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Jell-O Head Strikes Again

Some people have moody days.

Some people have bad hair days.

I, on the other hand, have Jell-O Head days.

Allow me to explain:  Normally, I consider myself an adequately intelligent, relatively self-sufficient member of the human race.  However, about once every month or two, for some unapparent reason my brain abandons me for the day to go do whatever it is brains do when they’re not in your head and leaves a Jell-O mold in its place.

You know, to take care of all that pesky higher cortical functioning.

And since Jell-O molds are notoriously bad substitutes for brains, I am left with no choice but to lurch through the day, slack-jawed and drooling and generally posing a safety hazard to myself and those around me.

These are the days where I fumble to cram words together into coherent sentences, blank on what year it is, and forget basic personal information like my address, shoe size and middle name.  I put cereal boxes in the fridge and spoon salt into my coffee and squeeze Clearasil onto my toothbrush.  I’m positively stumped on how to spell words like “people” and “because” and spend half the day looking for things that are already in my hand.

On these days, it is only by the grace of God and vigilant adult supervision that I do not venture into public without pants on.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because Monday was just such a day.

It all started when I couldn’t find my car.  Apparently I’d completely forgotten that I’d parked it on the street right outside the apartment door the night before, which means I moseyed right past it in the morning so that I could go blink at the empty space where it’s usually parked for a good 10 minutes or so until I realized what had happened.

Then, upon locating said car, I drove it to the VW dealership for its scheduled maintenance since a service reminder had been popping up on the dashboard display for several days.  However, when trying to explain that to the mechanics, I completely blanked on the word “dashboard” (it’s a tricky one, I know) and ended up telling them that I’d come in “because the blinky thingy told me to.”  As a testament to the fine people at Fitzgerald Automotive, they didn’t even try to capitalize on my moron-itude by overcharging the ever-loving pants off me.

But the pièce de résistance occurred later in the day while applying online for an editor position that sounded absolutely perfect for me.  The company’s ad was lighthearted and whimsical and stressed, above all, the necessity for a sharp eye for detail.  Eager to demonstrate my editorial prowess and, uh, eye sharpness, I spent four hours crafting a charming yet professional cover letter and carefully combing it multiple times over for even the most minute error… only to notice seconds after I hit ‘submit’ that–oh wait, what’s this?  Ah, yes. I’d misspelled the name of the company.  Frick.

Maybe Jell-O head is caused by hormones or a vitamin deficiency or lack of sleep or the phase of the moon.

Maybe it’s early menopause or acid flashbacks or alien technology implanted in my brain.

Whatever the reason is, it should at least come with some sort of hiring preference.

Are YOU a Chili Racist?

I’m not gonna lie – Erin’s Halloween post from yesterday cracked me up.  I must say her Halloween looked far more entertaining than my night, during which I proceeded to drink an entire bottle of shiraz and pass out candy at my neighbor’s house because they actually decorated for the holiday and I felt it was far easier to mooch off of their hard work and holiday spirit than actually do any work of my own.  Don’t worry – I hid my wine glass behind the porch railing every time the impressionable little kiddies approached, but I may have laughed a little too loudly when my neighbor’s husband told a costumeless teenage boy he looked like Justin Bieber.

Yes, I was that girl.  I’m not proud.

Anyway, I think my lack of enthusiasm for yesterday’s holiday might stem from what it subconsciously implies – the cold is right around the corner.  When I came home from Costa Rica, I noticed the leaves had started turning colors.  I tried my best to ignore it.  When I had to pull the heavy quilt over myself in the middle of the night, I tried to ignore that too.  But the other night, when I felt compelled to make chili for dinner – chili, for godssake – I could ignore it no longer.  The Cold is here.

And since I don’t want to be alone in my misery, I’m going to share my white chili recipe with you – my AWARD-WINNING chili.

That’s right – this recipe won the coveted Golden Ladle at my office chili contest in 2009.  It even won a few votes in 2010, even though I wasn’t allowed to enter the contest as the reigning chili champ.  Now those of you who can’t get enough of traditional, spicy red chili might initially repel the idea of a relatively un-spicy white chili.

But I will tell you what I told the skeptics during my Golden Ladle acceptance speech:  Don’t be a chili racist – give white chili a chance!

I think I originally got this recipe from a grocery store, believe it or not.  I don’t tweak this much, so here’s what you’ll need:

White Chili Ingredients
  • 1 lb. sausage (I use Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage)
  • 1 lb. (give or take) ground turkey (the more you use, the thicker your chili will be.  You can use as little as 1/2 lb. and go as high as you want – I think I used just over a pound this time because I like my chili nice and thick)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 4-5 small stalks of celery
  • 1 Tbsp. roasted garlic (it’s actually really easy to roast garlic yourself, but I already had the jar of store-bought stuff and for the purposes of this chili, it works just as well)
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 2 (15.8 oz) cans of great northern beans
  • 1 (14 oz) can of chicken broth
  • 1 (4.5 oz) can diced green chiles (the store was out of these, so I picked up 4 fresh green chiles and diced them myself – a little more work, but still tasty)
  • 1 (16 oz) can of refried beans with diced green chiles (This is the SECRET INGREDIENT, friends.  That’s right – it’s the thing that people love when they taste it but can’t quite figure out what it is.  Whatever you do, don’t skip this ingredient – it’s okay if you can’t find the kind with chiles – and DON’T tell them what it is!)

1.  Turn on your favorite satellite music station and dice up your celery, onion and bell pepper.  You should definitely sing while you’re doing this, but be careful about dancing – you are wielding a knife.

2.  If you bought fresh chiles, go ahead and dice those up as well.  Wear gloves if you’re smart, but if you’re me, forget the gloves and slice them into quarters lengthwise, slice off the seedy membrane part, and then chop up the rest.  That stinging sensation on your fingers will go away.  Eventually.

Everything’s ready!

3.  Warm up a pot over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage, turkey, onions, celery and green bell peppers.  If you’re using fresh chiles, add those too at this time.  Sauté everything for 10-12 minutes until the meat is fully cooked and the veggies are soft.

4.  Drain the excess grease, then stir in the taco seasoning.  Cover and let cook for about a minute, just to let all the tasty seasoning goodness soak into the meat.

5.  Remove cover and stir in the remaining ingredients (roasted garlic, northern beans (including liquid), refried beans, chicken broth, and the can of chiles if you didn’t use fresh).

6.  Let sit on the stove, stirring occasionally, until everything is nice and warmed through.  Serve with your favorite hot sauce on the side and enjoy!