Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting 2011 on a hopeful note!

Herkimer Diamonds from a prospecting trip with our daughter in August - 
mining seems to be a good analogy for finding the good 
and working through the tough times this year.

2010 was a real mixed-bag of a year - fun highs, crashing lows, big changes, health issues, huge blessings, and growth all around.  I have to say, overall, it was a good year in spite of the lows.  Sometimes choosing hope and optimism is a real challenge, but it's really the only way for me to survive life with any kind of joy and emotional stability.  So, good-bye 2010, welcome 2011 - I'm looking forward to good things.

We aren't party animals, and we usually spend most New Year's Eves at home, enjoying some snack foods, watching a video, and generally being boring in a family-oriented sort of way.  Yesterday was a little different:  we went back to where we used to live and visited my sister and her family for lunch, then dropped by another friend's house for coffee and conversation in the afternoon.  It was so good to see them again; we really miss living near them (both family and friends).  Later in the evening, after going home, we did the "boring family thing" at another friend's house, which was a great improvement over our usual New Year's routine, and not boring at all when it involves going somewhere else.  Homemade Thai and Chinese food, assorted snacks and homemade fudge, a little wine, friends for the kids to hang out and watch videos with, and just talking to other adults - it was wonderful, and I'm so grateful for our friends.

It's comparatively warm for this time of year - we're getting our January Thaw a little early, since it's been in the 40s for the past few days, and over 50 today.  I took advantage of the nice weather to take down the outdoors decorations and lights.  (So did most of our neighborhood - it seemed like everyone who was home was outside taking down lights.)  The tree and the garland from the railings are piled by the curb to be mulched and recycled by the town, and the front of the house looks cold and forlorn.   I'm tempted to go find some brightly-colored bow or wreath for the front door, to combat the grey winter blahs.

So, after sleeping in, watching the Rose Bowl Parade, working outside for a couple hours, taking some time to relax and read a gardening book, and riding herd on the kids, it's time for our New Year's meal - vegetarian chili, with sour cream and sharp cheddar.  Mmmm!  (No, the kids won't eat it.  Their loss.)  Here's the recipe, which my husband calls "Laurel's Kick-A** Vegetarian Chili."

Laurel's KA Vegetarian Chili

2 15 oz. cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 24 oz. jar medium salsa (I use an inexpensive but chunky generic salsa)
2 small onions (or one large one), chopped
1/2 sweet red or orange pepper, chopped
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 4 oz. can tomato paste
1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper (chipotle peppers are smoked red-ripe jalapenos, dried and ground - wonderful, and smoky-hot)
2 tbsp. hot chili powder (I get mine from Penzey's Spices - you can use 2 tbsp. regular chili powder and add 1/4 tsp. cayenne to it)
1 tbsp. ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Bring everything to a low boil, and reduce to simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Serve with sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese, and your favorite tortilla chips.  Obviously you can vary the recipe to adjust the spiciness and vegetable content.  And, I have to note that I don't usually measure spices - I'm a cook who just sprinkles until it looks right, but I'm a pretty good judge of how much I'm actually using.  This batch has a nice amount of heat and a pleasant slow burn, but it isn't masochistically hot.  Chili isn't an exact science, so have fun with it!

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