Sometimes canceled plans can make for the best days. We were supposed to camp with two other families this past weekend, I actually made reservations months ago, but it was never meant to be.
I had to cancel the first campsites I booked at our favorite place to kayak early this summer because low snow levels meant zero water in that particular spot. That was okay, we made plans at a much larger lake, another favorite camping place. Then, earlier this month, we found out one family couldn’t join us after all. Okay, pretty bummed, but it will still be fun with our other great friends. By last week, cooling temperatures, a ban on campfires and smoky skies made it clear it would be quite miserable to spend a weekend in a tent. So, we shifted gears. My friend and I knew we needed to plan something so our four 8 year olds could at least spend most of the weekend they had been looking forward to together. It was decided we would hold our own cupcake wars! My girls are obsessed with the show. There was a big planning session Friday and we were to start Saturday morning. The big morning came… and Ella got sick. I suspected nerves from my highly competitive child (she gets it from her father) but couldn’t rule out the stomach flu so, sadly, Cupcake Wars, Twin Edition, was postponed with the hope she would be fine on Sunday. Which brings me to the silver lining. Because of all the cancelled plans, I was able to spend some serious downtime with my sweet Ella (Hailey got to go to the rock climbing gym with our friends) and I, for maybe the first time all summer, felt like I was able to really catch up on laundry, clear out more clutter, just really take a breath and feel organized, if only for a day. Yesterday, it was clear Ella was fine (pretty sure it was nerves, after all) and Cupcake Wars were a blast! We made great memories rolling with and adapting to all our cancelled plans. Always a great lesson for kids and parents alike.
I think the cooler temperatures are making the transition to school starting next week much easier for my kids to bear. Of course, I always welcome the coziness of fall after the crazy, unscheduled summer. It’s also, in my opinion, the very best time of year if you love to cook. Chili and soups are perfect meals for busy back to school evenings; nutritious and comforting and easily made ahead of time. We can thank Ella for this chili I made last week. I was cutting the better part of a two pound container of grape tomatoes in half; they were getting that blistery skin and needed to either be roasted or tossed. My original plan was to make tomato basil soup
when Ella breezed in, saw what I was doing and asked “Can you make chili?” Sure! What a novel idea to make something my children actually want to eat. They always want to eat chili, so do Bob and I, and this roasted veggie version will likely become a new favorite. Play with different roasted vegetables if you like, cauliflower, zucchini and mushrooms come to mind, I just used what I had in my fridge. Roasting the vegetables brings out a depth of flavor you don’t get from cooking on the stove making this chili extra hearty and delicious.
Roasted Vegetable Chili
(10 – 12 servings)
4 – 5 cups grape tomatoes, halved
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 large sweet onion, medium diced
2 cups carrots, sliced in chunks
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp Mexican oregano flakes
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp sweet, smoked paprika
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 cups corn (fresh or frozen, thawed kernels)
1 (7oz) can green chiles
1 cup jarred roasted red pepper (you could also roast fresh bell peppers if you have them)
3 (15oz) cans beans (garbanzo, black, cannellini, kidney) drained and rinsed
32 oz low sodium chicken stock or vegetable broth
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
sour cream/Greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (convection setting if you have it, no worries if you don’t)
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Line two 18″x13″ rimmed pans with parchment paper.
Slice tomatoes in half and peel and slice garlic. Be sure and press the garlic with the flat side of your knife to loosen the skin and don’t slice it too thin or it might scorch, you want 5 or 6 slices depending on how big the garlic clove is. Lay the tomatoes and garlic evenly in one of the prepared pans.
Dice onions, medium size and chop carrots (I got 3 chunks per baby carrot to give you an idea on size). Lay onions and carrots evenly in other prepared pan.
Drizzle each pan of vegetables with 2TB olive oil.
In a small bowl, mix together salt, Mexican oregano, cumin and smoked paprika.
Sprinkle spice mix evenly over vegetables then toss with your fingers to evenly coat them with the oil and spices.
Place in preheated oven and roast for 20 – 25 minutes, switch racks halfway through roasting time.
Allow to cool slightly then transfer roasted veggies to a large dutch oven or stock pot (6 – 8 quart).
Add corn and green chiles.
Drain and dice roasted red peppers and add them to the pot.
Drain and rinse canned beans and add them to the pot.
Stir and add in chicken stock or vegetable broth.
Stir in tomato paste.
Allow to simmer for 30 minutes or longer so the flavors come together. Add salt and pepper if needed.
Garnish with your choice of toppings and enjoy!
This chili should freeze well if you have lots leftover.