Weeknight Chili

chili in progress

Almost two years ago, when we started on our road towards healthier living in earnest , Anie turned me onto the Hungry for Change book/documentary combo.  Beyond the somewhat-scary-eye-opening information contained in there, the resources on suggested foods and practical recipes are something we’ve referred to countless times. Of those, one of my favorites is their “chili” recipe.

What follows here is my personal adaptation, based on the ideas and criteria from the book and documentary, but changed slightly for our personal taste, and in this case, to meet the slightly-more-strict requirements for Whole 30. With our busy schedules, meals like this one have been a real life-saver, so I figured sharing it here could be useful to some of you guys as well.

Ingredients

  • Coconut Oil
  • Onion (i’itoi & sweet onions from our Chow Share)
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Potato
  • Ground Beef (Grass-fed from Double Check Ranch)
  • Bell Pepper
  • Chili Pepper (Chow Share again)
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Cumin, Chili Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, etc

Usually I use roma tomatoes instead of crushed because fresh seems better and the recipe doesn’t require a full can of crushed, so then I’m left with half a can of produce. This time, however, we had a bunch in the freezer, and I can say the difference was noticeable.  This was also my first time using veggie broth instead of red wine, in an effort to support Anie’s Whole 30 commitment.  I would have gone with a Miso broth, but couldn’t find any that didn’t have added sugars.  Lastly, because the crushed tomatoes and broth were adding a lighter body to the dish, I left out the tomato paste that is usually included.

Directions

Admittedly, this dish can be an exercise in “holy shit I haven’t finished prepping yet and it’s time for the next step!!!“. With that in mind, feel free to be hyper-organized in your approach, it’ll pay off.

Start with the coconut oil, onion, garlic and sweet potato.  The crucial part here is to get the sweet potato chucks softened up so that they can add body to the chili and take on the flavors of the other ingredients later on. Once you’ve accomplished that, remove everything from the pan and brown the ground beef in the pre-seasoned pan you’ve just created. When the beef is no longer pink, but not yet all the way cooked, add back in the previous ingredients, as well as the peppers and mushrooms. At this point it should look like the picture at the top of this post, with the plethora of colors serving as a clear reminder of how healthy your masterpiece really is.  When everything is up to temp, add in the tomatoes, and paste/fluids.  Of course, season along the way and add heat to taste.

The Result

Here’s a quick and dirty snapshot of the finished product.  Since it takes roughly an hour to develop the flavors, I’m always too hungry to take quality pictures before I start enjoying the meal.  This time in particular, the Double Check Ranch beef was so flavorful that it was all I could do to not pick it all out of the pan under the guise of “taste testing”, so I actually had to take a picture of Anie’s share due to immediate devourment of my own.

When it’s all said and done, you’ve got a great tasting, Whole 30 compliant dish that holds up well as left-overs, too.

hungry for change whole 30 chili

If you try out this dish, or have a similar one with an interesting variant, let us know in the comments below.  Reach us on Twitter @RoguePepper or tag us on Instagram; we’d love to see your version.

In Season | Green Beans

Or haricot verts, if you’re francy.

easy green beans on RoguePepper.com

Growing up, I despised green beans. They tasted like dirty grass and I always felt duped when they showed up on my dinner plate. In fairness though, it’s not the bean’s fault. I blame my parents and the jolly green giant for trying to pass off canned green beans (heated in the microwave with butter and salt) as an appetizing choice. Luckily I wasn’t scarred for life, and have since developed a love for the veg as an adult.

easy green beans on RoguePepper.com

As Phoenix continues to deny any semblance of fall, we’ve had an abundance of beans-comma-green show up in our CSA box. My easy go-to way of consuming is as follows:

  1. Trim the ends off of washed green beans
  2. Steam until tender (metal steam basket over a bit of water in a covered sauce pan on medium)
  3. Heat coconut oil in a non-stick pan and transfer the tender green beans in
  4. Sautee until you get a bit of crisp/color on the beans
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
  6. Enjoy!

easy green beans on RoguePepper.com

Bonus: these reheat really well if you make enough for left overs.

Quick Bites | FoodTube

Before we were cord-cutters, dinner time usually meant random episodes of Chopped, or whatever was on HGTV as we sat around the table.  Since we’ve made the switch to Chromecast, I’ve largely been queuing up a ton of new videos from that day (and typically watching as many as I can before Anie eventually says “can we do something else?”).

While food-related videos may not be what you think of when someone first mentions YouTube, there’s a real wealth of both informational and entertaining content out there.  It takes quite a while for me to decide to add a channel to my subscription list, and yet I think I’m subscribed to nearly 50 channels at this point. I thought that today I’d share some of the individual videos I’ve enjoyed the most.

* note: to help reduce load-time for anyone reading on mobile, I didn’t embed the videos here, just links to open in a new tab *

Rosanna Pansino – Peanut Butter Squares
Your mom said I could have just one peanut butter square, but not until they cool off. For reals, she did. Rosanna is awesome because she’s a fellow podcaster and gaming geek who followed a passion and found great results.  You may have noticed in her YouTube’s offline marketing campaigns this past Spring/Summer.

Hannah Hart – Pizza
This one is ancient by YouTube standards, but it’s the first My Drunk Kitchen I ever saw, and still one of my favorites.  I imagine this is what it look like if someone shot and edited the gaming podcast I do, so I have an added affinity for what Hannah was able to found.

Rudy Lopez – Friday Night Dinner
Awesome angles in this video, and it’s always great to see family and friends coming together around a home-cooked meal. Plus, I’ve got a great amount of nostalgia for Green Chile ever since Verde closed.

Japanese Cooking 101 – Tamagoyaki
I stumbled across this in the summer of 2013, while looking for new ways to cook an egg. It’s a very informative video that makes the process look way easier than what I’ve been able to produce.  Then again, I’ve never had the right tools, or the patience to keep trying it over and over again.

Daym Drops – Carrot Talk for Kids
You probably know Daym from the Songified Five Guys Review (Daym, Daym, Daym, Daym!), and most of his channel is an incredibly entertaining, always hyperbolic tribute to gluttony and American fast-food culture. This particular video, though, really resonated with me because of how close it hit to the mission of our blog here.

“The thing is, you have to create balance within your life.  So for the kids, I’m going to create that balance. I’m bringing in vegetables to the game.”
– Your Main Man, Daym Drops

Much like Daym, I also get down with carrots, broccoli, spinach, and all despite a childhood that did it’s best to make me loathe vegetables. (And I don’t mess with tomatoes; bleh umami!)  It could have been really easy for someone with >350,000 subscribers to say that his channel was all about comedy, for responsible adults, not meant as a lifestyle guide, etc, but instead he is developing responsible content, and for that I give him a high-five.

Honorable Mention:
Regular Ordinary Swedish Dinner Time – Sidepork Pandemonium
I saw this video years ago, before I ever came across Epic Meal Time.  It still cracks me up when he hits himself in the face with the snow.

If you’ve got a favorite FoodTube vid that you love, please leave a link in the comments.

The Scavenge | Chickpea & Mushroom Coconut Curry

scavenge 1

On a random Tuesday night, I was making dinner (pork chops / green beans / sweet potatoes) and upon seeing the abundance of other food taking up residence in our fridge + pantry, decided to make an extra dish we could have with dinner or lunch later in the week. I don’t know about you, but usually it’s a struggle for the motivation to cook after work, so when the mood strikes I have to milk it for all it’s worth. . .

[Quick Tangent: Have you seen the movie Bad Neighbors? I watched it on a plane recently and typing “milk it” just reminded me of a particularly hilarious scene with Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne of which is not suitable for this outlet, but go watch that movie if you’re into laughing and stuff]

Chickpea & Mushroom Coconut Curry

Here’s what I was working with:

  • Garlic
  • Half a white onion
  • Red bell peppers
  • Mushrooms (several varieties which came as such in a variety pack)
  • Coconut milk
  • Chickpeas / garbanzo beans
  • A LOT of spices: curry obviously, coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, salt, pepper, etc.)
  • Kale

scavenge spices

After chopping away, I sautéed the garlic on medium heat for 30-ish seconds in coconut oil before adding in the onion and cooking until translucent. The bell peppers and mushrooms joined the party next until everything was softened up and seasoned with s&p, probably about 8 minutes. I added in the chickpeas (drained and rinsed) and coconut milk (shaken well) then came the abundance of spices. Seriously, I used a boat load, and tasted along the way until I got the flavor I was happy with. You really can’t mess this part up as long as you’re adding gradually, tasting, and season to your liking. Everything reduced and cooked together for about 20-ish minutes as I was finishing up the rest of dinner and waiting for Ryan to get home. At the last minute, I realized we had kale that wasn’t going to be good for much longer, so I threw in roughly chopped pieces towards the end and cooked until they were a slightly wilted.

scavenge 2

The dish came out pretty well, though I didn’t love all the mushroom varieties. Next time I’d just stick with heartier ones. While we ate this as a side dish several times, it’d also be good over a sweet potato or grain. You end up with a pretty full pan and leftovers kept in the fridge for about a week. Let us know if you try it or put your own spin on it with whatever is in your fridge!

Previous scavenges here and here.

Brunch | Welcome Diner in Phoenix

welcome diner (1)

A couple of weekends ago, with a visiting Tucsonan in tow, we made our way to Welcome Diner on a Sunday morning to check out the return of their brunch hours. Arriving before the 10am open sign flipped, we hung out on the patio enjoying what we hope is a sign of summer coming to a close in Phoenix.

Welcome Diner has an admittedly quirky vibe, complete with a toy rocking horse transported from the 80’s finding its home among the roomy outdoor seating area. We’d enjoyed dinner at the counter a few months ago and were blown away by the PB&B Burger, Bumblebee Biscuit, and seasonal peach salad. Combined with the stellar creative ‘Day Off Dinner’ by Chef Michael Babcock we had, our brunch expectations were high.

The Holy Puerco

Marc ordered the Holy Puerco: a cheddar gritcake, pork, carol bbq & egg with hash. He wasn’t disappointed. . .

holy puerco

“I decided that I would get the most interesting sounding dish on the menu, chorizo addiction be damned. That dish in my opinion was the Holy Puerco. This little gem was pretty delightful. It was a sort of nod to typical southern breakfast with pulled pork, cracklins and grits. The pork was texturally awesome – a soft meaty bite to go with the slight crunch of the fried grit patty. I’d never had fried grits before but I can say that I much prefer them to the fried potato-cake grease patties. The grits had that fried food texture with surprisingly little grease. Topped off with an egg, I broke the yoke to allow the yokey goodness to spread out over the whole dish. The cracklins were not only tasty but a necessary salt infusion to this otherwise subtle flavor profile. In fact, the first bite I took was a little bit underwhelming. It felt amazing, but seemed to lack a little bit in taste. Then this amazing thing happened. On the very next bite I hit the sauce. THE SAUCE! I forgot it had some kind of chili sauce. Holy crap Holy Puerco, you sneaky devil you. Hiding the sauce between the pork and the grits. This dish went from ‘yea, it’s good’ to ‘YES! Where was this sauce and why don’t they slather it over everything?’ The sauce/spread was exactly what this thing was missing. Shame on me for attacking from the wrong angle. With the chili sauce the whole flavor profile really came out. The pork was amplified, the buttery goodness of the grit patty was there, the salty cracklins were extra salty, the egg softened everything up, and the sauce sewed all those flavors together in a really awesome way. I would definitely order the Holy Puerco again but next time ask for extra sauce. On a side note I also stole a bite of chorizo which can only be described as LEGIT.”

The Andouille Scramble

Ryan had the Andouille Scramble: grilled onions & bell peppers, hash, toast.

scramble

“The Andouille Scramble was a well-executed, properly balanced version of a meal I had prepared for Anie & I the day before when we got our Chow Locally share. The peppers were the real star here, which is a great feat to pull off in a dish that features a flavorful sausage. The peppers were cooked just right, to the point where they release their slightly fruity flavor and are somewhat pliable, but still retain enough “pop” factor when you bite into them. Normally I’m not a huge fan of restaurant hash browns because of the inconsistencies that come from cooking as many as they must to keep up with the demand. The hash I received at Welcome Diner, however, was nothing but satisfactory. Crispy outer texture, warm and hearty interior, it provided a great counterpart for the eggs, peppers and sausage. Overall I would order this again, though admittedly I’ll probably have to grab the Holy Puerco on my next visit.”

THE CHORIZO

welcome diner chorizo 1

Like a doofus, I can’t remember the name of my dish, but CHORIZO is the basic gist of this biscuit, arugula, cheddar, egg, chorizo combo. As a group of 3 folks all of Mexican / Spanish decent, we’ve given ourselves the authority to declare this chorizo officially KICKED ASS. I think my exact quote after the first bite was “holy shit this chorizo is the business.” Which must mean it was so good I found myself cool enough to use words like “the business” in describing my meal (and reality check, I’m not that cool). It was spicy without being overpowering, and a perfect complement to the smooth melted cheddar and peppery arugula bite. I opted to have my egg fried over hard (sorry yolk lovers) which was perfectly cooked with just enough runny left to cream everything together. I’m pretty sure there was an aioli or sauce component I’m not giving proper dues to, but just know it was delicious. While I’m stoked to head back for brunch and try more of the menu, it’d be a tough battle to pass over the Chorizo biscuit next time.

welcome diner chorizo 2

TL;DR

Welcome Diner’s brunch definitely lived up to the high expectations of amazing flavors and comfort-food-done-right that we’ve come to love out of this downtown spot. We had friendly service and never found ourselves with empty coffee cups during our visit. Check out the brunch and leave room for the beignets since we were too foolish to do so ourselves. We’re looking forward to checking out their next spot, Welcome Chicken and Donuts, coming soon.

Bye Bye Sugar

Note: Today’s post is not intended to disturb, discredit or make light of anyone’s medical or biological conditions, or speak negatively of those who benefit from taking maintenance drugs to live a full and healthy life. My comments are my own, and speak only to my experiences, both personal and what I’ve observed from close family members. 

(Adios Azucar if you’re cochino)

Source

It’s bullshit how much of our food has sugar in it.

Sorry to start off with the profanity like that, but I felt like it would be best to just get it out there in the open.

  • Breads have way more sugar than they need (even sourdoughs).
  • Fruit juice has sugar (why lord why)
  • You can find sugar in salsa and pasta sauces
  • Even meats have sugar!

Admittedly, cutting as much sugar as possible out of our lives has been probably the most frustrating part of trying to eat right.  I officially spend more time in the grocery store scanning the ingredient lists for sugar (or cane juice or evaporated cane juice, wtf!) than anything else.

I get it.  Sugar makes food taste better to Americans, and has addictive properties. So, the more sugar manufacturers add to things, the more we buy. To compound it, they can pour in the sugar and brag about how “low fat” their product is. I imagine the dudes pulling the levers in the processing plant also have stints at tobacco or firearm manufacturers on their resume.

“I am totally okay with optimizing a product to be addictive while killing off our own customers.”
– LinkedIn profile for Fictional Processed Food Manufacturer Dude

We all know sugar is “empty calories”, that it tastes good but doesn’t do much for us over the course of the day, and usually contributes to that afternoon drowsiness you get at the office.  My particular reasoning goes a little beyond that.

The Reason

In 2010, I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, then several months later I was told that I didn’t need to keep taking medicine to control it, as my test results placed me well below the range for concern. Fast-forward to 2013, I went in for a check-up after a random bout of anxiety and the new physician said that I was back in the diabetic range and needed to go back on the medication. Subsequent tests have moved my numbers in the right direction, but have also been met with additional prescriptions from my primary care provider.

I don’t doubt their training or expertise in the matter, but I think we have a distinct difference of opinion when it comes to the acceptability of my condition.  If I’m going to prescribe myself anything, it’s going to be plenty of activity, natural vegetables and ethically-raised, unadulterated meats, not pharmaceuticals whose side-effects actually worsen the primary condition (thanks doc!).

Bottom line, if there are serious health effects related to the amount of crap I’ve allowed in my diet, I need to man-up and rectify that while I still can.  Through my own actions I’ve been able to improve my health before, and I can do it again.

Plus I’d be a pretty huge hypocrite if I made this much noise about not eating factory farmed, corn-fed meats pumped full of antibiotics and processed with tons of chemicals, just to turn around and keep pouring other harmful substances into my body (liquor not withstanding).

The Alternatives

The part that really kills me is that there are plenty of equally, and economically viable* alternatives to sugar. Honey, maple, dates, coconut, and actual fruit (holy say whaaa!) are all viable and delicious ways to sweeten nearly anything without using granulated sugar.  Or worse yet, using artificial sweeteners or any plethora of cane juice, syrup, fructose, glucose, dextrose, or sucrose (to name only a fraction of the sugars taking up real estate on ingredient labels).

A lot of times, I end up having to put products, even organic ones, back on the shelf. Sure, morally I appreciate them growing organically, but it dilutes the perception that organic products are healthier when they ladle in just as much sugar (organic evaporated cane juice). Thankfully, there are a handful of opportunities still, where the manufactures have left out the sugar and gone with honey, dates or other natural sweeteners.

Shout-out to Rise Bars and Lara Bars. These things have been life savers over the past year, and especially this semester since I’m either at school or work 12+ hours a day.

The Early Impact

1.) Once you get the sugar out of your system, you crave it less. Once you “treat yourself” and indulge, you’re going to crave it again.

I’ll fully admit to being addicted to caffeine, but I have to say that sugar is the real crack. A caffeine headache sucks, but sugar withdrawal makes super unhealthy food seem like a good choice. Luckily, once I’m a few days in, and in a supportive environment, it gets easier.

2.) I’d forgotten how sweet some things naturally are because I’d gotten used to how much sugar we dump into them.

Exhibit A: Lattes. (See caffeine habit above)

For years I was a “vanilla latte” guy, and really only got off that train when I started having friends who were more sophisticated with their own approach to coffee. Nobody wants to be the Bud Light guy on craft beer night.  Before 2013, I wouldn’t imagine drinking my coffee black, but now that’s my go-to breakfast option on days when I’m not in the office making tea.

Lately I’ve been walking past Royal Coffee on my way to class twice a week.  Since Royal doesn’t serve drip, and I don’t often have time for an hand-crafted pour-over, I’ve taken to ordering a latte sans flavoring. Lo and behold, lactose is totally sweet. This may not be a total win, since it’s still chemically a similar compound once my body processes it, but it makes me feel like I am at least cutting out the double-dipping that happens with a sweetened latte, and I’m doing coffee “right” by tasting the beans, not the sugar pumps.

Giving credit where credit is due, Anie was on the unadulterated latte train long before me, and whenever I’d steal a sip of her’s I would inevitably put it back and make a face. I’m presuming this goes back to point #1 above. My bad, previous lattes whom I disparaged.  It wasn’t you, it was me and my betraying tongue.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

…and the journey continues. This is going to be a challenge I will continue to face, and I’m under no pretense that it will be easier anytime soon.

The one thing I do control, however, is my attitude and my resolve.  I’ve seen what the end of the road looks like when you don’t grab hold of your own nutrition, when you rely on medicine and maintenance drugs, and I think I owe it to some people who were very dear to me to do anything I can to avoid that outcome while it’s still possible.

If you’re on a similar page, we’d love for you to share your tips and tricks, or even your personal challenges. Leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter or Instagram.

——

Here’s the inspiration for today’s title. I challenge you to watch it and not be humming the song all day.

Glamping in the Ponderosa

Just one portion of the prep table. Image by Galli

Over labor day weekend we ventured north for a brief camping trip with a lovely group of friends including our favorite chef and part of the extended Crepe Bar family.

While one of us (her) was excited to rough it in the wilderness, it didn’t take long to remember who we were traveling with and the elevated food + drink experience that awaited.  This wasn’t your boy scout leader’s weenie-on-a-stick menu is what I’m saying.  Our luxurious, albeit ridiculous, menu included:

  • two brew methods for Tim Wendelboe coffee
  • foraged produce
  • imported 85% Belgian chocolate
  • white truffle mac and cheese (yes seriously)
  • homemade (fried on-site) sweet potato crisps
  • Parma ham and Gouda (because who doesn’t camp with Parma ham and Gouda?)
  • rose-infused miso hazelnut s’mores (Hershey’s who?)
  • and a chilled Negroni to wash it all down . . . obviously.

I wish we had more photos of the glorious meals, but I suppose part of camping is disconnecting, as our phones were comfortably tucked away inside the tent.  A lack of photos can also be a sign of a great time spent with fantastic and inspiring friends . . . and this was definitely one of those occasions.  We’ll leave you with the master at work and remind you to add “chef” to your next camping must-have list:

image by Ryan Cordwellimage by Ryan Cordwell