I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chili--Not chilly--- for Christmas Tree Day

Hi guys! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Today was Christmas Tree Day here at the beach. This is a time honored tradition that requires much planning and effort to get everyone home and available to go buy the tree, set it up, and trim it. Because this is one thing I absolutely refuse to do all by myself.

This year I decided, to much protest, to have a smaller elevated tree, so that Mo couldn't pee on it or tear it down and eat it.

We used the old ''baby ornaments'', the handmade wooden and fabric ornies from when the kids were toddlers [and destructive, just like Mo].
You know how some families oooh and aaah over traditions, and cherish the funny old handmade ornaments?
Not my kids---they've been telling me for years to discard the melted plastic tree made in nursery school, the hand embroidered Baby's First Christmas, the peewee hockey disk.

If they had their way we'd only use Christopher Radko and other similar glass ornaments. But this year everyone was glad I'd saved the tiny quilt scrap animals I bought the first year I lived in NYC, the fabric seagull and flamingo, the little wooden elves, the tiny boy on the sled from a snow day in Brooklyn. We bought him at the corner store on our way home from Prospect Park. No one but me is sentimental though. Mostly I get eye rolls or at best a polite smile.

So anyway here's the tree! LOL. It's beautiful because all Christmas trees are beautiful. But I had pictured a slim old fashioned German table tree. Not a round ball. But festive! And cute?


To keep up everyone's strength I made a plate of Martha Stewart's mini croissants, filled with ham and brie or goat cheese and cranberries.

Of course I didn't spend hours rolling out home made croissant dough!

To be honest I d call them a FAIL. Doughy. Boring.

I had to put out regular cheese and crackers for the hungry decorators. Next year I'll make a big bowl of chicken salad like I usually do.

For dinner the vote was for chili [other choices were brisket or pulled pork with hard rolls and coleslaw...]. I made the chili last night. Pretty traditional recipe but my kids do not eat beans or corn.

Brown 2 pounds ground beef [chicken/ turkey] with cubed bacon, onion and garlic. Drain.

Add one 18 oz  Contadina tomato paste and one 14 oz. fire roasted tomatoes. Or equivalents. Plus about 3 cans of water or broth. Top it up after adding all the veggies, to almost desired finidhed consistency. It won't cook down all that much.

Add seasonings: a Chili ''kit''. I prefer 3 Alarm but none in stores, so I am trying this new one. I only used the ''mild'' and it's quite spicy-hot. Taste at this point. It's better to make the chili too mild and add spices later!

Add more seasonings, including 2 or 3 Tablespoons of sugar or Splenda to cut the acidity. I use everything you see here, plus parsley, garlic powder, lemon pepper, and a pinch of ground cumin.


Add  :

3 sweet peppers, cut in 1 1/2" pieces,
2 summer squash, sliced, 1/4".
Don't cut the veggies too small, or they'll disappear.



1 Cup of presteamed lentils from Trader Joe's.
I'll also make corn to add for those who eat corn. A bag of Steam Fresh is fine.

Separately roast a pan of cubed butternut squash for one hour. [I used 11 oz. precut.] I stir this in at the last minute when I reheat. Again, it disappears otherwise. But is worth the effort, adds to taste and vitamins etc.

Now's the time to add more broth or water, not too much!
Bake the chili in a covered, lidded/ plus aluminum foil dutch oven for 3 hours at 350*. Cool, refrigerate.
Before reheating, skim off any fat or oil from the top.

Serve with extra hot chili powder, sour cream, diced avocados, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar and/ or ''Mexican mix'' cheese. Tortilla chips and pepitos. We like the flax seed chips; I buy the pumpkin seeds/ pepitos at TJ's and roast w/ olive oil, nonstick pan.

Serve with a rich but not fancy red wine or apple cider. Or maybe beer if anyone is a beer drinker. Corona with lime wedges?

Yummy! This makes a LOT of chili. Freeze the leftover for the upcoming nights when you're too tired or too busy to cook.

After dinner, bundle up and take a lovely long Chrostmas walk. Admire the stars! Peek in the neighbors' yards, admire their trees and wreaths and Christmas lights.



gone to the beach.....


"Santa is coming!? To visit ME?"