Amy Sue Nathan’s Women’s Fiction Writers: no heroes. no zombies. no high heels. well, maybe high heels.
Kristen Lamb’s Blog: WANA-We Are Not Alone
I used to dislike the coming of fall. It meant the end to summer; I like the warmth and ease and lush green of summer. But something magical has happened to me and I now look forward to autumn, and even the coming winter. Part of that “something magical” is how for a year I was away from my cove, living in Texas where the contrast of seasons isn’t as apparent–I missed what I was away from so acutely that every tiny molecule of this mountain cove delights and amazes me –I am discovering it all over again; I only thought I appreciated it before. And, well, she says with a blush, feeling loved and being in love everything changes and swells up and becomes mystical and magical and new (thank you, Dale).
With the coming cooler weather, chilly mornings and evenings, with the changing leaves, with the sights and sounds (is there no more wonderful sound of autumn than that of leaves beneath one’s feet?) and feel of fall, my mind turns to soups and stews and chili. The other night, I prepared a chili that was so simple but so tasty, I will share it here. Of course, everyone should put their own ‘twist’ on chili–I like to play with food: the seasonings, the way I prepare it.
Now, even though this may look long, it’s super easy. I’m a novelist so I tend to run off at the mouth even when writing recipes *laughing!*
Easy Autumn Chili (this is enough chili for two people for a few nights)
About a pound or so of beef “stew meat” — we bought these small lean “chunks” of beef. You can also “vegetarian” this by not adding meat and substituting more veggies and/or “fake meat crumbles” (I have done this and it’s good).
1 can of stewed tomatoes (or if you have fresh made, use it!)
1 can of tomato sauce (or freshly made if you have it)
(I had a little bit of Rotel tomatoes in the freezer that I also added)
1 onion chopped rough (I like chunky chili!)
1 green bellpepper chopped rough
4-5 small “baby bellpeppers” in orange, yellow, red (we buy them in a bag – they are small and very tasty!) also chopped rough
minced or chopped garlic
Spices: chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and I also added 2 spices I have in my cabinet: ancho chili pepper and chipotle chili pepper, but use these two spices sparingly especially if you add the Rotel tomatoes. I also have some garlic powder that I sprinkled even though I used minced garlic. As well, I poured in about a half cup of Dale’s beer.
I also added a can of black beans since I had that in my pantry: I like very few beans in my chili and sometimes don’t add them at all – pintos in chili are really good, too, by the way.
Whatever oil you like to cook with – just a little.
Whatever “toppings” and “sides” you like: we like sour cream, or cheddar cheese, or both, for toppings. Crackers or tortilla chips are good–or cornbread, for sides.
And very important: add your tastebuds! You must taste as you cook. It’s like when I first began writing–I thought that if I were a Real Writer, whatever came out of my pea-head should be perfect the very first draft and I shouldn’t have to fiddle with it (edit it or rewrite it)–Oh Dear Lawd! That’s crazy talk! Of course writers have to edit and re-write–I edit and re-write til the cows come home! Many many drafts! I “taste” my writing to make sure it is delicious. Do that with your food – layer flavors and taste along the way, y’all.
Put a little oil in a large saucepan and turn up the heat until when a piece of meat is added, it immediately sizzles – you want to sear the meat very quickly – don’t worry about cooking it through because it will cook when you are simmering the chili. I added a little salt to this and nothing else, yet.
It’s up to you whether you sear a little at a time or all the meat at once, but note that if you sear it all at once, the juices of the meat will stop the searing process and it may start to “steam” instead – so, if this happens, just turn up the heat and cook out the juices to keep that sear. When the meat is quickly seared, remove it from the saucepan (be careful! it’s hot!), and place the meat aside.
Turn down the heat so you can start sautéing your veggies: onion and bellpeppers. Don’t add the garlic yet, for garlic will turn bitter if over-cooked. As the onions and bellpeppers cooked, I added some seasonings a little at a time: I like to “layer” flavors. First a little salt, cook a while, then I added just a little of the chili powder and cumin, and some pepper. You’ll be adding more seasonings, so just add a little of whatever seasonings you will be using. I also added just a few pinches of garlic powder (not garlic salt). When your veggies are fairly tender (onions will start to look translucent), add your chopped or minced garlic. Cook and stir this just a few minutes.
Time to add the tomato products (you may need to add a little water later). And the beans (and beer) if you are using them. Just pour them all in. Turn the heat to simmer. Add back the meat to the tomato/veggie mixture. Now start adding in the seasonings. Dale and I like a lot of chili powder, and as well a lot of cumin–decide how you like yours by TASTING! As I said above, tasting as you cook is important. I put a big palmful of chili powder, plus a little more. I put at least a half of palmful of cumin. Just a few pinches of the ancho and chipotle. I didn’t need to add salt since I salted the meat and the veggies.
After you have added everything you want to add, cover the chili, make sure the heat is on low, and simmer that bad boy for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When done, add whatever toppings, if any, you like, and enjoy!
I hope I didn’t forget anything, but that’s the beauty of cooking: make it your own! Unlike baking, where it has to be more exact, we can experiment and have fun with preparing food.
Let me know how yours turned out and what you do differently!
(I hope you will drop by my Kat Magendie’s Amazon page and if you haven’t read one of my books, perhaps think about it whilst they are on sale at Amazon. I appreciate all of the support my readers have given me! Thank you!)
So, my friends. I have been gone from here a while. Other things and people and places grabbed hold of me, of my attention, of my time. But it has all been for the most wonderful beautiful of reasons: I have returned to my Cove at Killian Knob. Home. I am Home. I came back almost a year to the day I drove away from my Cove–thinking I may never be able to return. But my Cove was not about to let me go. My mountains knew I’d return. The creek shouts out to me–Welcome Home, Wild Wolf Woman Kathryn.
I had to pinch myself every day for the first few weeks, and then, now a little over a month since my return, I at last do not fear I will awaken from some gorgeously warm dream. It is real. It is tangible. As real as my Crow cawing outside my window–he, Big Boy, tells me all the secrets to the cove; all the things I missed while I was gone from here. Each morning, and evening, I toss over the rail to the ground below some tidbits for him to eat, whistle for him, and there he comes, sailing on stretched wing, oily black and handsome. He now will, as he used to do, sit on the branch of the Tulip Poplar and watch me as I sit on the porch drinking my coffee, or maybe later my wine–at first, he did not trust that I would be here to stay and he was shy. Now? Now he knows. Just as other critters know I am here to stay: the coon, the squirrel, the bird, the rabbit, the turkey–all of them. Even the ones who hide and watch: the bobcat, the coyote, the bear, the deer.
As always before, I turn my head slightly to the left and what fills my eyes is wild beauty. I glance down at my hands as they type upon my old trusty laptop, turn my head back slightly to the left, then gaze around my writing room, my library, my study, where someone special turned it into a warm and beautiful sanctuary with which to write and read and dream. I am filling my little log house back up with my Things–yes the knickknacks and doo-dads and furry throws and rugs and lamps that golden glow the rooms, but also bone and rock and bark and stump and twig and feather. It is as if I am in some mystical movie where the character steps from one realm of noise and confusion and crowds and discombobulation into an enchanted world: she closes the door behind her and doesn’t look back, for that near-year she spent away from her Cove was only an enterlude, only a miniscule slice of a luscious pie–she ate a tiny bite of that miniscule slice of pie and it did not taste of anything at all–now, here, the rest of the pie coats her tongue, slides down her throat with a slight tang and burn, and fills her belly–she is satiated now. That is how it is. And more.
I did not come alone. Who knew? Who knew what life takes from us and gives to us. Even when we do not want it. Even when we fight with claws sharpened by what we think is best for us, never knowing that we do not always know what is best for us. Sometimes people come back into your life after many many years and you think, “Why, where have you been all these years?” and they say, “I was going to ask you the same thing.” And then you both laugh at the absurdity of it all. At the luck and timing of it all. At the luscious luscious wonder of it all. And there curled beside you is a little bitty dog. All your proclamations of “Never again! Never! I cannot bear to take into my life another sweet creature and have it die. No! NO!” and the little dog curled warm beside you huffs in his sleep, and if awakened would look up at you with his wonky teeth and you would Know. You’d just Know that he knows what he has done with you and to you and for you. And what his man has done to you and with you and for you. What both of these Living Beings have pulled you kicking and screaming into what you never ever believed in; what you scoffed at; what you considered ellusive and illusive and never ever for you.
We often proclaim not to believe in the very things we most want.
Love is the greatest of things. Love is your granndaughter. Love is your son. Love is your family. Love is your friends. Love is what comes into your life when you do not want it or need it or expect it. Love sneaks up and smacks you upside your head and then laughs at the amazed fearing wonderment that makes you slack-jawed with surprise. It is not to be ignored. Who knew? Who knew?
So I sit here, my good friends–those of you still here; those of you who have always been here; those of you who drop by; those of you who wonder by accident or fate if you believe in those things and I do not and I do; those of you who read everything I write and I am amazed by you–I sit here and I am humbled by everything. Everything. EVERYTHING. I am humbled and grateful and beside myself.
I am not lonely anymore.
I am not an island.
I am writing again.
I am here. I am Home. I am back to my little log house at Killian Knob in Western North Carolina Smoky Mountains.
Life is a circle that we either complete or we do not. Or we go round and round it faster and faster until we are so dizzy we do not See anymore. What do you want? How do you want to travel your circle? Ends meeting and then begin again.
(well, look below at the previous post they link to – it was when I had to leave here — ha! what a coincidence)
I been where I’ve never been, and where I’ve seldom been, and where I’ve left, and where I’ve said I’d never go, or never return to.
This here woman done seen thangs that made her speechless with wonder. Made her stop right there and say, “Well . . . oh my god.”
This here woman done done thangs that opened her up and turned her inside out bursting kaleidoscopic super-nova–KaBOOM! Ka-POW! Ka-BAM!
And I ate things I said I’d never again eat. I broke many “food rules;” like, never eat pork: I ate bacon and damned if it wasn’t tasty; I ate peaches with the skin on them and the juice ran down my arm and I licked it away; and my rule of never ever ever EVER eat in the middle of the night: welp, I ate cheesecake in bed with my bare hands (no utensils available–who cares!) at 2:30 PM in a hotel and it was GOOD! And I ate turtle pie at 2:30 AM in bed at someone’s house (something about 2:30, huh?) but that time I had a fork, and it was GOOD! And the world kept turning, turning, turning.
Nothing bad came of my rebellion against Self Denial–
So many things on the Kathryn’s List Of Things I denied myself over the years as I tried to control my world: POOF! I devoured those rules–I ate up those rules for breakfast lunch and dinner. I gluttoned myself on Rule Breaking. I stopped trying to control all the wild and strength and excitement and wonder and curiosity that I’d kept hidden from myself and the world. Hello, World–nice to meet you–how you like me now?
I considered things I’d never considered. I reconsidered things I’d never reconsidered. I walked where my shoes had never been and tossed off my shoes and felt unfamiliar ground beneath my feet. I stomped in puddles. The ground didn’t open up and swallow me.
I drank too much a couple of times and lived to tell the tales though they shall remain secret. I became angry enough to break something that wasn’t even mine, at least twice–and that felt AWESOME! Though contriteness followed the breaking it still felt awesome.
Sleep was lost–lots of sleep was lost, but I didn’t care because it was on-purpose lost sleep.
Oh but I kissed without restraint.
And I laughed–a lot. I cried, but not where anyone could see; well, maybe someone did see but they understood the whys of it all.
The new novel was opened and I gazed at my words and I wrote many more words and I created new characters and I knew that I’d always do this even if, or though, I will not, or may not, ever make any really good solid money at it. I will write the words and the words will empty from me and then I will fill up again. Empty. Fill. Empty. Fill. Empty. Fill.–a metaphor of the rest of my life – fill fill fill empty fill fill fill empty FILL FILL FILL FILL FILL! OMG FILL ME UP, LIFE!
Give me more life. Give me more love. Give me more people. Give me more food. Give me more new experiences. Give me more family. Give me more friends. Give me more lover. Give me more more more of the universe one two three blast-off!
There were the days that blazed brilliant. And there were the days that I drug my ass around in a daze.
There were old friends and new friends. There were people, and more people, and more people–and I did not hide (much).
For the last few months, I lived one hundred years of my life full out for nothing–full out for everything–full.
All the years I was the aging Rapunzel locked in her tower (where she’d locked herself by the way), I finally stepped out into the world and blinked and then ran towards everything I’d ever been afraid of–and some of it I am still afraid of but I’m kicking the ass of my fears. Kicking the ass of my fears. Kicking the goddammed ass of my fears.
Kicking the ass of my fears, y’all.