Perfect Beef Chili

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Chili is a simple meal, consisting usually of meat, beans, tomatoes, and spices, but if you ask 10 different people to describe the perfect chili, you will likely get 10 different answers. I, for example, like to have veggies in my chili, but my husband considers this chili blasphemy. (That doesn’t stop him from devouring several bowls of my chili, however.) 

I realize that your idea of the ideal pot of chili may be different than mine, but for me, this is the perfect beef chili: thick, hearty, and tons of flavor (without being spicy). I keep the chili mild, for my kids, but I like to add a dash or two of hot sauce to my bowl, after serving. If you like your chili spicy, then you can add a couple of diced chili peppers, before simmering.

1 lb ground beef
1 15oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cubes beef bouillon
1/4 cup beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon hot New Mexico chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of water

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, and cook, using a spatula to break the beef up into small pieces. When cooked through, drain the excess grease and return to the stove.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pot, stirring well to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 2 hours.

Serve hot, with a slice of cornbread.

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Boeuf Bourguignon

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Well, I finally got up the courage to make Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. There aren’t too many recipes that intimidate me, but this dish is legendary and, frankly, I was afraid that I would mess it up.

I’m happy to report that it was much easier to prepare than I expected, and IT IS SO GOOD! This is no ordinary beef stew, my friends. As Julia put it, “It is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” Picture this: tender potatoes smothered in a rich savory sauce with melt-in-your-mouth pieces of beef, topped with mushrooms and onions sautéed to golden-brown perfection. Oh, and did I mention it also has bacon – and wine? 

I tweaked the recipe just a tad to suit my taste (and laziness) but most of the ingredients and steps are the same. You must make this recipe soon, but be sure to allow plenty of time, as this will need around 3 hours to cook (don’t worry, only about 30 minutes of that is hands-on).

8 oz of bacon, cut into 2-inch long pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
3 lbs beef rump roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot sliced
2 ribs of celery, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced (divided)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine
2-3 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6-8 yukon gold potatoes, cut into quarters
1 package mushrooms, sliced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch Oven or enameled cast iron pan (something that can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven) over medium low heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook until the bacon is browned lightly. Remove the bacon to a plate, reserving the bacon grease in the pan.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bacon grease and heat over medium-high heat. Grab a wad of paper towels and dry each piece of beef before placing it in the hot pan. Only add a few pieces at a time, so they don’t touch. Sauté until nicely browned on each side, then remove to the plate with the bacon, while you brown the remaining pieces of beef.

Remove all of the beef from the pan, and then add the carrots, celery, and ½ of the sliced onions (you may need to add a bit of oil to the pan first). Cook until the vegetables are lightly browned. Return the beef and bacon to the pan, and then add the salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss to coat. Place the pan, uncovered, in the oven for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, toss the meat again, and then return to the oven for another 4 minutes.

Return the pan to the stove and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.

Add the wine and enough beef broth so that the meat is barely covered. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, and thyme. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then cover and set in the lower third of the oven. Cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours, adjusting the heat if needed to maintain a very slow simmer.

While the beef is cooking, add the potatoes to a large pot of water and boil until tender. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining sliced onions and sauté for several minutes until golden brown. Remove to a plate and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Sauté the mushrooms in batches, so the mushrooms have plenty of room to brown (remember from the movie . . . “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!”). Add the mushrooms to the onions and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place several potato pieces in a large bowl, cover with the beef and broth, and then top with the sautéed mushrooms and onions. Prepare to say “Yum!”

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Bean and Kale Ragout

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Do you ever find yourself torn between wanting something healthy for dinner, and not wanting to spend a lot of time slaving over a stove? Well, my friends, this is the recipe for you.

This main dish stew is healthy, easy to prepare, and full of comforting flavor. Plus, you’ll probably spend more time chopping the vegetables (which really doesn’t take that long) than you will at the stove.

All of the ingredients are combined in a big pot and then left to get better acquainted, while you relax with a glass of wine (just a suggestion), and look forward to the flavorful white beans and tender kale. Now do you see why I love one-pot meals?

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash cayenne pepper
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Add the olive oil to an extra-deep skillet (a dutch oven or large pot will work too) and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and kale and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until the onions soften and the kale wilts.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the diced tomatoes (with juice), garlic, chicken broth, bay leaves, oregano, basil, cumin, and cayenne pepper.

Cover and simmer until the kale is tender, about 45 minutes. (Now’s your time to relax – don’t forget your glass of wine!)

Stir in the beans and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take a bite (careful, it’s hot!) and add some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with your favorite crusty bread, or try my Olive Oil Toast recipe. Enjoy!

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Ham and Lentil Soup

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This hearty and flavorful soup is a wonderful way to use the leftovers from your holiday ham. The lentils are a nice deviation from the typical ham and bean soup, and add a wonderful texture. Even the picky eaters in my family (a.k.a. my children) devoured this soup.

1 cup dried lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (is it just me, or does dried thyme taste like dirt?)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, finely chopped
2 cups chopped, cooked ham

Rinse the lentils under cold water, drain, and set aside.

Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is fragrant, add the celery, carrots, and onions and sauté until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the minced garlic, lentils, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, thyme, basil, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, water, ketchup, and spinach and stir well to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times prevent the lentils from sticking.

If desired, puree the soup slightly with a stick blender (or in a regular blender) to thicken the soup. Stir in the chopped ham, cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

Serve hot and enjoy!

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

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This soup is full of flavor and has a rich, velvety feel in your mouth. It’s comforting, and satisfying, and seriously good. Add a grilled cheese sandwich and a salad for a wonderful meatless lunch or dinner.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 butternut squash (2-3 pounds), peeled, seeded and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, curry powder, and salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft.

Add the butternut squash, pears, and garlic, and cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the spices from burning.

Add the chicken broth to the pot, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don’t have a stick blender, you can puree the soup in batches using a regular blender.

Stir in the half and half, serve hot, and enjoy!

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Turkey Chili

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Mmm, there’s something about a warm bowl of chili on a cold day. It’s flavorful and filling, and it warms you up from the inside. Chili is a versatile dish too, because you can change the ingredients to adjust the flavor, and make it as healthy (or unhealthy) as you like. My chili is in the healthy category since I make it with ground turkey and I throw in a few veggies too. My husband, who is a chili purist, told me that he loves my chili but he wishes that I would stop adding vegetables – to which I laughed heartily. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your liking. The spices in this recipe are kid-friendly, but you may want to add some of your favorite hot sauce if you want to turn up the heat.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package ground turkey (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 of a large onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed (kidney beans are good too)
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and cook thoroughly (about 7 minutes), while stirring to break up the large pieces.

Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to the pot and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.

Stir in the diced tomatoes (with juice), water, tomato paste, cannellini beans, and pinto beans. Bring to a boil and cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. A few minutes before serving, stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Serve hot, with your favorite corn bread.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

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This healthy and hearty slow-cooker soup not only tastes great, but is a breeze to prepare. Simply toss the ingredients into your Crockpot in the morning, and you will have a warm and flavorful dinner waiting for you when you get home! You don’t have to remember to thaw out the chicken the day before either . . . just add the chicken to the Crockpot while it’s still frozen and the chicken will turn out completely tender by dinner time. This makes about 8 servings.

3-4 frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 10 oz can red enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen corn
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Tortilla chips
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, etc)
Lime wedges

Add the frozen chicken, diced tomatoes (with juice), enchilada sauce, onion, green chilies, garlic, and chicken broth to a Crockpot. Stir in the cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, bay leaf, frozen corn, and cilantro. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.

Before serving, remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred using two forks. Return the shredded chicken back to the Crockpot.

Serve the soup with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, and lime wedges.

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My husband had a hankering for cioppino this week, so I found this great recipe and made a few changes to suit our taste. Cioppino is a flavorful broth overflowing with all kinds of yummy seafood. It looks somewhat intimidating to make, but it’s actually pretty simple – and the results are worth the effort! This recipe will serve 4-5 people.

1/3 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 cup white wine
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 pound bay scallops
9 small clams
9 mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 whole cooked crab or 3/4 cup crabmeat
1 small cod fillet, cubed
Cracked black pepper
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Melt butter in a large stockpot, over medium-low heat. Add the onions and parsley and cook slowly, stirring occasionally until onions are soft.

Add the garlic, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, basil, thyme, oregano, and wine to the pot. Mix well. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes.

Add the clams and mussels to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until clams open. Add the shrimp, scallops, crab, and cod, and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Ladle soup into bowls and add fresh cracked pepper and a few dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Serve with warm, crusty bread!

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Butternut Squash Soup

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My friend Melissa gave me this recipe for a wonderful fall soup! It would be a perfect first course to your holiday dinner, or add a salad and some crusty bread for a comforting meal. Choose your favorite apples for this recipe. I used Braeburn, but Gala or Fuji would work well too.

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 butternut squash (approx. 2 lbs) peeled, seeded and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 large apples peeled, seeded and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup apple juice
4 cups vegetable stock (plus 1 cup for thinning the soup)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Sour cream (optional)
Croutons (optional)

In a large pot, sauté the onion in the butter until the onion is soft. Add the butternut squash, apples, and nutmeg and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until butternut squash starts to get soft and fuzzy looking around the edges, about 12 minutes.

Add the apple juice and vegetable stock, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the bay leaf and thyme and simmer until squash is soft about 25 minutes.

Puree the soup with a stick blender, or in batches using a regular blender. Add additional vegetable stock in small increments until you reach your desired consistency. Serve hot with a dollop (I love that word) of sour cream and croutons, if desired.

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Sausage and Kale Soup

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Thanksgiving has come and gone, and no matter how delicious your turkey was, it does tend to lose its appeal after eating it five meals in a row. If you’re ready for something different, whip up a batch of this delicious sausage and kale soup. Flavorful Italian sausage combines with potatoes and tender kale (not the kind you see at salad bars) to create a satisfying main dish soup. Be sure to use Yukon Gold potatoes because they have dense flesh and hold their shape when cooked.

6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 package Italian sausage links (mild or spicy)
4-5 Yukon Gold potatoes
1 bunch fresh dinosaur kale (a.k.a. Lacinato kale)
1/4 cup evaporated milk
Ground black pepper to taste

Wash the potatoes and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Cut the thick portion of the stem from the kale leaves and then chop the leaves into 1-inch pieces. Add the chopped leaves to a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Set the potatoes and kale aside.

Remove casing (a.k.a. skin) from sausage by scoring the casing with a sharp knife down the length of the sausage and then peeling off the casing. Add the sausage and chopped onion to a frying pan and cook over medium heat, using a spatula to break up the sausage into small pieces. Continue to cook until the sausage is no longer pink.

Place the cooked sausage and onion in a large pot. Add the chicken broth and potatoes, bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are almost tender.

Add the chopped kale and continue cooking until kale is tender.

Remove the soup from heat, stir in the evaporated milk, and season with black pepper to taste. Serve hot with your favorite Italian bread.

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