Another #TBT. This one from January, 2008. I am still finding myself getting bored at the end of every January, here on Cape Cod. I guess it's comforting to know that I haven't changed all that much over the years!
P.S. You may notice some changes in the bio notes...those were the days!
Make your own fun with these spicy numbers
“I don’t want to hear you moping around anymore. You need to make your own fun.” Val said in a firm and slightly annoyed tone as I dragged my slouchy teenage self around the house complaining that there was nothing to do. “Make your own fun.”Sticks in my mind as one of the phrases Val invented and used so often that it made us roll our eyes and groan whenever we heard it. The expression eventually became a cliché that my sister and I now recite to our own children. She was right, of course. We had to be creative and “Make our own fun” to amuse ourselves back in the late 1980’s which turned into some hysterical memories that friends and I laugh about today.
January can still make me feel like that bored, depressed teenager listening to Morissey and The Cure up in my room with the music so loud my father had to blink the lights in the stairway to get my attention as I couldn’t hear his shouts of “Turn it down!” over the lyrics I was wallowing in at the time. The “Winter Blues” has always started for me on New Year’s day. It continued in my 20’s, when all of my friends would curl up on the couch in my tiny apartment, unshowered and hungover after ringing in the new year to waste the day watching bowl games endlessly into the evening. Not much of a football fan and a desire to be clean excluded me from their entertainment. Since hangovers require food to tame them, I decided back then to occupy myself by cooking and serving my grateful friends a buffet of my wildest inventions. Now, party planning is one of my favorite things and winter time is the best time to throw one to break up the monotony around here.
Whether it’s a small gathering or a larger group, the party doesn’t need to be elaborate. Some of the best times incorporate casual fun and a loose theme. I prefer to let the food and drink be the back bone, decorate with a few items and add some music that fits to finish it off. (I’m thinking of a “Latin Fiesta” to highlight my“Spicy Turkey Chili”.) I follow Val’s recipe for a memorable occasion with these simple rules:
- Fill your house. Invite all of your friends. If the house gets to crowded, or warm, it’s never too cold to have the party spill outside.
- Decide how much food and drink you need and double it. This way the party can go on for hours. Send leftovers home with friends or have them for lunch the next day.
- Incorporate only a few new recipes with old standbys. Don’t make yourself insane trying to make things you never tested before just because they fit a theme. Even if the mix of food is slightly odd, you’ll be more relaxed if you prepare what you know.
- Lose the idea of perfection.When your guests arrive, have fun and enjoy yourself. Often, a party mishap makes for a great story later.
- Andrea’s Tip: (Val would never!) Relax, leave the dirty mess until the next morning.
I had to think hard to recall what we actually did to make our own fun. I remember prank calls before caller i.d. and driving around town aimlessly in my best friend Jenny’s tan Chevy Chevette while we tape recorded ourselves talking and using our own made up names for things and people. Dying my hair a new color was good for an afternoon and a surprise every time. (It never comes out the same color as the photo on the box.) Dressing up in bizarre outfits with hair and make-up to match always lead to uncontrollable laughter: the kind that drives adults crazy just listening to it. We could play “Mad Libs” for hours, inserting colorful words and phrases our parents would never approve of. Sometimes I wish I had the time and the freedom today to do some of the fun things I did in the past. On second thought, I’ll take my grown-up life instead with my new found made up fun.
SPICY TURKEY CHILI
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey meat
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large carrots, grated
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 bay leaf
1 (14.5 oz.) can low sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2-3 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (to taste), chopped
Open beans, drain and rinse thoroughly, set aside.
Spray a large skillet with cooking oil. Heat to medium high, add the turkey meat and sauté until just cooked, breaking up any large pieces. Add salt and pepper. Transfer to crock pot.
Lightly spray the same skillet with cooking oil and heat to medium high. Add the onion, sauté for 5 minutes until it starts to soften. Add carrots and garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add all spices: cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin and bay leaf. Saute for another 2-3 minutes and add this mixture to crock pot.
Turn the heat to high and add ½ can chicken broth to skillet and deglaze scraping all bits of meat, etc. Once broth boils, add to crock pot. Add both tomatoes, black beans and chilis to crock pot. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Cook on high for 1 hour to let all the flavors meld. Keep chili on low throughout the party. Set up garnish bar adjacent to chili and let your guests create their own bowls.
GARNISH BAR FOR SPICY TURKEY CHILI
cheddar cheese, grated green onions, chopped
sour cream fresh cilantro, chopped
pickled jalapenos, chopped tortilla chips
black olives, chopped
CHILI CON QUESO
Serves 8 -10
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
8 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
¾ cup oil packed sundried tomatoes, drained
6 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ½ cups dry white wine or champagne
6 oz. Monterey jack cheese, grated
12 oz. Velveeta cheese, chopped into small pieces
1 large bag tortilla chips
*optional: assorted vegetables for crudite: raw carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli, etc.
Place sundried tomatoes in a food processor. Process until chopped fine but not yet a paste. Set aside.
Pour oil into a large, heavy bottom sauce pan, heat to medium then add onions and jalapeno peppers. Cook for 5 minutes until ingredients start to soften. Add sundried tomatoes and garlic. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine, turn heat to medium high and reduce slightly. Return heat to medium low and add cheeses. Stir mixture until all cheese is completely melted. Place in fondue pot or small crock pot to serve immediately accompanied by tortilla chips and/or crudite.
ANDREA’S FAVORITE MARGARITA
Makes 1 16 oz drink
1 ½ oz. gold or silver tequila (I like Sauza Tequila)
½ oz. triple sec
½ oz. Chambord
3 small lime wedges
1 cup sour mix or margarita mix
1 tsp coarse Kosher salt
Fill a pint glass to the top with ice. Add tequila, triple sec and Chambord. Squeeze the juice from 2 of the lime wedges into the mixture. Top off with sour mix or margarita mix leaving 1/4 inch at top of glass. Shake until mixed thoroughly or pour back and forth into another glass to mix all ingredients well.
Spread salt onto a small plate. Using the last wedge of lime, rim the margarita glass and place glass upside down in salt so that it coats the edges of the glass.
Pour mixed drink into margarita glass and enjoy!
*Author’s note: My husband, Rob is the mixologist in the family. I never know what I want to drink, so he concocts things for me to try. I think this is one of his best, yet!
Andrea Norris now has her hair dyed professionally and makes her own fun in East Falmouth. She is currently writing a cook book about her mother, Val’s delicious food. For more recipes, go to: valscapecodkitchen.com.
Rob Norris can be found delivering mail during the day and on weekend nights, mixing drinks at PI Pizza Bistro on Davis Straits in Falmouth.