Best Chili Ever

You read the title. Are you intrigued? You should be. This is the recipe for the best chili ever. I kid you not. Whether you make this chili for friends, family, or a hungry husband, they are bound to request, nay, demand, the recipe. In fact, I’ve had many friends ask me why I haven’t posted my chili recipe on this blog yet. I give them a two-part answer. 1) I have never measured my ingredients, which makes it quite difficult to write an accurate recipe. 2) Chili does not photograph well. I realize that #2 makes me sound like a perfect arse, but this is a food blog, people! So, here it is. I finally spent one snowy afternoon measuring all of the ingredients for my chili. With stout beer, dark chocolate, and coffee, it is without a doubt the tastiest and most interesting recipe you will come across. And, even though this chili does not photograph that well, it sure as hell tastes great!

Best Chili Ever

Makes about 10-12 servings (I made such a large batch because you can easily freeze the leftovers)

Olive oil
2.5 pounds ground meat (either beef, turkey, chicken, buffalo, or a mixture)
2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced bell peppers (I use red and yellow)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons diced chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce (found in the ethnic aisle)
2 29-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 29-ounce can dark kidney beans
11-12 ounces dark beer (I used Guinness)
2-3 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cayenne red pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped dark chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
2 tablespoons instant coffee grounds
Chopped cilantro


In a large pot over medium high heat, sauté the ground meat in olive oil until cooked. Drain the meat and set aside. In the same pot, sauté the onions and peppers until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chipotle peppers and cook for another 2 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, except the chopped cilantro. Add the meat to the mixture. Loosely cover the pot with a lid and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. Remove the lid and continue to cook for another hour. Allow it to simmer a bit longer if you'd like the sauce thicker. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves. Serve with grated cheese and chopped cilantro and enjoy!


White Christmas Lollipops

No matter how old we are, we always feel like kids around Christmas time. Am I right? And, what better way to celebrate the holidays than by enjoying a popular treat from our youth, like lollipops? I made these white chocolate lollipops extra festive by adding red pomegranate arils and green pistachios. These colorful treats are so much fun to make, and even more fun to eat! The pomegranate arils explode in your mouth, kind of like Gushers. Remember those from your school lunchbox? So, feel like a kid again, enjoy these White Christmas Lollipops, and have a wonderful holiday season!

White Christmas Lollipops
Makes about 20


12 ounces white chocolate chips
Pomegranate arils
Shelled pistachios
Wax paper
Lollipop sticks (from Michaels)


Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate chips, or microwave them in 30 second increments, stirring occasionally until they have melted. Spoon chocolate onto wax paper and insert the lollipop sticks. Aim to make each one about 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle each one with pomegranate arils and pistachios and then let them harden as they cool. Wrap lollipops individually in festive wrapping (also available at Michaels). Enjoy!

You can even get extra festive by decorating each lollipop like a poinsettia flower!


Cherry & Chamomile Nightcap

I come from a long line of troubled sleepers. I’ve tried all types of aids – Melatonin, Ambien, stiff drink, yoga, you name it. I had a brief and quite toxic relationship with NyQuil in college, but that faded out. You’re supposed to experiment in college, right? For me, Tylenol PM just backfires and gives me enough energy to run six miles at 3 a.m. True story. What makes matters even worse is that Thomas can fall into a deep slumber anytime, anywhere. I’ve spent many a night enviously watching him drift into a blissful night’s rest. Creepy, but true.

As an attempt to cure my chronic insomnia, I came up with a nightcap featuring all types of natural sleep aids. Warm milk, chamomile tea, honey, cinnamon, and tart cherry juice help the body miraculously produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. This drink not only helps me sleep soundly, but it also happens to taste delicious! So long, sleepless nights. Now, I don’t have to watch Thomas drift off anymore. Well, I may still do that for kicks…just to creep him out.

Cherry & Chamomile Nightcap

Makes 1 serving

1 cup milk
½ cup tart cherry juice
1 chamomile tea bag
Dash cinnamon
Drizzle honey


In a small pot, bring the milk and cherry juice to a simmer. Add the tea bag and steep for a few minutes. Add a dash of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey and sleep well!


Gingerbread-Carrot Cake

We all know that carrots and ginger make a great combo…

…but what about carrots and gingerbread?

Do they go together?

You bet your bottom dollar they do!

Gingerbread-Carrot Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe


1 stick butter
1 cup unsulphured molasses
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt
2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup finely grated carrots
¼ cup finely chopped dried crystallized ginger
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Either in the microwave or on the stove, melt together the butter and molasses. Pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool. Mix together all ingredients until combined. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy!


Thai Red Curry Mussels with Crushed Peanuts

Things were starting to get a wee bit unhealthy around here. I’m looking at you, fried pickles. Anyway, Thomas and I spent the weekend in D.C., where we had a lovely brunch at Brasserie Beck. This is the place to find Belgium’s finest beer selection, as well as an amazing variety of steamed mussels. (Check out this pic that I tweeted of the creepy Belgian monk who made my beer.) I feasted on Thai curry mussels, which were spiked with loads of garlic, crushed red pepper, and crunchy peanuts. These mussels were strong, pun intended. They weren’t messing around. Sweet but spicy, and hearty yet light, they were so tasty that I decided to recreate them at home for a healthy dinner. Enjoy Thai red curry mussels on their own or add some crusty bread or crisp fries (and a Belgian brew) for some extra heft. Let’s just hope the creepy monk stays in his monastery and does what he does best.

Thai Red Curry Mussels with Crushed Peanuts
Besides the curry, the peanuts truly make this recipe, so don’t skimp on them!

Serves 2


2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded. Discard any that are broken or won’t shut.
Olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1-1 ½ tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
½ cup chicken stock
1 cup unsweetened lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons crushed peanuts
Squeeze fresh lime juice
Salt (if using unsalted peanuts or low-sodium stock/soy sauce)


In a shallow pot with a lid, sauté the shallot in oil until translucent, and then add the garlic and curry paste. Cook for a few seconds and add the stock. Whisk the curry paste until dissolved. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, crushed red pepper, peanuts, and lime juice. Season with salt accordingly; you may not need any if using salted peanuts and regular stock/soy sauce. Bring to a simmer, dump in the mussels, and cover. Cook for a few minutes until the mussels open. Toss them around in the sauce and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with bread or fries and enjoy!


Panettone Soda Bread

Which of the following makes Panettone really uncool?

a) After a very long journey from Italy, it’s usually pretty stale by the time it finds a spot on the seasonal shelf at the market.

b) It is sold in a huge box, weighs a ton, and can’t fit in my cute little reusable grocery bags.

c) If you attempt to make it from scratch, the proofing, rising, kneading, and waiting are enough of a bother to make you want to stick your head in the oven.

d) All of the above.

If you chose d) All of the above, then you know your stuff! In an attempt to duplicate the flavors of Panettone while sidestepping all of its inconveniences, I decided to make a soda bread version. Yeast and excessive kneading are not required to bake this easy quick bread. In fact, baking soda and buttermilk are the key elements that provide the bread’s leavening. With very few basic ingredients and some extra goodies like orange zest, raisins, and currants thrown in, this quick and easy Panettone soda bread tastes like the real thing. Plus, the only reason you'll want to stick your head in the oven is to smell the overwhelmingly delicious, home-baked goodness within.

Panettone Soda Bread
Makes 1 loaf


4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup dried currants
½ cup golden raisins
You can also add crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, or dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Melt butter in a separate bowl and whisk in buttermilk and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until well combined. Stir in the zest, currants, and raisins. Use your hands to get them incorporated.

Place dough on a floured surface. Gentle form into a ball and then transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a knife, lightly cut an “X” across the top of the dough. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown. To test doneness, tap with your finger and listen for a hollow sound. Serve warm with butter or jam and enjoy!

P.S. This Panettone Soda Bread makes fabulous French toast too!