Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Red Bean Chili

I am sure this is not the case at your house, but my basement has become the place where stuff gets piled. Any papers that need to be filed or shredded, pile them in the basement. Anything that needs to be put away, but doesn't have a place yet, the basement. School books that are not currently being used. Yep, the basement. It was getting out of control, so I finally decided I need to make cleaning it a priority. I also want to move our school room down there. Currently, the older children work in the "living area," the kitchen, living room, and dining room, which are all sort of connected. The problem is that I also have a 2 and 3 year old who cannot be quiet all day while their siblings work. So, I want to convert one of the two small rooms downstairs into a school room where the older ones can study without pre-schoolers climbing all over them. My goal is to start the new semester down there after Christmas.

So I've been working. I have decided that my neighbors must be bringing their piles of credit card applications, old recipts, school papers, and other Important Things That No One Has Time To Deal With to our basement. How can we generate so much stuff??? I am making progress, though. The file cabinets are in much better order, with drawers for keepsakes, papers for the house, and school work. I filled a laundry basket with junk for the recycle bin, and brought up a stack of old papers that the kids can draw/color/paint on the back of. Yay! Progress.
Some interesting items I found:
*$16 -- in old birthday cards!
*a $25 gift card to Target -- a gift from when Elizabeth was born...almost 4 years ago (Mark checked the number online. It says the card has expired. Bummer.)
*Lots of credit card applications (I shred the parts with our info on them), including several from ESPN. Really, ESPN?
*A package of McDonald's coupons (Hey, maybe we will use those if we need to stop on the way to Grandma's house this weekend.)
*Several "Please subscribe" letters from Fortune Magazine. Fortune magazine? Ha, ha, ha. Oh, if only they knew us. We should be getting requests from the folks at No Fortune But Lots of Children and Lots of Bills Magazine. Yep, we would subscribe to that one. Gee, we could write for it!
*My recipe card for Taco Soup. Don't ask. I have children and sometimes my brain does not work. That should cover any reason why the card is in the basement as opposed to in the little black box where it belongs. It's in the proper place now.
*Receipts and user manuals for appliances I purchased years ago and no longer own: A weed-eater that died long ago; a gas heater I installed my old house, which I sold in 2004; the baby swing that was purchased in last spring's yard sale... and so on, and so on...

There were other things, but I'll let it go at that. I never throw things away. I just don't always put them where they go. But I am working on it.

I've also been putting warm weather clothes away and putting cold weather clothes in the closet. Yes, I'm way behind, but I started all this in October, before my mom and stepmother got sick. Things got a little crazy. Well, I'm always behind, but that's the reason this time. We don't have a lot of closet space, so out-of-season clothes get stored in Rubbermaid bins in the garage.

I cannot believe how much clothing we have for the seven of us. Surely Mr. and Mrs. George, our kindly neighbors, are paying the children to sneak their shorts and T-shirts into the piles, too. Regardless, clothes are now stored, and we will take four bags of out-grown items to Goodwill today! Yippee! (Sidenote: My neighbor's first name is George, so my children call him Mr. George. Thus, they call his wife Mrs. George. She loves it and asked me not to correct them. So, we all call them Mr. and Mrs. George. Sweet.)

I am on the right track! Soon, the children will have a quiet school room and Mark will have his little library back, clutter free. I will keep you updated on this oh-so-exciting drama!

Now, on to the important stuff. The chili recipe. I love, love, love chili, but I've been trying to cut back a little bit on red meat, so I had not made it yet this season. Yesterday was the perfect time. I did make one change to my usual, simple recipe. I usually add plain ole chili powder for seasoning, but I tried a mix I found online. It was good, but I ended up adding more chili powder. I should probably double the seasoning recipe next time. This made a big pot, so we will have it again tonight, which will make preparing for Thanksgiving a bit easier.

The recipe:
(All amounts are estimates. You can add or decrease as suits your tastes.)

1 lb (or more, as desired) ground beef
4 cups kidney beans, cooked and drained (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato sauce
1 onion
1 green pepper
2 cups water
1 serving chili seasoning (see below)

Chili seasoning (adjusted a bit from the one I found):
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground oregano
1 tbsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. instant minced onion
1/4 tsp. instant minced garlic (I skipped the dry and added minced garlic.)

Brown the ground beef with the peppers and onions. Drain any fat. (I had a large package of meat that I had browned the day before. I added about 2 cups to the chili. The rest goes in the freezer for the next dish.)

Combine all ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Top with cheese and sour cream, if desired.

*Remember, if you are using dry beans, cook them on the stove. They release a toxin that is not taken care of in the slow cooker. (I realize that sounds really lame and unspecific. Please do some research on your own. This post is really long already!)

Yum! Have a great day!


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