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    Entries in autumn (9)


    Wicked Good Chili

    I had a hell of a time coming up with something to post for Halloween this year. The problem with Halloween is that the colors are pretty much, orange, black, green, and purple. Although I did make black and orange whoopie pies, and purple punch with icy eyeballs, for the most part, those colors are hard to do by natural means. After trolling Pinterest for hours and thinking on it for day to no avail, I finally consulted Hubby. He told me that they always had chili on that night when he was growing up, and it was one of his favorite things about the holiday. Yes! Finally something I can make, and Pumpkin Chili is perfect!

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 3-4 onions
    • 6 medium bell peppers
    • 6 mild chiles
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
    • 1 Tablespoon cumin
    • ¼ cup chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 3 cans kidney beans
    • 1 can pumpkin
    • 1 can diced tomatoes
    • 1 quart chicken stock
    • 3 cups cooked chicken, diced 

    The color of the bell peppers doesn’t really matter. Mine came from my mom’s garden, (along with the other chiles. Thanks Mom!) so they were just whatever needed to be picked, basically. Remove the seeds and cut the peppers into fairly large pieces. Think something like ¾ inch.

    Do the same with the onions. Mine were pretty little, so I used 4.

    With the chiles, I cut them into smaller pieces.

    Now, in a large pan, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil.

    When it’s hot, add the onion.

    And the peppers and chiles.

    Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of sea salt over the top. That sounds like a lot, but this is going to be a big pot of chili. Now, for garlic, I have converted to Penzeys Minced Garlic. It is freeze dried and, quite simply, incredible. No more peeling and chopping for me, it smells and tastes just like fresh garlic. (See my cute little spooky eyes?)

    The jar says ¼ teaspoon = 1 clove, so I added a teaspoon.

    Cook the vegetables, stirring them until the onions are translucent and they’ve given off most of their liquid. That will probably take 5-7 minutes. Then sprinkle over the chili powder. Now, for most of my spices I go with Penzeys, but when it comes to chili powder, my all-time favorite is Frontier Fiesta Chili Powder . It is just the perfect blend of spices for my taste buds, I guess. Also add the pepper, cumin, and oregano.

    Stir that in, then add the tomatoes.

    Pour in the chicken stock. If I don’t have homemade, I like Kirkland organic chicken stock from Costco.

    Stir that together, then cover and reduce to a simmer.

    Allow it to cook for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.  After that time, it should look something like this.

    Rinse your beans, and leave them in the sink to drain.

    Add your pumpkin. Yeah, I know, it looks gross. Brick shaped and a color that can only be described as baby shit. But trust me, it gets better.

    Slowly stir it in, and as it heats, it will just sort of melt and thicken the chili giving it a fabulous consistency. Add the beans.

    Stir in the chicken and turn the heat to low for another 30 minutes or so to get everything heated through and allow the flavors to mingle and get to know each other.

    The pumpkin adds just a touch of sweetness that balances perfectly with the smoky cumin and spicy chili powder.

    Fill the little ones’ bellies before they go out trick-or-treating, or warm them up when they get home. For a fun presentation, try serving it from one large pumpkin, or individual servings in little pumpkins.

    What was your favorite thing about Halloween growing up?



    The Pumpkins, They Have Returned

    And along with the return of the pumpkins, come all the other wonderful things fall brings.  First and foremost, at least for me, a welcome relief from the heat.  As the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to turn I’m starting to see how people fall in love with this place.  As the stifling blanket dissipates, you can feel Virginia coming to life.  Perhaps it’s just because it’s my first autumn here, but it feels much more like a beginning than an end.  But back to food.  Is there anything better than all the spice stuff that comes with this time of year?  There’s a traditional progression from apple spice to pumpkin spice to eggnog and eventually to gingerbread.  As usual, I’ve ignored tradition and started with pumpkin.  Perhaps I’ll do apples next.  For now, I bring you these amazing pumpkin spice bars… cakes?... whatever.  Filled with warm spices, studded with chocolate chips, and topped with cream cheese frosting, they are to die for, and yet, they are so simple, you can throw them together in just a few minutes. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • 1 ¼ cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoon cloves
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • ⅓ cup buttermilk
    • ⅓ cup oil
    • 7.5 oz pumpkin (half of a 15 oz. can)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla

    First things first.  Since these come together so quickly, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350° and butter an 8x8 pan. 

    Next, whisk together all your dry ingredients. 

    Add the chocolate chips and stir them into the mixture.  I prefer mini chocolate chips for this recipe, but if you don’t have any, go ahead and use the regular ones. 

    In another vessel, combine the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. 

    Whisk them together thoroughly and add the pumpkin. 

    Whisk that in, and pour the whole thing over the dry ingredients. 

    At this point you want to lose the whisk and switch to a spatula or spoon.  Stir just until everything comes together.  Don’t over mix or you’ll end up with air tunnels because this is basically a muffin recipe.  In fact, you could certainly make muffins from this same recipe. 

    Pour the batter into your prepared pan.  I know, you can’t believe it was really that simple.   

    Spread it to the edges of the pan and smooth out the top.  Doesn’t that color just scream fall?

    Into the oven for about 35 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, and your kitchen will be filled with the aroma of all those fabulous spices.

    Now for the hard part.  That cake has to cool completely before it’s frosted.  I left mine overnight… well, most of it.  Ahem.  Ok!  Let’s start on the icing!  Half a block of cream cheese and 2 Tablespoons of butter walk into bowl… 

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.  Anyway, make sure they’re both softened and then mix them until they’re well combined and fluffy. 

    Sift in ¾ cup powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. 

    I know, sifting is a bit of a pain, but for some ingredients it’s just a necessary evil.  Unfortunately, powdered sugar is one of those ingredients.

    Mix until the sugar is completely incorporated and you have a smooth consistency. 

    I forgot to add vanilla before the sugar, but now will be fine.  Just a splash… maybe ½ teaspoon or so. 

    And more mixing.  We have now arrived at frosting perfection. 

    Spread that on top of your cake.  Mine seems to be missing a bit.  What?  Don’t judge me.  I was um… testing it.  I had to make sure my recipe was perfect.  OMG was it!

    I topped mine with a few pieces of shaved chocolate.  You could also use chocolate chips or even a sprinkling of nutmeg.  The mini chocolate chips are perfect because you never have an overwhelming flavor of chocolate.  It’s the perfect blend of chocolate, pumpkin, and spice. 

    What’s your favorite thing about fall?