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Cold enough for chili. October 6, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Brrr, is it ever cold outside! Silence Dogood here. Temps dropped to the 30s here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA, last night. Our friend Ben and I managed to keep all our plants alive, but yowie kazowie, that is cold for early October. We weren’t so cold inside our cottage home, thank goodness, but it certainly made us start craving cold-weather food, like chili.

Chili is one of those forgiving foods that tends to taste good no matter how you make it or how you serve it. (Our friend Ben loves it over rice, my favorite is over buttered spaghetti with shredded Cheddar, which is apparently called Cincinnati chili, and of course, you could always serve up a big bowl plain.) I have lots of chili recipes, including one with pumpkin puree (it really is delicious, trust me), but here’s a basic recipe:

Saute 2 diced sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, in olive oil. Add 6 teaspoons minced garlic, a generous tablespoon each granulated garlic, salt (we like RealSalt), cumin, dried rosemary, thyme, and basil, and hot sauce (we like Tabasco Chipotle or Pickapeppa for this), plus a minced fresh jalapeno pepper. Add a diced bell pepper (any color), a diced fresh tomato, 2 tablespoons chili powder, and a splash of Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce. Stir, adding splashes of vegetable broth or water as needed to keep everything from sticking, until the onion has clarified.

Now, add a large can (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes and a can of Ro*Tel diced tomatoes with hot peppers or a large can diced tomatoes, and a large can (40.8 ounces) of kidney beans (light red, red, or dark red all work fine). Cook until the tomatoes cook down, stirring as the chili cooks, until it’s the consistency you like. (We like thick chili, like a thick spaghetti sauce.)

Once it’s as thick as you want it, you can turn it down or turn it off while you make the rice or pasta or whatever you’d like to serve it with or over. I think slices of polenta, sauteed or baked until molten with butter and cheese on top, would be delicious floated on chili. If you like yours soupy, adding grated cheese and sour cream to each bowl, then serving it with your favorite soup crackers and passing the hot sauce or salsa sounds good.

Finally, let me remind you that, like spaghetti sauce, chili is very forgiving, so it’s a great way to use up leftovers. If you have an ear or two of corn that’s passing its prime, or half a carton of fresh hot salsa, or a softening avocado or tomato, go ahead and throw them in. Your family will probably wonder why the chili is so much better than usual!

‘Til next time,



Chili and pasta. May 24, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Yesterday, I saw that a fast-food chain I’d never heard of had gained fame by serving chili over spaghetti (the pasta, not the dish with tomato sauce). The article showed a photo of the chili-spaghetti combo, and, I have to admit, it looked luscious. I asked our friend Ben what he thought about the idea and he said, “Sounds good!” So I suggested to our Friday Night Supper Club that I make my own version for this past week’s gathering.

“What?!!” our horrified hostess responded. “But what about cornbread?!” I assured her that if she wanted to make cornbread, that was fine with me. I just wanted to try spaghetti topped with chili. I didn’t mention that I felt that buttered spaghetti with shredded Cheddar mixed in would be the ultimate to-die-for base for yummy hot chili, even better than buttered rice. Being a strong-minded character, I prevailed, and on Friday, I served up chili and spaghetti.

Admittedly, the fast-food chain was serving up meat-based chili that looked pretty much like a barbecue-sauce-free sloppy Joe over spaghetti. (And even then, it looked good, though I think a dollop of Frank’s Hot Sweet Sauce would have been a great flavor boost.) But, as a vegetarian, this was not an option for me. Instead, I made my favorite veggie chili and served it up over the buttered, cheesy, salted spaghetti, and OMG, was it excellent! I enjoy the texture of the beans in chili whole, but feel free to mash them with a fork to make them more ground-beef-like. Add a crunchy salad and you’ll be in heaven.

To make a basic chili, I like to use four cans of beans: light red kidney beans, red kidney beans, dark red kidney beans, and white kidney beans (aka cannelini beans) or black beans. Then I add a large can of diced tomatoes and a chopped fresh tomato or a large can of crushed tomatoes and a can of Ro*Tel diced tomatoes with hot peppers, depending on what I have on hand.

To cook the chili, I start with olive oil in a large, heavy, deep Dutch oven (I love my LeCreuset Dutch ovens for this). Then I dice two large sweet onions (such as Vidalia or Walla Walla) and add them to the pot. I smash, peel, and mince six plump garlic cloves and add them, along with a tablespoon of granulated garlic. I dice a green or red bell pepper and add it. Next, I slice and dice a jalapeno pepper and add it. If using, I dice the fresh tomato (and/or halved cherry tomatoes or diced paste tomatoes, whatever you have and need to use up) and add it to the pot. If things start drying out, I’ll add some veggie stock or broth to prevent burning and sticking.

At this point, I’ll add the seasonings: 2 tablespoons chili powder; 2 tablespoons Italian herbs (or the equivalent: basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary); 1 tablespoon cumin seeds; 1 tablespoon salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare, or more to taste; and generous splashes of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce or Pickapeppa and Frank’s Hot Sweet Sauce. After a good stir, it’s time to add the diced tomatoes, or the crushed tomatoes and can of Ro*Tel. Finally, it’s time for all the beans, followed by a good stir. And then, half a bag of frozen white corn, again stirred in well.

Maybe the beans and corn are the magic trick, but when I make spaghetti sauce, which after all has many of the same ingredients, if I don’t use a splatter shield I get sauce all over the stovetop, counters, and my clothes. For whatever reason, this never seems to happen when I make chili.

As the chili thickens and “ripens,” heat a big pot of boiling water. When you think the chili’s ready, add the pasta to the water and, when it’s al dente, drain, add butter and shredded cheese (if desired) and serve it up in wide bowls, topped with generous scoops of rich, spicy chili. (Alternatively, you could simply pass grated cheese for the guests to top their chili with if they wished.)

Things turned out well, as our friends rushed back for seconds and thirds. One even announced, “Cincinnati chili! That’s my husband’s favorite!” Apparently chili over pasta is a Cincinnati staple.

Whatever the case, I suggest that you try it. It’s easy to make and oh-so-good!

‘Til next time,