The Days of our Lives

Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.

- Charles Pierre Monselet

We all have them - the days that we count as significant and meaningful, that we celebrate year after year. The most obvious of these are birthdays and anniversaries, but there are others that can be included in the history of who we are.

August 25th, 2005 is the day I'll always remember as the first time I saw the man that would become my husband, while October 27th of the same year holds a place as the first time we had a conversation and I realized he was the one.

By January of 2006, we were all but living together - and we signed the papers on the purchase of our first home six months later, on June 30th.

Almost a year later, on June 6, he asked me to be his wife - and on September 29th, 2007, we stood before friends and family to say our vows and begin our lives as a married couple.

Now, we have a new date to add to the list.

June 19, 2009 - the due date of our first child.


Turned Off

Once you get into the groove of things and in the mood you are usually fine; it is before the event that you get nervous and irritable.

- John Gallagher

I am uninspired. I am uncertain as to what's causing it, therefore unable to undo it. Lately, I can only summon the energy to eat out, order in, or throw together the simplest of meals. Breakfast is a bowl of cereal with fruit, or toast with apple butter. Gone are the biscuits and gravy made from scratch, the quiches, pancakes. Lunches have consisted of BLT's, grilled cheese sandwiches, cans of organic soup heated up and eaten standing over the sink. Midafternoon snacks have returned in the form of popcorn, peanut butter & crackers, fruit, and ice cream. Dinner is Chinese takeout, a taco bar thrown together just in time for Monday Night Football, or pot pies.

I open the fridge or freezer on a daily basis, and I see brisket, tilapia, filets, sweet potatoes and fresh produce light up with the prospect of being plucked from their perch. I then plunge them back into darkness as I reach only for a bottle of water.

I hope this passes soon - I long for the day that the urge to tie on an apron and spend hours in the kitchen overcomes me. I anticipate the late afternoon question of "What's for dinner" - and instead of the blank stares I emit currently, I am eager to be filled with inspiration and desire to create something new, or at the very least, an old favorite.


Weekend Report

Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless.
- Bill Watterson

* Our youngest dog, Chet, following a walk

We typically spend our weekends balancing between work and play. Despite our best efforts, we do not have the ability to simply relax and be lazy for long periods of time. We inevitably come up with a project, or we schedule plans to the point that we're going nonstop.

This weekend, however, we allowed ourselves to be completely lazy. We slept late, took long walks with our dogs, watched football, and ate. And ate.

Friday night we went to Margot, one of our favorite restaurants. We enjoyed hand-cut potato chips with creamy aioli while we waited for our entrees - pan roasted chicken with a potato cake atop creamy leeks for me, fettucine with turkey meatballs for him.

Saturday we went out to my mom's to watch football - and in typical fashion, we ate until we were stuffed. We snacked on salty roasted peanuts, spicy crab spread, tangy cheese dip, and buttery popcorn while we waited for the chili to reach its perfect harmony of flavor. Following that, I wouldn't have thought I'd be hungry for the rest of the day, but later that night we had a quick and comforting dinner of BLT's (with the last of our sweet red tomatoes) and macaroni & cheese.

Sunday morning came in the form of biscuits slathered with butter and apple butter, along with sliced strawberries. After a walk in the crisp fall air, feeling our faces warmed by the afternoon sun, we settled in for a few hours of football watching before we fired up the grill for dinner. Within ten minutes, we had a tender flat iron steak resting on the cutting board waiting to be carved, served alongside corn sauteed in lime, cilantro, and paprika, as well as edamame tossed in sea salt.

The sense of accomplishment we normally feel after a weekend of projects pales in comparison to the sense of contentment we feel today, knowing that we simply enjoyed ourselves, each other, and our meals.


The Glass is Always Half Full

There comes a time in every woman's life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.
- Bette Davis in Old Acquaintance

I am blessed. I am fortunate enough to have a rock-solid group of girlfriends. I can recall the exact moment I met each of them, the first time we cried together, the addresses of the crappy apartments we shared, and all of the relationships that brought us all to this point.

We are all quite different - yet all so similar that we can finish each other's sentences, can laugh hysterically at the same dumb jokes, and can annoy our spouses & significant others for the same reasons. No matter how much time has passed since we've all been in the same room together, it takes mere seconds to pick up where we left off - which usually means holding a glass of champagne.

Our tradition of "Champagne Saturdays" started years ago. One Saturday morning we were all nursing a hangover from a girl's night out the evening prior, so we decided that we needed breakfast. We stumbled upon a place that had great food and cheap Mimosas - and we sat there for hours in our pajamas, calling attention to our table with bouts of laughter and accusations about who did what the night before. After we paid our checks, we decided the best way to ease into the afternoon was - you guessed it - more champagne. I don't think a single one of us could have foreseen the impact this would make on our lives for years to come.

Champagne Saturday has become a sacred encounter, enhanced over the years by the addition of new friends, new homes, and new recipes - and most certainly, new life phases. We've seen marriages, children, new jobs, and new pajamas - but the formula never changes, aside from the fact that we've now allowed it to fall on any given day.

Yesterday was no exception. Our friend Hillary is getting married in less than two weeks, so in typical fashion, we honored this next step in her life with a champagne brunch. I have no photos to document the spread we had, but as is usually the case, we had all the standbys - good food, amazing friends, and champagne glasses that are never empty.

(Photo courtesy of platinumplanet.co.uk)


If Loving You is Wrong, I Don't Wanna be Right

Well, if you put it that way, I think you’ve got a point. Have another biscuit, sorry.
- Eddie Izzard

I hate to admit it when I'm wrong. The defiance I experience when I realize I've misspoken, or argued a point to death - only to realize I won't win the debate - presents itself in a very stubborn, pouty-mouthed apology and the admission that maybe I am mistaken.

When I was younger, my parents dealt with my ability to stand firm when I believed in something, even it were blatantly obvious to be false. They coined me "the little lawyer" and swore I'd have a career in the courtroom. One of my long-standing nicknames is "sassafras", due to my tendency to toss attitude in the general direction of anyone on the other side of the fence.

When I'm faced with the realization that I am incorrect, I have to dig deep to find the ability to step down and confess defeat. I employ distraction tactics at rapidfire speed, hoping to deter my opponent and cause forgetfulness of the issue at hand. The most surefire tactic I've found is food.

Knowing each of my husband's favorite foods, I'm prone to stockpiling the ingredients necessary on the chance that I'll be faced with the possibility of a discussion on the downward spiral. I can argue while I cook, so it's a matter of continuing to save face while I prepare one of his guilty pleasures or comfort foods. This method also allows the ability to stall, because he knows better than to interrupt me if I'm mumbling to myself about whether a dish needs salt or contemplating if it needs another three minutes in the oven.

He's like a kid who just met the Tooth Fairy when he sees me pulling out the makings for biscuits and gravy, and I can usually count on turning away from the stove to see him sitting on a barstool at our island, gazing at me adoringly and awaiting what's to come. In an instant, he's given up on trying to prove his case, and he's content that in mere minutes, he'll have a mouthful of delicate biscuits topped with a creamy peppery gravy generously studded with aromatic sausage.

So right.

Biscuits & Gravy

1 lb. sausage, 3 tbsp. butter and flour, 3 cups milk

- Brown sausage in large skillet, remove and drain, reserving drippings

- Add butter and flour to skillet and combine to form a roux, then add milk and stir constantly, scraping up the brown bits from the pan

- Once mixture has thickened, add sausage, salt & pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Serve over warm biscuits (I take the lazy way out and make White Lily frozen biscuits - they are incredibly good.)


Take Five

The ambition of every good cook must be to make something very good with the fewest possible ingredients.
- Urbain Dubois

I read today that “You’re a combination of the five people you spend the most time with.” For me, that evokes a combination of fear and relief. These emotions present themselves in the same sense that they do with my parents – being afraid that I’ve inherited only the bad qualities from both, while being glad that there are good qualities in each to which I’ve been exposed. Unfortunately, these things aren’t like items on a buffet line – “Yes, I’ll have some of the humor…but I think I’ll pass on the temper today”, but I do think it’s possible to learn from what you see in the people around you and then make the choice on whether or not to let them integrate your personality.

For instance, I know that if I had the opportunity to adopt my husband’s positive nature and ability to enter a room and change the atmosphere within seconds, thereby drawing people in and making them happier, I’d take it. On the flip side, if I am faced with taking on the characteristic of my mother and how easily she gets ruffled (that is, if I don’t already possess that quality), I’d politely decline. All in all, I know that the five people I spend the most time with – my husband, my friend Jessi, my mother and her husband, and our animals (do they count?) – I’d undoubtedly be pleased at the concoction which would result from very different and unique perspectives, tastes, and personalities.

On a similar note, think of the five ingredients you use most, or the five meals you eat most. Couldn’t these be taken into consideration the same way people are? They are based on your choosing (and I’m led to believe most of us have the ability to choose who we spend time with, as opposed to being forced into companionship); they are more likely than not all the same, or at the very least they’ll have some notable differences; they are undoubtedly called up for different reasons, based on different moods; and they are always reliable and available.

On any given day, you can look in my kitchen and find the following five items: chicken broth, edamame, pasta, cheese, and sweet potatoes. This does not include the snack staples such as tortilla chips, popcorn, and fruit. I’m talking about ingredients that I always have on hand. Now, obviously these are not ingredients that could necessarily be thrown together to create a meal. Close, but not quite…and a meal comprised of those five things is certainly not balanced.

In terms of the five meals we eat most in our house, based on convenience, ease, and most importantly, preference, I’d quickly rattle off chicken pot pie, baked pasta, steaks, salmon, and beef stroganoff. This certainly doesn’t mean we eat nothing but those five things – but on average, that’s what pops up the most. Reason? We can pull each of them together in less than 30 minutes, with little effort and minimal cleanup afterwards.

There's also the matter of the 5-ingredient meal - this has almost become a game in our home, a challenge of sorts - especially when it's time for a trip to the grocery store or farmer's market and I'm trying to cull together a meal with the odds and ends we have around the house. This recipe came about on such a night.

Steakhouse Stuffed Potato

Medium baking potatoes scrubbed and pierced several times with a fork
Steaks (any cut you prefer I used filets)
Crumbled blue cheese
Prepared horseradish

Salt & pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes until tender, approximately 35 minutes.

- Meanwhile, grill or pan sear steaks to preferred level of doneness (I did medium-rare) and slice into thin strips.
- Remove baked potatoes from oven and allow to cool briefly, then slice the top of the potato lengthwise and scoop out the pulp into a medium mixing bowl.
- Mash potatoes with butter, blue cheese, and horseradish, and then fold steak slices into mixture.
- Scoop mixture into potato shells and return to the oven for 10 minutes or until potatoes are slightly browned on top (may use broiler function for this).


Soup's On

Between soup and love, the first is better.
- Old Spanish saying

While many consider soup to be a seasonal item, best enjoyed in colder months while bundled in thick sweaters and socks, I enjoy it year-round. I have gotten comfortable with the odd glances of disbelief at eating a large bowl of soup during eighty-five degree days. To me, comfort is measured by the enjoyment found in simple pleasures, not by stereotypes of how or when something should be indulged. I visit the restaurants that I know will offer me the depth and balance that soup provides, even in the hottest months. I get as excited as a puppy playing with a new toy when I walk into a favorite spot to find that the soup of the day is one of my favorites.

I have zero preference when it comes to consistency. I greedily consume bisques, chowders, purees, broths, and stews alike. French onion soup overpowers the strongest of hangovers. A creamy potato concoction cures a slew of ailments…the common cold, waves of nausea, a broken heart. A spicy tomato bisque is only made more exceptional by the addition of crawfish or shrimp.

And now...the disappointing part. My husband doesn't like soup. Oh, he'll eat it - but it's definitely at the bottom of the long list of things he'll consume. I've always secretly wondered if it's because he feels he's too tough to sip a delicate broth-based soup, or that even a thick stew isn't enough nourishment for such a masculine dude such as himself. (Of course, now my secret is out. Sorry, honey.) I mean, has he not SEEN the Campbell's commercials with Donovan McNabb? If his momma can bring him soup from a can - in front of all his tough guy football buddies - then surely my dear husband should be able to enjoy it.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh. Even though it's not his favorite, he always eats his fair share whenever I make it. Especially on a day like today, when it's been raining nonstop for almost 24 hours and the dog's water bowls outside are overflowing with the much-needed precipitation - I have a feeling he'll welcome the vegetable beef soup I have simmering on the stove for lunch. Yesterday, I made pot roast (another rainy day favorite) and we had some left over, so I tossed in some beef broth, peas, onions, carrots, green beans, celery, alphabet pasta, and some seasonings and let it go. In all honesty, it's not the end of the world if he doesn't want it - means there's more for me.

(Photo courtesy of mrbalihai.com)


Best of the Best

To have known the best, and to have known it for the best, is success in life.
- John W. McKay

If you were to ask me about my favorite place to eat in Nashville, I'd likely stare at you stupidly for about a minute before beginning to babble incoherently. You'd probably begin backing away slowly as I rambled on about how this place is great on a Saturday morning if it's a little bit cool outside but that place is sooo much better when it's raining and oh my sweet heavens, have you HAD their macaroni and cheese? I’d get on a rant about mood, atmosphere, drinks, comfort, menu variety, menu stability, hunger level, etc. etc. etc. I’d try to convince you that all of those things prevent me from choosing just one.

The truth is, I just can't choose. I know where I would go if I wanted French fries vs. Chinese vs. my favorite wine vs. sweatshirt appropriate vs. I’m-with-my-mom-therefore-I-need-a-place-with-much-exciting-atmosphere-and-conversation-starting-elements. So…yeah. I find something in everything. Because yes, there IS a way to gauge restaurants on aspects above and beyond the typical classifications such as best sushi or best family environment. I look at restaurants in a different light - such as where I'd like to have lunch with my best friend when I know I have to tell her bad news, the place with the best soap in the restroom, or the joint with the most adorable silverware in town.

Much like Citysearch has the "Best Of", I have my top picks based on what’s important to ME. And no, it’s not always about cost, whether it’s kid-friendly, or whether reservations are recommended. These are REAL categories. (And yes, ”best silverware” IS in fact a category.)

In sharing my list of favorites, I've opted to pepper in my more unusual foundations for preferences with some of the more mainstream categories, just for good measure. Obviously, this list won't do much for you if you don't live here or have no plans to visit - so in that case, use this list to think about what your favorites are in your area.

Any Little Reason's "Best Of"

Wine List: Sunset Grill
Steak: Woody's
First Date: Park Cafe
Dessert: Margot
Where to go in your pajamas: Cafe Coco
Fries: Sportsman's

Brunch: Tin Angel
Takeout: Chef's Market
Margarita: Rosepepper
Restrooms: J. Alexander's
Burger: Beyond the Edge
Artwork: Family Wash
Hangover Food: Nashville Biscuit House
Italian: Cafe Nonna
People Watching: Jackson's
Happy Hour: Broadway Brewhouse
Where you won't feel as though you're in Nashville: Blue Moon
Patio: Yellow Porch
Small Plates: Boundry
Mimosa: Mad Donna's
Plateware: Margot

Sunday afternoon: South Street
Dine at the Bar: Eastland Cafe
Sushi: Battered & Fried


A Little Goes a Long Way

Time for a little something.
- A. A. Milne

We are a family of snackers. The most innocent of family gatherings (think impromptu decisions to meet up before a movie or a lazy boat ride down the lake) turn into verifiable smorgasboards of spreads, dips, canapes and small bites.

I've never entered my mother's home without seeing the edge of her countertop fully obstructed with bowls of peanut butter-stuffed pretzels, a spicy cajun cheese spread next to a basket of crackers, and containers of her husband's famous olive salsa & tortilla chips. Likewise, I'm inclined to keep a constant rotation of dishes coming out of our kitchen whenever we have guests (and often even when we don't). There's just something about the ability to grab a handful of roasted cashews drizzled in maple syrup and tossed with chili powder, or to dunk a chip into a creamy and spicy dip, that allows for a more casual feel and in turn, more relaxing conversation and vibe.

Weekends are the prime time for snacking - especially during football season, when it's acceptable to spend 5-hour stretches on the couch flipping between games. I'm hard-pressed to find something I enjoy greater than puttering around the kitchen, constructing plate after plate of small bites with whatever we have on hand. Like this past Sunday, for example....

We somehow still had chili left over, so I filled tortilla scoops with a spoonful, then topped them with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, a morsel of salsa, a bit of sour cream and some Romaine lettuce. Spicy, creamy, warm, crunchy, and cool - all in one tiny bite.

I also had leftover pork tenderloin and cranberry-pear-mint chutney, so I spread some herb cheese on bagel chips and topped them with thin slices of the pork and a dollop of the chutney. It was a great combination - crunchy chips, creamy cheese underneath the slightly salty pork and the sweet chutney.

We love fried pickles. If you've never had them, and you're reading this right now thinking that Southerners are crazy, I urge you to try them. The unmistakable salty flavor of dill, encased in a crispy spicy batter with cool Ranch dressing for dipping - positively enchanting.

Beer-Battered Fried Pickles
1 jar dill pickles (I used sandwich slices because that's what I had on hand, but I think it would be better with thick-cut chips)
1 egg
1 bottle of beer (I used Pale Ale)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cajun seasoning
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal

- Lay pickles on paper towels and pat them dry (this will help keep the batter from sliding off)
- Combine remaining ingredients (except oil)
- Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet (about an inch thick)
- Dip pickles in batter, allowing excess to drip off, then fry in batches until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes)
- Serve with Ranch dressing

Inspired by Obsession

Chutney is marvelous. I'm mad about it. To me, it's very imperial.
- Diana Vreeland

I am obsessed with lip gloss. It is the one thing I simply cannot leave the house without. There are tubes and pots of it scattered throughout our house - at least two per room. I used to take it to meetings along with my notebook & pen.

I received this lip gloss last Christmas from my sister-in-law. She got me the set of three - cranberry, pear, and mint. They are magical - smooth, not sticky - and they smell divine.

As I sat looking at one of the tubes the other day, I had a thought - pear & cranberry chutney with mint! What better thing to draw inspiration from than one of my favorite things in the world?

We had friends over Saturday night, so I decided to make the chutney - and a pork tenderloin to serve with it. Oh, and am I glad - this pork was perfect, and the combination of tart cranberries, sweet pears, and fresh mint was a great match.

I marinated the pork for four hours in a mixture of olive oil, honey, chopped green onions, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, pepper, sage, and rosemary. I roasted it for 25 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduced the heat to 375 and continued cooking it for another 20 minutes. I let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it. It turned out succulent, with a crust on the edges.

For the chutney, I combined fresh cranberries and pears (peeled and chopped) with diced mint, sugar, and a bit of water and boiled it slowly until the fruit was tender and the mixture was thickened.

I served it with crisply steamed sugar snap peas tossed in garlic, sesame oil and sesame seeds, and sweet pearl onions simmered in garlic, salt, white pepper and cream - and we dove in.


Pretty Pleasing With Cherries on Top

That last cherry soothes a roughness of my palate.
- Robert Browning

I can say with the utmost certainty that our household is a pleasant one. We share responsibilities, we are polite to the point of being sickening at times, we spoil each other - and we always say "please" and "thank you".

Being raised in the South, I grew up accustomed to saying "please" and "thank you", as well as "ma'am", "sir", and the like. If I simply answered my mother or father with a "yes", I immediately heard "Yes WHAT?" in return.

All of this to say that no matter what I cook, I always feel appreciated - even if it came from a box. The photo of the plate above does not by any means represent an inventive meal (yes, it's Kraft Macaroni & Cheese - a guilty pleasure in our home) or a pretty meal, but it was delicious. I ask kindly that we focus on the pork chops. Please?

Cherry Pork Chops

Pork chops, boneless or bone-in
2 tbsp. oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup herb cheese, such as Boursin or Alouette
1/2 cup dried cherries

- In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the oil and then add pork chops, cooking throughout (time will vary based on the thickness of the chops), then set aside and keep warm
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil (you can use the same skillet, which will allow you to scrape up the brown bits from the chops) and saute the onions until tender and translucent
- Add the herb cheese and cherries to the onions, stirring until the cheese has melted
- Spoon mixture over the chops and serve


Happy Enchilada

That's the way that the world goes 'round. You're up one day and the next you're down.
- John Prine

We love John Prine. It's the first conversation we ever had, when I noticed a Prine poster in my now-husband's office, and used it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with him. I had just started working at the ad agency where he also worked, and I'd been trying to figure out a way to approach him. Our first dance at our wedding was "In Spite of Ourselves", which is not a very traditional first dance song - but it was very fitting. One of my favorite Prine songs is "That's the Way That the World Goes Round" - the chorus is as follows:

"That's the way that the world goes 'round.You're up one day and the next you're down. It's half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown. That's the way that the world goes 'round."

I was at a Prine show once and a woman kept screaming "Play the 'Happy Enchilada' song!!" - turns out, she thought "half an inch of water" was "happy enchilada"...

I think of that every time I make enchiladas - so I call these "Happy Enchiladas". Loaded with chicken, cheese, green chiles, and green onions, they will undoubtedly make you smile.

Happy Enchiladas

1 lb. chicken tenders
2 tsp. oil
1 tsp. flour
3/4 cup half & half
7 oz. can chopped green chiles
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup queso blanco
1 cup shredded monterey cheddar blend
1/2 cup salsa verde
1/2 cup Mexican crema

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees

- Heat oil in large skillet and saute chicken tenders until cooked throughout, remove from skillet and set aside

- Add flour to oil in skillet and stir until thickened, then add next 4 ingredients, stirring until fully combined.

- Chop or shred cooked chicken and add to cheese mixture

- Spoon mixture into tortillas and fold to form a pocket, then place seam-side down in a glass baking dish. Bake for 12-14 minutes, then spoon salsa over each, top with shredded cheese, and bake until cheese melts, about 3-4 more minutes.

- Remove from oven and drizzle Mexican crema over each, and serve on top of Mexican rice (I use Vigo)

We were satisfied after our meal, but in the mood for something sweet. We opted for a quick and easy version of sopapillas.

A sopapilla is a traditional Mexican dessert - and although it is prepared many ways depending on the region in which it's served, the basis is fried dough, usually drizzled with honey or syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. For these "sopapilla chips", I cut up tortillas into triangles, fried them in a mixture of butter and oil, and tossed them in cinnamon & sugar.

Forbidden Fruit

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
- Martin Luther

Why do we always want what we can't have? There is such appeal in attaining the things that are just out of our reach. The desire to obtain those things stays with us throughout our lives. When we are children, we want the other toy, the pink crayon, the yellow clay - as long as someone else has it. As we get a bit older, it's our friends' cashmere sweater or video game that we'd do anything to have. Dating brings about feelings of conflict when a relationship ends - even though we don't want to date a person anymore, we don't want anyone else to have them either. Jobs, cars, houses, vacations - all things that are much more desirable when they belong to someone else.

The term "forbidden fruit" is most commonly associated with apples, due to Adam and Eve's inability to turn down an apple, resulting in the loss of their innocence. Luckily, this apple recipe is something you can have without consequences, and with incredible ease. It transforms a basic blueberry muffin mix into something a bit more special by adding sweet apples and a crunchy topping. I made this in a loaf pan and then cut it into squares, but it would be great as muffins also.

Apple-Blueberry Bread with Brown Sugar-Oat Topping

Blueberry Muffin Mix
2 medium apples - peeled, cored, and diced
1/4 cup each brown sugar, oats, melted butter

- Prepare muffin batter according to directions
- Add chopped apples to batter
- Bake according to directions on package, removing from oven about 5 minutes before bread is done
- Pour brown sugar mixture over bread and return to oven for final 5 minutes of baking, or until mixture is bubbly


It's Getting Chili Outside

Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili.
- the dying words of Kit Carson

Everywhere I turn, I am hit with signs of Fall - an increase in the number of amber and saffron-hued leaves in our yard and on our sidewalk, being able to open the windows and smell the scent of burning leaf piles, the need for a long-sleeved shirt on the evening walk with the dogs.

More importantly, I am hit with the urge for chili - spicy and sweet, studded with tender ground beef and delicate beans that practically dissolve on the tongue.

This chili recipe is a breeze to make - and while I've listed the spices and ingredients I toss in the pot, I couldn't begin to cite quantities, as this is something I do by memory, taste, and an innate knowledge of how I've adapted it through the years. I have always preferred chili with a hint of sweet spice from nutmeg and a cinnamon/sugar blend, ever since I had it that way at a friend's house when I was 9 years old. Pork & beans may also seem an unlikely candidate for chili, but they also add a salty sweetness that's just barely detectable.

Sweet & Spicy Chili

2 lbs. Ground Beef, browned and drained
28 oz. can of tomato sauce
16 oz. can of pork & beans
1/2 cup beer (I use a Pale Ale)
Chili powder
Red Pepper
Black Pepper
Garlic Powder
Cinnamon/Sugar Blend

(Bowls can be found here.)

Welcome, Fall. I've been waiting for you.


Lazy Days

I don't think necessity is the mother of invention - invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness.
- Agatha Christie

I am going through a phase. I'm not sure if it's the change in the weather that's causing my inability to focus on anything - knowing that just outside the door, the sun is casting warmth and radiance on everything it touches, while a cool breeze competes for attention. Maybe it's the distractions of the football season & fall sweeps resulting in my reluctance to hole myself up in the kitchen. It's possible that our weekend spoiled me. Whatever the reason may be, I have been lazy the past few days when it comes to cooking.

This laziness is defined by my brief glances at the contents of our fridge, pantry, and freezer - and ignoring the feelings of inspiration in exchange for a quick and easy meal so we can curl up on the couch and watch tv, or sit on the porch and listen to the medley of barking dogs that is so common in our neighborhood.

Store bought smoked turkey wings, alongside sweet steamed baby peas and a quick bake of pineapple, cheddar cheese, shredded crackers, and butter - dinner on the table in 15 minutes. Laziness never tasted so good.