Adventures in Chili, Parte Dos!

chili on potato

OK.  So here’s a chili option for all you gluten free guys and gals (or not, whatever): Chili on a baked potato!  Yu-uhm.

I like my tater-chili topped with a dollop of Greek style yogurt and a dash of hot sauce.

Or… my versatile chili is so, uh, versatile that you can even slap it on a tortilla with some taco fixings (Yes!  It’s true!):

chili on tortilla

Here is my chili/bean burrito with some (you guessed it) hot sauce, fresh cabbage, little shredded cheese maybe (I can’t remember and it might be tucked inside.)

One recipe for easy-peasy Chili and look at all the fun you can have!  I know.  You’re welcome.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I’m still not done… but you’ll have to tune in Friday for my final cha-cha-chili post.

On a side note and because I’m not done with my coffee yet so I may as well keep typing… I was once informed by a Texan that real chili doesn’t even have beans in it.  Being of Latino-German heritage and growing up in Minnesota, I was unaware of this.  So, if you’re from Houston and you’re reading this entry, please reserve judgement.

I’m not Tex-Mex, I’m “Min-Mex.”   Forgive me.  I don’t mean to offend… 🙂

Coffee complete.  Have a great day everyone!

Michelle’s 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.

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


Punchline Breakfast

(Quick pre-waffle information!  Tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 29th I, Michelle Calva-Despard, will be the featured foodie on Hometown Pasadena’s Mangiamo!  Check me out!!!  And now back to your regularly scheduled recipe.)


I can’t recall the joke, but it has something to do with two pancakes and what one says to the other when something unfortunate has occurred.  Punchline = How Waffle!  Picture this being delivered by a perky seven-year-old who just bought her very first joke book and you’ll see why I’m smiling.

I did something this weekend that I’m afraid I can’t recommend you try at home… unless you know a lot of people who like waffles.  Come to think of it, doesn’t everyone like a good waffle?  OK, so go ahead and octuple my recipe.  See how it blesses your life!

I made this silly mountain of waffles in honor of a lazy Sunday morning and for my niece who turned eight.  What do you get the eight-year-old who has everything?  Waffles!  And home made whipped cream on the side…

Best Waffles (this recipe is already doubled for your convenience!)

Ingredients: 2 cups flour (I like whole wheat,) 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp, baking soda, 2 eggs, 2 cups buttermilk, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/3 cup veg. oil.

Directions: mix and pour baby!  I sometimes have to thin the batter a tad with a splash of milk.  Also, even though my fancy waffle iron swears nothing will stick to it… not the case.  I don’t like cooking sprays (have you read those ingredient lists!?) so I quick-wipe my iron with a paper towel dipped in oil between waffles.


Two Cooks in the Kitchen

“Cooking” means different things to different people.  
To my girlfriend, Teri (who measures her cream before placing it into her coffee each morning and is pictured, here, enjoying something I made one day), recipes are comforting guidelines to be followed to the letter.  Teri reads recipes as valuable documents, carefully crafted maps upon which the traveler  shall comfortably drive.  This is why Teri loves baking.  Measuring.  Sifting.  Following procedure and order brings rhythm and relaxation into Teri’s time in the kitchen.  Predictable outcomes.  Ahhh

To me, recipes are more like, uh, “suggestions.”  Recipes are lists of possible ingredients in recommended quantities with an endless array of outcomes.  Recipes are rough sketches that need not be followed if the artist is not in the mood.  Having to follow a recipe to the letter causes my breathing to become labored.  This is why I avoid baking whenever possible.  Measuring.  Sifting.  Being forced to follow procedure and order brings panic into Michelle’s kitchen time.  Predictable outcomes.  AHHH!!!!

I would like to state that Teri and I have found ways to coexist–even co-create–happily in the kitchen together.  Give us our six combined kids, a good bottle ‘a wine and stand back.  I would also like to mention that Teri has, thanks to my influence, developed a looser grip on her measuring implements and even occasionally whips things up now with a “pinch of this” and a “spot of that.”  It could be the wine though too.  No.  It’s my influence.
Not surprisingly, Teri makes the best milk chocolate chip cookies in the universe (with an equal number of chips in each one.)  Generally someone who likes to share, Teri has locked this recipe in the vault.  If you want to try a chocolate chip delight, check out Teri’s new business venture Red Door Sweets. Even if you’re not in the mood for a cookie, this stylish webpage is worth a quick visit just to brighten your day!

The “Joye” of Cooking

teriyaki chicken

So I’ve been sorta-kinda posting on MWF (OK, technically this is only my second week with that schedule, but must we split hairs?)   Today, in case you’re not aware, is Thursday, but last night my girlfriend, Joye, found out about a chicken dish I was preparing.  She said it sound delicious and couldn’t wait to see the recipe.

Apparently flattery will get you everywhere with me ‘cuz here you go (Joye!)

Michelle’s  Very Own Hawaiian-Teriyaki Chicken

Whole cut-up (organic if you like) chicken
1 can crushed pineapple in juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
tsp. garlic powder

Set oven at 350 degrees.  Pour soy sauce and garlic powder in the bottom of a baking pan.  Place chicken upside down to coat with sauce/powder mixture and then flip over.  Pour pineapple over chicken.  Add a shake of garlic powder over top.  Crumble brown sugar over top of pineapple and then drizzle with vinegar.  Bake uncovered for one hour or until done.   Broil top for a couple of minutes to create a nice crusted glaze over top of chicken.

Tips: you can use whatever chicken you have around (thighs, breasts, whatever.)  Brown sugar, soy sauce and vinegar measurements can be adjusted for smaller quantities, in fact I don’t even measure, just sorta eye-ball and pour until it looks right.  You want about a quarter inch of liquid in the pan when it cooks.  Add a dash of orange (or pineapple) juice if there isn’t enough.  The sauce from the meat tastes super-yum over steamed brown rice…  Oh, and you can substitute cubed or round-cut pineapple, just drain some of the extra juice before pouring.

Bonus Tip: The best thing about this recipe is that I always have the ingredients on hand and can whip it up in a NY minute.  And, yes, the title of this post was a no-brainer. 🙂

p.s. (geeze, shut up already, Michelle!) this recipe is also posted on the “meat” section of my recipe page.  OK.  I’m done.  For real.

Michelle and Millie


Mildred Pocuis (poh-shuhs) was my maternal grandmother.  I loved her a whole lot.  We used to spend weeks at my grandparents place in St. John’s, Michigan during the summer when I was a kid and my grandparents later came to stay with my family in Minnesota for a month at a time.

 Besides running a household with three children before the many modern conveniences that still don’t seem to make my life as convenient as I would like, my grandma was a Home Economics  teacher (remember that?) and big time community builder.  Before cell phones and social media it was door-to-door greeting and supporting that kept women connected.  Millie was great at that.

cookbook cover
I have this old cook book, late 1950’s/early 1960’s I’m guessing, from my Grandma’s things.  My original posting plan was to pull a little “Julie and Julia” kinda type thing (get it? “Michelle and Millie”) but I gotta admit, there aren’t many recipes in these pages that really reach out and grab me.  From the meat “loafs” of every (and I mean every) variety, the obsession with gelatin–including savory salads, sweet desserts and even meat dishes–to the lack of knowledge about the dangers of cholesterol (or even the existence of arteries, apparently…) 

No matter.  Instead I’m enjoying sifting through a historical analogy of what my grandmother’s life would have been like when she was at the same stage I am today.  I’ll bet Millie had a big hand in organizing this cookbook, which was not only a fundraiser for the church where my parents were married and I was baptized, but was also a format for the local amazing women to come together and share.  (OK, yes, what they were sharing includes titles like “Lime-cheese-salad” and “Boiled Raisin Cake,” still it’s cool to see how my grandma and her girlfriends were getting dinner to the table!)
I recognize Millie’s friends’ names like Thelma Jenkins and Nola Lumbert (love–insert visual of a heart here–those names) and smile at the many “Mrs. my-husband’s-first-name-and-then-our-last-name.”  
Some things have changed.  But families still need to eat, and when the people responsible for getting food on the table work together to share ideas for making important tasks lighter, it’s not only uplifting, it’s significant and helpful.
If Mildred Pocuis were raising her three children today, in 2013, I’ll bet she’d start a blog about food, meal preparation tips and how to get kids to eat healthier.  What a good idea!

Farmers Markets ROCK!

brussels before

OK.  So here’s where the “Minnesota” in me really comes out.  Do native Californians really understand how absolutely ridiculously over-the-top lucky they are when it comes to produce?  I think, perhaps, not.

Consider this, when I lived in Minneapolis years ago, I–along with thousands of other Twin-City’ers–used to count down the months (yes; months) till the farmer’s markets would open.  And then we’d scramble over to them every chance we got before the harvest season ended–usually 10 weeks or so–when the stands got packed up again till the next year.

Here in California, there is no such scrambling required!  We are soooo fortunate for the year-round-multiple-locations farmer’s markets in this state.  To find information about a California certified farmer’s market near you, click here.

So what’s so great about a farmer’s market?  Girlfriend, I could go on… Whereas produce at a big super market (Von’s, Ralph’s, etc…) is typically grown for uniform size, shape and color, farmer’s market produce is grown for a little something I like to call, uh, taste.

Not all farmer’s market produce is certified organic, but because it’s locally grown, it doesn’t need to be treated with all the junk that gets sprayed on produce at big markets to make it last on the shelf and look pretty.   Also, because the produce is grown locally, purchasing it means you get to do a little something I like to call “supporting the local economy” which is a darn nice thing to do.

Shopping at a farmer’s market it pleasant, friendly and inspiring.  Pretty much every smiling vendor has samples awaiting and will help in choosing a melon for today or for later in the week.

Farmer’s markets help me feel connected to the seasons too.  Why should I purchase a plum from Chile when right now is citrus season in So-Cal?  Apples are uh-mazing right now too at the local farmer’s markets and don’t even get me started on the winter vegetables…

Too late.  I’m started.  Brussel sprouts have become a favorite (yes, you read that right: favorite) at my house.  My three kids and husband inhale these little green “fairy cabbages” so quickly that I typically purchase at least three pounds a week.

Here is a photo of what these balls of yum look like after Michelle has waved her wand over them.

brussles after

I’ll put the “Calva-Despard Favorite Vegetable of all Time = Brussel Sprouts” recipe here for your convenience, and will also place it in the vegetable section of my recipe page for future reference.  I know.  I’m a giver.

Ingredients:  Brussel sprouts (you don’t have to go for three pounds…) olive oil, fresh garlic and salt.

Directions:  Set oven for 400 degrees.  Rinse Brussel sprouts.  Cut off think stem at the bottom of each sprout.  You can leave the sprouts whole or cut in half, depending on the size.  Most important is that all the pieces be pretty equal in size so they’ll be fully baked at the same time.  If you notice mine, some of the larger ones have been halved, but the smaller ones are whole.

Place sprouts on a cookie sheet with a rim.  Cut and quarter one fresh garlic clove per pound of sprouts and place the pieces in different places on the tray, amongst the sprouts.  Drizzle with olive oil and give a few shakes of salt.  Bake for 2o minutes.  Remove from oven and mix up the sprouts with a spatula to turn the browned sides over.  Test with a fork for tenderness.  Put back in oven for 5 -15 more minutes depending on the size of your sprouts.  They really do vary so it’s hard to say exactly.  Check after five minutes if you’re unsure.

The garlic serves to sort of infuse the sprouts with an aromatic presences of garlic.  I do eat the cloves too, but my kids say they’re too strong.


The Art of Soup

“A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.” –Abraham Maslow

I love soup!  I look forward to cooler weather (my Minnesota friends are laughing right now) so that I can make soup, soup, soup!  I actually make soup year round, although my husband does start to complain when the ambient temperature gets above 85 degrees or so.

What’s so great about soup?  Well, it’s delicious of course.  It’s also full of possibilities.  I can’t think of another food item that can be as versatile or played around with more than soup.  I have some great soup recipes, but quite honestly my favorite way to make it is something I call “Refrigerator Soup.”  I love (read: LOVE) to poke around my fridge (or yours if you invite me over…) and chop up whatever I find, simmer it, add a broth and a bunch of other stuff and call it soup.

Click on my recipe page and check out my family’s recipe for lentil soup, which is already pictured there.  This soup is easy and quick to make, and it’s possible to have all the ingredients on hand so you can whip it up whenever. 

One suggestion: the recipe portions are small.  Tiny.  Miniscule.  I never, ever, ever make small portions of anything I cook, especially soup.  Soups more than anything else only get better after they’ve been cooked, frozen and then reheated.  I recommend at least doubling this recipe or, if you’re a nut-job like me, quadruple it or even more.

Oh!  And I almost forgot: if you’d like to make a comment to my posts (please, please, please) just click on the word bubble.  And if you want to get email updates every time I reach out and try to touch the world, please click on the new widget Noeleen set up for me.  We’re hoping it will work!