Keeping Warm: Slow Cooker Spicy Beer Chili

Thanks for all the awesome comments and sharing of Monday’s post! I am really glad that it resonated with so many of you since it was something I had been feeling for awhile, but wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to express those feelings. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in those feelings, but at the same time it’s a shame so many of us feel that way. So what better way to follow a post about body image and food relationships than with a recipe?

I actually made this chili last week when the temperatures were tolerable, but now that they’re back below freezing, the timing is perfect. I have to note that I was able to wear shorts on two runs last week and it was pure magic. On Sunday, I was even able to wear a tank top!

See? Tank & shorts! [Proud member of #TeamPurple for the #PickyGames!]

I should provide a little background for why this chili is “spicy” and how you can adjust your spice level based on your own personal preference. As I’ve discussed before, I love spicy foods. Whenever I’m out and a dish can be made mild, medium, or hot, I almost always go with hot. I say almost because there is a Thai restaurant near my parents that makes their hot dishes so spicy I think they’re barely edible. So when I was in the liquor store a few weeks ago picking up some beer, I noticed a lonesome bottle. The title of the beer is what initially drew me in to take a look, and only once I let it process for a second did I realize what it was. The beer was called Ghost Face Killah. At first I thought to myself “oh, that’s a weird name for a beer.” And then a lightbulb went off. This wasn’t just a beer with funny name; it was a beer with chiles. And not just any chili – the ghost pepper chili (along with Serrano, Habanero, Jalapeño, Anaheim, and Fresno). I bought it without hesitation, and after a few fiery sips, knew it would be perfect in a chili. Yes, it’s spicy, but it also has incredible flavor. I realize this beer may  not be available for everyone, so I’ve made some modifications to my own recipe so in case you can’t find the beer, you can still have a spicy beer chili of your own!

Don't let the poor picture quality fool you - it was delicious!
Don’t let the poor picture quality fool you – it was delicious!

Spicy Slow Cooker Beer Chili
– Serves 4-6 – 

4 (15 0z.) cans of beans, drained and rinsed [you can use any combination here. I used pinto, black, white, and kidney]
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 red onion, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
2 cups beer [I used the chili beer, but any beer will work]*
1 jalapeño, diced [depending on your heat preference, you can leave in or remove the seeds and flesh]*

1. Add all ingredients to slow cooker
2. Set the slow cooker on high and cook for 3 hours, or low and cook for 6-8.
3. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, pasta, or other grains with shredded cheese, avocado, and sour cream.
Note: The spice level will depend on the type of beer you use and the jalapeño. If you can’t find the beer but want it to be spicy, add another jalapeño or two (making it 2-3). If you can find the beer but are uncertain about the spice level, you can leave out the jalapeño, or just do 1 cup of the spicy beer, and 1 cup of regular beer. The possibilities are endless!

Transition Chili

I always find myself with mixed emotions when summer comes to a close. It’s no secret that summer is my favorite season (it’s always been), but I don’t mind fall. In fact, there are a lot of things I do enjoy about fall, like cooler running temperatures, being able to wear boots and scarves, not working up a sweat while cooking, and Halloween!

I’m looking forward to this fall because it means I get to relax – at least a little. This summer has been packed with marathon training (even if it’s been half-hearted, it still takes up a lot of time!), and a LOT of weddings. Basically, I’m looking forward to not having to wake up at the crack of dawn to run because it’s too hot and I have a million things planned for the afternoon. Yes, I can’t wait to be lazy.

Aside from cooler temperatures and new fashion, there are foods that evoke the feelings of different seasons, too. One food that makes me think of cooler weather is chili (and soups in general). Even though it’s still technically summer (I can’t handle people saying things like, “it’s officially fall!” because it in fact, is not until tomorrow), I decided to deviate a bit from my “hang on to summer for as long as possible” mantra and made a pot of chili. For me, this wasn’t just any old batch of chili, though, rather it was more of a transition from summer to fall because of the ingredients – they’re light and colorful, but still provide that quintessential big bowl of chili feeling.

Veggie Grain Chili
– serves 4-6 –  

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp Adobo
1 tsp oregano
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 15 0z. cans of beans – I used black and pinto, but any combo will work! 
4 oz. soy chorizo (or regular chorizo)
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced (smaller pieces help it cook faster)
1 ear of corn (kernels removed)
18 oz. vegetable broth (about 1.5 cans)
1 cup dry cous cous or quinoa

1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and poblano pepper for for 5-10 minutes, until they’re translucent. 
2. Add in the spices (chili powder, cumin, Adobo, oregano), and tomato paste. Stir constantly, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. 
3. Stir in beans, soy chorizo, sweet potato, corn, and vegetable broth. Turn heat down to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. 
4. Add in the grain, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. 
5. Serve with avocado, cilantro, cheese, and/or sour cream! 

Super Sides

Every year it takes me by surprise just how quickly the Holidays come and go. Only a few days ago I was echoing the sentiment I do every year; “I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas. It doesn’t feel like it.” The next thing I knew we were at my husband’s parent’s house enjoying Christmas Eve dinner, and then in the blink of an eye we were leaving my family after Christmas dinner. This year has flown by and been one of the biggest years of my life yet. There will certainly be a recap of sorts coming tomorrow!

I had the honor of being a Hormel Foods Extended Family Food Blogger for part of the year, and our last challenge was side dishes. For me, side dishes are often times my favorite part of a meal, becoming the star on the plate. Growing up, we always had a few things on our plates (meat, vegetable, maybe a starch), but I’ve found myself in the kitchen mostly making meals that can all be enjoyed in a bowl, or on a small plate. This isn’t to say the dishes themselves don’t require a lot of pots and pans to get to the end result, but it’s usually just one thing.

After looking through Hormel’s website for some inspiration, I decided to make two side dishes. Growing up, I was (and still am!) a huge mashed potatoes fan. Call me crazy, but I love instant mash just as much as homemade mashed potatoes. Sure, the homemade thing is better, but in a pinch the boxed flakes aren’t half bad. So, I made bacon-ed up mashed poatoes, and a veggie loaded chili dish (because I love everything chili related). Even though chili is usually the key player, this is a perfect side to have with pork, beef, or some marinated and grilled chicken, or you can enjoy it as your main. Maybe even over some mashed potatoes!

I had seen a recipe for Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes on How Sweet Eat’s blog, and had been jonsing to try them. I was going to make it for Thanksgiving, but my mother-in-law’s plain ‘ol milk, butter, and hand mashed  potatoes just can’t be replaced. In honor of Jessica and her love for bacon, I thought she’d appreciate me adding some bacon to the potatoes. And let me tell you, this was a delicious addition! (recipe below).

As for the loaded veggie chili, it’s close to my heaven. Sauteed veggies (onions, peppers, etc.) are some of my favorites, smothered in spices and combined with some Hormel chili couldn’t be easier, or tastier. I actually think this would be a great burrito filler as well, or over rice or mashed potatoes if you’re looking to have it as the star of the show. But, it’s a great side dish as well, and sneaks in a lot of vegetables without you even realizing it. Of course I’m not one to hide my vegetables, but for those of you that are veggie shy or have dining companions that are, this is a great way to get them in.

Browned Butter & Bacon Smashed Potatoes – adapted from How Sweet Eats 
– serves 6 –

3lbs yukon or russet potatoes (I used russet)
1 cup milk
6 Tbsp butter
4 slices of bacon (I used hormel)
3 Tbsp of bacon fat
salt & pepper to taste

1. Chop potatoes (I left the skin on, but you can peel them first if you’d prefer) and put in a large pot, filling just above the potatoes with water. Boil for about 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are tender
2. Meanwhile, cook 4 pieces of bacon in a medium pan, about 4-5 minutes on each side until they’re nice and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate when done.
4. Keep the pan on, and add the butter, stirring it constantly until it begins to brown (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.
3. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and then return them to the pot. Using either a potato masher or hand mixer depending on if you liked smashed or mashed, mash the potatoes until they’re to your liking.
4. While mashing, add in browned butter, bacon fat, crumbled bacon, and milk. Season with salt and pepper

Veggie Loaded Chili
– Serves 4 –

1 yellow onion, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1 15 oz. can of corn
1 15 oz. can of chili with beans (I used Hormel)
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp taco seasoning (I used Chipotle)
1/4 tsp Adobo
1/4 tsp ground cumin

1. Preheat skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil, and once glistening add in onion, pepper, and jalapeño. Cook until all is just about tender, 5-10 minutes.
2. Add in spices and allow to cook together, about 2 minutes.
3. Add in tomatoes and corn, cook an additional 5 minutes.
4. Add in chili and cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Serve over rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, or by itself. Top with cheese if desired.

Sweet Potato Chipotle Beer Chili

This month’s Hormel Extended Family Food Blogger theme was slow cooking, specifically with a Crockpot. They actually sent me one in order to create my meal – how awesome! Having only just made my very first meal a la slow cooker last week (it was this), I was psyched to give a new recipe a try. I really love the idea of a slow cooker, since it gives you the opportunity to set up your meal, go about your day, and come home to something delicious. I will most definitely be putting some type of slow cooker meal into heavy rotation in our house this winter.

Because it’s fall and the weather is slowly getting cooler, I first knew I wanted to make chili, and as an ingredient have what I consider to be a classic fall food – sweet potatoes! From there, all the other ingredients kind of fell into place based on what I invision a good chili to include. And, of course I had to add beer – its such a great cooking ingredient. This also made enough for leftovers, which is always appreciated. While I don’t mind bringing frozen meals for lunch, I would much prefer a leftover, and I can’t justify eating out more than once a week (if even that).

So, after a long run and making a trip to the Halloween store in hopes of finding a costume for my husband, it was great to come home to this!

Sweet Potato Chipotle Beer Chili… with Turkey
– Serves 4 –

1.25 lbs ground turkey (or leave this out, use ground beef, etc.)
1 large Spanish onion, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 15.5 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 8 oz. cans diced tomatoes with jalapeños
12 oz. Mexican beer (I used Corona)
2 chipotles in adobo, plus 2 Tbsp adobo sauce [or less depending on your spice preference]
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder 

1.  Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker
2. Cook on the high setting for 2 hours
3. Serve with your favorite chili toppings (shredded cheese, sour cream, etc.) 

Chips for dinner

There are times when it’s okay to throw the rules out the window. Allowing yourself to let go of the idea that chips are not a suitable dinner is a prime example of that type of time. This is now the second time I’ve used chips in a dish aside from regular nachos, and the result has been pretty delicious.

While sifting through the pile of cookbooks I received for Christmas trying to meal plan, I remembered a tiny book I hadn’t yet given much attention – Eat Tweet, by @cookbook (aka Maureen Evans). The title alone is accurate for my own life… I eat and tweet (among other, less important things). I’m not going to lie that it’s a little difficult here and there to decipher the abbreviated language within some of the reicpes. But, the recipes are all pretty straight forward considering they’re 140 characters or less. I like the idea of a dish that can fit into a tweet.

This is by no means healthy, and I don’t even know how I got away with serving it as “dinner.” It’s definitely moreso a party snack to be eaten sparingly. However, my fiancé and I totally ate this for dinner, alongside a giant salad. And let me tell you, it was delicious. I’m thinking I should start cooking with chips more often…

I went ahead and decoded the recipe for you, to make it easeir to read… I figured a 140 character abbreviated recipe has it’s place on Twitter, but not neccessarily my blog. I can’t wait to decode more of these.

Frito Pie
via Eat Tweet
Serves 4

2 1/2 cups of chili, any variety  you like (I used Amy’s black bean)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cups Fritos (I used the lightly salted version, as I find their regular is super salty)
2 cups of shredded cheese
*shredded lettuce, sour cream, and salsa for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In greased pie dish, layer 2 cups of Fritos, followed by 1/2 cup diced onion, 1 cup of cheese, and the 2 1/2 cups of chili.
3. Layer remaining cup of fritos, followed by remaining onions and cheese.
4. Bake for 15 minutes until chips and cheese are golden brown.

Planning for spice

When planning out our meals for the week, I ususally consult three sources; the internet, my pile of cookbooks, and the scariest of them all, my brain. Once I get my creative dinner juices flowing, I then have to consult our ever important calendar to see what we’ve got going on throughout the week. A lot of times, this then requires me to go back to the drawing board, since I tend to dream up elaborate dinners that just won’t be done before 9pm, causing me to probably gnaw off my arm before then.

It might seem a bit silly to plan my meals in advance, especially when it’s just myself and my fiancé. However, I’m obsessed with planning, which would explain why I have an extremely detailed Google Calendar, personal planner, and am always looking to schedule things in advance and confirm them. My meals seem to be no different; I like to know ahead of time what I’m going to be making when based on my schedule, and more importantly, pick up the necessary ingredients while at the grocery store. I think one of the worst feelings in the world is getting home after having your heart set on a certain food/meal, only to find out you don’t have some of the ingredients. For me, that’s close to heartbreak. So I try to avoid it at all costs by planning!

I snagged a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Robertson a few months ago, and just got around to actually making something from the book. While I’m not a vegan, the simple words fire and spice grabbed my attention. This particular book not only offers recipes with varying levels of heat (marked as one to three chiles), but they’re recipes from all over the world! I love that within one cookbook alone I can find a recipe from Thailand, Mexico, Africa, Morocco, and more, and they’re all spicy!

I had paged through the book marking off things I was interested to try first, so I decided to make the Red Hot White Bean Chili as my first dish. It was easy, spicy, and filling – what more could a girl ask for? Of course I went and completely de-veganized it by throwing regular cheese on top, but other than that and omitting carrots (I didn’t have any) I stayed true to the recipe. I’m really looking forward to making other things from the book – I like fire in my belly!

Red Hot White Bean Chili via Vegan Fire & Spice
– Serves 4-6 –

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano chiles, seeded and minced (I used a jalapeno and habanero)
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
4 1/2 cups cooked or 3 (15.5oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, minced
optional – vegan cheese for garnish 

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, and chiles. Cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Blend in the chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and pepper, and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the beans, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, 45 to 50 minutes. Garnish with minced scallions.  

Peanut Butter Chili

Who doesn’t love chili? It’s seriously everything I could want in a bowl… sauteed onions, beans, spice… yum. The different combinations that can be thrown into a big simmering bowl makes chili even more appealing to me. When it comes to spices, there are a ton of directions you can go in too. Only recently did I discover the wonders of adding a dash of cinnamon. I found this recipe on Serious Eats, back on National Peanut Butter Day. So, as you can imagine, there’s peanut butter in it. That’s right, peanut butter in chili!

I wasn’t too sure how this was going to come out – I mean, peanut butter in chili? It smelled amazing, and even though there was a solid amount of peanut butter used in the recipe, the taste was really just a compliment to the other flavors in the dish. I didn’t have tomato paste, and I also didn’t have two cans of kidney beans, so there were some modifications. I used a little less vegetable broth so as to not make it too watery since the tomato paste wasn’t there to thicken it up. Also, I threw in a can of pinto beans to keep the bean numbers the same, and it added a nice variety as well.

This is a pretty quick cooking chili, too. A lot require a solid 45+ minute simmering time, but this one, once all combined, takes 20 minutes with 15 minutes of sautéing required beforehand. So, it’s definitely a chili you can make on a weeknight, which I always appreciate. I decided to make the entire recipe (except I only made enough rice for what I thought we’d eat), and we had five very large servings over the course of three days!

Peanut Butter Chili via Serious Eats
– Serves 6-8 –

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Two (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
One (12-ounce) can tomato paste *I omitted
2 cups vegetable stock *Only used 1 1/2
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (preferably unsweetened) *I used chunky
Two (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained *I did 1 kidney, 1 pinto
One (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
One (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
One (15-ounce) can whole sweet corn, rinsed and drained
4 cups cooked white or brown rice (for serving)
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (for serving)

1. In large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.
2. Add diced tomatoes and their liquid, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes to pot. Let simmer for 5 minutes and then add tomato paste, vegetable stock, and peanut butter. Stir until tomato paste and peanut butter are well incorporated. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low and add all beans and corn. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
4. To serve, place a half cup of rice in large bowl and add two ladles of chili. Top with cheddar cheese and chopped scallions.

Delicious Fridays

Friday afternoon, my company had it’s third annual Thanksgiving feast during lunch. Everyone brought in a recipe, and at the end we voted for winners. I decided to make Not Your Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie. While I had lots of compliments, I didn’t win. That’s okay, though, because I devoured a whole lot of deliciousness; broccoli casserole, stuffing, corn salad, pumpkin dumplings, cumin and cayenne mashed potatoes with caramelized onion, and topped it off with some peanut butter brownie mousse parfait. I scored the recipes of almost everything I liked, and can’t wait to make it!

Needless to say, I was stuffed (and lethargic) all afternoon. So when I got home, for one of the first times, I wasn’t ravenous for dinner. Eventually, though, I was hungry enough to make something. Having one sweet potato left over from making the pie as well as an avocado and typical Mexican fare (cilantro, tortillas, cheese), I racked my brain for a solid 20 minutes. Eventually I went with a chili cheese burrito and a side of spicy sweet potato fries. It was quick to make and really delicious. A perfect simple Friday night dinner to accompany watching Millionaire Matchmaker and What Not to Wear… guilty pleasures for a Friday night home alone!

Chili Cheese Burrito
– Serves 1 –

½ can of your favorite chili (I used Amy’s Organic Spicy Veggie Chili)
1 flour tortilla
½ cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
½ avocado, sliced
¼ cup scallions, diced
¼ cup cilantro
2 tbsp sour cream

1. Heat chili over medium heat until bubbly, remove from heat
2. Place sliced avocado, diced scallions, and half of the cheese on the tortilla, followed by chili, sour cream, and remaining cheese
3. Roll and enjoy!

Spicy Sweet Potato Oven Fries
– Serves 1-2 –

1 sweet potato
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
1 tsp Adobo seasoning
½ tsp cumin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Peel and slice potato long ways, coat in olive oil then sprinkle with spices
3. Spray a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake an additional 10 minutes
4. Enjoy!

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

After watching the NYC Marathon on Sunday I was inspired to head out for 5 miles of my own (after all it was World Run Day!). Somehow, I’ve managed to drop my per-mile pace each run I’ve been on post-injury. I suppose my two month break was like an extended taper. If that’s the case, I’ll take it!

For dinner, I decided to make this Turkey Pumpkin Chili recipe from Whole Foods. I think, if I remember correctly, I found it on The Runner’s Kitchen blog, but I can’t be sure. At any rate, it was absolutely delicious. I substituted the jalapeño for habaneros, since the grocery store’s jalapeños were rather wimpy. This of course kicked up the heat a lot, and it was well worth it. Aside from that substitution and an additional tablespoon of chili powder, I followed the rest of the recipe exactly.

There’s really no other way to describe this recipe aside from YUM. It was the perfect consistency. Often times I find that chili is either too soupy, or too thick – this was right in the middle. There was a nice amount of heat, and the beans and puree pumpkin really added a great consistency. Plus, I’d like to think adding the 99% fat-free ground turkey made it healthier than your average chili recipe! Since it serves 6, there’s plenty left for me to enjoy throughout the week.

Turkey Pumpkin Chili
– Serves 6 –

2 tablespoons oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped (more or less depending on your heat preference!)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground white or dark meat turkey
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1 cup water
1-2 tablespoon chili powder (I used 2)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add turkey and cook until browned.
2. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Give Away Winner!

As you all know, early last week I had the opportunity to give away a pretty sweet prize pack thanks to the folks over at Hormel & Dinty Moore.

Though I didn’t have many entrants, the decision was hard! Some entries were funny, others reminisced about childhood memories, and others were yummy recipes. But, as promised, I made my decision after the contest closed last night (Sunday) at 9pm EDT.

And the winner is: John “The Legend” not to be confused with John Legend. The selection is two-fold. One, his recipe actually sounds really good, and I’m tempted to make it. Two, he just so happens to be my co-worker, and I know for a fact eats the most ridiculous things for dinner, but is just starting out on his own culinary adventure. What type of ridiculous things, may you ask? A jar of peanut butter. Or a box of animal crackers. Oh, the life of a bachelor. So, I figured John could use it the most!

So John, all I need from you is your address where you’d like the Hormel goodies shipped, and they’ll be on their way!