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.

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A Retro Spinach Dip Redo and Some Falafel On the Side

This resulted in a "Thumbs Up" from my pottery peeps and was demolished in short order!

This Retro Spinach Dip Redo resulted in a “Thumbs Up” from my pottery peeps and was demolished in short order!

Note: These two don’t really have anything to do with each other, but are both some good eats to share.

I adore Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, and this week I made a huge batch of baked falafel. I had never had falafel baked before, always fried, but these were terrific in a pita alongside a Greek salad (with feta of course) for dinner, and again topping a lunch salad with tahini dressing drizzled over it. This is another of Mark Bittman’s recipes, and you can find it here. I highly recommend this as well as another recipe he lists at this same link for his Spiked Guacamole, which I made last night but didn’t photograph…it’s awesome, too! I have to say that these falafel are as good baked as those I have had fried, with a nice, crispy texture, a great taste and they freeze beautifully, too!

Drizzled and ready to eat with the tahini dressing!

Drizzled and ready to eat with the tahini dressing!

It’s been feeling very summer-ish here during the past week, and the hot weather has made me crave some cool summer dips, just for fun.  What I particularly had in mind was creating something to take to my pottery class for us to nosh on, and I came up with this Retro Spinach Dip Redo. My inspiration was born of an amalgamation of several yogurt sauces I’ve had—basically a redo of the ancient spinach dip recipe that was so popular when I was growing up. Yes, you know the one I mean, made from the vegetable soup mix combined with mayo and sour cream, served in a bread bowl?

Cool, creamy green goodness.

The result is a lighter, healthier version, that doesn’t taste “healthy” at all. While it does remind you of the old school version, it is a bit different. This one has no water chestnuts, no mayo and no sour cream, but it does have a great mouth feel, and lots of texture and flavors that build as you eat it. Plus, it’s almost as easy to make as the soup mix version, but it’s much better for you! And here’s a little trick: Whenever you combine olive oil with plain yogurt, it emulsifies the yogurt, giving it more of a mayonnaise-like texture and making it less likely for the water to separate. This is a great tip for making tzatziki sauce, too.

The verdict from my pottery class (my test subjects) was that this is a winner, so I promised to share my Retro Spinach Dip Redo on the blog. Enjoy, and I hope that your week has started off swimmingly!

Retro Spinach Dip Redo
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 very large shallots finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, grated
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-10 oz. package of frozen, chopped spinach, preferably organic, cooked according to the package directions (I microwave mine), then drain it and press all the moisture out
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 3/4 cups of plain Greek yogurt, whole or 2% (I used 2% Fage yogurt)

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and combine until well mixed. Place the dip into the fridge and let the flavors blend for an hour or two. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with pita or tortilla chips, or raw veggies if you like!

rose1On another note, this is a rose bush my husband gave me many years ago for Valentine’s Day. It has struggled in our front yard all these years, tolerating the drought and maybe giving me one beautiful rose each year…sometimes two when I’m lucky. This year, it has 7 blossoms on it! I think it likes all the rain.

Sadly, I can't remember the name of this rose, but I think it is a tea rose...sweet thing!

Sadly, I can’t remember the name of this rose, but I think it is a tea rose…sweet thing!

*****

Longer Days, Lighter Meals and a Little Anniversary!

Kicked back watching the fisherman on Lake Winfield Scott.

Kicked back watching the fisherman on Lake Winfield Scott.

The longer and hotter days of Spring and Summer always make me feel that it’s time to start lightening up a bit! While I like fall and winter produce and the dishes inspired by those seasons, I do so look forward to this sunny time of year and all the juicy fruits, berries and summer vegetables that come with it. I get very excited anticipating the delicious and more veggie-and-fruit-centric dishes I can make and eat for the next 3 or 4 months.

Recently, my husband and I decided that eating more fruit and veggies during the day, and adding meat and dairy to that with our evening meal, is a great way to help us stay healthy. Mark Bittman*, a respected American food writer, one of my favorite cookbook authors and a columnist with the New York Times, has just published a book to that effect called VB6 (Eat Vegan Before 6). In the book, he proposes that eating a mostly plant-based diet can have massive health benefits for people and the planet, and his sustainable approach for achieving this goal is to eat no animal products or by-products before 6 p.m., then eat whatever you want after that. Of course there’s a bit more to it, but that’s the concept, plain and simple. If you find this idea as intriguing as I did, you can read more about his strategy in his book or on his website. We all know that eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is good for our bodies and may aid in maintaining our weight or even losing some, so spending two-thirds of my eating day focused on that idea as a habit, then getting my cheese and/or meat fix at dinner—possibly with a dessert or an adult beverage—sounds like a win-win situation to me!

If left to my own devices, I will end up looking just like this!

Getting enough sleep is important, too, as is rolling around on ones’ back.

Perhaps what I like best about Mr. Bittman’s sensible approach is that he recognizes the fact that we all know we will stray sometimes…like when you’re on vacation or have circumstances where you just can’t eat this way for a day, or a week. Or you may find that you stray all the time because you just can’t live without dairy in your coffee and nut milk doesn’t do it for you. And that’s okay, it’s a personal choice and part of enjoying your life and food, in general. My take away from all of this is that it’s something I can easily enjoy doing, something I think I can live with and hopefully enjoy some health benefits in the process.

All this to say that you may, or may not, notice a slight sea-change to the recipes featured on this blog. In fact I think that mostly you won’t notice much change, other than perhaps a higher fruit and veggie-to-meat ratio within certain dishes as time goes on.

Unless, of course, we are on vacation, in which case all bets are off!

So vibrantly colored...and vibrantly flavored, too!

So vibrantly colored…and vibrantly flavored, too!

Today I’m sharing a version of the universally beloved Tabbouleh salad, for which everyone has their own variation. This one is slightly adapted from a Mark Bittman recipe and it’s terrific for lunch or dinner, has lots of flavor, texture and crunch. We took this on our annual June mountain trip for my husband’s birthday this past weekend—along with some cheese and sausages of course—and enjoyed it picnic-style while lounging near Lake Winfield Scott in North Georgia. Add some fish or meat to this dish if you like, but I generally prefer my Tabbouleh either straight up as a salad, as a component of a mezze platter or as a side to a meat, chicken or fish entree. Regardless of how you choose to eat this, I hope you enjoy.

*Please Note: I am not promoting Mark Bittman, his book VB6, or being compensated to mention either one! I’m just sharing because I want to do so.

Tabbouleh (Slightly adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe)
Makes 4 generous servings

3/4 cup medium-grind bulgur
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of two juicy lemons
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste
1 dry pint grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 large celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
6 scallions, thinly sliced white and pale green parts, plus 2 tablespoons of green
10 pitted green Greek olives or other, chopped
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan with a cover. Remove the water from the heat, stir in the bulgur and cover. Allow it to sit until the grain is tender, about 15 minutes. If any water remains in the pot, strain it, pressing on the bulgur to remove as much water as possible. Place the bulgur in a large mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil and lemon juice. Add the salt and pepper and toss again. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well to combine and coat. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more salt and pepper and lemon juice if desired. Serve at room temp. Keeps in the fridge for 3 days.

Thumbelina and Cinderella say "Happy Anniversary, Mom" and "Keep the dairy coming!."

Thumbelina and Cinderella say Happy Anniversary, Mom, and keep the dairy coming!

And on another important note, this week marks my 2-year blogging Anniversary!

Wow, how the time does fly. I do hope that you all have enjoyed the first two years of this blog, and that you will stay with me for another two and see where the trail leads us next. Here’s a look back at some of my favorite dishes from this past year with links to the recipes, just in case you missed a few. Cheers!

Did I mention this is great for breakfast, too?

Did I mention this is great for breakfast, too?

Blackberry, Lemon and Almond Snackin’ Cake!

Lentils

French Lentilicious Salad.

Now THIS is a southern plate of food that makes me grin like a Cheshire Cat!

Now THIS is a southern plate of food that makes me grin like a Cheshire Cat!

Firecracker Slaw and Corn with Chipotle butter…perfect for the 4th of July!

With such a fiesta of color, this dish just has to be good!

With such a fiesta of color, this dish just has to be good!

The now infamous Betsy’s Famous Black Bean Mango Salad…a pot luck special.

Fresh from the oven, Clafouti is puffed and bubbly!

Fresh from the oven, Clafouti is puffed and bubbly!

Julia Child’s classic Clafouti with cherries was a perfect way to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday.

I look at this and all I can think about is making the next one!

I look at this and all I can think about is making the next one!

This Summer Squash and Tomato Galette features some of my favorite veggies and an olive oil crust to boot.

wholeplate

Betsy’s Retro Cheese Olive Bites and Martha Stewart’s Bacon Wrapped Dates, the MOST pinned recipes from this past year!

Tarragon Pecan Chicken Salad on Brioche Crostini...need I say more? But I will!

Tarragon Pecan Chicken Salad on Brioche Crostini…need I say more? But I will!

Probably my second most pinned recipe from this past year, Tarragon Pecan Chicken Salad on Brioche Crostini.

The color change of the layers in the Kir Royale are so subtle, they are hard to photograph, but you can see whatever it is, it's a pretty color in candlelight!

The color change of the layers in the Kir Royale are so subtle, they are hard to photograph, but you can see whatever it is, it’s a pretty color in candlelight!

Kir Royale…a very celebratory cocktail.

Almost ready!

Almost ready!

Kitchen Sink Sloppy Joes…great for camping!

chili1

Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili is a great dish for Fall…and a little bit scary, too…it’s so delicious.

Home-styled comfort from the cold...or a cold!

Home-styled comfort from the cold…or a cold!

My homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, for whatever ails you.

These are a classic!

These are a classic!

My mom’s fantastic Drop Sugar Cookies are a traditional holiday fave.

Is there anything more inviting than a freshly baked pie? No, perhaps not.

Is there anything more inviting than a freshly baked pie? No, perhaps not.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie…well, there you go!

*****

 

A Taste of Spring: Tomato, Orange and Tarragon Soup

soup2

Spring has come, bloomed, and almost gone around here…at least as far as the showy display of azaleas is concerned. In April we’ve see-sawed between highs in the 80’s and 50’s to lows in the 30’s…and the 70’s! With our last cold snap most likely behind us, it’s time to lighten things up a bit, and I’ve found the perfect way to do it.

This very quick and easy soup is so delicate and delicious that you may even forget it’s ridiculously healthy, too. Tomatoes and oranges happen to love each other, and when you combine those flavors with the sweet undertones of anise in the tarragon, it’s a perfect trifecta for the happiest of soup marriages. The resulting taste is so fresh and lighthearted, filled with all the promise of Spring and Summer, and it’s quite a versatile recipe, too.

You can actually make this any time by using minimally processed and no-salt canned tomatoes, some dried tarragon and fresh orange. Or, you can make it in the summer months with freshly grown tarragon and those prized homegrown tomatoes…I just can’t wait for that time to come! Use some store-bought stock, or homemade if you have it…either vegetable or chicken stock will work just fine. Make this and eat it hot or cold. Puree it and then go for it, or strain it after the puree and add some enrichments to make it creamy and velvety!

The base recipe I’m showing you today is actually vegan, and you can decide if you want to fuss with and add to it, but we really enjoyed this “as is,” both hot and cold. Serve it by itself or with an accompaniment. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, it’s a lovely way to welcome the warmer weather with the lighter meals and fresh ingredients we so look forward to. Happy days.

*****

Colonel FieryAnd just for fun, here is a peek at my Camellia Japonica Colonel Fiery in all its blooming glory. He (or she as the case may be), is blooming long and late this year, and has been in continuous bloom for many weeks now.
I’ll show you more of my garden—including the azaleas you see in my new header—in my next post, but meanwhile…happy eating and Happy Spring!

*****

Tomato, Orange and Tarragon Soup
Serves 6-8

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1- 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes in puree, no salt added
1-14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 Tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste
4 cups of vegetable stock or broth, no salt or low sodium, store-bought or homemade
Juice and zest of one orange
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon leaves, or 2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste if needed

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and saute until the onion is tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and puree, canned tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, vegetable stock or broth, juice and zest of the orange, tarragon, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth, or in batches in an upright blender. Season the soup to taste with a bit more salt and some pepper if desired. Serve this hot or cold, garnishing with a thin orange slice and a stem of fresh tarragon if you like. It will keep in the fridge for several days, and like most soups, is arguably better the next day.

At this point you have a very delicately flavored and super tasty vegan soup. If you want, you can strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove any solids and obtain a silky smooth texture. You can also add enrichments to make this a cream soup with or without straining it by returning the pot of soup to low heat and stirring in 1/2- 3/4 cup of half and half or cream, or to taste, heating the soup until it is completely warmed through. I have also stirred a tiny bit of half and half or cream into a serving of this soup cold, and it was excellent!

Soup1

*****

Even Carnivores Will Love It: Vegetarian/Vegan Black Bean Chili

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…and meatless.

I’m a sucker for most kinds of chili, especially when the weather is cold and I’m craving that comforting bowl of rich goodness. Generally, I like meat of some sort in my chili, and in addition to my signature Holy Mole Turkey Chili, I make and enjoy all kinds of and meat and bean chilis. In the last couple of weeks we’ve been taking a more healthy road around here as you may have noticed, and the other day I remembered a recipe I used to make long ago for a rather delicious, and quite frugal, black bean chili. This chili is completely vegetarian (I think it might actually qualify as vegan (!), even), and the toppings for it can be customized to your desires. I like to stick with the veggie and cheese variety of toppings to let the beans shine through. Continue reading