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!

Baked Oatmeal (GF & Dairy-Free)

Baked oatmeal has been one of my favorite breakfasts for years because you can use any kind of fruit, it’s good hot and cold, and you can pack it for weekends at the lake or weekdays at work! My friend’s mom shared this recipe with me in high school and I’ve been making it ever since. However, it was hard to skip the step where you spoon brown sugar all over the top and broil it to caramelize, and still get the same delicious result. Remember a few posts back where I discovered coconut sugar? It works here, too!

This is another very customize-able recipe where you can use whatever you have on hand and alter to your dietary needs. Use whatever milk works best for you, omit the nuts if you have to, pick whatever fruit’s in season, and you have yourself a delicious pan of steamy, crunchy, fruity oatmeal  ready to enjoy!

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I used fresh cranberries this time since I still had some in the freezer from Thanksgiving, but I’ve used everything from fresh apricots to Trader Joe’s dried cherries in the past and have always gotten delicious results. You can use any combination of fruit that’s in season or whatever you have frozen on hand! Blueberries, peaches… try any combo you like. Just be sure to keep the ratios similar per the recipe below.

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Baked Oatmeal

Makes 4-6 servings

2 C old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 C milled flax seed or Chia seeds

2 C fresh fruit (I used 1 diced apple and 1 C frozen blueberries)

1/4 C dried fruit (cranberries or cherries work best)

1/3 C slivered almonds

1/3 C agave syrup or honey

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 C milk of choice

1 t vanilla extract

1/3 C coconut sugar

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Method:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray 8 x 8 pan with nonstick spray. Measure oats into prepared pan, then sprinkle flax or Chia seeds on top. Add fruit next, in even layer, and almonds next if using. Squeeze agave syrup or honey evenly over everything in your pan.

In medium bowl, whisk eggs, and add milk and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Carefully pour over oatmeal and fruit mixture. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes, until set in middle.

Set oven to broil. Sprinkle coconut sugar evenly on top of baked oatmeal and put back in oven for 2-3 minutes. Do not leave the kitchen!!! The broiler can make your oatmeal go from beautiful and caramelized to burnt in a matter of seconds. You just want the sugar on top to melt a little bit.

Serve warm and enjoy! This is great cold, too.

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!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (GF, Nut-Free & Dairy-Free)

I have always loved zucchini bread because of its moist, wonderful texture, but it’s never really been a go-to bread recipe when I’m baking. However, this past summer, my coworker Bob brought me a 7 pound zucchini, and the first thing I thought to make was zucchini bread! Although 7 pounds seems huge, when I shredded it in my food processor it was even more than I expected. I was literally drowning in zucchini. I used about 1/2 of the zucchini right away, but froze the rest in quart size ziploc bags for when Winter came and 7 lb vegetables were no longer in surplus.

These muffins are great for so many reasons. They’re moist, full of rich chocolate, super soft, and best of all, very allergy-friendly! I brought these to a girls’ brunch a few months ago and they were a hit. When I remembered I still had leftover shredded zucchini in the freezer, I instantly thought of these muffins. I was a little hesitant to use anything other than fresh zucchini, but these turned out as delicious as I remembered.

Whether you’re looking for a perfect on-the-go breakfast recipe, or trying to sneak more vegetables into your picky kids’ (or husband’s) diet, these muffins are the answer! Give them a try- I hope you love them as much as I do!

Recipe notes: If you’re using zucchini that’s been frozen, you will have a lot of excess moisture, so be sure to squeeze most of the water out or your muffins will be sad and soggy. In the recipe below, I mention dairy-free chocolate chips, but you can use whatever kind of chocolate chips you’d like and still get the same results. Dairy-free (vegan) chocolate chips can be found at Whole Foods!

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Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 C dairy-free chocolate chips, divided

2 C grated zucchini, excess water squeezed out

2 eggs, beaten

6 T coconut or vegetable oil

1 t vanilla extract

1 1/2 C Gluten Free flour blend

1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 t baking soda

12 t baking powder

1 C coconut sugar

Method:

Preheat oven to 325° and line standard muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

Melt 1/4 C of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring between to ensure they’re melting evenly. Set aside to cool sightly.

In a large bowl, add grated zucchini, eggs oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Add melted chocolate chips and whisk again until fully combined.

In separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and remaining 1/4 C of chocolate chips. Make a well in center of bowl and slowly pour in wet mixture. Fold together with rubber spatula until incorporated, making sure to not over-mix.

Pour into prepared muffin tin and bake for 22-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean. You don’t want to over bake these or they’ll be dry!

Tip** Store these in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in sandwich size ziploc bags for busy weekday mornings!

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Baking pies always brings me back to my pie hustler days (you can read about in my About Me page ). While I’m a fan of a good pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, most traditional recipes call for a can of sweetened condensed milk. I thought that by offering to bring the pumpkin pie to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year, I could ensure it’s dairy-free so I could enjoy without feeling awful the next day.

I  spent the past few days recipe testing to get this pie absolutely perfect before sharing with you all, and after getting feedback from my trusted panel of taste-testers (my lovely coworkers), this pie was confirmed to be just as delicious as any dairy-filled pumpkin pie! I’m convinced no one in my family will notice, and those who do probably cheated and read this post. Give this spin on tradition a try! I promise you’ll be amazed.

A couple things to note…

I experimented with Gluten-Free pie crust while I was recipe testing, but it was very hard to roll out. The pie pictured below was made using regular all-purpose flour because being Gluten-Free is a dietary preference for me and not a food sensitivity/allergy issue.

If you want to make this pie Gluten-Free, you can substitute the all-purpose flour out for Gluten-Free flour mix, but be warned that it is very prone to tearing! You could more easily make mini pies in a cupcake tin, but if you want one full pie, I would suggest buying the crust. Trader Joe’s now carries pre-made Gluten-Free pie crusts! Pick one up and call it a day.

I had some whole nutmeg in my spice drawer, so I used a micro plane to freshly grate some into the filling. This is by all means not necessary, but definitely provided some extra wonderful warm spice notes 🙂

If you’re feeling fancy and want to decorate with some cut outs like I did, bake them on a lined cookie sheet separately from the pie, and then add once the pie is cooled. If you add the raw cut outs to the pie and then cook, you’ll end up with some veeeeery crisped designs due to the hour-long bake time.

If you’re feeling extra fancy and want to top your beautiful pie with sugared cranberries, here’s the instructions I used. They were quick to make and turned out so pretty!

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Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

For the filling:

3 large eggs

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)

1 C full-fat coconut milk

1 t vanilla extract

3/4 C brown sugar

1/2 t sea salt

1 1/2 t ground cinnamon

2 t pumpkin pie spice

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

For the crust:

**Note that this recipe makes a double crust so you have extra dough for cut outs. Feel free to half it if you are keeping it simple!

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour

8 T vegan butter, chilled (I use Earth Balance)

6 T vegetable shortening, chilled

1 t salt

2 T sugar

5-6 T ice water

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Method:

In food processor, combine all crust ingredients besides water, and pulse to combine. Add water 1 T at a time, until it starts to ball together. (This happened at about 5 1/2 T for me). Turn onto floured surface, and smush together into two flat disks. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Use rolling pin to roll out first disk of chilled dough on floured surface, ensuring that it’s at least 2 inches wider than the pie plate you’re using. I use this silicone baking mat, and love that it tells me when my crust is rolled to the correct size!

Carefully transfer rolled pie crust to pie plate and crimp edges.

In large bowl, whisk all filling ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Tip** Use pie crust shield or make your own out of aluminum foil to keep your crust from getting too brown!

Let the pie cool for at least two hours before serving, and top with dairy-free whipped topping or ice cream. Enjoy!