Simple [Sim-puhl]

Simple [Sim-puhl]
1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.
2. not elaborate or artificial; plain
3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bragging Rights!

This year for the Christmas party at my work they held a Chili cook-off and I spiritedly entered. Two dropped out so that left me and four other contestants. All of the chili's entered we very different from each other. There was a chili verde with shredded pork, a vegetarian chili, and other varieties of bean and ground beef.
I have always wanted to enter a chili cook-off so I took it very seriously and stuck to a recipe I'd made up many years ago. I had everything I needed; at least I thought I did, until it came time to add seasoning and the chili powder was no where to be found. "Oh well! Can't win them all." I thought, and finished my recipe. I put it in a Crockpot and drove to work, it smelled pretty good so I was still hopeful. My boss pulled the top off as soon as I finished plugging in my slow-cooker. " Wow, that smells good." she told me and I thanked her for the compliment. When it came time to cast my vote it was very difficult because they were all so different I wanted to be fair. I did not vote for myself (I thought that would be a little tacky anyway.) But, I did win the Best Chili prize!
Since there wasn't any of my prize-winning-chili left over for my family to try; I made another batch today for dinner and it turned out even better! Here's the recipe:

My Prize Winning Chili
By Bethany Thompson

1 lbs Ground Beef
2 cans Light Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies Original
1 small can Tomato Sauce
1/2 carton Beef Stock (or to taste as it cooks)
1/2 Sweet Onion, diced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeno Pepper- seeds and membrane removed, diced
1 large clove Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Butter
1/2 tsp Sirachi Sauce (I'm guessing because I just eyeballed-it)
1+ tsp Ground Cumin (Ditto)
1/2 tsp Paprika (Ditto again)
1-2 Tbsp Brown Sugar (about)

Break up ground beef in hot pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brown until no pink remains.
Combine beans and tomatoes in a large pot, add browned beef, and rinse frying pan. Heat butter in pan until melted, add onion, peppers, garlic and sprinkle with salt. Cook until peppers are soft and onions are translucent, add to bean and meat pot mixture. Add seasonings to chili pot being careful with the Sirachi (this is what makes it super hot or pleasantly warm.) Add stock a little at a time and give it a good stirring to get the consistency you want. Simmer chili while you make a pan of cornbread, about an hour or more. As the chili thickens just keep adding stock now and then until you're ready to eat it and it gets to a good chili consistency. You can cook it in a big pot or throw it in the crock pot to cook on low all day. It does get a thicker consistency if you cook it in a pot on the stove though (Like what you see come from a can type of consistency- I like it best.)
The only difference between tonight and the competition was I used a medium can of tomato sauce and not as much beef stock, but trust me this way is so much better!

Making your own chili is not cheaper than buying a can of it. But... It is so much more delicious, nutritious and rewarding. ;-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homemade Holidays

I added a few new recipes to my holiday baking this year. I have traditional family recipes I use every year for Pumpkin Bread and Gumdrop Bars, but I had not found just the right Gingerbread Men recipe until this year. I found a recipe on a blog I have recently started following and made some additions. My sister-in-law gave me a recipe for gingerbread houses a few years ago and I loved the spice mixture in that recipe so I adjusted the new recipe to include 1 tsp of vanilla and an extra tsp of cinnamon. Now I am addicted! These Gingerbread Cookies are soft and delicious and get even better as they age.
Another new thing I decided to try this year was Brittle. Last Christmas my mother-in-law bought a big bowl of half peanut brittle and half cashew nut brittle. The cashew nut brittle disappeared, but the peanut brittle lasted quite a while. I found this recipe for Cashew Nut Brittle on a blog I have followed for years. It looked so easy so I decided to try it. Love it! It's so delicious and so easy to make! My only complaint is it doesn't make more; but since it is so easy to make, whipping up another batch is no problem!
Another recipe I'll be making this week is Santa's Thumbprints Cookies. They are my Dad's favorite and I am a little sad I have only made them once before for him. It'll be a real treat! Thoughtful homemade gifts are the best after all.

Santa's Thumbprints
By Quaker Oats and Crisco

1 1/2 cups Butter Flavor Crisco (I hate that it's artificial! I used butter and 1/4 cup more flour.)
1 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Vanilla
2 1/2 cups Quaker Oats (I use Old Fashioned)
2 cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt (optional)
1 3/4 cups Nuts, finely chopped (peanuts are great)
2/3 cup Fruit Preserves (Raspberry jam is my first choice, but Gooseberry tastes the best!)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat Crisco and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add combined oats, flour and salt; mix well. Form 1-inch balls; roll in nuts. Place 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press centers with thumb; fill with preserves. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove to wire rack; cool completely. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

Note- DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO EAT COOKIES  BEFORE THEY HAVE COMPLETELY COOLED! HOT JAM IS LIKE MOLTEN LAVA.  It will burn all your taste buds off! (This is the voice of experience.)

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Car Snacks

For Thanksgiving this year my husband and I drove 10 hours to spend several days with his family. We gave his 20 year old niece and his mother a ride as well. This was a semi-interesting journey. I was knitting Granny Dishcloths most of the time; while our niece napped with her ear buds in, and my mother-in-law commented on the other drivers on the road. My husband just drove and listened to the radio; he was very patient, I was proud of him. ;)
For a trip like this I didn't want to be eating road food the whole time (a.k.a. candy bars, chips and hamburgers.) so I stuck my nose into my newest cookbook and found a recipe for a Car Snack.

I don't usually read cookbooks, but this one was so delightful I read it cover to cover within a week after it arrived. I identified with the authoress, she must be a kindred spirit.;) There is a descriptive personal story to accompany each recipe and I felt like I really was there with Alana in her kitchen sitting on her couch. (Revolutionary idea by the way, I will have to get a couch for my own kitchen!)
The cereal bars were delicious and fun to eat and had lots of fiber to help me digest while sitting in a car for 10 hours. ( As I get older I find this becomes increasingly important to me.) I was able to recover from traveling quickly. It was great! Even my husband's niece liked them.
The Homemade Pantry is now one of my favorite cookbooks. There are recipes for most of the basic things you buy at the store and they look like simple recipes too. I have only tried one recipe so far but I am itching to try them all! Alana also has a blog where she shares her most recent experiences and recipes. She posted a recipe for Maple Apple Chips I am so looking forward to making among other things. I am so grateful to people like Alana Chernila who inspire and teach me ways I can simplify my life. Allot of the recipes I find to make from scratch are much more economical and healthier to make myself. The ones that aren't much cheaper I still feel more confident making myself because I am bypassing a lot of added sugars, salt, trans fats, and preservatives I don't want in my family's diet. Not to mention the packaging that just enlarges more landfills. I feel happy to know I've found a way around some of the industrialization that impregnates our civilization.