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  • Writer's pictureSpira

Ugly Sweaters and Chilies

Ugly Sweaters and Chilies; but wait what is a chili? I need your vote and opinion!

Last weekend my husband and I enjoyed a lovely get together with our close friends. We are a bunch of type-A personalities, so of course, our celebration had to include a healthy dose of competition. We were competing in Ugly Sweaters and Best Chilis.

Good friends… priceless!

As you can see from the images, I have a hard time doing things half-assed, so I wore an Ugly Outfit, from head beads down to fluffy socks. Why stop at the sweater? I twisted my ankle that day, so my friends iced me up and used purple duct tape, I was so sure of winning, I could taste it. But then, as we all placed our secret votes in a bowl, the winner emerged. I did not win! Darn it; the winner was a gentleman whos outfit was so adorably lovely and ugly we voted almost 100% unanimously. He prefers his online privacy, so you just have to trust me, it was legendary.

Onto the Chili-Cook-Off

Here I do have to ask for my readers to cast an opinion. We ran into some problem with the definition of chili. We all followed recipes that had chili in the name, but as we examined the four dishes, among some uncontrollable laughter we found; one soup, two stews, and one chili.

What is a chili? Is a chili a chili, if it contains no beans? The recipe books sure think so, but if a chili is a chili without beans, what is a difference between a stew and a chili?

Dear reader, please chime in! Comment on the bottom of this blog; 1.) Do you think a chili must have beans in it in order to be qualified in a chili family? 2.) If not, could you please explain the differentiating qualities between chili and stew?

The soup! I will have to get you guys the recipe in a future blog!

There is no need to talk about the soup… We all know soup has broth and is no chili. Let’s just say there was a new appliance miscalculation… Though I must admit, even with this disqualifying excess liquid, I did vote for the soup. What can I say? It was a very tasty soup, and I happen to like soups more chilis!

We gathered around the kitchen, each chef introduced his or her creation individually and instructed us the tasters on the appropriate garnishes. We made sure to have “palate cleansers” between each chili, and we were mandated to use a clean bowl for each chili to minimize cross-contamination of flavors.

After careful taste and smell examination of each dish, we started the vote. The voting examiners were very loosie-goosie with their instructions, so I messed up. I say, a re-vote would have been the appropriate decision due to voting error, but I was silenced due to my language status. It is a very painful memory, I rather not talk about it. :- ) Yes, you guessed it right, I did not win this one either! Darn it!

If you come late, you must sit and make decision under pressure at the head of the table!

Dutch oven love, oh yeah the handmade pies were amazing, I did not get to pies in this blog.

The palate cleanser…

Guess what, the chili, you know the one with the actual beans won the chili-cook-off. Not the stews, not the soup, the chili! Maybe subconsciously we all admitted that, though all four dishes were equally amazing in their category, there was only one chili on the tasting menu.

But we woke up uncertain, so I am writing this blog. Please help us in defining the chili!

Now that you got through this much of my quite wordy blog, I will reward you with my recipe on my stew. I am hoping my friends will share their recipe with me in the future so I can blog about the winner and the soup and the other stew…. My inspiration came from the book Nom Nom Paleo Food for Humans by Michelle Tam (It is a fun and amazing book, you should get it!). Of course, by now you guys starting to figure out that I cannot follow a recipe to save my life. So by the time I finished, this was my version. Paleo food contains no beans, thus this chili is bean-less…

Chocolate Infused Chipotle Beef Stew


The other stew, it turns out I forgot to take an image of my own recipe! I blame the “palate cleansers” It’s OK just imagine stew with a wedge of lime.

• 5 pounds of beef, cubed for stew • 4 slices of apple smoked bacon • 1 large yellow onion • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste • ¼ cup of Chipotle Pepper powder • ¼ cup of cumin • ¼ cup of dried oregano • ¼ cup of Sweet Hungarian Paprika powder • One carton of beef broth • 1 whole Lindt’s 90% dark chocolate that is right the whole chocolate bar. Make sure to use dark 90% chocolate, NOT milk, as little sugar as possible. • 6 garlic cloves • Pepper and salt to taste • Fresh lime and cilantro to garnish • I am Hungarian, so I believe everything must have a little sour cream, so please add a dollop of sour cream as well!

The procedure:

1.) Preheat oven to 275F. Toss the beef with salt and set aside. 2.) In a Dutch Oven Dice and cook the bacon in avocado oil or butter until it is crispy, then fish out the bacon bits and set it aside. 3.) In the bacon juice brown the beef in batches to avoid overcooking. You just want to cook the outside for a few minutes, then fish the beef out and set aside 4.) In the bacony beefy fat juice, grill the finely diced onion, once translucent add the tomato paste and crushed garlic. In the meantime mix the chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika in a cup of beef stock. When onions are soft, add the chili mixture, cook and stir for a minute. 5.) Add back the beef, bacon and broken chocolate bar. Increase heat and bring it to boil, stir well to melt and mix chocolate well. 6.) Season with salt and pepper to taste. 7.) Move the dutch oven with all the goodness into the 275F oven and bake for 3 hours with the lid slightly ajar. Test the beef, it should fall apart at the touch of the fork when ready. Let it sit overnight for flavors to really jazz around, this is a dish that is better the next day reheated! 8.) Serve with a fresh lime wedge, do use the lime, don’t just decorate, squeeze the juice! Add a little cilantro and sour cream to taste.

I am a low carbohydrate fan, so I do serve this dish with cauliflower rice. You can enjoy moderate small amounts of brown rice if you are not on a grain-free diet. Avoid white rice – there is no nutritional content to that sucker!

The winner with the beans. So people, what is a chili?


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