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.

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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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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Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing

As far as cookbooks go, Andrea Reusing‘s Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes, is the cream of the crop. Rather than containing an overwhelming number of recipes that require lots of advanced technique and special tools, Reusing approaches cooking in much the same way I do—cooking is about enhancing the experience of eating fresh, quality ingredients, not masking the taste of vegetables in a mess of spices and sauces. In a lot of ways, this cookbook can be read as a carefully crafted food journal, with dates, stories, and incredible photographs; however, it contains a lot of good advice and technique tips as well.

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Raspberry Macadamia Nut Cookies

A dear friend of mine happened to be passing through Columbia over the weekend and I wanted to make something tasty for us to munch on while we caught up with each other. I looked through a few cookbooks and family recipes and decided that so-called “jam thumbprint” cookies would be perfect, especially when paired with fresh spiced apple cider. The dough is very mild, but when rolled in ground macadamia nuts and topped with a little bit of raspberry jam, these cookies take on a life of their own. Crumbly, and just sweet enough to be a treat without the guilt of eating large, sugar-laden sweets. Even better, however, is that the cookies require little that isn’t (probably) already in your kitchen.

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Having recently relocated from a middle-of-nowhere college town to a slightly less middle-of-nowhere state capital, Columbia, I have spent a lot of time wandering around and exploring. I have found that free, local newspapers make exploration a little easier—at first, anyway. Very early on I managed to find some awesome Farmer’s Markets (local everything! Including produce, herbs, meats, seafood, and better yet, apple, peach, and blueberry donuts baked on-site!) and believed that I was truly in heaven; then, as I was savoring my blueberry donuts, I decided to find the local coffee shop I had read about in one of the local newspapers.

What I found was mere minutes from the farmer’s market, offered individually brewed cups of coffee, and had a season brunch menu that I just couldn’t resist. The place: Drip. I’m no coffee aficionado, and honestly judge coffee shops more on the quality of their hot chocolate than the coffee, but one sip of their espresso milkshake and I was hooked.

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