Friday, November 11, 2011

I don't think you're ready for this chili...

With the leaves changing and the weather turning toward winter, I feel inspired to make food that warms you from the inside.

With all the house buying and selling craziness, too, I am also looking for something less timing consuming to make. Have I mentioned how much I love my crock pot??

About a year ago we bought the largest crock pot we could find with a timer. It's one of my favorite appliances (right after my Kitchen Aid mixer, of course).

As some of you know, I have this great chili recipe. Again, one of my recipes that my husband really enjoys. For years, I made it on the stove top. But as time has gone on, I have become busier and busier, and finding the 1.5 hours to watch and stir the chili was increasingly hard to come by.

I decided to take my chili recipe and throw it in the crock pot instead. Voila! The chili comes out just a good and I can multi-task!

My chili recipe is an oldie, but goodie - it has been shared with a few friends and family, but it is so good, I wanted to share it with all of you. The chili is a smoky red chili. Slightly sweet with just enough heat.  I use ground turkey in my recipe, but you could always use ground beef instead.

I serve the chili in bowls with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar on top and tortilla chips on the side for scooping. Sometimes I make white rice and serve the chili in bowls over rice.

As the weather gets colder and you are looking for something hearty and warm, try out this recipe. I think you'll love it just as much as we do!

I've included both methods - crock pot or stove top - so you can try it out however you prefer.

Nikki's Chili


1 package ground turkey or beef (about 1.3 lbs)
1 can diced tomatoes (lg can ~ 28 oz)
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes (sm can ~ 15 oz)
1 can tomato paste (sm can ~ 6 oz)
1 can pink beans, drained (sm can ~ 15 oz)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 1/4 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp oil (for stove top method)
shredded cheddar for topping
tortilla chips

When cooking the chili, once all ingredients have been added you will want to taste-test part way through cooking and adjust the spices to suit your taste. You may find you need more salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin depending upon your taste and what tomatoes you use.

(I tend to be heat-averse so this has enough of a kick for me. You can always turn up the heat by adding more chili powder).

For crock pot method:

1. Brown meat in sautee pan until no longer pink adding 1 tsp salt and pepper during cooking. Break up large chunks with a spoon. Place meat mixture in crock pot.
2. Add onion, red pepper, garlic, all tomatoes, and tomato paste to crock pot. Stir to mix well.
3. Add chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, remaining salt, and pepper to crock pot. Mix well.
4. Set crock pot to low for 8 hours.
5. During the last hour of cooking, add can of beans. Stir and return the cover. 6. After 8 hours, serve hot. Top with shredded cheddar. Serve with tortilla chips on the side. Chili can be served over rice if desired.

For stove top method:

1. Heat oil in large stock pot over medium high heat.
2. Add onion, garlic and chopped red pepper. Sautee until vegetables are tender.
3. Once onions are translucent and red pepper is softened, add ground meat. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper to meat Stir and cook until meat is no longer pink. Break up large chunks with a spoon. 
4. Once meat is no longer pink, add both cans of tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
5. Add chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes,  remaining salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
6. Let simmer over medium low heat for 45 mintues, stirring occassionally.
7. Add beans. Stir to combine.
8. After adding beans, reduce heat to low and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
9. Serve hot. Top with shredded cheddar. Serve with tortilla chips on the side. Chili can be served over rice if desired.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ma!!! The Meatloaf!!!

Once again, it's been quite a while since I've posted. That's not to say that I haven't cooked anything of interest, just that I haven't had time to blog about it! I also have this problem of remembering to photograph the food before we eat it. I tend to only remember once we have eaten half the meal and it is demolished.

With so many things going on, I am lucky I can remember what my name is. The past month or so, my husband and I have been working to get our house ready so we can put it on the market. It is a good thing we weren't planning to move very quickly. There was a very long list of items to do before we could even think about listing it. We've cleaned every room top to bottom, including the basement, purged an unimaginable amount of 'stuff' and painted (even in the basement!). We've taken pictures of our house and are finally ready to put it on the market.

I worked from home today because we had someone sweep our chimney (another house selling preparation!) and it gave me some extra time to plan dinner. Hence, the meatloaf.

This is a recipe that I found in Real Simple several months ago (their April 2011 issue, I believe). I thought it sounded worthwhile, but with one modification. I would take my husband's grandmother's method of making meatloaf and apply it to this recipe. Nana Terri is the world's best meatloaf maker - hands down. I figured it had to work.

This is one of my husband's favorite meals, and we weren't a meatloaf loving couple, except for Nana Terri's. Since nothing anyone had attempted came close to her recipe, we never bothered or kidded ourselves that anything would come close. Until I found this recipe.

This meatloaf comes out so tender, moist and flavorful, it is what Guy Fieri would call 'out of bounds' (for those of you that watch his show!). One of the best meatloafs I've ever had. It has so much unexpected flavor for a meatloaf. I guarantee, if you try it, you won't want to go back to making your old meatloaf again! 

Check out my variation of the recipe below. If you want to go for the straight from the magazine version, and do it by the book, it's up to you!

Here's a tip: I line my loaf pan with alumnium foil before filling with the meat mixture. The pieces come out easier and clean up is a breeze!!

Bacon-Gruyere Meatloaf (Nana Terri-style)
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup

2 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large egg
3/4 cup grated Gruyère
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 large white onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, diced

1. Heat oil in medium sized skillet. Add chopped onion, celery, and carrots. Sautee until tender. Once tender, use food process or blender to puree mixture. Set aside.
2. Heat oven to 400° F. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, grated onion, bacon, garlic, egg, ½ cup of the Gruyère, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and pureed vegetables. Transfer the mixture to an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of Gruyère.
3. Roast the meat loaf until cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes. Pour off any accumulated fat and let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with your favorite sides!

Bacon-Gruyere Meatloaf (Real Simple-Style), click here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Easy Weeknight Meal - American Chop Suey

It has been a while since I posted a recipe. That would be due to the busy, busy schedule my husband and I have been keeping lately. The past 2 weekends have been spent attending friends' weddings - both of which were TONS of fun. In the in between time of traveling and wedding attending, we've been trying to keep our house in order.

Last week we decided that we would mix things up a bit with a 7-day 'food cleanse'. With a really restricted menu of foods to choose from and a limited set of cooking methods, there wasn't much to blog about. It was supposed to be 2 days of only fruits and vegetables, days 3 and 4 incorporated beans, rice, peanut butter and oatmeal, and days 5 through 7 we could add white fish into the mix. No dairy, so no coffee.  

Long story short, we lasted approximately 2 days. At the end of day 2 when my husband had to leave work early on account of a killer headache and I came home to him laying in bed, in the dark at 5:30 pm, I decided our cleanse had to end. He had such bad caffeine withdrawal he couldn't open his eyes. I made him drink a Coke on the spot, and then I took him to Boston Market for some sustenance. All has been right in the world since!

What on earth were we thinking? Our day to day life is already so jam-packed as it is, why would we intentionally do something to make it more difficult?! Sometimes we are really crazy :)

So this week, I've been able to cook real dinners. Like tonight's dinner - American Chop Suey. Mine is an original recipe that is ready in about 30-40 minutes. A few basic ingredients simmered in a large skilet on the stovetop - perfect for a weeknight meal!

American Chop Suey
1 package lean ground turkey - approx 2 lbs
1 large can Kitchen Ready Tomatoes (i use Pastene brand, but you can use any crushed)
1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 large white onion, chopped
3 tsp minced garlic
3 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In large skillet, heat oil. Saute onion with garlic until tender. Add turkey. Brown turkey, season with salt and pepper. Add both cans of tomatoes, stir to incorporate. Add garlic and onion powder. Stir to incorporate. Let Simmer 3-4 minutes. Add basil and oregano. Simmer 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, stirring to incorporate. Simmer 10 minutes. Add Parmesan. Stir to incorporate. Simmer 10 more minutes.

While sauce is simmering, cook box of multigrain elbow macaroni. Drain. When sauce mixture is done, top pasta with sauce and serve with extra grated cheese.