Chili Cookoff

Way back when, I mentioned a chili cook-off I entered. I didn’t win but it was a great excuse to make some chili. It also got me thinking about my next birthday cook-off/taste-off…especially after last year’s booming success!

Ms. J from Better Than Butter introduced me to the cookoff. Guess what?! She won!! Woohoo!

I made a chili recipe my friend Ms. A graciously gave to me after I complimented her chili profusely about 5 years ago. It is modeled after Wendy’s Chili and it’s realllly good. I told her I’d share my winnings but I didn’t quite win. I came in a pretty respectable 4th (out of 11 or 12?).
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Here’s the recipe, with a few of my own tweaks, to make a HUGE batch. I recommend cutting in half if you aren’t serving an army or if you don’t want leftovers for weeks. It’s just too easy not to make more often.

Ingredients

3 lbs. ground turkey
1 can tomato sauce (29 oz)
1 can tomatoes with green chilis (10 oz)
1 can kidney beans (29 oz with liquid)
1 can black beans (29 oz with liquid)
1 large onion, diced
1 cup green chili, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
3 tbs cumin powder
4 tbs chili powder
2 tbs black pepper
3 tbs salt
3 cups water
1 tsp liquid smoke

Directions

Brown the meat and drain.
Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes and onion.
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Add the beans, chilies, celery, and garlic.
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Add the spices.
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Finally add water and bring to a simmer over low heat.
Cook, stirring every 15 minutes, for 3 hours

The chili cook-off was a fundraiser for the Arlington Boys & Girls Club. It was $10 to enter a chili and $1 to sample and vote during a fall event they were having. I thought it was fun and it was great to see the community support.

We served non-stop for 90 minutes. I filled a huge crock pot. Most folks ran out even serving small amounts! It was so busy  that we (the chili cookers) didn’t get to sample everyone else’s chili! We were asked to list the ingredients so the tasters could have that info. I would have liked to see what everyone used.

I didn’t serve any toppings but totally should have. People had tortilla chips, cornbread, cheese, onion, etc! I had a bit leftover so Mr. J and I ate that with cornbread muffin tops once I got home.

Chili Surprise

I’m a little backwards on my timeline here but shhh! Don’t tell anyone you haven’t seen honeymoon meals before seeing this honeymoon-return-meal.

I’m lucky to call one of the kindest humans I know, my friend. Ms. L not only supported me through allllll my wedding planning as a bridesmaid, but she cooked a meal and delivered it to me with all the fixings so I could put off grocery shopping after the honeymoon. How well does she know me?!

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She made Ina Garten’s chili and sent onions, sour cream, shredded cheddar, and corn chips for toppings. AMAZING! I ate it for meals on end before actually grocery shopping. It was delicious and I hope she kept some for herself too!

Chicken Chili (Ina Garten’s recipe)

Ingredients

4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
For serving: Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream

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Directions

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly.
Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes.
Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

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It was such a thoughtful gesture and we loved it. I ate it for lunch all week too. I’m totally stealing this idea and giving somebody a meal when I think they’d need one. Thanks Ms. L!

Speaking of chili…I entered a Chili Cookoff! Can’t wait to share that with you too!

 

Chicky Parm

While I’m eating my way through Italy & Spain, I figured I’d share my Chicken Parmesan recipe with you. I was really happy with it and will definitely make it again. Chicken Parm isn’t always something I order out, but I do love it. We had some mammoth chicken breasts from our favorite butcher which feed 2 so I knew just what to do with one. As you may recall, Mr. J grabbed Lemon Pepper marinated chicken and he wasn’t a big fan.

Ingredients

1 large chicken breast (or 2 normal sized)
¼ salad dressing (Italian or Greek)
½ Parmesan Cheese
1 cup marinara sauce
1 egg & tbs water, whisked
1 cup bread crumbs (I mixed Panko & regular)
¼ cup shredded mozzarella (or sliced Provolone)
Pasta (quantity & variety of your choosing)

Directions

Marinate the (defrosted) chicken breasts in salad dressing.
Butterfly or slice a pocket into the breast. I don’t claim to have strong knife skills so I cut a pocket rather than mess with it too much. Stuff each breast with a few tablespoons of Parmesan.
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Carefully dip each breast into egg then breadcrumbs and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. (yes, this was 1 breast, halved!)
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While chicken is cooking, prepare pasta to serve with the Chicken Parm.
Take chicken out when cooked through and top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella. Return to oven just until melted.
Serve over pasta.

Mr. J and I loved it! I probably didn’t stuff it with enough cheese, but I think it was a nice touch. The chicken was super moist and the breading had a great crunch.

I didn’t quite make my own sauce, but I did doctor-up some jarred sauce with my own seasoning and some tomato paste. I finished the pasta in the sauce which was good, but my timing wasn’t perfect so it was a touch over-cooked.
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I wonder about making a few at a time and freezing them. It seems like a handy thing to have pretty ready for a busy weeknight dinner. I keep chicken in the freezer anyway so I’ll have to remember this when I’m defrosting chicken and needing an idea.

I didn’t bake it again after it cooked through since I wanted the crust to be really crunchy and feared it might get sogged. Maybe next time I’ll try pounding it out to be really thin instead of stuffing it. Either way would be delicious. Baking the chicken instead of pan frying definitely kept the moisture in, and I usually don’t like frying things.

This was a great dinner that got us pumped up for our honeymoon to Italy & Spain!

Dinner Straight from the Freezer

I just had a really great frozen meal. No, not a TV-Dinner style meal, but real food, just frozen. Way back when, for my birthday (in March) Mrs. S sent me a gift certificate to pick out a frozen dinner of my choice. They came with a protein, starch, veggie, and even dessert. Unfortunately it got a bit buried and I didn’t choose right away.
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Once we were in the final planning stretch for our wedding, it seemed like the PERFECT time to have a ready-made meal to call on. It came from Omaha Steaks and was delicious.omaha_box_590_390
We had chicken cordon bleu, twice baked potatoes, green beans with herbed butter, and cheesecake. It was a meal for 4, so that meant two dinners. Score!
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It was a really nice gift. I think anyone stressed at work, busy planning a wedding, bringing a new baby home, or just moved to a new home would all really appreciate this.
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Lemon Pepper Kebabs Without So Much Pepper

Summer mugginess and I don’t mix so something cool, fresh, and Mediterranean sounded perfect. It was also a good use for some marinated chicken hanging around.
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The boneless skinless lemon pepper chicken came from our fav butcher. Mr. J thought it was too peppery so I thought re-marinating it in a basic Italian dressing would tone down the pepper a bit.

One of my favorite things about Greek and Mediterranean food is that the fresh ingredients get to be the focus. It screams summer to have so much crunch and individual flavor.

Ingredients

1 large boneless chicken breast, marinated, cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
1 tomato
1 English cucumber
1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup Italian or Greek dressing

Directions

Soak wooden kebab sticks in lukewarm water
Skewer chicken chunks alternating with pepper chunks and grill.
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Chop tomato and cucumber before mixing with feta and dressing.
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Serve kebabs with rice pilaf and cucumber tomato salad.

I couldn’t stop marveling over how perfectly cooked the chicken was. It was perfectly juicy. I think the size of each piece had a lot to do with that. The peppers got a nice char too without losing all the crunch.

The kebabs, plus buttery rice pilaf, plus salty feta in a crisp salad was awesome. I was really happy with it and thought this meal was nicely well rounded.

Have a good Labor Day Weekend everyone! Can you believe it is already September?!

Wing It

I’ve been so excited to post these fan-tas-tic wings. Despite chicken being a very regular menu item for me, I haven’t cooked wings…probably ever. Also, I haven’t even thought about cooking wings since I do not have access to the grill. Waaa waaa. Someday it will come out of storage.
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These were so good! I was so happy with them! They were sweet, had a nice soy zing, and the fresh green onions provided a crispness that I appreciated. I truly felt like these were restaurant quality.

Ingredients

1 pound chicken wings, drumette & wing separated, if desired
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tbs honey
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sesame oil
2 tbs chopped garlic
½ tsp salt
¼ cup chopped green onions

Directions

Whisk liquid ingredients together before adding trimmed wings and sauce to marinate for at least 3 hours.
After chicken has marinated, sprinkle with salt and heat oven to 375 degrees.
Bake chicken in a single layer, skin side down for 20 minutes and flip and bake for 25 minutes until browned & crispy
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Serve with chopped green onion.

The leftovers were just as good served cold. It made me feel like I was on a picnic…though I haven’t picnic-ed in years and probably didn’t have Asian-inspired wings then anyway.

The recipe is pretty basic but super convenient since I had everything on hand, and an easy one to set up to marinate while other fun things are happening. I chopped off the wing tip but left the wing and drumette attached. I used the tips to make a little bit of chicken stock.
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I served these bad boys with some of my favorite (also, mayo-less) slaw. It has apple for sweetness and a vinegary/mustardy dressing. I love it and can’t get enough of it. I made it here too. I haven’t attempted potato salad yet and it’s already August so I should really get on that!

These would be a great game time snack, appetizer, or meal. BBQ wings cooked low and slow and finished on the grill are my favorite. Until I live somewhere that allows grills, ours will hide in the garage just waiting for a chance to make the neighbors, and the pup, jealous with a smokey scent in the air.

Fun to Say and Fun to Eat

Succotash is such a fun word and made me really excited to make it since I’d never had it before. Announcing this made Mr. J’s jaw drop which made me even more excited to make this chicken & succotash meal!
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Sometimes I dream about when I won’t live in an apartment and I can have a normal kitchen, or when my puppy can have a yard, and especially when I can have a grill! That sometimes might actually be quite frequently. I promise the dog he’ll have his own yard all. the. time.

This dinner is pretty good inside but would be amazing on a grill outside too. The chicken is stuffed with pepperjack cheese and spinach with a zippy spice on the outside. It’s served with succotash too.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
6 oz pepperjack cheese, sliced
2 cups baby spinach
2 tbs grilling rub of your preference
1 cup edamame
1 cup red pepper
1 cup corn
1 tomato, chopped
¼ cup lime salad dressing or lime juice and olive oil

Directions

Butterfly the chicken breasts and stuff with cheese and spinach, or cut a pocket into the middle and stuff with cheese and spinach.
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Season the outside with a rub or spice mix
Grill chicken on a grill pan or panini press for about 10-minutes until all juices are running clear
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Meanwhile, saute edamame, red pepper, corn, for about 3 minutes and then add tomato.
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Add lime dressing and serve
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I got this recipe from The Food Network Magazine awhile back. I use spinach instead of argula like they recommend. I also did edamame instead of lima beans and threw in the red pepper instead of summer squash and thought it made it wayyy better.

Funny story. I always stop by the reduced produce, don’t judge, and I thought I was grabbing a bag of cukes & zuccs. I figured the store employees don’t know the difference. I got home and had lots of cukes but no zucchinis. This is kind of like the time when they didn’t know how to label prosciutto and charged me the bologna price. Score! Anywho,  I also got a steal on red & orange peppers (4 for $1.77!!). The cashier just entered the pepper code and it would have been $5-something if I wasn’t watching. I felt like I was on extreme couponing!!

This is an easy & casual one that would definitely impress friends with only a few pans OR deviate from the norm of your grilling menus this weekend!

‘Zone or Pie

I grabbed a few ingredients to make pizza but when I got home, I realized it could easily be a rolled out pizza, or a deep dish pizza, or a calzone! Love love love how versatile Italian dishes can be!
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Ingredients

pizza dough
1 head broccoli
2 chicken breasts
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parmesan
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup alfredo sauce
2 tbs cornmeal or wheat germ

Directions

Cut chicken breasts into thirds and roll in breadcrumbs and Parmesan before pan frying in olive oil.
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When chicken is cooked, rough chop it into bite size pieces.
Rough chop yellow onion and caramelize onions in the same pan the chicken cooked in.
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Steam broccoli florets.
Spread out dough onto a sheet pan sprayed with non-stick spray and sprinkled with wheatgerm. Leave half of dough hanging off the edge to become the top.
Layer cheese, chicken, broccoli, sauce and repeat. Pile it high!
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Close the calzone by wrapping the hanging edge over the filled half. Press tightly to close.
Make a few air-vent slits across the top and brush with olive oil or egg wash.
Bake 35 minutes at 400.
Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The key to the best calzones is filling with much more filling than seems appropriate. It settles and should be dense.

I liked this combo and thought it would be easy options from the freezer if you have them on hand. Mr. J didn’t think the broccoli was necessary, but it was OK. I always think a veggie and some color are necessary. Leftovers are also one of my favorite aspects to a calzone!

Enjoy cinco de mayo tomorrow! Have a margarita for me! I’ll be working super late but I’ll celebrate my favorite mexican later in May…

A Little Sweet & A Little Sour

I know after making my own turkey meatballs I said I should be making them instead of buying them, but I’m crazy at work for another 25 days. I can’t wait to rejoin life afterwards!
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Anywho, I made Sweet and Sour Meatballs using turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s. I’ve made this before but it has been awhile.

Ingredients

1 can pineapple chunks
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tbs soy sauce
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
6 meatballs
½ green pepper, chopped
½ orange pepper, chopped
1 cup rice

Directions:

Bring pineapple chunks, some liquid, brown sugar, and soy sauce to a rolling boil for 2 minutes.
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Add red pepper flakes and meatballs before lowering heat to medium low.
Prepare rice.
Add peppers to meatballs and sauce for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
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How easy?! I didn’t have any egg noodles but it turns out Mr. J thought he’d like it better over rice. I also didn’t have any rice but I did have aborio. Risotto with sweet and sour meatballs turned out to be a success!

I had “natural” pineapple chunks and I liked it much better than regular canned pineapple. It’s definitely as close to fresh as you can get.

Intense Garlic & Balsamic Vinegar Chicken

I’d categorize Mr. J as a sauce person whereas my sauces don’t always come out perfectly. I think they are coming along. I made a lot of sauce even when making chicken-for-two. This was a FLAVORFUL meal.
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This was a pretty quick meal to put together and I loved the vinegar flavor. It felt different and made me want to use balsamic vinegar more often.

Ingredients

2 chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter, softened
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 cup of chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil and cook chicken thighs until a medium golden brown, about 5 minutes.
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Flip the chicken over and cook for about 3 minutes.
Put chicken into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Add garlic to the chicken pan (careful: don’t let it burn).
Stir in balsamic vinegar and chicken broth over a low boil.

Whisk in mixed flour and butter to thicken sauce, cooking for about 2 more minutes over low.
Add in chicken and coat in sauce and cook for 5 minutes.
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I liked the balsamic flavor but also think I put in too much (I used about ⅓ cup) so I’d recommend a quantity of a few tablespoons.I eat a solid amount of chicken but I don’t use chicken thighs very often. They were a great change. A little dark meat here and there never hurts.
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I served this with mashed potatoes (with a touch of sour cream) and steamed green beans. It was a really comforting meal.