Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Meal Idea: Chili

 I don't know about you, but once October rolls around, I start craving all things fall in the kitchen... including lots and lots of chili!  I think we all probably have our favorite ways of making chili.  There are so many variations, and so many things you can add or take away.  I've been making this variation for a few years now and it still remains our favorite.  :-)  


 This recipe uses your typical chili spices, although lately I've been substituting ground chipotle for chili powder.  Either way it's delicious!  I think chili is probably one of the easiest meals to put together, and usually something that everybody loves.  Even my husband, who isn't a big fan of soup (so disappointing, I gotta tell you ;-) ), loves chili!  And our girls gobble this up so quickly, although I do go a little lighter on the spice because of them.

 This year I have two nights a week that require complete meal prep, as we arrive home right at dinner time with everyone hungry.  So I've been using my crock pot a ton!  I love making chili, because when I'm struggling to get everything done before we get out the door, I can always throw this chili together quickly in the crock pot.  You can also just simmer this on the stovetop though, if that works better for you, which I do a lot during the weekend.  And leftover chili?  It only gets better!

I typically bake a big skillet of cornbread too and have some type of veggie on the side.

 Chili Recipe

 2 pounds ground beef
3 ounces tomato paste (or half of a 6 ounce can)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (including juice)
2 cups water
2 teaspoons oregano
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1-2 Tbsp chili powder or 1/2-1 Tbsp ground chipotle powder (I go on the light side because of my little girls - feel free to add more/less depending on your taste)
1 tsp salt

Place the ground beef in a skillet (I like to cook my ground beef in a cast iron skillet), season lightly with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until done.  Drain off excess fat and place the cooked ground beef in a pot or slow cooker crockpot.  Add the tomato paste, diced tomatos, water, oregano, cumin, chili powder or chipotle powder, and 1 tsp salt.  Stir together, cover, lower temperature, and simmer for at least 1 hour on the stovetop or cook on low in the crockpot for several hours.

Optional Add-In: Pinto beans are an obvious great choice!  You can so easily throw in a can of beans with everything else, but drain and rinse them first.

Toppings: Nothing makes this better than freshly grated monterey jack cheese and a big glob of sour cream!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The (New) Front Door

 Since first walking through the entrance of this house, I was in love with the original door hanging, complete with old wavy glass.  As with all old doors, the glass was single pane and on our particular door, nothing hung square.  As the years have passed, and we endured drafty cold air coming through winter after winter, Justus begged me to let us get a new front door.  I stubbornly refused to even entertain the idea, asking him instead to try as best he could to insulate the area around the door.  (I'm sorry to admit to this, but sometimes this meant stuffing dish rags and socks in the door when nothing else would help.) 


 I found this old picture of our original door.  :-)  Unfortunately, to help mitigate the draft and to protect the original glass, a storm door needed to be hung.  The concrete porch floor is not level, and in order for the storm door to open, the storm door had to be hung a couple inches off the ground, thus still letting in an unfortunate draft.

After four years of feeling a constant cold draft every time we stepped foot in our living room, I finally relented about replacing our old door with a more efficient one.  I suppose I should mention at this point that we also decided to invest in a new, more efficient HVAC unit as our heating bill was steadily climbing! 

My poor husband - although I agreed to replace the front door, I absolutely insisted on placing a special order for a door that looked as close to the original as possible.  We paid way too much for this special order door (it seemed like to us, anyway) and waited three months for it to come in (and it was even made in our home state!), but I was so happy with it when it arrived. 


 Justus tore off the trim on a Friday night and got everything ready to go for the next day. 


Now, typically I don't feel like I help a lot with projects like this, but on this particular day, my mom kept our girls and I was on hand to assist Justus.  It's a good thing too, because putting in a door, and getting it perfectly square, required a lot of effort.  It was a freezing day, and I remember wearing a big jacket and gloves the entire time.  It took us EIGHT hours working together to get this door in perfectly square and level!  I cannot tell you how many times we had to take it down and move it around.  And I cannot tell you how many necks were craned as cars drove by... likely thinking, what are these crazy people up to now?  Putting in a door on a freezing cold February day?  (At least the sun was shining!) 


 Replacing the front door, and replacing our HVAC unit, were both considerable expenses, but we haven't regretted either purchase.  It has made our home much more comfortable, and much more efficient.  I'm happy to report that our heating bill went drastically down and we were able to enjoy sitting in our living room the rest of the winter.  :-)

Every time I open and close the door, the sound of the seals tightly closing is music to my ears.

 I also spent way too long searching... and searching... for the perfect door hardware.  I wanted something that complemented the year of our house and the style of the door.  One day I'll replace the light fixtures to match.  (Again!)  ;-)


 Justus felt like I should type, "Currently hanging from our front door, is a basket full of blonde hair."  He's too much!  I happen to love the wheat!  (Laughing out loud...)

One day soon (maybe in the next three years - ha!), we hope to pour new concrete steps and spend some more time working on the exterior.  We've been gone so much the past several weeks, but this next week we're tearing out the downstairs bathroom floor and getting back to indoor house projects.  

 Here's the interior view of the new door.  I left the door its primed yellow color for a long time, waiting for inspiration to strike on the perfect color to paint.  First I painted it the darker gray on the exterior (too dark), then white (too light), before deciding this light gray was just right.  

And that's the story behind the new front door... just another project to cross off the list.  ;-)

Hope you are having wonderful Fall days! 

Exterior Door Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Amherst Gray
Interior Door Paint Color: Benjamin Moore Titanium
Door Hardware: Weslock Molten Bronze Tramore Sideplate Lock with Wexford Knob; Single Cylinder with Keylock Knob/Lever in Oil Rubbed Bronze.  Purchased from here:  http://www.directdoorhardware.com/Weslock_Tramore_Sideplate.htm

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