Friday, October 16, 2009

Chili Weather

In the category of "I never could get the hang of Thursdays," I've noticed for the past few weeks that something seems to happen to my brain at about 4 on Thursday afternoon. I lose all ability to focus. I'll be going along just fine, then at 4 the brain comes to a screeching halt. I wonder if that's the point where my brain has done enough writing for the week and needs to recharge or if it just happens to coincide with where I am in the work. Yesterday, I'd reached a point where I'd figured out why a particular scene that's always bothered me a bit didn't work and what other scene needed to go in its place, but I didn't know what that other scene would actually be like. I retreated to the sofa with a notebook and pen, put on some mindless TV to distract the conscious brain and did some brainstorming, so maybe today I'll be able to write the new, improved scene.

Speaking of Douglas Adams, apparently the new Hitchhiker's Guide book written by a different author came out this week. I haven't seen any reviews yet, so I'm curious to see if someone else was able to pull off the tone (but with possibly better plotting).

And while I'm on a theme, last night I made my first batch of what I like to call "Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike chili." It's my version of chili, which would probably make chili aficionados shudder but which is quick and easy to do and makes for a good meal on a cool day when you don't want to do any serious cooking. This is one of those "do it by feel" recipes.

Start by browning some ground beef -- I generally use about a pound. I try to keep the crumbles bite sized instead of going really small. While the beef is cooking, sprinkle on some dehydrated minced onions. If you want to get really wild and crazy, you could dice actual onions, but the whole point of this dish is minimal work. Drain the fat from the beef.

Get out your can opener because it's about to get a workout. Add a can of stewed tomatoes (I like the diced kind because they're easier to deal with), a can of tomatoes with green chilis (Ro-Tel is the primary brand), a small can of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste (the tomato paste is optional -- use it if you want a thicker chili with a more intense tomato flavor, but I discovered last night that I was out of tomato paste and it still worked fine). Then add a can of chili hot beans (pinto beans with a seasoned sauce -- the major bean brands like Bush's and most store brands seem to have a version of this).

Season to taste with chili powder, cumin, ground red pepper, black pepper, salt, Tabasco sauce or whatever. The tomatoes with chilis will add some heat automatically and the chili hot beans have a lot of the chili seasonings. You can simmer just long enough for it to get hot, or it can simmer a longer time to let the flavors blend better. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips or corn bread. If you want to get fancy, garnish with grated cheese and diced onions, or whatever floats your boat. I think this will make at least four servings. For me, I get a lot of leftovers and usually freeze a couple of servings. I have used this as a burrito filling, where I put some in a flour tortilla with some cheese grated on top, roll up the tortilla and brown it in a skillet. Make the ground beef crumbles smaller, use the tomato paste, and it makes for a hearty hot dip with tortilla chips.

And now since it's a wonderfully cool, crisp autumn morning, I'm going to take a walk.

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