Thursday, November 11, 2010

Eleven Years Today

Today I write a very special post. Today, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it is the eleventh anniversary of my mother's passing.

My mother was a beautiful contradiction. She was both confident and self conscious. She had a warm smile and was always very welcoming to all. Yet, as is common of the women on her side (including myself I am told), she had a snappish temper. Hell hath no fury like a Stoffel scorned. She was a strong willed, stubborn, confident, smart and utterly charming woman. And as each day passes the woman I greet in the mirror each morning is resembling her more.

I have mentioned before that my mother was something of junk food addict-remember when we called it junk food? Somewhere in the last 15 years we dropped the word junk.... She always made a mean homemade pie, and had a passion for creamed chipped beef, frito pie, tater tots and the like. She cooked every night but meals were simple, much like I make for my family today. But while she loved to eat I never really got the impression that she loved too cook. She had a rotating menu of about 12 dinners that she made over and over again. She did love to cook sweets. I remember making peanut butter cookies with her when I was about 6. As we ate the warm cookies straight from the oven she told me how they were her favorite. I asked why she didn't make them more often. And her response? She said she'd eat them all. And I think she did. Those cookies were gone in two days. And we made them maybe once or twice more, that was it.

My mother let me help in the kitchen, but mostly I would make cookies or something like that. I don't think she took my kitchen interest as anything more than childhood curiosity. I don't ever remember sitting on the counter while she cooked. But then again, I don't always invite my Things into the kitchen, because I just assume they'd rather watch Yo Gabba Gabba! I should stop assuming and reach out more before these years pass me by.

My mother was diagnosed with brain cancer in April of 1998. I was finishing up my freshman year in college. She fought the good fight for 19 months. But she was being called home, and you can only fight that so long. She bravely passed eleven years ago today, but I still see her every day because when my kids smile, their fat cheeks make their eyes close up. And that is always how I remember her, with a smile so large that she could hardly see.

So in honor of you Mom, I will celebrate with some frito pie, but hold that canned chili please.
My Special Chili
One Pound of Grass Fed Ground Beef
One Medium Onion
Two Cloves of Garlic
One 28 Ounce Can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Garlic Powder
Black Pepper
2 16 oz cans of beans, any kind will work, black, pinto, red, kidney, etc
Concentrated Bone Broth (optional)

There is no need to buy pre-blended chili powder unless you like the flavor. Add the ground beef to a dutch oven with a little olive oil (my grass fed beef is really lean). Brown the meat and then add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook until soft. Add the paprika and cumin, salt and black pepper. I would love to tell you how much to add. But the truth is I just add a little at a time until it tastes right. I would start with two tablespoons of paprika and one tablespoon of cumin and see what you need from there. You are probably comfortable doing salt and pepper to taste already. After the spices add the can of tomatoes. I break them up in my hands before adding them to the pot. Then adjust the spices and add the bone broth (which is really just homemade beef bouillon cubes), cover the chili and let it cook for at least 30 minutes. Add the beans and cook another 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
On the day you plan to serve the chili, fill a large ramekin or baking dish about halfway full with chili. And layer on the corn bread batter. Cook at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and puffed up.

Squash-Corn Bread
1/2 cup squash puree (I just took 6 orange ice cubes out of the freezer and thawed them)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup half-white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine the eggs, milk, butter and squash puree in a small bowl. In a larger bowl combine the flours and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once. Mix thoroughly. And then continue placing batter on the chili. Hey, I am going to find room to squeeze that squash in there...
This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays


  1. What a beautiful post, thank you for sharing. And what a delicious recipe- I especially love the cornbread on top-yum!!!

  2. Thanks honey. Today is an important day. It gives me great pride to write about my mama today.

  3. I found that my similar chili recipe works well in the crock pot. Smear the cornbread on it but stick a chopstick under the lid to let it vent a bit. The chili portion was well cooked and the cornbread even browned. Yeah for crockpots!

    I mix up chili powder in a jar in advance, and a Cajun seasoning too. All those recipes are easily found online.

    thanks for the good blog

  4. We still make your mom's cheesy spinach casserole recipe!

    The story of how we ended up with the recipe still makes us smile- it seems that one day Mom called to ask about it, and Jim answered the phone and read her the recipe. And your mom was horrified that he had given her secret recipe away! She gave Jim and Mom a hard time about it for years. But we're so thankful to have that recipe, it's like having your mom with us when we make it for the holidays.

  5. Hahah! Stephanie--I have it typed up now, so if you ever need it, just email me. I might post about that during Thanksgiving. It is not a Holiday without Spinach Madeline. Now my husband's family all make that, and Dad still makes it and Jim's family as well. It is going viral!

  6. Thanks for sharing your memories of your mom and your recipes. I was also a freshman in college at that time and can't imagine saying goodbye to/making peace with a terminally ill mother while trying to figure out college/life on my own.

  7. Thanks for sharing! & Can't wait to try the recipe. :)

  8. Sorry to hear about your mom's death. Don't know how you do it without your mom around -- I would be lost. Thanks for the recipe -- I'm definitely going to try it!