OMGeez! This is day 3 of the Magic Up Your Life Blog Challenge and wouldn’t you know the writing prompts ask us to write about food. The most challenging part about writing to the first prompt: “tell us about your favorite food or recipe,” would be deciding which favorite food or recipe to share with you. I have a lot of a favorites and I can be very indecisive at times, so answering this first one wouldn’t be a slam dunk. I am a better than average cook which means I have a lot of scrumptious recipes I could share. I’m very tempted to go with the first prompt and call it good. It would definitely be quicker and easier route.
But I did sign up for a challenge. So the second prompt which asks, “How does eating fit into your life?” is the one I’m feeling called to answer.
I have a dirty little secret with regard to food. I’m guilty. I consider myself on a spiritual path and I don’t eat clean, vegan, or vegetarian. Some days I have some food shame about this. Especially when it comes to admitting this “lack of alignment” for all the world to see in social media circles such as this. It’s time to put it all on the table and come out of the food pantry closet.
I have a lot of vegetarian in my DNA. My great grandfather …everyone called him Pa, was vegetarian before it was “enlightened” to be so. My beloved brother who crossed the rainbow bridge in 1999 was vegetarian and one of my two sisters has been vegetarian nearly all her adult life. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were a few more vegetarian leaves on my family tree which I don’t know about.
So I highly respect this choice. I’ve even given it consideration from time to time. But I’m more of a meat on the side kind of girl. I love my veggies, but I would miss my smidgeon of meat, not to mention a good chunk of sharp cheddar cheese if I chose the vegan route. I can see validity in doing the vegetarian thing cause it has less impact on the environment. But doing it for spiritual reasons I find more tenuous and confusing. I’m of the opinion that plants have souls every bit as much as animals do. I’ve communed more than once with a stately old growth “Grandmother” Douglas fir and no one can tell me that tree doesn’t have a soul every bit as vital as me and the animals of the forest…so why not a pieces of lettuce? I’m more aligned with the Native American way….mindfully acknowledge, give thanks, and honor the soul of everything I consume.
Oh and there would another more practical reason…choosing vegetarian would add a several layers of complication to my cooking and eating life. I already find it complicated enough. Depending on the day of the year I can be quite the hedonist where food is concerned or I can have hardly any appetite for food and not want to be bothered with having to think too much about it.
It’s a good thing I married a guy who always has a good appetite or I would often forget to eat, especially when I am immersed in my creative work. Oh and when it gets hot…like it’s been this summer in Oregon forget it…my appetite really plummets. It’s a challenge to find something that appeals to me.
Then there are times when food is a true passion. I especially love the creative side of food. When this passion grabs hold of me my diehard foodie comes out to play. It’s a sensual experience. I love experimenting, love the planning, love trying new things. It can be truly satisfying. I’ve probably even have a couple of cookbooks up my sleeve…I may eventually publish one or two…who knows. For now I have bits and pieces of several possible recipe books sitting here in a file on my hard drive.
When the kids were young and at home we would always sit down at the family table for our meal. Since they left home we’ve become much more casual about this.
When it is just me at home I’m happy to just graze through my day rather than sit down for an actual meal. A few almonds and piece of fruit here, a knob of cauliflower there, fresh vine ripened tomatoes …yummm, a slice of really sharp cheddar on a couple whole grain crackers and I’m in heaven.
I do try to choose healthier choices…but I have a few vices, which I’m just not ready to give up. I haven’t kicked sugar, don’t eat as much as the average American…but I do have a sweet tooth. I don’t have a crazy, out-of-control sweet tooth so most of the time I’m happy to allow myself to indulge. I can make a bag of good chocolate last me for weeks. My biggest vice (okay addiction) is I like my soda pop…I am just not ready to give that up…I’ve tried to replace it with other beverages…but just haven’t found something that satisfies and quenches like a nice cold pop.
Recently, I was in the middle of making a big pot of chili for a potluck dinner and saw a half bottle of cola that had gone flat sitting on the counter. So I threw it into the pot along with some cocoa powder…and yummy. Just enough sweetness to tame the acidity of the tomato. It was gobbled up.
Yummy Potluck Cola Chili
1/2 large sweet onion finely chopped
1/2 lb miniature red, yellow, & orange bell peppers sliced in rings
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 4 oz. can of diced green chilies (optional)
3 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
10 oz. flat cola (a 12 oz can would be fine…maybe even as much as full 20 oz. bottle)
4 15 oz. cans of dark kidney beans rinsed
I use a combination of the following spices and I don’t usually measure them…but they are approximately like this.
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1-2 Tbsp chili powder (we prefer it on the milder side)
1 tsp. ground black pepper….yes I am generous with the black pepper …it gives it a lovely kick…which without being too spicy hot.
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar (optional since this chili has cola in it..but if you like to mellow the acidity of the tomato a little sometimes a little additional sugar helps…taste it before adding it)
- Saute and brown the meat, onions, and peppers in a large skillet. Drain and rinse off any fat that has accumulated. Return to the pan.
- Add and mix in the diced tomatoes, green chilies.
- Add the garlic, oregano, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, cocoa, salt, and sugar. Let the spices mingle and the sugar caramelize slightly for about one minute on medium low heat.
- Add and stir in the tomato paste and cola. If you prefer more “gravy” then add some additional water or even tomato juice or tomato sauce, until you have the soupy consistency your prefer. My guy prefers a thick chili without a lot of “gravy.” So I will add a about 6 to 12 oz. of liquid.
- Serve this right from the pan (I love my cast iron pans partly for this reason..they look great as serving dishes) or if you taking it to a potluck or planning to eat it later pour the chili into crock pot. Simmer on low for up to 4 hours. Add the kidney beans about 30 minutes before your plan to eat.
- As usual this is even better the next day so if you want leftovers take out a bit and put it aside before serving or you might not have leftovers. It disappears rather quickly in a hungry crowd.