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Texas-Style Chili

My family moved to Texas when I was in the third grade from Missouri, and we left after sixth grade. Growing up there meant that cowboy boots and red-lacquered nails were common place. Ladies served white-frosted hummingbird cakes, and the men drank Shiner Bock (well, so did the women). Mexican food was really Tex-Mex, but different from the “Tex-Mex” that you find in other states. People ate tamales and Christmas, and decorated their yards with luminarias. And then there was the chili. Texas Chili is built with large chunks of meat, no ground meat here. No beans either. This is about the meat and the gravy. Dig in.


Texas-Style Chili

4 pounds stew meat, cubed

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 jalepenos

2 poblano peppers

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup masa flour

2 tablespoons coco powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon powdered cumin

1 tablespoon powdered coriander

2 tablespoons dried and powdered chiplotle

10 dried pequin peppers, crushed

3 cups water

56 ounces diced tomatoes

Neutral flavored oil


Brown the meat in a little oil. You don’t need to cook this all the way through, you just want to establish a little brown crust on the meat. When you have that, remove the meat and place in a crockpot.

Add the onion to the pan and brown in the remaining oil. If you’re out of oil, add a little more. Deal with your peppers. Address your heat level, if you’re not someone who likes hot, maybe you don’t add jalepenos at all. If you like heat, wash and dice your peppers. Remove the skin from the poblanos first by scorching them over high flame on a gas grill or gas burner. When the skin is black, put the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about twenty minutes. After that period of time, you will be able to remove the skin easily. Rough chop the poblanos and add these with the jalepenos to the onions. When the onions are translucent,  add the tomato paste, and cook until the paste is well mixed and fragrant. Add the spices, including the coco powder and masa, and stir to combine. At this point, add 1 cup water and mix to create a paste. Simmer for five minutes, then pour this paste over the meat in the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Add the remaining water and the diced tomato.

Cook on low in the crockpot for  six hours.

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American-Style Cassoulet

This is a cleaning out the freezer dish. I have a husband who frequently brings home animals: rabbits, pheasants, quail, venison. This is a perfect way to clean out the odd bits of things that have found their way into your home, and a great way to address some of the issues that lean wild meats have (low fat content). Hours of cooking in the liquid tenderize the meat, and make it fork-tender. This does take a while to get going – but be patient – this one is is worth it.

Why “American-Style” this French dish would never involve whiskey or slab bacon. This is Mid-west America’s answer to the classic.


American-Style Cassoulet

1 lbs dried great northern beans

1 lbs nitrite-free bacon

4 lbs meat (this is largely up to you – you want a mix of fatty meats and lean meats in here. We regularly use about 1 1/2 lbs of game bird like quail and pheasant, 1 1/2 lbs of venison sausage, and 1 lbs of pork. You want a neutral sausage, don’t use a maple sausage.)

1 lbs carrot, peeled and diced

2 large onions, diced

16 cloves garlic, large dice

1 tablespoon tomato paste

14.5 oz can diced tomato

1/3 cup whiskey

1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 bay leaves

4 cups broth (chicken)

Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water. You want to use about six cups of water, and for the beans to be well under the surface of the water. Soak at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and set aside.

Fry the bacon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan, and saute the carrots in the bacon fat for five minutes on medium heat. After five minutes, add the onions. Cook the onions for about five minutes for another five minutes, then add the garlic. Let the vegetables sit in the pan for a few minutes, then add the salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and oregano. When the spices are well-incorporated, add in the tomato paste and cook for five minutes. Add the whiskey and cook until the whiskey is evaporated. Finally add the can of tomatoes. Mix this vegetable mixture into the beans. Chop the bacon into small chunks and add to the beans. Mix to combine well.

Brown whatever meat you are using in a pan with a little olive oil. You do not need to cook this all the way through, you just need to establish a crust on the outside. When I use a loose sausage, I form the meat into small meatballs and fry them on all sides.

Arrange your browned meats into three plates or bowls – one of the leaner meat, one of the fattier pork, and one of the sausage.

Arrange one-fourth of the bean mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Arrange the fattier pork on top of the beans. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Place the sausage on top of the beans, and pour the remaining beans on top of the sausage. Press the mixture lightly with your hands to even the whole beast that you’ve created. Stick the four bay leaves into the beans. Pour the stock over the beans. You should just barely see the liquid through the beans.

Cook, covered, for two hours at 350.

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Hotdog Chili

What is it about hotdogs? We love them, and we love to hate them. We might get a little squeamish seeing Pizza Hut’s latest option, the “hotdog pizza,” but we all relish the opportunity to eat one slathered with mustard at a baseball game. This chili is dotted with hotdogs (think chilidog) and full of flavor. Try this with your favorite hotdog toppings – mustard, diced onions and maybe a little chopped pickle.


Hotdog Chili

2 medium onions, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

3 fresh fresno chilis

2 chiplotles in adobo, minced

15 oz canned tomato sauce

28 oz canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes

2 pounds ground venison (or beef)

2 packages of 8 hotdogs (we use Applegate)

Olive oil

Toppings of your choice (try chopped raw onion, yellow mustard, relish, sauerkraut)

Saute the onions in two tablespoons of olive oil. When the onions are translucent and softened, add in the tomato paste and the spices. Cook the onion mixture until the tomato paste has browned. Dump the onion mixture into a crockpot.

Brown the ground beef or venison. Add to the crockpot.

Prepare your fresno chilis. Wash the peppers, and remove the stem and seeds. Chop the chilis into a small dice. Add the fresno chilis and the minced chiplotles to the crockpot.

Add the canned tomato sauce and the canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes to the crockpot and stir to combine. Cook the chili on low for six to eight hours.

Chop each hotdog into fourths and fry in oil until the hotdogs are browned. Add the hotdogs to the crockpot and stir to combine. Cook the chili with the hotdogs for 30 minutes.

Serve with your desired toppings.

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Hot Dish

This is one of the dishes that I grew up eating on weekday nights. I remember that I liked the casserole, but I especially likes the black olives that lurked in the tomato sauce and ground beef. I’ve made this version with venison, but you could easily substitute ground beef in this recipe. This is a very kid-friendly dish, or just the thing to make for dinner if you want to feel like a kid again.

Hot dish

Hot dish

Hot dish

1 1/2 lbs ground venison

2 yellow onions, chopped

2 3.5oz cans black olives, drained

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 12oz jars chili sauce

1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional – only if you like extra spice)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

8 oz gluten-free elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Brown the venison in one tablespoon grapeseed oil in a pan and remove to a large bowl. Saute the onions in the remaining oil and remove to the same large bowl.

Mix the olives, the chili sauce, the diced tomatoes, two cups of cheese, the salt and the spices into the meat and onions.

Cook the macaroni according to the directions, drain and mix into the meat mixture. Pour into a large baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

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Spanish Style Venison Stew

Its deer season in Oklahoma. Which means a few things, but mostly it means that I need to clean out the freezer. Because I’m going to get another freezer-full soon. Venison needs to be cooked for a long time. And, as lean meats often do, venison benefits from a long, slow cook. We usually do a heavier stew, but coming off of the recent holiday, we decided to go lighter. A Spanish-style stew hit the spot.

Spanish Style Venison Stew

Spanish Style Venison Stew

Spanish-style Venison Stew

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

2 tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1 tsp paprika

1 bay leaf

1 bottle lager

1 cup chicken stock

2 sprigs thyme

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 1/2 lbs venison, cut into large chunks





Oyster mushrooms, roasted or sauteed.

1. Heat oil in a saute pan. Saute onion until deeply brown and caramelized. This will take a good thirty to forty minutes. Add the tomato, paprika, and bay leaf and cook for ten minutes.

2. Combine beer, stock, thyme and cinnamon in a crock pot. Add the onion mixture.

3. Heat oil in a saute pan.

4. Place flour, salt and pepper on a small plate. Dredge the venison chunks in flour and briefly fry in the oil. When they have a brown crust, remove from oil to a plate. Add meat to the crock pot. Stir to combine.

5. Cook on low for eight hours, or high for eight.

6. Serve with roasted oyster mushrooms and picada.


1/4 cup hazlenuts

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs

2 garlic cloves

3 Tbsp minced parsley

1. Toast panko in a dry pan.

2. Process the nuts, garlic, and oil in a food processor. Stir in toasted panko and parsley.