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Twofer! Cilantro-Lime Scented Rice, and Easy-Peasy Burrito Bowls

10 May

My poor blog.

My poor kitchen.

Ignored, ignored, ignored.

Y’all have these weeks, right? (Please say yes.) These weeks when the day starts and you blink and it’s over? Spring seems to be the worst for it. School is insane and work is crazy-busy (which is a good thing!) and activities are ramping up and the things that are non-necessary go right out the window for awhile? It’s been like that around here, and we’ve been eating lots of favorite dishes–the things I can make with my eyes closed and what’s in my freezer and pantry. Stuff I’ve already shared with you.

The other day, though, I moved my office into my kitchen and started playing with food in between returning calls and doing all the must-dos, and do you know what happened? Besides my house smelling glorious and my mood improving immensely (playing with food is zen!)?

My kids declared this the “best dinner ever.” Cleared their plates and asked for more, and it was healthy! Thank you, hour of happiness!

Today, you get a twofer. I’m going to tell you how to make my burrito bowls, which are a combination of cilantro-lime scented rice (I call it that because the flavors are subtle but delicious) and the fixings to turn that into a whole meal. Let’s start with the rice.

To make it, you need:

1 1/2 cups of uncooked white rice

1 tbsp butter

The juice of a lime

A small bunch of cilantro (trust me–it’s not overpowering here)

2 3/4 cups of water

A dash of salt

Put a small saucepan over a medium flame and melt your butter in it. Stir in your lime juice and rice and cook it for just a moment or two, to let the rice soak up the flavors. Once the butter and juice have been absorbed, add your water, put a lid on it, and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat, crack the lid a little bit (to avoid mushy rice), and let it simmer until all the liquid is gone–about 20 minutes(ish). Once that happens, chop your cilantro (you want a tablespoon or so of very finely chopped herb), remove the rice from the heat, and stir everything together. Eat immediately or pop this in the fridge for later–it reheats beautifully.

Easy, right? Smelling yummy? So now you need to make the rest of the stuff for your burrito bowls.

I’m using beef for this recipe. I bought a 3-pound pot roast and cut it in half. Half went into this dish, and the other half was wrapped tightly and put in the freezer for another night. Pot roast was on sale and we’ll get another dinner out of it. Always good. But you can use chicken or pork just the same–whatever you like. It’s all going to act pretty much the same.

This is one of those dishes, actually, that you should tailor for your own family. Use my directions more as a method than a recipe. Use the veggies you like, the toppings you like, the meat you like. Totally versatile. You could even do this with fish, but I’d recommend grilling it rather than putting it in the slow cooker as we’ll do with meat.

So. Burrito bowls. Best dinner ever. Ready? You need:

1.5 pounds of beef (use chicken, pork, or turkey if you’d rather)

2 cups of beef broth (use chicken broth if you’re going with white meat)

1 tbsp fajita seasoning (I get mine at the Spice Hunter; use the grocery store stuff if you want, but watch the salt)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 onion, halved and cut into half-moon slices

2 peppers (I used red bell. Use whatever veggies you like)

Toppings: We used cheese, salsa, and chopped avocado.

Spray your slow cooker with olive oil. Pour the broth into it.

Combine all the spices above and gently rub your meat with them on all sides. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature (you won’t die unless it’s a super hot day. Room temp for a bit lets the meat and rub get to know each other. If it’s super hot and you don’t have your A/C on, do this in the fridge for an hour or two.). Gently put it in the slow cooker and cook on low 8 hours or high 4, or a combination of the two.

I suspect you could pitch the veggies in the crock right along with the meat–if anybody tries that, please come back and let us know. But I made mine on the stovetop:

Heat a heavy skillet (I like cast iron for this) over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Immediately stir in your onions with a pinch of salt. Let those cook until they’re nice and dark brown and crunchy-like around the edges. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Cut your pepper into strips and lay them, skin-side down, in the same skillet. Let them cook about 5 minutes or until charred. Put those to the side with the onions.

When your slow cooker time is done, carefully remove your meat to a cutting board and shred it with two forks. You’re ready to assemble your burrito bowls!

Put a scoop of rice into each bowl and top it with the charred veggies, meat, and toppings. How stinkin’ easy is that? Happy dinner! Ole!


Slow Cooker Pot Roast

31 Jan

Are you ready for what I’m about to say? Because once I say it, you’re going to want to try this. OK? Sitting down? Braced? Here it is:

Aside from throwing chicken boobs and a bottle of barbecue sauce into the crock, this is the easiest Crockpot meal I’ve ever made. And it was fantastimically delicious and everybody ate it and cleanup was almost nothing, AND I have tons of leftovers for tonight.

A miracle. Right?

So now I have a confession. This is the first pot roast I’ve ever cooked. Seriously. It’s the first one I think I’ve eaten since high school, thanks to my 12-year moratorium on beef. It will not, however, be the last.

This quite literally took me four minutes to get into the slow cooker. Eight hours on low. Another two minutes to fish out the meat and veggies and stir a little thickener into the juice to make a simple gravy. And that’s it–dinner. Cutting boards and the slow cooker insert went into the dishwasher with the rest of the plates, the countertop got a quick swipe, and voila. Cleaned up.

Salivating yet?

The original recipe for this comes from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, which is a terrific reference that I recommend–not a can of cream o’ something soup to be found, and loads of easy, healthy, delicious dinners. I mucked around with it a tiny bit to give it a bit more umph and to use veggies we had in the house already, but I didn’t remake this one from the get-go. We really enjoyed it even though my children declared the potatoes “poison” (more for me, you little spud-hating freaks) and I was the only one who ate the onion (which was sweet and delicious despite not browning–I can’t explain it but I want more).

I forgot to take a picture. Worst food blogger ever. But it’s pot roast–you know what it looks like, right?

I really hope you’ll try this. Little to no effort and an amazing dinner at the end of the day. Tell me that’s not perfection. You need:

One 2.5 – 4 pound pot or chuck roast, trimmed of as much fat as you can get off.

Salt and pepper

About 10 baby carrots, cut into thirds (or 2 regular carrots chunked up)

12 oz waxy yellow or white potatoes (I used baby yukons), cut into large bites

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, peeled and quartered (cut the root end off)

2 bay leaves

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tbsp softened butter

3 tbsp flour

Salt and pepper your roast and plop him down in the slow cooker. Dump your veggies on top of him along with the bay leaves and garlic. Pour in the water and vinegar and turn your cooker on low for 6-8 hours. I stirred mine midway through to ensure that all the spuds got a good dunking in the liquid and cooked evenly, but you probably don’t have to.

About five minutes before you want to eat, use a fork to mash together your flour and butter into a paste in a small bowl. Fish your meat and veggies out of the crock (chuck the bay leaves) and cover them with foil. Turn your slow cooker to high and stir in the butter paste with a whisk until it’s dissolved and the gravy looks like gravy (it’ll be thin).

Cut up your meat, drizzle a bit of sauce on top, and raise your eyes to heaven for this amazing, couldn’t-be-easier meal.

Crockpot Pepper Steak

20 Oct

Another fly-by, gang. Another week of keeping my head above water, culminating in coordinating a camp-out for 80-some Cub Scouts, moms, dads, and siblings. We’ll talk about that next week–how I shop for that many kids and adults so nobody starves or complains (much).

Today, I’m sharing a fiddled-with recipe we all enjoyed. OK, the kids whined a lot about the peppers, which are apparently toxic to those under the age of really old, but I ignore that. *eye roll* DH and I loved it and the kids ate the steak and noodles, and thus it is deemed successful. The four of us ate this for two nights–it’s a lot of food.

You need:
2 pounds beef steak (I used London Broil because it was on sale)
garlic powder
1/4 cup beef broth
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup chopped onion (I used Vidalia)
2 large red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 tbsp soy sauce (low-sodium)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp sugar

Slice your steak into strips, about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle them with garlic powder and let them sit while you heat up a large skillet over medium heat.

Coat the pan with olive oil, lay the strips down, and brown them on both sides–you are not going for cooked here. Only brown on the outside. Remove them to your slow cooker with tongs (no grease, please).

Add in your onions and peppers.

Stir together the broth and cornstarch to make a slurry. Pour that into your slow cooker, and add the tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Serve over rice or egg noodles.

Crockpot Steak Tacos

27 Sep

The cookbook (Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann) called these fajitas, and I guess they probably are. But I have to listen to howls of protest when I say fajitas and none when I pull out the hard shells and call them tacos, so they’re tacos. My ears are happier.

We liked these, but I have to tell you I was disappointed in the texture. I’m new at this whole steak thing and even newer at beef-in-the-Crockpot, but the meat fell apart when I pulled it out of the crock, so slicing against the grain (which is what the cookbook said to do) was pretty well impossible. They taste wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It just wasn’t quite what I was expecting, which probably says more about my inexperience in this area than the recipe.

We served these in hard-shell tacos (and thus, they’re marked gluten-free) with guacamole, cheese, and salsa. I had mine as a salad, which was quite good. The family seemed happy enough and truth be told, I was too tired by last night to drill through “how’s your dinner,” which I usually ask, so I took silence as an endorsement and let it slide. I also forgot to take a photo and apologize for that.

Definitely worth trying, and I’d love to hear anyone else’s experience with beef in the crockpot, and cuts that might be more sliceable than others after cooking in there. You need:

3/4 cup salsa (any salsa your family likes)

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

The juice of a lime

A sprinkling of salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds flank steak

1 onion, sliced

2 red peppers, sliced into 1/2 inch strips

In a bowl, combine everything up to the steak and stir well. Spray your slow cooker with nonstick spray. Lay your steak inside, pour the sauce over it, and lay the peppers and onions on top of that–don’t mix them in. Cover and cook on low 6 – 8 hours.

Remove veggies from the pot (I served them on top of our tacos). Lift out the meat and let it be for about 10 minutes, then slice (as best you can) against the grain. Serve.

Crockpot (Spaghetti with) Meat Sauce

15 Sep

Fly-by today, gang–it’s one of those mornings. This came from reading a bunch of recipes that had too much stuff in them I didn’t want, and then making up my own. It’s simple and quick and delicious and perfect for our hurricane days. I may have to make it again today.

You need:

1 pound ground beef (ground chicken would work fine; ground turkey gets chewy)

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 a sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (you can use diced or sauce if you prefer)

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp tomato paste

Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. Swirl the oil over the pan and then add the onions. Cook them until they start to soften (not brown, but soften), and then stir in the garlic. Keep it moving for a minute, until you start to smell the garlic (it’ll burn and bitter if you let it sit still). Stir in the ground beef, crumbling it up as you add it in, and cook until that browns. Remove the pan from the heat and drain off the fat.

Coat your slow cooker with nonstick spray or more olive oil, and then stir together all the ingredients in it. Cook on low 4-8 hours. Adjust seasoning before you serve, as they can get pretty mild in the Crockpot.

(If you like your sauce sweet, stir in a tablespoon or two of sugar halfway through the cooking. If you like it rich and restaurant-like, stir in a tablespoon of butter right before you serve it and let it melt throughout the sauce.) Serve over noodles with Parmesan cheese.


Speed Recipe–Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

28 Mar

You know that point when your kids are big enough to have opinions but small enough to not be able to back them up very well? We were at that point when I introduced chicken parmesan as a regular meal. I didn’t want to hear the complaints and see the turned-up noses at something new, and so I did something nobody ever tells you that moms do routinely.

I tricked them.

Yep, there it is. Out loud, in print. I tricked my children into eating this dish. I did that by calling it “pizza chicken,” which it remains in my house to this day. It worked, too–their little eyes lit up and they gobbled it down. I gave up the Mother of the Year trophy for another year, but they ate the food without complaint. I win.

This is a very simplified version of this dish, and moms like it because there is no breading (gluten free Chicken Parm, gang!), no frying, and nothing bad for you in here. I made this version up on the fly last week on a day when I had only my pantry ingredients and 10 minutes to get dinner ready in the middle of the day, before it was all go! go! go! until dinnertime.

Everyone ate it. Without complaint. Score!

You’ll need:

1 15-oz can tomato sauce

1 6-oz can tomato paste

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 pound chicken breasts, cut into tenderloins (think long chicken fingers)

1 cup Italian-blend shredded cheese, or plain mozzarella with some parm thrown in.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sauce and paste and garlic. Stir in the Italian seasoning and balsamic vinegar.

Spray your slow cooker with olive oil spray. Put about 1/3 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of the crock. Lay the chicken on top, cover with the rest of the sauce, and cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.

Fifteen minutes before serving, sprinkle the cheese on top of your cooked chicken. Turn the pot to warm if you can (low if yours doesn’t have a warm setting) and set the lid ajar to let steam escape. Take the lid off completely about 10 minutes later, turn the pot off, and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.


Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole

9 Mar

Y’all are going to read this recipe and shake your heads and laugh at me. It’s seriously that easy. But when you’re finished giggling, you should head into your kitchens and make this, because the whole family is going to eat it without complaint.

I was all set to make a slow cooker enchilada recipe from a slow cooker cookbook that I’ve had for awhile but have never cooked from (which I guess tells you something right there). Sadly, I had neither the two hours it needed to make sauce and dice up a ton of stuff and dip and roll, nor the many, many ingredients it called for. I’m also a firm believer that enchiladas should be simple–meat, cheese, sauce, tortillas. That recipe had olives and all sorts of other things in it. Those are great, but set them out as toppings people can choose from. Basic is better when you’re feeding families.

I tossed this together, said a little prayer to the Crockpot gods, and wandered off for about six hours. I then thanked those gods at dinnertime, because this was really good!

You’ll see that I use the microwave to sweat some onion and garlic before mixing it in. That was pure laziness–my pans don’t go in the dishwasher and a bowl can, so I gave it a shot. It worked very well, and I used the same bowl to mix everything together, which made cleanup even easier.

I poached some chicken for this. If you have cooked chicken around or in your freezer, by all means, use it in this recipe. It’ll work great.

One final warning and then we’re off to cook: Don’t let your tortillas wrap up the side of your slow cooker. Keep them flat. Mine went up the sides and those bits burned and were icky. The rest was delicious, so it’s a simple matter of being more careful than I was to keep this yummy.

So. Off you go. You’ll need:

1 pound of chicken, raw or cooked and shredded with forks

1/2 an onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp olive oil

1 12-oz jar of enchilada sauce (or make yours–I like Alton Brown’s recipe)

About a cup and a half of Mexican-blend shredded cheese (use plain cheddar if you have that)

A small package of tortillas. I used flour but you can use corn if you prefer those or you want this to be gluten-free


In a medium-sized saucepan, bring a few cups of water to boil. Add raw chicken and poach it until it’s cooked through–about 10 minutes. Drain and shred with forks. (Skip this if you’re using cooked chicken).

In a large microwave-safe bowl, toss together the onion, garlic, and oil. Cover and microwave on high for one minute. Let cool.

Add shredded chicken and 1 cup of the enchilada sauce to the bowl and stir to combine everything.

Spray your Crockpot insert with cooking spray. Lay a single layer of tortillas in the bottom, tearing as necessary and keeping them flat on the bottom. Top that with 1/3 of the meat mixture, and top that with about 1/3 cup of cheese. Repeat those steps two more times (I used a double layer of tortillas in the middle, and a single layer on the top and bottom–it gave this dish a bit more heft). Finish with a single layer of tortillas. Top that with the remaining sauce and the last of the cheese.

Cook on low about 6 hours. Turn off and remove the lid about 10 minutes before serving, to let it set up. Serve with your choice of toppings on the side–raw onions, sour cream, guacamole, olives, etc.  Enjoy!


Don’t forget you can win an autographed copy of Modern Spice! Go here and leave a comment to enter. And my little blog is still in the running over at Babble’s list of 100 best food mom blogs! You can vote for it here–and thank you!!

Super Fast Friday: Toss A Chicken In A Pot

4 Mar

Happy Friday!

A very warm welcome to everybody who’s clicked over from the Babble Food Mom Blog list, and a big hug and chocolate chip cookie to everybody who’s voted for Playing With My Dinner so far over there! Y’all have made my day!

Today’s Super Fast Friday tip involves a little thinking ahead, but if you’re already menu planning or you have a list of six or seven standby dishes you know your family loves, it’s simple. And it uses a slow cooker. You guys know how much I love that!

We all have recipes that call for shredded or cut-up chicken. Day Before Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Corn Chowder, or even simple chicken barbecue sandwiches are some of the ones my family turns too all the time that require cooked chicken to start.

Every so often, I take a whole chicken, put some lemon, garlic, and onion inside the cavity, salt and pepper the outside, and toss it into my slow cooker. Then, I forget about it.

Eight to 10 hours later, I have a perfectly poached chicken. It lets off wonderful juices while it’s cooking in there, and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy and delicious.

Some people eat that bird just like that, and you rock on if you’re one of them. But it’s a great method of ensuring you have cooked chicken around for those other recipes we all love. Carefully lift the bird out of the pot. drain it well, let it cool a bit, and then shred it up–the whole thing–with two forks. Parcel the meat out into freezer bags, label them, and put them in your ice box.

Next time you want a chicken-based casserole or soup, voila. You’ve got the perfect cooked poultry already waiting to be doused in sauce or stirred into a dish.

This is a great money saver too–buy two chickens when they’re on sale, roast one this way or this way, and plop the other in the Crockpot for shredding and freezing.

That’s today’s Super Fast Friday tip. Have a great weekend!!

Don’t forget–win a signed copy of Monica Bhide’s fantabulous cookbook, “Modern Spice!” Click on over and comment to enter yourself to win!

Mostly Crockpot Coq au Vin

3 Feb

AKA The Best Crockpot Dinner Ever

Those of you who’ve put up with me for awhile know I have an almost unhealthy obsession with my slow cooker. I love that thing–I own three and put everything from steel-cut oats to lasagna in them. They come out for parties. They come out on Christmas. One comes out once or twice a week at least. And when I broke one earlier this year (RIP pretty stainless steel baby), I waited all of three days before breaking down to buy a new one (hello shiny red model!).

Long and short, I’ve been Crockpot cooking for a long time. So you should take this next bit to heart:

This recipe is the best thing that has ever come out of my slow cooker.

Seriously. Amazing, amazing food. It smelled so good that I hurried up and put together a pizza for the kids–more yumminess for me, short people (Mother of the Year again, ladies–back off)! I have every intention of eating the leftovers for both lunch and dinner today, and we are going to have this one soon. Like, maybe this weekend.

All that said: this is not a simple dice-and-dump. You need about 20 minutes of hands-on stove time before the slow cooker can work its magic. I’m not normally a fan of that, but this one is worth it. To make life easier, you can do the prep work the night before, put everything into the crock of your cooker, refrigerate it overnight, and just let the Crockpot do its work the next day. Or you can do what I did, and do the stovetop work in the morning and then let it slow cook during work time, and then pop it on warm at the end of the day until dinnertime. But do not skip the stove step. You’ll miss out on a world of flavor and you’ll mess with the texture of the meat, which would be very sad.

This calls for wine. I’ll tell you a secret: I used cooking wine.


Know what? Slow cooking makes simple flavors very complex. So using a non-alcoholic cooking wine from the grocery store is perfectly fine when you’re cooking in a Crockpot. Go ahead this time. You won’t be able to tell the difference. Of course, you can use the good stuff if you want, but I am cheap and I value my wine in a glass, and chose not to this time. Still the best thing ever out of my Crockpot. And I would have no problem giving it to my kids with the cooking wine in it (tho I’m not sharing this time). It’s also gluten-free as-is–no conversions for those with a GF lifestyle (also casien-free!).

DH ate this over rice and liked everything but the pearl onions (he’s wrong, by the way–those babies soak up all the yummy sauce and were like little balls of pure heaven in my dish, where all of his landed–more for me!!). I poured mine in a bowl almost like a stew and enjoyed it that way.

Take the few extra minutes and try this recipe. You will LOVE it. I promise. You need:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (my package had 3; I cut them in half to make 6 portions)



4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

8 oz mushrooms, sliced (I’m going to double this next time and use a full pound–they were goooood)

1 1/2 cup frozen pearl onions

1/2 regular onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red wine

2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup chicken broth

Spray a large skillet with olive oil or cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, brown your bacon, stirring frequently. Once it’s crispy, remove it to a stack of paper towels, drain, wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator for later.

Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken (I use No-Salt and it works beautifully). Carefully lay it in the hot skillet/bacon drippings and cook about 5 minutes, until nice and brown on one side. Flip and brown the second side.

While the chicken is browning, coat your Crockpot with cooking spray, turn it on low, and stir the mushrooms and frozen pearl onions together in it.

When the chicken is brown on both sides, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pan and lay it on top of the veggies in the Crockpot.

Pour the drippings out of your skillet and put it back on the stove, lowering the heat to medium. Saute your diced onions until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and keep it moving for a minute (so it doesn’t burn). Stir in the wine and tomato paste, using a whisk to incorporate the paste in fully. Stir in the bay leaf. Bring it to a boil and simmer about 3 minutes.

Pour red wine mixture over chicken and veggies in the crock, and then pour in the chicken broth. Cover–do not stir (trust me). Cook on low 8 hours. About 15 minutes before you want to eat, turn the Crockpot off and remove the lid and let it sit to thicken a bit. Plate it and sprinkle it with the bacon you cooked earlier.


I have a picture to add to this post later. As soon as I’m home from the mechanic with my car (long story) I’ll add it. Promise.

Last Week to Enter my Giveaway!

There’s a new button over there on the right (you’ll have to click through if you’re on email subscription, Kindle, or a blog reader–sorry!)? That’s for Playing With My Dinner’s brand-spanking new Facebook page, where our readers are already chatting, sharing ideas, and getting the inside scoop on the blog.

To celebrate its launch, I’m giving away a copy of Aviva Goldfarb’s newest cookbook, “SOS! The Six O’ Clock Scramble To The Rescue.” It’s all about making healthy, Earth-friendly meals your kids will love, and you’re going to love it.

One lucky reader will find a copy in his or her mailbox, and all you have to do to enter is “like” the blog over on Facebook before February 5. I’ll use a random number generator to pick our winner.

So c’mon over! Visit the page, hit that “like” button, and join in the conversation on the wall. See you there!!

Crockpot (or not) Beef or Chicken Chili

12 Jan


Not so much. We got a whopping inch. Enough to throw the TV weather guys and county schools directors into apoplexy but not quite enough to make us abandon our cars on major highways. But we came close! And between that and football playoffs this weekend (GO RAVENS! Was that out loud? Sorry.), it’s a great week for chili.

There’s a widely-held belief out there that chicken chili has to be white. White, my friends, makes for a lovely stew or soup or pot pie, but not chili. Chili is red and spicy and hearty and warms you for hours after the bowl is gone. And chicken, as we’ve discussed before, will take on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. So there’s no reason to avoid red chicken chili–I’ve made it for years and lightening hasn’t struck me yet.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe. There’s no mystery here. And you can make this a dice-and-dump if you’re in a hurry–just chuck everything into the slow cooker and let ‘er rip. I like to brown my meat with the onions first to give it a little texture, but feel free to skip that if you’d rather. The final taste will be the same.

Chili is a great meal for the winter, and this one gets better as it sits–leftovers are divine. It freezes perfectly as well. I hope you enjoy it. You need:

1 pound chicken breast or beef/steak (I use stew meat), cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 sweet onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (or two frozen garlic cubes)

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with chilis (try Ro-Tel)

1 14.5 oz can of plain diced tomatoes

12 oz tomato paste

30-ish oz canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use one can of light and one can of dark)

2 bell peppers, chopped (I use one red and one green)

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 bay leaf

Chili flakes, to taste (more = way hotter)

In a pan over medium-high heat, brown the meat and onion until they’re golden on the outside (you’re not cooking; you’re just searing the outside). Stir in the garlic and cook another minute. Remove from heat and pour into large soup pot or slow cooker.

Add tomatoes (I drain them if I’m using the slow cooker, and just dump them in if I’m cooking this on the stove), tomato paste, beans, peppers, and spices. Stir well. In a slow cooker, cook on low 6-8 hours. On the stove, bring to a simmer and cook 1-4 hours (more cooking means a more developed flavor). Taste and add spices as needed–I usually add more chili powder and stir in some Smoked Chipotle Tabasco at the end). Serve alone or over rice or pasta.

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