Wisconsin Chili

Wisconsin Chili

This is one of my favorite comfort food recipes passed down to me from my Grandma Johnson. I remember her making it often throughout the year, even on Christmas Eve, and especially on cold and rainy days. Since my Grandma raised 5 kids on a pretty tight budget, Mom says they ate this a lot growing up.

It really isn't a traditional chili at all, but it is an easy and inexpensive meal to prepare (especially for a lot of people) and it is even better warmed up the next day!

Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings)

1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 c. dry large elbow macaroni
1lb. ground beef
3-5 celery stalks, chopped
2 cans red kidney beans
46 oz. tomato juice (I like V-8 Spicy blend)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. red pepper chili flakes
salt & pepper to taste


Chop onions and celery into small bite size pieces.
Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions, but cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than done.
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot, add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Add the ground beef, salt pepper, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook until beef browns.
Toss in the chopped celery, kidney beans and stir for a couple of minutes.
Gradually add in the tomato juice. Let simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes and serve.

Note: There have been many attempts to improve, alter, add to, enhance or change this recipe, the options are endless, but this is the way I like it best, simple!

Bacon and Eggs in Toast Cups

I forgot to top these with shredded cheese for the photo, but you get the idea!

I usually opt for a piece of fruit and bagel for breakfast during the week, but come the weekend, I want bacon and eggs! Here is a easy and fun recipe for something a little different....

Bacon and Eggs in Toast Cups

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 slices white or whole-wheat sandwich bread
6 slices bacon
6 large eggs
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup chopped green onion
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter 6 standard muffin cups. Slightly flatten bread slices  and cut into 6 rounds then press into each muffin cup, overlapping slightly and making sure bread comes up to edge of cup. Use extra bread to patch any gaps. Brush bread with remaining butter.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until almost crisp, about 4 minutes, flipping once. Wrap 1 slice of bacon around the muffin cup in each cup. Crack an egg over each. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake until egg whites are just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle shredded cheese and chopped green onion on top of each cup. Run a knife around cups to loosen toasts. Serve immediately.

Roasted Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

There are so many reasons to love Halloween! The cooler temps and brisk winds are great reasons for making soups and casseroles, or maybe you like to use Halloween as an excuse to decorate your house, get dressed up in crazy costumes and have a party!

Some people might also enjoy stealing a piece or two of candy, but I for one get very excited about carving pumpkins and roasting the seeds.

I have tried a hundred ways of preparing pumpkin seeds, but I think this is my favorite method so far......

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 ½ cups fresh pumpkin seeds (approx. seeds from one medium pumpkin)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil, or use a non-stick cookie sheet.

In a medium pot, bring pumpkin seeds, water and salt to a boil -- approximately 2 cups of water for every 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, and 1 tsp salt for every cup of water. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, drain and discard water.

Place the drained seeds in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle spice mixture over the seeds, and toss well to coat.

Arrange seeds in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until seeds are lightly browned, stirring once or twice halfway through.

Allow seeds to cool for 5-10 minutes and enjoy! Seeds can be stored in an airtight container or plastic bag for 4-5 days.

Wishing you a happy and safe Halloween!

Sweet Potato Chicken Soup

Even though October can be one of the hottest months of the year here in San Diego, there has been a noticeable change in the air signalling Fall is upon us. It's not quite time yet, but I am looking forward to breaking out my sweaters!

October is easily my most favorite month of the year. Not only because it is my birthday month : ), but I also love Halloween and pumpkins and all the delicious warm soups and casseroles that are popular this time of year.

Mark made this soup for me the other night. I was thinking this would also be good if you substituted the roasted sweet potato with roasted pumpkin.... anyone want to try it and let me know how it goes?

Sweet Potato Chicken Soup

makes about 6 servings

2 cups shredded pre-cooked chicken
1 large sweet potato, diced
4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cups raw spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 cup chopped carrots
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 25-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
24 ounces low-sodium chicken broth

Preheat oven to 450. Dice the sweet potato into bite sized pieces and put in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to coat. Place in a roasting pan and roast for about 30 minutes stirring about half way through.

Preheat a large dutch oven on medium heat. Add chopped bacon and fry until brown and crispy. While bacon is frying, chop the vegetables and prep chicken. When bacon is done, remove and drain on a paper towel.

Keeping heat on medium, add onions, mushrooms and peppers to bacon grease and saute until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, spinach, paprika and cumin and stir for 60 seconds. Turn heat down to low and add the roasted sweet potatoes, chickpeas, celery, carrots and chicken. Pour in chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes.

Right before serving, add bacon back into soup. Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve with crusty bread. Season with salt and pepper if needed. 

Prickly Pear Fruit

I have always been curious about the odd brightly colored spiky globes that protrude from the cacti in our yard, today was the day I found out what they taste like!

We have several kinds of cactus in our yard. Couldn't tell you what kind they are but this is what they look like......

There are several varieties of cactus pear. The prickly pear cactus is a fruit AND a vegetable. The green pods are the napolito and the vegetable part, and the red to purple pears are the fruit, also known as tuna.

The pears have a melon-like aroma and a sweet but bland flavor. Popular in Mexico, Central and South America, the green pods are abundant year around but the pears are harvested in the later Summer months.

Cactus pear is fantastic raw, peeled and chilled by itself or made into a tasty salsa. You will find it used for its medicinal properties, but it can also be used to make juice, salads, jelly or even in a margarita!

Selecting and preparing the prickly pears should be done with care. If you are buying them, make sure they have been de-spined. If you are picking them yourself, wear thick gloves when handling and carefully scrape off the prickly spines. You will also need to trim the “eyes,” and remove any remaining prickers with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife. Another effective method of removing the thorns and spines is with a blowtorch which may sound extreme, but it is a quick and effective way of getting getting it done!

The fruit is edible raw, with a flavor reminiscent of watermelon, but with a more granular texture. The fruit is full of tiny seeds which can be chewed and eaten, swallowed whole, or spit out. It has been used to make juice, jelly and candy.  You can peel and dice the pear much like a pineapple for cereal or toppings on ice cream and mixed in salads. Seeds can also be dried and ground into flour. 

To cook, steam over boiling water for just a few minutes (if cooked too long they will lose their crunchy texture). Then slice and eat. Steamed cactus is delicious added to scrambled eggs and omelets, or diced fresh and added to tortillas. They taste especially good with Mexican recipes that include tomatoes, hot peppers and fresh corn.  

Now that I know how sweet and delicious they are, I can't wait to experiment and try more recipes. Not only are they tasty but the prickly pears are full of antioxidants and they provide vitamin C, vitamin E, Magnesium and fiber.