Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thankful Thursday!

Today I was reading a few new blogs, which happen to be written by people I went to high school with (it’s so fun to catch up with people I used to know!). One of the blogs has a regular feature called “Thankful Thursday.” Each week, the blogger writes what she’s thankful for that particular week.

What a great idea!

Since today is Thursday, I thought I’d start my own weekly Thankful Thursday feature. I’ll warn you now that they won’t always be deep, gut-wrenching things I’m thankful for…it may just be a particularly good latte I had or a nice customer service agent. Anyway, here are the ten things I’m thankful for this week:

1. Home cooked meals. So far this week I’ve made a pasta bake, tortilla casserole, and chili. Yum!
2. Fresh fruit. After being on vacation and not eating healthy every moment of every day, it’s great to have a freezer full of bright, fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.
3. Starbucks iced venti decaf latte. Yes, I started drinking coffee again (just lattes), and after being on vacation for five days, one of those babies was heaven.
4. Air conditioning. While on vacation the a/c broke in our house – and it was over 100 outside. Today they fixed it…six days later.
5. Overtime. They are now offering overtime at work, which is nice since I’ve had 15% of my paycheck cut.
6. Cleaning. I didn’t get to do my usual weekend cleaning since I was on vacation, so my house is a little dirty. Today I’ve enjoyed doing dishes, picking up, doing some laundry…yes, I do like cleaning!
7. My niece and nephew. They were with us on vacation, and they are a constant source of entertainment.
8. JoAnn’s. I’m still in a very crafty mood, so I paid a visit to JoAnn’s yesterday for some fabric. I’m going to make a quilt with simple 9-patches…I’ll post pictures as I make it.
9. Gardening. I got two tomato plants from my neighbor, and this weird tree-like clipping from my grandpa. Yesterday I finally got them all in the ground! Yes, this is the extent so far of my gardening.
10. Dinner with my mom. Yesterday I was going to run some errands and my mom happened to call as I was walking out the door. She was in town and so I ran errands with her, and then we went out to dinner. It was so nice to have dinner with her; since she retired I don’t get to have lunch with her at work anymore.

Okay, so is anyone thankful for the same things? Or, what are you thankful for this week? Let me know!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chili Cook Off!

I absolutely love chili.

My favorite chili in the world has always been my mom’s chili. I remember her making a big pot of chili and some cornbread on a cold winter night; it was one of my favorite meals. I always make my chili just like my mom does, but tonight, I decided to do something a little different. I started off with the basic recipe, and then tweaked it a little bit.

Mom’s chili recipe is:
- 1 pkg Jimmy Dean sausage (or the sausage links that come ten to a package in the white package…I can’t remember the name)
- Ground beef (if you choose, Mom didn’t always put this in)
- 2 cans kidney beans, with juice
- 2 cans red beans or navy beans, with juice
- 2 cans diced tomatoes (I think sometimes Mom added more)
- 1 bottle chili sauce
- Lots of chili powder
- Corn and olives if you choose

You basically cook the sausage and ground beef (if using beef), and then throw everything else in the pot and let it cook until it’s hot (I absolute LOVE one-pot dishes). It turns out more soupy than some chili I’ve had; it definitely has sauce, which is what I always liked about it. I can’t even describe the delicious flavors to you, but the chili sauce and powder are key.

Lately I’ve been trying to use up everything I buy, even if it means freezing things. I’ve also been into cooking meals ahead of time and freezing them, or just prepping meals for cooking later. I decided to make chili tonight and then put it in the freezer so I’d have a meal ready when I didn’t feel like cooking.

At the grocery store this week I made a new discovery (well, new for me). I was looking for a can of Dennison’s Vegetarian Chili, which is something I’ll put over brown rice (instant meal – delicious!). The grocery store I went to didn’t have any vegetarian chili that was just beans…they all had other junk in them.

In the bean section I found plain old chili beans – something I’ve never bought before. I know what some of you are thinking – seriously, how have you never had chili beans? Here’s the thing – I love beans. I could live off of them. However, growing up, we had canned refried beans, canned kidney and garbanzo beans, and that was it. It wasn’t until recently that I started eating black beans, pinto beans, etc. So anyway, I noticed these chili beans, and thought they’d be perfect; they’re just pinto beans in a tomato sauce with garlic and a few other spices. And let me tell you – they’re perfect!

I forgot to take pictures while I was cooking, so I’ll just tell you about the chili I made tonight, which is now my most favorite chili in the entire world (and remember, I tend not to measure things…I just go by taste

April’s Amazing Chili

1 pkg Jimmy Dean light sausage, cooked and drained
2 30-oz cans chili beans, with juice
2 15-oz cans kidney beans, drained but not rinsed
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
1 bottle chili sauce
Garlic salt
Mexican spice mix (I’ll explain this in a bit)
Chili powder

Cook the sausage. In a large pot (I used a 5.5 quart dutch oven) combine cooked sausage, chili beans, kidney beans, tomato sauce, and chili sauce. I added 1/3 to ½ bottle of chili powder (start with ¼, then add more according to your own taste), and then added garlic salt to taste. I didn’t measure it, just sprinkled a bunch in the chili.

Finally, I added some of my own “Mexican Seasoning” (no, it might not be the most appropriate name, but sorry). (For my special seasoning, I purchased those $.99 packages of seasoning you get in the Hispanic food aisle – one cumin, one curry, one chili, one cayenne, and one ancho chili (I think…it was the dark one, although not hot). I combined the entire packages of curry, chili, cumin, and ancho chili in a large spice bottle, and added about a third of the cayenne package. I like spicy things, but you may prefer not to add the cayenne at all. Shake it up and you’ve got a great new seasoning!)

Cook it until everything is hot, and you’ve got amazing, thick, and delicious chili. If you want to try it, come to my house and I’ll make you some. Or, make it on your own – I promise, you won’t be disappointed!! This chili is great just cooked, and even better the next day.