Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

February 2, 2014

The Evolution of a Winning Veggie Chili

It is Super Bowl Sunday. And there are chili recipes flying across the interwebs. I wasn’t planning on writing about the chili that I made overnight for the Youth Group’s Chili Cook Off at church today, but since my chili won second place in the vegetarian category, I thought that maybe it was good enough to share. The only downside is that I really didn’t take any pictures as I wasn’t expecting to blog about it. But I’ll see what I can do!

So, the genesis of this recipe comes from my husband, who mentioned to me that he heard the NPR segment on chili earlier this week, where the secret ingredient was … butternut squash. He knows that I have several bags of squash in the freezer, and thought I might be intrigued with the thought of adding it to the vegetarian chili being made at my daughter’s request. And, yes, she is the Picky Eater. She had no intention of tasting it, but she is very involved in leadership of the Youth Group and was insistent that we had to bring a chili. So who gets tasked with making it? Right. Yours truly.

To get started then, I had to do some research. What was this NPR segment that the husband was talking about?

The story was easy to find – A Surprise Play: Beefy Butternut Squash Chili – but wasn’t going to work for my assignment, as I had been asked to make a vegetarian chili. The internet is my friend, however, and after a bit of searching, I found this recipe – Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili – which also featured butternut squash. From there, my improvisational cooking skills took over – my modifications are in italics.


2 teaspoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced Oops, no celery in the house. I substituted 2 large parsnips, diced
2 carrots, diced 
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, diced I used a red bell pepper as that’s what I had in the house
2 tablespoons dark chili powder Used 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon Penzey’s Northwoods Fire Seasoning
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Used ¼ teaspoon of Penzey’s Ground Ancho Chili Pepper
1 (29-ounce) can crushed tomatoes Used diced tomatoes, no salt added
3 (15.5 oz) cans red kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained
Used a bag of dried organic chili beans (red kidney, black, & pinto) from Harris Teeter
12 ounces butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup vegetable stock
Used about 5 cups of water here, since I was cooking dried beans I needed more liquid


NOTE: Sauteing the vegetables before adding them to the slow cooker creates a layer of flavor. Do not skip this step. This is absolutely right. Don’t skip it. Besides, it will make your house smell wonderful!

Heat the oil in a saute pan, then add the onions, carrots and celery
parsnips. Saute for four minutes, until the vegetables start to soften. Add the garlic and bell pepper, stir and saute another 2 minutes. 

Add the spices and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from heat. 

Add the vegetables and the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for six hours. Well, I cooked on low for 10 hours overnight. About an hour before we headed out to church, we turned it back on to high, added some Penzey’s Zatar seasoning, salt, and a good amount of Sirachi, and let it come back to a slow boil.

So there you go. Our winning chili. Inspired by an NPR story, made with what was in the house.

Of course, it surely helps that we spent last Sunday exploring the wonders of our local Penzey’s store ….

January 19, 2014

Meal Planning = Sanity

I know, I know. This is absolutely not new news for those of you in the blog-o-sphere who meal plan regularly. But I have been unable to meal plan with any regularity. I can’t give you any sort of a good reason why, other than to say that something else always seemed to take priority.

But when I looked at our food expenditures for December – I took a deep breath, and said to myself – “Get it together, girl!”

Parenthetically, I know that December is not the best month to plan for the year on – lots of entertaining, lots of meals out – but it did serve as a wake up call for me.

Couple that with the fact that my family indulged me with a chest freezer … that needed to be filled … and the fact that the next three months are jam-packed with rehearsals for the kids and the DH … and take out for dinner every night was not going to happen, I jumped back into the meal plan mode. I cleaned off the white board (which still had a list of meals on it from September…), and started the week off with a plan.

  • Tacos
  • Sausage, White Bean, and Spinach Soup
  • Homemade Pork Spring Rolls
  • Slow Cooker Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry
  • Shrimp & Grits
  • Pan fried Chicken Cutlets, Spinach, Brown Rice
  • Pasta Bolognese

And you know what? It worked. We ate well last week. There were no discussions about what should we make for dinner tonight. The slow cooker was used twice. Except for one night, we ate dinner at a reasonable hour (for us between 7:30 and 8:30 pm). There were leftovers for lunch. And time for the DH and I to catch up with Game of Thrones.

So, after we got home from the market yesterday, you know what I did? I bet you can guess.

Yup, I made another meal plan. Here’s what’s on the plan this week:

  • Tea Braised Brisket (braising away in the oven as I type)
  • Moroccan Fish Tangine (must use the new tangine pot given to DH as a gift)
  • Red Lentil Dal, Saag Paneer
  • Pork Chops with Red Cabbage & Apples
  • Steak Fajitas
  • Butternut Squash Lasanga

Raise your glass for a toast! Sanity Reigns!

April 8, 2013

Blogging Against Hunger

I only just found out about Food Bloggers for Hunger — but wanted to share Rachel’s thoughts as they really resonated with me tonight. And I really wamt to see the movie too!

Rachel's Table


Hungry isn’t a word most would use to describe America. Instead, people use words like wealthy and great.

But 50 million people in this wealthy and great nation are hungry, meaning 1 in 4 children are “food insecure” and do not know where they will find their next meal.

One culprit here is poverty: 15.7 million children (21.6%) in America live in poverty. Many American mothers and fathers cannot afford to feed their children nutritious, whole foods, instead resorting to cheaper, processed and packaged goods.  Since 1980, the cost of fruits and vegetables has gone up 40%, but the price of processed foods has gone down 40% (mostly due to crop subsidies for corn and soy but that is another post all together).

The most nutritious foods in the grocery store, such as fresh produce, are the most expensive.

As I was thinking about this post, I talked to…

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December 31, 2012

The Family Foodie Survival Guide’s 2012 in review

So, why do I love Word Press? Because of features like this! I was going to be generative and create a new blog from the annual report they generated for me, but I can’t make such cool fireworks! My takeaway from my summary — people like clam chowder and pie.  Hope to see more of you all over 2013 … I certainly plan to do more writing and to explore the photography angle with my new camera!!  Thanks to my regular visitors, and to those new to the blog.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

November 11, 2012

Some Recipes On My To Try List

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August 5, 2012

Grilled Eggplant Guidance

As we are well into squash season, and there will be mountains of eggplant soon to follow the yellow squash and zucchini, I wanted to make sure that if you hadn’t seen the Bittman Sunday Times feature on what to do with grilled eggplant, that you knew it was out there. It is hard to know which one to prepare first – but I am keeping my fingers crossed that eggplant will be in our CSA pickup on Tuesday. This picture was from the last week of July two years ago…



December 11, 2011

Moving to Local Milk?

I am pondering milk. Specifically local milk. With three teenagers, we go through a lot of milk in our house, and I have not yet made the transition to local and/or organic milk. It is not a question of access. I can get local milk at the farmer’s market, and at The Local Market that is just 10 minutes from my house. The kids buy chocolate milk at the farmer’s market as a treat everyone once in a while, but we have never bought regular old milk to bring home to supply us for the week.  It seems like an easy change to make and yet, I hesitate. I am not entirely sure why. Cost is a factor — but my unwillingness to pay more for milk is illogical. I pay more for meat and eggs because they taste so good — although not all the meat we eat and eggs we use are from local sources. Fruits and veggies come primarily from the farmer’s market and our garden in season. And we buy some of our cheese from the market (especially feta). Is it because milk is so fundamental to our day? Or because I want to be able to run to the store to pick it up whenever I want (of course organic milk is easily accessible – so there is really no excuse…)? I really don’t know why it has been so hard for me to move on this aspect of our diet.

Given this obvious omission from our move to eating local, I am considering home delivery from South Mountain Creamery – I don’t know yet if they deliver in our area, but if they do I think this might be my Christmas present to myself. Not only does the Creamery deliver milk, but I could get yogurt, milk, cheese that I don’t always see at the market, and maple syrup for my pancakes.  

If so, anything I should know/consider before making a decision?

December 9, 2011

Concert Night: A Musical Gift

Full Disclaimer: There will be no discussion of food tonight. We began the kid concert season in our house tonight. Five concerts in eight days. Enough to fill us all with music. And enough to make me grateful again that my children are blessed to live in a community where their souls are fed with music.

So, I hope that all of you have the opportunity to hear an amazing band or orchestra or chorus or recital, and feel compelled to raise your voice in song during this joyous holiday season. Happy Friday to All!

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December 6, 2011

Happy St. Nick’s Night To One And All

When I married my husband, I married into the tradition of St. Nicholas. Every December 6th, St. Nicholas visits the houses of young ones, and with a loud knock on the door delivers a bag filled with treats.

Even though my children are now teenagers, and participate in spreading the joy of St. Nick to their cousins, they still wait to see if their bags will still be delivered.

And because most of us want to recapture the joy of the Christmas season in our kids, we have (mostly) willingly gone along.

The knock on the door came, and there were bags.

And in the bags were an unknown fruit

and chestnuts

and local pickled green beans and asparagus.

Of course, the bags included exotic candy and small fun gifts to kick the holiday season off.

And the smiles of the kids tell you all you need to know about why we continue the tradition.

So, here’s wishing joy to you and yours.

December 2, 2011

Food Trucks: A Gift For Me

It is Friday. And I needed to go to the bank at lunch.  I usually pack my lunch and don’t head outside until the end of the work day (I know, not a good thing), so I was a bit surprised at the multiple food trucks that magically appeared outside of my office.  For those of you who work in D.C., you know that we are becoming a food truck city.  I have not explored many food truck options, but today, The Hula Girl Truck called out to me.

I could have gotten something from the LasagnaPlusTruck, or the pulled pork truck, or Eat Wonky, or one of the two middle eastern trucks.  But I was drawn in by the truck itself — playing wonderful Hawaiian music videos and spreading smiles — and sticky rice was just what I wanted.

So I ordered the Kulua Pork and Cabbage, and took it back to my office, and told everyone about it at lunch :)!

A great way to end the week, and celebrate the beginning of the weekend! I fear that I might have to get myself outside at lunchtime more often.

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