Part Three: Chilis, Chowders and Some Extra Ideas for Enjoying Them.

Hi there and Happy Friday! Here’s the final post of my series on Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders, featuring two chowders, three versions of chili, and some fun and festive ideas for making other dishes out of chili…just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

I make soups, chowder and chili year round and freeze any leftovers, as they freeze beautifully. There’s nothing like a nice bowl full of homemade chili or chowder on a rainy day, or any day. One of my most favorite things about having some extra chili on hand is being able to use it to make something different and equally delicious. Try using any one of the chilis below to make:

Homemade Nachos, decadent…yes I know, and here’s how: 1) Heat up some of any one of these three leftover chilis on your stovetop and set aside. I just eyeball the amount, but you’ll want it to be proportionate to the amount of nachos you’re making, keeping in mind that you don’t want so much chili that your nachos get soggy, but enough to get some chili in every bite. 2) Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then make an even and single layer of your favorite tortilla chips on top of the foil. Sprinkle them with a bit of grated cheddar, jack, or a Mexican blend of cheese. 3) Pop the pan under a preheated broiler and watch it VERY carefully until the cheese just starts to melt, then pull it out before your chips start to turn brown. 4) Make another single layer of chips on top of the first layer, then distribute your chili evenly on top of the chips, using a slotted spoon to drain off any extra moisture before you put the chili on the chips. 5) Sprinkle some more cheese on top of the chili and then pop the pan back under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to just turn golden brown, watching the whole time and removing the pan before the chips burn. 6) Customize the nachos with your favorite toppings like shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and finely chopped red onion, and you have amazing homemade nachos—way better than you can purchase in a restaurant. In addition to using blue corn or regular tortilla chips for this, I’ve used sweet potato tortilla chips with the Turkey chili…yum!

Another quick and easy way to repurpose chili is to make Chili Sloppy Joes. Just heat your chili and toast your favorite burger bun, onion roll, potato roll or split English muffin. Place both toasted halves side by side on your plate and top with chili. Easy-peasy! This knife and fork open-faced sandwich is great as is, or with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

Lastly, you can use your homemade chili to spice up a dip…a cheese dip, that is! Make plain cheese dip into a festive and lively Spicy Chili Cheese Dip by swirling hot, homemade chili into your favorite homemade or purchased queso dip. I suggest putting your chili on top of the warmed cheese dip in your serving bowl just before serving, and then use a table knife to swirl the chili through it decoratively…much like marbling a cake batter. You want to still be able to see streaks of the chili in between large areas of the cheese and ensure that you get both cheese and chili in every bite. Serve hot with tortilla chips for dipping. Gooey goodness gracious, just hand me a margarita and Cinco de Mayo here I come!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this recap series and most of all, I hope it’s inspired you to make one of these delicious soups, stews, a chili or a chowder for you and yours. Just click on the name link of the dish below each image to get its recipe and happy eating.

Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili may be my best chili recipe to date, though I love them all. Spicy, hearty and oh-so-flavorful, it’s the most traditional of my three chili recipes. If you want to swirl a chili into cheese dip to make the spicy chili cheese dip suggested above, this one is perfect for that. This recipe has the added bonus of feeding a crowd and can be doubled to feed an even bigger crowd, which makes it a terrific party recipe.

A bowl full of chili love.

Vegetarian/Vegan Black Bean Chili is a thick, rich chili that harnesses lots of black bean goodness. Yes, it’s vegetarian, and it’s vegan before you add the toppings, but it sure eats like a meaty bowl and it easily holds its own against any meat-based chili.

Serve with grated extra sharp cheddar, avocado and creme fraiche to make it more decadent.

Betsy’s Holy Mole Turkey Chili is my first original chili recipe and I still love it so much. This tried and true chili which features ground turkey breast is a bit healthier than other meat-based chilis and its dark, luxurious flavor is reminiscent of a Mexican mole. Here’s a little secret about this chili: If you don’t tell anyone it’s turkey, they’ll never guess!

Ham, Potato and Cabbage Chowder makes one of the most flavorful chowders I’ve ever tasted. The marriage of the sweet and salty ham with the cabbage and potato is amplified by a good measure of fresh thyme and a splash…well okay, a good bit of cream. How could you go wrong with this one? All this chowder needs is a little crispy flatbread on the side and you have a marvelous lunch or dinner.

I could eat this every day.

Rustic Roasted Potato, Broccoli and Corn “Chowda” is my take on a classic corn chowder. Roasting the veggies first adds a boat-load of flavor to this chowder, which features the unique addition of broccoli. This meal in a bowl can only get better with a little optional crumbled bacon on top. Cheers!


Next time: Some new and seasonal, quick and easy, and light and healthy recipes full of flavor are on their way, so stay tuned.


The Busy Season: Some Food, Some Fun, Some Pots

I’ve been cooking, I’ve been hiking, I’ve been working…a lot, I’ve been making clay pots, and I’ve been traveling some. And then suddenly, it’s NOVEMBER!!!

Here’s what’s been going on (click the red links for more info and recipes:

RibollitaThere was a batch Ina Garten’s fantastic Ribolitta pictured above, to warm up the cold evenings.

There was a lovely hike to Raven Cliffs Falls in the North GA mountains. Spectacular leaves that weekend.

spooktacularchiliThere was some Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili made for Halloween!

And Punkitties were carved for the big event!

There was a lovely gathering of cousins in town that called for an early batch of my most favorite gratin and holiday potato dish, Potato and Fennel Gratin. It takes a little effort, but the flavor is show stopping.

And this week I’ve been carving some clay pots for a friend’s new lifestyle website…more on that later.

And then there was work…happily lots and lots of it! So that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you? Are you having a fun autumn so far? Happy Weekend!

A Happy Halloween Treat!

spookycakes3BTomorrow marks the end of October, and at long last we have completed all of the work on the house—no trick! Yesterday, our heating and air systems were professionally cleaned, which resulted in two filters worth of soot and grime pulled from the systems by a huge and very loud industrial strength Hepa Filter machine. We are literally breathing easier around here now, and should have all put right and in its place soon…say, around Christmas!

But for now, it’s time to move on and enjoy one of my favorite holidays. You know it—it’s Halloween.

These hauntingly good little mini cupcakes have been my go-to standard for many a party and birthday event, and they seem very appropriate and timely as a Halloween treat to share with you. The cake itself is a light and moist pale yellow cake with pretty flecks of orange zest. And that hint of that orange flavor is a perfect foil for the deep, dark chocolate ganache frosting. Orange, black and white = Halloween…see? I made these last weekend to take to a “significant decade” birthday party for a friend, and I think they would be the hit of any Halloween party, too.

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Did I hear you say that you need a little something to warm you up before trick or treating? Check out my Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili recipe from last year. Make a pot of chili and these mini cupcakes, and let the party begin.


Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Mini Orange Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting
(Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)
Makes 4 dozen

2 cups flour (not self rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (I stick) softened
1 cup granulated cane sugar or white sugar
1 generous tablespoon finely grated fresh orange zest
3 large eggs at room temp
1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk

24 count mini muffin baking tin(s)
mini muffin paper baking cups (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter your muffin tin(s) and line with one mini muffin paper cup per slot, if using, or lightly flour the tins if not using paper baking cups, tapping out any excess flour.

Sift together the 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar, butter and orange zest together with an electric mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment if using a stand mixer) on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla and continue to beat for another 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Reduce the speed to low, and add the flour mixture and milk alternating in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until the batter is just smooth, do not over mix.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls into each of the 48 mini muffin tins lined with baking cups, filling each cup about 1/2- 3/4 full. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the tin and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one comes out clean. The cakes should stay pale in color, not golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the tins and set on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, remove the cupcakes from the tin and allow them to finish cooling completely on the wire rack before frosting.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Makes about 2 cups

3/4 lb. good quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped or in chip form
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over low heat, bringing it to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool slightly, about 3-5 minutes at room temperature. Take each mini-cupcake and dip the top of the cupcake into the ganache just to the edge of the paper cup, or just to the edge of the dome of the cake. Turn the cupcake a little bit to cover the top well, lift it out of the chocolate and allow it to drip a moment, then place back on the rack to firm up. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes until all are frosted. Allow the cupcakes to sit at room temperature until the ganache firms up, about an hour or so. You can enjoy these now, or they will keep at room temperature for a day, or carefully stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.

You can also decorate them if you please with purchased decorating icing, or make your own very quickly (as I did) combining a tablespoon of softened butter, a cup of powdered sugar, two or three drops of vanilla extract and just enough milk mixed together to make a smooth icing consistency. If you plan to color the icing, do so now. Place the icing in a piping bag with a tip, or into a plastic bag and cut off the very tip of it, then slowly squeeze out the icing to decorate your cupcakes in the desired pattern. I’ve used a person’s initials, spelled out greetings and made patterns. I didn’t make spooky spiderwebs on these because they were for a birthday event, but the shape of these certainly lends itself to that.

Note: Leftover ganache is a wonderful thing! You can store it in the fridge until solid, scoop out balls of it with a melon scoop and mold quickly with your fingertips into truffles, then roll in powdered cocoa or nuts to give as gifts. You can also reheat it slow and low until just liquid again and use it as a sauce for ice cream, berries or cake. Be careful in reheating because if allowed to simmer it will break the cream and you’ll have a chocolate mess!

Our first fire in the newly rebuilt fireplace and chimney...home sweet home!

Our first fire in the newly rebuilt fireplace and chimney…home sweet home!

Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili


It’s cool and blustery in the south, the pumpkin is carved and it’s looking very Halloweeny around here, indeed. And for me, Halloween and trick or treating always means having some spicy and spooky chili on hand to enjoy while treating the kids.

It’s a busy day, so I’ll keep this short and sweet…this chili is out of this world, muaaahaaahaaahaaa!

Some wonderful moments from one of my all time favorite “scary” movies!

As you may already know, I’m a chili-hound and this one is my new favorite chili. For a fantastic non-beef chili you can see my Holy Mole Turkey Chili right here. Or for a vegan chili, check out this Vegetarian Black Bean Chili right here. Have a safe and Happy Halloween, y’all!

A quick note to send wishes for a speedy recovery to all of my readers and their families who have or are suffering from the hurricane in the northeastern U.S. and Canada. I hope you and yours are well and safe.

Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili
Makes 10-12 Servings

1 3/4 lbs. ground beef, preferably 90/10 ratio of lean to fat
1 lb. high quality hot italian pork sausage, removed from casings (I used our local Pine Street Market)
1 1/2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 large yellow onions, peeled and diced
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
1 each medium red, yellow, orange and green bell peppers, seeded and diced (or use an available equivalent)
12 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2 large chipotle chilies in 2 teaspoons of adobo sauce, finely minced (you could substitute a fresh red or green jalapeno for the chipotle if you can’t find them, it just won’t give you the smoky flavor of chipotle)
2 fresh or dried whole bay leaves
5 heaping Tablespoons of chili powder
1 Tablespoon of ancho chili powder
2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
1/2 Tablespoon each of dried basil, oregano and fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of chinese five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 cans of black beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed
1 can of red kidney beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed
1 28 oz can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes with juice, low sodium
2-14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes, low sodium, with juice
1 generous cup of dry red wine (chianti is very nice)
1 1/2 cups of water
2 Tablespoons of semi sweet chocolate chips

Grated extra sharp cheddar cheese for serving

Brown the ground beef in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium to medium high heat. Drain the beef with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Set aside. Pour the fat and water out of the stock pot, and brown the sausage over medium to medium high heat. Remove the sausage from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving the fat from the sausage.

Add the olive oil to the pot with the sausage drippings and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic and chipotes to the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the onions are translucent. Add the bay leaves, chili powder, ancho chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, black pepper, chinese five spice powder, dried red pepper flakes and kosher salt to the pot, and stir for about 1-2 minutes to cook the spices…don’t allow them to burn, keep them moving! Add the tomatoes, water, wine, beans, beef and sausage to the pot and stir well, then add the chocolate chips. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30-45 minutes, or until the chili is thick and all the flavors have blended. Fish out the bay leaves and throw them away. Serve with grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, or your favorite toppings and a little cornbread on the side. As with all chili, this is even better the next day, and it freezes well!