rainy day chili cooking

Chili …it’s an American tradition. I’ve had some really great chili in my days and some really bad chili.

This past weekend I had some good and bad chili, sadly. The reason some of the chili wasn’t good is quite simply the chefs did not pay attention to the flavor profiles. Too salty, overly sweet, ingredients that just didn’t work. You can get creative with your chili but you have to stick to the more traditional flavors or it’s really not chili is it? Sorry not sorry but stuff that tastes sweet like sloppy joes isn’t chili in my opinion.

Kielbasa (for example) is a smoked sausage that has the wrong flavor profile for chili. And yes, I am saying that knowing that there are kielbasa chili recipes all over the Internet. Kielbasa was in a chili I tasted this weekend. I threw it out.

If you’re going to use sausage, you need to stick to the right flavor profiles. In my humble opinion that’s a Mexican chorizo. Spanish chorizo is smoked and I think the fresh Mexican version just works better in chili….but I take it out of the sausage casing.

You can also get away with Italian sausage sweet or hot – but you should buy the kind that comes out of the casing in a “brick”. And if you do that I recommend mixing it with ground beef or ground pork.

I make my chili with ground beef and ground pork for the most part. I will also make a ground turkey chili.

The best chili I’ve ever had in my entire life used to be made by one of my childhood friend’s mothers. She was born in West Texas, and her chili hands-down is still the best I’ve ever had in my entire life, and I don’t know anyone that has ever replicated her recipe exactly. I don’t know anyone that actually got it out of her which is a bummer because I keep trying to replicate it decades later.

I don’t really have a recipe for chili per se, it’s more like how I want to make it. Today I’m making it with ground beef.

I also have leftover hatch green chilies from the garden and some jalapeños which have gotten diced up with an impulse buy at Aldi – A bag of mini rainbow peppers which are sweet and a pain in the neck to seed and clean but they look pretty in the pot.

Image result for goya frijoles rojos pequeñosRight now sweating down in the pot are a couple of yellow onions chopped, the jalapeño peppers, the chili peppers, the sweet peppers, three cloves of garlic minced, and something I like adding to it which is lime zest and the juice of two limes. It keeps the vegetables moist while they’re sweating down but not soggy and it adds a flavor profile that I’m fond of. The only seasoning in the pot right now is salt.

When the vegetables are starting to soften and the onion is getting slightly translucent I will add a 2 pound package of ground beef. I like buying high-quality ground beef and you do need a little fat to make a good chili so I think this is 93% lean.

La Costena Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce, 7 Oz

After the meat is cooked I will start to add my other ingredients: three cans of beans drained except for the one can of Goya Frijoles Rojos Pequeños. I discovered these by accident and they are kidney beans and a little sauce of olive oil tomato and garlic. I will also add a small can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (10 oz) , a can of tomato purée (28 oz) and part of a small can of chipotle peppers in Adobo minced up. The beans I’m using today or dark red kidney beans and pinto beans.

After everything starts to cook I add my chili powder, cumin and a little of a seasoning I’ve discovered called Tajin. (Around here you can find Tajin at Aldi.)

Next I will add fresh herbs. Today it’s oregano, basil, and cilantro.

Tajin Classic Seasoning with LimeThen I let everything simmer and cook down. As the chili is cooling I taste it to see if it has the right amount of salt. Sometimes I also at this point add a little sweet paprika or fresh ground pepper.

I allow my chili to cool and I put it in the refrigerator for a couple of days before eating it. Sometimes I serve it fresh when I make it but with chili I like to let the flavors meld. The only problem with doing it this way is I may have to adjust the spiciness of the chili because when things get cold they get less spicy I’ve discovered,

I like to serve my chili with either a shredded Mexican cheese blend (no additional spices, just cheese) or crumbled queso fresco. You can find me and more of my cooking on the closed Facebook group called Chester County Ramblings Home Cooking Group.

pickling and canning and preserving or…what to do with green tomatoes.

I realized the other day that I had a lot of green tomatoes. My inner gardener knows they aren’t going to ripen in time. So this morning I harvested them.

I washed all of the green tomatoes and also harvested what was left of my chili peppers.

I then sorted them by size.

Meanwhile, I sterilized my canning jars.

Then I prepared the brine for the pickled tomatoes.

The brine wasn’t particularly complicated. It was pickling salt, pickling spices, extra mustard seed, a little bit of sugar, white vinegar, and water. I brought it up and left it on a low simmer.

Meanwhile I put a little bunch of fresh dill, a garlic clove, and some onion pieces in the base of each jar. To that I added the smaller tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes. And every jar also got a few chunks of cut up chili peppers.

The smaller tomatoes I either halved or quartered depending on the size, and the cherry tomatoes each got pierced from end to end like they were going to go on a skewer so the pickling brine is absorbed into them.

I ladled hot brine on top of each jar of green tomatoes. On top of that I laid another sprig of fresh dill and one more clove of garlic.

I then put the lids on the jars and placed them in a hot water bath for 14 minutes. The pickled tomatoes are now cooling on a table. When they are completely cool I will tighten down the lids and store them where I store other preserves in the basement.

Next comes the green tomato chutney. The brine pickling liquid that I use for this is comprised of a couple of cups of malt vinegar, pickling salt (but not much like a teaspoon and a half), 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon, a few tablespoons of diced crystallized ginger, nutmeg, a couple of tablespoons of mustard seed, a tablespoon of pickling spice, and allspice. To make it slightly different I also grated the rind of two limes I had and also added their juice.

I put that on low so the sugar dissolved add to that I added probably about 5 pounds of chopped green tomatoes, the remaining few chili peppers chopped up, five chopped fresh plums I had leftover, three chopped apples, one diced onion, I also added a little chopped fresh fennel I found had sprouted up in the garden because the chutney recipe calls for fennel seeds and I didn’t have any. Also, I added a little over a cup of golden yellow raisins as well. If I had had the green raisins I use with curry I would have added those as well.

I cooked the chutney down for about an hour maybe a little more, and then sterilized some more jars. I filled the chutney jars gave them their hot water bath and now they are cooling on the counter.

I still have green tomatoes left over unbelievably! I am guessing fried green tomatoes are in my future at some point.

I will note that I use the pickling salt for both the pickled tomatoes and the chutney because it keeps things from getting cloudy.

Happy Friday!

sweet potato gnocchi with a sage corn pancetta cream sauce

I’m going to admit this pasta dish rocks. I’m also going to admit I didn’t use anyone’s recipe it came together as I started to plan it.

I have written down both the recipe for the sauce and the pasta as best I can. I hope it comes together for you like it did for me.

I think the sauce is amazing and could easily be translated to a fettuccine or something.

The Creamy Pancetta Sage Sauce

  • • 4 ounces diced pancetta (Wegmans sells it)
  • • 4 tablespoons butter
  • • 2 small vidalia onions chopped
  • • 1 small red hot pepper diced (no seeds!)
  • • 2 ears of cooked corn off the cob
  • • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • • 1 pint light cream (2 cups)
  • • 2 tablespoons Wondra flour (super fine for sauces)
  • • 2/3 cup fine grated Parmesan
  • Melt the butter. Add the onion and the red pepper and some salt to taste. Add the corn. Chop fine the fresh sage and add that. Cook until the onion starts to get translucent.

    This should all be low to the bare minimum of medium heat. You don’t want anything to burn.

    Add the flour. Stir briskly in the pan so nothing sticks and the flour is absorbed.

    Add the wine. Stir briskly. Let that cook for a minute or two and add the light cream.

    Allow the sauce to come together and stir constantly until an even warm temperature. You want it to come to almost a boil but not a boil because you don’t want to scald the cream.

    Add the Parmesan cheese gradually till all incorporate it and let it cook on low a little while longer. Let it cook down, and it will cook down some and thicken a bit. It doesn’t get stand your spoon upright thick, but it thickens in consistency.


    The gnocchi are an approximation. I make my pasta by feel.

    • 1 1/2 cups of leftover mashed sweet potatoes.
    • 2 cups of semolina flour
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • A few dashes of extra-virgin olive oil

    Combine everything in a bowl and bring your dough together. After everything is evenly mixed place a damp cloth over the bowl that your dough is in and let it rest for an hour.

    Roll out between your hands thin “snakes” of dough and with a sharp knife cut even sized bite-size pieces.

    Your pasta should be laid out on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking pad. You should have enough for two layers of bite-size pieces and the layers should be separated with parchment paper and covered with parchment paper and a linen towel and put in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook your pasta.

    Fresh gnocchi only take a few scant minutes to cook in boiling water. They will rise to the surface as they cook.

    As you remove your gnocchi add a little bit of sauce in between and then finish with sauce on top.


    summer sauce

    I made this yesterday and everyone keeps asking for the recipe. There isn’t one per se but here’s how it evolved:

    2 lbs of ground sausage sautéed in olive oil with 2 sweet onions, 6 mild/medium chili peppers, 2 long hot peppers, 5 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes from the garden halved, sea salt to taste.

    Next I added a huge handful each of fresh basil and oregano from the garden and a 10 ounce package of fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms chopped up.

    Cook on medium low and stir a lot until sausage is cooked through.

    Add two cans (28 ounce) of canned tomatoes- what I had on hand was crushed, add 1 small can of tomato paste (6 ounce size), and a good dash of red wine or red wine or balsamic vinegar.

    Reduce heat and allow to burble on the stove, stirring frequently for at least another hour. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. I didn’t find it needed it.

    This is the kind of sauce that if I had fresh eggplant, that would have been peeled and chopped up and added as well.

    It’s not complicated and it’s easy to make your own homemade sauce. The chili peppers came out of the garden as well and the end result was a flavorful but NOT a spicy sauce. It just tastes fresh. It will be dinner later this week over spaghetti or some shape pasta. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.

    Easy summer dinner.

    Leftover sauce can be frozen.

    summer chili

    Yesterday since it was rainy, I decided to make chili. I was thinking about this chili that someone who was the father of a girl I knew growing up made.  It had corn in it.  I remember having it on a rainy August night in Avalon when I was in about 6th grade. These people used to rent this house that looked like a red Victorian farmhouse. It had a big, dark kitchen with a rickety wooden table.

    So yesterday I decided to make my own summer chili.  The ingredients:

    1 pound ground pork

    1 pound ground lean turkey

    4 chili peppers all chopped up (my were Hatch red and green that I grew myself)

    2 red bell peppers chopped up

    2 jalapeño peppers chopped up

    2 red onions chopped up

    1 small bag frozen corn (plain, no “sauce”) or fresh kernels off of 4 ears of fresh corn.

    1 lime zested and juice of same zested lime

    A good handful of cilantro chopped

    A handful of basil and oregano chopped

    4 garlic clothes minced

    2 large  carrots grated,

    1 28 ounce can of tomato purée

    1 28 ounce can of strained crushed  tomatoes,

    3 15 ounce cans of white beans – Cannellini ,Navy, Great Northern. ( I used 1 can of each type)

    1 15 ounce can red beans (Kidney or even Pinto)

    And lots of chili powder and salt and pepper to taste.

    First I sautéed the garlic and onion a few minutes in olive oil.  Then I added the peppers (all of them) and cooked everything down a few minutes more.  Then I added the carrots, ground pork, ground turkey and some salt.  As the pork and turkey started to look cooked through  I added the beans, and cooked that all together for a few minutes, then added the chili powder (I have no idea how much I added, I kept dumping).  After that I added the tomatoes, the zested lime and juice of one lemon followed by the fresh herbs and the last ingredient: the small bag of frozen corn.

    I then bought my pot to a simmer and it just simmered low and slow for probably a couple of hours.  I stirred every half hour or so, and remarkably nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan.

    I can tell you that my husband and son ate SO much of the chili that there was only two 1 quart bags for freezing and 1 quart container left over. I made this chili in my 8 quart Great Jones “Big Deal” pot, and it was 2/3 full as you can see from photo at bottom. As a related aside, I absolutely LOVE this pot and highly recommend the Great Jones company.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    cool old cookbooks

    Eastern Cookbook Waynesboro, PA – 1976. Stumbled across this today and it is like opening a culinary time capsule and totally fun!

    I have written about my love of vintage cookbooks before.

    Check out some of the recipes:

    I also found this cool Good Housekeeping cookbook and household hints book from the 1920’s.

    It’s so fun to go through these books. Cookbooks like this have all sorts of fun old recipes and tips you never see in modern cookbooks. I love these books around the holidays, especially.

    Pick up a vintage cookbook next time you see one. I guarantee you will find recipes or techniques you want to try.

    desserts from memory lane


    A ladyfingers cake photo I found on the Internet

    I have been hunting through my recipe binder for my banana cake recipe.  What I found instead was this old recipe for…wait for it…. ladyfinger cake…

    I have zero idea where it came from, someone gave it to me ages (as in decades) ago.  Tiramasu is sort of a ladyfingers cake too isn’t it? And some Icebox cakes?


    I went a Googling and found  additional recipes for ladyfinger cake:

    Tia Spring’s Lady Finger Cake

    Bittersweet Chocolate-Rum Icebox Cake

    Strawberry Ladyfinger Icebox Cake

    Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cake

    There are actually a LOT of ladyfinger cake recipes.  I am guessing what is old is new again?

    Image result for chocolate lady finger cake

    Another photo of a ladyfinger cake found on the Internet….