Not the prettiest dinner, but my boys devour it! This is two-way Cincinnati chili.

Not the prettiest dinner, but my boys devour it! This is three-way Cincinnati chili.

(The recipe is in a link below, I did not re-print the recipe, since it isn’t mine).

Do you have a bunch of family members visiting for the holidays? If so, may I present an easy way to feed the masses before you have to ratchet things up for the big Christmas dinner?

Dave and I have accumulated favorite recipes from all of the great places we’ve been stationed. We make chicken etouffee from our time in Louisiana, kalbi ribs from our time in Korea, and Carolina-style pork BBQ sandwiches from our time in North Carolina. This is our “souvenir” recipe from our short tour in western Ohio.

Unlike southwestern chili that’s spicier and chunkier, Cincinnati chili is more basic on the ingredients, very smooth-consistency, and has a distinctive cinnamon-ey flavor. The cool thing about this recipe is that you can buy the spices for the first time you make this, and you’ll have enough on hand to make this dish over and over again. Everything else is easily obtained: the meat, onions, garlic, and tomato sauce.

Another unique thing about Cincinnati chili is the way it’s served. You have the following options:

  • Bowl: just the chili in a bowl
  • Two-way: chili served on a bed of spaghetti
  • Three-way: like two-way, but topped with cheese
  • Four-way: like three-way, but also topped with diced onions
  • Five-way, like four-way, but also topped with beans

Oyster crackers, garlic, and hot sauce are also popular toppings. There are “chili parlors” located throughout southwestern Ohio, and Dave and I had the chance to try out two popular ones: Skyline and Gold Star**. Like a Philadelphian who will have allegiances to Geno’s or Pat’s cheesesteaks, most Cincinnati natives will declare an allegiance to their favorite chili parlor.

**Funny story about Gold Star chili. I was on a flight layover in Cincinnati in summer 2009. I saw a Gold Star restaurant in the airport and bought three cans of their chili for the family. Then my flight was canceled, I had to exit the airport to a hotel for the night with just my carry-on bag. The following morning, I couldn’t get those cans of chili back across security; they were confiscated.

My parents shared with me their favorite Cincinnati chili recipe, from the pages of Gourmet magazine, and it’s been a favorite in our house for years. It’s supposed to be a replica of Empress Chili, which is allegedly the oldest Cincinnati chili parlor. Most of the time we substitute 3 lbs. of ground turkey for the 4 lbs. of beef, although you’ll have a more authentic flavor with the beef.

Jacob enjoys helping me make this, often taking on the daunting task of sauteeing 4-5 c. of chopped onions and 3-4 lbs. of ground meat.

Try setting up a “chili bar’ for the family, letting everyone serve their own pasta and chili, as well as choosing what toppings to add.

A full recipe of this chili will serve six, and can be easily doubled or tripled for your holiday guests! If you choose to serve it two-, three-, or four-way, you will have even more servings per recipe, since you’re ladling less than a serving onto the bed of pasta.

22. December 2013 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 23: Denver Chriskindl Market · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,
The Denver Christkindl Market is an annual tradition.

The Denver Christkindl Market is an annual tradition.

I feel sort of guilty posting about this event when today is the last day for the season. However, hopefully folks will Google this event in future years and can read about our family’s experience.

The Denver Christkindl Market is an annual holiday tradition in downtown Denver, put on by the German American Chamber of Commerce of Colorado. It’s conveniently located on the 16th Street Mall at Skyline Park, not far from the 16th & Stout Streets commuter rail station. There are many other things to do in the vicinity, such as visiting the Tattered Cover bookstore or going ice skating at the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park. More »

20. December 2013 · Comments Off on Oh Baby It’s Cold Outside: Christmas Preparations and a Flooded Basement · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
I'll bet you want to put on a coat just looking at this, don't you?

I’ll bet you want to put on a coat just looking at this, don’t you?

The picture above is what we awakened to this morning, with 19F temperature. This came on the heels of several pleasant days: the kids could walk to/from school and I enjoyed an outside run.

A far departure from the Florida temperate conditions we had every Christmas.

You won’t be seeing as many “Colorado Discoveries” posts this time of year, mainly because it’s been colder here. We aren’t spending as much time outside. More »

11. December 2013 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 22: Monarch Ski Mountain · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , , ,

I didn't get as many pictures as I'd like. Read on to learn why.

Just after Thanksgiving our family took a trip to Monarch Ski Mountain in the middle of the state. It was our family’s first trip skiing in Colorado, and our first skiing in nearly 4 years. I wrote about our last ski trip — in IOWA — in 2009.

Colorado has dozens of ski resorts, so as you could imagine, it was tough deciding which one to try first. We had a lot of suggestions to get season passes, but we figured that for 2013-2014 we’d check out several resorts and make a decision for the following season.

Over the summer and fall, I had talked to several Colorado Springs “natives”: our basement contractor, my violin repairman, even Timmy’s 3rd grade teacher. They had all said the same thing: “Monarch Mountain is where the locals go.”

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07. December 2013 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 21: Winter Hiking at Rocky Mountain National Park · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
Jacob's smile in this picture make this slippery hike worth it!

Jacob’s smile in this picture make this slippery hike worth it!

On the second day of our trip to Estes Park, we took a hike around Bear Lake. We weren’t sure what we would encounter, since there was quite a bit of snow. It turned out the trail was very snowy, but was packed down enough that we could walk on it okay. We just had to be very very careful!

These signs all over the entrance were rather daunting....

These signs all over the entrance were rather daunting….

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05. December 2013 · Comments Off on Nebraska Discoveries 22: My last trip to Nebraska…for now. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
The Historic Fort Crook Suites are on "General's Row" on Offutt AFB.

The Historic Fort Crook Suites are on “General’s Row” on Offutt AFB.

Just before Thanksgiving I took one last trip to Offutt AFB in Nebraska. This time I was signing out of my unit at STRATCOM. The folks in my office took me out for a nice lunch at Sinful Burger, and I even caught one last Omaha-Offutt AMS chapter meeting to see some of my friends from my time with that group in 2008-2010.

I had been traveling to Nebraska 5-6 times per year in 2011, 2012, and 2013 for my reserve work. Dave had received orders from Nebraska to Florida a mere 6 months after I had been hired locally.

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05. December 2013 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 20: Sledding at Rocky Mountain National Park · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
You want to see happy kids, take 'em sledding!

You want to see happy kids, take ’em sledding! Better yet, chain the kids together and send ’em down the hill!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my friend Paige and I took our sons up to Estes Park, Colorado for a long weekend in a cabin.

We stayed at the same YMCA of the Rockies resort we had visited in August 2010. It was just much colder this time.

The cabin was very nice, with a wood fireplace and a bookcase full of boardgames and puzzles!

The highlight of our weekend had to be the sledding trip! We spent two hours at the Hidden Valley at Rocky Mountain National Park. The hill is a former ski hill and the most gentle part of the hill is a well-used sledding hill now.

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04. December 2013 · Comments Off on Major Mom’s Favorite Holiday Cookie Roundup · Categories: Uncategorized
No matter what cookies we make, there's always some for Santa! What cookies are you making this year?

No matter what cookies we make, there’s always some for Santa! What cookies are you making this year?

I’m a one-trick pony: I make the same cookies every year. I’ve written pretty elaborate posts about them in 2008 and 2011, so this year I just want to round them up for you.

Today is the day I plan to address all of my Christmas cards once and for all. This year’s card list has over 70 families’ names! I’ve had more in the past, such as when Dave was a squadron commander and I sent cards to many of the squadron families.

But after the cards, I’m free to start COOKIES! This year has been unusual in that I didn’t do the early cookie batches to send to Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a bittersweet thing: I’m sad that I don’t have troops to which we can send cookies, but I think that also means that our presence in the war zones is winding down.

These five cookie recipes linked below are our family’s favorites. We might do others (such as these Ande’s mint pillows), but these get done every year!

Feel free to drop links to your family’s favorite recipes in the comments section! I love trying new recipes! High altitude recipes will give you a double-bonus-word score!

I made a batch of cranberry-almond biscotti a couple weeks ago ahead of our Thanksgiving week trip to Estes Park (a forthcoming post), but those are almost gone. It’s time for more!

Tonight we’re making the Holiday Surprise cookies, which are always a big hit with friends, but is by far the most labor intensive of all our family favorite cookies. The kids don’t mind helping, which makes this a wonderful family activity.

The Neiman Marcus Cookies have received some internet-love at the end of last year, being featured in GeekMom’s “Eat Like a Geek” series, since the recipe was taken off an Internet chain-letter meme.

Classic sugar cookies are good for Santa too!

Classic sugar cookies are good for Santa too! These are iced with the Betty Crocker “cookie icing”.

We also enjoy classic sugar cookies here. I use the Betty Crocker sugar cookie recipe, which includes almond extract. The taste of these cookies takes me back to my girlhood: my mom used the same recipe when I was growing up.

Finally, we will make spritz cookies. I haven’t done these in a couple years but I think this holiday season we will break out my Pampered Chef cookie press (earned by having a party!) and have a good time! My mother’s spritz cookie recipe included orange zest…but I don’t have that recipe. I rely on the Betty Crocker Buttery Spritz recipe.

Spritz cookies are fun and easy. A little color sugar will make them holiday-esque.

Spritz cookies are fun and easy. A little colored sugar will make them holiday-esque.

Share your family’s favorite holiday cookie recipes in the comments or on my Facebook post¬†about this post. Happy Baking!