Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween party, and the prize winning chili recipe!

It's that time of year again. My friends Audrey, Kelli and I have for years rotated responsibility for throwing a Halloween party for our neighbors, because we never want to have more than one and conflict with each other. Last Year Kelli and I teamed up and held it in her yard, which was wonderful for me --lots of room to maneuver over there. This year we invited the WHOLE neighborhood/church congregation (which are almost the same thing in our part of Utah), so all three of us were needed to pull it off!
Audrey baked enough of her famous cupcakes for everyone. 150 cupcakes y'all!

We had the party be a potluck chili and cornbread (or whatever bread) so we could feed everyone. I hosted a little contest for the best chili, with a clay covered baker for the prize --and Kelli threw in a potholder and spoon to go with it. I will give the prize winning recipe below. It is super yum, and Kira yes it does have cream in it of course. I'm doing my taste test above.

This is our bishop (congregation leader) and his wife. Hilarious.

I told everyone to look scary for their picture.
Wendy just looks like she really hates her chili.

This family won the cutest costume award --Audrey hosted the costume contest.
But this little sweetie was right up there for me. You should have seen her bounce up and down to the "Monster Mash"!
Tia was "She sells sea shells down by the sea shore"
We didn't outlaw weapons, so there were a lot of epic battles taking place around the yard.

But mostly eating and talking. That's what my people like.

Chili prize winner in the middle there.

Scariest winner right here!

A few of my favorite things. I already used this on facebook, but it's such a good line I have to say it again!

The mom and Dad here were missionaries in France years ago, so kind of an extra appropriate costume theme here: French painter, work of art, tourists. (The two on the right are deer and hunter).

Once it got cooler, the fire pit got extra popular.

Tia made a little friend.

Overall a really great night. Here's our prize winning chili recipe courtesy of our winner Hilary Cook! (there's a Dickensonian appropriate name for you.)

Creamy White Chili 
 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2­inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon oil
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies (if you like less kick, add just one can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
Fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder (or fresh garlic, if using) in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately. This is especially good served with tortilla chips.

2. Slow Cooker Option: In a medium round slow cooker, place 1 pound chicken breasts (fresh or frozen) without cubing them. Add the chopped onion, garlic powder, beans, green chiles and all of the spices. Do not add the sour cream or whipping cream yet! Reduce the chicken broth to 12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) and pour in over the other ingredients. Stir the mixture around a bit to incorporate the dry spices. Cook on low for 5­7 hours (if using frozen chicken you’ll cook on the longer end of that spectrum, fresh chicken will cook in less time). Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred in bite­size pieces. Stir back into the slow cooker. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream and whipping cream until smooth. Whisk the cream mixture into the crockpot with the other ingredients. Let the soup cook until heated through. Serve. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Adventures with Kai

I decided I needed to train Kai to enjoy the great outdoors more. What parent doesn't think that about their kid? The girls are doing some sports, but not my youngest. Every Monday Wednesday and Friday from 3:30-5:30 I set aside for Kai-ventures. 
Our fist outing was to what Tia said was a very pretty hike up Payson canyon --the Grotto. We took a couple of wrong turns on our way and ended up driving over 40 minutes to get there. 
But once we finally got out of the car, the colors were wonderful! The Nebo loop is really spectacular in fall.
We started hiking, and were both charmed by how the trail crosses over the stream it follows a number of times.
I had told Kai to bring an audio book if he was worried about getting bored on these mom and son things. He decided to bring a regular book. Yeah --we're a whole family of nerds! 
The trail, as I said, was pretty,
But was OVER in ten minutes. 
Kai thought it was a big joke on me --which it kind of was. 

On Wednesday we went biking on the west side of Utah lake for a while, which was a great time, although our bikes kept falling over in the truck on the way home.
 Friday, my sister-in-law asked if I wanted to go Kayaking. I thought this would be a good outing! I brought the kids along too. She and I went out first 

 while the kids played with the ducks on shore,
 Then they each took some turns.

 The kayaks were graciously loaned to us by my sis-in-law's niece who had a hurt shoulder and couldn't use them at the moment herself. One was a sport kayak, which turned out to be a pretty different experience for the kids to use! Very balance oriented. 
 Hopefully we can keep this habit up. I feel like I'm getting some pretty good quality time in here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Our guilty pleasure, and a fig vinegar salad dressing recipe.

Our kids had last Thursday and Friday off for fall break. I needed all day Thursday just to put my life and house back together after being gone for almost a week, but we were determined to take an outing on Friday. Tia had to work, but we thought we could squeak something in before 3:00.

The kids voted for Gardner Village. Actually the girls voted for that. Kai kept asking where we were going, and I said I wasn't telling him. I knew that unless I said we were going to Salt Lake to play video games all day he would say he didn't want to go.
We got a couple of blocks from Gardner, and ran into huge traffic jams and crowds, and decided no way did we want to brave that. We went to our most favorite place on earth (almost): Tony Caputo's. 
Tony's is a deli/gourmet food store/specialty chocolate store (see the jewelry like chocolate above?)/wonderland.

I worry a little about turning my kids into gourmands, which I think is a wasty, expensive way to live, but oh well. I'm taking them down the hole with me. So far we are just responsible, reasonable foodies.

It is stinking hard to get out of here without spending a mint, but we started at the clearance section and then worked our way around. It didn't help that we were a little hungry...
The cheese cave. Actually I think now they may have two? 
We looked, but passed on the cheese.
But not the olives! We have done an assortment a few times, so now we know our favorites. We filled a half pound cup.

At the end, this was our haul: Beluga lentils, Lebanese couscous, dark chocolate covered orange slices, Italian candies, Fig vinegar, a date and coconut cake (actual dates and coconut pressed into a cake form), Our olives, some almond halva, and three citrus and pink pepper chocolate bars.  This is not all we WANTED to get mind you, but I felt lucky getting out without twice this much. SO many temptations!
We hurried home because Tia had to get to work. I'm so pleased with how responsible she is about her job. While we were there we thought about getting lots of stuff (it's a bakery), but ended up with some free bread samples and a cookie for Jeff.
Tia multi-tasked taking our order, and taking an order over the phone. She does good work!

Here's a recipe for a great salad dressing using this sweet, mild fig vinegar (it almost tastes like fig jam mixed into the vinegar --very yummy if you ever get up to Tony's)

Fig Vinegar salad dressing:

1 cup mild oil (olive, vegetable, etc. --or use EVOO if you prefer)
1/2 cup fig vinegar
2 t. brown mustard
1 t. orange zest -optional
salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything but salt and pepper into a small blender jar, and whiz for a few seconds. Taste, then season accordingly.