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.

Ristorante Franchino, Praiano, Italy

As the year comes to a close and I search for some 2019 inspo to share with you all, I thought I would revisit one of the highlights of my past year. At the end of May, our amazing mother (#mommamoll) took us on a girls trip to Paris and Italy. It was a trip we’ll never forget, where we met the friendliest people, enjoyed delicious food, and took in breathtaking views. The very last night of our trip, we splurged and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Ristorante Franchino, where we took in the sunset and polished off 2? 3? bottles of local white wine, and where my little sister earned her alter-ego as “Masha.”

We flew into Paris because it was the most affordable flight, and only stayed for two days before hopping on our next flight to Naples, Italy.  From there, we traveled to our final destination, Praiano. A lot of people visit the Amalfi Coast, and stay there because it’s more well-known than surrounding areas. However, Praiano is just a 30 minute drive west of Amalfi, and I would argue just as beautiful, but much more relaxing. Praiano is home to numerous local artists, a “world famous” night club (sorry, another joke meant for my sisters), and amazing sunsets like the one below.

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The view from our Air Bnb patio on our first full day in Praiano

Looking back on our trip, I realize we spent 6 days basically taking pictures of every single thing we saw because no matter where you looked, it just got prettier and prettier. The beach was beautiful, but very rocky and full of sea glass. I spent a few afternoons hunched over collecting different glass and pottery pieces, effectively tanning only my upper back. We rented a small boat to take us out for a day, navigated by our friend Carmelo, and seeing the different coasts from the water was spectacular. This was arguably the best day of the trip.

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The view from our daily walk to the beach (photo cred: Masha)

Although we enjoyed many memorable meals in Paris and Italy, our dinner at Ristorante Franchino stands out for a few reasons- the views, the service, and the mouth-watering food. We ate at normal “American” dinner time most of the trip, so we were the first to be seated on the patio overlooking the water and coastline. We were brought little, soft pillows of dough that reminded me of focaccia bread, but sooo fresh and flavorful, along with complimentary Prosecco to start. We ordered a bottle of white wine from Ravello, and toasted to the last night of our trip.

I ordered calamari fritti, and was happily surprised that it was a mix of different fish because I learned to love sardines over the course of the trip. I learned that sardines come with most calamari dishes in Italy, and are something I would never order at home, but my God were they good. Then, I did the typical Annie move and instead of ordering my own entree, put my fork in everyone else’s meal so I had room for dessert.

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For dessert, we ordered hazelnut gelato covered in chocolate ganache, and I fought everyone’s spoons off because it was the most decadent dessert I’d ever had. It was simple, but so beautifully put together. This was definitely not dairy-free, so I enjoyed every second of it.

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This was definitely a trip we will never forget, and our last dinner spent at Ristorante Franchino was the perfect way to end it. If you are traveling to or near the Amalfi Coast, please don’t hesitate to reach out- I have so many recommendations!

I will be back in January with new focus and LOTS of new recipes to share with you. Happy New Year and thank you for all the support and feedback over the past few months. I wish you all health, peace, and happiness in the upcoming year!

XOXO, Annie

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!

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!

 

 

Chicken Pot Pie (DF, GF)

There are few things as comforting and satisfying as something home-made, fresh out of the oven on a cold and rainy fall day. I have been craving chicken pot pie and finally mustered the courage to try a grain-free, dairy-free version. If you know me, you know I LOVE making pie, but this one presented a challenge with its absence of gluten to keep the crust pretty and in-tact.

If you don’t need to make this recipe dairy-free/gluten-free/paleo, go ahead and buy a store-bought crust to save time. You can make this a double crust or single crust pie!

If you’re feeling up to the challenge, I swear it’s worth it! The dough was easy to pull together, but not as easy to roll out, so I’ve included some helpful tips below.

I made chicken breasts in the crock pot yesterday, and had them shredded and ready to go in the fridge, which saved me a lot of time during prep and clean-up. The filling is filled with colorful veggies, herbs, and the coconut milk/chicken broth combo is so hearty. It turned out amazing. (I had to stop myself from snacking on it while I rolled out the crust). I swear you won’t notice the absence of dairy in this dish.

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Chicken Pot Pie (dairy-fee & gluten-free)

makes one 8″ round pie

For the crust:

**single crust recipe

1 C almond flour

1/4 C tapioca flour

1/4 C coconut flour

1/2 t salt

9 T cold Earth Balance vegan butter, or 9 T cold ghee

1/2 t dried oregano

1/2 t dried thyme

1 t onion powder

1 t garlic powder

2-3 T ice cold water

Method:

Combine all ingredients besides water in food processor, pulsing until dough begins to lump together. Slowly add water, 1 T at a time, stopping when all dough comes together. You don’t want to add too much, or it’ll be tricky to manage when rolling out. Scrape dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and flatten into a disk. Cover completely with wrap and set in fridge for about 1 hour.

For the filling:Pie4

2 C cooked chicken (rotisserie chicken works great)

2 herb cubes (from my last post!)

3 medium carrots chopped

3 stalks celery chopped

1 medium yellow onion chopped

1/4 C green peans or green beans (I used frozen)

2 garlic cloves minced

1/4 C arrowroot powder or corn starch

1 C light coconut milk

3/4 chicken broth

Salt & pepper

1/4 C chopped fresh parsley

Method:

Heat 2 herb cubes (or 2 T oil) in dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, celery, and onions. Saute for 2 mins or until onions turn translucent. Add in frozen (or fresh) peas/green beans and garlic, and saute for another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add arrowroot powder or cornstarch and mix to coat vegetables. Slowly add coconut milk and chicken broth, making sure to scrape bottom of pan. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a low boil. Continue to heat and mix until simmering and you see the mixture thicken. Spoon filling into bottom of pie dish and set aside to cool slightly. Sprinkle filling with fresh parsley.

Heat oven to 350°

If you cheated and bought pie crust at the store (jk I’m not judging), make sure it’s nice and defrosted so it’s easy to work with. If you made it per my recipe above, take it out of the fridge and roll out between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. DO NOT attempt to roll it out on your counter- GF dough is very sticky.

Transfer dough on top of pie and pinch around the edges to seal to the pie pan. Brush it with a little egg wash if you’re feeling fancy, and prick a few holes in the top for ventilation. Place in middle of preheated oven with a cookie sheet underneath to catch any filling that bubbles over. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Serve warm with more fresh herbs on top. Enjoy!

The Denver Central Market

I’ve been a little behind on posting because I’m in Denver for work. However, I’ve loved getting to know the different areas surrounding the downtown and it’s been lots of fun trying all the amazing restaurants and bars Denver has to offer. My good friend Annie lives in Denver and spent Friday night showing me around her neighborhood, the River North (RiNo) area. We ordered fun cocktails at Death & Co, ate dinner at Finn’s Manor, which is an indoor/outdoor bar with multiple food trucks to choose from, and stopped in and out of some bars on our way down Larimer St where Oktoberfest was taking place. As you can see below, we do not like each other and we did not have any fun.

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Tonight, I brought my coworkers back through the River North district and we decided to stop for dinner in Denver Central Market. This airy marketplace is full of different stations, including a full-service butcher, a bar, a candy store, bakery, and multiple meal options. It was exactly what we were looking for and lent itself to our different tastes and dietary restrictions.

The dinner we enjoyed here was so fresh, colorful, and wholesome. My friend Grace ordered a Caesar salad with vegan cashew dressing and (non-vegan) Parmesan 🙂 I ordered dinner at the grill station- half a free-range chicken, roasted vegetables, and a beet salad which was perfectly balanced with fennel and red onion. The weather in Denver was beautiful yesterday, and it felt so nice to sit outside with a glass of rosé  and eat a plate (mostly) full of vegetables.

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Caesar Salad with vegan cashew dressing
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Half chicken with roasted vegetables, beet and fennel salad and arugula

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The market also had a florist section with bunches of vibrant fresh flowers. I know that if I lived near, I’d stop here multiple times a week on my way home from work 🙂 The block the market is located on is full of impressive mural art and many cute shops and bars. If you’re ever in Denver looking for a great place to explore, I highly recommend spending some time this neighborhood.