Tag Archives: Chili

On missing the obvious and Killer Chicken Cashew Chili

serving chili

Ask any of my family members and they will tell you that I am one of the most unobservant people around.  I am just not curious about other people and their business.  I never stop to gawk at car accidents, I am always the last person to know any of our street gossip and I never notice new haircuts or things like that. My siblings love to tell the following story as a stellar example of how notorious I am for missing the obvious.

In 1999, my dad was sick with kidney disease and heart problems.  He needed to have heart valve replacement surgery.  After the surgery, the doctor came out of the operating room and told us the surgery went well.  I stayed at the hospital a few more hours and then I flew back to Ottawa.  Several days later, my sister called me and told me I better come back to Toronto.  My dad was fighting an infection and was not doing well.  I caught the next flight and went straight to the hospital.

I went directly to his room.  I peeked inside and saw a nurse sitting with my dad.  He was sleeping.  None of my family members were anywhere to be seen.  The nurse smiled at me and left the room.  I gave my dad a kiss on the cheek and sat down and started talking to him, holding his hand as I sat.  It was a warm summer day and I thought it was so strange that his cheek and hands were so cold.  After a few minutes I went out into the hall, looking for my mom and my siblings.  They all came running down the hall, crying and hugging me.  It was at that moment that it dawned on me why my dad was so cold.  To this day, I still get teased about how unobservant I can be.

However, there is one place where I am observant – the supermarket. I love to play a little game while waiting in line at the grocery store. I check out the contents of the carts around me.  You can usually tell a lot about a person by their choice of groceries.  While doing my shopping in the first week of January I inevitably noticed carts full of Lean Cuisine and Weight Watcher’s frozen dinners, diet soda, cans of tuna and lots of fruit and vegetables.  This is the month that we typically resolve to eat light and healthy.

Chili is not traditionally known to be a healthy food.  Usually made with beef it is high in fat.  This chili is made with chicken and therefore much lower in fat and calorie content.  The first time I made this chili was at a Potluck dinner at a neighbor’s house.  We were standing at the buffet table spooning food onto our plates.  The woman standing next to me, had her plate heaped full of the chili I had brought.  She remarked how delicious it looked.  I smiled and said, “Thanks, I made it.”  She asked what kind of chili it was and I answered, “Cashew Chicken Chili.”  She almost dropped her plate.  It turned out she was fatally allergic to cashews.  Hence the name “Killer Chili.”

cashews and chiles 2

This chili relies on both dried whole chiles as well as chile powders. The combination of whole chiles and powder add a depth of flavour to the chili that you would not get if you just used chili powder. For the whole chiles,  I used both New Mexico and Guajillo chiles. Ancho chiles would also be an excellent choice. I buy my dried chiles on-line from chilly chiles.

new mexico chilesguajillo chiles

The dried whole chiles need to be toasted and then soaked in boiling water to rehydrate them for about 20 minutes. Once they are soaked, I removed the seeds. If , like my sister, you like your chili painfully spicy, feel free to add the seeds as well. The rehydrated chiles get blended with chicken stock and some cashews to create an incredibly flavourful sauce. The cashews add body to the sauce.

toasting chiles

soak chilesdeseeding

adding chicken stockadding cashews

Ground cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle chile powder, salt, onions and garlic round out the additional spices. Canned tomatoes and the pureed chiles create a liquid base for one cut up chicken. Once the chile is done simmering, a touch of bittersweet chocolate is added. The chicken is removed from the sauce once it is done and the meat is removed from the bones and shredded. It goes back into the sauce with some canned white and black beans. Rich, sweet and mildly hot, this chile takes the edge off any roughness in your day!


Pam’s Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to this chile.

with cornbread 1

Click here to print recipe for Killer Chicken Chili (also known as Chicken Cashew Chili)

Chili Hand Pies

Just the words “Hand Pie” make me smile. Could there be anything more adorable and appealing than a little pie you eat with your hands? To be honest, I’m not a huge fruit pie fan. Perhaps it’s because of my peach pie blunder.   Or maybe it’s just that if I’m going to ingest copious amounts of butter and sugar, I’d rather partner it with chocolate or caramel rather than fruit. Plus, there’s something about a fruit hand pie makes me think of McDonald’s deep-fried apple pies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But stuff something savory in pastry and I’m all over it!

I was watching The Chew last week and Carla and Clinton teamed up to make Chili Hand Pies. They had way too much fun making them, and I wanted in on it. I think it would be so much fun to have the cast of The Chew over for drinks! Cooking dinner for them would be too much pressure, but I know that certainly after a few cocktails, they’d all be in my kitchen with me cooking away. Michael would be laughing while he prepared some porky goodness, Mario would be grating Parmesan Cheese over everything and Clinton would surely keep the cocktails flowing.

My sisters just read the last paragraph and I know they are thinking that I am turning into my mother, having imaginary parties with my TV friends.

Carla and Clinton did a Beef Chili. I decided to do a vegetarian version, substituting Veggie Ground Round for the beef. I also added some onions to the chili and ramped up the heat, using 3 kinds of peppers: fresh jalapeno, diced pickled jalapeno and ancho chili powder. You want the filling to be quite spicy because the pastry crust is quite mild.

The dough is made with cornmeal. They recommended cutting the butter into small slices, but I took it right from the freezer and grated it into the dry ingredients. This is a wonderfully supple dough and rolls out without any problems. I used a 5 inch tin to cut out my circles. Use whatever you have on hand. Smaller ones would also be a wonderful hors d’oeuvre. You can make the chili and the pastry a day ahead and refrigerate them separately. I rolled out all my pastry circles and stacked them between sheets of waxed paper, before chilling. That way, the next day it was all ready to assemble and bake.

Onions, garlic, red pepper, jalapeno pepper, cumin, chili powder and salt form the flavour base.

Make sure you let the chili cool before mixing in some grated cheddar.

Don’t overfill them or you will have trouble sealing them. You can simply press the edges with the tines of a fork, or get fancy and roll the edges like a rope. 

Cut a few slits so the steam can escape. 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven, and they are ready to serve.

Click here to print the recipe for Chili Hand Pies.

Vegetarian Chili

I have been making this vegetarian chili on a regular basis for almost 10 years now. You would think I would be sick of it, but I’m not. Perhaps it’s because I top it with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar and then pop the whole bowl in the oven until the cheese is hot and bubbly. A dollop of sour cream and some spring onions don’t hurt either!

When my daughter was 11 years old, she came home from camp and announced that she was now a vegetarian. Of course I thought it was a phase and figured she would grow out of it. After a year of subsisting on mainly cheese and peanut butter, I figured I better begin researching alternate protein sources for her. I started cooking with tofu and she really liked it. Problem was, the rest of the family, especially me, couldn’t stand it so it meant making two different dinners. And then I stumbled across this product.

Consisting of soy and wheat protein, it basically has not much taste, but is loaded in protein. I figured I could make a chili, loaded with spices and vegetables and use the veggie ground round for texture. I added some rice and beans for more bulk and protein and came up with a delicious vegetarian option that everyone would eat without too much grumbling. Several years later I got the brain wave to top the chilli with crushed tortilla chips and grated cheddar cheese. I put the whole thing in the oven for about 10 minutes until it was all hot and bubbly. After that, everyone was really happy!

If you can chop vegetables and open cans, you can make this. I thought it was a fairly foolproof recipe until my daughter’s friend, Christina, who requested this every time she ate at our house, decided to make it herself. She had just moved into her first apartment at university and sent me an e-mail for the recipe. A few days later, my daughter told me that the recipe did not turn out. Christina had burned it. I just could not fathom how this had happened. The recipe uses 3 cups of water as well as liquid from the canned tomatoes. How could it possibly burn with that much liquid?

Upon further interrogation, the answer became clear. She looked at the mixture in the pot after adding the canned tomatoes and decided that it already looked liquidy enough. She decided she did not need to add the water. What she didn’t factor into the equation was that she had also added a cup of raw rice. Rice absorbs liquid and swells to three times its original volume as it cooks. (She is not a science major!) Without the extra liquid, the rice had nothing to soak up and it just burned. She was so embarrassed so I decided to share my Jell-O fiasco with her so she wouldn’t feel so badly.

My earliest cooking disaster was back in the 70’s when Jell-O molds were all the rage.  My mom used to make whipped Jell-O desserts.  My favourite was a red Jell-O and frozen raspberry concoction that had sour cream or whipped cream folded into it.  It had a mousse like consistency.  Sometimes, when she was feeling a little exotic she would make a green Jell-O and crushed pineapple variation. When that happened, I had to call my friend Corrie, immediately.  It was her favourite.

I begged my mom to let me help her make the Jell-O dessert. She had everything laid out on the counter.  She gave me my instructions, “When the water boils, add two packages of lime Jell-O”.  She went upstairs to get the fish-shaped mold and left me alone. In a few minutes, clouds of steam were billowing out of the kettle so I added the Jell-O powder – right into the kettle!  Suffice it to say, it was a while before she let me help her again. My story left Christina feeling a little bit better about her burned chili, and since that time she has gone on to make it successfully, many times.

Begin with chopped onions, red and yellow peppers. Sweat in olive oil for a few minutes and then grate some garlic into the pot.

Add canned beans (white or black or both), canned corn, canned plum tomatoes, which have been coarsely chopped, rice, water and spices. My favourite way to chop canned tomatoes is to dump them out into a large bowl and squish them with my hands. For my chili, I used cumin powder, and a combination of Ancho chili powder and New Mexico chili powder (mild). Then add some white long grain rice and more water. Let the whole thing simmer for about 30 minutes.

After about half an hour, add diced zucchini and the veggie ground round. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and then spoon unto heatproof bowls. Top with crushed tortilla chips and grated cheddar and bake in a hot oven until the cheese melts.

Click here to print recipe for Vegetarian Chili .