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The family chili

3 Nov

It’s a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota…sunny and a high of 54. I love fall, as I’ve mentioned before. And colder weather means CHILI! So I’ve got a crockpot going of it right now.

My chili is super basic. It’s actually my ex-husband’s family recipe. When we were married, we made it each Christmas Eve for the family gathering. I still love it, so I kept the recipe when we divorced. I like it because it’s basic and you can make it as spicy as you want. I usually make it in a crockpot, but in a pinch I’ve made it on the stove in about an hour.

Tom’s Chili

1lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 family-sized can of tomato soup
1 large can (28oz I think?) of diced tomatoes
3 cans of dark red kidney beans (drain two cans, leave one can undrained)
Chili powder and cumin

Brown ground beef and onions. While they’re browning, in a crockpot mix the tomato soup, diced tomatoes, and beans. Add chili powder and cumin and whatever spices you want. When beef and onions are done, mix them in with the tomato/bean mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Set crockpot to low and cook about 8 hours.


Coffee tour stop #1: Bob’s Java Hut

24 Jul

So a few weeks ago, I asked friends for their recommendations of local non-chain coffee shops. This weekend, my friend SP and I started a coffee tour based on those recommendations. Stop #1: Bob’s Java Hut.

We wanted a place that had food too, because we were both starving. So we went to Bob’s and split the chips & salsa and the hummus & pita. Plus, iced cold press for each of us. (OK nerd alert: We used to pick the place.)

Food! And coffee!

Huge portions! That was more than enough food to feed both of us for dinner. And the coffee was excellent. (Ignore how much cream I have in mine – I got distracted while pouring. Oops.) All that food and coffee for $15!

The coffee shop was really cool. Very old biker bar sort of feel. It’s actually got an interesting background: bikers wanting a coffee shop.

biker bar

There were pictures of motorcycles on the wall, too. I still don’t know the significance of the number 33 there, but we had fun trying to figure it out. They had the whole front wall open as a window because it was the first below-ninety degree we had had in a few weeks. Which was nice for the fresh air, but there was only one ceiling fan and nothing to create a cross-breeze, so it felt warm. Well, warm to me – I don’t do heat well. They also have a big-screen TV (although nothing was on at the time we went), and they compost! Which is awesome. And so easy to do.

All in all, I think it was a great start to our coffee tour. Of course, SP and I can make any coffee shop a great stop just because we can chat for hours. But this one was cool: local, great food, good coffee, interesting/unique/fun atmosphere, very chill and relaxing. Can’t wait for stop #2!

Weekly roundup

2 Apr

In the last two (sheesh, I’m behind) weeks, I…

*FINALLY shared some of the amazing recipes I’ve made lately, including a super one for homemade peanut cups.


My friend LG read about them and tried them the very next day and loved them.

*Had a book club meeting where we finished “The Count of Monte Cristo”. It was a loonnnnggg book, and I had the abridged version (by mistake.) I’d like to go back and read the full version someday because I do feel like I missed some details. Someday.

*Went for coffee with my niece LB who was home from college for spring break. So fun to see her!

*Enjoyed a very lovely day off, including a long run outside. Well, long for me…about 2 miles. Slow (about 10:45 per mile), but still, I ran them all!

*Was all fancy and had dinner with my friend SH at a private club in St Paul. So posh.

*Saw the hand surgeon about my wrist. Surgery is scheduled for the end of May.

*Had dinner with my friend SP. And we tried a fantastic place for dessert. SO GOOD. And I could feel the diabetes setting in just walking in the door.

*Practiced at the studio. I do dance homework at home, but some things you just need the studio space for. But I hate practicing at the studio. Which is silly and ridiculous but true. My friend SH feels the exact same way, except I don’t think she practices at home. So we made a pact to meet at the studio once a week to practice. We did it last week for the first time, and it was great. Like having a workout buddy but with dance.

*Caught up with the fabulous KB over coffee. Alas, it was way too short – we didn’t cover everything!

*Took a knitting class with DF. It was great because she had never knit, and I learned some basic things (cough cough cast-on) that I never really learned properly.

*Had Easter dinner with the family.

PB all the way

22 Mar

There has been a trend to my baking lately, without my even trying.


I love peanut butter. Especially with chocolate. You know I’m not much of a sugar person; give me salt! But peanut butter and chocolate…just can’t beat that combination.

A while ago, I made these buckeye brownies from Brown-Eyed Baker. They were amazing. My roommate still talks about them. Sadly, though, they didn’t really last long enough to take pictures of them.

Then a few weeks (months?) ago, my friend KB talked about these homemade peanut butter cups she made. Homemade? With salt? I had to try the recipe. So I got the recipe from the blog she found it on and tried it.

Bite-sized amazingness.

The recipe used full-size muffin liners; I made them mini-muffin size. The chocolate part didn’t quite work for me, I think because I used skim milk. So I remade them and this time just used melted chocolate. I should have added some cream, but they were fine without it.

Then I saw a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction that I had to try. Especially since my roommate pinned the same recipe because she wanted me to make these.


They were great. A huge hit at book club. I made them smaller than the recipe said to, and they worked out great.

Three fantastic recipes that use peanut butter. All of them so very good. And easy too.

Great, now I’m hungry for a Reese’s.

Weekly roundup

18 Mar

Last week, I…

*Got a Kindle Fire!


And it’s awesome.

*Went to the doctor and learned I need to have hand surgery soon to remove a cyst on my wrist. Luckily it shouldn’t interfere with my life too much. But still annoying. I find out more next week.

*Waged war on the mice.


Cotton balls with peppermint oil on them in tea defusers. And dryer sheets. Our house smelled like peppermint linen for a while. Then the smell dissipated, and we saw signs of the mice again. So more peppermint oil, more dryer sheets, and refresh both more often.

*Had dinner with MH and heard about her amazing trip to Belize.

*Saw “Searching for Sugar Man” with SP. It is a great movie – well deserving of the Oscar it received. Go see it. And then go listen to the music.

*Made these…


More on those soon!

*Finished “The Great Gatsby” for book club.

Weekly roundup

11 Mar

So last week, I…

*Ran outside for the first time in a long time to prepare for a 5K. Not as bad as I thought it would be. Except for when the jog interval on the program I used started over halfway through. And I ended up running for 50% longer than I had planned to.

*Babysat for a friend. And learned very interesting things from the oldest child.

*Saw this fantastic picture on the Facebooks and remembered that we’re all awesome in different ways.


*Gave up on online dating.

*Had great dance lessons. So much progress still being made. Did lots of dance homework too.

*Declared war on the non Gus-Gus mice in my house.


*Ran a 5K! In 36 minutes – the exact time of the last one. Except that this means I was faster than before, because we lost about 2 minutes traipsing through a snowbank to walk around a ginormous puddle.

*Did a dance group class and a lesson after the 5K. Yep, met my quota of physical activity that day.

*Had brunch with KC. (No sunshine band, though.) We tried a new restaurant that was so good. So yummy. Must go back soon.

*Made these:


Homemade peanut butter cups. SO GOOD. More on these soon!

*Realized that my body now wants a certain level of physical activity. Whoa, that’s new.

All in all…a very FANTASTIC week!

Football and snacks

4 Feb

Super Bowl Sunday. A great day in America. Good football…and great snacks.

I was planning to stay home this year to watch the game. My roommate is rather indifferent to football, so to appease my guilt in wanting to use the TV for something she wasn’t terribly into, I offered to make snacks. We’re all about the snacks here.

The smart bloggers had been posting game day snacks all month long. I just chose two that seemed awesome.

First up, bacon wrapped water chestnuts from the Girl Who Ate Everything. She’s one of my go-tos for food ideas, and I don’t think she’s ever let me down. These were AMAZING. Water chestnuts that marinated overnight in a garlic, soy sauce, vinegar goodness. Then wrapped in bacon. Then dipped in BROWN SUGAR and baked. Oh man. So good. So easy, and so rewarding.

Next, baked mozzarella sticks from the Comfort of Cooking. These were probably the easiest thing I’ve ever made. Baked not fried, so we didn’t need to feel guilty. Well, any more guilty than we already felt. Cheese dipped in flour, then egg, then panko breadcrumbs. Baked until golden and oozing. So amazing.


All in all, a great success, even if I do say so myself. And the game was pretty good too.

I got nothin’

28 Jan

It’s been a busy day. And all day, ideas of blog posts kept popping in my head.

And now I can’t remember a single one of them. Damn.

So I’ll leave you with a freakin’ awesome looking recipe my friend KB posted on FB:

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

lemon ricotta pancakes. MUST TRY.

You know the whole T-Rex-has-short-arms thing makes me laugh out loud.


Yep, still laughing.

And a picture of my dog because I’m missing him tonight.


That is all.

Here’s hoping I remember what those amazeballs blog post ideas were!

Crafting for Christmas

24 Jan

Well, look at that. I never told you all about the crafting I did for Christmas. Meaning the stuff I made to give as presents, not stuff I did for decorations in a Martha Stewart way. Because we all know that’s not me.

Because I knew I was making things for presents, I started early. Like July early. And even then, it was a bit of a scramble to get it all done in time to give as presents. Maybe I was a bit ambitious. Maybe I was just slow. Who knows. And really who cares…it got done!

Remember those friends of mine who had a baby? Well, I decided to make a little sweater for said baby. I have an awesome knit-down, no-finishing pattern that’s super easy. And it looks adorable.

baby sweater

It’s really a purple color with grey trim. For some reason, the colors on my iPhone get screwed up. I should really look into that…anyway, I was happy with how it turned out. I think the parents of said baby were too.

Next up…a scarf for a friend of mine. Most patterns are kinda girly and this was for a guy. So I went to my local yarn store and asked them. They had a great pattern (I think they called it a “rugby scarf” but I call it a “manly scarf”. Tomato, tomahto.) Got the pattern, got the yarn, and started knitting. And knitting. And knitting some more. AND KNITTING. I forget how long scarves are, especially when the recipient is over six feet tall.


But it turned out and I’m happy. I didn’t quite block it enough; the edges curl a bit. But meh, close enough, it was fine.

Scarves for the ladies! I found a great cowl pattern on Ravelry upon recommendation of the fine sales people at the yarn store. And it was free – even better! I got some great wool blend yarn that’s quite soft. That pattern was just K1 P1 in the round, so it went fast.


I should do the pen in the photo for reference, like in science films. Anyway, I made three – gave two and kept one for myself. But I’m not sure I’m stylish enough to know how to wear a giant cowl. Luckily my friend SP has one and will guide me.

Last up, for my dear friend and roommate SR, hot cocoa mix! She LOVES her hot cocoa and who can blame her? Especially with the winter we’re having. I was a bit nervous about it, because she usually adds sugar to hot cocoa because it’s not sweet enough for her. But I found this recipe on Brown-Eyed Baker that I thought might just do it. And psst…it’s so easy! Sugar, chocolate, powdered milk in a food processor and blend. Done. While I was at it, I made some for other gifts too. One batch filled about 8 of these jars.


And you know what? SR loves it and says it’s sweet enough. No need to add sugar. Yes! Success!!

White cupcakes aren’t bland

3 Jan

My coworker’s birthday was Tuesday. I like my coworker, so I wanted to do something to celebrate, especially since he took me to lunch for my birthday.

I thought about making a cake but he’s rather particular on his baked goods. For cakes, he only likes white cake with white frosting. YAWN. But it is his birthday, so I thought I’d try it.

Taking a whole cake to work seemed a bit over the top, so I made cupcakes. That way, I could take him a couple and take the rest to the studio for the New Year’s party. I found a recipe in my grandmother’s recipe book, so I thought I’d give it a go. If they didn’t turn out, no one would know. The beauty of surprises.

I was expecting a flavor like a store-bought cake or a cake mix, which were the only white cakes I’ve ever had. And this as nothing like that. It has an amazing flavor, very light and airy. The frosting I used was just the regular Betty Crocker recipe (powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla.)

I thought that white cupcakes with white frosting might be a bit bland for most people, so I sprinkled some crushed candy canes on top of the ones not going to my boss.


I really need to not use my iPhone to take food pictures. But try the recipe…it really is fantastic.

White Cake
2.5 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 salt
1/2 cup butter
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350. Grease cake pans. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 the milk, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, the vanilla and the rest of the milk, and the rest of the flour. Fold in the egg whites last. Spread in prepared cake pans.

I baked the cupcakes for about 18 minutes, so I’m guessing cake layers would take maybe 5 minutes longer? Just keep an eye on them and take them out of the oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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