cooking, food, NaBloPoMo, recipe

It’s Comfort Food Season!

One of the best things about fall – besides dry and crisp weather for amazing hair days – is the comfort food. 

When the leaves start changing, so do my cravings. After six months of salad, I’m ready for warm comforting meals.

The 3 Best Soups and Chilis for Cold Weather

1. Chili

Photo from The Wholesome Dish

What constitutes a good chili can spark many debates: beans or no beans, thick or juicy, and – of course – spice level.

I have made many variations of chili over the years, many times never following a recipe and just adding what feels right to the pot. And guess what? No matter what you throw in, chili usually ends up tasting halfway decent.

Last year I came across this chili recipe. It is simple, doesn’t take all day to cook, and is really, really good.

I share with you: The Best Classic Chili Recipe, courtesy of The Wholesome Dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef (NOTE: I use a package of meatloaf mix here, a mix of beef, pork and veal and it adds another layer of meaty flavor)
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well combined.
  • Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with their juice), drained beans, and tomato sauce. Stir well.
  • 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.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Let the chili rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Garnish with all of your favorite chili toppings! I tend to put out cheese, sliced fresh jalapenos, avocado and sour cream.

2. Meat Soup

With a sexy name like “meat soup”, how could you not want to try this recipe? This recipe is from Mr. KK’s family, and is a staple during the winter. This soup brings Mr. KK back to his childhood, sitting at his grandmothers kitchen table, and – later in life – at home with his parents on a Sunday afternoon. His grandmother used to make it on the stove, but it is just as delicious (and easier!) in the Instant Pot.

And, being a family recipe, there are ZERO measurements for anything! The best kind of recipes!

Ingredients

  • Carrots (I use about 4-5 good sized carrots, cut into discs or half moons uniform in size)
  • Onion (The original stovetop recipe used just one full onion peeled and added to the pot; I chop an onion for the Instant Pot recipe)
  • Celery (About 2-3 stalks, diced)
  • Beef shank (The meatier, the better. If it has a LOT of meat on it, you can just use one; if it has too little meat on it, use multiple)
  • Beef stock (I use unsalted, and you use enough to cover the ingredients; you could also use a mixture of beef stock and water if regular stock is too salty)
  • 1 small can tomato sauce (an actual measurement from the original recipe!)
  • “Any seasoning you may want” (I will add salt because I use unsalted stock; you can also use other dried seasonings, however, I tend to skip them and just go with gold old kosher salt)

Directions

  • Put carrots, onion, celery in the Instant Pot.
  • Put your beef shank(s) on top of the veggies.
  • Add about 6-8 cups of liquid: either the beef stock or beef stock/water combo to cover the veggies and meat.
  • Add the can of tomato sauce.
  • Add your seasonings (just salt for me!).
  • Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
  • Manually release steamer.
  • When it’s safe, open the lid of the pot and remove the beef shanks (be careful, they may fall apart a little bit).
  • Shred the meat from the shanks into bite sized pieces and put back into the Instant Pot.

Now, you can absolutely eat this soup just like this. However, being Italian (and never truly full), we add a little pasta to our soup for make it more of a meal. The preferred pasta for this soup is: Acini de Pepe, which are small little pearls of pasta. You can find it as most grocery stores or Italian food stores.

If you are using pasta, cook the pasta separately from the soup according to the package. When cooked, add the desired amount of pasta to a shallow bowl and ladle the meat soup over it.

I then add a TON of grated parmesan cheese on top, which brings a more salty and nutty flavor to the soup.

3. Ina Garten’s Italian White Beans and Escarole

Image from The Food Network

Oh, Ina, how I love you. My girl crush is REAL.

My grandmother used to make escarole and beans (or, as we Italians pronounce it: sche-daul and beans). In her version, she put cut up pepperoni, which added a nice kick.

Ina’s version is meat free but full of flavor (likely from the 2 tons of cheese you put in). NOTE: this recipe is Ina Garten’s…I am not taking credit!

Ingredients

  • 2 (15.5 ounce) cans white cannellini beans
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 large head escarole, leaves separated, trimmed, washed and spun dry
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Drain the beans, rinse and drain again.
  • In large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat (I use my Le Creuset which works perfectly).
  • Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant but not browned (SO important).
  • Add the chicken stock, the drained beans, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
  • With a potato masher or large spoon, mash half of the beans in the pot and simmer uncovered another 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, stack escarole leaves on top of each other and cut them crosswise into 3-inch-wide strips.
  • Add the greens to the pot, cover, and steam the greens over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender, stirring the greens into the beans about halfway through.
  • Off the heat, stir in the pecorino and parmesan cheeses, taste for seasonings and serve warm.

I can’t tell you how creamy, garlicky and delicious this dish is. It would go well with some crusty Italian bread for sure.

Happy warm and comfy eating!

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