Halloween Chili

Every year we host a pumpkin carving party for a few of our friends.  Usually, the meal centers around a big pot of vegetarian chili served with cornbread as a warm, healthy entree that reduces the guilt induced by the following gorging on candy.  This year, we had a bigger batch of attendees and needed two pots of chili so I branched out a bit.  In addition to trying a new vegetarian chili recipe, I also tried a pumpkin turkey chili.

It looks like a lot of ingredients, especially for the second recipe, but the flavor was worth it.  A few people tried mixing the two with great results.  We served the chili with fresh baked cornbread muffins on the side.

Recipes follow:

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

– serves 6 –
Adapted from All Recipes.and Serious Eats

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (1 14.5 ounce can) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste (at least 2 good shakes)

Ground cinnamon (1-2 shakes)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)

Procedure

1. Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

2. Saute the onion, bell pepper, green chiles, and garlic until tender, about 10 minutes. Make room in the center of the skillet, add turkey, and brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and pumpkin. Season with chili powder, cumin, pepper, salt, and cayenne.

3. Reduce heat and simmer at least 20 minutes. Stir in fresh cilantro. If preferred, serve topped with Cheddar cheese.

Note: Since I was serving this buffet style at a pumpkin carving party, I poured it into a slow cooker after letting it simmer for 20 minutes.  With the slow cooker left on low/keep warm the entire evening, it remained at the perfect temperature.  We had bowls of fresh chopped cilantro and shredded cheese on the side for people to add to their individual servings.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

Recipe adapted from Recipezaar

SERVES 8

Ingredients

  • 1 (11 ounce) can condensed black bean soup
  • 1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16 ounce) can vegetarian baked beans
  • 1  (29 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn drained
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced chilies
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro (optional)

Directions

1. In a slow cooker, combine black bean soup, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, baked beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, bell pepper, zucchini, chilies, and celery.

2.  Season with garlic, chili powder, cumin, parsley, oregano, basil (and cilantro if using).
3.  Cook for 6-8 hours on low.

Easy Appetizer

Getting ready for my annual pumpkin carving party, I suddenly realized that the guest list had grown quite a bit larger than it was when we first started the tradition.  A little panicked for easy food ideas to keep everyone content while they hack away at their artistic gourds, I decided to fall back on an old favorite, an appetizer that you have to try to appreciate (trust me, it looks weird but tastes great!).

Get a block of cream cheese.  Yes a block, not a spreadable tub.  Low-fat or non-fat varieties will taste fine and help you feel less guilty.  Unwrap the block and put it on a plate.

Top it with a hefty pour of cocktail sauce or sweet chili sauce.

Serve with toasted bread rounds (they hold up well even with soggy toppings) or crackers.

Ta-da!  Instant appetizer with only three necessary ingredients.  Every time I’ve served it, it gets devoured even by initially dubious eaters.  I don’t suggest you use the cocktail sauce iff you don’t like cocktail sauce to start with though, it’s not going to change the flavor that much.  Consider chutney.  If you’re looking to upgrade this, consider tossing some cooked mini-shrimp on top of the sauce covering the cream cheese for a truly decadent but easy appetizer.

New tupperware + I wanna be a kid = Lunch

When I was younger, I always looked with envy at the kids with the cool lunchables lunches. Little crackers and sliced meat, cheese and some mystery surprise dessert.  Their parents must’ve really loved them, I would think and then miserably try to trade the yoplait yogurt or pb&j that made up my daily fare.  Now that I’m a little less (not much!) entranced by packaging, tending to care more about having some yummy food and contributing not quite as much to the landfills, lunchables don’t quite hold the same appeal.  However, I still like the idea of packing a lunch that basically gives permission to play with one’s food.  Since hubby and I just invested in a new set of tupperware-type containers (found them at Costco – snapware), it seemed the perfect time to indulge in a slightly more adult version of a lunchables lunch.  We’ll see if I’m the envy of the lunchroom tomorrow!

In the lunch pictured above is some low-fat dried salami cut into half moons, whole-wheat crackers, cheddar slices, dried mango with some dried cranberries and chocolate covered pomegranate bits mixed in, and a little plastic container of dijon mustard.  On the side are some fresh pomegranate arils and mini-green grapes I found at Trader Joe’s.

First Posted Bento

I’ve been experimenting with packing lunches, using inspiration from Bento sites such as the ones I’ve provided links to.  I pack lunches almost daily for my husband and I to take to work.  I’ve got pictures of a bunch of them, but this is the first one I’ve packed since I started this blog.  It’s pretty basic and not that much to look at, but yay! I’m finally posting.

Bento #1

Rice with furikake, grilled chicken topped with sweet chili sauce, edamame, and a soy sauce fish. Not very exciting, but yummy and very filling.

Ingredients:

– Rice topped with furikake

– 1/2 grilled chicken breast with some sweet chili sauce on top

– 1/2 cup edamame

– soy sauce fish for the rice

Slow Cooker Minestrone

This thick and healthy soup is one I’ve made several times for my coworkers and for my husband based off a Betty Crocker recipe. It’s great for freezing; just don’t add the pasta until you’re reheating it.  I love it on cold or rainy days.

Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups V-8
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
1 cup chopped celery (2 medium stalks)
1 chopped onion
1 cup sliced zucchini
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes (undrained)

1 cup frozen corn

crushed red pepper to taste (optional)

1.5 cups uncooked pasta

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients except for pasta to slow cooker.

2. Cook on low heat for 7-8 hours.

3. Stir in pasta and cook on high for 15-20 minutes until pasta is tender.

Note:

I use the Trader Joe’s prechopped carrots, celery, and onion combo (Mirepoix).   The pieces are in the perfect size, and that way I don’t need to handle the raw veggies I’m allergic to.

Serving suggestions: sprinkle with grated parmesan or serve with grilled cheese or toasted bread.  You might prefer to cook the vegetables separately and add when the cooking is finished.

Serendipitous Moments

I was talking with someone a while ago and we were trading funny stories about our pasts when she observed that I must be really unlucky for having so many things happen to me. I paused for a moment, a bit taken aback. Was I really that unlucky?

Then I realized, if I can have that many “unlucky” things happen to me and still be around to laugh and tell stories about some of them, maybe I’m actually really lucky.

Several years back, I took a class called “Moments of Serendipity” from the Physics department. Each class focused on a serendipitous discovery in math or science, where someone’s experiment went drastically wrong or in a direction no one could have foreseen and they ended up learning something new they weren’t even looking for. Penicillin, silly putty, post-it notes anyone?

Looking back over my past, and knowing that I’m probably not going to be changing all that much in my future, I know more stuff in my life will probably go wrong. Hopefully, though, I’ll end up with some more serendipitous moments where I end up in a new place I didn’t necessarily intend to go, but is much better than I what I had planned.

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