Chili (with beer & bacon!)

IMG_2706Hi there–  I wish I could say we were avid football fans– and we had this super chili recipe to serve up to all our football fanatic friends while we cheered on our team in front of the t.v.  But actually, we go to one one Cal Berkeley game every fall to hang with our kids– and if some kind hearted friends include us in their super bowl party, we’re all in!

But I’m imagining this is the kind of chili that would go just great with football.  So if you love football (& chili) and want to have a big pot of something hearty & warming to serve your football watching friends, well, here it is:

4 strips bacon, cut to small bits
2 yellow onions, chopped
big splash of olive oil
2 pounds coarse ground beef*
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tab. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. chili powder
12 oz. bottle of beer (India pale ale– or your favorite)
2 14oz. cans petit cut tomatoes (with garlic & herbs)
2 14 oz. cans of chili beans
1 tab. brown sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped finely
1/4 cup cornstarch
for garnish– sour cream, grated cheddar, green onions, more cilantro…

In a soup pot, cook the bacon until it is crisp and then remove it from the pan.  In the bacon dripping, cook  the chopped onions and take them out as well.

Drop the beef into the pot and cook it 5 or 6 minutes until is is all  browned.  Spoon off any extra fat that is in the pan.

Add in the garlic, cumin, paprika and chili powder and stir to coat the meat.

Then mix in the beer, tomatoes, chili beans, and cilantro and set the pot to simmering slowly for about 30 minutes.

In a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the corn starch and 1/2 cup water.  Stir it into the chili to thicken the broth. Drop the bacon and onions back into the pot!

Serve it piping hot topped with cheddar or sour cream or green onions or cilantro (or any combination there of)– along with a slab of cornbread and a bright salad.  Football watching ready!

*When I went in to the get the meat from the butcher, I expected to find coarse ground beef for chili, but no.  They had “shredded beef steak”–   chunkier than I had planned.  But in the end it turned out great!  I think any chopped beef would do…


Lentil Chili

IMG_7062Hey Chili Lovers–  Lentil chili?  Yep lentils.  I have a soft spot for those things.  The years we lived in Spain, we shared pots of lentils and chorizo with Spanish friends along with chunks of hearty Spanish bread.  Wish I could sit around the table with Jose Maria and Carmen and talk over a bowl of lentils.

This is a decidedly un-Spanish version of lentils, but still delicious and pretty quick to put together for a chilly weekday dinner.  Spicy good.

onion yellow onion, chopped
splash of olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 14 oz. can chili beans (not rinsed)
2 14 oz. cans petit  cut tomatoes (with onion & garlic)
2 cups dry lentils
1 tab. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
for garmish– grated cheddar, tortilla chips, green onion, avocado, sour cream, cilantro…  (take your pick)

Heat the olive oil in your soup pot.   Drop in the onion bits and cook until they begin to brown.  Then add in the garlic, red peppers, chili beans (with their sauce), tomatoes, lentils, chili powder, cumin, salt and 8 cups of water.  Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until the lentils are tender.

Serve it up with a couple little bowls of happy toppings to add  in and a pan of cornbread to have alongside.

P.S.— I think these tasted better a couple days later as leftovers after the flavors could really meld together.

Ham & White Bean Soup

IMG_6711Hey there–  Well, it’s soup time around here.  Again.  Why do I love pots of soup so much?  Glad you asked.  I’ll tell you.  They don’t cost much to make– this one’s built around a hambone leftover from Christmas that’s been nestled in our freezer, just add beans and veggies…  And soup makes the house smell good while it’s simmering and the pot lid’s rattling on the stove.  It’s homey and cozy and even a big bowl doesn’t make you feel like you’re overeating.  A full pot of soup guarantees leftovers so you’ll be off the hook for making dinner one night later in the week.  Plus soup supper is the meal to indulge in a chunk of sturdy bread smeared with butter.  Are you convinced?

splash of olive oil
1 large onion, cut to bits
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, cut to small chunks
1 tab. thyme leaves*
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 meaty ham bone
2 14 oz. cans chicken broth
3 14 oz. cans small while canellini beans, drained & rinsed
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
green onions

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot.  Throw in the onions, carrots and red peppers.  Stir it up for 5 minutes and then add in the thyme, garlic. chicken broth and the ham bone.  Let it simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the ham bone and take off all the meat you can muster up. Cut it to bits and throw it back into the soup pot with the rinsed white beans.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 15 minutes more.  Serve it up hot with a sprinkling of green onions and a big chunk of the aforementioned bread.  Enjoy!

*If you don’t have thyme, use any herb you love– dried basil or oregano you have in the cupboard.  (We just happen to have a scrubby little thyme bush in the side yard, so it’s a favorite of mine.)

Bean & Hominy Pozole

IMG_6015Hello all– Are you all thankful and turkey-full?  We sat to a table laden with turkey and all the trimmings yesterday and so today eating simply, hardly cooking sounds about right.  We’re simmering up a big pot of posole, made from canned beans and hominy.  Add some orange rosemary cornbread and it’s dinner!

1 onion, chopped fine
splash olive oil
2 14 oz. cans of white hominy, drained & rinsed
1 14 oz. can chili beans, drained & rinsed
1 14 oz. can small canelini beans, drained & rinsed
2 14. oz. cans chicken broth
2 7 oz. cans. salsa verde (I like Hedrez brand)*
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup half & half (or milk)
2 tab. cornstarch
2 tab. cilantro, chopped fine
garnish– shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream, avocado, chopped red pepper…

In your soup pot, cook the chopped onion in the splash of olive oil until it starts to brown.  Then add in the hominy, chili beans, canelini beans, chicken broth, salsa verde* and cumin.  Simmer for 30 minutes.

Shake the half & half with the cornstarch in a container with a tight lid until it’s well blended.  Then stir it into the simmering soup.  Add the cilantro and stir and few minutes more until it thickens.  Serve it up hot topped with shredded cheese, cilantro sour cream, peppers or  avocado– or all of the above!

*I thought the pozole with pretty spicy.  You might want to use just one can of “salsa verde.” and add a bit more after you’ve tasted it.

Chicken Enchiladas

IMG_2401Hi there–  You’d be surprised how often we eat Mexican food around this house.  My “got to get dinner on the table in 20 minutes and I want some yummy comfort food dish” is a big pan of fajitas served wrapped with beans in a tortilla.  It’s our go-to meal.  When I have a little more time, we do love enchiladas.  These were nice & easy because I used a roasted chicken from the store– Add a little Mexican cilantro rice, some beans heated up, a crispy salad.  It’s dinner!   (and it makes enough for leftovers, always a good thing)

2 tab. olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 cup chicken broth
1 tab. cornstarch
1 tab. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
3 cups shredded boneless chicken*
15 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
12 corn tortillas
1  1/2 cup cheddar, grated
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped to bits
sour cream for garnish

IMG_2387To make the sauce, heat a pan with the olive oil, drop in the onion and cook until it starts to brown.  Shake together the cornstarch and chicken broth in a closed container until it’s thoroughly blended.  Then stir it in to the cooked onions with the heat still on.  Add in the chili powder, cumin, garlic, tomato sauce and water.  Set the stove on he lowest setting so the sauce stays warm.

Cut the chicken into small chunks.  The hold one tortilla in the sauce for a few seconds until it softens.  Set it on a plate and fill it with chicken, black beans and a sprinkle of cheese.  Roll of the tortilla into a tube and set it seam side down into a 9×13″ pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Continue with the other tortillas.  If the sauce seems to get thicker as you work, stir in a little more water.

When all the tortillas are filled and in the pan. pour the remaining sauce over them and sprinkle the top with all the leftover cheddar.  Pop it in the oven at 400 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling around the edges.  Take it out and sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the whole pan.  Serve these yummy things up hot with a bowl of sour cream.  Drop a spoonful of sour cream on the enchiladas as you serve them to the plates.  Deliciosas!!

Chunky Chipotle Chili and Beans

IMG_8990Hi there you all–  I made a BIG pot of this satisfying stuff last week and ate hot spicy leftovers for lunch all week.  Delish.  The flavor is rich and deep thanks to a secret ingredient –you’ll never guess what it is, so I’ll tell you!– unsweetened cocoa powder– just a bit!  So I do hope you’ll try this one.  I think you’d honestly just love it.

8 slices of bacon (that’s always a good start)
3 pound chuck roast, chopped to small 1/2″ bits*
2 large onions, chopped fine
2 red bell peppers, chopped as well
8 cloves of garlic
2 tab. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tab. cumin
4  14 oz. cans petit cut tomatoes
2 chipotle chilies, seeds removed and chopped fine
2  30 oz. cans chili beans**
assorted toppings– grated cheddar or asiago, chopped green onions, sour cream, tortilla chips, chopped red onion, avocado

IMG_9001Cut the bacon to small bit and cook it in the bottom of your soup pot.  When it’s nice a crispy, take it out, but leave the bacon fat in the pan.  Then salt and pepper the bits of chuck roast and brown them well in the bacon fat, one half of the meat at a time so they aren’t too crowded in the pot.  Set the meat aside and the drop the chopped onions into the pot.  Let them cook til they soften up and then add in the red pepper bits.  Cook about 3 minutes more.  then add the garlic, cocoa and cumin and cook another minute to meld the flavors.  Next pour in the tomatoes, juice and all, and also the chipotle chilies.  Bring it to a low simmer and let it cook 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender.  Then drop in the chili beans, sauce and all and let it cook another 15 minutes.  Serve it up piping hot with your favorite toppings and a big slab of cornbread.  Real February winter day food.

*The recipe I worked from said to cut the meat into 1 1/2″ cubes– so really make them as big as you like.
**And the original recipe added half this many beans, but Larry likes a lot of beans. I think it would be just fine either way…

Also–this recipe makes a big pot full, 12 to 14 bowlfuls.

Mexican White Bean Soup

Hey friends–  Here’s a light soup for a blustery day.  Well, it’s not exactly blustery here, but soup still tasted great–white beans and carrots with all the added flavor of garlic, cumin, salsa verde and lime– and topped off with the smooth richness of sour cream and avocado…  oh, and a bit of cilantro.

splash olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut to cute little bits
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
14 oz. chicken broth
2 cups water
2 cans white beans, rinsed
1 lime
7 oz. can salsa verde
1 tsp. cornstarch
sour cream (we like non-fat just fine)

Heat your soup pot with a splash of olive oil in the bottom.  Throw in chopped carrots and onions and cook until soft.  Take the lime and finely grate off 1 tsp. of the peel and squeeze out just a tsp. of lime juice.  To the pot, add in the minced garlic, cumin, red pepper, salt, chicken broth, water, beans, lime peel and juice and salsa verde. Heat it to come to a friendly low boil.  Let it simmer about 15-20 minutes to meld the flavors.  If you want the broth a bit thicker, shake up 1 tsp. cornstarch with 1/4 cup water in a closed container and stir it into the bubbling soup. Serve it up steaming hot with a blob of sour cream, chopped avocado and bits of cilantro.

With a big salad of fresh greens, orange wedges and radishes– along with a pan of cornbread, this is a warming winter meal.  Enjoy!

Pasta with Sausage and Cannellini Beans

Hey there– One of my big favorites is having our kids home at the dinner table.  Since we had our Laurel here for a bit, we sat down to one of her old favorites for dinner. It’s a good mix of proteins with the beans and sausage- over my favorite angel hair pasta– served up with a tomato salad fresh from larry’s garden patch.  Pretty darn good.

8 oz. angel hair pasta (or your favorite pasta!)
2 Italian sausage links (mild or hot)
a splash of olive oil
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
2  14 oz. cans petite cut tomatoes*
1 tab. cornstarch
2 tab. fresh basil

Remove the Italian sausage from it’s casing and brown it in a nonstick pan– chopping it  to bits with a spatula. (Add olive oil if the meat starts to stick)  When it just starts to brown stir in the chopped onion and garlic.  Cook 3 or 4 minutes until the onion is browned.  Then stir in the beans and tomatoes.  When it is at a good simmer, shake the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water in a closed container and stir it into the pan until the sauce is thickened.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.  At the last minute chop the basil to bits and stir into the sauce.  Layer the pasta and sauce on a big platter.

*I like S&W brand petite tomatoes with onion and garlic.