Monday, November 24, 2014

Chili Today, Chili Tomorrow

I have a troubled relationship with chili.  I have fond memories of rich luscious spicy bowls of deliciousness, and yet no matter how many of the chili cook-off winners I cook, the results don't measure up to my memories.

My mom made chili with canned kidney beans, hamburger, and Gebhart's chili powder.  I have fond memories, but I was looking for something richer and fuller, something with no beans.  

My friend Maddy, a fantastic cook and the most gracious hostess, introduced me to Chicken and White Bean Chili.  It's fabulous, and I make it often, but just now I'm having a craving for a bowl of red. 

I have invested in a dozen kinds of chili powder, I have cried over countless onions - and I have cried over countless batches of sub-par chili.  

So when I took out some frozen meat left over from a meatball making marathon (hint: use an ice cream scoop to form the meatballs.  And freeze them on a cookie sheet, then dump them in a zip-lock and back in the freezer.  More later on spaghetti and meatballs, I promise.)  

But back to the chili:  It was a bottom of the fridge improv with low expectations.  Onions and garlic, beef and pork.  Chili powder.  Tomatoes from a can. A few weird and wonderful spices. So when it turned out to be the Best Chili Ever, I looked at my notes on the back of an old grocery list and wrote down the recipe.

I'm making it again this week.  For when I get heartily sick of turkey.  And here, thanks to a mild case of OCD is the Best Chili Ever.  Finally.  Now if it would only get cold and rainy again...

Best Ever Beef Chili

I made this with what I had on hand in the fridge and cupboard, and very low expectations…it was fabulous.  The chili recipe I’ve been looking for for years.  Simple, easy, addictive.…

1  1/4 pounds hamburger
1/2 pound ground  pork
1 can crushed tomatoes
butter and olive oil
1 minced onion, any color
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 t oregano
1/2 t cayenne
big pinch allspice
1 1/2 t cumin
1 T chipotle chili powder
1 T regular chili powder 
1 cup water
1  generous  Tablespoon Better Than Bullion beef stock

(Note: Spice quantities are estimates - I shook them out, I didn’t measure...except for the chili powder.  Feel free to adjust them to your taste, but don’t leave something out just because it sounds weird.  You'll need them all, even the allspice.  No cheating.)

Brown meat in olive oil and butter.  Yes, butter.  Trust me.  

Add onion and garlic cook till soft.  Add spices, cook stirring constantly for one minute.  Add tomato, water, BTB beef.  Cook on lowest heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the chili gets dry.  

Serve with grated sharp cheddar, diced shallot and sour cream on the side.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Flower Power

Thinking about flowers and about Thanksgiving, these inspire.

Amy Merrick.  Wouldn't you love to take a class from her?  Or have her do flowers for your house for the holly daze?

Me too.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thank You, Thank You

I have a friend who is so good with thank-you notes that I swear they get home before you do.  I think she even has a deal with Santa to drop off the presents and her thank-yous at the same time.  She practically beats him down the chimney.  

Hand written.  On beautiful paper.  She even has birthday postage stamps for birthday cards.  

I am reasonably good at thank-you notes, thanks to my mom (we were not allowed to use our gifts until we had written a thank you note), but now I find out from Have Some Decorum that you are not supposed to use the words "thank you" in your thank you note. Who knew?  

Okay you probably all did, and I'm just late to the party, but I have been scrupulously and purposely saying those words in each and every note for years, and now I find out I'm - I'm what, out of touch?  tacky?  misinformed?  or, with a nod to Nancy Mitford, heaven help us, Non U?   Or is she wrong?

I'm thinking here about how our founding fathers used ain't in conversation and correspondence, and our grammer school grammar teachers had a cow if we said ain't.  Grammar changes.  Afraid of being mistaken for someone fresh off the farm, we conformed.  But really, what's wrong with being fresh off the farm?   With being who you are?

I grew up in a time when being from another country was embarrassing.  Something to be ashamed of.  You ate canned food and TV dinners and not the delicious healthy varied stuff of your homeland.  And our family recipes and traditions got lost, all but a few.  But unless you were a Native American (and that wasn't a good thing to be at that time either) you were an immigrant.  So were you supposed to look down on yourself?

Now is a huge deal, people chat away with great pride about where their people came from, every family seems to have someone digging into their roots.   We compare steerage horror stories and recall with pride those who had the courage to believe there was something better across the sea.  We search for and make with pride recipes from the old countries.   So much got lost, so hard to find.  

I am writing down my mom's stories of growing up during the depression, and going to college during WWII.  Of working as a bicycle messenger at a shipyard during the summers.   Of saving seeds and raising chickens.  Of summer rainstorms and dances at Foster Hall.  I wish I had known her then.  I know we would have been great friends.  I am so happy to know her now, so proud to be her friend and her daughter.  I love you mommy - so much.  You are my hero.

So how  did we get from thank-you notes to immigration?  I have no idea.  I'm off to write a thank you note to my dear friend who came for breakfast this morning and made me laugh.  And I promise not to use those two little forbidden words.  Or maybe I will, and just continue to be myself.  Whee!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November In The Garden

Okay, once again thanks to Dustin and all the smart folks at Sloat Nursery in Danville (and other places), here is your to-do list for November.  Have fun, and don't forget to shop at Sloat!  

November: What to do in your garden this month

  • Look to plant cyclamen in early November. It’s also a great time to plant ground covers and sweet peas.

  • Think fall & winter color: Violas and pansies are perfect for creating mass color in containers or flowerbeds. Available in a variety of hues, they are a terrific ground cover to plant over bulbs in pots or in the ground.

  • For a hardy alternative, consider planting ornamental cabbage and kale.

  • Prepare planting beds for winter. Clear weeds and rocks. Till soil and add soil amendments.

  • Fall is for planting! Get shrubs, perennials and trees into the ground this month. Winter rains will help develop a strong root system.

  • Select bulbs for spring bloom and winter forcing such as hyacinth, paperwhite & tulips.  Refrigerate hyacinth, crocus and tulips 4 to 6 weeks prior to planting.

  • Apply a lawn fertilizer and pre–emergent to control and prohibit annual bluegrass, crabgrass, and other weeds in your lawn and flower beds. Also, aerate and fertilize the lawn with E.B. Stone Nature’s Green.

  • De-thatch lawn if necessary

  • Top-dress perennial beds, azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons with Sloat Forest Mulch Plus and feed with 0-10-10 fertilizer monthly until bloom (E.B. Stone Organics).

  • Divide the roots and rhizomes of perennials such as agapanthus, yarrow and iris.

  • Store away and clean any unused pots and containers that can be used as hiding places by overwintering insects, slugs and spiders.

  • Lightly prune Japanese maples while still in leaf. Select and plant maples for fall color.

  • It’s time to fill your bird feeders for winter. You can also try a suet feeder!

  • Clean up dead leaves, deadhead flowering plants- diseased leaves should go in the garbage, the rest can go in the compost pile

  • Mulch with compost or Forest Mulch to amend the soil and keep down weeds

  • Pull weeds before they have a chance to drop seeds.  Apply a pre-emergent after fall rains to stop germinating weeds.  Concern Weed Prevention Plus is a safe product derived from corn gluten.

  • Move perennials and shrubs between now and January-prune back lightly first

  • Continue to bait for snails with Sluggo

  • Strip roses Dec-Jan, prune in Jan-Feb

  • Fertilize cymbidiums with 6-25-25 food

  • Fertilize blue hydrangeas with E.B. Stone True Blue now for bluer blooms

  • Fertilize winter color with a blooming plant food (primrose, cyclamen) such as Maxsea 3-20-20.

  • Continue to fertilize citrus with E.B. Stone Organics Citrus Food or Greenall Citrus and Avocado food.

  • Clean and store tools- rub down with alcohol after each use. Grease with white lithium grease to prevent rust. Store shovels and saws in a bucket of sand with a little oil (5 parts sand-1 part oil)

  • If frost is imminent, be sure to water your garden (if it hasn’t rained recently).

  • Use Bonide All Seasons Oil when roses and fruit trees have lost their leaves

PLANT IT NOW! October & November are truly the most advantageous months of the year to get perennials, trees, vines, shrubs and cool season vegetables into the ground. 

Planting now will allow roots to become well established for much stronger, more vigorous plants come springtime. Fall and winter rains mean nature does the weekly watering for you, plus most gardeners see fewer pest and disease problems in the fall.

Happy Gardening!