june’s ohio adventure

for those of you who know me well, you’re probably wondering to yourself, “who is this june?  is she a long-lost high school friend?  is she a college acquaintance she’s reconnected with nowadays?  is she a new coworker she’s kindly befriend?”  well, i hate that this isn’t more exciting, but june is what i named my lovely rental car for the week!  ladies and gentlemen, i introduce to you june, the 2016 grey chrysler pacifica!  isn’t she a beaut?!

the name hit me like a ton of bricks as i was weaving around winding suburb roads and channeling my inner mom, specifically my inner barbara billingsley.  i mean, it really is quite empowering, navigating this sturdy, speedy, and functional vehicle around town.  i felt like i could rule the world!  anyway, june and i became besties last week in ohio while i was up there for work and some personal traveling.  and, in an effort to spice things up on my solo trip, i decided to blog about all our adventures.  our first stop?  dayton.

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ze best chili ever

yesterday at work we had the annual chili cookoff at the office.  like a good sport, i offered to bring some in.  however, i don’t really have a go-to-chili recipe on hand.  lucky me, my family out in california is all about a good chili competition, so i went to the experts for a little help.

my cousin ali was quick to supply a recipe that put her in first place at a local competition in southern los angeles.  well, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!  i pulled up the recipe and was slightly intimidated by the required prep work and number of ingredients, but i figured if i was going to make some chili i may as well go all out for it.

to make things easy on myself, i chopped all the vegetables earlier in the week so that the actual cooking would be a quick process.  now, after having made the chili and also eaten more bowls than i care to admit, i think it goes a long way if you chop the vegetables up as tiny as you can.  i mean, i’m not sure a big ‘ole hunk of green pepper is really what you want, but if that’s how you like your chili, go for it!

also, whatever you do, do not leave out the italian sausage.  in my opinion, the sausage is what makes the chili, so please, please, make sure you have it in there.

finally, i think i could have used a bit more heat.  now, the recipe calls for four tablespoons of chili powder which, honestly, terrified me.  as such (and not wanting the chili to be inedible because it was too spicy), i used only a single tablespoon of chili powder.  however, this recipe makes so much that i think i easily could have done at least two if not three, and i am a spice wimp.

so!  the chili cooked overnight as i dreamed happy dreams, and when i awoke in the morning, my nose was warmly greeted with the delectable scent of a cozy, home-cooked meal in the crockpot.  after freshening up, i loaded up the car and headed to the office, where i counted down the minutes until noon so that i could eat.  it’s hard to not be hungry when there are crockpots full of chili in the office!

once the hour was upon us, our moderators meghan and greg explained that we could try all three and then vote for our favorite chili, for the most unique chili, and then for the hottest chili.  the votes would be cast and collected and then the winners would be decided.

my coworkers and i gabbed and relaxed between bites of chili and cheese and bread, but i was secretly (and anxiously) awaiting the results of the competition.  now, i wouldn’t say i am much of  a competitor, but i wanted to make ali proud!

so, after all bowls were emptied and the tally sheets were in, the results were……that i won the most unique chili!  people liked the seasonings and sausage (duh!) and thought the flavor profile was unexpected (in a good way).  greg won the award for the hottest chili and then our other coworker tabri won the award for the favorite chili.  i think the potatoes in tabri’s chili is what won over everyone, even i admit it!

it was such a pleasure to become part of this company tradition, and even though the chili was a bit of work, i’d say it was worth every minute spent.  this chili is hearty without being heavy and is so delicious that i had a hard time putting my spoon down.  if you’re looking for a warm meal as the winter weather sweeps in, give this recipe a try.  i bet it’d be a hard thing to be disappointed with it.

tabri, greg, & me.

tabri, greg, & me.

o-h-i-o, ohio!

this past thursday morning i boarded an md-88 with several coworkers to fly to columbus, ohio for our annual company meeting.  between team gatherings, putt-putt golf, and drinks at brazenhead, the event was quite the success in melding many offices together as a united front for the successful business years ahead for which we are striving.  go team!

most folks flew back to atlanta friday night, but i had the wonderful pleasure of staying the whole weekend.  as it would be, phillip has family only minutes from our dublin location – such a small world!  so, it was a no-brainer for phillip to take some time off work and join me.

once work things wrapped up friday afternoon, phillip picked me up and we checked into the local embassy suites.  we rested our feet for a little bit and then were in the car again.  where to?  well, seeing as how our stomachs were grumbling, it was a good thing we were headed to dinner with grandma lorraine and cousin tony at the local favorite the rusty bucket.  they were seated at a booth just inside the restaurant awaiting our arrival.  both greeted me warmly as we scooched into our seats and got to know one another.  conversation came easy among the group among local brews and delicious food.  i highly recommend the wedge salad to start and then the buffalo chicken sandwich – it was massive!  the chicken parmesan that grandma lorraine had was a generous serving also.  tony’s quesadilla and phillip’s philly cheesesteak didn’t disappoint either.  so much else on the menu looked so appealing that i guess we’ll just have to visit again!

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after paying the checks, grandma lorraine called it a night.  tony, phillip, and i, though, were in the mood for another drink, so tony led us to a local bar called the dub pub.  most certainly a favorite dive bar of those who live nearby, we grabbed a high-top and continued visiting while enjoying some whiskey-gingers and a few ipa’s from the columbus brewing company (referred to by ohioans simply as “cbc”).  soon tony’s friend sean joined us, and i think eventually we blended in with the regulars as we chatted, cheered on team usa during the olympics, and took in some preseason nfl games.

as our glasses emptied and the early evening grew into the later night, phillip and i were about ready to call it a day.  we bid tony and sean farewell and hopped in the rental.  as we cruised along to the hotel, phillip pointed out the grater’s right nearby and the convenient fact that they were open until eleven p.m.  it was only 10:30 at that point.  phillip swung the camry into the parking lot and we helped ourselves to the counter.

now, any of you who know phillip know that he has quite the sweet tooth.  i used to “blame” his mother because she is an ice cream lover, but now i know it is grandma lorraine who started it all.  she revealed that each night she either has an ice cream or a cookie with some milk before going to bed.  old habits die hard, i suppose!  😀

with many more choices at the store as opposed to just the grocery aisle, i did a bowl of strawberry cheesecake and mocha chocolate chip.  whoa, that stuff was unbelievably good.  the strawberry cheesecake was undoubtedly my favorite, and it was lucky i even got to try it since it is a limited summer flavor!  phillip considered his options for a while and then settled (to no one’s surprise) on a scoop of the buckeye and a scoop of the peanut butter chocolate chip.  i am telling you, this boy could eat only reese cups for the rest of his life and be satisfied.  i suppose it’s hard to deny a man his ice cream when it makes him this happy.

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it was finally after over-eating on quite possibly the best ice cream ever created on this beautiful earth that we hit the hay.  with two more days to go in ohio, we needed our beauty rest!

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the easiest dip ever

this past weekend phillip and i spent some time in dadeville, alabama visiting my childhood friend adam at his parents’ lakehouse.  at lake martin we lounged in the water drinking beers, took the jet ski for a whirl, ventured to chimney rock, and enjoyed the company of friends both old and new.  after this long day of relaxation and fun, we arrived back at the house hungry and lazy.  well, the dip that adam’s mom tina whipped up was the perfect appetizer for a bunch of hungry and lazy twentysomethings.  this recipe is so easy and so delicious that i insist you go out to the store, acquire all of the ingredients, and make it right now!

so, how easy is it?  let me tell you.

step one:  grab an 8-ounce block of cream cheese out of the fridge (no need to let it soften).

step two:  moosh that cream cheese evenly across the bottom of some kind of microwave-safe dish (i think a square or circle casserole dish would do nicely).

step three:  grab a can of your favorite chili.  with beans, sans beans, beef, turkey, whatever your taste buds desire.

step four:  evenly spread the chili on top of the cream cheese.

step five:  suffocate the chili layer with shredded cheese of your choice.  i prefer to put so much on that you can’t see the chili through the cheese.  true confessions:  i love cheese.

step six:  microwave your masterful creation for about 3-5 minutes, depending on how powerful your microwave is and depending on how melty you want the cheese.  we nuked ours long enough so that the cheese kind of bubbled around the edges.  mm.

step seven:  devour the entire dish without any regrets because you’re at the lake and it’s the weekend and that’s acceptable.

vegetarian chili – slow cooker style

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it felt like phillip and i had done an awful lot of eating out lately, so last week i let the crock pot whip up my new favorite dish:  vegetarian chili with sweet potato.  the recipe comes from the always trustworthy real simple.  yes, they did it again with a hearty meal full of deep flavors and rich in nutrients.  well, it was rich in nutrients until i suffocated my bowl with a mound of shredded cheddar cheese and a generous dollop of sour cream.  no judging!

but really, this one is a keeper for sure, and with the cooler months making a delicate entrance this season, i’m betting it will be a repeat before too long.