Honorable Mention Winter White Chili

Dick is great in that he’ll eat, without complaint, whatever I cook. He’s also a bit of a philistine in that he’ll praise tuna noodle casserole as much as crab bisque. (I mean, if I made tuna noodle casserole). (Or could afford real crab).

The worst is when I make something I feel pretty confident about: creamy curry sweet potato soup or bruschetta pizza, and he’ll say “Wow, this is really good,” as if it’s a complete surprise to him after ten years that I know how to boil water. (I know — he really can’t win. I feel hurt if he over-compliments, and underappreciated if he just tucks in).

Then there are days when I learn he doesn’t like something I’ve been cooking forever. I mean, I know he doesn’t like straight spaghetti sauce. When I make my favorite sausage-bell pepper red sauce, I add a bit of heavy cream to his portion to make him think it’s a (very) robust alfredo sauce.

But some things he’ll eat ten times over several months, and then casually mention one day that he doesn’t actually like oatmeal chocolate chip muffins or brownies or . . . white chili. Who doesn’t like white chili?

Maybe I made it too often when I first got the recipe. But Dick said I could make it for the church chili cook-off last Saturday (not that I asked his permission of course, but I allow him some input in the meals around here). My version of Winter White Chili got an Honorable Mention, which Dick has not stopped joking about ever since. Honorable Mention being the Miss Congeniality of food contests. “We’d like to reward you for not threatening our superiority. Thanks. Have a sash.”

Dick pretended indignation on my behalf, saying they probably felt they had to pick a traditional chili as the winner, but would I get the recipe for the barbeque chili? That one was really good.

Honorable Mention Winter White Chili

(Got this recipe from some church function of my sister’s in the first place; can’t find my own copy any more, but I just throw in what looks good anyway. See ChaCha’s White Chicken Chili or . . . Wow, in looking for a recipe similar to mine, I’m beginning to see why I might have a little bit of a weight problem. Who uses fat-free sour cream? — Oh, check out my friend the Compulsive Writer’s White Bean Chili. She won a first place.)

Have ready:

2 cups chicken, cooked and cubed. I buy bulk frozen chicken breast, cook it on low for 4 hours in the crockpot, chop it, and then freeze it in 2-cup portions for this kind of thing. Great with leftover Thanksgiving turkey too.

2 cans of great northern or white kidney (canellini?) beans OR 1 1/2 cups dry beans that you’ve soaked overnight and then cooked on low in the crockpot since breakfast. (Pour off extra water, but leave some for the soup base — you can always add more later, but it takes a long time to simmer off extra liquid.)

Saute 1 onion (chopped) and 3+ cloves garlic (minced) in some butter and oil ’till soft and sweet.

Add the beans to the pot of sauteing onion/garlic, or the onion/garlic to the crockpot. Add chicken and chicken soup base or bullion cubes to taste. (I don’t use chicken stock because it’s more expensive, and also, if you add the water and the seasonings separately, you can adjust the flavor easily).

Add 2 cans of (mild) diced green chili peppers. Add cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, add 1/2 cup (or more) heavy cream and 1/2 cup (or more) sour cream. (Don’t boil after adding the dairy). (I don’t know why they always say this. I always accidentally boil mine after adding the dairy, probably because I keep adding other things too, and it’s always fine.)

Toppings I really like include: fresh cilantro, sharp cheddar (or Monterey Jack) cheese, Fritos, and diced tomatoes.

I hope you enjoy it!

Also, if anyone has a recipe for barbeque chili, I’d really appreciate it.


Oh, I wanted to say that if you participated in my HELP WANTED quizzes and gave me your valuable feedback, Thank You! I’m still reading through the comments, and many of them have made my day. If you subscribed during the carnival (which is why you’re reading this now), another Thanks! It means a lot to me. I would probably blog even if no one but my sister read, but it’s more fun/addictive/rewarding to have conversations with you!


Pigs in a Blanket: Hotdogs, Yeast Dough, and Kids, Yu-um!

Man am I glad WFMW is back! I’ve had this post ready for WEEKS!

Tired of grilling hotdogs? Want to get your kids excited about cooking? Hate stale hotdog buns? (If so, try Paris, where the street vendors impale baguettes for the best buns ever). Whatever your motive, Pigs in a Blanket were a big hit when I was little, and they’re a favorite with my kids now. They’re pretty cheap, too. They even have their own Wikipedia page.

And why not? One of the hardest things about living in Cairo was going without pork products. You never know how much you love a quality hotdog until you go without for a while. People have asked me how I put up with not drinking alcohol or coffee for my church, and all I can say is that as long as I’m allowed hotdogs and hot chocolate (and the occasional twice-daily Mountain Dew) I’m fine.

Susan was a great helper on the Banana Popsicles, but I can’t remember why she was so eager to help with the Pigs in a Blanket. Oh, right, might have been because she is a bottomless pit who makes teenage boys look like dieting supermodels.

Just the thought of eating gives her the warm fuzzies.

I’ve typed up a bare-bones recipe here. You can use any sturdy dinner roll recipe you like, but I’ve used the one my sister found. It’s easy and reliable, and Grandma asked for it after Thanksgiving dinner. You can subsitute some whole wheat flour if you like. The yeast-proofing stage isn’t strictly necessary, but I like to give it a headstart.

I had a friend in Cairo, Rebecca, who could never get yeast to work for her. She was an amazing artist and sewed and decorated and stuff. But she couldn’t work the yeast. I’d tell her to use “warm” water and that wasn’t very helpful to her. Too bad. It wasn’t very helpful to me when she described how to sew a kid’s Halloween costume, either. (Baking 911 has got some great yeast/bread tips).

My pizza cutter disappeared the one time that Dick unloaded the dishwasher. So now he gets to play with the kids while I work in my ‘office,’ and I get to use my fancy knife from Grampa to cut things like crescent rolls and quesadillas. It works surprisingly well.

Add some ketchup, or even better, some fry sauce, and you’re good to go. Oh, maybe a salad and some fruit, but your main dish is covered. It’s probably not hard to get your kids to eat hotdogs, but now you can get them cooking AND make the most delicious bun this side of the Seine.

Come back this weekend for the Back-to-School edition of Things That Must Go!

Banana Popsicles: Potassium, Fiber, and Chocolate, Oh My!

Last week I threatened to throw the blender off our balcony if it got left out ONE MORE TIME. Dick likes to make smoothies, which is great because the kids love them, they’re pretty healthy, and blah blah blah.

But who has to clean up after them? Me. That’s who. And somehow putting the blender back, which takes five seconds, is the absolute last straw.

I told Dick that the kitchen was like my office, and how would he like it if I messed up his office?

Of course he wouldn’t like that, he admitted, but now he has another way to irritate me: asking if I’m ever going to do the dishes in my office. So, I’d like to take back what I said about the kitchen being my office. I hereby lay no claim whatsoever on the kitchen or its contents.

In that spirit, I’ve been doing more “Cook with Your Children” stuff. I want my kids to learn to cook, be aware of sound nutritional principles (whether we live up to them or not) AND to appreciate that the food on the table doesn’t just magically appear.

One of our more successful experiments so far is Banana Popsicles, which we first had during spring break at The Well-Rounded Woman‘s house. Apparently in Arizona it’s a good idea to start freezing your fruit in March.

For this project I had only one lovely assistant, Susan, as Spot was napping and Sally was attending that ill-fated musical with Grandma.

Here she is holding the ingredients. I don’t know how bananas can be both green and freckled at the same time.

I like my bananas ripe in general, but they need to be pretty firm for the freezing and impaling process. Speaking of processes, here’s the complicated recipe:

I stole the phrase “not lengthwise” off recipezaar.com, I think. In case that sounds like “not-counter-clockwise” or something, here’s what they look like before you pop them in the freezer:

And here’s Aunt Marcy demonstrating the proper dipping technique, or at least, what results from proper dipping technique. (Notice her new pretty not-wedding ring):

Dick’s boss’s name in Egypt was Falak. She was kind of a pill, that woman. Here in Utah we have neighbors named Fallick. Anyway.

Whatever your name, these Banana Popsicles will work for you! Next time I’d like to try a layer of peanut butter topping (think Reese’s makes some), freezing for a minute, and then a layer of chocolate. Yu-um.

This weekend’s Things That Must Go features a $50 Giveaway from Hanes! (More Underwear + Socks = Less Frequent Laundry Loads!). Check back to share your Things That Must Go and to enter the contest.

Recession Refried Beans

I’ve been making my own refried beans since my friend Jill in Florida showed me how. This was back when we were desperate to buy a house, any house in a drug-dealer-infested neighborhood, before the market went up any higher. Six months later the bubble burst, and two years after that, we are looking for a house again. I’m still making yummy refried beans (which I never liked before I tried homemade), but this time we are not desperate to buy a house. Desperate for a yard, yes. The house is optional.

Actually, I’m surprised I haven’t posted this recipe before. Of course, if you’re rich (or have been to the grocery store recently) you can add minced garlic and onion instead of the powder. I think my friend adds Oregano, too, only that sounded vaguely Italian when I was writing up the recipe.

I made a batch of these last night and took some pictures. I don’t know much about photography (an understatement), but I’m thinking it’s kind of like real estate, only, instead of location being the most important thing, it’s all about lighting, so I’ve been taking more photos outside. I don’t actually cook on my apartment balcony, though. And I don’t let the girls dip their fingers in the pot unless they have SCRUBBED THEIR HANDS right before. That red stuff is indelible marker, formerly known as “Crayola’s Washable Markers.”

girls stirring refried beans

I guess it’s a good sign that the kids like these. When they get squeamish about other sources of protein (and show me a girl who doesn’t go through at least a phase of soft-hearted vegetarianism), we’ll have the beans to fall back on. And hot dogs (show me a kid “vegetarian” who doesn’t like hot dogs).

One of my favorite things to do with leftover refried beans (it doesn’t get more recession-friendly than leftover homemade refried beans, I tell you), is to fry an egg over a bowl-full. This is especially great after a hard workout. Oh, the cheap and delicious protein.

And if you need even more protein, you can add cheese (or bacon or sausage. Since I’m not vegetarian, in case you couldn’t tell). These are also delicious with homemade flour tortillas.

And that works for me whether we’re in a recession, or not.

This weekend’s Things That Must Go giveaway is a custom LLBean Tote bag. Can’t wait to hear what’s bugging you this week!

Thanks to Messy Vegetarian Cook for the beautiful recipe card templates!

Molten Lava Cakes — 5 Ingredients to Chocolate Bliss

My mom turned 50 on Sunday. She’s pretty young for a grandma of six, just as she was young (19) when she was first a mother to me. Last year my sisters and I held a tea party for her with homemade scones, Mary Poppins costumes, and hot chocolate, the works.

This year I thought of fun 50th birthday stuff: black balloons, black roses in a coffin. Luckily I’m a procrastinator, because a week before her birthday she told me she was going in for a biopsy.

Black balloons seem a bit inappropriate when someone’s in the middle of a cancer scare. Chocolate, however, is always a good thing (especially if you’re my mom). Food is a comfort when we’re worried or sick and a way of rejoicing when we’re not.

Mom’s biopsy came back benign, and we celebrated her birthday with the usual summer fare: hamburgers on the grill, corn on the cob, and chocolate. I offered to make her whatever dessert she wanted, and she requested brownies and ice cream. Now, you know I have NOTHING against a good brownie (i.e. one made from Duncan Hines mix), but there are one or two things in life that are even better than brownies.

And since Mom is just about my (counting on fingers) 5th favorite person on earth, I wanted to make something just a little extra-special. So I called up Tara and asked her what she’s made that’s special, and chocolate, and has easy-to-find and cheap ingredients. She read me this recipe from Allrecipes.com, and the rest is . . . chocolate bliss!

I had to take extra photos, because in the first ones I put the actual amount of whipped cream we like, and then you couldn’t see the cakes. So this picture is highly misleading, dairy-wise.

Here’s what “cakes puff but centers jiggle” looks like:

The first time I made this I accidentally used 4 tablespoons of flour, and they were still good, but they’re better with the right amount. The original recipe calls for making this in a regular muffin pan with jumbo-size liners, but I’ve been wanting some ramekins for baked custard (and I don’t have jumbo liners).

I’d tell you these were a big hit, but that’s pretty obvious, right? The best thing is that you can mix up a batch and then refrigerate the batter for up to three days (maybe more, but we’d eaten it by then). Just bring it up to room temperature before baking.

The best, best thing is that I think Mom will be around for another 50 years to enjoy these with us.

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Natural Mommy’s Recipe Swap.

A Day Without French Fries

My lovely sister, who is going through a divorce, is down to 107 pounds. That’s high school weight, or maybe junior high. While she wouldn’t recommend the Pull Out Your Still-Beating Heart And Allow Your Spouse Of Seven Years To Stomp On It diet, she is looking good.

I think she’s too skinny now but maybe I am just jealous, only not of the misery part. Next to her, I am the jolly fat lady. This lardy feeling is compounded by my recent surgery. You might be surprised to learn that when you have shoulder surgery your legs stop working too, and you can no longer go running. Odd, but then medical science doesn’t know EVERYTHING.

Also surprising is that in order to lose weight you have to eat less and exercise more. I KNOW. But it’s true: I once won a weight-loss challenge by switching to Coke Zero and sugar-free hot chocolate. So I’ve decided to resume running because it’s more likely that my legs will start working again than that I’ll go back to a sugar-free existence.

Luckily, Andrea’s bucolic town has a 5k Run Through the Lavender this month. Once I pay the entrance fee, I’ll be motivated to start training, since the race is two weeks from Saturday and it wouldn’t do to collapse under a lavendar bush. (If you’re in Utah and want to run, send me an email!)

I don’t even like the smell of lavender, but it sure is pretty.

Exercise more: check. Eat less: hmm.

I love French fries, but maybe they’re not the best nutritional choice. Or are they? Potatoes are high in potassium, which your heart needs almost as much as it needs to not be stomped on. In fact, a well-rounded diet might consist of ice cream for your bones, fish sticks for your brain, and French fries for your heart.

Some French fries are even more beneficial, having beta carotene for your eyes. We recently discovered sweet potato fries at Rumbi Grill. At home, I’ve tried chopping sweet potatoes like regular fries and then either skillet-frying or tossing in oil and baking. These methods work pretty well, but the resulting fry isn’t as crisp as the unifrom crinkle-cut. Then I found (and modified) a Sweet Potato Wedge recipe:

Dick says these are even better than Rumbi’s. They’re not very crispy, but they do absorb much less oil. Don’t forget the fry sauce!

I’m entering these puppies in Randi’s Recipe Box Swap and The Natural Mommy’s Recipe Swap. I would enter my sister in a divorce carnival, but I don’t know of any. I will tell her that “A Day Without French Fries” comes from Nora Roberts, who writes formulaic yet satisfying (and racy) romance. In the romance novel world, divorce is but a stumbling block on the road to meeting a virile-yet-sensitive, sensitive-yet-macho, macho-yet-cute-with-kids Prince Charming who will love you for who you are and also give you incredible connubial bliss. Amen.

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The Best Bars in Salt Lake City

That title is a bit misleading. Only a few of these are bars. The rest are cookies. Randi at i have to say is holding her monthly Recipe Box Swap, on bars and cookies. I recently posted my favorite-of-all-time cookies, so I thought I’d do a recap of my favorite bars and cookies and some general tips that work for me. (Speaking of recaps, please just promise me that Jason Castro is going home next week. Please?).

If you have a favorite bar or cookie that I haven’t covered, please tell me about it. I’d hate to think I’m missing out on anything that has fat and sugar as main ingredients.

General Baking Tips

Butter: I’m for it. You might, occasionally, sacrifice a bit of texture or height, but the taste is worth it. My mother-in-law says you should omit the salt if you’re using salted butter, but I say I have really low blood pressure. I always use salted butter and usually at least half (if not all) the salt called for.

Cookie Sheets: Don’t grease ’em. Cookies will spread out less, so if you like them flat and thin (which can be nice for a change), grease away.

Gloopy batter: If your cookie dough is quite soup-like, refrigerate for a few hours. I think this happens because I nuke the heck out of my salted butter for easier mixing. Cookies turn out thicker and higher if the dough is quite stiff.

At the store: It’s kind of crazy that you can buy 1) actual ingredients or 2) a box mix or 3) refrigerated/frozen dough or 4) boxed cookies. That’s democracy in action, folks. There’s even those crazy microwaveable brownies-in-a-bowl. Because getting out your own bowl would just be too much work. I like a good mix, myself, just check out the variations listed on the back or side, and pick up the couple extra things needed to dress it up a bit.

Fresh out of the oven: When I make cookies at home, I bake one cookie sheet and then refrigerate (up to a week) or freeze (1 month) the rest of the dough so I can make another fresh batch the next day. Because there is nothing better than a cookie straight out of the oven. Plus, this way, I only eat one (sheet) a day. My sister bakes all of hers up and then freezes them on paper plates in gallon ziplocs. Which is nice if you ever have (unexpected) guests (or piggy sisters).

Golden Brown: Take cookies out of the oven just before you think they’re done. They’ll cook longer on the sheet, and “better-under-than-over-done” applies to more than makeup, sister.

My Favorite Bars

Lemon Bars

Dick went through a lemon bar phase when he was at Columbia. He made and took lemon bars to his class end-of-semester parties. But Dick likes them SOUR. Each batch he made, he put in a little more lemon juice. They were good, until the very last batch, which were like sucking on a raw lemon. Very Refreshing. I usually use this Bake Sale Lemon Bar recipe from Allrecipes (you had me at “bake sale”). I think I’ll try Randi’s recipe next time.


I haven’t found a from-scratch recipe to match Duncan Hines Brownie Mix (in bulk at Walmart). Adding semi-sweet chips and walnuts or pecans is good. They also have a cream cheese variation that’s yummy, and fancy-looking, what with the marbling, swirly effect. If you want to make a brownie sundae, here’s an awesome hot fudge sauce.

My Favorite Cookies

Homemade Oreos

Apparently I have plagiarized from the Amish, who call these Whoppee Pies. But the only recipes I could find involved cake mix, which I just can’t see the Amish using, so here is my version of chocolate cookies with a whipped cream cream cheese frosting filling.


I don’t really like peppernuts that much. I mean, I’m not going to make them on a random Thursday night after dinner. But if I’m wanting to feel in touch with my ethnic (German?) roots, it’s time to pull out the distintive peppernut. I remember going to Grandma Ora Mae’s house as a child and finding them in the cookie jar. Being not so tasty probably contributes to the long shelf life. I have to confess, though, that I don’t have the recipe (Aunt Nancy? (or Carla or Bev — anyone else read this? Dad?).

Oatmeal Cookies

My mother-in-law (she of the sage salt advice) clipped this recipe for oatmeal cookies for me. It’s almost too bad having such nice in-laws; makes it hard to find something else to complain about. Oatmeal cookies are great the regular way (with raisins and walnuts), but they’re fantastic with dried cherries, semisweet chocolate chips, and pecans, or with coconut and white chocolate chips. They also take whole wheat flour well too, something about the chewy oats. I was going to post Nana’s recipe, but I made these cookies last night, and if you could see my kitchen, you’d understand why I don’t want to spend the next month looking for the recipe. Try these instead, keeping in mind what I said about butter and possible variations.

Cream Puffs

Not technically bars or cookies, but certainly “bite-size” and “finger-food” and “good.” Marie posted a recipe I’d like to try, though I’d use a filling recipe that doesn’t involve pudding mix. I once made cream puffs for Josh and Suzy in Cairo (don’t know if Suzy’s still reading since I had those couple posts about sex), and I put blue food coloring in the filling since they’d just had their second boy. Of course, you can also go to Costco or Sam’s and get the huge tub of frozen cream puffs, which aren’t too bad. Only you have to let them defrost FOREVER.

And last, but not least, have you tried the making your own Fortune Cookies yet? Me neither. But Shalece is going to be on Good Things Utah next month, and the next time she does a cooking demonstration at the Gygi Institute, I’m going to be front-and-center. I just hope my fortune says “Will move to beautiful dream home/cardboard box in the near future.”