Chili – The Official Meal of Fall

For me, chili is the official meal of the fall. It’s hearty and warm and the smell of it cooking on the stove just makes me happy. I make almost the same chili recipe that I had growing up, except the main differences are now I add some celery (because I love the flavor it brings) and beef stock (instead of not draining my beans). It still brings me back to the fall and winter in Florida and one of my favorite meals my mom would make for our family.

Chili

1 1/3 lbs ground beef
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 26-oz boxes of diced tomatoes
3 14-oz cans kidney beans, drained
1 cup beef broth
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp pepper
Top with saltines and shredded cheese

1.) In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add ground beef, onion, celery and garlic and cook until meat is brown. Use a spatula to break apart the meat as it cooks. Drain any excess fat.
2.) Add diced tomatoes, kidney beans, beef broth, chili powder, sugar and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.
3.) Serve with crumbled saltines and shredded cheese and enjoy!

Chili2

Chili3

Chili

Pumpkin Bread with Tangerine Streusel

It’s been a couple of weeks and I’ve been itching for more pumpkin – it was time for another pumpkin bread. The boys and I love having yummy breads for breakfast, but it can take so long to make in the morning. So I made this bread tonight and we will enjoy it tomorrow without the wait!

I looked to a couple recipes for the inspiration for this bread, but thought I’d jazz it up a little with some tangerine zest. Let me tell you – I had never had pumpkin with tangerine before, but oh. my. gosh. it is awesome! (Okay, so I know this is supposed to be for breakfast tomorrow, but I had to try it!) The tangerine in the batter adds just a little flavor enhancement, but the tangerine in the streusel takes this over the edge. The bread is very moist and the crunch of the streusel is the perfect compliment. Do yourself a favor and try this one out – you will not be sorry!

Pumpkin Bread with Tangerine Streusel

Pumpkin Bread

Dry Ingredients
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar

Wet Ingredients
1 15-oz can pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp tangerine zest (from 1 tangerine)

Streusel Topping
2 tbsp butter, softened
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp tangerine zest (from 1 tangerine)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger

1 tsp sugar (to finish)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
2.) In a medium sized bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Set aside.
3.) Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer), blend wet ingredients until well combined. Slowly add dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Pour into loaf pan.
4.) In a small bowl, combine streusel topping ingredients and mix well with a fork. Sprinkle the batter with the streusel, making sure it is evenly distributed. Finish with a dusting of sugar.
5.) Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Brogan Baking
I had the best little helper tonight!

Buttered and Floured
Trick to greasing a dish – use room temp butter, hold it in a paper towel and rub it all over. Then pour some flour in the pan and move it around until covers the entire surface. Works like a charm!

Pumpkin Bread Batter Pumpkin bread with tangerine Tangerine Streusel Pumpkin Bread with Tangerine Streusel3 Pumpkin Bread with Tangerine Streusel2

Brogan doing dishes
And my little helper even did the dishes (for real!) – I was pretty impressed!

Adapted from Easy Pumpkin Bread and Streusel Topped Pumpkin Bread

Little Pumpkin Baby Shower

So I must point out that my blog tagline is “A blog about cooking, kids and trying to find the time to be crafty.” Well, it’s been 4 months of blogging, and I have yet to find the time to be crafty… until this baby shower. Hopefully more to come in the crafty department.

This past weekend I had the honor of co-hosting a baby shower for my dear friend and neighbor, Chantelle.  We decided to throw her a Little Pumpkin themed shower, but took it in a sophisticated direction. We focused on a fall color palette: gold, burnt orange, bronze, robin’s egg blue and burgundy.  We used really fun fabrics – gold chevron, robin’s egg gingham, burnt orange and burlap. We accented with painted pumpkins and had a variety of simple flower arrangements.

For food, our main attraction was a chili bar. We had vegetarian chili and meat chili and all the fixings you can think of: baked potatoes, corn bread, tortilla chips, french bread, cheese, crackers, sour cream and chives.  We also had a cheese tray, veggie tray, pretzels with mustard dipping sauces and mushroom onion tartlets.  Our signature drink was an apple ginger sangria (in both the regular and virgin varieties).

Me and the mommy to be
Me and the beautiful Mommy-to-be

Baby's breath and chevron
Simple baby’s breath bouquet

Pretzel rods and mustard dips
Pretzel rods with mustard dipping sauces

Cupcake stand of chocolate pumpkin cupcakes
Cupcake stand – foam rectangles, covered with fabric (wrapped like a present, secured with push pins = no sew!)

Little pumpkin baby shower spread
The spread – painted pumpkins, flowers and food!

Pumpkin baby shower spread2

Food cards
Food place cards for every dish

Chili bar
A small part of our Chili Bar (wish I had gotten a better picture of it all!)

Fall flower arrangement
More fall flowers

Baby shower mad lib
We played a Mad-Lib game – it told the labor and delivery story and was hilarious!! I made bags for each of the word types, had people submit words, and then I drew them to put the story together.

Mushroom onion tartlets
Mushroom Onion Tartlets – I found this recipe in my Kitchen Aid Mixer recipe book and it is fabulous (I was lucky to also find it online so I don’t have to re-type it! LOL)

Cheese plate
Love a good cheese plate! We had white cheddar, pepper jack, swiss, herb goat and honey goat. We also had fig preserves and an assortment of crackers to go with it. Delish!

Chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin frosting
Chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin cream cheese frosting topped with shaved chocolate (I didn’t make the cupcakes so I don’t have the recipe – I’ll try to get it and post it)

S'mores station
S’Mores station – The home we had the shower at was just beautiful and had an awesome outdoor fireplace. This worked perfect for our s’mores station!

Advice for the mommy to be
We also had an advice station for people to leave the new parents advice for the adventures of parenthood.

Beef Vegetable Soup with Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

Another beautiful fall weekend means more soup cooking in my kitchen.  Vegetable soup is one of my all-time favorites… my mom used to make it for me when I was growing up. And by the way, vegetable soup to me means beef vegetable soup because that’s just how I roll. I used my fav organic ground beef from Costco, lots and lots of fresh veggies, a box of tomatoes and only used cans for the beans. Depending on what I have on hand sometimes I vary the vegetables (zucchini is good in this too), but the one thing that I must have is the cabbage. It adds such an awesome flavor to the soup that I simply will not make it if there is no cabbage. So take or leave any of the others, but I can’t promise the soup will be as good without the cabbage. Okay, I’ll get off my soap box.

The soup takes about 30 minutes to prep/start and about an hour to simmer.  So as I was waiting impatiently for my soup to be done, I started day dreaming about what I could make to go with it… and then it occurred to me – garlic cheddar biscuits would be to die for with this soup.  So I modified my ole buttermilk drop biscuit recipe with some garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley and cheddar cheese.  And oh my gosh these things are good. They’ve got a similar taste to Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits. They were quick and easy and did turn out to be the perfect compliment to my soup.

This made a huge pot of soup (I’m not great guestimating serving sizes), but you could easily freeze half and still have plenty to enjoy.

Veggie soup and garlic cheddar biscuits

Beef Vegetable Soup

1 1/3 lbs ground beef
1 large sweet onion, diced
6 carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 26-oz box diced tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1″-2″ pieces
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
3 red potatoes, cubed
1 14.5-oz can of kidney beans (not drained)
1 8.5-oz can of lima beans (not drained)
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
3 cups fresh spinach
4 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp sugar

1.) In a large dutch oven or soup pot, brown ground beef. Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery, salt and pepper and sauté until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).
2.) Add tomatoes and beef broth and stir until well combined. Add remaining ingredients, stir and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Try it and add more salt and pepper to taste (I almost always need to add more salt).

Veggie soup1
Veggie soup2
This is what the soup looks like when you first add all the veggies.

Veggie soup3
This is after about 30 minutes of simmering.

Veggie soup4
This is an hour after simmering.

Veggie soup5


Garlic Cheddar Drop Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 stick cold butter (8 tbsp), cubed
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.) In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and dried parsley. Stir with a whisk until well mixed.
3.) Add butter and cut with a pastry cutter until the flour resembles coarse meal.
4.) Add buttermilk and cheddar cheese and mix well with a large spoon.
5.) Using a scooper, scoop out the dough and drop onto a cooking stone. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. This recipe yielded me 10 large biscuits.

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Love this chili weather

To me there are two staples of fall – pumpkin and chili. And so I’m a little ashamed to admit that we are 30 days into autumn and I just made my first pot of chili. But better late than never, I suppose. It got down into the 40’s last night and so we awoke to a cold house (we hadn’t turned on the heater yet this season) and it just got me thinking that I needed to make some chili.  So I did.  My (old) go-to chili recipe is really good, but really basic, and so I decided I’d take today’s chili to another level. A couple of years ago my work put together a recipe book and we had a couple of different chili submissions. I decided to incorporate some of those flavors that were so great (red wine, green pepper, green chilies, cumin) into my basic (ground beef, tomatoes, kidney beans and chili powder) and wouldn’t you know that this chili blew my old recipe out of the water.  So I now have a new go-to and here it is…

Chili 4

Chili

1 1/3 lb ground beef
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 4-oz can diced green chilies
1 cup red wine
2 26-oz boxes of diced tomatoes (undrained)
3 14.5-oz cans kidney beans (undrained)
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper

1.) In a large soup pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef. Add onion, garlic and green pepper and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add green chilies and red wine. Simmer for about 5 more minutes.
2.) Add tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, paprika and sugar. Stir well and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
3.) Top with sour cream, cheese or saltines and enjoy!

Chili Ingredients

Chili 1

Chili 2

Chili 3

Chili 5

As you may notice, I have a slight sour cream obsession. It’s probably prudent to reduce your sour cream portion by about half of this. I just can’t help myself.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Pumpkin and chocolate – the perfect combination.  I made these muffins for breakfast this morning and between the smell of these fabulous things baking in the oven and fresh brewed coffee, my house smelled like a pumpkin spice latte. Yum.  This is the perfect muffin to kick off the fall with – moist and sweet with the perfect amount of both pumpkin and chocolate, a totally decadent treat.  Happy fall y’all!

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 14.5-oz can pumpkin
3/4 cup oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pans.
2.) Combine flour and baking powder and set aside.
3.) Whisk together eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves until smooth.
4.) Slowly whisk in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
5.) Fill each muffin liner almost full of batter. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.  Yields almost 24 muffins (I like to fill the cups extra full so they rise above the paper, therefore, I only got 22 muffins out of the batter).

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Adapted from The Blissful Table’s Pumpkin Muffins

Lentil Soup

It’s a rainy Saturday in Georgia – a perfect day for soup.  I found this recipe on a blog I follow, Aly GarlicHands,  and it looked so great I had to try it.  Plus I have lentils in my pantry that have been begging to be cooked – so all the conditions were right to make a big pot of soup, and boy was that a great idea!

I had to make a couple of modifications based on what I had on hand. You see, the only thing worse than attempting the grocery store with two little ones by yourself is doing so in the rain. As I like to say, it is what it is.  I had to reduce the amount of lentils, tomatoes and broth (so I added some more carrots and celery), I used chicken stock instead of vegetable, and I had to forgo the fresh parsley.  And so I did the best with what I had, and it still turned out delicious! This is a very easy soup to make, and it doesn’t have to cook all day.  Just a little over 30 minutes and voila! Hope you enjoy!

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Lentil Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, cut lengthwise and chopped in 1/2 inch sections
5 carrots, cut lengthwise (quartered in the thickest part) and chopped into 1/2 sections
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups dried green lentils (or use black or brown)
2 boxes chicken stock (8 cups)
1/2 cup dry elbow pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese for topping

1.) In a soup hot, heat olive oil over high heat, add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, then add thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until veggies begin to become tender.
2.) Add can of tomatoes (with juice) and cook for a few minutes; stir in lentils.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
3.) Add dry pasta and simmer for 7 more minutes.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with parmesan cheese on top.

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Adapted from Aly GarlicHand’s Lentil Soup.