Chipotle Black Bean Chili

FullSizeRenderThose who like it extra spicy will love this black bean chili recipe I got from Café Latte in St. Paul, Minnesota a few years back. A reader requested the recipe from the restaurant when I wrote a Q & A food column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Café Latte obliged—but in restaurant-sized quantities. So I had to do some fancy division and subtraction to get down to a recipe I could fit in my largest soup pot. This is still a massive amount of soup, but it always gets gobbled up in a hurry. Served over a bowl of brown rice, it’s a filling, satisfying meal. If you can take the heat! (Which I can’t, so I make this as a gift of love to my husband and sons who DO like their food on the spicy side.)

Serves 10-12

4 (14 ounce) cans black beans
1 (14 ounce) can pinto beans
1 (14 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
2 )14 ounce) cans corn
1½ cups yellow onions, diced
2½ cups carrots, peeled and chopped
2½ tablespoons chili powder
1½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
6 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable soup base or chicken soup base*
Half of 7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree or sauce
2 cups canned, roasted red peppers, chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice

Garnishes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream

Drain and rinse beans and corn. In large Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onions until translucent. Add carrots and continue to sauté until carrots are tender to the fork. Add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, salt, chipotle powder over onion mixture, and stir to combine. Roast spices and onion mixture for a few minutes. Add water and soup base, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil; then add chipotle peppers, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or puree, roasted peppers, beans, and corn. Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over cooked rice, and top with cilantro and sour cream.

*NOTE: Soup base is a less salty and more flavorful way to make soup than using bouillon or vegetable/chicken stock. It’s first ingredient is vegetable or meat, and salt is lower down the list. I prefer to use this in soup whenever I can, and usually buy only the chicken base as I use it in other soup recipes as well. But if you’re trying to go strict vegetarian with this recipe, you’ll want to buy the vegetable soup base.

Mexicali Pie

IMG_2275This nummy Mexican-inspired casserole is one of my quick dinner go-to recipes for busy weeknights. We love the spice mix, and that it’s meat, a few veggies, and corn bread all in one meal. But we especially love that it’s great left over, and it travels well in a container, even when in a back pack on Mitchell’s back, jostling around as he rides his bike miles and miles to work. Not every dish can pass THAT test.

This recipe was published some time in 2003 in Family Fun, by Ken Haedrich, a contributing editor to that magazine at the time. He gave a list of spices to mix in, but I use Penzey’s chicken taco seasoning mix to make it easy on myself. I’ll give you the author’s spice mix below, in case you don’t do Penzey’s. (Which is easy to order online, so you totally can…) Note that the recipe called for ground beef, but I make it with either ground beef or ground turkey—both taste great.

I used to make a hot cheddar cheese sauce to ladle on top, but lately I’ve liked the fresher taste of an avocado, Greek yogurt, and some cilantro instead. The cheese sauce is great for comfort food in the winter time, but leads to that dreaded need for an afternoon nap. You know, the food coma. Since work-naps are frowned upon at my place of employment, it’s best to keep with the lighter toppings when bringing this for lunch.

Serves 8-10

Casserole
1½ pound ground beef or turkey
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Penzey’s chicken taco seasoning mix *
2 cups frozen corn, thawed, or 1 (15-ounce) can of corn, drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans Mexican or chili-style diced tomatoes, or regular diced tomatoes

Corn Bread Topping
1 cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

Toppings
Diced avocado
Greek yogurt, or sour cream
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Brown ground beef or turkey in a large non-stick skillet, breaking up as it browns. Use a slotted spoon to transfer all the meat to a mixing bowl. Drain all but about 3 tablespoons fat from pan. Put pan on medium-high heat and sauté onions until translucent. Add green pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and the taco seasoning, and stir and toast spices until fragrant. Stir in corn and tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, cover pan, and reduce heat to low. Return meat to the pan and stir to combine.

Ladle meat mixture into a 9″x12″, 3-quart casserole dish, then make cornbread topping. In mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk egg, milk, and oil in separate bowl. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix on low until blended. Pour batter over the meat mixture and even out with the back of a spoon. Bake for 22 minutes or until topping is golden brown, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with suggested cold toppings.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: You can make the meat mixture, put it in the casserole dish, and cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Then pull it out and just mix up the corn bread topping, pour it on, and bake.

*If not using Penzey’s taco seasoning, use:
2 teaspoons chili powder
1½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon flour

Greek Salad

FullSizeRender-1Leery of trying a Greek salad without feta and creamy dressing? I was too, until I tried this recipe from the Whole30 book, and enhanced it a bit to make it more to my liking. (Added spinach, avocado, jicama, cilantro, and used cherry tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes…Also layered instead of tossing.) The fresh ingredients and lemony dressing made for a tasty whole meal salad when topped with grilled, chopped chicken breasts. I made four salads—two to eat right away, and two for lunches the next day, but if you’re making it as a side salad, it should serve 6. We loved it, even without our beloved feta crowning the greens.

Serves 4-6

For dressing:
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

For salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
½ of a 6-ounce bag of ready-to-eat fresh spinach, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
3-4 thick slices of jicama, diced
½ of container of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ of red onion, minced
1 avocado, chopped
1 (12-ounce) jar of Kalamata olives, drained and halved
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Top with:
Grilled chicken breasts, chopped (optional)

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar and whisk or shake. Set aside.

Layer individual serving plates or large platter with lettuce and spinach. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time, starting with cucumber, and ending with cilantro. Drizzle with dressing. Add cooked chicken, if desired. Serve.

NOTE: This salad was great second day, not something you can usually say about a pre-dressed salad. I think that layering ingredients and drizzling dressing on top instead of tossing helped things stay fresh. It also helps avoid the dreaded gravity salad situation—when all the delightful heavy ingredients (like cukes and avocados) sink to the bottom, leaving only greens on top. Store in airtight container if making for next day.

Hot Mexican-style Spinach Dip

FullSizeRenderWith the Big Game coming up, thought I’d share this recipe for a creamy, hot spinach appetizer that’s a step above the Knorr’s soup and mayo dip we’ve all feasted on. (Remember when it was all the rage to serve that dip in a hollowed out round loaf of bread? That was looooong before Pinterest, so only the hostesses with the mostest were aware of that little trick.) I got this recipe from a friend many moons ago, and dug up the recipe to serve at a recent book club. The ladies loved it, and I promised I’d post it.

Chopped spinach used to only be sold in a solid 10-ounce brick, which takes forever and a day to thaw out. Now you can buy a bag of loose chopped spinach, and that’s usually about 16 ounces. It thaws much quicker, so I made this with the 16-ounce bag for my friends. It was extra spinachy, but no one turned into Popeye. So use whichever package you prefer. (I’ve always thought the spinach squished into a block was kind of strange. What’s the point? Storage issues? So you can teach kids geometry while you cook? Not sure on that one…)

Sometimes I divide this into smaller ramekins, and give each guest their own dish of this delicious dip. Avoids that whole double-dipping faux pas, and no one gets an elbow in the face from an over-eager dipper. It only needs about 20 minutes in the oven if you’re doing smaller individual-size portions.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 fresh tomatoes (about 1½ cups), chopped, and excess liquid drained
2 tablespoons canned chopped jalapeño, or 1 fresh jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed, minced
1 (10-ounce or 16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, and excess moisture squeezed out
2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
8-ounce cream cheese, cut into ½-inch pieces, room temperature
1 cup Half and Half cream
2 (2.2 ounce) cans sliced black olives*
1 tablespoon red wine or apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in medium skillet; saute onions until translucent. Add tomatoes and jalapeño, and cook 2 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in spinach, Monty Jack cheese, cream cheese, Half and Half, olives, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into shallow 9″x9″ baking dish and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until bubbly and browned on top. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE: This dip can be prepared ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days prior to baking. You will want to let it sit at room temp for an hour or so before baking.

*Also note that the cheap sliced black olives work best in this dish. I made this again for a gathering after initially posting it, and I used Kalamata olives, thinking that would take it over the top into a new realm of tasty goodness. It did not. They made it taste funky. Morale of the story, don’t waste your Kalamata olives in this dip!

Three-Bean Turkey Chili Con Carne

FullSizeRender-1It’s safe to say soup season is officially upon us, and this staple chili recipe is perfect for a filling lunch or a hearty dinner when the weather turns nippy. This is such a fave, that frankly, I’m surprised I’ve not posted it yet! Although, I need to give a disclaimer here. It used to be a family favorite for for everyone in our household, but when I first went back to working full-time a dozen years ago, I was hard-pressed to come up with recipes to throw on the table in a hurry after 5 p.m. I had previously been freelancing from home, and could putz in the kitchen between projects. That luxury was lost when I had to be elsewhere from 8-5. Sooooooo… I would whip up a batch of this chili in the evening or weekends to have on hand for dinner. But apparently, I relied on this a little too much, and my sons started groaning, “Chili, AGAIN???”

We took a much-needed break from chili, and I found other recipes I could make in a snap when we needed to eat and run to guitar lessons or hockey practice, etc. (Many of those fast favorites have been posted on this blog.) Were my offspring a little harsh on me regarding this dutiful recipe? I think so. Especially when my son Brandon made this for a church youth group chili cook-off fundraiser, and won the coveted first prize trophy—an ancient can of beans glued to a block of wood bearing a “First Prize” plaque. (Helped that he’s stinkin’ cute and there were lots of teen girls voting…) Who’s dissing my chili NOW, huh?

The original recipe came from my Mom’s friend Arlene, one of those women who always makes great food. I believe she got the recipe from the St. Paul Pioneer Press sometime in the 70’s, but I’m not sure. (Feel free to comment, Arlene!) I’ve altered to suit our changing tastes, and now use turkey instead of hamburger, and have added black beans (unheard of among suburbanites in the 70’s), butter beans, more vegetables, and some additional seasonings. Serve this with the Corn Bread recipe previously posted, and you’ve got a winning combination. Maybe even first place.

Serves 10-12 (But freezes well, if that’s more than you need!)

Rating: Easy

1-1¼ pounds ground turkey (or hamburger)
1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped (optional)
3 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (14.5 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans with cumin and chili spices (do NOT drain)
2 cans corn
1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15-16 ounce) can butter beans
1-1½ tablespoons regular chili powder
1 tablespoon chili con carne seasoning (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½-2 teaspoons salt

Toppings

Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped scallions
Sour cream

In large fry pan, cook turkey until no pink remains. Put into large Dutch oven, or other large pot in which you will be simmering your chili. Using same fry pan, sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper, carrots, and zucchini (if using). Sauté until onions are translucent, and other vegetables are slightly softened.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and black beans to pot with cooked turkey. Stir in sautéed onion mixture. In colander, rinse and drain corn, kidney beans, and butter beans. Once drained, add to pot. Stir in chili powder, chili con carne seasoning (if using), cumin, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to simmer, and cook on low for 30-60 minutes. Serve with toppings. Or store in frig to serve later.

Tabbouleh

IMG_0959With my fresh mini herb garden pots going wild, I’ve been looking for ways to use the abundance of mint threatening to take over the deck. The Good Earth restaurant makes a fabulous tabbouleh, and after ordering it recently, I thought it looked easy enough to duplicate at home. I tried Ina Garten’s recipe found on foodnetwork.com, and I liked her process, but found the recipe had too little bulghur in ratio to the herbs and tomatoes, too much pepper, waaaaaaay too much salt (even with using only 2 1/2 teaspoons table salt instead of the kosher salt she recommended*), and far too many scallions. Then I looked at Ellie Krieger’s recipe, and ended up using my own amounts based on the two recipes. Ina puts the dressing into the bulghur wheat while it’s soaking, and Ellie pours in on after the fact. I tried it Ina’s way, and it seemed to have great flavor, with my adjustments to amounts below. I’m sure it would work fine to add the dressing after soaking the wheat, too.

I know this traditional Lebanese dish usually has more herbs and less bulghur than you see here, but we preferred a little more of the ancient grain to temper all the mint and parsley. And my son Justin said that 1 cup mint was over-the-top, and I needed to back off a bit. I liked it, but I love mint so much I want to marry it, so take that into consideration.

This is a versatile dish. It can be served as an appetizer along with toasted pita triangles and spicy hummus, and some sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. Or it can be a salad or side to a meal. Shred or cube some grilled chicken into the bowl, and it’s a meal. The ease of the dish, plus the fresh herbs, make it perfect for warm weather, no matter which part it plays in your meal.

*NOTE: I did some research on kosher salt/sea salt/table salt, and found that you need more kosher or sea salt than table salt if substituting one for the other in a recipe. See this handy conversion chart for your own reference.

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 cups bulghur wheat
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2–1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2–3 tablespoons mined red onion
2–3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and lemon zest. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour. (You can also just pour the boiling water over the bulghur, and add the dressing ingredients later.)

Add the mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, chives, and the pepper; mix well. Season with salt, if necessary; cover and refrigerate. Flavor improves if the tabbouleh is made a few hours ahead of serving time.

Tortillas for Tacos

IMG_0820Once you get the hang of this recipe, these tasty tortillas can be used for a variety of dishes, from tacos, to fajitas, to fresh sandwich wraps. They can be stored in the frig for up to a week (with parchment paper between each tortilla to keep them from sticking together), and briefly reheated on a skillet if needed. I’ve tried to make masa (corn) tortillas from scratch, but did not succeed. I need a Mexican grandma to teach me the trick to those, and sadly, I don’t have one of those in my family tree. (My lineage is more lefse than limonada.) So for now I’m sticking with these flour tortillas for our tacos. Directions and ingredients below are for making tacos or burritos at home to rival Chipotle fare. Seriously. 

Makes 8-10

Tortillas

2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup shortening
1¼ cups boiling water
Vegetable oil

In large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or tines of a fork to combine. Pour in boiled water, starting with 1 cup and stirring with wooden spoon. If mixture is still too dry, add more water until flour pulls away from sides of bowl and dough holds together in a ball.

Dust large cutting board with flour and drop dough onto board. Sprinkle dough with more flour and knead until elastic. Drop dough into oiled bowl (use vegetable oil, not olive oil), and turn to coat. Cover bowl and let dough rest in warm, draft-free spot for 10 minutes.

Heat large griddle or skillet to high and brush with vegetable oil. Drop dough onto floured board and divide into 8 or 10 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and then roll a ball out to about 8 inches in diameter. (The tapered French rolling pin the is perfect tool for making these.) Dough should be very thin, almost to the point of tearing. Carefully move tortilla to hot griddle. Tortilla is ready to flip when large bubbles form on top. Do NOT “pat down” tortillas as they cook! Allow air pockets to form in dough as it cooks. Flip, then brown lightly on reverse side. Remove tortilla to plate and repeat with remaining balls of dough.

Top tacos with:

One recipe Mean Mexican Rice
1 pound ground turkey, cooked in skillet, and seasoned with taco seasoning (My preference is Penzy’s Chicken Taco Seasoning—2 tablespoons per pound of meat.)
Monty Jack cheese
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Tomatoes, chopped
Green peppers, chopped
1 can corn, drained
Scallions, chopped, or red onion, chopped
Black or Kalamata olives, chopped
Lettuce, chopped
Guacamole
Sour cream
Salsa

Tortilla Black Bean Casserole

IMG_0805If tacos married lasagna, this would be their love child: an easy layered Tex-Mex dish that packs a punch of flavor. I found this casserole recipe online at Midwest Living, but I’ve added a can of corn, and more seasonings than the original as it needed a little more zippity-do-da. It assembles in about 15 minutes, and bakes in 30…and as small corn tortillas take the place of pasta, it’s a hit with the gluten-free crowd. The first time I served this, my meat-lovin’ man was shocked when I told him he’d eaten—and enjoyed!—a meatless meal. So it’s a hit with vegetarians and carnivores as well. With only 2-3 of us currently in our household (that third comes and goes a lot), we always have leftovers. That’s why we were happy to find this dish is even better second day, reheated in the microwave. 

Serves 8

Casserole

2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 sweet green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 ounce) can of corn, drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, do not drain
3/4 cup picante sauce or salsa
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, or regular paprika
Pinch each garlic salt and black pepper
12 – 6-inch corn tortillas (these small ones fit best in the rectangular pan)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or white cheddar cheese (I prefer the white cheddar)

Toppings

1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup halved or quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 scallions, sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In a large skillet, sauté onions on high heat until translucent. Add green pepper and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook and stir for additional 1-2 minutes. Add black beans, corn, undrained tomatoes, picante or salsa, cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes.

In 3-quart rectangular baking dish (9″x13″), assemble the ingredients in this order:
1/3 bean mixture
6 corn tortillas
1/2 of the shredded cheese
1/3 bean mixture
6 corn tortillas
1/3 bean mixture
1/2 of the shredded cheese

Top with foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let dish cool and set for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream, tomatoes, cilantro, and sliced scallions.