Rainy Day Delight

It’s such a rare occasion in Orange County, California to have a cold, rainy, stormy day that I was excited to see a wet patio outside my window when I got up this morning.  WOO HOO!  I am SO getting the slow cooker out and making some chili!

white-chili

Not my usual rip-off of Mom’s XLNT Brick of Chili Con Carne based chili with ground beef, cubes of left over steak, canned crushed tomatoes and red beans.  Nope!  Today’s a White Bean Chicken Chili day.

It’s a ridiculously easy recipe and practically cooks itself.

Rainy Day White Bean Chicken Chili

  • 1 Can Diced Ortega Chilis (Mild or Hot – your choice)
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts – about 1 1/2 lbs (Frozen or Thawed)
  • 16 oz Chicken Broth
  • 1 – 16 oz Bag of Dry Great White Northern Beans
  • 2 tsp Dried Cilantro Flakes
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Devil’s Dust (or any Smoked Chili seasoning you use)
  • Sour Cream and Chopped Fresh Cilantro to serve (if desired)
  • 1 Ripe Avocado Chopped (if you have one)

In a large stock pot, 6 to 8 cups water on to boil.

Using a large colander, rinse and drain the white beans.  Pick out any icky ones and then add to the boiling water.  Boil the beans for about an hour then turn off the heat, cover and let stand for another hour.

While the beans are soaking get the other ingredients going in the slow cooker set on low heat.

  • Empty the can of diced green chilis (undrained) into the bottom of the slow cooker
  • Put the frozen chicken breasts on top of the chilis
  • Pour the chicken broth over the breasts
  • Dust the tops of the breasts with the spices (ending with the cilantro)

When the beans have finished soaking, empty them into a colander and then transfer them to the slow cooker.  Stir just enough to mix everything together and leave it the chili to cook for 6-8 hours on low heat.

About 4 hours into the cooking time, shred the chicken beasts with  forks and mix the chicken back into the chili.

When the cooking time has completed taste the chili, adjust the spices and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro on top.  If you’re lucky enough to have a ripe avocado on hand, do yourself a “flavor” and chop it up to put on top of your bowl of chili!

You can speed this recipe up, making it one you can throw together in 10 minutes or less when you are leaving for work so it can cook all day, by substituting 3 cans of white beans from the grocery store.

I can’t wait for dinner time!

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

It’s A Comfort Food Kind Of Day

dietfoodjuliachild

I try to balance being somewhat diet conscious with being creative in the kitchen like I did with the dinner I made last night: Bacon & Roasted Cauliflower Chowder.  It was hearty, satisfying, and had a lot of flavor, but, with the exception of the fat & sodium from the bacon, was super healthy!  I even kept my husband from his requested bread/bagel chips/ crackers alongside by baking up some thin crispy sweet potato chips while the soup was cooking.  I satisfied his need for something starchy but didn’t add unnecessary carbs or calories!  Win-Win!

That said, I have been known (alright, it happens a lot) to totally justify throwing all thoughts of the diet out the window when I eat at restaurants and indulge in luscious dishes I am not quite skilled enough (or brave enough) to try to re-create at home.

It’s hardest of all to be diet conscious when I’m feeling tired, stressed or sick and just want comforting, basic, no frills food like my Mom, Grandma and Alabama Aunts used to make.

Today is one of those comfort days.  I have been battling bronchitis for more than 3 weeks and all I wanted was a no hassle simple bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  I dug through the cupboards and found a variety of options:

  • Gluten Free Oats (on hand for my gluten intolerant girlfriend);
  • Whole Rolled Oats (unopened and I don’t even remember buying them);
  • Quaker Quick 1 Minute Oats in the Cardboard Cylinder (for making cookies);
  • Quaker Old Fashioned Oats; and
  • A single microwave packet of Nutrisystem Oats  ( my husband’s) YUCK and NO THANKS!

I have no interest in the over-processed, artificially sweetened and flavored, chopped into dust oats from a skinny envelope!  I wasn’t in the mood for the time involved in cooking the whole rolled oats, skipped the cookie & gluten free ingredients and that left me only one viable option:

oatmealThe stomach filling, hunger suppressing, creamy goodness and comfort of the white haired man on the round cardboard package of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats!

I had always assumed that the pre-packaged diet foods that come in those expensive, very restrictive diets was healthy.  Boy was I in for a surprise!  Have you ever looked at the back of one of those boxes of instant oatmeal in the envelope?

For 150 Calories, in a package of Maple Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal, you also get:

  • 35.4 g Carbs (3 g Fiber)
  • 7 g Sugar
  • 1.5 g Fat
  • 4 g Protein
  • 140 mg Sodium

In order to make their oatmeal, you have to prepare it with 1/2 cup of fat free milk which adds an additional:

  • 40 Calories (190 Calories total)
  • 65 mg Sodium (205 mg Sodium total)
  • 6 g Carbs (41.4 g Carbs total)
  • 6 g Sugar (13 g Sugar total)
  • 4 g Protein (A bonus for 8 g Protein total)

Compare that to what you get from a bigger (what they call “Heart Healthy” on the label) portion (still only 150 Calories) of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats that you spice up yourself with about 1/8 tsp Real Vanilla Extract and 1/4 tsp Cinnamon:

  • 27.6 g Carbs (4 g Fiber)
  • 1 g Sugar
  • 3 g Fat
  • 5 g Protein
  • 0 mg Sodium

By taking 1 more minute in the microwave or a whole 3 more minutes to prepare in a pan on the stove you do lose the 3 extra g of Protein that using milk in the prep of the packaged oats adds, but you add 1 g of additional filling Fiber and save yourself from ingesting:

  • 40 additional calories (that can be spent towards a glass of wine later)
  • 205 mg Sodium
  • 12 g Sugar

The preparation is really simple. 

The fastest way is to prepare it in the microwave.  In a microwave safe cereal bowl, I measure 3/4 Cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and stir in 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.  I then add 1/2 cups water and 1/8 tsp Vanilla stirring all until it’s well combined.  I cook the oatmeal on high power for two minutes then give the mixture a stir to test the consistency.  My microwave is 10 years old, so I play it safe to avoid the dreaded boil over.  I add 2 more cycles of 30 seconds on high, stirring in between, and end up with a creamy, but not dense and pasty bowl of hearty oatmeal.

I wish I could convince my husband that it really is easy to do, and can even be pre-packaged in a zip bag to take to work, so that he would stop buying and eating the Nutrisystem meals that bring so much unnecessary sodium and so many preservatives into his system, but that’s a fight for another day.

Today I am just going to sit here and enjoy my healthy, hearty, and oh so comforting, bowl of steaming hot oatmeal.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Bacon Roasted Cauliflower Chowder

dinnerreservationsI haven’t been to the grocery store this week and was at a loss as to what to make for dinner tonight.

The meat & cheese drawer gave me a pound of uncooked bacon fresh from the butcher, a wedge of parmesan cheese and another small chunk from a wedge of aged gouda-parmesan.

In the crisper was a bag of fresh sweet mini peppers, a head of cauliflower that was nearing extinction, half a red onion, some carrots, celery, a Rubbermaid container with some still viable sliced Portobello mushrooms and a few other items that found their way right into the compost bucket.

Not a lot to work with, but I’m a gamer (and thankfully my husband will try anything I make) so I trudged forward hoping for some inspiration.

A wrinkly but still salvageable Poblano chili was on the counter and inspiration for a nice warm soup struck.

Bacon & Roasted Cauliflower Chowder

  • ½ Cup Sliced Portobello Mushrooms
  • 6 Slices Bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • ¼ Poblano Chili finely diced
  • ½ Red Onion diced
  • ¼ Cup diced Orange Sweet Bell Pepper
  • 1 Carrot chopped
  • 2 Ribs Celery chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 Medium Head Cauliflower
  • 4 Cups Beef Broth (4 Bullion Cubes in 4 Cups Boiling Water)
  • 1 – 5 ounce can Evaporated Milk
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper to taste (1 added about 2 tsp)
  • Reserved Rind of Parmesan or Parmesan-Gouda Cheese
  • Shredded Parmesan or Parmesan-Gouda Cheese (if desired)

Cut the cauliflower in thirds, trim off the stem, spritz with olive or coconut oil spray and roast 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

sweatvegetablesCook the bacon over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add the diced Poblano chili and continue to cook until bacon is crisp but not too brown. Remove both from pan and drain on paper towel.

In the same pan add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and bell pepper.  Saute’ about 8 minutes over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and return the bacon and Poblano chili to the pan. Continue cooking another 10 minutes while bacon fat breaks down some more then switch heat to low.

addcauliflowerRoughly chop 1/3 of the roasted cauliflower into small pieces and add to the pan. Add the bay leaves and seasoned pepper, stir and cook on low about 5 minutes to allow the cauliflower to absorb the flavors of the bacon and other vegetables.

Put the remaining 2/3 of the cooled roasted cauliflower and 2 cups of the cooled broth into the Vitamix or Food Processor/Blender container and process on low until well combined. It will have plenty of texture, but if it’s not thin enough to easily pour, add a bit more of the reserved broth.

Increase heat to medium, then add the can of evaporated milk, a can of water and the contents of the Vitamix container to the pan. Stir well to incorporate. Stir in the remaining broth, the reserved cheese rinds (if you have any) and bring soup just to a boil. Return heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes.

soupRemove the bay leaves before serving.  Serve with toasted French bread chunks/croutons or crusty bread and butter.  Sprinkle chowder with shredded parmesan or parmesan-gouda cheese and chopped parsley if desired.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

UG! I Cut My Avocado Too Soon

I have a 20 year old, beautiful and quite prolific avocado tree in my backyard.  It has survived being broken in half by a dog tie-out (Courtesy of our beloved Husky Whitney), uprooted when the swimming pool was being dug, and being eaten by the tree boring termites that took out it’s neighboring peach and plum trees.  It easily gives me more than 100 large, meaty, delicious avocados that stay good for me to eat and share with friends and family twice a year.

bacon-wrapped-fries-17-140x140January has come, Christmas “Shoeboxes of Love” have been distributed and I still have about 3 dozen on the tree.  I’ve been patiently watching for them to be ready to pick so I can finally try the recipe I pinned months ago for Bacon Wrapped Avocado Slices.  With Super Bowl just a week and a half away, I thought it was a perfect time to give it a try, so I pulled 6 off the tree.

I sent 2 home with my girlfriend and left the other 4 on the counter to slowly ripen.  The great part about picking them fresh is that I often have a good 2 weeks to let them become perfectly soft and ready to eat, unlike those at the store that have to be used as soon as you get them home.

If you don’t have ready-ripe store bought avocados to satisfy your craving, or the patience to wait that long, the following methods are rumored to be effective for ripening rock-hard avocados:

  • Put it in a brown paper bag overnight with a ripe banana or apple, which releases the ripening gas, ethylene (this is what I do)
  • Put it in a jar of rice
  • Bury it in flour
  • Wrap it in a piece of newspaper

3 remained yesterday and 1 was just reaching it’s perfect degree of softness.  My mouth watered anticipating a trial run of crisp salty bacon wrapped around velvety Haas Avocado dipped in a perfectly spiced fiesta ranch dip.  Then I got a massive migraine!

Off to bed I went so my husband was on his own for dinner.  He offered me a grilled cheese sandwich (one of my favorite things) but I was just not hungry.  I smelled his dinner cooking and was glad that he was self sufficient (at least last night).

I woke up this morning feeling a whole lot better and ventured into the kitchen to clean up the mess I knew would await, only to discover that HE ATE MY RIPE AVOCADO!

avocadoripe_guide

I cautiously felt the other two and, maybe it was my wishful thinking, but I determined that one of them was ready.  Into it I dove with my butcher’s knife only to hit rather firm flesh.  OH NO!  My avocado was ruined.

Instead of doing what I might have done in the past, i.e. throw the avocado out (GASP!), I went to my trusty friend, the internet in search of any way to save the prized green flesh!

A post on Hubpages.com may have just saved my cut too soon avocado after all!

If you have only opened, but not yet sliced the flesh and removed it from the shell, you can try to ripen the whole fruit:

  • Firmly fit the avocado halves back around the pit
  • Wrap the entire fruit with Saran Wrap, Masking Tape, Rubber Bands, Yarn, Twine, or anything that will hold the fruit firmly closed without allowing dust, bugs or moisture to get inside
  • Place fruit back on counter (do not refrigerate) and poke it gently every 12 hours until the flesh starts to give but doesn’t yet hold an indentation

An unripe, already sliced avocado can be prepared in ways that will cut the bitterness and hard texture so that it can still be enjoyed, albeit, not as much as if it were buttery and naturally softened, but nonetheless it can still be eaten.

  1. Make avocado patties by baking the cubed flesh 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees, until soft.  Mash and combine with panko, an egg and Cajun spice.  Spray a hot frying pan with olive or coconut oil spray and fry until brown on both sides.  Would be great with a fiesta ranch type dip.
  2. Make a creamy, cheesy hot avocado dip to serve with crusty bread or crackers.  Dice the avocado and place the cubes in a baking dish. Make a simple white sauce (béchamel), pour it over the avocado and sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Bake until golden and bubbly.
  3. Dip slices of the avocado in tempura batter and fry until crisp.

If you, like me, tend to share the foods you eat with your pets, you might have heard that avocados are poisonous to dogs and cats.  Avocado contains a molecule called persin that can cause illness or even death, but according to the Pet Poison Helpline, it is not poisonous for dogs or cats.  I’m really glad to know that because my dogs (1 Husky and 5 English Labs I’ve owned in the past 25 years) have always knocked the avocados (peaches, plums, citrus, tomatoes, berries and apricots) off the low branches or grabbed them off the ground and eaten them skin and all with no adverse reactions.  Thankfully I didn’t know that they were said to be harmful or I’d be worrying that they somehow harmed them.  Do be aware that the seeds do pose a choking risk and could cause a blockage in the digestive tract if swallowed whole, so it’s probably a good idea to keep the seeds away from them.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood