Posted in Beef, Dinner, Main Dish, Soup

Our Award-Winning Chili

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Award Winning Chili and Creamy Cornbread Muffins, a wonderful dinner combination for these sub-zero Midwestern temperatures.

Several years ago, (2005 to be exact) our small town’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a chili cook-off. It was held in a lovely park located in the town square on a crisp fall day. On the west side of the park, the usual hustle and bustle of the Saturday morning farmer’s market was in full swing. Tables and chairs were set up around the beautiful gazebo located in the center of the park. And all of the chili cook-off competitors situated their booths around the gazebo.
I had read about the cook-off in the local paper and thought that entering the competition would be a great way to spend a beautiful fall day with the family and to see how my chili would fare against the others. I had been serving this recipe for years and friends and family seemed to love it.
The morning of the cook-off, we got up early, packed up the car with chili fixings and decorations for our booth. I was intent on winning the trophy for the best chili and the sportsmanship award, given to the most neighborly participant that had gone the extra yard to create a festive looking booth. I have an embroidery machine so I had embroidered custom attire for the day. I had purchased a few yards of cotton fabric to make chef hats and simple pants for the kids. We all wore matching embroidered sweatshirts to show off our family name. The kids were young and eager to help. They were excited about the festivities for the day.
I have fond memories of this day as we did indeed win top prize in both categories. From then on, this has been the recipe that I turn to when making a big pot of chili during the fall and winter months. It’s actually a very simple recipe full of flavor and warmth.
I must say, the weather these past several weeks has been brutal. I have been scouring my recipes to provide hearty meals for the family. It seems we are constantly out shoveling snow, heading off to work or school and returning home only to find that the snow needs to be tended to again. This chili recipe really hits the spot during the cold winter months in the Midwest.

Our Award-Winning Chili

5 slices of bacon
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground chuck
3/4 pound beef sirloin, cubed
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer
1 cup brewed coffee
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (14 ounce) can beef broth
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 (15 ounce) cans kidney beans

In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels. Cook onions, garlic, ground chuck and sirloin cubes in bacon drippings until brown; drain. Crumble cooled bacon and return to pot.
Mix in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

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Posted in Dinner, Food, lunch box, Main Dish, Soup

Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup with Rice

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During the fall and winter months, I am always looking for creative ways to fill lunch boxes with nutritious, mid-day meals. On Sunday evenings, I try to prepare lots of options for the kids to enjoy during the school week. M loves to bring a thermos full of soup to school as she often feels that her classrooms are cold and drafty. She usually requests some kind of vegetable soup to carry in her lunchbox. Currently, her favorite selection is my Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup recipe. Adding rice or noodles makes it a bit more hearty and filling. After making the soup on Sunday, I divide it up into small plastic containers and pop it in the fridge. Every morning, before the kids head to school, I heat up individual servings then pour the piping hot soup in the thermos. (Below, I’ve included my secret to keeping rice balls for a week’s worth of soup.) There’s nothing like a bowl of good old fashioned comfort food to fill the tummy at lunchtime.

Cheesy Cream of Broccoli Soup with Rice

1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli
3/4 cup water
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped onion or 2 tsp. onion flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
2 cups Velveeta Shredded Cheese (melts really well)

In a medium sauce pan, mix water and broccoli; bring to boil. Cover; reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in flour. Continue to cook on medium heat until bubbly. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Add broccoli (with water) Heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cheese until completely melted.

To make rice balls:

This is the kind of rice we buy. It’s called sushi rice.

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Cook rice according to package directions. After rice has cooled a bit, use a small ice cream scoop to make 2 inch balls of rice. Wrap each ball individually in small pieces of plastic wrap.

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Place wrapped rice balls in a freezer safe bag and store in freezer until ready to use.

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Unwrap rice balls and heat in the microwave before placing them in soup dish.