It’s Chili Cookoff Time

So, my workplace decided to have their first annual chili cook-off today.  And I got 1st place!  Yay!

I used to help my family when I was a teen when my Dad’s chiropractic office entered a local chili cook-off (we were the Spine Tinglers).  So I figured this would be fun.

I couldn’t find any of our old chili recipes (they were always a work-in-progress anyways) so I based my recipe from “The Best Chili You Will Ever Taste” recipe from food.com.  I did tweak it a bit because that’s fun to do.  My version came out about a medium heat (nice and warming but without scorching out your mouth flesh).

2013 Chili Cook-off Recipe


  • 2 tsp oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion (I used frozen diced onion)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb beef sirloin (small cubes)
  • 1 (14 1/2 oz) can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 1 small can chopped jalepenos
  • 12 – 24 fl oz of beef broth (you can also add a can of dark beer and reduce the amount of broth)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon
  • 2 (15-oz) cans light red kidney beans
  • 2 (15-oz) cans dark red kidney beans


  1. Drain the canned beans and rinse them well.
  2. Brown meat and onions.
  3. Add tomatoes, coffee, broth (and beer, if using) and tomato paste.
  4. Add spices, beans and peppers.
  5. Simmer for 2 hours (or longer on low in a crock pot – my preferred method).

Time for an original recipe.  I based this off another recipe I developed for an oatmeal raisin cookie contest several years back.  That recipe was a spiced rum raisin oatmeal cookie.  This recipe is pretty much the same except I use dried cranberries and brandy…because that’s what I had on hand.  Plus the cranberries look a bit more festive and will hopefully avoid being mistaken for a chocolate chip cookie.  I like oatmeal raisin, but there is something very wrong about thinking you are biting into a chocolate chip cookie only to discover what you thought was chocolaty-goodness is a raisin.

Brandied Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup brandy


  1. Soak cranberries in brandy, preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugars.  Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.
  6. Drain the cranberries and add to the batter.
  7. Drop cookies onto sheet with a spoon.  Bake 10 – 12 minutes.

Soft Molasses Cookies

I love molasses cookies and this is actually the first time I’ve made them (instead of getting my Archway fix) and I certainly don’t think it will be my last because they weren’t difficult at all and I could probably eat my weight in these cookies.

The original recipe comes from http://shortordermom.wordpress.com.

Soft Molasses Cookies


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3 cup turbinado sugar (for coating the cookies)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the vanilla and molasses.  Add the eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add in flour mixture.
  5. Chill dough for 1 hour.
  6. Form dough into walnut-sized balls and roll in turbinado sugar.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.

Edited 12/22/13: Added flour amount to recipe above (Ooops!)

Apple Cider Caramel Cookies

I wanted to try something different, and I saw this recipe and thought it sounded interesting.  How can you go wrong with apples and caramel?

On a side note, if you are unwrapping the caramels or cutting them into smaller pieces before hand, coat them in powdered sugar or cornstarch or something.  Otherwise you will relive my experience yelling and cursing at a bowl of caramels that had glued themselves to each other and the bowl.  It also resulted in some caramels flying across the room as little sweet projectiles as I tried to lever them out of the bowl with a butter knife.  So, take my advice and either unwrap as you are forming the cookies or coat each piece to keep them from sticking.

The original recipe comes from http://www.sixsistersstuff.com.

Apple Cider Caramel Cookies


  • 8 individual packets of Spiced Apple Cider Drink Mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 14-oz bag caramels (the soft, chewy kind, not the hard candies)


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients.
  3. In another bowl, beat together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture.
  5. Form dough into walnut sized balls and place a piece of caramel inside (I cut my caramels in half).
  6. Bake 12 – 14 minutes.  Use parchment paper lined baking sheets to help the cookies come off cleanly.

Mint Chocolate Delight Cookies

A couple holidays ago I did a similar recipe for Double Chocolate Mint Cookies.  I actually think I like this recipe better.  Both are quite tasty.  I pretty much stuck to the original recipe from bakedperfection.com for this one except I added a few more chips (I had a few extra in the cupboard) and I think the chocolate pudding mix size is not correct as I could not find a 1.4 oz package of instant pudding mix, I just used the small box which is 3.4 oz (so I think that was a typo on the original recipe).

Mint Chocolate Delight Cookies


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 3.4oz package of chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 10-oz package Dark Chocolate & Mint Morsels


  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together flour and sugars until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add in flour mixture.  Add in chips.
  5. This creates a very thick dough.  I just scooped a bit out and created dough balls and placed about 1-2″ apart on a cookie sheet.  They don’t spread much so you don’t have to leave a lot of room between cookies.
  6. Bake 11-13 minutes.   Some of the cookies will looked a bit cracked on the top.  That is how I could tell they were done since they end up looking similar to how they went in the oven.

Dinner Rolls

I love baking bread.  I haven’t done it for a while and it was nice to get back into the habit with this fairly easy recipe for dinner rolls.  This recipe creates about 40 rolls and as much as I love bread, I certainly did not need to be eating 40 rolls in a couple of evenings.  So, I created the rolls and froze half of the dough balls.  The other half I baked but I then took half of the baked rolls and froze those as well.  So, I should have enough rolls stocked for the holidays in baked and non-baked forms.  I pretty much followed the original recipe, but if one wanted you could mix in some whole-grain flours to make a slightly more nutritious dinner roll.

Dinner Rolls (see original recipe here)


  • 3 cups luke-warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6-7 cups bread flour


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water.  Make sure the water is luke-warm, not hot.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the oil and stir/knead in the 6 – 7 cups of flour.  It took me about 4-5 minutes to knead in 6.5 cups of flour.
  3. Let rise 1-2 hours in a warm place until doubled in size.  My favorite method (especially if your house is on the cooler side) is to put the bowl of dough in a (cold) oven with the oven light on and fill a container with hot water and put in the oven as well.  This creates a nice humid and warm environment for the dough to rise.
  4. Punch down dough and form into golf-ball sized balls (about 40).  At this point, you can freeze this dough.  I put mine on a tray lined with freezer paper and put in the freezer for about 2 hours to let the balls freeze individually and then put them in a freezer bag.  If baking now, place on a greased baking sheet 2″ apart and let rise another hour.
  5. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.

Cheesy Potato Soup

I love the autumn.  I love the colors and the cooler temperatures.  I love the foods associated with autumn: apples and pumpkin, turkey and potatoes and the warm spices cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.  I love comfort foods and this time of year is just perfect since you just want to curl up with a big bowl of yumminess and then hibernate.

Last night I tried out a new soup recipe and was very happy with it.  I probably needed to add a bit more salt and pepper but that is easily remedied.  The original recipe came from http://www.pillsbury.com.  I didn’t add the celery called for in the original recipe because 1) I didn’t have celery on hand and I didn’t want to buy a bunch only to use 1 stalk and 2) I’m not a huge celery fan anyways.  I used a blend of cheddar and colby jack instead of cheddar/american as called for in the original.  I also didn’t saute the onions in bacon fat because I already had some pre-cooked bacon and I was lazy and didn’t want to dirty a pan just to saute the onions so I just put the diced onions in the crock pot.  Sauteing the onions in bacon fat would increase the flavor but it was good skipping this step as well.

Cheesy Potato Soup (see original recipe here)


  • 4 slices of bacon (I used more – because bacon is awesome, but this is optional if you don’t eat bacon)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 5 cups diced, peeled potatoes
  • 32 oz chicken broth (I used low sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (you might want to increase if you are using lower sodium broth)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (I recommend increasing this amount)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded colby jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar


  1. Cook bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove and drain and refrigerate.
  2. Using reserved bacon fat, saute the onions until tender.
  3. Add cooked onions, potato, broth, salt & pepper to crock pot.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the half & half and flour.  Add to crock pot.  Cook on high for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in cheeses until melted.
  6. Garnish soup with crumbled cooked bacon.

This is a lovely warm soup to eat on a chilly evening.  I baked up a batch of rolls to eat along with it so the carb-loading qualities of this meal were complete.  😉

I also love crock pot meals.  I love the simplicity of dumping a bunch of ingredients in a pot and having a dinner made later without a whole lot of fuss.  So, enjoy!

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