My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off

My award-winning chili is an in-depth recipe, to say the least, but go big or go home, right? The slow-cook style of this yields chunks of beef that will fall off your fork, so get the cornbread, cheddar and cilantro ready. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whose would be declared the award-winning chili?

It was time for the Pattison Family’s Third Annual Chili Cook Off, a festivity that started as a way to commemorate Mama Pattison’s birthday and her noteworthy chili (but then she veered from her classic recipe and ended up losing what should have been a shoo-in). For the first two years, I took an impartial backseat. I doled out the chilis, made sure the competitive clan didn’t cheat, tallied the stats and announced the winners and the loser (it always seems to be the Rustbelt Farmer… poor guy). BUT this year, I decided enough was enough, and I entered the ring!

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cups ready to be filled with competition chili samples for the judges. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fun Fact #1: I’m SUPER competitive.

This little tidbit might not be apparent in my writing, but spend five minutes with me, and I’m sure you’ll get the drift. Play Taboo or Clue with me, and you’ll definitely get the drift! I’m also super into food, so food + competition is a recipe for “stay the f*$k out of my way!” I took my self-declared competition entry all too seriously. I began researching the roots of chili, regional varieties, what technically makes chili chili while revisiting more classic French techniques behind peasant foods like my favorite boeuf bourguignon. Then I spent way too much money on ingredients and created a long recipe which I expect none of you will actually make, but I will nonetheless immortalize it here.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fun Fact #2: We take this competition pretty seriously.

The chili is served anonymously by someone who isn’t competing, so there’s no bias. We tally points so there’s an overall winner and categoric winners: flavor, texture, etc. The debates get as heated as the chili because there’s a coveted spoon to be earned. I did argue for adding a “Most Improved” award because I will hand it to the Rustbelt Farmer. After two years of throwing almost every ingredient from our pantry into a pot, burning all those ingredients until the scent of scorching tomatoes and spices reminded him of the pot on the stovetop, and then landing himself in last place (rightfully so), he really upped his game this year. Though, I will say, he did have a stellar role model in yours truly. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Fun Fact #3: I’m not that into chili. 

More often than not, chili feels like eating gruel- just spoonful after spoonful of a hot spice blend masking any and all subtleties. It starts to feel like work to eat it, like I simply have to shovel spoonfuls of spice into my mouth for sustenance. So as I dove into my recipe, my main goal was nuance. I wanted layers of spices and flavors, so eating wouldn’t feel like a chore that results in stomach rumblings and regret.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Likes avocados. Doesn’t understand all the chili fuss.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

and lastly…

The Not-So-Fun Fact: I didn’t win!

AND THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS! The beef was so tender, it fell off the fork. The lentils and split peas were crisp and added a crunch. The dark chocolate added a subtle bitter contrast to the spices. Split peas really threw this crowd, so I did walk away with “Most Unique” chili, which is cool and all, but it’s not first place. 

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Reigning Chili Cook Off Champion and recipient of the trophy spoon

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Her face says it all, “we demand a recount!”

THEY WEREN’T READY FOR THIS!!!

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

I know in my heart it really was award-winning chili

However, since you readers probably have a more discerning palate when it comes to chili, I will share with you my painstaking, should-have-been, award-winning chili, and I will even give a little kudos to my fellow, which I only do when deserved. This year, I fully admit, he got jipped! (But in past years, he definitely deserved to lose!)

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

The tenderness of the beef is what should have sealed the deal for this award-winning chili.

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

My Award-Winning Chili & A Chili Cook Off // www.WithTheGrains.com

Next year, I’m throwing two jars of salsa and a chicken in a crockpot and calling it done. So here you have it… quite possibly the only chili recipe you’ll ever find on this blog. Where do you stand? Are you pro chili? Do you have any award-winning chili secrets?

Cheers,


Quelcy’s Award-Winning Chili

About this Recipe: This recipe is in-depth to say the least, but it actually made me like chili a little more. I relied heavily on this guide from the New York Times, as well as techniques used in my Boeuf Bourguignon. The recipe calls for both fresh toasted whole cumin and coriander, as well as the ground varieties you probably have in your pantry. Fresh toasting and grinding of the whole spices yields such a rich aroma while cooking. I prepared the split peas and lentils separately to maintain an extra crunch and add more texture. I highly recommend a trip to the co-op bulk bins to gather spices for this recipe, and freezing some mason jars because this recipe makes one big batch of chili. 

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Côtes de Provence: Cheers to the Weekend

While traveling this winter, I browsed a lot of drink menus, and after a lot of “I guesses” and “sure’s,” I came to a realization: I’ve been living off Bota Box wine for too long, and I forget which wine I really like.

Côtes de Provence: Cheers to the Weekend // www.WithTheGrains.com

Hecht & Bannier’s 2016 Côtes de Provence

Bota Box (and other boxed wines) have their places, but there’s something to be said for truly appreciating a glass of wine. I made a resolution to come home and drink more intentionally, so from time to time, I may share a pretty shot of wine. I may share a few little notes about what I liked about the wine. And I will probably buy these bottles because of the artwork and packaging because:

  1. I am a designer
  2. I am not [yet] a wine snob.  
Côtes de Provence: Cheers to the Weekend

I admit I was drawn to this glass bottle stopper on Hecht & Bannier’s 2016 Côtes de Provence

So to get some sipping started, here’s a crazy glass cork situation from Hecht & Bannier’s 2016 Côtes de Provence AOC.

What they say [so dreamily]: “We focused our selections on the cooler parts of the upper Provence vineyards where the oak and olive tree forests protect the vines planted in the clay-limestone soils and, in some ways, seem to nourish them. The higher altitudes also allow a full maturity without excessive sugars (and therefore alcoholic degree in the finished wines). It has a “minerality redolent of fennel, anise and purple flowers. We love just sipping this wine out on our garden in Aix-en-Provence. Grab a glass with some friends and taste with a fougasse, some anchovies and even some Salonenque olives.”

What I say: Even though the ground is still covered in snow, these sips make me think of grilled peach desserts or bright red, juicy grapefruits on sunny mornings. It’s smooth, not too sweet, and I too would like to sip a glass of this in a garden in Aix-en-Provence. 

What are you drinking these days? Happy weekend! 

Santé!

 

Green Detox Smoothies & Their Benefits

Whether you’re still in the grips of St. Patrick’s Day hangovers, or you just want to start your morning in a healthy way, these green detox smoothies will steer you right. 

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

If there’s a holiday that truly brings out my kill-joy judginess, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, or more specifically, St. Patrick’s Day in Pittsburgh (because it may be completely civilized in other parts of the world?). On the rare occasion when I have left home on this green-spirited holiday, my expression took on an active bitch face. “It’s noon. How are you people this drunk already? ARE YOU EVEN IRISH?”

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

So it was, I was gearing up to judge all St. Patrick’s Day partakers, including the Rustbelt Farmer and his brother. But you know what they say, pride cometh before the fall, and fall I did! I was a mere two drinks into my [dehydrated] Friday night, ie: St. Patrick’s Day Eve, when I totally and completely biffed it. I’m not even sure what happened. Did I just step on my own sweatpants?

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Either way, I fell like a toddler, two bruised knees and all. My empty jam jar went flying three feet in front of me, smacking dramatically into the closet door, then spinning in place. I lay there, stunned, embarrassed, and relieved I was not in public. Then, I broke into a fit of hysterical laughter. 

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Rustbelt Farmer looked at me with momentary concern before his laughter hit a high-pitched, lack-of-air squeal. Needless to say, I’m not currently in a place to judge those who may still be suffering from a very intense holiday celebration. I too may need the power of these Green Detox Smoothies. In the least, I may still need an ice pack. 

Behold the power of the Green Detox Smoothies

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Health Benefits of Green Detox Smoothies:

Apples: You know what they say… “an apple a day keeps the hangover at bay.” They don’t say that, but extra fiber and antioxidants can’t hurt your cause.

Spinach: These leafy greens work overtime to protect those eyes of yours. Spinach also helps to detoxify the body and support liver function (unlike your weekend) by preventing bacterial overgrowth in the gut. Remember when dancing the Irish jig on a beer-drenched bar seemed like a good idea? Spinach also helps to reduce inflammation. 😉 

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Lemons: Skip the brightly colored sports drinks, and squeeze a lemon instead. Lemon juice makes these Green Detox Smoothies a natural electrolyte replenisher and big vitamin C booster.

Hemp Hearts: Add a subtle nutty flavor and a creamy texture, and they’re a natural appetite suppressant. (I also like to sprinkle them on my whole grain fried chicken.)

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Raw Protein & Greens: If you really want to push the detox factor and replenish nutrients, you can add some extra protein and greens in the form of a powder. Just be careful to avoid any hidden sweeteners or mysterious ingredients. I used Garden of Life’s Raw Protein & Greens powder

Coconut Water: Another natural electrolyte, which helps to reduce fatigue, stress and help maintain muscle relaxation.

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Then, put all those healthy, replenishing ingredients together, blend, sip, and recover! [Or, repeat as necessary.]

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Detox Green Smoothies

Yield: 16 oz

Ingredients

1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup coconut water
1/2  lemon, juiced
half a cucumber, sliced
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds, plus more for garnish
1 Tablespoon super greens protein powder (optional)
4 ice cubes

Directions

Combine the spinach, coconut water and lemon juice in a blender and mix until liquid. Add the remaining ingredients, except the ice cubes, and blend until smooth. Add ice cubes and blend to desired consistency. Garnish with hemp seeds and serve.

Green Detox Smoothies // www.WithTheGrains.com

Cheers,

 

How To Eat An Elephant…

… one bite at a time. I hate that expression because I love elephants, but the sentiment rings true in my life right now. 

Raspberry Rose Doughnut // www.WithTheGrains.com

A gold flecked Raspberry Rose Doughnut from Relish Co.

A “wintry mix” of freezing rain and sleet hit the coffee shop’s sandwich board, slowly erasing the “Think Spring” floral illustration. It has been a manic March, a confusion of seasons, and I’m not sure how I have landed here. Not how I landed at the coffee shop. That part was clear. I wanted coffee, the specialty doughnut (#treatyourself), and to nestle into the cozy corner of my living room with said uppers.

Spring Onion Quiche // www.WithTheGrains.com

The Rustbelt Farmer made this for me! He welcomed me home from my February travels with a sunny bouquet and an onion quiche. If ever he spoke my love language..!

No, the unclear part is March. How have I landed in March? Months seemed to have evaporated, and I’ve let weeks slip through my fingertips, neglecting this blog, which by extension, means neglecting myself. With The Grains has always felt like an appendage, like a well worn, coffee-stained journal. Lately, it has felt like the journal had been lost to the tumbleweeds under the bed, a fur and dust buried memory. RIP.

Spring Onion Quiche // www.WithTheGrains.com

At its core, With The Grains serves as a barometer of my “me” time. I don’t write for SEO (as the spam emails feel the need to reiterate for me on the regular). I don’t shoot these photos for a weekly Instagram quota. Instead, the blog is a creative outlet that holds me accountable. Am I expressing myself? Am I sharing time with others? Am I releasing the thoughts and stories in my head? Are there thoughts and stories in my head? Or, am I suffering from a full plate, a crowded mind, and a serious case of overwhelm?

Spring Hyacinth // www.WithTheGrains.com

Is there a greater reminder to pause and breathe than a fragrant hyacinth?

Much of my winter was spent traveling as part of the Eat Your Feelings book tour. It was a refreshing blur of West Coast cities, sunshine, and that blue-gray Pacific mist, which I have yet to mentally unpack. The hiatus concentrated all my energy into traveling and postponed the thoughts, goals and looming questions that normally gurgle around New Year’s Eve.

Spring Hyacinth // www.WithTheGrains.com

But in the midst of this manic March, those sentiments have emerged in full force. Where do I want to take my career? Where do I see myself in 3-5 years? Can I bake good gluten free bread? Do I need to eliminate shampoo from my life? And in the most typical Quelcy fashion, can I do all of these things at once? Very simply, no. No, I can’t change and accomplish everything overnight, but damn if I don’t constantly try to prove I can.  

Julep // www.WithTheGrains.com

Julep, my zen guru.

This is all to say [mostly to myself], I’m here, I’m human, and sometimes I just need to shed a few tears, release the overwhelm, buy myself my favorite flower and walk my dog because if this blog is my “me time” barometer, Julep is my zen guru. There’s more to come, more recipes to share, but it may take a little while. 

What about you? How do you remind yourself Rome wasn’t built in a day while still stubbornly trying to build Rome in a day?  

Cheers,

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee (Vegan)

Whipped coconut cream, dark chocolate and Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee make for healthy mocha milkshakes that tastes like a diner throwback in the best possible way. Note: This post is not sponsored by Scotty P’s. This post simply reveals just how obsessive I can be.

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

You knew him as Luke Danes, but Scotty P. has a real life interest in coffee

A fellow freelancer told me she refers to tv characters as “coworkers,” since she plays them in the background while she works. By this logic, I have [shamefully] edited photos while camped in Dr. Fuller’s waiting room (#TeamMatt) and sent invoices over cosmos with Carrie and the girls (#TeamAiden). However, when it comes to my Gilmore Girls rabbit hole this winter (#TeamJess), “stage one clinger” is probably more accurate than “coworker.” (Dang, the world is really divided over fictional men, huh?)

But can you blame me?

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

Whipped coconut cream is the base of these Healthy Mocha Milkshakes

Sure, you can blame me.

If you’re the Rustbelt Farmer, who didn’t grow up tuning into WB each week to catch the iconic mother-daughter duo in their fast-talking action, then yes, you can blame me for revisiting this show. But I, like so many of  the show’s nostalgic fans, came of age with Rory. As she made her decision to be a Bulldog, I became a Tartan (go CMU!). My workload meant I missed a lot of Rory’s college years, but Netflix and winter hibernation were the keys to a good catch up.

While a lot the show felt hokier as an adult, there were so many elements I appreciated all the more: Lorelai becoming her own boss, the strong sense of community in Stars Hollow, complicated family bonds, and most of all, the way the small town created its own fun. I love me a theme, but those Stars Hollows residents really knew how to do it up! 

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes complete with a dark chocolate drizzle

All winter long, I was searching for other friends with whom I could gush about Stars Hollow, Dean vs. Jess, the many famous cameos, and why Luke and Lorelai never should have broken up (yes, I understand tv has to string us along, but still). AND THERE WAS NO ONE…. just crickets! Everyone had either watched Gilmore Girls ages ago, or they only wanted to talk about the newest four-part series, or they just weren’t that into it. All my gushing fell solely upon the Rustbelt Farmer’s deaf, irritated ears. That was, until I attended my niece’s birthday party!

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

…and finally, finally I found comfort in a friend who was just as wrapped in a Gilmore Girls nostalgic bender as I was. She mirrored my obsession, but more importantly, she opened my eyes to the latest tidbit. Scott Patterson, ie: Luke Danes, had started his own coffee company. In real life, Scott Patterson grew up in New Jersey diners, drinking as much coffee as the Gilmore girls themselves. Over the years, he developed a passion for coffee and recently launched Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee to sell affordable coffee that resembles “the many great tastes of the Northeast.”

Being the theme-oriented gal that I am (ie: a should-be Stars Hollow resident), I ordered my own package of the breakfast blend (note: it only comes pre-ground at this point). Logically, I decided the best way to try this brew was in true Gilmore Girls fashion. That meant healthy mocha milkshakes paired with a very Luke Danes meal: a cheeseburger, sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli. It’s a diner style meal I could eat daily, but it’s also the meal Luke cooked for his daughter, April, when she announced she was going to her first boy-girl party. 

Healthy Mocha Milkshakes featuring Scotty P's Big Mug Coffee // www.WithTheGrains.com

Though I wouldn’t substitute Scotty P’s Big Mug Coffee for the third-wave beans I typically buy for my morning brew, the company does do what it sets out to do: it achieves an upscale version of a diner coffee (minus the part where the pot burns for an extra eight hours). Drinking Scotty P’s coffee is just as nostalgic as binge watching Gilmore Girls all winter long. So now you know just how far I took my obsession. The only remaining question is… where you at Gilmore Girls fans?

Cheers,


Healthy Mocha Milkshakes

Recipe adapted ever so slightly from The Minimalist Baker

Yield: 2 shakes

About this Recipe: You could make a batch of cold-brew coffee to make these healthy mocha milkshakes, but I like to use any leftover black coffee from breakfast (I can never seem to finish it all), so I’m wasting less and indulging more. This recipe starts with a no-churn coconut cream “ice cream,” so you’ll want to freeze that mixture the night before. The texture will be a little denser than normal ice cream, but it makes for a creamy vegan milkshake. The whole thing is drizzled with a very nostalgic yet healthy dark chocolate “Magic Shell.” Be sure to select a vegan chocolate if vegan is a concern. This shake would also be great with a little bourbon or rum spike to it. 

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