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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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December 01, 2008

My Own Pot Roast and Chili Recipe

This was an evolving recipe for a long time, but I think it's pretty much done now. :)


For my pot roast, I select what in my area is called a boneless chuck roast (not steak - they're too thin).  It's usually maybe an inch and a half thick or so and is a flat, kind of oval-ish cut of meat and it usually has a fair amount of fat here and there.  I usually buy about the smallest one I can find (nowadays) and that still gives me enough for one night of pot roast, one night of pot roast hash, and several nights of chili.

I heat a little olive oil in my Dutch oven and when it's good and hot, put the meat in (no flouring or seasoning - just put it in).  While it's browning on its first side, I season the upside with salt, pepper, celery salt (so not too much table salt), garlic powder, paprika, and ground thyme.  I don't overdo it but I make sure I get some sprinkled on the entire surface and some on the pan bottom.  By then, it's time to turn over the meat and do the same seasoning on the upside.  The last thing I do at this point is sprinkle on a fairly heavy coat of dried minced onion, again letting some also fall onto the pan bottom.  Then I get some hot water in my 2 cup measure (maybe around a cup or so, dump in a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce) and pour that in around the meat - not on top or you wash off all the seasonings.  Quickly put the lid on and place in a 325 oven.  I cook it for about 2 hours, checking after an hour or so to make sure the liquid isn't all cooking away.  Sometimes I need to add a little.  And that's when I add my peeled potatoes and carrots.  Lid back on and into the oven for about another hour by which time the meat should be fork tender and the veggies done.  If the veggies seem a little hard, just cook a little longer.  I like to mash up the potatoes on my plate and pour the pan juices over them.

For the hash, I just chop up some of the left-over meat, the potatoes, and if there are a couple of carrot pieces left, those too.  I fry it in a little olive oil until it starts getting a little crusty and then I eat it. :)

CHILI (I guess I never took a picture of it)

Back in my early cooking days, I used a pound of ground beef and one can of kidney beans when I made chili.  Now I use maybe half a pound of leftover pot roast (maybe less - I've never weighed it) and three cans of beans!  Healthier, I would think and still meaty enough.  But if you don't want to make pot roast, use ground chuck or better (and I'd still advocate for 1/2 pound) and get it really well browned, not just til it's no longer pink.

So, once again, some olive oil in the skillet.  Chop up a medium-ish onion fairly coarsely and about a half of a green pepper unless it's a small one, then just use what looks right.  Dump those into the hot oil and let them start softening.  (NOTE:  I've only recently decided that I've probably always done this at too high a heat and have started cooking them more slowly in all my recipes - my onions were always getting kind of burned around the edges.)  Add a dollop of minced garlic (the kind from a jar) or a clove of fresh garlic.  While that's cooking, chop up the meat - I like mine fairly well chopped so every bite has meat in it - not just big hunks here and there.  Dump that in the skillet and let it start browning - browning's important, it's where the flavor is.

While that's cooking (and stir it a couple of times), open cans.  I always use one can of chili beans (I get the mild but you can use whatever heat appeals).  Then I will use a can of light or dark kidney beans and a can of black beans,   You want one chili bean though and two whatever beans.  And open a can of tomatoes also.  I used to put my tomatoes in the blender to puree them fairly completely but since I got my nifty stick blender for Christmas I've been using that.  So, now you dump all those opened cans (and the pureed tomatoes) into the skillet (and lately I've taken to adding a tablespoon or so of that tomato paste that comes in tubes - see what I mean about "evolving"?)  I then like to take half a cup or so of water and slosh it around in the tomato blending vessel, and then into each empty can until I have sort of a broth.  Then I add that to the mix also.  Now it's time to put in all the fun seasonings.  Here's what I use:

1 tsp. chili powder (nowadays, a rounded teaspoon)
1 tsp. cumin (again, rounded)
1 tsp salt
3 or 4 grindings of black pepper
a dash or so of cayenne (or a few drops of Tobasco)
a dash of cinammon (be careful with this unless you want to actually taste the cinammon)
a longish squirt of lemon from one of those plastic lemon thingies
2 or 3 shakes of Worcestershire
2 - 4 Tbl of salsa (I prefer Pace mild)

I think that's everything - I should be writing this when I'm actually making it but looking at my spice containers, I don't think I've left anything out.

Stir that all up really well, cover it and let it simmer on low for at least half an hour.  The longer it cooks, of course, the tastier it will be.  I always think it's better the second and third time around.

I like to sprinkle grated cheddar on top of mine and then crumble up some tostitos on top of that.  At a restaurant that January and Maggie (unfortunately) took me to and is now where I always want to go, you can get chili served over spaghetti which is fine and I did that for a while, until January pointed out (unfortunately) the chili bowl down at the bottom of the menu.  This is a bowl with a bunch of Fritos in the bottom and the chili on top with grated cheese.  There's something about that dish that makes it almost impossible for me to quit eating it - it is wonderful!!!  But I like mine too and don't feel guilty after I've had a bowlful of it. :)

So, buen provecho!  (which apparently is used in Mexico for "enjoy your meal")
And, to quote Bill Boldenweck (whoever he is):  "Chili's a lot like sex:  when it's good, it's great, and even when it's bad, it's not that bad."  Sorry - I just couldn't resist! :)

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