Food and Recipes

Slow Cooker Meals: Southwestern Green Chile

Have you ever wanted to make Southwestern green chile at home? It's easy -- learn how with this slow cooker recipe. #easydinners #recipes #comfortfood #southwestern #stews #slowcooker
Photo by Amber Carlson

Green chile (chile verde) is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, especially in the fall and winter months. It’s a food that is near and dear to my heart as a native Colorado girl; my dad used to make pots of the stuff when we were growing up. To this day, I still love a bowl of chile to warm myself up on a cold day.

One thing I adore about green chile is how versatile it is. You can eat it on its own like a soup, perhaps with some fresh tortillas on the side for dipping. I used to like to smother it on top of fried eggs for a simple breakfast. It makes an excellent topping for burritos, enchiladas, and fries. At Thanksgiving, my aunt usually makes a batch of her signature, rip-your-lips-off chile — and we pour it over our turkey and mashed potatoes like gravy. There are a thousand ways to eat green chile, and they’re all delicious.

About This Recipe

The recipe I’m going to share with you is based on the green chile that my dad used to make with a few of my own modifications. It is savory, tangy, and can be made as spicy (or not) as you’d like.

By far the most important ingredient is the chiles. While you can use canned green chiles, I’ve always made my chile using fresh, whole roasted peppers. Canned chiles are a huge time saver, without a doubt, but the flavor and aroma of the fresh peppers is incomparable and adds a complex richness to the stew.

Photo by Amber Carlson

I should warn you that prepping fresh chiles is a tad labor intensive. If you buy whole peppers to use — which I strongly suggest you do — you’ll need to go through the process of roasting, peeling, seeding and chopping them, which does take some time. I have a whole separate article where I explain how and where to find the best peppers and walk you through how to prep them. Whether you’re using fresh or canned chiles, you’ll want to have them ready to go before you start this recipe.

Apart from that, you don’t need anything too fancy. Pork butt or shoulder should do well for the meat, but you can omit the meat or substitute tofu for a vegetarian chile (veggie stock can also be used instead of chicken broth). The recipe is naturally dairy-free, and although flour is traditionally used to thicken the stew and brown the pork, you can easily do this with a gluten-free starch instead.

This hearty stew is easy to make in a slow cooker. After just a bit of prep work, you can leave it to simmer all day long until you’re ready to eat. You can make it on a stove, too, if you don’t have a slow cooker; it’ll just take a bit more watching.

Ready to try it? Let’s go!

Ingredients

Prep time: 25-30 minutes
Cook time: 6-8 hours
Makes about 12 cups of chile

  • 1 lb pork butt or shoulder, diced (or tofu)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free if desired)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5-oz can of green enchilada sauce
  • 3 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
  • 4 cups of roasted green chile peppers, peeled, seeded and diced (canned or fresh)
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Optional sides/garnishes:

  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Hot sauce

How to Make

  1. Coat and brown the pork.

Combine the flour, salt, and a touch of fresh-ground pepper in a small bowl. Whisk the ingredients together with a fork until blended.

Photo by Amber Carlson

Next, place your diced pork into a large bowl and add the flour mixture. Using a spoon or spatula, stir and toss the pork with the flour mixture until all of the meat is coated. The starch will help thicken up the stew.

Photo by Amber Carlson

To brown the pork, heat a couple of tablespoons of your preferred cooking oil over a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and stir until the pieces are lightly browned on all sides, but not cooked through. Once it’s done, remove from the heat and set aside. Leave the browned bits and flour residue in the pan.

Photo by Amber Carlson

Technically, browning the meat is optional — you can skip it if you’re in a hurry. But I highly recommend doing it because it caramelizes the surface of the meat, which adds flavor and deliciousness to your stew. 

  1. Saute the onion and garlic.

Re-heat the same pan you used in Step 1 on medium heat with a little more cooking oil. Add cumin and cinnamon; stir to spread throughout the pan. Toast spices for 30 seconds, just until fragrant. In one of my previous recipes I talked about the benefits of “blooming” spices — it’s just a way to release more of the aromatic oils for a fuller flavor.

Photo by Amber Carlson

Turn the heat up to medium-high; add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, just until the onions turn slightly tender and translucent. Don’t worry if you still have toasted flour and spices stuck to the bottom of the pan; we’ll address that in the next step.

Photo by Amber Carlson
  1. Add the tomatoes and green chiles.

Now, it’s time to add your tomatoes and green chiles to the pan. Stir the tomatoes and green chiles into the onions and garlic. Allow the vegetable mixture to heat to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes.

As the tomatoes and green chiles simmer, their water and juices should help to loosen anything stuck on the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally, using your spoon or spatula to scrape any leftover flour or spices from the pan and fold them into the veggies.

  1. Put everything into the slow cooker and let it cook.

Finally, add your pork and veggie mixture to the slow cooker. Turn the cooker on at its low heat setting; add chicken broth and enchilada sauce, stirring to combine all ingredients.

Photo by Amber Carlson

Close the lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until pork is cooked all the way through and the chile has thickened a bit. Turn the cooker down to its warm setting until you’re ready to eat.

At this point, do a taste test; if the chile could use a little more spice, add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce. Now’s also a good time to add more salt and pepper if needed.

5. Garnish and serve.

Spoon chile into bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve it while it’s hot! Eat your chile on its own or with tortillas, cheese or sour cream — dairy does a great job of mellowing the spice if your chile is too hot for your liking.

Photo by Amber Carlson

And most importantly, enjoy!


Did you like this recipe? Do you have any comments or suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

Food and Recipes

Pasta with Vegetarian Red Wine-Tomato Sauce

Looking for a quick weeknight meal that's also healthy and fresh? Try this vegetarian pasta with scratch tomato sauce on for size. #recipes #easydinnerideas #vegetarian
Photo credit: Amber Carlson

Oh, how I love tomatoes. Especially sweet, juicy, ripe ones fresh off the vine. Our backyard garden is bursting at the seams with four plants’ worth of red and golden cherry varieties, and I’ve been faced with the fun task of figuring out what the heck to do with all of these beauties. The tomato vines and our monstrous zucchini bush plant are popping out fruits much, much faster than we can eat them, and while this is a blessing of sorts, one gets to the point of needing a strategy so that one’s fridge isn’t overwhelmed by a ginormous amount of produce. (I know; first world problems, right?)

Photo by Julia on Pexels.com

But having gobs of tomatoes on hand, actually, is a boon to home cooks for many reasons — and one of those reasons is homemade tomato sauce. Not to dis on the canned or jarred sauce you can buy at the grocery store — there are some decent-quality brands out there — but the “real thing” (aka homemade) has a fresher, more vibrant taste. The herbs are wonderfully aromatic, and the richness of the flavor you get from the tomatoes is unparalleled. Searing the tomatoes at high heat breaks them down quickly and starts to caramelize the sugars, giving them a taste that can normally only be achieved by roasting in the oven. Plus, this sauce is quick and easy to make, so you can whip up a whole pasta dinner with it in less than an hour.

This could be called a “rustic style” sauce. It’s intentionally chunky, and as such it’s not exactly “saucy”. It’s light and oil-based with bursts of intense tomato and onion flavor. I, for one, love it that way, but if you prefer something smoother and more uniform that will evenly coat your noodles, you can certainly throw your sauce into a blender or food processor after you’ve made it and puree to your heart’s content. If you really wanted to, you could pour the sauce through a strainer after blending to remove the tomato seeds and skins — your call. Personally, I like my sauce to have a bit of texture and body to it, but you may feel differently. And this recipe is meat-free, but if you’re a carnivore, you could easily add some protein (I’d suggest chicken or Italian sausage).

At any rate, without further ado, here’s my recipe. This sauce is my own personal version of a recipe from the wonderful Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger — an excellent and fun read on culinary history and traditional food preparation, by the way, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. 

Recipe: Pasta with Vegetarian Red Wine-Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Makes 2 generous servings

Ingredients

8 oz. of uncooked spaghetti, macaroni, or other pasta (gluten-free, if you like)
3 large tomatoes (or about 24 oz. of cherry or grape tomatoes), coarsely chopped
1 large white onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. crushed red pepper (or more, if you like it hot!)
½ cup red wine of your choice*
Cooking oil**
2 TBs butter
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Kosher salt
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil (for finishing)
Parmesan cheese (optional)

*Which kind of wine you use isn’t terribly important — my rule of thumb is that anything I enjoy drinking will taste great in this sauce. If you’re not sure, try a Pinot Noir, a Malbec or a red table blend.

**Make sure to use a cooking oil that can withstand high heat. This article has a table showing which cooking oils have the highest (and lowest) smoke points. The higher the smoke point, the less easily the oil will burn.

How to Make It

  1. Get the pasta ready. Cook your pasta according to the package directions. Drain, put into a covered bowl or pan to keep warm, and set aside for now.
  2. Bring on the heat. While pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan or skillet, add a few tablespoons of cooking oil and heat it on the highest setting you’ve got. You want to get the pan so hot that the oil is just starting to smoke.
Searing time! Photo credit: Amber Carlson
  1. Sear your tomatoes. Once your pan and oil are smoking hot, throw in the tomatoes and stand back.

    Here’s where it gets a little exciting and dramatic: it will be noisy. The tomatoes will hiss and sizzle ferociously, and there will almost definitely be some smoke (so make sure to have your fume hoods and fans preemptively switched on!). It’s all okay, though; just let the tomatoes do their thing and make sure nothing catches fire.

    Once the heat has subsided a bit and the mixture starts to bubble rather than smoke (which usually takes 1-2 minutes), remove the tomatoes from the pan and place in a medium bowl.
Just don’t set off the smoke alarm! Photo credit: Amber Carlson
  1. Repeat step 2 two more times. I always sear the tomatoes three times because it seems to cook them perfectly. Re-heat the pan (adding a tiny bit more oil if needed) and toss the tomatoes back in once it’s nice and hot. No need to clean out the pan in between searings; the charred bits will add flavor to the sauce.

    After three searings, turn the heat down to medium-high and continue to cook until tomatoes have started to break down and skins are falling off, as in the photo below. Remove them from the heat and set aside.
Mmm…starting to get juicy! Photo credit: Amber Carlson
  1. Toast your herbs. In the same saucepan, add a few more tablespoons of cooking oil along with the oregano, thyme and crushed red pepper. Let herbs toast for 30 seconds, just until fragrant.

    Toasting (or “blooming”) herbs and spices before adding anything else to the pan is a technique I learned once in an Indian cooking class. You may want to add a few drops of water to the herbs first so they don’t burn, but the heat activates the oils and aromas in the spices and makes them pop more in the dish. Here’s an article that explains this in more detail.
Blooming the herbs. Photo credit: Amber Carlson
  1. Sauté the onion. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and lightly browned (about 10 minutes).
Photo credit: Amber Carlson
  1. Bring it all together. Pour your seared tomatoes back into the pan along with the red wine and butter. Turn down heat to medium and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes have completely broken down and the sauce has thickened a bit.
Just about ready! Photo credit: Amber Carlson
  1. Season it up. Add brown sugar and Kosher salt, and then do a taste test. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
     
  2. Finish and serve. You can serve this sauce on top of your pasta or toss it with the noodles — I usually toss it in. Serve on plates, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on a little Parmesan (if using) and call it good.
Nom nom! Photo credit: Amber Carlson

And last but certainly not least…enjoy!


Thoughts? Questions? Feedback? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below!

Food and Recipes

Watermelon Limeade: A Glass of Summertime

Need to cool off on a hot day? Try this refreshing summer recipe - the sweet-tart flavor is addictive! #recipes #drinks #summertime
Photo credit: Amber Carlson

There’s nothing quite like a glass of fresh-squeezed limeade to cool you off on a hot day. The zingy citrus flavor coupled with a splash of sweetness is borderline addictive. As the weather’s been getting toastier here in Colorado, I’ve gotten on a kick of making my own limeade from scratch. For me, it calls up memories of carefree childhood summer days – my mom used to make limeade when I was little and I have loved it ever since.

One day, when I was making a batch of limeade, I happened to have some seedless watermelon on hand that I needed to use up somehow. My partner and I had just been cutting it up and eating slices – but that day, I got an idea. In past summers I’ve eaten watermelon slices dipped in a mixture of lime juice and a hint of hot sauce (which is strangely delicious, if you haven’t tried it), and I reminisced on that delightful melding of sweet, tart and spicy notes. I was in an experimental mood, so I took my fresh batch and blended it with some of the watermelon to see what would happen.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

The results were magical. And today I would like to share this bit of summer joy with you: it’s really simple, it just takes a few minutes to whip up, and it uses a grand total of four ingredients. Easy peasy. I found the original limeade recipe on MyRecipes, made some minor adjustments and put my own twist on it.

If you are more of a lemon person, you can easily sub out lemons for limes in this recipe. Just note that since lemons tend to be bigger and yield more juice than limes, you likely won’t need to juice quite as many fruits. I will say that I am personally more fond of the flavor of limes. According to Spoon University, limes are actually harvested before they’re ripe, so they’re less sweet and more tart than lemons. Their high citric acid content makes the flavor stand out really well against the sweetness of the watermelon. But, your juice, your choice.

To your health and enjoyment!

Fresh Watermelon Limeade Recipe

10-12 limes (or 6-8 lemons)
Simple syrup:
-1 cup cane sugar
-1 cup water 
2-3 large watermelon wedges, seedless (or seeds removed) with rinds cut off
4 cups cold water
Fresh herbs for garnish (optional; I used lemon balm in my photo, but mint or basil should do just as well)

  1. Start your simple syrup. Heat cane sugar and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan on medium heat until just boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Stir until sugar completely dissolves into water. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

*A note here: Making the simple syrup may seem like an unnecessary step. You might be tempted to just add sugar to the lime juice and dilute with water – but I’m here to warn you: don’t do it! The sugar won’t dissolve that way and you’ll wind up with grainy juice (I learned this the hard way). Simple syrup does a much better job of blending into the juice.

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com
  1. While the simple syrup is cooking, cut the lemons or limes into halves and juice them using a handheld or electric juicer. You could squeeze them by hand, but a juicer – especially an electric juicer – will make your life so much easier. Limes especially can be a bit tough – if you find that this is the case, you can roll them against a hard surface before cutting to soften them up a bit.
  2. Once you have roughly 1½ -2 cups of juice, add the juice to a blender. Remove the rinds from your watermelon wedges, coarsely chop the flesh and throw them in the blender. Blend at a low setting until juice looks evenly mixed.

*Between the limes and the watermelon, this juice can get pretty pulpy. I like mine that way, but I know not everyone is a fan. You can strain the mixture after taking it out of the blender if you’d rather go pulp-free.

  1. Add your cold water to the mixture, and then, once your syrup has cooled a bit, add some sweetness. I suggest starting with just a dollop at first, stirring your juice and seeing how it tastes before adding more. What I like about this approach is that you can keep tweaking until you get the exact balance of sweet and tart flavors that you find most irresistible.

*Unless you like your limeade really sweet, you will most likely not use all of the simple syrup! I don’t use very much of it when I make this recipe. This works in my favor because I can save the extra syrup in the fridge for future batches.

  1. Pour into a glass with ice, garnish if desired, and enjoy this simple-but-delectable treat!

Questions? Feedback? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to give me a shout in the comments below.