I know, I know. It’s been an absurdly long time since I last posted. But, life, you know: guests, birthdays, travel, more birthdays, more travel, emotional and physical exhaustion from all of the above. It’s a good one, but it’s life, nonetheless. And while I’m planning on posting either a real recipe or a recap of my travels sometime soon, in the meantime, I came across this super helpful discussion of what exactly all those descriptors on the chicken you buy means. I’ve often thought that sometimes the more you learn about eating healthy, mindfully, and conscientiously, the more you find out how much you don’t know. There’s a lot of obfuscation going around in the marketing world, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused. So, I hope this article helps clear up some questions you might have!

Mom’s Quick Chili

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I’ve been very lucky that the weather here has been cooperating with my recipe posts.  Because chili isn’t really a summer food, is it? But I’ve had this recipe in the queue for a while now, and now that it’s gloomy, rainy, AND cold outside, it really is just perfect timing.  Plus, it was Mother’s Day on Sunday, so what better way to honor my own mother than by posting one my favorite recipes from her.

Brownsville, where my parents still live and where my brother and I grew up, at only 6 hours South of Austin, doesn’t ever really get a “winter” to speak of.  Once, in high school, it snowed. Just once. Luckily for a lot of people in Brownsville who had never seen snow before, it happened to fall on Christmas Eve and lasted throughout Christmas day.  It was actually quite magical to hear the entire neighborhood running around the streets at midnight. And it’s easy to understand why: it was the first time it snowed in over 100 years. 100!

But aside from the 100-year snow, it really doesn’t get that cold down there. You could get by without ever owning a heavy coat (although I heard this year there were a few more cold fronts), and even when I visited them in December, I was wearing jeans and a short sleeve shirt out on the water (Brownsville has the very lovely side benefit of being a 20 minute drive from South Padre, which used to be my point of reference when telling people where I was from). I wore boots that day, and I was hot.

But no matter the temperature, the one thing that always made me feel like it was wintertime was when mom would break out this chili. This is a no-fuss chili.  It has beans. It cooks in 30 minutes. It’s warm, comforting, and straightfoward–all qualities that remind me of my mom. She is all those things and more, and although I’ve changed the recipe to lighten it up a little bit, there’s no changing the memories of coming home to a house filled with the smells of a simmering pot of chili on the stove. And even though it’s totally May and not at all winter (global cooling, amirite?), there’s no day like today to fill your belly with the cozy warmth of chili.

Mom’s Quick Chili
Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey or other meat
2 cans Rotel original
2 cans pinto beans, undrained
3 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic powder or more, to taste
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp each chili powder, cumin, and paprika
Optional toppings: cheddar cheese, saltines, sour cream, green onions

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cook the ground meat and diced onions over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes (if you are using turkey, you may want to add about a tsp of oil so that the turkey doesn’t stick. You don’t need to do this for beef). Make sure to mix it around frequently so that the meat doesn’t get stuck to the pan.

2. Once the meat is cooked, add all other ingredients and mix well. If you like a more watery chili, add about half a cup of water. Simmer on medium/medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes. Stir frequently so that nothing gets stuck to the pan.

3. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on top!
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Mom's Quick Chili
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground turkey or other meat
  • 2 cans Rotel original
  • 2 cans pinto beans, undrained
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder or more, to taste
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp each chili powder, cumin, and paprika
  • Optional toppings: cheddar cheese, saltines, sour cream, green onions
Directions
  1. In a large pot, cook the ground meat and diced onions over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes (if you are using turkey, you may want to add about a tsp of oil so that the turkey doesn't stick. You don't need to do this for beef). Make sure to mix it around frequently so that the meat doesn't get stuck to the pan.
  2. Once the meat is cooked, add all other ingredients and mix well. If you like a more watery chili, add about half a cup of water. Simmer on medium/medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes. Stir frequently so that nothing gets stuck to the pan.
  3. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on top!

If the wildflowers on the side of the road are any indication, spring is finally upon us here in Austin. Since spring makes me think of Easter and Easter makes me think of eggs, I thought I’d share with you my newest, favorite method for making eggs: Tong Zi Dan (aka Virgin Boy Eggs). The method is a little unorthodox, but the results are amazing! Check it out at Nom Nom Paleo!

Valentine’s Day Chicken Soup

So it’s probably a little bit of a stretch to call this spicy chicken soup Valentine’s Day chicken.  But, in my defense, the soup is red, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Valentine’s Day is a weird day to me.  At first, I started to not like it because I hated the restaurant experience on the Day–the hiked up prices, the crowds, the usually-lower-quality food because it’s a prix fixed menu.  So I transitioned to doing things at home, which was more enjoyable but still came with a lot of stress.  But then I realized that I just don’t care much about it.  I particularly don’t care for the high expectations and pressure that come along with the holiday.  So when Mr. Little Fish and I first started dating, I told him that I didn’t want to celebrate, he said OK, somewhat skeptically, I repeated myself more emphatically, and then that was that.

Well, that was supposed to be that.  But then he bought me these flowers yesterday:

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If flowers didn’t just die a few days after you bought them, I would actually really enjoy getting flowers.  I’ve thought about getting potted flowers, but I have become aware of my lack of a green thumb.  We have one indoor rubber tree that has managed to survive, but other than that, I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever gotten.  So, when were in HEB last week, I wistfully remarked that I kinda wished flowers didn’t die so quickly because I would like to always have some in our house.  I usually think Mr. LF isn’t listening to my ramblings, but he always is, so he got me these flowers.  It was a lovely surprise to finish my work week with, despite the ubiquitous little heart in the middle of the bouquet.

Which unfortunately does not at all provide me with a segue to this soup, but, I’m gonna talk about it anyway.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a few recipes that were easy and fast to make to help ease the pain of making your own food during the week (see: here, here, and here), but that’s not the only way I make things easier for myself:  I also make soups.  HUGE batches of soup.  On Sunday afternoons when I have time to let the flavors simmer and meld together. Then, I have lunches for every day that week for me and dinners for every day for Little Fish.  Sometimes, because I need a little more variety than Little Fish does, I’ll end up making some quick dinners for myself during the week, but other times, I’ll have the soup for dinner too.

This particular soup is one of our favorites.  The recipe is originally from Allrecipes.com, which is a great site for crowd-sourcing your meals.  They have a star rating system and a TON of users, so it’s pretty much the Amazon of recipes.  I tweaked the recipe to make it a bit fresher:  using a whole chicken so we can get the tender dark meat and make our own stock, buying fresh pico de gallo at HEB instead of a jar of salsa, adding red pepper in for a less starchy veggie, and letting each person put as much sour cream as they want rather than mixing it into the entire soup.  Truly a great soup for these winter days (but probably not the ideal candidate for Valentine’s Day)!

Valentine’s Day Chicken Soup
Serves 12
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Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds
2 stalks celery
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp onion powder
2.5 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 16-oz jar of chunky salsa (of fresh salsa from your local store)
2 (14.5 oz) cans peeled and diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
3 tbsp chili powder
2 (16 oz) cans chili or black beans, undrained
1 bean-can full of frozen corn kernels
Sour cream, to taste

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium heat, bring the chicken, celery, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, and onion powder to a boil.  Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low/medium-low, and let it simmer, covered, for about an hour, until the meat is tender enough to be pulled apart with a fork.
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2.  About 50 minutes in, prep the veggies if you haven’t already, and open the cans.  Remove the chicken from the water and onto a plate, and turn the heat off on the leftover stock (you will use this stock in the recipe, and have enough leftover to freeze for chicken broth).
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Get another clean plate and then start to pull the meat off the chicken, making sure to shred it into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.
3.  In another large pot, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent.
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Stir in the salsa, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, frozen corn, beans, shredded chicken, and about 5 cups of broth, or however much liquid you desire/your pot can hold (ours was only able to have 4).  Simmer for 30 minutes.
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4.  While the soup is simmering, you can throw away the celery in the leftover stock, and pour it though a strainer to get the spices out.  Freeze the strained liquid and use whenever chicken broth/stock is called for in future recipes!

IMG_68965.  For those who are/can not eat dairy, you can eat the soup straight.  Otherwise, I highly recommend stirring in some sour cream into your bowl, as it makes it creamy and delicious!  Allow each person to get as big or small a dollop as they want, and top with avocado, cheese, and/or tortilla chips!

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Valentine's Day Chicken Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
NOTE: To make this recipe a better weeknight meal, I typically just buy a cooked rotisserie chicken from the store, and shred the chicken for the meat. If you go those route, omit the celery below, and ignore steps 1 and 2 in the directions. I like to start with step 3 (getting the veggies started), and then pull the chicken while it cooks, but it also works fine to pull the chicken entirely before starting the actual cooking.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds
  • 2 stalks celery
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 16-oz jar of chunky salsa (of fresh salsa from your local store)
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 (16 oz) cans chili or black beans, undrained
  • 1 bean-can full of frozen corn kernels
  • Sour cream, to taste
Directions
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, bring the chicken, celery, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, and onion powder to a boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low/medium-low, and let it simmer, covered, for about an hour, until the meat is tender enough to be pulled apart with a fork.
  2. About 50 minutes in, prep the veggies if you haven't already, and open the cans. Remove the chicken from the water and onto a plate, and turn the heat off on the leftover stock (you will use this stock in the recipe, and have enough leftover to freeze for chicken broth). Get another clean plate and then start to pull the meat off the chicken, making sure to shred it into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  3. In another large pot, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Stir in the salsa, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, frozen corn, beans, shredded chicken, and about 5 cups of broth, or however much liquid you desire/your pot can hold (ours was only able to have 4). Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. While the soup is simmering, you can throw away the celery in the leftover stock, and pour it though a strainer to get the spices out. Freeze the strained liquid and use whenever chicken broth/stock is called for in future recipes!
  5. For those who are/can not eat dairy, you can eat the soup straight. Otherwise, I highly recommend stirring in some sour cream into your bowl, as it makes it creamy and delicious! Allow each person to get as big or small a dollop as they want, and top with avocado, cheese, and/or tortilla chips!

Salt-cooked Burger

One of my favorite quick and easy weeknight meals is this burger.  They are so simple, so fast, and so versatile that they are just the ideal thing to have up your sleeve when you really don’t have any creative cooking juices.

Burger and potato soup

Burger and potato soup

The best part?  They are cooked indoors without any added fat!  Because, science.  More specifically, something about the Maillard reaction and about salt drawing out the juices to the outside, while keeping the inside juicy and delicious.  I’ve heard of this method used on steaks, and in fact, my friends P&P once made us  a steak that had been cured in salt for a good few hours.  It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, and I’m guessing it works on a similar science.

Mr. Little Fish is most definitely a turkey burger man, but we’ve also made this with beef and venison.  Every time I make these he gives me a very sincere, “This is a good burger.”  I keep it very simple with just some chives, black pepper, and garlic powder.  I would not recommend putting salt in the mixture since the salt will absorb into the patty during the cooking process.  You’ll also notice that I don’t eat the burgers with buns.  While I am not on a strictly carb-free diet, I noticed that once I stopped eating them, I started to realize that some (most) things don’t need them after all!  Plus, I’d rather spend those calories on a piece of dark chocolate after the burger. 😉

Salt-cooked Burger
Inspired by What Einstein Told His Cook
Serves 4

Turkey patties on a salt bed

Turkey patties on a salt bed

Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey or other ground meat
2 green onions, sliced thin
Black pepper
Garlic powder
Onion powder (optional)
Kosher salt
A meat thermometer
Burger toppings of your choice

Directions:

1.  Combine ground turkey, onions, and spices in a bowl.
2.  Form the mixture into 4 patties, making sure they are about the same thickness.
3.  Heat about 1 tsp kosher salt in a skillet over high heat.  Let it heat for 3-4 minutes, until lightly smoking.
4.  Place the burgers in the skillet, making sure not to overcrowd them or they will steam.
5.  DO NOT TOUCH THEM.  Do not poke, prod, get worried about the smoke.  Just let them cook for 3 minutes.
6.  I like to redistribute/add a little bit more salt between sides, so after the 3 minutes, I remove the burgers, cooked side down, onto a plate, and sprinkle a little more salt in the pan.  Then, I put place the burgers, raw side down, back into the pan for another 3 minutes.
7.  Around the 3 minute mark, stick your meat thermometer into the side of the patty (do not go through the top), and make sure that the internal temperature is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  This step is less important for beef, whose temperature will vary according to the doneness you prefer.
8.  Once you are good to go on temperature, remove the burgers from the pan, put them on the buns or plate, and top with cheese slice so it melts.  Top with other fixings and enjoy!

Added spicy guacamole, lettuce, and tomato

Added spicy guacamole, lettuce, and tomato

NOTE:  I have definitely doubled the recipe, and then frozen half of the uncooked patties.  I used parchment paper to separate the 4 patties, stuck them in a plastic ziplock, and then left them in the freezer until the next time I wanted to cook them.  Then, when you’ve planned to have burgers, just take them out of the freezer in the morning before work so that they are ready to go when you get home!

Salt-cooked Burger
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground turkey or other ground meat
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • A meat thermometer
  • Burger toppings of your choice
Directions
  1. Combine ground turkey, onions, and spices in a bowl.
  2. Form the mixture into 4 patties, making sure they are about the same thickness.
  3. Heat about 1 tsp kosher salt in a skillet over high heat. Let it heat for 3-4 minutes, until lightly smoking.
  4. Place the burgers in the skillet, making sure not to overcrowd them or they will steam.
  5. DO NOT TOUCH THEM. Do not poke, prod, get worried about the smoke. Just let them cook for 3 minutes.
  6. I like to redistribute/add a little bit more salt between sides, so after the 3 minutes, I remove the burgers, cooked side down, onto a plate, and sprinkle a little more salt in the pan. Then, I put place the burgers, raw side down, back into the pan for another 3 minutes.
  7. Around the 3 minute mark, stick your meat thermometer into the side of the patty (do not go through the top), and make sure that the internal temperature is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This step is less important for beef, whose temperature will vary according to the doneness you prefer.
  8. Once you are good to go on temperature, remove the burgers from the pan, put them on the buns or plate, and top with cheese slice so it melts. Top with other fixings and enjoy!