Tag Archives: Comfort food

Chilly Weather Brings Chili Weather

Dropping temperatures around the Texas Coast this week have ushered in the return of several cold weather traditions.

The power lines are filled with hundreds of migrating birds each evening looking for a place to rest up for the night.

Locals are dressed like they are ready to catch a ski lift in their puffy jackets and fuzzy boots.

And I have a never ending craving for chili.

Now, in fairness around this part of Texas I am sure there are people for whom chili is an every week kind of meal.

After all, with so many chili cook offs to enter one would need to spend the entire year perfecting the recipe prior to the start of competition season.

When the craving for chili strikes there is a quick process for feeding the craving. Step one, purchase a can of chili. Photo R. Anderson

When the craving for chili strikes there is a quick process for feeding the craving. Step one, purchase a can of chili.
Photo R. Anderson

And with the start of various hunting seasons there are all sorts of exotic meat beyond cow that people can put in their Texas chili.

More power to those who have the year round urge for chili but for me the urge to eat chili coincides with falling leaves and falling temperatures.

Of course I can eat a chili dog or chili cheese fries year round but to sit down with an actual bowl of chili as the main course takes temperatures below 60 degrees.

Over the past few weeks I have sampled chili of all shapes and sizes but much like Goldilocks and her porridge I have not really found one that has been just right.

Growing up my mom made a certain chili which much like her special birthday meatloaf just always tasted good.

Add the fact that the chili was always served in bowls that had gold leaf accents, and it truly was a meal fit for a king.

A few weeks back I went over to my parents’ house to watch a college football game and eat some chili. The chili was not served in the gold bedazzled bowls from my youth and did not quite taste the same even though I am sure it was the same recipe but the visual was different.

In the days and weeks since that first chili I have had Steak ‘n Shake chili, Dairy Queen chili, and even some Wendy’s chili but none of them have really scratched my chili loving itch.

Step two for quick and easy chili at home includes embellishing the chili to taste with the addition of cheese and other flavors. Photo R. Anderson

Step two for quick and easy chili at home includes embellishing the chili to taste with the addition of cheese and other flavors.
Photo R. Anderson

While Wendy’s chili was one of the first standalone fast food options in that segment I have not found it as enjoyable since my body decided it no longer liked green peppers.

Last night, much like many nights before it, I was once again craving chili. But as I drove along the road with the intent to stop and get some chili to eat at home I started eliminating one option after another.

The Wendy’s chili was ruled out due to the aforementioned green pepper issue.

Steak ‘n Shake was on the wrong side of the freeway and I did not want to battle traffic.

Dairy Queen would have me put the chili on a hot dog or a burger since they did not have a standalone option and that didn’t work since what I was wanting was just chili without the hot dog or the beef patty on a bun.

So with three strikes I tried to think of other places to get chili.

Now, Waffle House has yummy chili but much like Steak ‘n Shake it was in the opposite direction from where I was heading so it was also ruled out.

The same was true of a mom and pop sub shop that makes chili from scratch.

In the end I did not have chili last night and instead had some sushi which is about as far away from a steaming bowl of chili as one could find.

Step three in quick chili at home is the best step and includes eating the chili. Photo R. Anderson

Step three in quick chili at home is the best step and includes eating the chili.
Photo R. Anderson

The temperatures are predicted to be even colder over the next couple of days which means I will be even more likely to want some chili.

I guess if all else fails I can try to make my own chili but that would require me to go grocery shopping and come up with a chili recipe.

While I love to experiment in the kitchen, that seems like a non-chili season effort.

If all else fails I guess I can just get some cans of Hormel chili to keep on standby in the event of a chili craving emergency.

My quest for cold weather chili will likely continue at least until the temperatures around here climb back into the 80’s by the end of the week at which point it will once again be too hot for delicious warm you to the core chili until the next cold front rolls through and gives us a couple days of winter..

I know people in the colder climates who have about 8 months of chili season are probably laughing right now at the fact that winter has just now arrived on the Gulf Coast but it is not like we really can control the weather. Besides, the palm trees like it hot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call my mom and see if I can place a to go order for some chili.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Brief Glimpse of Fall Inspires Fall Food Choices

This morning I was greeted by both the sound of 3,000 government employees returning to work at the Johnson Space Center after the government was reopened as well as a crisp fall morning with temperatures in the 60’s.

With temperatures still hovering in the 80’s and 90’s most days the little taste of fall was a welcome if brief occurrence.

I am sure that the local news crews interviewing all of those returning space workers also appreciated the cooler temperatures as they toiled on their “local impact of government shutdown” human interest stories.

In terms of the cooler weather’s effect on me, I have noted before that fall is my favorite season of the year.

I love the cooler temperatures.

Tis the season for the festive fall scents. Photo R. Anderson

Tis the season for the festive fall scents.
Photo R. Anderson

I love the smells of the season and the changing colors of the leaves.

I love that all of the pumpkin inspired hot and cold beverages are available in the stores.

And of course when I was younger I loved that fall meant that presents under the tree for Christmas were just that much closer to becoming a reality.

Okay, so I still like the fact that fall means December is that much closer.

So while there are myriad reasons why I love fall it is also a season full of memories of things that one just can’t do in Florida and Texas.

When I lived in Maryland I would spend fall days jumping in piles of leaves and going on nature hikes.

Fall was also the time where a school field trip to Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, MD allowed me to pick the perfect pumpkin right out of the field where it was grown and stock up on some tasty apples.

The lack of access to a pick your own pumpkin patch is likely one of the reasons why I no longer carve my own pumpkin. Once you have picked an almost as big as you pumpkin that is still attached to its life giving vine and wrestled it onto the school bus, anything else just does not seem right.

I mean nothing against those pumpkin patches in front of churches and the pallets of pumpkins at the local grocery store or big box store, but I prefer to pick my own pumpkin when given the choice.

As I was walking outside today thinking of pumpkin picking memories of falls gone by, it occurred to me that the cooler temperatures would make for a great excuse to have some warm comfort food for lunch.

So with my appetite in tow I went to one of my favorite local diners and ordered some shrimp and grits. Of course what I really wanted was some Maryland style crab cakes but as I had noted recently with another uprooted Marylander there just really aren’t any places to get good Maryland style crab cakes in Texas.

Shrimp and grits hit the spot during the first "cold" day of the year. Photo R. Anderson

Shrimp and grits hit the spot during the first “cold” day of the year.
Photo R. Anderson

For the record this particular diner where I was having the shrimp and grits makes a pretty tasty New Orleans style crab cake.

When my shrimp and grits arrived in all of its steamy flavorful goodness it felt like fall. There were gray clouds outside and warm food inside. I tried to tune out all of the people walking outside in shorts and told myself that it was cold outside and the clouds were snowy reminders of that.

Several of the diners around me had similar cravings for the flavors of fall as at least one person at every table was ordering soup of some kind.

Of course I did not just end with my warm bowl of shrimp and grits. I continued the fall food bonanza with some warm pecan pie. Unlike pumpkin pie which I can only eat during the fall and winter months, pecan pie tastes good year round. But pecan pie when there is a bit of a chill in the air tastes even better.

In reality it was barely cold enough outside to justify eating shrimp and grits but we are not afforded many cold days in this part of Texas so we have to take advantage of them when we can.

That is also the reason why temperatures dipping into the 70’s can be cause for some people to grab that coat or jacket that has been stuck in the closet all year. After all, one never knows when they will get to wear it again.

I realize that right now all of the readers from parts where it is less than 60 degrees for 7-8 months out of the year are probably laughing at the Sunbelt dwellers and our version of “cold.” It is the same way that someone from Hawaii would get little sympathy for complaining about a cold day of 80 degrees.

Some of you are even saying that if we love the cold so much why don’t we move to areas where we can take advantage of it more?

I can only speak for myself when I say that as much as I enjoy the cold, I enjoy it in the doses that I have now since no one wants to be sitting out on a beach chair when it is 50 degrees out.

So I will continue to enjoy the small tastes of fall and winter as they arrive here to help break up the 10 months known as summer and not as hot as summer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time to make some hot chocolate before the temperature goes back up to 90 degrees tomorrow.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson