Last week, after returning from our refreshing getaway, I was in the mood to cook! (For a few days, at least) Cooking used to be so much more enjoyable and relaxing before I had kids. I still find myself pinning recipes for lemon curd tarts with a fresh raspberry glaze, and 4 layer triple chocolate espresso cakes with shaved chocolate and homemade bon-bons on top. But who am I kidding? Most days I’m cooking while kids cry, talk, whine, hang all over me…But there are days, like bright rays of sunlight in my life, where I still find catharses in cooking instead of stress. Last week, I had TWO of those days, once where my kids were playing quietly together in their playhouse, instead of in the kitchen, trailing after me! Another time, my youngest was sleeping and I had a tv show on for my oldest. (Almost) blissful silence!
So the first day my cooking mood struck, I made a fancy looking “Everything Bagel Chicken” recipe using a preservative free Everything Spice Blend from Wildtree (which has since been discontinued! Sob!). I took thinly sliced chicken breasts and rolled them up with my homemade veggie cream cheese inside, securing them with a toothpick. Then I dredged the chicken, first in egg, then in flour, then panko mixed with the Everything Spice. I baked them on parchment at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes and they were perfect (even without pre-heating the oven properly…ain’t nobody got time for that!). I even made (ready made frozen) sweet potato fries and green beans with bacon and onion, hubby’s favorite! Everything turned out delicious, a nice change from vacation/restaurant food, even if I did have to do the dishes myself.
For the next day’s dinner, I made my own personal version of “Skyline Chili” in the crockpot. Before I moved to Cincinnati, I had never heard of this strange dish…chili over spaghetti topped with mounds of cheese? I think it was the plethora of warm, gooey cheese that initially won me over. Now it is one of the few recipes I have on rotation (I don’t really like making the same thing twice- the wonderful world of Pinterest is just too big!) I originally got my Skyline recipe from a local friend (I figured that makes it pretty authentic, right?), but I made some tweaks. Once I started out by accidentally doubling the first two spices- but I loved it that way, so now I always double the cinnamon and cumin! I don’t like my chili too hot, so I reduced the chili powder. And I didn’t want the vegetarian version, but I also didn’t want one with all meat and no beans, so I tweaked that, too. I often switch up the type and amount of beans, as well…I started out with one can, then two…And last week, I just cooked a whole pound of black beans and added it all! The recipe is obviously pretty versatile, so experiment and make it however you like! Following is my ‘tweaked’ version:
1 quart cold water
1 lb. ground beef (lean is best)
1-3 cans beans (or more!! We love beans!)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cumin
1-2 large chopped onions (optional, but not really. A must, in my opinion!)
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 garlic clove (or, you know, half a bulb. We like garlic, too!)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. black pepper
4 whole bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper
6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 Tbsp. plain or red vinegar
1 & 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
Pour one quart of water into crockpot and (gloves recommended) crumble the raw meat up with your hands. Add everything else. Cook 4-6 hours.
When it’s almost time to eat, put some spaghetti on to boil per package instructions. Put the cooked noodles in a bowl, ladle on some chili, and top with a generous amount of cheese.
*Tip* I like to break up a block of fresh colby or cheddar cheese and pulse it in my processor to make fresh grated cheese without exerting myself. I learned this trick via Ina Garten when we still had cable and I could watch the Food Network to my heart’s content. 🙂 Fresh cheese not only has fewer additives and preservatives than bagged, it tastes a million times more amazing on top of your Skyline chili!
Check out this interesting blog post I found called Ditch the Bag, comparing bagged vs. pre-shredded cheese. Bagged cheese has potato starch, calcium sulfate, and cellulose powder added- the latter of which commonly comes from wood pulp.
So now which you do prefer, bagged or pre-shredded cheese?
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