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CSA box Veggie Chili–this is prior to the last few minutes of cooking…almost ready. A one-pot dinner filled with many healthy, delicious, perfect bites!

In trying to use up the bounty of fresh veggies in creative ways…I’ve come across plenty of perfect bites (and a handful of not-so-perfect bites).

This recipe is so easy and a great way to use up the veggies from your weekly CSA box. The “Farmer’s Market Chili” is a veggie-packed chili is full of flavor and can be adapted to be a great vegetarian main meal. This particular recipe is just shy of being vegetarian. I used beef broth but substitute vegetable broth and your meal is vegetarian…don’t top with cheese or sour cream and you have yourself a vegan chili! The portions can be increased exponentially to freeze for the upcoming chilly fall and winter days ahead. As far as the specific veggies—improvise based on what you have on hand. The key is to incorporate a few different textures in the chili. Another added bonus: this is a one pot meal! Have fun and enjoy 🙂

Simple Summer CSA Chili

3 medium zucchini, roughly chopped

2-3 medium/large yellow summer squash

1 bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 medium/large carrot, roughly chopped

1 small American eggplant (or…one small Japanese eggplant and one small white eggplant)

2 jalapeno peppers, roughly chopped (remove seeds to reduce spice level–use them to kick up the heat)

1 shallot, chopped

1 large clove garlic, chopped

2 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)

6 oz can tomato paste

28 oz can whole tomato (tear or roughly chop tomato, save all juice)

3 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin (fresh ground is best)

15 oz. can of beans (any type will do, I actually used chickpeas)

1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp canola oil (substitute 1 Tbsp bacon fat + 2 Tbsp canola oil if desired)

cheese and sour cream (optional for topping)

To make:

In a large dutch oven or other thick bottom pot, heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add green peppers, jalapeno peppers, and diced carrot–saute until softened a bit. Add garlic and shallot, stir and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir just until fragrant. Add eggplant, squash, zucchini, salt, cumin, and chili powder. Stir and saute for approx 1 minute–add 1/4 cup of the broth to de-glaze the bottom of the pan, continue to stir 1 more minute. Add tomatoes with juices, beans, and remainder of the broth. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for approximately 15 minutes or until the veggies are done to your desired crispness. Add additional broth, wine, or water if chili becomes too thick. I prefer a thicker, chunkier chili but thin to your taste preference. Enjoy!

Optional: Let cool slightly, scoop into a bowl, top with a dollop of sour cream and cheese.

Farmer’s Market Chili

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This recipe yields a rich, meaty chili recipe that features deer meat! The deer meat for this recipe is from a lean, steak cut that I diced into cubes. I added additional ground pork to balance out the gamey flavor of the deer. The chili base is super flavorful–feel free to substitute other meats (beef, ground turkey, sausage, etc.) or even adapt it to a vegetarian dish and double the beans. But if you are looking for rich, smokey chili…then use the more gamey deer meat and you will be satisfied!

The ingredient list may look intimidating, but I bet you already have most of these ingredients in your pantry! As for the “Roman beans,” you can find these in the international aisle of most supermarkets…if you can’t find them, go ahead and use pinto, kidney, or black…or a combination of them all 🙂 This recipe makes 10-12 servings…so you can easily feed a crowd (or freeze leftovers for later). Another bonus: you will notice…no extra salt used in this recipe. The flavors from the venison and spices are enough to hold their own. If you have a real salt-tooth, you may want to add a dash of salt to your bowl of chili; otherwise, enjoy a no-added-salt chili recipe!

Chuck-wagon Deer Chili 

  • 1 medium-large white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • dash crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 822 g can Roman beans
  • 6 ox can tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb venison (cut in approx 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1 can light beer (or use 12 oz beef/chicken broth)
  • 1 dash ground mustard powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (use more or less depending on your spiciness preference)
  • vegetable oil (approx 1 Tbsp)
  • olive oil (approx 2 Tbsp)
  • sour cream (optional topping)

To make:

Fully cook deer meat in saute pan in approx 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside. In a large dutch oven or stew pot saute onions, celery, red peppers in 2 Tbsp olive oil until softened. Add garlic, saute another minute. Add tomato paste, stir and saute another minute–add about 3 Tbsp of water if mixture becomes too thick. Add ground pork to mixture and saute approx 3 minutes. Add cooked deer meat, cilantro, oregano, chili powder, cayenne pepper, ground mustard powder, liquid smoke and stir to combine (the mixture will be very thick). Stir in crushed and diced tomatoes. Lastly, gently stir in beans and beer. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Let cool slightly then serve up a heaping bowl topped with a dollop of sour cream…Enjoy!!

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One of my favorite Mexican foods are chicken enchiladas. As I was searching for a good way to make them, I came across several Mexican-style casserole recipes that caught my eye. I was inspired. This is an easy dish that cooks up quickly (especially if you have cooked chicken on your hands) and makes a great weeknight meal. I added one of my favorite Mexican flavors: chipotle. I also added a can of cannellini beans to add some fiber, meaty texture, and fill to the casserole. Another great garnish to have is chopped fresh cilantro and low fat sour cream–add this to the top and you have a complete Mexican meal!

Mexican Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • 1-2 pounds cooked chicken breasts–shredded

    Perfect recipe to use up any leftover crock-pot cooked chicken breasts

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • approx 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup evaporated skim milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheese–I like to buy the Mexican blend already shredded
  • 1/4 cup tub-style light cream cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce (medium or mild depending on your spice preference)
  • approx. 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese (or use Mexican blend from above)
  • tortilla chips, crushed (enough for a light crunch layer on top); I used multi-grain Tostidos.

To make:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in large nonstick pan over medium/med-high heat. Add onions and canned peppers and cook about 2 minutes, then add garlic and parsley and cook about 1 min longer. Add chicken broth, milk, shredded cheese, cream cheese, and enchilada sauce; stir well.  Stir in shredded chicken and beans; cook 2-5  minutes.

Mexican Casserole Sauce

Remove from heat.

Line bottom of a lightly greased (spray oil) 13×9 or similar dimensions casserole dish with corn tortillas. You can keep the tortillas whole, but I like to cut into fourths to make serving the cooked casserole a bit easier. Layer approx 2 cups of the chicken mixture on top. Repeat the tortilla layer then chicken layer about 2 times, ending with the chicken as the last top layer. Top chicken with last 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips.

Bake in oven for approx 30 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.Enjoy 🙂 I topped with my favorite salsa, which adds a little extra kick!

A great pairing is to serve with sliced avocado and tomato salad. This casserole would freeze well (leave off the last cheese and chip layer). Cook all the way through then allow to cool completely before freezing in an air-tight container. Add the chip and cheese layer before re-heating in the oven at 350 until warmed through.

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Homemade (mostly) tacos are an easy, quick, cheap option for a weekday meal that are so versatile you could have a different kind almost every day of the week. The basic recipe is tortilla, stuff with your favorite ingredients, roll and eat. This recipe is one that makes a pretty hearty filling that could be used in tacos, quesadillas, or burritos–it just depends on how you want to wrap it 🙂

I haven’t braved the world of making my own tortillas yet, so I turn to white corn tortillas for soft tacos. I like the corn tortilla texture better than the flour personally but the real star of this post is the filling. I have not bought “taco seasoning” in..I cannot remember when. With a few basic ingredients, most of which I bet you already have in your pantry, you can make your own personalized taco seasoning. I like mine smokey and spicy, so the key ingredient for me is smoked Spanish paprika. It is not too hard to find in grocery stores these days, especially in the international food section. This particular brand can be found at Whole Foods.

Another trick you may notice is that (chicken advocates please skip this part) I used canned white meat chicken. Sounds gross and I had to get over the disgust myself–but I find the meat shreds easily and is already cooked so it makes for a (cheap) quick saute and absorbs all of the other flavors perfectly. The meat is not the star of my taco stuffing, so if you are looking for a meat heavy filling–go for “real” chicken, beef, or pork. Alternatively, leave the meat out completely and use black beans, rice, or mushrooms and peppers.

Weeknight Tacos

Ingredients

For the taco filling:

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken (or other meat/veggie option: see note above)

1 cup frozen corn (thawed)

1/2 large white onion, chopped

olive oil

2 cloves garlic, roughly minced

1 can diced tomatoes with peppers (mild, medium, or hot–your preference); drained but reserve the juice

For the Taco Seasoning: 

1 Tbsp smoked Spanish paprika

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp Kosher salt

2 tsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp dried cilantro

ground black pepper to taste

Note: If you do not want to use fresh onion and garlic in the taco filling, add 1 1/2  tsp each of garlic powder and onion powder into the taco seasoning

corn or flour tortillas (smaller size for tacos; larger flour tortillas to use as a burrito or quesadilla)

Toppings (really anything you like, but here are my favorites):

shredded cheese

sour cream

guacamole

salsa

To make:

Start with adding the onions to a large non-stick skillet (on medium high heat) with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook until tender and beginning to brown then add the garlic and stir. Add the corn, meat, and tomatoes. Stir all ingredients together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, now for the fun part…the seasonings!

My favorite....smokey paprika!

Add the spices: paprika, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper, oregano and cilantro. Fresh oregano and cilantro can be used instead, just increase the amount to 1 Tbsp (chopped) of each. If you are using the dry (like I did) gently rub the dried herbs in your hand before adding to help release the flavorful oils from the herbs.

Last but not least....cilantro!

Next step....stir!

After all of the spices are added, gently stir to incorporate well. As you can see I should have used a larger pan 🙂  Lower the head to medium and let the taco filling cook for about 3-5 additional minutes.

Almost done!

You will smell a nice aroma of the spices heating and blending together. If the mixture becomes too dry, add the reserved juice from the canned tomatoes.

Now you’re ready to assemble. To warm the tortillas either heat them in an oven (at 400 degrees) for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Another, more dangerous, option is using the burners on a gas oven. This is my preferred technique. First you must overcome your fear of fire (meanwhile take necessary kitchen safety precautions: fire extinguisher handy, large lid/towel to stifle the potential fire, etc.). Turn a burner on medium low heat, just place the tortilla on the burner for about 20 seconds on each side. This will depend on how high you have the flame, so really just watch it and turn it when you feel like it. Turning multiple times really doesn’t do anything except increase your chances of tearing the tortilla. Once it is done on one side you will notice the tortilla puffing up a bit. At that time use tongs (or your hands if you are feeling brave) and flip the tortilla to the other side–again looking for the puffing.

Note: I have only done this with the corn tortillas, but I imagine flour is somewhat similar.

You can keep leftover tortillas in a fancy tortilla warmer or on a baking sheet in the oven at 200 degrees (they will stiffen up a bit if you do this). Or you can just cook to order. I like to have all of my toppings set out before warming the tortillas so that I can just go straight from the burner to a warm plate and start assembling.  Tortilla–>filling–>toppings = Tacos!!

Weeknight Tacos with Homemade Seasoning

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I am sure everyone is familiar with the standard quick fix meal from our childhood days–fish sticks with ketchup. At a cooking class I took the other week, one of the recipes reviewed was Cajun Catfish Goujonettes with New Orleans Remoulade. I made the dish during the class and it was both easy and very tasty. One of the take home messages from the chef instructor was think of recipes as a “guideline.” So, I came home and thought I’d give it a try in my own kitchen. I adapted the recipe in several ways to make it my “own.” So here is a really easy, quick way to whip up some grown-up style fish sticks, that I imagine any kid would enjoy too! I made enough servings for two but the basic ingredients could be multiplied to feed as many as you need. If you are making batches of the fish, preheat the oven to 200 degrees to keep the first batches warm while you make as many fish sticks as you desire. Enjoy!

Spicy Cajun Fish Sticks

1 1/2 lb of cod fillets, cut in “stick” size strips (can use any white, flaky fish you like or that is available)

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 egg (slightly beaten)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4  tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

slice lemon as garnish/juice to top at end (optional)

canola oil

Instructions:

Set up the breading stations as follows: 1. all-purpose flour in shallow dish or plate with a lip, 2.  beaten egg in a bowl, 3. mix together dry ingredients (panko, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika, Old Bay) in a shallow dish. Pat fish dry, season with salt and pepper.

Breading Stations

For the breading process: Coat the fish in the flour, shake off excess; Dredge in egg (let excess drip off a bit–you don’t want any clumps of egg); Coat fish in panko crumb mixture. Repeat as needed until all fish sticks are completely coated and ready to be pan-fried.

Heat dry pan on medium heat; add oil so that there is enough in the pan so that when the fish is dropped in the oil will be at a level about 1/2 up the side of the fish–not so much that the fish will be completely submerged (this is not a deep fry, just a pan fry). Let the oil heat on medium to medium-high heat until shimmering (I usually cheat and put a piece of the breading in to monitor the heat–watch until it is bubbling and the oil looks hot). If the oil is too cold the fish will absorb too much of the oil and end up a soggy mess. If the oil begins to smoke–it is TOO HOT! Gently place the fish into the oil one at a time. A good hint is to place the fish into the hot oil down and away from you so if there is any splatter it will be in the opposite direction of the cook 🙂

Pan Fried Fish Sticks!

Let the fish cook on the first side until brown; you can gently move the fish around in the pan to check the brownness and also make sure it doesn’t stick. Gently turn the fish over and brown the other side. Remove from the oil and let drain on a wire rack with paper towel underneath. If you are cooking more than one batch do not put paper towel in the oven–just put the fish sticks on paper towel to dab excess oil then place in the oven on shallow pan to keep warm.

Crispy, brown, and Delicious-- Perfect Bite!

Serve fish while warm with Smokey & Spicy Remoulade, lemon slices, or any other dipping sauce you like!

Note: You can also bake the fish for a lower fat version, but the coating may not be as crispy or brown. If baking cook at 375 until golden brown (about 7-10 minutes).

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This is a great recipe for a dipping sauce known as a remoulade. Remoulade is a common condiment similar to tartar sauce that can be used as a spiced-up substitute. The basic component of remoulade is usually mayonnaise, but some contain ketchup or oil bases, depending on what meat or veggie you plan to be dipping. This recipe is mayo based and gets it rich reddish color from smoky spices like cayenne and smoked paprika. I used it to go along with my Spicy Cajun Fish Sticks, but it would be a great accompaniment to crab cakes, shrimp, asparagus, or really any crunchy, sweetish food you can think of.

Smokey, Spicy Remoulade

The smooth, smoky, and slightly spicy remoulade balances out the crunch and sweetness of the fish.  Tone down or spice up the cayenne to your heat preference.

Smokey & Spicy Remoulade

3/4 c. mayonnaise (can use light version)

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp brown mustard

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp horseradish

1 tsp Kosher salt

2 (rounded) Tbsp sweet pickle relish

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl, using a small spoon or whisk, until all of the flavors are blended well. Keep in an airtight container, chilled until ready to serve.

Spicy Cajun Fish Sticks with Smokey & Spicy Remoulade

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The past few weeks have been incredibly cold up here in the Northeast. Record lows, dipping in the sub-zero range call for a spicy recipe to provide a little warmth and comfort in this frigid time of the year. The perfect pairing is some spicy chili with a side of Southern cornbread. The chili is a one dish meal that is  easy to whip up for a weekend warmer with several servings left over for the week ahead or even stash in the freezer to save for later!

Hints: The spice can be toned down by using fewer chipotles and skimming some of the adobo sauce. Make it vegetarian by increasing the beans (by about a can) and omitting the beef. To add some smoke, substitute smoked paprika for the sweet paprika. To lighten the recipe up a bit use ground chicken or turkey or leaner ground beef. Use any bean you like…I’m not a huge fan of traditional chili pinto beans, so I used other bean types and it worked out just fine!

Spicy Beef & Bean Chili (makes 8-10 servings)

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

5-6 garlic cloves (minced)

2 medium yellow onions, diced

3-5 chipotles in adobo sauce (minced)–you can find this in a can, in the international/Spanish/Mexican aisle of most supermarkets

3 Tbsp chili powder

3 Tbsp ground cumin (I use whole cumin and grind just before using it for the best flavor)

1 tsp dried oregano

3 Tbsp sweet (or Spanish smoked) paprika

2 lbs ground beef (I used 85/15 to get some flavor from the fat but feel free to lighten it up a bit, see hints above)

1 Tbsp Kosher salt

1 (15 oz) can black beans

1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans

1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes (blended/crushed)

1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

1/4-1/2 cup of dark’ish beer (ex: Newcastle)

To Make:

In a large, heavy bottomed pot heat the oil over med-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft and light brown (stirring as needed). Add chipotles with adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and

Nice fragrant mixture before adding the liquids

paprika–stir to coat the onions, cooking for about a minute to brown the spices.

Add the ground beef, salt, and stir together breaking the meat as it cooks (about 3-5 minutes).

Add the beans, tomatoes (with juice), and beer–stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Note: if the chili becomes too thick, feel free to add water or beef stock to thin out the chili to your liking.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with sour cream and/or cheese. Serve with a side of cornbread.  Bundle up and enjoy this great dish for winter weather!

Spicy Chili & Southern Cornbread

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