Forecast: Cloudy and Cold – Followed by Sun and Warmth

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The irony of her holding a “Health Insurance” card is not lost on us.  Maybe they should have stayed in Mexico?

Ahhh to be a bird in flight to somewhere else at this moment.  Except we’re not sure where that somewhere would be.  Definitely to a sunny, warm (healthy) spot!

March is always such a bittersweet month – and even more so this crazy March of 2020.  The Snowbirds who winter in Mexico will soon start flying north, at least if they’re allowed to cross the Mexican border!  Speaking of Mexico, our Brooklyn kids just returned from a week split between Mérida in the Yucatan and Campeche on the Gulf Coast.  They highly recommend both.  And, fortunately, their flights home were without issue – but very very empty.  Speaking of kids and warmth, our daughter, Sara, just posted a touching blog about how the warmth of one customer helped ease the pain, as their Tacolicious restaurants were forced to close.

And speaking of flights, this interactive website from The National Geographic about birds’ migratory patterns is both lovely and fascinating.  Western Tanagers should be heading our Northern California direction about now.

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The Western Tanager

Our non-flying pet dogs and cats – who are currently cuddled up on warm wool blankets by toasty fireplaces – will soon be sprawled out in the summer sun.  And Andy, who is happily spending copious amounts of time in our warm basement – see today’s Andy’s Corner – will soon be happily gardening and fixing our drip systems (if you believe that, I have another funny story).

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OnoMoore and ChocoLatte are hanging out near each other ONLY because there’s a fire in our wood stove.

But for now, there’s still time to put another log on the fire and curl up next to it…or, if you’re a dog, take a romp through the snow.  Hope that seeing Rosie – a Bernedoodle who happens to live in Boulder, CO, with our friends – enjoying her wintry life might bring a smile!  Be sure to watch the very short video.

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Rosie and friend in the hills outside Boulder, Colorado

Our chilly weather last week here in Northern California inspired us to enjoy a bowl of chili.  Being wild and crazy and adventurous (and largely stuck in our house), we tried out a pound of Beyond Beef – which we found in a cooler near the fresh vegetables at Whole Foods and also frozen at our local Sonoma/Nugget market.  The resulting chili, quite frankly, was delicious…probably better than the burgers which we fixed with Beyond Burgers.

That cold spell was quickly followed by a 75 degree day.

Even in Colorado – some days this March have reached the high 60’s.  That’s warm enough for asparagus to start growing.  What could be more symbolic of spring for us food fanatics.  Andy and I have vivid memories of “stalking the wild asparagus” back on the Colorado farm where we lived when our kids were born.

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Stalking the wild asparagus – in Colorado!

So whether it’s chilly where you are – or warming up, we’ve got you covered.  For those frigid days, try today’s Beyond Beef chili recipe or one of our other super-duper chili recipes: MountainWestBob’s, Lamb and White Bean, Vegetarian Black Bean, and Not Your Mother’s.

In addition to today’s d-lish chili recipe, we suggest you to make a quick, hand-sanitizer-activated run to your market and pick up a bunch or two of asparagus.  And, believe me, after years of steaming or boiling asparagus, I can assure you the best possible way to fix it is neither of those.  Instead do this!  And once you’ve got a double-batch cooked (we KNOW you’re hoarding a little), make this salad.  If you want something more substantial, try one of these pasta or noodle recipes, which make great use of spring’s asparagus.

Just so you know: according to the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State U, “chile” refers to the plant, such as “chile pepper” and “chili” is used to define a culinary dish such as “chili and beans.”  However, you won’t find everything food-wise adheres to that definition, so it can be endlessly confusing.

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Chilly Beyond Beef Chili

We adapted our chili recipe from J. Kenji López-Al. You can find more of his suggestions on vegan ground meat here: How to cook with plant-based meat.

Chilly Beyond Beef Chili

Adapted from J. Kenji López-Al in the NYTimes. 

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound vegan ground meat; I used Beyond Beef and we thought it was great
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  •  Kosher salt
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, finely chopped (optional – they add lots of heat)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 T chili powder – such as Gephardt, to taste
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes 
  • 1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  •  Diced onions, chopped cilantro, chopped pickled jalapeños, sliced black olives, Mexican crema or sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh tortillas or tortilla chips, for serving (optional)

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the vegan ground meat and cook, breaking it up into pieces with a wooden spoon, until it’s lightly browned and it is starting to sizzle rather than steam, about 6-10 minutes.

Add the onion, garlic, oregano and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened, about 2 minutes. Add the chipotles, cumin and chili powder, and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute.

Add canned tomatoes,  pinto beans, soy sauce and 1 cup water, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary, until flavors have developed and chili is thickened to desired consistency, about 30 minutes.  Stir in vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the garnishes you like.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

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Spring Asparagus New Potato Chowder

Spring Asparagus New Potato Chowder

This soup is delicious both with and without the optional cheddar cheese.  And it’s totally vegetarian if you just omit the crisp bacon as a garnish and use water instead of chicken broth.  If it’s not asparagus season, substitute finely chopped broccoli.

  • 3 slices bacon, diced, then fried until crisp, and chopped finely (optional)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise, white & light green parts thinly sliced (1/2″ slices) – about 2 cups worth
  • 1 1/4 lb new potatoes – or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled & diced (I don’t bother to peel but it’s prettier if you do)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (optional for you maybe, but not for me); or you could add 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 4 c chicken broth and 1 c water – or 5 c water (I prefer just water)
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed, and sliced into 1/2″ slices
  • 1/2 c frozen peas
  • 3/4 c half & half
  • 6 oz cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 c) (optional)
  • mint and dill for garnish (optional)

If you’re garnishing with bacon: fry diced bacon over medium-low heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until crisp, turning often. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Once the bacon has cooled, chop it finely – to be used as a garnish.

Add 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil to a Dutch oven of at least 5-quart capacity and heat over medium heat;  add the leeks, potatoes, onion, garlic, and seasoning to the pot, and cook and stir, uncovered, for about 5 minutes – or until the leeks and onions are translucent. 

Add the broth and asparagus; bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a simmer.  Cook, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are barely soft.  Add the frozen peas and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. For added thickness, you can take out about half of the soup from the pot, put it in a food processor and blend until it’s smooth – then add it back to the pot.

Stir in the cream – and cheese, if you’re using it; heat through and stir until the cheese melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with crumbled bacon and fresh herbs and serve.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

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