A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith


Finally, the weekend has arrived and I find myself with an abundance of time on my hands. The house is empty and my thoughts turn to a review of the past week. What went well? What didn’t? What do I want to change for next week? I go through this review every week to try to better both myself and the world in which we live.

I found great inspiration this week in southwestern cooking. Chili, green chile enchiladas, and burritos all found their way to our table this week. Since Mexican and Southwestern cooking is one of my all-time favorite cuisines (I plan on spending my 50th birthday at Rick Bayless’s Topolobampo in Chicago), I wanted to share some recipes.

Chili is one of those versatile recipes that can be tweaked to use any combination of ingredients you happen to have in the house. I wanted to give you two of my favorite chili recipes. One is with meat (pork and beef), the other is a vegan recipe that is super-fast and great for weeknights. It’s worth searching out Mexican oregano for these recipes – it is a totally different herb than Turkish or Greek oregano.

Numero Uno Chili (from the Manhattan Chili Company’s Southwest American Cookbook by Michael McLaughlin)

This chili has a slightly unusual combination of ingredients. The cinnamon gives it a slight sweetness that works well with the chili powder. A note before beginning – I make it with medium-hot chili powder. No wimpy chili for me! Also, I grind my own meat, using the large hole dye on my grinder. If you have a butcher, ask for chili grind or the largest grind they can do.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup mild chili powder
  • 3 T toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • 3 T dried Mexican oregano
  • 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 T ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2-3 T cornmeal, optional
  • 2 15-oz. cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large 5-qt Dutch oven, combine the beef and pork over medium heat. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until the meats have lost their pink color and are evenly crumbled, about 20 minutes.
  3. Scrape the onions into the Dutch oven with the meat. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice and beef stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
  4. Taste, correct the seasoning if needed and simmer another 30 minutes, or until the chili is thickened to your liking. Stir in the garlic. To thicken the chili further, or to bind the surface fats, stir in the optional cornmeal, followed by the beans, and simmer 5 minutes to heat beans.
Vegan Bean Chili
This recipe was given to me years ago by my friend Marie, the FCS teacher at the school where I work. I tweaked it and present it here for you. I am VERY liberal with the vegetable amounts, and frequently add a large diced zucchini and a few handfuls of corn to the pot. This is great with vegan cornbread (recipe follows).
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped red pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (yeah, right – use more!)
  • 1 T hot chili powder, more to taste
  • 1 generous tsp. Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 15-oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained (I like the petite diced)
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce (NOT spaghetti sauce)
  • vegan cheddar cheese as garnish (the Daiya brand melts the best)
  1. In a large pot (Dutch oven size) over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add onions and peppers (and any other raw veggies you are using) and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and saute until you can smell it – about a minute.
  3. Add the chili powder, Italian seasoning, oregano, cumin and salt, stir and and saute for 30 seconds, until they start to smell fragrant.
  4. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT cheese. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with shredded vegan cheese. Serve with a bottle of hot sauce for adventurous eaters.
Kaya’s Kosmic Kornbread (from Vegan Fusion World Cuisine by Mark Reinfeld and Bo Rinaldi)
While I admit hating the name of this cornbread (intentional misspelling drives me bonkers), I love the moistness and tender crumb of this bread. I will write the recipe as it appears in the book, followed by my usual substitutions in parentheses. My husband, loves this bread.
Dry Ingredients
  • 2 cup spelt flour, sifted (2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, unsifted)
  • 7/8 cup cornmeal (yellow or blue)
  • 3/4 cup millet or quinoa, toasted (I usually use 3/4 cup oat or wheat bran instead – I don’t like the toasted grain texture)
  • 2 1/2 T baking powder, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt (any salt works)
Wet Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb. firm tofu
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup, agave nectar or other liquid sweetener (I use agave – if using honey, use about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil (any light tasting vegetable oil, like canola, works fine)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk well. Put wet ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy (do NOT use a food processor). Add wet to dry and mix well.
  2. Pour into parchment paper-lined 9″x9″ baking pan (an 11″ round works fine, as does a deep dish pie plate. I imagine a cast iron pan would be great, too.). Bake until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, roughly 45 minutes. Top will brown and cracks will appear – they’re fine. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Store leftovers, covered, in fridge.
Variations: Add 10-oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, to batter. For double corn bread, add 1 1/2 cups corn (thawed, if frozen) to batter.
NOTE: I don’t bother with the parchment paper. I spray my earthenware baking dish with PAM and pour in the batter. Any standard greasing method should work fine.
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