Sunday, October 6, 2013

White Chicken Chili with Zavory Peppers (Dairy Free, Soy Free)

Who doesn't love chili?

My family absolutely loves my traditional, tomatoes-and-beans turkey chili.  We've experimented with verde-style chilis and even a ridiculously good vegan chili.  Today, however, I am making white chicken chili.

This is a white chili because it does not include tomatoes.

The night before I want to serve this chili, I make up some homemade stock.  This is easy peasy.  I promise.  Don't be frightened.

If you don't want to/don't have the time to/are afraid to make your own chicken stock, then that's totally cool.  There are plenty of low-sodium commercial stocks out there.  I prefer to make my own because I can carefully control the sodium level, and I know for sure that there is no MSG in my soup.  If you're not planning to make stock, scroll down to the Squish.


First, take a whole 4 lb chicken, remove whatever "stuff" is crammed into the cavity (The Hubs tells me this is the neck, or gizzards, or something.  The sheer fact that I am wiling to touch a whole raw chicken indicates that I have come a long, long way--but I am not yet to a place where I want to think about "gizzards").  Just....throw it away.  Or something.

Around dinnertime one night, put the chicken in your slow cooker.  Add enough water just to cover.  Around the chicken, stick a peeled and quartered yellow onion, 2-3 stalks of celery, a couple of bay leaves and some garlic cloves (whole).  Sprinkle a few whole black peppercorns in, put the lid on, turn the slow cooker on "high."  Let it work its magic for 3-4 hours.  Then, turn the slow cooker down to "low," and go to bed.

Those of you with infants in the house may want to resist this recipe until your baby is sleeping through the night.  I tell you, waking up at 2 a.m. and smelling rich, golden homemade chicken soup is a bit distracting.

In the morning, you will have yourself a stunning homemade stock with a whole lot of stuff floating in it.  Have your rubbish bin nearby, as well as a colander set into a big bowl.  I also make sure I have a large wire mesh sieve and a cutting board nearby.  Turn the slow cooker off and work very carefully, as this stuff is hot.  Using a slotted spoon or a spider, begin to scoop the chicken out of the stock.  Discard bones and other gristle, as well as the celery, onion, garlic and bay.  Chicken meat goes into the colander.  Keep scooping until you've pulled most of the solids from the stock.

Now put the colander containing the chicken aside to cool before handling.  Combine any stock that dripped into the bowl with the stock in the slow cooker crock and carefully ladel it through the wire mesh sieve and into a pot.  I typically do this twice: once through the sieve, and once more through the sieve with a layer of cheesecloth.

You'll want to give your slow cooker crockery a quick wash at this point if you plan to use it for the chili.  The stock-making process will leave behind a big of scum and that's not good eats.

Now you should have a pot full of stock, a colander full of chicken, and a rubbish bin full of bones and other such nonsense.  Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it and set it aside.

Awww.  Squish stole my apple.
I really just put this here so those skipping the stock-making portion of the post could see where to pick up.  So, let's make some chili, shall we?

In a saucepan, heat some olive oil.  Sweat diced onion, minced garlic, and chopped peppers until the onion is soft and translucent.  You can use any kind of peppers here.  I use zavory because that is what I grow in my garden (plus, they are gorgeous).  You can certainly use jalapeno, habanero, or even a mixture of hot and sweet peppers depending on your heat level preferences.

Add two cans of diced green chiles and 1 can of cannelini beans.  Sprinkle in some chili powder, cumin, ground corainder, smoked paprika, and a bit of cayenne pepper (if you're feeling frisky).

Now you're going to add that stock.  Mmmmmmmmm......

....and the shredded chicken.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a good 20-30 minutes.  Alternatively, you can put the whole thing in your slow cooker and let it hang out all day long.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  We like things spicy, so I tend to just dump a bunch of chili powder and cumin in there.

About ten minutes before serving (if cooking stovetop) or one hour before serving (if slow cooking), whisk together 1/8 c masa cornmeal with 1 1/4 c unsweetened plain rice milk.  Slowly whisk that into the chili.  This will thicken the soup just a tad, and adds the hint of a creamy mouth feel without, um, cream.

I like to serve this chili with diced avocado, sliced scallion greens, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced raw zavory peppers and tortilla chips.  And a healthy squeeze of lime juice.

White Chicken Chili with Zavory Peppers

2 T olive oil
1/2 c chopped white or sweet onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c chopped hot peppers (any kind will do, really)
2-7 oz cans diced green chiles, drained
1-14.5 oz can cannelini beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
1-2 T chili powder (adjust to taste)
1-2 T cumin (adjust to taste)
1/2 T smoked paprika
2 t ground coriander
cayenne pepper, to taste
6 c chicken stock (homemade or store bought)
1-2 c shredded cooked chicken
1/8 c masa corn meal
1 1/4 c plain unsweetened nondairy milk
kosher salt and pepper, to taste

for serving:
additional chopped hot peppers
lime wedges
chopped fresh cilantro
diced avocado
finely sliced scallions
tortilla chips or warm corn tortillas

1.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat oil over medium-low to medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and peppers.  Add a pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent.
2.  Turn heat up slightly (medium to medium-high) and, working quickly, add chiles, beans, and spices.
3.  Pour in stock.  Add cooked shredded chicken.  Bring to a boil.
4.  Reduce heat to a low simmer.  Simmer gently 20-30 minutes, adjusting seasonings to your personal preferences.
5.  Meanwhile, whisk masa and milk in a liquid measuring cup.  Prior to serving, whisk masa mixture into chili and cook ten additional minutes, until masa is well incorporated and chili thickens slightly.
6.  Serve with garnishes of your choice.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Preschool Homeschool Week 3: All About Me

We're doubling up on some of our letter activities this week.  We're running a bit behind.

This precious face:

is getting a mouthful of teeth all at once.  A week ago, he had two bottom teeth and a gummy grin.  Now, he's sporting all four top teeth.  Within a week. So, you can guess how the last week has been at our house.

We continued our discussion of apples this week, and spent some time practicing Toodles' name and the names in our family.

We finished up letter A by bingo stamping around the letter...

...and completing a coloring activity.
The idea behind this activity is to color each section with a capital A in one color, and each section containing a lowercase a in a contrasting color.  When you've finished, it creates the outline of a capital A.  It all started out fine until Squish woke up wailing in the middle of tot tray time.  While I was tending to Squish, Toodles finished the activity with his own interpretation.

And, you know what?  That's fine.  He's three.  We'll try this activity again but the bottom line is that he spent some time looking at and thinking about the letter a, and building his fine motor and coloring skills.

I don't have many photos for you this week, because I've chosen not to post the children's real names.  It would be difficult to show you activities in which we practice his name without showing you his name.

We kept our apples book basket out as we were enjoying the books and they are rich with science that Toodles is still learning.  We also added a few "All About Me" books, including

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

When Sophie Gets Angry...Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
This book is great for helping young children identify and assign vocabulary to their feelings.  It is a touch over Toodles' head, but we still took some time to read it and talk about what was going on with Sophie.  In another 2-3 months, I'm sure he will be ready to really appreciate this book.

Owen by Kevin Henkes

Toodles and I made a family names album this week.  We had a 4"x6" photo album lying around, so we filled it with photos of our family.  On the left hand page is a photo, and on the right hand page is an index card containing that person's name.  We've started reading this book together in the evenings, and my hope is that it will help him learn to read and write the names of those important to him.

Our tot trays this week:
1.  I placed magnet letters spelling Toodles' name in his rice bin.  He was to find the letters and place them on his magnadoodle, in order, then write his name below that.  He enjoyed this tremendously.  He enjoys anything that's a bit messy.
2.  Practicing our letter J sound by placing things that begin with the letter J into a jar (jump, jellybean, jar, jet, jersey, etc).  For this I used a clean peanut butter jar.
3.  Fine motor skills and sorting: Toodles used our sugar tongs to sort different colored pom poms into cups of matching colors.  He is quite skilled at picking up pom poms with the tongs.  I'll need to find a new challenge for him!
4.  As always, our fourth tot tray was our thematic book basket.