Things have been crazy busy since I returned to school. Between readings, projects, group meetings, scholarship applications, and whatnot, I feel like I’ve barely had time to cook. To address this, I make big meals on Sunday evening and pack it up into portions that we enjoy throughout the week for lunch and dinner.
One of my go-to favourites is chili. I love chili because it’s hearty, because it’s so versatile, and because I can put it in the slow cooker and come home to a delicious warm meal. I can add just about everything in my pantry and it will still be a yummy chili. Last winter, I made what Bryan calls Texas-style chili. To me, it’s just chili. For the Improv Challenge in August, I made a soup with tomatoes and Anaheim chile peppers, this is more along the lines of what Bryan thinks of as chile. Despite our differing definitions, we both very much enjoy chili (despite that I always slip some chickpeas into the mix, one of Bryan’s least favourite foods, he never complains, what a great guy.).
I went a bit overboard when making chili the other week. I had forgotten just how many servings it makes and added wayyy more herbs and spices than usual. I wanted something different from my usual chili. Unfortunately, our freezer is very full, so there was no rooms to save the leftovers for later. So we ate chili, at least once per day, for nearly a week. Next time, I’ll cut this recipe in half. Or make sure I have plenty of freezer space to save some for another time.
What’s your favourite meal to make in the slow-cooker during the fall months?
Spicy, Slow-Cooked Beef Chili
- 1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1/2 inch cubes – approximate cost $8.00
- 2 cups beef stock – approximate cost $1.50
- 1 12 ounce can of tomato paste – approximate cost $1.25
- 1 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, diced and liquid reserved – approximate cost $1.25
- 1 cup dried red kidney beans – approximate cost $0.50
- 1 cup dried white kidney beans – approximate cost $0.50
- 1 cup dried chickpeas beans – approximate cost $0.50
- 1 large Spanish onion, diced – approximate cost $0.75
- 400 grams crimini mushrooms, chopped – approximate cost $2.00
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.40
- 2 tablespoons chili powder – approximate cost $0.40
- 1 tablespoon cumin – approximate cost $0.20
- 1 tablespoon paprika – approximate cost $0.20
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (less if you want to tone down the spiciness) – approximate cost $0.20
- 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning – approximate cost $0.20
- 1 tablespoon dried cilantro – approximate cost $0.20
- 1 tablespoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 tablespoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.20
- 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (about 1/4 cup to top each serving) – approximate cost $1.50
- Baguette (for serving) – approximate cost $2.00
- Soak the dried beans.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add dried beans.
- Let cook for 5 minutes.
- Turn the stove off.
- Put a lid on the pot.
- Remove pot from the burner.
- Allow the beans soak for at least 1 hour.
- Prepare the beef, garlic, and onion.
- Heat the grapeseed oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Sautee the minced garlic for 1 minute.
- Add the onion to the frying pan and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. or until the onion softens.
- Add the stewing beef and cook until browned.
- Putting it all together in the slow cooker.
- Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes (and liquid), chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, Italian Seasoning, cilantro, sea salt, black pepper to the slow cooker first.
- Stir well so the flavours mix well with the liquid.
- Add the browned stewing beef mixture, soaked beans, crimini mushrooms.
- Mix again.
- There should be enough liquid to cover the chili. If not, add more beef stock.
- Cook at low temperature for about 6 hours (or high temperature for about 4 hours).
- Serve topped with shredded cheese and baguette on the side.
Makes about 12 servings (approximate cost: $1.83 per serving).
Monday Link Parties
Posted by Amber on November 5, 2012
I’m so excited to be participating in another Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker! For those of you keeping track (I know I am for now), this is my third month participating in the challenge. Each month I strive to come up with something a bit more exciting or creative than the last.
Check out my previous Improv Challenge creations:
This month, the challenge ingredients are corn and butter. This combination of ingredients was especially difficult for me. Not that it isn’t a great combination, but because I love a simple cob of corn with butter. I rarely feel compelled to go beyond this with the ingredient combination. Generally, I will grill a few pieces of corn on the cob (husks on), roll it in butter, and season with salt and pepper.
This challenge forced me outside my comfort zone. I’m glad it did. The resulting salad is easy to make, affordable, and delicious. Best of all, the cilantro was fresh from my garden!
Cilantro Tomato Corn Salad with a Lemon-Butter Dressing
Adapted from Cilantro Tomato Corn Salad at AllRecipes.com
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels – approximate cost $1.50
- 1/4 cup butter – approximate cost $0.50
- 3 teaspoons lemon juice – approximate cost $0.15
- 2 tomatoes, chopped – approximate cost $1.50
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped – approximate cost $0.15
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped – approximate cost $0.75
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
- 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
- Soak the red onion pieces in a bowl of cold water for a minimum of 20 minutes.
- Melt butter in a pot over medium heat.
- Allow butter to brown.
- Add corn and lemon juice.
- Cook until corn is a vibrant yellow and heated through.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Drain the onions and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add tomato pieces, jalapeño, cilantro, sea salt, pepper, and corn.
- Toss well so the lemon-butter coats the ingredients.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $2.04 per serving).
Best if enjoyed the same day the salad is prepared. If kept in the fridge, tomatoes will lose some of their flavour and the butter will harden.
Posted by Amber on July 19, 2012
It’s Wednesday and I’m still reminiscing about last weekend. What made last weekend so special? I had a visit with my childhood best friend. The visit was much too short, but I’m still so glad we got to see each other. We hadn’t seen each other for two years. However, we frequently keep in contact through Facebook and blogging (check out Rhi’s blog, she has a super funky post about how to create vibrant and colourful hair). I love how even after so much time apart, conversation comes naturally. We catch up on every day things as if we’ve never been apart. We realize coincidences that, despite being so far apart, we have come to have so many similarities in our lives (from music to pastimes and more). I feel very fortunate that, even after all these years, we remain close friends.
Rhi and Me at her wedding (back in 2007)
The dish I’m featuring today reminds me of Rhi. Not because of any childhood memories, but because of the theme (red-white-and-blue). I made this dish to Celebrate the 4th of July with Bryan. Rhi is living in the United States.
So, what are the red-white-and blue ingredients?
- Red: Tomatoes, Red enchilada sauce, red peppers
- White: Chicken, tortillas, mushrooms, cheese
- Blue: Blue corn tortilla chips
Did you make red-white-and-blue themed treats to celebrate the 4th of July? Please link me to your recipes, I need ideas for next year!
Red, White, and Blue Chicken Enchiladas
- 8 white tortillas – approximate cost $2.00
- 3 small boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 700 grams) – approximate cost $7.00
- 1 can diced tomatoes – approximate cost $1.25
- 1 can tomato sauce – approximate cost $1.25
- 2 red peppers, diced – approximate cost $2.00
- 500 grams crimini mushrooms, diced – approximate cost $2.00
- 1 vidalia onion, diced – approximate cost $1.00
- 1 teaspoon olive oil – approximate cost $0.10
- 3 cloves garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.40
- 1 tablespoon Italian Spices – approximate cost $0.10
- 3 tablespoons chili powder – approximate cost $0.15
- 1 teaspoon dried cilantro – approximate cost $0.10
- 300 grams Monterey Jack cheese, shredded – approximate cost $4.00
- 300 grams Old Cheddar cheese, shredded – approximate cost $4.00
- 100 grams (about 1 1/2 cups) blue corn tortilla chips, crushed – approximate cost $1.50
- Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
- Bake the chicken until cooked through.
- Shred the chicken.
- In a large pot, sautée the onion in olive oil until softened.
- Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, crimini mushrooms to the pot and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 15 minutes (the liquid should reduce and the sauce should become sort of thick).
- Add the red peppers, Italian spice, dried cilantro and chili powder.
- Remove sauce from heat.
- Fill each tortilla with a portion of the chicken and sauce (you want to have some sauce left over).
- Roll the tortillas and place seam side down in a 9×13 baking pan.
- Sprinkle with the shredded cheeses.
- Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes (the cheese should be melted).
- Remove from over and sprinkle with blue corn tortilla pieces.
- Let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Makes about 8 servings (approximate cost: $3.36 per serving).
Posted by Amber on July 11, 2012
Happy 4th of July to all my American family, friends and readers!
Thank you everyone for your suggestions on making sure my garden is successful this year! Look at how well the plants are growing this year!
The herbs look healthier and are much bigger!
The tomato plants are taller and starting to sprout buds!
Posted by Amber on July 4, 2012
This year I’m not starting a garden. It’s too much work weeding and preparing to plant. It’s a lot to maintain it. Last year’s garden didn’t grow so well (neither did the neighbour’s), all of the herbs died within the first month and I only got two tomatoes from four tomato plants. Or at least, that’s what I kept telling myself.
But, when my Aunt was in town the other week, she brought tomato plants with her. I couldn’t say no.
This year, I’m taking a different approach to gardening. I bought planters and fresh soil, then placed them in the garden. Each tomato plant (Yellow Cherry and Moonglow) and the basil have their own planter. The other herbs (rosemary, mint, cilantro, and chives) are two in each planter. The plants look healthier than last year already.
My brother is growing a Pink Ponderosa tomato plant. This is one of the ones that didn’t work out for me last year.
My herbs are still growing. The tomatoes haven’t blossomed yet. They’ll grow… I hope.
Any tips for a successful garden?
Posted by Amber on June 18, 2012
As promised, This week (and probably next week), I’ll be sharing recipes with you from a class that I attended at Relish Cooking Studio in Waterloo. I attended their Sustainable Seafood class back in March, only one week after attending the Tour of Thailand class. Why did I wait so long to tell you about this class? Mostly, I wanted to change up the blog posts for a bit. We learn to prepare so many dishes in each of the classes, I wanted a few weeks to post my own recipes before diving back into a collection. However, I did briefly write about this class earlier when writing about how to choose and buy a fish.
While I enjoyed both of the classes very much, this one has had a bit more influence on the food I cook at home. The ingredients for Thai food are further away at a specialty grocery store, whereas I can get most of the ingredients for these recipes closer to home.
Today’s recipe for steamed mussels was probably my favourite one from the bunch. Maybe this is because I was very hungry when I arrived. I think it’s because it was so different from my usual way of enjoying mussels (I’ve enjoyed them with a tomato and wine broth or with a black bean sauce prior to the class). Also, the mussels were cooked to perfection. They were tender and flavourful. Not rubbery in the slightest. I’m working on not over-cooking mussels when preparing them at home.
What is your favourite way to enjoy mussels? I think this is mine!
Steamed Mussels in Coconut Milk
Recipe by (and posted with permission from) Chef Mark Brown, demonstration at Relish Cooking Studio
- 4 tablespoons canola oil – approximate cost $0.25
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced – approximate cost $0.75
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced – approximate cost $0.15
- 1 tablespoon coriander – approximate cost $0.10
- 2 kaffir lime leaves – approximate cost $0.25
- 1 teaspoon sliced red chili – approximate cost $0.15
- 3/4 teaspoon salt – approximate cost $0.08
- 2 cups canned coconut milk – approximate cost $4.00
- 3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded – approximate cost $12.00
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice – approximate cost $0.10
- Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped – approximate cost $0.50
- 1 cup water
- Pour the oil into a large pot and bring to medium-high heat.
- Toss in the onion slices and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned.
- Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute, stirring often.
- Add the coriander, kaffir lime leaves, and chili, and again cook for 1 minute while stirring often.
- Pour in the coconut milk and 1 cup of water.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add the mussels and salt.
- Stir until mussels are well coated with the sauce.
- Cover the pot with a lid and reduce heat to medium.
- Cook for about 7 minutes (or until the mussels have opened).
- Discard any mussels that do not open (these are not safe to eat).
- Remove the pot from heat and add the lemon juice and cilantro.
- Spoon the mussels and sauce into bowls.
- Serve and enjoy!
Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $4.58 per serving).
Posted by Amber on June 11, 2012
The weather has been so gorgeous here lately, that I’ve been taking the opportunity to walk more often rather than driving or taking the bus. I decided to take a detour through the park on my way from school to UpTown the other day, expecting to make a short stop by the petting zoo and continue on my way. Somehow, I’d forgotten that there would be baby ducks and geese everywhere, and stopped to take a few photos of the fuzzy ducklings and goslings. So cute!
I think the ducks thought I would feed them, which worked out well for a close-up photo!
The geese, as you could imagine, weren’t as welcoming. The adult goose was hissing at me while I snapped this photo. They are very protective of their goslings. I managed to get this photo and get away safely. The babies are just so adorable, I had to stop! Seeing all the animals return after winter, and the cute little ones is one of my favourite things about spring!
While I was out taking pictures, dinner was marinating in the fridge at home. I’m quite excited to share this recipe with you. It looks like a giant mess of a stir-fry, but it was really tasty. Bryan thought so too, but he rarely complains about anything I serve him, he’s such a good sport when I try out new recipes!
Normally, I avoid cooking liver. It’s cheap, yes, but it’s not always my favourite. It tends to have a weird texture and a strong flavour. It’s one of Bryan’s favourites, so I make try to buy it every month or two and eat it for one meal, leaving Bryan to finish off any leftovers. However… this adapted stir-fry recipe is a hit. I enjoyed it and didn’t really notice the things I normally dislike about liver. I will be making this again. In fact, I will probably make this often. On top of being delicious, it was very affordable!
How do you usually prepare liver? Any tips for having it turn out delicious every time? Please link to recipes if you can!
Chicken Hearts, Gizzards, and Liver Stir-fry
Recipe adapted from Simple Chicken Liver And Gizzard and How to make the green seasoning paste that’s so unique to Caribbean cuisine, both recipes from Caribbean Pot
- 1 pound chicken livers – approximate cost $2.00
- 1/2 pound chicken hearts – approximate cost $1.00
- 1/2 pound chicken gizzards – approximate cost $1.00
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.05
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – approximate cost $0.05
- 1 Vidalia onion, diced – approximate cost $0.75
- 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved – approximate cost $3.00
- 3 cloves garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.45
- 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 jalapeño pepper, de-seeded and minced – approximate cost $0.15
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 teaspoon dried cilantro – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 lime, juiced – approximate cost $0.75
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil – approximate cost $0.05
- 2 cups of uncooked Basmati rice – approximate cost $1.00
- 1/2 cup water
- Cut the chicken hearts, gizzards, and livers into bite-sized chunks.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken hearts and gizzards (set the liver pieces aside for now), lime juice, salt, pepper, tomato pieces, garlic, jalapeño pepper pieces, thyme, cilantro.
- Mix well and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours (or longer).
- Cook Basmati rice according to directions.
- In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions and cook until softened (about 5 minutes).
- Add the chicken and marinade to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes, the chicken pieces should brown a bit.
- Add water, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce and reduce heat to simmer.
- Cover the pot with a lid and allow mixture to cook for 30 minutes (stirring occasionally and adding water if liquid begins to boil away).
- Turn heat up to medium.
- Add liver pieces.
- Remove lid from pot and cook for 5-10 minutes (until the liver is cooked through, watch it closely at this point, because liver cooks quickly).
- Serve over Basmati rice and enjoy!
Makes 5 servings (approximate cost: $2.13 per serving).
Posted by Amber on May 28, 2012
On Saturday, we decided to have a Mexican food themed dinner. It being Cinco de Mayo gave us an excuse to enjoy some of my favourite foods. On the menu was some yummy homemade guacamole, followed by spicy chicken enchiladas. But, by the time I got home at 8pm (a very late dinner time for me!), I didn’t have the enthusiasm necessary to cook the entire meal. So I started by making the guacamole, deciding that if we were still hungry afterwards then I would attempt to make the enchiladas.
The guacamole was quite filling. I’ll be making the enchiladas later this week. It was a very casual dinner/large snack. We shared the guacamole and a bag of tortilla chips while sitting on the couch watching Heroes.
I tried guacamole for the first time at Gabriel’s restaurant in Santa Fe, NM. In fact, I think this was also the first time I’d tried avocados! I remember the experience so clearly! It was my first visit to New Mexico (to meet Bryan’s family). The restaurant is famous for having fantastic guacamole made right at your table. The ingredients arrive on a cart and you choose what you want in your guacamole. The avocados are sliced and the limes are squeezed in front of you. All of the ingredients are fresh.
The first time I tried making it at home on my own, the avocados were not ripe and I was impatient. I wanted to share this recipe with my family, and decided I couldn’t wait for the avocados to ripen. Big mistake! I couldn’t cut through them (in fact, when I tried to anyway, I ended up cutting through the pit in the center of the avocado). I put the chunks I was able to peel away from the skin into a blender and they were roughly chopped, but not creamy nor tasty. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that waiting until the avocados are ripe is a very important step. Sometimes they are already ripe (or even over ripe) when you find them at the store. You can tell that an avocado is ripe when it is firm, but squishes slightly when you press on the skin. If the avocados aren’t ripe, that is, they are as hard as a softball when pressed, be patient! Let them sit on the counter (not in the fridge) for a few days to allow the avocados to ripen. You’ll be glad you waited!
What Mexican foods did you enjoy this weekend? What is your favourite Mexican or Tex Mex food?
(adapted from a recipe on a magnet purchased at a museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico)
- 3 ripe Hass avocados – approximate cost $3.00
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered – approximate cost $2.00
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced – approximate cost $0.25
- 1 lime, juiced – approximate cost $0.50
- Or 2 tablespoons of concentrated lime juice – approximate cost $0.15
- 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro – approximate cost $0.15
- Or 1 tsp dried cilantro if fresh cilantro – approximate cost $0.10
- Sea salt (to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon) – approximate cost $0.05
Optional ingredients (not pictured)
- Lemon juice (if lime juice is not available) – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 roma tomato or other variety (if grape tomatoes not available) – approximate cost $1.00
- 1/4 – 1/2 red onion, diced – approximate cost $0.30
- 1/2 – 1 jalapeño pepper – approximate cost $0.12
- Prepare all of the ingredients you would like to add to your guacamole (except avocados, lime, and salt) and set aside in a bowl. Preparing these ingredients first keeps the avocado from turning brown before serving the guacamole.
- Slice tomato into small pieces
- Mince garlic
- Mince cilantro
- De-seed and mince jalapeño pepper (See a tip on easily de-seeding hot peppers in an earlier post)
- Dice red onion
- Slice and scoop the “meat” from the avocados into a large bowl.
- Mash the avocados with the tines of a fork.
- Pour lime juice over the avocado and mix (this helps keep the avocado from browning).
- Add your choice of optional ingredients (tomatoes, garlic, etc.)
- Mix until the ingredients are coated in avocado.
- Salt to taste and mix well.
- Serve and enjoy with tortilla chips.
Makes 2 servings as a meal (approximate cost: $2.95 per serving) or 5 servings as an appetizer (approximate cost: $1.18 per serving).
We also tried the wine I brought home from Virginia. We passed the Peaks of Otter Winery (however, I picked up this wine at the market in Roanoke) on our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was slightly sweet with a hint of apple flavour. I enjoyed it. Bryan did not.
Posted by Amber on May 7, 2012
A few weeks back I bought everything to prepare guacamole for dinner… or so I thought! Turns out I forgot one of the most important ingredients: the tortilla chips. At that point, I was hungry and didn’t want to make a trip to the grocery store. I have this bad habit of spending too much on items I didn’t necessarily mean to buy if I go to the store while hungry.
Instead, I started browsing through recipes I’d bookmarked to see if there was something else I could make to use up the three perfectly ripe avocados that were on the counter. That’s when I came across the recipe for Creamy Avocado Pasta from Two Peas and their Pod. The original recipe calls for everything that I already had on hand to make the guacamole, and I decided to make a few adjustments: I added some tomatoes for colour (also, because I had them and they looked like a delicious addition), and a few slices of bacon (really, what doesn’t go well with bacon? I also wanted to add some meat to make the dish more appealing to Bryan).
Initially, I had a few hesitations about this one. Could pasta and guacamole really go together? Was I about to use the avocados that I had been looking forward to for a few days while they ripened on my counter in a dish I wouldn’t enjoy? Was I about to ruin the original recipe by making a few changes to include ingredients I had on hand?
How did it turn out? Delicious!
Would we make it again? Definitely!
What would I do differently? For one, I’d make a smaller portion. Half of what the recipe calls for. This was way too much food for two people. And because the avocado turns brown quite quickly, it doesn’t keep for more than a day.
If you do try this and want to save a portion for later, cover the leftovers with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap firmly against the pasta/sauce so that there is very little air in contact with the avocado. Then, cover it was foil so the avocado is kept in a dark place. Then, put it in the fridge for a maximum of 24 hours.
What is your favourite way to enjoy avocados?
Guacamole sauce over spaghetti noodles
Adapted from and inspired by Creamy Avocado Pasta by Two Peas and their Pod
- 4 servings of spaghetti – approximate cost $1.00
- 3 ripe avocados – approximate cost $3.00
- 3 tablespoons lime juice – approximate cost $0.25
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled – approximate cost $0.50
- 3 tablespoons dried cilantro – approximate cost $0.25
- 1 teaspoon sea salt – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved – approximate cost $2.00
- 8 slices of bacon – approximate cost $2.50
- Cook the bacon (I like to bake it in the oven to avoid grease splatters) and, if desired, crumble the bacon when completely cooked.
- Cook the spaghetti according to the package (prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking).
- Prepare the avocados by removing the pit and scooping out the delicious green “meat” into the food processor (alternately, you can use a blender).
- Add the lime juice, garlic, cilantro and sea salt to the food processor.
- Process (or blend) until smooth.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine one serving of pasta and sauce, tossing until the pasta is well coated.
- Place in a serving bowl and top with tomato slices and bacon.
- Repeat for the remaining servings.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Makes 4 servings (approximate cost: $2.40 per serving).
Posted by Amber on April 25, 2012