June 13, 2012

Easy Chili: Taste like Wendy's but better!

Is chili easy to make? Well if you asked me a year ago I would of said, NO! I have tried through the years to make a chili comparable to at least a restaurant quality, or maybe Wendy's Chili. I have failed with various recipes in the past...I don't know what I did wrong and even though My Mr.Tasteful said it tasted "fine" that was not good enough!

One day I was watching Triple D or better known on Food Network as  Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives. One of the restaurants he was cooking with where known for their Chili and his "secret" was Chili Sauce. Okay, it was like one of those "duh" moments, "why have I never used this"? Any recipe I used never called for it, or did it? I don't know! Chili Sauce gives a sweetness to the chili and it reminds me more of Wendy's chili if I was to compare the flavor to something you may be familiar with. Its super simple! I do recommend you cook this for at least 2 hours on the stove top, you could cook it for less however I can not guarantee what it will taste like. I would say no need to cook this recipe longer then 4 hours on the stove top. I prefer the 4 hour mark, that's how long I cook my chili for. Of course you could cook this in a crock-pot on low for 8 hours too.

Chili Sauce: I have tried store brands and I admit I enjoy Heinz the most however it's not necessary to buy that brand. I bought mine from Walmart. I will say this, 1 bottle does make the chili very sweet, so if you want less of a sweetness only use 1/2 bottle, then you can add more later if you want it sweeter.

Tomato Sauce: I make my own tomato sauce. I buy a 6lb can of whole canned tomatoes at Costco for under $3.00. I put in a pot then take my hand blender and puree to the texture I like. I put in 6 cloves of garlic and let sauce come to boil then turn down to a low simmer and cook anywhere from 4 to 6 hrs. I do not salt it or add anything else. This is just my base and I use it for a recipe that calls for a can of tomato sauce, I use 1 & 1/2 cups of my tomato sauce.The reason I do this is because one its very cost effect and I save lots of money! But I also learned that when you buy whole canned tomatoes those are less processed so the flavor of the tomatoes will taste not as metal like. You don't need to do this! Just buy any canned tomato sauce you like!

Bacon: This is NOT a necessary ingredient to use. I have made my chili without it, or if have leftover bacon fat use it, . BUT if you have it, please use the bacon! I have tried thick cut Pepper Bacon or chipotle bacon available and I liked both very much!

Beef: I used what I had on hand, I had bought some beef that was being sold door to door and the ground beef was in patties. I prefer to use a less fatty ground beef, I usually only buy 85/15 fat or 90/10 fat. I am not a fan of 80/20 because it is so oily. I rather use that grade for hamburgers not for Chili, Spaghetti or Soups. You can also use ground chicken or turkey in place of ground beef.

Beans: I keep it simple when it comes to beans. I just use Pinto & Red Kidney. I have used black beans and even add frozen corn (I know not a bean). If you do not like Red Kidney beans you can add a replacement bean or a extra can of pinto.

Spicy: I love spice! But I have My Little Cupcake to think about, and even though she actually likes spicy food I try to keep the heat low for her. Personally I love to dice up some fresh jalapeno pepper and let that add the heat. You can also use cayenne powder or red pepper flakes. Just add it to your taste, add to the onion/peppers stage. Maybe start with 1/4 tSp if you are not sure of the heat measurement that works for you. Then add another 1/4 tSp at a time until you get the heat index you like.

Steak Seasoning: I had the Chicago Style, I dont even know where I got it (think My Mr.Tasteful bought it at a local store). Just make sure when you buy a steak seasoning find one that has fennel seeds in it.... Because this has salt in mixture I recommend not adding any additional salt to recipe until after it has finished cooking for at least an hour. Taste it then and see if it needs salt, mine did not and I assume it was combined with the fact I also had bacon which is salty too.

Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce: Yes brand matters! I have tried store brands and nothing compares to this brand, you can find it almost anywhere, I bought mine at Walmart. 

4 strips of bacon chopped or cut up into pieces
Dash of Olive Oil
1 medium onion diced small (doesn't matter what type of onion, just not red)
3 cloves of garlic diced (no not bulbs the cloves that make a bulb)
2 celery stick diced small
1 green pepper diced small (just split your green pepper in half)
1 tBs of Steak Seasoning (optional)
1 tSp Smoked Paprika (yes smoked, very important!)
2 tSp Cumin Powder
2 tSp Chili Powder
1/2 tSp Onion powder
1/2 tSp Garlic Powder
2 tSp Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce  
1 bottle of Chili Sauce (I like Heinz)
4 cups of tomato sauce
2 cans (14oz each) of Pinto Beans
2 cans (14oz each) of Red Kidney Beans
2lb of ground beef or ground chuck (try and do 85/15 or 90/10 fat)
1 or 2 cans of water (or 1 & 1/2 cups of water).
Salt & Pepper for tasting.

My own tomato sauce made from whole canned tomatoes
Everything you will need (seasoning not shown) 
 Dice up your onion, Celery, Green Pepper & Garlic Cloves

 Put pot on burner and turn to a medium-high heat (number 7 for electric burners) and add as dash of olive oil. Then add the bacon and let it cook until nice a brown/crispy (about 5 min), stir it after it cooks for 3 min.
 Once bacon is cooked remove bits, you can eat as a snack or save for topping later for your chili.Then add beef and saute, but do not fully cook beef all the way through. Then remove beef and place in a bowl for later.

Turn temp down to a medium heat (about a 4/5 on a electric burner). Then add onion, celery, green peppers and the steak seasoning, let cook for 5 min or until onion seem translucent.
 Then add cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, onion & garlic powder then stir and let cook for 3  min (helps cook out the rawness of dried seasonings).

  Add your Chili Sauce

 Then add the Worcestershire Sauce, cans of  drained and washed beans and the beef

 Then add your tomato sauce  & water. Mixture will get more watery as it cooks longer so if one can of water is enough, wait to add another can after it has cooked for 1 hour, so you can have it thinner or keep it thick.

  Let it come to a slight simmer (take about 5 min or so) cover with lid then turn heat down to low.

 Now you just need to let it cook for at least 2 to 4 hours on low! Stir every 20 mins or so if you remember.....

 Top it with whatever you want! Cheese, green onions, bacon sour cream, hot sauce, toppings are endless....I just did cheese, Sour Cream & lettuce.


June 11, 2012

Extreme Creamy Stovetop Mac & Cheese in One Pot

I love Mac & Cheese! My Mr.Tasteful is dairy sensitive and one day I decided to use Chicken Stock/broth and just a little milk and I found this made an amazing creamy texture, PLUS you dont feel as heavy. I came across a inspirational post blog for One Pot Stove Top Mac & Cheese here I thought that was a good idea....however I needed to adjust some of the ideas. This is my version!

Here are a couple tips/ideas for some of the ingredients I use.

Chicken Base: When I make whole roasted chicken I reserve the chicken fat/juices that collect at the bottom, I put in a ziplock bag then freeze it. When I want to use a little I run bag under water then just cut off a chunk for use in rice or to add chicken flavor to water. You can buy it at the grocery store where they sell chicken boullion. There are different brands just looks for "chicken base". However you dont even need to do this, you can just use chicken stock!

Mustard: I use brown spicy mustard. You dont need to. You can use 1/2 tSp of mustard powder OR instead of brown mustard just use yellow mustard. I have used dijon mustard , it just gives a unique flavor.

Milk: It doesn't matter what milk you use, just use what you have on could even just use evaporated milk. Each milk is going to give different results, the only milk that may be different is Skim Milk because of the lack of fat.

Cheese: I always stock Monterrey Jack Cheese because it is a great melting cheese and its cost effect. If you would like a more cheddar flavor, add 1/2 cup of cheddar. If you use all cheddar and can not guarantee the results...I find that cheddar is more oil based and not as creamy in texture, but I do love the flavor.

Pasta: I used elbow pasta, if you use a different type your cooking time may vary and liquid may very.

2 cups of water (OR just use Chicken Stock)
1 tBs of chicken base or your own reserved chicken fat (no need to use if using chicken stock)
1/2 tSp olive oil
1 & 3/4 cup of elbow pasta
1/4 tSp of salt
1/4 tSp of ground thyme
1/2 tSp mustard powder
(I also added a dash of onion powder & garlic powder)
1/2 tSp of butter (if you are not using chicken base use 1 tSp of butter)
1/4 cup of milk
1 & 1/2 cup of Monterrey Jack Cheese

Boil water, then once water reaches a boil TURN DOWN HEAT TO LOW (DO NOT BOIL. U WANT A LOW, LOW SIMMER) then add chicken base (if using water), salt, mustard, thyme, onion & garlic powder, pasta, & olive oil. Stir all together and keep siring (to keep from clumping together) . Put lid on and let pasta cook for 3 min, then stir again, place lid back on for another 3 min. After 6 min has passed take a bite of pasta and see if its at the tenderness you like, I like al-denta which it may be at by 6 min, but usually it takes about 8 min for a soft texture (but not mushy). So if pasta is not to your texture let cook for another 2 min covered. It should be done by now. Remove from heat and add butter and stir all together. Just in-case you are confused, DO NOT DRAIN LIQUID. Phew!!! Now you will add in the milk, put back on the burner (keeping temp at low) and let the mixture heat through for 1 min or so. Then take small hand fulls of cheese and add and stir a together, once cheese has melted, add more cheese. I think I added cheese in 5 stages at a time once all the cheese was added. Once all the cheese is melted you are done!

I had left the Mac & Cheese out (burner turned off) in the pot and after 15 mins it was still very creamy, 30 mins still creamy! By 45 mins it had cooled and was thick. However if you want you can add a dash of water and heat in microwave and its great and creamy again!

Total time was about 10 min. 8 servings.


Letting pasta simmer on low

 My chicken base I freeze

 This is what the pasta looks like after 3/5 mins of low cooking
 This is what it looks like after 8 mins of cooking, then you add the milk
 mixing in the cheese
 Look how creamy that is

 do you see the string to that cheese?
30 min later and it still looks super creamy sitting on the stove after burner is off