Chili, Part 1

While everyone else is busy thinking about a menu for Thanksgiving, or if they are not the cooks this year, their travel plans for Thanksgiving, I am focused intently on coming up with a new chili recipe for the annual chili cook off that happens in my boyfriend’s family. It works out well because there are three main teams (by couple) and there are always a few people nearby that stop by to eat and prevent any tie that might have occurred otherwise. Last year, Karl and I were the champs. We worked off of heavily modified version of my mother’s recipe—a chunky tomato-based, lean ground beef, kidney beans (soaked over night with Anaheim chili peppers), and lots of spices—and won, as we heard it, because it was a chili that was the most traditional in a lot of ways. I am definitely a fan of this type of chili recipe, but due to an unfortunate mishap while moving the acclaimed recipe has been lost. Fear not, however, because I just started planning early for this years new recipe.

About four months ago, I came across a spicy tomato bisque recipe and decided to give it a try. I followed the directions fairly closely and the end result was a soup that was almost inedible because it was so heavily spiced. I definitely did not want to throw it out, so I figured I could try it out as the liquid and spice for a new chili. I had little hope of it being a game changing decision, but low and behold it was delicious! I have since tweaked the recipe and changed around the balance of ingredients a little bit, but I think we’ve got another winning chili recipe on our hands. Until the results are in, I will give you the modified version of the soup recipe and I would strongly recommend trying it out as a new way to add spice and bold flavor to chili.

Spicy Tomato Base for Chili

1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 c Chopped Onion
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 c Celery
56 oz Tomatoes, crushed
3 c Vegetable Broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tbsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp Pepper, cracked
8-10 drops Tabasco
1/4 tsp Ground Cayenne

1. Heat a large pot over Medium-High heat.

2. Sauté the onion, garlic and celery until tender.

3. Stop cooking and puree the onion, garlic and celery mixture. Then move it back to the pan.

4. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, Worcestershire sauce, salt, thyme, pepper, Tabasco, and cayenne.

5. Reduce to low heat and simmer, covered, for approximately 30 minutes stirring frequently.

Once the primary ingredients for the chili are cooked and combined, add several cups of the tomato soup. Additional chili powder should be added to taste. This makes enough soup for several batches of chili, so after using it, I recommend dividing the remainder in to 2-4 cup servings and freezing them.

I like to serve my chili over cooked macaroni noodles and top it with diced onions and a little bit of Colby Jack cheese. Enjoy!

NOTE: For those of you involved in the contest of which I speak, I am taking it on good faith that this will not be used against me.


Design*Sponge is a blog that evolved into a pretty major design magazine online. I was enjoying my October issue of Bon Appetite and came across an interview with the blog’s/magazine’s author, Grace Bonney. The brief interview was enough to convince me to check out the sight and order the newly-released book, Design*Sponge at Home, on the spot. Over the past two weeks I have enjoyed the “Sneak Peek” pictures of the home decor choices made by artists, designers, and Design*Sponge contributers as they strive to make their homes beautiful, comfortable, and inviting all on a budget. I think that last part, the budget aspect of this book and blog is what has caused Grace Bonney’s blog to become what it is today.

I grew up in a “fixer-upper” house and I had the epitome of do-it-yourself parents, so while interior design and home decor may not have been on my radar formally, I spent a lot of time witnessing its effects. When I was in third grade we painted a wall with black chalkboard paint (it was way harder to erase stuff back then!); when I went away for a weekend dance competition I came back to find a huge hole in the wall between the kitchen and dining room (it became a lovely breakfast bar); when my sister and I graduated from sharing a bed to bunk beds, we put in windows that covered two walls of the room; when we put the house on the market, we painted the living room a golden color (it looked horrible before it dried!) and re-upholstered the couch to compliment the new wall color. I won’t say I showed a natural inclination to it…honestly I couldn’t believe my parents would paint the walls a burnt golden color…but now that I’m on my own and trying to decorate my own home (albeit an apartment for now), I appreciate the braveness it took to do bold things like that with our home. Looking back, I love what I learned from those times and what I enjoyed about Design Sponge at Home is that it provided a lot of ideas that seem far more doable than the big projects that my parents undertook. I am grateful for stepping stones while I bide my time in apartments and this book (and blog) are overflowing with great everything. You like do-it-yourself projects? Check out the DIY column on the blog or the entire section of ideas and instructions in the book. You want some awesome ideas on ways other people decorate their homes with flea market and Goodwill finds? Check out the Sneak Peak column.

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Hunter Gatherer

Hunter Gatherer is a restaurant/micro-brewery that I’ve walked past innumerable times, each time causing me to turn back for one lost whiff of the delicious aromas wafting off of the dishes the diners seated outside were enjoying. A spur of the moment dinner with a friend finally caused me to try the place out and it was definitely a good choice. My friend highly recommended the burgers and the beer was great.

My boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed  a burger and was highly impressed by the toppings offered—smoked gouda even!—and had an excellent wheat beer. I, not being a big meat-eater, opted for a roasted chicken ravioli tossed with wilted spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, and covered with olive oil and a balsamic vinegarette. It was excellent, although sweeter than I expected. My friend chose a grilled chicken panini with a pesto mayonnaise and paired it with a Pale Ale. Simply, it was a delightful meal with wonderful ingredients and an even better atmosphere.

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Great House by Nicole Krauss

I anxiously awaited the paperback release of Great House: A Novel by Nicole Krauss and the instant I bought it the instant I found it on store shelves. I absolutely loved The History of Love and was sure that I would feel the same about Krauss’ other works too. For the most part, this was an accurate guess on my part, except that I might not have fallen in love with The History of Love during my first reading of that novel; despite a memory that indicates otherwise, I find it likely that it was probably the second or third time through that I really learned to appreciate the incomplete/withheld, multi-narrator, often childishly naive story telling.

Great House: A Novel plays with similar narrative techniques. Where The History of Love unites children and their widowed mother’s translation work with an elderly Jewish refugee fled to America in the 40′s and with a friend entrusted with the elderly man’s manuscript of a novel which the friend published later under his own name, Great House brings together a lonely, divorcée American writer, an antiques dealer in Jerusalem obsessed with obtaining the original furniture from his father’s room destroyed by the Nazis, and a man desperate to know more about his wife who was a powerfully silent writer. Joining these three very different story lines is an immense desk, towering over every room it resides in and filled with drawers of all sizes, some of which have been locked since it’s original owner entrusted his son with a key to a single drawer. Rather than being continuously bought and sold, this desk is given away, loaned, and stolen; all of which echo the ongoing exploration of the inheritance and haunting of loss passed down from parents to child. The inheritance is made larger than life in this desk and is not limited to a single family or part of the world, but rather disperses across the globe with every writer adding their own confessions of doubt, tears for the lost, and news of destruction.

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I definitely have a sweet tooth, and more than that, I love to share sweets with the people around me. I had a rough week at work, so when I got home for the weekend I decided that a special treat was in order. I already had most of the supplies, so caramels seemed like it fit the bill.







Before attempting this recipe, there are a few things that you need to have on hand. First and foremost, a candy thermometer is a must. A medium saucepan, kitchen scissors, and a good wooden spoon are also essential tools. (Admittedly, other types of stirring utensils will suffice, but I would avoid plastic and/or rubber because it will be in contact with the heat for quite a while.)

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