Friday, January 25, 2013

Super Bowl of Chili

I'll admit it - the Super Bowl for me is more about the food and the commercials than the game. And, I'm thinking of bringing chili to a party I'll be going to, so today I dug out a favorite old recipe. I haven't made it in years and wanted to try it again. Chili is pretty serious Super Bowl food . . . 

This recipe barely resembles the original and has been played with so many times over the years that I finally just rewrote it with all of the ingredients I used today. It turned out awesome (husband loved it) and it is now going to be my "go to" chili recipe. The original was called Chili Con Carne Con Frijoles and it was from a Mexican food "pamphlet" that I picked up somewhere in the 70s. I'm renaming my new creation "Mimi's Chili."
Mimi's Chili
A note about the instructions: I take an extra step with the onions because my husband cannot tolerate raw, or even cooked onions, if they are too big or have any crunch left in them. He does like the flavor, so I saute the heck out them until they are limp as can be. Seems to work for him. If you do not have a onion-intolerance go ahead and cook them in the skillet once the ground beef is almost browned (along with the garlic too.) This is not a really spicy chili - if you like it hot add more chili powder. The original called for 2 tablespoons instead of my 2 teaspoons. You can also serve your favorite hot sauce with it.

Mimi's Chili

2lbs lean ground beef
1 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons seasoned salt (I use Morton’s Nature's Seasoning)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch ground pepper
2 tablespoons “double concentrated” tomato paste (I keep a tube in the fridge)
2 – 7 oz cans Herdez Salsa Verde
2 – 11.5 fl.oz cans Snap-E-Tom Tomato & Chile Cocktail
2 – 15.25 oz cans S&W kidney beans, drained
1 – 14.5 oz Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes w/ fire roasted green chilies 
       (chop them even more in a food processor)

Cook ground beef in a large skillet. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large soup pot. In the same skillet, add the chopped onion and garlic to the drippings (if there is too much liquid, drain some of it before adding the the onions) and cook until very soft. Transfer onion and garlic to the pot with the beef.

Add the spices and tomato paste and stir. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and simmer uncovered on low for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop. Stir occasionally. I like to serve the chili on rice with a choice of toppings: sour cream, green onions, grated cheese, avocado cubes, and Cholula Hot Sauce.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It Was 20 Years Ago Today . . .

Normally I keep these posts to design and food related topics, but today is a bit different. Even though there is a mention of food in the post, it goes under my label of "But I Digress."

What the property looked like before the flood of '93. You can see the white bridge out in the distance.
My son is hiding in that rain coat.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the flood in Fallbrook that caused us to evacuate our home in the middle of dinner. It was the evening of January 15, 1993 and it had been raining for two weeks straight. I decided to brave the rain and went out to bring home Chinese food. 

We lived on property with a creek – and the water was beginning to wash up over the bridge. The great room had a big picture window, with a view looking out towards the front yard. Our nearest neighbor was coming down his path to watch the creek rise and to check his bridge. Things were getting intense with the rain and the water was getting very high in the creek, lapping over our bridge. The neighbor suggested we move our cars to the other side of the old bridge in case it collapsed. My husband and I left our dinner on the table to move the cars (I think the kids were watching from the front porch) and just after we moved them and headed back to the house, the water came rushing into the yard. The creek actually broke its banks a bit further up on the neighbors property, so the bridges were saved, but our yard and house were beginning to flood.

Days later, our dog Sheena sits on the porch trying to decide if she really needed to go do her business. I remember wearing knee-high rubber boots for a long time when we went back and forth from the cars to the house.

It was pretty scary evacuating, as we dodged the debris floating through the yard in a strong current, to get to the cars. We had just planted over 50 bushes between our property and the neighbors with big, heavy wood stumps in-between them. Those stumps were just rollin' through the water like they were made of styrofoam. My husband had to carry our daughter through the rushing water and went back for our big dog, who was pretty scared too. We stopped by the fire station to notify them of what had happened and then continued on to a friend’s house (they lived on higher ground) for the night.
This photo is from weeks later when the water levels went down in the yard, but the creek water was still very high, touching the bottom of the sand-covered bridge.You can see how far the house is from the creek and on the night we had to evacuate, it was a long way to go through rushing water. 
The property at one time was five acres or more (much of it bought by the state to build I-15) and the state was to blame for the flooded creek because they neglected to clean the storm drains a bit further down the road.

The next day when we returned to see the damages, and noticed our take-out dinner still sitting on the table, it was a reminder of how quickly we had to leave. Every January 15th for years afterwards we had Chinese food on this date. At some point we stopped, most likely when the kids left home, but I think I will bring back the tradition and do takeout Chinese tonight.
Cleanup in progress

That spring, after most of the cleanup was complete, we decided to purchase our first home. We’d been living in the family-built home in the canyon for seven years and this was the push we needed to move-on-up. And up we did go, to one of the highest streets in town, Alta Vista Drive. The name says it all. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lemon Love

It's January and that means in California the lemons are in season. So are the oranges. I am so happy that we have a dwarf Meyer lemon tree, as well as a navel and valencia orange tree in the yard. Time to get juicing. And, with all the illness going around a big glass of OJ sounds perfect this morning. 
Nothing beats fresh squeezed orange juice, unless it is fresh squeezed lemonade.

Temperatures went below freezing over the weekend but the trees 
seem to be okay (including our avocado trees.)
our dwarf Meyer lemon tree is bursting with fruit

We tend to think of Lemonade as a summer drink, but now is the time to make fresh lemonade! It is really so easy. 

1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves and cooled down)
1 cup lemon juice
3-4 cups water (to your taste)

I have found this recipe to be a good standard and adjusted to your liking with more or less of any of the ingredients. You get more than 1 cup of syrup when it is dissolved, so measure out just 1 cup and refrigerate any leftovers to make more. I try to keep simple syrup in the fridge and can make a glass anytime by squeezing one lemon, adding the same amount of syrup, and filling the glass with water and ice. Enjoy!

 The simple syrups starts with equal parts cold water and sugar in a small saucepan.
Heat until sugar dissolves.
What you will need to make one glass of lemonade
a wooden citrus juicer really takes care of business if you're making one glass of lemonade

If you are making a lot of juice, which we do when we use oranges, 
a heavy-duty juicer is a handy item to have around. (And, for vegetables and other non-citrus fruits, 
we have a Power Juicer.)
yum, ready to drink (needs to be stirred first!)

I think I love lemon more than chocolate - if there is a choice between something lemon and something chocolate, I am more inclined to select the lemon. Chocolate is a close second. 
I even have a board dedicated to lemons on pinterest.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wood Burned Table Numbers

For the woodsy winter wedding we used wood slabs in many ways

Here is the bride-to-be wood burning table numbers into the pieces of wood I cut

Using my husband's power tools, I cut wood discs from pieces in our wood pile

I cut thin slabs and taller pieces for many uses including the table numbers,
the little table-scapes, and to hold a cupcake
 My husband cut holes into some of the thin slabs so we could put string through to hang

Half of the tables had hanging table numbers that were attached to a tall flower holder

 The other half of the tables had the taller piece of wood that sat next to the floral centerpiece

The bride and groom's table had a tall piece of wood with their initials carved into a heart

 Two more photos (above and below) showing our other uses of the little wood slabs

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Bride & Groom's Wishing Tree

Instead of a having a guest book out for Mike and Lindsey's wedding (and because it was the holiday season) we created a "Wishing Tree." It provided an opportunity to have a fun station, where guests could write a happy wish for the couple, and a lot of nice ornaments for their first Chritmas tree as a married couple.
the crafting day about six weeks before the wedding - several tables were set up with stations for the various crafts we needed to complete - bridesmaids, cousins, friends, and family showed up to lend a hand
the ingredients on the tag table included wooden tags (wood-burned by the groom around the edges)
rubber stamps in assorted designs, black ink pads, and string
on wedding day a cute little suitcase held the tags and pens and guests were invited to write their message
for the bride and groom and tie it on the tree that was standing next to the table

Below you can see one of the many tag ornaments hanging on Mike and Lindsey (and Lily's) 1st Christmas Tree in their new home.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rock and Roll (and Redesign)

Each January in Melbourne, Florida the Tim Wakefield Celebrity Golf Classic takes place to raise money for a wonderful cause. The kids at the Space Coast Early Intervention Center benefit from the generous people in the area who participate, as well as the celebrities who come in to play golf and offer auction items. 
Kelly Edge and Marie Kinnaman
My sister-in-law, Kelly Edge, not only golfs in the event, but she also auctions her design skills. A few years ago, she created a hot auction item along with professional Chef Lee Hillson and Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Cidny Bullens. They call it the "Celebrity Party in Your Home" package. 
Cidny Bullens, Chef Lee, Kelly, Marie, Billy Austin, Chef Dale: The 2012 Grand Slam Invasion Team

That's where I come in . . . 

Because the bidding in 2012 went through the roof, the original three decided to double the package they were offering. Each brought in a professional back-up. Kelly invited me to join her, Chef Lee brought Chef Dale, and Cidny invited Billy Austin. We were ready to rock and roll for charity.

I never thought I could have such a good time during four straight days (and nights) of working very hard - in so much heat and humidity. But it was for a really good cause and the constant hot flashes, and tired feet never really mattered.

It went something like this - three homes to design over four days, two sit-down dinners for ten with an intimate concert afterwards, and two cocktail parties for 40-50 with a full rockin' band (including Pat Bautz from Three Dog Night on drums.) 

We started early and went late each day and I ran on the fun of it all for four days. Not only did we do our part - the decorating and consulting with the homeowners - we also helped the chefs by setting the tables and serving the meals, and cleaning-up - along with some amazing volunteers, like Trish Smith Clow, who is an organizer for the golf classic and a sous-chef for the time we spent with the winners!!

Kelly using her napkin folding skills

Carol and John were up first. We enjoyed the drive from Melbourne to their place on Merritt Island, which is on the Banana River. I had never been to this part of Florida before. It is affectionately called "The Space Coast" due to its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center. 
View of the docks on the Banana River from the yard

They were hosting a sit-down dinner and concert that night. Kelly and I surveyed the situation and decided to work on the patio where they would be eating. We arranged the furniture, washed thirty wine glasses (for three wines served with the meal) and set the tables for the four-course dinner.

That's me working on the table-scape

The table set-up for dinner for ten.
One more little job before we left to clean ourselves up for the night. The chefs came out
of the kitchen long enough to help Kelly hang a large art work we moved from another wall.

So, I might as well come clean with a mishap or two. On our way back to our rooms to freshen up for the night, we stopped at Carol's beach house to do a consult on her get-away place. As I was trying to back up and park, I hit a pick-up truck (and the guy was sitting inside his truck.) No damage to his truck and just a scratch of paint on the car I was driving. Whew, good going Marie! I was driving a car loaned to us by a major sponsor of the event. Kelly decided she should take over the driving.

We managed to make it back in time to help start the dinner service,  but before I show you the yummy food photos . . . 

As for Kelly taking over the driving . . . along the coast road the speed limit changes from 50 to 45 to 35 and being from out-of-town we didn't always catch that. A motorcycle cop stopped Kelly doing 50 in the 35 zone on our way back to the house. Here we were in a loaned car with no registration, and no proof of insurance. He was nice and did give her a break on how much the ticket was. So here is where we stood: one minor fender bender and one ticket on the first day. We decided next year a driver might be in order. 

At dinner we kept the wine flowing, and helped clean-up. Chef made enough food for all of us, so the crew sampled the same food as the guests and it was amazing.
The Salad Course of Caprese with House Made Mozzarella 

Chef Lee's Pasta Carbonara

Skuna Bay Salmon with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart and Asparagus Salsa 
English Summer Pudding ready for the dinner guests
So yummy!
The intimate concert in the family room with Billy and Cidny was a fabulous way to end the evening.

We had breakfast each morning somewhere along the Space Coast and I snapped this pic of the warning to keep off the dune - just out back of one of the restaurants.
Love those Sea Oats on the east coast beaches.

After breakfast we headed back to teach a decorating class and enjoy a luncheon (prepared by Chef Lee) for six ladies. We shared our tricks-of-the-trade as we redesigned Carol and John's family room. The main problem we encountered in the home was the couple's very different design styles.  Carol was all about clean lines, white paint, and contemporary furnishings. John liked an "island" style, color, and a more casual feeling. We wanted to bring both styles together in order to find harmony for the two of them and their kids.

Kelly talking to the class before we began the redesign.
John taking down a heavy sculpture from the top of the fireplace wall.

before:  the angle in the flooring, the bar, and the kitchen nook (not visible)
calls for an angle in the furniture arrangement.

After:  we followed that floor angle to place the sofa and loveseat first. The art was hanging
high above the sliding door but it brings some color down low and fills the space nicely.

After: leaning a picture on the tall fireplace wall was the preferred method since the John
did not want to drill a hole into the stone. We used putty to secure it from falling over.
Compare this shot with the before to see the small scaled items originally sitting on the mantle.
Bringing in a chest and rattan chair from a bedroom adds that island feel we were going for.
Extra seating was a plus. The glass and wood console fit perfectly in the window and looks
great with the blue glass pieces. We also found a sisal rug outside and brought it in to
show how much warmth and interest it added to the space.

Just a note about the tall black vases. We took out the way too small
sticks you can see in the before pic and left them empty.
That night forty guests enjoyed awesome hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, and yummy desserts - as they boogied to the band's music. 
Appetizer Platter

Steak Tartare on Baguette and Polenta with Mushroom Ragout

Pics of the band and homeowner, Carol, joining in on a couple of songs.

Kelly performed her (now famous) rendition of Proud Mary with Carol and some of the willing female guests. It was a highlight of the night for me to see my sister-in-law get her Tina Turner on. She did it again the next night at the 2nd cocktail party and band night. Photos further along in the blog . . . 

Working in big beautiful homes with gorgeous furniture and accessories is always nice - but no matter the size of the home or the price of the furnishings, these homeowners still can have trouble with balance and scale and where to put things. All we needed to do in Christine's two rooms was to balance things out and push and shove furniture around a bit. We re-accessorized the areas and shopped her home for what we needed.
Kelly going to great heights to get what we need. She was after those animals on the top shelf -
they ended up on the living room mantle in the after shot.

before formal living room
You can see in the before below how the sofa was half in the room visually and half in the door opening. It just didn't work there.

after formal living room

In the family room, below, we worked on scale and balance. The large TV unit over powered the Asian pieces on each side.
before family room

after family room

By moving the small armoire to a dining space and adding a chair and art, it works better for the space. We left the Tansu chest, but changed its direction and redesigned what was on it and added a tree behind for interest.
tansu chest in family room
A highlight of the afternoon was hearing a brand new song, just written, by Cidny Bullens and Billy Austin. As Kelly and I worked our design magic, these two incredible songwriters were hanging out and creating music magic. We got to hear it first.
Billy, above, singing the new song for us (Christine and Teresa are sitting on the step)

Cidny, right, playing the grand piano while Billy sang their new song.

By the way, Teresa (above) and her husband Rick, put Kelly and I up in a suite of rooms in their home, just down the street. Fabulous accommodations for our stay. And, they both helped us with the redesign - Rick even brought in some tools to hang art. Thanks so much!

Beautiful outdoor setting for the night's cocktail party and concert.

Fabulous sunset for the cocktail party

The nighttime cocktail party started in the home next door - at the neighbors (Millie and Steve) who shared the package with Christine. We carried plates of hors d'oeuvres prepared by the chefs through the yards, as guests enjoyed drinks and watched a beautiful sunset. 
Millie and Steve started the party with cocktails
and hors d'oeuvres in their beautiful home

Kelly and girls getting their groove on to Proud Mary

On our last day we had two design tasks to complete for our part of the package. For Carol and John we wanted to select paint colors for the inside of their home based on the color of the tiles on the outdoor bar (that their daughter had selected.) We also had a design consult with Millie for several rooms in her home. 

That night was the last formal dinner and intimate concert and the last of our official duties for this trip. When we got to Christine's home for dinner, we noticed the table really needed an arrangement of some king. I found a bouquet of flowers on the kitchen counter that were never placed in water from the night before, and to my amazement they still looked good. I cut the stems short (and on an angle) and used them in the arrangement too. Not bad for last minute.

The dinner menu was almost the same as the first formal dinner at Carol and John's, but this group dined on filet instead of salmon.

The guests dined on filet mignon

Billy and Cidny perform their set on the last night. 

One more fabulous dinner prepared by the chefs and a last acoustic concert sent everyone home very satisfied. We dubbed the last concert "a six tissue night" because all of the ladies seemed to cry with every song Cidny and Billy sang. The night ended on several high notes including Tim Wakefield stopping by after getting in from a trip.

From left to right: Chef Lee, Christine (homeowner), Kelly, Teresa (neighbor) Marie, Chef Dale, Billy Austin
Sitting: Trish, Tim Wakefield, Cidny Bullens, Chris (Christine's son)

All in all it could not have been a better four days. The chefs, the musicians, the volunteers, the generous sponsors, the homeowners who purchased the packages, and all the new friends - I have memories to last a long time . . . or until later this year when we do it again. 

Break a leg Kelly . . . here's to you all getting a record amount for "The Grand Slam Invasion Team" at the 2013 auction in a few weeks!!