Baked Chili

Baked Chili This isn’t what it started out to be. My mom used to make this recipe she calls Chuckwagon Beans, which I will be posting sometime in the future. That is what I was thinking I was going to make for dinner. Turns out, I had one 16 ounce can of pork and beans, meaning I wasn’t making my Mom’s recipe. It was one of those days I was not planning to go anywhere and I was not changing the plan. So Baked Chili is what happened. And I mean, what happened. I started pulling things out of the pantry and the veggie drawer and this is what I came up. All of these ingredients are available in my house 90% of the time.

Although I baked this in my oven, it will easily translate to the grill. A cast iron skillet or a Dutch Oven on the grill or a Dutch Oven over an open fire or with coals will make this recipe even better than it is baked in the oven in the house. Adding natural smoke flavor to any dish such as this improves the overall taste-so pull up your stump around the campfire for this one.

This recipe makes a lot. It will be good for a potluck or when you have a crowd. Of course, you can cut it down 1/2 or 1/4 easily enough. The end result filled a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. To prevent a mess in my oven, I laid a sheet of foil on the shelf below the chili to catch the inevitable drips.  Also, plan ahead.  This will need to bake about an hour and a half.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Brown 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of hamburger in a large pot.  Drain and set aside.  In the same pot, saute 2 medium to large cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped, one large diced green pepper and one large diced onion, about a cup and a half each.  If you don’t like that much, cut the amount.  I love peppers and onions.  For a bit of heat, you could add a diced chili pepper.  Saute the pepper and onion about 5 minBaked Chiliutes or so, just until crisp tender.  They will cook further in the oven.  Baked Chili







my favorite brand of beans


Add the cooked hamburger back to the pot and stir all together.  Next, you will be adding 3 undrained 16 ounce cans of chili beans, one 16 ounce can of baked beans,one undrained 16 ounce can of kidney beans,one cup of beef broth or stock (veggie works well, too), 1 tbsp dried cilantro or 2 tbsp chopped fresh, 2 tbsp ground mustard, 1 tbsp cumin, 2-3 tbsp chili powder (to your taste).  Stir well.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake in the oven (preheated to 375 degrees F) for one and a half hours.  After taking it out of the oven, remove the foil  and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.  It will be very hot!! 

right out of the oven

right out of the oven

In my house, we have cornbread with our chili and sometimes a bit of shredded cheese over the top (sometimes for my husband and myself, every time for my daughters).

When I eventually bake this outdoors, I will prepare the chili completely in my Dutch Oven.  I can brown the hamburger, saute the veggies and stir it all together in the same.  Over an open fire, I use my tripod and keep my fire pretty hot, adjusting the hanging level of the oven with the chain (for more on Dutch Oven cooking, see Heaven and Earth/Himmel und Erde).  On the grill, I will start with a hot fire and keep up the heat, spreading the coals around the perimeter of the grill, placing the Dutch Oven in the center (after removing the cooking grate).  The way cast iron holds heat, I don’t anticipate any issue keeping the chili hot enough to bake as completely as it does in the kitchen oven. 

This is a different kind of chili.  A little off from the chili I make in a pot, but it’s a keeper.  No tomatoes, no tomato sauce, really thick and meaty.  It was good.  I hope you enjoy it.

Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!


Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad

Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad (6)Grilled chicken is great on a salad.  Grilled chicken is great period.  I believe it is the best way to cook chicken.  As long as it is done correctly, you end up with moist, flavorful and tender chicken that lends itself well to just about anything you want to put it in or eat it with.  Although I put this chicken recipe on a salad, it will be just as good with rice or on a sandwich with a honey mustard mayo. 

I had mixed greens with iceberg lettuce for the salad.  I don’t normally buy iceberg lettuce since it has very little nutritional value.  Generally, it is the dark, leafy greens (including spinach) that I eat.  There is a bigger nutritional bang in the darker greens

As far as making up the salad, I always have a variety of options.  No one in our household like the same things on his or her salad, so a salad bar is set up and each can pick whatever to put on their own salad.  Tomatoes, nuts or sunflower seeds, Craisins, different cheeses (I like feta and goat cheese) are some of the items on our salad bar.  I grilled up this chicken when tomatoes were ripening, so we had homegrown tomatoes.  The yellow grape tomatoes went very well  with the raspberry balsamic chicken.  Fresh raspberries would be a nice salad addition as well.  Honey mustard, raspberry vinaigrette and balsamic vinaigrette dressings are excellent choices to finish off the salad.

Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad (3)

The chicken will marinate for a few hours or overnight to fully absorb the flavors.  I had a 2 pound chicken breast that I left whole.  For the marinade you will need:  1/2 cup of oil, 1/4 white (or dark) balsamic raspberry vinegar (or you can make your own.  1 pint raspberries will yield about 1/2 cup of juice.  To juice the berries, press through a sieve and discard the pulp and seeds.  Add the juice to 1/2  cup of balsamic vinegar.  If that is not a strong enough berry flavor for you, add more juice.  This uses fresh berries, so I recommend making this right before you are going to use it), 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 2 medium cloves of garlic, pressed. Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor to emulsify.  Emulsification blends the oil with the other ingredients in order to keep the oil from separating.  This is definitely a time when you want the oil and vinegar to stay blended.  You will know the ingredients are emulsified when the mixture is thick and you can no longer see the individual ingredients.  In a plastic bag, add the marinade to the chicken and seal.  Store in the refrigerator at least a couple of hours before grilling.

To grill, prepare a fire for indirect grilling.  While the coals heat up, take the chicken out of the fridge to warm-up in anticipation of the hot fire.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it doesn’t hurt saying again-the meat is just like us when it gets cold.  It tenses up and needs to relax prior to being placed over direct hot heat.  When the coals are ready, place the chicken directly over the coals, searing each side for about 3 minutes.   Move the chicken to the opposite side and place the lid on the grill.  In about 20 minutes, the chicken will be ready.



Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad (8)










Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad (11) Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad (9)

Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad (4)







In these photos, you can see how moist the chicken remained.  No dry, rubber chicken here!


Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken Salad

I chose a honey Dijon mustard dressing to top my salad.  It was very good! 







Enjoy your grilled chicken!  Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!

Cranberry (sauce) Conserve

I have been enjoying what is left of the Cranberry “sauce” that I made for Thanksgiving. It turns out it is more of a conserve or whole-fruit jam vs. a sauce. 

Over a hunk of a crusty french loaf.

Over a hunk of a crusty french loaf.

A conserve or whole-fruit jam is basically stewed fruit.  The cooking time is shorter than the time for a regular jam, so not as much natural pectin is released from the fruit to “jell” the fruit.  It does thicken up quite nicely, though.  It is thick, but not as thick as a fruit butter (which is actually pressed through a sieve for a smooth fruit spread).  Plenty thick enough to spread over a warm slice or hunk of fresh bread. 

One 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries, 3 large, seedless oranges and honey to taste are all I put in this concoction.  Rinse and sort through the cranberries, discarding any that don’t look right and removing any stems that remain.  Pour them into a large saucepan.  Juice the oranges, scraping out some of the pulp right into the saucepan.  One trick I learned (I think from Rachael Ray) about juicing citrus fruits:  set the fruit out to warm up a bit to room temperature or pop in the microwave for about 30 seconds-after poking a hole or two through the peel to prevent an exploding orange or lemon-then roll the fruit on the counter with the heel of your hand to break up the pulp, easing the juicing process.  When I juice an orange (or lemon or lime), I use a flat wooden spatula.  Cut the orange in half, insert the spatula into  the center of one half and squeeze the orange while pressing the sides of the orange.  Then press/scrape some of the pulp out with the spatula.  I scraped some pulp out of 2 of the oranges and most out of the 3rd.  Finally, the honey.  Honey is an excellent sweetener for this.  The smooth sweetness derived from honey counteracts the tartness of the cranberries.  A honey with floral notes adds another dimension altogether.  Clover honey is the most common variety found in  grocery stores, but you may also find orange blossom honey or plum or lavender.  Mmmm.  Anyway, I started with about a 1/4 cup of honey and added more through the cooking process as needed.  It all depends on how tart you like your cranberries.  Once all was in the saucepan, I stirred together on medium-high heat until the cranberries started to burst.  The mixture also started to simmer/boil at this point.  I turned the heat down to low-medium and cooked about 20-25 more minutes, stirring frequently.  The mixture will slowly drip from a spoon held vertically.  As it is hot, it will thicken up even more as it cools.  Start checking the thickness around 15 minutes-if it cooks too long, it will become juicy and therefore runny.  You don’t want a runny conserve.  You want it nice and thick for those slices of bread, ham, turkey, pork or whatever. 

I’m going to play with this recipe some more.  See what else I can pair with the cranberries.  I’m imagining a cranberry/mango chutney glaze over ham or a pork tenderloin…

Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!

Leftover Turkey: What did you do with it?

Smoking a small turkey breast, I didn’t have a lot of turkey leftover. We ate a few sandwiches, then it was time to do something else with it. I turned mine into a casserole with the leftover gravy, peas and corn and added cheese, some herbs and rotini and bit more gravy. I wish you could have smelled it. I had some asiago cheese leftover from shrimp fajitas and put that in. The sharpness of the asiago combined with the smoked flavor from the turkey gave the kitchen a nice aroma. Tasted good too.

So, tell me what you did with your leftovers? Use the comment section below to share.

Grill Smoked Turkey Breast

Thanksgiving Dinner

Success!! If you saw my previous post titled Watch this Space, then you know I was planning to put our Thanksgiving turkey breast on the grill. I was not just successful, I was very successful. Best smoked turkey I have ever eaten!

I started this the night before, putting a 4.85 pound whole turkey breast in a brine.  A whole turkey breast is the bird without the legs, wings and thighs attached.  It still has a cavity.  Basically, a headless, legless, wingless bird.  It can be bought frozen or fresh, with or without giblets, neck, heart and liver.  I bought a fresh breast and purchased a couple of legs and livers, giblets and a heart for my stuffing (stuffing is what I eat, not filling or dressing).  For the brine recipe, see Beer Can Turkey.  I added ice to the brine after it had cooled slightly to bring the temp down quicker.  By the time I had gotten to the brine, I had already baked three pies, had the stuffing ready to go and made cranberry sauce.  I wasn’t in the mood to wait for the brine to cool so I could add the turkey.  I don’t know why I didn’t add ice before.  More water is added later anyway.

I cleaned out the grill the night before Thanksgiving (almost sounds like a Clement C. Moore poem).  Maximum airflow is a must.  I dumped a huge pile of coals on one side of the grill with a smaller pile next to it.  I also had a small stash of oak pieces available.  I did not have the wood soaking in water.  I just threw those right on the coals at the beginning and as needed later on in the cooking process.  When all of the coals in the big pile were nearly gray, I moved the smaller pile over to get those going.  Then I moved those on top of the big pile right before I put the turkey on.  I had plenty of heat for most of the cooking time doing this. 






 As you see in the lower left hand corner of the second picture, there is a foil pan.  I filled this with orange juice and water for my steaming liquid.  It caught the drippings from the turkey as well as the juices from the citrus fruits I added to the cavity of the turkey.  I stuffed the cavity with a quartered lemon, lime, half a small orange, 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and a one inch piece of ginger, quartered.

Ginger, oranges, lemons, limes and garlic to be stuffed into the turkey breast.

Aromatics stuffed through neck of breast after it was placed on the rack on the grill.









Once everything was ready, the foil pan was filled, the rack placed on the grill and the turkey breast placed on the rack with one of the legs to support it (a turkey torso will not stay upright on its own.  It needs support-the leg worked well).  Then the lemons, etc. were stuffed in through the neck and a probe thermometer was inserted through the lower part of one side of the breast (if you do this, make sure it is not touching a bone and the end is still in the meat).  I added a couple of pieces of wood and closed the lid.

Ready to smoke!

Target temperature for poultry is a minimum of 165 degrees F. 170 is a better temp to shoot for.  It took about 3 hours and 40 minutes to achieve 168 degrees F on Thanksgiving Day where I am.  Outside temperature was in the upper 40’s to the low 50’s the entire time I was smoking the turkey.  It may have gone quicker with higher outdoor temps.  I added more wood twice and 8 briquets once.  The first time I added wood and briquets, I also covered the breast with heavy-duty foil to prevent further browning.  See below to understand what I mean.  If you have never had or seen smoked poultry, you might be surprised at the appearance.  But don’t be put off, wait until you see how it looks underneath!

Right off the grill.


Turkey leg.


Let the turkey rest 15-20 minutes before carving.  Resting allows the juices to be reabsorbed back into the bird.  Carving too soon results in crumbly, mushy slices. 


The only thing I will do differently next time:  I will take the legs off much sooner.  The smaller one was quite crispy!  The turkey breast was perfection!  Excellent smoked flavor, very juicy.  Definitely will do this again.  It helped make my Thanksgiving Dinner plate look like a work of art!

Thanksgiving Dinner

Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!

Pumpkin Pie Tip

Getting an unbaked pumpkin pie into the oven can be quite tricky.  But, it doesn’t have to be!  I don’t have any spectacular pumpkin pie recipe to share with you, just this tip.  I use the recipe off of the can of Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie blend) and never vary the recipe.  It’s too good of a recipe to alter.  I really enjoy a simple custardy pumpkin pie, no bells and whistles.  I even eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.  It’s healthy enough. 

Here’s how I get my pies in the oven without making a big mess.  Mix up the custard and place the empty pie shells on the pulled out rack in the oven.  

Then pour the custard into the pie shells.  Since I make two pies at once, I measure out one cup at a time until I can pour the custard directly into the shell.  No mess on the kitchen floor and no mess on the oven door or oven floor. 

Carefully push the rack back into the oven and bake as directed. 

Enjoy!  And until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!

Watch this space!

I will be using this new grill tool tomorrow. It is a grill roasting rack.  I have a 4.85 pound turkey breast and a couple of turkey legs to go on the grill. Wish me luck-I will let you know how it goes!

Seafood Boil

This was the most fun I’ve ever had cooking seafood!  Maybe because it was the first time the main course was the freshest I’ve ever had it outside of eating at the shore…

Soon to be dinner…

I had to borrow a pot and propane tank for this one.  I wasn’t even going to attempt to keep water at a steady boil on my grill!  I wanted to eat sooner than later.  This was not at all a difficult meal to put together.  The hardest part was cracking the lobster and peeling the shrimp. 

If I were to be shipwrecked or somehow end up on a deserted island somewhere, I will never get bored eating seafood.  I don’t order surf ‘n turf cuz I’d only eat the surf part.  In fact, it’s rather ironic that I have this blog considering how little meat I actually eat.  I’m hardly a vegetarian, but meat is only on my plate once or twice a week at the most.  Even less some weeks when my husband travels.  So, this post is served up just right for me.

One of our local grocery stores had a lobster sale-$6.99 per pound for live lobsters.  How could I pass that up?  I did not get enough fresh seafood while we traveled in the South over the summer, therefore I had to satisfy my craving.  Shrimp and lobster did the trick. 

My friend’s turkey fryer served as the cooking vessel and a propane tank turned up high kept the water boiling.

It was raining on my boil!

To 3 gallons of water, I added 4 smashed cloves of garlic and 2 ounces of liquid shrimp and crab boil.  If I do this again, I will add another ounce of  the boil.  I could have used a bit more spice.  I wasn’t planning on using the liquid boil.  Since most other shoppers in the store were doing the same thing (picking up live lobsters), there was a run on the powder.  In the future, I will stick with the liquid boil.  It was easy to use and blended right in with the water.  Nothing to dissolve. 

While the water was coming to a boil, I cleaned 4 ears of corn and 2 pounds of red new potatoes, similar in size.  I also had 1 pound of jumbo shrimp and 1 pound of andouille sausage cut into 1 inch chunks.  The potatoes go in as soon as the water comes to a boil as they will need more time than everything else, followed by the sausage after a couple of minutes.  Each stalk of corn was broken in half (or thirds if large enough) and put in 10 minutes after the potatoes.  The lobsters were about 1 pound each; total cooking time for those guys was around 15 minutes, so they went in 15 minutes after the potatoes.  Shrimp needs less than 5 minutes-when you hit the 20 minute mark, they go in.  The water must be boiling the whole time.  I never lowered the flame under the pot.  I kept it high to keep that boil on and I covered the pot with the lid as well since it was a bit rainy.  Check the doneness of a potato or two at the 20 minute mark.  If those are done, make sure the lobster are done too (they will be red and the antennae should pull out easily), then it’s time to eat! 

Lobster No. 1 going for a swim

Lobster No. 2 joining in the fun


Dinner is ready!

 Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!

Beer Can Turkey

OK-this isn’t really a “Beer” turkey. But, the holder is the kind we used to see commercials for several years ago for “Beer Can Chicken.” I got mine for 5 bucks at Wally World a few years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever used beer. I’m not against it, I just don’t use it very often when I am cooking. On average, I use the holder once or twice a year. Cooking a whole bird is not high on my list, but it is worth the work when I do.

My favorite celebrity chef, Alton Brown, had an episode in Season 2 of Good Eats titled, “Romancing the Bird.”  Alton put the turkey in a brine overnight.  I have never failed to do the same to my turkeys ever since.  The turkey absorbs all of the flavors and becomes the juiciest bird that will bring delight to your mouth. 

Number one priority for this recipe is to purchase a SMALL bird.  Unless you have a firebox separate from the main cooking chamber or are using a gas grill, you will not get a large turkey fully cooked.  Every time the lid is removed from the grill, heat is lost and it is crucial to maintain a constant temperature.  If you have the capability to control the fire without having to open the main cooking chamber, go for the bigger bird (and good luck).  I found an 8.5 pound turkey and I did have to finish off the dark meat inside.  It just got to be too hard to maintain the temperature after a couple of hours. 

First thing to do is prepare the brine.  It will need some cooling and fridge time before the turkey is added.  For the brine:  Water-4 quarts plus more; 1 cup cider vinegar; 1-2 tbsp ground sage; 1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger; 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper; up to 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder; 3 tbsp onion powder; 1 1/2 tbsp allspice; 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar; 1/2 cup coarse salt.  All ingredients go into the biggest stockpot you have (or if you are doing a big bird (not the big yellow guy from Sesame Street!), a pot big enough for all of the above) and heated to dissolve the salt and brown sugar.  The salt and sugar must be dissolved completely.  What you are doing is creating a solution that will eventually even out the moisture balance inside and outside the bird via osmosis.  The moisture becomes trapped in the protein cells of the turkey and will leave the meat nice and moist even after 2 or 3 hours on the grill (or in the oven).  No one really wants to chew a moisture sucking piece of meat, now do they?  Cool the brine to room temperature then refrigerate until ready for it.   


While the brine cools its heels, get the thawed turkey ready.  Make sure you remove the giblets and neck.  Check the body cavity and the neck cavity (boil them up with some simple seasonings and use in a gravy or stuffing ala Betty Crocker recipe-or cook them up for your dog or your neighbor’s dog).  Rinse and pat dry the turkey.  The bird will go right into the stock pot with the brine and add enough ice water to cover completely.  If the stock pot isn’t big enough, use a cooler.  Place the turkey and the brine right into the cooler along with ice water to cover the turkey.  Cover/seal the stock pot/cooler.  The goal is to soak that bird for about 12 hours.     


Ready to start your fire?  Give yourself plenty of time to get things started.  You are going to have a big pile of charcoal for this and I kept a smaller grill nearby with coals started to add as needed during the cooking time. 

Now is the time to end the spa soaking of the turkey.  Choose your 12 ounce canned beverage of choice.  I generally use ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, but I had neither and used a Coke Zero.  Whatever you choose, even if it’s beer, should go well with the turkey.  The brine is sweet, savory and a sweetened beverage or hoppy or malty beer will work just fine.  Pour out half of the beverage (drink it, pour it down the sink, whatever!).  Place the can in the holder and add a couple of smashed cloves of garlic-no need to peel them.  Put the whole thing in a disposable pie plate or round cake pan.  Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out and pat dry.  Place over the can and rub with oil and more ground sage.  Pin the wings with sturdy toothpicksto prevent them from becoming cinders.

Finally, add a small onion or potato to the neck cavity.  This will keep the steam inside the bird.  Discard the onion (or potato) at the end of cooking.

Your fire should be ready, so spread the coals evenly around the rim of the grill.  Add more coals and the turkey right in the middle of everything.

Put the lid on and insert a thermometer in the vent opening.  Try to maintain a temperature of 325 degrees F.  Add coals from started stock as needed.  I added coals about every half hour to 45 minutes to maintain the temperature. 

For an  8.5 pound turkey, expect  3 1/2 to 4 hours on the grill.  I had a difficult time maintaining a 325 degree temp and if I had, the bird would have been cooked all the way in that amount of time.  As it was, I took it off after 3 hours since my temp was steadily below  275 and I finished it in the oven.   Despite that, the turkey had a perfectly smoked flavor and was super moist.   Good luck on this one-for me, this was one of the hardest things this girl has ever cooked on the grill.

Enjoy and until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!

Pumpkin Chip Muffins

I know, I know…this blog is called “A Girl and Her Grill.” But this girl has an oven and likes to bake, too. Especially these muffins. These are a perennial favorite around here and are often shared with friends. Pumpkin is yummy, no matter how it is used-pureed and baked in sweet treats, sliced and sautéed or roasted, turned into a savory soup….Pumpkin has a lot of Vitamin A, a good dose of fiber, is low-fat and low cholesterol. I have been known to have a slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast.  Why not?

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Prepare muffin tins (greased or paper muffin cups). 

In a large mixing bowl, beat 4 eggs, 2 cups of sugar, 1 16 ounce can of pureed pumpkin and 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil until smooth.  In another bowl, combine 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tsps baking powder, 2 tsps baking soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp salt.  Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, a little bit at a time, mixing well.  Fold in 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake 16-20 minutes or until the muffins are done.  Cool about 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.  If they last, store in an airtight container. 

When using a standard size muffin tin, you should get about 24 muffins. 

For mini-muffins: use mini chocolate chips.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until done.  I usually get close to 72 mini muffins. 

These tempting treats disappear quickly in our house.

Enjoy!  Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!


Original recipe found in Country Woman Magazine, May/June 1995