Remember When…

Who remembers the fast food chain Wendy’s® when they had the salad bar in their restaurants? They had nicer seating and real plants too back in the day. There was a time when they straddled the space between “fast-food and fast casual.”

My father loved that place and when I was little (and it was his turn to get dinner) we would go there and get the salad bar and baked potatoes with chili on top. (chili-topped baked potatoes was a menu item then – now they still serve chili and the baked potatoes but you have to order each and combine them yourself.)

As a result every time I make chili I serve it over baked potatoes. It always reminds me of those times and it makes things just a bit more hearty and filling. The potatoes offer a little more nutritional punch then corn chips or rice. The chili and the potatoes can all be done a day ahead and reheated at the time of the event. Plus if you are having folks over for a big game or even if you just want to get the kids interested you can do a topping bar of favorites like shredded cheese, green onions, cilantro, chopped red onion, sour cream…. you get the idea!

The best chili is the simplest chili – 2lbs of browned ground meat (turkey in this case – shhhh don’t tell hubby!) and 1 small can (4oz) of tomato paste, 1 large can ( 12oz) of ground, peeled tomatoes, 1/2 of a green bell pepper and 1/2 of a white onion diced. 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite chili spice blend. 1 whole lime juiced and some salt and pepper. Add a cup of hot water if it’s too thick. 1-2 hours simmering and you are ready to go!

Author’s note:

My dad passed away in March 2011 after a long and happy life, but this week is his birthday and I think he always considered the cool weather and the beautiful New England fall leaves a personal birthday gift to him. He loved everything about New England and I think of him a lot in October.



Snow Day Chili

Chili and a blizzard go hand in hand. So that is what I made this past weekend when the “blizzard of 2013” hit our Boston area!

After hours of digging out, (but kudos to the neighbors with snowblowers for doing most of our heavy lifting!!) coming in to chili to warm us from the inside out was perfect!

Chili is such a great thing to eat in general but it is always good on hot dogs, burgers, tortilla chips,salad and my favorite: baked potatoes! I remember when the “Wendy’s” restaurants arrived in New England with their salad bars and baked potatoes. (Yup Wendy’s had salad bars and a good ones too at that time.) My dad and I would sneak down there on the night it was his turn to make dinner and get the salad bar with a cup of chili and the chips. We would crumble up the chips and pile on the cheese. Sometime we got the baked potatoes with the chili and extra fresh chopped raw onion of course! They still offer a “taco salad” and the baked potato with chili but somehow it is just not the same.

My version is fancied up with a little sweet Italian sausage and a can of “Ro*tel” to keep it easy. It is also not crazy spicy (like some of my other chili’s – Holy Mole!) so everybody can enjoy and add their own level of heat with hot sauce of their choice.storm day chili

Production Notes

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, out of casing and crumbled

1 lb ground beef (leaner is nice)

1 onion, chopped small

1 lg garlic clove, minced

1 can (10oz) original “Ro*tel”

1 can (13oz +/-) red beans or black beans or whatever bean you like

2 Tb ground cumin ( less if you don’t love as much as me)

2 Tsp ground chili powder

2 Tsp smoked paprika (sweet not spicy- or spicy if you like it)

2 Tsp ground Ancho Chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 Large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes

2 Tb brown sugar (you can omit or cut in half if you don’t want it too sweet)

1/2 a can ( the 28oz one) of water

Brown the meats (no extra oil needed) in a heavy bottomed dutch oven, until done. Scoop meat out and set aside. Pour out about 1/2 the fat. In the remaining fat in the pan add the onions and garlic and saute a few minutes. Add all the dry spices and kinda toast for a minute. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes and Ro*tel. Add the meat back in, stirring to combine everything. Add the water – you may want less for thicker chili or more for thinner chili – also depends on how long you want to/plan to simmer. Add additional hot sauce at this point – I like a good vinegar based one like Tabasco or Texas Pete but you can use your favorite. Add the beans (drain them first) and simmer on low for anywhere from 1- 4 hours to let flavors develop and deepen.  This could be transferred to a low slow cooker for the day too.  Serve with all the fixin’s! Freeze the extra until the next snow day! It makes a lot!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

Even the trash needs shoveling out!

Healthy Inspirations

Back during the March heat-wave, it seemed everywhere I looked, folks were making chili. Turkey chili to be exact. I saw it here, here and here.

So I was craving chili and when the temperatures cooled back off to more seasonal, cool, spring weather, I decided it was now or never!

And I consider it a personal victory when I can sneak some turkey past my red-meat loving husband! (Oops, I forgot to tell you honey, it was ground turkey not beef.)

The Recipe

4-10 slices of low sodium bacon slices, diced really small

2lbs lean ground turkey (we like our chili really meaty)

1 med onion diced small

2-3 fresh large garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 tb ground cumin powder – you could use 1/2 tb if you are not as big a fan as I am.

3 tb of your favorite smoky grill seasoning – spicy or not.

1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes

1 (10oz) can of green chilies/tomato blend (like Ro*Tel©)

1 cup water or stock

1/4 cup ketchup

1 (15.5oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained

16 oz +/- frozen corn, spread on a sheet pan, roasted at 375 degrees until thawed, dryer and a bit toasty. Toss in olive oil and roast for another 10-15 mins till corn is fairly toasted. (but you could just add the frozen corn straight to the chili too!)

The Secret Thickener

Whisk together, 1 cup room temperature water with 1/2 cup of “Masa” (fine ground corn flour)

How I made it

Saute the bacon until cooked.(Fat rendered but not too crispy.) Add dried spices and “toast” for a minute. Add onion and garlic and saute a few minutes more. Add turkey and cook until browned. (Use a higher heat for “caramelization” on the meat) De-glaze the pan with the can of tomatoes and can of green chili mix. Add the water and ketchup and let simmer for an hour. Add the beans, corn and the Masa mixture, stir and let simmer, mostly covered, for another hour. Mixture should be rich and thick – if too thick add more water. If not thick enough – leave uncovered on low heat and let liquid reduce.

How I served it

On a baked potato with shredded cheddar, Mexican Crema (like sour cream) and some chopped scallions. A squirt of fresh lime will really brighten things up.

Holy Mole!

Corny title but I couldn’t resist!

The title really should have been something like “holy mole that is spicy chili!”

As usual I misjudged the spice-level of those nifty little Chipotle Peppers packed in Adobo Sauce. Such a powerful thing in such a small can. And yet I didn’t even use the whole can – just 1/2. Conveniently frozen from the last time I used half a can. (note to self: freeze in 1/4 can increments next time!)

I also utilized another pantry helper – Mole sauce from a jar. This is the complex, dark, nutty, vaguely chocolate sauce that is usually served over enchiladas. But really you can use it for lots of things. Like giving lots of flavor and complex depth to your chili.

At my husband’s request I made a “beefy” chili. I choose to use some inexpensive stew beef, cutting it into even smaller pieces and doing the “sear and braise” method that is always so successful with beef stew.  I figured I would take the stew approach with different key ingredients. The small bite-size pieces would ensure no one would have to use anything but a spoon to eat it.

Unless you are a spice-loving household, definitely serve the “1/2 can version” with sour cream.

Lots of it.

The recipe:

Canola oil to brown the beef. 2-3 tablespoons

1.75 lbs stew beef. I trimmed and cut it much smaller than the picture shows.

2 medium onions diced. 1 large would work too.

1 each of sweet red bell pepper and sweet bell green pepper. Seeded and diced.

1/4 or 1/2 can (7oz) Goya Chipotle Peppers in Adobo. Freeze what you don’t use.

1 jar (9oz) Goya Mole sauce. Use more or less as desired.

1 can (28oz) of tomato puree. I like my chili on the tomato-y side.

1 tomato can of water.

4 cups of cooked red kidney beans. Use 3 (15.5oz) cans or soak/boil if you have the time.

In a large, heavy-bottom pot (cast iron is always nice) brown the beef in batches in the oil. Once done, return all to the pot. Turn the heat down. Add the onions and salt/pepper to taste. Get the onions soft and golden. Add the mole sauce and kinda “toast” it for a few minutes. Break up and add the Chipotle peppers and also “toast” for a minute. De-glaze the pan with the tomato puree and water. Stir thoroughly and add the diced red/green peppers. Lower the heat and simmer partially covered for 2 hours or so. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the beans and simmer for another hour. If using the soak/boil beans add them in earlier with the peppers.

Serve with lots of sour cream and some shredded cheese. Maybe with some corn chips or sweet cornbread on the side.

Turkey (but no sausage) Chili

Inspired by Lydia, I was already planning a Turkey Mole Chili in my mind. I knew I had a box of mole mix in the depths of my cabinet. Who has that? It was fate.

Then I found a recipe card from my last visit to Penzeys for Turkey Black bean Chili. And I knew I had an industrial size can of black beans on hand. Again- fate.

Sometimes a recipe insists on nagging you.

But how would I sneak the turkey past my red-meat loving husband. I am convinced he would love the chili if he didn’t know it was made with healthy, low-fat ground turkey instead of red meat. I decided I would fake him out with the promise of adding a couple sweet sausages to the dish. Kinda like a compromise. But if I “forgot” to add those sausages – oh well.

Of course I had to tinker and make my own version of the recipes because:

#1 I can’t leave well enough alone when it comes to cooking.

#2 I didn’t have the exact ingredients on hand and making a special trip for ground turkey was already a big step. Besides, using up what you have is the spirit of cabinet stew!

Chop an onion, a couple of garlic cloves and brown them with 1.5lb or so of turkey in a heavy cast iron pot. Add a little canola oil to get it all going. Salt and pepper to keep things seasoned. Add 2 tb of your favorite brand of chili powder, 1 tb ground cumin (my all time favorite spice), and 2 tb ground Ancho chili pepper. Sizzle about 5 more minutes. The mixture will be very red in color and a little “dry” while the spices get kinda toasted.

The recipes I was consulting (Lydia and Penzeys) said to add the liquid at this point but I opted to wait and add 1 reg size can of no salt added diced tomatoes instead and 1 small can of no salt added tomato paste. (I like things “tomato-y”) Let that cook a couple of minutes. I added my industrial size can of low sodium black beans and about a cup of frozen corn kernels. At this point I had to add my old standby trick of the trade: Worcestershire sauce. Usually I add A-1 sauce but I was out. Either is fine but use less Worcestershire sauce than A-1 since it is much stronger in flavor. Plus with my use of “no/low” sodium products I had room to maneuver.

Now I added the low sodium chicken stock to eye until I got the right consistency for chili of my liking and then turned the heat down and let the whole thing simmer while I defrosted some previous made and frozen extra corn bread.

It ended up being about 1/2 carton of a 32oz box of low sodium broth.

I served it with shredded cheese on top and guess what? He liked it!

Oops – I “forgot” the sausage.

Then I remembered that I forgot to add the mole sauce that I was dying to use up and to get out of my cabinet!

Karma will get you every time.