Big Sam’s Smokey Valley Chili


Between the snow days and the big game coming up, this weekend calls for some chili! This is my husband’s recipe and it’s not only wonderful, but also super versatile. We make it vegetarian-style using soy crumbles, but using ground turkey or beef would work, too. We have heard over and over again that you can’t tell that the vegetarian version doesn’t have meat in it. In fact, when we entered it in a chili cook-off we didn’t label it as vegetarian and only one person out of over a hundred taste testers noticed. I also love that this can be done on the stove top or in a crock pot, whichever your preference. For a big game day party, I’d suggest serving it in a crock pot and setting out bowls of cheese, scallions, sour cream, tomatoes, avocados and chopped white onions so everyone can dress up their chili however they’d like.

What You’ll Need:

1 bag of soy crumbles (we prefer Boca) or 1 pound of ground turkey or beef

2 14 ounce cans of tomato sauce

2 14 ounce cans of dark red kidney beans

1 white onion

1 red bell pepper

1 heaping Tbsp. minced garlic

2 packets of chili seasoning

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 pinch ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

How To:

Chop the white onion and red bell pepper into half-inch pieces and sauté in a large pot. Once the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, add the protein (soy, turkey, or beef) and sauté until brown and softened. At this point you can either add the mixture to the crock pot along with the remaining ingredients and allow to cook on low for approximately 6-8 hours or add the remaining ingredients to the pot you are working in and allow to simmer on the stove for at least one hour on medium low heat. Before serving, adjust salt and pepper to taste. At this point you can also add additional chili powder if you enjoy lots of spice and additional paprika if you enjoy extra smokey chili. Serve with a variety of toppings and enjoy!



Baked Feta with Roasted Tomatoes and Oregano


Once I get into a certain food mode it’s nearly impossible to get myself out of it until I’ve hit the spot. So, when my husband’s gig at a local Greek restaurant was postponed because of Austin Snowpocalypse 2014, there was no way I was going to be able to cope without baked feta in my life. So, it was time to come up with my own recipe. This is going to be my go-to for the next party we go to for sure. Yes, I show affection by bringing people cheese.

You’ll Need:

8 ounce block of feta

1 cup of cherry tomatoes

Olive oil


Oregano (preferably fresh)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Optional: Crushed red pepper flakes

How To:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and mix the tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, garlic, oregano, and black and crushed red pepper to taste in a bowl. Place the feta in an oven safe dish (we used a pie pan), drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with black pepper. Pour the tomato mixture on top and back for 30 minutes or until the cheese has softened and the tomatoes have roasted. Serve with crackers or bread and enjoy!

The Vine:


Oregano is a super versatile herb to consider for a home garden. It is about as easy to grow as basil with full sun and weekly watering. Taking clippings from oregano encourages it to grow, so this is a “use it or lose it” kind of herb. This is a fun one to grow at home because it can grow into a nice big bush. The one pictured started in a 4 inch pot and is now filling a 7 gallon container. As a bonus, if you live in a cold climate and have an outdoor garden, it can winter over, meaning it will come back the following year if you just leave it outside. This is a great herb to toss into just about any Italian or Greek dish and the plant smells fantastic.