I don’t follow recipes.  Let me rephrase, I very rarely follow recipes.  There are some sauces and dishes that I know not to deviate from.  But usually I glance at a recipe and get a gist of what it is suggesting to do and then make it my own.  My measuring spoons rarely get used and I almost always just use 1 measuring cup and estimate with that.  I make each and every dish unique to what I have to work with and what tastes good to me at the time.

One of the lessons I stress the most to my clients is how important it is to reclaim your confidence in the kitchen and with that, the ability to improvise and cook according to what YOU like.  It makes me laugh when I read comments underneath recipes on other food blogs or websites and I come across one saying ” this _____ is way too spicy!” and it is given 2 stars out of 5.  What is considered spicy to one person can be completely different than for the next.  That isn’t the fault of the author of the recipe. I love spicy foods,  but I know which friends do not and I adjust my seasoning when I cook for them.  If I were to eat that version, I would think it to be very bland and not good at all, but they love it and swear that any spicier and it would be too much.  Taste is subjective.  Cooking is not paint by numbers.

So how do I recommend you cook?  Very simple, TASTE WHILE YOU COOK! It’s so simple, so very simple, yet I watch people blindly follow recipes without tasting until the very end.  Bill teases me all the time about how I have already eaten 2 dinners worth by the time I’m done cooking. I grew up seasoning without measuring spoons.  I teach clients how to pay attention to smell, layers of taste and what spices can change intensity with time.  The same goes on a larger scale with ingredients in general.  I teach people how to look at what they have in their kitchen and understand which items can be substituted for something they don’t have.  How to make it a fun challenge to open up your fridge and pantry and come up with an amazing meal with what you have on hand.  For fun I will pick either a seasoning or ingredient and make it my challenge item for the day/week/weekend and come up with a side dish, main dish and dessert using it.  This weekend it was ginger and eggplant.  Cooking needs to be fun.  I believe that I can help you love to cook and not be afraid of cooking.  The same goes for baking.  It doesn’t have to be intimidating.  My philosophy is that people have been cooking and baking long before we had measuring spoons, cups or kitchen products in general.  I will come over to your house and make you some pasta using a beer bottle to roll it out and make do with whatever flour and number of eggs you have on hand.  In fact at one of my favorite homes to cook at, I use a wine bottle for all my rolling needs.  Branch away from your usual recipes.  Learn how spices work together.  Make horrible mistakes and learn from those mistakes!  Trust your gut and taste your food!

On that note… It was a gloomy day in Iowa and I wanted to make chili.  I pulled out some vegetables that needed to be used up.  Ground beef I cooked up for lasagna that I didn’t use and the beans I  had already soaked for 24 hours.  I will post about what I believe to be proper bean preparation in a separate post.  I had some wheat flour out already so I decided to make wheat tortillas and turn those into chips to have with the chili.  I will post that recipe later this week.

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A foggy day turned into a rainy day, perfect for chili!

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Butternut squash, kale and green tomato chili with homemade tortillas and chips
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This is a dish that can easily be made vegetarian, simply omit the ground beef. This recipe or lack of recipe came about by me simply seeing what produce I had in my fridge that had to be used up. I had tomatoes that I knew were done turning and were still half green, kale and peppers that had to be eaten today. The butternut squash adds a sweetness to offset the tartness of the green tomatoes. The peppers from the garden all have a distinct taste that add layers of heat and the pinto and kidney beans had soaked for 24 hours and slow cooked for about 4 hours and I wanted to use half tonight and freeze the rest. Add in some grass fed ground beef and I had everything I needed for a delicious chili. I already had wheat flour out from something else I was baking so I decide to make wheat tortilla chips for the chili instead of my yogurt cornbread. This is what I try and really teach my clients how to do, look at your inventory and be able to come up with a healthy and delicious meal.
Butternut squash, kale and green tomato chili with homemade tortillas and chips
Print Recipe
This is a dish that can easily be made vegetarian, simply omit the ground beef. This recipe or lack of recipe came about by me simply seeing what produce I had in my fridge that had to be used up. I had tomatoes that I knew were done turning and were still half green, kale and peppers that had to be eaten today. The butternut squash adds a sweetness to offset the tartness of the green tomatoes. The peppers from the garden all have a distinct taste that add layers of heat and the pinto and kidney beans had soaked for 24 hours and slow cooked for about 4 hours and I wanted to use half tonight and freeze the rest. Add in some grass fed ground beef and I had everything I needed for a delicious chili. I already had wheat flour out from something else I was baking so I decide to make wheat tortilla chips for the chili instead of my yogurt cornbread. This is what I try and really teach my clients how to do, look at your inventory and be able to come up with a healthy and delicious meal.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. What I sometimes like to do when I am just throwing together a dish with what I need to use up, is I get everything out and organize from there the order I need to cook things. My beans and meat were already cooked so I started with the onions and sauteed them in a butter and olive oil combo and then added some garlic.
  2. In a large pot, on medium high heat I cooked down the tomatoes making a quick tomato sauce and added the onions and garlic. I then added the peppers.
  3. I started slowly adding water bringing it to the consistency I wanted. I don't think broth is necessary for chili. I added the squash and kale followed by the meat and beans. I then started seasoning it with my spices. I happen to love spanish paprika or smoked paprika, and I think it adds a great flavor to the chili. It's one of those spices that I try to sneak into as many things as possible. Because I used water and not broth, I did add a lot more salt. The great thing is that I know that the salt in my chili is unrefined sea salt full of awesome minerals, unlike the refined salt used in most broths and stocks. Having complete control over your ingredients is fantastic. Continue to season until you are happy with how it tastes! If you don't have fresh peppers, I suggest using red pepper flakes for the spice. I like my chili to be really chunky and have very little broth, great thing about using water and not broth is you can easily add more especially as it cooks down!
  4. I served my chili with cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips. I also squeeze a bit of lime and mix it in right before serving but that is a personal preference and I only do it if I have lime on hand.
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