HARAMBEE ELEPHANT DINNER: GOP DEBATE + WHITE CHICKEN CHILI + SKILLET CORNBREAD + SUGAR COOKIES

I finally had my harambee elephant dinner. I say finally because I had to re-schedule it three times. Sadly my dinner plans don’t always go as planned and I resorted to the ever reliable doodle poll. It just so happened that the date that worked for most of my friends was also the same night as a GOP debate and since the dinner was elephant themed anyway, I thought it was perfect! The harambee dinner was inspired by my friend and elephant lover in Cleveland. I am going on the adventure of a lifetime next year when we travel to Africa to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. DSWT does amazing work to rescue orphan elephants and rehabilitate them.

Every fifteen seconds an elephant is killed for their tusks. Horrific to think about and I cannot imagine a world without elephants. So, my friend wrote to DSWT (ironically headquartered in Indy) and suggested a fundraising dinner that people all over the country could host with their friends to increase awareness. The actual gala in the U.K. was held on September 25th, but I say you should celebrate the elephants everyday! I encourage you to learn more about DSWT and foster an elephant – it is a great way to make a difference without even purchasing a plane ticket. The photo on the invite below is of Dame Daphne Sheldrick – someone I greatly admire and hope to meet next year!

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Winnie was not impressed with my elephant skirt. It was the only thing I ever bought at the JCrew in STL. I did my best to avoid the mall at all costs! 

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For dinner I made white chicken chili, skillet cornbread, and elephant sugar cookies for dessert. The chili is pretty hearty and filling enough to be a meal on its own, but I added cornbread since we needed to keep ourselves occupied during what has become three hour debates. The cornbread is not dry at all and is the best cornbread recipe I have tried – give it a shot the next time you’re tempted to use the 49 cent box of Jiffy (I do love Jiffy though).

I also made a toppings bar for the chili with cheddar cheese, sour cream, Sriracha, and tortilla chips. The sugar cookies are the best recipe I have found and the trick is to cut out the cookies before you refrigerate the dough prior. Genius, I know. I wish I could take credit for this, but I first discovered this trick from the incredible Laura Wilson of La Dolce Vita and now from Sally’s Baking Addiction. They take a full day for the icing to harden, so it pays to plan ahead!

Random assortment of mugs for the chili

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Every dinner party needs props – the best $5 I have spent on Amazon for elephant related accessories 

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Taylor even brought Winston a treat!

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WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

Recipe via Once Upon a Chef

I doubled the recipe to feed a crowd, but here are the original measurements to feed 4-6 people.

  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced – keep a few seeds if you like a little heat. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYEBALLS.
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • salt
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from one lime

Toppings:

  • cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • tortilla chips
  • Lime wedges

In a food processor, blend 1/2 of the beans (1 can) with 1 cup of the chicken broth. Set aside both the puréed beans and the remaining whole beans.

Add the oil to a large pot or Dutch oven and heat it over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeño pepper and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for one minute more. Add the cumin and coriander and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 1minute more to toast the spices. Add the chicken stock, puréed beans and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the shredded chicken, reserved whole beans, corn, cilantro and lime juice; bring back to a simmer and cook until everything is heated through, about five minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and lime juice, if necessary. (The broth will be somewhat soupy — that’s how it is supposed to be. It thickens the longer it sits; see note below) Serve the chili in individual bowls with a dollop of sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, and lime wedges.

Note: The chili thickens as it sits. If you make it ahead of time, you will need to add more broth or water to thin it out

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I found the Schlafly sampler at the Marsh on Mass Ave!

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SKILLET CORNBREAD

Recipe via Chowhound

  • one stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) cast iron skillet; set aside. In a small saucepan or using the microwave, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter; set aside.

Place cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Whisk eggs in a medium bowl until frothy, then whisk in buttermilk until incorporated. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir until dry streaks are just incorporated. (Do not overmix.) Fold in melted butter until just combined, then let mixture sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the skillet in the oven until hot, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and swirl the melted butter around to coat the bottom of the pan.

Pour the batter into the hot skillet and bake until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Place the skillet on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving. To serve, cut wedges directly from the skillet or let the cornbread cool for another 15 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

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SUGAR COOKIES

Recipe via Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

ICING

  • 1 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 2 – 2.5 Tablespoons room temperature water
  • pinch salt
  • food coloring
  1. The cookie dough needs to chill, the cookies need to cool completely, and the icing needs 1 day to completely harden. If hardened icing isn’t a concern, you’ll only need about 4 hours to make these.
  2. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer to low and add about half of the flour mixture. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
  4. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory.
  5. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°
  6. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.
  7. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. No need to cover the cookies as the cookies cool.
  8. For the icing, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 2 Tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. It should be quite thick. If it is much too thick, add 1/2 Tablespoon more water. If it is much too thin, add 2 more Tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar. If you drizzle a little of the icing with the whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it’s the right consistency and is ready to use. If desired, add liquid or gel food coloring. You can pour some icing into different bowls if using multiple colors. If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  9. Decorate the cooled cookies. You can enjoy right away or you can wait 24 hours for the icing to set and harden– no need to cover the cookies as the icing sets. They stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature.
  10. Unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Frosted cookies do not freeze very well.

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