Game Day Chili

DSC_0042 This chili comes together easily and tastes even better the next day, leaving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the game.  Extra points for the bubbly cheese.DSC_0050 DSC_0075

Game Day Chili

makes 8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow or white onions, small diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, small diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Better Than Bullion beef base (found in most grocery stores near the broth) or 2 beef bullion cubes, dissolved
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons sriracha hot chili sauce (depending on heat preference)
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 avocado, small diced
  • tortilla chips
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, poblano, and jalapeno and cook until soft, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
  2. Add both chili powders and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Add ground sirloin and raise heat to medium high, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon and cooking until meat is no longer pink.
  4. Add broth, bullion, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, kidney beans, salt, pepper, sriracha, and half of cilantro. Stir.
  5. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent chili from sticking to bottom of pot. Test for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and sriracha if needed.
  6. If desired, place filled oven-proof chili bowls on two baking sheets, top each bowl with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and broil until cheese is brown and bubbly, about 1 minute. (You’ll need to do one sheet at a time).
  7. Top with crushed tortilla strips, avocado and remaining cilantro.DSC_0083

A Surprise Trip to Tahoe

When I created this blog (my first post exactly two years ago), I never imagined it would bring a wonderful friend who lives 2,000 miles away in San Francisco.  Domonique and I were introduced by our mutual friend Janet, my sorority pledge mom at DePauw.  She knew that we held similar interests (Domonique pens the blog A Bowl Full of Simple) and would enjoy sharing ideas as well as commiserating.  After sharing comfortable correspondence for many months, we met in person at a photography conference in New York last fall where we became fast friends.DSC_0108Then came a surprise invitation just weeks ago – would our family like to spend a long weekend with hers at their home on Lake Tahoe?  Janet (who I hadn’t seen in a decade) and her family would be spending the weekend as well.  My answer – of course – was an enthusiastic yes, though my children teased that we were traveling across the country to stay with someone I had met on the internet (and I can only imagine what Domonique’s husband must have said when she sprung the idea!).  All joking aside, I could have come up with a thousand reasons not to go, but knew in my heart the trip would be one we’d never regret.

Will playfully threatening to test the waters.
Will playfully threatening to take a dip.
Lake Tahoe's astonishingly clear waters.
Lake Tahoe’s astonishingly clear waters.
Hannah exploring the rocky coast.
Hannah exploring the rocky coastline.
Father and daughter.

DSC_0104 DSC_0153We spent three unforgettable days exploring the terrain and lazing about Domonique and her wonderful husband Grant’s lake house, drinking coffee and wine and enjoying delicious meals and conversation near their giant stone fireplace (and champagne in their hot tub!).

A quiet hike.
A quiet hike.

DSC_0145 DSC_0149 DSC_0034 DSC_0036 DSC_0195

Neon green moss on a Giant Sequoia here, above, and below.
Vibrant green moss on a Giant Sequoia here, above, and below.

DSC_0194On our last morning, Hannah and I woke early to catch the sunrise over the lake.DSC_0248 DSC_0335 DSC_0350 DSC_0231 DSC_0030Thank you Domonique and Grant (Lucas, Olivia and Melinda too!) for your warm and gracious hospitality.  And thank you, Janet, for creating this connection.  It was such a gift to have time with you and your beautiful family after all of these years!

With Domonique at Squaw Valley.
With Domonique at Squaw Valley.
Janet sledding with her cute boys, husband Hug and son Benny.
Janet's son Benny, soaking up the snow and sunshine at Squaw Valley.
Benny, soaking up the snow and sunshine at Squaw Valley.

Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan

I’m thrilled that Michael, our favorite mixologist, is back with a classic cocktail to warm us on these frigid winter days.  Read on to master the art of the Manhattan, then relax, grab a book, and light a fire.  Five o’clock is calling… As we all come off our holiday hiatus, it is traditional to use the New Year’s spirit to invigorate within ourselves a sense of renewal by enacting some manner of change intended to better ourselves as people.  For many this means more exercise, becoming more organized, or swearing off some pesky vice that has overstayed its welcome in our daily routine.  Simply put, this is NOT the time to stop drinking!  During my time matriculating at Annapolis, this time of year had a special name – “The Dark Ages”.  By definition, the “Dark Ages” began the day the Brigade of Midshipmen returned from Holiday leave and ended on the first day of Spring Break.  I vividly remember the lack of daylight, the frigid wind-whipped runs on the Chesapeake seawall, and the grinding academic work.  Even now living in Florida (as I write this it is 67 degrees and sunny), the “Dark Ages” still hold a special place in my heart.  I only regret not having ready access to a well stocked bar during my years as a Midshipmen – GPA be damned!

So I’m submitting to A&D few cocktail recipes to help us all make it through this lamented time of year.   I personally am a creature of the seasons and my cocktail consumption tends to mirror what is happening outside.  I dedicate this post to the readers in the frigid north and present another classic that is sure to stick to your ribs and make an evening sitting by the fire all the more perfect – the Manhattan.  I know its been awhile, so lets recap the First Commandment of mixing cocktails.  “Thou shalt use the finest ingredients in thy cocktails.”  I am not implying that one must use the exact bottles I present, only that your cocktail will only be as good as the cheapest ingredient used.The Manhattan, like the Martini, ranks among the most classic of cocktails.  Done correctly it is simple, tastes great, and provides the perfect dose of medicine to help shake off the Dark Ages grind.  With Manhattan recipes, the biggest points of contention are a.) the type of whiskey and b.) the proportions of base and modifier.  The great thing about the Manhattan Cocktail is type of whiskey and proportion are completely up to the person mixing provided the ingredients are of the finest quality.  The recipe I am presenting is my preferred (and the traditional) recipe, but one should feel free to experiment with slightly different proportions to satisfy their palate.  I will however talk about a few different types of whiskey that can change the character of your Manhattan to fit your mood – and the weather.

Basic Recipe:
2.0 Oz Whiskey
1.0 Oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters


The base of any Manhattan is Whiskey…..and there are so many types.  A Rye Whiskey is the traditional type used in Manhattans because it typically is more balanced in terms of sweet, spice, and smoke (peat) than other whiskies.  Right now, my “go to” rye is Bulleit Rye because it is of good quality but not so good that it demands drinking it neat or on the rocks, and its not difficult to acquire (available in most liqueur stores).Two other variations I’d like to present are using a Bourbon or a Scotch as the base of this cocktail.  For the Bourbon option I’ve been using a High-Rye Bourbon by Redemption.  This is a great bottle because it brings out the sweetness inherent to Bourbon but still retains a bit of spice found in Rye.  For the Rob Roy option (this is the name of a Manhattan made with Scotch instead of American Whiskey), I currently use Monkey Shoulder.  This is a blended Scotch that has all the qualities of a Single Malt (made using 3 different single malts from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie) – a tip of the hat to the Master Distillers that put it together.  It is not overly peaty like some of the Islay regions and has the smooth malt and citrus notes that make it a great option for this recipe.Vermouth:

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – so do not skimp on the Sweet Vermouth.  This means that Martini and Rossi will not do.  I personally enjoy Dolin Sweet Vermouth but any high-end vermouth such as Carpano Antica or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino will do.


A few dashes of Angostura Bitters bring out all the subtleties in both ingredients and really round out the drink.  Do not use Peyschaud’s bitters unless you want to turn your expensive whiskey into something that tastes like Nyquil.  Peyschaud’s bitters has its place in other cocktails – the Manhattan is not one of them. The Process:

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker – or if you really want to class it up, get a beautiful mixing beaker as shown below.Add ice.STIR!  STIR! STIR! This Cocktail! Shaking Manhattans or other whiskey cocktails is one of my drinking pet peeves.  Please, for the love of all things right and just in this world, DO NOT SHAKE these drinks.  Shaking these cocktails adds too much water to the mix and greatly diminishes the flavor.  Also, help me on my crusade to make sure these drinks are made properly by demanding bartenders stir these cocktails when you order them out.  Strain into a Coupe or Cocktail Glass.  Garnish with a Cherry.A quick note about the cherry garnish.  Luxardo makes great cherries for cocktails.  I HIGHLY recommend, if you intend on making this cocktail regularly, to buy a jar.  They are readily available on Amazon and they last forever.  Don’t settle for the cheap Maraschino Cherries found in most grocery stores.  I’d skip those and garnish with a citrus peel before I allowed one to see the inside of my Manhattan glass.  Keep it classy folks.The Manhattan is alcoholic comfort food for me – I hope this helps everyone make it through the Dark Ages!

Cheers, MC.

all photos in this post by Michael

Welcome, 2014! I’ve been waiting for you.

photoOur family closed 2013 skiing with close friends in Northern Michigan where subzero windchills kept all but diehard skiers off of the slopes.  The cold may have prevented us from spending the entire day outside, but paired with a new-fallen blanket of snow, it brought the gift of quiet which was almost as beautiful as the landscape.  And it made après-ski feel like heaven!

Wishing everyone a serene entry into the New Year.  May we all resolve to love hard, live in the moment, and surround ourselves with those who bring us joy.  If 2013 taught me anything, it’s that we only get to do this once.  xo