January 26, 2015

Company Chili


Recipe challenge, week four.

There's some things I just don't talk about on this blog.  Sometimes I feel like my whole world is out there for all to see, but I actually do keep a lot to myself. Bloggers, I think, need to draw a line somewhere because you never know who is reading.  Plus, we shape peoples' perception of who we are.  Putting it all out there isn't something I tend to do with this space.  In fact, sometimes I don't know what to write about because my thoughts aren't necessarily what I feel like putting on the internet.

This is kind of an example of that.  Last year, my aunt passed away at a relatively young age.  She was the first person to ever comment on this blog and she read it regularly.  She gave me this chili recipe when I got married because I was marrying into the military and, given her own experience, you needed to be able to cook for large groups of people.  With the recipe, came a giant stockpot, which she'd picked up in Spain.  It's called Company Chili because the blue stockpot (when full) would definitely make enough for an entire army company.

I've made chili with my aunt's secret ingredients several times and it never disappoints.  Scott loves it.  Last summer, my friend needed a recipe for a chili cook-off and I gave her this one.  Now, I don't know how many people were in this contest, but she did win Best American Chili, so it has to be kind of good, right?  My favorite way to eat it is baked in the oven with a spread of cream cheese and cheddar over the top, a la chili cheese dip.  I also freeze servings of it in Ziploc bags for busy days. It'd be perfect for a get-together, including any upcoming Superbowl parties.

The more I think about it, the reason I'm sharing this now is because I don't want you to not know about it.  Does that make sense?  I'm sharing this specifically because I want you to have my chili recipe.  



Company Chili

by Kristin Darhower
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: at least 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 1 can Bush's ChiliStarter beans
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 packet chili seasoning (like McCormick)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 small can tomato paste OR tomato sauce
  • 1 pound ground beef, turkey, or chicken
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
  • Handful semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Optional: Broth (chicken, beef, vegetable, etc)
Instructions
Brown the meat in a pan with some olive oil and drain any excess fat. Over medium heat, add in the pepper and onion and cover for 5-10 minutes. Stir and add the beans, chili seasoning, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce/paste, smoked paprika, and nutmeg. Let it simmer together for about an hour. At this point, if you want your chili to be thinner, add some of the broth (I always end up with a different consistency). A few minutes before serving, stir in the chocolate chips and let them melt.
Serve with sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, etc.
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January 23, 2015

Style Challenge #2

Wear a bright color.


Bonus points for pattern mixing, right?  I'm aware that this probably isn't what "bright color" meant, but it is what it is.  I had crosswalk duty today and it was 14 degrees.  That's my excuse.

Side question:  Scott wants to buy a tablet…a very reasonably priced one…and he hates Apple.  Any suggestions?

January 22, 2015

Stuff and Things 1/22


+It is 3:06pm on Wednesday and I'm starting this post.

+I took today off of work a week ago, with the hopes of doing some tour-guiding and sight-seeing.

+Then, we got a snowstorm.


+So, it was a good day to stay home.  Scott said there were random pile-ups everywhere.  School was not canceled, delayed, or released early.  Fools.


+I spent the day cleaning and creating a Recipage (with the initial guidance, as always, from Angi).


+It's still a work in progress.  If you have advice, please feel free to let me know! My goal is to do this with all my 52 recipes in the recipe challenge I'm working on this year.

+I admired the coasters my sister-in-law crafted for us.


+I like this.  Have you seen this free Devotion app?  Just search devotion and it's one of the first that pop up.  Thanks Joey!


+It's 5:51pm and I'm out of stuff to say and I've procrastinated this task with a million other things so…







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January 20, 2015

Hunting Dogs


Scott regularly gets up at 2:30 in the morning to go sit in this thing (a hunting blind) in a corn field and wait for the geese to land.  He took the dogs with him this past weekend.


This is particularly funny because they are not duck/geese dogs. Brittanys are bird-dogs; pheasant, quail, etc (and there is the extent of my knowledge on the subject.)

So they don't actually do anything.  They just sit in the field and chew on things and sleep in the blind and whatnot.  But here they are, posing with their "kill".


Anyway, we have some relatives in town, so it'll be a sparse week of blogging.  Yesterday we went to the Denver Botanical Gardens and Beau Jo's Colorado Pizza (at the recommendation of Esther).  It was definitely tasty pizza, but the service was so-so.  I'm glad we tried it, as we are almost never in Denver.  


Then my alarm didn't go off this morning.  What a great way to start the week. 

January 19, 2015

30 Minute Potato Leek Soup

Recipe challenge, week three.

A few years ago, I made a leek and potato soup and it was surprisingly tasty.  I knew the recipe I used came from this crockpot blog, but I distinctly remember making it on the stove, not in the crockpot.  I started googling new leek soup recipes a few months ago because leeks are incredibly healthy and are often used in weight loss plans.  Much like cabbage. 

I wanted to experiment with leeks again because Scott is on a health kick.  He wanted to try pescatarianism for a bit (spellcheck is telling me that’s not a word; it has to be a word). Since I don’t really like fish, it’s been a compromise to say the least.  However, I also can get by on a mostly vegetarian diet.  I’ve been focusing on vegetable or whole-grain or quinoa-based meals, and then throwing in some kind of seafood for him.  Tilapia, salmon, etc.  I think I’ve made chicken once in the last month and a steak stir-fry one other time. 

The French have used leeks as a natural diet food for centuries.  While sipping leek broth might not be your cup of tea, this soup combines the creaminess of potatoes, the benefit of leeks, and the flavor of a few different seasonings.  If I were you, I would also add some ham or bacon.  It kind of has a smoky taste already and that would make it feel like a complete meal.

Don’t be scared of leeks.  Even if you’re picky about vegetables, give it one try.  The potatoes will help in that case.  In looking online for a leek soup recipe, I didn’t like any of the ones I came across.  They seemed too precise, too involved, too…something.  I mean, it’s soup.  Not molecular biology.  This is the version I came up with and it’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner.  With grilled cheese for Scott and a quesadilla for me.



30 Minute Leek and Potato Soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Keywords: Quick Cooking soup/stew low-carb vegetarian fall winter

Ingredients (Serves 4)
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 potatoes, washed and diced into very small pieces
  • ½ tsp. Creole seasoning (you can add more to taste)
  • ½ tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • Diced ham, bacon, and/or cheese for toppings
Instructions
In a medium pot (you don’t need a BIG pot), bring the broth to a boil. Add in the leeks and potatoes. Cover and turn it down to low heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness with a fork (the smaller they are, the faster they’ll cook). Add in the seasonings and stir to combine well.
I poured half the soup into a mixing bowl and pulsed it with the immersion blender, and then stirred it back into the pot. You don’t have to do that, but it probably did lend to the creaminess.
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January 17, 2015

Blogging for Books: The Expats


My second Blogging for Books book was The Expats by Chris Pavone.  This one arrived on time, and was a much more enjoyable read than The 13th Gift.  

Goodreads says…


First, I don't know if I really agree with that summary.  I think the book had much more to it than what it's marketing itself toward.

-There were elements of this book that reminded me of Homeland.  Kate is like a more stable Carrie.  Or maybe a Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

-This is one of those stories that does not tell you everything at once.

-I really liked learning about Kate's former life and what she did in D.C.  

-I liked that Kate was capable.  I didn't worry about her getting attacked by the agents that were on their tail.  I didn't worry about her not being able to handle the situations she could potentially get herself into.  She wasn't some "please rescue me" heroine.  She took care of herself.

-It was written with present-day flash-forwards interspersed every few chapters.  It could be tough to keep straight, but it did encourage me to pay attention.  Also, the font switched back and forth so that was helpful.

-Along the same lines, the chapters were short and broken up into 1, 2, or 3 page segments.  I liked that the action kept moving and I often wanted to keep reading just to get back to the previous scene.  It did float through different times over a 2 year period.  Once in awhile it would flashback to 4 or 5 years ago.  Again, I liked this but some people might not.  

-This book didn't get fantastic reviews on Goodreads, but I really enjoyed it, so I'm telling you that if you trust me and share my tastes, you should read it.  If you're a friend of Blogging for Books, snatch it up next.  

-I liked the ending.  I thought there was a good amount of twists and turns and draw-your-own-conclusion-before-I-tell-you writing.  I honestly don't want to tell you too much about it because it'll give away details that make a difference.

-I would give The Expats an A- on my scale and I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are my own.

January 16, 2015

Style Challenge #1

Wear a dress.

I'm all about challenges these days.  

A challenge is what I need to get any sort of motivation to do anything.  In fact, I do this weird thing where I'm running late for work every morning, because I challenge myself to make sure the house is all cleaned up before I go.  

Audrey at Putting Me Together is *challenging* us all to put some more thought into style.  I desperately need this.  I'm aware that outfit photos have all but disappeared from the blog.  Truthfully that's because I come home from school and within 27 seconds I look like this:


I'm too…something…(trying to avoid the word lazy) to take a picture.  And the weather is generally pretty yucky this time of year.  Yesterday, we lucked out with some sun for the first time in a week.

Dress: Express // Leggings: Lauren Conrad // Boots: old // Scarf: Target (via Michael in a swap!)

I've had this dress for over a year and I can't decide how I feel about it.  It's not particularly flattering and the sleeves are kind of bothersome.  But it's easy.  Leggings, dress, boots…it doesn't get any easier.

Wear a dress:  Challenge complete.
Next week is Wear a bright color and the week after is Copy an outfit you pinned.
Link ups are on Thursdays, so you should join in!

January 15, 2015

Stuff and Things 1/15




+The best part of my birthday was the fact that it was on a Saturday.  Ever since I started teaching, I've worked on my birthday.  I never minded.  I liked taking in cupcakes for the kids.  One year, we had s'mores.  This year, however, was a splendid year for January 10th to fall on a Saturday.  That was present enough.

+Also, is it completely lame that I didn't go all-out for my birthday?  I mean, how do you celebrate adult birthdays anyway?  Do you go out shopping in your Dillon Football sweatshirt?  Because that's what I did.

+My back/rib/side is feeling better, so I've been attempting yoga every day again.  I always hated yoga until I took my friend's yoga class in Missouri.  I went quite a few times over last summer at the gym and it's really the perfect workout to do at home.  You probably won't sweat, but it's good for you.  I feel like I'm investing in myself when I spend 20-30 minutes a day on it.

+I'm so happy the Broncos lost on Sunday. I work with several who deck themselves out in orange and blue every Friday...I'm a terrible person.

+Our dogs lead a good life.  Cozying up on a king-sized bed and all.  I truly treat them like children.  I've become one of those people and I don't mind.  Things I say to them include Do you know how much I love you?  If they were humans, they'd be embarrassed of the ridiculous nicknames I give them.  (Jett-Jett Snugglebunny)

I always have a million quilts on the bed.

+I started Downton Abbey from the beginning on Amazon Prime.  Simply because I miss Sybil.



+I finished The Husband's Secret.  I really did love it.  The characters and the storyline just fit and I truly enjoyed it.  A book I did not enjoy?  All the Light We Cannot See.  Hate might be a strong word, but hate might describe my feelings about it.  Did you read it?

+Oh, our Christmas tree is still up.  We like the lights.


+This was truly all over the place and that's exactly how Stuff and Things should be. Any stuff to talk about?



January 13, 2015

Linkworthy

I probably could've written this post last night but somehow laying down with a book sounded better.  It was Monday night.  Motivation on Monday nights is an all-time low.  I cooked dinner and that was the extent of it.

However, this morning, I have a 2 hour delay.  Instead of sleeping in, I decided it's worth my time to just sit on the couch and watch Sunday's Downton Abbey.

In a perfect world, I'd have a kitchen renovation post put together for today because the kitchen is 99% done.  However, I haven't quite gotten around to all that.  Here's a preview…


Anyway…

My bookmark tab is filling up again.  Here's some articles I've come across lately that I've really enjoyed.

Differentiation doesn't work.  Word.  It just doesn't.  If you don't know what it is, it's putting 25-30 kids of varying ability levels into one teacher's care and telling the teacher to split them into homogenous groups and teach each group the same skill at a different level.  It is the number one method of educating in America today and I assure all you non-teachers that it doesn't work and this is why the U.S. has failing test scores compared to the rest of the world.

A vaccine study that scared us all into believing the worst of our doctors.  Working with the children of the general population, I think they all need to be vaccinated (a bold statement, I know). I read another article about how a pediatrician doesn't want anti-vac parents in his office (or their children as patients) because he knows they don't trust him as a doctor if they don't believe him when he says their child needs vaccines.  A nurse friend posted it on Facebook but now I can't find it.

And at the other end of the spectrum…Deep Thoughts on Leggings.

Oh, gym regulars.  I've been on every side of this.  I've been a regular and I've been a new person, but I've been a new person 5 times now and my status as such has never worn off (after 7 months) here. I think you have to show you are absolutely serious about your gym commitment in order to get "them" to accept you.  I probably never would've found acceptance at my beloved Alaska gym had I not vowed to show up everyday (because I had nothing else to do). I've also seen floods of people enter every January 2nd and I've witnessed the exodus each February 2nd.  As someone who is a natural introvert, being shunned because you're new at something, anywhere, is a terrible feeling.

Are we raising a generation of helpless kids?  Yes, yes we are.

Why half the nation's teachers are leaving the profession.  100% agreement. It is so much cheaper to keep employees you have rather than go through the process of recruitment/hiring.

Stop saying "military wife" is the toughest job in the military.  This infuriates me.  The army requires NOTHING of me.  Any volunteering or event-participation I've ever done is because of Scott and my loyalty to him.  It's looks bad when your wife never shows up, you know?  But other than that, the army is not my job.  The military will teach you patience for sure, but I don't have to live in a tent, eat MREs, or leave my family/home for months at a time. This "toughest job" thing is probably believed by the same people who carry ACU patterned purses…(that was mean…I apologize).

While we're talking about the military..OPSEC.  Operational Security.  Keeping things to yourself instead of posting them online for all to see.  Did you know that if you tweet/Facebook your spouse's coming home date, the whole mission can be delayed for days?  They won't come home on time because you couldn't stop telling people everything.  This, obviously, irritates me.
Now (also obviously) I tell people online and off that we're a military family, but I try not to give out specifics.  In fact, I actually scrubbed my Facebook page (which is private anyway) of any military photos and all employment information.  Identifying information can be dangerous…or maybe I'm just crazy.  A crazy person, concerned about OPSEC…with a blog.  I remember being cautioned by more experienced army wives once upon a time and now I feel like I'm mature enough to know exactly what they were talking about.

Have you read anything interesting online lately?

January 12, 2015

Mint Oreo Ice Cream Cake

Recipe challenge, week two.



I may be cheating with this because I've done a recipe like it before, almost 3 years ago.  However, my birthday was on Saturday and I made myself an ice cream cake.  I would prefer to share something ice cream/mint/cake-related on the Monday after my birthday.  Much more interesting than the soup I originally had scheduled for today.  Plus, it's Monday.  Ice cream might be necessary.

I did improve upon this recipe.  And I added cake.  Because there were a few of you up in arms over the idea that my Peppermint Oreo Ice Cream Cake did not, in fact, have cake in it.  That's just how we do ice cream "cake" in this house, guys.  You can put away your torches and pitchforks…this one has cake in it. Actually, it's a brownie.  But, it was easy to make and I'm not a cake person and I didn't want to use a boxed mix anyway.  You can use whatever kind of chocolate cake/brownie you want and just cut it or arrange it to fit your ice cream cake pan. I used this recipe, omitted any frosting, and added a teaspoon of peppermint extract.

Food on birthdays is really important to me.  I feel you should treat yourself all day long on your birthday. When I started thinking about a cake, I knew it needed to be the ultimate version of Kristin's Favorite Dessert.
My favorite dessert ever is the Mint Oreo Concrete Mixer from Culver's Frozen Custard.  I had one on New Year's Day and it was the best part of Christmas Break.  I swear.  If you haven't had mint Oreos mixed into artificially dyed mint ice cream, you haven't lived.  When I made this first version of the mint ice cream cake in 2012, my inspiration was Thin Mints and I was still living in Alaska so I'd never even tried a concrete mixer.  This time: real mint chocolate brownie, mint Oreos, and mint ice cream.  This was the perfect birthday cake.

Mint Oreo Ice Cream Cake


Prep Time: 1.5 hours
Cook Time: Freeze time: at least 2 hours

Ingredients (8x8 pan or 9x13 pan)
  • 1 package Mint Oreos
  • 1.5 quarts mint chip ice cream, softened
  • Brownies or chocolate cake
  • 2 T. butter, melted
Instructions
Crush all the Oreos in a Ziploc bag. Mix half of them with the melted butter, and press those into the bottom of your pan. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. Spread half the ice cream over the Oreo crust and then press in the brownie/cake pieces. Freeze for another 15 minutes. Top with the rest of the crushed Oreos, cover, and freeze until ready to serve. I usually make it the day before. Take it out about 15 minutes before you're ready to cut the cake. You can also use Cool Whip as another layer if you'd like.
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This isn't a 30 minute dessert.  I baked the 8x8 brownie earlier in the week, but I put this all together while I was cooking dinner on Friday night.  It didn't take very much brain power or energy.  It's just a process.