Quick Chili

Fall is always a busy season for me.  Usually, school is ramping up and the hot weather has disappeared, leaving me with more energy to get out and be active.  Plus the hockey season starts in October, and that keeps me busy until June.

As the outside temperature cools, we start making hotter dishes to keep us warm.  But because the fall is so busy, we don’t always have the time to have some sort of comfort food simmering on the stove all day.

This chili recipe can be ready in half an hour, and tastes almost as good as its slow-cooker counterpart.

So you start, as always, with an onion and some garlic.  I of course use garlic-in-a-jar, but you can use whatever you like.

Chop up the onion.

This is where I like to use the new love of my life, the Onion Goggles.  I’ve tried knives dipped in lemon juice, and cutting onions next to an open flame, but these work wayyyyy better.

Of course, I look like a total dweeb when I wear them.

Anyway, chuck your onion in a saucepan with some garlic and olive oil and cook until the onions are translucent.

Chop up two red peppers and chuck them in as well, together with some chopped fresh basil.

Add in some cumin, chili powder, and tabasco sauce (hot sauce) to taste, together with whatever else you need to make it the kind of spicy you’re in the mood for.

Our hot sauce came from my brother’s wedding.  It’s pretty good.

Next you can add in your beans.  White beans, black beans, kidney beans, it really doesn’t matter (well, perhaps not broad beans).  They can come from a can or a bag, but make sure they’re cooked before you chuck them in.  This is a bean medley my mother cooked up a while ago and froze.

Pour in a can of diced tomatoes.

Add a handful or two of TVP if you wish.  If you think the chili is too liquidy, you can also add a can of tomato paste for thickening.

I like to pop in some frozen corn when it’s almost ready.

Let it simmer the whole time you’re adding stuff, then for about twenty minutes after you’ve added the last ingredient.

Serve hot, store in your refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze it for a quick dinner some time later on.

Quick and Classic Spaghetti Sauce

It really hurts my brain when people invite me over for dinner and they serve spaghetti with sauce straight out of a can.  Why would you do that when it is so easy to make something a little more special?

My mother has been making spaghetti sauce from scratch for as long as I can remember, and it always, always tastes ten times better than anything I’ve ever gotten at a restaurant – or anywhere else, for that matter.  I learned how to make it myself and have been modifying it ever since.  I’m not a huge measurer when it comes to sauces, so it’s different every time. Feel free to use your own judgment in this.

So now, for the first time ever in print, a classic and easy spaghetti sauce I learned from my mother, who learned it from her mother.  I’ll give you the quick and the slow versions, as well as the non-vegetarian option.

First, you need to prep your vegetables.  Chop, into small chunks:

 

1 large onion (white or yellow work best)

2 bell peppers (we use red because I’m allergic to the green, but I’ve always thought the green added better colour)

10 average-sized mushrooms (whichever kind suit your fancy)

2 jalapeño peppers (optional, but I like a bit of the spice – make sure you’re careful when cutting these, as pepper juice in the eye is excruciating)

My favourite spices

Can you smell that?

This one reminded me of baby food.

In a large pot, sauté the onions in a few teaspoons of olive oil until tender.  Sprinkle in a healthy pinch each (I’m talking three fingers and your thumb, here) of basil and oregano, as well as two or three crushed cloves of garlic.  I’m a pretty lazy cook, and a handy shortcut I discovered is garlic in a jar.  I’m experimenting with brands at the moment, because I can’t get my beloved Mr. Goudas brand here in Newfoundland, but I figure a teaspoonful of minced garlic is a good-sized clove’s worth.

Carnivorous Option: If you were adding meat to your recipe, now would be the time to do it.  I usually add a brick-sized amount of ground beef, turkey, sausage or pork.  Chorizo or other cooked sausage works just as well.  Brown the meat carefully and thoroughly, and then drain any excess fat.  If you use a lean or extra lean ground you won’t have to drain it.

Now add the rest of your vegetables to the pot and allow to soften for a few minutes until their colour is heightened.

When the vegetables’ colour turns bright, they’re ready.

In this next step you have a bunch of options.

Take your pick of available sauces.

For the slow and steady cook, add one large can of diced tomatoes and one of crushed tomatoes.

Pour some water into the empty jar and shake it to get all the saucy goodness.

Instead of a can of crushed tomatoes you can use a jar of commercial spaghetti sauce, which has the benefit of a few extra spices added in.  If the Pie is around I usually don’t put in the diced tomatoes, either, just two jars of spaghetti sauce.  For the particular recipe illustrated here, I used a carton of Trader Joe’s Starter Sauce, and it was a nice balance of tomato for both of us.  I find a little extra liquid is always helpful with this sauce, as it tends to reduce over time, so what I do is pour a splash or two into the empty spaghetti sauce jar, close the lid, and shake it, to get all the saucy goodness out of it and into my pot.

If you are taking the vegetarian option, now you would add your TVP.  The Pie is more of a measurer than I am, and he says he put about a cup of the stuff into this particular sauce.  I like the action shot of it pouring into the pot.  You will find that because TVP absorbs water, you will need a bit more liquid than you would if you used meat, so keep that in mind.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

TVP Action Shot

Get the sauce to a low simmer, and leave it, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.  The longer you simmer it, the longer the flavours have to mix.  You can also make this recipe in a slow-cooker, moving everything to the crock pot after the meat stage and going from there.

Serve with your choice of pasta and lots of parmesan cheese.  There is enough sauce here for about 8 people.