I hope that this finds you all doing well and your week off to a fantastic start. A new feature on my blog is going to be a re-start of my sharing of recipes from my home. Some of the recipes are going to be ones that are from my childhood (but not the Secret Family ones - must keep somethings to myself, of course!) and some of the recipes are going to be ones that I have created.
This week's first recipe is a wonderful way to warm up on these chilly February evenings (here in the Northern Hemisphere) and to add a spicy kick to your taco salads (for y'all in the Southern Hemisphere, because taco salad is just wonderful on a hot day!). Now, I do have a confession to make before I share these two recipes. I confess that I have a passionate love for my dutch oven. It is probably one of my most favorite items in the kitchen, after the coffee maker and the crock-pot. (By the way, this chili recipe can be easily adapted for the crock pot. I'll be noting that at the end of this post!)
If you have seen my other chili recipe, this may look a bit familiar. I have combined the flavors of red lentil chili with garbanzo beans and Major Grey's Chutney. If you wish to use dried garbanzo beans, remember to soak, wash, and sort them. (If the dried beans are opened when you soak them, toss those open beans. Better safe then sorry!) In your dutch oven, brown one pound of ground beef (you can replace this with lamb and it tastes absolutely WONDERFUL). As you brown your beef, saute a generous amount of minced garlic with it. We like to use around a tablespoon. (Why yes, my Beloved and I are garlic addicts, why do you ask? :D )
If you wish to include onion in your chili, this is when you should add it. You want to cook your onion until it is transparent but not carmelized. After you have browned your beef and sauteed your veggies, pour off the grease. To this add 4 cups of beans, 2 cups of dried lentils, 2 10 oz cans of crushed tomatoes, and 3 cups of water. Now, add your spices. I like to use a 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, 1 pinch of celery salt, and a dash of black pepper. Then, add 1 10 oz jar of Major Grey's Chutney. The brand doesn't matter, but I have found the most success using the Major Grey's Chutney rather then other varieties. (If you use a different type of chutney, let me know how it worked out for you in the comments!)
Heat everything to boiling and then reduce to a simmer. Cook on low heat, stirring frequently, for an hour. The chili will thicken as it cooks by virtue of the red lentils. It should be almost thick enough to allow your spoon to stand up by itself in the middle of the pot. This chili is wonderful with a bit of shredded sharp cheddar cheese on top and a dollop of sour cream. (My health conscious friends, you can replace the sour cream with a dollop of plain yogurt for the same effect!)
Now, with this chili, you must have a bread accompaniment. Usually, I serve cornbread with my chili. Tonight, however, I decided to serve the loaf of bread that I baked earlier today. This bread recipe is very basic. It is actually the first one that I ever made on my own! (Bread is a very 'kid friendly' food to make! So, if you have a young chef in the house, let them help out with dinner with this recipe!) The recipe comes from my Mother's cookbooks. It's been hand copied and well loved for years!
Take one package of active yeast and dissolve it in a 1/4 cup of warm water (no hotter then 115 degrees F). Heat 2 cups of milk, 2 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp vegetable shortening, and 2 tsp salt in a sauce pan. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Pour this into a large bowl and stir in two cups of flour (we prefer whole wheat here!). Add yeast and stir until smooth. Then stir in two cups more flour (approximately, this is determined by how much you can mix with your spoon.).
Turn out your lump of dough onto a floured surface. Now, as you knead your dough, add a bit more flour until your dough is moderately stiff. Shape your dough into a rough ball and place into a greased bowl. Turn once to cover the dough. Then cover with a clean towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, or approximately an hour. (This depends on how warm your kitchen is. The warmer your kitchen, the faster the dough rises.)
Once your dough as risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into half and shape into to two smooth balls. You will want to cover these and let them rest for about ten minutes. While your dough is resting, grease up two standard sized bread pans. Put your dough in them, cover again with a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk. Once your dough has risen again, bake in a 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes (or until it is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped with a spoon). Remove the bread from pans and cool it on a rack, for best results.
And here's the result:
Look at that beautiful loaf of bread. Now, I'll be honest, I cheated and used white flour tonight because I had some I needed to use up. Serve up a big bowl of chili and a nice slice of bread, slathered with a lovely bit of butter. It makes a great dinner and suits even the biggest appetites!
Don't have a dutch oven or it's too hot to work over the stove, not a problem! Just brown your meat and saute your veggies. Then throw it all into your big ol' crock pot. Cook it on low heat 6 to 8 hours. Remember, crock pots work best when you don't pop open the lid to check on it. Each time you do that, you add on at least 5 more minutes of cook time.
If you're interested in throwing a bit of magic into your food, focus your intention on nourishing your family and self in body and soul as you prepare and mix your food. Remember, a good meal not only feeds the body, but the heart and soul as well. When you're enjoying this, I hope that you can feel the love from my home to yours. And love is that 'secret ingredient' that makes everything more tasty!