Chili with Three Kinds of Beans (could be vegetarian)

I can’t call this “veggie chili” because I used a little worcestershire sauce as well as beef broth. You could easily leave out the worcestershire sauce and use water or vegetable broth if you want veggie chili, though.

Ok, so we’ve established over and over that I don’t follow recipes. I thought you might be interested in how I change recipes so you can get some ideas on how to change them when you cook. I have been to many cooking classes where people ask about changes and if they can sub this or that so I know that it’s a real thing that people do and are sometimes confused by. It’s not all that hard if you think about swapping out ingredients that are similar, or exchanging some herb or spice for one you like better. It also helps to remember other versions of the dish you’re making that you’ve had before and what ingredients they had that were different.

I started with this recipe.

It called for:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, which I used. I usually don’t bother to measure it, I just swirl it to cover the bottom of the pan.
  • 1 cup prechopped onion, I don’t use prechopped things. I had a half a leek on hand and a half a yellow onion I needed to use, so I chooped those up instead. Leeks are in the same family as onions, so it worked fine. You can usually substitute red onions, white onions, yellow onions, any kind of onions, as well as leeks or green onions for each other in things like soups, stews, and chilis. Leeks aren’t good raw, though, so be sure to use them where they need to be cooked.
  • 1/2 cup prechopped green bell pepper. Again with the prechopped. Do I look like a millionaire? How hard is it really to chop a pepper anyway? So, ok, I had a whole green pepper that was looking a little sad and I wanted to just use the whole thing, so I did. You could leave it out if you don’t have one or don’t like them. You could also sub red or orange bell peppers. See where we’re going with this?
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic. Ugh, bottled garlic is the worst thing in the world. It is so disgusting.  Do yourself a favor and use the real thing. I used three cloves of garlic that I pressed in a garlic press. Garlic presses are controversial but I don’t like getting garlic all over my hands so I use one instead of a knife.
  • 3/4 cup water. I didn’t bother with this. It didn’t seem to need it. Use your own judgement when recipes call for liquids.
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Do you all know the trick of tomato paste? You know how annoying those little cans are? I just scoop it out into a zippered sandwich bag and flatten it, then put it in the freezer. When I need to use some, it’s really easy to just cut off a piece- eyeballing the amount. If you don’t have any, it won’t kill you to leave it out.
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder. Had that. You kind of really need chili powder for chili, but I could see sort of making your own with spices you have around.
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin. Had that, too.
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Yep.
  • Here’s where I did my own thing. I love smoked paprika. Since this was a meatless chili I thought it could use some of that smokiness. I used 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika. I also thought worcestershire sauce would add some depth so I used 5 or 6 drops of worcestershire sauce, too. Annnnnd I went ahead and used a tiny amount of cinnamon and cocoa- I have had chili before that called for cinnamon and cocoa, but I don’t like it when there’s a lot of either in it, so I took it easy, adding just 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained. I had a can of white beans so I used those instead (rinsed and drained).
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained. Had these.
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained. Had these.
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic). I had a couple of cups of leftover watered down beef broth left over from another project so I used that instead. You can use whatever broth you want, or even water. It won’t be as rich with water. You also don’t have to follow the amount of liquid exactly, use your own judgement about how thin or thick you want your dish to be.
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained. I had a large can of whole tomatoes so I used half of it. I didn’t chop them up or anything, they just fell apart nicely while cooking.
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal. This is usually my go-to for thickening chili, but mine didn’t need any thickening this time.
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish.
  • 6 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream. I rarely use sour cream. I normally sub plain yogurt which works well. This is optional, if you like a creamy thing on top of your chili.
  • I also put some shredded cheddar on top.

It’s a pretty straightforward procedure. Swirl the olive oil into the pan and when it’s heated up add the onions, leeks, whatever, and the bell peppers and cook them on medium till they’re soft. Then add the garlic making sure it doesn’t burn. Then the tomato paste, spices, worcestershire sauce, and cocoa, cooking just a minute till it all gets fragrant. Then add the beans, the broth or water, and the canned tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook it. You can do it for as little as 10 minutes (everything is basically cooked already), or as long as an hour- or more, I don’t know exactly how long, I did it for like 45 minutes. It’s chili so nothing bad will happen to it if you cook it for a long time, provided you keep adding liquid and stirring so it doesn’t get too thick or burn on the bottom.

Three Bean Chili


I served it topped with the cilantro, yogurt, and cheese and a green salad and some cornbread.

Three Bean Chili with cilantro, cheddar cheese, and plain yogurt

I know there are a million ways to make chili, what are some of your favorite ingredients?

Lent meal ideas- even if you’re not religious

If you are Christian and celebrate Lent, you know that you’re supposed to give up something– usually it’s junk food or soft drinks or alcohol or shopping or some bad habit- for the 40 days (not counting Sundays!) before Easter. Even if you’re not Christian, it’s a good way to reset yourself into being a little more healthy and it’s a good time of year to do it because it’s still wintery in most places and there’s not much going on to get you off track. You’re also supposed to refrain from eating meat on Fridays (fish and even alligator are allowed, tho, whaaaaat? I don’t like fish or alligator anyway, so I just do vegetarian on Fridays). You’re supposed to try to be more mindful during Lent, and to lay off the snacks, not eat elaborate meals, and allow yourself to be a little hungry. This slight hunger helps you be more mindful and also gets you to relate to the plight of others less fortunate.  Lent is also about alms-giving, so you could donate the money you might save by eating more simply to groups who care for the poor, if you want. It’s also a good time to really get into meatless meals. A lot of people think about going vegetarian, at least some of the time,  but have a hard time really doing it. So, why not try it now?

Here are some things I’ve made so far. I’ll post my versions of them coming up here. If they call for beef or chicken stock, I just sub water if I’m going completely vegetarian. I usually serve these with a simple green salad.

Lentil Soup with Lemon Yogurt Cream

Spinach, Tomatoes, and Chick Peas over Polenta (scroll all the way down the page)

Mushroom and Leek Risotto

Three Bean Chili

And here are some of the things I plan to make soon.

Flatbreads with Goat Cheese, Caramalized Onions, and Basil

Baked Polenta with Mushrooms

Rotini with Beans and Escarole

Mushroom and Barley Soup


Do you participate in Lent? What do you like to make?




Smashburger is coming to Chicago

According to EaterChicago, Smashburger is coming to Chicago. They already have stores in other parts of Illinois and of course, we used to go to the one in Colorado Springs when we lived there.

Mike at Smashburger in Colorado Springs. He’s eating some chili with an ice cream spoon because they were out of regular spoons, LOL. The chili was really good!

He ordered some kind of fancy burger with BBQ sauce that they mistakenly left off, and fried onions. MMMM.

They have two almost identical burgers on their menu, both pretty basic. They gave me the wrong one but I didn’t notice till I was at least halfway thru. Still, it was pretty tasty but a little too salty. I enjoyed it more than Mike did. The fries were some kind of fancy garlic rosemary fries but were just ok.

Ordered a chocolate malt and got a chocolate shake. The service wasn’t very good and it was extra lame because there were only like 2 other tables in there. Still, the shake was good!

They also have pretty cool decor.

Smashburger is good and the decor is fun, but still, in Colorado Springs, our fave is Drifter’s.  And in Chicago, there are sooooooo many awesome places to get burgers nearby, including hipster Kuma’s and delicious chain Five Guys Burgers and Fries, as well as Edzo’s not too far away so I doubt we’ll go to the new Smashburger too often.

Chicken Posole- because today is a good day for some hot soup

We have established that I rarely follow recipes. I bet most of you don’t either, soooo…

I have made the Sunset Magazine Chicken Posole a bunch of times. Never the same way twice but it’s a pretty easy and forgiving recipe and it always turns out great no matter what you put in it.

It calls for 3 large poblano chiles. Don’t have those. 3 tablespoons ground red New Mexico chiles. Hrm, don’t have those, either. 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth. Nope, that neither.

OK! Let’s do it anyway.

I swirled a little olive oil into a large saucepan and added 1/2 of a large onion, chopped. I cooked it till it was softish, then I added 4 or 5 chicken tenderloins, which I cut into bite sized pieces. I like the flash frozen chicken tenderloins you can get everywhere. I like the tenderloins better than the breasts because they are smaller and more versatile. They cook faster, too. So, then anyhow, I added 1 TBS oregano (I think it actually was Mexican oregano left over from last time I made this) 2 TBS of chili powder and 1 TBS of smoked paprika to the chicken and onion. It looked sooooooo pretty I had to take a picture.

chicken and spices for posole

After that I added 4 cloves of minced garlic. I like garlic, ok? Plus when you use a garlic press, half of it doesn’t squeeze out anyway. Then I added a 14 oz can of hominy and about 4 cups of broth. I had some suuuuuuuuuuuuper salty homemade beef broth leftover from when I made  corned beef last week, so I used some of that and added some homemade chicken broth (no salt added) and then a little water until it was the saltiness level I wanted. See- you can pretty much make this soup with whatever oddball ingredients you have on hand. I brought the whole thing to a boil then let it simmer awhile. The original recipe says to simmer it for 10 minutes which I’m sure would be sufficient. I don’t know how long mine simmered. A long time, tho. Eventually I realized it was going to be too thin and watery so I found some rice (maybe 1/4 cup or so?) in the cupboard and tossed that in there. It cooked up really nicely- I might include it next time I make this if I have any. 30 minutes or so later it still seemed a little thin so I added a few TBS of cornmeal and let it cook some more, which thickened it up nicely. Remember if you’re ever making a Mexicanish or Southwesternish or even Italianish soup or stew or chili and it seems too thin, you can always add a little cornmeal to thicken it up. Not too much, tho, or it can get too thick! Start with just a little and let it cook 10 minutes or so before adding more if you think it needs it.

chicken posole

I served the soup with some plain yogurt, chopped cilantro, and avocado. It was really good! All that long simmering made the chicken really tender, which made me think it would be delicious in the traditional way, made with pork. Or you could even use beef. Use whatever you have. The important ingredients are the onion, chili spices, and the hominy. Everything else is up for interpretation. Let me know if you make this and how you did it!

Perfect Hot Chocolate

Today we went for a 3 and a half mile walk in 23 degree weather. When we got home we wanted hot chocolate. So I made some. This recipe makes two servings.

I put 2 1/2 cups of milk into a saucepan and turned it onto low heat. Then I put 2 TBS cocoa powder, 1 TBS sugar and 1TBS brown sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and a little bit of hot water into one of the cups and stirred it till it was all dissolved. Then I put the chocolate mixture into the milk. Then turned the heat up to medium and whisked the whole thing until it was hot. Whisking it froths it up a little bit and keeps it from boiling over. If you want it to be even more rich, you could use a combination of milk and cream or milk and half and half. If you want it super sweet, use more sugar.


Perfect hot chocolate