Taco Chili

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This is our snow day. Are you impressed? Maybe not, but when you live in a tropical land of heat and humidity; well, this is our snow day.
Impressive or not, a day to stay at home calls for hot chocolate by the fire, a bundled up walk, board games, and a big pot of chili.

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When our church met in the evenings in our pastor’s house last year, we would cook dinner for everyone to enjoy after the service. We began with about 30 people but after a few months, we were feeding up to 120 hungry folks! One of my go to dinners for those nights was several big pots of taco chili. Chili is one of those recipes that’s good to have in your back pocket. It’s inexpensive and delicious. It can be made healthier with the use of ground turkey or chicken and it can easily feed a crowd. Seeing as I won first place in a chili making contest, I feel the authority to share my recipe with you. I call this recipe taco chili because I use black beans and corn and lots of cumin. Enjoy!

taco chili
serves 4-6

ingredients:

1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1/2 T oregano
1/2 t cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can kidney beans
1 lb ground beef
1 28oz can whole tomatoes

Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, chips, avocado, cilantro, onion

to make:

Chop your onions and garlic. Heat one Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a non stick pan. Add the chopped onions and ground beef. Use a spatula to break up meat. Cook until beef is browned through and onions are translucent. Add chopped garlic cloves and cook for one more minute. Drain any grease into a jar or trash.

Into your slow cooker, add can of tomatoes with juice. Drain beans and corn, add to the slow cooker. Add meat, onions and garlic. Add all seasonings. Stir using a spoon and break up whole tomatoes with spatula or fork. Allow to cook over low heat for 4-6 hours.
**You can also make this in a large soup pot and allow to simmer for an hour. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor.

Serve warm with preferred toppings!

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Pasta é Fagoli {Kale, Pasta & Red Bean Stew}

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One of the biggest blessings of this past year has been our puppy, Boone. He’s just the sweetest and has brought so much joy with his playful personality and all around adorableness. Recently, he has been begging for food. He doesn’t whine or anything, he just sits about 1 foot from the table and looks at us with his big brown puppy eyes and from time to time licks his lips. It’s really all my fault. It’s just that I want him to get to taste a little bread or bacon once in a while. I’ve never fed him directly from the table, I promise! I usually “accidentally” drop something on the ground while I’m cooking. I don’t think my trickery is working. He’s figured out that I’m a softy who can’t say no…to my dog. This does not bode well for one day when I have kids.
So of course, when making this stew, I may or may not have dropped a piece of Parmesan cheese on the ground. It’s my favorite food and I feel like in his little dog life, Boone should get to taste it.
Anyways, on to why you’re here: kale, beans, & pasta in a rich tomatoey stew seasoned by a Parmesan rind (don’t be scared!) and pancetta (again, don’t be scared). It’s Italian, it’s comfort food, it’s healthy, and it’s flavorful. With a big piece of crusty buttered bread for dipping, it’s the perfect winter meal. I like my soups and stews to have lots in them. I’m not a huge fan of creamy, evenly textured soups. I like to get different flavors and bites throughout. And this fits the bill!

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Pasta é Fagoli

adapted from My Favorite Things

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 2-ounce piece pancetta, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 Tbsp dried bay leaves
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, (buy a block of cheese, cut off the rind!)
2 cups small pasta, I used Orecchiette but shells would work great
1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese for topping
Freshly ground pepper

To Make:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta, if using, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the beans, chicken stock, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 more minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.

P.S. In real life I topped my with significantly more of the beloved freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Creamy Italian Chicken Soup

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My husband usually eats without saying much. When I ask him if what he’s eating is good, he says: “yes, that’s why I’m not speaking!” But I know something is truly above and beyond delicious when he makes comments while consuming his food. Hearing: “mmmmm, wow, this is amazing” coming from both my husband and our friend Daniel as they ate a bowl of this soup confirmed it as one of the most delicious things I’ve made in a while!

Paired with buttery toast and topped with nutty Parmesan cheese, it’s the ultimate cozy comfort meal, especially perfect as the evenings get colder.

I adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make it just a tad lighter (half the amount of cream!) and a little easier with one of my favorite tricks: the rotisserie chicken. It’s a wonderful way to cut down on cooking time when you’re in a hurry but still want lots of flavor. On Mondays, Whole Foods has their rotisserie chicken on sale for $5.99 and it is fabulous!

I also added two cloves of garlic, because I put garlic in everything. Why not?

Creamy Italian Chicken Soup

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 4-6

ingredients:

1/2 box Ditalini Pasta (very Short Macaroni-type Pasta Noodles)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 chopped rotisserie chicken (pick up at local grocery or whole foods)
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 Medium Onion, Diced
1 Red Bell Peppers, Diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Stalk Celery, Diced
1 whole Fresh Jalapeño, Diced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 can (28-ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Oregano
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese Shavings, For Serving
Buttery Toast, For Serving

to make:

Cook pasta in a pot according to package directions, being sure not to overcook it. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

Remove chicken meat from skin and bones of the rotisserie chicken. Chop and set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and oregano and turn off heat, stirring over the next minute to keep oregano from burning. Set this aside.

Sauté onion, red pepper, celery, and jalapeño in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic cloves and stir for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add cooked pasta, cream, and all the oregano and olive oil from the small skillet. Stir to combine. Turn off heat.

Serve with lots of Parmesan sprinkled on the top and toast for dipping!

Enjoy all the compliments and “mmmmms” you get!

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Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Soup {lightened up}

When I have a sore throat, headache, fever & cold, I want to eat something warm, something comforting, something not too heavy, something flavorful. Something like this roasted broccoli & cheddar soup. I made it last week, but should’ve saved some for today as I’m lying in bed with the above symptoms and just ate tomato bisque out of a can. Oh well.

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Roasted broccoli is one of my all time favorite foods because of it’s nutty, crisp, & rich flavor. Roasting broccoli with just a little olive oil plus salt and pepper, mmm, just can’t go wrong. Adding in some extra sharp cheddar cheese and making a delicious wintertime soup is the best next step. Most broccoli cheese soups I’ve tasted are richly creamy, meaning super heavy. I tried to lighten it up a bit! So while three cups of cheese may seem like a lot, its a big down size from cheese+half & half+whole milk-whew! This soup focuses mostly on the broccoli rather than being overly cream filled. In fact, the only dairy item is cheddar. A hot slice of honey beer bread is the perfect side, which I told you that we’ve been making a lot because it is SO quick, easy and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

2 pounds of broccoli

4 cups  vegetable broth

3 cups sharp cheddar cheese

2 Tablespoons flour

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt + more to taste

1 teaspoon pepper + more to taste

2 teaspoons garlic powder

To Make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and chop broccoli and spread out on a baking sheet. Cover with two tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper & garlic powder. Roast for 20 minutes until crisp.

Add two tablespoons of olive oil to soup pot over medium heat, let warm then add flour. Whisk together to remove any lumps, for about 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth slowly, allowing to bubble. Add cheddar cheese and stir together to melt.

When the broccoli is finish roasting, add it to the broth-cheese mixture. If you have a hand blender (highly recommend!) put it in the soup and blend until smooth. Taste soup and add more salt and pepper if necessary. If you do not have a hand blender, allow soup to cool, then pour it into your blender and blend until smooth, then return it to the soup pot and allow to warm.

Serve warm with honey beer bread! Enjoy!

*note: the soup will thicken up if you allow it to simmer for a bit. However, if you want it to be even thicker, add a Tablespoon of flour and blend, the flour will smooth out and thicken the soup.

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Now, who wants to bring me some?


Eating with the Armstrongs

Hi hello! First of all, the weather is SPECTACULAR here which is wonderful as the last two weeks were rainy rainy rainy.

Second, as promised, here is what we are having for dinner this week. I’m going back to a couple of tried & true recipes as well as attempting a new soup AND we are eating vegetarian for not one, but two dinners this week! (Don’t tell, Matthew).

Monday: PanRoasted Chicken & Potatoes with Garlicy Lemon Green Beans

Trying this recipe for the first time tonight! I trust Real Simple’s recipes and expecting it to be incredible.

Tuesday: Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

A lighter version than the typical soup, but so flavorful and delicious!

Wednesday: Crockpot BBQ Chicken Tacos

**For these tacos, you can follow the recipe for Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork Tacos substituting chicken for the pork as well as substituting 3 cups of your choice of BBQ sauce for the can of Dr. Pepper and omit the chipotle peppers, if desired. Otherwise, it’s the same simple steps and absolutely delicious!

Thursday: Baked Falafel

Friday: Dinner at a friend’s house

Saturday: Leftovers

Hope these recipes give you some ideas for meal planning! Enjoy!


Sweet Potato Jalapeno Soup with Avocado Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Ultimate cozy winter comfort food.

Rich, creamy sweet potatoes with just the right kick from some roasted jalapenos and perfectly paired with a simple yet decadent avocado and havarti grilled cheese sandwich. Please dip your grilled cheese into the soup, that is mandatory. This soup is especially wonderful after a long cold day when you just want to feel warm and snuggly.

Who can resist avocado and cheese slathered onto two buttery pieces of bread and grilled?

Look how pretty these are!

Did you know: sweet potatoes are usually only about 44 cents a pound at the grocery and contain lots of vitamins? Healthy and cheap! Also, when boiled then cooled, the skin peels off easily. Even if you don’t love sweet potatoes by themselves, this soup is definitely worth a try!

My notes: 

The soup is rather rich, especially paired with the grilled cheese, so its quite filling, even for the menfolk.

Next time I make this I will add even more jalapeno than is included in my recipe below. I would have enjoyed the spice level kicked up a little more.

I don’t know why anyone would ever do this, but I put whole peppercorn in the soup thinking it would get blended up, well, it didn’t. So we had some peppery bites!

An immersion blender is very helpful for this soup. If you don’t have one, I’m sure you could just blend it in your regular blender, but let it cool down before doing so.

For the grilled cheese: you must use havarti! The creaminess is out of this world, especially paired with the avocado.

Sweet Potato Jalapeno Soup 

adapted from food.com 

Serves 6 

Ingredients: 

3lbs sweet potatoes

4 cups chicken broth, or 4 cups water with 4 cubes chicken bouillon

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

5 slices bacon

6 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup jalapeno

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup half-and-half

salt and pepper to taste

To make:

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, rinse off your jalapenos, wrap in foil, and throw them in for 20 minutes. Then take them out and give them a rough chop.

Scrub your sweet potatoes and cut them in half. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add in sweet potatoes. Boil until you can stick them and they are soft. Drain and let them cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skin, set aside.

While potatoes are cooling, add butter to the soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, saute until onions are translucent, add garlic and saute about one more minute. Cook your bacon separately in the microwave, oven, or in a skillet. When cooked, break 3 of the slices into pieces and add to the onions and garlic.

Add chicken broth to the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Slice the peeled sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces and add to the soup pot. Add jalapenos, cumin, cilantro, and half-and-half. Stir into soup. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Use your immersion blender or regular blender, to blend all the ingredients until they are smooth with no lumps. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining bacon and some cilantro on top.

Avocado Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 

Ingredients: 

4 slices of bread-I used multi grain sandwich bread

1/2 large avocado

4 thin slices havarti cheese

a little butter

To make: 

Butter each piece of bread. Flip over and spread 1/4 avocado on two of the slices, on their opposite slice place 2 slices of havarti cheese. Make into a sandwich.

Cook sandwiches over medium heat in a non-stick pan. When one side gets nicely browned, flip it and brown the other side!

Enjoy!