruit mixture into the pie crust. Cover with the remaining pie crust and seal. Cut slits in the top of the crust to vent. Brush the top crust with the melted butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar and nutmeg over the top. Bake in 450 degree oven for 12 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, until juices are bubbling and crust is browned. Let cool 30 minutes, then serve with whipped cream.

Summer Veggie Quinoa


Everything is coming up in the garden this week! Tomatoes, peppers, all the fresh herbs. This zesty summer salad makes great use of all your garden veggies or what you picked up from the local farmer’s market. It is also low in fat and loaded with protein and vitamins.


3 cups flavored vegetable broth ( I like College Inn culinary broth in Thai Coconut Curry)

1 1/2 cups uncooked tricolor quinoa

1/2 cup coarsley chopped and seeded tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh italian parsley

1/2 cup craisins (dried cranberries)

1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper

3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup cucumber, finely diced

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


Combine broth and quinoa in medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with fork, then set aside. In large bowl, mix together all other ingredients. Add quinoa and mix well. Refrigerate until chilled or serve at room temperature, if you prefer. This makes 8 large servings – with leftovers!

Breakfast Apricot Blueberry Crisp


The origin of this wonderful breakfast crisp is – a road trip. A work road trip, to be exact. I spent a couple days in Redding and stopped by to say hi to Aunt Jeanette on the drive home. She has a giant apricot tree in her front yard, and it was filled with ripe apricots. We ate some right off the tree and they were amazingly sweet and tasty. She very generously offered to share some so I came home with this:


So I had this giant box of fresh apricots and wanted to make some into a breakfast treat. This crisp is perfect for breakfast – a little tart, not too sweet and really crunchy. If you want, you can have a cup of vanilla yogurt on the side to get your protein in and kick start your day. Try substituting different fruits …plums would be great too!

Fruit mixture:

3 cups fresh apricots, stones removed and sliced into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon flour

generous pinch of nutmeg, fresh if available

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a parchment lined 9 by 9 inch pan, then preheat oven to 400 degrees. It should look like this:


Crisp Topping

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped raw almonds (or substitute my favorite Trader Joe’s candied pecans, chopped or a mixture of the two) It gives the crisp a nice crunch.

In a medium bowl, pour in melted butter.  Stir in sugar, then oats, flour, salt and almonds. Mix until combined, then use your fingers to sprinkle topping in chunks over fruit. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling. Serve warm.