Turkey Black Bean Chili

Hello, soup season. As much as I don’t love the shorter days or the ever-chillier nights, the end of the summer still holds a little joy for me in the form of a warm bowl of liquid comfort. Soup is one of the top reasons that I appreciate fall. 

The only tricky thing about soup is that different people tend to have pretty different reactions to it. I tend to feel really full after I drink warm soup, so for me, soup is usually a satisfying meal all by itself. But my husband tends to think of soup as an appetizer, so even after downing a large bowl of soup, he’s anticipating the next course–which isn’t always on the way. I crave the comfort of that hot liquid, while he craves something a little heartier.

But if there’s any soup that just screams “meal,” it’s chili. It’s one of the soups we can agree upon as being enough for dinner all on its own: it’s hearty and satisfying, meaty and comforting. The best of both worlds. 

This turkey black bean chili is one of my favorite chili recipes. I love me a great tomato-based soup: the way sweet-salty-slightly tangy mix of flavors plays on your tongue, the satisfaction that comes swallow after swallow. The spices add the signature bite and smoke of chili, which to me is what makes this stuff irresistible. 

But what I really love about this chili is that it doesn’t need a whole lot of rich ingredients to make it delicious. Health-wise, this is something I can feel good about serving to my family. There’s tons of lean protein from the turkey and black beans, and a lot of flavor without a ton of added salt or sugar. Served with a little whole grain cornbread and greens on the side, this is a wholesome meal that everyone can enjoy. 

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I don’t know what makes me love Chinese chives so much. These skinny herbs are pungent bordering on stinky, but I just can’t get enough of them. Is it their spicy, slightly garlicky flavor? Is it the way they kind of just melt into whatever you cook them with? Is it just in my genes?

Let me tell you what it isn’t: It’s not the fact that they demand super-careful washing because they’re so thin and long. And it definitely is not the way these things make my fridge smell. It’s certainly less than pleasant to get a whiff of these every time you open the refrigerator. In fact, perhaps best advice I can give regarding Chinese chives is to cook them soon after you buy them. Your refrigerator and its other tenants will thank you. 

These Chinese chive pockets are one of my favorite ways to eat Chinese chives. The basic filling is comprised of a ton of chives with a little bit of egg and vermicelli, but there are many delicious variations out there. If you’re not against seafood, a few dried shrimp or fresh shirasu are great for adding little salty bits to the filling. And if you’re looking for a little more protein, I’ve seen these made with bits of baked tofu or ground pork. In any case, all these additions are only meant to enhance the flavor of the chives, which are the real star of this dish.

And finally, see that sauce on the plate? If you think it’s soy sauce, guess again. There’s only one thing that goes on our chive pockets, and that’s vinegar. Black vinegar is a favorite, but sometimes we mix in a little white rice vinegar too. As I write this, I’m realizing that chives + vinegar does not sound necessarily sound like the most appealing combination. But trust me, it’s basically a flavor explosion that tickles your tongue with all 5 basic tastes at once. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. 

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Pumpkin Soft Pretzel Bites

Is there anything more “fall” than pumpkin? The deep orange shade of its flesh. The rich, velvety texture of freshly roasted pumpkin pulp. The cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices that customarily grace pumpkin-flavored treats. The scrumptiousness of said pumpkin-flavored treats. The weight gain… no, then again, let’s not go there. 

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say pumpkin is the ultimate sensory experience of the season. Then again, maybe I’m just trying to justify the dearth of pumpkin-related baking that is going on in my house right now. 

These pumpkin soft pretzel bites combine two of my favorite things: pumpkin and soft pretzels. (Pretty self-explanatory, right?) The soft pretzel bread is infused with just a hint of pumpkin and those amazing fall spices, all encased in that signature pretzel-y coating and a bit of caramelized cinnamon sugar. Fall in a bite, am I right?

These are best eaten fresh on the day they were baked. You can eat them as-is, straight out of the oven, or with an extra coating of butter, cinnamon and sugar–you know, just for kicks. If you need an excuse, just blame it on the season.

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Hawaiian Dinner Rolls

I don’t even remember a time when I didn’t know and love Hawaiian bread. My parents used to buy it while we were growing up–always the rolls, never a whole loaf–and I distinctly remember getting excited at the sight of the orange packaging, inside of which were hiding tidy rows of golden-brown rolls, each a neat, rounded square.

The bread itself was not just bread–it was definitely a treat, and one of my favorites at that. The rolls were soft and pillowy, just sweet enough to be delicious, but not so sweet that my parents considered them dessert. And believe me, I took advantage of that fact: requesting rolls at odd hours of the day, snacking on them before dinner. The only problem with the Hawaiian rolls was that they always disappeared too fast.

These Hawaiian dinner rolls are the closest I’ve gotten to matching the deliciousness of the original. In a lot of ways, they embody what I love best about my childhood favorites: they’re sweet, buttery, and soft, with a light and fluffy texture that pulls away beautifully when you separate them from one another. 

But I’ll be honest–this is not a perfect copy. I’m not sure if any home recipe can really match the fine texture and moisture of the store-bought rolls. For one thing, these rolls are great the day they are baked, but they’re not as moist the next day. And while I don’t usually like to post unperfected recipes here, in this case, I think I’m sharing a recipe that’s good in its own right, while also asking for help in making them even better. 

So tell me: have you ever made Hawaiian bread? What’s your favorite recipe, and how does it stack up against the prepackaged stuff?

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Pork and Kabocha Dumplings

I may have mentioned this before, but sometimes I think I should rename this blog “dumplingtude” or something like that. For a food blog, the number of dumpling recipes I’ve posted is probably relatively high considering the total number of posts I’ve ever written. It’s not like every other post is a dumpling post, but let’s just say that dumplings are somewhat…overrepresented?

Another thing that’s totally overrepresented, at least for this month, is pumpkin recipes. But in my defense, I really only do pumpkin stuff at this time of year, even though I love pumpkin enough that I stock up during the fall so I can have it year round. See? I can be self-controlled. 

Considering my obsessions with both dumplings and pumpkin, these pork and kabocha dumplings were bound to happen at some point. Actually, they first “happened” around this time last year, but that first attempt resulted in dumplings that were okay flavor-wise, but were way too heavy in texture–kind of thick and sticky, like mashed potatoes in a dumpling.

I almost gave up, but then I consulted with my mom, who told me I shouldn’t cook the kabocha ahead of time–just shred it thinly and let it cook along with the meat. That technique worked like a charm. These dumplings have just the right balance of pork and kabocha, and are moist and tender without being heavy. It does take a bit of elbow grease to get that kabocha shredded if you’re doing it by hand, but the results are worth it. In fact, they’re good enough to make me think way more seriously about upgrading my little 4-cup food processor to a bigger one with a shredder attachment. What can I say? Pumpkin + dumplings = my perfect fall food. 

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