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Easy Weeknight Ramen

Easy Weeknight Ramen

Cold weather and busy work days sometimes make it a bit hard to get a fast dinner ready on a week night. This fast soup is the perfect remedy! I take your typical store bought 25 cent ramen packet, toss out the weird ‘chicken’ flavor […]

Super Easy Pork Ribs

Super Easy Pork Ribs

I met my husband almost ten years ago (!?!?!) and his family shortly thereafter. Drew’s mom, my mother-in law, Debbie, makes some of THE BEST Pork Ribs. Like seriously, I never really liked BBQ sauce as a kid but these ribs changed that (my unbreakable […]

Homemade Chili from Scratch (No Seasoning Packet!)

Homemade Chili from Scratch (No Seasoning Packet!)

Happy January! Todays high was 15 degrees, the low this evening will be -4 degrees and my yard is pleasantly covered with a good 5ish inches of fresh snow. This is the bitter winter weather that calls for an evening cuddling in front of a good show after a hearty bowl of some bone warming chili šŸ™‚

There was a joke growing up that if my sister or I made soup before a snow storm then my dad (the superintendent) would have to cancel school the next day. I can assure you that any cancelling of school was completely coincidental and 100% weather related šŸ™‚ Nevertheless soup was always fun. My Dad was always the ‘Chili’ maker growing up. It always had tomatoes and ground beef, sometimes had beans, and never had onions or peppers.

Mine is a bit different. I think I first made chili for myself in college on a cold snow day. I learned with the chili seasoning packet spices just like Dad. As I began using more jared spices in my mid twenties, I realized that I was already stocking all of the spices typically found in those seasoning packets. Several years and quite a few batches of chili later, I have come to love this great mild Chili that is hearty, versatile, and super easy to make.

The only fresh ingredients needed to make a great chili are onions and jalapeƱos (and the jalapeƱos are optional). Everything else is super easy to keep on hand between the pantry and freezer. I like to stock up on the various canned tomato products when they go on sale. Just last week I was able to buy the 14.5 ounce canned tomatoes for just 0.69 cents per can! I do the same with the ground beef. I combined a good sale with coupons and was able to get five packs of the ground beef for just $4.49 each. Pull the cans from the pantry and the beef from the freezer when you are ready to try this recipe!

You need only a few spices: Chili Powder, Cumin, Garlic Powder and Cayenne Pepper. Plus salt. As is the name of the dish, the Chili Powder is the most used of these. Despite the name and the amount used it won’t actually make a super spicy stew! The Cayenne Pepper helps add a bit more spice too. I prefer my spice level relatively low, just enough heat to make my nose run by the end of a hearty bowl (sorry if that is TMI). The cumin brings a bit of another spice element, combining with the meat/beans/onions to make you think you are eating a bit of tex-mex. And I have found that onion powder is easier to control than fresh garlic cloves when it comes to a good chili.

The only real prep is giving the onion and jalapeƱos some rough dicing. I used a mid size yellow onion that was about 2/3rds pound. The three jalapeƱos came in at 1/5th pound before I cut the stems off and removed the seeds and ribs. You can use more jalapeƱo, not remove the ribs and seeds, or choose a spicier pepper to get more heat. The easiest way to remove the seeds and ribs is to firmly peel it out with a spoon. Then to dice, I recommend you first julienne the pepper longways (make long thin strips or match stick size pieces) then cross cut to dice.

The chili transforms somewhat quickly once we start adding ingredients into the soup pot. Start with about 1 Tablespoon olive oil, the diced onion, and medium heat. Stir the onion frequently. Our goal is to merely soften the onions, not brown them. Four or five minutes into this add all of the jalapeƱos and keep stirring.

Once the jalapeƱos start softening it is time to get all of the spices into the mix. The heat will give the spices a slight toast and help infuse their flavors into the entire dish. Stir to combine and let the heat wake up the spices for just a minute or so.

My secrets for the thick texture I like is to add the beef stock then add the ground beef uncooked. Also, instead of a spatula to break down the meat I use my potato masher. This combo almost dissolves the ground beef into the stew as it cooks and really thickens the Chili.

Yes, dissolving meat in broth sounds terrible, but you have to trust me here. This will be a great texture! The best mainstream comparison I can offer is that of Cincinnati Style Chili, AKA Skyline or Gold Star. Note: I am not finished yet! We still have the tomatoes and beans to add!

Get ready! We are almost done! I add tomato paste (rich and thick), a double can of crushed tomatoes (super thick texture), tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes (bigger pieces add texture). If you can find them, I like to use at least one can of fire roasted tomatoes. I think the hint of smokyness adds that something something to the finished product.

If using canned beans take a moment and rinse the beans before adding to the stew. I swear something about the cloudy water and bean funk at the bottom of the can changes the flavor if you let it in the dish. It is also a habit I started because dozens of other recipes recommend it too. If I have more time I do like to soak my own dry kidney beans. When I do this I always make extra and keep some in the freezer.

Here is the hard part. We need to let the mix simmer and reduce a bit to thicken up a bit more. The chili smells so good and tempting already! It still needs some time and taste testing though. The picture on the right shows just how thick I like my Chili. I think a really good Chili should be like a thick meat stew that can really be piled high!

Also, you may have noticed the lack of any salt being added thusfar. I love soups of many kinds and adding too much salt can quickly ruin an otherwise great soup. I am especially conscious of this when using so many canned items simultaneously. I taste test while the Chili is simmering and add salt to taste, plus check on the other spices levels too. I needed two tablespoons salt today (note, the double can of crushed tomatoes was salt free).

The versatility of this semi mild chili can really be shown in the way you serve it. This Chili can be served on top of french fries/baked potato/pasta/Macaroni and cheese. You can top it many ways, including but not limited to diced avocado, extra jalapeƱos, cheese, sour cream, oyster crackers, or guacamole. Or you can serve it as is next to a grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwich. There are so many different combos you can make! Today I served it with some al dente bucatini pasta, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of cheese. Dad almost always served his Chili with peanut butter sandwiches or cheese and oyster crackers. Pro tip: dipping a PB sandwich into the chili is an odd yet satisfying sweet/salty/spicy combo that just seems to work!

Happy Chili making! I hope this recipe helps warm up your snowy winter days!

 

Homemade Chili (No Seasoning Packet!)

  • 1 Diced Yellow Onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Diced JalapeƱos, optional, quantity is your choice (I use 3)
  • 5 Tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 4 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 can Beef Broth
  • 2 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 6ounce can Tomato Paste
  • 4 cans of Tomatoes
    • I used a double size can of crushed tomatoes, plus one each of tomato sauce and fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans rinsed Kidney Beans

Directions

  1. Peel then dice Yellow Onion
  2. Wash JalapeƱos, remove ribs and seeds, julienne, then dice
  3. Pre-measure your dry spices
  4. Add oil and onion into soup pot, stir, cook til onion softens, about 4-5 minutes
  5. Add JalapeƱos, stir, add all of the spices about one minute later, stir
  6. Add Beef Broth, thenĀ ground beef, combine using a potato masher (its a texture thing-details above)
  7. Add all the various canned tomatoes, stir
    1. tomato paste
    2. crushed tomatoes (2 cans)
    3. tomato sauce
    4. diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
  8. Simmer, and periodically stir and taste for seasoning, add salt and or other spices as needed
  9. Once reduced to desired thickness serve as is or with choice of topping/sandwich/side (suggestions above)
Homemade Three Ingredient Dark Chocolate

Homemade Three Ingredient Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is basically woman’s best friend. It helps cheer up a bad day, celebrate a good day, and pairs just as well with breakfast coffee and pancakes as it does with dessert ice cream or wine. Plus, as an added bonus, it even provides you […]

Spinach Cheese Dip

Spinach Cheese Dip

I can’t be the only one to skip grocery shopping and have a ‘use up week’ before I head out of town. I am also sure I am not the only one to look into a perfectly stocked refrigerator and think ā€œI have nothing to […]

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken (with a How-To Video!)

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken (with a How-To Video!)

Perfecting a Roasted Chicken is one of the easiest and always affordable ways you can impress someone that comes over for dinner. Let me tell you, I cannot count how many dry or rubbery or otherwise ill-prepared chickens I fed my husband trying to teach myself how to make a traditional chicken roast or a crock pot chicken recipes. It was many.

The one technique that has worked for me 100% of the time is a Dry Brine Spatchcock Roasted Chicken.

Dry-Brine and Spatchcock are two separate techniques that will help you create one of the most delicious birds you have ever encountered. I can almost guarantee you will want this recipe again and again!

The first thing to do with this recipe is to Spatchcock your chicken. A Spatchcock is the process where you remove the chicken backbone and break the breast bone so the chicken can lay flat during the roasting process. The video below will walk you thru the visuals of how exactly you can accomplish this šŸ™‚

The Dry Brine is essentially a salt brine method where you salt the meat directly then let time work magic while the meat rests for 8-24 hours in the fridge. You will skip the liquid part of traditional brining which will prevent potential salmonella contamination in your kitchen. You can also use smaller quantities because there is no water to dilute the flavoring. I first showed you an easy dry brine in my yummy Basic Pork Belly Roast recipe from this past January.

Once you have removed the backbone, you need to take a moment and loosen the skin. There is some really thin connective tissue that semi-attaches the skin to the meat. We want to separate them without actually removing the skin so we can add salt to alllllllll of the chicken meat. Lets be honest, we want alllllll of the chicken to taste good šŸ™‚

Now we are ready to add the salt! You will want to apply the salt both on and under the skin on both sides of the chicken. For a typical 3-4 pound chicken, I use one (heaping) tablespoon of salt, plus a touch more right before baking. My hubby eyeballs the salt completely when he makes this for me.

I try to get the salt evenly spread thru the entire chicken. I can most effectively do this when I keep a ‘wet’ and a ‘dry’ hand. I use the ‘wet’ hand (my left) to lift the skin and the ‘dry’ hand (my right) to add the salt. It will seem like a lot of salt, but please trust me that this will be one super yummy chicken! Make sure to reserve some salt for the outside of the chicken.

Once I have most of the salt distributed as evenly as I can under the skin, I take a moment and give the chicken a quick massage. Yes, I massage the chicken. At this point, the salt is still grainy. The quick massage gives me one more opportunity to spread the salt under the skin before the brining process really begins.

Put most of the salt under the skin, and keep a smidgen, say less than a teaspoon worth, to salt the outside of the chicken (including the innards part facing down and the skin facing up). We do want the skin to dehydrate a little because it adds to the making of crispy skin!

Now, we are ready to cover the chicken and let it brine away in the fridge! I have brined first thing in the morning and cooked it that evening for dinner, but most commonly I start a chicken brining just before bed and cook it the next evening!

**At least 8 but no more than 24 hours later**

Compound butter is an absolutely delectable way to add that extra something something to this meal. My favorite herb to add to this chicken is a rosemary; Italian seasoning would be a close second fav. The butter helps ensure the chicken is not only tasty, but also juicy! Compound butter is super easy too!

So easy in fact, it is literally just an herb of your choosing, plus softened unsalted butter! Note: because the chicken has already been salted during the brine process, you do not want to use any kind of herb mix that would add more salt. I think a two part butter to one part dry herb works really well for this chicken.

Sometimes during the summer I will use fresh rosemary from my garden. If I do use fresh, I reduce the amount of rosemary to about 1 1/2 teaspoons (or roughly half a tablespoon) because the flavor potency of a fresh herb is much more robust.

When your compound butter is well mixed, it is ready to add to the chicken!

Just like when we salted the chicken to start the dry brine process, we want to apply the majority of the butter under the skin. Our goal is for some of the compound butter to reach as much of the chicken as we can get it to. My next tip to ensure this?

Give you chicken another quick massage! This will, like with the salt, help ensure the compound butter reaches the nooks and crannies. It also has the added bonus of getting a bit of butter ontop of the skin.

Lastly, we want to add that quick pinch of salt and we are ready to put the chicken in the oven.

Reminder: The major benefit of the spatchcock chicken is it can lay flat so it will roast up quickly and evenly. We want the oven to be preheated to a toasty 425 degrees and will bake the chicken for 45-55 minutes. I always double check the chicken with a meat thermomoter in the thigh and the breast to at least 165 degrees internal temp.

Despite the wordy article, I hope you can see how easy and how achievable this chicken is for you to prepare and impress with! Please let me know in the comments below how it turns out for you!

 

Spatchcock Roasted Chicken

  • Whole Chicken, 3-4 pounds
  • 1 Tablespoon salt, plus a pinch more
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon dry herb, unsalted OR 1/2 Tablespoon fresh
    • Rosemary is my favorite and Italian seasoning is a close second šŸ™‚
  • Kitchen Shears
  • Time
  1. Spatchcock your chicken (remove the backbone) and break the breast bone so the chicken lays flat. See video at top of recipe for assistance
  2. Clean up the inside of the chicken if necessary. Any odd bits can be saved with the backbone for a future batch of chicken stock
  3. Loosen the skin from the meat without removing the skin.
  4. Add most of the salt evenly to all parts of the chicken under the skin. Massage chicken briefly to ensure even salt distribution
  5. Sprinkle remaining salt on outside of the chicken (including skin and innards bottom side).
  6. Cover and allow brine process to happen while chilling in fridge for 8-24 hours
  7. Create compound butter with herb of choosing and evenly add under the skin to all parts of the chicken. Massage chicken briefly to ensure even butter distribution
  8. Bake in 425 degree oven for 45-55 minutes. Check for doneness with meat thermometer reading at least 165 degrees
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

I seem to have found myself on a bit of a tomato kick these past few weeks! I can explain! The tomatoes I have been growing all summer didn’t start producing ripe tomatoes until halfway thru August and have been going strong since! With the […]

30 Second Pizza Sauce

30 Second Pizza Sauce

My husband and I both work full time jobs, so sometimes (always) by the end of the week we decisioned out. More than once we have argued about dinner Sometime in the past year or so we have started having “Pizza Fridays” to make a […]

Homemade Tomato Paste

Homemade Tomato Paste

Welcome all to the overabundant summertime tomato harvestĀ what-do-I-do-with-themĀ solution post!

Lets get real for a moment, any of us that have a home garden with multiple tomato plants has had a time when we have more tomatoes ripen all at once than we know what to do with! From this day forward, you will now know that a batch of homemade tomato paste is your solution! Spoiler alert: I started with 8 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, and ended up with a much more manageable 20 ounces of paste.

Personally, I am not at all against buying canned tomato paste or tomato sauce, as it is easy to find quality options at the grocery store for reasonable prices (and some of my favorite sauces start with two cans of diced tomatoes). Todays post is designed to help prevent you from tossing your lovingly home grown tomatoes due to spoilage.

I used a combination of all of the San Marzano/Heinz/Grape tomatoes from my garden, the cherry tomatoes from the volunteer plants at my in-laws house, and a few extra roma tomatoes from the farmers market. The San Marzano (photo far right) are an Italian style plum tomato. They are great for paste because when compared to other tomatoes, they have a much higher pulp to liquid ratio so the process of making paste goes faster.

To start this super simple recipe, first wash and give all the tomatoes a rough chop. Then put them in a blender and puree until the tomatoes are past the visual appearance of being smooth. I used a Ninja blender and the food puree setting for about 1 minute 20 seconds.

Once blended, my 8 1/2 pounds of tomatoes turned into approximately 4 1/2 quarts.

Next, I like to go ahead and remove all of the skin and seeds. If you have a food mill, this is the perfect time to use it! I simply use a fine mesh strainer and silicon spatula. I use the spatula to move the puree aroundĀ  the strainer. The pulp and liquid passes thru the strainer and the seeds and skins stay behind (see last photo).

Using my method, this took me about 20 minutes to pass all of my puree thru the strainer. I put the leftover bits in my compost bin. Note: I poured directly into the fine mesh strainer, which then went to a regular strainer that was there for stability over the pot and allowed me to not have to hold the mesh strainer for the whole 20 minutes.

Now we are ready to get the tomatoes in the oven! Prepare yourself because this is a loooooong bake. Using a kitchen timer is an absolute must. The tomatoes go in the oven at 275 and need stirred every thirty minutes to prevent any burned edges.

The sheet trays really help out with the puree to paste baking process because of the large surface area for evaporation.

Essentially we are trying to evaporate and reduce the tomatoes as much as possible while trying to avoid changing the taste of the tomato. I see tomato paste as a pantry staple that can be used in any number of recipes so I do not want to do much to it! No Salt, no seasoning, no caramelized roasted bitsā€¦At the end of the day I want this tomato only recipe to still taste like a tomato and be versatile enough to fit equally well with in either an upcoming chili recipe or pasta sauce..

The first hour or so this the puree bakes, you probably will not notice much evaporation having taken place. I was about 2 1/2 or 3 hours into what ended up being a five hour bake before I started to notice the puree thickening. As the puree reduces into a paste, you should also notice the color become a deeper and deeper red. The photos above and the video below will both help you see the transformation take placeĀ šŸ™‚

Also: this smells amazing while baking! I seriously considered putting a pot of pasta on to boil halfway thru the bake time even though I had already eaten dinner! It was sooo tempting!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Vanilla is one of those baseline flavors where if vanilla isn’t good, nothing else will be either. It is also the flavor that can get dressed up by nearly any ice cream topping or syrup,Ā  easily be added to a warm piece of pie, or […]