the best beef & bean chili

I'm a big chili fan, especially during the cold fall and winter months. I love all kinds of different versions of chili -- vegetarian bean-filled kinds, white chicken chili with green chilies, or versions with nontraditional meats like chorizo. However, there is something to be said for that good old all-American ground beef and bean chili, am I right? Ya know, the kind that you eat while watching a football game, topped with shredded cheese and sour cream, and served with cornbread and a cold beer? Yep, that's the one.

So that's what this chili is, but I promise it's anything but boring. I would even like to go ahead and call this THE BEST in the category of traditional beef and bean chili (at least... of the many I've tried!). It's based off of a classic Bon Appetit version, but I (obviously) chose to shake things up a bit. Specifically, I amped up the flavors with chipotle peppers in adobo, a bit of cocoa powder, two types of beans, and extra jalapenos. Mmmhm. Then obviously topped it with hand-grated cheddar cheese and a scoop of sour cream. Perfecto!

I wasn't planning on blogging this recipe (hence the single, sad picture) since it's such a "standard" dish, but it was just too good. It's one to keep coming back to!

By the way, this chile is a healthy dish, chock full of protein and fiber. I'd recommend using grass-fed beef and all-natural, high-quality ingredients. Then, you can feel good about enjoying a big bowl of it (EVEN IF you add some decadence on top... let's live a little!)

Disclaimer: This chili is pretty spicy. My husband and I both agreed that it is actually THE PERFECT amount of spiciness (and we take spiciness ratings pretty seriously). However, if you're sensitive... be careful. Take the seeds out of the jalapenos or chill with the chipotle peppers in adobo. Or don't, and sweat your way through it like me! That's the best way.

:) Enjoy!

Spicy Beef & Bean Chili
For 8-12 servings

-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-4 fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped (including seeds)
-6 garlic cloves, chopped
-3 or 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (from canned), chopped
-2.25-2.5 lbs ground beef, 90% lean
-1/4 c. chili powder
-2 tbsp cumin
-1 tsp paprika
-2 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
-1 tbsp cocoa powder
-1 tbsp sauce from the chipotle peppers in adobo
-1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
-1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained (but not rinsed)
-1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained (but not rinsed)
-2 to 4 cups beef stock or water (or a mix of the 2; use 2 cups for thicker/beefier chili, 4 cups for thinner/more "broth." I usually use a little over 2 cups because I like thicker chili)

Toppings (optional):
-Shredded cheese
-Sour cream
-Sliced green onions
-Crushed tortilla chips or tortilla strips

-Heat oil in a very large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the jalapenos, garlic, and chipotle peppers and saute for 1 minute.
-Add the beef. Cook, breaking up and stirring meat regularly. Once completely browned, add the spices and cocoa powder. Mix to combine.
-Add the adobo sauce, tomatoes, (including juice), beans, and broth. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
-Reduce heat and let chili simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

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Thai pumpkin peanut soup

Helllooo friends!

I'm just popping in with a MUST. SHARE. recipe. Sometimes I make and eat things that I simply can't imagine not adding to my electronic compilation of recipes in the blogisphere.  This was one of them!

Thai pumpkin peanut soup. Soooo creamy. Soooo flavorful. It has one of our favorite fall/winter veggies - pumpkin! - plus traditional Thai flavors - coconut, curry paste, peanut, lime juice, a bit of fish sauce. This soup is a wonderful cold weather meal. It's creamy, spicy, and oh-so-flavorful.

A little story to support its awesomeness: I told my husband what we were having for dinner the afternoon before I made it - "pumpkin soup, plus some crusty fresh bread on the side" - and his response was, "Oh... okay... um... can you make sure there's plenty of bread?" Ha! He's not a huge fan of soups, especially vegetarian soups, so I guess the thought of pumpkin soup did a whole lot of nothing for him. But when he tasted it? I heard "MMMMM! Oh my god mmmmmm! This is unreal!" He could not stop raving about it as he devoured the bowl, then had more for lunch the next day. He has since asked for me to make it again. It really is that good.

Give it a try! It may look kinda fancy (why thank you) but it's really easy, and ready in 30-45 minutes, if you have a blender!

Thai Pumpkin Peanut Soup
For 4 servings

-1 can organic pumpkin puree
-1 can coconut milk
-2 cups organic chicken stock
-1/4 cup natural peanut butter
-2 tbsp thai red curry paste (find in the international aisle)
-2 tbsp butter
-1 small onion, roughly chopped or sliced
-2 cloves garlic, roughly minced
-3 tbsp honey
-1 tsp fish sauce
-1 tbsp lime juice
-1 tbsp sriracha (more or less based on your spiciness prefs)
-Salt and pepper

Toppings (optional):
-2 tbsp plain greek yogurt mixed with 2-4 tbsp almond milk (or milk of choice) until desired pour-able consistency is reached - this helps cool down the spiciness factor
-Fresh cilantro OR a handful of cilantro blended in a food processor with 2 tbsp each of olive oil and red wine vinegar (as pictured) - this adds some nice acidity

-Melt the butter in a medium or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30-60 seconds.  Add the red curry paste and cook for about a minute, stirring. Add in the pumpkin and continue stirring for another minute.
-Pour in the coconut milk, chicken stock, peanut butter, honey, fish sauce, lime juice, and sriracha. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine the ingredients. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly.
-Carefully pour the hot soup into a blender. Cover and puree until completely blended. Return to pot. Continue cooking over low heat for 3-5 minutes until ready to serve. Add more salt and pepper to taste if needed.
-Pour into bowls and top with desired toppings.

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cajun shrimp and cauliflower and almond "grits"

Oh.... hello! Been a while, huh? I know, I have definitely been neglecting this little blog over the past few months. I'm not going to use the excuse of too little time, because clearly I used to find time for blogging even when I was super busy. I also can't blame a lack of cooking, because I've been cooking plenty. I guess my simplest explanation is this:

Perspectives change. Goals change. Priorities change.

And that's okay. In fact, that's more than okay... it's life! I'm rolling with the changes that accompany personal growth. I'm making conscious, purposeful choices to live the life I want to live, and sometimes blogging just doesn't fit in with those choices. Sometimes it does. Like today. But often it doesn't. So basically... I'm setting no rules for myself when it comes to a hobby like blogging. When I feel it, I choose it; when I don't, I choose something else. Simple!

Today though, I feel it. I made a fantastic recipe this week that I can't stand to hold onto all for myself. I woke up with an itch to return to the taylor made corner of the internet and share.

So what is it? Shrimp and grits! One of my favorite dishes.

This isn't your typical southern version of shrimp and grits though. The grits aren't actually grits at all.... they're made from cauliflower and ground almonds! Don't put your head in your hands yet though, Southerners. I promise it tastes pretty darn close to the real thing! Yes, we're amping up the veggies and cutting the carbs, but we're not eliminating the flavors and richness that must accompany shrimp and grits. Oh, and bacon. Bacon fat and bacon pieces. Can't be bad!

I'm typically skeptical of cauliflower recipes. Mashed potatoes made from cauliflower that taste just like the real thing? I meeaaan. Cauli mash is fine, but come on... it doesn't REALLY taste like mashed potatoes. And cauliflower pizza crust? Sorry, no. That is way too much effort for something that doesn't taste anywhere CLOSE to as good as actual dough crust. I'd much rather just eat a real pizza. 

So I wasn't exactly expecting the greatest when I tried to make these grits from cauliflower. But honestly, it works! Grits have very little flavor anyway, so all we really have to do is make the texture of the cauliflower resemble grits then add in the same flavors (i.e., butter and salt). We use almond flour to thicken it up and it works beautifully. Plus, anything topped with plump, spicy sautéed shrimp and bacon is probably gonna be pretty good.   

Even though you have to break out your food processor here, the whole dish can be ready in about half an hour. It is really simple. If you love shrimp and grits, you must try. If you're trying to eat paleo or low carb, this is definitely a dish you want to add to your repertoire. 

Cajun Shrimp and "Grits"
For about 4 servings
Adapted from Paleo Cupboard

For grits
-3 slices bacon, grease reserved
-About one head of raw cauliflower, chopped into florets
-1/2 onion, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 to 1.25 cups almond flour (grind raw sliced almond in a food processor until fine if you don't have prepared almond flour)
-2 to 2.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
-Sea salt
-1 tbsp butter

 For shrimp
-1 lb. large, raw, de-tailed, de-veined shrimp, patted dry
-1/2 tsp sea salt
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/4 tsp onion powder
-1 tsp paprika
-1/4 tsp cayenne (more or less depending on spice preference)
-1/2 tsp dried oregano
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less depending on spice preference)
-1 tbsp butter
-1 tbsp olive oil
-Juice of half a lemon

-Cook 3 slices of bacon in a medium saucepan. Once done, remove the bacon but reserve the pan with 2 tbsp of the bacon grease. Turn heat to low or off.
-Meanwhile, working in batches, pulse a few florets of cauliflower at a time in the food processor until the pieces are the size and shape of rice. Be careful not to over-blend. Work until you have about 3 cups of riced cauliflower.
-In the same saucepan with bacon grease,  turn heat to medium. Sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the riced cauliflower. Stir to combine. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth. Stir and combine. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of the almond flower and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If the grits are too thin, add more chicken broth. If too thick, add more flour. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Once the grits are nearly done, stir in 1 tbsp butter.
-Meanwhile, combine all spices for the shrimp. Toss the shrimp in the spice mixture until coated.
-Heat the butter and olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the shrimp and cook until slightly browned and cooked through (translucent), about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Squeeze with lemon juice.
-To serve, top a scoop of the "grits" with several cooked shrimp. Crumble the cooked bacon on top. Top with hot sauce if you'd like.



kashmiri lamb korma

Cooking Indian food can seem scary if you've never done it, I know. There are spices you've never heard of (and don't know where to buy), the dishes look so different - and smell so different - than our typical American fare.... it can just feel out of your comfort zone. At least, that's how I felt before taking the plunge. But I have to say, that plunge is so worth it! Now when I cook Indian-inspired dishes, they tend to be my favorites. By using all different spices and cooking in a different way, you end up with dishes unlike anything else you've ever made. Which is exciting! One of the first Indian dishes I ever made (a dish I continue to love today) is my crockpot butter chicken. That is a good one to start with -- super easy and mild, but it will make you want to keep cooking with Indian flavors because it's so darn delicious. I also love chana saag (chickpeas, spinach, and tomatoes simmered with yogurt and Indian spices). Another new favorite is this one: kashmiri lamb korma. Wow.

This lamb korma is the real deal. Sooo flavorful and complex. The lamb becomes fall-apart tender after slow cooking on the stove for a couple of hours in this creamy, slightly sweet, spicy, AMAZING sauce. It's the perfect Sunday evening meal when you're in the mood for something comforting and different. Plus, your house will smell heavenly as you wait for dinner time. And guess what? Ryan said this was in his top 10 favorite meals ever. Yep, it's that good.

One of the great things is that this dish is made entirely of real, whole, ingredients -- we're even using vine ripe tomatoes instead of canned! (a choice I don't always make). Makes you feel good but it's honestly not much more work. It's also got a bit of coconut milk, onions, garlic, yogurt ginger, and an array of Indian spices. Don't let the recipe scare you -- as long as you have the ingredients, you're in action. Takes about 20 minutes of work then you just let it simmer and become tender and ridiculously delicious all on its own for the next two hours. Serve it over basmati rice with some hot-out-the-oven naan and a glass of red wine. You can thank me later.

Here's how to make it:


seared ahi tuna wraps with wasabi mayo slaw & avocado

Happy Friday, friends! Fridays are even sweeter than usual in the summertime, right? Hope you have some fun weekend plans that include plenty of relaxation and a cold beer (or three). You might want to add something to your agenda: make these seared ahi tuna wraps with wasabi mayo and avocado. YUM.

Fresh-caught ahi tuna seasoned then seared over high heat. Layered into a whole wheat wrap with clear-your-sinuses-spicy wasabi mayo and creamy avocado. Ready in 10 minutes. For real. 

Have at it! Here's the recipe:


baked honey lime ginger chicken

This summer has had a slowed down, leisurely feel to it. This is contrasted with the hectic fall and spring, when I was trying to fit in working, taking classes, and planning a wedding from dusk 'til dawn. The past few months, on the other hand, have actually included free time! I've found myself sleeping until it's light outside, watching TV at night, reading for pleasure, going for walks after dinner, spending an entire weekend just "hanging out." I'm learning to put less pressure on myself when less pressure is needed, and it feels pretty good. I've had so much more time to cook and try new recipes, which has made me (and Ryan) so happy. One recipe I tried out on a particularly leisurely Tuesday was this baked honey lime ginger chicken. Andddd wow.

This is some seriously flavorful chicken. I used big, skin-on chicken legs (which, of course, include both the thigh and the drumstick), a super tender and flavorful part of the bird. The chicken is covered with a combo of ginger (way more than seems reasonable), zesty lime, honey, Indian spices, and jalapeño. It's browned on the stove to lock in flavor, topped with a bit of sugar and more lime zest, then baked. The result is as awesome as it sounds. Plus, it's ready in under 40 minutes and requires very little hands-on time.  So, if you're in the mood for a chicken dish that's different, comforting, and packed with flavor, you've gotta try this!

I served the chicken with a starter course of that spicy golden gazpacho. QUITE a summer dinner. God I love this new free time!

If you want to give the chicken a try, here's how:


spicy golden gazpacho

I've never considered myself much of a soup person. You know those people that just LOVE anything soup? Yeah, not one of them. I mean, soup is fine. Some soups are pretty delicious. A warm soup in the winter can be pretty darn comforting. But I rarely choose soup over other more... solid... foods. And cold soup? I've DEFINITELY never been a cold soup gal. I've had gazpacho a couple of times, and I had a cold asparagus soup once (though, admittedly, it was given to me as a complimentary -- i.e., unchosen -- appetizer). These cold soups were pretty good, but also pretty odd. I mean, cold soup is a little weird, right? Something just feels off when you're eating it. Like it should either be hot, or if it's gonna be cold, it should be solid, yeah?

All of this coming from the girl who willingly made a cold soup to share with you today. The truth is, I'm coming around on it! It was a HOT 90 degree day when I decided to go for this chilled golden gazpacho soup. I was flipping through Food and Wine magazine when I spotted the beautiful golden soup with avocado on top. It just called to me. 

Turns out, I really enjoyed it. I STILL think cold soup is slightly confusing to the mouth, but it's a nice change-up. And this soup is very, very refreshing for a hot summer day. I made a few changes to the original recipe to make it more flavorful (adding some onion; marinating the veggies in oil and vinegar first) and I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would. It's basically made entirely of vegetables and healthy fat. It's a nutritional powerhouse in a bowl! Once you top it with some goodies -- avocado, pico de gallo, greek yogurt/almond milk -- it becomes even more awesome. By the way, this soup is very spicy. Just warning you! You will NEED those cool toppings. You could also remove all of the jalapeño seeds if you don't want as much of a kick, but I loved it that way. 

I loved this trifecta of toppings on the gazpacho, but you can really go in your own direction here. Some crunchy tortilla strips or fresh cilantro would be delicious. And your "cream" doesn't HAVE to resemble sperm, I promise (yeah, didn't notice that until later). 

However you enjoy it, you should give this golden gazpacho a try this summer. It makes you look kinda fancy, but it's actually incredibly simple to make. Got a blender? Then you got this. I obviously served mine with something a little more substantial and protein-packed, but this soup could hold its own for a light lunch. [By the way... the chicken pictured here was unreal! Will post the recipe soon].

Here's how to make the gazpacho:


the best baked chicken wings

Happy almost-fourth-of-July, everyone! I hope everyone has fun and exciting plans to celebrate this weekend. We are heading to Lake Anna for the weekend with a bunch of our close friends, so I'm just counting down the hours to three days of sun, boating, beer, and best friends. Yesss.

Guess what? I'm actually posting a recipe to my blog today! I know, I haven't done that in ages. This is a classic, too. Chicken wings! Also known as, Ryan's kryptonite. My husband is a wing connoisseur. Watching him order, inspect, and then eat wings (every. last. morsel.) is basically a show. Because I'm a good wife (oh, and because I love wings too), sometimes I make them at home. Even though my home-cooked wings aren't fried like some of his favorites, he still requests and loves them. They're "among his favorite." I'll take it.

These chicken wings are baked, not fried. A bit of oil, high temps, and some broiling at the end is the trick to baked wings that are juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Without flour or frying, these don't get as crispy as some other wings, but they are pretty darn delicious.

Then you just have to decide which sauce. Buffalo...

Or fiery asian? Both are amaaaaazing. You can't lose.

Wings are super American, right? Make some to celebrate the nation's birthday this weekend! Or just make them any time. These need no occasion. 

Here's how to make 'em:


sharing some happy

Hola! Obvious update: the wedding and honeymoon happened! And now.... Ryan and I are officially a married couple. Woohoo! That was the point of it all, right? I will spare you my hundreds of pictures and all of the details because I could literally write 18 pages about how amazing those 2 weeks were. But how about I share jusssst a bit? Skip over this post if you're just here for food ;)

To start, the wedding was the most special, intimate, fun, full-of-love day I could ever imagine. Everything went smoothly, the weather was perfect, and our expectations for the day were far exceeded. It was, to be cliche (but honest), the best day of my life. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the "first look" and ceremony.

Then, the honeymoon. Ahhhh, the honeymoon. There aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe the beauty of Anguilla. We truly lived it up for 10 days... ate and drank like royalty, spent 10 hours on the beach most days, took boat rides and island-hopped and went for long walks... and most of all, relished our first vacation as husband and wife. Poifection.

Phew. An unforgettable and magical 2 weeks, that's for sure! And now? We're married! It feels AWESOME to be here now, at this part. We enjoyed the wedding and honeymoon beyond belief, but now we get to just be. Not get married, but be married. No more planning, no more coordinating, no more anticipating how the actual wedding day will go. Just living! As a married couple! That's a good feeling.
all wedding photos by PJ Schlobohm 


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