Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin-Chicken Chili

Double the recipe for a big batch.

This isn't instant chili.  If you want that, go to Wendy's or check out my Chili Now! recipe.  But neither is this the hours-long simmering concoction folks entering chili contests prepare.  (But go ahead and enter this one.  Long as you share the prize money.)  It's about an hour and maybe a little change.  Depending on how quickly you chop and how long you want to wait before eating. Could be less.  My cooking was delayed by puppy-sitting and a bit of travel.  Hence the hiatus in the blog.   Forgive me?

Our girl, Gabby (left) isn't so sure about the newcomer.
One of the best things about this chili is that it's made with your tastebuds and health in mind.   Boneless chicken thighs sub for beef and lots of vegetables make up the rest.  Zucchini, red peppers, pumpkin (or butternut squash if you'd rather), black beans, chick peas, and the usual suspects (onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes) abound.  If  company's coming, double the recipe for about 6 or 7 quarts of chili.  Otherwise, you'll have about three.  Which should suit you fine.   On Halloween or any other day. 


Ipad taking place of spiral notebook starting today.  Imported via email.

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 oz button mushrooms, quartered (1/4 of a regular cardboard container)
  • 2/3 cup fresh pumpkin, cut into 1/2" dice (can sub butternut squash)
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into 1" dice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (or to taste)
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 cup EACH white wine and water 
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin, optional
  • 1 28 oz cans chopped tomatoes 
  • 3 boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 1 15 oz can drained chick peas or black beans (1 of ea if doubling)


1.  Heat 2 t of the olive oil in an 8 or 10 qt stockpot over medium heat, reserving other 2t for cooking the chicken.
2.  Add celery, onions, peppers, mushrooms, pumpkin and zucchini.  Season with salt and peppers.  Stir in water, wine,  Dijon-style mustard, and pureed pumpkin, if using.
3.  Pour in tomatoes.  Stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 10 min.
4.  Meantime, heat a  skillet over medium-high heat with the rest of the olive oil.  Salt and pepper well the chicken thighs and place them in skillet.  Cook about 5 minutes on each side and turn down heat.  Cook until chicken is cooked through and no pink remains, about 5 more minutes.  Remove from skillet, cool briefly and dice.  Add to stockpot.
5.  Drain the chickpeas or black beans and add to the stockpot.  Stir well. Bring back to a boil and lower heat.  Simmer 15 -30minutes until all vegetables and chicken are tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
6.  Ladle chili into bowls and serve with a bit of grated cheddar or a teaspoon of sour cream.   Place a bottle of hot sauce at the table if you like things spicier.

*Crock-pot Directions:   Make a double batch and use a 6 qt. crock-pot.  In a large pot or skillet, saute onions, celery and garlic with chopped fresh boneless chicken thighs.  Cook until chicken is cooked through, stirring often.  Place in chicken mixture in crock-pot and stir in remainder of ingredients (other vegetables, tomatoes, etc.)  Do not add beans.  Add seasonings, but go easy on them as the crock-pot intensifies the spices.  Cook on low for about five hours and add drained beans during last hour of cooking.

Wine:  Dry Riesling or a lighter Zinfandel

Enjoy cooking and taking care of yourself,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pork Tenderloin with Lentils and Vegetables

Festive fall food for the Solo Cook.  You probably don't want to cook a big pork loin and roasted vegetables (unless all the gang is coming,) but you might want to fix a smaller pork tenderloin and an all-in-one side brimming with legumes and sauteed vegetables that you can also take for lunches.  Sometimes in the summer I make a lentil salad and, while I was thinking about that salad, I came up with a colder weather version that's warm and inviting--despite the fact that there's still a bit of lemon juice squeezed in at the end.  Summer isn't that far away.

One of the beauties of this meal is that, if you want to, you can come home and fix it.  Pork tenderloin is a very fast meat to cook.  Seared on top of the stove and then roasted for a bit more, it's done in perhaps 20 minutes.  If that doesn't appeal, you can simply roast it for about 45 minutes at 350.  With the bacon wrap, I like the sear as it crisps the bacon right to the pork. 

To get this lovely meal out together, cook the lentils first and then begin browning the meat as you chop and saute the vegetables.  If one is done before the other, you've no worries.  The lentil-vegetable side will hold and reheat (and is good warm or cold with it's ending crunch of fresh carrots, etc.) and the meat has to rest anyway after roasting.  However you do it, you'll be happy.  I think so.  Did I mention leftover  the meat makes incredible tacos,  salads, omelet fillings, or sandwiches?  Or that this makes a tasty, easy Thanksgiving dinner for 2 or 3?  Let one friend bring pie and the other bring wine; you're set for the holiday.

Pork Tenderloin with Lentils and Vegetables 2-3 servings (plus lentil dish for lunches)


1/2 pound lentils (any color), cooked and drained according to package directions --takes about 1/2 hour* 
3T olive oil, divided (1 to cook veg and 2 to drizzle on at end)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup each:  chopped eggplant, yellow squash, and zucchini (or green beans)
4 oz sliced mushrooms (1/2 a regular container)
1/4 cup   finely chopped red or green bell pepper
1/4 t each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (plus extra to taste)
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup basil julienne (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow pepper
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped carrots
3 sliced green onions (white and green parts)

Juice of one lemon

  1. While lentils drain, heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  Saute onion, eggplant, squash, zucchini or green beans, mushrooms, and red or green pepper until softened--about 10 minutes.  Dust with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper.
  2. Turn off heat and add parsley, basil, yellow pepper, tomatoes, carrots, and green onions.  Stir in lentils and don't cook any longer.  ( A bit of a reheat is ok--see below.)
  3. Squeeze lemon juice over all and stir.
  4. Drizzle on other 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Stir.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Cover to keep warm until pork is finished .  You can reheat gently if you like.
Cooking the Pork: **

1 pork tenderloin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 slices best-quality bacon (I like Nueske's)

Salt and pepper well the pork tenderloin and wrap it with the bacon pieces, securing ends with toothpicks.

  Meanwhile, heat a large, oven-proof skillet or heavy roasting pan over medium-high heat; add olive oil.  Place bacon-wrapped pork in the center of the pan. When the meat is very-well browned, turn and let brown on the other side. When that side is looking crispy, move the pan to the oven to finish cooking.  It may take another 15 minutes or so.  Using an instant-read thermometer, remove the skillet from the oven when the meat registers 150F.   I like it a bit rare and juicy; it will continue cooking.  Cover with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.  Slice meat in 1/2"  pieces.  Place cut meat at the center of a large platter and surround with lentils and vegetables.

*Can cook lentils in the morning or night before.  Drain and refrigerate, tightly wrapped.  Spoon into the skillet with the cooked vegetables to warm through right before serving.

**These are directions I used for another blogpost in which the pork cooks just like this, but you also cook sliced fennel, onions, and apples right in the pan with the pork and then roast it all together in the oven.  That's nice, too--and mostly fallish!

Wine:  A Pinot Noir from Oregon.  Your choice, though I'm partial to Ken Wright pinots with meals like this.  Thanks, Ken.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Custard with Cinnamon Crème Fraiche

It's October.  The Solo Cook's thoughts turn to pumpkin.

Don't buy the little pie pumpkins.  Buy a  jack-o-lantern instead and carve it!   If you're going to make pumpkin anything, just buy plain canned pumpkin.  Yes, I know it qualifies as "processed" food, but so do canned green beans then.  I've done it both ways; the fresh pumpkins are no better.   And, you know, Libby has a corner on pumpkins; they actually get them cheaper.  So grin and bear it; buy canned.  Make some pumpkin bread and maybe a pie if you're invited to a fall dinner.