Tuesday, July 5, 2011

#17 He Helps with Chili Family Fun Day

As part of a need to fill the desire to be a housewife who cooks and cleans and does everything else all good housewives do (and a little bit part of the guilt of being home all day long while everyone else is laboring intensely at their jobs) last summer, I started Sunday family dinners. Now, having dinner together isn't quite abnormal, in fact most Sundays my family has dinner (really lunch) together. However, we do not do the cooking. We order pizza, Chinese, or sandwiches from somewhere local--and we like that just fine.

But in order to fulfill this good housewife image (and also my underlying Italian heritage by being that woman who cooks and cooks and feeds and feeds) I started Sunday family dinners, hosted by yours truly.

Last year should have been labelled: International Sunday Family Dinners, because each dinner was created around a different nationality.

I started with my own:
Hungarian: Main dishes-Chicken Paprika and Goulash
Italian: Main dishes-Veal Scallopini, Meatballs with homemade gravy
...and then branched out a little further.

My first Sunday dinner for the 2011 summer was this past Sunday (yes, I got to a late start). This dinner was labelled: Chili Family Fun Day. I don't really remember who came up with that title, but it fit, so it stayed. The saddest thing I have to state here is that I did not take pictures of my masterpieces. I am so ashamed and almost did not write about it because of that, but then felt that the world still needed to know about my crazy venture.

To me, the cooking point of these family dinners is to stick with a theme and make as much food humanly possible that fits with that theme without getting too carried away. That's not at all contradictory right?

So I made three types of chili.

I didn't grow up eating chili. In fact, I think the first time I actually ate it was the first time that I made it per my husband's request. Something about beans turns me off. I've never really been a bean person, but I'm slowly learning to accept them.

I had to stick to a very strict time schedule for my food. Because, although it isn't too too hard to make chili, making three types of chili, sides, and dessert can get a bit chaotic when you're the only one in the kitchen.

9:00 am Hearty Beef Chili

Before leaving for church (let's be honest, before even getting dressed for church!) I ran downstairs to brown the beef for my Hearty Beef Chili (recipe from Kraft foods). Once the beef was brown (okay, mostly brown) I drained it, threw it into the slow cooker with an abundance of beans (bleh), salsa, sauce, chili powder, onion, and corn. After it had been mixed around, it was then left to itself for 6 hours.

One chili down, two to go.

12:30ish Back from church--time to scramble

Luckily, I thought ahead the night before and pulled all my dry ingredients out and onto my kitchen table. I then separated them by recipe in order to have less confusion as it came down to game time.

12:45 Cornbread

In hindsight, I realize I probably could have made this one the night before, but in honest confession I have to say I hate old food. I know, the night before---does that really make it old?? But truth be told, it doesn't make it fresh. Of course, it doesn't make it bad either, but this little personal issue of mine is what I blame for the fact that I didn't cook it the night before.
I got this cornbread recipe from "The Old Farmer's Everyday Recipes Almanac"--which is a super awesome cookbook. I got mine for $4.99 inside the Columbus Farmer's Market at the magazine store that sells everything 50% off and I loveee it! (More reasons to come later). The cornbread was, simply put: a perfect basic cornbread.

1:00 Fudgy Brownies

Did you know your slow cooker can make awesomely incredible desserts? Oh, it can. Now if you are a wah-wah who complains over underdone brownies and thinks that molten lava chocolate cake is nasty--this is not for you. This is for real dessert lovers who eat dessert for flavor and not in search of lower calories (and they don't put a tiny slice on their plate and call it a serving).

This recipe I found in Prevention Guide's Slow Cooker magazine which I love even more than any slow cooker book I've found on this earth so far. The most annoying part of this recipe is that you need to boil sugar, cocoa powder, and water to pour on top of your brownie mixture. I'm pretty sure this is what gives it the to-die-for-fudginess, however the multi-tasker in me finds it to be a pain. As I'm throwing my ingredients into the sauce pan to boil, I'm also throwing brownie mix, chocolate pudding mix, chocolate chips, eggs and butter into a bowl to make my brownie batter. Because I do them both at once my boiling concoction always boils too soon and then I'm left to tend to that. (I get it, I could make the mix first and then do the boiling, but for some reason it feels like that would make it longer in the end).

P.S. Serve with vanilla ice cream and everyone at the table will mutter unintelligible combinations of words that declare how good it is.

1:30 Simple Perfect Chili

The fudgy brownies had now been placed in the slow cooker to cook for an hour and a half and now it was time to start the Pioneer Woman's Simple, Perfect Chili. I am in love with the Pioneer Woman. I have her cookbook, I follow her blog, she is simply the quintessential example of what I eventually want my life as a housewife to look like. Her chili is just as easy as the slow cooker chili, but--beanless. (Okay, I have to admit, she has beans listed as optional ingredients, but I for surely did not put beans in mine!) Here is how simple it is: Fry beef, drain fat, throw in tomato sauce, throw in spices, stir, then cook for one hour. After the hour, throw in a mixture of masa (corn flour) and water. Cook a little longer. From her optional ingredients list, I opted to also throw in a can of diced tomatoes and chilies.

1:50 Pineapple Coffee Cake

Herein lies another reason I love the Farmer's Everyday Recipes Almanac. Now, don't get slick and think like the cornbread this was one that I could have done the night before, because it simply wasn't. This cake needs to be served fresh and warm for the full effect. (Okay, if it was my family's second time having it, it might have been okay to have warmed it up in the oven or microwave before serving it).

So easy and so delightful. The crushed pineapples really give the cake an incredible moistness and the topping of brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter will make you never buy another prepackaged coffee cake again.

2:10 Rice

Rice is ridiculously easy, but if I didn't get it on at the right time it could have slowed things up drastically. Luckily, my coffee cake went in on time and I was able to quickly throw the rice on the stove top without any hitch in my schedule.

2:10 Panic

At this point, I began to fear I was running out of time. While I realized I was 2/3 of the way there with my chili, I still had one chili left. One which I had never made before whose recipe claimed it only needed 15 minutes to cook, yet it contained a lot of pepper and onion chopping, therefore I needed a decent hunk of time to chop.

I gently asked my husband to leave his serious business of defending the world through COD:Black Ops (and if you do not know what that is, I envy you) to throw french fries in the oven lest I try to do it and it set me over the top. (By the way, he is awesome because he did it the minute I asked and helped set up even more). While I hadn't felt too much pressure before this point, time was escaping and the room was crowding in around me due to the assortment of spices and containers for ingredients that lay strewn across my kitchen table and the ever increasing heat of an air-condition-less kitchen.

2:15 Veg-Head Three-Bean Chili (Rachael Ray recipe)
This is a Rachael Ray recipe my husband searched out after having a vegetarian chili at a chili cook off and loving it. (Is it ironic that my husband likes vegetarian chili? Not sure about that one).
This chili has red pepper, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, onion, vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, black beans, dark red kidney beans, spicy refried beans, and tons of spices. I thought it would be a lot spicier than it was with the jalapeno pepper, two tablespoons of chili powder, and one tablespoon of cayenne hot pepper sauce, but it wasn't. It was, however, more like a bulked up salsa trying to prove itself to the world. Not quite chili, but definitely yum worthy.

2:30 Hot dogs and cheese
My Veg-Head Chili wasn't quite yet done, but it was time to cook some hot dogs and throw some cheese in a warmer for dinner which would be starting in a half-hour. This marks the simplest thing that I "made" that day.

3:00 Begin Chili Family Fun Day

At this point, most of my family had arrived. After introducing them to the assortment of food, it was time to dig in.

Note: It is best when your guests arrive to make it look, no matter how hard the dinner was to make, that it was done with the greatest of ease. Then when they go home they won't be able to wrap their brains around how it was possible for you to do all that work in only three hours total time and still look so pleasant.

Second Note: As the cook of such a fantastical feast you will be amazed at how little of the awesome food you eat after having been on your feet for so long cooking it.
P.S. This is a good thing!

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