Monday, February 25, 2013

John's Chili

When Fall football weekends come around, followed by about 4 months of winter here in Iowa, not much is better for eating than really good chili. I've gone through 3 chili phases in my life...

Chili Phase 1- My first try at chili. When I was in college, I lived off-campus my senior year with 2 roommates. We had to cook meals. I decided I wanted to make a really good batch of chili. I found a "5-Alarm chili" kit at the grocery store. It was just a bag of all the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and stuff. Just add beans, hamburger, and tomato sauce. It was great, and got terrific reviews from all who ate it. And I usually made it spiced really hot.
Chili Phase 2- My first year out of college and in the working world. A co-worker brought a crock of chili to a potluck at work, and I fell in love with it. Diced tomatoes, onion, chopped jalapenos, ground beef, garlic, and chili beans in chili sauce. Simmer all day. I would make a crockpot full and eat only that all weekend. This was my chili of choice for 27 years. It even won "Best Chili" at a contest I entered.

Chili- The final phase- About a year ago, I found a recipe for Wendy's Chili. I've always LOVED Wendy's chili, so I had to give it a try. And it was pretty close. I have found the chili for my future! I love a chili that has a real chili-flavored gravy, and this is it. I usually make a pot of this chili on a Friday so Jo and I will eat it for dinner Friday night. Then there are enough leftovers for me to have chili 4 or 5 times over the next week, and another 4 or 5 times container for the freezer for the future. And now, I've even managed to healthy it up a bit!


First up is to brown the meat. I used to use a pretty lean (93%) ground beef, but since beef is so high priced right now, I picked up ground turkey that was on sale for $1.25 a pound! And with all the spices in the chili, you can't tell that it's not beef.

Into the pot it goes to brown. The turkey is healthier AND cheaper. Win-win! As it's browning, I assemble the rest of the ingredients.

For a full crock or pot, I use:
 2 pounds of meat
 28-oz can of tomato sauce
 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
 2 cans (15-oz) Kidney beans (liquid included)
 2 cans (15-oz) Pinto beans (liquid included)
 1 can (4-oz) diced chiles
 1/2 onion, chopped
4 Tablespoons chili powder (I use Tones Mild chili powder)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 teaspoons salt
2 cups water

As the meat finishes browning, it's time to open up some cans. I love my new can opener that doesn't leave a sharp edge!

Look at that! I can touch the top of the just-opened can and NOT get cut!

I can still remember when I had that OLD can opener...bad injury...all the way down to the 2nd knuckle. ;)

Kidding, of course. Fortunately, I still have all my digits! 
OK, let's put this thing together!
When the meat is done browning, drain any fat (with the turkey, there isn't much). Then we add the ingredients. Tomato sauce...


Beans (with liquid)...

Green chiles and chopped onion...

And all the spices...

Now, add 2 cups of water...

I made meat loaf a few nights ago and had leftovers for lunch the next day. Tired of meat loaf now, but still have a piece left. Since I probably won't eat it and don't want to waste it, let's crumble it up and add it to the chili!

Stir it all up, bring it to a boil, and turn down to simmer. Cover and let simmer for about 3 hours, stirring about once an hour.

Now, it's time for Chili!!!! Dig in!

I like my chili with some chopped up raw onion mixed in. Jo prefers hers with some cheese, Fritos, and a dollop of sour cream.

I never get tired of chili! And it's really a pretty healthy meal. And with this recipe, I think it'll be a LONG time before I move on to a different phase of chili.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Breakfast


John and I love a good Sunday breakfast.  For full disclosure, the breakfast above is from a Waffle House we visited on vacation.  When cooking at home, there would be A LOT more food.  There is nothing better than sitting back and eating a big breakfast and getting your first carb induced nap before noon.  At least it was.

During the week no one in the household gets up at the same time, so breakfast is a quick and easy affair.  I usually do some instant oatmeal in the microwave or a Weight Watchers breakfast sandwich.  If it can be cooked in less than two minutes it works for me.

But on weekends I like a real breakfast.  And John has adjusted them to meet our "Eating Right Most of the Time" lifestyle we are currently rocking.

It starts with lots of fresh veggies.  Peppers, onions and mushrooms.  Isn't that a pretty plate?

John usually separates real eggs, but this was on sale this week at the store.  So we are giving it a shot.   It is just egg whites with a little yellow coloring to make it look eggy.

First he sautes the veggies in a little olive oil.

He adds a few shakes of seasoning salt and pepper.  We are going to start cutting down on the salt.  It is not good for John.  He had soy sauce the other night and retained water like a sponge for three days.

He set the veggies aside and did a little spray of olive oil in the pan.  Have I mentioned we love olive oil?

The eggs looked like a crepe going in.   John made a little circle to cover the bottom of the pan.

A sprinkling of cheese.  A lot less than our old omelets!  We have had the same bag of cheese for two weeks.  This is unprecedented!  Our dog knows the sound of cheese being opened and is always ready to get a bit and John always obliges. 

Veggies back in, a little cubed ham.  John sent me to the store for diced ham earlier in the week.  John does most of the shopping and is very specific about what he wants.  I got the store and they had Diced Ham and Cubed Ham.  John had requested Diced, but I knew that Cubed is what he really wanted.  I didn't call him to verify.  I usually will spend my entire shopping trip texting him clarifications on his list.  He loves when I send pictures to confirm.  He is lucky he is cute!

If I was being really food bloggy I would sprinkle some parsley and add a slice of fruit, but I was hungry and it was awesome.   Now this doesn't mean that I won't ever eat hash browns and waffles again.  I can already hear myself announcing, "Screw it, I'm on vacation!"  That is the whole point of eating right most of the time. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Artichokes and Greek Chicken

I have always wanted to try out artichokes.  They seem so mysterious and elegant.  So today on our shopping trip we decided to get a couple and try out a recipe. 

We started out by trimming the top inch off and removing the stem so it would sit flat.

Then we stuffed six cloves of garlic into each of the artichokes.  We used fresh garlic.  One head produced plenty of cloves.  John makes sure to cut off the woody little end on the garlic. 

We covered them with a mixture of oil, lemon juice and a little salt and pepper.   We put them in a big cast iron dutch oven with about half an inch of water in the bottom.

We put the lid on and baked them at 375 degrees for half an hour.  While that got started we made some Greek chicken to go with it.  John butterflied a boneless chicken breast.

Then he seasoned it with Greek seasoning inside and out.

Finally I added Feta cheese.  Yes, I had an integral part in this recipe!

Then John closed them up and put them in the pan. 

After the thirty minutes were up, we took off the lid to finish up the artichokes.  They cooked for another 15 minutes, or until the garlic was soft. 

 It all smelled fantastic!  Love the smell of roasting garlic.

Now to begin.  They suggest a couple of things for dipping, but the recipe I used said it doesn't need it.  We are trying to cut back on butter. 

It was OK.  I think the thing that bugged us the most was all the waste.  There was just a huge pile of the parts we don't eat.  It just wasn't anything special, at least not when they cost 2 for $5.00. 

And the artichoke heart was hairy. 

The Greek chicken was amazing and super easy to make.  It will definitely be made again. 

Print the Greek Chicken Recipe

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dinner From The Freezer

John picked all the dinners this week.  So when we got to Friday he made me pick.  I am usually an easygoing, eat what you give me sort of gal.  One thing I always like is chicken, so that is what I suggested. 

We had chicken in the freezer.  We watch for deals, buy in bulk and stock up.   It is easy to split it up and put it in a Ziploc for future use.

John set up his cookie sheet. 

He covers the cookie sheet in foil and makes two little rolls of foil to keep the baking rack elevated.  This is so the chicken gets cooked on all sides.  Makes for a tasty bird.

He spiced it up with Italian seasonings, some Lawry's and pepper.  He pulls the skin back and gets it under there too. 
He also puts the seasoning in a bowl so that he isn't polluting the seasoning with his chicken fingers.  It drives him nuts that cooking show people do this.
All ready to go in a 400 degree oven.  Already smells good.

Now time for the side dish.  I am trying out a new quinoa recipe I found online.  It is a kind of pilaf with onions, mushrooms and garlic.

See the last post on how to cook the quinoa.  Just made it with chicken broth instead of water.  Gonna see if it makes a difference over the soup base.  We used the leftover broth to moisten up our mushrooms and onions.

Added it right into the cooked quinoa.  Loving the rice cooker.  I still don't know how it magically knows the rice or quinoa is done, but it does.  We mixed them together and it smelled great.  The garlic was really in the air.

The chicken took an hour to get to incredible.  All the fat dripped off onto the easy to clean foil lining. 

And here is my beautiful 600 calorie dinner.  It was great.  John ate about three bites and said "we are making this again next week."

That is alright with me.

One tip from John.

He saves the Ziploc that he used to freeze the chicken and throws the bones in it.  Then he can seal it up and they won't stink up the garbage. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

McDonald's Fish McBites


Nobody loves a McDonald's Filet o' Fish sandwich more than me. I always order it without the cheese because...A: Cheese belongs on a lot of things, but fish isn't one of them, and B: I know all the ones in the warmer have cheese on them, so they'll have to make a fresh one for me.  Great piece of fish with very little breading, tasty tarter sauce, and of course, that shiny steamed bun.
I started seeing the ads for McDonald's Fish McBites last week, and the sign outside my local Mickey-D's said they were coming Feb. 12-14. 
Only 3 days????
Geez, I'm gonna hafta schedule this!  Looks like Wednesday for lunch, I'll pick some up on the way home. I'm trying to eat better now, so I'll go with the snack size for $1.00.   250 calories in this box of bites (not counting tarter sauce).
Turns out, the regular price is going to be $2.49, I believe. The 3-days thing is just for the $1.00 price. So, I didn't really have to hurry...  
Oh, well. I got 'em cheap.  And they were pretty decent. I didn't count, but there were probably 10-12 of them in the snack box. Not quite as good as the fish on the fish sandwich, but better than a frozen fish stick. It's not ground up fish, but each bite is a tiny filet. That's nice. But the bites do have a little heavier breading than the filet o' fish.
Not a bad snack, but I'd rather have the fish on the sandwich than the bites.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stuffed Peppers

Making Stuffed Peppers. 
This is the beginning of our food blog.  I have been teasing my husband, John, for years that we needed our own Food Network show.   This first blog was inspired by the introduction of quinoa to our life.  I had gone shopping with my sister-in-laws and one of them got a batch of it at Whole Foods.  It got me curious and on our Saturday shopping trip I picked up some. 
I read up on how to fix it and made a batch to try.  It was pretty good.  I loved the texture and how good it was in fiber and protein.  Then on Sunday, we were watching Guy's Big Bite and he made stuffed peppers with quinoa.  So we decided to make some stuffed peppers. 
We have never had stuffed peppers in our years together.  My husband had talked about his parents eating them when he was a kid and there was a tone of general distaste.  But we were ready for an adventure.  We have also been eating crazy good, so here it is. 
First we had to soak the quinoa for five minutes.  There is a bitter coating.  I did it in a mesh strainer sitting in a bowl.  This allows me to rinse it a couple times after it soaks.  For this recipe, we used a cup and a half of quinoa.
Then John pulled out the Sweet Italian Turkey sausage.  This is enough for four servings.  He then strips off the outer membrane so he can brown it.  


It helps to add a little olive oil since this is turkey sausage, there isn't a lot of fat.  It started to smell amazing right away.  Just like an Italian market. 

Then he chopped a few mushrooms.  My husband does all the chopping.  He is a much better chopper than I am.

Then we put the soaked and rinsed quinoa in the rice steamer with twice the amount of water.  In ours, it was a cup and a quarter of quinoa and two and a half cups of water.  

Then for flavor we added a heaping tablespoon of soup base.  
More chopping.  A few slices of onion.  

Drain the bit of grease off the turkey sausage.

We cut the peppers in half.  Well my husband did.
My husband had to point out what he called the umbilical cord of the pepper.  The little black tail on the bottom. 

 We added the onions and mushrooms to the turkey sausage to soften them up.

A little olive oil to moisten it up.

We then added the finished quinoa. 

Some Italian spices.  It is important to rub dry spices to open up the essential oils.  After eating, we decided more spices would have been good.

Finally we stuffed the peppers.

We set the oven at 350 degrees.  Later we moved it up to 400 after checking on them.


We added some grated Parmesan and in the oven they go.

We had a whole bunch of leftovers so we saved the extra for our next batch.  My husband folds back the Ziploc so the food doesn't get in the zip part.  That is his tip for this batch.

They look good and smelled awesome.

In our house a recipe is just a guideline.  It is made to be tweaked.  We cooked the peppers for about twenty-five minutes, they could have gone longer to soften them up.  We also said we would add more spice and some red pepper flakes to the next round.  The Parmesan was good, but got pretty crusty.  Next time we will mix it into the filling.  I think it would add a good twang.
Overall a good first effort.  We will update with recipes and other food reviews.  Including our favorite cooking shows.
Happy Cooking!

PS. All this steam from my rice steamer is also good for my skin!