Blue Ribbon Chili

 Today our congregation had a chili cook off. My mom’s “Shocking Good” (a play on her last name, Schochler) hot & spicy turkey chili from the Schochler Pennsylvamia Kitchen was a big hit and there wasn’t a drop left in the crock pot! And no, in case you were wondering, I did not enter. I’m still relatively scarred from a family cheesecake competition…

I asked her if she could send me the recipe and she replied that she didn’t have one. 

“Mom, you gotta give me something. Just try” I guess I know where I get it from now, always struggling to give you people measurements and what not. 

This is what I got via text message…

“I just got in from taking your grandmother back to the nursing home. I can give you a list, but measurements differ depending on quantity you want.”

So my friends, here’s the list, but you’re on your own when it comes to quantity and measurements. Just wing it I guess…

  • Ground turkey or beef
  • 1 can tom paste
  • Lg can crushed tomatoes 
  • Lg can diced tomatoes 
  • Lg can chili beans or red kidney or assorted combo
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Half small can of adobo Chilis
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder 
  • S & P
  • Coriander 

“Thanks mom. But can you give me a little more, like the process you go through when making it?” Now I’m thinking maybe she just doesn’t want to give me her prize winning recipe…So she responds…

“Sauté onions and garlic first. Then add ground meat and cook with adobo chilis plus all dry spices. Add all cans with liquid. As you cook you may need to add little bit of water if tomato paste is too thick. Taste to adjust seasonings. Always better the 2nd day! How’s that?”

I sent her a thumbs up emoji (which probably just looked like an alien with a square around it since she most likely has not updated her iPhone software to include the emoji keyboard…4 parents and my husband is a lot of technology to manage, aye aye aye) and said, “Perfect mom, just perfect. And so was the chili!”

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vegan fiesta!!!

  
So yesterday I shared with you the story of the Sanibel Sprout and the delicious meal I had prepared by the chef & owner, Nikki. She told me that she is a firm believer in seasoning. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, I’ve always said I feel that anything can taste good as long as it is prepared and seasoned well. 

(Some people prefer a little too much seasoning, and salt my food right in front of me…eye roll…no comment…)

Nikki’s taco salad with walnut “taco meat” was so very flavorful that when you took a bite you tasted cumin, chili powder, and sea salt, not walnuts. It actually tasted like ground taco meat. But lighter and more heart healthy. But the cashew “queso” topping? That really blew my mind, I had no clue how it even existed and I decided I had to try making it for myself. I did a little research and experimenting and came up with my own concoctions for both. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures as I went along, sorry, but trust me it’s really easy. But there are pictures of the finished product! 

First, the taco meat.

Ingredients

  • 2 C whole walnuts (if you only have chopped on hand that’s OK just don’t pulse them as much in the food processor so that they don’t get too fine…like Brad Pitt)
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder (all spices are to taste; you may want a little more or a little less…as I tasted I felt it couldn’t get enough cumin so I kept adding until the flavor was just right)
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tb olive oil (I omitted this when making it for friends who are not eating any kind of oils, I just put a little water in instead, but I do think the oil is helpful in binding the mixture together and enhancing the flavor.)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until it’s the consistency of ground meat.

Taste test, and add more spices if you’d like.

This is totally optional but I think totally a must to a) feel like you’re eating taco mea and b) completely fool your butcher husband…Heat mixture in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Your house will smell like you’re having a fiesta!  

  
 
I love a colorful salad so I out all sorts of toppings out; black olives, red & yellow bell peppers, fresh diced tomatoes, shoestring carrots, seasoned kidney beans, sunflower seeds, organic blue corn tortilla chips, and, my personal favorite, big hunks of avocado!But the real star of the dish and the perfect finishing touch? The cashew queso! Which, by the way, also doubles as a dressing for the salad which was especially nice for our non oil eating amigos. I’m really getting into this fiesta thing now! 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours, drained, and rinsed.
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast…(I had to go to the health food store to find this…it smells awful and I don’t know why it was necessary but it just was. Note to self: do more research on nutritional yeast and follow up with blog post about said ingredient) 
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender until smooth and queso like. Make sure to scrape down the sides and that it’s really blended all the way through, you don’t want any little cashew chunks.  This makes about 2 cups and the queso sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 You could just spoon the sauce over your salad but where’s  the fun in that?! Or….you could put sauce into a ziplock bag, snip the tip, and artfully pipe over your salad for a beautiful finish to the meal. There was plenty of queso left over too, so we took some of those beautiful organic blue corn tortilla chips and dipped them right in there. Take that nacho cheese!  

The butcher and I aren’t quite ready to go completely meatless or dairy free yet, but we are definitely cutting back and making better choices. This dish is so delicious it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice! Taco salad for all!

   

pho sho…

Last night we enjoyed some delicious pho with some of our best friends. It was delightful. But you might be asking yourself, what IS pho?  


Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, herbs, and traditionally beef or chicken although vegetarian options are just as delicious. The hearty soup originated in Northern Vietnam during the 20th century. Pho was originally sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who amazingly shouldered mobile kitchens on poles across their backs. From the pole hung two wooden cabinets, one housing a cauldron over a wood fire, the other storing noodles, spices, cookware, and space to prepare a bowl of pho. Boy does that sound heavy! Thankfully now it’s much more widely available and no poles are necessary, you can go to your local pho eatery and order a bowl. (Our favorite spot is Pho 88 on Mills Avenue in Orlando for you local folks)


 
       

But what if you don’t have a pho eatery near you, or you want to try making it at home? Now you can! You can judge how good a Pho soup is by how much concentrated flavor is packed in the broth while still retaining a clean, clear broth. I like my Pho without Sriracha or Hoisin sauce (or “the brown stuff” as the butcher calls it)…I really enjoy the purity of the chicken broth without anything to hide its flavor and aroma.

There are 2 very important steps to a clear but intense broth – 1) parboiling the chicken to get rid of the impurities 2) charring the ginger and onion for a naturally sweet, robust flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole (preferably organic) chicken (4-5lbs)

1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half

3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled

{Broth spices}

2 tbl whole coriander seeds

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

2 tbl raw sugar 

2 tbl fish sauce…be sure to choose a fish sauce light in color, it should look like brewed tea….anything darker than that (looking like Coca Cola) is inferior quality.

small bunch of cilantro stems only, tied in bunch with twine

1 lb dried rice noodles 

{Table Accompaniements}

2 cups bean sprouts 

cilantro tops – leaves and tender stems

1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Sriracha hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

sliced chili or jalapeño (for the brave people out there)

DIRECTIONS:

Place ginger and onion on a small baking sheet. The top of the onion should be about 4″ from the oven’s heating element. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger. Slice ginger into thick slices. I know this may seem tedious but trust me it’s worth it for the rich flavor it produces!

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with water and boil. With a sharp knife, carve the chicken breast meat off and reserve. Or just marry a butcher. With the rest of chicken whacking hard through the bones to get sections about 3″ big. The more bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth (translation: rich, flavorful). You can even whack several places along the bone just to expose more marrow. When the water boils, add chicken sections (not breast) and boil on high for 5 minutes. You’ll see lots of foam and “stuff’ come up to the surface. Drain and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water. (If making vegetarian pho, this step can be skipped and just use vegetable broth or make your own veggie stock) 

Add chicken, chicken breast meat, onion, ginger and all of the broth spices in the pot and cover. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside (you’ll serve shredded chicken breast with the finished soup). With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a total of 1-1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and or sugar.
Strain the broth, discarding solids. Prepare noodles as per directions on package. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles in each bowl. Have all the table accompaniements at table for each person to add to their bowl based on individual taste. Even though your broth may not be as clear, you can also make this recipe in your crock pot and come home to the delicious aromas of Vietnam!  
 It was PHO yummy! Photastic! Can I have pho mo?! I could do this all day…

We also had some DELICIOUS spring rolls with a to die for peanut sauce but that’s another recipe for another day! 

so corny 

  “Um…can I have a little more corn salsa please?” That’s me every time we go to Chipotle. I’m a sucker for a good sweet/savory combo and their corn salsa takes the cake. The crunchy sweetness of the corn mixed with a spicy jalapeño and lime flavor is just divine. But alas, the nearest Chipotle is a 40 minute drive, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own. What says summertime more than fresh delicious salsa?! It’s pretty yummy if I do say so myself. Here’s the recipe;

Large package of frozen corn, thawed
1 jalapeño, finely diced

about 1/2 C. red onion, finely diced

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

juice of one lime (roll it on the counter first, this helps release the juices)

a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 tsp kosher salt (taste it, you may need more)

a lil’ black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Allow to sit in the fridge until ready to use. Doesn’t get much easier than that! This would also be great on top of grilled chicken! 

Kung Pao Goodness 

  This salmon dish is spicy and sweet in all the right ways, super healthy, and according to the butcher, “the best seafood dish he’s ever had”. It’s also easy to make and, gasp, I even measured out my ingredients for you this time! If you’re allergic to peanuts, leave them out. If you’re allergic to salmon, use chicken or beef. If you’re allergic to beef then well, we can’t be friends. Here’s what you’ll need… 
 2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 heads of broccoli

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cubed

2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts roughly chopped
Now let’s get cooking!

Preheat oven to 375°. On a baking sheet, toss sweet potato chunks with 1/2 tbsp oil. Add cinnamon, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Spread sweet potato chunks in a single layer and bake until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. In a bowl, toss broccoli with 1/2 tbsp oil; season with salt and pepper and toss again. Push sweet potato to one side of sheet and arrange broccoli on other side in a single layer; bake until tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, chili flakes and got sauce; set aside. In a pan over high heat, heat 1 tbsp oil; cook salmon, until browned on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer salmon to a plate and set aside; add soy sauce mixture to pan and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and return salmon to pan along with vegetables; turn gently to coat. Top with peanuts and serve. YUM! It seriously was so delicious, I will definitely be making this again soon. For two people you could definitely cut this in half, I always make extras so we have leftovers for the butcher’s lunch and this made two nice portions of leftovers. To make it even better, I recommend enjoying it on the patio with a glass of wine and the love of your life, that makes any dish fantastic. 

 

One pot wonder…

I’ve been in a funk all week. My anxiety has been extremely high and I just haven’t wanted to get out of bed or see anyone. But yesterday afternoon was so gorgeous I decided to lay on the couch on our patio, get some fresh air, and read. The air was warm with a nice breeze gently blowing, birds were chirping, the Spanish moss on the neighbors huge oak tree was swaying in the wind, and the calming sounds of Brazilian singer Joao Gilberto on his guitar (great pandora station, you should give it a try you’ll feel like you’re at a cafe in Rio or on a beach in Bali) were coming from my little Bluetooth speaker. So of course I fell asleep. I woke up to the butcher, who had just gotten home from work, gently stroking my forehead (my mom used to do this as child, he knows I love it) as he lay next to me on the couch. All of the aforementioned conditions combined with a nap must have been exactly what I needed, because I was in a much better mood. After chatting a little bit about his day, he promptly fell asleep as well. But now I was awake and hungry, and I knew he would be too when he woke up. I decided to go in and make dinner. I wanted it to be quick and was in the mood for pasta. 

We very rarely eat pasta so I wasn’t sure if I even had any but I found a box of spaghetti (yes ma, white flour, so shoot me) in the back of the cupboard. I had seen on Pinterest several “one pot” recipes where you throw a bunch of ingredients in with pasta, cook it all together, and you’ve got a meal. So I decided to give it a try. I had some grape tomatoes from the farmers market that needed to be used before they went bad as well as some spicy andouille sausage. The rest is history (see recipe below) and as I came out onto the patio with two steaming bowls of deliciousness, the butcher sat up from his nap and smiled, ready to eat. 

  

Beauty & The Bitcher’s                   
One Pot Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 12 ounce package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (just a really good handful, you can never have too much basil) 
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, just a good pinch of each 
  • grated Parmesan

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven on medium high heat, combine spaghetti, sausage, onion, tomatoes, basil, garlic and 4 1/2 cups water; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  •   
  • Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is cooked through and liquid has reduced, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in Parmesan.
  •   
  • This truly was a “one pot wonder”, SO easy, and really yummy to boot! Enjoy! 
  •   

Me Gusto Carnitas

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Carnitas, literally “little meats,” is a dish of Mexican cuisine. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork meat in liquid until tender. The process takes several hours (of which you can be in the pool if you want, all hail the crock pot!) and the result is very tender and juicy pork meat, which is then typically served with cilantro, diced onion, salsa (and corn salsa in my case), guacamole, tortillas, and beans. And that, my friends, is exactly what we did. If you haven’t had carnitas, you are missing out. But you don’t have to go to a restaurant to get it, the recipe is actually quite simple and your friends and family will love you forever. I mean they already should love you unconditionally, but incase you’re on the outs with some of them, this will definitely help.😉

Beauty & The Butcher Carnitas

2 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder (or a Boston Butt as the butcher calls it)
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together (you can use twine but I love using reusable silicone rubberbands you can find them at any kitchen supply)
2 bay leaves
12 oz. bottle Mexican beer
1/4 C. orange juice
2 – 3 T. chipotle peppers in adobo (these are in a can in your Latin foods aisle, remove them from can and purée in blender, freeze what you don’t use and be careful, these things will knock your socks off!)
generous amounts of kosher salt & fresh black pepper

Put everything into your crock pot. Cover and set it to cook for 6 hours. After the first few hours you can stir everything around a bit if you’d like, but it’s not totally necessary.

After six hours (or when the pork reaches 190 degrees with a meat thermometer) remove the tenderloin pieces onto a cutting board. They will be so tender, they’ll be falling apart you can shred them with a fork. Remove and throw away the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Shred the pork and return to the slow cooker with its sauce. Keep it on the warm setting until ready to use. You can also easily double this recipe in fact, I recently double quadrupled it to feed 60 people and it was still easy and delicious!