My Favourite Chili – Recipe

This is by far my favourite chili. and it is PERFECT on fall days.  It is vegetarian and even though I do eat meat, I really hate browning ground beef.  Not browning meat is one of the best parts of this chili.  That, and it’s delicious, easy and quick to make.  I’ve modified the recipe quite a bit, but the original recipe is found here.

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Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped*
1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped*
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped*
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped*
4 cloves of garlic, crushed*
32 oz. container of vegetable stock (I often use chicken because it’s what I usually have at home) or 1 bottle of beer and about 20 oz. of stock.
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
14 oz. can of black beans
14 oz. can of dark red kidney beans
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
4 tsp. chili powder (up to 3 Tablespoons depending on how spicy you like your chili)
several drops of Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 can of vegetarian refried beans

* I put the onion, peppers and garlic in the food processor and pulse until they’re chopped fine (there is a photo below of this).  The chili is chunky because of the beans too and I find that the more they’re chopped, the tastier the chili is as a whole.  Obviously, you’re welcome to chop by hand if you’d like.  I just take advantage of any excuse to use the food processor.

Toppings:

8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
Green Onions, chopped
Tortilla chips

Directions:

First chop the onion, peppers and garlic.  I do this in the food processor after everything is seeded.

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Over moderate heat, add oil to a large pot and combine onion, peppers, and garlic.

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IMG_2105I puree the veggies quite a bit in the food processor.  If you like a chunkier chili, just chop less.  Saute for 3-5 minutes to soften vegetables. Deglaze pan with beer and broth (or just broth).

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IMG_2120Add tomatoes, black beans, red kidney beans, and stir to combine.  Add refried beans to thicken.  Season chili with cumin, chili powder, hot sauce and salt.

IMG_2123Heat through and then simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes.

IMG_2129Serve topped with cheddar cheese and green onions (which I didn’t have).  And make sure to have a big pile of corn chips because my favourite way to eat this is not with a spoon, but scooping chili with the chips.

Note: I add quite a bit more liquid to this recipe than it originally calls for and a lot less chili powder.  Originally it was because I didn’t want to open a whole 32 oz. carton of chicken stock and then only use 1 cup of it, so I dumped it all in.  Even with all the liquid I find that this recipe is thick and chunky and delicious.  Plus, it makes a few extra bowls with each batch this way.  This is a super easy recipe to modify and I’m not usually one for modifying recipes that much.  Maybe as I learn to be a better cook I’ll do this more.

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Blueberry Crisp

A few weeks ago I picked up the book Bread and Wine after hearing a few friends recommend it.  It’s definitely my kind of book, especially when the subtitle is “a love letter to life around the table.”  I enjoy good food and only like cooking when someone else will enjoy it too.

I haven’t been reading as much these days as I used to, but this book I found hard to put down and as I near the end I think I may just have to try and find her other two books, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet.  It is fantastic!

Bread&Wine

I love this book because it is filled with memories and the meals that evoke them.  Kind of like how smells can take us back to a particular time or place.  It is also filled with recipes.  I have tried a few and honestly haven’t loved them.  There are more that I’d like to try though, and I’m always a fan of experimenting with something new.  The recipe for Blueberry Crisp though, was delicious.  (Don’t mind the super dark photos.  I took these in our old apartment.  We didn’t have the brightest of kitchens.)

Ingredients:
4 cups blueberries

Topping:
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pecans, halved or chopped (I didn’t have these so I left them out)
1/2 cup almond meal (just pop almonds into the food processor, but just don’t do it too long or you’ll end up with almond butter)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

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Turn your almonds into almond meal
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Mix together the crisp or topping ingredients

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Pour berries into an 8 x 8 pan and then layer the topping over it.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until fruit is bubbling and topping is crisp and golden.  If you want, you can make the topping in batches and freeze it.  Blueberries also freeze well, so if this is frozen when you put it in the oven, add about 10 minutes.
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Serves 4 to 6.

Note: This is even more delicious over vanilla ice cream or over yogurt in the morning.

Strawberry Jam & My Adventures in Canning

Yesterday I was at the store buying canning jars (for drinking glasses, not canning food) and by the time I came home I decided that it was time to finally try canning something.  I asked friends on facebook where a good place to start would be and my favourite comment was “make something you like.”  So I did.

The three of us went to Mills Fleet Farm today and bought a great big canning pot and a few supplies, then to Costco to buy the strawberries (not quite the same as home grown or even the Farmer’s Market – but we’re on a budget and buying a mass quantity of berries).  A side note, Fleet Farm is one of the most interesting stores I’ve ever been to.  As someone who is not from the midwest, is afraid of hunting and has only successfully grown basil and 10 tomatoes, it is quite the experience!  I also never thought about where to go if I needed to build a dock for my lake house, buy every kitchen gadget ever invented and pick up a rifle and a bag of m&m’s on the way out the door.

Anyway… back to the berries.  We listened to a segment on NPR this morning about canning and preserving the season’s fruits.  The conversation made canning sound romantic and inspiring so I thought I’d try Kevin West’s strawberry jam recipe.  The segment isn’t long, I’d recommend you listen to it.  You can find the audio link here.

As I share this recipe and my photos, keep in mind that this was my first time canning and I am no expert.  If you’ve never done this before, I am only about 45 minutes worth of blog reading ahead of you in experience.

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Strawberry Jam
Yields 2 pints

2 pounds ripe strawberries
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Optional: a few scrapings of lemon zest

The original recipe says “To get started, go shopping at a farmers market or roadside farm stand if at all possible, and seek out the smallest, reddest berries. Fragrance is a good indicator of quality, but tasting is better still. The giant strawberries favored by supermarket produce managers are not a good choice. I call them “Pamela Anderson fruit,” artificially enhanced and tasteless.”  I suppose Pamela Anderson fruit it is for us.  Ha!

  1. Get all your canning supplies and canning instructions ready.  I found the instructions on the blog Food in Jars to be very helpful.   Briefly rinse the berries and remove their caps. Combine with the sugar, lemon juice, and zest in a large bowl, and crush with your hands.
  2. Turn the fruit-sugar mixture into a stainless steel saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring regularly. Reduce at a full rolling boil, stirring all the while, to the gel point, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your pan and the strength of the heat source.  This took much longer than 8-10 minutes for me, and I’m guessing it is because I had to use a smaller burner, even with high heat.  The gel point was more like 20-25 minutes at a rolling boil.  The Ball Blue Book has a good description of what the gel point is.  (Hint: don’t buy this on Amazon.  It’s pretty pricey.  It was only $4 at Fleet Farm)
  3. Once a gel set has been achieved, skim the foam off, and ladle the hot jam into four prepared 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. I didn’t have enough 1/2 pint jars available, so I used a few 4oz jars too.  Seal, and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

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Sterilizing the jars in our large canning potnoname-2 noname-3 noname-4 noname-5 noname-6

A little helper wandered into the kitchen after his nap

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The strawberry, sugar and lemon juice bubbling away on the stove noname-9

Our kitchen was VERY hot.  I should have picked a non 90-something degree day to do this.noname-10 noname-11

Filling the jars with jam

photo 1 photo 2And back into the giant pot they go for 10 minutes
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I thought the jam was delicious, but the real taste test was giving it to Willnoname-14 noname-15I think he approved!

Fresh Ginger Ale

Yesterday was the most humid and muggy day I think we’ve had all summer.  Isn’t it kind of ironic that it was also the first day of school for many?  In case you thought I was a little too ready for fall to come, I thought I’d share something summery.  Big Bowl is one of my favourite restaurants around here because they serve the best Ginger Ale so I thought I’d try making it.  I looked up a few recipes online.  I called my mom for her advice (she should really be the one with a blog).  And this is what I came up with and it is delicious!  I made it a second time and it was a little too sweet and not quite ginger-y enough.  So make sure you add lots of ginger.  I imagine you can always water it down or sweeten the syrup a little bit after it’s made if need be.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ginger root, about the size of your palm
  • 1 cup of water
  • lime wedges
  • sparkling water

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Peel the ginger and slice into thin pieces.  Add water, sugar and ginger to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I wanted to have a little bit of the ginger left in the syrup when I was done so I grated a small piece over the pan and let that simmer with the larger pieces.  It adds just a bit of pulp to the ginger ale.  If you don’t like any pulp, skip that step.

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After the syrup is finished, allow to cool.  I put everything into a jar and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.  Strain ginger out of the syrup and discard ginger.  You’re left with a delicious syrup to make your ginger ale!

To serve, add about 1/3 of a cup of syrup to one can of sparking water.  Squeeze a lime wedge and drink out of a fun straw!  Even Will wanted a taste!

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Blueberry Scones

Yesterday was not the easiest of days.

Will and I went to the car dealership for some regular maintenance and since sitting in a waiting room with a 1-year old is not my idea of fun, we ventured over to Costco to do some grocery shopping instead.  The walk was pretty un-stroller-friendly and things took longer than we had hoped with the car.  Nothing big, just tiring.  Then Will screamed and cried and threw a tantrum for no apparent reason for the rest of the day.  Pretty unlike him and needless to say I was feeling frazzled.  So I made blueberry scones from the blueberries I bought at Costco.  And as you can imagine, I still have a lot of blueberries left over.

This recipe was delicious and is from Martha Stewart.  It makes 9 very large scones.  Yum!

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Ingredients:
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup of butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of buttermilk.  (I didn’t have any, so I used half and half.  They still taste great)
  • 3/4 cup of blueberries (I used more like 1 1/4 cups since I like these to be full of blueberries)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Put all dry ingredients into a large bowl and sift with a whisk.  Cut in butter.  I find it super easy to do this step with a food processor since I don’t have a pastry blender and I love to find any reason to use my food processor.  It takes about 5 seconds and the butter and dry ingredients are combined perfectly.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and buttermilk/half and half.  Fold into the dry ingredients.  Then fold in the fruit.
  3. Drop onto baking sheets, 3 inches apart.  You can brush the tops with cream if you’d like.

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Even Will loved the scones!Image

Pumpkin Spice Latte – Recipe

 I have been wanting to try making a Pumpkin Spice Latte for a little while now and the cool Saturday afternoon with a husband out mountain biking and a kid napping was all the motivation I needed.  Don’t let this fool you, I’m not wishing away summer just yet.  In fact, I’d love a few more months of summer.  Who said Pumpkin has to be a fall treat?

If you search for “Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe” on google, this is the first result.  We had all the ingredients and it sounded easy enough and it was delicious.  It’s less sweet and less bright orange than Starbucks, both of those things I appreciate.

Pumpkin Syrup:
2 1/2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of ground nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks or 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons canned pumpkin

Coffee:
16 oz mug
2 shots of espresso
2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin syrup
steamed or warmed milk
whipped cream (optional essential)

Instructions:

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1.  Combine spices and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then lower temperature and simmer for 20 minutes.  Your kitchen will smell fantastic.
2.  Strain spices by pouring the water through a coffee filter or fine mesh sieve.
3.  Put the spiced water back into the saucepan.  Add pumpkin and sugar and simmer for another 10 minutes.

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3.  Store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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To make the latte, prepare two shots of espresso.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin syrup and top with steamed milk and stir.  Add whip cream.  I heard a tip on Martha Stewart (her video on how to make a low fat latte) where you can warm milk in a large canning jar and then put the lid on and shake to froth the milk.  We don’t have a microwave, but I trust most of what Martha says.

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Enjoy!

(Original Source)

Crepes

This morning I am wondering why on earth I haven’t made crepes before.  They are SO easy and have been one of my favourite indulgences when I go out for breakfast for some time now.  This morning when I woke up, I decided that I needed crepes to go with the strawberries and whip cream that I had in the fridge so I got to work.
Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used Gluten Free Pantry Flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of whole milk (I used mostly skim with a bit of half and half)
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Directions:
Combine all ingredients into a blender.  Puree until mixture is smooth and has bubbles on top (20 to 30 seconds or so).  The batter will be runny.  Let batter rest at least 15 minutes.  (Apparently you can make this the day before and let it sit in an airtight container in the fridge).  Whisk before using.
Heat a large frying pan over medium.  Lightly coat with butter, and I mean lightly.  I used too much on the first one and the crepe didn’t turn out well!  Add about 1/3 cup of the batter and swirl to completely cover the pan.  Cook until the crepe is golden brown.  Loosen with an offset spatula and quickly flip.  I found it easiest to lift the crepe with the spatula and then grab it with my fingertips and flip.  Everyone will find their own method that works best.  Just be careful if you try my method, the crepe will be hot!  Once both sides are golden brown, remove from the pan and repeat.
This crepe had strawberries, raspberries and blackberries with a dollop of whip cream.
This is a ham and egg crepe and it was delicious… better than I expected.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a baking sheet, put a single crepe with a few slices of ham in the middle.  Crack an egg on top of the ham and fold the edges of the crepe over to hold the egg in.  Add a little salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the egg white is cooked and the yolk is as solid or runny as you like it.
Enjoy!

Favourite Salad

We’ve been trying to eat more veggies around here so last night we made a salad that we haven’t had since the fall.  It is my favourite salad and was inspired by one that someone from our church brought for us shortly after Will was born.  It’s super easy, the dressing is essentially homemade and it is delicious.  Here is how we make it, but obviously you can add or take out anything you want!
Ingredients:
Romaine and Iceberg lettuce
Cherry tomatoes
Mini sweet bell peppers
Cucumber
Rotisserie Chicken
Greek Salad Dressing
We make this with rotisserie chicken.  I don’t quite understand why, but it is cheaper to buy a whole rotisserie chicken at the grocery store that is seasoned and fully cooked than it is to buy an uncooked one.  We get these chickens often and use them in a ton of recipes like soups, salads, and quesadillas.  
For the dressing we use Penzey’s Greek Seasoning.  Never been to Penzey’s?  You MUST go and smell the vanilla extract.  Yum!  Anyway, they have a greek seasoning and on the back is a recipe for salad dressing.  All you need is olive oil, red wine vinegar, water and a little of the seasoning and voi la, delicious homemade dressing.  For the two of us, I make half the recipe and it’s the perfect amount for two large salads.

Snowy Village Cakelets

This is my third attempt this week at making these little cakelets.  The pan is from Williams-Sonoma a few years ago and is one of my favourites.  The first two batches didn’t want to come out of the pan and only 4 out of the 12 cakes survived.  I tried again today and they worked!  The trick was giving in and buying Pam for baking (the stuff that has flour in it) because of all the small details.  The recipe is for a spice cake and is delicious.  The recipe is at the bottom of the post.

Williams-Sonoma Snowy Village Cakelet Pan
(The recipe came on the package)
1 1/4 Cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2/3 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of milk
1 egg slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
8 tablespoons (one stick) of unsalted butter melted and cooled slightly
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  (In our oven, 20 minutes was sufficient so check your cakes often.)
If you don’t have a cakelet pan like this one, the recipe would be great as a small round or 8×8 pan.  A little powdered sugar sprinkled on top is enough to sweeten it.  Enjoy!

Grilled Bruschetta Chicken

After having Will we were so thankful that people brought us meals and invited us over to their homes! I never realized just how much of a blessing (or a necessity) that would be before having a baby myself!

Some friends and Grant’s co-workers invited us over and made this Bruschetta chicken.  I kept thinking about it and finally thought to ask for the recipe.  This is one of my new favourite dishes and it is easily gluten free as long as you choose the right bread or crackers to go with it to eat the extra bruschetta.

It was a little chilly outside when I made this, so I opted to do it inside on the “grill” frying pan.  It’s just a frying pan that leaves grill marks on your food which makes it look like it was grilled over a flame.
Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 lb.) cut in half
1/4 cup of Kraft Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette dressing (divided)
1 tomato, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil (chopped)
Bread (optional)

Directions:
Heat grill to medium heat.  (In my case, the frying pan). 
Place chicken in a plastic bag or shallow dish.  Add 2 Tbsp. of Vinaigrette dressing.  Coat chicken evenly. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken and discard leftover dressing in bag or dish.
Cover half the grill grate with a sheet of foil.  I usually like to put parchment paper between the foil and my food, but I had run out this time!  Place chicken on uncovered side of grill for 6 minutes. 
While the chicken is cooking, combine remaining dressing, tomatoes, cheese and basil.
Turn chicken over and place on foil.  Top with the tomato mixture.  Grill 8 minutes or until chicken is done.
The chicken cooking with the tomato mixture on top.