Chili Time


This chili doesn’t “chicken out!” . . . .

We enjoyed a really wonderful bowl of chicken chili at one of our favorite restaurants recently, and we decided to try to re-create it at home.  We shopped for what we believed to be the relevant ingredients and when a recent snowstorm hit, decided the time was right for chili.  The following recipe makes a wonderful, satisfying cold-weather dish and we decided we had come very close to the original.  Enjoy!

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/4 cup cooking oil (I used Canola)

Brown chicken thighs on all sides in large skillet on medium heat.  Set aside to cool and then shred.

2 Tbsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp chipotle chile powder

2 Tbsp ancho chile powder

3 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, chopped fine

Add onion to skillet and cook until softened.  Add garlic, cumin, chile powders, oregano and braise in skillet, stirring to prevent scorching and scraping to loosen brown bits.  

4 – 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth

2 – 14.5 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

2 large fresh poblano chiles, roasted, chopped

4 large fresh jalapeno chiles, seeds removed, chopped

Add one can chicken broth to onion mixture in skillet, simmer to loosen brown bits.  Pour onion mixture into large soup kettle.  Mix tomatoes, poblano and jalapeno chiles to shredded chicken, add to soup kettle mixture along with remaining 3 cans of chicken broth.  Simmer uncovered 1/2 hour.

1- 14.5 oz. can whole kernel corn, liquid drained

2 – 14.5 oz. cans small black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup finely minced scallions

Add corn and black beans to soup kettle, simmer uncovered 1/2 hour.  When ready to serve, ladle into large soup bowls. garnish with scallions.  Wedges of fresh lime  and flour tortillas optional as sides.

Granny’s Bread Pudding (with some differences)

A favorite recipe that we have enjoyed countless times began with a scratchy little note I made as my grandmother Clara demonstrated what should go into a good bread pudding.  I still have the original note on a tablet sheet of yellow lined paper, and have added my own notes to it a few times.  It is wrinkled, splattered and in terrible condition.  I actually misplaced it and managed to find it in a thorough search of my miscellaneous loose recipes a couple of days ago.  Strangely enough, yesterday I had a request for the recipe and was so relieved I still had it!  The timing was oddly coincidental.

Granny raised chickens and we grew up eating lots of fresh eggs.  And any economical cook knows that a great way to use up eggs and salvage stale bread is in a pudding.  One of the great discoveries (in my opinion) was the addition of challah bread to make a pudding. We ordered this dessert at the Alley House in Pagosa Springs, Colorado a couple trips ago and since that time, I have used this same bread for a rich, delicious bread pudding.

Granny Clara’s Bread Pudding

8 eggs (pullet) or 6 regular

3/4 C white sugar

1 tsp vanilla

l/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 qts. milk

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 challah bread loaf, torn into bite size pieces and left to dry a bit

raisens (optional)  slivered almonds sprinkled on top (optional)

Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk.  Place bread pieces in a 12-cup greased baking dish (I still use my grandmother’s decorative glass Fire King dish to make bread pudding and custard).  Pour milk mixture over bread and let sit for 5 minutes so the break can absorb the moisture. Sprinkle with raisens and/or sliced almonds.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes–test by inserting knife into center.  If milk mixture clings to knife, bake 10 additional minutes.  Should be a nice golden brown.  Cool in baking dish on a rack while you prepare sauce.


1 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

dash salt

l/2 cup water

l/3 cup unsalted butter

1 tsp. maple flavoring (can substitute dash of nutmeg with 1 Tbsp. bourbon)

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.  Mix dry ingredients with water, add to butter stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  When sauce is thickened, remove from heat. Pour while warm over individual servings of bread pudding.


Soup Kitchen is Open


Veggies and more veggies . . . .

Cold winter afternoons are great for making soup!  On this particular day, an emptying of refrigerator drawers and the freezer, added to a few things off the pantry shelf resulted in a delicious, hearty vegetable soup.  Primary ingredients for this vegetable medley included carrots and golden beets from the garden that are wintering nicely in the downstairs refrigerator and are as sweet and luscious as the day we dug them out of the ground; green beans that I froze in August; rutabaga; leeks; onion and garlic; cabbage and canned tomatoes.  A few chunks of summer sausage added a flavor boost, along with herbs, salt and pepper.  Great for lunch and supper!


Where’s the beef? . . . .

Beef burgundy in a crock pot was a first.  We usually prepare it in the oven but it doesn’t matter where you slow cook it, so long as it is slooooow.  This time a raid for ingredients fell short of mushrooms which make this dish truly wonderful, but we had the pearl onions and a good red wine which helped.  The beef is the star of this dish and it was delicious, with a touch of bacon added.


A trip to the fish market . . . .

We don’t find lots of fresh seafood in the grocery stores where we live, so a trip to Fort Collins and Whole Paycheck meant an opportunity to load up.  Plans were for cioppino, a favorite fish stew.  Fresh clams, mussels, shrimp, and a firm white fish are basics.  Some restaurants serve king crab legs, but a tomato based stew makes for a messy finish when you wrestle with crab legs.  We decided against those and chose cod which, while it tasted delicious, didn’t hold together at all well.  Should have chosen the scallops!


Hmmmm . . . .

A crusty loaf of bread, along with a nice white wine, and you’ve got a meal fit for a cold winter evening by the fire.  Other recent favorites were Super Bowl green chili and chicken vegetable soup. They were consumed before I was able to photograph them. Onward and upward!


Golden Habanero Peach Jam, Oh My!

Peach goodness in a jar . . . .

Peach goodness in a jar . . . .

We bought two cases of peaches from a truck that delivers to the local fire hall once a year, and have been enjoying the juiciest, most delicious Colorado peaches imaginable.  I have now used one case of “seconds” for peach jam and worked on a couple of recipes to arrive at a new combination.  My first batch from a recipe I found online is wonderful, however with the addition of brown sugar, cinnamon and allspice, the jam is a dark amber color, closer to apple butter than peaches.  I wanted to capture the beautiful golden color of the peaches and decided I needed to chop the fruit finer to have lots of little peach bits suspended in the jam.

I used a potato masher on the first batch, and had to flip the jars for 24 hours to keep the larger bits of peach from rising to the top, leaving only juice jam in the lower half of the jar. This second batch was chopped much finer in my food processor and I revised the recipe with different spices and all-white sugar to arrive at the golden peach color I was seeking. I am pleased with the small peach bits suspended throughout the jar of jam.

I reduce the sugar in jam recipes by 30-40% and have found the flavor is more “fruity” and less sugary, which is the way we like it.  The addition of habanero peppers gives the jam a subtle flavor that warms the tongue with pleasant heat.  Braise 1-inch pork chops on grill, place in glass baking dish and pour 1 cup peach jam over chops.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 30 minutes – yum!

Golden Habanero Peach Jam

7 lbs. peaches peeled, chopped fine (about 8 cups)

3/4 cup bottled lemon juice

9 cups white sugar

5 habanero peppers stemmed, seeded, minced fine

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp ground cardamom

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp tumeric

2 Tbs. vanilla

11 Tbs. low sugar/no sugar pectin powder

Put chopped peaches, lemon juice, sugar, peppers and spices in large non-reactive pot. Bring to rolling boil, spooning off foam.  Add pectin, stir vigorously and bring back to boil. Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir.  Spoon into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space, wipe rims and place lids. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath, remove and cool on a towel for 12 hours.  Enjoy!

Peach Jam is Fine, but Cobbler is Divine!

Flavor in a jar . . . .

Flavor in a jar . . . .

The subject of peaches came up recently.  Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach jam, peach smoothies, peaches and ice cream, and finally, just plain peaches, eaten fresh with juice dripping down your arm.  Conversation about Grandma Rose’s peach cobbler sent me to find a crusty, faded scrap of paper where I had tried to capture her recipe as she assembled a cobbler in her kitchen.  I have made this cobbler many times, and I think she would be proud that I managed to come close to hers.  I especially like that it cooks on the stove and I don’t have to heat the oven on a hot day.

Grandma Rose’s Peach Cobbler

10 ripe peaches, washed, peeled and sliced in 1″ chunks

1 cup of water

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. corn starch (I measure heaping Tbsp. if peaches are real juicy)

1 tsp. cinnamon

Place peaches in a round 10-inch pan with lid (I use Mom’s old pan that is 5″ deep with a domed lid adding 1″ to allow for room for the dumplings).  Add water, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon, bring to a boil on stove-top. Stir corn starch in enough water to make a smooth paste and add slowly to peach mixture, mixing in a little warm juice to dilute. Continue stirring to avoid lumps in juice.  Cook peach mixture over medium heat until juice has thickened.


1-1/2 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

dash salt

3 tsp. baking powder

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Add approximately 3/4 cup milk to make stiff dough

Mix all dumpling ingredients until moistened and dough has a tacky texture.  Drop in large spoonfuls on the top of boiling peach mixture, completely covering peaches. Put on tight-fitting lid and reduce heat to low.  Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until dumplings are puffed high and fully cooked.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.  Heavenly!

Breakfast Cookies

for the cookie monsters . . . .

for the cookie monsters . . . .

There is no doubt I’ve eaten hundreds of these over my lifetime.  These were a favorite cookie that my mother baked and if I ate a few hundred, she must have baked many thousand!  Made with old fashioned rolled oats, breakfast cereal, coconut and chopped walnuts, they are packed full of healthy ingredients.  How can you go wrong having this cookie for breakfast?

I rediscovered them by chance on an outing last summer.  A friend brought a container of them for us to share and the minute I bit into one, I knew it was my mother’s Ranger cookie.  When I expounded on the merits of this delicious cookie (and knocked off three of them in no time) my friend graciously agreed to send along a copy of her recipe.  In the interim, I was able to locate several speckled and spattered copies of Mom’s note cards with the ingredients she used. When I compared the two recipes, I noted they were exactly alike except for two features: 1) My friend’s recipe was for “School House Ranger Cookies” and called for Corn Flakes; and 2) Mom’s recipe was simply entitled “Ranger Cookies” and she made hers with Rice Krispies.

To be fair to Mom, I made several dozen with the Rice Krispies for a family gathering and they disappeared like I knew they would.  I recently baked 10-dozen of them and put them in the freezer.  We take out a few at a time, warm them slightly in the microwave and they are heavenly!

Ranger Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2 cups Rice Krispies

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Sift flour with baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix in cereal, coconut and nuts.  Blend dry ingredients into creamed butter mixture.  Roll dough into 1-1/2 inch balls, place on oiled baking sheet.  When baked, cookies will be approximately 3″ in diameter.  Recipe makes 60 cookies.  They store and freeze well.

Salsa Party

timeout for tomatoes . . . .

Timeout for tomatoes . . . .

Six puny little Early Girl bush tomato plants, purchased and planted in the garden mid June, produced sixty-plus pounds of tomatoes!  We gave them away to neighbors and family, fed them to the chickens, and were finally faced with picking the remaining ripe ones from the vines pending a cold snap. We stored them in the basement and for a couple weeks, the question of “what are we going to do with all these tomatoes?” made the rounds daily.  Finally there was no turning back.  We hauled them to the kitchen and declared they were not going to leave until SOMETHING had been done to them.

got peppers, got onions, got cilantro . . . .

got peppers, got onions, got cilantro . . . .

After chopping for what seemed like an eternity, I decided making salsa would be lots more fun if some unsuspecting victims could be convinced to join in the fun.  A salsa party would definitely be worth trying.  Four people could cut the chopping time considerably: one to peel and chop onions; one to seed and chop jalapeno peppers; one to seed and chop anaheim peppers; and one to snip the cilantro leaves.

Tomato prep . . . . how many more pounds?

Tomato prep . . . . how many more pounds?

Dipping the tomatoes into boiling water and then peeling the skins is truly tedious and should require another three prep cooks plus one additional to flush out the seeds and pulp.  Two more cooks can begin to assemble the remaining ingredients (one to read the recipe and one to locate the right size pan, et al). Throw it all together and begin simmering. Let’s see, we’re approaching a dozen guests if we assign two mixologists to brew up and begin serving the margaritas.  Everyone else can bring on the chips and ready their instruments for the mariachi band!

A few jars for the pantry . . . .

A few jars for the pantry . . . .

A hot water bath preserves the jars of chunky salsa which now sit on a shelf in the basement and will be opened for another salsa party!  Ole’

Granny Clara’s Spudnuts

Still warm and dripping with glaze - hmmmmm . . . . . .

Still warm and dripping with glaze – hmmmmm . . . . . .

Our paternal grandmother Clara was the creative partner in an enterprise known as The Telephone Store.  It was a general store with a lunch counter running the length of one large room where livestock vaccines, straw hats, bandannas, greeting cards, magazines, comic books, ice cream cones, soft drinks, face powder, perfume, candy, cigarettes, lotions and potions were sold six days a week, 7:00 a.m. to whenever they pulled the roller shade on the door that indicated they were closed for the day.

Clara was up at 4:00 a.m. to start the spudnuts and pies–apple, cherry, coconut cream, banana cream, chocolate cream and egg custard–baked every morning for the early arrival of the local ranchers and townies, as well as a stream of truck drivers who traveled U.S. Highway 87 which ran through town. Salt Creek Freight also ran a bus service that arrived mid morning and again on a return trip mid afternoon, so the pies and doughnuts were always gone at the end of the day.

Scrounging through old family recipes with the sisty-uglers turned up one for Granny’s spudnuts and a recipe testing event was finally organized on a recent Saturday, after much hemming and hawing and re-scheduling.  Only one of us had actually tried to make her spudnuts, and we were doubtful we could match our childhood  memories of how wonderful we thought they tasted.


A platter of pure delight . . . .

We made two batches from two slightly different versions of the recipe, and we came pretty close.  With a little practice we can make Granny proud.

Granny Clara’s Spudnuts

1 Cup mashed potatoes

1 Cup potato water

1 Cup (two sticks) butter

1/2 Cup sugar

1 Tbsp salt

1 Cup scalded milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 package yeast

6-7 Cups flour

Glaze: 1/2 Cup flour; 1 lb. bag powdered sugar; 1 tsp vanilla; water to make a syrupy glaze

1.  Bring butter to room temp; mix with sugar, salt, mashed potatoes.  Dissolve yeast in warm potato water; add water, milk and eggs to potato mixture. Stir in enough flour to make dough easy to handle.

2.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise until double, 1 to 2 hrs.

3.  Pat out dough on lightly floured surface to 3/4 inch thickness.  Cut doughnuts with floured 2-1/2 inch cutter; let rise until double, about one hour.

4.  Heat oil (peanut or canola) to 375 degrees in deep, heavy pan.  Fry doughnuts until golden, 2-3 min. each side.  Drain on paper toweling.  Glaze doughnuts while warm; store at room temp. covered with wax paper.  Best eaten same day–makes 3 dozen.

Don’t even think about the calories!

Quick and Hearty Chicken Soup

Flu vaccine . . . .

Flu vaccine . . . .

Our favorite chicken soup has evolved over time into a fairly foolproof dish that can be assembled in little more than an hour.  Rather than start with a large roasting hen, which requires cooking, removing meat from the bones, and making stock (I used to do this one day ahead of soup making), a practical shortcut is boneless, skinless chicken breasts. With all the colds and flu making the rounds, it seems like a good time for a big pot of chicken soup!

3 large onions, chopped

6 stalks celery, sliced thin

10 large carrots, peeled and sliced

4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 bay leaves

10 cloves garlic, sliced thin

3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger

1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 cup frozen peas

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 – 32 oz. boxes organic chicken broth ( or 7 –  14.5 oz. cans)

1 – 9 oz. pkg. fresh fettuccine noodles, cut in 3″ pieces

salt and pepper to taste

In large skillet with lid, saute chicken breasts in 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Cover, reduce heat and poach for 30 min., turning once.  Remove from skillet, cool and tear or chop into bite-size pieces. Meanwhile, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil, onions, celery and garlic, saute in skillet until softened.  Pour onion mixture into 8-1/2 qt. soup pot, add chicken broth, bay leaf, sliced carrots, chicken pieces, noodles and salt and pepper. Bring to boil, simmer 20 minutes.  Add frozen peas, parsley and fresh ginger.  Cook additional 10 minutes, serve with crusty loaf of French bread and your favorite wine.  Makes 12 servings.

Christmas Coffee Cake

A Christmas morning delight . . . .

A Christmas morning delight . . . .

This luscious coffee cake was served on Christmas morning in our house for many, many years.  The recipe came from a Redbook magazine published in the 1970’s, and every year the magazine appeared on the kitchen counter to begin the creation of yet another delectable cake.  Loaded with butter, sour cream, and a streusel filling of nuts, cinnamon and brown sugar, this is the ultimate in coffee cakes.

Last year a request came from one of the boys for the recipe, and the search began anew for the magazine which by now was dog-eared, splattered with mixing bowl spillovers and a variety of smudges of indescribable origin. It had been kept all these years in a cardboard box, along with a variety of other holiday editions of Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, Sphere and several other holiday issues of Red Book.  I spent the better part of an evening trying to find the recipe, to no avail.  The magazine that I sought was nowhere to be found, and had obviously been loaned out or misplaced.  I had not baked the Christmas coffee cake in many years, and could not remember when I had last seen the magazine.

An Internet search produced a similar recipe, but with several minor differences.  I passed it along and got a good report on the cake that my son baked for his Christmas morning.  He posted a photograph on his Facebook page and it looked just like the cake we had grown to love.

This year my husband and I decided to have Christmas at the cabin and do our own holiday meal preparation in lieu of a resort vacation. After reminiscing for a few days about holidays of years gone by, we discussed what would be good to prepare in advance to take along with us.  The coffee cake was top of mind, and after another Internet search, a recipe nearly identical to the one I had prepared for nearly twenty years rose to the occasion.  I hope and pray it tastes as good as I remember it and will share the recipe if it is.

We will have it with a compote of fresh fruit and naturally cured smoked ham–on Christmas morning.