Practical, healthful eating and living.

Brave Any Chili Contest White Chicken Chili February 18, 2013

I fell in love with the San Francisco Chronicle’s cookbooks while visiting San Francisco nearly a decade ago. This recipe is from their 1997 edition with the yellow cover. In contrast with most of the recipes I post, this requires a bit of dedWhite Chiliication. It’s not that it’s particularly tricky. It’s more that there are a lot of steps, and you need a good, solid day to make it.

Fortunately, it’s a great diversion on a snowy day, and the reward of a steaming bowl when the day is done makes it worth while. It’s also a great recipe to make in big batches to keep in the freezer. In fact, I was thrilled to present a container as a gift to a friend last week. I simply grabbed one of the containers I’d kept in the freezer and off I went!

And for those of you with workplace chili contests, this is absolutely a contender. Whether it brings home a blue ribbon or not, you’ll be proud it was in the running, and your co-workers will thank you, too.

The ingredients that make this so special, in my mind, are the tomatillos, roasted Anaheim chiles, beer and rice vinegar. The rest are pretty common among chili recipes.. but with these additions the recipe turns from simple comfort food to gourmet fare.

White Chili


1 pound dry Great Northern or navy beans

8 cups water

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced


1 teaspoon salt


12 ounces Mexican beer (not dark) –I used a gluten free New Planet beer

2 cups diced onions

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup diced red bell pepper

2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and diced*

4 Anaheim or New Mexico green chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded**

1 tablespoon dried oregano***

1 tablespoon crushed cumin seeds***

1 1/4 pounds skinned, boned chicken breasts (or the parts you like)

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth

2 tablespoons ground New Mexico chile (or chili powder)

1 pound tomatillos, husks removed by soaking

1 cup minced fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (or regular sharp cheddar cheese)

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

To make the beans, wash and pick over to ensure there aren’t any pebbles mixed in. (This rarely happens to me anymore but it doesn’t hurt to check.) Place in a large pot. Add the water, onion, garlic cloves and a grateing of black pepper. Simmer for 2-3 hours, until the beans are tender.  Add the salt during the last 30 minutes of cooking. (Adding salt too early can toughen the beans.)

To make the chili, While the beans are cooking, place the beer in a 4-quart pot.  Add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapenos, green chiles, oregano and cumin.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Cut the chicken into strips, then dice.  Add to the pot along with the chicken broth.  Sprinkle in the ground chile and simmer for 15 minutes. (Alternatively, you can add chicken thighs and drumsticks on the bone to the broth, cook, then simply remove the meat from the bones later.)

Place the tomatillos, minced cilantro, vinegar and salt in a food processor and process to a salsa consistency.  Stir into the chili.  Add the drained cooked beans and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning: add salt, if desired.

Either sprinkle the cheese over the top of each bowl, or mix into the pot of chile until melted and blended. Garnish with cilantro.

*To handle the jalapeno chiles, use a small ziplock baggie as a glove to keep the hot oils off your skin. Otherwise, you can burn your fingers, and if your finger ends up near your eye, you could burn your eye.

**To roast and peel the Anaheim chiles, place on a cookie sheet under the broiler for about ten minutes per side. You may want to put a layer of aluminum foil on the sheet first, to help with cleanup.  Once the chiles are blackened on each side (yes, really go for black), carefully remove from the oven and drop into a large ziplock bag. Seal the bag and let them sit for about five minutes. This steams the chiles and makes it easier to peel off the skin.

Place the chiles onto a cutting board. Chop off the stem end, then slice from end to end. Prod open the chile and slide the seeds out with the dull side of your knife. Then peel the skin off with your fingers. (Anaheim chiles aren’t hot like jalapenos.)

Once the seeds and skins have been removed, dice and add to the chile.

***Spice flavorings are amplified and enriched by toasting briefly before adding to a recipe. Simply place a dry skillet (no oil) onto a lightly warmed burner. Measure your spices and sprinkle over the skillet. Allow to warm briefly without burning, just a minute or so depending on the heat of the skillet. Add to your recipe immediately.


In Honor of Haiti January 22, 2010

I have never been a fan of black bean soup.  Until now.  I was out of my staple pinto beans.  I had wanted to make a big batch of refried beans to restore my freezer stash.  But Rancho Gordo’s cookbook was calling to me, and I found a large jar of dry black beans I’d all but forgotten.  By the time I was done, spicy, garlicky fragrance filled the air and all I could think was, “WOW!”

Ironic that “Hope for Haiti Now” is on.  If this is any hint of what treasures other cultures have to offer, we are as rich as all we choose to see and appreciate.  It IS a choice.  There IS potential.  We have so much to learn from this little country, where people have been so resilient.  When we help others remove obstacles, we open ourselves to our own greater potential.

This recipe relies on simple ingredients.  The secret is in the roasting of the garlic and tomatoes.  Also, be sure to give the spices a moment in the skillet, with the onions, to awaken their flavors.


From the “Heirloom Beans” cookbook by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington

6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

2 Tablespoons olive oil, and a little more for drizzling

4 whole fresh plum tomatoes or canned plum tomatoes with juice


1/2 pound (same as 1 1/2 cups) dry black beans*

1/2 medium yellow or white onion, chopped

1 jalapeno chile, chopped

1 medium carrot

1/1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

Freshly ground black pepper

Garnishes: Sour cream, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, chopped.

*BEANS: I soak my beans overnight, then boil them in fresh water until soft, about 40 – 60 minutes .  This is a great time to add flavor by including 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped onion, a peeled carrot and a stalk of celery into the water.  Could you use canned beans?  Yes, in a pinch.  But the flavor and texture of starting from scratch is worth it.

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees

Put the garlic cloves on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish. If using fresh tomatoes, cut them in half and place them cut side down in the dish.  Season with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the tomatoes and garlic until soft, fragrant and brown, about 20 minutes.

Put the beans and their broth into a soup pot. Warm over low heat.

In a medium, heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, chile and carrot. Saute’ until fragrant and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.  Add the cumin, oregano and cayenne to the skillet.  Sprinkle lightly with salt. Stir for about a minute, then add the contents of the skillet to the beans.  If the bottom of the skillet is sticky, spoon some of the bean broth into the skillet.  The flavors from the bottom of the skillet will release and you’ll be able to transfer all the flavor into the beans.

Add the chicken broth to the beans.  Remove the garlic peels, and tomato peels.  Coarsely chop the garlic and tomatoes.  Add to the beans, including any juices from the tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Cook until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.

Let the soup cool slightly.  Optional: transfer half the soup to a blender. Blend until smooth, then stir back into the pot and adjust seasonings if needed.  (Note: Many bean dishes get better as they sit.  Saltiness can sometimes fade after a day.  Don’t hesitate to refresh with a little sprinkle of salt each time, if you like.)

Ladle soup into warm bowls.  Garnish with sour cream, avocado slices and cilantro.


Sweet Potato Gratin November 8, 2009

Sweet Potato GratinSweet potatoes are one of my favorite power foods.  When I lived in Japan, street vendors would sell hot baked sweet potatoes and they’d keep your hands warm as you walked and nibbled.

But sometimes you want to dress up your favorite foods.  When I saw this recipe with lime, coconut, black beans and spinach, I knew I had to try it.

It was delicious.  Warm and creamy.  Comforting and filling.  I will definitely make this again.


from “Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.”

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lime peel

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 1/2 cups coconut milk (Most people get low-fat coconut milk but I use regular.  I consider this one of the essential fats, not the bad kind.  If you have extra, store it in the freezer.)

4 cups peeled and thinly sliced sweet potatoes (1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup cooked rice (I like brown rice, but either brown or white is okay.)

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (15 ounce can, drained)

1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed  and chopped.  Frozen spinach works well, too.  Be sure to thaw it and drain it, even wring out the extra water, before measuring.


3/4 cup cornmeal

1 tabelspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan

Combine the garlic, lime peel and juice, cilantro, thyme, salt, pepper, and coconut milk in a measuring cup.  Pour one third of this mixture into the prepared baking pan.  Layer half of the sweet potatoes in the bottom, topped by half of the rice, half of the black beans, and half the spinach.  Pour on anohter third of the coconut milk mixture and repeat the layers of sweet potatoes, rice, beans and spinach.  Pour the remaining coconut milk mixture over all.

In a small bowl combine all of the toppping ingredients and sprinkle over the gratin.

Bake, uncovered, for about 60 minutes, rotating the pan in the oven after 30 minutes to ensure uniform baking.  When the potatoes are tender and the topping is crisp and golden brown, remove from the oven and let sit for 2-3 minutes until the potatoes absorb any remaining liquid.

This recipe reheats beautifully.  Make a big batch and keep it on hand for the rest of the week!


Pumpkin Cookies September 19, 2009

Filed under: Cookbooks,Energy,Party Season Game Plan,Recipes — beansandyoga @ 8:51 pm
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Pumpkin Cookies 9 09I wasn’t sure if I would like these, but this is why I love to try new recipes.  This one is a keeper!

The pumpkin flavor is mild.  Rather than bake all the dough, I set aside one portion in the refrigerator, and I froze a separate portion into spoonfuls on a tray, then transferred them to an air tight container.  One portion, of course, was immediately baked.  Of the immediately baked cookies, a few were tucked away for the next day.  I noticed that the first batch almost tasted bland.  The cookies that were tucked away, however, had a stronger spice taste.  So did the dough I’d stored in the refrigerator.  The next time I make these, I’m going to let them sit a day because the flavors seem to need a day to fully blend.

The cookies stay moist, and seem to get better after sitting a day.  After that, they go fast!


1 cup butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg slightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped peanuts or walnuts, slightly toasted

1 cup raisins or dried cranberries

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla and mix until well blended.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt, and add to the mixing bowl.  Stir well to form a soft batter.  Stir in the chipped nuts, raisins and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a large, unoiled baking sheet, allowing a little space for the cookies to spread as they bake.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cookies just begin to brown slightly on the bottom.  Mine did not spread; they baked into cake-like sturdy mounds.  Use a spatula to transfer to a cooling rack or plate.

From the “Moosewood Restaurant New Classics” cookbook.


What I’m Eating Now: Cabbage & Noodles September 13, 2009

I learned to cook by finding a recipe I wanted to try, buying all the ingredients, then getting to work.  This is a creative outlet for me, and I do something like this about once a week.

This week, I spied a recipe out of the “Moosewood Restaurant New Classics” cookbook.  It sounded strange.  Cabbage and noodles.  But that is the fun in experimenting.  The stranger it sounds, the more curious I am.

The result was an unexpected reminder of my grandma’s wonderful cooking.  I have East European heritage; cabbage, dill, beets and cucumbers were regulars at the table.  While I don’t recall having this dish, specifically, the flavors seem familiar.  Perhaps it was served at a community gathering.  Perhaps it’s simply that each ingredient, on its own, is so familiar.

Either way, this proved to be a wonderful comfort food.  I don’t know if non-East European folks would appreciate it, but I loved it.


2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
8 cups finely shredded cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons salt
12 ounces fine or medium-wide egg noodles
freshly ground black pepper to taste
sour cream for topping off at the table

In a pot with a tight lid, cook the onions in the butter on medium heat until golden, about 15 minutes. Add the paprika and saute for a few seconds more. Stir in the cabbage, add the salt, and continue to cook for 5 more minutes, stirring now and then. Cover tightly and cook on very low heat for 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very soft and brown.

When the cabbage is almost done, cook the noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain them and toss well with the cabbage mixture. Add a generous amount of pepper and, top each serving with a dollop of sour cream.

Moosewood says to serve this with fresh applesauce and rye bread. Definitely have some apples on hand.  Something about the taste makes you crave apples. It’s rich, so it calls for a green salad to go along side it, too. It would also be good with a pork roast.


Favorite Cookbooks December 8, 2008

Filed under: Cookbooks,Uncategorized — beansandyoga @ 5:29 pm
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1.  “The Barefoot Contessa” by Ina Garten

Surprisingly simple recipes that are “Oh my God” good.

2.  “Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites” by Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood Collective.

Simple and satisfying.  I sometimes halve a recipe if it’s just for me, and I confess that I’ve added chicken or beef to many of the vegetarian stews.  Sorry, Ms. Katzen!

3.  “The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook” edited by Michael Bauer and Fran Irwin

A collection of recipes from the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper’s food section.  A bit more adventurous, sometimes calling for ingredients I’ve never heard of.  But that is half the fun.