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It’s time for chili. October 7, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Last night, I was reading one of my favorite magazines, Backwoods Home, and came upon an article about making great chili. Now, our friend Ben loves chili, and now that it’s cooling down, it’s certainly time to start making it. So of course I plunged into the article to see if I could get some tips. Yikes.

Not to say that the chili in the article would have been bad; the photo of it looked delicious. But it would have taken 3 hours of standing in the kitchen working nonstop and every pot, pan and bowl in the house to make, not to mention a food processor.

To me, one of the beauties of chili is how easy it is to put together. We don’t have a food processor, we wash our dishes by hand, and I’m not good at standing for long stretches. If you’re not up for a marathon, I suggest that you try my quick, delicious chili recipe, below. Pair it with some hot-from-the-oven cornbread, or warm tortillas for dipping, and some crunchy coleslaw and you’re good to go!  

               Silence’s Quick Spicy Chili

1 40.5-ounce can kidney beans (dark red, light red, or plain red are all fine)

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 large fresh tomato, diced

1 large green (or red) bell pepper, diced

2 large sweet onions (Vidalia, WallaWalla or 1015 type), diced

6 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and chopped

extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chili powder

hot sauce (we like the smoky flavor of Tabasco Chipotle in this)

1 tablespoon each dried oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary

Trocomare or salt (we like RealSalt) to taste

cracked black pepper to taste

Pour a generous amount of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven or other capacious pot (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven for this). Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion clarifies, then add the dried herbs, Trocomare or salt, pepper, chili powder, and a few generous splashes of hot sauce. Next, add the chopped fresh tomato and green or red pepper. When the pepper starts to soften and the tomato liquefies, add the canned diced tomatoes, stirring well, then the kidney beans, again stirring well to mix. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili is very hot. Serve in bowls, topped with shredded white Cheddar cheese and/or sour cream, if desired. This will serve four to six people, depending on how many insist on seconds or even (shriek) thirds.

This chili keeps well and can easily be reheated and eaten as-is, or used as a filling for tacos or burritos or as a layer in a dip for tortilla chips. (You know the one, with layers of guacamole, beans, salsa, sour cream, and cheddar.) If you use it in the dip, mash it first; people tend to be a bit disconcerted if they see a whole kidney bean on their tortilla chip.

However you eat it, enjoy! And think about all those dirty dishes and steps you’ve saved.

            ‘Til next time,


What is money? October 6, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Most of us would really like to have more money. And yet, we all know the saying “Money is the root of all evil.” But that’s a misquote. The saying, radix malorum est cupiditas, is “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Think Scrooge: someone who loves money for its own sake.

Money itself is neither good nor evil. It’s a shorthand form of exchange. It stands for something else. With money in our pocket, we don’t have to carry a cow to market over our shoulders to trade for the goods we need.

It’s important to keep that stand-in factor in mind. We don’t actually want money; we want something it stands for. Whether that’s a lovely house or a new car or a swimming pool or someone to mow our lawn or a vacation; whether it’s the ability to pay for our kids’ college or to pay the part of a much-needed medical procedure that insurance won’t cover, these are all real things. These are the things we want, not money per se.

Even the peace of mind that comes from knowing there’s something in the savings account if you get laid off or something goes wrong, though intangible, is an actual benefit. So is the good feeling that comes from knowing that you’re paying off the mortgage, putting money aside for the college fund, saving for that vacation.

Money is in essence a worthless piece of paper to which we’ve all mutually agreed to assign a surrogate value. It’s greed, the love of money for its own sake, the willingness to deprive others to take more than one’s share, that’s evil, not money.

To feed, or not to feed? That is the question. October 5, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, pets.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s been several years since an outdoor cat showed up here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. But yesterday, as OFB was taking our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, for a walk in the backyard, an orange cat shot out from under our studio, raced across to the deck, ran across the deck, and vanished under it. (OFB managed to dissuade Shiloh from following suit.)

For the cat to make directly for the deck, rather than fleeing across the yard, indicates a familiarity with our property and suggests that it must have been hanging around here for some time. Which of course brings up the old question, should we feed it or not?

Here at Hawk’s Haven, we appreciate the work outdoor cats do to keep the local mouse population down. The fewer mice in the yard, the fewer will try to flee to the (comparative) warmth and shelter of the house when cold weather sets in. But as we’ve discovered, setting out bowls of catfood and water can attract other critters, including more cats, ‘possums, skunks, and raccoons. Nothing like looking out on the deck and seeing a giant ‘possum or pair of baby skunks eating the catfood!

So we’re torn. To feed, or not to feed? That is the question. What would you do?

            ‘Til next time,


What makes chocolate so addictive? October 3, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It seems like I’m constantly surrounded by allusions to the addictive nature of chocolate, how irresistible it is. As someone who loves vanilla, this is something of a mystery to me. Mind you, it’s not like I hate chocolate or anything. Homemade chocolate fudge, hot fudge on vanilla soft ice cream, brownies, a Hershey’s Symphony bar: sold.

But though I love the thought of it, I never eat it. (Well, that’s a lie. Offer me a hot-from-the-oven, gooey chocolate-chip cookie and watch me turn it down. Right.) Given the choice between vanilla cake with white icing or chocolate cake with chocolate icing, or vanilla cheesecake or chocolate cheesecake, or vanilla soft ice cream or chocolate soft ice cream, it’s vanilla all the way. Yet nobody sings the praises of vanilla or swoons over it in print the way they rave on and on about chocolate.

Mind you, I can at least appreciate most of the treats they’re raving about. I can at least see that they’d be good. Those molten lava cakes turn my stomach, though—what a revolting concept!—and worst of all are the idolized chocolate-covered strawberries. Eeeewww!!! The inherent sourness and texture of strawberries coated in chocolate?! I’d as soon eat a chocolate-covered cucumber. Give me chocolate-covered cherry cordial candies or chocolate-covered glaceed apricots any day, or even Raisinettes.

Whatever the case, I will say that chocolate is the only food I’ve come across where, when I taste it, I can feel a physical pull to eat more. I wondered if there was a scientific basis for this, so I turned for help to my good frind Google. Was there ever! You’re not going to believe what I turned up.

Turns out, chocolate is packed with feel-good chemicals. There’s tryptophan, which produces serotonin, the calming, mood enhancing neurotransmitter. There’s theobromine, the mild, caffeine-like stimulant. There’s phenyethylamine, which causes the release of dopamine to the pleasure centers of the brain, the same phenomenon that occurs during orgasm.

But the biggest shock of all was that researchers have found that chocolate also contains anandamide, which causes a marijuana-like high (though on a much milder scale), and two compounds that prolong the “high” that occurs from naturally produced anandamide in the brain. Good grief!

Orgasms and marijuana? No wonder people find chocolate addictive!

            ‘Til next time,


Where’s my MacArthur award?! October 2, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was crushed to see that, for yet another year, I failed to win a MacArthur fellowship (better known as “genius awards”). Silence Dogood gleefully showed me the list of winners in today’s paper. (She’s always giving me grief about my not-so-secret hopes of an award.)

The good thing about the awards is that each winner receives $500,000 with no strings attached. The bad thing is that you can’t simply apply for a fellowship; you must be nominated by a secret panel, and nobody knows who or where these people are. For all you know, the pizza delivery boy could be a nominator; so could the engineer in the next cubicle or the dentist who’s cleaning your teeth. This makes it rather challenging to get yourself nominated, but at least it’s an excellent incentive to be really nice to everyone you interact with.

Winners are chosen from all walks of life; this year was pretty heavy on musicians. But one winner specialized in something that really caught our friend Ben’s attention: the study of how fluids move in the human body, and how that movement could affect disease.

Our friend Ben has been pondering this ever since I was told that in a given day, the kidneys could move up and down by as much as six inches. We tend to think of our bodies as solid, but we’re more like a sack of fluid with organs suspended in it. And of course, fluid by its definition moves. We all know our blood circulates, but I think it would be fascinating to know how fluid moves through the rest of us. This was one MacArthur Fellow whose award I didn’t envy!

But please, nominators, wherever you are, let’s try to prove Silence wrong in 2013 and give our friend Ben an award! I don’t know how much more of her sarcasm I can take.