Seriously Good Chili

Seriously Good Chili

Seriously Good Chili

Seriously, seriously good chili. Yum!

I named this delightful concoction “Seriously Good Chili” for two reasons: one, it is seriously good. And two, because I adapted it from a far more labor-intensive chili recipe from Serious Eats. I was going to call it the “easier” version, but you’re still cooking beans from scratch (which is actually easy) and it still includes a ton of ingredients. It’s worth it: this chili is complex and full flavored, thanks to a range of ingredients including chocolate, anchovy paste, coffee, and New Mexico chiles, but it’s still kid friendly.

I made this for Christmas Eve, along with two other soups, and this was the hands-down winner! Here we go:

Seriously Good Chili

You need:

1 pound dried beans–I used pinto because I had them on hand, but kidney beans would also be great
5 whole New Mexico chiles, seeded and torn into rough 1-inch pieces
3 pounds ground beef (note: the next time I do this, I will coarsely grind the equivalent weight of chuck steak or tri tip instead–I like a little more texture)
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth (preferably homemade), divided
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground coffee
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced fine
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
2 bay leaves
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1/4 cup vodka or bourbon
1 tablespoon Buffalo-style hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Place beans, 6 tablespoons kosher salt (or 3 tablespoons table salt), and water in large plastic container or bowl. Allow to soak at room temperature at least 8 hours, or overnight. (Alternatively, you can bring the beans, salt, and water to a boil. Let rest for one hour, and then proceed with the recipe.) Drain and rinse soaked beans.

Add dried chiles to large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stock pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly darkened with an intense, roasted aroma, 2 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup chicken broth, using a flat wooden spoon or stiff spatula to scrape browned bits off the bottom of pan. Reduce heat until chicken broth is at a bare simmer and cook until chiles have softened and liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer chiles and liquid to a blender, add anchovy paste, soy sauce, tomato paste, ground spices, coffee, cocoa powder, and vegetable oil, and blend at high speed, scraping down sides as necessary, until a completely smooth puree is formed, about 2 minutes. Set chile puree aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in your Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the jalapeño, garlic, and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add ground beef and cook until browned. Then add chile puree and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot until chile mixture begins to fry and leaves a coating on bottom of pan, 2 to 4 minutes. Add chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to the lowest possible setting, add beans, and cook, with cover slightly ajar, until beans are almost tender, about 1 hour.

Add crushed tomatoes and cider vinegar and cook with cover slightly ajar until beans are fully tender and broth is rich and lightly thickened, 2 to 3 1/2 hours longer, adding water if necessary to keep beans and meat mostly submerged.

Remove and discard bay leaves. Add vodka (or bourbon), hot sauce, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and additional vinegar.

Serve immediately, or for best flavor, allow to cool and refrigerate overnight, or up to 1 week in sealed container. Serve with garnishes: shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, chopped green onions, sliced avocados, lime slices–whatever you like!

I’d just like to add that I loved having a soup party for Christmas Eve–sooouuup party! And the leftovers were divine. Do you have any go-to soup recipes to share? Post them below!

Easy French Toast

Yes You Have Time for Breakfast: French Toast

Easy French Toast

Yes you can eat French toast for breakfast!

Breakfast is not my strong point. When my then-boyfriend (and now husband) and I moved in together with his son (now our son), I despaired at the idea of making breakfast for a family. I didn’t have time for breakfast! I didn’t like breakfast (although I am amazing at brunch). But. I also couldn’t send a kid to school without a good meal. So I have learned that there are lots of quick, tasty ways to eat a good breakfast, and I’ll share them with you.

French toast! It sounds and looks fancy (ooh, la la), but it’s not only a super-easy dish to make in the morning, it’s also a problem solver that answers the question, “What do I do with this leftover stale bread?” Slice it, dunk it, butter it, drench it in syrup–boom! You can have this on the table in 15 minutes or less.

This recipe is based on the Pioneer Woman’s French Toast With Berry Butter, but halved, and with cinnamon and no fancy berry butter. I will make her recipe some day, because it sounds fantastic, but this is my delicious, fast, easy, go-to version:

Cinnamon French Toast

You need:

1 cup half-and-half (or milk, or egg nog*)
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
Dash cinnamon
Dash vanilla
Stale bread: I usually use one-inch slices of leftover baguettes, artisan bread, etc. This recipe works best with slightly stale, crusty bread.

Heat an electric grill or large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Whisk half-and-half, egg and yolk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla together in a small shallow bowl. (*If using egg nog, omit sugar and vanilla.)

Dip your bread in the egg batter, letting it absorb the mixture and turning as needed. Place on your hot electric grill or pan and let brown for 3-5 minutes per side, until nicely colored.

Top with butter and warm maple syrup, and eat! Serves 4-6.

What’s your favorite quick breakfast recipe? I need them!

Merry Christmas + Lessons Learned

 

Do: avoid messing up the kitchen right before Christmas.


Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day! (My friend Melissa of the insanely good Special K bars has hosted a Boxing Day brunch the past two years and it’s my new favorite tradition.) And sorry.

I meant to post so much more Christmas stuff! Recipes! Presents! My White Christmas cross stitch pattern! But at least I learned a few lessons, which I will post here and review next November.

While this holiday was pretty awesome, upon review, there were a few things I could do to make things easier/less stress-free:

  • Holiday Party: I usually do it earlier in the month, but thought it would be easier to do it later this year (more time to get the decorations up). Wrong: doing a party for 50+ the week before Christmas gave me very little time to get anything else done.
  • Christmas Eve: We started a new tradition this year and had the family over for chili and two soups! It was awesome, but I spent all day cooking. Next year I’ll make the soups ahead of time and freeze them.
  • Christmas cookies: I did most of my dough ahead of time (I did two rounds of cookies, one for the party and one for Christmas), but I waited on my second batch of Chocolate Peppermint Cookies. Next year all the dough is going in the freezer.
  • Christmas movies: I had planned on Christmas Eve to be a big movie marathon. Big mistake. Huge. People are busy! And tired! More movies throughout the month next year.
  • Christmas wrapping: my husband is awesome–and talented–and did most of it. I’m going to continue this next year!
  • Christmas blogging: write posts in October, dummy!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying the weekend! What would you tweak next year? Write ’em in the comments and I’ll remind us all in 2016!

Six Christmas TV Episodes to Watch on Netflix

Hey folks! Merry Christmas, and sorry my blogging has been so sporadic (TM Clueless). I totally underestimated how difficult it would be to blog about Christmas while getting ready for Christmas. Live and learn. But I’ll be sharing some posts later this year that I’ll reshare early next year! Ha.

You know I love Christmas–and Christmas movies! But I tend to watch the same ones every year. So I decided to do a little digging and find some Christmas TV episodes that you can stream on Netflix right now. Get yourself some sparkling fresh Christmas cheer, in less time to boot!

ChristmasTV1

Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bea bring Christmas to the pokey. Photo from BasementRejects.com.

The Andy Griffith Show Season 1, Episode 11, “Christmas Story”: This is old-fashioned sweetness done right. Resident “Scrooge” Ben Weaver insists Andy arrest an amateur moonshiner on Christmas Eve–separating him from his family, and marooning Barney at the jail for the holiday. When Andy “arrests” the man’s family and brings Christmas to them, will ol’ Ben realize the true meaning of Christmas? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

The Office

Michael’s weird man-crush on Ryan . . . so icky. Photo from CrushtheBlog.com.

The Office Season 2, Episode 10, “Christmas Party”: This is the episode when I fully fell in love with Jim and Pam. Michael throws an office Christmas party that is both cringingly inappropriate and rage-inducing, and then tries to fix it with unsanctioned booze. Meanwhile, Jim tries to rescue the sweet, personal present he made for Pam (with a note confessing his feelings) when the gift exchange abruptly becomes a Yankee Swap (note: I hate Yankee Swaps, they stress me out). This is a classic episode that perfectly captures the best elements of this show.

ChristmasTV3

“Jessica. We need to talk about that sweater.” Photo from Cabot Cove Gazette.

Murder, She Wrote Season 9, Episode 9, “A Christmas Secret”: I looooove Murder, She Wrote so much–and this is a great Christmas episode in that it takes place in Cabot Cove, it includes plenty of Seth, and–wonder of wonders–it does not have a murder (just an attempted one). But still: it’s weird. Seth spends the episode whining about the time he didn’t get a toy train for Christmas, spoiling his enjoyment of the holiday for the next 60 years (wha??). And the secret? A new resident–who just got engaged and is working for his fiancee’s family business–is hiding the fact that he has a child from a previous relationship. Like, he moves, gets engaged, accepts a job, and foists his daughter on his sister because he’s afraid his fiancee (who is named Elizabeth Forsythe–practically my maiden name!!!!!!) will have issues with being a stepmother? Worst dad ever, AND worst fiance ever. Still a fun episode.

ChristmasTV4

This episode is probably extra affecting if you have a baby. Sob!

Ally McBeal Season 3, Episode 8, “Blue Christmas”: This is when Ally McBeal was starting to get insufferable, but still had a lot of charm. Elaine finds a baby in a nativity scene and wants to adopt, but has to contend with a lot of flack about her–gasp–promiscuous, unconventional lifestyle. Surprisingly sweet, mostly thanks to an amazing performance by Jane Krakowski. WARNING: I got major secondhand embarrassment when Ally sings a “sexy” version of “Santa Baby.” And Billy bleached his head. ACK.

ChristmasTV5

THIS PICTURE. Tears. Photo from PopOptiq.com.

The Twilight Zone Season 2, Episode 11, “The Night of the Meek”: Here’s your ugly cry for the holiday. I usually watch The Twilight Zone with a feeling of impending dread–okay, when will this poor schmuck realize he’s trapped in a hell of his own making? But this one is different. After a drunk is fired from his job as “Santa,” he finds a mysterious bag that gives everyone exactly what they want for Christmas. I won’t say anymore–just watch it.

ChristmasTV6

I ain’t gonna lie. I kind of want this dress. Photo from Disney.

Jessie Season 3, Episode 7: “Good Luck Jessie: New York City Christmas”: Listen, I have a 10-year-old son. I’ve watched a lot of bad tween TV, and Jessie is actually better than most–the dialogue is sharp, and Debby Ryan (nanny Jessie) and Kevin Chamberlin (butler Bertram) give it their all. This G-rated homage to The Hangover is energetic and fast-paced–and ends with a musical number. Of course.

I’m sure there are dozens and dozens of awesome Christmas TV episodes I’ve missed–what are your favorites?

Happy Monday! Easy Dinners & What Do You Do With an Elf on the Shelf

IMG_7791

Glitter houses!

Happy Monday! Sarah is napping and I’m toasting panko in the oven, so I have a few minutes to chat. Yay! Hope your holiday season is going well. I’m less stressed compared to last week: my folks are coming to help with the back yard, I was able to put our community garden to bed yesterday, and we got our Christmas tree! Sid wants to help put the lights on, so I will try my best not to swear.

Links!

Easy Dinners

These last couple weeks leading up to Christmas are jam-packed: shopping, meetups with friends, some new work responsibilities (I’ll announce that shortly), getting ready for a holiday party–the works!

I thought you guys might be busy, too, so I thought I’d share my secret weapon: Martha Stewart’s Breaded Chicken Cutlets. These are delicious: crispy, quick to bake, and good either by themselves or tossed into chicken parm. I actually call these “Sid’s Chicken” in our house because they’re my son’s favorite. It takes about an hour to put four pounds of cutlets together–freeze them uncooked, and it takes about 15 minutes to get them ready. They’re coated in toasted panko (so you can guess what I’m doing between keystrokes), which gives them a great crunch.

Here’s my other go-to, a one-pan meal which is more of a rule of thumb than anything: Kielbasa with Roasted Vegetables. One 12-ounce package of kielbasa and an equal amount of red potatoes feeds three:

Preheat your oven to 425. Cut your potatoes into quarters or sixths, depending on size and personal taste. Spread on a cookie sheet, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for 15 minutes. While the potatoes roast, cut your kielbasa into six pieces and chop or slice vegetables of your choice into strips or chunks. Popular at our house: peppers and onions, zucchini, or broccoli. When 15 minutes are up, spread the kielbasa and vegetables on top of the potatoes; stir, and add a little more salt and pepper, as well as any fresh or dried herbs you may desire (rosemary, basil, oregano). Roast another 15 minutes, then remove and serve!

Crafting

I giveth, and then I taketh away: I gave you a time saver, above, and now I’m introducing you to a time waster. Ha! I finally glittered some paper houses I made ten-plus years ago (from a Martha by Mail kit–sigh, remember Martha by Mail?) and now I’m obsessed. The kits are no more, but she has a Winter Village template and instructions online.

Do you love making geeky crafts? Or buying geeky crafts? I’d like to introduce you to GeekCraft Expo, a curated craft market created by comics writer Daniel Way (Deadpool, Gun Theory) specializing in handmade, “geek”-themed crafts like clothing, accessories, toys, home decoration, furniture, art, and more! There are sixteen Expos taking place across the US and Canada, including (drum roll please) a new Portland show June 11-12! This might be connected to my upcoming announcement. Ahem.

Finally, not exactly crafty, but . . . my lovely, thoughtful mother-in-law sent us an Elf on the Shelf. I’m not sure what to do with it, but I did enjoy The Best Time I Got That Goddamn Elf Off My Goddamn Shelf over on Jezebel. Ha!

That’s what I’ve got, and now I need advice: after several months of sleeping through the night, 14-month-old Sarah has started waking up to nurse once a night. I thought it was a temporary phase, but it’s been a few months now, and I’m worried it’s a habit. How do I put a stop to this?!? Wahhh.

Hey, Stressball: Take it Table by Table

Braunschweiger

Braunschweiger, so yummy . . . image via Schallerweber!

Quick post today, but I just wanted to get this out there: I am stressed as hell. I feel like everywhere I look, there’s stuff that needs to get done: the house, despite my best efforts, is drowning in clutter and I have no place to put it. The backyard needs to be raked and pruned. Our patio furniture needs to be put in the shed–except that would require me to reorganize our shed (which I just cleaned and reorganized last summer). Except that would require me to patch a hole in the roof so everything in the shed doesn’t grow a layer of mildew (update: everything in the shed is growing a layer of mildew gahhhhh).

So. Even though you know I love Christmas so, so, much, decorating for Christmas, on top of everything else, feels like . . . slapping lipstick on a pig? Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Something porcine. My mind is racing, I can’t focus, and I feel like I’m already out of time.

This was helped greatly today, in part because my parents (wonderful parents) showed up with a new bookcase my Dad made (more storage for our many, many books), braunschweiger sandwiches, and Christmas ornaments. Plus, my Dad fixed my fence gate, something I’d actually forgotten to be stressed about. Yay, thank you awesome parents!

However, I also recited a mantra I learned when I was a waitress: take it table by table. I spent most of my restaurant career in Martha’s Vineyard, a popular vacation destination that was beyond slammed in the summer. When I started out, I quickly realized that if I started my day thinking about all the tables I would have, all the customers who could get mad at me, all the mistakes I would make that day–I wouldn’t show up for work, because I would be cowering under my bed.

So I took a breath and decided to take it table by table: instead of obsessing about all the things I needed to do or things that would or could happen, I would deal with them in the moment, as they happened. It broke down some 18-hour days into something bearable, and it’s a technique I still use (when I remember!).

Today, taking things table by table meant focusing on cleaning up the basement (where the bookcase is now, and where the Christmas tree will stand tomorrow) so we’d be able to take advantage of the extra storage space right away, and I cranked our patio umbrella down so our wind and rainstorms wouldn’t knock it over. I got that done, and I’m breathing a little easier now.

Does that sound goofy? Probably. What are your stress reduction tips? I highly recommend braunschweiger as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Christmas Cross Stitch Embroidery

Happy Wednesday! Holiday Best

White Christmas Cross Stitch Embroidery

White Christmas cross-stitch! I’ll post the pattern soon.

Happy . . . Wednesday? Did you know I thought today was Tuesday? Which makes no sense, because yesterday (Tuesday) I was woken up by a call from the dentist wondering where I was–I blew it because I thought my appointment was Wednesday. Which is today.

So my usual Happy Monday blog is two days late–I suck! Unfortunately, I’ve had doctor’s appointments (for me), calls to Poison Control (for Sarah), and Christmas preparations distracting me. But I thought I’d at least put together a quick “best of” list for the holidays.

Best Christmas Movie: White Christmas. This is a fantastic film in the “Let’s put on a show!” genre of the past. The best part is the bromance between former WWII army buddies-turned Broadway entertainers played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, who put on said show to save their former general’s Vermont inn from going under when snow fails to arrive for the winter. If this movie were made today, the movie would end with “Bob” and “Phil” realizing they’re each others’ soul mates, instead of pairing off with two sisters. But! The songs! The costumes! The witty dialogue!

Even better, White Christmas is available on Netflix streaming, so you can watch it right now! As you can see from the picture above, I actually created a White Christmas cross stitch pattern. I’m going to finish it this week and post the pattern for you all–my only issue is that it was an Excel document, and  of course I only have Numbers now on my Mac and . . . it sucks. I’ll get it going for you guys.

In the meantime, my favorite scene from White Christmas is below. Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen are such a pleasure to watch, and Rosemary Clooney’s line at 3:40 slays me!

Best Drunk Recaps of ABC Family Holiday Movies: My friend Alex Cox did a hilarious 12 Days of Christmas (. . . As Told by ABC Family) over at his World of Awesome blog last year. He did some super funny recaps of “classics” like Snow (starring The Flash‘s Tom Cavanagh) and Desperately Seeking Santa (starring Smallville‘s Laura Vandervoort). It looks like he didn’t make it past Day 5, because . . . Tori Spelling. But still. Worth a read.

Best Holiday China: This, of course, is Lenox’s Holiday china. It says “holiday” right in the name, folks! I’ve been slowly collecting sets of this for four years (with my lovely mother adding a place setting each year) and mixing it with my Lenox Eternal china (my wedding china) for larger dinners. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see I’ve been using Holiday every day in December and posting pics. I lead an exciting life.

Lenox Holiday China

Lenox Holiday china with greek yogurt and granola. Christmassy!

Best Christmas Cookie: I already said this in my Five Cookies You Meet at Christmas post, but again: Southern Living‘s slice-and-bake cranberry-orange shortbread.

Best Christmas Appetizer That I Haven’t Actually Made Yet: So, I think I mentioned I read Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand on my trip East last month to my sister-in-law’s wedding? It was an airport book. So it was basically an ABC Family holiday movie in book form, but it had some great descriptions of a holiday party, including several appetizers, including something called a Salted Almond Pinecone, which intrigued me. I looked into it: it’s basically a cheese ball with almonds, which sounds fantastic, and which I’m going to make for my holiday party this year.

Hopefully these very important links will bring you some joy this holiday season. My other piece of advice: do not let your baby play with a “child proof” bottle of infant ibuprofen while you change her diaper, because she’ll probably open it, drenching herself with it, resulting in the above-mentioned call to Poison Control. She’s fine, I’m an idiot.

So what are your holiday favorites? Post them below!