Mikey’s This and That

So for Super Bowl Sunday, we stayed home which is how I like it–primarily because I’m a football purist and like to focus on the game. But hey, I’m a foodie so made some good food too. My wife has been doing something similar to South Beach Diet, and so we kept things relatively healthy and low-carb. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be tasty. We made Andrew Zimmern’s Asian wings that I have covered on here before, South Beach Texas Bowl o Red which is basically beef chunks in a thick chili sauce, and Mark Bittman’s Black Bean Soup from a Men’s Health Magazine. I could not find that online, but here is a version of Bittman’s that is close.

This new show “The Taste” on ABC looks pretty cool. It’s essentially a food version of “The Voice,” with big names like Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre and Nigella Lawson–the judges have to taste a spoonful of food prepared by someone that they don’t know is a home cook or a professional. And it looks like it has a big budget set. My wife and I barely got through the long 2-hour premiere, but it’s definitely a show that looks like it will be worth watching.

Have you guys noticed food prices going up? I have not researched this but man, it seems like simple things that were $4.99 a year ago are $6.99 now. Or maybe I’m imagining things.

Man, speaking of food, it’s dinner time and I’m hungry. See ya!

Cooking lessons

When I was growing up, I learned much of my basic cooking skills from my mom and brother. I also learned a lot on my own when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol at the age of 20, and began diving into healthy eating books and cookbooks–hence I had to learn how to make myself healthy lunches and such. I continued learning by reading and then by watching Food Network as that evolved. But I never took a formal cooking class until this past summer, when I enrolled in a 3-session course at Madison Area Technical College (MATC) on Thai cooking. I love Thai food, but it’s not easy to learn how to make real curry without having an instructor show you how it’s made from scratch, rather than by opening a jar of curry paste. I also learned how to make a real spring roll, and also pad thai, among other things.

I liked the course and instructor so much, that I took another course recently through MATC–same instructor, different location, and this time it was a 2-session course on making soup from scratch. I already knew how to do this, but the course taught me things I did not know, and it also was great to see how you make amazing chicken stock from scratch to start out. From there you can make, as we did, chicken noodle soup and wonton soup. The second session, we made chili and cream of mushroom soup. The latter is something I’ve never made, but it was phenomenal and I can’t wait to make it at home.

Then last week I received a James Beard cookbook and will be covering that in the Holiday Gift Guide. But this past weekend, I had to sample some of the recipes, which meant actually following the recipes of a master, and I learned so much in making just a couple of recipes from that book–gruyere soup; and beef Bourguignon saute. The latter involved making a sauce from scratch and making that the base–and learning how to do that was worth the price of the book, even though I didn’t technically pay for the book. That sauce was amazing and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. And it was SO easy. Of course, these recipes use crazy amounts of butter, but that’s why they taste so good, and because they are so rich, you can’t overeat. I also learned that by mixing flour and butter together, you can use that to thicken a sauce (cornstarch what?).

What’s my point? You can always learn more, especially with cooking, in which there are so many cuisines, methods and different foods out there in 2012. And I can’t wait to dive into that James Beard book some more.


The weather outside in most of the country is chilly, and in Wisconsin it’s downright cold. I think I might make a giant pot of chili this weekend. We fired up the slow cooker this past week to make one of my favorite meals, beef burgundy. The one we made is from an old cookbook and includes beef, mushrooms, onion soup mix, cream of mushroom soup, cream of celery soup and red wine. That’s about it. But to help you out, check out this Google search for beef burgundy, which basically is a beef stew made with some sort of red wine.

So what about you? What do you like to make when the weather gets cold, football season is in full swing, fires are raging in your living room, and you’re out shoveling snow, cross country skiing or out Christmas shopping, and want something hot to eat. Man, I’m getting hungry.

Cooler weather=warmer food

I have to admit, by the time September hits, and there is a chill in the air, I’m ready to stop grilling and making salads and gazpacho and ready to start cooking stick-to-you-ribs meals like chili and stew and roasts. One of the reasons I was excited about moving to Wisconsin last year was for the earlier changing of the season from that of Nashville. Of course, there is the down side to that–i.e. early and lots-of-it snow. But we have some time before that happens (well, hopefully we do). And the warmer fall has been a mild bummer in a cooking sense, because who wants to make stew when it’s 80 degrees outside, as it was the first week to 10 days of the month here in Madison. Something is wrong with that picture, but I’m no climate scientist.

As I write this, however, it’s a brisk 60-ish with temps dropping into the low 40′s tonight. It’s stew time, and I’ve got a beef stew on the stove. I’m not making the one I posted here last year, but a new recipe I found in a magazine. But I have to tell you guys, I re-visited my chili recipe last week during a football Sunday (the beef one), and it came out way better than it ever has before. I think the key was just to let it thicken naturally, but either way I felt pretty good about that recipe, admittedly better than the first time I made it and created the recipe.

I’m also looking forward to re-visiting casseroles and mac & cheese like this one. I also want to give another go-round with this Buffalo chicken mac I saw in the Food Network magazine recently. Man, was that amazing. Oh, and don’t forget about soup. Maybe I need to make new soups a priority this year–dude soup. Yeah, that’s it.

Hot dog Friday: basic chili dog

It’s time once again for Hot Dog Friday! Here is a recipe for a basic chili dog that we published last year on Grub for Guys. Enjoy!

If done right, nothing beats a good chili dog. But if you use the wrong kind of chili, or cheese or even dog, it can easily get messed up. So here is our take on a classic….

4 all-beef hot dogs
4 hot dog buns
Yellow mustard
1 small can Hormel chili without beans (avoid so-called “hot dog sauce,” which is all mashed up beans and fillers)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Cook the dogs, either boiling them on the stovetop for 10 minutes, or grilling on a preheated medium heat grill for about 5 minutes, turning frequently to avoid burning. Meanwhile, put chili in a microwave safe bowl and nuke for about 45 seconds on high. Assemble dogs by putting each in a bun and topping evenly with a squirt of mustard, the chili and the cheese.

A can a week: Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Steak Chili with Beans

Chef JimToday as I was scouring the grocery store shelves, I wanted to try a chili that was a bit different. So Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Steak Chili with Beans caught my eye. Sure, Campbell’s isn’t exactly Hormel, but they do soup right, so how much could they mess up chili, right? Plus, the prospect of big chunks of steak sounded intriguing to me.

So I fired this stuff up for lunch and, well, it’s okay. The first thing I noticed was an utter lack of spice. Not only does the tomato flavor dominate the taste of chili powder, but I had to douse it with hot sauce because on a scale of 1 to 10, this chili registered a heat index of about 0.5. No, it didn’t claim to be spicy, but still…it’s freaking chili, not tomato soup with beef. Speaking of beef, the chunks of meat were definitely nice. They were small chunks but nice and meaty and tender. I also liked that there was corn in the chili, giving it a nice Southwest flair.

Assuming you have hot sauce on hand, you might give this a try, but if you’re looking for traditional chili flavor, stick with the guys like Hormel that just do chili.

A Can A Week: Hormel Hot Chili with Beans

A few weeks ago, I posted my Grub for Guys chili recipes. But if I have to eat chili from the can, it’s almost always going to be Hormel Chili. I mean, right on the can, it says, “Since 1891.” Holy crap, they’ve been making chili for 120 years and in three differet centuries.

And being that they make several different kinds of chili, I thought we’d review a few of them on our “A Can A Week” feature. This week it’s Hormel Hot Chili with Beans. Hot as in spicy, and when the word “HOT” is almost as big as the “Hormel Chili,” you sure expect at least three chili peppers on a scale of 1 to 5. I’m going to give it about a 3.5 there–I love spicy food, and this chili is maybe one of the spicier canned foods you’ll find, but it’s not like I was reaching for a glass of milk after each spoonful, or even water. I’d say, though, that it’s just the right amount of heat, so as not to overpower the chili.
The heat also creeps up on you a bit, like a swift kick in the back of your throat.

Flavorwise, you really can’t beat Hormel Chili, and this one is no exception. There is a real depth of chili flavor, with tomatoes being there but more in the background. The bean to beef ratio is about 50/50, and pretty decent for a can of chili.

If you eat the whole can (and just like with last week’s Chef Boyardee review, why wouldn’t you?), you’re ingesting 520 calories…but you’re also talking 32 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber. So no, Hormel Chili may not be classified as health food, but it’s got some nice nutritional value too. And as I write this, I’m FULL and may not eat until dinner time.

So if it’s been a while since you’ve tried Hormel, or if you haven’t tasted the Hot Chili with Beans, go check it out and see if you agree with this assessment. And now, time for a nap (well, not literally).

Next for the Hormel line, we’ll review their Turkey Chili.

Chili for Dudes 101: perfect for chilly football days

I came up with these two recipes that were posted on my Grub for Guys column on, and they are great for watching football on a chilly Saturday or Sunday, or the whole weekend.  

Chili For Dudes 101: Traditional and White Chicken Chili For Football Sundays and Otherwise

When the calendar turns to Fall, it’s like our inner chili jones begins.  Or maybe it’s when football is on while a chill in the air is hitting.  Regardless, you’ve been waiting about six months to fire up the stove for some chili, and Fall is the perfect time for it.  Lucky for you, we’ve created a couple of brand new recipes—a standard chili that is, frankly, way better than anything you can summon from a can; and a white chicken chili that has plenty of heat as well.  So fire up that stove and let’s get cooking….. 

Mikey’s Traditional Beef and Bean Chili

Sometimes the best recipes are the ones you create without a recipe.  That’s what happened in the Bullz-Eye test kitchens recently when we set a bunch of ingredients on the counter and proceeded to meld them together into some kickass chili.  As with any chili, you can always adjust the heat to your own palate, but come on…chili is supposed to be spicy!


1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 to 1.5 lbs. ground beef

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 small green bell pepper, trimmed, seeded and diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can beef broth

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large saucepan or stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef, onion, garlic and peppers — cook, stirring, until meat is brown and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.  Do not drain.  Add tomatoes, broth, chili powder, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste (be somewhat generous with the salt unless you have high blood pressure).  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 2 hours, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add arrowroot powder slowly and stir to thicken chili.  Serve with the cheese and hot sauce.  Serves 4-6 or 2-3 really hungry dudes.

White Chicken Chili

There are so many variations of this one out there, and most of them will wind up some shade of off-white — this one even more so, because we’re using green jalapenos and orange carrots.  But hey, the premise is what matters, and (oh yeah) the big, bold flavors of this dish that’ll have you going back for more as your football Sunday wears on. 


1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks

1 small onion, peeled and diced

1 small potato, peeled and diced

1-2 small carrots, peeled and diced

1 parsnip, peeled and diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

2 cups chicken broth

1 can white beans, not drained

1 Tbsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper or chipotle powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup half and half

1 tsp. arrowroot powder

Chopped cilantro


Heat oil in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add chicken, onion, potato, carrot, parsnip and jalapeno.  Cook and stir until chicken is browned and cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add broth, beans, chili powder, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer about 1.5 to 2 hours.  Add half and half and continue stirring to avoid curdling, about 5 minutes.  Add arrowroot powder and continue stirring a few more minutes or until thick.  Serve with chopped cilantro.  Serves 4-6 or 2-3 hungry dudes.

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