Recipe: Silk Road Spice Chili

mmmm chili

We have been sloooooooow on the blog posts around here, as you can see. This is mostly due to my camera being broken, my photographer extraordinaire being in South Africa for the month, and my lifting-yet-lingering doldrums. But THANKFULLY I have an incredible guest blogger post for you today! You’ve heard me rant and rave about Colin and Kelci from Silk Road Spice Merchants in Calgary, and this is Colin’s incredible chili recipe. Nothing warms up winter like chili. I hope you enjoy it! Check them out HERE.


Hello Fig & Fennel readers! Happy winter.

Until recently, every time I’ve thought about making chili, I’ve cast around for the perfect recipe. I can never remember which recipe of the 15 I can find in my various books is the one I like. I read them all, and end up using bits and pieces of each of them. The next time, it’s the same story all over again. Was it the “Beef and Vegetable Chili”  or the “Hearty Beef Chili?” Did I prefer kidney beans or black beans?

I finally decided to get down on paper the approximate formula for the way I’ve made it the last few times. This recipe, to me, brings together all the good things about the infinite possibilities of chili-making. Bison instead of beef (leaner, healthier, greener). Whole chiles. Dark beer. Black beans. Chipotles.

The great thing about chili is that you can do whatever you like. Add corn. Substitute your favourite beans. Make it hotter…or milder. There’s nothing more forgiving than a pot of chili.

I consider this a recipe-in-progress. It’s adapted from about five other recipes, and I’ll probably make it differently next time.

Silk Road Recipe—Smoky Bison and Black Bean Chili

2 lbs ground bison (or, okay, beef. But come on.)

¼ cup olive oil (bison is so lean that a bit of oil is necessary for browning)

1 large onion, diced (doesn’t really matter what colour. Red are nice.)

4 cloves garlic, minced (non-negotiable)

½ of a red pepper

½ of a green pepper

2 whole ancho chiles

1 whole pasilla chile

½ can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (these are available at some good supermarkets)

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp Mexican oregano (this is not quite the same as regular oregano, but you can substitute)

1 bottle dark ale (I won’t insist on a brand)

1 litre good chicken stock

2 large cans diced tomatoes (including the juice)

2 tbsp honey

2 cans black beans, rinsed well (or a good double handful of dried beans, soaked overnight)

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper

Tear the stems off the whole ancho and pasilla chiles and shake out most of the seeds. The more seeds you leave in, the hotter the chili will be. In a dry pan, sear the chiles on high heat for 3 mintues, pressing down on both sides with a spatula. Toss them in a blender with the chipotles in adobo sauce, the beer and just enough of the chicken stock so that they blend well. Blend to a smooth consistency.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven. Season the bison with salt and pepper and brown. Set aside.

Add the onions to the pan and cook slowly until soft (add a bit more oil if necessary). Add garlic for one minute and then red and green peppers. Sauté slowly for 5 minutes or so. Add the cumin and Mexican oregano, then the blended chile sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the bison, the rest of the stock, the tomatoes and the honey. If you are using soaked dried beans, add them at this point, too. Bring to a boil and reduce to low. Simmer for a good hour (by the way, this isn’t a good recipe for quick-dinner nights) with the lid on. This step is key: it takes at least an hour for all the ingredients to come together and turn into chili. Up until that point (and you’ll know when it happens) it will look too soupy . If it’s taking too long, you can take off the lid, turn up the heat and boil it down to a good consistency. When you feel like you’re getting there, add in the black beans for the final 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice just before serving. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

I like to eat this with sour cream that has toasted cumin seeds stirred into it. And tortillas. And maybe some fresh avocado slices. Cilantro? Your call.

Thoughts On: Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! To everyone in love: may it only grow, may it ever change to properly embody you, may the sacrifices it requires be worth it every time. To everyone who longs to love: may you and love find each other, may the light of hope never dim, may your time from now until then be filled with lessons and experiences that need to be held alone. To everyone happily single: may there be rich friendships in your life, may there be chocolate and red wine.

I’m neither particularly jaded, nor particularly commercial about the whole thing. Each year, we take it as we come. Some years, Vday is a big deal, others, not so much. I am so blessed to  be married to someone who is thoughtful and romantic every day. Sexy Husband and I were away for work this weekend, the Girlies stayed with Grandma. So we ate some delicious food, saw some fabulous friends, and it was fun.

Valentine’s Day is, however, such a fun thing to celebrate with our little girls. We never turn down an opportunity to do things pink and lovey. We started the day with toast, cut into gingerbread men shapes and hearts. Always a hit. Then Picky Princess had her preschool Valentine’s Day party. Then we came home for a treasure hunt that involved following a pink Smartie trail around the house to find a treasure! Finally, we made some cookies(pink Smarties to use up!).

following a Smartie trail

the treasure: hand knit hearts with their names embroidered. These were made by Delilah & Co. They have the sweetest stuff, check them out at

If you would like to make these Oatmeal Smartie Heart Cookies, here’s how:

cookie dough

1. Make the dough from the Chewy Oatmeal Cookie recipe. Omit chocolate chips/pecans/coconut. Add Smarties.

2. Roll into a log in wax paper, about 3 inches in diameter. Freeze for at least 30 mins.

cookie dough log

3. Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1 inch rounds. Squish into the shape of hearts. Bake for about 10 mins.

squished into hearts

For some reason my camera doesn’t seem to be working. So you get a photo tour of our day courtesy of Hipstamatic on my iPhone!

my little Valentines

Recipe: Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

lemony pancake batter

Pancakes are just good for the soul. Picky Princess and Foodie Baby think they’ve won the lotto if I make pancakes for dinner. Why? No green things. Yesterday’s experiment turned out to be delicious! These were thick and hearty, and perfectly lemony. Snow fell all day, but nevertheless, it was a happy day. Warm hearts = pancakes for dinner!

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

makes 12 hearty sized pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour(or spelt)

2 tbs poppy seeds

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

zest of one whole organic lemon*

1 cup greek yogurt

1 cup milk

juice of one lemon

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbs butter, melted

Directions: Preheat griddle to medium high.  Whisk together all dry ingredients, including lemon zest. Add wet ingredients and whisk until still lumpy, barely combined. Batter will be quite thick. Scoop onto griddle and flip once bottoms are golden. Serve straight off the griddle with maple syrup.

* I highly recommend using organic fruits when you are zesting them. Most the pesticides sprayed on non organic fruit soaks into the skin.

Recipe: Vegetable Latkes

shredded veg

Oooo I was on FIRE yesterday! I am optimistic(very very cautiously) that perhaps a touch of inspiration has returned. At least in the kitchen! The day started with some cookies, banana walnut chocolate chunk to be specific(thank you Martha Stewart Cookies). Then DINNER inspiration hit, mid afternoon! These veggie latkes were a family hit, probably because the beets turn them a pretty color. They were a one bowl mess, 5 minutes to prep, 15 minutes to cook. As I was eating them, it crossed my mind that they would be perfectly adorable for Valentine’s Day, shaped into hearts with the help of cookie cutters. Try it!

Vegetable Latkes

2 medium potatoes, skin on

3 medium beets

1/2 sweet onion

1 cup spinach

2 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and pepper to taste

grapeseed oil, or other oil for light frying

Directions: In a food processor, shred the potatoes, beets, onion, spinach.  Stir in eggs and salt and pepper. In a large heavy skillet, heat a couple tbs of oil over medium high heat. Scoop dollops of mix into hot oil, pat with a spatula to flatten into circles, no more than an inch thick. Fry until golden on one side, about 5 minutes, flip and fry on the other for 5 minutes. Do in batches, keep hot in a warm oven. I garnished with a bit of crumbled goat cheese for a perfect bit of tang!

final product!

Recipe: Blueberry Turnovers

blueberry turnovers

Don’t be fooled. Just because there’s a new (and delicious) recipe up here, does NOT mean my cooking mojo has returned(as you can tell from my weekly updates instead of daily). But I believe that such an occasion calls for “faking-it until making-it.” So this is what I do. Baked my little people a nice little treat today. This is a healthy(ish) take on turnovers. They are quick and easy and yummy. The cream cheese in the dough makes the pastry taste more like a cookie than flake pastry. The sweetness of the berries need little help from other sweeteners.

Sexy Husband and I threw ourselves a little party the other day, to celebrate the end of January. It was just the two of us and involved a particularly great cappuccino and a sunny window. I’m hoping it will be the beginning of a bit of a lifting of the winter blues. Weather is warming up. Spring always comes.

This was moving and inspiring to me today(thank you Sarah):

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments. And life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner

Blueberry Turnovers

makes 12-14

2 cups whole wheat flour(or spelt)

1/2 cup butter, cut into 1 inch chunks

1/2  brick of cream cheese, cut into small pieces

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tbs heavy cream

2 tbs raw sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

Frozen or fresh blueberries(or any berry for that matter)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except berries and pulse until dough starts to stick together and clump. Turn out onto lightly floured countertop or wax paper lined counter top. Pat into a 8 inch round, and then roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into circles with the rim of a glass, about 5 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Press centre of the circle down a little bit with fingertips. Put a tsp of berries(4-6 berries) in the centre and then pinch edges of circle closed. Bake for about 25 minutes until turning a bit golden. Enjoy!