Our Favorite Chili

We’ve had a couple weeks of unseasonably warm weather here in Chicago, but just today, flurries and terrible wind chills are back reminding us that it’s definitely still Winter. It’s days like today where I feel an especially strong obligation to provide you with comforting recipes like our favorite chili.

This recipe is special to me specifically because of how long it has been in the works! Matt and I have tried countless variations of this recipe, and this last batch was The. Best. Ever. All of our attempts have ranged from decent to way too spicy to totally delicious, and I’m ready to share the deets.

The secret lies in the 50/50 mixture of meat, and the balance of acidity and spices. You can definitely alter this recipe based on what kind of beans you prefer (replacing the pinto or kidney beans with black beans if that’s all you have on hand), or by swapping out the red bell pepper for another color, but let me tell you – I am writing this recipe exactly how I made it this last time. This is one recipe where I’ll encourage you to make as written 🙂

Note: Chiles de Arbol are small, dried spicy red peppers that you can find in the Hispanic aisle of most grocery stores. They add an amazing, smoky spice to the chili. If you can’t find them, increase the chili powder by another 1/2 T or to taste.

Try our favorite chili recipe and let me know how it works for you! I love packing the leftovers for weekday lunches, knowing that the protein will keep me full all afternoon long and through my workout. I hope you find this perfectly spicy chili to be as warm and comforting as we do!

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Our Favorite Chili

Makes 6-8 servings

1 lb ground turkey

1 lb grass-fed ground beef

1 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno (I removed half of the seeds, but omit all seeds if you do not like spice), small diced

1 T chili powder

1/4 t cayenne

1 t dried oregano

1/2 t cumin

2 dried Chiles de Arbol

Handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

2 8 oz cans tomato sauce

2 15 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes

1/3 c tomato paste

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Avocado, fresh cilantro, cheese for serving

Method:

Heat large dutch oven over medium heat and add ground turkey and beef. Stir frequently, breaking the meat up as it cooks. Once all pink is gone, drain fat and discard. Add meat back to pan along with tablespoon of olive oil and add onion. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, jalapeno, spices, and dried chiles, stirring for another 2-3 minutes.

Add parsley and all tomato ingredients and stir until combined. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Lastly, add beans and cook for 15 minutes before serving. Top with dairy-free cheese, avocado, and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

Tip** Let your chili simmer as long as possible to give the flavors time to develop. Chili always tastes better the next day because the ingredients have had plenty of time to mingle!

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I tried Trader Joe’s vegan cheese shreds for the first time and they melt really nicely! Great for topping a steamy bowl of chili.

Orange, Fennel & Arugula Salad with Honey Dijon Salmon

Hello and Happy 2019! I hope your year is off to a great start. I spent the past few weeks totally engrossed in new cook books (thanks Mom, Pam, and Janice!) thinking a lot about what I’d like my relationship with food to look like this year, and how to translate that into blog posts/recipes to share with you.

This year, I hope to share more weeknight-friendly meals with you, including more vegetarian and vegetable-heavy options. Check out my new Weeknight Meals tab for more recipes to come!

That being said, what better way to start off than by sharing my favorite salad and salmon recipe? Oranges, fresh fennel slices, and peppery arugula come together for a bright and refreshing salad that’s great on its own, but even better paired with my honey dijon marinated salmon for a healthy weeknight dinner.

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I made this salad for dinner on New Year’s Eve and it was a hit. It is so crunchy, fresh, and delicious.

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I have been using this salmon marinade for years, and love its flavor and versatility – you can use this marinade on lots of other proteins, like chicken! The longer you let the protein marinade, the better, but it can be whipped up and thrown in the oven or on the grill within a half hour if needed.

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Honey Dijon Salmon

Makes about 4 servings

1 lb filet salmon

1/3 C Dijon mustard

1/4 C honey

1/4 C coconut aminos, Tamari, or soy sauce

Method: 

Whisk marinade ingredients together in bottom of glass baking dish. Add salmon flesh side down. Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight. When you’re ready to cook, preheat oven to 350°.  Flip salmon over, flesh side up, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until internal temp of salmon is 145°, and salmon flakes easily with fork.

Tip** If using same cold glass pan to cook salmon, put pan in oven right away before oven is preheated. This will prevent the glass pan from breaking due to temperate change.

Orange, Fennel & Arugula Salad

Makes about 4 servings

For the salad:

3 oranges, peeled and sliced into half moons + 1 orange for vinaigrette

1 bulb fennel, rinsed, halved, and thinly sliced

4 C fresh arugula

Fennel fronds for serving (optional)

For the vinaigrette:

1 shallot, finely diced

1 T Dijon mustard

1/4 C good olive oil

2 t orange zest

Juice from 1/2 orange

Juice from 1/2 lemon

2 T honey

Method:

Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and set aside.

Assemble salad with fennel on bottom, then oranges, and arugula on top. Lightly drizzle vinaigrette and toss together. Serve immediately.

Tip** If you want to make the salad ahead of time, keep vinaigrette on side until you’re ready to serve.

Pork Posole (GF & Dairy-Free)

Lately, I’ve been receiving complaints from my roommate (husband) that we don’t eat enough Mexican food. This isn’t true, but I humored him because I’m nice, and thumbing through my new copy of  Ina Garten’s latest cookbook Cook Like a Pro gave me some ideas. I came across her Pork Posole recipe and it sounded soooo much better than making tacos again. 

I think I mentioned in my Pork Carnitas recipe that I was never using boneless pork tenderloin again, but I lied! This is the perfect cut of meat for this hearty, healthy take on the traditionally slow- cooked pork soup. Cutting the pork before cooking it sounds messy- and it is, but it really speeds up the cooking process and results in perfect bite-sized pieces.

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If you aren’t familiar with hominy, don’t leave it out! They are essentially little puffy, tender, delicious corn things. I don’t really understand, but I love them and they really make the posole what it is. You can find hominy in the Hispanic/International aisle of most grocery stores, and it usually comes in a big 25 oz can. If you can only find 15 oz cans, use two!

Ina adds corn chips to the soup before it simmers so they can break down and become part of the liquid, but I prefer just adding them at the end. Do whatever sounds good to you! Whichever way you make it, this posole is sure to earn a spot in your weeknight rotation. Top it with avocado slices, lime wedges, fresh cilantro, and cheese if you like and enjoy this flavorful bowl of comfort.

Pork Posole

Makes about 6 servings

Good olive oil

1 1/2 lb lean, boneless pork loin 1/2 inch cubed

1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and small diced

2 orange or yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 t chili powder

1/2 t dried oregano

4 C chicken stock

1 C salsa verde

25 oz can white hominy, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Sea salt & pepper

For serving:

Corn tortilla chips

Avocados

Lime wedges

Cilantro

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Method:

Heat 3 T olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Add pork and saute for 10 minutes until lightly browned on all sides. Move cooked pork and juices to a separate bowl. Heat another 2 T olive oil in dutch oven and saute onions for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add jalapeno and bell peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and oregano and cook for another minute. Return pork and juices to pot.

Add chicken stock and salsa verde and bring to a low boil. Stir in hominy, black beans, 2 t sea salt, 1 t pepper, and simmer partially covered for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with corn tortilla chips, sliced avocado, lime wedges, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers (GF & Dairy-Free)

The weeks sandwiched in between holidays feel so hectic and full of dining out, wine-sipping, and cookie-filled gatherings. No complaints here. But on weeknights when we don’t have much going on, I find myself looking for easy and healthy options to balance our holiday diets. I became a huge fan of stuffed peppers when I completed the Whole30 last January, because they’re super versatile and come together easily, and thought switching them up with fresh Mexican flavors would do the trick.

These Mexican stuffed peppers are not Whole30-approved, but can be adapted by removing the beans and corn and maybe adding tomatoes or other vegetables instead. You can also alter this recipe based on you and your family’s dietary restrictions- for example, my husband has a way better relationship with dairy than I do, so I covered his peppers with shredded Mexican cheese. For my vegetarian friends, use quinoa instead of meat! This would be an awesome meatless dinner.

This recipe was the perfect amount for two dinner portions and two letover lunches, so it should be just the right amount for a family of four. I made some extra brown rice on the side, so I’d have enough to pack for the lunches. These peppers would be extra delicious with avocado crema or guacamole, but the avocados I had on hand were very unripe 😦 we topped our peppers with Frontera’s green salsa and it was delicious that way.

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Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Makes 4 servings

1 lb natural ground turkey

1/2 t ground pepper

1/4 t cayenne

1 t smoked paprika

1/2 t chili powder

1 t garlic powder

1/2 t cumin

4 whole bell peppers, seeds removed and cut in half lengthwise

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Method

Preheat oven to 425°

Cook the ground turkey until no longer pink. Add ground pepper, cayenne, smoked paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder and mix to combine.

Arrange bell pepper halves in 9 x 13 casserole dish and fill with turkey mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes until peppers have softened.

Top with parsley, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, or all the above. Enjoy!

Copycat Chicken Shawarma

This Thanksgiving, I threw all caution to the wind and loaded up on my Grandma Lynne’s famous stuffing and gravy, my mother-in law’s molasses rolls, my brother-in-law’s amazing deep fried turkey, and my mom’s home made green bean casserole. Then the uncomfortable full-ness sank in and I told myself I was never eating again.

Because that’s crazy talk and my “never eating again” only lasts about 30 minutes, I decided to put together one of my favorite Whole 30, veggie-full meals. This copycat chicken shawarma inspired by A Clean Bake is one of my all-time favorite slow cooker recipes and stars in this fresh and balanced meal. It can be topped with anything you have in the fridge, and the more color you add, the more effective the detox! I can just feel the pumpkin pie coma fading away…

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My favorite way to enjoy it is served on top of a bed of cauliflower rice, and loaded with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, radishes, pickled red onions, some tahini, lemon juice, and lots of freshly chopped parsley and mint. I could seriously eat it every day. You could also throw this in a pita with some hummus, or in a lettuce wrap.

The best part is you can make the chicken whenever, and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to fry it up with the spice mixture, which makes it perfect for weeknight meals! Be sure to read the instructions all the way through; the spice mixture isn’t used until the end of the cooking process.

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Copycat Chicken Shawarma

Makes 4-6 servings

For the chicken:

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 C water

For the spice mixture:

2 t ground cumin

1 t lemon zest

1/2 t chili powder

1/2 t smoked paprika

1/2 t garlic powder

1/4 t sea salt

1/4 t pepper

1/4 t  ground turmeric

1/4 t ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

Method:

Add chicken and water to slow cooker and set on low for 6-7 hours. Let cool, shred, and set aside or store in fridge until ready to serve.

Combine all seasoning ingredients in small bowl and set aside.

Heat a sided skillet on medium heat and add 1/4 C olive oil. Once hot, add cooked chicken to pan and sprinkle half of seasoning mixture over chicken. Let cook for 1 minute, then turn chicken and coat other side with remaining seasoning mixture. Cook for another 2 minutes, then turn chicken one more time to ensure all seasoned chicken has made contact with oil in pan.

Tip** Try to avoid moving the chicken too much- you want it to get nice and crispy!

 

 

Matty’s Slow Cooker Carnitas

I’m all about meal prep. This usually takes place on Sundays before I grocery shop, so I can methodically buy only what we need and ensure we have enough week-night meals planned. When doing so, I plan a couple slow cooker meals that you can “set and forget,” because there is nothing better than coming home to dinner already made.

Often times, I have lofty intentions of getting dinner in the slow cooker before I leave for work. However, if it’s a busy weekday morning, I end up forgetting- rushing out the door without prepping anything. I would say this happens about 90% of the time. By the time my coffee kicks in and I remember, I’m sitting at my desk at work and can’t do anything about it. Because my husband is a full-time grad student at the moment, he is usually still at home, so I end up texting him a list of ingredients with some vague directions and hope for the best. This may sound risky, but it has resulted in some of the most amazing tacos we’ve ever had, and this was one of those instances.

When I got home from work and checked the slow cooker, I knew he had done it again. The pork was falling apart, but not overcooked, and was full of flavor. The last step was to broil the carnitas for a wonderful crispy crunch. This only took an extra few minutes and is worth dirtying an extra pan, trust me. We stuffed our faces with tacos and agreed that these were the best. Ever.

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I have been attempting slow-cooked pork for years and never really got the results I wanted. Either they were short of flavor, turned out too dry, or both. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered I was using the wrong cut of meat all along! I was trying to be healthy by using lean cuts of pork such as tenderloins, without realizing that the fat is essential to a flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth result. Last week, I bought a boneless pork butt and came to terms with all its glorious fat content and will never look back.

This pork is delicious in tacos, but can be used on top of nachos, in burritos, or on top of a taco salad like I did (lettuce wraps were a litttttle too messy.) Top it with lots of fresh cilantro, salsa, and some of my pickled red onions and you have yourself a perfect taco night!

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Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas:

Makes about 6 servings

3-4 lb boneless pork butt, excess fat trimmed off and cut into large chunks

2 t salt

1 t pepper

1 t ground cumin

1 t dried oregano

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

Juice from 2 limes

Juice from 1 orange

1 C water

Method:

Add meat to slow cooker and top with the rest of the ingredients, stirring to evenly distribute. Set on low for 7 hours.

Turn slow cooker off after 7 hours and set oven to broil. Remove meat from slow cooker and spread into even layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, strain liquid from slow cooker into medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half.

Pour desired amount of reduced juice over pork and serve. Enjoy!

Tip** Pickled red onion recipe in next post!

 

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta (Vegan & GF)

I’ve been craving mac and cheese for about 2 years now. Sad, I know. But I’ve decided that the effects cheese and milk have on my system aren’t worth the temporary satisfaction of a hot, steamy, comforting, cheesy, melty, delicious bowl of mac and cheese. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyways. However, I recently discovered the plethora of GF pasta options available in grocery stores like Whole Foods and ALDI, and  knew that I could find a way to fill the mac and cheese void in my life. Butternut squash is (obviously) the answer. I know there are still some of you out there who don’t want to be members of my butternut squash fan club *ahem, Matt* but let me tell you, this recipe is a game changer.

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Let’s talk about some of the seemingly unnecessary/obscure ingredients I use in my recipes, because I promise that once you stock up on them, you’ll use them all the time…

  1. Nutritional yeast- This is a staple for your dairy-free pantry that mimics the flavor of Parmesan cheese in any dish, and is full of protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
  2. Smoked paprika- I never knew or cared about the difference between regular paprika and smoked paprika until our trip to Southern Spain last year. Smoked paprika is used in lots of traditional vegetable dishes like chickpea stew, and as soon as I got home I bought a jar. A little goes a long way to create a smoky heat that brings out the flavor of just about any vegetable. Buy some!
  3. Roasted garlic- I know this seems like an extra step, but the flavor of roasted garlic is mild with this wonderfully creamy texture that makes a big difference in your finished product. I roast a couple heads at a time and keep them refrigerated in a jar so I can squeeze a couple cloves into whatever I’m cooking. I have instructions below.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta

Makes about 4 servings

1/4 C raw cashews

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1 package cubed butternut squash (about 3C)

3 cloves garlic

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

2 T nutritional yeast (optional)

1 t onion powder

1/2 t smoked paprika

1/4 t chili powder

1/4 – 1/3 C vegetable broth or water

1 package GF pasta

Optional roasted vegetables for serving (Brussels sprouts or kale)

Sriracha (optional)

Method:

Soak cashews in 1 C of boiling water for at least 30 minutes, until they soften and absorb a good amount of the water.

Preheat oven to 375°. Toss cubed butternut squash with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast in oven for about 30 minutes until tender. Remove from oven and set aside. (If you are making roasted vegetables to go with your pasta, make those now, too.)

Roasted garlic- Slice the very top off of a whole head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes until fragrant.

Prepare GF pasta according to package instructions. Do NOT over cook!

In a blender, combine roasted butternut squash, drained cashews, about 3 cloves of roasted garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and seasonings and pulse until combined. Add broth or water a little at a time and continue to pulse until you reach desired consistency (I left mine pretty thick).

Combine cooked pasta with sauce and top with roasted vegetables of choice and sriracha, hot sauce of choice, or crushed red pepper. Enjoy!