Chili weather

Dear Teri,

Just for you, here’s the chili recipe I promised the other day. I know you’ve been waiting for it.

I started with Chef Jeff’s recipe and made a few modifications, and I think it’s just a little better than the original.

It’s so quick and easy to make, and the best part is that you dirty up just one pan (plus your knife and cutting board, and maybe your garlic press, if you use one – I do). Who can beat that at cleanup time?

Or maybe the best part is that it’s made with ground turkey instead of ground beef yet still is extremely flavorful, even when you use the leanest turkey you can find.

Spicy Turkey Chili
Suzy’s version

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1½ pounds lean ground turkey
1 to 1½ cups yellow onions, diced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
8-12 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 medium tomato, diced, and 1 can mild diced tomatoes with green chilies (such as Rotel) OR 2 cans Rotel
1 small can tomato paste
1 can black beans, undrained (mash with a fork or leave whole)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups organic chicken broth (or more, depending on how thick you like it)
1 cup grated smoked Cheddar cheese (optional) (plain Cheddar is great, too)
1 bunch scallions, chopped (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in medium pot with heavy bottom over medium-high heat. Add meat and stir with wooden spoon to break up. Cook, stirring, until meat is browned and cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

Transfer meat to strainer to drain.

Set pot over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil, onions, bell peppers and garlic. Cook 6-8 minutes. Return turkey to pot and mix well.

Add chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and cook, stirring about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, beans and broth. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Taste for flavor and add salt and pepper if needed. Keep warm on stove until ready to serve.

Serve topped with cheese and scallions. Chef Jeff says cornbread goes great with this chili. Click here for his original chili recipe (I also tried his S’more Bread Pudding. It was a little runny, so I’ll have to keep trying).

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The great pumpkin

It’s fall recipe time again!

Summer used to be my favorite season, but now I think autumn is my favorite. When the weather turns cooler, high school football starts and the leaves start falling, my thoughts turn to the kitchen.

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is to watch Food Network, get some great meal or dessert ideas, find the recipes online, go to the grocery store or farmers market for the ingredients and come home ready for action. In fact, for this first recipe, I didn’t even have to leave the house. I had everything on hand already (or close enough that a couple of substitutions didn’t hurt). Of course that’s because it’s from the queen of such things — Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee.

Yesterday I made her Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Citrus Glaze, with a couple of variations. I love to bake from scratch, but I just couldn’t resist trying this quick and delicious cake. In fact, I believe it will be on our Thanksgiving table next week (sorry, Mom, no pumpkin roll with frozen yogurt this year – unless you ask me really nicely).

So here’s Sandra’s recipe, with my notes in parentheses. If you’re rushed this Thanksgiving (and who isn’t?), it’s a wonderful alternative to baking a cake or a pumpkin pie from scratch (and it’s pretty, too. Oh, how I wish I could take beautiful food pictures like Whitney can). The orange glaze gives it just the right kick, although you could certainly leave off the glaze or make a plain glaze by using water or milk instead of orange juice. But it wouldn’t be nearly as yummy. And a healthier alternative to the vegetable oil would be apple sauce, although I didn’t have any Saturday morning. You could also substitute a couple of egg whites for some of the whole eggs, and I’m sure it wouldn’t suffer much.

Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Citrus Glaze
Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee

6 eggs
2/3 cup oil (or apple sauce)
1 cup canned pumpkin pie mix (I used plain ol’ canned pumpkin)
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice (I mixed my own – cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg)
1 box moist spice cake mix
1 box moist yellow cake mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and flour 12-cup bundt cake pan. In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, oil, pie mix or canned pumpkin, water and pumpkin pie spice. Beat until well blended. Add cake mixes, and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to bundt pan and bake 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Invert cake onto a cooling rack.

Orange food coloring (or combine red and yellow)
1 pound powdered sugar
1/3 cup orange juice, no pulp
3 teaspoons orange liqueur (I substituted 1 teaspoon orange extract)

Whisk powdered sugar, orange juice, orange liqueur or extract and food coloring in a saucepan on low heat for 5 minutes or until sugar melts (I didn’t do this – I just whisked all the ingredients together). If glaze seems too dry, add more water or orange juice to reach right consistency. Drizzle over cake.

This next one is a recipe I just had to try, even though I suspected I wouldn’t like it (quite the opposite of when I was a picky eater many years ago).

It seems that nowadays everyone has a recipe for pumpkin soup. I never was much of a pumpkin fan (until my mom got a wonderful, easy pumpkin cake recipe several years ago – I guess if you mix in enough sugar, fat and cinnamon, I can go with it). But I have managed to eat – and even enjoy – pumpkin bread, muffins and even pie on occasion.

But pumpkin soup? Well … we’d have to see. I can usually count on Bruce to eat my mistakes, or when they’re not mistakes, at least the things I determine are weird. Like Alison, I’m not one to throw out perfectly good (and by that I mean not spoiled) food.

But even Bruce thought it was weird. He said it was better, but still odd, after it cooled to room temp. I ended up adding lots of cinnamon, a little molasses and a good bit of sugar to make it more pie-like, but the jury is still out. (He is downstairs eating a bowl right now – cold – because he is even worse than I am about wasting food.)

So you tell me. Is this as weird as we think? I mean, seriously, pumpkin, onion, celery, nutmeg – and hot sauce??? Strange. (I did like the relish, however. I didn’t think I would. Go figure.)

Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish
Rachael Ray’s Thanksgiving in 60


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 tablespoons butter
1 fresh bay leaf
2 ribs celery with greens, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning OR 2 teaspoons ground thyme
2 teaspoons hot sauce, or to taste
6 cups chicken stock
28-ounce can cooked pumpkin puree
2 cups heavy cream (I used whole milk)
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 crisp apple, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, finely chopped

¼ red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped (I used orange-flavored Craisins)

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons honey

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat medium soup pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add oil and melt butter. Add bay, celery and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 6-7 minutes, until tender. Add flour, poultry seasoning and hot sauce, to taste, then cook flour a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring liquid to a bubble. Whisk in pumpkin in large spoonfuls to incorporate into broth. Simmer soup 10 minutes to thicken a bit, then add cream and nutmeg. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

While soup cooks, assemble the relish: Combine all ingredients.

Serve soup in shallow bowls with a few spoonfuls of relish.

Please let me know your thoughts on pumpkin soup. And if you have a pumpkin soup recipe that is more traditional, send it my direction.

Next time I’ll share my wonderful new chili recipe. It’s soo easy, and so delish. It was a major hit at a recent farewell party for a former co-worker. Can’t wait to share it with you.

Until then, as Paula would say, love and best dishes from my house to yers.

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Just checking in

I’ve started using that phrase with my mom lately – “just checking in.”

For the past 20-something years, I’ve called home once a week or so, even if there was nothing special to talk about. Since Dad died, Mom and I started talking a little more often but still not every day. But since Bruce got sick again nearly two years ago, Mom and I have talked every day, with a few exceptions (usually when I’ve fallen asleep early and forgotten to call). Mom just wants an update on my sweetie; she worries about him nearly as much as I do.

Lately Bruce has been better but still is not as healthy as he should be, so daily updates to Mom are not quite so urgent. But now we’re in the habit of talking every day – praise the Lord for free long distance!

So now when I call just because I’m supposed to, sometimes all I have to start the conversation with is, “I’m just calling to check in.” Sometimes I’m so tired I can barely talk, but I still have to talk to my mom. I just couldn’t end my day properly without it.

And lately I haven’t been posting here much because of so much going on in my life, but I wanted everyone to know I’m still here. I would like to post more, but I do come home tired from my new job (my new job that I still love, love, LOVE!). Learning an entirely new industry has its stresses, but it’s a good stress; I’m expanding my brain.

But that brain is tired, and blogging takes thought and effort. And even though I miss posting as often as I used to, I just can’t keep up the pace. So for now I’m …

… just checking in.

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50 years ago today

Dort and Ben, Christmas 1960
Dort and Ben, Christmas 1960

Benny Lee Taylor and Dorothy Jean Taylor were married Nov. 7, 1958, at Unity Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.

Yes, Taylor was my mom’s maiden name. No relation, so save all those jokes some of you are thinking up right now (you know who you are).

But in the spirit of levity, I’m using this photo from Christmas 1960 because I couldn’t find the wedding picture that I thought I had. I’ll post that pic later. These big events sometimes sneak up on me.

Yes, I realize that Dad has been gone for nearly 11 years, but these things are worth marking, don’t you think? Even 39 years is a huge deal nowadays for a couple. Besides that, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if not for that event so long ago.

Hooray for Ben and Dort! And, Mom, have a day filled with wonderful memories.

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