Category Archives: Soups and Stews

Spicy Bacon Lentil Soup

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Spicy Bacon Lentil Soup

It’s been a while since I have posted a recipe.  It’s not because I am lazy or that I have been burned out.  It’s just that when I have a ton of things that need to be done, unfortunately, my website takes a back seat.  My day job and chores around our home come first.  Feral Kitchen unfortunately finishes second.  And quite frankly, I don’t like it one bit…

Well, I’m happy to be back and the recipe that I want to share today is a simple Spicy Bacon Lentil Soup that I prepared for a few of my lunches during the work week.  I packed a bowl and a half sandwich today in my lunch box, and put the other 3 servings in the freezer for lunch at a later date.  My Spicy Bacon Lentil Soup is made with lentils, bacon, onion, carrots, celery, garlic and a healthy hit of cayenne pepper.  It’s simple, flavorful and delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 15 ounce cans lentils
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 2 carrots (chopped)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • garnish with fresh green onion

Begin by rinsing and draining the lentils.  Set aside.  Chop the bacon and add to a large sauce pan.  Over medium heat crisp the bacon and drain.  Add onion and cook until opaque.  Add lentils, celery, carrots, garlic, chicken stock, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, cumin and coriander.  Cook until the carrots and celery until they are tender.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  Remove bay leaf before serving.  Makes 4 servings.

A Winter Weekend in the Cascade Mountains and Chicken Lentil Soup

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Chicken Lentil Soup 

I love living in Southern Oregon.  One of my favorite things to do during the winter months is to visit the Cascade Mountains.  This year our family and friends stayed in some cabins up at Hyatt Lake over the weekend.  Hyatt Lake is about an hour drive from our home but in snowy weather, it may take twice as long.  There was at least 3 feet of fluffy snow on the ground and the temperature was a bone chilling 16 degrees.   The only way we could get up to our cabins was with four wheel drive pickup trucks for there was nearly 10 miles of narrow snow packed roads.

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A view up towards the summit.

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Along the edge of Hyatt Lake.  The lake was frozen over.  During the summer months, Hyatt Lake is known for its wonderful trout fishing and camping.

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A view across the lake.  The ice on the lake was only a few inches thick and covered with snow.  We would not dare walk out onto the lake for it was too risky and dangerous.

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Sunset in the forest.  It was eerily quiet.  The only noise that we heard was the snow dropping off the branches of the trees.  There were no birds, squirrels or any signs of wildlife. The birds either migrated south or are spending the winter in the valley below. Other animals such as black bear, skunks and squirrels are hibernating in their dens.  Deer, cougars and elk generally find their way down to the warmer lower elevations during the cold winter months.

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A view from the top of the mountain.  You can see the ski resort at Mount Ashland in the background.

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Snow covered Chinquapin Mountain. In late spring, when the snow has melted, Chinquapin Mountain is one of my favorite places to hunt for Morel mushrooms.  When I get some mushrooms this year, I’ll be sure to post some delicious Morel mushroom recipes.

After spending a cold day in the snow, my Chicken Lentil Soup is a perfect way to warm up. My Chicken Lentil Soup is made with locally grown organic green Laird Lentils, carrots, onions, celery, chunks of tender chicken and flavored with my homemade Garam Masala Spice Blend.  It’s easy to make, tastes delicious, and as an added bonus, it’s really good for you too!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Laird lentils (washed and picked over)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup celery (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs Garam Masala spice blend
  • 1 12 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound cooked chicken (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan with a lid, saute onion, carrots, celery and red bell pepper in olive oil.  Cook until onions are translucent and tender.  Add lentils, Garam Masala, tomatoes, garlic and chicken stock.  Cook on low heat until lentils are tender, about 30-40 minutes.  Add cooked chicken about 10 minutes before lentils are done.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Serve hot with crusty bread.  Makes about 4 servings.

*Note:  I used precooked chicken that I found in the deli section of my favorite store.  I added the chicken towards the end of the cooking process because I wanted the chicken to stay tender.

New England Clam Chowder for a crowd

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New England Clam Chowder

Chances are that if you spent Christmas Eve at our home you’ve had a big bowl of my homemade New England Clam Chowder.  It’s been a family tradition of ours for nearly 20 years to serve piping hot New England Clam Chowder, fresh baked rolls, sourdough bread, pints of beer, flutes of prosecco and sparkling apple cider.  Whenever I prepare the chowder, I make a large vat of it…  When I say vat, I mean two and a half gallons or enough to serve well over a dozen people.  That’s a lot of chowder!

I don’t think I’ve ever made this recipe on a small scale before…  And this is the first time that I have written down the recipe.  Whenever I prepare the soup, it’s from memory and taste. Since the recipe makes about 10 quarts of chowder, be prepared to spend a couple of hours preparing the soup.  It’s just that large quantities of soups take longer to cook than recipes for 4 to 6 people.

My New England Clam Chowder is a wonderfully hearty and creamy soup with tender clams, diced potatoes, onion, celery and bits of bacon.  I then finish the soup with a bit of half and half to lend a bit more creaminess to the chowder and then garnish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley for color.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped clams
  • 1 – 51 ounce can of clam juice
  • 12 cups diced potatoes (russet)
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • canola oil (as needed)
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 2 tsp old bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 cup of half and half
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Place 12 cups of potatoes in a covered pan.  Add 7 cups of water and 1 tsp salt.  Cover and boil over medium heat until potatoes are tender (be sure not to over cook the potatoes).  Drain, cover and set aside.  Meanwhile, sauté the onions, celery, a big pinch of salt in 2 Tbs butter.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Remove from heat and place onions and celery aside for later.

In a large pot, cook the bacon.  Remove bacon from the pot and set aside.  Add 1 1/3 cup flour to the bacon grease.  Add canola oil to the mixture (if needed) in order to make a thick batter like consistency.  Cook on medium low heat, stirring constantly for about 3 to 4 minutes (light roux).  Slowly add the clam juice (not the clams!) and milk whisking constantly.  Cook until thickened or about 20 – 30 minutes.

Chop the bacon into small bits.  Add the bacon, Old Bay Seasoning, white pepper, potatoes, onion, and celery and continue to cook until hot and almost to a bubble.  Don’t let the soup boil or let it stick to the bottom of the pot.  When the soup is nearly done, add clams, parsley, half and half, salt and black pepper to taste.  Cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutess.  Taste the soup and correct your seasonings.  If there’s a floury taste to the soup, just cook it a bit longer.  If it’s too thick for your liking just add more milk or half and half.

Ladle hot soup into cups or bowls and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.  Serve with crusty sourdough bread or fresh baked rolls.  Makes about 10 quarts.

Broccoli Bisque

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I have not posted any recipes for the past couple of weeks… It’s not that I did not want to or that I was being lazy.  Most of my free time after work has been spent trying to figure out why my website was not cooperating with me.  Most of the time food blogging is an enjoyable and rewarding hobby but it can be extremely frustrating at times.  Maintaining a food/recipe website is a combination of being a food writer, photographer and webmaster.  I am comfortable with the first two items, but the web master part, I’m still learning (struggling). And, in my opinion, I have a long way to go…

My website problem was this…  Every time I tried to post my Broccoli Bisque recipe, the body of the post would not stay formatted properly. I tried everything. I uninstalled and re-installed different components on my website.  I tried even changing the look of my website.  My frustration level with my computer was at all time high.  I was seriously irritated and I was questioning why I even want to be a food blogger in the first place.  In other words, my website was seriously “jacked up”.

Then late last night it dawned on me…  I thought to myself that maybe I’m having software conflicts with web browsers.  I’ve seen that before with software applications at work.  I have certain applications that I work with that don’t run very well in Internet Explorer and perfectly in Firefox.  And vice versa.  Since I only have Firefox on my laptop, I thought I’d download a free copy of Google Chrome.  I installed it and then I tried working on my website while on Google Chrome.  Unbelievable!  Problem solved!  I learned something big.  Next time I am having problems with my website I’m going to check if it is an issue  with a web browser before spending the time dismantling my entire website.

Well, I’m back.  I look forward to being back on schedule and creating some dishes to share.  Meanwhile, be sure to try my easy vegan Broccoli Bisque.  It’s simple to make, good for you and most importantly, it tastes delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa

 Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound broccoli florets
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 2 cups russet potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • salt to taste.

In a large saucepan on medium heat, add broccoli, onions, canola oil and a big pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring constantly until broccoli is crisp tender or onions are translucent.  Add potatoes, vegetable stock, coriander, and white pepper.  Cook covered until potatoes and broccoli are tender.  Grab an immersion blender and blend until creamy.  Add more stock if necessary.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley or chopped onion.  Serves 4.

Cremini Mushroom Soup and Multnomah Falls

Cremini Mushroom Soup

Oregon has quite the reputation for rainy weather, especially in the northern part of the state.  When our major universities name their mascots after aquatic creatures such as the University of Oregon Ducks (Go Ducks!!!), Clark Honors College Platypuses or the Oregon State Beavers that’s your first clue about the climate…  However, there is a bright side to living in a rainy state, we have gorgeous green forests, lovely rivers and world class waterfalls.  And, if you live in Southern Oregon, it’s an even more of a bonus, you have all of the above, yet the climate is warmer and not as rainy as the northern part of the state.

Bruce and I went on a trip a short time back to the City of Portland along the beautiful Columbia River.  When we visit family and friends in the Portland area I always ask Bruce to take me to Multnomah Falls.  Multnomah Falls is located along the Columbia River about 30 miles east of Portland, Oregon.  If you ever get the opportunity to visit Portland, you have to promise me that you will go there.  It’s so beautiful!

Bruce standing at the base of one of the many falls located along the Columbia River.  There was so much watery mist from the falls that I had to stand way back to get a clear picture.  If you take a camera, be sure to bring a lens cloth…

A Brewers Black Bird on a mossy rock.

A large Rainbow Trout and a drake Mallard Duck competing at the bottom of a pond for a food source.

Multnomah Falls…  Four words to describe it.  Absolutely drop dead gorgeous.  After Bruce had to listen to me whine about wanting to visit the falls, the poor man expects to listen to me whine about taking me to the factory outlet stores on the way back outside of Portland.  Every time when we stop at the outlet stores, I smile at him, give him a big peck on the cheek and before the doors are locked on the car, I make a bee line for the Le Creuset outlet store.  I know exactly what I want by the time I hit the front door.  Before he can catch me, my prize is paid for and bagged up.  And in the rare event that he does catch me, the look of anxiety on his face is priceless. I remind him all that time that he bought his ticket :).  He’s lucky that I don’t have quite the fondness for the Coach outlet store (expensive handbags and wallets) as much as Le Creuset.

My Cremini Mushroom Soup was inspired by a bowl of soup that I ordered at a pub on our way back from Multnomah Falls.  It has a wonderful earthy mushroom flavor, a hint of white wine and savory thyme.  It’s easy, it’s creamy delicious, and without a doubt perfect for a cool day.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms (cleaned, trimmed, and thinly sliced)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used my favorite pinot gris)
  • 1/2 cup onions (chopped)
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a medium sized sauce pan add your mushrooms, chicken stock, white wine, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook, bring to a low simmer and cook for about 20 more minutes or until the onions are opaque and tender.  Meanwhile, make a blonde roux in another medium sized saucepan with the flour and butter.  In other words, cook the butter and flour on medium low heat until the flour is lightly toasted.  Don’t brown it or let it burn.

In the sauce pan with the mushroom mixture, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.  Add mushroom mixture to flour and butter mixture stirring constantly to avoid any lumps in the soup.  Use a whisk if you need to.  Cook until thickened and any flour taste is gone.  Add heavy cream, taste and correct your seasonings.  If soup is too thick for your liking, then add some chicken stock to thin.  Ladle in to bowls. Makes about 4 servings.

Creamy Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala

Creamy Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala

Bruce was out of town for the past few days.  I hate to say this out loud but…  When he is away from home, I get to make what I want to have for dinner without any negotiating or meeting in the middle.  Today, I was in the mood for a Creamy Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala.  Garam Masala is an exotic spice blend that is of North Indian origin.  It has ingredients such as cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, cardamom and coriander.   It’s one amazingly fragrant and versatile spice blend.

My Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala is vegan, easy, and most of all, delicious!  And as for Bruce, I love him so much that I made sure that I saved him a big healthy bowl of Creamy Red Lentil Soup to eat when he gets back :).  Enjoy!  Tessa

 Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup split red lentils (picked over and rinsed well)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (diced)
  • 1/2 cup onion (diced)
  • 1/2 cup celery (diced)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper (diced)
  • 3 ounces tomato paste (half of a small can)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp garam masala spice (or to taste)
  • seasoning salt to taste
  • garnish with thinly shredded carrots and chopped parsley

Begin by picking over and rinsing red lentils.  Toss lentils and remaining ingredients except for the seasoning salt or garnishes into a pot with a tight fitting lid.  Cook on low, stirring occasionally for about 30-40 minutes or until the lentils are tender.  Taste the soup and add your seasoning salt to taste.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup until creamy.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with thinly shredded carrots and chopped parsley.  Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Note:  You can find garam masala at most major grocery stores or online.

Cioppino

Cioppino

My son went back up to the University for fall term and the final day he was home I made a big pot of Cioppino to share with our family for his send off dinner.  Cioppino is a fish stew that is of Italian American origin and is served at many seafood restaurants up and down the west coast of the United States, particularly in the San Francisco Bay area.  It is a spicy tomato based seafood stew generally prepared with fresh caught dungeness crab, live clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, fish fillets and plenty of white wine.  Every time I make Cioppino it is never exactly the same as I made it last for I use what ever fresh fish and shellfish that I can find at my local store.

I love to make a vat of Cioppino when our family vacations at the Oregon Coast (talk about fresh seafood!) or when I have a large group of friends stop that by our home.   It’s easy to make and tastes delicious with a fresh picked green salad and crusty french bread.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped fennel bulb
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbs dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 – 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups of seafood stock (I used vegetable stock this time)
  • 1 pound shrimp (cleaned, shelled and deveined)
  • 1 pound fresh clams (scrubbed well)
  • 1 pound fresh scallops
  • 1 pound fish such as halibut or salmon (cut into large chunks)
  • 1 pound cooked dungeness crab legs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by grabbing an extra large dutch oven or pot with a snug lid.  Place on stove, with medium heat add the onions, fennel and olive oil.  Cook until onions become translucent.  Add garlic, bay leaves, oregano, basil, cayenne, wine, tomatoes and stock.  Stir well.  Cover, cook on medium low for about an hour and a half or until flavors marry.   Stir occasionally.  When nearly ready to serve, add fresh seafood and shellfish to the boiling stew, cover and cook for an additional 10-12 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through and the clams open.  Discard bay leaves and any unopened clams.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Ladle into bowls, garnish with sprigs of fresh fennel leaves or fresh chopped parsley.  Makes about 12 – 14 servings.

Roasted Tomato Bisque

Roasted Tomato Bisque

It’s the beginning of fall and I had an obscene amount of fresh picked tomatoes that I had to deal with.  I did not want any of the tasty tomato gems go to waste so I thought it would be a great idea to oven roast a large cookie sheet full of fresh picked heirloom tomatoes.  I wanted to make a roasted tomato bisque and any leftover roasted tomatoes would be tossed into a plastic bag to be placed in the freezer for use in sauces or soups at a later date.

While harvesting some of the final tomatoes of the season, I thought that I would photograph some of the annual flowers and plants that I have growing in my garden before the first frost.  Once the fall frost hits our region, my garden is pretty much out of commission until next spring.  I may plant a few cold weather vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and kale to tie me over but my favorites are always the summer crops of tomatoes, squash, peppers and beans.

Morning Glories…  One of my all time favorite climbing plants.  They are sweet whimsical annual flowers that close up their petals at night or during the heat of the day.  They are fairly easy to grow however, they don’t like to be transplanted.  I plant mine from seed directly in the ground in mid spring.

A Mammoth Sunflower.  These annuals reach upwards of 6 to 8 feet tall!  The birds in my yard, especially the blue jays and finches love eating the seeds.  The blooms are huge and they look striking cut and placed in a large vase.

Dusty Miller…  A strange name for a beautiful plant.  The leaves are silver in color and look gorgeous tucked in amongst the green foliage.  The color of the leaves remind me of the winter season that will be here in just a few short months…

A pint container of fresh picked cherry tomatoes for my neighbor across the street.  I still have bunches more to pick…  The reddish ones are the sweet 100 variety and the orange ones are called sun golds.  Both are prolific plants that supply my family with pounds of delicious fruits.  The sun golds have the sweetest flavor of the two varieties and are my favorite little tomato.

My Roasted Tomato Bisque is a perfect use for those extra heirloom tomatoes you may have in your garden.  It’s simple to make and tastes amazing with a simple grilled cheese sandwich or cheese panini with tomatoes and basil. Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups roasted tomatoes with juice (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt to taste

Begin by grabbing a medium sized pot with a lid.  Over medium heat saute the onion and olive oil until the onions are cooked and translucent.  Add the roasted tomatoes, chicken stock, garlic paste, saffron threads and white pepper.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.  Add heavy cream, stir, taste and correct your seasonings and serve.  Makes about 5 one cup servings.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

This is a simple recipe that will yield some flavorful tomatoes for soups, stews and sauces.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half or into large chunks.  Gently squeeze out some of the seeds.  Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper.  I added some sprigs of basil and rosemary for some flavor.  Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a foil lined cookie sheet (for easy cleanup).  Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the size or variety of tomatoes.  Cook until the tomatoes start to shrivel and get a bit of color or until your liking.  Remove from oven, let cool, remove basil and rosemary, place in plastic bags and toss in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Can be frozen for later use.  Note: if you don’t like the skins on the tomatoes, just pull the skins off after cooking.  They pop off pretty easily. Enjoy!  Tessa

Bok Choy Shiitake Mushroom Soup

Bok Choy Shiitake Mushroom Soup

With all the warm weather we have been having here in Southern Oregon, my little garden is going nuts…  Just a few weeks ago, I planted some bok choy starts and in no time I am completely inundated with bok choy.  As I would say, I have “enough to choke a goat”.  The problem is that there are just the two of us in the home and what do we do when all the heads of bok choy need to be harvested at the same time?  Well, first of all, share with friends, family and neighbors.  Second, share with coworkers.  Third, I start cooking everything I possibly can with bok choy!

For those who do not know what bok choy is, this is what it looks like.  Bok choy is also known as Chinese cabbage. It has a wonderful delicate flavor and goes great in stir-fries, soups and main dishes.  I love it because it is easy to grow and it’s super low in calories.  It has crunchy white stalks and beautifully flavored green leaves.

While picking bok choy in my garden this afternoon, I took my camera with me to photograph some of the beautiful plants in my yard.  This is a photo of a red Japanese maple tree.  We have a several Japanese maples planted around our koi pond.  They are without a doubt, my favorite specie of deciduous tree.

Next to my kitchen window I have an arbor covered in tiny pink roses.  I believe they are called “Cecile Brunner”.  You would not know it from the photo but the plant is twenty feet tall and covered with hundreds of blooms!  It’s just gorgeous!

On the back patio I have a big pot of Sweet William flowers.  Sweet William are adorable little biennials that are fragrant and look wonderful cut and placed in vases.  I like the bright pink color and the jagged edges on the petals.

After photographing plants in my yard, I harvested a few heads of bok choy.  One of the heads of bok choy was going straight into a light and tasty Bok Choy Shiitake Mushroom Soup for my lunch.  The other head of bok choy that I picked will be used in a dish for tomorrow’s dinner.

Next time you have an abundance of bok choy, be sure to try my Bok Choy Shiitake Mushroom Soup.  It’s light, flavorful and really easy to make.  Makes 4 servings.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups bok choy (chopped)
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. Szechuan pepper
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 6-8 drops sesame oil (use sparingly)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chopped chives for garnish

In a large pan cook onion and canola oil on medium low.  Stir constantly until onion is opaque.  Add remaining ingredients except sesame oil, salt and pepper.  Cook until shiitakes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Add sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with fresh chopped chives.

 

Lamb Chili Baked Potato

Lamb Chili Baked Potato

Bruce and I just got back from a much deserved three day road trip over the past weekend.  A few weeks earlier, he asked me if I wanted to take a 5 hour scenic drive down south to the state of Nevada.  Of course I said yes!  We booked a few nights in a hotel in Reno and spent the day on Saturday in an old western mining town of Virginia City.  That morning, as we drove up to Virginia City we saw a sign on the side of the road that indicated that the main road through town was closed due to a special event…

To our surprise (and to my delight) the event that shut down the road was the annual “Great Virginia City Chili Cook Off”!  Too cool! There were dozens of street vendors and chili cook off contestants.  It was a blast!  Live music, street food and people walking around the town wearing typical western wear such as cowboy boots, big silver belt buckles and cowboy hats.  For 5 dollars you could taste 7 different chili recipes and vote for your favorite.  I was like a kid in a candy store with all the different varieties of competition quality chili to choose from!

Well over a hundred years ago, Virginia City was once a bustling mining town where prospectors mined for gold and silver ore.  There’s old mine shafts, wood sidewalks, museums, saloons, gift shops and so much more to see.

There were lots of old wood buildings and brickwork.  The peeling paint and crooked roofs added to the charm.

Do you see the wood sidewalks?  They were not level and you had to constantly watch your step as you walked on top of them.

The “Bucket of Blood” Saloon.

The front door of the Union Brewery.

Okay… This was really interesting… I saw this gentleman walking along the main street, leading a donkey, dressed in red union suit underwear (the kind with the flap in the back), cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.  When I snapped their photo, I just missed the kiss.  It was beyond hilarious!

On our way back into Reno, I saw this herd of over a dozen wild horses on the side of the road.  I yelled at Bruce to stop the car and before he knew it, I was dodging traffic with my camera and telephoto lens to get the shot.  Seeing this herd of wild mustangs was the highlight of my day.  What an amazing opportunity to see and photograph such beautiful creatures.

Another shot of the mustangs.  Before long, they were down the hill and out of sight.

Back to chili…  My Lamb Chili Baked Potato was inspired by the many flavors of chili that I tasted at the annual Virginia City Chili Cook Off.  It’s made with tender bits of lamb, onion, tomato and tasty spices all ladled on top a hot baked potato topped with shredded cheddar cheese, fresh picked green onions and slivers of sweet red bell pepper.  It’s a simple, tasty and hearty meal.  Makes 6 wonderful chili stuffed spuds.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 6 baked potatoes (washed, pricked, baked at 450 degrees for about an hour)
  • 3/4 pound lamb stew meat
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 Tbs dark chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Szechuan pepper
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 ounce can green chilies
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbs garlic paste
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp special dark cocoa
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and slivered red bell pepper.

Grab a heavy bottomed medium sized pot with a lid.  Heat the pot on the stove and add canola oil until hot.  Add lamb and onion and cook until the lamb is lightly brown and the onions are beginning to caramelize.  Add chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander and Szechuan pepper.  Cook for a few minutes or until spices are fragrant.  Add crushed tomatoes, green chilies, vegetable stock, garlic paste, and brown sugar.  Stir, cover and cook until lamb is tender or about an hour.

Meanwhile, bake your potatoes and prepare your garnishes.  Before the chili is done cooking be sure to taste and correct your seasonings.  Add additional stock if necessary.  Serve by ladling hot chili on split baked potatoes.  Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, green onions and red bell pepper.