New Year's Chili with Brazilian Cheese Rolls

New Year’s Chili made with Christmas Ham

Happy New Year’s Eve!  I can hardly believe that our week of holiday vacation is coming to an end.  We’ve enjoyed six wonderful days of fun with our extended families, including more board games than we’ve probably played all year (except maybe during our week of summer family vacation!) and more food and drink than we should probably consume in a month!  And now we are relaxing with four days of downtime at home with just the five of us.  It feels like a good way to end one year and begin another. 


There were many favorite recipes that we made over the holiday break and I will try and share as many as I can in the weeks to come.  I’ll start today with a quick and easy recipe for Ham and Bean Chili that we made using leftover Christmas ham and would be a great family meal to share on New Year’s Day! 


We enjoyed a smoked ham – along with quinoa and kale stuffed acorn squash, riced cauliflower, corn casserole, cranberry-apple chutney, and homemade pumpkin pie – for our Christmas dinner.  What a feast!


Christmas Dinner


I ordered a 10-pound ham from our local butcher, Saylors and Co, to feed the 11 family members who would be gathering at our house on Christmas night.  I purposely bought a ham that was way too big so that we would have leftovers to use all week!  (And because I live in constant fear of not having enough food for people to eat!  It runs in the family.  The night before, on Christmas Eve, my mom made an entire extra pound of pasta for her Chicken Marsala dinner.  In our family, FOOD = LOVE and you can never serve up enough of either!)   Needless to say, we had lots of leftover ham.  So far, we’ve enjoyed it in egg omelets for breakfast, on salads and sandwiches for lunch, and even in a “quinoa surprise” dish that Joe created with all of the leftovers combined in one skillet!


Ham and Bean Chili with Brazilian Cheese Rolls


This recipe for Ham and Bean Chili is one other way you can use up any leftover ham in your fridge or freezer.  Because it is wintertime, we used frozen green bell peppers that I had chopped and frozen from our CSA back in the summer months.  We also used canned tomatoes this time around but we’ve made it before with farm fresh tomatoes, which always tastes better!  I like to purchase dried beans in bulk so I soaked the cannellini beans overnight the night before and cooked them in the morning.  Then we added them to the pot at the end of cooking, just as the recipe says.


Ham and Bean Chili with Brazilian Cheese Rolls


I am also including a second recipe for Brazilian Cheese Rolls that pairs amazingly well with this chili recipe!  I first tasted these type of cheese rolls at a Brazilian restaurant in Gaithersburg, MD, while having a girls’ weekend with my mom and sister and sister-in-law.  I had recently started trying to avoid gluten and was excited to find a “bread” product that was naturally gluten-free.  After returning home from our trip, I came across this recipe in the Savory magazine that our local grocery store gives away for free each month.  I made the rolls for our 6-year old’s birthday party, along with this chili recipe, and they were both a big hit! 


I hope that these recipes warm up your kitchen on one of these cold winter nights!  And we wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!


Ham and Bean Chili
  1. 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  2. 1 red onion, chopped
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 tablespoons oil
  5. 1 tablespoon chili powder
  6. 3 cups ham, chopped
  7. 2 cups green bell pepper, chopped
  8. 6 cups cannellini beans, soaked and cooked (or 3 15-oz cans)
  9. 4 cups tomatoes, diced (or 28-oz can)
  10. salt and pepper, to taste
  11. ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  1. Place the sliced sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside. (If the sun-dried tomatoes were packed in oil, use this oil for the next step in the recipe.)
  2. Heat your choice of oil (olive, avocado, or reserved sun-dried tomato oil) in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic and chili powder for 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened.
  3. Add ham and pepper to the onion mixture and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. If using canned beans, drain and rinse the beans. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes, reserving 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Add the diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and reserved liquid, and beans to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in parsley.
  5. Serve with Brazilian Cheese Rolls. Enjoy!
  1. Makes: 6-8 servings
  2. If you don't have any leftover ham from a previous meal, you can order thick-cut ham from your deli and cut it into cubes.
Life From Scratch
Brazilian Cheese Rolls
  1. 1 egg
  2. 1/3 cup olive oil
  3. 2/3 cup milk
  4. 1 ½ cups tapioca flour
  5. ½ cup feta cheese
  6. 2 teaspoons salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on low to combine. Scrape down the sides of the blender to combine and blend one more time to incorporate all ingredients.
  3. Grease a mini muffin tray with butter or olive oil. Divide batter among 24 muffin cavities and bake for 20 minutes, or until rolls rise and are firm to the touch. Serve warm. Enjoy!
  1. Makes: 24
  2. (from Feb/Mar 2017 issue of Savory magazine)
Life From Scratch
gingerbread cookies

Holiday Preparations and Countdowns

Today is the first day of December and we are all starting to think about the upcoming holidays and everything that means for us.  While that might include things like shopping for gifts, visiting Santa, caroling, planning a holiday party, baking cookies, getting our homes ready for visitors, and cooking meals for large family gatherings, it can also be a time for quiet and connection, giving and gratitude. 


Several years ago, I read something in a parenting book about how we want our children to remember the holidays when they were growing up.  Do we want them to remember special traditions like cutting down a tree together or baking cookies?  And do we want them to remember a feeling of togetherness and spending quality time with family?  I know I do.  Or do we want them to only have memories of parents that were so strung out and tired that they snapped about every little thing and were too busy rushing around to enjoy the time off together?  Of course not.  But in the midst of trying to make everything “just right” for the holidays, sometimes I can turn into a stressed-out, always-running-late, never-enough-time-in-the-day holiday monster.  If you’ve ever read the children’s storybook, Mooseltoe, you’ll have a visual of what I sometimes feel and probably look like during the holidays! 


One way that our family is trying to keep the holiday spirit in perspective is to create an advent chain and remember something that we are grateful for on each of the days as we count down to December 25. 


Advent Chain


We started this tradition when the kids were smaller and the chain was a way to give them a visual of how much time was left until Christmas Day arrived and also a daily action for them to take part in.  We’ve used chains over the years to count down everything from birthdays to vacations to when Daddy is coming home from a trip.  It’s a great way for kids to see the progression of time and know that something they are looking forward to is getting closer and closer every day. 


For our advent chain, we added a new element a few years ago when we were intentionally trying to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in our family. 


Now every year when we sit down with the kids to cut out and glue the red and green colored strips together, we first lay out all 25 of the strips and deal them out to each member of the family.  Since there are five of us, we each get 5 of the strips.  Each of us thinks of five things that we are grateful for that year and writes one thing on each of our five strips.  Then we proceed with gluing the strips into circles and linking them together in a long chain.


Advent Chain


Then on every day in December, we take turns cutting off one link of the chain and reading what is written on the inside of the strip.  The kids love looking forward to their turn to cut off a strip and also hearing their words of gratitude read aloud to the family.


I don’t know if my kids will remember this particular family tradition when they grow up.  But I hope that these daily reminders throughout the month of December are enough to keep me on track to being present with my family and thankful for all of the many wonderful gifts in my life.


What are your favorite holiday traditions?  Have you started any new ones with your kids? 


One of our friends has a family tradition where they read a different Christmas book on every day in December.  Others use an advent calendar where the kids can open a door or an envelope each day in December to find a surprise within.  If that sounds like fun to you, I read about some great ideas for advent calendars here.


Here are some of the things we wrote down this year:


advent chain - Ben


advent chain - Jake

teacher . family . living in the woods

advent chain - me

freedom and safety . hugs, kisses, and snuggles . wool socks and flannel sheets


What gifts are you thankful for this holiday season?