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Hearty Chili Pizza

If the colorful leaves, sudden pile of down blankets on your bed, and pumpkin spice lattes haven’t tipped you off yet…it’s fall!  You know what happens in fall?  Football.  You know what else is happening in fall? This hearty beef chili pizza.   And let me tell you, they go together SO well.

Hearty Chili Pizza

The possibilities with this pizza are as endless as your imagination — if you love spicy, load up on the jalapenos.  If you want to mix it up, throw some banana peppers on top.  Sour cream, green onions, whatever you like on your chili applies.

Ingredients

For the chili:

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1/2 small-medium yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon chili powder plus 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like Penzey’s 4S)
15 slices refrigerated jalapenos, chopped (or to taste)
28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, strained and roughly chopped/smashed
16 ounces dark red kidney beans, drained
6 ounces tomato paste
Black pepper to taste

For the pizza:

13.8 ounce Classic Pillsbury pizza crust (or your favorite pre-made crust or homemade dough)
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Banana peppers

For topping (optional):

Fritos, crushed
Green onions, sliced
Sour Cream

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add beef, 1 teaspoon chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.  Strain off the grease.

Hearty Chili Pizza

2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

3. Mix in the jalapenos, tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, seasoning salt, and kidney beans.  Stir until combined and then cover, letting simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes (stir occasionally).  Remove the lid and let simmer for another 10 minutes to cook off some of the juice.  Then, remove from heat and let sit while you prepare the crust.

Hearty Chili Pizza

4. Spray your pan with non-stick spray.  Spread out your pizza dough to your desired thickness.  Here you can follow your pizza dough directions — it may have you pre-bake the dough for 8 minutes and then add toppings, baking afterward for another 10 minutes.   If you’d like a softer pizza, you can skip the pre-baking — it’s up to you!  Either way you go, top your crust with chili, cheddar cheese, and banana peppers.  Place in the middle rack of your oven and bake according to package directions — I baked mine between 15 and 18 minutes.

Hearty Chili Pizza

5. Remove from oven, slice, and top with your favorites!  I loved the crunch from the Fritos, the bright flavor of green onion, and the cool creaminess of sour cream.

Hearty Chili PizzaNotes:

  • I had about 1 cup of leftover chili — which my husband will gladly devour.  You could also make a slightly bigger crust — mine was about 12 x 13.
  • You could also use turkey instead of beef for the chili.
  • You might be wondering why I used a can of whole tomatoes rather than diced.  I heard once that “they” reserve better tomatoes for the cans of whole tomatoes, so I like to buy these and chop/smash them myself — I usually just use a kitchen scissors and cut them up right over the pan.  If you’d rather use 28 ounces of diced tomatoes, go for it.
  • If you have a favorite (thick) chili recipe, go ahead and use that instead of the one above.
  • Or, if you just so happen to have leftover chili, use the rest up to make this pizza!
  • Other topping ideas: chopped yellow onion, some more shredded cheddar, jalapenos, soda crackers…noodles!
  • It would be fun to make some of these for a football party and have a chili pizza bar!

Hearty Chili Pizza

Happy fall! Happy football! Happy chili pizza!

xo Jaime


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Your Three-Minute Dinner

Hi all.  A (fairly) recent conversation with my Aunt Verla veered towards talking about food.  With family, that tends to happen — food is love, after all!  While we chatted, Verla needed to set down the phone for a moment to finish prepping her dinner — ramen noodles.  She then told me how much she enjoys jazzing them up with different toppings and additions, taking them from college staple to real-life meal.  The blog was facing a bit of a drought at the time, but her meal spurred me to make a request:  Please guest blog, and tell us all about your ramen noodle creations!  Verla graciously accepted.  So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce the fabulous, funny, and food-loving, Aunt Verla!

Like many people, I was introduced to ramen noodles as part of my college experience. It’s universally thought of as the go-to food for broke college students stretching their budgets, but in my case, the motivation wasn’t financial. I had a prepaid meal plan that allowed me to eat as much as I wanted.

Ramen - Three Different Ways

I had a friend in the dorm, Sheri, who had grown up as the daughter of missionaries in Bangkok. She longed for a taste of home, especially the extremely hot flavors she was used to. This was before we had Sriracha (“rooster sauce”), the widely popular hot sauce that was created in 1983 by a Thai immigrant who couldn’t find anything in the States to appropriately satisfy his craving for that burn. Sheri made ramen noodles with things like sunflower seeds added, loads and loads of Louisiana hot sauce, and something crunchy like crumbled Fritos on top. This awesome combo, great for late-night studying, created my lifelong love of ramenizing.

Almost 30 years after my college graduation, I don’t eat ramen very often. But I do keep it around, and occasionally it’s the right thing to hit the spot. I just have to ignore the fact that even in comparison with refined white pasta, it has almost no nutrients. Its primary ingredients appear to be carbs and chemicals. No mind. I still dress it up, and it still takes just three minutes once the noodles hit that boiling water.

Keep a few of your favorite frozen vegetables around, together with some seeds or nuts. I buy Oriental flavor ramen, which seems to mix well with other flavors, at least in comparison with beef or chicken ramen. I don’t care for their bullion taste. In most cases, I put all ingredients  (except noodles and topping) in the water and bring it to a boil before adding the noodles.  After adding the noodles, don’t forget to cover, turn the burner off, and set your timer for three minutes, lest the noodles get too soft.

Here are some of the combos I like to make these days. For most, I start with the seasoning packet, half a dozen dashes of Louisiana hot sauce (like Crystal), and a good long squirt of Sriracha. I like to use both sauces not for extra heat, but because I like a touch of the vinegary taste that Crystal has.

Base recipe:

2 cups water

1 package Oriental-flavored ramen, including flavor packet

A good long squirt of Sriracha hot chili sauce

6-7 dashes Louisiana-style hot sauce

Variations:

Ramen with okra and pumpkin seeds

“The Current Favorite”

1-1.5 c. frozen sliced okra

2 T. shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Crumbled tortilla chips for topping

(This has been my favorite lately. Did you know that okra is very high in fiber? I love its flavor too.)

In a small sauce pan, combine 2 cups water and all ingredients except the noodles and topping (so base recipe ingredients plus okra).  Bring to a boil and let boil for 2-5 minutes depending on how soft you want the okra.  Add the noodles, cover, turn off the heat, and let simmer for 3 minutes.  Remove the lid, stir to break up the noodles, and add pepitas.  Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle crushed tortilla chips on top, and enjoy!

Ramen with Spinach, Sausage, and Sunflower Seeds

3S – Spinach, Sunflower, & Sausage

1 c. frozen cut leaf spinach

2 T. shelled sunflower seeds

Crumbled tortilla chips for topping

½ sausage (brat, kielbasa, or smoked sausage), cut into quarter moon slices

Start again with the base recipe.  Instead of okra, add spinach and diced sausage (I used smoked sausage- so delicious).  Follow the recipe from above, adding the noodles once the water reaches a boil, covering, turning off the heat, and letting the noodles simmer for 3 minutes.  (Something else you could add instead of the sausage — some shredded rotisserie chicken — though then you’ll have to call it 2S &1C…)

Italian Style Ramen

The Italian 

1 c. frozen cut leaf spinach

Pinch of dried oregano

6 grape tomatoes, cut in half

3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, torn up

2 T. pine nuts

Italian seasoned croutons for topping

For the last ramen rendition, we’re incorporating Italian flavors.  This time, start with the base recipe and then add the spinach and oregano.  Bring to a boil, and add the noodles, tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves.  Cover and turn off the heat, then let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove lid, stir, and add pine nuts.  Heap the ramen into a bowl, and top with croutons.

Those are a few to get you started. Next time you need a hot supper but don’t have more than a few minutes (or a few minutes’ worth of energy) to make it happen, give one of these a try—or see what’s in the fridge for your own creation. Happy experimenting!

Italian Style Ramen

Bonus note:

Excerpt from News of the Weird item from April 2010

Computer hardware engineer Toshio Yamamoto, 49, this year celebrates 15 years’ work tasting and cataloguing all the Japanese ramen he can get his hands on (including the full ingredients list, texture, flavor, price and “star” rating for each), for the massive 4,300-ramen database on his website, expanded recently with hundreds of video reviews. Yamamoto said he had always eaten ramen for breakfast seven days a week, but cut back recently to five. “I feared that, if I continued at (the seven-day) pace, I would get bored.”

–Verla

Yum — these were so easy and delicious!  A couple notes from me:

  • Make sure you don’t overcook your okra!  It can become slimy. Unless you like it slimy — to each his (or her) own!
  • Verla says frozen cut leaf spinach for a reason — get that kind!  It’s a lot more difficult to cut off a chunk of frozen spinach that comes in those little rectangle blocks.  How do I know this?  I tried.  Then had to borrow my husband’s muscles.  If you don’t have frozen cut leaf spinach, or don’t feel like picking any up, you can microwave the spinach block and add a scoop, or throw in some fresh stuff.
  • These make really great make-ahead meals.  I put a portion in a Tupperware , threw it in the fridge, and warmed it up for lunch the next day.  The noodles absorb the juice (and flavor) so it’s like a noodle dish rather than soup.  Just bring some extra tortilla chips or croutons to add crunch once it’s heated through. 

Thank you, Aunt Verla!  Come again — any time! 

What are some of YOUR favorite ways to jazz up ramen, or other store-bought foods?

xo Jaime


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S’more Ideas for Summer

So.  It’s still summer — which means bonfires and s’mores.  Unless you don’t have a fire pit, in which case…grills and stoves.  Or microwaves, if you’re really desperate.  Growing up, we made our fair share of s’mores in the microwave, getting the chocolate ooey and gooey (and piping hot) and watching the marshmallows explode to epic proportions before pressing “END” and watching them shrivel back down.   This summer, I decided I wanted something just a little different, so here are a few s’more ideas.

S'mores

The Mayan Hot Chocolate S’more

For this one, you’ll need:

  • Cinnamon-flavored graham crackers
  • Milk chocolate squares
  • Marshmallows
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cinnamon

Mayan Hot Chocolate S'mores

If you’ve never had a Mayan hot chocolate, you are missing out.  The combination of sweet milk chocolate and spicy  cayenne pepper goes down smooth, leaving that slight burning sensation in your throat.   I thought this flavor combination might translate well into a s’more, so lay down your graham cracker, then you chocolate base. Next, sprinkle on as much cayenne and cinnamon as you like, top with a piping hot marshmallow, and squish the graham cracker on top.

Strawberry White Chocolate S’mores

  • Honey flavored graham crackers
  • White chocolate squares
  • Strawberry jam
  • Marshmallows

Strawberry White Chocolate S'more

Next comes something berry delicious and refreshing.   I thought about how much my hubby loves cheesecake with strawberries, and came up with this s’more that combines melty white chocolate with sweet and acidic strawberry jam.   Here’s how this one stacks up: graham, white chocolate square, strawberry jam, crispy marshmallow, graham.  Mmm.

Inside-Out S’more

The inside out s’more.  Like when Oreos made a white cookie with chocolate frosting.  Only better.

  • Chocolate graham crackers
  • White chocolate squares
  • Marshmallows

Inside Out S'more

I think you get the idea with this one — make your traditional s’more with these slightly non-traditional ingredients.  It’s fun to mix it up every now and then.

And I can’t forget to give mention to the s’more my sister wanted me to make.  A triple threat, using one square of white chocolate, one square of dark chocolate, and one square of milk chocolate.  Sure to please all chocolate eaters!

Triple Threat S'more

What s’more can we do?  Chocolate graham crackers with dark chocolate squares and strawberry jam, maybe?  Cinnamon graham crackers with white chocolate?  The possibilities are endless. Unlike the summer. Wah wah.

Mix it up with your s’more routine and bring even more gooey, sticky, sweet smiles all around.   Don’t forget to celebrate National S’more Day on August 10th — maybe with one of these fun recipes, or some of your own!

What are some of your favorite ways to eat s’mores?

xo Jaime


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Dinner Party Side: Roasted Asparagus with Bacon

Hi.  It’s me again.  I know it’s been awhile, and I know it’s sort of still cold out.  So I thought maybe I should remind you (and Spring) that we’re supposed to be having a Spring dinner soiree!  This is one of two side dish options for your dinner party-to-be.  To help encourage Spring to show it’s good side (not the unpredictable weather patterns and muddiness but the grass and tulips and robins) I made something green.  With bacon on it.  It can’t hurt, right?  Just trying to do my part!

Roasted Asparagus with Bacon

 If you’d like to make it without the bacon you are most certainly welcome  — just use 3 tablespoons olive oil instead of two, and add just a bit more salt.  But really, the bacon (and bacon grease) adds a salty, smoky flavor that cannot be beat . My husband RAVED over this and it’s a vegetable,  in fact, he’s demanding that it’s the only kind of asparagus we ever eat again. And that we eat it twice a day.  Which is sweet, but is definitely not going to happen.  Sorry, dear!

Roasted Asparagus with Bacon
{Modified from AllRecipes}

1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 pound), trimmed
3 slices smoked, uncured bacon (I used Oscar Mayer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon grease (reserve from bacon after cooking)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan-Romano cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or juice from 1/2 a lemon)

Roasted Asparagus with Bacon

1.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Using kitchen shears, cut 3 slices of bacon into 1/4 inch strips vertically to make small pieces. Fry in a small saute pan over medium heat until partially cooked — about 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove bacon pieces onto a plate that’s been covered with two sheets of paper towel, reserving the bacon grease for the next step.

3.  Place your trimmed asparagus in a large bowl.  Top with reserved bacon grease (there should be about 1 tablespoon), 2 tablespoons olive oil, and  2 cloves chopped garlic.  Toss to coat.

Roasted Asparagus with Bacon

4. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray.  Spread your asparagus out onto the sheet in a single layer,  pouring any excess oil over the top.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, sea salt, black pepper, and bacon pieces as evenly as possible.

Roasted Asparagus with Bacon

5. Bake asparagus for 12 to 15 minutes depending on thickness.  Once it’s tender, pull it out and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top.  The lemon brightens up the asparagus and balances the bacon flavor.  Serve immediately.  Or I can imagine chopping up leftover and topping a salad!  IF you have leftovers…

Roasted Asparagus with Bacon

Stay tuned for our second side option…another delicious treat that’s sure to help usher in Spring if this doesn’t!

xo Jaime

#PrayersforBoston


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Dinner Party Salad: Blueberry Arugula Salad with Orange-Mint Dressing

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Orange-Mint Dressing

A few years ago I was introduced to arugula and it has been serious love ever since. If you haven’t tried it I would highly recommend it! It has a subtle flavor that adds an extra little something to any salad.

My dinner party salad starts with arugula as the base and is topped with fresh spring flavors: orange and blueberry, creamy goat cheese and almonds. But I have to say – it is the orange-mint dress that really pulls this salad together. Enjoy!

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Orange-Mint Dressing

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Orange-Mint Dressing

Ingredients

Salad
10 oz. arugula
6 oz. fresh blueberries
1 (15 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 tbsp. diced red onion
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Orange-Mint Dressing
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. fresh mint, very finely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

1. Place all dressing ingredients into a mason jar or other air-tight container and shake for 1 minute to combine.

2. Fill bowl with arugula, top with blueberries, mandarin oranges, almonds, onion and goat cheese. Top with dressing.

Blueberry Arugula Salad with Orange-Mint Dressing

XO –   Rae

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