There are many myths and legends surrounding the history of Valentine’s Day. The Catholic Church recognizes three different martyred saints named Valentine. Some believe that the celebration of Valentine’s Day began as a festival in the middle of February to commemorate either the death or burial of one of these saints. All the ‘stories’ suggest that St. Valentine was sympathetic, heroic and romantic. Valentine greetings began as far back as the middle ages. The cherub and the arrow? That would be Cupid, who according to mythology was the God of desire, love and affection. Want to know more…Google it my friends! I am a bit cynical about this day as it has become as commercialized as Christmas by candy makers, florists and greeting card manufacturers since millions upon millions celebrate this day with these gifts for their loved ones. Valentine greetings are lovely but I don’t need a holiday to tell those that I love how I feel. LOL ~ but would still appreciate the card Robert!
Where was I going with this? Oh, yes, my father was ALL about love so it is fitting that he passed away on Valentine’s Day. He is forever in my heart as is my momma. I miss them on a daily basis. My mother taught me some fine points about preparing a meal as a young girl and I often made ‘special’ foods for my father. Like the time I prepared his favorite fruitcake from scratch ~ talk about a workout. I still believe the upper body strength I gained is due to mixing that cake by hand. The point is (to quote Chef Jacques Pépin): “There is no greater love than the love of cooking. One always cooks for another”. I suppose you could say that is a rule I have lived by for a very long time.
My husband and I will be away for Valentine’s Day this year so I will create something special for him when we return. However, he does love chili and Super Bowl Sunday is around the corner. The question is beans or no beans? Bob loves legumes of all kinds and they certainly do add more fiber and substance to the dish. When we were first married we used to frequent a restaurant called Hard Times Café. Anyone in the Washington, DC area knows about this chain. Back then it was by far one of the best places to frequent for good bar food in the region. Their dishes won many contests.
A signature dish of theirs was chili. Texas or Cincinnati ~ you had to decide if you wanted the beans, meat and/or spaghetti. Also, they differ in the spice content. The difference between the two is mainly that Texas chili uses the heat from chili peppers with chunkier ground meat while Cincinnati chili uses cinnamon, cloves, allspice and finely ground meat as the basis for flavor. Pungency is a matter of taste.
In addition to all of the fun food that certainly has no calories, I decided to make Cincinnati chili with Ali’s twist on this coming game day. You may want to give it a whirl…
Ali’s Cincinnati Style Chili
- 4 T. olive oil
- 2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
- 1 lb. beef chuck, finely ground
- 1 lb. venison, finely ground
- ½ lb. hot Italian sausage, finely ground
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 qt. Ali’s canned tomatoes, reserving juice
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 T. tomato paste
- ¼ cup chili powder
- 2 T. smoked paprika
- 1 T. cinnamon
- 1 T. ground cumin
- ½ t. ground allspice
- ¼ ground cloves
- ¼ cayenne pepper
- 1 large spaghetti squash or thin spaghetti*
- Toppings of choice**
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add onions and cook until soft.
- Remove onions and add ground meats; salt and pepper as desired, cook until meat is broken up and browned.
- Return onion to pot; stir in garlic.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, adding reserved tomato juice then add to Dutch oven.
- Simmer chili until slightly thickened, about 1-1/2 hours. ***
- When ready to serve, cook spaghetti squash and/or thin spaghetti as directed.
- Serve with toppings of choice.
*To prepare spaghetti squash, cut in half, rub with olive oil and cook, with flesh side down in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Carefully scoop out the flesh to serve. This fall squash adds a flavorful twist without possibly overwhelming the flavors in the chili. Just have fun with this dish ~ if you don’t want spaghetti, serve it over potato skins, in a taco shell or even over a hot dog in its bun!
**Toppings I put out with my concoction: chopped scallions, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped tomato, sour cream and warm pinto or black beans (for those who cannot live without the bean).
***When I have the time, I prepare chili and some stews the day before I plan to serve them to allow the union of all the wonderful flavors. It makes a huge difference in the taste.
Whether you are planning on serving your love a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal or serving a crowd for the big game day, just remember to have fun in the kitchen!