Friday, July 29, 2011


I love making chili. I love how easy it is and I love the mixture of flavors one gets in a good bite of chili. I like chili on it's own, with cornbread, with fritos, on a hot dog...any way I can get it, I love it. I have found however that the more I make my own chili and fall further and further in love with it, the harder it is to enjoy any chili that is not my own (what a great philosophy for a monogamous relationship too...yes Matt...I just compared our relationship to chili). Often, not all the time but often, when tasting other people's chili I find myself enjoying it, then thinking "Oh if they only added this" or "If only they used this instead of that". Eventually I will think myself out of enjoying their chili and dreaming about mine because I have slowly "morphed" their chili into everything it should be (in my mind- mine). I will concede that Texan chili purists will snub my chili because according to current chili standards, a Texas chili should not have beans in it. I think this is outrageous and rediculous. First off- beans are a wonderful addition to chili because of the nutritional value it adds. Second- you really expect me to believe that cowboys wouldn't enjoy a bowl full of chili with beans?!? Regardless, here is the chili as closely as I can describe it to you...

Start off with an idea of how much and what type of ground meat you are going to use. This batch is ground venison and ground buffalo (venison because it is free to us plus delicious and lean, buffalo because my mom bought it and it is delicious and lean). I personally do not like fatty ground meat in my chili, but to each their own. You need to know how much meat because there is a precise ratio that occurs with my chili recipe. Basically for veggies and canned tomatoes it is a one to one ratio and for beans it is a 1 to 1.5 ratio. Thus, for every pound of ground meat you want, use one bell pepper and one regular size onion, and one can of diced tomatoes. Then use 1.5 cans of beans. Yes I realize you could soak and cook your own beans, but my method is so easy! Also, if you are going to make chili then make a huge pot to munch on for days, with friends, then stick in the freezer. It freezes really well and it is wonderful to be able to come home to a huge bowl of chili on unexpected rainy or cold (HAHA) days.

So chop your bell peppers and onions and sautee in vegetable oil in a large stockpot. When tender add the ground meat, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and brown until done. I do not drain any fat at this point as there is usually very little, but if you used Ground Chuck or something fatty, you may wish to.

Rinse and drain your canned beans. I like to use a combo of dark red kidney beans, light red kidney beans, and pinto beans. I do usually pour one can in without draining to provide a little thickening, but most of them I drain and rinse. Stir it all around a bit. Add canned tomatoes and one large can of tomato sauce for several pounds of meat (I'm sorry this isn't more precise, but I don't use a lot of measurements). This is where the fun comes in.

Liberally season with salt, pepper, red pepper, and garlic powder. Then add copious amounts of at least three different kinds of chili powder (we are talking about palmfulls here). You may think I am crazy for suggesting different kinds of chili powder, but it is a tip my dad gave me and I swear by it. Each brand of chili powder is unique in what kind they use, how long they smoke it, and what flavor profile it has. You will not get a depth of flavor without using different kinds of chili powder. If you don't believe me, next time you are at the store grab four or five different brands of chili powder and simply look at their color. Those different colors mean slightly different flavors which means tantalizing flavor for your otherwise drab chili. Also throw in a good amount of cumin just for extra smoky will be ok if you only use one kind of cumin.

Now stir this up (I really recommend a good bamboo or wooden spoon for adds so much to the authenticity of the dish) and walk away. For at least 30 minutes. Let it come up to a good boil. Now stir it and give it a taste. It probably needs more chili powder, a bit more cumin, and some garlic powder. Stir this in and walk away. Again, give it some time to work, you probably have a show to watch or laundry to fold anyways. Try again. You should tweak your flavors at least twice. Just remember that you can always add more seasoning and spice, but it is very hard to take away. But you probably need more seasoning than you think...

Once you are happy you can simmer until ready to serve. I highly recommend cornbread and a salad with ranch dressing on the first day, frito pie with red onions and cheddar cheese on the second, and chili dogs with Hebrew National all beef franks on the third! Enjoy

Monday, July 25, 2011

21 months of MacKenzie


Yesterday you just turned 21 months, we are starting to think about your 2nd birthday already! It is amazing how much you change and pick up on a daily basis. If only we could harness that learning and developmental ability and apply it to everyone in the world!!! Above all of your "smartypants-ness" we love you and the child you are and you bring us so much happiness.

I could continue to report on all of your eating habits, but I think you would find that a bit boring so here are a few highlights. You are doing better with a fork and spoon and drop less and less each meal. You will sometimes get frustrated with using utensils and will grab food with your hands, which is fine because you are still learning. When you don't like something you will hand it to us until we tell you to put it back on your plate or on your high chair tray. Yesterday while eating pizza you reached over to Mommy's pizza and swiped all of her black olives which I thought was very funny! You are not the biggest fan of sweets, but neither was I at that age. You will take a few bites still, but the biggest sweet you like are cookies and always ask for one at Kroger. You have started eating canned carrots with dinner which is a fairly new development. We also sometimes have to remind you that you like something by telling you to say "ahhhh" and then putting the food item in your mouth. Your reaction is usually along the lines of "hey...oh...wait...I do like this!" Your favorite foods right now are still Macaroni and Cheese, bananas, oatmeal (you request that for breakfast), and bread.

You are learning a lot. You are very good at your colors and we have started to teach you brown, black, and white along with the basics. You are doing great on your letters and will even name S, O, M, B, E, and W (duh-bwah-ooo). Mommy has to go back and teach you all of your lowercase letters now because she only taught you the capital ones. You will pick up on signs and new words very quickly and we catch sentences and phrases that you are mimicking a lot. You are very observant and we often have to look around for what you are showing or telling us because we know you see things that we don't. You like to show people how smart you are by looking around and saying all the things you can see while pointing to them. I hope you continue to learn and have a joy in being smart!

You love your puppies still, but a new love is for that crazy little monster..."Eh-mo!" I am not quite sure where you picked up on this love as we only have a few Sesame Street things and rarely watch it, but you have picked up on it strong. You look for him everywhere and love the little stuffed Elmo that I have found amongst your things. You have also picked up on Minnie and will claim that Mickey is Minnie too and Mommy and Daddy have been teaching you about Buzz and Woody from Toy Story. You love music and will dance with your hands in the air in a bit of a wild fashion whenever you can. You love to play with "muh-knee" as previously posted about and will snatch whatever money you can find to put in your purse or juice container of coins. You love shoes and walking around in shoes or socks (either on your feet or hands). We spend a lot of time reading and you will also sit on the floor on your own while reading and looking at books (so remenscent of pictures of mommy). You love to swim and to play in the water and like to explore the park, but it has been way to hot for that.

You are sleeping in a "big girl" bed as we got a full bed from Dee and Doc to put on the floor for you. You have transitioned well into the bed and have had no problems and have only once gotten out of bed to play. Speaking of Dee and Doc (and all of your grandparents and good friends) you now point out where we are going once we get close will start saying the names of the people that live at the house when you recognize the places around there. You will also list off a long list of names when we ask you who you love (Vah-Vah, Enny, Vay-very, Ah-ie, Mama, Dada, Neh-nah, etc).

MacKenzie, this past month has been wonderful and I am really enjoying spending time with you. It still startles me to see how big you have gotten and how much you can do for yourself. I am thankful for every second you are with us and look forward to many more seconds to come!

Mommy and Daddy

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Matt and I secretly harbored a fondness for pesto from each and I am not sure why. Actually I am quite certain that my thoughts were along the lines that there was no way my pumpkin hating, caramel discriminating, toffee despising, picky about seafood, have to have everything cooked completely lean hubby would ever like something as wonderful and simple as pesto. I am not sure what his thoughts were though, but recently when my dad gave me a huge amount of it from his prolific basil plant our desire for pesto emerged. As we had dinner ready for the next few days which did not warrant the use of basil tossed with marinara sauce (and we had even more basil than that would have required, even for our basil loving taste buds), we did have room for pesto with pasta in our meal plans. I had never made pesto before, but had been looking for an opportunity to give it a whirl (literally seeing as I used the food processor). Pesto is a wonderful little sauce that can be used as a spread for sandwiches, a topping for pizza or chicken, or a sauce for pasta. I love anything with basil and am quite fond of the texture of pesto as well...I like all the "bits". As with many things, this is not so much a recipe as a method, so please tweak to your hearts desire.

Wash a huge bunch of basil (ours fit into a lunch size paper sack). In food processor, grind up a handful and a half of walnuts (pine nuts (pignoli) are more traditional, but they are freaking expensive) and half a cup of Parmesan. Add basil and a heavy pinch of kosher salt. While food processor is running, stream (or slowly pour in) a decent quality of olive oil. I would start with a quarter cup and taste from there. Your optimal taste will involve a lot of freshness from the basil, a slight grainy and nutty flavor from the walnuts, richness and saltiness from the Parmesan, and a thin olive-y coating from the olive oil. Once you reach that (by tasting and tweaking to add more olive oil) then stop. If you have a thick pesto then we are good...this is what you would use as a sandwich spread, a pizza drizzle, or to spoon a top some grilled chicken. If you were wanting a pasta sauce then I do not recommend you continue to add oil until it is a saturated (like the fat...ha ha...but not really because it is olive oil...ha ha) oily, but pourable sauce. I recommend you save a cup of pasta water from cooking your pasta to thin the sauce out as you coat the noodle of your choice (I am particularly fond of rigatoni, penne, or fettuccine). This makes for a perfect "thinning agent" that also provides additional texture as the pasta yields starch to the water.

I will be making some more pesto tomorrow (another visit to Dad's), but not adding cheese and freezing it. This is the recommendation of every cooking show I have seen, so we will see how it works!


5 months for Keegan


You have now been with us for five months and you are growing into your own little person more and more each day. It is so much fun to watch you grow and learn every day. You definitely have your own little looks and your own personality and it is fun to compare and contrast that to your sister. Speaking of your sister, she has grown to love you more and more. I love to watch you guys laugh at each other and she has grown very protective of you. If someone else is stopping to talk to or look at you she gets very protective and will try to push them away. I hope it is a sign of a wonderful relationship to come. I love watching you look up at the people you look at people with big "moon-y" eyes like you are blissfully happy with them. I think those eyes are going to captivate a lot of people in your life!

You are rolling over from back to tummy easily now. You started doing that consistently about two weeks ago. You will lift your legs up into the air and then swing them to the side which usually gives you enough momentum to roll all the way onto your tummy. You can also roll from tummy to back, but do so less often (usually you will roll around the most in your crib). You love to move and kick your legs while you are on your tummy to scootch yourself forward or around in a circle. You are also playing and interacting more and more with your toys and bring them into your mouth. You like to watch the lights on the little musical toys that we have for you and will move your head a lot to see what is around you. You prefer to sit up and watch what is going on rather than laying down. We think you are trying to catch up with MacKenzie as fast as you can. You will also reach out for our faces and have started pulling mommy's hair.

You eat very efficiently and stretch out your feedings as much as you can. You will eat about every 3-4 hours and only like to nurse for about 15 minutes at a time. It really helps when we want to go and do things that you are so chill about eating. We will probably start you on solids at some point this month, but cannot decide what method to go with...I guess we will discuss that next month! We have given you teeny tastes of things and when you are awake at dinner time we will sit you in the bumbo with us at the table and give you a spoon to "practice". You have started smiling a bit when nursing which is a nice change of pace from the concerned look you used to have.

You sleep well, you picked up your 5 am feeding for a few days, but I think it was just a growth or development spurt. You are back to sleeping pretty consistently through the night (10-7) and I have found that it is helpful to do a little cluster feed with you at night to get that to stretch out a bit. You are usually taking two big naps (2-3 hours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and will doze off and on in the evening. Your awake times are getting longer and you are very alert and good natured. The past couple of days you have started to "sing" to yourself as you drift off to sleep with your two middle fingers in your mouth.

You laugh a lot and love when we blow raspberries in your neck and on your cheeks. Just like your sister you like when we make your legs go froggy while laying on your back. That is the best way to get you to crack up laughing. You are very vocal and will talk to yourself for long stretches of time. People always ask if you are upset and I have to reassure them that you are just talking and seeing what your vocal range is. You have also started talking/squawking for a bit, then laughing at the sounds you make.

We love you Keegan...for all the ways you fit into our family and help make it more complete. Thank you for blessing us this past month.

Mommy and Daddy

Not sure if I posted the above picture already, but it is my favorite picture of you so far!

Monday, July 11, 2011

30 years old!!!

Yesterday we celebrated Matt's 30th birthday! I am so proud of the man he is and who he strives to be. A few years back his Mom gave us some old boxes of his things from when he was younger. In it's contents was a paper he wrote in elementary school and one of the questions he had to answer was where he would want to be by the time he was 30. His main goals were to be a boss and to be rich...and maybe he would be married... Needless to say, he is most definitely married and he might not be rich in money, but his wealth is abundant when it comes to the love shown and displayed in our family and friends. Happy Birthday to Matt!