Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Southwestern Food Fix

As I attempt to piece together more stories to regale you about the Southwest, I'll start you off with a pretty South-Westerly recipe, perfect for the cold winter nights we all seem to be having right now... I might be in the desert, but it's freaking COLD! Snowed overnight and for most of the day... but it's peaceful and very festive.

This recipe is pretty darn easy, a lot of the stuff comes from cans, can be made veggie or meaty in a million different varieties. How American eh? If you're a wannabe foodie like me, you'll go all organic and as local as possible - it's pretty easy with this one. However, I warn you, I'm not sure where you can get the mild chili powder outside the States- Erg. Onwards.

Hearty Homemade Chili to ward off the chill.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
500 grams (1lb) ground beef, turkey or quorn
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons chili powder – the American non-hot stuff as illustrated above
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce or hot chili powder
1 teaspoon salt or Creole salt seasoning
1 medium red or green pepper, chopped
Any other favorite vegetable, it could be chopped carrots, corn, broccoli or all of the above…
Feel free to add any other seasoning you like such as parsley, basil etc.

The best thing about cooking yourself? You get to do it exactly how YOU want to... so please, add & subtract ingredients however you like.

In a big aul pot, heat up the garlic in the olive oil, without letting it get too brown and add the onions until they’re nice & sweaty. Throw in the meat getting it nice & browned. Drain off any excess water or fat from the cooked meat.

Throw the canned ingredients in the pot with the meat mixing them together well. Add the remaining ingredients – and as I always say, do not hesitate to taste, making it as spicy, salty or mild as you like.

It should be a thick liquidy consistency – the tomatoes making up the majority of the liquid – if it’s a bit too thick or dry you can add a little bit of water, but don’t add too much, making sure the flavor remains full of your seasonings.

Leave the pot on for a while at a low simmer with the lid on, around 30 minutes, to ensure your veggies are cooked through. Since it’s chili, feel free to cook it even longer – as long as it’s a low heat and the lid is on it shouldn’t burn or lose any moisture – it’s one of those dishes that sometimes is better the longer it’s left on as it has more time to get the flavors going.

I like serving it up on tortillas with some grated cheddar, but in a bowl on its own is still delish, and it’s also good over rice. This also freezes & re-heats really well so you can make tons of it to re-heat later on.

YUM & pretty darn healthy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bluebird Flour - FAIL

As an outsider, I've noted there are certain signature items of the Navajo people...

turquoise & silver jewelry

amazing woven wool rugs

sand paintings

mud hogans

dogs, sheep, goats, horses

Blue Bird Flour...

Now that last item is more an item for the Navajo people as opposed to tourists buying overpriced items in the area... The sacks themselves are iconic for anyone who has come in contact with them or the open vast expanses of the Rez. The Rez is desolate to say the least... the question I had to ask my folks was, before the traders, what the HELL did they eat out here? There is NOTHING! Anyways, to get back to point... nowadays, and for the last century or more, one of the main staples of the Navajo are fry bread made from Blue Bird Flour. Blue Bird is sold in giant 10, 15 & 25 pound cotton sacks with iconic silk-screened logos. I love any of that old-fashioned style of selling goods, and of course, anyone familiar with me knows I love the idea of upcycling & recycling. So my mom & I, thinking about fun (cheap) Christmas gifts, thought it would be amazing to make items out of used Blue Bird flour sacks, but for the life of us, we can't find anywhere that actually sells them at a reasonable price.

Sure, we could go to the Red Mesa trading post & buy a couple of 25 pound sacks... but they would be complete with flour. Me, assuming EVERYTHING could be bought online was certain we'd get them there. No luck. Dilemma indeed.

What I want to know, what happens to the used sacks? Are they recycled? Sewn into other things? They're certainly not for sale as far as I can tell.

Maybe maybe maybe we might make the trek to Cortez Colorado where the flour is actually produced - maybe then we could buy the empty sacks and make some aprons or shopping bags or something. I dunno.

If anyone else out there knows anything about getting a hold of actual used cotton flour sacks (not vintage per say, as they're so WAY over priced) pluh-leeese let me know.


Observations in Amer-i-keh

Happy Holidaze to everyone! I've been a bit off-grid lately as for the past week I've been in the deepest depths of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.

My parents moved out here for work 6 months ago and have been building a new life on the res, which makes for fascinating reading. (I'm trying to convince my mom to start her own blog). The day that I was made redundant I got some pretty bad news about my Dad's health, and once my new un-employment status set in, I no longer was constrained by vacation time. Long-story short, my most-awesome boyfriend insisted I go back and visit and be with the family during the holidays and gave me money towards my ticket as a Christmas/Birthday pressie. Am I lucky or what?!?

So here I am, a week into the adventure and a lot has happened. I flew to Albuquerque where my mom came and picked me up - we drove back towards their town, Red Mesa, which is in way North Eastern Arizona near the four corners, where the borders of Utah, Arizona, Colorado & New Mexico meet. On the way, we stopped at Canyon de Chelly as you can see in the attached photos. Four and a half hours later, we made it to Red Mesa... more photos to come.

We stayed in Red Mesa for a night and then it was off to Phoenix as my dad had to be in the hospital for some tests... bring on another six hours in the car. Sheesh! In the end, all the test results were fantastic and my dad got a pretty clean bill of health which was a seriously fantastic Christmas present for all of us. I'm going to update more of our adventures including adventures in food, travel and just being in America in general.

I've also had time to think about this poor neglected blog and it's lack of direction. I'm getting some ideas to keep it rolling out. But for now, expect some updates of the traveling in the Wild West.

The photo up above in the post is of White House Ruins in Canyon De Chelly.

First photo below is my mom's newly adopted res-dog, Lucky.

Photo below that is also Canyon De Chelly,

and then of course, the Google map to show you exactly what I'm talking about!

View Larger Map

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pitfalls of self-employment

Oh me oh my...

my poor neglected blog. But neglected for good reason I suppose, as previously mentioned, I have recently been forced to go out on my own and forge a living without the security of a monthly paycheck. Eek!

So far, it's been quite the learning experience. And it's been good... and tough at the same time. I certainly won't yet call myself an expert of the self-employed world, but in the few weeks that I've been here I've learned a few tricks and stumbling blocks. Shall I share?

#1 - Get out there - The very first thing I did when my employment fate was given to me was to hit the ground running. I told everybody I knew about my new status. This satisfied the immediate need to open up and talk about it and freak out and bitch - but it also helped to let as many people out there that I was available. I was going to try and not fall into the rut of slowing down and feeling sorry for myself, but instead just let people know I'd do anything and everything. The result? I have been re-donkulously busy with freelance projects that are much more interesting than the day job, which is also why I haven't been adding too much to my blog as of late. Yeah, they're jobs that aren't gonna pay huge money, but in the field of video and editing and multimedia - one thing indefinitely leads to another.

#2- Get out of bed - DO NOT SLEEP IN! It sounds so silly and obvious - but getting up at the normal time for work - say, working by 9:30am - makes the day so much more productive. Especially now that it's winter in Ireland, it's very difficult to get stuck in to work when the sunlight is disappearing. My first week of "working from home" was spent sleeping a lot... perhaps that's also down to the slight depression anyone would get when one loses their job. But needless to say, now that I'm outta that routine, I've gotten a million more things done.

#3 - Shower & Get Dressed. Again, like #2 this seems pretty obvious, but when you don't actually have to meet people face to face - especially in a professional manner - you kinda feel like... meh.... unfortunately just somehow mentally I've found it so so hard to work consistently on work while greasy and in my jim-jams. Also, there are many moments where you realize you do need to pop into town, or at least the shops, and when it's 3pm and you still haven't dressed, these small tasks grow a bit more insurmountable.

More obvious advice moments to come...