Adventures in flora, fauna, food, and the great unknown.

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Delicious December chili

Every year, as soon as it starts getting chilly out, I start craving, well… chili. I’m still a chili novice, but with the help of slow simmering and Penzy’s spices, I do think it’s fair to say that I make some pretty good chili. And, of course, because I’m making it myself, I’m able to ensure that it’s at just the right level of spiciness—not too adventurous for my delicate tongue (I’m working on improving it!), but not without a little kick, either. I don’t recall where I got my initial chili recipe from—It might actually have been Penzy’s—but it’s evolved a bit from the first batch. As you might expect for chili, there’s a bit of prep work in cutting the veggies, but after that, you’re home free!

Note: This makes a lot of chili. It’s essentially a double batch, which means you can have plenty for an immediate meal and leftovers, and still freeze half of it for the coming months. It is the Endless Chili. If you don’t love chili as much as I do, you may want to halve all of the ingredients.

Also note: Chili is forgiving. Substitute ingredients as you wish! Experiment ahoy!


  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 vidalia onions, chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • chopped garlic to taste (I used 4 medium-sized cloves)
  • chopped celery to taste (I used about four stalks, filling a cereal bowl)
  • 6 cups water (if you like a thicker chili, use less)
  • 2 28 oz cans tomato puree
  • 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 29 oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 29 oz can chick peas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2–4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 4 tbsp Penzey’s Chili 3000 (spices)
  • 4 tbsp Penzey’s Chili 9000 (spices)
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt  (optional)
  • shredded cheddar/jack cheese (optional)

In addition to the above, I also added some fresh parsley that I had on hand. I’m not sure that it helped, but it certainly didn’t hurt. As I said above, chili is really forgiving!


  • Heat the olive oil in a large (massive) pot over medium-high heat, adding onions when hot. Sauté until the onions begin to soften, stirring often. Add the bell peppers and garlic and cook for a few more minutes, until the peppers start to soften.
  • Add the spices, stirring until they begin to stick to the bottom of pot and brown (about 30–45 seconds). Quickly add the water. Add the tomato puree, diced tomatoes, and the juice they were packed in. Add the beans, celery, and salt.
  • When the chili begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Ideally, the chili should be simmered 3 hours to let all the flavors blend together. Stir about every 15 minutes, while checking to make sure that the heat is not too high, causing chili to stick to the bottom of the pot.

The catch here is, of course, that I’m using Penzey’s pre-mixed spices. They have some brick-and-mortar stores as well as an online one, but if you have a favorite chili seasoning, by all means, use it! I look forward to preparing my own chili mix one day, but for now, this does the trick‚ and it truly is delicious.



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Banana bread, and lassis redux

I am convinced that, aside for maybe the apple, the banana is the handiest fruit to keep around the house. Apples are great because they can sit around for just about forever without going bad; bananas, on the other hand, ripen fairly quickly, but they’re perfect for smoothies, in cereal, and even just by their lonesome, so I often have a few on hand. That said, we definitely had an overabundance of bananas this week, so to help use them up before they went bad, I made banana bread. This was really about as easy as you could hope for, and I thought this time I’d provide the actual recipe I used:


  • 3–4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1⁄3 cup (5 1⁄3 tbsp) melted butter
  • 3⁄4 cup to 1 cup sugar (to taste)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour


  • Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour and mix.
  • Pour mixture into a buttered 4 × 8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hr, or until golden brown.
  • Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

All in all, I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. I used a little less sugar than the recipe I was following called for, and three relatively large bananas. It wasn’t perfect (I undercooked it slightly), but it was delicious.

The finished loaf just after it came out of the oven. It was actually a little underdone at the top center, so I'll make sure the entire surface is well browned the next time I make this.

It tastes as good as it looks.

Once more for good measure—you can really tell in this one how moist it is.

♦ ♦

There was also a mango hanging around that was about to go south, so I tried another batch of lassis on Monday. This time, I substituted vanilla yogurt (although I did use a bit of the plain I had left, too, which helped counter the obscene sweetness of this particular vanilla yogurt) and left out the mint, and the result was much better—but still off somehow. Next time, I’ll try plain yogurt and honey as a sweetener; I think that should get me closer to that mango lassi taste I’ve been looking for.