Friday, January 30, 2009

Okay, okay, okay. Stop nagging. Here's the recipe. MAX'S CHILI!

Sometimes it takes a really, really long time to get to it. It stays on the TO DO LIST, but just somehow gets booted back to the bottom about the time it gets to that number 2 spot. But I promise. I'm going to give you that recipe for the MY CHILI- and just in time for the Super Bowl- the day that just seems to scream- let's have chili!

But first things first.
Remember I mentioned doing your own vegetable broth. Well I'm not doing a "Martha Stewart" on you- this is really easy- and cheap- and I love easy and cheap. Most things (rice etc) that are cooked in water taste better if cooked in broth (you could make chicken broth rather than vegetable but is a bit more costly- takes more planning- and I have a lot of vegetarians that eat in my kitchen so I try to keep unnecessary meat out of the food). Most times when the recipe calls for cooking in water- rice- beans- soup- if you add broth it just tastes better. But who is going to haul gallons of broth home for the store (or pay for gallons of broth) unless you absolutely have to. Well- it's not difficult to make your own.
Vegetable Broth:
1. Collect all your "old" vegetables on the kitchen counter- it really doesn't make a difference how pathetic they look as long as they smell okay.

The only things you absolutely have to have are an onion, celery, and of course salt and pepper. On a side note- you really need a "go to" cookbook in your kitchen- and my "go to" cookbook is Mark Bittman:

Bittman is a food writer for the NYT and they even let him have his very own blog at:
But more to the point- Bittman suggests that you can improve the taste by roasting the vegetables ahead of time- but that just seems to take this "nothing to it" project and start making it seem like real work.

So I just rinse the veggies- Don't need to cut the ends off etc- just make sure the dirt is rinsed off- because you're going to discard all the veggies in the end and only save the broth- so make it easy.

Put everything in a big pot:

Bring to a boil then turn to low and let it simmer for as long as you wish. It needs at least an hour- but I've left mine on for several hours while I'm doing what ever around the house.
Then let it cool- in the same pot- strain the broth and then divide into plastic bags- I put 2 cups in each bag.

And freeze- it's ready whenever you need it! And it really doesn't make a difference what veggies you use other than the onion and celery- so add the greens- or carrots- or ginger- garlic- cauliflower- bean sprouts- just what ever is looking limp and unloved in your refrigerator vegetable drawer.

But now to:
First though I need to be perfectly honest that much of this recipe comes from a fall issue of Bon Appetite and is called Texas Brisket Chili- but you can be sure I'm not serving anything that has Texas in the name- nothing- ever- even if it is good. I'm not a particularly forgiving person when it comes to really important things- and well my Oklahoma roots are still very deep- and we just don't like any thing Texas. Why I've driven the better than 3 hours from Norman, Oklahoma to Dallas just to root for which ever team was playing against the Texas Rangers.
So the very first thing I had to do was change the name- And I did.
And then the second thing- I can't just do a "Beef Brisket" Chili- because at our home for any meal of any size there is almost always somebody who is not eating meat- or at least not eating meat that particular day- so I always have to have the "vegetarian option".

Max always likes for me to comment on these blogs and I usually do put in my two cents worth, but in all honesty, this one is all Max. I mean I did eat this chili, a couple of times and it is really good, but in the kitchen she is in charge and I just follow orders. So any thing that I might say about this preparation might be compared to a construction worker commenting about the plans that an architect drew up for a magnificent building. I know my place and that is usually to chop what she says, saute what she wants, and clean up after her so the pots and pans don't get piled up too high. I am the construction worker in this process.

So this is the CHILI that you can do it your way!
In the Meat Pot:
Brown 6 slices of bacon diced. Then add 2-3 pounds of beef brisket cut into bite size pieces and brown these.
Add 1 large onion that has been diced and cook until it glistens.
Add 3 large dried "ancho chilis" that have been softened by soaking in water. Dice these as well before you add.
Add at least 3-6 crushed cloves of garlic- We think more is better!
Add the following seasoning:
1-2 tbsp of chili powder, 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of coriander, 1 1/2 tsp of salt.

In the Vegetarian Pot:
Soften 1 large onion in at least 2 tbsp of Olive Oil, then add the 3-6 cloves of garlic and the seasoning (
1-2 tbsp of chili powder, 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of coriander, 1 1/2 tsp of salt).
Add 3 large dried "ancho chilis" that have been softened by soaking in water.
Add BEANS- I used kidney, pinto, black- all from can's- I was cooking a whole bunch of chili- so I can't remember how many cans- but I think it was about two small cans of each- so adjust to how much chili you're making.

From now on the recipes are identical- so you do the same thing for each pot- meat or veggie!

Add 1 and 1/2 (10 oz size)cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chilis to each pot
Add 1 7 oz can of roasted green chilis- you can use hot or mild- just what ever you like.
Add 1 12 oz bottle of Mexican beer- I used Corona.
Cook on top of the stove on low heat for 2-3 hours- or in the oven at 350 degrees if your pan is oven proof and you prefer.

Add 4 cups of 1 1/2 inch chunks of butternut squash that has been peeled and seeded!
Cook another hour- or longer- though if you cook too long at this point you will over cook the squash and it will be mushy.

It's even better the second- or third day- so this can really be made ahead of time- not that I ever do anything ahead of time.
If you'd like you can serve with avocados or cilantro or red onions or Jack Cheese. But we just ate our straight.

Enjoy! Your Way! Or Mine!

So What's it With Blogs?

Some years ago I read an opinion piece in a magazine that lamented the demise of letters. The author went on and on and on about how with the telephone- and the cheap cost- both money and time- and our busy, busy life styles, people just didn't write letters anymore. The author was distressed not just because there is nothing quite so wonderful as opening your mailbox and finding a LETTER, but also because old letters were such great sources information about what was really going on in the life of people- ordinary people as well as famous people- just by reading the letters. Phone calls are just- poof- gone- just like that. Oh of course there will always be formal books- and magazines- and newspapers- but those are edited- and edited- and edited- so much of the time the writing is derivative. But a letter- now that is RAW.

I remember the first really great letter I ever read. It was from my mother-in-law #1. Oh how I would check the mail everyday while I lived in Hawaii for that letter from home. She'd have tears rolling down my cheeks from laughing so hard.
And then my friend Clare often sent cards with a note- that said- hey- I'm thinking of you- And I keep them still.
And my friend Gay writes such wonderful letters that I read and reread and reread- and keep them safe in my top drawer with my jewelry.
And when I'd get my niece Amy's Christmas letter I'd brew a cup of tea before I'd open it- so I could really enjoy the moment.

And then folks didn't even call anymore- we just dashed off an email- or text- cryptic- short- to the point. And I read another opinion piece lamenting the total decline in human communication- no structure- no tact- And very, very, very poor grammar.

But there just must be something about human nature that just doesn't give up what's really important. There was something deep inside that knew that we were missing something- we just didn't know quite what it was- or what to do about it.

AND ALONG CAME BLOGS. Why a blog is like a letter from home- a letter from an old friend- pictures of those you love and places you wish you could see. Even better than old fashioned letters because maybe I wouldn't have gotten that particular letter- but now I can read them all- and laugh and cry and have that cup of tea.

And even sometimes Blogs are like a letter in a bottle that washes up on the beach- and you read the life of someone you've never met- and never will meet- but this bottle has an address- and you can return and read more if you wish- and I do.

So there really is something to this Blogging. It's a throw back if you will. And I'm loving it.

So write that letter home today. Start that blog- And I'll love it- And I'll read it- and I'll race to may favorite bookmarks on my computer just like I use to race for the mailbox- so many years ago- in Hawaii.

So a big thanks to Amy- who started this family blogging- I'm loving it. Keep it up kids- you make your mother (and aunt and great aunt) very, very, very happy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hey Toto We're Not in Kansas Anymore- Or Hey Don We're not in San Fran Anymore!

Life is more distracted- more cluttered, more options- more responsibilities- a longer walk to the washer and dryer. I'm still trying to find a pace in it all- but trust me- I'm doing a whole bunch of lurching in one direction- and then another. In San Fran there just wasn't much to decide- I went to work- then we decided which restaurant to walk to- then we talked- or sat- or read- or watched "The Daily Show" (I love the "Daily Show"- Don has got to step up to the plate with this new DVR- and get me "The Daily Show"- I need to laugh a bit more...Done my dear, we have been recording all week.) And then there were always the BIG DISCUSSIONS- exactly where would we hike or adventure on the weekend. That was life in San Fran- but it just isn't life in Cincy. Probably San Fran was our Oz- and we are back in Kansas again.

It was a type of Oz. It does seem so long ago or maybe never at all. It just seems that we are back to normal, but normal has shifted and taken a slightly different path. The country is in real crisis and even we are feeling the effects. We will get our stride eventually and it will seem like home again, but for now it seems something has changed.

Life just isn't the same here- so mostly I wander around checking Facebook- Email- And cleaning out yet another closet-the attic- (I'll give the attic it's very own blog account- cleaning the attic was a very big deal- probably because we'd actually never cleaned the attic for over 15 years- and let me tell you- that is a long, long time to go without cleaning an attic of an old, old house. But we'll talk about that later.) Believe me, it was a crusade that we finally won. Max had the hard part of sorting, saving, and throwing away. I did the dirty work which in this case was much easier. Details at 11.

And it is winter- BIG TIME WINTER- cold, cold cold- and snow- five inches- now we're getting that freezing rain on top of the snow- and then we're to get more snow. I took the Too Cute out today for a few errands- and trust me she was giving me dirty looks for dragging her from San Fran- the land of the forever MILD- where a cold snap means high 50s and and heat spell is around mid 80's. The real problem is that since we now have a dumpster and a load of lumber in our driveway, our garage is just a memory. Luckily I remember how to scrap ice and snow off every morning. This a.m. the Smart had about a quarter inch of ice on it. It looked like it was frozen inside an ice cube.

But there is a fire in the wood stove...

And the dogs at our feet.
This is indeed a MAJOR winter storm- and I don't think that any of you will be too surprised to know that our Don- in a Level III Snow Emergency with only emergency travel permitted on the roads- did get up this morning at the regular time, dress, pack his lunch, scrape the car and travel over the treacherous roads to his desk at P&G where he now sits. You've just got to love and admire that devotion to ones company.
But- I'm home- And I felt that I just must dress in my heaviest coat- and boots- and gloves- and get some pictures for our faithful readers...

And you can tell that the Too Cute is quite shocked at the turn of events in her life...

And Brutus- our Big Furry Lab- (the Grandpuppy from Amber)- loves this weather- and will stay out and sniff and romp in the beauty of it all.

And Don's Christmas present- oh I didn't tell you about Don's Christmas Present- well he got an indoor herb garden- HE LOVES IT! I'm not sure but he might like this present almost as much as he liked the kitchen counter KitchenAid Mixer- or maybe the food processor- or maybe the cookware- but this might be his favorite. I do know how to pick just the perfect Christmas Present for My Man! So we have spring planting inside- out of the cold. I must admit that it is a difficult choice about which of those gifts I like the best. Max always does such a great job of knowing just exactly what I want or need every year. In fact it always seems that she knows a whole lot better than me what I want or need.

Can't use them in cooking yet- but I'm hopeful that before spring??? For perspective, those plant (if you can call them plants at this stage) are about 1/4 inch tall. We will hold off on the harvest for a few more days.

And before I forget- WE CELEBRATED THE INAUGURATION! Not exactly as if we were there-we weren't so cold- and it wasn't near so crowded. And I did get to hear the speech three times- once real time- once on NPR later- and then once in the replay celebration with friends. And I had my camera ready for all my favorite moments like:

And when the camera got passed to Joe Biden- because his angle was just a bit better- I got just a bit misty eyed- because it's so real- so very American- children- families- grandparents...
And then we had the PARTY- that wasn't crowded- with home made pizza and good wine- and all the champagne you might want (none for me thank you kindly- don't like the bubbly so much anymore- I take mine straight- not carbonated)... We did have Don and Mary Jo Peairs and Mary Ezra over to celebrate with us. Mary Jo was a big Obama campaigner, so this was truly a celebration for her.

It was so much fun! And my guess is that we had a lot more fun than a lot of folks in all the party dresses- and the cold. My guess is that all of the people who went to the inauguration to celebrate didn't mind the cold or the crowd. I think they just wanted to be a part of this history and be able to tell their children and grandchildren that they were there on the Mall that day.

And we LOVED THE DRESS! Although a few of us didn't really care who did or didn't like the dress. As though we worry if someone doesn't like our tie. And we think it's a good thing Barack wanted to be PRESIDENT- and not the winner of DANCING WITH THE STARS- I think he would have lost!

After all of this diversion, I thought maybe I'd share just a bit of how there's still just a "taste" of San Fran in the air here in Kansas . I fixed THE NOODLE BOWL.
So back to now- in the middle of the MIDWEST- in a very cold winter storm- And well- I found a little bit of that West Coast for dinner. One of my favorite restaurants in San Fran- that is until it went out of business because of the high cost of doing business in San Fran- was a noodle shop called Zao. And I loved the noodle bowl. It's rather like the Asian equivalent of pizza night- or Marianne's Super Nachos- Favorite food for no reason in particular.

Well the noodle bowl is like that- pizza- or nachos- or mac and cheese- This was one of Max's favorites and I must say it was good, not very expensive, and within our evening mile walk to dinner route.

So I thought maybe I'd share (don't worry girls- I really am going to eventually get to the chili recipe- it's on my list- and eventually it will meander it's way to the top- but not today)- Today is about the NOODLE BOWL. It's rather like a salad in a bowl of warm broth- trust me it's good- and it's a great way to have a salad when it is soooo cold outside.

So let's start with the
*4-5 cups of vegetable broth (or you can use chicken- on a later post I'm going to talk about the joy of homemade vegetable broth - cheaper- and easier than going to the store- and you stop feeling guilty about the vegetables you are throwing into the compost pail- or trash can).

*4 garlic gloves- smashed with a hammer (just want to crush it, don't pound it into counter top)
*2 pods of star anise- or you can use 2 sticks of cinnamon- or both- I didn't have the cinnamon sticks

*2 inch of ginger- sliced- and hammered (crushed, just crushed)- Don does this real well!
*2 TBSP of fish sauce- keeps forever- cheap-

*1 TBSP of soy sauce

*1 TBSP of sugar

Simmer in a sauce pan while you're chopping the rest of the "stuff"- you're going to strain the broth over the serving bowls- so all the "solid stuff" in this broth goes into the compost pail- not into your stomach.

Soak 6 ounces of rice noodles (vermicelli or other)- I just covered the noodles with water I had boiled in my tea pot- and left them to soak.
Since this is called a noodle bowl, I would put more noodles in it and I wouldn't use the rice noodles that we used last night. Remember that these noodles are the main component of calories in this dish, so if you are hungry, add more noodles and use flour noodles. Rice noodles are just too slippery to a good hold on them

Heat the oven to 400 degrees (if you'd like to add shrimp- if not skip this part- you also could add chicken or beef- or not- or even tofu- or not) I tossed the shrimp in a chili oil (Asian) and then right before I was ready to serve I cooked in oven- about 6 total minutes- We "flipped" after 3 minutes.

Now to the "salad" part:

Bean sprouts

Green onions- we used 1 bunch

Avocado- 1

Mint leaves- 2 tbsp- or more to taste

Cilantro- 2 tbsp- or more to taste

Jalapeno pepper- we used WAY TOO MUCH- so watch the heat- we used 1 pepper with 1/2 the seeds- this was not our best decision. I drank two glasses of water to keep my mouth from totally rebelling...

You can also use basil- or tomato- or bok choy- or lettuce-

Like I said, do you seen any real substantial food in this above list? It's broth and these veggies, so add some real food to it if you are hungry.

To Assemble:
Fill the serving bowls with hot broth, Add the noodles. Then top with the "Salad". Then add the shrimp (you could use chicken, beef or tofu as well if you want).And you can almost imagine the hills of San Fran out your apartment window- Or Maybe see the Bay on your drive to work- everyday- as you catch your breath one more time with the beauty of it all.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Porch Make Over

We have begun the reconstruction of the porches of our old house. We have been planning this for quite a while now, in fact, we officially started about a year ago with discussions with an architect. the plans were all drawn up, edited and finalized, permits obtained, bids requested from contractors, interviews done, contracts signed and finally the work begun. We have been talking about this project for years- in fact we rather started the conversation about 14 years ago. It was during my first year here that I saw the front WRAP AROUND PORCH- and fell in love. I would rapture on and on and on and on- about the incredible beauty- and warm invitation to sit for a while- of the wrap around porch. It was not received with enthusiasm- but I was not discouraged. The project involves replacing our front and back porches, replacing them with larger porches, and then replacing our large screen porch with an all year glassed in sun room. And we always get a bit discouraged about how little we can actually have dinner on our screened porch given the weather here in Cincy. There will also be some gutter and water damage repair, but the main project is new porches and a sun room. "Some damage" is a bit of an understatement- these 100 plus year old houses take constant vigilance against the assault of nature- and we just couldn't hold the elements off. The work began in early January and suddenly two of the porches were gone. First the screened porch was gone.

Next, the front porch was gone...

Now here I want you to imagine a wrap porch that will stretch around the right side of the house- rocking chairs- flower boxes- waiting for a summer evening to just sit- and sit- and sit some more. I close my eyes and can see it- almost...
And they took off some of the decorative pieces of the house and stored those off to the side. I understand that these will be saved so they can be reproduced made out of some type of polymer that won't rot, can be painted, and will last a long time, hopefully longer than these did - so far about 113 years.

The process started with the deposit of a very large dumpster in our driveway.

This dumpster really comes in handy as I begin the "cleaning" of the inside- the attic- the basement- the closets. I just take the "stuff" and toss them over the top- easy- no problem- oh my- I could get use to this "dumpster".

Yes, that means that we can no longer use our driveway to get to our garage and therefore, our cars are sitting out in the weather and our garage is empty. The poor Smart came here from temperature San Francisco where it never got cold, but now it is sitting in the street with snow on the windshield. I feel that this was a bit cruel for our fair weather baby- but she seems to be "weathering" the change without catastrophe.

But on the good side, we now have an extra half bath, kind of. It is a little farther away, and in view of our latest weather, it might be a bit uncomfortable, but it is an extra one holer. And it does have a nice view of our fish pond.

I know the kids remember my telling the story- over and over and over- about the trip I had to make to the outhouse at my Grandmother's- or use the pot behind the door- and the outhouse behind the chicken coop came complete with a "Sear's Catalogue" for tissue paper- and from time to time a snake. And all of this in Tennessee where it does get cold- and hot- just like Cincy. Well perhaps I'm waxing a bit nostalgic and we'll just keep the extra hole when the construction is done- but then maybe not...

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Holiday on Wentworth

Amber left to go back to Chicago on the 30th and we spent a very quiet New Year's Eve at home. It was cold here in Cincinnati so we built a fire in the wood stove (the first in over 15 months), turned on some music and once again enjoyed that glass of brandy and bed by 11:00. We heard that those watching Dick Clark bring in the new year were shocked by what poor health he was in. It sounds like his age is finally catching up with him.

New Year's day Max dutifully started our pot of black eyed peas, part of our heritage about how to ensure good luck for the coming year.Trust me- I don't start a new year without Black Eyed Peas! Why I've started the New Year with Black Eyed Peas for 59 years. When I was a kid if we happened to spend this first day of the year on the road- driving from my Grandmother's house in Tennessee to Oklahoma after the holidays- when we arrived- tired, sleepy, crabby- my Mom would open a can of black eyed peas and give us each a spoonful before we were off to bed. Now you can be sure that the peas that I insist that Don eat each year are a good bit better than those. But I've had the most phenomenal life- and I think it must be the peas!
But this year we doubled our chances of good luck by joining Don and Mary Jo Peairs at their house for pork roast and potatoes, a German tradition for good luck.

And to finish off this holiday season with family our niece Kelly and family (Pat, Shelby, Bailey, Darby, and Lucas) along with Shelby's new squeeze, Aaron, came for dinner and to spend the night. Mary's clan joined us for another great family evening. I was so excited that Kelly, Pat and the kids had time to visit us over the holidays. Kelly et al was a BIG MISS while we were in San Fran. And I do believe Kelly and Mary think we must be plenty rested up because they left us with the 4 youngest while they went out shopping for the afternoon. Don and I did just fine- thank you kindly!

Max made two giant pots of spaghetti sauce plus lots of garlic bread for a wonderful dinner. I did one giant pot of sause with meat- local made Italian sausage that was oh so good- and another big pot of mushroom- three kinds of mushrooms for our vegetarians (we always eat in parallel worlds). At the last minute Kelly told me that the kids only ate the "plain"- like Ragu 3 cheese- so she stopped at the store on the way home for the appropriate jar for the "kids". We all had plenty to eat. Of course, Playtex and I finished up the dinner with lots of Dawn and hot water. Our tradition with Kelly's clan is pancake breakfast.

Note to Reeder: Lucas used the BED- and he seems to like it just like you do!

My pancake flipper partner, Bailey, seems to have grown into her teenage years and spent the morning until breakfast in bed. Bailey changed into THE TEENAGER while we were gone. TEENAGERS don't like to help make pancakes- they don't sit in your lap- they don't like to tell you all the details of their life- they won't sing silly songs- they sleep late and always look tired- they often mumble non-intelligible words. TEENAGERS roll their eyes and know how to sigh loudly. To my luck, Darby -who is not a TEENAGER!- decided to fill in taking over the flipper helper role.
But first- the perfect start to a perfect day- coffee in bed with a beautiful great niece-

Life just doesn't get better than this!

The pancakes were a big success and I did tell Darby my secret ingredient, but she promised not to tell anyone else so I think the secret is safe.

Notice that prefect turn! And of course there was fresh squeezed OJ...

And we all LOVED the breakfast! Thanks Uncle Don and Darby!


We finished the holiday season by attending "The Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival" at Grace Church Cathedral. This was the 69th presentation by the church as a gift to the city. The Boar's Head Tradition as celebrated began in 1340 at Queen's College in Oxford, England. It is a marvelous pageant of song (choir, soloist, orchestra) and costumes (some "authentic"). I do want to mention here that Don was a "man in tights" for two years! We didn't think we could attend this year because we were in San Fran and didn't get tickets (they go quick)- but our neighbors- The Lampe's

heard we didn't have tickets and we were rescued again. It was MARVELOUS! And a perfect ending- to a perfect season.

It is so good to be home!