Dump-it-in-there Chili v1.0

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Chili con carne with fresh Rosemary and Baking Cocoa Powder
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Chili (con carne)! One of our favorite foods to make in the slow cooker—hm, no, let’s not kid ourselves… One of our favorite foods to make. Period. It’s fun because you can just dump everything in the slow cooker and keep adding and adjusting flavors as it cooks. You get plenty of time to evolve the flavors, blend them in, and see what makes sense to add or what’s missing from it.

For us, chili always varies a little depending on what we have in the pantry and fridge. Cans of tomatoes with sauce, tomatoes with green chilies, corn, kidney beans… Then your freshly-chopped jalapeños, onions, carrots… And seasoning with whatever makes you happy—but that still goes well together, of course… You don’t have to, but why would you do that to yourself?—Here, I used adobo, extra salt & pepper, gochugaru, hot Hungarian paprika… Italian seasoning? Indeed. Extra garlic powder, fresh minced garlic… And as shown in the above image, fresh rosemary, (chopped very finely to let it blend into the chili), and baking cocoa powder (unsweetened; not sure sweetened would work well for a chili).

Side note: Dave got the idea to use chocolate for the chili from Cincinnati chili—the one that’s used as a topping for spaghetti… Which still makes me shiver, but alas, my husband likes it.

Dave reminded me afterwards that I had forgotten to add cumin, a staple of chili, so we sprinkled some in after serving… Quick recovery, (certainly wouldn’t have blended in as well as if it had been cooked in, but quick recovery nonetheless).

The best part about having a multi-purpose slow/pressure cooker? You can sear the meat in the slow cooker itself before you start dumping the rest of the ingredients in it. If you are one to embrace the joy of diminished mess, you’ve reached home ♡ Back to the meat, I seared ground beef with a splash of chicken stock. We usually prefer, (for all intents and purposes, not just chili), less than or equal to 85% lean beef for greater flavor, but if you don’t want as much fat or having to drain the fat, you can use a leaner option. For the time being, though, I can’t say with full certainty that I saw (tasted) added value to the searing with chicken stock—personally, Dave’s drifting away from using chicken stock due to its pungent flavor and scent, and I share a bit on his view, though perhaps to a lesser extent.

Finally, two tricks we particularly like to do for chili:

  1. If the chili is too watery/thin, you can use a thickener such as corn starch or, our favorite, corn meal/flour such as Harina PAN or Goya’s Mazarepa.
  2. If the overall flavor of the chili is too heavy from all the meat and sauces, I like to lighten/brighten it a bit with lime.

So as I mentioned above, as the chili slow-cooks, you can keep tasting the chili and think about whatever flavors/kicks it might be missing and continue to add items as needed. My suggestion is: add little by little to make sure you don’t over do it or accidentally overpower items you didn’t intend to.

The slow cooker is your canvas. Have fun.

Happy splattering, 
Kika & Dave

Dump-it-in-there Chili v1.0

  • Servings: 4+
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

This first iteration of our Chili con carne does not have actual measurements yet—it was mostly written from memory—so feel free to experiment and add items little by little. Since it takes a while to cook, you have plenty of time to tweak throughout the whole cooking process.

Always prep the ingredients before beginning to cook!

Equipment

  • Slow cooker (with a searing option if possible)

Ingredients for the Beef

  • Ground Beef (~1.5 lbs; 85% lean)
  • Chicken Stock (optional; a splash; either salted or unsalted)
  • Adobo seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Gochugaru

Ingredients for the Chili

  • Tomatoes in Tomato Sauce (1 large can)
  • Tomatoes with Green Chilies (1-2 regular cans)
  • Corn (1-2 small cans)
  • Kidney Beans (1-2 regular cans)
  • Jalapeños (~2; finely chopped)
  • Onions (~1; finely chopped)
  • Carrot (~1 large one; finely chopped)
  • Adobo seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Gochugaru (to taste)
  • Hot Hungarian Paprika (to taste)
  • Italian Seasoning (to taste)
  • Garlic Powder (to taste)
  • Minced Garlic (to taste)
  • Rosemary (to taste; very finely chopped)
  • Baking Cocoa Powder (unsweetened; to taste)
  • Corn Meal / Flour (white; to taste)
  • Lime (squeezed juice; to taste)

Directions

A. Searing the Beef

  1. Turn on the searing setting on the slow cooker.
  2. Once it’s hot enough, (test by flicking in a few water dropletsdrop in the ground beef.
  3. Add the following items to taste:
    • Chicken Stock (optional; a splash; either salted or unsalted)
    • Adobo seasoning
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Gochugaru
  4. Once the beef has browned, turn on the slow cooker setting.
  5. Proceed to step B.

B. Making the Chili

  1. Drop the prepped Chili ingredients in the slow cooker:
    • Tomatoes in Tomato Sauce (1 large can)
    • Tomatoes with Green Chilies (1-2 regular cans)
    • Corn (1-2 small cans)
    • Kidney Beans (1-2 regular cans)
    • Jalapeños (~2; finely chopped)
    • Onions (~1; finely chopped)
    • Carrot (~1 large one; finely chopped)
  2. Season with/add the following ingredients to taste:
    • Adobo seasoning
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Gochugaru
    • Hot Hungarian Paprika
    • Italian Seasoning
    • Garlic Powder
    • Minced Garlic
    • Rosemary (very finely chopped)
    • Baking Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
    • Corn Meal / Flour (white)
    • Lime (squeezed juice)
  3. Continue to mix & taste for the remainder of the slow-cooker timer (~6 hours).

C. Serve

  1. Serve in a bowl to keep warm.
  2. Top with any of the following:
    • Cheese
    • Lime
    • Corn Tortillas
  3. Enjoy.

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References

[1] “Chili con carne” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chili_con_carne
[2] “Cincinnati chili” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cincinnati_chili

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Belgian Street Food at Saus Boston

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From top left clockwise: Session Lager, Frik, Green Monster Sauce, Hand-Cut Fries, and Poutine

Woohoo! We’re finally reaching true New England winter weather. After last year’s let down with its near-non-existent skiing season, this year we’re finally reaching near-zero and slightly sub-zero temperatures (depending on where you’re standing in the region).

Sure, one alternates between the excitement of piled-up snow, the grudge against slushied sidewalks, the heart-warming Christmas decorations, and the slightly-excruciating pain of improperly-covered extremities that nearly succumb to the cruel, piercing cold. Nevertheless. What better time of year to find your favorite spot to escape the cold, warm up with your favorite comfort food, and sip (or chug) on your new favorite beer?

After dropping off family at Logan Airport, Dave and I figured we’d find something to do in Boston. Dave wanted to go ice skating; a new outdoor rink had opened by City Hall. I figured, “Hey! Let’s try a new place not on Quincy Market!” since, for whatever reason, my family nearly always went exclusively to Quincy Market / Faneuil Hall when we visited Boston. So I googled restaurants by City Hall and found Saus Boston.

Long story short, we did not ice skate (though we did walk by the area), and it turns out City Hall is next to Quincy Market. And so is Saus Boston… There goes my geographical awareness.

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Porter in the front, Lager in the back
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Walls decorated with framed comics

Dave was both really impressed and inspired by the spot. You walk into this relatively small place, a few tables, walls decorated with framed comics, and your ordering counter below colored-on chalkboards listing the menu items. You look at the menu and feel the immediate magic of, not only the emphasis on fries, crispy Belgian fried “hot dogs” (Frik or Frikandel), sweet waffles, and gravy-covered POUTINE—though Québécoise, people also enjoy poutine in Belgium[3] —but also the list of SAUCES you can add to your fries and other foods. Just the idea of more than a dozen sauces makes me excited to come back and try the others. If you scroll back up, the first image of this post shows the Green Monster sauce. I know the point is to try Belgian food, but I must be honest on the fact that I am especially fond of this sauce since it reminds me of a variety of Hispanic sauces used to accompany steak. Aside from the brightness of the cilantro, you can sense a flavor similar to ají dulce but less sweet, which makes sense based on their use of habanero peppers. Let me rephrase my statement to I am enamored with this sauce and can’t wait to try the others. It’s like fries getting a royal treatment.

As you enjoy the comfort of street food indoors and their selection of beers (if you so choose to drink), Saus provides you with a warm, cozy escape from the cold. Dave and I sat surrounded by wooden furniture, comics, and the occasional couple and groups of friends meeting up or looking for a spot to remove their winter jackets. We eventually finished our meal, and with the mild grin of a satisfied belly, we let ourselves stay just a bit longer before venturing back into the slushied streets.

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Cozy Spot

Happy snow hopping,
Dave & Kika


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Updated picture (March 2017)

References

[1] Saus Boston, http://www.sausboston.com/
[2] “Frikandel” Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frikandel
[3] “Le Québec en Belgique – Grande fête de la poutine à Villers-la-Ville” at Belgique-Tourisme.be http://www.belgique-tourisme.be/informations/evenements-villers-la-ville-le-quebec-en-belgique-grande-fete-de-la-poutine-a-villers-la-ville/fr/E/63938.html (Hit “translate” on your browser if needed).

[Bonus link FYI]: “11 Budget Belgian Street Foods (for Less than $10)
by Agness Walewinder of eTramping.com, 18 April 2013
http://etramping.com/11-budget-belgian-street-foods-for-less-than-10-dollars/

Learning about the Different Apples

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Random photo of an apple with strawberry leaves… Because they were on the counter, so might as well.

So back in the day—up until not so long ago, really—I had, well, basically no idea what was the difference between the different apples. I used to think Red Delicious were a good idea, until I met an appalled David who paid special care to emphasize his disdain for Red Delicious. I guess Snow White was indeed a cautionary tale? So Dave wanted to share his full agreement with the following xkcd comic:

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xkcd’s Apple Spectrum – Comic # 1766

I guess whether or not some apples are indeed better than others is a matter of personal taste, but you do have apples that are better for pie baking, for example. I wish we would’ve written down Bartlett’s store clerk’s advice on which were the apples that make for the ideal apple pie apples. But alas, I didn’t. I seem to recall—~94% sure—he said it was Granny Smith apples, which were at the time not in season. Granny smith are actually one of the most popular choices for baking. Midwest Living has several other suggestions for your apple pie needs with some interesting combinations, and here’s the fun hands-on experimenting from Serious Eats.

And now, the quick story behind Maria Ann (‘Granny’) Smith, of whom I was reminded by my father-in-law over Thanksgiving week:

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Maria Ann “Granny” Smith. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Back in 1868 Australia, Maria Smith had come across an apple seedling growing by a creek on her property, which had developed from the remains of some French crab-apples grown in Tasmania. She began to work a few of these seedling trees, and soon, a local orchardist planted out a large number of them, from which he marketed annual crops. Though the apple was not a commercial variety in her lifetime, its cultivation was sustained by local orchardists, and by 1891-1892, ‘Granny Smith’s seedlings’ had begun to win prizes in the cooking-apple class, with several local growers exhibiting the apples. Their large scale production began in 1895, followed by export and unto the kitchens of the world!

Happy biting,
Kika & Dave.

References

[1] “12 Great Apples for Baking” by Riane Menardi at MidwestLiving.com, http://www.midwestliving.com/food/fruits-veggies/great-apples-for-baking/
[2] “The Food Lab’s Apple Pie, Part 1: What Are the Best Apples for Pie?” by J. Kenji López-Alt at SeriousEats.com, http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/10/the-food-lab-what-are-the-best-apples-for-apple-pies-how-to-make-pie.html
[3] “Smith, Maria Ann (1799–1870)” by Megan Martin at the Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-maria-ann-13199
[4] “The Granny Smith Apple | The Story of its Origin” by the Sunday Times,02 Nov 1924 (Perth, WA: 1902 – 1954) at the National Library of Australia, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/58061784

Late Fall in Bartlett’s Orchard, Richmond, MA

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Picking McIntosh & Paula Red Apples

Dear Blag,

Happy Travel Tuesday! The winter season has finally begun which makes… Travel a bit harder……… Yesterday we woke up to the sight of cars buried in the fluffy, sparkly, wondrous blankets of freshly-fallen snow, in what was the second—third? I’ve lost track—big snow of the season. Forever a mystery, shoveling snow is actually a rather fun and enjoyable workout for me. Perhaps this further exhibits my oddity of character, or it could be that ’tis simply a sign that I am yet to be burdened by the ownership and constant maintenance of a driveway—but then again, ¿Por qué no los dos?

But as the days go by and transition from Winter Wonderland into a frigid, slushy underworld of wet messiness, let us reminisce over the embracing climate of early fall.

{Harp sounds of reminiscence play}

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Blue skies over the Berkshire Mountains

Back in September, amidst the temperate weather of Western Mass, we had ventured into the tamed wilderness of the Berkshires, an orchard field amongst the fluffy greenery of our mountains—I know I’m overusing the word “fluffy,” but everything’s just fluffy around here. There was even a morning where I felt like a Disney princess as I drove past a deer jumping around in a field, arrived at work and saw two foxes just chilling in the parking lot, and then on the way home almost hit a bunny by the side of the road. (The bunny was fine, it simply hopped back into the shrubs… I might not be the most graceful princess, though). I digress.

Bartlett’s Orchard is one of several orchards in the area, though it’s the only one we’ve been to yet, and so far so good! You go through the store front first, where they showcase several of their own grown fresh produce, then inside a variety of products and souvenirs for travelers, but the stars being obviously their apple cider and apple cider donuts, which are uber good—we’ve actually had the chance to attend tastings of the local orchards’ donuts and apple cider, and Bartlett’s are still in my top two, not sure I can decide…

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Bartlett’s Orchard in Richmond, MA
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Local Cheeses! Smoked, Jack, and Aged Sharp Cheddar
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Painting and… Oils?
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They grow Eggplants!
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Green Zebras??
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They grow Cayenne Peppers!
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Delicious Apple Cider Donuts!

Next, la pièce de résistance: You purchase your apple bag (choose your size) and off to the back, where the fields of trees decorated with red orbs like Christmas ornaments—BY NEWTON, IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS! (Twice as relevant ’cause birthday and gravity? Just… ok, back to the story)—pose their foliage like late summer nymphs. {Sigh} They’re a beautiful sight, and there’s something rather magical and childlike about picking your own fruit—indeed, this was my first time picking fruit—and not to mention, the taste can’t be paralleled by your typical grocery store purchase.

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David Picking Apples
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Paula Red Apple

Dave and I came in with the intent of picking our own apples for our first apple pie, so we asked the store clerk what apples he suggested for such an endeavor. At the time, it was earlier in the season, and the ideal apples for apple pie were not yet in season, so he suggested we use McIntosh. Boy oh boy were these apples delicious and juicy. Nothing like the apples we typically get at the grocery store. We also got some Paula Reds which were amazing too. Sadly, the latter did not last as long as the former, so by the time we made the apple pie, we only used McIntosh.

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Back to the cold now, but hey, at least their store is open year-round. Time for some hot apple cider? I think yes, my good sir/ma’am.

Happy Shoveling,
Kika & Dave.

References

[1] Bartlett’s Apple Orchard and Farm Market Website, http://www.bartlettsorchard.com/