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.

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!

Quick Pickled Red Onions

I loooooove vinegar- anything sour, really. So when I received some beautiful, large Weck jars as a wedding shower gift last year, I learned how to “quick” pickle vegetables and haven’t needed store-bought since! I love knowing exactly what goes into them, especially because it’s hard to find them without added sugar. I have found that home-made have so much more flavor! This recipes subs traditional white granulated sugar out for pure maple syrup, which lends a tiny bit of sweetness without overpowering the bite of the vinegar that I love so much. I have these big boys at home, but any kind of canning jar will work!

Making these is so easy and fun, and having vibrant, flavorful pickled veggies on hand makes dressing salads, tacos, breakfast sandwiches, etc. up so easy! I call it “quick pickling” because it doesn’t involve the whole canning process (putting jar in boiling water to seal out excess air). I love this method because whatever you’re pickling is ready to enjoy as soon as the next day! They keep for about 2 weeks, although my pickled red onions never last that long.

You can apply this method to just about anything- Jalapenos, cucumbers… even carrots, green beans, or cauliflower! You can play around with different spices such as turmeric, and add fresh or dried herbs. You will be amazed at how easily these quick pickled red onions come together and how fancy they make your meals look!

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Quick Pickled Red Onions

3 medium-sized red onions

1 C distilled white vinegar

1/2 C water

1 T salt

1 t black peppercorns

3  cloves garlic

3 T pure maple syrup

Method:

Slice onions and add to jar. Add vinegar, water, salt, and peppercorns to  medium sauce pan and bring to low boil. Peel garlic cloves and add to boiling mixture, turn off heat, and add maple syrup. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Pour mixture over sliced onions. It should completely cover the onions. If you’re a little short on liquid, add more vinegar.

Seal tightly and store in fridge. You’ll notice the liquid turns a vibrant red and this is how you know they’re ready to enjoy!

Tip** I usually try to make these a couple days before I want to use them, but they should be good 24 hours after making.

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Apricot Ginger Energy Bars (LARA Copycat Bars)

I have been a big fan of LARA bars for a while now; they have a million flavors, are usually on sale for $1 at the grocery store, and are the sole reason I survived the Whole 30 this past January. I love having healthy snack options like energy bars stashed at my desk for weekday afternoons that are dragging, because they save me from caving to the unhealthy options in the break room.

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When my friend Annie texted me to tell me she bought a 5 lb bag of sun dried apricots at Costco and then realized she didn’t like them (I love her), I immediately thought of trying home-made LARA bars. Obviously flattered that I was the first person she thought of, I told her that I’d put her sad, unwanted apricots to use.

You might be wondering why it’s worth making your own at home, and that’s a good question… why mess with a good thing, right? Let me tell you, everything is better home-made. This recipe comes together very easily, and you can literally use whatever dried fruits and nuts you have sitting in your pantry- just keep the ratios similar to the recipe below. They are the perfect snack to toss in your lunch box, to enjoy before or after a workout, or for breakfast on the go.

I love the combination of the apricots with ginger and cinnamon, but you can experiment here as well! Almond extract, fresh ginger…whatever you’re feeling. But the lemon zest is a must. Don’t leave that out!

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Apricot Ginger Energy Bars

Makes 18 bars

3 C dried apricots

3/4 C pitted Medjool dates

1/4 C Chia seeds

1 t cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

1 C raw unsalted cashews

1/2 C unsweetened dried coconut

1 t lemon zest

2 t lemon juice

1/4 C honey

Pinch of salt

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Method:

Line 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick oil.

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until ingredients are well-distributed. Mixture should be sticking together easily. If it’s too dry, add 1 T more honey at a time until it comes together. Turn mixture into prepared pan and spray your (clean!) hands with more nonstick oil. Pat it down in even layer. Place into freezer for 20 minutes.

Take out of freezer and cut into ~18 pieces with chefs knife (I used a Norpro Scraper and it worked perfectly!) I also cut off the scraggly ends and ate those for quality control. Important step. Wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in fridge or freezer. 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!