Tieghan Gerard grew up as one of eight kids, so her norm for mealtimes was just a bit of chaos.
“Dinner was just really crazy. We would eat super, super late,” Gerard tells SELF. “So I got started with cooking as a way to help my parents out and get dinner on the table by an earlier hour. I helped get dinner together for most of middle school and high school.”
By the time Gerard turned 19, she had dinner down to a science, and felt the pull to take cooking beyond family meals. She shifted gears away from fashion design, and with the encouragement of her mom, decided to turn her love for cooking into a blog. Thus, Half-Baked Harvest was born.
Ten years, thousands of recipes, three cookbooks, a host of multi-million viewed Insta reels, and one mouth-watering pumpkin-scented candle later, Gerard has honed her niche: She creates recipes that are “simple, easy to follow, and quick to make” while packing a punch of flavor.
A driving force behind all these recipes is a “cozy vibe,” says Gerard, who is based out of Colorado. They’re the kind of meals that make you feel warm and comfortable inside—think of the food version of a roaring fire on a chilly day—and are heavily influenced by nostalgia and her memories of cooking as a teen.
“When the weather gets cold, you’re looking for something to warm you up inside, literally,” she says. “‘Cozy’ food can be some kind of childhood memory that reminds me of what my parents would make when we were cooking together.”
For Gerard, the meal right now that fits the bill is her white chicken chili, a creamy, smoky, and spicy rendition of the traditional tomato-based dish. Read on for how she sets the stage to enjoy this hearty dish with some major comfy vibes.
Alter your old favorites in a way that works for you now.
Gerard, who was raised in Ohio, grew up with Cincinnati chili—a style that’s tomato based, filled with onions, beans, and cheddar cheese, and served over angel hair pasta. But because Gerard’s mom wasn’t a big fan of onions or beans, their dish omitted both, and instead leaned heavily on the cheese.
At first glance, Gerard’s white chili—which uses shredded chicken, chicken broth, cream cheese, and has nary a pasta strand in sight—doesn’t look anything like the Cincinnati chili she ate as a kid. But there are some key similarities in their makeup.
“I definitely want it to have the spice of Cincinnati chili and have chili as the flavor,” Gerard says. “I took the jalapeños, the chili powder, the paprika—those are all still incorporated, just without the tomatoes.” She also uses poblano peppers and salsa verde for an extra flavor kick.
Pile on the toppings.
Cincinnati chili is big on toppings, Gerard says, and so is her white chicken variation.
“I love to do lots and lots of cheddar cheese, lots of cilantro, avocado, usually some chopped green onions,” she says. “And then if I’m feeling very spicy, I’ll do some sliced jalapeños with some plain Greek yogurt.”
Bring on the bread to sop it up.
Warm bread is a must with chili, says Gerard. And it has been ever since her mom used to whip up beer bread—an easy-to-make bread that uses a can of beer and no additional yeast for rising—to serve with her chili.
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