Anytime chili

The Year was 1998 and the Gresbach family was all gathered around the television watching Superbowl XXXII: Greenbay Packers and Denver Broncos. With my family being from Wisconsin, this was a very big game for us. Although Denver defeated the packers in a 31-24 final, it was still a great game and another wonderful evening spent with my family.

During halftime my grandpa always had chili waiting hot on the stove along with all the toppings of sour cream, shredded cheddar, and chives alined on the counter in front. I don’t know who he got the recipe from or how he makes it but it is the best chili i’ve had. I think about that chili every day and think of all the football games and gatherings my family had when chili was the entree.  Needless to say you don’t need to wait for a superbowl or cold winter weather to make a steaming hot pot of chili.

Traditional versions of chili are made using chili peppers, garlic, onions, and cumin. The addition of ground beef is sometimes used depending on culture. Variations on geographic or personal reasons may include beans and tomatoes as well. After years of messing around with chili recipes, I’ve put together a recipe everyone will enjoy.

What you will need:

-1 Small yellow onion, small dice

-1 Stalk celery, small dice

-4 Cloves garlic, chopped

-1 15 Oz can red kidney beans, rinsed

-1 15 Oz can black beans, rinsed

-1 4 Oz can chopped green chili’s

-1 28 Oz can tomato sauce

-1 Tablespoon Sambal

-TT Cumin

-1 Teaspoon chili powder

-1 Teaspoon Cayenne powder

-TT Salt and pepper

-1 packed smoked sausage (Omit if vegan)

Preparation:

-Turn oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a large sauce pot with one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.

-Once hot, saute vegetables and garlic until translucent. Approximately 3 minutes.

-Add in beans, and Tomato sauce followed by seasonings and sambal until desired taste. Stir to combine and cook over low heat stirring often for 1 hour.

-While that is cooking, cut sausage on the bias and line on a sheet tray covered in foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

-When sausage is ready add it into the chili and continue cooking for one hour.

– Serve immediately with toppings of your choice.

-Enjoy!

The seasonings in this chili can be tricky. I didn’t put up specific measurements because with my taste I prefer mine spicier. If you are unsure start with 1 Tablespoon of each and adjust flavor from there. Go light on the chili powder and cayenne because flavors continue to develop throughout cooking and those two are powerful together and may cause your chili to become too spicy. If you don’t have any dry chili in your pantry you can substitute chili sauces such as Texas Pete or Franks. Lastly, I prefer to use tomato sauce because the beans soak up a lot of the liquid throughout cooking getting it to the perfect consistency.

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City of Charlottesville

A little over a 2 hour drive from my previous home in West Virginia is the historic city of Charlottesville, Va.  Charlottesville is an independent city located at the foothills of the Blueridge mountains and has an incredible rich history that draws millions of visitors each year. This city is also the home to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Monroe’s Ashlawn Highlands, James Madisons Montepelier, and lastly is a college town belonging to the University of Virginia. A few months back Brandon and I wanted to take a day trip somewhere nearby with new culture outside of our little mountain town. A fellow co-worker of mine was from that area and always talked about how cool of a city it is and told me I just had to go. She recommended a few of the bars and restaurants to check out while visiting. Brandon and I packed our overnight bags and decided to make the short trip.

After walking around the downtown mall area on a beautiful sunny afternoon I was amazed with all the outdoor seating each of the restaurants had. Many locals residents were all sitting in the center of the mall area having an ice cold beer or a glass of wine while snacking on some appetizers and enjoying the company of their friends. We had 2 hours to kill before our dinner reservations at Ten, a popular Japanese sushi bar. We stopped to grab a drink and an aperitif at an elegant wine bar called Siips. Looking over the wine list I felt it was a little pricey for what they were offering but I stuck with getting an Italian wine and a baked brie appetizer. The brie appetizer had to be one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while. It was savory and accompanied by kalamata olives, wheat and plain crackers to spread the cheese on, roasted garlic, and lastly a small lightly seasoned arugula salad. Over all perfect pairing with my wine. After having a very delicious appetizer it was time for some sushi.

The Japanese word ten can mean heaven or above and ten is both of these. Ten approaches traditional Japanese dishes as if they were works of art and the plates are crafted to please both the palate and the eye. The colors inside the restaurant were breathtaking with one side of the room being light and the other dark. It was a very classy place for sushi and I was in love as soon as I walked up the stairs. The menu was very complex and offered everything you could want in a Japanese style restaurant. Starting with a seaweed  salad which Ive never had before was blown away by the crunch and flavor. Next came the edamame which is always a must have when getting sushi. The only problem I had with this is it could’ve used more salt. The sushi roll I ordered was much bigger than I had expected but was by far the best sushi I’ve eaten. I eat a lot of sushi and after eating this roll, its going to make going anywhere else for sushi hard. Nothing can compare to the crunch, spice, flavor, and presentation that one roll gave me. To end the meal I had a tuna steak that was very tender and delicious. Over all rating for this restaurant is a ten out of ten. The only minor problem was our server who was very knowledgeable about the menu was not good at checking back when I needed him.

Down the street from Ten is a small gelato place where I stopped in to get some dessert. There were so many flavors to choose from and while I have only had three kinds of gelato before I was very indecisive about which flavor to choose. I sampled a few and decided to get two kinds, the chocolate hazelnut and vanilla . As for the rest of Charlotesville outside the mall area It is a very quiet city even with a college around. It is in a very beautiful part of Virginia and would consider living there in the future. With having such a wonderful first experience of the little city  I would love to go back soon to check out more restaurants and bars. Everything from the food, to shopping, scenery, and hotel stay were exactly what I was looking for. I recommend this small town if you have not been, to check out. I am already looking forward to my next visit.

Bacon and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Have you ever had a cookie that had bourbon and bacon included in the recipe?

From the two hotels I’ve worked in, both pastry departments had cookies made fresh from scratch daily. Every few days when the pastry chefs would swap out the old cookies for new, they would give the leftovers to the employees in the cafeteria. I would look forward to this day once a week. If i had a craving and I couldn’t wait another day I would occasionally sneak into the pastry shop and ask the chef if I could steal one. Of the 3 varieties they produced, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin, my favorite was always the oatmeal raisin.

Waking up one morning I had a craving for an oatmeal raisin cookie. The only problem was I had the day off so I wasn’t able to go to the pastry shop and steal one. I figured it’s time to make my own batch. After looking up a couple of recipes and seeing all the same repeating ingredients that I’m guessing were all taken from the Quaker oats tube, I decided to take the original recipe and make it better. Thinking to myself and talking to my boyfriend Brandon, I decided to add bacon, soak the raisins in bourbon, and toast the oats. After making the batter I did a test cookie just to make sure my extra addition of fat didn’t mess up the ratio of all other ingredients. The only thing I needed to adjust was the cooking time and add in more cinnamon. Everything else turned out correctly. The final result was a cookie with crispy edges and a soft center, the way all cookies should be.

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Ingredients:

-1 Cup unsalted butter, room temperature

-1 Cup Brown sugar, packed

-1/3 Cup Granulated sugar

-2 Each egg’s

-1 Teaspoon vanilla

-1 ½ Cup All purpose flour

-1 Teaspoon Baking soda

-1 Teaspoon Salt

-3 Tablespoons Cinnamon, ground

-3 Cups Oats, toasted

-1 Cup raisins, soaked in Bourbon (optional)

-4 Strips of smoked bacon, cooked, chopped up

Method of Prep:

1.)    Heat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

2.)    In a medium bowl, beat together butter and both sugars until creamy, about 3 minutes.

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3.)    Add in eggs while still beating.

4.)    Add in vanilla and bacon bits.

In a Separate bowl:

1.)    Mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

5.)    Add dry ingredients slowly into wet ingredient beating medium speed.

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6.)    Stir in oats and raisins. (Make sure raisins are drained of the soaking liquid)

7.)    Using a medium scoop, line cookies on a sheet tray about 2 inches apart and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. (The time may vary depending on your oven) check after 5 minutes and rotate the tray.

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8.)    Let cool for 5 minutes and then transport to a cooling rack.

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If you don’t like raisins you can substitute cranberries or dried cherries. This recipe also works well if you wanted to add in nuts or chocolate chips.  If you don’t have butter available you can use shortening. I prefer butter as it gives a creamier cookie.

Enjoy!

Vanilla Extract

 

If your one of the people who bakes often, vanilla extract is probably a staple in your kitchen. I used to fly through the little $3-5 bottles from Publix from how often I was using it.  Working in a kitchen, you pick up on little tips and tricks with through cooking and baking with the use of recipes. One trick that I learned was vanilla extract is super simple to make from home! It only uses 2 ingredients and takes 1 month! I prefer it to the store brought because I get a lot more yield and find it cost efficient.

Now that fall is here, everyone should be at least baking pies. If your going to be spending some time baking this fall, I recommend you start a batch of your own vanilla extract asap so it will be ready for you next month!   If you’re having trouble finding inexpensive vanilla beans you can find them online at top vanilla.

 

Ingredients:

-1 bottle of Vodka. The type doesn’t matter, cheap vodka is best to use. (For this recipe I used Skyy vodka.)

-4 EA vanilla beans split open and seeds scraped. (For a stronger flavor use up to 16 vanilla beans)

-1 empty glass bottle or jar of your choice to store the liquid in. (I found a $3 olive oil bottle from Marshalls that works well.)

 

Method of prep:

-Split open each of the vanilla beans and scrape the insides into the container you are going to use. Add vanilla beans into container.

-Pour bottle of vodka into jar up to the top. Put the lid back on and place in a cool dark spot.

-Every other day, shake the bottle around to get the vanilla moving.

-Let sit for up to 4 weeks before using or until the color is dark.

-You can remove the vanilla beans at the end or leave them in. I will keep my beans in and eventually incorporate them into cooking which is a good way to utilize the product before throwing it away.

Enjoy!

**Note: Your extract will begin to darken in color the longer it sits.

Agua Fresca

Agua Fresca

One good thing about working in kitchens is the amount of diversity you come across with your co-workers. It is typical that in most kitchens there is someone of mexican discent working. since working at the Greenbrier, I have worked with many passionate and food driven chefs and I have never worked anywhere else where I have seen so much creativity. One of the chefs in our kitchen is crazy about making this fruit drink just about every day for our family meal. I finally went up to Armando and asked him what the deal is with him making these delicious and refreshing drinks. He told me that this melon water or Agua Fresca is a very popular drink in Mexico. Traditionally when they drink water they add any fruit of choice preferably watermelon  for a delicious flavor. I did some research on this tradition and according to the Hawaiidiner.com, this beverage literally translated as “fresh water” is a drink made from what ever fruit is in season and usually has a sweetener such as sugar added to it. You will find these drinks all over Mexico on the street or in restaurants and the distinct fruitiness balances very well amongst Mexican cuisine. This beverage can also be see in the Philippines.
I watched Armando prepared this tasty beverage one day and asked if it was okay to copy the recipe and add it to my blog.  You can use any fruit you like, we prefer to use compressed melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. We compressed them due to the fruit we received this year not being as sweet as it should be therefore compressing it in simple syrup added great sweetness to it.

To make you:
-Add into a blender or vita prep any kind of fruit cut into small chunks up to the top. For this recipe we used all three melons as mentioned above.
-Add in 1 cup lemon juice
-Add 4 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, cooked down)
-Add in small handful mint leaves (optional)
-Blend together
-Strain though a fine mesh strainer or chinoise
-Serve over ice and enjoy.

You can also add in berries if preferred for additional flavors. This is a very delicious and light refreshing beverage. Goes wonderful with hot/spicy foods, and great to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Pictured above is an example of how to start the beverage with adding everything into the blender prior to blending.