Best. Chili. Ever.

I’ve found my purpose. No really; now I see why the Good Lord put me on this earth…to make this chili. For everyone. I can’t believe I’ve only ever made chili with ground beef and a spice packet…that’s no way to live. Now that I’ve tasted real chili, there’s no way I’m going back. Ever.

chili1

You’ve heard me talk about my Uncle Steve many times – well here’s another tribute to his culinary genius. He gave me his chili recipe…no, let me rephrase that- he gave me the chili recipe; because as far as I’m concerned, this is the only one I’ll ever need. Of course I won’t post it exactly how he gave it to me (I can’t just go ’round giving away a man’s chili recipe, now can I?) – I made a few changes, since I didn’t have 8 hours to spend on it. But lemme tell ya – it’s thick, it’s meaty, it’s spicy, it’s bold, it’s…..beautiful. Hubby and I were in hog heaven after one bite. I can safely say, this chili is henceforth…THE chili.

Chili

2 lb. Chuck roast (or any cut you have on hand), cut into small cubes
1 lb. Flank steak, cut into cubes
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 chipotle chilis in Adobo (you can find these in the Latin section of your grocery store), seeded
2 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1 quart beef broth
1 bottle beer (I used Sam Adams)
salt to taste
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Uncle Steve doesn’t believe in tomato in his chili, but I like it!)

Place beef in a large dutch oven with the beef broth (if the broth doesn’t cover the beef, add some water), cover and boil for 30-45 minutes or until the beef is tender. Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the onion, garlic and chipotle peppers. Add to beef along with spices and salt. If there is too much liquid, simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced down a bit. Alternatively you can add a little flour or masa to thicken. Add beer and tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low for 3-4 hours stirring occasionally.

chili2

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Cheesy Chicken Chowder

A few months before our wedding (golly, that was over three years ago!!) my sister gave me a very special cookbook.  She worked really hard collecting her favorite recipes, gathering pictures and getting everything organized and put together in a cute little book. I happened to think this was the coolest present ever since I had no idea how to cook, really- and had hardly any recipes of my own. But thanks to my big sister, I now had a nifty book full of tried-and-true recipes that were simple and no-fail. To this day, out of all the volumes of cookbooks I own (and trust me, there are quite a few!), I still turn to my homemade collection of Lindsay’s recipes whenever I need a good, comforting meal. Some of my favorites include Fiesta Soup, Chicken Parmesan and the recipe I’m posting today – Cheesy Chicken Chowder.

chickchowder1

This one can’t be beat- it’s as simple as can be, yet totally delicious. Perfect for these cold evenings we’ve been having lately (love it!), and it makes enough for you to get at least two meals out of it. I love the chunks of potatoes and chicken, with the richness and creaminess that feels like it should be way more fattening than it really is (the most fattening part is the cheese melted in it)! This is one of those soups that always gets made every year as soon as the weather gets cooler – it’s comforting, filling and down-right delicious!

chickchowder3

Cheesy Chicken Chowder

4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
8 oz Velveeta cheese, cubed (1 loaf)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken

Combine the broth and the vegetables in a large sauce pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over low heat. Add the flour, whisking until smooth. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Gradually stir in the vegetable mixture, soy sauce, cheese and chicken. Cook until the cheese melts and the soup is thoroughly heated.

chickchowder2

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Happy Anniversary to Us!

I totally would’ve posted this 5 days ago (when it actually was our anniversary), but a few unexpected things have happened this week and I haven’t had a chance to even get to my computer! Anyway, our 3 year anniversary was this past Wednesday – sometimes I can’t get over that we’ve been married 3 years. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that we were on our honeymoon! On top of having our anniversary to celebrate, my hubby just accepted a new job (yay!), so we decided to go out for a fancy dinner a couple of days early, then on our actual anniversary have a nice quiet dinner at home. I was trying to think of something different that we haven’t had at home a lot, and jambalaya kept coming to mind. Since we both looooove Cajun food, I decided jambalaya would perfect (with a glass or two of champagne, of course!)!

jambalaya

And oh my gosh, it was SO good! I kinda-sorta followed a recipe, but mostly just threw stuff in. We absolutely loved it- I’ll definitely be making this over and over again. We had a wonderful, relaxing evening and this was a perfect meal to go with it! Who knows, maybe 50 years from now I’ll be serving this same jambalaya to my sweet hubby for our anniversary dinner!

Jambalaya
-(very loosely) adapted from Allrecipes.com

1 pound smoked sausage, sliced (I like to use turkey sausage)
1/2 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
2 bell peppers, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Cajun seasoning to taste
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 cups white rice

In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of the chicken broth to a boil and cook the rice as directed.  In a large pot over medium heat, cook bell pepper, onion and garlic in the oil until onion is translucent.
Stir in tomatoes, pepper sauce, cayenne, Worcestershire, Cajun seasoning and bay leaves; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Stir the shrimp and sausage into the spiced vegetables. Continue to simmer until flavor is as spicy as you like, adding the leftover chicken broth as needed to thin. Add the cooked rice and continue to cook for 10 minutes more.

*You may not need the entire amount of leftover chicken broth – just use as much as you need to get the jambalaya the consistency you want.

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“Cheater” Chicken and Dumplings

First of all, let me state, for the record that I do not consider this dish to be “authentic” or “homestyle” in any way. Although these are very delicious and have that slow-cooked taste, I do not count them as real chicken and dumplings. (There, Nana – that’s for you)

I found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs – The Bitten Word and knew I wanted to try it. But first let me tell you – REAL, honest-to-goodness chicken and dumplings (or chicken-n-dumplins, as it is pronounced down here) are something I don’t cook. I won’t. I have no desire to. Because no matter how hard I try, or how delicious they may turn out to be, they’ll never be half as good as my Nana’s. That’s a recipe you just don’t mess with – it’s been around for…forever. All my grandmother has to do is pick up the phone to any one of us, be it my parents, my sister’s family, my family or my uncle’s family, and say, “I’m making chicken-n-dumplins..” and we’re THERE. Hubby and I live an hour away from Nana and Grandaddy, but we’ll gladly make the drive on any given day, in a moment’s notice for her chicken and dumplings.

So with that being said, I’ll go on with this recipe. These are what I like to think of as “Yankee” chicken and dumplings (no disrespect to you northerners out there), because they have carrots, onion, celery and white wine. The ultimate recipe (i.e. Nana’s) are made with just chicken, broth and dumplings. Also – they’re not “real” because the dumpling part is made with frozen biscuits, instead of a homemade dough. But, sometimes you need just such a recipe for nights when you want that home-cooked taste without standing over the stove for hours and hours. And these are PERFECT for that.

After making these – I’d have to say that they’re some of the best chicken and dumplings I’ve ever had. Hubby couldn’t say enough good things about them – he went on and on about how amazing they were. And the whole meal (minus the time it took to cook my chicken all day in the crockpot) took about 20 minutes to make!! You can’t beat that! I added some cornstarch to make it extra thick and creamy and a little butter – because Nana told me to – and it really added to the richness and creaminess. I cooked 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs for about 4 hours on high in my crockpot and they were so tender and moist. The only seasonings I used were salt and pepper – and lots of it. That’s all you need.

Easy Homemade Chicken and Dumplings
-The Bitten Word

1/4 cup olive oil
4 chicken thighs, bone in (or 4 bone-in or boneless chicken breasts)
2 medium onions, diced
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced celery
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tablespoon salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper (plus more to taste)
6 cups chicken stock
4 frozen biscuits (such as Pillsbury Grands Frozen Biscuits), thawed enough to cut into pieces

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat half of the olive oil (1/8 cup) in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear the chicken, turning the pieces so that all sides are slightly brown, about 3 to 4 minutes for each side. Remove the chicken pieces and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the remaining 1/8 cup of olive oil to the pot, along with the onions. Saute the onions until they’re soft, about 6 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and white wine. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Saute, stirring frequently, for another 6 minutes. Add the chicken back to the pot. Cover the meat and vegetables with chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 90 minutes. (This step is especially flexible. If your liquid is reducing too much, you may need to add more chicken stock. If the dish is too liquidy, turn up the heat and to reduce the stock more. The idea is to end up with a consistency of a very thick stew.)  If the broth is not as thick as you would like, remove one cup of the broth into a measuring cup and whisk in 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Return the broth to the pot and stir.  Remove chicken pieces with tongs and allow them to cool. Debone the chicken and shred the meat into small pieces. Return to the pot.  Cut the frozen biscuits into thirds. Drop the pieces onto the top of the chicken and vegetable mixture. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: I did mine a little differently – since I cooked my chicken in the crockpot, I just added it (with all of its juice) to the broth and cooked vegetables, then dropped my biscuits in. Much easier, I think!

We both thought these were excellent. I would make these again in a heartbeat. I just hope Nana doesn’t disown me…

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Something to Keep Out the Cold…

With all this cold, icy weather, I thought it would be only  fitting to post a great soup recipe! And who knows, maybe this warm, hearty chowder will make it to your dinner table tonight to keep out the cold!

This Potato, Corn and Sausage Chowder is great because it’s not one of those all day soups – it takes no time to make! And it gave me a great excuse to try out my new immersion blender hubby got me for Christmas!! (*But don’t worry if you don’t have one – you can either use a regular blender, or just leave it chunky, which I think is a great idea). This is a great recipe because unlike most chowders and creamy soups, it’s made with low-fat milk instead of cream; and I took the healthiness a step further and used lean turkey sausage – great taste and no guilt!


Corn, Sausage and Potato Chowder

-adapted from Food Blogga

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups fresh corn kernels from 2 ears (or frozen)
1/4 teaspoon white pepper or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-7 cranks of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 package fully cooked turkey sausage (about 1 pound – you can use more or less if you want)

In a deep pot over medium-high heat, melt butter. Saute onions for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add potatoes and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add corn kernels, cayenne, salt, and black pepper, and stir well. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the milk, cheddar cheese, and parsley. Turn off heat and allow chowder to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Puree soup in two batches until smooth, and return to the pot over medium-low heat. Stir in cooked sausage and warm until thoroughly heated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

I served it in individual bread bowls and hubby absolutely loved it! And it tastes even better the next day, by the way. Just perfect for super cold weather!

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Cold Weather Food…

**This post has been updated- click HERE to view it**

Do you like my fireplace? Its the first one hubby and I have ever had! We’ve always lived in an apartment, so when we moved into this house (which has two fireplaces, by the way!), we were super excited to have our first fire! So its no surprise that as soon as the weather changed and got a little cooler, we got a big fire in the fireplace and had a cozy little picnic on the floor in front of it!

It doesn’t get cold here in Texas until much later than the other (normal) states. In fact, here I am writing this post a week before Thanksgiving and its about 65 degrees outside (which we consider pretty chilly, by the way). So needless to say, as soon as the temperature drops below 80 degrees, I bust out my stock pots, fuzzy house shoes, and blankets and get ready for some cold weather comfort food! As I’ve said a million times, hubby loves his soups, so that’s the first thing I think of when it gets chilly outside.  This potato soup is a perfect meal for a chilly evening at home – and it only tastes better when you eat it on a blanket on the floor in front of your blazing fireplace! YUM!! (sorry for the crummy picture, it was already dark outside and I was too hungry to care)

Potato Soup
-my mom’s recipe

5 -8 medium sized Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (this will make a pretty big pot, but if you want enough for a large crowd, I’d use 8-10)
1 yellow onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
milk (approx. 1/2 – 1 cup, depending on how “soupy” you like it)

Put the potatoes and onion in a large stock pot and cover with water; let it all boil together for 10 – 20 minutes, or until potatoes and onion are extremely tender and mushy. Drain most of the water (you can leave some in if you want a thinner consistency), then mash up the potatoes with a potato masher or a large spoon (if you want it super smooth, you could use a blender, but I just use a masher – I like a few lumps) and return the pot to low heat. Add the milk until you get the desired consistency, then season with desired amount of salt and pepper. Stir constantly for 2 -5 minutes, then remvove from heat and serve. I like to top mine with cheddar cheese and bacon bits.

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One Pot Wonder…

I am categorizing this under “Soups/Stews/Other” because I really have no idea what to call this dish….or what kind of dish it is, exactly. I figure it fits under the “other” category pretty well – so we’ll just leave it at that.

I was a DARN picky eater as a kid…I hated a lot of things my mother would cook for us, as well as most restaurants. Some of the things my mom would make that I can remember having the most disdain for were her chicken enchiladas (WHA?! What was I thinking??!), chicken stew and stuffed peppers, to name a few. Of course I love all of those things now, but back then there was just something about them that made me absolutely despise them. I guess I was just your typical snot-nosed picky little girl….heheh- some things never change, I guess. ;-)

My sister was sort of picky too, I suppose, though not near as whiny and shrieking about it.  But there were some things that my sister and I loved that most kids wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. For example, everyday when we would come home from school, our choice of snack would always be canned, cold spinach and Vienna Weenies (you know, those short, stubby little weenies that come in the tiny little can?).  We’d sit there and eat the stuff right out of the CAN! Even though we could have our choice of cookies, brownies, WHATEVER! We always wanted the cold spinach and weenies. Even looking back now I wonder what the heck we were thinking…and we were little kids, mind you – I was in like, 2nd grade! Weird freaking kids…..

So yeah, we had a habit of liking odd, non-kiddy type foods. I mean, sure, I liked those little frozen kiddy dinners that came with the cartoon-shaped macaroni and a tiny little brownie, but some grown-up foods were very appealing to us. One of those foods was cabbage. My sister and I both loved cabbage.  I remember my Nana (hey Nana!) cooking cabbage in her big pot in the kitchen and my sister and I would absolutely gobble it up.

I still love cabbage to this day – its great in soups, as a side dish or cooked my personal favorite way – in a big pot with sausage and potatoes. YUM. I’m almost positive this dish came from somewhere, I just have no idea where. I don’t have a title for it, nor do I know what kind of food category it would fall under. Obviously. All I know is, my mother got the recipe from our Uncle Benny. He didn’t have a title for it either – he just thew it all in a pot and that was that. So, without further ado, I give you Cabbage, Sausage, Potato….stuff.

Cabbage with Sausage and Potatoes

1 head cabbage, roughly chopped (I guess you could use any type of cabbage you wanted – I just use the regular old “white looking” cabbage that you find everywhere)
1 pound fully cooked Hillshire Farms smoked sausage, sliced into big bite-sized pieces (I used Turkey sausage – fat free and you couldn’t taste the difference!!)
2-3 yukon gold potatoes, cut into chunks
Salt and Pepper to taste (I also use a bit of Cajun seasoning)

Pour approx. 1/2 cup water in the bottom of a large dutch oven or heavy pot, then add the sausage; layer the potatoes, then the cabbage over the sausage, seasoning with salt and pepper as desired (not too much, though – the sausage will do most of the seasoning for you). Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes, or until cabbage and potatoes are tender. Make sure the bottom of the pot never goes dry – if the water dries up during cooking, quickly add more. Serves 4.

* You can also add onions if you want; I just choose not to. My Uncle Benny likes to add a can of Rotel Tomatoes as well. I like to keep mine simple, though. But that’s the beauty of this dish, you can pretty much add whatever you want to it – carrots, celery….whatever!

You could definitely serve this all by itself, but I like to have a little bread with it – I served this with Katie’s Easy Cheesy Beer Bread.  This is seriously filling and delicious – hubby LOVES it. Plus, its a super satisfying meal in one pot that costs less than $5.00! You can’t beat that, people!

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Look! We're Bein' Healthy!!!

Yep, that’s right…we’re trying to eat a tad bit healthier these days; so when I saw this creamy broccoli soup on Tastespotting.com (my new favorite website -check it out sometime…you might even see some of my photos on there from time to time!) I knew I had to try it! Hubby loves soups, so I make them pretty often and we both reeeeeally loved this one. The title makes it sound fattening, but its actually really healthy…and hearty!! And it goes absolutely WONDERFULLY with Katie’s Easy Cheesy Beer Bread (see post below!).

Creamy Broccoli Soup
-Jillian @ Butter and Sugar

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 tbsp flour
1 cup low fat milk
1 quart of chicken stock
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup water
6 cups of broccoli
1 cup of butter beans (canned)
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in large soup pot (at least 4 quarts). Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent and add the garlic. Cook the garlic for about a minute and add the flour. Stir continuously for about 1 minute and add 1 cup of milk. Continue to stir until milk thickens slightly (enough to coat the spoon). Add the chicken stock and stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer and broccoli florets, fresh thyme, fresh ground pepper and a bay leaf. Simmer until the broccoli is just tender. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig and add the beans. Blend with an immersion blender or carefully transfer to a standing blender (note: if you do it with standing blender, be sure to blend it in two batches, otherwise your blender will overflow). Blend to desired thickness (I left some small unblended pieces of broccoli for texture). Stir in the parmesan cheese.

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Hearty Beef and Lentil Soup

There were some girls over at one of my favorite cooking forums (the Nest’s What’s Cooking board) talking about recipes for lentil soup, which is where I got this one. It’s one of Giada DeLaurentiis’ recipes (and you can’t go wrong with Giada), and it’s thick, hearty and full of flavor. I think it would be perfect for a nice chilly Fall day or cold Winter night! I had never had lentils before and was definitely pleased with their taste/texture. I think they added a lot to this soup! I will definitely be making this again…soon!

Lentil Soup with Beef
-Giada DeLaurentiis

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef. Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

(This makes A LOT of soup, so plan for company that night!)

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Big Sister’s Cookin’….

My sister is one of those hard working women – with a job, a husband, a kid, a house and everything else to take care of, I don’t know how she manages to find time to cook (and sometimes she doesn’t – but a pizza night every now and then never hurt anybody, right?). Sometimes she’ll stumble across a recipe that was extra yummy and kindly pass it on to me (woo hoo!). The latest recipe she’s given me was this Okra Gumbo. Surprisingly easy and super fast, but really really tasty at the same time! Its one of those dinners that you can have on the table in no time on a busy night , yet it tastes like its been cooking all day! Hubby really enjoyed it, as did I! Thanks, big sis!! Keep the recipes comin’!

Lindsay’s Okra Gumbo

1-16 oz. package frozen cut okra, unthawed
1 onion, chopped (I used half)
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes (don’t drain them)
2-3 slices bacon
salt & pepper and cajun seasoning (lots) to taste
(I added 1 1/2 chicken breasts cut up into small pieces for a little extra flavor)

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, reserve grease. Remove the bacon from the pan and add the onion, cooking until translucent, then add the chicken (season it with a little s&p before tossing in) and sautee until cooked through. Add the frozen okra and tomatoes; season with plenty of salt and pepper and lots of Cajun seasoning (yum!), then add the bacon back in and cook over medium to low heat for 15 -20 minutes until heated through.

Serve over white rice.  *Here’s a little tip: throw in a splash of white vinegar – it helps to cut the okra’s “sliminess” and you don’t taste it a bit!

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