Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 13

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.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 1

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.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 4

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.

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 5

Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili 8

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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Another Slow Cooker Dip Trio – in two parts

This past weekend, we had our housewarming party – finally. Mostly because we finally had enough furniture for people to sit on. And also because it’s hard to warm a house in the middle of the winter. This way, we could use the barbecue.

Dip Trio 1

The Pie wanted to make use of our three-pot mini slow cookers and prepare some dips for our guests, so here are two of the ones we came up with. The final one involved a bit of extra prep so it’s a post on its own. The two posted today were made significantly smaller so they’d fit in our tiny pots.

Dip Trio 4

This first one, a garlic white bean dip, doesn’t really require a slow cooker, unless you want it to be served warm (which we did). I also took out some of the prep steps to make the whole thing a one-shot process. Start by glugging 1/4 cup olive oil into a small saucepan, and add in the equivalent of 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook that on low for about 5 minutes, until garlic smells start to fill your whole kitchen.

Dip Trio 3

Grate up about 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and the zest from 1 lemon.

Dip Trio 6

Then, grab your food processor and chuck in 2 cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed. I used one can white beans and one can of white navy beans. Tip in as well 1/3 cup water, 1 cup ricotta cheese, your garlic and oil stuff, the parmesan and lemon zest, 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, and a generous helping of salt and ground black pepper.

Dip Trio 5

Give that a good whaz until it’s all smooth. Add a bit more olive oil if you think it looks dry (and if you’re going to keep it in the slow cooker all day, add a bit more as it has a tendency to dry out).

Dip Trio 7

Plop that in the slow cooker and leave it on low for about 2 hours to warm through. Enjoy!

Dip Trio 23

This next one is pretty good, but we actually found it a little bland and might spice it up some more next time. It’s a corn and cheese dip with bacon and pale ale and I think it has plenty of potential for enhancement. Start by tipping 3 1/2 cups frozen corn into your slow cooker. Top that with 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (we used an extra-old cheddar).

Dip Trio 8

Dice up a red bell pepper and a de-seeded jalapeno.

Dip Trio 9

Chuck those in the pot with 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

Dip Trio 13

Grab a pale ale as well and tip in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of it. I think next time I’d use something with a bit more flavour, as neither the Pie nor myself are IPA fans (not that I’m drinking these days anyway).

Dip Trio 12

Give that a good stirring to mix things up. Then grab a package of plain cream cheese and break it up into chunks, which you can then spread over the top of the thing. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

Dip Trio 14

While that’s on the go, cook up about 4 slices of bacon until it’s crispy enough to crumble and let it cool (so you can crumble it). Harvest some fresh chives from your garden (it’s the only thing growing right now). Cut those up in a wee bowl and set the bacon and chives aside until the dip is ready.

Dip Trio 15

When the dip is hot, stir well to incorporate the cream cheese and then garnish with the chives and bacon. Eat!

Dip Trio 21

Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 14

This recipe from the kitchn came with so many caveats about how these are not your ordinary baked enchiladas, and how they end up being a gooey mess but they’re still good, that it was almost worth making them just to see if they lived up to all the anti-hype. They’re easy, they’re tasty – they’re messy and not crispy at all. And still good. So give them a try.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 2

They are a great way to use up weird leftover bits of things. This is what tofu does when you freeze it. People like to freeze it because it goes crumbly, so we tried it as an experiment after making stir fry one night.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 1

Start by chopping up 1 small onion. Dice up 1 red bell pepper. Drain and rinse 1 16oz can of black beans. Divvy out 1 cup frozen corn. Mix all those together in a bowl. Grate up 1-2 cups good melting cheese, and add in 1/2 cup of that cheese to the bowl.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 3

Mix together as well some spices: 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. I find often that this sort of food genre is benefitted by adding in 1 teaspoon cinnamon as well.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 4

Tip that into the mixed veg.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 5

Add in any leftover ground meat or chicken you have, if you have any, or this weird crumbled spongy thawed tofu. I really felt like I was breaking up a sponge. Later, I felt like I was EATING a sponge.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 6

In the bottom of a 4-6 quart slow cooker, spread enough of a 30oz jar of salsa to coat the bottom. You’ll note here that we have a very bowl-shaped slow-cooker. This probably works a bit better in a more flat-bottomed version.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 7
Ker-SPLAT.

Grab a package of flour tortillas (ours were the small size, pack of 10). Scoop about 1/3 cup of that vegetable filling into each tortilla, roll it up, and lay it seam-side-down in the slow cooker.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 8

Once you’ve got a layer (with our shape of bowl, that didn’t take long), sprinkle with more salsa and some more of the cheese.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 9

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 10

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You should probably end up with only two layers but because of the shape of our bowl we had three, so it was a good thing I grated more cheese. Any extra filling can be piled on top.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 12

Then add in the rest of the jar of salsa. Resist adding on the rest of the cheese – keep about 1/2 cup of it back for the end bit.

Slow cooker black bean enchiladas 13

Cook on high for 2-4 hours (or on low for 8 hours if you’re prepared for extra mushy enchiladas). In the last 15 minutes of cooking, take the last 1/2 cup of cheese and sprinkle that over top, close the lid, and let it melt.

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Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro, or whatever else floats your enchilada boat!

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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

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Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 6

In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 9

Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 5

Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 10

Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 11

Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 12

Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 23

MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 2

You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 3

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 4

Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 14

Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 13

So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 17

TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 18

Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 21

Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 22

CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 20

ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 24

Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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O Canada: Baked Beans with Toutons

Baked Beans with Toutons

My house currently smells like awesome.  All the windows are steamed up.  It’s great.

Baked beans, I think you’d agree, are a traditional staple all down the eastern seaboard of North America.  Add a splash of Québec maple syrup to the sweet, dark sauce and serve it with a side of Newfoundland toutons (“TAOW-tuns”), however, and you’ve got yourself a Canadian dish.  It all takes quite a bit of time (you have to start by soaking your beans overnight), but it’s worth it to have your house smell this good.

For the Baked Beans:

I cobbled together this bean recipe from three others, which I’ve listed at the bottom of this post.  I think baked beans are conceptually pretty fluid, so feel free to experiment on your own.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This recipe also involves some interesting food items that are not usual additions to my refrigerator contents: fatback pork and salt pork.  If you can’t find fatback pork or pre-cut scruncheons, you can also deep-fry the toutons in vegetable oil.  Here in St. John’s, salt meat, which you can buy in 4L buckets, has its own section in the grocery store, right next to the bologna section.  That’s right, bologna section.  As in, there are several different kinds and cuts of bologna available to the residents of this lovely city.  Luckily I found smaller amounts of fatback pork and salt pork riblets, and was able to get away with just a scant pound of each, rather than having to find a use for a whole bucket of meat.  You could probably use a salty ham (Virginia-style) in place of the salt pork if you can’t find it.  And of course if you want a vegetarian version of the baked beans, leave out the pork altogether.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Start with about 4 cups dried white navy beans.  Rinse them and plop them in a bowl.  Cover them with several inches of water and leave them overnight to soak.  You may need to add more water as it gets absorbed.

Baked Beans with Toutons

The next day, drain and rinse the beans and plop them in a very large pot with three times their volume of water to cover (so take the bowl the beans were in and fill that sucker three times with water and you should be good).

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop in 1lb salt pork.  Usually this comes on the bone.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the beans and pork simmer for 40-50 minutes, until they’re all tender and stuff.  Scoop out 1 1/2 cups bean cooking water and then drain the rest.

While the beans are simmering, finely chop up 1 large onion.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Plop the onion in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon dry mustard (Keen’s or Colman’s are the traditional versions around here), 2 teaspoons chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and fragrant.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour into that 4-156mL cans of tomato paste (that’s about 2 1/3 cups), 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup fancy molasses, and 1/2 cup pure maple syrup.  Give that a good stir and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes.  It will bubble like the Thing from the Black Lagoon and get absolutely everywhere, so make sure to cover it.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour in the reserved bean cooking water and mix well.  You can purée it in a food processor at this point if you wish, but I didn’t bother.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Preheat your oven to 300°F.  You could do this earlier but it really doesn’t take long, so there’s no point in having your oven on for such an extended period of time.

Strip the salt pork from its bones and tear it into small pieces before tossing it back in with your drained beans.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mix the beans and the sauce together.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 2-3 hours, then uncover and bake until sauce is thick and the beans are coated, about another hour.  Serve hot with toutons, or allow to cool and freeze for later.

Baked Beans with Toutons

For the Toutons:

I pulled the recipe for these weird little Newfoundland doughnuts/dumplings/biscuits from this site.  Most of the other recipes I found ended up being exact copies of this one, so I figured it was legit.  Toutons are essentially fried white bread dumplings.  Most of the time they are served doused with butter and maple syrup.  This sounds like a good idea to me.  You can buy pre-made touton dough at the gas station down the block from our house.  During the summer festival here they have touton-throwing contests.  These bready balls are evidently important to Newfoundland culture.

Start by dissolving 1 tablespoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add in 1 tablespoon traditional yeast.  Allow that to stand for 10 minutes, then stir it in until it’s all dissolved.

Baked Beans with Toutons

In a saucepan, scald 1 cup low-fat milk (the recipe called for 2% but we use 1% so I figured that would only save us from an earlier death).  Add in 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening and stir until it’s all melted.

Baked Beans with Toutons

To the hot milk, add 1/2 cup cold water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Make sure the milk mixture is lukewarm and then add the yeast mixture and stir until well-blended.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add in 2 cups all-purpose flour and stir until it’s all smooth.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Gradually add 3-4 more cups of flour until you have a moist dough that no longer sticks to the bowl.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Shape the dough into a ball and plop it in a greased bowl, turning the ball to grease the top.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it somewhere warm and draft-free for the dough to double in size, about an hour.

Baked Beans with Toutons

While you’re waiting, you can make your scruncheons (or scrunchins), which are fried pork back fat.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Mmmm.  Like bacon only without the actual pork.  So you take your backfat, about 1/4lb, and you cube it up as finely as you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

This is harder than it looks.  Pig backs are tough.  Also see the surface of this particular chunk?  I’m convinced it was actual skin, because it was a pain to get through, and it fried up almost rock hard.  I suggest trimming that off if you can.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Set your raw scruncheons aside for a spell, until your dough is ready.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Punch down the dough and squeeze off pieces about 1/3 cup in size.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Flatten them to about 1/2″ thick, in a circular or triangular shape.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry your scruncheons until the solid pieces are golden brown and crisp.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Take them out and lay them on a paper towel.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Fry the toutons in the liquid pork fat until they are golden on both sides, a minute or so per side.

Baked Beans with Toutons

Add a dab of butter to the hot touton, sprinkle with crispy scruncheons, and douse with maple syrup.  Serve hot!

Baked Beans with Toutons

Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to go and have a heart attack somewhere.

Baked Beans with Toutons

More Baked Beans:

http://canadianwinter.ca/index.php?page=canadian_winter_molasses_baked_beans

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/maple_baked_beans.php

http://suppertonight.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/canadian-baked-beans/

Summer Soft Tacos

While it’s in our immediate plans to learn how to make our own tortillas, we haven’t gotten there yet.  So for now we’re using store-bought corn tortillas and that’s working out just great.

Tacos and wraps are great because you can get creative with what you use.  You can use poultry, beef, pork, soy … whatever you want.  You can even use leftovers, add new spices, and come up with whole new dishes.  Plus they’re easy for when you don’t have a lot of spare time at night.  And kids like making their own.  So it’s a win-win situation for all.

This super-easy recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, and by my measurements, feeds 3 people and uses 10 small corn flour tortillas.  You can of course up the recipe for more.

Start by finely chopping up 1 red onion.

Put half that onion in a good-sized bowl and the other half elsewhere.

Then finely chop up 2 tomatoes and add them to the onion.

Ditto 4 leaves lettuce (Romaine).

And an avocado.

And a bunch of cilantro.

Toss.

Liberally season with salt and pepper and lime juice.  Set that aside to get all percolated with cilantro and lime goodness.

In a tiny bowl, mix 2 tablespoons chili powder with 1 tablespoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon corn starch.

In a medium saucepan, sauté up that other half onion with a clove or two of minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons).

Add in about 1 pound (450g) lean ground beef and stir until browned.  Add in the spice mix and cook for a few minutes longer, until thick and saucy.

Grate up some cheddar cheese and have some sour cream handy as you artfully arrange all your foodie bits around you.

Now take a tortilla and smooth on some sour cream.  Then sprinkle some of your tex-mex meat.

Scoop on some salad and a dropping of cheese.

Roll from one end to the other.

Like rolling a dead person up in a rug.  Or a burrito.  And eat that sucker.  Mmmm.

The Chicken Salad Sandwich to Convert the Non-Believers

When the Pie and I first started dating, we both had a lot more money than we do now (read: we have NO money now, and then we HAD money).  So we used to go on these elaborate dates, which were so much fun.

On this one in particular, it was my turn to plan.  We started out picking raspberries from a local farm (where I got bitten by a dog and I still have the scar, seven years later, but that’s another story), followed by a picnic lunch in a village park, a game of mini-golf (where I soundly beat the pants off the Pie), a nap, and then a late dinner at a fancy restaurant downtown.  A good time was had by all.

But this story is about the picnic.  As I said, we had only been dating a few months, and I wasn’t yet fully versed on the Pie’s various food likes and dislikes (he insists he’s not a picky eater, but the rest of us look at each other and shake our heads).

To impress my new man, I had prepared a sumptuous picnic feast, featuring as a main course my signature chicken salad sandwiches with moist, tender chicken, crisp celery, and just a hint of spice.

It turns out that the Pie didn’t like chicken salad.  Note that I said “didn’t.”  He gallantly took a bite of the sandwich, to be polite (after all, I had made him two sandwiches in anticipation of his appetite).  Instantly, he was converted.  Now he gets chicken salad all the time when he buys sandwiches.

So here is that recipe for you.  Go forth and proselytize!

We had 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts that we’d poached the day before.  The trick with chicken salad is to mince your chicken.  Most chicken salads have these huge chunks of chicken in them, which, while tasty, tend to fall out of your sandwich all over the place.

So MINCE those suckers.

Also mince up a few stalks of celery.

I like the bottom of celery bits.  It’s like a green flower.

Mix the celery into the chicken.

Now add about a teaspoon of paprika, and 2 teaspoons chili powder.  You can add more if you like the taste.

Glop on about 2/3 cup mayonnaise (don’t skimp here, people, and use real mayo).

Mix that stuff up.  Garnish with a festive sprig of basil and you have yourself some salad.

Which you can then put into sammiches.  Which you can then eat.

Have you ever converted anyone to a food?