NaNo and New Projects – It’s All About Balance

As November approaches, and my calendar is on the verge of being jam packed with NaNo, and all things writing for thirty days, I find myself seeking some balance.This is when I feel compelled to add some non-writing related projects. I find this usually helps my writing projects too. Creativity in different formats, but at their core, all connected to me and how my creative process works.  

During gardening season, part of my creative focus is on turning the bounty of my harvest into something. This September, as I harvested grapes, I decided to make wine. This is my second attempt. We’ll see what happens. Every year, as Fall approaches,  I find myself automatically thinking about alcohol based projects. In past years, in addition to wine, I’ve made hard apple cider, kahlua, bourbon creme to name a few. Maybe it’s instinctual – preparations for the long, cold winter ahead, or maybe it’s my love of entertaining, especially around the holidays. Either way, I’ve started a new project.

This project is all about cranberries. The other day, on impulse, I bought two bags of fresh cranberries. I had in my mind that I wanted to make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and a cranberry apple chutney. Somewhere in the middle of all that I went a little cranberry crazy and decided to add a cranberry beverage, and here we are. I’m making a cranberry infused vodka. After doing a little research I decided to try it using two different processes – one using raw cranberries, some of which have been crushed, and some that I chopped up. The other was to cook the cranberries until they popped. Equal amounts of sugar were added to both. Vodka was added and voila! Below is what I’ve started. 

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Check back at the beginning of December to check out the results and get the review.

Damn Good Crock-Pot Chili

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This is a chili recipe with beans. Every time I make chili I do it slightly differently. It’s one of those things that is wide open for interpretation. You can’t really mess it up. I’ve made many types of chili including white chili with chicken or turkey, green pork chili and various types or red beef chili. This time I wanted to make a chili that was a little more subtle, and less acidic. I focused on the flavor of the meat, chiles and spices which is why I used very little tomato. I made this up as I went along, and was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. It’s a little spicier than I usually make – I may have accidentally grabbed jalapenos, instead of the milder poblanos when I was shopping, but over rice or with crackers or bread, it’s perfect.

If you’re looking for different take on chili, check it out. As with most of my recipes, the ingredient amounts are just a suggestion. Flavor to your tastes. If I were to make this again, I might add a little more cumin. Other than that, I think the flavors are well rounded. Let me know what you think!


Damn Good Crock-Pot Chili

1lb of dried beans (I used small white beans)

1t kosher salt

Pepper to taste

1t oregano

1t onion powder

2 cans of beef or chicken broth + enough water to make 6 cups total

2T minced garlic

½ large yellow onion diced

Approx 1lb beef steak (I used Chuck London broil steak), sliced and cut into small chunks

2T flour

Fresh chiles, roasted, skinned and de-seeded (I used 2 poblano & 2 anaheim)

2T water

2t paprika

1t cumin powder

2T chili powder

1T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 small can of tomato paste

½ bag (approx 8oz) frozen corn

Clean, sort and soak beans in water over night, or use the fast method of soaking beans*.

Drain beans and pour into crockpot, add salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, oregano, broth + enough water to make 6 cups of liquid total. Cook on high for 3hours.

Place chiles on tinfoil and roast until most of the skin is black, remove from oven and wrap chiles in tinfoil so that they will continue to cook in the steam. Once cool, unwrap, skin and de-seed chiles and place in a mini-chopper or food processor. Add 2T water, paprika, chili powder, ½ can of tomato paste, cocoa powder. Process into thick paste and set aside.

Add a little oil to a frying pan and brown chunks of steak. Once the steak is brown add flour and toss to coat steak.

Add steak, diced onions, remaining tomato paste and prepared chile paste to crock-pot, stirring occasionally. Cook an additional 3 hours or until beans are done.  Add frozen corn at the end.


Microwave Fast Soak Process:

*Place cleaned beans in a microwave safe bowl, cover with a couple inches of water and microwave until water starts to boil. For the white beans, in my microwave, that was about 20 minutes. Remove from the microwave, stir a couple times and then let the beans cool in the water.

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