Saturday, January 21, 2017

Perfect Recipe Project Chipotle Chili (Instant Pot, slow cooker, and stovetop variations)

Most home cooks have their favorite basic chili recipe. This is mine. I like it because it involves all the principles of my cooking philosophy: it is creative, simple, healthy, inexpensive, and delicious.

A generous amount of smoky chipotles in adobo, flavorful veggies, my own blend of chili seasonings, and a lower ratio of long-stewed lean meat make this dish richly flavored while being healthy and inexpensive. I add my favorite creative secretly healthy ingredient: pumpkin puree. It thickens the sauce without tasting "pumpkiny" at all. This is a simple chop and dump type of one pot recipe. I recently got an Instant Pot, and this recipe works great in it. I can make a long-cooked tasting chili with dried beans in an hour's cook time. It also works well in the slow cooker or stovetop.

This recipe makes a lot and freezes well. Halve it if you're not having a party or don't want to have a freezer full of chili (who doesn't?).

Try it out and make it your own!


Perfect Recipe Project Chipotle Chili

2.5 lbs lean ground beef
2 medium or one large onion, diced
3 bell peppers, diced
2 T garlic, minced
1 T paprika
2 T ground New Mexico chiles or ancho chiles (or more paprika if you have trouble locating these)
2 T ground cumin
1 1/2 T dried oregano leaves (Mexican oregano is best)
1 T worchestershire sauce
2 t Adobo seasoning, or salt to taste
3 10-15 oz cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
3 15 oz cans beans or 1 lb dried beans, soaked overnight. If using dried beans, add extra 1/2 cup liquid, like beef broth or water. I like a mix of pinto and black beans.
1/2 can chipotles in adobo, mashed or blended to a paste. If you like it really spicy, add more. I usually use a whole can when I want a really spicy chili
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

Suggested toppings
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese
Green onion
Pico de gallo 
tortilla chips


Instant Pot or pressure cooker instructions:
Saute meat in Instant Pot on high until browned. Remove and set aside. Saute onions, bell peppers, and garlic until a bit caramelized. Add garlic and spices and saute for an additional minute. Add all remaining ingredients. If the Instant Pot is looking full, leave out the pumpkin puree and stir in after cooking. You don't want it to overflow. If using dried beans, set the Instant Pot to Beans/Chili for 50 minutes. If using canned beans, set it to 35 minutes. When finished cooking, turn the valve for quick pressure release.

Modifications for stovetop or slow cooker:
Saute meat and veggies as described above. If cooking on stovetop, cover and simmer for 1.5 hours (if using canned beans) or 2 hours (if using dried beans). If cooking in slow cooker, cook for 8 hours on low.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Berry-yogurt smoothie with secret veggies

In honor of New Year's resolution season, I'm sharing the smoothie recipe my husband and I have nearly every single morning. Obviously, the beauty of smoothies is that they are infinitely customizable, so I don't expect readers to follow this recipe exactly. Instead, I'm hoping I can provide you with a few tips and strategies you haven't thought of before to help you construct YOUR perfect smoothie recipe. Note that I have a cheap blender from Walmart. Someday, maybe I'll splurge for a Vitamix, but this recipe turns out great in my base-level model.

Make your smoothies in bulk. I fill a big 6-cup blender carafe with 3 servings worth of ingredients. If you have leftovers, put the entire carafe with leftovers into your fridge. The next time you want a smoothie, pop the carafe back on your blender, add a couple of ice cubes, and blend for a few seconds to mix it back up.
Make smoothie kits. I pre-pack freezer bags full of smoothie ingredients, so all I have to do is add yogurt and blend.
Add secret veggies. I love this smoothie because each serving has approximately a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables. I sometimes struggle with eating enough fruits and veggies throughout the day, so at least I know that I've started my day with a couple. Spinach is a common smoothie add in, but people often don't think to add carrots, which are an ideal way to add natural sweetness. Berries are an excellent source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and I use enough of them that they hide the color and flavor of veggies.
Capitalize on frozen ingredients. Adding frozen rather than fresh ingredients gives you a colder, thicker smoothie. Frozen fruits and veggies are usually picked at the peak of freshness, meaning they may be MORE nutrient-rich than fresh, out of season ones. They are also more cost-effective and easier to store. Frozen berries are a natural, but I also love to use frozen spinach and carrots.
A kitchen scale will save your dishes. Smoothies are not a meal that requires precise measurement. However, if you happen to have a kitchen scale, it will allow you to dump your ingredients directly into the carafe without using a measuring cup. Just put your carafe directly on the scale and zero out your scale every time you add an ingredient.
Yogurt is a staple for a reason. I know a lot of people like to add protein powder, but Greek yogurt plus flax adds plenty enough protein for me. It provides plenty of protein to keep you full, and probiotics to keep your gut healthy. It also keeps your smoothie creamy and emulsified.

Berry-yogurt smoothie with secret veggies
16 oz (2 cups) plain yogurt (I like nonfat Greek for extra lean protein)
210 grams (1.5 cups) frozen mixed berries
80 grams (2/3 cup) sliced carrots (I like frozen)
80 grams (1 cup) frozen chopped spinach or kale
30 grams (1/4 cup) ground flax or chia seeds
Water to fill carafe to 6 cups
Stevia or Splenda to taste
Add all ingredients to blender. Starting on low speed, blend, working up to high speed. Blend until smooth. Makes 3 approximately 16 oz servings.

Approximate nutritional information: 200 calories, 4 grams fat, 15 net carbs, 6.5 grams fiber, 19 grams protein.