Crock Pot Chili

Chili before being cooked! Food 008One of my favorite things to cook when the weather is sucking the life right out of us Chicagoans, is Chili.

Especially Crock Pot Chili.  It’s cold out, it’s snowing, the two inches of ice on the sidewalks makes for a hazardous walk to the El train getting to and from work.  The light at the end of the tunnel is coming home to a big old vat of Chili that’s been cooking for the past 10 hours.

Chili is honestly one of those dishes that as long as you have a strong base, you can really get wild and experiment with new flavors.  This morning while I was preparing my Crock Pot Chili, I had the inclination to add in A1 Sauce.  Sometimes I crisp up Bacon and throw that in there too.  I treat my Crockpot Chili like a garbage dump, riffling through all of my produce drawers and chopping up veggies as I go.  The same goes with Seasonings.  The flurry of dried Basil, Cumin, White Pepper being tossed into the pot serves the same purpose: to meld together delicious flavors to create a hearty dish that serves great as leftovers OR when you’ve ate chili too many times this weekend, freeze it and save it for a rainy day.

Crock Pot Chili:

Brown up 1 1/2 LBS of Ground Beef, drain fat
3 Stalks of Celery, chopped
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Jalepeno’s, de-seeded and chopped
1 Green Pepper
1 Red Pepper
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
2 Cans Kidney Beans, drained
1 Can Tomato Sauce
1 Can Tomato Paste
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 TBS Worstechire Sauce
2 TBS A1 Steak Sauce
1/2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Basil
1/2 tsp White Pepper
2 TBS Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Cajun Seasoning

Chop all of the veggies accordingly while browning the beef. Dump it all into a large crockpot, give it a quick stir and set on low for the next 8-10 hours. I’ve found if the sauce is too thin, adding in a few tablespoons of Tomato Paste as necessary should help thicken it up.

YUM! Enjoy!

Cooking with Quinoa

Not the best of photos...you can tell we clearly got into it before I remembered to take the picture!

Not the best of photos…you can tell we clearly got into it before I remembered to take the picture!

In an effort to be a little more healthy, you know, the whole New Year, New You concept, I’ve been experimenting with my cooking a little more. The first of my culinary tests has been cooking with Quinoa. I’m not going to lie. Quinoa plain looks kind of funny, almost like really tiny oatmeal flakes and it really does not have much flavor. Turns out it’s a great base though for a side, a casserole, a breakfast dish…you name it. Considering I’m still unsure whether or not I’m pronouncing it correctly, which made for an even more awkward shopping trip when my boyfriend ran out to get me groceries, I have at least figured out how to cook with it in a delicious and light manner.

I was messing around in the kitchen last night and decided I wanted a healthy side to go with our Breaded and Baked Pork Chops.  With a pint of Blueberries sitting in the fridge, I thought I would try to make something a little sweet to go with the Pork and Potatoes.  Below is what came out of it….

The good news is, it was great with dinner but definitely was better this morning for breakfast :)

Blueberries, Dried Cranberries and Almond Quinoa Salad

1 Cup Rinsed Quinoa
3 Cups Water
1 Pint of Blueberries
1/2 Cup Cranberries
1/2 Cup Sliced Almonds
1 Lime, Juiced
3 TBS Lemon Juice
1 TBS Dried Basil
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Pepper
1 tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Nutmeg

Directions:

Cook up 1 Cup of Rinsed Quinoa with 3 cups of water in a small sauce pan on the stove top

In another bowl, combine all other ingredients.

Upon completion of the Quinoa, spoon the warm Quinoa into the bowl with the fruits and seasonings.  Toss thoroughly.

Enjoy!

Adventues in Home Depot and Gardening

Adventures in Home Depot and Gardening in the City

This is what $250 looks like at the Home Depot.

In March when the warm weather was upon us, my very loving and patient boyfriend Dan gave me the OK to domesticate his and his roommate’s back deck.  With no yard to work with, this became quickly my “City Garden.”  Faster than a Spring thunderstorm, we were blessed with 80 F degree days and it felt as though Summer, not Spring, was finally here!  This warranted a trip to the Home Depot.

Upon arrival at Home Depot, we went nuts.  We bought windowboxes, hanging planters and a multitude of pots.  Flats of Pansies, Tulips, Hyacinths, Ferns…you name it.  We turned my little Ford Escape into a jungle paradise and began hauling everything to his second floor apartment.  From there we assembled window boxes and I created beautiful conncoctions in each of the planters.  A small Mosaic-Slate Bistro Table sits in the corner which was purchased for a very frugal $75 at the Home Depot as well.  It was quite the little Sunday.

Shortly after, the cold weather has returned.  Although our Ferns are struggling a bit despite the frost-free evenings and a wind storm blew my tulip petals off, everything seems to be hanging in there.  Fingers crossed it starts to feel like spring again soon so our little garden can begin to thrive.  I think one thing is for sure, planting at a later time in the year going forward will be practiced.  With a majority of the flowers having already bloomed, I’ll likely be taking a second trip to the Home Depot for some early-summer blooms to ensure it’s beautiful and fragrant through the summer :)