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.

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!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I thought everyone would be over butternut squash by this point, but I was wrong! I took a poll on my Instagram page last week to decide between Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta and butternut squash soup, and it resulted in a tie. Since I couldn’t possibly let half of you down, here’s the recipe for one of my favorite fall soups, just in time for #soupsunday!

A couple reasons I love this recipe: it takes less than 30 minutes to make, and you don’t have to spend any time stirring a pot or dirtying extra dishes! It’s vegan, but is so wonderfully creamy and filling, you’d never know it. You can use whatever broth you have on hand, but I used vegetable broth to keep this soup vegan. It’s perfect paired with a kale salad or some avocado toast for dinner, and reheats nicely for weekday lunches.

I was extra excited to make this soup today because of my new found affinity for crispy sage leaves. It’s not fall without the inclusion of sage in every vegetable dish, am I right? Taking the extra few minutes to “fry” some of these fuzzy little herbs in ghee to top your soup will result in a delicious and beautiful garnish for your roasted butternut squash soup.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Makes 4-6 servings

6 C butternut squash, diced

1 T olive oil

Salt & pepper

2 C leeks, roughly chopped

5 cloves garlic, roasted

2 1/2 C vegetable broth

1 C full-fat coconut milk

1/4 t crushed red pepper (optional)

Garnishes for soup- pomegranate seeds, crispy sage leaves, pepitas, etc.

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Method:

For crispy sage leaves, heat small skillet on medium heat and add 1 T ghee. Add sage leaves and fry for about 60 seconds on each side. Remove carefully with a fork and set on paper towel to absorb excess ghee.

Preheat oven to 375°. Toss butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, and spread onto rimmed baking sheet in single layer. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and toss squash for even cooking. Add chopped leeks to baking sheet and return to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes until veggies are golden brown.

Tip** If you don’t have roasted garlic already prepared, here are the Cliff Notes from my last post – 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.

In high speed blender, add roasted butternut squash, leeks, garlic, vegetable broth, and coconut milk. Blend for 20 seconds on low, and another 30 seconds on medium.

Tip** If you’d like to serve this soup right away, make sure to heat broth and coconut milk before adding to blender so soup is nice and hot!

If soup appears too thick, add 1/4 C more broth. Season with salt, pepper, and optional crushed red pepper. Enjoy!

Winter Minestrone Soup (GF)

The other night, my mom took me to see Ina Garten live at the Chicago Theater, and let me just say that I didn’t think it was possible to love her more than I did, but I do. It’s possible. She’s the best. She spoke about her almost 50 years of married life with her husband Jeffrey, and about all the experiences throughout her life that led her to where she is now, creating recipes on her farm in the Hamptons every day. Like what is that and how do I get to that point in life?

She acknowledged the existence of the “store bought is fine” meme, which I found very satisfying, and poked fun at herself for the number of times she says “how easy is that?” She spent a lot of time explaining her method for creating and testing recipes. I never realized how much thought and testing she puts into every single recipe, and it really struck a chord with me because she cares so much about how the finished product turns out for home cooks.

I love all her recipes, but this soup is on my list of favorites. I made a few small tweaks, and although she might not appreciate me dissecting her perfectly-crafted recipe to make it gluten and dairy-free, I hope you will! Because now we can alllll cozy up with a bowl of her amazing Winter Minestrone soup this season.

This recipe looks a little daunting at first because of the long list of ingredients, but you will probably already have most of them on hand like I did. One thing to note is that Ina stresses the use of chicken stock, not broth, in this recipe and it does make a noticeable difference. She of course makes her own stock, but let’s not get carried away… “Store bought is just fine.”

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Ina’s Winter Minestrone Soup (made GF and dairy-free)

Makes 6-8 servings

Good olive oil

4 ounces bacon, ½-inch-diced

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

2½ cups butternut squash, peeled and diced

4 cloves minced garlic

1 t dried thyme

2- 14.5 oz cans roasted diced tomatoes

1 carton chicken stock (4 C)

1 bay leaf

Salt & pepper

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans (or Northern beans), drained and rinsed

2 C cooked GF pasta (I used Whole Foods brand chickpea shells)

8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

½ cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons store-bought pesto (make sure it’s dairy-free)

1/4 C nutritional yeast

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Method:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add  bacon and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, the bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. Just before serving, reheat the soup, add the spinach, cook just until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine, pesto, and nutritional yeast. Enjoy!

Tip** if you plan on having leftovers, leave all pasta on side and add to soup as you serve. If you leave it in the soup for multiple days, it’ll absorb too much liquid from the soup and turn to mush.

Fall Vegetable Soup

What makes this soup “Fall Vegetable” soup? One of my favorite things about Fall (if you haven’t noticed, it’s a very long list) is the abundance of butternut squash at the Farmer’s Market. Evanston’s Farmer’s Market is full of vendors from Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, and yesterday their tents were full of colorful squashes and veggies, reminding me of one of my favorite soup recipes! This goes out to my vegetarian friends (all two of them) but can be customized however you like. You can sub chicken broth in for the vegetable broth, or add sausage/chicken/noodles. I love making this soup on Sunday and having it ready for lunches all week.

Tip– if you’d rather not tackle cubing a butternut squash, Trader Joe’s sells them pre-cut in the refrigerated section.

Autumn Veggie Soup

Fall Vegetable Soup

Makes about 6 servings

1 T olive oil

1 medium white or yellow onion

2 large carrots, peeled and cubed

2 1/2 C butternut squash, cubed

2 cups yellow potatoes, cubed

1 zucchini, cubed

2 cloves garlic

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

4 C (one carton) vegetable broth

1 T fresh rosemary

1 T fresh parsley

1 t dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1-2 t crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can kidney beans (drained)

3 C kale

Method:

In large soup pot/Dutch oven, heat olive oil and add onion, carrots, and butternut squash. Cook and stir for 3 mins. Add potatoes, garlic, and zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, broth, and herbs, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When vegetables are tender, add drained kidney beans and kale and heat until kale is wilted. Enjoy!

*freezes very well