Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili

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Do you hate beans but like chili? Do you like beans but also like chili that’s a little different? Do you like chili? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions then this chili is for you. It’s beanless and beefy and incredibly satisfying, which is good because though it may be spring SOMEWHERE, in Ottawa we’ve had some major flooding and on Monday it stopped raining enough to SNOW. ALL. DAY. So we kind of need something cockle-warming. This chili is adapted from one my parents found on the internet and printed out and that I stole off their fridge in Florida and smuggled across the border.

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Start with 2lbs cubed beef chuck or stewing beef, and huck that in a non-stick skillet on high to sear all the sides. Chuck the browned beef into a large slow-cooker pot.

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Next, add in 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (“wooster”) sauce, 1 cup beef broth, a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Now, the recipe did not say to drain the tomatoes so I didn’t and I found my chili ended up a bit on the watery side (I also added twice as many tomatoes as the recipe asked for). I thickened the sauce with some cornstarch later on and it turned out super awesome, but I’ll leave it to your discretion to either drain the tomatoes or use a smaller can.

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Dice up the following: 1 white onion, 2 red bell peppers, 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks, and a couple large green chilis. I used Anaheim chilis because they are huge and not too hot and I wanted to be able to feed this to LongJohn. Gather as well 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika (ours is smoked), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Chuck all that in the slow cooker.

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Don’t forget to give it a bit of a stir.

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Cook that sucker on low for 8-12 hours, or on high for about 6.

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Before serving, juice 1 lime and add the juice to the mix.

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Serve garnished with either grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, or chopped cilantro (or all of the above, who are we kidding?).

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Spag Bol Redux

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I have so many fun and exciting things to show you guys in the near future, but I thought I’d do a little bit of a retrospective today. My very first entry on this here blog, five-plus years and 900-odd posts ago, was a recipe for spaghetti bolognese. I make this spaghetti sauce all the freaking time, so I thought I’d do another post just to show you how things have changed over the years, but they still remain in essence the same. For one, the Pie and I went vegetarian for a month when I made that post so there’s no meat in that sauce. For another, I was way lazier when it came to chopping things up, so my sauces were much chunkier. I like them a bit more uniform these days.

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Some things stay the same, though: I always load it down with diced onions to start. I made a crapton (a metric measurement of course) of this so that I could freeze it so I can’t give you exact measurements. Just lots.

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I always add diced red pepper (I’m allergic to green) and diced mushrooms. You can add whatever you wish, though. Sometimes I chuck in whatever’s in my fridge that needs to be used: avocadoes (they add a nice thickness the sauce), tomatoes, sometimes even carrots.

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And then of course a variety of tomato-based canned items. I used to use jarred spaghetti sauce as my base but I found they were sneaking green peppers into the mix and it wasn’t doing my digestive system any good so I switched to canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and canned diced tomatoes.

Spag Bol Redux 1

First I start by sautéeing up the onions with olive oil and a little butter. I let them go until they’re smelly and soft. Then I pull apart a large hunk of lean or extra lean ground beef. I like to break it up with my fingers to ensure that there are no big chunks in the pot. You can also use ground turkey or pork or whatever works for you. If you’re going the veggie route and using TVP, add that last.

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After the meat is browned to my satisfaction I tip in my vegetables, as well as some minced garlic, salt, pepper, and various spices.

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I like a mix of italian spice plus extra basil.

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I add in all my tomato things as well and give that a grand old stirring.

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Let that simmer for at least half an hour so the flavours can mingle, and feel free to adjust the spices as you see fit. I like to let it simmer as long as I can, but it’s good either way.

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Cool and freeze or serve hot on top of your favourite fresh pasta, baked into a pasta casserole, or glopped on top of bread as a sloppy joe!

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One Dish Chicken, Tomatoes, and Rice

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I’m trying to eat more rice these days, and it’s been easy so far with delicious and simple dishes like this one. I then froze a chunk of this and it was oh-so-good, even leftover!

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I had picked up some pre-seasoned chicken thighs from Farm Boy a while back and that was my base of things to go with. You can use unseasoned skinless chicken thighs, if you want: this is just what I had. I also had a litre of chicken broth, a 14oz can diced tomatoes, a 244g package of wild rice, a large sweet onion, and some pearl barley.

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Photography tip: never photograph food in the full harsh light of the afternoon sun.

 

I also grabbed a healthy handful of pre-mixed Italian seasoning. While I was grabbing these things I preheated my oven to 350°F.

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Clearly I am not very good at photography.

 

So I cut the onion in half and because it was so huge I only diced up half of it.

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Or in following my own instructions.

 

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More’s the pity.

 

On to my grains.

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I wanted about two cups of the grains so that I could use all 4 cups of my chicken broth.

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There was some math that needed to be done – I only hoped the juice from the tomatoes didn’t make things mushy.

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So first I softened the onions in my big skillet with some butter and olive oil.

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Then I tipped in the tomatoes and the broth.

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Then the uncooked grains.

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I added a tablespoon or two of the Italian seasoning. Then I gave it a good stir.

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Then I slid in the chicken thighs so they were as on the top as possible. I could definitely have doubled the amount of chicken I used, considering how much leftover rice I had.

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Then I hucked the whole thing in the oven for about an hour. You don’t even need to stir it.

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And then this gorgeousness was born. Holy moly is it good!

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Rice Pilaf with Tomatoes

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I’ve been on a pilaf kick recently, ever since I had one at the Savoy last week and I can’t even deal with how good it was.  They’re really easy to make, too, just a few extra steps more than plain Jane rice.  Why not? This version serves 6 comfortably, with leftovers.

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I had half a 28oz can of diced tomatoes in the fridge as well as some shallots left over from probably Christmas so I figured I’d do something to use them up and take advantage of my overstock of Trader Joe’s Wild Rice Medley.

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I chopped up a handful of mushrooms and shallots and set those aside.

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Then I dumped a hunk of butter and some olive oil into a skillet and let that melt on medium-high heat.

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When it was all melted and foamy I tipped in 2 cups wild rice medley (you can use whichever rice you wish, of course).  I had a bit of black rice hanging around as well so I chucked that in too.

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Stir that around until it gets all coated with butter.  You’re basically toasting it here, so you want it to get a bit brown and smoky.

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Now you can add in your vegetables and stir them around a bit.

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I left the tomatoes until last because I wanted the onions and mushrooms to soften a bit.

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Now you add your stock.  Any stock you like.  Just make sure that it works according to your rice’s cooking directions.  This rice requires 2 1/2 cups liquid for every cup of rice.  I had 4 cups broth in my little carton here, plus a cup of liquid in the tomatoes.

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Give that a stir, then cover it and let it simmer for the allotted time given in the cooking directions (with mine it was 40 minutes).  I stirred mine occasionally, but only because I’m paranoid about burning rice.  I’m really good at burning rice.

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When it’s cooked take the lid off and remove it from the heat and let it sit for about ten minutes.

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We served ours next to a bed of greens and topped with a pan-seared half chicken breast.  It was lovely!

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Slow Cooker Dip Week: Bacon Cheeseburger

As a thank you for babysitting Ruby one weekend, Cait gave me these three wee 1.4 qt crock pots as a wee present.

Dips Week 1

Apparently Ruby is more evil than she looks.

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For our annual potluck, the Pie and I decided to make three hot dips and have them with crackers and vegetables for people to snack on while they waited for the rest of the food our guests to arrive.  As with all slow cooker meals, the prep pictures look prettier than the final shots, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re well worth eating — so worth eating, I’m giving each dip its own post this week.  Today we’re making BACON CHEESEBURGER DIP.   This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker.

Start with 8 slices of your favourite bacon.

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Cook those up nice and crispy, then drain them on a paper towel.  When they’re cool enough, crumble them up with your fingers.  Save a few tablespoons for garnish later on.

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Then, with your pan still hot (and redolent of bacon), chuck in 1/2lb lean ground beef and cook that stuff up until it’s no longer pink.  Drain that sucker.

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Chuck the ground beef and your crumbled bacon into your 1.4qt slow cooker.  Turn it on to low.

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Grate up 1 cup cheddar cheese and chuck that in, as well as a 10oz can diced tomatoes, juice included.

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Cube up 1 8oz package plain cream cheese and add that in as well.

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Cover and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until everything is hot and bubbly and melted together.

Slice up a few handfuls parsley and chuck that in for colour.

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We also sliced up some bell peppers for dippin’.  And crackers too.

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Garnish with your remaining crumbled bacon and serve (it’s the one on the left).  Stay tuned for the rest!

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Aw Yiss. Some Motha. Flippin’. Tomato Soup.

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I don’t know why I felt the need to use that title.  I just DID.  Also, in case you didn’t recognize the meme, Canadian comic artist Kate Beaton is awesome and you should read her stuff.

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What do you do when you are moving and you have too many cans of tomatoes in your pantry, and your husband has left an open can of tomato paste in your refrigerator?

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I think we all know the answer to this.  It’s in the title after all.  Besides, nothing says summer in Newfoundland like a big bowl of hot soup.  And I’m not even kidding.  I haven’t seen the sun in a while and as I write this it is raining and 7°C.  Now you can use fresh tomatoes in this soup, and I’m sure there’s a good argument for doing so, because the taste is so much better and whatever.  Personally, if I have a nice fresh tomato in my hands, I’m going to want to eat it as is, not simmer it in a soup.  But to each his own.

Tomato Soup 1

If you do decide to use fresh tomatoes, I recommend blanching them first to get the skins off.  Put a put of water on the boil and when it’s a-rollin’, submerge your tomatoes in the water for about a minute and a half, until the skins start to split.

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Remove the tomatoes from the pot and plunge them into a bowl of cold water (to stop the tomatoes from cooking and going mushy).

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Then you can just peel them easy as you please.

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Take a few carrots, peel them, and chop them up.

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Do the same with a large sweet onion.

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You know when you are reading real estate listings and you have to sort of translate them to understand what the sellers are trying to tell you?  Like, “cozy” means “small”, “quaint” means that none of the doors are level and won’t shut properly, and “rustic” means “broken”.  I think you can apply almost the same principle to food.  At least in terms of soups.  When I read that a soup is “hearty” that tells me that there’s more stuff in it than liquid.  And when I read “rustic” I understand that the creators were just too lazy to cut everything up extra small.  So by that logic pretty much everything I ever make is “rustic.”

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Sauté the onions in a large saucepan with a gob of vegetable oil until they are soft and transparent.

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Now you can huck in your spices.  I used some minced garlic, smoked paprika, and then some powdered chicken stock.  Give that a good stir.

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Now you can add in your tomatoes (I used 2 cans plus the 2 fresh ones I blanched) and your carrots.  I didn’t drain my canned tomatoes because I wanted the liquid.  If you’re using fresh tomatoes you may want to add in a bit of water. Plop in a can of tomato paste as well, to thicken it up.

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Simmer that for a while until the carrots are soft.  Now you can leave this in its hearty, rustic state, or you can give it a whaz with your handy immersion blender and mix it up.

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I chose the latter, obviously.

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Then I took a can of evaporated milk that Mrs. Nice had purchased for undisclosed reasons and poured that in. Uh, don’t, you know, confuse evaporated milk with condensed milk. I don’t think that would end well.

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Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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I would have loved to serve it with fresh basil but dried had to do.  Yum!

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Pork Ragu with Fettucine


Gren on a Saturday 5-3

Oh winter.

While Gren may adore this particular season (at least until his little feet get cold), I do not. Some days I just want to wrap myself up in as many blankets as I own (which is quite a few) and count down the days until spring. But I can’t, and this is why people invented comfort food.

This particular recipe comes from a recent issue of Real Simple magazine, and it does the trick. The Pie and I have a resolution to use our slow cooker more (because it’s AWESOME), and it was really nice to come home the other day to a house that smelled like awesome had been slow-cooking in it for hours and hours. And the preparation takes no time at all. I did ours the afternoon before, which was a weekend, and put it in the fridge overnight. Then before I left for work the next morning I popped the crock on the pot and turned it on and blamo kablam it was done.

Pork Ragu with Fettucine 4

So let’s get around to that preparation, shall we?

Start by scrubbing and chopping up a large carrot. I ended up using two because I wasn’t sure if mine qualified as large or not. Do the same with a medium onion and 2 cloves of garlic (I may have used the whole head, but I really like garlic and this head was pretty old).

Pork Ragu with Fettucine 1

For spices, you’re going to need about 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and about 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. But feel free to add more or less if you choose.

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You also need a large (14oz) can of diced tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste. The recipe calls for just 2 tablespoons of the paste, but that’s like a third of the can and I would just have to figure out what to do with the rest of it so I used the whole can.

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Chuck all your vegetables and spices and canned goods in a 4-6 quart slow cooker (for scale, this one is 6 quarts).

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And you need a hunk of pork shoulder or pork butt (haha, butt), about 1 1/2 lb.

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Trim off the larger hunks of fat and cut the shoulder/butt in half.

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Pop that in the slow cooker as well and give everything a stir to coat it in tomato juice (the acids in the tomatoes will help to tenderize that sucker).

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Cover it and let it cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or low for 7 to 8 hours, until the pork is super dooper tender.

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About twenty minutes before you want to eat, cook up a package of fettuccine according to the package instructions (normally fettuccine takes about 12 minutes to cook to al dente).

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While that’s on the go, take two forks and shred all that lovely slow-cooked pork in the slow cooker.

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Drain your pasta and plop it into the slow cooker on top of the pork stuff and give it a thorough stir.

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Serve, spraying bits of tomato juice everywhere (at least, that’s what I did). Grate some parmesan on top and eat your way into ragù heaven.

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The recipe says it serves four but the Pie and I think that serving size is immense, so we would say that it more accurately serves 6-8, and it’s especially good the next day when all the juices have been sucked into the fettuccine. When I brought it to work everyone became jealous of my delicious leftover lunch.