Category Archives: Family

Chili, Pepper And Cool Fall Weather

Amaryllis – Have you seen them yet? It’s time to be looking for, buying and planting Amaryllis bulbs for your holiday table decorations.

Chilly, Chile, Chili. No matter how you spell it. Its that time of the year again. As temperatures drop, comfort foods like Chili, Stew and Soups should be on your kitchen stove and dinning table menu.

Originally Posted on October 24, 2010 (Updated) 09/12/2014

I found this untitled post by Frank on a UK blog about a Texas Chili Cook-off. I thought it was worth reposting and sharing with those that follow my blog postings and have not had the opportunity to attend one of these hair raising events.

Texas Chili Cook Off Not For The Weak Of Heart

A Texas chili cook off can be as much fun as any one person can stand. There’s usually so much going on it’s hard to take it all in. Besides the cook off there’s music and contests of all sorts and lots of new friends to make. That’s why these things can run for 2 or 3 days. Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend a Texas chili cook off.
Chili cook offs are very popular in Texas and are a major form of family entertainment. Before the main event there may be cook offs and competitions for the best barbecue, brisket, salsa or dessert.

The chili cooking teams are judged not only for the quality of their chili product but also on presentation which many times means a pretty good show.
In a sanctioned cook off the chili must be prepared and cooked on site. Some events provide a table, set up under a tent but no electricity or water. You must provide all cooking tools, utensils and ingredients. The competition can be fierce. Never touch another mans utensils. That’s how fights get started.
The official chili sanctioning body in Texas is the Chili Appreciation Society International, CASI. CASI makes the rules. They award points to the best ten cookers and these points can qualify a team for the World Chili Championship held the first Saturday of November in the dusty ghost town of Terlingua. There is only one kind of chili recognized by CASI: Texas red. No fillers are allowed, or as the rules state: “NO FILLERS IN CHILI – Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted.” In Texas putting beans in chili has replaced horse thievery as the number one hanging offense.

Some of the best fun is the people watching. Just how much fun an event is going to be depends on who is throwing the shindig. Like, for instance, a cook off sponsored by a Baptist church probably won’t be as exciting as, say, one thrown by a radio station or a Texas singer. A guaranteed good time is when the cookout is connected with a birthday party especially if the guest of honor is a Texas singer and double special if that singer has 3 names like Robert Earl Keen, Larry Joe Walker, Jerry Jeff Walker.
If this is the case you might want to get a physical and check your health insurance policy before attending.

Helpful pointers and suggestions to aid in optimizing the total Texas chili cook off experience.

1. Arrive in pickup truck, this is one of those times when bigger really is better. If you don’t have one borrow one. You may substitute an SUV if it is the size of a small house, gets 3-7 miles to the gallon and is made in the US of A. What ever you drive, it must have a tailgate.

2. Ice chests. The more and the bigger the better. These should be filled with beer and ice and no more than 4-5 soft drinks and these should be Dr Peppers preferably bottled in Dublin, Texas.

3. Beer and how much. Preferably Lone Star or Shiner. No imported beer unless it’s from Mexico. Best rule of thumb is two cases per cook off day. In case of a beer emergency, you’ll want to be able to share with a fellow in need.

4. Food. White bread, baloney, American cheese, jalapeno peppers, yellow mustard and a half dozen onions should do if you’re planning full serious meals.
A couple of bags of pigskins (the hot kind) if your just going to snack. You’ll also need coffee and a pint of Wild Turkey Whiskey or bottle of Tequila to cut the dust out of your mouth in the morning.

5. Camping gear. You’ll want to stay for the whole cook off so plan to stay at least one, possibly two nights. Gear should include a sleeping bag, a gas stove, flashlight and a coffee pot. Tents are too much trouble. Typically you’ll throw your sleeping bag into the bed of the truck and crash there. And don’t worry about rain. It almost never rains.

6. Lawn chairs. At least two, any style.

7. Tables are optional. That’s what a tailgate is for.

8. A Texas flag or two. It’s also important to know what to wear. Dress for comfort. Blue jeans are always acceptable and, in warm weather, shorts. Sandals, sneakers or hiking boots work for footwear. Or you can go barefoot. A ball cap with some sort of logo is also acceptable. The logo should be for a beer brand, a tractor brand or a football team (high school or professional). T shirts of any type with any logo or picture on front works. All shirts should have sleeves of some sort or someone might mistake you for a redneck and they won’t share their beer and pig skins (the hot kind) which could be hazardous in case of a beer or food emergency. And that’s how fights get started.

For women it’s the same as men and boy’s but tighter and shorter. Don’t worry about your Yankee accent. At cook offs everyone’s welcome and everybody’s equal. And please don’t try to talk Texan. You won’t fool anyone and that’s how fights get started. Dropping names is a good way to make friends and influence folks at a cook off. Willie Nelson, George Jones and Bob Wills are good names to throw down. Don’t ever mention Nashville or California. That’s how fights get started. And don’t discuss politics. You might get a hold of a Yeller Dog Democrat and they’re kinda touchy these days. That’s how fights get started. {Eating chili in Texas, Texas chili cook offs and beer seem to go together like levi’s, pickup trucks and a cow dog riding on the tool box.}

Notes from an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting Texas.
FRANK said. Recently I was honored to be selected as an outstanding famous celebrity in Texas, to be a judge at a Chili cook-off, because no one else wanted to do it. Also the original person called in sick at the last moment, and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking for directions to the beer wagon when the call came. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy, and besides, they told me that I could have free beer during the tasting. So I accepted.

Here are the scorecards from the event.

JUDGE ONE: A little to heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.
JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
FRANK: Holy Shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway with this stuff. I needed two beers to put the flames out. Hope that’s the worst one. Those Texans are crazy.

JUDGE ONE: Smokey, with a hint of pork. Slight Jalapeno tang.
JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavor. Needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
FRANK: Keep this out of reach of children! I’m not sure what I am supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to walkie-talkie in three extra beers when they saw the look on my face.

JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more green pepper.
JUDGE TWO: A beanless chili. A bit salty. Good use of red peppers.
FRANK: Call the EPA, I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced.

JUDGE ONE: Black Bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods. Not much of a chili.
FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills; that 300 lb bitch is starting to look HOT, just like this nuclear-waste I’m eating.

JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef; could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
FRANK: My ears are ringing, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly from a pitcher onto it. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Freakin’ Rednecks!

JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice and peppers.
JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions and garlic.
FRANK: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that slut Sally. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone!

JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
JUDGE TWO: Ho Hum. Tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. I should note that I am worried about Judge # 3.
FRANK: You could put a #)$^@#*&! Grenade in my mouth, pull the #)$^@#*&! pin, and I would not feel a damn thing. I have lost the sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my X*$(@#^&$ mouth. My pants are full of lava-like shit, to match my X*$(@#^&$ shirt. At least the during the autopsy they will know what killed me. I have decided to stop breathing, its too painful. I'm not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I'll just suck it in through the four inch hole in my stomach.

JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending. This is a nice blend chili, safe for all, not too bold, but spicy enough to declare its existence.
JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good balanced chili, neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge # 3 passed out, fell and pulled the chili pot on top of himself. Not sure if he's going to make it. Poor Yank.
FRANK: – – – – – Mama?- – – (Editor's Note: Judge # 3 was unable to report).

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Chicken Sales Pitch That Have Little Or No ‘Real’ Meanings

Source confusing words on chicken labels

roasting hen Free Range
Generally the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows these words on a label when the chicken has had access to the outdoors for part of the day. Not all free-range chicken is organic, but all organic chicken is free range.

This USDA-regulated term means the chicken has been fed only certified organic feed that was grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. The chicken also has not been given antibiotics at any time, though it may have been vaccinated against common diseases.

Raised without antibiotics
This means the bird was not given medicine classified as antibiotics. Keep in mind that it may have been given other drugs and products to control parasites or other animal health risks.

Certified humane
A nonprofit organization called Humane Farm Animal Care administers the use of this label, also endorsed by the Center for Food Safety by processors that meet its standards for raising, handling, transporting, and slaughtering various animals, including chickens.

All vegetable or vegetarian diet
Most poultry feed is made from corn and soybean meal, but sometimes it also contains processed meat and poultry by-products (which include cooked, dried and ground chicken parts, such as intestines and heads). If the feed does not contain these fats and proteins, it can be classified as all vegetable or vegetarian.

Most enhanced birds have been injected with a saltwater solution or broth to give them a saltier flavor and moist texture. The process can increase the amount of sodium in chicken by a whopping five times or more. Check the label: if the chicken contains 300 mg of sodium per 4-ounce serving or more, it’s been enhanced. Also, enhanced chicken often costs the same as unenhanced chicken, so if you buy a 7½-lb. chicken and it has 15 percent salt water in it, you’re essentially paying for more than a pound of salt water.

Farm raised
All commercial chickens are raised on farms, so any chicken could theoretically carry this label.

No hormones added
This is meaningless, since the Food and Drug Administration prohibits all poultry in the U.S. from being given artificial or added hormones.

Antibiotic free
You may see this on marketing materials, which are not regulated by the USDA, but it shouldn’t show up on labels. Antibiotic free (not to be confused with raised without antibiotics) means no antibiotic residue is left in the meat when it’s processed, which is true for all chicken because treatment is stopped prior to slaughter.

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Tomato’s – Sun Dried And Delicious

scotch whisky

Chicken Hot Wings

New found popularity of chicken wings. :-) I have been working with a local chicken breeder to develop a new breed of chicken, one without any nuggets but having 6 or 8 wings and legs.How my world has changed. In the past chicken wings were not considered fit to serve to your family or guest. They were commonly boiled to make chicken stock or fried and fed to the dogs.

Sun Dried tomato’s. Guess what. USDA said most store bought Sun Dried Tomato’s are not really Sun Dried! Most are dried using commercial type dehydrators.
In my opinion, Slower truly Sun Dried tomato’s seem to be more flavorful.

Selecting tomato’s to be dried. Select any kind of Tomato, ripe, but not over ripe, still firm and free of insect damage or bruising. The yield varies considerably depending on the moisture content of the tomatoes, which depends upon the type of tomato you select and weather conditions. Pasta (paste) tomatoes (Roma) work well and typically will yield 2 cups (about 1 pint) of dried tomatoes for each 5 lbs of fresh.

solar dehydrator * Sun/solar drying (search for building a food dehydrator)
* Oven drying, set oven temperature to 130 to 145 degrees. Prop open (crack oven door) to allow warm moist air to escape.
* Counter top electric dehydrator. Follow instructions for your dehydrator.

Cut small tomatoes, grape, cherry and Roma types in half. Cut large tomatoes in to 1/4 size. Under running cold water remove seeds. Dust with your choice of herbs. Place tomatoes ‘Skin Side Down’ on drying racks.

Drying time depends on temperature, water content of the tomatoes, the thickness of the slices, and how well the air is able to circulate around them. When done, the tomatoes should be flexible, like a raisin from a fresh bag, not brittle. Many people describe them as leathery with a deep red color, without free water or a tacky feeling.

Let your tomatoes cool to room temperature this will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Fill zip lock bags. Don’t overfill the bags, leave a little room for expansion. Do try to avoid leaving any excess air pockets! A vacuum bag is a better choice. Be sure to squeeze out the extra air.

Storing your dried tomatoes. Store dried tomatoes in a cool dark place. The freezer is best, the dried tomatoes will retain their color and flavor for about 9 to 12 months. A refrigerator is OK for a few weeks, but if there is much moisture left in them, they WILL soon start to get moldy.

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Pumpkin Perfection – The Great Squash We Love To Hate

I have heard it said finding love is better than being wealthy.
However I don’t think there is much truth in that saying.
Have you ever tried paying your electric bill with a hug?

pumpkin seed Pumpkins are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating to 7000 BC, have been found in Mexico.

What’s in a name? Pumpkin as it applies to winter squash has different meanings depending on variety and vernacular. In North America and the United Kingdom, “pumpkin” traditionally refers to only certain round, orange varieties of winter squash. In Australian “pumpkin” can refer to any variety of winter squash.

Pumpkin has many uses beyond being a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern decoration.
Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and their flowers. Pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. It is often made into pie. In Canada, Mexico, United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a healthy snack.

In South Asian countries such as India, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices. In Australia and New Zealand, pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with pork or shrimp. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a stuffing for ravioli.

In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then deep fried. Commercially canned “pumpkin” puree and pumpkin pie fillings are often made with winter squashes other than the traditionally defined pumpkin, such as butternut squash. Thank you Wikipedia

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What Season Is This?

Just for the record. Me and this blog have divided the earth into 3 regions. Northern hemisphere, North of 23 degrees latitude, Southern hemisphere, South of 23 degrees latitude Then there is that region extending from about 23 degrees North to 23 degrees South Latitude where temperatures are favorable for gardening almost non-stop 12 months a year.

Look-up your first and last freeze/frost dates by zip code Find Frost Date Sorry only works for Zip Codes located in the United States.
Pickling Vegetables everything from Artichokes to Zucchini.

grilled dove Fall Hunting Starts on the first day of September in the south and southwest USA.
Opening day for Dove season seems to be a southern holiday and is much enjoyed even if you (grin) fail to down even one Dove. At least in Oklahoma, the native Mourning Dove and the White Wing Dove(mostly seen only in southwest) near and along the Texas/Mexico border areas have strict daily limits. However the non-native Eurasian collared Dove aka Ring neck Dove has no such daily bag limits.

Doves, pigeons and squab deserve their own category. They are really dark meat birds with very little fat. When plucking doves and pigeons keep them whole. (It’s an eye appeal thing) They are very easy to pluck taking only a few seconds once you get the hang of it. What you get in return for your effort a beautiful presentation and those little legs, which are so very tasty! Remove the wings from doves and all but the first wing joint on pigeons.

Dove are small birds, one dove makes a good portion for an appetizer, three to four are served for a main course. Pigeon being larger birds, only one pigeon makes a light dinner main course. Serve two for that hungry working man in your family. Squabs are the same as pigeons, serve one to two per person.

In my opinion, grilling is the best way to cook young doves and pigeons. Grilling is the only way to get the skin crispy without overcooking the breast meat. Don’t over cook your dove or pigeon! They are small birds and cook quickly. Remove them from the grill while the breast meat is still a light pink. Older Doves or Pigeons are better braised or aluminum foil wrapped and oven cooked.

Quick Hints on Grilling Dove or Pigeon
* Grilled Doves Stuffed with 1/4 to 1/2 tart apple and fresh herbs, brush with bacon fat or wrap bird with a slice of bacon and dust with smoked (sweet) paprika before serving.
* Cajun Grilled Doves Doves rubbed with Cajun seasonings and grilled hot and fast.
* Grilled Dove, pigeon or squab Italian Style. Grill your birds over a hardwood fire and dressed only with a little bit of salt and a little black pepper and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Don’t over cook your birds! It is just that simple.

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Vegetables You Should Consider Growing

kohlrabi Kohlrabi sometimes called German turnip or turnip cabbage. Is an annual a low, stout cultivar of cabbage. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw as well as cooked.

The taste and texture of kohlrabi is similar to broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet.

Kohlrabi – A few recommend Varieties

Variety Days to Harvest
Early White Vienna 55
Grand Duke 45
Purple Danube 40


Rutabaga Is sometimes called a turnip, Swedish turnip or yellow turnip. Tops and root can be eaten cooked or raw in salads.

It seems that from what I can find rutabaga is a cross between cabbage and turnips. The name Swede is used instead of rutabaga in many paret of the UK, including much of England, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand. The name turnip is also used in parts of Northern and Midland England, the West country (Cornwall), Ireland, Manitoba, Ontario and Eastern parts of Canada.


Variety Days to Harvest
American Purple Top 90

fennel Fennel is a flowering plant in the celery family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea coast and on riverbanks.

It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses and, along with the similar tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe.
Florence fennel or finocchio is a variety with a swollen, bulb like stem base that is used as a vegetable and can be eaten cooked or raw in salads.


Variety Days to Harvest
Trieste 90
Zefa Fino 65

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Horseradish – Hate It Or Love It – It’s A Must Have Plant For Every Herb Garden

blooming horseradish Horseradish – Hot and Pungent. Grow it anywhere. Asia, Australia, Canada, USA, UK and Europe, South Africa, grow it anywhere. Horseradish does best in cool damp, not wet soils.

More than almost anyone wants to know about horseradish. It is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family (which also includes mustard, broccoli, and cabbage). The plant Origin is unknown but is probably native to southeastern Europe and western Asia. It is now popular around the world. It grows up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall, and is cultivated primarily for its large, white, hot and pungent tasting root.

Intact (whole)horseradish root has hardly any aroma. When cut or grated, however, enzymes from the plant cells break down to produce allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil), which irritates the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes. Grated or mashed it should be used immediately or preserved in vinegar for best flavor. Once exposed to air or heat it will begin to lose its pungency, darken in color, and become unpleasantly bitter tasting over time. (Thank you wikipeda.)

Horseradish can grow up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall, and is cultivated primarily for its large, white root. Horse Radish with a little vinegar is commonly used among the Germans for sauce to eat with fish and meats as we do mustard.

Horseradish is a perennial and is hardy zones 2–9. And can be grown as an annual in other zones, although not as successfully as in zones with both a long growing season and winter temperatures cold enough to ensure plant dormancy. After the first frost in the autumn kills the leaves, dig and divided it’s roots. The main root is harvested and one or more large offshoots of the main root are replanted to produce next year’s crop.

Horseradish sauce is commonly served along side beef or pork dishes, lamb and egg dishes and with cheese and sausage (worst). A common horseradish sauce is made using graded horseradish and mustard or mayo. Sometimes the sauce is as simple as a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. Sometime horseradish is mixed with grated beet root.

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