Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Beginnings. And Chili.

A new year, and so many new beginnings!  A new day in the Kitchen, a new series, and a new diet.  Of course.

More on the diet in a minute.  For now, let's start with the fun stuff.  I've been working on a brand new series for NAL.  I'll be writing the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox.  I've been having a blast getting to know these new characters and delving into their adventures.

Still, the whole thing really came alive for me when my friend Sonny Strait (who created my mascot Cozy the Cat for me) created this fabulous sketch of my sleuth Izzy and her critters, Packer and Jinx.

Izzy, Packer, and Jinx

Now, I cannot wait to share their stories with you.  Can. Not. Wait.

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility ... and with much writing comes many pounds.  Oy.  It's time to get serious about shedding my winter fluff.  So I've joined a group of fellow travelers for a weight loss challenge.

Everyone chipped in a little bit of cash and the person who loses the greatest percentage of their body weight by Easter earns (no winning here!) the pot.  We even have a neutral "commissioner" who is keeping track of the numbers and providing moral support.

With this killer motivation, I'm working on slimming down my kitchen ... but not closing it altogether.  If I am deprived of good food, I am a witch with a capital "B".  For the next few weeks I'll be sharing the dishes that are helping me get leaner without getting meaner.

This week, one of my favorite cold-weather meals ... easy, hearty, and comforting.  You may have heard the old Texas adage:  "If you know beans about chili, you know that chili has no beans."  Well, sorry to disappoint the Texans in the crowd, but my chili has serious beans.  And it's dang good.

Chili con Carne (ish)

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained OR equivalent vegetarian substitute (I used Morningstar Farms Grillers Crumbles)
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 heaping Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 - 28 oz can tomato puree
  • 1 - 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 - 15 oz cans beans (pinto, black, kidney, or a combination), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 c. fresh orange juice
  • 3 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder (mor or less, depending on your heat preference)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute about 1 minute (until fragrant but not brown).  Add tomatoes, puree, beans, juice, spices/seasonings, and browned meat or meat substitute.

Bring to a low simmer, then cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook 1 hour.  Salt to taste.

Serve with shredded cheddar, sour cream, diced onions ... whatever you like!  For Texas flair, serve the chili atop Fritos corn chips for an upscale version of Frito pie.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!


  1. Wendy/Annie, the new series sounds like so much fun--love the cartoon! And the chili sounds good too. Must say I've never seen a chili recipe with orange juice in it...

  2. Welcome to Thursdays, Wendy/Annie! Love that cartoon and can't wait to read your series. Cheers to you for the motivation in shedding the winter fluff. Marc and I are in there with you, lightening up the meals and looking for healthier snacks. We really enjoy beans, too, (yes, even in our chili) and your recipe is a must-try with all those delicious flavors working together. Thanks for sharing it and have a great day!

    ~ Cleo

  3. Ooooh, a new series ... I can't wait. I love reading!

    We are a chili family. I make two mean chilies. One is a burn your face off chili (my husbands fav)... This is HOT... just almost too hot for him ;)

    Then there is my beefed up chili that anyone can eat :D

    Never made one with cocoa so this is definitely one to try.

  4. Wendy/Annie can't wait for your new series. I love the cartoon. I adore chili! What a great post. Yay for you and us.

  5. I can't wait for the new series and you come and visit my blog!!!

  6. Orange juice in chili? Oh, I love it. What a great idea. I happen to like beans in my chili, too, but then I'm not from Texas.

    Can't wait for your new series, Annie!

    ~ Krista

  7. Orange Juice in the chili is a great idea (I like to add raspberries to mine... same idea)!

    And best of luck on the series and the weight challenge! I just joined a gym this year and my wife has me in water aerobics and yoga... me in a bathing suit and me doing a downward facing dog... the mental image alone helps control hunger!


  8. Raspberries? I'm intrigued! I definitely like the sweet and acid as a counterpart to the earthier flavors of cocoa and chiles.

    Thanks, all. And, Lori, I'll definitely visit your blog ... any time!

    Off to put together a shopping list. We were going to have soup tonight, but Mr. Wendy saw the post and changed his request to chili. :)

  9. Will be rooting for you with the weight loss challenge. I'm trying to be more active and meet some friends and we walk (almost power walking) for about an hour, 4 days a week. Found a church that let's us walk for nothing so not dealing with any weather issues.

    I love chili and I'm eager to try your recipe. When I was pregnant (many, many years ago, now)I craved very spicy chili all the time - you'd find me making it for a late night snack. And coming from upstate NY, it always had beans. Now I live in Texas. It still has beans. Recently made some with venison.

  10. Woohoo for beans! And that's great about the church ... even here in the deep south, the winter weather makes regular exercise a challenge.

  11. You are a girl after my own heart. When I think of chili, I think of all the beans that is inside that delicious bowl of goodness. Am definitely adding this one.

    Good luck with your weight loss. Support helps tremendously.

    I can't wait to read your your new series.