I know that chili is a pretty personal dish. In some regions, it’s sacrilege to put beans in your chili. Other people like chili so hot it makes your eyes water. I personally love thick and hearty chili, but I know some folks like chili thinner like soup. It’s hard to land on a chili that everyone loves, but let me tell you, I’ve got one. Meet taco chili.
I’ve never met someone who didn’t like this chili. It’s a recipe that’s been in my family for years, and has been served to hundreds of people and met with hundreds of rave reviews—including from the girls on my dorm floor during my Freshman year in college. Whenever I’d come back from a weekend visit home, Mama would send me with a big pot of taco chili, a bag of tortilla chips, and a tub of sour cream. We’d line up the chili, chips and cream on the floor of my dorm room and invite all of our floormates over to snack on homemade chili and gossip about the boys floor.
My favorite part about this chili (other than the taste) is that it’s incredibly versatile. You can serve it as a dip for tortilla chips like we did in my dorm. You can serve it on top of macaroni and topped with cheese, diced onions and sour cream and make the tastiest chili mac you’ve ever had. You can serve it with cornbread for dipping. You can put it on top of hot dogs and make some seriously yummy coney dogs.
It’s also incredibly easy to make. The “taco” part of this chili comes from its super easy flavor ingredient—taco seasoning! Yup, instead of pulling out 300 different spices from your cubbard, the majority of the flavor of this dish comes from a packet of taco seasoning. Easy peasy! Of course, you can also make your own taco seasoning and get the same awesome flavor, plus have the ability to customize the flavor to your family’s liking.
The original version of this recipe calls for two whole pounds of ground beef, and while it’s totally delicious when made that way, it’s also incredibly heavy and calorie-dense. I instead tend to switch out the ground beef for leaner turkey, you still get lots of awesome flavor in a much lighter dish. My recommendation is to go for a ground turkey with a little bit of fat. Skip the 99% fat-free stuff—it’s also 99% flavor free!
I’ve also made it with half turkey/half beef and half turkey/half spicy chorizo sausage. Both delicious!
Worth noting, I’ve also made this chili in the slow cooker no less than a billion times, and it turns out just as well as it does on the stove top. I don’t brown or pre-cook anything. Just toss it all in and put in on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6—making sure you stir it a few times during cooking to break up the ground turkey.
It also freezes really well! Let it cool then freeze it flat in gallon freezer bags. When you’re ready to eat, either warm it up on the stove, or plop the chili popsicle in the slow cooker and let it warm up slowly while you do other things.
If you really want to please a crowd, make up a batch of this stuff, and then set up a chili bar for everyone to customize their own bowl. I like to put out bowls of diced green onions, minced cilantro, chopped avocado, sour cream, cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, elbow macaroni, sliced olives, and saltines—and let people go to town! It’s a great way to feed a crowd in the fall and winter, and it’s really easy on the host because you can make the chili and chop all the toppings ahead of time. Just bring it all out, set out some bowls and spoons and wait for the compliments to come in.
This thick and hearty chili is surprising light thanks to a base of lean ground turkey. It's a crowd-pleaser!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 2-14 ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1-16 ounce jar of salsa
- 1-8 ounce can of tomato paste
- 2 cup frozen corn
- 1 package taco seasoning
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add in the celery and onion, and cook until just tender and fragrant, about five minutes. Add in the garlic and ground turkey. Cook until turkey is browned, about five more minutes. Do not drain!
- Add in the kidney beans, crushed tomatoes, salsa, tomato paste, corn, taco seasoning, cumin and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Serve topped with favorite chili toppings.
When I was working on coming up with a (totally reasonable, not crazy) plan to get back in shape after pregnancy, one of the action items in my plan was to pack my lunch everyday. Now, that might sound a little strange considering I work from home (about 15 feet away from my kitchen), but I’ve realized over the past two years of working from home that I really need the structure that comes from packing my food everyday. If I don’t have a preplanned meal, one of two things happen: either I snack all day long or, what happens usually, I skip meals until 3pm comes and I get so ravenously hungry that I eat everything in the pantry. Neither option is super healthy. So to fight that off, I pack my lunch!
I’ve been sharing some of my lunches on my Instagram feed, and it’s been getting such a great response, I thought I might start sharing them regularly on here, too. I’ve always been a fan of packing bento-style lunches, because I absolutely love eating a wide variety of foods—so that’s what you’ll see the most of.
And before you ask: yes, these lunch containers are awesome! A while back, I bought a bunch of LunchBots containers for my lunch, and I’m in love. We stopped storing food in plastic a few years back, and these stainless containers are amazing. Obviously, you can’t microwave in them, and they aren’t water-tight, but they work for my purpose. The LunchBots Cinco is my absolute favorite—it’s large enough to a big hefty lunch, and I love having five compartments. I also have the smaller LunchBots which I usually use for snacks and breakfasts—Uno, Duo, and Trio, and I also have the LunchBots Dip Containers. I also use rectangular and square silicone baking cups as dividers.
My favorite part about using these containers regularly is that I’ve developed a pretty good eye for the volume and calorie count of each lunch. Of course, I could fill one up entirely with…say…mayo…and probably clock a really disgusting 5000 calorie lunch, but I have never topped 600 calories in the Cinco packing the normal, healthy foods I like—which is perfect for my breastfeeding-friendly calorie goals.
Here are a few of my lunches from the past few weeks. I apologize for the quality of photos—I’m usually snapping these late in the evening when daylight is quickly fading, and I’m ready for bed! I really need to get me a new iPhone so I can take better pictures on the go.
Turkey and sprout sandwich on a whole wheat mini bagel, cucumber slices, salted edamame, pretzels and hummus, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, blueberries and strawberries, and a few chocolate-covered cherries for dessert.
Chicken salad, steamed green beans, roasted potatoes, crackers, mini pear, strawberries, and chocolate-covered cherries.
Chef salad (minus the cheese, plus sprouts), roasted potatoes, fruit salad, and trail mix.
Egg salad, pickle, cucumber slices, crackers, steamed green beans, applesauce with cinnamon, grapes, pretzels, and chocolate covered cherries.
Bean salad, blueberry coconut milk yogurt with blueberries and chia seeds, black olives, crackers, mini pear, black cherry tomatoes, and chocolate covered cherries.
Next time, I’ll try to (a) get better photos and (b) snap more pictures of my breakfast and snack bentos—they’re fun, too! I’d also love to hear your ideas for your favorite things to pack in your lunch.
Note: this post contains affiliate links—meaning I get a small kick-back from any purchases you make after clicking on my links at no additional cost to you. All of these items are things that we use and love every single day. Thanks for your support!
For the past eight weeks, I haven’t been eating dairy because it looks like JuneBug has a dairy and soy protein sensitivity. At first, I was really bummed to cut out dairy (I mean, c’mon, CHEESE!), but it actually hasn’t been all that hard. Part of that, I’m sure, is because there is that whole motherhood gene that makes sacrifices for your kid not quite feel like sacrifices. But I also think a big part of is there are so many great non-dairy alternatives to traditional dairy foods. One of my favorite dairy alternatives has been coconut milk!
I love the coconut flavor, the richness, and how well it seems to work in most of the dairy roles. There is great coconut milk yogurt on the market. Coconut milk makes an awesome base for soups and smoothies. And it makes some of the easiest, creamiest, most delicious vegan ice cream on the planet.
If you’ve been afraid to make ice cream before, this recipe is a great place to start—it’s really pretty much impossible to mess up! The texture comes out perfect every time, which is always a struggle with homemade ice cream. I think the key is using my favorite ice cream making method—cornstarch. Many traditional homemade ice creams involve making a custard out of egg yolks, and often it results in an icy, hard ice cream. But the cornstarch method is quick, easy, and always gets you a super creamy and scoopable batch!
It probably goes without saying, but this vegan ice cream is very coconut-ty, so if coconut flavor isn’t your thing, you might want to skip past this one. But if you’re a coconut fan like I am, you’ll love this stuff! I think for my next batch, I might mix in some cocoa and sliced almonds to make a vegan Almond Joy ice cream. Uh, yum!
As JuneBug gets older, she’ll (hopefully!) grow out of her tummy issues, and I can eventually resume my regular consumption of all things dairy, but for now, I’m just fine pouring coconut milk on my cereal and eating this ice cream. Enjoy!
This dairy-free, vegan ice cream is rich, creamy, and 100% coconutty! It's also incredibly easy to make and almost impossible to mess up.
- 1-15 ounce can lite coconut milk
- 1-15 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Shake the two cans of coconut milk well, open and reserve 1/2 cup of the lite coconut milk in a small bowl. Pour the remaining lite coconut milk, the full-fat coconut milk, maple syrup and salt into a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and reserved coconut milk. Set aside.
- Bring the coconut milk to a low simmer—do not boil. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and heat until thick and bubbly—about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Transfer the ice cream base to a heat-proof container and refrigerate until cold—about four hours. Churn in the basin of an ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until solid, about an hour.
Here in Indiana, we have a theme park that has the tagline “There’s more than corn in Indiana”. We’re hip to the idea that people outside of the Midwest think we’re chock full of cornfields. I used to work for one of the big universities here, and it was always a struggle to convince prospective students from other parts of the country that the campus wasn’t stuck in the middle of a cornfield. But once we got students to visit campus, they were sold on coming here because we’re a friendly, culturally diverse, generally awesome bunch of people here. We really are so much more than corn!
And while I do think Indiana has way more going for it than just being in the Corn Belt, I tend to embrace our corn-fed Midwestern identity, too. There is something really comforting to me about driving down a tunnel between two fields of corn. And I always get giddy when I see the first farm stands pop-up in local intersections selling corn on the cob for a quarter an ear.
Being the born-and-raised Midwestern girl I am, you know that I’ve never met a corn recipe I didn’t like! And while I really think it’s hard to beat a fresh-picked ear of corn grilled with a little bit of butter and salt (yum!), this fresh corn and basil salad is another great way to use up the last of the summer crop.
I picked up a few fresh ears of corn from one of the local farm stands, but you could also use frozen corn if you have some of that kickin’ around. Corn and basil might sound like an odd combo, but they really work together. Corn has some of the same sweet flavor components that make tomatoes such a good partner to basil.
If you do use fresh corn, make sure you use the bowl trick to help you get the kernels off easily. Just place a small ramekin or bowl upside down in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Place the shucked ear of corn on the small bowl and use a knife to slice off the kernels. Works perfectly and with no mess!
This simple side dish takes the best flavors of summer and mixes them into one beautiful, flavorful salad that is perfect for picnics and potlucks. Lightly adapted from Ina Garten.
- 4 large ears corn, shucked
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup packed basil leaves, chiffonade
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Blanch corn in a large pot of salted water for about two minutes, or until the kernels turn bright in color. Drain from cooking water and place in ice bath to stop cooking.
- When corn is cool enough to handle, cut off the kernels with a sharp knife.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the corn, onion, and basil. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour over the corn mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Now that it’s September, you guys won’t mind if I start unloading all kinds of fall recipes now, will you? I hope not, because even though we’ve had the hottest week of the summer this past week (phew), I’m seriously jonesin’ for some scarves, boots, and a pumpkin-flavored goodie or two. So please don’t mind me if I jump on the cool-weather train a bit early this year—I’ve held out as long as I can.
I’ve talked about it before here (actually, multiple times), but it’s worth repeating—biscuit-making is a rite of passage in my family. Us kids spent our Sunday mornings with stools pulled up to the kitchen counter patiently watching as my Dad made his world famous biscuits. And then we’d steal the scraps of leftover biscuit dough. Because, yum. And then, one day, Dad would finally invite you to the other side of the counter and show you the tricks to making the fluffiest, most delicious biscuits on the planet. That’s how you knew you were growing up. You were old enough to learn how to make biscuits.
I still love a good ol’ regular buttermilk biscuit (preferably smothered with my Mama’s sausage gravy), but I’ve also had a lot of fun over the past few years playing with interesting mix-ins and flavor combinations. It’s hard to beat a perfectly-crafted classic buttermilk biscuit, but man, this slightly-sweet pumpkin spice version certainly gives it a run for its money.
These biscuits are just a touch sweet, but not so sweet you couldn’t serve them with dinner. In fact, I think these might have to become my go-to bread for Thanksgiving dinner. Southern Indiana is right smack on the dinner roll/dinner biscuit regional divide, and we usually fall to the dinner roll side for Thanksgiving dinner, but these biscuits might make us switch teams. Especially when they are hot out of the oven, and spread with just a touch of melty, rich butter.
Whenever we served biscuits solo growing up, there was always a smorgasbord of spreadable condiments to adorn the biscuits. We had numerous jams (usually at least cherry and strawberry made from the crops of the summer before), apple butter, pumpkin butter, and honey. And as much as I loved all those delicious toppings, I always stuck with just a nice smear of salted butter. It was just rich and creamy enough to complement the flaky biscuit without overpowering the flavor. Honestly, these biscuits are tender enough to be eaten naked, but a little bit of butter takes them from delicious to out-of-this-world!
I’ve always struggled with finding a spreadable butter product that I liked. Most of them are packed with so many preservatives and additives that it felt like I was reading a novel when I skimmed over the ingredients list. And as much as I enjoy cooking with butter, we all know the toast-destroying capability of butter straight from the fridge. That’s why I was really eager to try LAND O LAKES® Butter with Canola Oil. I was happy to find out it only has three ingredients—sweet cream, canola oil and salt. That’s an ingredient list I can get behind! And it was spreadable and delicious right from the fridge, perfect for topping biscuits.
I’m really happy to know that there is a good-quality spreadable butter product on the shelves with recognizable ingredients that is available to everyone—no need to run to a specialty grocery store. That means more folks get access to better-for-them food, and that’s always a good thing in my book. Happy (early) fall, friends! Enjoy.
These slightly-sweet biscuits are a perfect substitute for a dinner roll on your Thanksgiving table!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (about 1-15 ounce can)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg until well-mixed.
- Using a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter pieces are a touch smaller than a pea.
- In small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.
- Gently stir in the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. The mixture will (and should!) be very sticky and liquidy—about the texture of a thick cake batter.
- Heavily flour a work surface, and dump the dough onto the flour. Flour the top of the dough well, and then pat out until 1/2-inch thick. Fold the dough in half horizontally, then pat down again until 1/2-inch thick, adding more flour to cover sticky parts if necessary. Fold the dough in half vertically, then pat down again until 1/2-inch thick. Repeat this process 5-6 more times (this is creating the delicious, delectable layers that make the final biscuit so awesome).
- Flour a circle biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, and press straight down to cut the biscuit. Do not twist the cutter! Twisting “seals” the sides of the biscuit and stops it from rising. Just push straight down and bring the cutter straight up. Try to get as many biscuits out of this first cutting as possible, because when you re-gather the scraps, those won’t rise as nicely as the first go ‘round.
- Transfer the biscuit rounds to an ungreased baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 9/5 -10/4/2014. Be sure to visit the LAND O LAKES® Butter with Canola Oil brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!
I have a theory about gardening and cooking: things that grow well together go well together. I thinking being a gardener makes cooking so much easier, not only because there is a constant supply of fresh fruits and veggies on hand, but also because to make a delicious dish, all you have to do is take whatever is coming off in that moment and put it together—chances are, you’ll end up with something delicious. I rarely follow recipes in the summer. I mostly just throw everything I’ve harvested from the garden into a skillet and hope for the best!
I don’t know for sure if the fact that food flavor combinations tend to grow well together is nature or nurture, but I have a feeling nature has something to do with it. How else could you explain that some of the best flavor combinations also happen to be some of the best companion plantings? Us organic gardeners live and die by companion planting—planting certain plants near others to help fight bad bugs and diseases—and some of the most classic flavor combos can be traced back to companion planting. Dill planted with cucumbers helps make the cukes sweeter and helps fight off cucumber beetles (and makes for delicious pickles and tzatziki sauce). Peas and early potatoes thrive planted together and they also happen to make one of my favorite springtime side dishes when fried up in a little butter. And, maybe the most common of the companion planting combos, tomatoes and basil are made to grow together and be eaten together. Basil improves the flavor of tomatoes and helps them grow big and strong. And it means that when your tomatoes start to come off, you’ll also have plenty of big, green leaves of fresh basil to make all kinds of Italian wonders in the kitchen.
I stopped counting our basil plants a few years back—but we have a lot. We usually start at least 30 seedlings of basil in the winter, and try to plant one basil plant with every tomato plant. Which means we will never, ever run out of pesto in this house. And we pretty much put the stuff in every single meal during summer. Margherita pizza, fresh spaghetti sauce, egg sandwiches, sorbet, tomato soup. The newest addition to our repertoire of basil recipes—this caprese salsa.
This dip is a fun fusion of Italian flavors and a Mexican method. I dipped whole grain pita chips in the salsa, but you could also use this topping on bruschetta. Just put it on some garlic-rubbed slices of crusty bread, and then pop it under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese starts to melt and the topping is warm. Yum!
This Italian twist on salsa is great served with whole grain pita chips or as a topping for bruschetta!
- 4 cups chopped tomatoes (about 10 romas)
- 1 cup packed basil leaves, minced
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pita chips, for serving
- Combine all ingredients, except the pita chips, together in a large bowl. Toss to combine.
- Serve with pita chips for dipping.