The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

30 Dec

Crazy Ass Chili

Posted in Garbage Recipes, Makin' Food on 30.12.10 by Octopi

For lack of a better description, this is some Crazy Ass Chili.  It looks complicated but really you just dump all these ingredients into a crock pot and let er go for a good 6 hours on low.  I also like it because, if I make it in the morning, I just dump the last of the coffee in there.  And maybe I take a swig of beer after dumping that in as well.  We made a modified version of this at Snowpants Pub Crawl last year and seemed to be a hit.  Just in time for winter and football/basketball/hockey watching!


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3/4 lb beef sirloin, cubed
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can/bottle dark beer
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1 cup dried black beans



  • 2-3 carrots, chopped (or whatever other veggies you want to throw in there)
  • 1/2 cup barley (we’re trying to use up our vast supply of barley)
  • 1 scary dried hot pepper 
  • The meat is optional as well.  If you put additional beans in it you may want to add more liquids.

 Note: this is an image of the chili AFTER it’s been frozen.  Cuz you can freeze it and pull it out at a later date for lunch or dinner or whatever!!  Try it. It’s fun. 

Makin It Happen

  • If you put meat in there, go ahead and brown the meat in a skillet (with the olive oil).  While you are at it you can cook up the onions along-side.
  • Dump all ingredients in.
  • I kind of set the scary hot pepper on top of everything in the pot for the first hour or two.  Then I took it out because I was afraid of turning a nice pot of chili into a fiery vat of burn-your-face-off.
  • Cook on low for 6 hours (it takes a while, particularly if you’re using dried kidney beans.  They need a lot of time and liquid to rehydrate and cook.)


Nutritional 411 here.

tags: , , ,

No Comments »

16 Dec

Pizza, Pasta, Lotsa Mozzarella….

Posted in Makin' Food on 16.12.10 by Octopi

Pizza, Pasta, Lotsa Mozzarella.  We’ve got the team that’s gonna beat-a you-a. Eh, eh, eh, eh, eh, MOUUAAA!

Elementary school cheerleading. Yeah. The things I remember.

Speaking of pasta, I love me some homemade pasta sauce.  It’s incredibly easy to do as well.  It’s almost not cooking.  You literally just dump everything into the crock pot, leave, come back, and voila! 

I found this recipe on the old recipezaar website (now  I’ve modified it a bit, mainly because I like enough garlic to kill all vampires within a 25-mile radius.

Homemade Tomato Sauce


  • 2 (28 ounce) cans tomato puree
  • 1 (28 ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 6 (six!) cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 6 cloves (or maybe a tsp of ground cloves?)
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I use only one, depends on how sweet you like your sauce)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese (parmesan or some other Italian-happy cheese)


Makin it Happen

  • Squish up the canned tomatoes.  If you’ve got some tomatoes in the fridge that have seen better days, dump those in the crockpot as well.  Squish them with your hands cuz it’s fun and cheap therapy if you pretend the tomato is the head of some person that’s driving you batty.


  • Dump all the other ingredients in
  • Give er a good stir
  • In the words immortalized by the Showtime Rotisserie infomercials: Set it and Forget it!  For six hours on low heat in the crock pot.


 Tasty goodness! 

Tips and Tricks

I’m a big fan of making a big ol’ batch of sauce and freezing some to use later, either as sauce or to use in homemade lasagna.

Nutritional content here.

tags: ,

No Comments »

13 Dec

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars

Posted in General on 13.12.10 by Octopi

My friend E came over for a holiday baking marathon recently and she brought the fixins for this tasty treat. 

Using a recipe from, here’s the scoop:

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars



  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 1 cup Karo syrup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips (wasn’t watching too closely, but pretty sure E used only chocolate chips)


Makin It Happen

  • Measure out rice crispies and set aside in large bowl. 
  • In saucepan combine sugar and karo. Bring just to simmer, then add the peanut butter and stir. Do not let the sugar mixture boil. 
  • Stir peanut butter mixture into rice crispies and stir quickly. It will start to harden immediately. Pour mixture into a 9×12 pan and flatten out evenly across pan. 
  • Combine chocolate and butterscotch chips into saucepan and melt over a double boiler and stir constantly. Or nuke them in the microwave but keep an eye on them and stir frequently until they’re fully melted.  When melted pour over peanut butter mixture. Let it set.  We put it in the freezer for 20 minutes to let it set. 
  • When set, cut into squares.


Nutritional Content: There are rice krispies in this, so I’m pretty sure this is part of a nutritious breakfast.

No Comments »

10 Dec

Peppernut Cookies: AKA the best cookies ever

Posted in General on 10.12.10 by Octopi

I like the open source concept and think it applies to recipes as well. I’m OK with making “special” recipes available because the reality is that those cookies or that meatloaf will never taste quite like Mom or Grandma made. But I can try. And you can too.

This is absolutely my most favorite cookie ever. My Grandma Chris always makes them around the holidays. I yearn for these cookies. And as soon as I see them I start salivating. The texture (when made like Grandma does, still a work in progress for me) is a bit chewy on the inside, the anise and other spices provide a great flavor that is somehow brought out perfectly by the powdered sugar.

Please make these. Then invite me over to try them so I can let you know how they compare to Grandma’s. But hide some for yourself or I will come eat them ALL.

Peppernut Cookies. I don’t know why they are called peppernuts. There are no peppers or nuts in them. It’s just what they’re called. Accept it.



  •  3/4 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 of 3/4 cup white syrup (do the math)
  • Not quite 3/4 cup milk or half and half
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • A little more than 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp mace
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • A little more than 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp anise extract


Makin it Happen

  • Mix the ingredients except for the flour.
  • Once that’s all good to go, then start adding in the flour.
  • Form into small balls (about the size of a whole walnut)
  • Slightly pat them onto a cookie sheet
  • Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees
  • Let cool on cooling rack
  • Pat them (3-4 at a time) with a paper towel or cloth dampened with water. This creates a surface on the cookie for the powdered sugar to adhere to.
  • Drop the cookies into a small plastic or paper bag filled with powdered sugar. Shake them around in the bag until they are coated with the sugar. Take them out and good to go.

Makes about 4 dozen.

No Comments »

08 Dec

Swedish Ginger Cookies

Posted in Makin' Food on 08.12.10 by Octopi

In case some of you are planning to fire up the oven in the next couple weeks for Christmas cookies, I’ll be posting a few cookies recipes for you.  It’s always fun to try new recipes along with the time-honored cookie traditions in your family. Here’s one I pulled from a little book my Mom gave me last year. It’s from a section entitled “Christmas Around the World”.  Without the frosting they taste fairly bland (we ran out of frosting and were too lazy to make more) but with the frosting they’re just great!  They’ve been well-received.

Swedish Ginger Cookies



  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp ginger (sometime I want to try this with fresh, grated ginger but this go-round I used ground ginger)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 tbl)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups flour



  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • About 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla


Makin it Happen

  • Heat brown sugar, molasses, and spices together til boiling.
  • Remove from heat and add baking soda.
  • Add butter and stir til melted.
  • Add egg and beat well.
  • Disclosure: So I didn’t do the directions above because, well, I didn’t read the directions. I just started putting everything together and after I beat the egg in I thought “all right! Let’s go read the directions”. After the “oh shit” moment, I proceeded to dump the whole thing into a saucepan to heat everything til just melted (NOT boiling, cuz I was worried about the egg already in the mix). Short story long, I then picked up the instructions here:
  • Stir in most of the flour.  Disclosure #2. OK, I didn’t sift. Surprise, Surprise.
  • Place remaining flour on kneading board (or you can knead on a clean granite or similar surface) and knead til the rest of the flour is absorbed.
  • Roll dough very thin. Give it a go with cookie cutters.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Cool on racks, then frost and add sprinkles and other whatnots to your heart’s content.



Tasty goodness!

No nutritional content provided.  They’re cookies. Drink some milk with them. Vitamin D and all that jazz.


No Comments »

03 Dec

Sweet Taters

Posted in Makin' Food on 03.12.10 by Octopi

I know. I’ve been MIA.  Guess what ISN’T my day job.  But I digress.  I have had a life-long on/off relationship with sweet potatoes. I love them now, I hated them growing up, and they’re the only thing I ate when I was a baby.

Really, my Mom felt guilty going to the grocery store and lugging a big case of baby food to the register: ALL sweet potatoes. The cashiers would think she was a bit crazy, but really it was her baby daughter who was crazy… for sweet potatoes and maybe in other ways, but those are stories for other days. I probably didn’t eat them growing up was because I ate 100 times my weight in them when I was a baby – give a girl a break!

I finally rediscovered them in college and haven’t forsaken them since. They’re tasty as oven baked chips and a tasty topping on homemade pizza. With the holidays upon us, it seemed appropriate to send a shout out to this pretty pomme de terre with the following recipe from Real Simple magazine.  A great winter recipe for this root veggie.

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Parmesan


  • 3 tbl olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 3-4 potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup pecans (chopped or halves)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (we didn’t have on hand when we whipped this up but I’d add it next time)


Makin it Happen

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • (Olive) oil up a casserole dish (3 quart baking dish)
  • Mix sweet potatoes, cheese, 2 tbl of oil, salt and pepper.
  • Put in baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 45-50 minutes
  • In separate bowl, combine pecans, brown sugar, thyme, cayenne, remaining tbl of olive oil, and salt and pepper
  • Remove foil, sprinkle pecan mix over sweet potatoes, and bake UNcovered for 10-12 minutes (to toast pecans)

Eat up. Tasty goodness!

Nutritional content here.

tags: ,

No Comments »