How to Survive a Polar Vortex

Last week, for one of the first times ever, the entire nation suffered together. On Tuesday, the temperature was below freezing in ALL 50 states. So while we can’t all agree on issues like gay marriage, gun control or a women’s right to choose, for one day we all agreed – it was freezing.

The best way to survive a polar vortex is to stay inside, and when that isn’t possible, bundle up! Down coats, fleece mittens and wool hats become part of the every day uniform. And warm meals are a must for the evening. I used the cold weather as an opportunity to make a dish I’d been wanting to make but had been saving it for the right day, or rather, weather.

This fall one of my colleagues got married and at their wedding gave out containers of spice mix and the recipes for their favorite chili dish as favors. I was so psyched to receive this and couldn’t wait to make it — unfortunately I feel strongly that chili should only be consumed in cold weather and I was forced to wait for the right day. Thankfully the polar vortex gave me the perfect occasion.

Tyler, the husband, has a cooking blog that I’ve written about previously, Ty’s Kitchen. Here he posted his famous chili recipe that they gave out at the wedding.

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For the first time ever, I actually didn’t follow this recipe exactly. I just used regular ground beef and I omitted the carrots and celery. I also added in a can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed) and a small can of tomato paste (I might not have needed this).
I felt like a real chef, adapting the recipe to my liking. In the end it came out really well. It was the first time I’d added vegetables to my chili and I have to say, it was a great addition.

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Now, if only I could figure out all of the spices that were part of Ty’s Spice Mix…

 

 

 

I’m Cheating on My KitchenAid Mixer

My favorite kitchen appliance is my KitchenAid mixer. I coveted one for years. And then, after Matt and I moved in together and after I secured a new (and desperately needed) job, a KitchenAid mixer appeared in the mail. My mother, who never owned a one herself, bought me the cobalt blue mixer.

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From the minute I turned it on, I was in love. Making cookies became easier, beating frosting didn’t require holding a mixer for 15 minutes and after my mother-in-law bought me the ice cream attachment, the love affair escalated. I’ve purchased many off friends’ wedding registries and got one for my mom last Christmas. Honestly, I don’t know how she lived without for 60(ish) years. Nothing could tear me away from my KitchenAid.

That is… until my Crock-Pot came along.

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When Matt and I got engaged, registering fro Kitchen appliances, gadgets, pots, pans and dishes was a highlight. With my limited kitchen space in NYC, I hesitated to put a crock pot on the list. Thankfully my mom convinced me, saying even if I could use it now, I would want it in the future. So I registered for one.

My soon-to-be sister-in-law bought Matt and I our crock pot for our shower. I was super excited to receive this gift, but I knew there was no way I could store it at our apartment. So, sadly, like many of our other shower and wedding gifts, I packed it into my bedroom closet at my parents house. And then, I forgot about it.

Not because I didn’t appreciate the gift, but because I didn’t have room for it. However, every time I return to NH, I open that closet and feel an incredible sense of frustration that I have these wonderful, nice things that I simply don’t have room for. And pinterest made it worse.

When I joined pinterest, I immediately started using the site for recipes. And much to my chagrin, a huge number of the recipes I would come across were for crock pots and slow cookers. And I didn’t have one (in my possession). Eventually, it was just too much. After Thanksgiving, I hauled the large box back to NYC and spent a few hours strategically moving things around. Finally I found a spot for the crock pot!

A few days later, I pulled it out and fired it up. The first recipe I made was one recommend by Matt’s mom: white chicken chili (recipe below). I put the ingredients in  before work and by the time I came home, our apartment was filled  was delicious aromas and the cooking was done! It was amazing, delicious and the clean up was just one pot. After dinner, I hopped on my computer and started looking up more crock pot recipes. I was hooked.

It wasn’t long before the crock pot took the place of my KitchenAid. Baking cookies and making ice cream was replaced with chilis, pulled pork and soup. Matt didn’t complain by my co-workers started to question what was going on.

While I can’t say with conviction which is my favorite – I can definitely say that in our 800 sq. ft. apartment, I’m happy to designate at least 10 sq feet to my ever-growing collection of kitchen appliances!

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

2-3 boneless chicken breast halves (can be still frozen)

2 cans Rotel tomatoes

2 cans corn kernels, do not drain

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 pkg. Ranch dressing mix(dry)

1 ½  T cumin

1 ½  t chili powder

1 8-oz pkg. cream cheese

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Put the chicken in the crock pot.

Top with the tomatoes, corn, drained and rinsed beans,ranch dressing, cumin, and chili powder; stir to combine.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stir and add cream cheese.  Cook on high 1 more hour.

Shred the chicken into large pieces, stir to combine all.

Chalk It Up

In the house where I grew up, we had an unfinished basement that Abby and I turned into our play “zone.” We would roller skate around on the cement floors, do karaoke performances on the “stage” for our parents and jump on the homemade trampoline that we created (two old couches pushed together). However, one of my favorite things was that our parents let us write on the walls. I am not exactly sure that they approved of this idea before it actually happened, but they didn’t freak out when it did.

Because the basement wasn’t finished, our walls were a cool grey cement that was a perfect canvass for chalk. We practiced out signature, drew smily faces and supported our swim team with things like “GO SUNFISH!” scribbles around the room. When friends came over to play, they were immediately intrigued by this “wall art” that we were allowed to do.

When Abby and I were in high school, our parents decided to “finish” the basement. Walls went up, carpet went down and new furniture came in. We put a tv in the basement and a dart board. We went from having our very own roller skating rink, to having a youth center. It was the setting for many swim team parties and I shamefully sat downstairs with a few dates, making them watch Disney movies… Matt was the only boy who lasted through The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, AND Toy Story.

While the new space was certainly nicer than the unfinished basement that we had grown up with, Abby and I missed having the ability to write on the walls. My parents tried to make up for this by hanging a giant whiteboard on one wall, but it was just not the same.

A few weeks ago, I decided I would get back the ability to write on my walls by painting a wall in our apartment with chalk board paint. Matt wasn’t terribly excited about this but he also knew I wasn’t going to back down. So we bought some paint and he sat quietly on the coach as I covered a small wall with black paint. The painted worked wonderfully – now all I needed was something to write/draw…

Weeks went by and the chalkboard wall remained blank. I had to wait for the right inspiration. Thankfully, that inspiration came when Matt and I decided to host a small Super Bowl party last night.

Thanks to everyone who came by! It was a lot of fun; and surprisingly, we didn’t have too much food left over! Thank goodness for “binge days.”