Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seven-Alarm Paleo Chili and a Cooling Chaser!

So today was a cool day here in Southern California. A brisk, refreshing 83 degrees that just begged for a bowl of warm, soul-satisfying chili! ; -) Now, I love chili. I adore chili. And what I used to adore about chili was filling it with a colorful array of beans - kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, those fun dalmation looking beans! - the more beans the better. But no more. No beans for this Paleo Goddess! So I challenged myself to make a chili that would seem as satisfying to me as the old bean-laden ones were. Game on!

First, I knew I didn't want to use chunks of meat...even though I have some amazing pork loins grilled up that could have been transformed into a tasty Chili Verde (making a mental note to try that next time I get a hankerin' for some chili)...because then I'd have mostly a bowl of veggies with some random meat chunks in it. I wanted something more 'chili-esque'...thick and with substance...that my spoon would stand up in. Luckily I have just been to the Asian market and bought my usual couple pounds of ground pork. I love the stuff - especially in Larb (an amazing Thai salad full of lime and cilantro and cabbage. Hmmmmm - I think I'm basically doing my next week's meal planning while I write this post!). And I've never seen it anywhere else, so I get a dorkish little bit of pleasure out of buying it because of it's slightly mysterious, out-of-the-ordinary, off the beaten path background. I'm sure it tastes much better than if I could have bought it at the grocery store also! Plus it's freshly ground! Yum! (Now if only I'd get over my squeamishness at the delicious looking squirming around blue crabs they have in a blue garage tote in the corner. I love crab! I don't think I could kill them myself. No matter how much of a cook or how Paleo I am!)

The veggies were the basics that I use in chili. And I will admit to adding the last 1/2 ear of grilled corn to the mix, which isn't Paleo, but is damn good. And honestly, 1/2 an ear over the three or four meals this will be is not going to send the paleo police to my door. I hope.

And if you're going to gnosh on something that leaves your taste buds trembling and smoke coming out of your ears, you need to make sure you have something cool and refreshing to chase it with. Enter my delicious Coconut Banana Walnut 'Ice Cream'. It was actually so good, that I will admit right up front that it wasn't the chaser to the chili. Nope. Ate it all up yum about thirty seconds after taking the picture. Because I totally deserved to eat dessert first today! Then I ate the chili. And chased it with some water instead!

Seven-Alarm Paleo Chili

****************Add 1/2 diced red onion and copious amounts of crushed garlic to a nice large pan that you've pre-heated. The pan needs to be big enough to hold all the ingredients for the chili, so err on the side of bigger if you're not sure how much room you'll need. Give the onion and garlic a little time to get to know each other. Once they've been stirred a few times, throw in 1 pound of ground pork (or hamburger or turkey or meatless soy crumbles...whatever floats your boat!...though you'll have to drain the whole mess once the meat is cooked because hamburger always has so much grease. That's another reason I like the pork - no grease!). Salt and pepper the meat. Add, based on your tastes, ample amounts of cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder, ground coriander, lots of paprika, and ground cumin. Brown the meat. If need be, remove excess fat after meat is browned. Add approximately (you guys know how I cook! And honestly, a little (or a lot) more or less isn't going to screw anything up here!) 3 cups diced tomatoes, 1 cup diced celery, 1/2 ear grilled corn (removed from the cob!), 1 diced green pepper, 2 stalks of celery, also diced, 1 finely diced jalapeno (I include the seeds. If you're less ballsy, don't!) and a crapload of chopped cilantro. (Please remember, that in my recipes, there is no such thing as too much cilantro...or too many spices!) Stir it all up really nice and let it simmer away over a medium flame for a bit, stirring when you remember to. The tomatoes will start to break down and it will stop looking like salad in a pan, and start looking like chili. I promise. If you need to mash those tomatoes up a bit to speed up the process, go for it. You have my permission. And it's fun! Once it's all chilified, taste it and play with those same spices above, adding a little of one, a lot of the other, until you get that perfect taste. Then stir the last of those spice additions in real good, let cook another 5 minutes or so on low heat then serve up in a bowl. My personal favorite way to top this off is with lovely slices of avocado and a generous squirt of lime juice. It was definitely stick-to-your rib's filling too!

Coconut Banana Walnut 'Ice Cream'

*****************(Serves 4) Take 4 frozen bananas and throw them in your food processor (or blender, if you have to - though you'll have to stop and help stir the bananas if you use a blender) along with a can of coconut milk, some cinnamon and some nutmeg. Personally, when my bananas start to get brown, I throw the whole things into my freezer. When I need them, I take one, pop it into the microwave for 20-30 seconds and it peels very easily. Anyway, add the coconut milk and blend it all up. Throw in a handful of walnuts and pulse a few times to make them into nice little chunks. Then stir in by hand a cup of unsweetened coconut flakes. If it's a bit runnier than you want, put it in a freezer safe bowl and chill it down a bit. Then eat. Yum! I even used a green spoon from white lime to make the whole dessert experience more complete!

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