Recipe: School Night Chili With Beans

This recipe is so easy you can even make it on a school night.  This is my go-to, make-a-pot-and-freeze-in-portions chili, which makes it great for 4-6 people or for one or two.  If you like it spicy, use hot chili powder or seasoning mix.  If you like it mild, use regular chili powder, and you can cut the seasoning to 1 tablespoon, but I think it’s too bland, myself, if you do that.  Nothing better than a bowl of hot chili as the nights get cooler!

School Night Chili With Beans

1 lb. (or slightly more) ground beef or turkey ( I do NOT recommend ground chicken)

1 can black beans (15 to 16 oz.), drained

1 can red kidney beans (15 to 16 oz.), drained

1 can diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes (16 oz.)

Optional:  1 small can whole kernel corn, drained

2 tablespoons chili powder, or packet of chili seasoning of your choice

Brown the ground meat in a large skillet.  Drain off any grease or water.  Add the seasoning to coat the meat lightly.  Add the beans and tomatoes (and corn if you are doing that), stir well, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Ready to serve.  Can serve with shredded cheese if you like, or over spaghetti, or both.  I’m a purist, I just eat it plain.  Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry they are.

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Out of a Clear Blue Sky

ImageThis time of year many of us around New York are haunted by the weather.  Not that it’s grey and spooky, or dreary with rain–just the opposite.  The skies are usually clear and blue, with a little drift of white clouds.  The trees have not yet begun to turn.  There’s a quality the light has that is almost golden, especially early in the morning.  The sunsets often are spectacular, purple and pink and orange, and the sky then darkens to dark blue velvet.

The days are very much like they were on September 11, 2001.  Each year on these lovely September days, I remember a day very much like this, bright and crisp.  I remember driving to work with my CD player going, so I didn’t hear the news on the radio.  I walked into the office where I worked in New Jersey, and noticed it was nearly empty.  Everyone was in the cafeteria, watching TV and buzzing, trying to figure out what had happened to the first tower of the World Trade Center.  Then the plane hit the second tower as we watched on TV.  And clear blue skies would never be the same again.

So I still love these beautiful days in September.  But in some ways I’m glad now that we are past the equinox and slipping into fall.  October does not bring back the sad visions of those days when we lost thousands of people, and our innocence.

Recipe: Fresh Tomato Sauce

ImageI think we’re down to the last tomatoes of the summer here.  As the days get shorter, it’s harder for them to ripen.  The ones on the vine right now may end up as fried green tomatoes or relish.

I was lucky enough to get fresh plum tomatoes from a friend’s garden last week.  They were starting to get a little soft, so I went in search of a recipe to use them, but uncooked.  I didn’t want to lose that fresh tomato flavor.

Following is one I found and used this weekend.  Everything depends on the quality fo the tomatoes!  If they aren’t ripe and flavorful, don’t use this recipe.  If they are, enjoy one last taste of summer.

Uncooked Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

6 medium-sized tomatoes, preferably heirloom, roughly chopped

4 large garlic cloves, finely minced

10 leaves of basil, cut into fine strips

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Place tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil into a large serving bowl.  Stir mixture until all tomatoes are coated with oil and garlic is evenly distributed throughout the sause.  Cover the bowl and let marinate for about four hours on the counter at room temperature.  Juices from the tomatoes will be released and flavors will meld.  However, if you can’t wait that long, it’s ok to go ahead and eat!  When ready to serve, add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over hot pasta, and add Parmesan if you like. Can also serve over warm bread to make bruschetta.

Recipe: Baptist Pound Cake

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Flickr upload
I was hunting for a topic to write about today and decided to look through Mother’s recipe cards for inspiration.  Baptist pound cake is a recipe I remember using when I was in high school, and as a fallback dessert when a pie wouldn’t do as I got older.  It’s similar to bourbon cake, but without the whiskey (hence Baptist!).   It’s moist and dense, and is super with fresh strawberries or other fruit.

The recipe card is pretty old.  It was nice to see Mother’s handwriting again–leans slightly to the right, not too loopy or feminine, very clear and easy to read.  As she got older her writing deteriorated.  Cursive writing is becoming a lost art.  At least the pound cake recipe still survives on its yellowed index card.

Baptist Pound Cake

1/2 cup shortening (Mother recommends Crisco–not sure what to substitute)

1 stick of margarine or butter

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 cups plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and shortening with sugar.  Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.  In a separate bowl, sift flour, add baking powder.  Add milk and the flour mixture alternately to the creamed mixture.  Pour into a prepared tube pan (use Pam for baking, or butter the interior lightly and shake flour to coat.)  Put into a COLD oven.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes.

 

The Guy With the Skirt

Photo by Oddman47. Not the guy in my post!
I live in a small town in the Hudson Valley, not in the big city, although it isn’t far away.  Most of the people who live here commute to New York City or work for a company nearby, and a few work for the people who live in the area.  It’s become increasingly more expensive over the years, both for real estate and the cost of living.  So the people who live here are less working-class than they were 20 years ago.

On the other hand, there is a wider variety of ethnic groups than there were several years ago–everybody isn’t Irish or Italian any more (although plenty still are.)  But people tend to be prosperous and suburban.  You don’t see women with multi-colored hair or men with multiple piercings.  We’ve started to see bushy beards and tattoo sleeves as hipsters have started moving in to raise families.

There’s one guy who is different.  He’s lived here for several years.  He is big, brawny, with long grey hair and a grey beard.  He looks like he ought to be riding a Harley.  Except he wears a skirt.

He is not the least bit effeminate.  He wears athletic socks and running shoes, flannel shirts in winter and voluminous dress shirts or t-shirts in the summer.  And he wears them with a pleated or gathered skirt, sometimes in denim, sometimes in a lighter cotton fabric.  Once I saw him in a wool kilt, but only the once.  His skirts generally come just below his knees, so he can walk along with an easy stride.  Sometimes in the summer he wears a broad-brimmed straw hat, like people wear in the tropics for sun protection.  So far as I can tell, he doesn’t wear jewelry or makeup.

I have seen him walking along the sidewalk with grocery bags, by the main road that runs through the river towns.  I saw him on a winter day picking his way along the sidewalk through the snow.  In a flannel shirt and a gathered skirt.

Every time I’ve seen him I was driving, so I’ve never had a chance to ask him what his story is.  I’m not sure I could be rude enough to do that, anyway.  Does he find pants constricting?  Does he sew his skirts himself?  They’re pretty big, like him, so I don’t know exactly where he could buy them ready-made.  Is this some kind of political stand against sex roles as defined by clothing?

Whatever his reasons, I admire the way he does what he wants without regard for public opinion.  I hope no one hassels him for wearing his skirts.  And I’d love to know why he does it.