Sunday, February 7, 2010


I think I need to start buying some real spices.

For the last couple of years I've been mostly living off the spice rack my mom got for me from Homesense when I first moved to Toronto. I know, I know the spices in those things are probably filled with sawdust or something but the frugal side of me could never justify just throwing out perfectly "good" spices. Not to mention the fact that I generally tend to mainly season with just salt and pepper anyway, buying fresh herbs when it really matters. So I've been getting by with the rack spices, buying a few odds and ends here and there not really noticing whether or not the spices actually add some beneficial flavour to my cooking.

The problem started when I started to experiment in adding some heat to my cooking. Growing up in South Korea I was the ultimate freak of nature; I didn't eat spicy foods. They kept saying I would grow out of it but that didn't happen throughout my entire childhood. No Kimchi for me. Recently as I grow older, my tastes have started to change. I can bear (and sometimes enjoy) some of the spices stews and dishes I shied away from as a kid. I still don't eat Kimchi and can't handle very spicy cooking, but I'm trying here and am beginning to realize that the chili powder I've been using probably IS [red] sawdust and adding no real flavour to my meals. Like this Chili recipe below...don't get me wrong. It was delicious and full of rich, meaty goodness and perfect with some homemade biscuits but I can't help feeling that it would have been even better with a Better Chili Powder. I added some red pepper flakes which seemed to help, but after discovering this I will definitely be looking to see what quality dried spices can do for my cooking.

Anyway...ramble over. About the was delicious and adapted from a combination of different chili recipes, like this one, and this one too. I've made it before with just a pound of beef but more veggies and it's also a great option if you're looking for a slightly lighter meal.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange bell pepper, diced (you can use red or yellow as well, I was just going for some colour variety!)
10 ounces (about 1 cup) frozen corn
8 ounces (1 cup) beer (I used Moosehead)
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can romano beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Garnishes (optional)
Sour cream
Green onion
Grated cheddar cheese

1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add bell pepper and continue to cook until onions are translucent. Add the beef and cook, stirring to break up the lumps until browned, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

2. Add the chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes. Stir until blended. Add the beer and bay leaf and cook until the beer has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the corn, beans, tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with garnishes as desired, and some nice fresh buns, biscuits or cornbread.

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
adapted from smitten kitchen

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit, 220 degrees Celsius.

1. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Using fingertips, rub 3/4 cup chilled butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in grated cheddar. Add buttermilk and stir until evenly moistened.

2. Roll out dough onto a floured counter and cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter or drinking glass (about 3 inches). Bake until biscuits are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

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