April 24, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Cincinnati Chili

This week I went for something that will last. Nick and I are less than a week away from moving so cooking is the last thing on my mind. I caught a few minutes of Cook's Country on TV last weekend & saw them make this recipe. It looked easy, tasty and also like it might last for a few meals. Perfect! Also, I've never made chili without browning the meat first so it was a new thing to try.

"What's is Cincinnati Chili?", you ask. Well, I did a little research and found that it's just a regional version of chili that usually doesn't have beans and includes a different blend of spices than the chili we're used to. The first big difference is cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon, and you can really taste it. This recipe has a very bold, and different, flavor to it. Here, you try it...

Cincinnati Chili
(according to Cook's Country TV)

1 Tbs Vegetable Oil
2 Onions, chopped fine (leave out a little to sprinkle on top)
1 Clove of Garlic, minced
2 Tbs tomato Paste
2 Tbs Chili Powder
1 Tbs Dried Oregano (I already packed mine, so I used cilantro)
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Allspice
2 Cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth (yes, chicken broth)
2 Cups Tomato Sauce
2 Tbs Cider Vinegar
2 tsp Dark Brown Sugar
1 1/2 pounds 85% Lean Ground Beef

1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions until soft and browned around edges, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, pepper and allspice and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, vinegar and sugar.

My actual Dutch Oven is already in a box somewhere, but a big stockpot works fine too. Some people even say it's the same thing.

2. Add beef and stir to break up meat. (On the TV show they broke up the meat with a potato masher, this worked really well. I used the kind with slots rather than a big open wire one.) Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chili is deep brown and slightly thickened, 15-20 minutes.

That's it! Easy, no? It is a very fragrant chili, that's for sure. The taste is totally different from our usual chili, but it's good. If I make it again though, I think I'll use a bit less cinnamon. It was a little too much for me. Otherwise it's great!

Traditionally, Cincinnati Chili is served over pasta. Apparently the locals order it like you'd order your Starbucks. We had Four-Way chili, served over pasta and topped with cheese and onions. To have Five-Way chili, add beans on top too. Yummy!


A Little About the Dutch Oven:

"A Dutch oven is a thick-walled iron (usually cast iron) cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid." - Wikipedia

-In France, and at Le Creuset, they call it a "French Oven", of course.

That's the one I have, in the middle photo (thanks Amanda!). You can use it on the cooktop and then put it in the oven. I made a roast for Christmas in mine. It's a very handy pot.

Dutch ovens have been around for a long time, the American colonists loved them. The camping version often has a wire handle and little feet to keep it off the coals. Lodge Cast Iron has been going strong since 1896.


For this recipe, technically, I didn't use a Dutch oven and I think it worked out fine. If you'd like to see more from Cook's Country TV, pop over and see the website. You need to register to download recipes, but it's free.

Now, I want to see what Jenn's doing. I think she may be using a Dutch oven this week too.

April 22, 2009

Another Random Project

I don't know why so many odd ideas have been popping into my head lately, but I might as well go with it. Here's my latest random project...a coupon organizer! I had one of those paper ones a long time ago, but I think it went in the bin when I went to England. Then I bought a cool plastic one from the Container Store (I love you Container Store). That one just didn't work. It wouldn't stay open. Annoying.

So, as any nutty seamstress would, I decided to embark on a quest to make my own...out of fabric. It's a time consuming little project, but a fun one anyway. I will definitely turn it into a pattern at some point. This is a good project to make for yourself, or as a gift. I'm not sure I can sell a completed one for enough money to cover the time involved. We'll see.

Here's prototype #1. It was fine, but I decided I'd like to make the dividers a tiny bit heavier and the whole thing wider.

Version #2 had thin interfacing for the dividers and actual labels on the tabs. I had a hard time deciding on those. I don't want it to get too thick. It's already bigger than a store-bought organizer. That's the price you pay for style, right?

Version #3 is my favorite because I love the fabric so much. For the next version I'm going to make the cover part about 1/2" wider. Otherwise I think it's pretty settled.

This was a fun project for me because I'm a bit of a font lover. I enjoyed actually being able to use some cool fonts for a change.

My next version will be for me! Yes, I'm going to make something for myself. It may not get done until after the move, but the fabric's all picked out and ready to go.

April 20, 2009

Inspiration and Perspiration

Well, today started my last full week living in California, and none too soon. It's blazing hot here! Get me outta here already. I can't wait to head north next week and to begin my real life with Nick. For the past 3 years we've been living a very temporary existence & this move is going to really change that. We're really looking forward to owning a home and (fingers crossed) starting a family. My house is full of boxes, my kitties are nervous and my brain is on overdrive. It's pretty fun.

I can't wait to decorate the new house.

These are the fabrics that will inspire my new sewing room. What do you think?

April 14, 2009

Cats are People Too

Have you seen all those great pet collars on Etsy? They're really cool, but most of them are for dogs. It's the same thing when you go to the pet store...a whole aisle of sweet dog collars and toys & a small section for the cats. It's not fair!! I'm taking a stand for kitties. Actually, I decided to go ahead and make my own cool kitty collars.

They look alright, they just get a little worn after a while. I decided to just reuse the hardware on the old collars to make some new ones.

I used some scraps I had in the closet already. You only need a tiny strip & it took me about 10 minutes to make each one.

Jody is looking so stylish now with his manly stripes.

Maple keeps her collar well hidden under the fluff (I pushed it out of the way for the photo), but you get the idea.

This whole idea of sewing things for me (or my kitties) is kind of fun!

April 10, 2009

Two Spoonfuls: Oreos

Okay, so you all know by now that I'm packing up my house to move to Washington (in 3 weeks!), so I'm gonna cheat a little this week. I should be working on "The Straight Dough Method" according to our friend Alton Brown. I just couldn't find the time to not only read through the 54 page chapter, but to bake bread as well. Sorry. Instead, I'm going to summon up my previously learned Alton Brown skills and make homemade Oreos, hooray!!

I found this recipe on a blog I like to read called The Cupcake Project. The writer of The Cupcake Project got the recipe from Laurie of Heaven is Chocolate, Cheese, and Carbs. Laurie got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who got the recipe from the book Retro Desserts by Wayne Brachman, and you're getting it from me! Now that's passing it on, eh?

Homemade Oreo Cookies

The Chocolate Wafers
  • 1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar.
  2. Beat in the butter and the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough into circles, or use a cookie cutter to shape.
  4. Bake for 9 minutes at 375 F. Set on a rack to cool.

I used a fluted cutter for my cookies, but when they were done the shape had all but disappeared. Plain old circles would be better for me next time.

The Filling
  • 1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar (I tossed mine in the food processor instead of sifting
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.
2. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
3. To make a cookie, pipe teaspoon-sized blobs of cream into the center of a cookie using a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch round tip. (I just used a spoonful)
4. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie, being careful not to break the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

These cookies were really yummy and super fun to make. I took a few of them with me on a trip to Seattle and our real estate agent gave them 2 thumbs up.

If you'd still like to know about Alton Brown's Straight Dough Method (that I didn't tell you about today), you can watch a great episode of Good Eats here:
Part 1
Part 2


Fun Stuff

~ Interested in some more retro recipes? Check out this book, it's on my Wish List.

~The history of the Oreo Cookie

~ How to Properly Dunk an Oreo Cookie

~ Oreo Recipes from NabiscoWorld.com

~ A pattern to make your own felt Oreo

~ Want to tease the kids? How about some Oreo soap?

I'm pretty hungry now, let's see what Jenn's cooking....

April 07, 2009

Vote for Me!

Actually, vote for Balthazar! I just received a convo from Etsy letting me know that one of my monkeys has made it onto the Tax Time Get Down to Business item poll on the Storque. That's so cool! Balthazar and I are very honored to be a part of the pool. If you'd like to vote for Balthazar or another cool handmade item, click here.

April 03, 2009

Super Helpful

This morning I came across something really cool online that I thought I'd share with you. I went to the Dritz/Prym website to get some info on the snaps I use and found their Tips & Techniques page.

There's a whole bunch of downloadable PDF's about different sewing stuff notions and tools:
  • Needles
  • Pins
  • Machine Needles (I love this one)
  • Bobbins
  • Fasteners
  • Sewing Tools and more!

I printed out the Machine Needles guide. It's hard to keep track of all these little details so I love a good downloadable. Stop by & check these guides out, they might just answer that burning pin question you've had in your mind for ages.

Have a great weekend, happy sewing!

April 01, 2009

Last Weekend in Ahwahnee

This past weekend we visited our friends Jim & Julie for the last time before we move. The weather was gorgeous! It was nice to get away and relax for a couple days before I get into the whole packing thing. Yuck!

This is where I got married almost a year ago. Wow, the time is just flying by.

Julie's taking a watercolor class. She gave me this painting before I moved to the UK. I love it! I can't wait to frame it for the new house.

Look at the new painting Julie gave me. It's going to look so pretty in our new guest room. Look how well it goes with the quilt! Thanks for the paintings, Julie.