Turkey Chili


I really didn’t know what inspired this recipe. It could have been the crappy weather. It could have been the massive text message my mom sent me a few weeks ago fawning over my aunt’s chili recipe. It could have been my recent obsession with chilies and spices. Either way, I got such an intense craving for it that I almost made it when I got home from work a week and a half ago. I know it would’ve meant that I would’ve been eating at midnight but I didn’t care. I was dying for it. But I waited. And I’m so happy I did.

This chili is special. It’s hearty and comforting and filling and warm and sweet and spicy! Boy was it spicy- but not too much- just enough to clear up your sinuses and give it a little kick. I’m happy I made this last night because I got to enjoy cooking it. Dicing the onions, peppers and chilies, crushing the tomatoes with my hands, and layering the spices was a fun way to experience this dish. And even though it doesn’t take too long to cook, it would’ve been a lot to handle when I come home as a raving, starving lunatic after on one of my hectic work days.

This recipe is a star- don’t underestimate it. If you’ve been looking for a great chili recipe you might be able to stop your search here.

Turkey Chili- 3 servings

(adapted from Ina Garten’s Chicken Chili recipe)

3/4 lb ground turkey
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 yellow and 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 canned chili, roughly diced
1 can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 tbsp, chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
Salt and Pepper- to taste
1 tspn, cayenne pepper
1/2 tspn, red pepper flakes
1 tspn, chili powder
1-2 dashes, hot sauce
1/2 can red beans

1. In a small or medium pot heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and peppers and cook until softened, about 10 mins, stirring occasionally. After the onions and peppers have softened add the chopped chilies, beans, and minced garlic and cook for another minute.

2. At this point you can add your spices. All of my measurements are approximations because I went a little crazy. I also added a dash or two of hot sauce. I wanted my chili spicy!! If you want more spice, hot sauce might be a good option for you.

3. Add the crushed tomato’s and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow to cook uncovered for 30 minutes. At this point, if you’d like, you can add the chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime juice. I suggest it strongly.

4. While the sauce is simmering start browning the ground turkey, making sure to break down the pieces so they are small. This chili is super versatile- you can add ground chicken, beef, roasted chicken or turkey (thanksgiving left-over chili??). Use whatever you have lying around and go crazy.

5. Add the browned chicken to the sauce and stir well. Allow to cook uncovered for another 20 minutes. This would be a good time to put the homemade tortilla strips in the oven.

6. When the chili is ready to be served, top with tortilla strips, a generous helping of shredded cheese, and a dallop of sour cream.

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Sunday Tomato Sauce

Before I discovered how easy and satisfying it is to make your own tomato sauce, I was a “store-bought pasta sauce” girl. Even in Italy, with all the AMAZING ingredients at my fingertips, I still bought pasta sauce at the supermarket. I thought it would be more authentic. It really wasn’t.

But, after making sauce once, even though it wasn’t my best sauce, it was one-hundred times better than the jarred stuff. There was no comparison. Today, my Sunday sauce is almost like a ritual- an absolute must! This sauce will take me through the week. When I’m in a pinch and don’t know what to have for dinner, this sauce will inspire me to make chicken parmesan, calzone’s, and veggie pasta tosses- the possibilities are endless.

The recipe changes constantly, but the base remains the same. Much like my Penne alla Vodka sauce, it begins with peeled canned tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil- but after that, you can be a little creative…

sauteedgarlic

There's no such thing as too much garlic!!!

Tomato Sauce

1 35 ounce can (Italian whole tomatoes)
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, crushed red pepper, and any other spices you like- to taste
1/3 cup of red wine

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until garlic begins to brown slightly- about 2 minutes.

2. For a chunky sauce, add the whole can of tomatoes to the skillet and bring to a strong simmer. Lower heat, smash tomatoes slightly with a wooden spoon, and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, or until sauce is thick and chunky. For a smoother sauce, add the can of tomatoes to a food processor, and, using quick pulses, puree the tomatoes. Add to sauce and cook covered under low heat for about 5-10 minutes.

3. Add the seasonings and stir well. Add the red wine, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes.

4. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

It’s a very simple sauce but it’s also very delicious. The wine really adds a lot of depth to the sauce and makes it super flavorful. If you wanted, you could cut back on the garlic (if you must!) and add some chopped onions. You could also add a bay leaf with the seasoning and remove once it’s done cooking. Have fun with the recipe- make it your own- and I promise you’ll never pick up the jarred stuff again once you’ve given this sauce a try!

tomatosauce2

This sauce makes a great pizza sauce

Orecchiette Alla Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

I’ve had many cooking failures in my life. There was the time I tried to make stir-fry. I ran out and bought tons of stir-fry materials including a wok and a “how-to wok” book, got a perfect recipe and went for it. It was a disaster- to say the least. Then there was the time I tried to make filet mignon and puff pastry alla Mickey and Mooch (one of my fav Charlotte-area restaurants). That too was a disaster. The steak was overdone and the pastry was underdone. Quite simply- a failure! Then there was that time I tried to make Giada’s Limoncello recipe. At first it seemed ok but after sitting in my fridge for a week or two, my mom had a sip and it almost made her throw up! (Sorry Mom!!! I really can cook… I swear!!)

However, I moved forward and didn’t give up on cooking- especially when trying to recreate some of my favorite dishes. One of those was Penne alla Vodka. The first time I tried to make it I wasn’t satisfied with the results. The flavors were there, for the most part, but something was off- the consistency and color wasn’t right. I gave up on it for a while but revisited it recently. This time it was a success.

Orecchiette Alla Vodka – serves 6

1 35-ounce can (Italian) whole tomatoes
1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes; Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1  tablespoon- chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus 1-2 tablespoons to top

1. Add the can of whole tomatoes and pulse in a mini food processor with quick pulses until it is chunky. Transfer this to a bowl. In the same food processor, chop 8 cloves of garlic until minced. 8 cloves may seem like a bit much but I’m a garlic extremist.

2. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly- about 2 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a boil. Season with salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and pepper to taste- I like my pasta sauces a little on the spicy side. Once they start to boil, add the Vodka and bring to a simmer.

3. Start boiling well salted water for the pasta. I chose to use orecchiette because it’s a really great pasta for saucy dishes and it happened to be the only pasta, besides elbow macaroni, that I had in the apartment. Once the water is boiling add the pasta until it is almost al dente.

4. Once the pasta is almost done, add the cream to the sauce and stir well. Add the pasta directly into the pan and toss well. Top with the Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley. Toss to coat evenly. Serve and top with remaining parmesan.

After all was said and done, it turned out really well. Creamy and decadent and oh-so comforting. AND I was shocked at how quick the whole process was. I was sitting down to eat about 20 minutes after I started cooking- that’s shorter than my Sunday tomato sauce recipe (which is amazing and will be up here soon)! I still don’t know what went wrong that night I tried to make it for the first time.  Probably some fluke accident. Either way, I’m really happy I gave it a second chance. Maybe it’s time to revisit that stir-fry…….

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I was feeling under the weather when I got home today so I needed something warm and comforting to lift my spirits. I first had chicken tortilla soup at my aunt’s house. My aunt Liz is an amazing cook. Before I thought I ever wanted or even had the capacity to cook, I was influenced by my family members. They all seemed to be good at cooking one thing or another. All of them but Liz. Liz was pretty much good at cooking anything. So anytime Liz gets behind the stove I get excited- I know something good is coming soon.

This soup is no different. I’ve had a few different chicken tortilla soups but none of them compare to this one. It’s perfect- spicy, comforting, cheesy, crunchy- and even when over or under cooked it just becomes a different variety of itself. Its a really simple recipe, and takes about an hour to get from the stove to the plate. Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Tortilla Soup – 6-8 servings

2 (thin/medium) chicken breasts
8-9 cups water
2 tbsp sofrito (optional)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 can tomato sauce
1 tspn tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes w/ chiles
1 cup rice
1 small can black beans
3/4 cup of frozen corn
1/4 cup of shredded cheese (I love this with cheddar, jack, and pepper jack cheese)
Tortilla chips – your favorite kind

1. Start boiling the water in a large pot.

2. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, black beans,  corn,  olive oil and sofrito to the pot.I also add some salt and pepper to the pot around this time.

3. Once the water starts boiling, add the chicken breasts. From this point on, the soup should boil for about 30 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes.

4. The type of rice you use will dictate the time it will be added to the soup. If you are using instant or 10 minute rice, add the rice to the soup 20 minutes after you add the chicken. If you are using regular rice, add it to the soup when you add the chicken.Lower the heat slightly, to around medium. Keep stirring every 5-10 minutes.

5. 10 minutes before the soup is done, remove the chicken from the soup and shred using 2 forks to pull it apart. (If you’re using instant rice this is a good time to add the rice.) Once the chicken is all shredded add it back to the pot.

6. Around the 30 minute mark, the soup should start look thicker and the rice should be plump. Once the rice is cooked, shut the soup off and let stand for 5 minutes.

7. Serve the soup in bowls, and top the soup with tortilla chips and the shredded cheese.

That’s it! It’s really simple and really flavorful with very minimum amounts of work. This recipe is my go-to when I need something quick, yummy, and also when I haven’t taken any meat down from the freezer. I take down 2 chicken breasts when I get home from work, start the water and add the ingredients, and add the semi-frozen breasts to the pot. The chicken is always ready to be shredded after 20 minutes of boiling in the pot.

You can often find sofrito in the Goya section of the freezer isle. If you have the urge to make your own sofrito, I’ll be happy to share my grandmother’s recipe here. You don’t need to use the sofrito in this recipe, I just think it adds something special to the soup.

When I first started making this soup, I diced the chicken and added to the pot when the water started to boil. That’s another option if you don’t like shredding chicken, but I think the texture of the shredded chicken makes the soup a lot more comforting and full bodied. To mix it up, I sometimes like add cubes of ripe avocado or a dollop of sour cream in the middle. I’ve also made my own tortilla chips for the dish and used the store bought kind. It’s a really versatile soup that never gets old.

A bite of Chicken Tortilla Soup

A bite of Chicken Tortilla Soup

I recently made it for a very old friend of mine and she liked it so much that she asked for the recipe and made it for her family. That made me feel really great. I love cooking for myself, but it’s always a pleasure to cook for others and get positive feedback. I guess I know now how Liz must feel every time she cooks any of her dishes for us.

…Special…

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