Tag Archives: chili

Spice Up Your Life – Making Pasta

So, a while back, my parents got me this wonderful little pasta maker. It’s the Imperia CucinaPro Pasta Maker, and they are wonderful for getting me one. See, years ago in college, I tried to make a three cheese and buttered garlic popcorn shrimp herb ravioli. It was a delicious theory… but I’d never actually done it before.

Leave it to me to decide to make my first time out with a technique a ridiculously difficult version of it.

Anyway, all I had was this wooden rolling pin that wasn’t that great. It ended up that the pasta was a bit too thick and came out being more like dumplings than ravioli. It wasn’t an immense failure, per se… but it wasn’t a resounding success either. My mother ended up giving me a (I think) marble rolling pin… whatever it’s made of, it’s super heavy… and then, they gave me this fantastic pasta maker, along with a pasta rack and a ravioli press where you can fill in the raviolis and then cut a bunch at once.

Unfortunately, my counter space in my kitchen didn’t really allow for anywhere to place the pasta maker, clamp it down and still be able to turn the handle without it hitting the clamp. Until I got my new roommates, one of whom brought this little area for his coffee that has a big leaf and a lot of room for my pasta maker.

The fact that it took me this long to use it is the real travesty.

I followed the instructions left in the pasta maker’s manual as closely as I could… here’s what I learned from my experience.

1) MEASURE YOUR FLOUR CAREFULLY. It’s generally one cup, one egg, and that’s all the ingredients you need. The pasta maker’s manual said two cups, two eggs creates a bit more than a pound of pasta. I went with that. Now, the flour I used may not have been the finest flour ever, but I ran into trouble when I foolishly allowed for a bit of extra flour. The dough was not getting wet enough and mixing together at all. Plus, when I created the well in the flour and put the eggs in to whisk them, I got distracted and the well broke. It was messy. Fortunately, you can fix a mistake like too-dry pasta with some lukewarm water. You fix the egg spilling out by panicking and shoving it all back into the flour.

2) THERE WILL BE MESS. Holy crap will there be a mess. You want to mix your pasta dough by hand to make the best assurances for a smooth consistency… and it will be all over your hands. And everywhere else, really.

3) PUT IN EXTRAS BEFORE YOU MIX THE EGGS. I wanted to put some flair on and make the pasta Sriracha flavored. Because, again, I complicate things. Unfortunately, when the flour well broke, I panicked and completely forgot about the Sriracha until a little while into the process… I got some in, but not nearly enough to impart the flavor I was hoping for. Then again, it’s thoroughly possible that all the flavor of whatever you put in there will go away, which is why you don’t see too much flavored pasta in stores. Someone else probably knows better than me.

4) TWO CUPS OF FLOUR MAKES A WHOLE LOT OF PASTA. Like, holy MESS did I make a bunch of pasta. I was also foolishly not cutting the sections I was rolling out into smaller sizes… I ended up with a few sheets a couple feet long before I cut them. Definitely cut the sheets you roll out in half at LEAST once because they will get unmanageably long if you don’t. I only managed to succeed because I had a second person helping me.

Ultimately, though, the process was a success. Fresh pasta was made, boiled briefly and thrown into my pot of vegetarian chili for a much better version of chili mac or Cincinnati chili than the version I had last… The pasta was very thin and almost melted in your mouth, not distracting at all from the flavor of the chili itself.

Next time, I think I’ll either try for a slightly thicker pasta, maybe a spaghetti or maybe a ravioli again (gotta figure out how to make them not taste like water). Still, I think this ended up being a decent start to the new year and me trying out new techniques in the kitchen. I may try to bread and fry things next, but my lack of appropriate supplies may be a problem for that… My other dishes I’d love to work on are pad thai and ramen burgers.

Is there a specific type of dish you think I should try? Or a specific technique in the kitchen you suggest I should work on? As much as I love cooking, I’m still massively under-experienced in a lot of things… so I’d like to hear your input. It can be as simple or crazy as you’d like… And I’ll see about giving it a go.

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Spice Up Your Life – Tuscaloosa Chili Cookoff

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Tuscaloosa for nearly 7 years and didn’t know about the annual chili cookoff. Well, this year, I plan to make a big splash.

Today is the 12th annual Asses of Fire chili cookoff, sponsored by WellThat’sCool.com and hosted by Egan’s Bar, located on the Strip. Registration starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 3:45, with judging to begin at 4:15. Now, in my opinion, if you haven’t already made your chili, you’re a bit late for that… though I suppose you might have time to squeeze out a fresh pot before then. I like to let mine sit. I finished cooking my two chilies on Tuesday and am reheating them now to do final taste tests and manipulations. You can enter as many chilies as you like, but can only win once, and I think most that know how I cook chili know which two I’ll be entering… with some slight twists.

Anyway, even if you don’t have a chili to submit for the contest itself, you can still come and partake of the eating of it. Those that submit chili eat for free, but for only $5, you can have all the chili you can eat/all the chili that’s actually there, though chili is a thick, filling food so I don’t expect people to come back for fifths and sixths. Egan’s will also be running drink specials all day… which might be helpful for downing some of the more intensely spicy chilies.

If you’d like to try out some chili or have your own to throw in the pot, come to Egan’s. But be warned… I plan on my chilies doing rather well. Hopefully. …it’d certainly be nice, at least. And I plan on bringing some extra hot sauce if anyone really wants their tongues to be yowling in pain.

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Sing, Sang, Sung – “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” From “Fiddler On The Roof”

Okay. Once again, I find myself not having much time. I spent most of my day fixated on my chili. They took, like, two hours to fully reheat, after which I had to add spices and chocolate and the like to perfect them. Then let it simmer for an hour or so, then off to the farmers market to be part of the competition. In a wholly non-egotistical way, I honestly think both of mine were better than all the rest. The winning chili tasted like a good hot dog chili, but not a great standalone chili. Still, my hot chili, “Trick,” won second place (Which got me the prize I preferred. First place was an overnight stay at a local hotel for two, with complimentary breakfast. I’m kinda massively single, so that didn’t appeal. Second place was a $25 gift certificate to a local Greek restaurant that has some gyros with twists… can’t wait to try it.), and when I peeked at the scores, it looked like my sweet chili, “Treat,” was a vote away from tying.

I then proceeded to spend $29 at the market. They had muscadines! I haven’t had those in years! They’re probably my favorite fruit ever, truth be told. And they had fresh cayenne peppers! I have honestly never seen those. Not once. And I buy a LOT of different peppers. Maybe EarthFare in Huntsville had some, but I’ve never seen fresh cayenne in stores. It’s always powdered. And I also bought potatoes, jalapenos, habaneros, nearly two pounds of ground black Angus beef and a block of habanero goat cheese. You throw that cheese in a pasta dish, it becomes almost an instant cream sauce. It’s delicious. I love farmers markets.

And then there was trivia and we were awful, even worse than usual. It was bad news bears.

BUT! None of that really has to do with the song. I’m just telling you all this because 1) it happened and 2) I need to pretend I have an excuse for yet another rather stupid post. I’ve not been giving very much lately. So, excuses made. The song is simply because a friend tweeted about “matchmaker” earlier today and tweeted some of the lyrics to the song. Which proceeded to get stuck in my head. Which is okay. I like that musical. It’s pretty awesome. I think I could play Tevye, were anyone to ever cast me in anything.

…anyway. Here’s the song, via the film. Not “Mrs. Doubtfire,” although the song appears in that movie, too, albeit briefly. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should go watch it. It’s loads of fun.

“Matchmaker, Matchmaker” – “Fiddler on the Roof”

Well, somebody has to arrange the matches,

She might bring someone wonderful-

Someone interesting-

And well off-

And important-

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,
catch me a catch
Matchmaker, Matchmaker
Look through your book,
And make me a perfect match

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
I’ll bring the veil,
You bring the groom,
Slender and pale.
Bring me a ring for I’m longing to be,
The envy of all I see.

For Papa,
Make him a scholar.

For mama,
Make him rich as a king.

Chava and Hodel:
For me, well,
I wouldn’t holler
If he were as handsome as anything.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,
Catch me a catch,
Night after night in the dark I’m alone
So find me match,
Of my own.

Since when are you in a match, Chava? I thought you just had your eye on your books.

(Hodel chuckles)

Tzeitel con’t:
And you have your eye on the Rabbi’s son.

Well, why not?
We only have one Rabbi and he only has one son.
Why shouldn’t I want the best?

Because you’re a girl from a poor family.
So whatever Yente brings, you’ll take, right?
Of course right!

(throws scarf over her head, imitating Yente)

Hodel, oh Hodel,
Have I made a match for you!
He’s handsome, he’s young!
Alright, he’s 62.
But he’s a nice man, a good catch, true?

I promise you’ll be happy,
And even if you’re not,
There’s more to life than that…
Don’t ask me what.

Chava, I found him.
Won’t you be a lucky bride!
He’s handsome, he’s tall,
That is from side to side.
But he’s a nice man, a good catch, right?


You heard he has a temper.

He’ll beat you every night,

But only when he’s sober,

Tzeitel and Hodel:
So you’ll alright.

Did you think you’d get a prince?

Well I’ll find the best I can.

Tzeitel and Hodel:
With no dowry, no money, no family background
Be glad you got a man!

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
You know that I’m
Still very young.
Please, take your time.

Up to this minute,
I misunderstood
That I could get stuck for good.

Chava, Hodel and Tzeitel:
Dear Yente,
See that he’s gentle
You were also a bride.
It’s not that
I’m sentimental
It’s just that I’m terrified!

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Plan me no plans
I’m in no rush
Maybe I’ve learned
Playing with matches
A girl can get burned
Bring me no ring
Groom me no groom
Find me no find

Chava, Hodel, Tzeitel, Shprintze and Bielke:
Catch me no catch
Unless he’s a matchless match.

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Drugs Make Me Sleepy

Benadryl drugs, at least.

Sorry. I fell asleep at some point around 8, 9 p.m. and woke up right around midnight, suddenly remembering I hadn’t cooked my spicy chili and my meat was just sitting out waiting to be used. So I ran off and did that. Which took about an hour.

…really, I didn’t have much to say anyway. Except, well, I love Christopher Nolan, right? But he has absolutely NO understanding of how to balance sound. I’m trying to watch “Inception” in my room. If I move the volume up to a point where I can hear people actually talking, eventually something happens and it’s all BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH LOUDEST NOISE EVER BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! If I lower the volume to where the bwahs and other loud noises are tolerable, I can’t hear them talking unless I’m sitting right next to the speaker. He totally has a similar problem with “The Dark Knight Rises,” or so it seems from watching the movie in theaters.

…so, yeah, there’s that.

…I’ll try to have something more meaningful tomorrow. And more on time. G’night.

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And Now, We Wait. Then Vote.

Tonight was the third and final presidential debate, and the first and only one I managed to watch all the way through live. In my personal opinion, President Barack Obama won the debate. Mitt Romney did put some strong points out there at times, but most of the time, while the debate was still thoroughly on foreign policy, Romney looked and sounded less than confident. Many times, Romney contradicted himself (such as complaining that Obama attacking him isn’t talking policy, then turning to attack Obama, or his stating that killing doesn’t solve thing,s then advocating for our ability to have multiple conflicts simultaneously). Other times, Romney simply seemed to say, “I agree with the president, I’d’ve just done it better.”

In the end, though I know people will likely say I’m biased, I think Obama came out strong and clear, working on his record and calling out Romney’s “mistakes.” Romney, meanwhile, seemed to capitulate and only on occasion fight back with any conviction.

If you missed the debate and want to see them talk foreign policy (and often slip back into domestic policy and the economy, where Romney felt far more sure of himself), you can view the debate here. (Someone tell me if that doesn’t work, by the by.)

Anyway, after Tweeting up a storm (most of which didn’t end up on Facebook… probably a good thing), and not sleeping much ever, I feel exhausted. I also need to go start working on cooking up my two chilis for Thursday’s chili cook off. I have to let the flavors sit and mingle, though I’ll add most of the chocolate to the sweet chili the day of, I think.

Now that the debates are over, though? Go vote. Seriously. Do it.

So. From me to you, goodnight and talk to you later.

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Taking The Night Off After A Full Day

Today was a busy day, and it all started yesterday.

Yesterday was opening night of “Inside the Tornado.” I think it went well. My roommate and our mutual friend (both ladies) kind of tackle-hugged me when I got back to the apartment. Which was nice, to be sure. But that day was also grocery shopping all day for today. …how I wish there were a better grocery store in Tuscaloosa that held more variety, particularly in produce. Like peppers. I had to wing my sweet chili a bit, as Walmart and Publix both lacked the peppers and sausage I usually use.

Anyway, after the show was over, around 9:30, I went to buy a few more last minute items for the cookout that I was planning for today. I brought it all in and started prepping my chilies because I wanted them to be able to sit.

Well, prepping the chilies meant dicing up a lot of peppers and cooking those, cooking around 2 to 2.5 pounds of meat per chili, opening a billion cans and getting it all thrown in a pot and slightly cooked together. I had to buy a new 6 quart pot to be sure I could fit everything, and I still had to remove liquid from my spicy chili due to 6 quarts being right on the limit of space for my chili.

I did all this before bolting out the door and making it to the movie theater just in time to catch the trailers before “The Avengers.” Which was an amazing film I’ll review later. After the movie was done, I came back and finished cooking up the chilies, which took another hour or so to get them actually cooking and balance the spice/flavor profiles… Intense work. I came upstairs to work on the story I’d written for work a little bit, not really getting anywhere at all with that, before collapsing and going to bed around 4, 4:30. Then I woke up at 8 a.m. to continue working on my cooking. I was also bringing two cheesecake sopapillas and some roasted potatoes.

I left my apartment at around 9:45, after a lot of work prepping the potatoes and finishing up the chilies, and headed to the Pink House, where the event was to be, to finish everything up.

More stuff bought, cooked, et cetera… my clothing got covered in food stuffs… (How I wish I’d found my apron…)

I ended up staying there until 5:30 p.m., making sure I got to see everyone that came and got some food (I will apparently have to cook some veggie chili soon). Traffic was the worst, so instead of even trying to bother going home, I just went straight to the show about 30 minutes early. And then we had our show, and now I’m home.

So, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve had a lengthy day. A wonderful day that I wish lasted longer so I could have spent more time with my friends, showing them my love and appreciation in one of the ways I best know how. Also so I could’ve eaten more. I didn’t get to eat too much (dinner was an apple)… fortunately, my chilies are hefty and chock full of meat and such. They’ll fill you up.

Due to said day, I’m taking the writing day off (he said, 500+ words later). Goodnight, world.

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Spice Up Your Life – Cooking Halloween Chilies

I will try to get in that second post tonight, since I said I’d get two in… but I definitely want to get this one in, for it is a new segment! That’s right, a new segment, here through absolutely no demand!

This segment, “Spice Up Your Life,” will be about my experiments in the kitchen. Cooking from a recipe isn’t so difficult (unless it’s Julia Child’s beouf bourguingon), but I usually find myself with a bunch of random ingredients thinking, “I wonder what I can make this into?” And my first experimental food was a chili made during a Boy Scout camping trip way back when I was still in middle school. Our patrol’s chef left to play a soccer game, and I was the senior scout and patrol leader, so food was left to me. I threw a lot of it together with some sparing spices and created what was lovingly called “Hobo Chili.”

But I’ve never been able to recreate that chili. In fact, when it comes to chili, I will never give you the same chili twice. Because I never write out a recipe. And these recipes, for I will give you two of them, are no different. Over the years, making many a pot of delicious chili, I have learned some tricks that are well repeatable and always taste delicious, but I always end up winging it in the end with some of the more specific things, like amounts and types of herbs and spices to use.

So, note that these recipes aren’t exact, but are based on the two chilies I have been cooking yesterday and today for a church Halloween chili dinner tomorrow.

First up: “Trick” (This chili will be quite spicy, so my friend Stephen Swain is sure to enjoy it thoroughly.)

1 5-pack of Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausages
1-1.5 pounds of ground beef (whether or not you go lean is up to you, but the amount of fat will change the consistency of the chili)
1 29 oz. can of tomato sauce (if you go store brand, pick Publix before you pick Walmart)
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (alternatively, three of these instead of one and one)
2 cans dark kidney beans (I usually pick Bush’s)
2 cans unsalted corn, whole kernels
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (Note that when I say 15 oz., I’m guessing from memory. I mean the normal ones, not the big ones.)
2 10 oz. cans of Rotel Hot (diced tomatoes with habaneros)
4 habanero peppers
3 serrano peppers
3 jalapeno peppers
4 red chili peppers
1 poblano pepper
Olive oil
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Season salt
Red chili flakes (optional, but then again, this isn’t a strict recipe, so…)

You’ll need a pretty good size pot for all this, I’d suggest a 5 gallon pot. Take the sausage meat out of the skins and dump it with the ground beef in a pan, mixing it all together. Take your peppers and cut them up a bit. I seeded about half of the peppers, as the seeds hold a lot of spice, but you can decide on your own what to do there. Also, I suggest dicing them into little bite size bits, but if you have a Cuisinart you can just cut the caps off and chop them up in there a bit. Throw them in a pan with some of that olive oil and cook them at medium heat until they’re slightly softer. The oil should be hissing a bit, and the peppers releasing some juices. While that’s happening, put the pan of meat on at medium heat. Salt your meat with the season salt before it browns. Once the peppers are done, toss the entire bit into the pan with the meat and stir that stuff up. You can use some red chili flakes with the meat cooking if you want a stronger kick. Or double your pepper amount, depending on how spicy you want things. Try to prevent your meat from getting too terribly chunky in the large variety. Open up your cans of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and Rotel and pour them all in your pot. Put the pot on the burner at medium. Once the meat is browned, throw the meat and peppers in with the tomatoes. Get the meat good and covered with the sauce. After a bit, toss in your corn and beans. When it comes to draining things, I drain my beans, but not my corn. Sometimes, the extra liquid is good to ensure you don’t boil away too much stuff. From here on out, it’s guess work. You’ll want to add a good amount of chili powder, more than any of the other spices. I’d add a couple teaspoons of garlic powder and a couple teaspoons of cayenne, but really at this point, you should be tasting it as it cooks and figuring out what it needs. The chili should give a nice, on contact burn that isn’t super overwhelming for your less adventurous. Though tasting some of this chili mixed with my sweet chili almost killed my little sister, so who knows? Anyway, when you’re mostly satisfied, let it simmer for about an hour on the stove, lid on. Put it in the fridge for a day or two to let the flavors really blend.

But on to the sweet chili: “Treat”

1 5-pack of Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausages
1-1.5 pounds of ground beef (whether or not you go lean is up to you, but the amount of fat will change the consistency of the chili)
1 29 oz. can of tomato sauce (if you go store brand, pick Publix before you pick Walmart)
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (alternatively, three of these instead of one and one)
2 cans dark kidney beans (I usually pick Bush’s)
2 cans unsalted corn, whole kernels
1 15 0z. can diced tomatoes (Note that when I say 15 oz., I’m guessing from memory. I mean the normal ones, not the big ones.)
2 10 oz. cans of Rotel Mild (diced tomatoes with green chilies)
2 Anaheim peppers
2 cubanelle peppers
2 Hungarian wax peppers
Olive oil
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper (Optional)
Season salt
Semisweet chocolate/Milk chocolate (Optional)

Again, 5 gallon pot. The process here is pretty much exactly the same as the previous one, but the peppers used in this specific chili are SO much milder. They’re not quite like bell peppers, but they’re close. The cubanelles especially. But, seriously, it’s the same exact process. Salt your meat, cut your peppers, put it all together, start putting in the chili powder and the garlic powder until it tastes about right. When cooking this chili, my pot was a bit smaller, so I left out

Now, you’ll not the chocolate. I originally wanted to add chocolate to this chili, but forgot to buy any so I left it out. I’ve never added chocolate to one before, but I wanted to give it a try. So, here’s the funny story. Apparently, a lot of people at my church signed up to bring chili to the chili dinner. (Don’t worry, my chilies will be the uncontested best chilies there.) So, since I cooked up so much chili, my mom used some of the chili for dinner tonight while I was at work. She poured up a decent amount of the sweet “Treat” chili, and then added a couple spoonfuls or whatnot of the “Trick” chili. This is what nearly killed my little sister, who has only recently managed to brave the spiciness that is pepperoni. I think she’s secretly from Ohio or something. Anyway, after dinner, lot of chili left, my mom added the entire thing back into the “Treat” chili. I found out about this, tasted it, and discovered a far greater spiciness than I ever intended for the chili.

Ergo, I set forth to fix it. I added a tiny milk chocolate bar and maybe a handful or two of some semisweet chocolate chips to the mix. It darkens the chili to a great brown color and gives it a much sweeter flavor. With the small addition of the “Trick” chili, and some garlic and chili powder added back in to cover the slightly overpowering sweetness now present in the chili, the “Trick” chili has a very slight gradual burn in the back of your mouth, cooled off by the hint of chocolate and mild sweetness present in the sausage and peppers.

In other words, it turned out to be pretty awesome, even if it wasn’t my choice to start with.

That’s all I’ve got for my recipes for chili. Really, it’s all about your personal desires for how spicy, how thick, how meaty you want it. Just remember to taste it as you go and just experiment. Never add more than you can cover up with some other ingredient. But you should get some delicious chilies with these basic directions.

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Obligatory Blog Post And Link

Today, I’m actually getting to hang out with some friends. Which means I’m not quite as able to make an actual post that says much legitimate stuff. Having spent most of the afternoon cooking two different pots of chili certainly didn’t help.

But I definitely can give a preview of what I will likely talk about tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll pull off two posts, partly as an apology for coping out again. First, I hope to put up a recipe for some of the chili I made today. (Maybe that way I’ll actually be able to remember what I do.)

Second, you can read this link about Pat Robertson talking about why Christians shouldn’t be a part of Occupy Wall Street. I’ll have something to say about that, for sure.

That’s all I have for tonight, though. I’ll do better tomorrow, when I have less time.

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