Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chillin' with Chili and Camp Friends

On Friday, I hosted a little chili party here. It was great - one of those evenings when you smile so much that your face hurts.
The party started around 1:00 P.M. when Leslie came over on the ferry from Seattle. I met Leslie through Camp Goodtimes West. She has been a staff member there for a number of years, and we just "clicked." Leslie is one of the sweetest, kindest, most mature, compassionate, independent - and wickedly funny -  young women I know...and she's gorgeous, too!
Leslie, by Paul Dudley
Leslie and I had a few hours of "girl-talk time" before our other friends arrived for dinner. Heidi, Paul, Miles, Alex, Ann Marie and Chad all came bearing beverages, desserts, salad and great good humor. It felt wonderful to have them all here together. They have been friends and colleagues for many years.
Mooselips & Pineapple (Camp names)
Mooselips & Chad, a.k.a. "Putt-Putt"
Ann Marie, a.k.a. "Watermelon" has known Paul & Heidi since she was a young girl.
Heidi a.k.a. Mrs. Mooselips, Poodle-lips & Watermelon
This is one of my favorite photos of Paul. It was just chili, I promise!
I'll even share the recipe with you. This recipe is the only thing I kept from my first marriage (my ex was kind enough to share it with me after we split). It's my favorite chili - more meat than beans, with a velvety sauce. I took liberties and improvised widely with it on Friday, which I'll describe to you here. But first, the basic recipe:
TL's Chili (now that I think about it, this was LC's Dad's Chili, originally)
3 lbs. sirloin (or stew meat)
2 TBSP. oil
2 - 3 cloves garlic
4 - 6 TBSP. Chili powder
2 tsp. Cumin
3 TBSP. flour
1 TBSP. oregano
2 cans beef broth (13+ ounces each)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can pinto beans (15 oz.)

"Brown the meat first and combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook at least 3 - 4 hours, until the meat is very tender. Add the beans about 1 hour before cooking is complete. Enjoy!"*
Reading through this, I realized that I always improvise on the recipe. So here's how I do it:
- Cut the meat into bite-sized cubes. Brown it in the oil. Put the meat, spices and beans together in the crockpot.
- I always use at least 4 cans of beans, and I like variety - red beans, kidney, black beans, etc.
- I use "Better Than Bouillion," a hearty paste (available at Costco) to which you add water, rather than canned soup.
- I used fresh oregano this time - about 3 TBSP. of it.
- I don't like cumin, so I use half of the amount in the recipe.
- I omitted the salt and pepper - unnecessary, with the salt in the canned beans.
- I added cinnamon and allspice (can't recall how much).
- This time, I put in about half a bar (2 oz. or so) of dark chocolate. I used "Lindt Excellence Chili Dark" and "Ghirardelli Premium 100% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Chocolate." Oh my goodness, it made all the difference to this recipe - it gave the chili a rich, velvety-smooth quality, without sweetness. Reminded me of a mole sauce.

* It's more delicious if you serve condiments with this chili: lime wedges, shredded cheese and plain yogurt (or sour cream).

You could combine different types of chili powders. I'd want to learn more about their qualities before I did that, but it's an intriguing idea.

I made cornbread (Bob's Red Mill) and honey-butter to go with the chili. Heidi made a wonderful bibb lettuce salad and TWO desserts: pear tart with pear-brandy whipping cream and a molten chocolate cake - both utterly delicious.
I would not have known about Camp Goodtimes West (and therefore, would not know Chad, AMO or Leslie) if it were not for Paul, who has volunteered at camp for the past 25+ years. He persuaded us to send David and Katie in the summer of 2007, just before she relapsed, and they had a great time. Because they attended camp (it's free of charge for the patient and a sibling, by the way), we now have these wonderful, precious young people in our lives. There are many more staff from camp who are dear to my heart, and we'll have to do this again, and include as many of them as possible. They are a rowdy, freewheeling, compassionate bunch, and I treasure them.

I'm grateful to God for Camp Goodtimes West, and for good times with good friends!


Elizabeth said...

I'd love to make the chili but got rid of my slow cooker! Do you think it would work in a Le Creuset on the stove top?

karen gerstenberger said...

Yes, I think Le Creuset on the stove top would be a great way to start it - do you think the oven would be slower than the stove for finishing it? I have only made it in the crockpot.

Leslie Krom said...

Awe Karen, what a sweet blog. Thank you for having me, and hosting such a magnificent dinner. YES! It was precisely that; one of those evenings when your face hurts from laughing so much! Cancer/Camp Goodtimes brought us all together, but nothing will ever tear us apart :) Love you.

Leslie said...

I COMPLETELY forgot to add how *amazing* this chili was. Friends of Karen, I love food, and consider myself a 'foodie.' This was a phenomenal dish. Give it a try, and it's the perfect time of year for it!

ChiTown Girl said...

Oh my gosh, what a wonderful day! Thanks for sharing it with us. And, thanks for sharing that recipe. I was just talking to a woman yesterday about recipes like this that have chocolate in them. I just may have to try this.

karen gerstenberger said...

Well, I know you have the slow-cooker for it, ChiTown!...or two or three! ;)

Busy Bee Suz said...

What a wonderful get together!!!!! While reading this, I thought: How wonderful that Katie brought all these sweet people together!!!
Your chili sounds delish; I've never in my life thought about adding chocolate to it, but who am I to argue? IT"S CHOCOLATE!!!!!

Karen said...

You are share the deepest kind of bond...with chili on top! My favorite kind of night, for sure.

AnnDeO said...

Oh, I am so going to try the chili... I just wish I could enjoy the same company and friendship while we dine on it.

Allegra Smith said...

Oh the yummies! this looks so good!
What I won't give for a taste of it right about now, if only I could...sigh.

I too add chocolate to my chili, actually I add chocolate to any dark Mexican sauce because that is what I learned when I learned to cook Mexican food in order to thicken the sauces, but the only chocolate I have found that works well not only as a flavoring agent but as a thickener is Penzey's Dutch Process High Fat Cocoa Powder. Of course it always finds its way to something I am drinking while cooking :) Crema blanca with all white sauces and chocolate, particularly when the recipe alls for tomatoes. And I do love Mole as well, all twenty eight ingredients in my recipe. When I make it I make sure to cook enough for an army and freeze most of it.
My kind of comfort food.

You look radiant and happy and there is nothing better than be with those you love. We are coming as soon as I am free or at least on parole :) and we are thinking about renting a car and bringing the babies so Laura can be loved to pieces by McKenzie!