Roasted Salmon & Plantains w/ Guacamole

Most often guacamole is relegated to a small bowl next to some tortilla chips. Brion & I love ‘guac’ and since its so quick and easy to make, we use our fair share. This creamy, citrus infused quac is the perfect foil for this salty, savory salmon.

Plantains make another good pairing to this meal. While technically, they can be eaten raw when they are very ripe, the fruit is called a ‘cooking banana’ for a reason. For most part, they are prepared like a vegetable …. specifically, a potato. Around the world, the fruit is used to make breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert.

The unripe plantain is traditionally prepared with a deep-frying method. The frying is done twice to ensure a crispy chip. You first peel the green plantains and slice them. Then the chips are fried on both sides, removed from the oil and blotted on paper towel. The plantains are now flattened somewhat and re-fried to provide extra crispiness. Salt may be used to add flavor to the chips. The thicker version should be served hot or warm and are nice eaten with guacamole, garlic sauce or grated cheese as a side dish.

As always, in my quest to bake rather than deep fry, I decided to bake our plantains today.

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Roasted Salmon & Plantains w/ Guacamole
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Salmon
Plantains
Guacamole
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Salmon
Plantains
Guacamole
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Instructions
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados with lime juice & salt. Stir in garlic, onion, cilantro & diced tomato. Cover & set aside until ready to use,
Plantains
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil placed shiny side up. Brush one side of foil lightly with oil.
  2. Peel & slice plantains into 1/3-inch slices. Place the plantains on the oiled side of the baking sheet & roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven & with the bottom of a tumbler, 'squash' each piece down flat. Thinner = crispier. Season with coarse sea salt.
  3. Brush opposite side of pan with olive oil & add the salmon fillets to the baking sheet. Brush salmon lightly with a bit of oil & season with your choice of seasonings.
  4. Place the salmon & plantains in the oven & roast for about 10 minutes or until salmon flakes when you cut into it & is slightly opaque.
  5. Serve salmon topped with guacamole alongside plantains. Steamed rice compliments this meal as well.

Glazed Tropical Fruit Tart

When it comes to pie/tart making, you have two basic types of crust to choose from: pastry or crumb. The decision will ultimately come down to what you’re planning to fill your crust with.

Classic pastry crust consists of a combination of flour, shortening and liquid whereas a crumb crust is comprised of pre-existing food items such as cookies, crackers or nuts, made into crumbs, tossed/coated with melted butter and pressed into a baking dish to form a shell. Both crusts offer unique strengths, which make them especially suited for certain types of pie fillings and utterly incompatible with others.

Pastry pie crust is your best choice for pies or tarts, sweet or savory, that require a relatively long baking time. Pastry of this nature is a labor of love but none the less it gives you the opportunity to create a ‘work of art’.

The major appeal of a crumb crust is, ‘its easy’. There’s no real pastry technique required to make a crumb crust. Its simply a matter of selecting what you want to make your crust from, pulverizing it and combining the crumbs with enough melted butter to make it stick together when you press it into your baking pan.

For this glazed tropical fruit tart, I chose to use some gingersnap cookies for my crust. The colorful fruit makes such a nice presentation as well as a refreshing taste.

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Glazed Tropical Fruit Tart
Instructions
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & stir in sugar. Add crushed gingersnap crumbs; mix well. Spread evenly into a tart pan. Press onto bottom & up the sides to form an even crust. Bake 4-5 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack before filling.
Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine juice & cornstarch; cook & stir until thick & bubbly. Cook & stir for 2 minutes more. Transfer to three bowls. Cover each with plastic wrap & cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Fold each type of fruit (mango, papaya & kiwi) into one of the bowls of fruit juice mixture. Spoon the fruit into the tart shell, arranging it as desired; press the fruit down lightly with a rubber spatula.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap & chill for 3-4 hours. Serve with whipped topping if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • I found it necessary to drain off any excess fruit juice that came from the cut fruit before putting it in the juice/cornstarch mixture.

Plantain Lasagna Rolls w/ Guacamole

If you follow this blog, you have probably noticed numerous entries on plantains. For many years, prior to Brion & I living in Ecuador for three months, I saw them but didn’t take much of an interest. After tasting this veg/fruit, it definitely changed my attitude about them.

Plantains are like a cousin to the banana and depending on the ripeness you cook them in different ways. The main difference between bananas and plantains is that the former has more sugar and less starch, while the later has just the reverse and has to be cooked before eating. A plantain’s taste depends on how ripe it is. When it is almost black, that’s when its the sweetest.

If you like the combination of sweet and savory flavors, you will enjoy this meal. Basically it consists of a slice of baked ripe plantain, formed in a ring and filled with a spicy, ground turkey mixture, topped with cheese. Of course, you would never want to forget to serve them with guacamole!

It’s hard to experience another cultures food without something making an impact on your taste buds it seems. But, I guess that’s what is supposed to happen.

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Plantain Lasagna Rolls w/ Guacamole
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Guacamole
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Guacamole
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Instructions
Plantains
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Using a sharp knife, cut both ends off the plantain. Slit a shallow line down the long seam of the plantain; peel only as deep as the peel. Remove peel by pulling it back. Slice the plantains horizontally into 6 pieces.
  2. Spray a baking sheet & place plantain slices on it in a single layer. Lightly spray over plantains with baking spray & bake for about 12-15 minutes. Turn slices over after about 8 minutes. Plantains should turn slightly brown. Remove from oven.
Filling
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown ground turkey in oil & season with salt & pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces. Add onions, garlic, green pepper & saute until tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, olives & spices. Reduce heat to low & simmer covered about 7-10 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Grate cheese.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven (if it was turned off after baking plantains) to 400 F. Lightly butter a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Cut 6 of the slices into 4 pieces each. With the remaining 12 slices form rings & secure each with a toothpick. Place the rings in baking pan then place 2 cut pieces in the bottom of each ring to form a 'bottom'.
  2. Using 1/2 of the turkey filling, divide evenly between plantain rings. Using 1/2 of the cheese, place some in each ring on top of the turkey then repeat, making another layer with remaining filling & cheese. Drizzle or spoon beaten eggs over stuffed plantain rings (it will help to hold them together).
  3. Bake 15-20 minutes or until plantains are heated through & egg is set. Remove from oven & allow to sit for 5 minutes then remove toothpicks before serving. Serve with guacamole.
Guacamole
  1. While plantain is baking, mash avocado & add remaining ingredients. Combine well & serve with stuffed plantain.

Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts

If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!

You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.

Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.

For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!

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Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
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Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
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Instructions
Shortbread Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
  3. Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
  2. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
  4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Assembly
  1. Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.

‘Cinnamon Roll’ Cherry Pie

This cinnamon roll cherry pie is a unique take on the classic cherry pie. Mini cinnamon rolls line the pie pan to form the ‘crust’ makes it look so special.

After I saw a photo of a similar idea on Pinterest, some of our sour cherries came to mind and my recipe development came into play once again.

Taking that classic cinnamon roll flavor and making the base of a fruit pie seems perfect. You would probably not want to use it with a key lime pie, but anything that already uses cinnamon such as pumpkin or sweet potato should work great with this type of ‘crust’.

After I made a small amount of sour cherry filling it seemed only logical to make a bit of cream cheese filling to go with it.

While my little culinary creation was baking, I mixed up a bit of lemon glaze for drizzling on it when it had cooled slightly. This turned out to be a seriously good cherry cream pie!

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'Cinnamon Roll' Cherry Pie
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador, German
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Instructions
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Fold in cherries & cool to room temperature.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, egg, sugar & vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. In a separate dish, combine cinnamon & cardamom spices.
Assembly
  1. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll puff pastry into a 12 X 16-inch (35 cm X 45 cm) rectangle. Brush on a thin layer of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Roll it up tightly, starting from one of the long sides. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes or until firm enough to slice easily.
  2. When pastry has chilled, slice roll into 18 pieces. Line a greased 9-inch pie dish with half of the mini spiced rolls. Lay them in the center first & work your way outwards. Press them down in the dish so they stick together & form a base for the pie. Top the pastry first with remaining cream cheese filling, then the sour cherry filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a sheet of parchment paper, lay out the remaining 9 pastry rolls in a circular shape. Place a second sheet of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, flatten the rolls slightly so they stick together to form the top crust. Pull off the top parchment & flip pastry over the filled pie; gently press it to conform to the pie edges.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. If top crust is browning too fast, cover outside edges with foil.
  5. In a small dish, combine powdered sugar with lemon juice. After the pie has cooled, drizzle with lemon glaze.

Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is as classic as it comes but pineapple tart or pie, not so much. The original recipe appeared in a fund-raising cookbook in the USA around 1924. Later Gold Metal Flour came out with a full page ad in a women’s magazine in 1925.

Since then, there are many variations to this classic cake. The sweet-tart flavor of pineapple works beautifully alongside a wide range of companion flavors and ingredients as well as the gentle spices of ginger, cinnamon and vanilla to enhance it just a bit more.

Because this particular fruit doesn’t ripen further after being picked, its good to look for a pineapple that is heavy for its size, with a rich, sweet fragrance.

Pineapple pie is not the number one star among pies. In the fall and winter season, its probably apple and in spring and summer, strawberry or maybe blueberry. However, I thought I’d make a ‘hybrid’ version of the old classic. This pineapple tart looks beautiful presented as one large ring, although it could easily be made into individual tarts as well. Of course, don’t hesitate to top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.

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Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart
Instructions
Spiced Syrup
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter then add ginger, cinnamon & sugar; stir to dissolve. Add orange juice & bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, add vanilla & allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to infuse flavors. Peel pineapple & cut into quarters. Remove the core, then slice into 1 cm chunks, then place them into a deep dish. Reheat the syrup; pour over pineapple & allow to marinate until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Roll the pastry out on a piece of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/8-inch, then trim to make a large circle. Cut out about a 2-inch circle from the center to form a ring. Cut any pastry that has been trimmed off into pieces & place on top of circle giving it a second layer. Transfer to a baking sheet & place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Strain the syrup from the pineapple into a small saucepan. Add cornstarch; place over a medium heat to thicken.
  4. Prick the pastry ring all over with a fork, then arrange the pineapple pieces in a fan around the ring.
  5. Dust the tart liberally with powdered sugar & bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is caramelized & golden brown. When ready to serve, drizzle with spiced syrup & top with a scoop of ice cream.

Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Homemade ice cream …the ultimate old fashioned treat has a very worldly history that stretches around the globe.

When I was growing up on the farm, we had one of those ice cream makers with a hand crank that featured an inner canister and churn. The canister and churn held the ice cream custard, which was placed in a bucket that salt and ice or snow could be added to. My siblings and I would take turns churning until the custard magically transformed into the heavenly frozen dessert.

Ice cream is the perfect treat for any season. In the summer you can cool off by enjoying a scoop of ice cream and in the winter you can pair it with a warm dessert. Let’s face it, if you are an ice cream lover, the possibilities are endless.

The first ice cream sandwich was basic: cold, creamy with a little crunch on either side. The purpose was to make the ice cream better than if it stood alone. My original idea for today’s blog dessert was to replicate the flavors of the classic ‘Bananas Foster’ dessert of the 50’s. The ingredients in it were very simple, such as butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla & rum. The end result today became a combo of caramelized bananas & banana cake turned ice cream sandwich!

My inherited love for ice cream has never left me to this day and I might add, Brion has the same ‘affliction’ (which doesn’t help).

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Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador
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Caramelized Bananas
Banana Cake
Course dessert
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Bananas
Banana Cake
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Caramelized Bananas
  1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter then stir in brown sugar. Divide evenly between 6 custard cups; slice the 3 ripe bananas & place over sugar/butter mixture. Set on a baking sheet.
Banana Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter & sugar; add eggs, Greek yogurt, mashed bananas & extracts & combine. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to wet batter & mix only until combined.
  2. Pour the batter over the caramelized bananas in the custard cups. Bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  3. Let cakelets cool in custard cups slightly, then invert on a plate. You may have to gently coax the caramelized bananas to loosen with a spatula. Slice each cake half so you can add a layer of vanilla ice cream to the bottom halves. Top each with the other half of the banana cake.

Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins

A little touch of exotic seems like a good idea in late February. When you think of bananas and papaya, doesn’t tropical come to mind? I never seem to have much luck when I bake with bananas. I would rather eat them raw, in fact you might say they are a staple at our house. But, I have hung on to this muffin recipe for a long time and never tried it. Papayas are not something I usually buy, but that soft buttery texture and slight musky undertone paired with banana should work magic in this recipe.

You will notice the name of the recipe says ‘spiced’ and when you read it there is only one teaspoon of cardamom spice in it. A little bit of this pungent spice packs a big punch so it is good to use it sparingly. The flavor of cardamom is wonderfully complex … herbal, spicy, floral and slightly sweet.

Cardamom is a spice that’s used in both sweet and savory cooking in many cuisines all over the world. No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic and that exactly what I was aiming for.

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Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cardamom & baking powder. In another bowl, combine mashed banana, papaya, oil & beaten egg.
  3. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently, then fold in pistachios. Stir ONLY until batter is combined.
  4. Put batter in muffin tray cups lined with paper cups, filling each to about 3/4 full. Top with remaining chopped pistachios.
  5. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until baked through. Remove from oven & let them cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then put the muffins on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe makes either 7 large muffins or 14 medium size.

Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles

Despite having a fairly short history, Mexican fajitas are one of the most popular dishes in the world today. Apart from the fact that fajitas are incredibly tasty, they are actually very healthy not to mention the ease in cooking and assembling them.

As with many foods, time has changed the contents of the fajita and has evolved slightly from the original simplicity of the ranch worker’s dish, with different cuts of meat being chosen such as chicken or seafood. The vegetables have not changed as much as the meat, with peppers, onions & chilies still being predominant ingredients in the dish.

Probably, the most important thing when making fajitas is the marinade. It not only makes the ingredients incredibly tender but very flavorful.

Fajitas usually require some tortillas. While they are wonderful tasting, using zucchini noodles (or zoodles) as a base for the fajita chicken gives this meal an amazing flavor. Zucchini is perhaps the most popular choice for vegetable noodles. It’s long, thin shape makes it easy to spiralize and its neutral flavor allows it to pair well with almost any sauce or topping. This meal has such eye appeal along with a great taste.

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Fajita Chicken w/ Zucchini Noodles
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine oil, lemon juice & seasonings (RESERVE a small bit of seasoning for zucchini noodles); add chicken, seal & turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Wash zucchini & trim off ends. Using a spiralizer, cut zucchini into 'noodles'. Set aside. Prepare peppers & green onion.
  3. When chicken has finished marinating, Add 1 Tbsp oil to a griddle & saute peppers & onion until just tender crisp. set aside & keep warm. Add another Tbsp oil to griddle. Saute zucchini noodles for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with reserved seasoning & keep warm.
  4. Grill marinated chicken strips until cooked through. Divide zucchini between serving plates. Top with peppers, onions & grilled chicken. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Roast Beef Chili in Cornbread Bowls

It seems anyone who makes chili has their own particular way of doing so. First off, the meat can be ground or in big chunks and as far as the beans go … most any variety you choose will work. Some like their chili extremely hot with spices and others … well, not so much. Toppings usually consist of a choice of sour cream, cheddar cheese or green onion. The bottom line is to just personalize it to your liking and share your ideas. Recipes are made to be shared. That’s how they improve and change and new ideas are created.

Although cornbread might be considered simple and dated, it is the cornerstone of soul food. I have posted cornbread ideas numerous times over the years. I love it! The smell and taste of fresh cornbread are definitely nostalgic for me.

Today, what started out as just a simple bowl of chili with some warm cornbread became much more. My inspiration started with some left over roast beef which became chili and from there it went to ‘why eat chili out of a regular bowl when you could have it in a cornbread bowl’? I thought it might be a bit tricky to use a quick bread recipe with baking soda and/or baking powder as they are usually quite tender. Yeast-leavened cornbread is more bready and less muffin-like in texture. It has the structure for holding up to chili and isn’t inclined to go to mush.

I will not try and tell you this is one of those meals you can put together in 15 minutes but I did think the end result was worth the effort.

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Roast Beef Chili in Cornbread Bowls
Instructions
Cornbread
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water & mix in 1 tsp sugar. Let mixture sit until foamy & thick about 10 minutes. In a separate bowl combine 2/3 cup sugar, salt, flour & cornmeal; set aside.
  2. When yeast is thick, add oil, eggs & 1/2 cup warm water; mix well with a whisk. Add dry ingredients & with a wooden spoon mix well. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough until reasonably smooth, adding another tablespoon of flour if necessary.
  3. Grease bowl & place dough in it. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for 1 hour. Divide the dough in half & place in greased individual pans. Allow the cornbread to rise for 45 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until they test done with a wooden pick. When cornbread has cooled slightly, hollow out center of each & fill with chili. Yield: 2 large 'bowls'.
Roast Beef Chili
  1. In an ovenproof, heavy bottom pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pot & set aside. Saute onions & garlic in bacon drippings until tender-crisp. Add beef broth & simmer for 5 minutes then add the rest of the ingredients except roasted red pepper, bacon & roast beef.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Bring chili to a boil then place in oven for an hour or so. Check on it part way through & stir.
  3. In the final 1/2 hour, add peppers & bacon. In the last 5 or 10 minutes add the cooked roast beef. Serve in cornbread bowls with preferred garnish. Chili yield is about 13 cups .. around 8-10 servings. Any extra, I portioned & froze for another meal.