chili, omg chili!

Well, I’ve been working on perfecting my chili recipe for some time now, and we tested the latest incarnation on dinner guests last night. I think it’s okay now!

I doubled this recipe and it made way more than I needed but I was able to send our friends home with some and still have leftovers for us. If you’re going to spend the time on it you might as well make lots right?! Yeah, in order to double the recipe, I did have to finally break down and get myself a large, 6 quart crockpot. And it’s red – oh so cute!

Anyway, it’s long but here is the recipe:

Crockpot Spicy Pork Chili

This chili does take a little time (so worth it), but not a lot of effort. It’s a pretty fluid recipe, meaning it’s never really the same twice if you do it right!

Day one ingredients:

Pork roast, whatever cut you like, I use a boneless loin, about 2 lbs.

1 bottle or can of beer, your choice

Roasting bag or crockpot

Hot sauce

Chili powder

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A day ahead of when you want to serve the chili, put the roast and the beer in the oven bag and follow the directions – usually 325 for 1 and ¼ hour for a 2 lb roast.

If you don’t have or don’t want to use the oven bag, (though I love it for easy cleanup,) you can cook the roast in the beer in your crockpot: chunk it up and cook on high for 2-3 hours, stirring once or twice.

After the roast is cooked and cooled, shred or cube it into tiny pieces and immerse it back into the cooking liquid. Add some hot sauce and some chili powder to your liking and let set overnight in the refrigerator. The meat will soak all the liquid back up. If it needs a little more liquid you can add another half a beer or so.

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Day two, now for the rest of the chili ingredients:

2 cans black beans, one rinsed and drained, one not

1 can small red beans, rinsed and drained

16 oz jar basic salsa, pick your own heat, I use medium. (or 12oz can tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes, plus chop your own green peppers, onions, jalapenos etc. I think it’s easier to use the salsa and no one will ever know.)

1 small onion, minced fine

3-4 cloves garlic, minced fine, or 1 heaping tbsp. pre-minced garlic, (do not use dry garlic powder if you can help it.)

big handful of fresh cilantro, chopped fine

packet of dry chili seasoning, taco seasoning, whatever you have, (or lots of extra chili powder)

at least a couple tbsp of cumin, more if you love it like I do (I use it by the handful!)

Don’t be afraid of the spices: black pepper, cayenne pepper if you like spicy, smoky paprika, sage, ground coriander seed.

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6 hours before serving time, (leave the pork alone!) start with a clean crockpot and throw in the drained and rinsed beans, salsa, extra onion, garlic, cilantro, and all the seasonings and spices. Lots and lots of spices!

Make sure your crockpot is large enough that it is only half – 2/3rds full at this point. You need room for the meat.

Let this cook on high, covered, stirring occasionally for four hours.

2 hours before serving time, add the pork, if there is a lot of liquid left you can dump it or add it depending on how thick you like your chili. Let this get hot again, half and hour or so, and then turn down to low. If it seems too watery you can leave the cover off for the last hour so it can thicken up. Keep stirring occasionally.

Serve with any favorite toppings: shredded cheddar, chopped green onions, sour cream.

If you want to print it, here it is in pdf:

2-day-spicy-pork-chili.pdf

If you try it, let me know what you think!

it’s not funny anymore

looking-at-the-snow.jpg

It’s supposed to be spring people! But this is what we see out our front door today. School is canceled of course.

Here is what I was planning on talking about today:

seedlings.jpg

My seedlings are doing quite well, but perhaps, considering today’s weather, I did start them a bit early. You think?

Here’s another lovely view of the snow when I look up from my front porch:

snowy-trees.jpg

Lovely in December maybe, not late March!!

turkey talk

All week I’ve been meaning to post my turkey meatloaf recipe, but I’ve been too busy, um, cooking. And cleaning. And every time I cook, I have to clean again. Sigh.

I finally got the kitchen in great shape yesterday but was then asked to make cookies for dh’s work. Not that I mind baking cookies, and dh certainly offered to buy some instead. But, dude, that would totally ruin my reputation at his office! I am known as the brownie queen. His coworkers were hoping for brownies on cookie day! Instead, I adapted my brownie recipe and made super chocolaty cookies. Secret ingredient: homemade vanilla. It makes any baked good taste amazing.

I also sent along my lemon cookies. It’s a basic sugar cookie but you replace the vanilla with lemon extract. These cookies also have white chocolate chips and coconut. Secret ingredient: replace some of the plain white sugar with dry lemonade mix. Extra lemony goodness.

I finished baking at 9:15 last night. You can guess what my kitchen looks like this morning! Yep, time to clean again.

Anyway, on to the turkey meatloaf!

I haven’t used any ground beef in almost 13 years. (Except for that huge vat of chili I had to make for a fundraiser, yuck.) It’s just too greasy for us and after all these years we’ve come to prefer the taste of ground turkey and ground chicken. However. If not cooked properly it can be very dry, hence it’s bad reputation.

There are a couple of tricks I’ve learned that make a huge difference and I use them whether I’m making meatloaf, turkey burgers, meatballs, etc. The most obvious is not to overcook but you all knew that one.

The next is GRATE your onions! Use the smallest cheese grater you own and grate the peeled onions directly into the uncooked turkey mixture. This works really well with garlic too – and I hate using a garlic press – they are too hard to clean. (A nice flat cheese grater cleans up super easy.) The reason for this is that all the juices come out of the onion and go directly into the turkey. When you chop onions all you have are chopped onions. When you grate them you have onion juice and mush and lovely onion flavor = moist and flavorful meatloaf.

The last is: use fresh herbs. Yes, ground turkey is slightly bland, but that just means it takes on whatever flavor you want it to. It needs lots of herbs and spices. But if you use too many dry herbs you are taking moisture out of the turkey in order to rehydrate them. Use some fresh herbs and you are adding moisture. Makes so much sense right? It took me way too long to figure it out though.

Yes, I do grow some of my own herbs in little pots all over the kitchen. I use enough now that it gets a little expensive to buy it all the time. The best for me are sage, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and lavender. I have a tough time keeping basil alive or I would grow that too.

Before I give you the recipe, let me first say that unless I’m baking I don’t measure anything so I hope pinchs and palmfuls don’t frustrate you!

1 lb of ground turkey

two handfuls of bread crumbs, plain or any flavor

handful of dry quick cooking oatmeal

1 egg (or 2 if they’re small)

2 small or one medium onion

a couple cloves of garlic depending how strong you like it

lots of fresh herbs, chopped fine. I use whatever I have on hand but especially oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, cilantro (aka coriander), and rosemary. (I love, love me some fresh cut rosemary, it’s just not the same even “fresh” from the store. Rosemary should not be like a piece of wood!)

lots of spices, including but not limited to: cumin, coriander seed, black pepper, chili powder, savory, marjoram, paprika, and whatever you don’t have of the above fresh herbs – use the dried.

couple squirts of ketchup in the mix, and a little more on top at the end

couple drizzles of olive oil, a little more if you have a lot of dried herbs, or if you use 1% lean turkey.

a little finely chopped spinach if you want to make it even heathier, but my dh won’t let me!

mix it all up, throw it in a bread pan, spread a little of the ketchup on top, stick it the oven, on say 350, for a half hour or so – I just keep and eye on it so I don’t know for sure. I even will cook this in my toaster oven – bread pan fits perfectly and I don’t have to heat up the whole big oven for one item.

I hope this didn’t sound difficult or complicated! It’s really the easiest meal ever, and it’s also very adaptable to your own tastes. Try the same recipe with some parmesan mixed in as meatballs, bake them on a cookie sheet for fifteen minutes and throw them in tomato sauce, yum! Or leave out the oatmeal, add an extra egg and you will have the best burger ever, at least my boys think so 🙂

fill a cup

Charitable causes. There are ever so many aren’t there? Everyone has in their mind what they prefer in a “good cause.” For me it almost always comes down to children. I also tend to gravitate toward local charities like soup kitchens. It’s a hard thing to look at your own happy, healthy, energetic child and know there are kids just like him in your own community who go to school, or to sleep without any food in their bellies.

Now, look beyond your neighborhood and the bigger picture is such a harsh, overwhelming reality it’s difficult to comprehend. USAtoday ran an article this morning about the rising cost of food around the world this year and the terrible consequences for the World Food Programme.

I heart the World Food Programme. I have for some time now. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of extra cash to send them. I do, however, have downtime in the evenings when I like to blog surf and play computer games. My favorite games are solitaire majong, solitaire scrabble, and freecell. Exciting? Not. Well, they aren’t supposed to be, they’re supposed to relax me and work my brain a bit, you know, to help with my little memory problem…

Enter Free Rice. My newest online addiction. It’s a little word game, and for every word you get right you’re giving grains of rice to the World Food Programme. How cool is that? And seriously, once you start you can’t stop. Go on, learn a few new words and you be surprised how fast the rice grains grow.

edited to add:

For those of you using this post as a portal to get to Free Rice – I’ve made it easier for you by adding it to my links on the left hand side of the main page!

yes, I am crazy

Did you ever go away for an overnight or two and suddenly, halfway there, you think: did I turn off the coffeepot?? Yeah, me too. More times than I’d care to admit. Now I make a point to unplug the coffeepot just so I remember doing it.

Well, I didn’t sleep very well last night because of that damn proverbial coffeepot. In this case, coffeepot = feline. See, while we were loading up our vehicle, getting ready for an overnight at my parent’s house for Easter, the cat was getting a bit underfoot, trying to get outside, trying to trip us, etc. So I put him out in the locked, enclosed porch. He was happy, I was happy. Two minutes later the boy let him in. Dude. So I let him back out. That’s where it got blurry.

Around 10pm last night, that fact flashed in my brain. Was the cat still on the porch? He couldn’t be. Right? I definitely remember seeing that the door was locked. But that didn’t necessarily mean the cat was let back in before the locking occurred. The boy was, of course, already asleep so I couldn’t ask him if he had the opened the door for dear kitty a second time. DH said he thought the cat was hanging around before he left, but was that before or after the second letting out? Was the poor cat huddled in the damp drafty porch trying to keep warm? Were his cute little toes and ears freezing?? Yes, I’m rambling – just to give you a taste of the circular momentum of my brain between 10pm and midnight. and 2am to 3am. Not to mention the nightmares along more horrific lines when I did sleep. Yikes.

There are plenty of nights when my mind won’t stop rolling like that, thoughts about work, paying the bills, oops I forgot…whatever. But at home, I can deal with it. Yes, 2am online bill paying has happened here in the past. Or at least writing down my worries instead of fretting over them helps. Even if I can’t read my handwriting in the morning. (I can’t be the only one who does this? Right?)

So what can you do, what kind of note can you write yourself, when you’re three hours away from home, worrying about how you’re going to tell your kid you killed the cat? Um, yeah, no idea. So I just didn’t sleep.

In the morning, the boy confirmed that he had indeed let the cat in the second time. Later, as we pulled into the driveway, the kitty happily watched us from his top o’ the couch perch in the picture window. <sigh>

Some people would say, it’s just a cat, what’s the big deal? But he’s my cat, and my boy’s cat and he’s laying on my legs right now where he’s supposed to be, and dang, he’s heavy, and he’s family.

All is right in my world again and sure do hope to get a good night’s sleep! Except, boy, I sure do have a lot of work to do tomorrow, and that guy never responded to my email last week, and oops, I forgot….crap.

tmi and a war, part two

So getting to the hospital and early labor are truly a blur now. All I know is that for hours I rocked, and walked, and talked, but never dilated past 3. I know dh watched a lot of CNN. Then I got some pitocin to move things along. Idiot me refused the epidural, “for now” I said. By the time I was begging for the epidural, the contractions were so close and strong the anesthesiologist could barely find a quiet moment to stick it in. It’s funny how clearly I remember that part.

After the epi, of course, I could no longer get out of bed. Numb legs and that pesky catheter kind of get in the way of walking. So I laid there and complained, and contracted, whined, and contracted. And dh held my hand and watched some more CNN. I didn’t even let him leave for food.

So, remember that whole need to get the kid out within 24 hours of your water breaking? Well, that’s due to the risk of infection. So a few hours sixteen hours after my wake up call, I was still only at 7cm, exhausted, baby’s heart rate was starting to get a little depressed, and I’m pretty sure I was screaming “just get it out of me.” We all decided the best course of action was a c-section.

Yep, another cesarean statistic. Well, I’m glad we made that decision, because as we discovered, he would never would have come out the other way with his head positioned wrong. The only bad part about the surgery was when the nurse didn’t bring dh into the operating room until after they had sliced me open. And he had to walk right by the carnage to get behind the curtain. Oops.

In any case, the boy, (a boy? wait! we were so sure it was a girl!) was born at 4:30pm March, 20, 2003. Happy birthday sweetie!

footprints.jpg

life’s little irritations #1

There is a highway I travel frequently that is normally pretty quiet. On a typical day you can drive along without encountering very many other vehicles. I can set my cruise control and pretty much keep it there. Why is it then, that there always has to be one or two other drivers that absolutely must pass you, pull directly in front of you, and slow down?? I sort of understand it on a busy highway, but on one with barely another car visible, I just don’t get it.

so very lucky

hugging clifford

There are many reasons why I think my MIL is fantastic. This photo is a great example of one of them.

She’s always so excited when she gets the chance to whisk the boy away for the weekend, and she always makes grand plans for him. I rarely know what those plans are beforehand and that’s okay. It makes for some nice suspense for him, as he said earlier this week “I wonder what Grammy’s planning for me, she makes the best plans!” Yep. Not only that but she does things with him either I wouldn’t think of or wouldn’t have the time or money to do.

So we usually get our updates on what they did over the weekend by the photos she sends. Apparently, they met Clifford the Big Red Dog yesterday. I think he’s pretty happy about that, don’t you?!

mornings

Why is it that on the days you have no morning obligations and you could potentially sleep in a little, your kid invariably is up early, bouncing on your bed, wanting breakfast, wanting his transformer transformed, whatever? Then on the days you all gotta be up and out of the house to go to, you know, school, those are the days he want to sleep until 8 o’clock! He’s only four, not fourteen!

alone time

Is it wrong to be counting the hours until my mother in law comes to get the boy for a whole weekend? Is it wrong to want to be alone in my own house? I hope not! Because at noon tomorrow I’m free for 48 hours!

The last time I slept in this house alone was exactly a year ago. My dear husband (dh from now on) is at the very same conference and the MIL took our dear son (aka ds) for two nights then as well.

I don’t recall doing anything particularly exciting. I only remember not having to cook or clean, being able to watch bad tv all day long, (and not even power rangers!) and getting as much sleep as I wanted without anyone waking me up! Woohoo! I’m gonna do that all over again baby! I might even be able to read. a. book. Shocking, I know.

Of course, I’ll miss my boys, and when they return on Sunday I’ll appreciate them so much more for having been gone, but until then I plan to wallow in my alone time. <sigh>

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