Posts tagged ‘chili’

January 30, 2018

Back to Basics in the Kitchen

We often talk about cooking here as if you’ve been cooking all your life, but today we’re going to get back to basics. While my mom didn’t cook much when I was growing up, my grandmother did. I spent enough time cooking fresh food and baking from scratch to feel comfortable with the tools and the terms. That’s not true for everyone my age and certainly not for everyone my kids’ age.

In some circles cooking has come to mean popping a packaged meal in the microwave or heating precooked entrees or vegetables in the oven. I’ve seen posts in which a description of baking from “scratch” included a cake mix.

Reducing the amount of prepackaged, convenience foods you eat can help lessen your consumption of chemical additives, sodium, manufactured fats, and sugar. It also means you may have to perform a few additional “cooking” related tasks.
If you’re not familiar with cooking terminology, translating a recipe into a dish may seem daunting. Removing some of the mystery can help you get past the feeling that you can’t cook because you don’t even know what the words in the instructions mean. Today, let’s explore some basic cooking terms and techniques so you can be on your way to becoming a great cook!

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to prepare a wide variety of foods for boiling, steaming, baking or broiling. Peeling, slicing, chopping, dicing, and mincing only require a knife. But what are they?
Peel – Remove the outside skin from vegetables or fruits.
Slice – Cut a thick or thin, flat piece of something like fruit, vegetable, bread, or meat.
Chop – Cut food into irregular pieces of similar size to each other. Chopped pieces are typically larger than diced or minced.
Dice – Cut food into cubes between 1/8″ and 1/2″ in size. If size is not specified, use 1/4″
Mince – Mincing is like dicing, but the pieces are smaller.

When preparing vegetables and fruits, you’ll use these techniques over and over again.

Sometimes you may not want a cooked or raw vegetable to retain its shape at all. You can then use a food chopper or processor to grind or purée it. Grinding reduces the food to tiny particles. Puréeing means the food is processed until it’s smooth. You don’t have to have an electronic appliance to do this. A cooked vegetable can be mashed, then put through a sieve to create a purée.

Once you’ve prepped vegetables and meats, you may want to add heat in order to boil, steam, sauté, bake, broil, roast, grill, or braise.
Boil – To submerge in a boiling liquid at or above the boiling point of water.
Steam – To place food above boiling water in a pot or pan using some kind of rack or basket and a cover so that steam cooks the food.
Sauté – To cook a food quickly in oil and/or butter over high heat.
Bake – To cook using dry heat in an oven or on heated metal or stones.
Broil – To cook quickly using high heat from above the food.
Roast – To cook using dry heat with a temperature of at least 300 in an environment in which hot air from an open flame, oven or other heat source envelops the food, cooking it evenly on all sides.
Grill – To cook directly over live, high heat flames.
Braise – To cook slowly in a small amount of liquid in a covered container in the oven or on a burner.
Brown – To give a cooked surface to meat or flour. Also to turn a brown color in the oven.

Sometimes you’ll want to parboil, blanch, simmer, scald or blend.
Parboil – To briefly boil in water until food begins to soften.
Blanch – To briefly place food in boiling water, then immediately move it into cold water. 
Simmer – To cook in liquid at a temperature just below a boil. 
Scald – Refers to both dipping into boiling water, and heating milk to just below the boiling point.
Blend – To mix ingredients together thoroughly often using a beater, mixer, or blender.

You may be instructed to dot a casserole with butter before baking it, or to baste a turkey while it roasts. If so, here’s what to do:
Dot – Cover the top with small pieces of butter.
Baste – Spoon, brush or pour drippings or liquid over a food before or during cooking.

When you begin baking from scratch, you’ll commonly see instructions to sift, mix, cut in, whisk, flour, fold, and knead so let’s prepare for that:
From Scratch – To make from the very beginning without using already prepared ingredients.
Sift – Use a device made of a metal cup with a screen at the bottom that contains a mechanism to force the flour through the mesh.
Mix – Combine items to form one mass.
Cut In – Work solid fat into dry ingredients with a pastry blender until evenly distributed.
Whisk – Beat or stir with a whisk.
Flour – To dust a pan the shortening in a prepared baking pan with flour.
Fold – To delicately incorporate one substance into another substance without releasing air bubbles.
Knead – To work a dough by mixing, stretching, and pulling with the fingers and mashing with the heel of the hand.
Other common actions are grating, whipping, and garnishing. Let’s explore those terms:
Grate – To rub firm food on a tool with small, rough, sharp-edged holes grater to create small pieces.
Whip – To beat vigorously to incorporate air and cause expansion.
Garnish – To decorate a dish with something attractive and flavorful.

Now for the important question – Can we use these terms to make a great snack for the Super Bowl?

Of course we can! It’s winter. Let’s make chili!

Chili Sallie
Serves 8

1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 fire roasted sweet peppers, seeds removed, diced
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
2 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
3 1/2 – 4 cups tomato juice
1/3 cup stewed tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Sauté onion in olive oil in large pan until translucent – about 5-7 minutes. Add the jalapeño and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add red peppers and ground beef to the pan and brown. Once beef is browned, sprinkle with chili powder and stir until all the meat turns red. Add beans, 3 1/2 cups tomato juice, stewed tomatoes, and the balance of the spices.  

Stir and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add the balance of the tomato juice if needed as the chili cooks down.
Serve hot.
Now that you have a guide to more than 30 common cooking terms and have had a chance to see them as they appear in a recipe, you can build on this knowledge as you gain experience and confidence.

Never feel bad about having to look something up. Many chefs have used books and kitchen experience to become successful. And remember, you don’t have to be a chef to be a great cook!

December 15, 2012

Let’s Talk Turkey



Ever throw turkey burgers on the grill because you think they’re automatically healthier than regular burgers? Ever make turkey chili to appease a spouse who’s trying to lose weight? If you substitute ground turkey for ground beef in order to reduce the fat in your diet, but you also need to be concerned about calories, sodium, and cholesterol, you may not be making the best choice.

These days, general wisdom assumes that any white meat is healthier for you than red meat. Let’s see if a nutritional comparison supports that wisdom(1):



Ground Turkey 3oz, cooked                        Ground Beef 90% Lean 10% Fat                   Ground Beef 85% Lean 15% Fat

200 calories                                                     148 calories                                                           181 Calories

50% fat, 50% protein, 0% carbs                     51%fat, 49% protein, 0%carbs                      63%fat, 37% protein, 0%carbs

Total Fat 11.18g = 17%                                      Total Fat 8.4g=13%                                              Total Fat 12.6g=19%

    Saturated Fat 2.883 = 14%                              Saturated Fat 3.409g=17%                                Saturated Fat 4.927g=25%

Polyunsaturated Fat 2.747g                             Polyunsaturated Fat .389g                                Polyunsaturated Fat .364g

Monounsaturated Fat 4.159g                         Monounsaturated Fat 3.657g                        Monounsaturated Fat 5.506g

Cholesterol 87mg = 29%                                  Cholesterol 55mg=18%                                   Cholesterol 57mg = 19%

Sodium 91mg = 4%                                          Sodium 55 mg 2%                                             Sodium 55 mg=2%

Potassium 230mg                                              Potassium 270mg                                            Potassium 248mg

      Total Carbs 0%                                            Total Carbohydrate 0%                                      Total Carbohydrate 0%

Dietary Fiber 0g                                                Dietary Fiber 0%                                                   Dietary Fiber 0%

Sugars 0g                                                             Sugars 0G                                                                  Sugars 0G

Protein 23.27g                                                      Protein 16.8g                                                         Protein 16.25g

Vitamin A 0                                                          Vitamin A 0                                                           Vitamin A 0

Vitamin C 0                                                           Vitamin C 0                                                           Vitamin C 0

Calcium 2%                                                           Calcium 1%                                                            Calcium 1%

Iron 9%                                                                 Iron 10%                                                                 Iron 10%

The first thing you may observe is that all beef blends are not created equal.  Because the cost of leaner beef tends to be higher than either less lean beef or turkey, we must also factor in cost.  If budget is your primary concern, ground turkey is probably your best bet.

If your budget allows you to purchase leaner beef, then there are other factors to consider. Three ounces of ground turkey contains more calories and total fat grams than three ounces of 90% lean ground beef. The turkey also contains twice the sodium, a bit less iron and potassium, and 10% more cholesterol. Surprisingly, ground beef has fewer calories than turkey, but that’s partially because it has fewer grams of protein per ounce.

It seems the best conclusion we can draw is that your personal priorities will determine whether beef or turkey is healthier for you. If you need to limit sodium and cholesterol and reduce calories, choose the leanest beef you can afford. If you want to limit overall fat, then turkey is a better choice. Turkey is also a good choice when you want to increase the protein in your diet without increasing the saturated fat. Turkey will also be easier on your pocketbook…which can reduce stress…which can increase your health.

Now that you’re informed, you can enjoy your burger knowing you’ve made the very best choice for you whether you choose beef or turkey!


1)”Ground Turkey (Cooked).” Calories in and Nutrition Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2012. <>.

July 3, 2012

Does gluten-free take too much time?

We’ve become so accustomed to drive through food that we think in order to be “fast”, a meal must include a wait in the car and a sandwich of some sort.  To think of preparing a home cooked meal without using processed food sounds overwhelming or like an activity to be saved for that special occasion.  For many of us, this becomes reason enough not to consider a gluten-free lifestyle or to haphazardly adhere to its restrictions.  So what is the reality?  Does being gluten-free really take too much time?

Last night Ben and one of his friends showed up an hour before we were scheduled to go to a movie.  Knowing Ben, I guessed that he had showed up early looking for food, so instead of waiting for them to ask, I offered chicken soup.  A couple of embarrassed shrugs later they had piping hot bowls of Eight Days a Week Rosemary Chicken Soup topped with shredded parmesan cheese, some Killer Beans, and dried apricots.  Without any effort greater than looking for clean bowls and spoons, these young men were consuming a tasty, healthy, satisfying meal.  Including the 4 minutes of microwave warming, it didn’t take any longer than driving through one of the 6 fast food restaurants they had passed on the way to my house.

Killer Beans

These beans are killer good!

Both of these young men are gluten eaters and both of them are familiar with my household, so they knew I might not have a loaf of bread or box of crackers handy.  They could have easily grabbed a quick sandwich on the way instead of opting for a gluten-free meal.  And yet they didn’t.  The second I wondered why, I was transported back in time to my grandmother’s house.

My parents owned a business across one street and a large yard from my grandmother’s house.  Through her 60s and 70s, my grandmother walked to work every day.  I worked for my parents periodically and would sometimes follow my grandmother home at the end of the day.  Without fail, when I walked through the door she would offer me food.  It might be chili with some cottage cheese and pears, or a slice of ham with English peas and sliced tomatoes, or if I was really lucky some beef and noodles with a carrot and raisin salad.  The fare was always simple, ready in a few minutes, and always delicious.  My sister and I both loved to stop by.

No matter how much I may like some fast food french fries, they are never as delicious as the simple homemade dishes my grandmother had handy in the refrigerator.  For us those foods were “fast”, but what about for my grandmother?

My grandmother taught me how to make chili so let’s start with that. I can make a big batch from start to finish in 30-40 minutes. All the ingredients are readily available from my pantry with the exception of ground beef or ground turkey.  30-40 minutes for 8 servings is no more than 5 minutes per serving.  As an added bonus, the cost savings is huge!

Now let’s look at a dish I haven’t yet mastered.  My grandmother cooked beef cubes for beef and noodles in a pressure cooker.  I don’t have one of those because I fear I’ll blow up the kitchen, but I’ve read that it takes 10-15 minutes at high pressure to cook beef cubes. The noodles can be cooked while the beef is being pressured.  That means this dish probably takes 45 minutes including prep time and it is a family favorite.  She always made enough for at least 12 servings so that’s less than 4 minutes per serving.

Of course these entrees don’t tell the whole time story, but being a great planner my grandmother would reheat an entree she had cooked for Sunday dinner and serve it with freshly cooked vegetables on Wednesday making the whole process look effortless and feel inviting.  All of us can easily do that.

Yes, I recognize that times have changed.  Everything moves faster.  We work more.  We have more scheduled activities.  I have a 60+ hour per week job and I know how it feels to juggle work, family, and a social life.  Given our current lifestyles, does gluten-free really take too much time or do we just assume that it will?

Let’s go back to the meal I served Ben last night as an example:  I cooked the chicken soup in three steps on different days.  Step one was brining and took 5 minutes of prep.  Step 2 was cooking the chicken.  It also took 5 minutes of prep plus 1 1/2 hours of cooking, so I did that last Saturday when I had a block of time at home.  Step 3 included prepping vegetables. On the day I made the soup, I had already cleaned and prepped carrots, squash, and onion by chopping additional amounts when I was oven-roasting vegetables earlier in the week, then storing them in the fridge until the weekend.  I had prepped the sugar snap peas (I like to trim off the ends) the night before while watching TV.  With all that done, Step 3 took less 30 minutes including cooking time.

While I was brining the chicken, I was also soaking beans for the Killer Beans as well as for the soup.  While I was cooking the chicken, I also cooked the beans.  My prep time for 20 servings of food totaled less than an hour.  In my household these servings were consumed in 8 meals.  Adding in reheating time, the time consumed prepping, and each serving averaged 2 1/2 minutes of time in the kitchen.  Only 2 1/2 minutes.  That includes the initial cooking and prep time and it’s still less than the time I would have spent in 8 stops at a fast food restaurant and much less time than eating 8 meals in a sit-down-to-order restaurant.

Am I saying that I’m as consistently prepared as my grandmother, or that I don’t sometimes feel overwhelmed?  No.  But I recognize that many times when I feel overwhelmed by the idea of fixing dinner more than one night per week, all I have to do is shift my thinking away from the current cultural trends and remember how rewarding it was to eat at my grandmother’s table. I immediately feel renewed energy and excitement for getting into the kitchen to immerse myself in the tastes, colors, textures, and smells of cooking. The added bonus of eating a tasty meal at my kitchen table without worrying about dripping food on my blouse seals the deal for me.  Get me out of this car & into the kitchen!

The next time you’re tempted to abandon the idea of strict adherence to a gluten-free diet because it takes too much time, take a moment to think about your mother’s chicken and dumplings, some piping hot cornbread, or the smell of cookies fresh out of the oven.  Remember how you felt walking into a house that smelled like warm cinnamon.  Go ahead, smile, relax and realize that you can easily have those feelings in your own home tomorrow by making a tiny shift in how you spend your time. The time you would have spent waiting in restaurants or your car can be spent at home.

Caring for myself and my family by providing a beautiful, delicious, healthy, gluten-free meal is absolutely worth whatever time it takes in the kitchen.  And as we have seen, that time is less than the time I would spend waiting for food at a restaurant or drive through!

Be brave.  Do your own time tests.  The worst thing that can happen is you’ll make some great memories for your kids.



 *Eight Days a Week Rosemary Chicken Soup and Killer Beans are original Cooking2Thrive® recipes.