Spicy Chili

I’ve been waiting all summer to try out this recipe.  It’s not that I don’t like the summer, but I love all the delicious food that reminds me of Fall….like Spicy Chili!  This chili is spicy, hence the name, but it won’t burn you tongue off and have you running to the water faucet.  Feel free to add more (like my Dad does) or less cayenne or chili powder depending on your preference.  I really like this recipe because you can get a lot of bang for your buck.  The ingredients are not expensive and if you are feeding a large crowd it will feed about 12 with room for leftovers.  Or in my case my family of 6 six had leftovers for an entire weekend…and no we did not get tired of eating chili, lol.

Thanks to one of my NCJ Peeps, James G., for suggesting I post this.  I aim to please!

Yield: Serves about 12


2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 pound spicy turkey Italian sausage
3 (15 oz) cans chili beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can chili beans in spicy sauce
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 large white onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 green jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
2 tbsp bacon bits
4 cubes beef bouillon
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp white sugar


Brown ground beef and turkey italian sausage in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Cook until just brown.  Pour out excess fat and return pot to stove and reduce heat to low.  Add the chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir until fully combined.

Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, bacon bits and bouillon.   Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar.  Stir to blend, then cover and simmer for at least 2 hours , stirring occasionally.  If you have the time I suggest simmering for at least 4 hours, the longer the better.

Taste and adjust flavor with salt, pepper and/or Tabasco sauce.  Remove from heat and serve.  If you plan to refrigerate to serve the next day, allow the chili to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator.  Garnish with oyster crackers, cheese, sour cream and scallions if desired.


Recipe adapted from All Recipes


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Salmon BLT Sliders with Chipotle Mayo

So I know I’ve been on a dessert kick and after last week’s peach series I felt like it was time for something with a little kick.  After much thought (and browsing on Pinterest) I found this awesome recipe.  I feel like I should have been making and eating this all my life!  I mean it has salmon which I love and bacon which makes EVERYTHING taste better.  Throw in some sauteed mushrooms that I had left over in my fridge and all I needed was a glass of wine and I was done.  Plus they’re so small and cute, how could you resist eating them?!

The Adobo sauce definitely adds some heat to these already yummy sliders.  Don’t be like me and try to taste the sauce by itself…it will burn your tongue off!  Mixing it with the mayo cools it down a bit but if you really like spicy food feel free to add more than the recipe calls for.  These sliders would be awesome to serve at a party.  Let your guests build their own and sit back and get all the glowing praise.   Or just eat them yourself…I won’t judge you.


makes about 6-8 sliders


1 pound raw skinless salmon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp olive oil

2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into thirds

2 tomatoes, sliced

lettuce for topping

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp Adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)

6 slider buns or dinner rolls, toasted if desired


Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add bacon. Cook until crispy and fat is rendered, then remove and let drain on a paper towel.

Preheat the broiler in your oven and place the top oven rack as close as it can go to the broiler. Cut the salmon in to squares pieces that fit the size of your buns.  Brush with olive oil, then cover both sides with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place on a broiler pan (or nonstick baking sheet) and broil for 5 minutes. Gently flip and broil for about 5 minutes more.  Depending on the strength of your broiler you may need to place the oven rack lower (which is what I did).  Just keep a close eye on the salmon and if it is browning too fast move the rack down or lower the heat on your broiler.

In a small bowl, mix mayo with adobo until smooth. Spread some on each bun, top with a square of salmon, a slice of bacon, a tomato sauce and lettuce. I also topped mine with sautéed mushrooms and onions because I had extra in my fridge but feel free to leave off if you’re not a big mushroom fan.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is


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Spinach, Mushroom & Shrimp Quesadilla



1/2 pound of shrimp peeled & deveined

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (10 ounce) package chopped spinach

2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese

5 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas

1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Rinse shrimp in cool water and place in bowl, season with salt & peper. Warm 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn white.  Add shrimp and cook till pink (about 4 minutes on each side).
  3. Warm 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn white. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Drain and pat dry.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on one side of each tortilla. Place tortillas cheese side up on baking sheets, and bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  5. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 8 minutes. Mix in spinach and shrimp and continue cooking 2 minutes. Place an equal amount of the mixture on the cheese side of each tortilla. Fold tortillas in half over the filling.
  6. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place quesadillas in the skillet one at a time, and cook 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges to serve.

*An NCJ Original*

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Baked Ziti with Spicy Italian Sausage

When cooking for someone have you ever heard them say, “What’s in that?” “I’ve never tasted that!”. LOL  Well it seems like whenever I make something out of the ordinary my family is hesitant to taste something new which drives me crazy! I am such a huge foodie and I love to try new and exotic dishes so sometimes I forget that not everyone likes to experiment like I do.

So I let my sister Ashley pick something that I would cook for the whole family that they’ve had before and would no doubt love.  This is what she came up with and even though I hate to admit it she was right.  My family loved loved loved this dish and even ate all the leftovers.  I guess sometimes you’ve got to go back to the basics and keep it simple.

This would be a great dish to make for a large gathering or party.  You can make it in advance and warm it in the oven right before serving.  I promise this dish is delicious and you and your guests will love it.



1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided

Table salt

1 lb. ziti

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

20 oz. spicy turkey Italian sausage

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided

Ground black pepper

3/4 tsp. cornstarch

1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)

8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces



Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.  Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes.  Drain the pasta and leave in colander.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned.

Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned.  Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream.  Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella.  Stir to combine.  Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan over the top.  Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer.  Cool for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.


Adapted from: Annie’s Eats


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Grilled BBQ Turkey Burger

I’m the type of girl that will go to a burger restaurant and order a turkey burger just because I love them so much!  Don’t get me wrong, I eat meat but there’s something about a nice juicy turkey burger that just doesn’t compare.  Unfortunately most places will serve you a dry flat patty that they probably ordered in bulk and this can be so disappointing.  So I decided to make my own recipe that gives you a thick juicy burger that just happens to be turkey.

I like putting barbecue sauce in meat because it adds moisture while at the same time giving a smoky flavor.  Just choose your favorite sauce and make sure to save some to serve on the side.  Another key to keeping the meat moist is the addition of the onion and bell peppers.  I used to add them to the meat raw but by sautéing them first it takes away some of that raw texture while adding even more flavor.


Yield: Makes about 6 patties


1 pound ground turkey

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 green pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp barbecue sauce

1 1/2 tbsp bread crumbs

Salt & Pepper to taste

6 slices pepper jack cheese

lettuce & sliced  tomatoes (optional



In a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until just softened, about 3 minutes.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Form into burger patties about 3/4 inch thick and place on pre heated grill.  Burgers can also be sautéed in a pan over medium heat.  Cook to desired temperature and melt cheese on burger for about 1 minute.  Garnish with lettuce and tomatoes.

*An NCJ Original*


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Slow Cooker Chicken Creole

One of the easiest recipes I’ve come across and delicious too!  I made this with brown rice which makes it a completely healthy meal but you can use white rice or egg noodles as well.  Made this for my parents and they loved it!


  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Creole-style seasoning to taste
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 (4 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth (optional)


  1. Place chicken breasts in slow cooker. Season with salt, pepper, and Creole-style seasoning to taste. Stir in tomatoes with liquid, chicken stock, celery, bell pepper, garlic, onion, mushrooms, and jalapeno pepper.
  2. Cook on Low for 10 to 12 hours, or on High for 5 to 6 hours.

*Serves 4

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Beef Bourguignon

Three years ago I took a cooking class here in Chicago at The Chopping Block.  It was all about Julia Childs and her recipes and I was so psyched because I had just read the book “Julia & Julia”.  Reading that book, seeing the movie and attending this class is any foodie’s dream…seriously it was almost too much!  I made it to the class and we learned four different recipes but the one that stuck with me the most was the beef bourguignon.  Maybe it was the delicious smell of the cognac and red wine simmering or the simple but comforting taste of the stew.  Whatever it was I fell in love with this dish and it is now my go to meal when feeding a large family or friends.  I like to make cornbread to serve along with this.  You can also serve the stew over potatoes, rice or egg noodles…or simply by itself in a bowl like I do.


Yield: 4-6 servings

Active time: 35 minutes

Start to finish:  2 hours, 35 minutes



  • 1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1 pound pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 pound mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 4 parsley stems
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 bottle Burgundy or Côtes du Rhône wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup parsley, rough chopped


  1. Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the bacon.
  2. Cook until crispy and remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside on a plate and try not to eat all of it while making the stew.
  3. Increase the heat to high and season the beef with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the seasoned beef in flour just to coat.
  4. If the pan seems a bit dry add some grapeseed oil. Sear the beef in batches until caramelized on each side.  Set aside.
  5. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms and cook until caramelized, about 6-7 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook an additional minute.
  7. Deglaze the pan with the brandy, scraping the bottom to loosen any browned bits and reduce by half.
  8. Tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaves on to the celery stalk creating a bouquet garni and add this to the pot.
  9. Add the seared beef, wine and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, about 2 hours. Half hour before the beef stew is done, add the carrots and cook until tender.
  10. Remove the bouquet garni, season the stew with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the parsley and reserved bacon.


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Beef Medallions with White Wine Mustard Sauce

Here’s another culinary school classic.  Now that the semester is over I can appreciate all of the yummy dishes my instructor taught me.  This was what he called dinner in less than 15 minutes and it’s true, this can be made very quickly.  It would go great with angel hair pasta and grated Parmesan cheese.

The recipe calls for green peppercorns but I wasn’t unable to find them so I used a combination of white, black, green and red peppercorns and it tasted just as good.  Also when cutting the medallions they should be cut about 1/4 inch thick so you can cut into them easily with a fork when done.



  • 1 beef tenderloin, cut into 1/4 inch medallions
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp green peppercorns, crushed (you may need more)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz white wine
  • 2 oz cognac or brandy
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • TT Salt and Pepper


  1. Flatten the medallions with the palm of your hand.  Press both sides of each medallion into the crushed peppercorns.  Season lightly with kosher salt.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the medallions and saute until browned, approximately 2 minutes.  Turn the medallions and saute on the other side until browned.
  3. Remove the medallions from the pan and keep warm.  Add the wine & cognac to the pan that the medallions were cooked in and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Simmer until a few tablespoons remain.
  4. Add the Dijon mustard and cream and simmer until the sauce is not runny and coats the back of a spoon.
  5. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Serve the medallions dressed with the sauce.


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Steamed Clams with Spicy Italian Sausage and Fennel

At culinary school there is a huge kitchen that we all work in and last semester there were three classes…Culinary I, Culinary III and Baking & Pastry I.  Our first few weeks of class were nerve racking for myself and my fellow CI students.  The kitchen was so large and intimidating with its industrial sized stove, ovens and utensils everywhere.  I had never been in a walk in before and I couldn’t have told you where anything was!  Basically I was a little lost but tried to keep my cool and not show any signs of weakness.  The kitchen is not for wimps people!  Looking at the C3 students, who had obviously been there a while and felt at ease even on the first week, was a little intimidating.  Some already had that “chef’s ego” and couldn’t bother to help the little people, but there were a few who showed me the ropes and eventually shared some of their delicious recipes with me.

Because we were in separate classes we were always preparing different recipes, so on this particular day while I was learning knife skills C3 was learning how to cook shellfish.  I wasn’t really that interested at first because they were making clams and besides clam chowder I really hadn’t had them too often.  As I was chopping away at my pound of carrots this sweet spicy smell hit me and I turned to see what they were cooking.  Whatever it was I was determined to taste it.  So after they presented their dish to the head chef I asked to try it and when I did it was one of those moments where you close your eyes and ask where have you been all my life!  I’ve tasted some good food but this went way beyond that so this is my attempt at recreating that experience.  The best part is using a crostini to soak up the juices at the end.


Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 2×1/3-inch strips
  • 1 large fennel bulb with fronds, bulb cored, sliced; fronds chopped (for garnish)
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausages, casings removed, sausages coarsely crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in mortar with pestle (or chopped finely)
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 4 dozens Manila clams (about 2 1/3 pounds), scrubbed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano


Heat oil in large deep skillet over high heat. Add bell pepper, sliced fennel, Italian sausage, and fennel seeds, and sauté until sausage is brown and vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add clam juice, and bring to boil. Add clams and oregano; reduce heat to medium-high, cover, and cook just until clams open, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with pepper. Divide among 4 bowls, discarding any unopened clams. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds and serve with toasted bread.



Source: www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Steamed-Clams-with-Spicy-Italian-Sausage-and-Fennel-240132#ixzz1wvtjrE1j


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White Pizza with portabella mushrooms, red pepper, goat cheese & garlic

One of the best things I love about living in Chicago is the summertime.  People always ask me how do I live with the cold and snow in the winter but any Chicagoan will tell you the summer makes it all worth while!  Last weekend I went to the Division Street festival which was basically an excuse to hang out in the sun and have a few drinks without fearing the open container law.  I had a great time looking at the art and enjoying the music but an unexpected surprise was a pizza that I had at one of the local eateries.  Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the place but I loved the pizza so much that I had to go home and make my own version, plus/minus a few things.  I may have to go on a stroll up Division so I can find this place again…who’s coming with me?!



  • 10 inch pizza dough (frozen or premade)
  • 1 ½ cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 2-4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 portabella mushroom, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped



Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Unthaw dough according to package directions or if using premade crust like I did, remove dough from packaging.  Layer 1 cup of mozzarella cheese over dough leaving about ½ inch around the outside to form the crust.  Layer pizza with red peppers, mushrooms, garlic and goat cheese.  Cover with the remaining ½ cup of mozzarella cheese.  Place in oven directly on cooking racks and cook for 20 – 30 mins or until cheese is bubbling and slightly browned and crust is crisp.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.


*An NCJ Original*


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