Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Annual Chili and Beer War Submission for 2014

The 8th Annual Connell Chili and Beer War was yet another unqualified success. A great time was had by all. Every time I go, I make new friends and feel so welcome and happy. I told my lovely hostess this is one of those events where I sometimes lament about not eating meat. As I look around at all of the simmering creations in the crock pots, I am amazed at all of the creative culinary definitions of chili. My friend and hostess was so considerate. She made a vegan chile so that we could experience more than one of the entries. It was really awesome, chunks of hearty vegetables, beans and soooooo much flavor.

Mr. Host is a beer aficionado. He has probably done the beer tour at OC many times. He shared some fun brews with the crowd by serving tastings of several unique microbrews. I was pleasantly surprised by a pumpkin ale he offered. Nothing better than excellent beer with hot chile!

Our chili was pretty well received. The flavor was rich and smokey. When I discussed it with the prior year's champion (and third place winner this year), she suggested that while it had very good flavor, it needed more texture. I concur, so I made some slight adjustment in the recipe below to add beans for more texture.  I used the DePuy or French lentils because A) I had a small amount left in the pantry and B) they are the type of lentils that stay more firm when cooked for long periods of time. I love the smokiness of the paprika and chipotle in this. I hope you do to! This a a pretty spicy chili. If you are more delicate, reduce the amount of jalapeños by half and use a milder chile powder.

Smoky Red Hot Chili

1 cup french lentils (DePuy)
2 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large pasilla chile pepper, diced
3 medium jalapeños, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon hot chile powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan brown or red ale beer
1-15 oz. can fired roasted crushed tomatoes
1-15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1-8 oz can El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco
1-6 oz can tomato paste
3 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 cup organic textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1 - 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

In a medium sized saucepan add lentils and water. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 25-35 minutes until lentils are tender (they will still be somewhat firm).

In a large stock pot over medium heat add oil then onions and fresh peppers. Saute until softened and onions are translucent, about 7-10 minutes. If mixture starts to stick, add a little water Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chile powder, oregano, cocoa, smoked paprika, cumin, chipotle powder and salt. Sauté until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze with beer and simmer for about 2 more minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, El Pato, tomato paste, vegetable broth and bay leaves. Combine well. Stir in TVP and beans. Let simmer for at least and hour to let those flavors develop.

Serve with diced green onions and vegan sour cream if desired. Oh and corn bread is a natural for this chili!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tonapah Rob's Vegetable Farm and Bonus Recipe

The one thing I love about having a blog is that you can really write about whatever you want and whatever you love. Sometimes I write about things I think other people will like, sometimes I find some cool new restaurant, ingredient or cooking technique. This post is about something that makes me feel good about so many things: clean local food, environmentally friendliness and just good people.

A couple of weeks ago Fred, some of our friends and I took a drive out to Tonapah Rob's Farm located about 50 miles outside of Phoenix. My dear friend Jackie (who is my kindred spirit when it comes to cooking awesome food) booked a tour of the farm for our little group. She knows how passionate I am about organic and truly natural food, so she knew this field trip would make me a little giddy.

We arrived early so we could by some of the super freshly picked, pesticide, herbicide and GMO free vegetables from Rob's farm stand. There were beautiful carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, greens, onions and more. After hanging out for a while, we were ready for the tour. Rob started this farm about 18 years ago. It was originally 5 acres, but he has been able to recently purchase 4 more acres. He is passionate about growing chemical free and in synch with the local climate and critters. He is an advocate of continual learning and teaching on the farm. Nature is an incredible teacher. Over the years he has learned how to work with everything from beneficial bugs to crop rotation to the typical wind patterns of the area.

As we toured the property, I noticed that he is also big into repurposing. He found an old abandoned washing machine which now served as a salad/greens spinner!

He has unique methods of composting. He showed us a new technique he has learned over the past few years (compost tea). He showed us a comparison of artichoke plants living near the compost tea run off and farther away. The plants getting the compost tea were huge! It was amazing as you can see below.

He has green houses where he starts many of his plants. Which brings me to another very important part of his method. All of his employees must be drug and tobacco free. He is adamant about this policy. He also insists that visitors to the farm stand that are smokers not tour the property. He doesn't do this to be a hard-core anti-smoking guy. He has lost crops to the quick spreading tobacco mosaic virus because someone he hired lied about their smoking habits.

Many of us have heard the claims from biotech companies that genetically modified and pesticide laden crops are the only way to feed the world. Apparently, they haven't met the likes of Tonapah Rob and his dedicated crew. His farm has a sizable CSA following and he brings a lot of produce to a few selected markets in Phoenix. He has produced well over 1500 pounds of produce in weekend before he expanded to 9 acres without genetically modifying or using any chemicals, so I am sure the yield is even higher now. I'm thrilled to see the success of his crops, his farm stand and his CSA. Below are some shots of the healthy plants growing. The cabbage heads were amazing!!!

Our little group had lots of questions as we all do some of our own organic gardening. Rob took extra time to answer our questions and to provide some great advice to help our gardens flourish. We were grateful for his time and knowledge.

His website has all the details on his CSA (which is a great deal), the markets where you can find his produce, the farm stand and a little history about Rob and the farm. The home page lists the upcoming week's food offereings. There are also some recipes in case you need ideas on how to use all of those spectacular veggies. Speaking of recipes, I created a recipe using the veggies I bought on my last trip to the farm. It's a nutrient rich and toothsome dish that is great for dinner or reheated for lunch. The fresh fennel gives the tempeh that "Italian sausage" flavor.

Wild Rice with Roasted Vegetables and Tempeh Sausage Crumbles

6 -8 servings as a side dish 4 main dish servings

1 cup wild rice, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth

2 cups fresh cauliflower florets
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
4 oz. small whole cremini mushrooms (or large ones halved)
3 cloves garlic, crushed (do not mince, keep clove intact)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper

8 oz. package non-gmo tempeh, crumbled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup fresh fennel, bulb only sliced thinly
1/2 cup sliced oil packed sun dried tomatoes (or rehydrated non-oil packed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon Bragg's liquid amino or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke.

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium sized saucepan over med-high heat, add wild rice and broth. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pan and let simmer for 45-50 minutes until wild rice puffs open. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes the fluff with fork.

While rice is cooking, prepare roasted vegetables and "sausage".

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms and garlic cloves on sheet. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Roast mixture for 15 minutes.

In large iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-low heat, sauté crumbled tempeh in olive oil until slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add fresh fennel and sun-dried tomatoes and sauté until fennel is softened, about 10-15 minutes. If mixture becomes to dry, add a touch of water. Add crushed red pepper and salt. Saute for about 1 more minute. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine tomato paste, water, Bragg's liquid amines and liquid smoke. Pour mixture into pan. Cook until liquid is gone and mixture is almost dry. Stir in cooked wild rice and roasted vegetables. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Reheats very well!

I have been eating lots of the veggies raw with some hummus as a snack too. Look how beautiful that purple cauliflower is!

Below is information on the Farm Stand and location of the farm (information directly from

Make sure to go to the website for more detailed information on the CSA. Going to the farm and taking the tour is a lot of fun for a group of people or a family…very educational.

Note to my vegan readers: the farm is not vegan.

Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm

Address: 35838 W. Buckeye Rd.  Tonopah, AZ 85354
Market hours:  Open every Saturday from 8 to noon.  Summer hours: 7 to 11 a.m.  The farm stand opens November 2, 2013.
To visit Tonopah Rob’s Vegetable Farm and if you are coming from the Phoenix area:
The Farm Stand will open the first weekend of November 3, 2013.
  • Take Interstate 10 west to exit 103 – 339th Avenue
  • Turn left – heading south
  • Drive 1.9 miles
  • To Buckeye Road
  • Turn right – heading west
  • Drive 2.3 miles – you will pass through a stop sign at 355th Ave (about one half mile west of 355th Ave.)
  • Farm Stand is on the right – look for the big yellow sign
Address is: 35838 W. Buckeye Rd. Tonopah, Arizona
My farm is only about 30 minutes from the I-10 and 101 Loop intersection. Be careful following online mapping services including Google, Yahoo Maps, and Map quest as they often direct you to turn on Van Buren – this is a mistake that will have you on the wrong street with no easy access to my farm! Telephone: 623-386-3033