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Cooking With Gail Presents: Easy Quarantine Chili!

the best classic chili
Image Source

If you are a single person, and you’re like me, you plan most of your meals around what you find in Trader Joe’s freezer section, supplemented with a few weekly meals at restaurants, and lunch procured from the office cafeteria. So, I don’t have to tell you that grocery shopping and meal planning for our new Covid lifestyle is challenging, and, frankly, it sucks. I’ve bought as many groceries in the past five weeks as I have for each preceding week of this year combined. Just being serious.

There is only one thing I can really cook, and that is Chili. When I first moved to NYC I was dirt poor, so I taught myself how to make a huge vat of chili, so I could freeze some it and thus enjoy multiple home-cooked meals that would stretch my budget. Once I started making decent money, I abandoned cooking from scratch almost entirely. But . . . everything is different now, and cooking is a skill that has value, even if you are sheltering-in-place on your own — which I think of as  living on the prairie, but with indoor plumbing. A few weeks into isolation, I got a craving for chili, but it had been so long since I made any that I could not even recall my recipe. Dashing to the computer, I Googled “easy chili with beans,” and the first result that popped up was this recipe called The Best Classic Chili courtesy of Amanda Finks from her website The Wholesome Dish. This recipe is especially awesome because it can be made from ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. Let me walk you through it.

Chili Ingredients Photo By Gail Worley
Above Image and All Other Photos By Gail

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (we recommend Gundry MD  Olive Oil,  find it here)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper – optional
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

Instructions

Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and place it over medium-high heat for two minutes. Add the onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chili Ingredients Meat and Onion Photo By Gail Worley

Add the ground beef to the pot. Break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.

Chili Dry Ingredients Photo By Gail Worley

I like to combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl, as seen above, so I can blend them together thoroughly before adding to the meat. Once the meat is brown, add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, garlic powder, salt, pepper, tomato paste, and optional cayenne.  Stir until well combined.

Chili Cooking Photo By Gail Worley
Tomatoes and Meat Photo By Gail Worley

Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), drained beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.

Chili With Beans Photo By Gail Worley

Bring the liquid to a low boil. Then, reduce the heat (low to medium-low) to gently simmer the chili, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chili Simmering Photo By Gail

Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. I like to serve mine on top of fluffy white rice!

White Rice Photo By Gail Worley

In addition to the chili ingredients listed in this recipe, you may also want to have these things as toppings.

  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • sliced green onions or chopped white onions
  • saltine crackers or oyster crackers
  • diced avocado

You can also make cornbread or garlic bread to serve with this delicious meal! As you can, see the chili takes almost no time to prepare and the result is truly the best chili you have ever tasted. Just check out the hundreds of five star reviews on the site!

Leftover Chili Photo By Gail Worley

This recipe makes six generous servings, so you have enough to share with a friend or neighbor who might really be in need of a wholesome and super delicious home-cooked  meal right about now. At any rate, you are going have leftovers for days!

Chili in a Bowl Photo By Gail Worley

Enjoy!

Cooking With Gail Presents: Amira Smoked Basmati Rice!

Amira Smoked Basmati Rice
All Photos By Gail

Do you like Rice? I sure do. I especially love fragrant, long grain Basmati Rice from India. India! Seriously, it is the most delicious rice. Maybe you have shied away from making Basmati Rice in your home due to the additional required preparatory steps — such as rinsing, and then soaking the rice prior to cooking  — which can seem a bit daunting if you are used to the no fuss approach of throwing rice in a pan with some water, bringing it to a boil, and then forgetting about it for 40 minutes, which is a no-brainer.  I understand how you feel.

Amira Smoked Basmati Rice

But when you break it down, Basmati Rice preparation and cooking time takes maybe 10 minutes longer than traditional rice, so it can hardly be argued that it is a vastly longer or more labor intensive process. It just takes a little getting used to. I was recently sent a package of Amira brand Smoked Basmati Rice and I had fun making it and taking pictures of the process so you can see  that you don’t need to be scared to try something new. Come along and let’s have a little culinary adventure, shall we?

Basmati Rice Prep

Besides a spoon and a pan to cook it in, you will need a measuring cup and colander or strainer. Measure the rice (a general guideline is one part rice to two parts water, but the exact directions are printed on the bag so zero guesswork is involved) and pour it into the strainer. Next, run the rice under cold water from the tap for a minute or so, shaking it slightly to expose all grains, which will remove the excess starch.

Soaking Rice

That was fun, right? It gets better. Now transfer the rinsed rice to the pan and cover with water. Set a kitchen timer, or keep an eye on the clock, for 25 to 30 minutes while the rice soaks. You can either do prep on other parts of the meal during this time, or watch TV or play Words With Friends, which is something I enjoy doing.

Basmati Rice is a long grain rice by nature, but there is a very noticeable quality difference with Amira’s Premium Rice, which is extra long grain.  Amira smoked basmati rice is an all natural extra long grain rice, which is smoked in the ancient Persian tradition, resulting in an aromatic, smoky rice.

Once the rice is done soaking, drain it, and then add it back the pan with two cups of fresh water, bring to a boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook for ten minutes. While the rice cooks, your kitchen may smell like you are baking a ham, but don’t be alarmed. After ten minutes, turn the heat off, move the pan to a cool burner and let it rest for ten more minutes. When you remove the lid, the rice will look something like this:

Amira Cooked Rice

Oh my, isn’t that beautiful! You can’t really tell from this photo, but the rice grains are so long that you may even freak out a little. It is really quite extraordinary.

Meal on a Tray

Here is a photo of my delicious and super easy-to-prepare single ladies dinner of two Trader Joe’s Masala vegetarian burger patties and huge pile of fluffy Smoked Basmati Rice, seasoned with little salt and some butter, because I love butter on my rice. What I discovered is that, after cooking, the smoke essence remains more in the fragrance than the actual flavor of the rice. So you do not need to be afraid that the rice will have a harsh, overly smoky, or meaty taste. It will just taste like delicious rice. Find out more about the Amira brand at Amira Dot Net.

Amira Rice Serving Suggestion

Cooking With Gail Presents: Chicken Stifado

Kaldi Sauce and Bag of Rice
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome to another exciting installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a delicious dish from whatever I already have on hand in my apartment! Today we are making something I call Chicken Stifado, mostly because it features the Stifado variety of Kaldi’s All-Natural Mediterranean Cooking Sauces, which I was turned on to at a recent Editor Showcase.

Kaldi Olive Oli

Shortly after meeting the nice folks at Kaldi, they sent me a care package of sauces, and a bottle of both their lovely Extra Virgin Olive Oil and also one of their Organic EVOO. Excellent.

Kaldi’s Stifado cooking sauce, made from a traditional Greek recipe, contains a delicious blend of Red Wine, Onions and Allspice, along with other natural ingredients, and while it is generally suggested that this sauce best compliments a Beef dish, we are using chicken because that is what I had in the freezer.

What’s really great about these Kaldi sauces is that you just add meat or vegetables, and it makes an authentic tasting dish that people will think you slaved over instead of just opening a jar — which is my kind of cooking! So, this is how we do easy Chicken Stifado ala Gail!

(Note: before you even start your chicken, put a pot of rice on to cook, because that takes about 45 minutes, and you want the dishes to be done at the same time. Time management!)

Raw Chicken

Whatever type of chicken you are using, make sure it is washed, thawed and ready to go in the oven. I cut up a chicken breast into a few pieces, sprinkled some salt on it and put it in a 425 degree oven in a pan with a little EVOO in the bottom to prevent sticking. I let the chicken spend about 10 minutes in the oven before I took it out and then poured the sauce on it. No particular reason, it just seemed like the thing to do.

Chicken with Sauce

This is what the chicken looks like with the sauce on it. That’s right: yummy. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to cook a piece of chicken, but for this dish I stuck to about 30 minutes (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your cut of meat) in a 425 degree oven, turning each piece at the halfway mark and basting it with more sauce. It smelled amazing!

Chicken with Green Olives

Garnish with sliced green olives, if you like, and throw it on the plate with some brown basmati rice, or the starchy side of your choice.

Chicken Dish on Tray

And don’t forget a glass of wine! I like a Cab-Shiraz myself.

I want to add that the way the allspice mingles with the tomatoes really gives the sauce, and whatever it cooks with, a fantastic, old world gourmet taste. I want to try it next with beef, because if it tastes this great on chicken, Beef Stifado would probably be mind blowing. Each jar holds 16 ounces of sauce, so that’s enough for a few meals at least!

Find out more about Kaldi Products, get recipes and shop their 50% Off Greek Sumer Sale at Kaldi Tastes Dot Com!

Easy Pasta Carbonara Featuring Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon!

Jones Diary Farm Bacon
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome back to another enlightening episode of Cooking With Gail, a post where I make a delicious dinner from stuff I already have in my house. Today we are making a super easy Pasta Carbonara featuring Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon. Bacon is something I like to keep on hand when possible, and recently I was sent an assortment off tasty meats from Jones Dairy Farm, including several types of Sausage, Ham Steaks, Canadian Bacon and, of course, the Cherrywood Smoked Bacon pictured above. What I am trying to do is use these meats in ways that differ from the standard manner of just cooking them up for breakfast with a side of eggs. While Pasta Carbonara does include both Bacon and Eggs, you will be surprised at how fancy these ingredients can taste. Fancy!

Raw Bacon

What you will need to make Pasta Carbonara ala Gail for one is:

Three or more strips of raw bacon (I like to cut it in half for easier cooking)

One egg (beaten)

Margarine or butter

Pasta of your choice (I used spaghetti)

Cheese (optional)

Beaten Egg

While the pasta cooks in boiling salted water, cut the bacon in half, if desired, and fry it up until crispy. Beat the egg well and set aside. Lay the cooked bacon on paper towels and then, when cool, break it up into smaller pieces.

Crumbled Bacon

You may be thinking that Bacon is Bacon, and that all Bacon is created equally delicious. I am here to tell you that this is not necessarily the case. Jones Diary Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon cooks up quickly and gets very crisp, because it has an excellent balance of fat to meat on each strip. I do not know if that is owed to their superior butchering technique, or if they have magic pigs, or what. I just know that when I say I like my bacon cooked until it is “stiff, like little boards,” this is what I am talking about.

Another stand out quality of Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon is the slightly sweet taste that is infused in the meat from the mild Cherrywood smoke. The flavor is distinct and noticeable immediately on your fist bite. I really love it.

But let’s get back to the Carbonara Prep!

Hot Pasta and Butter

Return the cooked, drained pasta to the pan and add butter or margarine to taste, to add flavor and keep the noodles from sticking together. Next, add the beaten egg a little at a time, stirring well between each addition to blend and let the hot pasta cook the egg into a smooth, sauce-like consistency. In this case, it’s all in the wrist. At this point, you can add some grated Parmesan cheese, if you like. You are almost done, and ready to eat a delicious, home cooked meal!

Pasta Carbonara Finished Dish

Plate the Pasta and add crumbled Bacon on top! So easy, so quick and so darn good! Make sure you have a glass of your favorite red wind on hand to accompany this fine dinner!

Get more information about Jones Dairy Farm meats, get recipes and find out where to purchase them in your neighborhood, at This Link!

Cooking With Gail Presents: Savory Italian Wontons

Nasoya Wrappers
All Photos By Gail

Hello and welcome to another installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a meal from whatever I can find in my house. The weather has been a bit inclement here in NYC just recently, and getting out to the store can be a pain. On a recent snowy and bitterly cold evening, I was staring down my open refrigerator in search of ingredients to make into some kind of interesting meal. Continue reading Cooking With Gail Presents: Savory Italian Wontons