Feeling chilly? Warm up with some football and some chili.

chili

I look forward to Fall, not because I’m a big fan of Halloween or the trees changing colors. I like Fall because I feel like I now have the permission of the Weather/Season gods to stop eating salads and light grilled fare and can now eat heartier comfort foods like soups, stews, and roasts.

Chili is hearty, comforting, easy crowd-pleasing dish for entertaining because you can make it ahead or cook it in a slow cooker. It doesn’t require a lot of attention. Also, you can easily extend it to feed a good number of people by adding beans or serving with some kind of bread or chip.

I’ve found that chili is a good gateway to introduce folks to vegetarian food. I will typically use a combination of different beans in my chili as well as TVP (textured vegetable protein). You can buy TVP at health food stores and I know in my area both Wegman’s and Whole Foods have the powdered form in their bulk food section. I prefer to use MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ . Check for it in your grocery store’s freezer section or in their health food section.

The crumbles look like and are texturally similar to ground beef, this will lend a little familiarity and comfort to folks that are leery of vegetarian and meat-free dishes or have had a bad experience with tofu and tempeh. The crumbles come frozen and don’t require defrosting before cooking. They just need to be heated through. With the relatively short prep and cooking time, you can easily get a hearty meal on the table with minimal planning and effort.

Augment the “meat” with a couple of different types of beans and vegetables. I’m not a big fan of kidney beans so for something like a chili I’ll use a combination of different types like pinto, red beans, black beans or garbanzos. Each bean has its own unique texture and flavor. I like the contrast of texture that each bean lends to the chili. Use what you have on hand and your family likes. In addition to the usual chili ingredients like onions, garlic and peppers, I’ll also add vegetables like corn, red bell peppers, or zucchini, again its whatever you have and like. The version pictured above has corn, garbanzo beans and black beans.

I buy the small cans of beans, even though they are more expensive. I have less waste with a smaller can especially if I’m going to be using more than one kind. Canned beans tend to have quite a bit of sodium, so I’ll pour them into a strainer and rinse them in cold water before using. I also used canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotles are fire roasted jalapeños. The roasted flavor from the chilies as well as the spicy adobo sauce lend a rich smokiness to the chili that typically would come from grilled meat. They can be fairly hot so use in moderation. I haven’t figured out how to make small amounts of chili, so this stores really well in the freezer it also makes for a great topping for nachos.

Recipe
1 Yellow Onion Diced
1 Bell Pepper Diced
4 Garlic Cloves Crushed
1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Corn Kernals
2 cups of what ever type of beans you like
16 oz of Low Sodium Vegetable Stock/Broth
2 Chipotles chilies and 2 TBS of the Adobo sauce that they are canned with (optional) Add more chipotle if you like things really hot.
2 cups of MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ (optional)
1 15oz can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 TBS Cracked Black Pepper
2 TBS Ground Cumin
2 TBS Chili Powder
Salt to taste
2 TBS Olive Oil

Heat the 2 TBS of oil in a large stock pot or dutch over over medium high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the onions soften. Add the pepper, cumin and chili powder for about a minute then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium and cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the the remainder of the ingredients except the salt and cover and simmer until every thing is heated through.

Garnish with shredded cheese and green onions and serve with corn bread or corn chips.

Next up…a wonton three-way or rather, wontons three different ways.

Crazy, crazy, busy week and getting a little jerky.

I work close to 30 hours a week and go to school full time. Its a crazy hectic time at work, so I’ve not been around the house to cook or to eat. My meals have come from places like Wawa, Taco Bell (yeah, I eat Taco Bell and I feel ashamed) and the campus cafeteria. Side note: I wrote a column for the campus newspaper about the 5 best things to eat from the campus cafeteria. You can read it here.

In celebration of surviving my crazy hectic schedule, we decided to have a nice sit down dinner. Earlier in the summer we experimented with jerking lamb chops. The experiment was a success. The lamb chops were moist, tender and most importantly well seasoned and flavorful. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a lot of great food in my life and I’d have to say the jerked lamb chops were probably one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

I love spicy food and jerk is a great combination of salty, sweet, and spicy and easy to make. A blender is a handy tool for making jerk marinade. Just throw everything into the blender and whiz. For my marinade I put half a can or so of pineapple juice into the blender, 2 bunches of chopped scallions, a bunch of cilantro, whichever type of chili you like, I use a couple of whole serrano chilies, 5 cloves of garlic, a quarter cup of soy sauce, quarter cup of brown sugar, tablespoon each of allspice berries and peppercorns, a dash of ground cinnamon, and a couple of nickel sized coins of ginger. Blend it up until everything is pulverized and well incorporated.

You can use this marinade for fish and chicken or just about any type of meat. Marinade over night and then grill if you’re lucky enough (or allowed) to have one or roast in the oven.

Jerk Lamb Chops

Jerk Lamb Chops

And if you’re not so inclined to make your own jerk seasoning, here’s a pretty tasty alternative. Its also available in a spicy version.

Grace Jerk Seasoning, this happens to be mild flavor it also comes in a spicy version.

Grace Jerk Seasoning its available in both spicy and mild.

Next up… homemade energy bars

Ramen, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Ramen the best street food ever.

Ramen with miso broth, nori,   roasted pork, mushrooms, surimi, scallions, boiled egg and baby kale

I’d be willing to guess that for most Americans their knowledge of ramen starts and stops with the little cello packets that can be purchased by the gross at the local warehouse store. Or, its one of the things that they lived on while in college along with canned tuna and boxes of cheap mac and cheese.

Ramen is believed to have made its way to Japan via China and the word ramen is thought to be a variant of the Cantonese word lo mein. Ramen has been a popular street food in Japan for over a century. Instant ramen was introduced to Japan by Momofuku Ando of Nissin Food Products Ltd. in 1958. The first flavor was chicken and now there are several flavors available. Instant ramen became popular in the states in the early 70s and is still widely consumed today.

Because of its instant food status is associated with cheap low quality food many people have not experienced ramen in its true street food form. Ramen is still one of the most popular street foods in Japan where there are numerous regional variations.

As with any soup, ramen is only as good as the broth. Some common flavors are, miso, shoyu, beef bone, pork, chicken and seafood/shrimp and within those flavors there are variations. As with the broth flavors the toppings and condiments are also varied. Scallions, corn, boiled egg, nori, fish cake, and greens are all popular.

Now for the ramen part of ramen, or rather the noodles. In a pinch I will use the instant noodles but will make my own broth and discard the season packet. My local market has fresh ramen noodles in their refrigerated section, short of buying (or rather having a source for) hand-pulled noodles this is a good alternative.

My favorite combination is a miso based broth topped with char sui (bbq pork), nori, fish cake, baby spinach or baby kale, scallions, boiled egg and mushrooms. Then I like to finish it off with a splash of chili oil and some fried garlic.

Best Street Food Ever! Sonoran-Style Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Here’s another entry in my street food series. Sonoran hot dogs are popular in the Southwestern U.S. and were probably brought here by immigrants from Sonora, Mexico. What’s not to love in a bacon wrapped hot dog? Sonoran hot dogs are like a chili dog turned up to eleven. They’re usually served on hoagie style rolls and topped with spicy pinto beans, cheese, tomatoes, onions and peppers and then finished off with mustard, green salsa and lemony mayo. You may add ketchup if you’re so inclined.

This is a fairly quick meal to put together, though I’ll acknowledge probably not something you’ll want to indulge in on a regular basis. It just requires a little bit of chopping for the veggies, you can use canned chili beans. Then its just a matter of wrapping the hot dogs in bacon and cooking. The hot dogs are also very easy for those finicky eaters in the family to personalize to their taste.