My Edwardian girl

Framed picture of an Edwardian girl,© 2016 Celia Her City
The tag read “Victorian-era painting of girl in a mahogany frame with original wavy glass.”  Even though I knew the portrait wasn’t a painting but a print, possibly made as recently as the 1970s, still I bought the thing after getting the price knocked down.  The subject of the picture, and the way it was framed, spoke to me.  I figured I’d learn what I’d bought after getting it home. More

Wistful for Wolcott

Wistful for Wolcott: A spring view of the street
I get wistful for Wolcott when it gets to be spring.

When I was in grad school, my younger friend, Joan, lived in a two-flat in Roscoe Village.  The flat, on Wolcott Avenue, was unusual because it had a big side yard.  Joan basically had the whole place to herself, because the old woman who owned it and lived in the bottom flat, had gone to live with her daughter, leaving her things in place. More

Healthy Super Bowl chili

Healthy Super Bowl chili, © 2014 Celia Her City
Cooking for the Super Bowl?  This traditional yet healthy chili is my idea of a perfect game-day meal.

Though it does contain meat, this recipe is referred to in my family as low-cal or vegetable chili, because it produces a chili lower in fat and more nutritional than the traditional kind.

Something I like about the recipe is that it specifies a range of quantities, so that it can be tweaked and customized to suit individual taste.  Typically, I use the maximum quantity of all the ingredients, including the meat and chili powder, but I reduce or omit the cooking oil.  For a milder chili, or one that is meat- or vegetable-heavy, just vary the proportions accordingly.  Garbanzos can be used with, or instead of, the kidney beans.

If grass-fed beef is used, browning it in a separate pan as specified in step 1 may be unnecessary. Instead, brown the meat in the same pot where the chili will be made.  Then add the vegetables and proceed with the recipe, omitting most or all of the oil.

1/2 to 1 pound extra lean ground beef (preferably extra-lean grass-fed ground beef, which has very little fat)
1 tablespoon or less olive or vegetable oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
6 – 8 mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes or 2 cups chopped, peeled, fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup chili powder, to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz. can kidney beans, drained

Traditional garnishes (optional)
Grated cheddar cheese
Reduced fat sour cream
Oyster crackers or saltines

1. Brown the beef in a pan over medium-high heat, breaking it up into pieces as it browns.  Drain off any fat by removing the beef from the pan with a slotted spoon and allowing it to rest on clean paper toweling.

2. In a large heavy pot, using a small quantity of oil if necessary to prevent sticking, saute the garlic, onions, mushrooms, and celery over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the meat, then the tomatoes, stirring to combine.  Add the chili powder, vinegar, and some water if needed.

3. Heat to a bubble; cover and simmer for 45 minutes over reduced heat, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the strained beans and mix thoroughly; again heat to a simmer.

5. Serve chili hot, with cheddar cheese and sour cream as optional garnishes.  Some people like to top chili with oyster crackers or broken-up saltines.

This recipe yields 6-8 servings.  It’s easy to double, and it freezes well.  It can be made a day in advance and refrigerated, which will improve its flavor.  On game day, just re-heat and serve!

January desk

New Year's desk, © 2014 Celia Her City
My January desk is gradually clearing.  At the beginning of the month, it’s always the same: strewn with unused holiday stamps, thank-yous to write, December’s to-do lists (half-finished), receipts from the holiday spending spree.  There’s a file of gift ideas for next year to be put away.

Eventually I tie up the loose ends, at least the ones that bug me, because by temperament I am a gradualist, and orderly.  Organization doesn’t come naturally to me, but I do love order once it’s achieved.  Besides, I’m too retrospective to shrug off all the unfulfilled possibility of the holidays just because some calendar tells me I should.

Instead, I carry a holiday hope forward with me: the hope of connecting, of building up my circle into one that’s warmer and more rewarding, that buzzes with shared secrets and sincerity.  It’s said that “kinwork” falls to women traditionally: that we make the mesh of society, by remembering the birthdays, calling the hibernating friend, lunching excessively, that sort of thing.  Maybe that’s why the holidays ultimately do invigorate me.

So, in January, the work of connecting is continuing.  In fact, the longer it bleeds over, the better it bodes for 2014.

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