Chili Powder

One of my favorite things about cooking is concocting. Making my own herbs and spice blends, flavored oils and vinegars is some of the fun. There is great joy in taking classic dishes and making them uniquely your own. Chili powder is one of the seasoning blends I think is much better crafted to your own preferences and result in a “secret ingredient.”

When I was taking culinary classes associated with my holistic nutrition degree, I was introduced to the Culinary Institute of America’s book, Techniques of Healthy Cooking. I still turn to it a lot for reference. The recipe below is based on one from this book.

Chili powder is simple to make, taking under 10 minutes. Most ingredients are easily located at the grocery store, and the flavor can be adjusted based on the type of chili you use. The result is far more complex and versatile than the store bought blends. I use this in tortilla soup, posole, meat rubs, various marinades, salad dressings, and of course, in a good hearty chili.

Feel free to play with this recipe and adjust it to suit your personal tastes. That’s half the fun of making your own seasoning blends from the basic spices and herbs on hand.

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons Chili, dried and ground (see notes)
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Mexican Oregano Leaves, dried
3/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/8 Teaspoon Chile de Arbol, ground (optional - can substitute Cayenne)

Instructions

Mix all ingredients together and store in a tightly covered container.

Notes

Chili: I prefer Ancho chili over all other chili for this blend, but also use Pasilla. When mixing, I do a ratio of 2/3 Ancho to 1/3 Pasilla. Ancho gives it a bright red coloring and Pasilla offers a toasted brown. Ancho is sweet and smokey. Pasilla is hotter. The combo of the two makes for a great base for the rest of the flavors.

Cumin: I reduced the original recipe by 1/2 as I am not a huge fan of Cumin. It is necessary and if you don’t use it at all, you will find something missing, but since I don’t love it, I reduced the amounts. Go easy with this ingredient because it has a very distinct flavor and can overpower all of the rest of the ingredients. You can always adjust and add more to your liking.

Garlic: I love garlic. Also a heavy flavor. I increased the original recipe slightly. Modify to your tastes.

Oregano: Mexican Oregano is traditional here, and readily found in the international food isle of the grocery store. I grow and dry my own more traditional Italian Oregano, and use it in my blend quite successfully.

Coriander: Ground coriander refers to the seed, not the leaf of the plant also commonly known as Cilantro. I love the toasty, earthy flavor the addition of coriander brings to the blend and use it liberally.

Chili de Arbol: I also add Chili de Arbol to this recipe for an extra little kick. It can be reduced or omitted if you are sensitive to the heat of this chili. Cayenne can be used as a substitute.

Salsa Verde

Yeild: 3 Cups

This is one of the late summer rewards of the garden. I had a good crop of tomatillos, cilantro and jalapeno this year and it was all screaming at me to make some Salsa Verde and preserve enough for a variety of dishes over the winter months.

I am so glad I did. This version of Salsa Verde lets the sweet/tart flavor of the tomatillos shine through, and is forgiving enough to change your quanitites of jalapeno and salt to suite your own preferences.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs Tomatillos
1/2 Cup White Onion, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, peeled
1/2 Cup Cilantro Leaves, packed
1 Lime - Zested and Juiced
2 Jalapeno Peppers (or more to taste), stemmed and seeded
1/4 Teaspoon of Salt, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Pat dry..
  4. Place tomatillos and whole garlic cloves, on baking sheet. Optionally, add jalapenos.
  5. Roast in oven for 10 -15 minutes until tomatillos are softening and beginning to brown. If jalapenos begin to darken, remove them from the oven before they start to brown. For this recipe you do not want to char the produce, it will create bitterness.
  6. After tomatillos are soft and just starting to turn a carmel color, remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
  7. Place roasted produce and all other ingredients in a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings: Add more jalapeno if you want more heat, and additional salt if desired.

Optional Canning Instructions

This recipe can be canned. It is easy to triple or quadruple the above ingredients and make a large batch.

  1. Wash and sterilize canning jars and rings. use pint size, but you can use any size you desire. The above recipe results in about 3 cups of finished salsa, or 1.5 pints so you can estimate the number of jars to use when making a large batch. I triple the recipe, resulting in 9 cups, or 4 pint size jars and 8 oz. to eat immediately.
  2. Bring water to boil in a large water bath canning kettle.
  3. In a seperate small pot, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and put canning lids in hot water. Let soak while filling jars.
  4. Fill hot, sterile jars with salsa verde, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  5. Seal with lids and rings.
  6. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Yeild: 6 – 7 Cups

This sauce is a bit sweet and sour, but still retains the basic elements of a traditional BBQ Sauce. It’s very versatile and creates good carmelization and glazing when added on the grill. Pork and chicken work very well with this sauce.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, whole
4 Cups Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Cup Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Molasses
4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
1/8 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup Beer
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce or other Sweet/Tart Jelly
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/2 Teaspoon Tabasco (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gather all ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchement paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss onion, garlic, and rhubarb with avocado oil. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet. Cook in oven for 18-20 minutes until rhubarb is soft. Transfer to a large sauce pan.
  4. Add all other ingredients except salt, pepper and tabasco to the sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the rhubarb is falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Using an immersion blender, blender or food processor, puree sauce until very smooth.
  6. Return sauce to pan if not using an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, optionally, add Tabasco sauce to taste. Adjust level of sweetness by adding additional brown sugar or molasses if desired, or make more tart/acidic by adding additional apple cider vinegar. This is where you can adjust the sauce to your personal taste.
  7. Insure all ingredients are well combined.
  8. Will store refrigerated for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze BBQ sauce in a freezer container for up to six months, or use a canning method for storage up to a year. I chose to process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to can the BBQ sauce for longer storage.
Ribs cooked on the Pellet smoker glazed with the Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Notes

If you don’t have Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce on hand, you could substitute Red Pepper, Tart Cherry, Currant, or a combination of these Jellies to get the sweet/tart flavor needed. Optionally, you could add fresh strawberries or raspberries during the phase when you cook down the roasted rhubarb with the other liquid ingredients.

This is a forgiving sauce, and you can play with it to make it your own by changing up ingredients, just checking the flavors and insuring balance. When I first started the sauce it just didn’t seem quite right until I added a very small amount of liquid smoke and that made all the difference.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce

Yield: 8 – 12

I remember first eating rhubarb out of my Great-Grandma Lamb’s garden. Esther Lovina Heaton Lamb was the first person to introduce me to the marvels of rhubarb (and gardening in general). As a skinny six year old, I would raid the garden in late spring for gooseberries and tart rhubarb stalks. My face would pucker, but I loved a fresh stalk of rhubarb. Sometimes I even added salt to it. It was years before I could get my mind around cooking the stuff and adding sugar to it. My mother did not encourage eating sugar, and I didn’t know what I was missing, so we were both happy.

I use this sauce over ice-cream, with butter for rolls and bread, in grilled cheese and charcuterie sandwiches, as a base for BBQ sauce, and as the start to a family favorite: Strawberry – Rhubarb ice-cream. The quanities here are for a large batch recipe, but it can be cut down by 1/2 or 1/4 easily to make a smaller batches. It freezes well, or can be canned for longer shelf-life.

Ingredients

8 Cups Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
8 Cups Strawberries, washed and quartered
1 to 1 1/2 Cup Sugar, to taste
1 Lemon, juiced and seeds discarded
1/2 Cup Water

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Use only one cup of sugar initially. Additional sugar can be added later in the process if desired.
  2. Place on stove top and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer (medium to medium-low) and cook for 45 minutes, or longer, depending on how thick you want the sauce. Stir frequently to prevent sugars from sticking to bottom of pan and scorching. Near the end of cooking, taste and adjust sugar in 1/4 cup increments until desired sweetness is achieved.
  3. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate to store for up to one week. Freeze for up to six months, or utilize a sterile canning process to preserve for up to one year.

About Rhubarb

I have two beautiful rhubarb plants just off the border of the back lawn. Rhubarb is one of the things I can grow in the open yard vs. the fenced off garden area because the deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds will leave it alone. My rhubarb plants were established from rhizome starts provided by a neighbor reducing his rapidly expanding crop. I felt fortunate and grateful to recieve a well-acclimated, edible variety. Today, it is well established and produces up to 5 pounds of rhubarb per plant per year. Eventually, I will need to divide it and share it with another rhubarb enthusiast.

Rhubarb is grown from divided rhizome roots, or seed, does best in Northern climates, and begins to emerge from dormancy in the late winter and early spring. The leaves are actually poisonous and should be avoided. Wild animals know this instinctively and will not bother Rhubarb mixed in with your ornamental beds. Do not try to feed it to domestic pets and livestock.

Rhubarb does not have to be relegated to a formal fruit and vegetable garden setting. There are ornamental, medicinal, and culinary varieties. I accidentally bought an ornamental cultivare as an early vegetable gardener, quickly recognizing my mistake when it bloomed beautifully, and rained seeds from very hollow stalks that were not at all edible. I’ve transferred this lovely specimen to a place where it provides cover for baby Quail each year, and now grow the edible varieties separately.

Ornamental Rhubarb

Edible Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a vegetable and not a fruit as some would suspect as it is often paired with sweeter fruits and berries. While the leaves are poisonous, the stalks are edible. Rhubarb has high fiber, and is a great source of calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and manganese. It does carry oxalates (as do almonds, spinach, kale and nut butters) which inhibit the uptake of calcium. Yes, it ironic that it has high levels of calcium and oxalates that bind that calcium and prevent absorption all at the same time. Cooking helps break down oxalates and combining with fruit further reduces the concentration even further allowing more of the available calcium to be absorbed.

Rhubarb is originally from Asia, where it was primarily used for medicinal purposes. It was highly valued for its healing property and was traded with other countries by Asian emperors as a commodity along with tea. It made its way to Europe, via the Silk Road, but was not really introduced into culinary arts until the 1700’s where it first emerged as a filling for pies and tarts.

Chipotle Black Bean Sauce and Dip

This sauce is so smooth and it’s easy to vary the level of heat by adding more or less Chipotle Salsa to the Black Beans.

Ingredients

15 oz. Can Seasoned Black Beans (I prefer Rosita Brand for this recipe)
1/2 to 3/4 Cup Chicken Stock (less for Dip, more for sauce)
1/4 to 1/2 Cup Chipotle Salsa (depending on your preference for heat)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for five minutes and remove from heat. Using an immersion blender (or traditional blender or food processor), blend all ingredients into a smooth sauce, or leave a bit chunky for dip.

Chipotle Salsa

This a smokey hot salsa that can be used on it’s own, or added to other ingredients as a seasoning for other sauces, dips and spreads.

This recipe makes 4 Cups. It freezes well and can be doubled easily.

Ingredients

1 7 ounce can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
3 Cups Fresh Red Salsa (homemade or store bought)

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes until fresh salsa is cooked and chipotle peppers are incorporated into the sauce

Fresh Red Salsa

Makes 4 Cups

This is a raw Salsa with simple, fresh ingredients that can be whipped up in less than a half hour. It stores well for several days, or can alternately be cooked and kept for up to a week. After cooking, it freezes well. Recipe can be adjusted up for canning.

Ingredients

6 Medium Tomatoes, seeded and quartered
1 - 2 Jalapenos, seeded and ribs removed
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and ribs removed
1/2 to 2/3 Medium Yellow Onion, cut into large chunks
1/2 to 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Lime, juiced
1 to 3 Garlic Cloves, peeled
2 Handfuls Cilantro Leaves

Instructions

  1. In a food processor fitted with an S-blade, pulse onion, bell pepper and one jalepeno until large chunks. Do not over pulse at this stage.
  2. Add tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 clove of garlic to food process bowl, and pulse to a chunky stage. Adjust onion, garlic, jalapeno and salt to taste. Before adding adjusted ingredients, chop into small pieces.
  3. Pulse a few more times, being careful not to puree.
  4. Chill for 2 to 4 hours before serving to allow flavors to blend.

Thai Style Almond Butter Sauce

I like peanut dipping sauce, but prefer raw almond butter to peanut butter any day. For people with peanut allergies, or avoidin legumes, this is a tasty substitute for peanut dipping sauce. Recipe is also suitable for those following raw foods, vegetarian, and vegan diets. Remove the maple syrup for a paleo or keto diet.

This sauce is wonderful for dipping, can be thinned with rice vinegar for a tasty salad dressing, and can be used in place of barbeque sauce when grilling. It’s not beautiful, but it is delicious.

Ingredients

1 Teaspoon Fresh Ginger, grated
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1/2 Cup Raw Almond Butter
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame oil
1 Lime, juiced
2 Tablespoons Tamari (low sodium, gluten free)
1 Teaspoon Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Water
Optional: 1/2 Teaspoon Siracha Chili Sauce, or to taste

Instructions

  1. Place Ginger and Garlic in a pestal and mortar and mash into a paste.
  2. In a small bowl, combine mashed ginger and garlic with remaining ingredients.
  3. Whisk to blend thoroughly.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps for up to one week.
Ginger and Garlic Paste

Mashing ginger and garlic allows it to be more smoothly incorporated into the sauce. Alternatively, all ingredients can be placed in a food processor and blended until smooth and creamy.

Basic Marinara Sauce

This recipe is for a very basic marinara sauce done in a large batch style. It can stand alone as a dipping sauce (it’s quite thick), serve as a red pizza sauce base, sauce for lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant and chicken parmesan, etc.

I like to make a very large batch and freeze it in quart size deli containers. I typically use tomatoes from my garden either fresh, or frozen whole and thawed. When home grown tomatoes are not available, canned tomatoes such as San Marzano whole peeled can be used.

In this recipe I omit Oregano, which may surprise some. I find that it is very strong and can easily overpower the sauce, so I add it later, when I am using the sauce for dishes that are complimented by it.

This recipe is designed to be able to be reduced b 1/2 or 1/3 of the amounts here to allow for smaller batches with the same flavor.

Ingredients

12 Cups Whole Tomatoes, peeled (fresh, frozen or canned)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
6 Cups Yellow Onion, diced
1 1/2 Cups Carrot, diced
1 1/2 Cups Celery, diced
1 1/2 Cups Red or Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
2 Shallots, diced
6 Garlic cloves, minced
4 Bay Leaves, Whole
1 Cup torn Sweet Basil leaves
1 Tablespoon Rosemary leaves, fresh removed from stem
1/2 Cup Italian Parsley, rough chopped
12 oz. Tomato Paste
1 Tablespooon Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until warmed.
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery, peppers, and shallots.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to brown and release sugars.
  4. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent over browning of vegetables.
  5. When garlic is soft, add remaining ingredients to the pot.
  6. Continue to cook over medium heat until sauce begins to boil.
  7. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and allow sauce to cook for at least 2 hours until carrots are of a consistence that they can be mashed and the tomatoes are completely cooked.
  8. Remove from heat and remove bay leaves from sauce. Allow sauce to cool.
  9. Using an immersion blender, food processor or regular blender, puree the cooked vegetables into a smooth sauce. For a chunkier sauce, just pulse a few times with the blender you are using.