Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is There Anything Else Besides Rafting?

Currently, my body has informed me that it's a little pissed at me. Does yours ever do this to you? Summer tends to be the time of year where I go for the gold, rushing in as many activities, trips, events, festivals, BBQs, and who knows what else into a few short months. In the span of the last month or so I attended Oregon Country Fair, held the First Annual Umpqua Campout, moved (nearly forgot that one), put in a garden, and rafted both the McKenzie River as a day float and the Rogue River as a 3-day float. The last week alone entailed coming off the river, attempting twice to fly across the country for a feverish consulting gig, and turn right back around to fly home. And for the grand finale - discovering I may have a fairly heady illness which requires more resting and down time than I care for.

Yes, my eyes are a bit bigger than my ability to do things. ;) You should see my bucket list; it is ginormous! Yet I digress, and should stick to what summers are about for me. Rafting! And of course - cooking.

Here is a shot of most of the boats (the green edge to the left side is also one of ours). We had a delightful 3-day journey down the Rogue last weekend, complete with 11 folks, 6 boats, and 1 adorable puppy named Ozzy.

Check out those eyes. Don't you want to play with him? It was his first river trip and he did great!

This is the Beige Beauty in all her splendor. She took a beating this trip as we found ourselves pinned on a not-so-favorable rock in the midst of Blossom Bar rapids last weekend. Email me if you want a full account of our very exciting ride through... hehehe.

As is the case with nearly all of our rafting trips, we assign out meals to make things fair for everyone. This trip our group had dinner duty on the second evening of our watery journey. After racking my brain for a fairly inexpensive meal which we could make ahead of time and freeze (we are always running out of ice on our trips), I remembered my old favorite chili recipe.

This is a recipe I have had for a decade or so, very user-friendly and easy to modify for vegans, allergies, etc. And it hasn't done me wrong yet. For this trip, I made a vegetarian version that was extra spicy for my veggie crew and a larger meat version made with andouille sausage minus the mushrooms. I used the same base chili and then portioned it out for the extended recipes. And of course, I made it too spicy for some tender palated people!

To accompany the pre-made and by then thawed chili, we served some cornbread made with canned jalapeño chilis and al dente green beans.

The chili recipe itself is a fairly easy one, hence the loosely written recipe bellow. Mainly, it is the time and construction of spices and flavors that bring about an awesome chili. If you find a modified version of this recipe that works well for you, please feel free to drop a line and share it with me (us). Enjoy!

Amanda's Vegetarian Chili

Depending upon the amount you wish to make, vary the ingredients by amount:
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can garbonzo beans
  • 1 can fire-roasted and/or garlic canned diced tomatoes 
  • 1 small can green chilis/diced jalapeños
  • 1 small can diced black olives 
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of corn (frozen or fresh works)
  • 1-2 chopped root veggies, like potatoes or parsnip or sweet potato (vary as you like)
  • 1-3 chopped carrots
  • 1 diced fresh hot pepper, like jalapeño or thai or habañero (depending upon spice liking)
  • Seasonings/Spices - oregano, thyme, basil, cumin, garlic salt, paprika, salt, pepper, hot sauces (again this is personal preference)

The recipe is very versatile and allows for a wide range of modifications - canned or rehydrated beans, varying vegetables, soy protein or similar, southwestern flavoring vs. cajun/creole flavorings. Mix it up as you like, especially adding seasonal veggies as they are available. You can also swap crushed/diced canned tomatoes for fresh ones or tomato paste + vegetable broth.

Start by washing the canned vegetables in a strainer. Place the beans in a large pot or soup pan with the other canned ingredients. Add the chopped veggies and spices/seasonings. Stir well. Cook over low to moderate heat for 2-4 hours (a large crockpot also works), continuing to stir ever 15 minutes or as needed. Add additional spices and flavorings as the chili slowly cooks for personal preference. Once the fresh vegetables have cooked and the consistency of the chili thickens, it's time to take it off the stove.

Serve hot with corn bread, cheese, sour cream, diced cilantro or other topping. Freeze whatever you like for up to a month or so. The spicier the better!

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