This is How We Do It

Check out my Tortilla Soup recipe featured today till next Tuesday on Hometown Pasadena!

chili in potMerry Christmas Eve!

OK.  So, at this point in the holiday season a sit-down turkey with all the standard side dishes is just really not what I’m in the mood for.  Between the homemade candy friends have delivered, the boxes of chocolates Mike’s students (he teaches middle school and has around 150) blessed us with and the general can’t-turn-around-without-someone-placing-a-delectable-delight-right-under-my-nose vibe that permeates my life… a little turn toward the lighter side of the table is in order.

One of the many aspects of living in the multicultural mecca of the universe (unofficial title) is that Christmas Eve dinner options abound.  So I’ve whipped up some simple black bean chili which we will ladle over our Mexican tamales (which I did not make–sorry) for dinner tonight.  Tamales are Mexico’s way of saying “Feliz Navidad” and this year it’s our way too.

For dessert…

oranges sweet Clementine oranges picked from my neighbor’s tree two days ago.

Please know that the following statement is not so much a “nah-nah-nah-boo-boo” type claim as much as a “I’m originally from Minnesota so I don’t take local things for granted…!”

It’s almost 80 degrees outside.  My windows and doors are open and I ain’t dreamin’ of no white Christmas…

Easy-Peasy Chili

Ingredients: 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 med onion (diced), 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 med bell peppers (diced–approximately 1 1/2 cups), Two 15 oz. cans black beans (with liquid–don’t drain’em!), One 15 oz. can diced, stewed or crushed tomatoes, One 6 oz. can tomato paste, 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Simmer onion (any kind will do,) garlic and olive oil for a few minutes.  Add bell pepper and cook until peppers start to soften.  Add everything else, stir and bring to a boil/simmer until peppers are fully cooked.  You.  Are.  Done.

Tamales… yeah so you may recall that I’m actually 1/2 Mexican.  It’s my dad’s side though.  My mom’s ancestors which hale from Lithuania and Germany never passed down any tamale making traditions.  Lucky for me Los Angeles has the second biggest populations of Mexicans (after Mexico City) in the world so it couldn’t be easier to find authentic, delicious tamales made by someone who’s mama showed’em how to do it right!  Gracias amigas!

 

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Quinoa Love

Couscous w cumin Pronounced “Keen-wah” (I’ve heard a few variations…!)

I have been loving my quinoa situation recently.  Quinoa seeds are referred to as “grains” (even on the package!) which pretty ridiculous.  They are technically a seed.

With one child gluten free, a house full of hungry people who, like, wanna eat three meals a day plus snacks (what the?) and a mama who doesn’t like to reach for prepackaged junk on a regular basis, salads like this have become a necessary staple.  For example, when my 6 year old son eats snacks like many kids his age eat a full meal, I gotta be prepared.  I just don’t like to see him motoring through an entire sleeve of crackers. “Yes my love.  You can have a few crackers.  But first eat this bowl of something actually healthy if you don’t mind.  Thanks!” (and then, when you’re done and feel full you may forget about the crackers which is fine too…)

Quinoa is a very malleable ingredient, and likes to take on the flavors of whatever else you put with it.  It is high in protein, and tastes super yummy if you ask me.  I created this recipe after finding a few quinoa salad options online.

Michelle’s Cumin Quinoa Salad

Ingredients: 2 cups quinoa, 3 1/2 cups chicken or veg. broth, 1/2 chopped onion, 1 can drained black beans, 1 cup of corn, 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro, 1-3 tbsp. cumin, juice of 1-2 fresh limes, 4 or so tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Cook onion with a little olive oil until onions turn translucent (5 mins or so.)  Then toss in quinoa and stir with onions for a few minutes before adding broth.  Then follow package instructions but modify the liquid quantity (they always call for 2 parts water per 1 part quinoa but this will be mushy.)  After quinoa chills add the other ingredients.  Serve with tortilla chips if you like.  Oh!  We sometimes add fresh avocado too… delish!

Tips:  If you make a large amount, just add the avocado when served or it will turn brown and you will make a bad face when you see it later.  Some of the ingredient quantities are broad, above.  This is because it really can vary depending on how much juice you get from a lime or how much you like cumin.  I love the cumin/lime combo, so I go heavy on it.  But you do what you like and I won’t judge.

Final tip: My kids don’t all love this salad.  They like it OK, but it’s not really offered as an—ahem–option.  When they’re hungry (and eyeing the crackers they really want or whatever) they are motivated.  If you are still scratching your head as to how to get your kids to eat something like this, I can recommend a really great workshop…

Chili Week Cha-Cha-Cha!

chili for breakfast

OK,  this photo is not destined for Sunset’s cover, but I saved my ultimate fave-ola breakfast (if you’ve been following, you know how much I love a good meal to kick off my new day…) scene for Friday: Chili with an egg on tortilla.  Man is it tasty.

I like my egg over med, scoop some chili in the pan for the last minute or so to heat it up, add a little shredded sharp cheddar cheese and some hot sauce… seriously… this… is… so… good!

Corn or flour tortilla will do.

If you’ve lost count, that’s five (5!) options from one chili recipe.  What a way to celebrate national, local Michelle’s independent Chili week!

This chili freezes well, btw.

I think if you Google “chili recipes” you’ll be amazed at all the ways you can heat up a pot of spicy-tomato-y-beans and what-not for dinner.  I’ve used recipes with cocoa powder, a multitude of beans (obviously not from Texas,) different meats… it’s really fun to experiment with the options.

And in that vein, here is another fun recipe for vegetarian chili  that I made a few weeks ago.  It was my usual method of preparation (winging it) but I actually took the time to record my adventure for your benefit.  If I had to think of a title for delicious concoction, I guess I’d go with:

Michelle’s “This Time” Chili:

Ingredients: 1 large diced onion, 3 cloves crushed garlic, 1 cup chopped celery, 2 cups chopped bell pepper, Two 15 oz. cans drained kidney beans, One 15 oz. can drained pinto beans, One can black beans w/liquid, One 12 oz can tomato paste, 1/2-3/4 bottle of beer (OK–yes I took a few sips so I’m not sure…) 1 tsp garlic salt, 2 1/2 tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp. cayenne, 1 tsp. black pepper, pinch of sugar

Directions: simmer the onions, peppers, celery and garlic until it all begins to soften.  Add everything else and bring to boil.  Simmer until veggies are fully cooked.  Open another beer and sit down to dinner!

Easy-Peasy Chili

easy chili

OK.  So my girlfriend, Jen, requested I deliver on my promise to post my chili scene before the weather turns.  As she is one of my favorite people on the planet (she helped schlep my kids and even brought me a gorgeous plant when I was on my imagined death bed last month,) this is a request I am happy to accommodate.

Michelle’s Easy-Peasy Black Bean Chili

Ingredients: 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 med onion (diced), 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 med bell peppers (diced–approximately 1 1/2 cups), Two 15 oz. cans black beans (with liquid–don’t drain’em!), One 15 oz. can diced, stewed or crushed tomatoes, One 6 oz. can tomato paste, 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Simmer onion (any kind will do,) garlic and olive oil for a few minutes.  Add bell pepper and cook until peppers start to soften.  Add everything else, stir and bring to a boil/simmer until peppers are fully cooked.  You.  Are.  Done.

(OK.  Yes you can top off your creation with shredded cheese, diced onions, sour cream, what have you… Then.  You.  Are.  Done.)

Tips: You can use fresh tomatoes if you have them, but this is the “easy-peasy”  recipe so we’re going with that theme.  Any color bell pepper and any type of onion will do.  This is a mild version so my kids will enjoy it as well.  Often I serve my three little Gringo-mouths first and then add cayenne and chipotle powder or hot sauce to Mike and mine.

You can use other beans besides black (kidney, red, white, pinto) if you like, but I only include the liquid of black beans when I cook.  Any other kind tends to have that viscous water-ish situation that I prefer to drain.   It grosses me out.  What can I say?  So, if you use red or another type of bean, you’ll need to add water.

Meat (chopped leftover cooked chicken or cooked sausage, ground beef) can also be added to this recipe, but even my meat-and-potatoes husband found this version satisfying from the get-go.

Besides the obvious ease with which this meal is created (it literally takes me 10 minutes start to finish), I love how healthy and tasty this chili is.  Legumes baby!!!!

My final fave thing about this recipe is the variety of simple ways I can use it to make different meals.  There are soooo many ways, in fact, that I’m going to don this week “Chili Week!”  Tune in all week to see all the easy-peasy-tasty-healthy ways you can make this meal for your family too!

I usually double or even triple/quadruple this recipe, freeze or share with someone I love.

For today, we’ll go with two chili thingies:

Michelle’s fave: Chili with crushed tortilla chips on top (Hey–how did that beer get in the photo!?)

chili with chips

And we also like our chili with cornbread.

chili with cornbread

I usually use Trader Joe’s cornbread mix, and substitute buttermilk for regular milk.   Super yum.

What else can a mama do with chili?  Baby, just you wait…