Sunday, January 13, 2013

Our favorite chili

My husband and I made this our first year dating (8 years ago!). I'm not saying that this chili will make you fall in love and get married, but it worked for us. Among other things. But this chili really is special. It's got beer and chocolate in it. Two very romantic things indeed.

Our favorite chili 

  • 2T olive or vegetable oil 
  • 2 onions (chopped) 
  • 1 red pepper (chopped)
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced) 
  • 1lb of ground beef (I've also used ground turkey before) 
  • 3/4lb beef sirloin (cubed) (if you're using ground turkey instead of ground beef, substitute the sirloin with 1lb of sweet chicken sausage) 
  • 1 (14.5oz) can peeled and diced tomatoes with juice 
  • 1 can or bottle of dark beer (if using turkey, use light beer ... I only had an amber tonight so I used that with the beef) 
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 2 (6oz) cans of tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5oz) can of beef broth (I use low sodium) 
  • 1/2c packed brown sugar
  • 3.5T chili powder 
  • 1T ground cumin or cumin seeds
  • 1.5T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2t ground cayenne (if you like spicy, 1t if you don't) 
  • 1t ground coriander 
  • 1t salt 
  • 2 (15oz) cans of kidney beans (undrained) (I use a combo of light red and dark red beans) 
  • 1 can of corn (drained) 
  • optional 1 jalapeno (chopped, seeds removed -- only add this if you like spicy) 

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Cook the onions, garlic, and red pepper until soft. 

Add a little extra oil if needed before adding the ground beef and cubed sirloin. Brown the meat. 

When the meat is brown and the onions and red pepper soft, add the diced tomatoes with juice, beer, coffee, tomato paste, beef broth, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, cayenne, coriander, and salt. Stir in the 2 cans of beans and jalapeno if you're using it. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 1.5 hours. At hour 1.5, add the drained can of corn and simmer for another 30 mins. 

Now, you can eat this after simmering for 2 hours (3 hours of simmering is fine, too), but honestly, it's better the next day after refrigeration and the flavors get some time to mingle. I like to serve it in deep bowls with diced avocado, sharp cheddar (grated), chopped onion, and either sour cream or Greek yogurt. It also makes great chili-cheese burritos or nachos. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My first non-fiction read in years ... and my first attempt at Mexican rice

For the past, oh, ten years or so, I've dedicated my sparse reading time to middle-grade and young adult novels. I had BIG PLANS this Christmas break. Finish ENDLESSLY and CINDER and read a partial and a full manuscript from two very dear friends.

But then I got distracted. By the first non-fiction I've read in years.

BLIND DESCENT is terrifying because it's true. Because the suffering and the deaths, the darkness ... real. Real. Real. Real. It doesn't scare me in the same way that a fictional ghost or zombie story may. Maybe because the scary parts of BLIND DESCENT ... the blow is softened by how human the story is. Humans are relatable - their drive and passion and suffering - even if you have no interest in exploring what appears to be Hell.

Anyway, there you have it. Oh, and here's a Mexican rice recipe! The first time I've ever made it and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.

Mexican Rice


  • 2 cup medium to long-grain rice 
  • 1 small-medium onion (I used half a red onion and half a sweet onion because I had some leftover, but I think sweet or yellow would work best) 
  • 2-4 garlic cloves (minced) ( measurement depending on how much you love garlic)
  • 2T olive oil 
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato paste
  • chicken broth - how much will vary depending on your rice so read the cooking instructions and replace how much water is needed with chicken broth 
  • pinch of oregano (Mexican oregano is the best if you can find it) 
  • salt


Heat the olive oil in a skillet until it shimmers slightly. Then, brown the rice, garlic, and onion until the rice is toasted (light brown) and the onions are soft (4-5 minutes).

Throw everything into a rice cooker if you have it (or not, cook the rice per the package's instructions). Add the chicken broth, tomato paste, and oregano. Add a couple pinches of salt. When the rice is done, you can always add more later to taste.

I use "Better than Bouillon" chicken base so I can control the quantity of stock I make 

This is what it looks like all combined ... 

This is my rice cooker. It's Japanese -- easy to use and awesome. I highly recommend it. It "sings" to you when the rice is done. Japan invents the *best* things!

Fluff the rice when it's done and serve with diced avocado (a must in my house). You can also make it "supreme" and add a dollap (I love this word!) of light sour cream (or Greek yogurt, it basically tastes the same) and some cilantro.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's not Christmas unless there are cookies

It was 2 days before Christmas and we didn't have cookies in the house. Of course this would not do. So the hubby and I warmed up the oven - which gloriously warmed the house - and made Molasses Spice Cookies.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2t of baking soda
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1t ground ginger
  • 1.5t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4t ground allspice
  • 3/4t ground cloves
  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2c dark brown sugar, packed 
  • 1/2c granulated sugar + 1/3c for rolling cookies
  • 1 large egg
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulphered molasses

Hubby and I really, really liked these. I think I preferred it with the optional glaze, but only lightly glazed. 

My 2012 YA Picks

I noticed that food has taken over my blog. When I first started this blog, it was all about writing. But then, my writing wasn't really going anywhere, so I started writing about food as well. My writing is still not going anywhere, but I only have myself to blame. I can tell you that one of my new year's resolutions is to finish my current manuscript, but it won't really matter unless I actually write it and not just ... write a resolution about writing. Anyway, to compensate, I wanted to share my top YA reads of 2012:

1. INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows

Why I loved this book: Jodi's world-building is utterly masterful. She's created a world where a thousand souls have been re-incarnated over and over again. Intriguing, yes? Where nobody is new -- until someone is. Ana's alienation is palpable and is only soothed by an eventual - as in not instantaneous, thank goodness -romance with one of the best male leads in YA today. Just remember that I fell in love with Sam first.

2. RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater

Why I loved this book: The boys. The boys. The boys. Oh, and Blue's family. But mainly, the boys. I told a friend that my husband was easy to pick. But to pick your favorite Raven Boy? Not possible.

3. EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton

Why I loved this book: Modern re-telling of Persephone and Hades?? YES, please! This book sucked me in and I couldn't stop reading. Every title starts with how much time Nikki has left which made me read faster. The writing's pacing was spot-on.

"... six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists."

Bonus: Jack is one of the sweetest YA ex-boyfriends in existence.

4. INSURGENT by Veronica Roth

Why I loved this book: Sequels are hard to write. Rarely are they better than the first book in a series. I have to admit that DIVERGENT didn't really pull me in until the last 100 pages. But INSURGENT? One of the best YAs I've read so far. It's thrilling and surprising and kick-ass. So, if you're like me and didn't fall in love with DIVERGENT, read it anyway just for INSURGENT. It's a complex, fantastically written book.

Ketchup noodle

Yup. A dish that is made of ketchup and noodles. This has what-Mom-used-to-make and childhood comfort food ALL over it. My mom usually made it with leftover holiday ham (the honey-glazed kind), but you can also buy deli ham for it. Just ask the deli to slice it half an inch thick.

  • half a box of cooked pasta
    • my favorite brand is Barilla -- I think it stays al dente the best
    • I like to use shells or macaroni-shaped 
  • a whole sweet onion - sliced 
  • about 1/3 cup of ketchup (if it's too dry, add more) 
  • 1.5 - 2 cups of diced ham (depending on how meaty you want it)
  • optional: a pinch of sugar (to balance the ketchup if you want)

Boil a pot of water. Add a couple dashes of salt. When the water is bubbling, add the pasta. Cook until just al dente (about 7 minutes). You don't want to cook the pasta all the way through at this stage.

Slice a whole sweet onion. A lot of onion is the key here. Add some olive oil/ butter or combo of both into a pan. Saute the onion until they're brown (medium heat)

When the pasta is done, add the noodles to the pot with the onions. Add the ham and ketchup and combine.

Serve in deep bowls and a glass of ice cold milk.

Happy 2013!

I think I'm going to miss 2012. It was an epic food year. Some highlights:

  • The fairy tale that is French Laundry. I wrote about it here
  • The heirloom tomato festival @ Kendall Jackson winery. I plan my summer around this event.
  • I tried whelk for the first time (in Anguilla, at the Straw Hat) and loved it! It was prepared in a mason jar, drenched in a decadent garlic sauce, and served with toasted baguettes. It was so good, I came back to the restaurant later to have it for "dessert." Yes. I had already eaten dinner.
  • I also tried crayfish for the first time (also in Anguilla, at On da Rocks). It tastes a like a shrimp-baby-lobster-crawfish Frankenstein. Grilled and buttered, I overdosed.
  • I probably ate too much cheese as well. Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam, to be exact. 
  • I made a lot of tomato soup (out of heirloom tomatoes bought in bulk at the Farmer's Market) in the summer and froze it for a rainy day. I also baked beets for the first time.
  • My mom spent a day teaching me how to make Chinese eggplant with ground pork and how to make Vietnamese fish sauce.
I am not sure what kind of eating I'll get into in 2013, but I know I have to lose a few pounds first. Actually, it'll be more like exercising so I can keep eating like I do.