Chilly Chili Chile

I’m sorry. You know, about the title. It just seems so clever in my current state of half-asleep afternoon blahs that I want to keep it.

Since we got our chest freezer all set up on Sunday night, I’ve made several attempts to design a once a month cooking menu. All have failed, but I do have a list of dishes to make, and I suppose spreading out their making over a week or two isn’t going to hurt. Plus I can get the hang of the process, and figure out whether something really does freeze well before I make 87 pounds of it and THEN realize it tastes like freezer-burned ass.

I did want to get a few things in there right away, though. I figured it would make me feel accomplished, which naturally turned out to be true. One of my favorite meals (and my husband agrees; it’s amazing) is chili and cornbread, and we happened to have ground venison in the freezer from the in-laws. I made a big pot and socked four meals’ worth into the freezer. Which needs a name, by the way; I feel like I’ve said “freezer” way too many times in this post already. I also froze the leftover cooked beans (Great Northerns, cooked plain plain plain in water) and half the cornbread. Mmm. Hm. I didn’t feel like busting out the FoodSaver, as it is unwieldy and a pain in the rear, so I used one of those Ziploc manual vacuum sealing bag thingies and… yeah. The FoodSaver may have to find itself a new home, because the pump is much easier. More on that as I hem and haw and hem some more about whether or not to sell it.

Meanwhile, here is a chili recipe to keep you happy. It was originally based on a Sara Moulton recipe, though I have long since lost the original.

Southwestern Chili, Yes With Ground Meat you Texans, Sorry

  • 2lb. ground meat (normally I use 50/50 pork and beef, but whatever’s clever)
    2T vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, guess how it’s chopped?
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, smushed, or pressed
  • 3T tomato paste
  • 1/4c chili powder (buy the Penzey’s Medium Hot, if you don’t want to make your own)
  • 1-28oz. can of whole tomatoes, squished up with your hands (do not wear a white shirt)
  • 2c beef broth or stock
  • 2T apple cider vinegar
  • 1oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 3c cooked beans
  • salt & pepper

Heat a big heavy-bottomed (hey! like me!) pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. Brown the ground meat — really brown it! Not grey, brown! Add the onions and peppers and brown those, too. Nothing needs to cook through at this point. We’re looking for Maillard reactions and general deliciousness.

Get the stock handy, like, right next to you. Add the tomato paste and let it cook for a minute. You’ll want to stir it so it doesn’t burn. Add the chili powder and stir and cook another 45 seconds or so. There will be fumes. If you sense imminent burnination, put the stock in. Otherwise, keep stirring for that whole 45 seconds, then add the stock. Next up, the garlic, squished tomatoes, vinegar, chocolate, and a gooooood healthy pinch of salt, really more like 2t. Stir until the chocolate melts; at this point it’s probably at a boil. Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 hours. It’s cooked in far less time but letting the flavors meld means it will taste better. DO IT.

15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, make some cornbread and throw the beans in with the chili so they can pick up flavor and warm through.

Makes about 10 servings, and freezes really well. Better as leftovers. Really.

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Toasty Warm

One thing I really want to do, as you may have noted in the first post, lo these many 24 hours ago, is sew more. Of course I’ve taken Home Ec, but that was 18 years ago now. I made a hoodie and an eyeglasses case, in case you were wondering.

I’ve often thought about sewing my own clothes, but most efforts have ended in tears because everything comes out looking, as I like to call it, stupid. Most recently, I got a shirt pattern that promises to be SUPER SEW EASY or some such. I’ll be sure to let you know how that turns out. But in general, clothes-sewing and I don’t get along too well; probably because my taste in clothes does not match my skill in sewing. And I only need so many handbags, wallets, and clutches.

Then, serendipitously, I stumbled back onto Sew, Mama, Sew! While they do blog about a few clothing patterns, they also had many, many tutorials for household goods. Inspired, I broke out some scrap fabric and made a toaster cozy last night. Altogether, it probably took me 45 minutes or less, and I’m not exactly God’s gift to the world of cutting and pinning. Consider, though, that I haven’t yet applied the binding tape to the bottom. I sort of tried making my own, as suggested, and quickly decided that was a Bad Idea given my patience level at the time and need to have something cute RIGHTNOW.

Cute, isn’t it? I rather like it. I got the fabric in a swap, and it appears to have been salvaged from something that had a hem once. Sadly, that was all of it, so in my newfound enthusiasm for appliance apparel, I won’t be able to make one that matches for my KitchenAid. As you may notice, it’s also a bit on the snug side. Oops. I wouldn’t let my toaster leave the house in something that tight, but it’s fine for lounging around the house.

And of course, now that I’ve finished one very small project, I have renewed faith in my ability to sew things. I’ve started making a list and, God help me, I’m going to buy some REALLY CUTE fabric (in blue, natch) and some other equally cute fabric with the part of my Christmas money that’s not going to Gocco screens and bulbs. The floral will be made into a sink skirt, to conceal the scungy trap and pipes below our wall-mounted bathroom sink. Hopefully there will also be enough left to make… er… something else. A Thing. Yes. The birdies will also be put to good use, perhaps as an appliance cover, perhaps as a small curtain.

But for tonight, I’m going to content myself with finishing some mitts for a swap (I’ve got about 400 pairs on my To-Do list), hemming an old twin sheet into cafe curtains for the kitchen window, transferring an embroidery pattern onto a flour sack towel, and crocheting a few dish scrubbies. Oh, and trying to make a hanging thingy with coat hangers. If it works I’ll take a picture; if not, we’ll forget I ever said anything. We’re also installing the new chest freezer (thanks, MIL and FIL!) in the dining room and trying to figure out how the hell the rest of the furniture is still going to fit.

PS, manic phase much? Yeah, I thought so. But I also want the house to be a lot more homey than it is right now. I don’t think I ever quite felt that our house growing up had much in the way of personality, and I really need a sense of home, especially now.

Long December

Ah yes. It’s that time of year — the time when blogs spring forth, filled with promise, bursting with ideas and idealism about The Way We Will Live in 2009. And here’s my addition. I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to blog on a number of subjects. My brain wanted to say: Hey, let’s keep this perfect and OCD-quality organized, and have separate blogs for separate ideas. As this hasn’t exactly worked for me, I am hereby moving on to a more comprehensive navel-gazing exercise.

Last night I started the usual pondering of the past year, and the past years that have gone before. Things have changed a lot for me. I’ve lost people who were important parts of my life, and met new friends while still relying on the old. Every year what it comes down to is this: I’m trying to move closer to living by my ideals, and I’m trying to learn that baby steps are OK. I always expect immediate and utter perfection from myself, and one thing I’ve learned is that This Does Not Happen. So here we are. Another turn of the wheel, another year approaches; another chance to bite off more than I can chew and see how much of it I actually manage.

In these last days before 2009 begins, I’m preparing my household binder. I’m working on meal plans to streamline our dinner process, so hopefully we never say “o hay what should we eat” at 7pm again. I’m trying to work in more time for the people who are important to me, by writing letters, sending cards, and giving small gifts. I’d like to learn to sew better, and make things for the house. And I want to expand my Etsy shop and participate in craft fairs. I’d like to incorporate last year’s lessons into this year’s gardening, and use our new chest freezer to help put food by. I plan to focus on my marriage, and make my relationship with Z even closer than it is now. And hopefully by the end of 2009, we’ll either have a baby or one on the way. This all sounds like a lot, but much of it really is stuff I’ve been moving towards for some time anyway. The new year is just an excuse to renew my commitment, and to start fresh in some cases.

So what, really, does that have to do with this blog? Well, I’ll probably make a post about each of my “resolutions,” detailing what I’ve already done toward my goals, and what I’m going to do this year. And my hope is that this will become a decent reference for those of us with homesteading, simple living, frugal crafty crazy cat lady mama tendencies to find projects and share advice.

And so, another blog begins.