Bison Chili

Bison Chili

Who does’t love a great chili? This recipe is a large batch perfect for entertaining and you’ll still have left overs for lunch. The spices add wonderful flavor that you may punch up with heat, if you prefer a burn.

Ingredients

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 medium sized onions, chopped – I suggest at least one red onion for spiciness
  • 3 bell peppers, chopped – I suggest orange, yellow and green, since the red color of red peppers get lost in the tomato color
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 24 oz. bison
  • 2, 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes – for more heat Kuner’s and Hunt’s both have chili tomatoes, jalapeño tomatoes and chipotle tomatoes
  • 2, 7.5 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 rounded T ground cumin
  • 1 rounded T dried oregano leaves
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • Optional – 1, 15 oz., can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

 

  • Optional Toppings when served
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Diced red onions

 

  • Optional Bottoms when served
  • A hollowed out bread bowl
  • Atop rice

 

Process

  • In a large, 4 qt., sauce pan over medium head add oil, veggies and garlic.
  • As they cook down and become tender, add the bison. Cook until the meat is browned.
  • Transfer all to the slow cooker.
  • Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and all spices. Stir well.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours. You can cook on high for 4-5 but it’s significantly better when cooked on low.
  • Enjoy!
  • Tip = this recipe is sized for a 6-quart slow cooker.  You may need to scale the ingredient amounts if your slow cooker is smaller or larger.

Active Settings 101

Active Settings 101

Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail
By Mary Buckham
Cantwell Publishing, 59 pp., $3.99

USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Setting is one of her non-fiction books on the craft of writing. With thirteen published fiction novels she enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others.

This three-part short writing guide provides a wealth of information, examples, and assignments. She teaches like a mentor, meaning she explains and then demonstrates a practical application. The bibliography includes 17 works of fiction and recalls the Donald Maass book Writing the Breakout Novel. Most authors are also active readers so pulling examples from works you’ve read, or at a minimum authors you’re familiar with, further illuminates her points.

Ms. Buckham’s strongest chapter discusses character reveals through the setting. She offers concrete examples ranging from genetic, to slightly improved, and then to the final published work. She shows how each character may view the setting differently and how those unique, layered point-of-view descriptions inform the reader about a main character, especially when the character isn’t self-aware.

Sensory detail via setting was weaker as too many sense images overwhelm and become data dumps whereas too few leave the reader to their own imagination. Here, Ms. Buckham, walked a challenging line between encouraging more information from the author without underserving the reader. The published examples in this section are helpful, but further highlight the struggle to balance this approach.

Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail is a helpful, quick read which can enhance your writing by better developing your created world.

Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce

This is an Italian Ragu sauce you won’t forget. The slow process fills the kitchen with heavenly aromas and offers time to prep the rest of the meal. Shown is a primo plate of mini gnocchi bolognese.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef/bison
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 2 medium size carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 oz. red wine
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 2T tomato paste
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • water to cover

 

Process

  • In a large skillet brown the beef/bison, remove cooked beef/bison to a small container
  • Using the same skillet, cut the raw bacon into the pan, cook slowly on low until fully cooked
  • While bacon cooks, finely chop the celery, carrots and onion
  • Add the celery, carrots and onion to the skillet still containing the bacon. Increase the heat to medium-high and brown the veggies in the bacon fat.
  • Transfer the contents to large, 4 qt., sauce pan. Add the reserved ground beef/bison. Set the heat to medium and pour in the red wine.
  • When the red wine has evaporated, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Stir. Then add water to cover, about 9 oz., and cook over medium for at least 1 hour. If needed add more water.

 

Credit

  • This recipe based upon a recipe provided the Santa Chiara study center.

 

I’ve just recently found this at Kroger. It’s delicious!

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

The chilled Spanish soup is always a hit with guests. We often serve it as dinner starter during warm months, however it’s great for lunch with a side sandwich too. It’s simple to make the day before and the flavors meld overnight while it gets to that perfect chilly temperature.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-size cored tomatoes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 medium to large cucumber
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 oz. vegetable juice, like Kuner’s
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • If you’d like some heat, add a few drops of Tabasco sauce to taste (a little goes a long way)
  • Optional Toppings when served
  • Sour Cream or yogurt
  • Chopped cilantro

Process

  • Add all ingredients to blender or Vitamix
  • Pulverize
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 8-10 hours; overnight is better,
  • Enjoy!

 

  • Tip = this recipe is sized for a 64 oz. Vitamix container.  You may need to scale the ingredient amounts for your blender.

 

Credit

The above recipe is a slight variation of a The Woman’s Day Cookbook recipe. There are many Gazpacho recipes out there but over the years we’ve found this one to be the best starting point.

Forgiveness: Clemency in Action

Forgiveness: Clemency in Action

The Hiding Place
By Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, and John Sherrill
Chosen Books, 273 pp., $12.99

At age seventy-nine Corrie ten Boom wrote her 8th book, a biography co-written with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, entitled The Hiding Place. She shares her life from ages six through fifty-seven. It also includes an extensive timeline with a prologue section providing information spanning from 1837 when her Grandfather, Willem ten Boom, acquired the shop, and later purchased it with the house, to her death upon her ninety-first birthday in 1983.

Ms. ten Boom until age forty-nine lived an unremarkable life, excluding her achievement of Holland’s first licensed female watchmaker. She remained unmarried, stayed in the family home, worked in the family business, was involved with her church (Dutch Reformed), took in missionary children, and organized Christian girls’ clubs. She experienced much suffering, through family members’ illnesses and deaths, but home remained a place of love through prayer, work, and charity both inside and outside the house.

In 1941 about eighteen months after the Nazis invade Holland, Corrie located a safe house for a Jewish neighbor. Five months later, her family opened their home to Jews, most quickly relocated to safer locations, but some stayed longer. In addition their family home also provided lodging for resistance workers. They build a hiding room for impromptu raids. It’s estimated the ten Boom family saved 800 Jews’ lives and protected many of the Dutch underground.

Things changed February 28, 1944. Their raided house offered safety for their six current guests who fled to the hiding room. The family, first detained in their local jail, moved to the Scheveningen prison, then to the Vught Concentration Camp, and ultimately to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Corrie lived; most of her family didn’t, either dying while in captivity or soon after release due to illness acquired during incarceration.

Her biography is balanced and never sensational; violence, difficulties, and fear don’t headline her experience. She’s honest and tempered by years of telling her family’s story. The radical sections are those where she inwardly resists the temptation to hate and pushes herself to love. Betsie, her sickly, older by six years, sister reminds her “we must tell them that there is no pit so deep that he is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.” (pg. 220) It’s Betsie’s faith, hope, and love propels them through harrowing experiences. Later as their situation deteriorates Corrie realizes Betsie meant tell everyone – the former Nazis, the complicit and non-complicit Germans, the Jews, the Christians, even the Dutch collaborators who caused harm and were shunned after the war – everyone needed and deserved healing.

Ms. ten Boom’s The Hiding Place refers to the room but also the Psalm 119:114, “ You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” Her reaction to her time of darkness offers inspiration for all sojourners.

Behind the Scenes – Part II

Behind the Scenes – Part II

The Idanha Hotel (Thunder Mountain #9)
By Dean Wesley Smith
WMG Publishing, 240 pp., $14.99

This review continues from Behind the Scenes – Part I.

Dean Wesley Smith wrote Idanha Hotel, a short 3,950-word story, in July 2015. In March 2016, Mr. Smith used it as a jumping off point for his 9th novel The Idanha Hotel in the Thunder Mountain series. He wrote this book in seven days and charted his plan and progress in Writing a Novel in Seven Days: A Hands-On Example in which the readers learn he wrote without an outline, dropped the short story characters, and essentially wrote cold, excluding the fact that he knew his created world given this is a story within a series.

His short writing guide offers good content and a healthy doses of encouragement, but I wondered – was the finished product good or just done?

The story centers on a young widowed baker, Megan Taber, living in 1902 in Boise, Idaho and Carol Kogan, a 2019 time-traveling medical doctor and historian, also currently living in 1902 to conduct in person research. Megan’s baking entices Carol to eat breakfast at the Idanha Hotel each morning. In May, Megan and Carol meet, however during their first conversation Megan collapses: sudden cardiac arrest. Carol renders assistance and is soon caught in a web of tangled emotions, timelines and technological advances as she seeks to save Megan from her May 1902 death.

Mr. Smith mentioned books in this series take approximately three weeks to write. Within this challenge he shaved his writing time by 66.6%! The story is interesting, the characters believable, the plot provided twists and turns, and, in sum, was a fun, quick read. Some of the time travel facts were confusing but that is true of all time travel stories, as the author suspends reality. The challenges and obstacles Carol and Megan faced maintained suspense; this was also egged on by the inside knowledge that he didn’t know the conclusion either. As an informed reader, I kept wondering, did he just get stuck in an inescapable rat’s nest with no way out or is he having fun writing himself into a corner? He mentioned at the end of the 5th (27,950 words) and 6th (36,000 words) days that the conclusion remained unknown, even though he might have caught a glimpse. Wow! He was 83% done with the novel. The well-crafted conclusion (sorry, no spoilers) wrapped up loose ends and changed tragedy into comedy.

It’s impressive work and I appreciate the behind-the-scenes view of his creative process even more after reading the novel.

Behind the Scenes – Part I

Behind the Scenes – Part I

Writing a Novel in Seven Days: A Hands-On Example
By Dean Wesley Smith
WMG Publishing, 76 pp., $9.99

Prolific writer, Dean Wesley Smith, offers a peak at his creative process in Writing a Novel in Seven Days: A Hands-On Example. His WMG Writer’s Guide is a compilation of blog posts he made while working through the seven-day challenge. Chapters detail the specific word count challenge, reasons for the attempt, preparations he made with suggestions for other writers, pre-coaching for the expected and ever present writing problems, the actual seven days of writing, and an epilogue of shattered myths.

For a short guide, there’s a lot of content. The novice fiction writer will find each day of writing intriguing. Mr. Smith details his time writing each day, as well as, how it’s allocated within his overall daily activities, such as working his full-time day job, sleeping, eating, watching television, and napping. He shares writing insights and offers encouragement. One of my favorites, from chapter three (pre-seven days), focused on changing your attitude about writing; he mentions that when people asks what he does for a living, “I say, ‘I sit alone in a room and make shit up.’” It’s a laugh-out-loud job description. And, this cavalier approach attacks the writer’s inner critical voice, which sabotages the writer’s efforts.

Mr. Smith achieved his goal each day, and if he hadn’t, then this guide wouldn’t have been published. He didn’t outline and wrote based off an idea from a short story previously written. The produced novel is 9th in his time travel series, so he knew his world well but nothing else. In actuality he exceeded his daily goals and never dips in his word counts. No mention of any hiccups, like trashing a chapter, changing a character, or realizing he needs to stop and conduct research before proceeding, is made. Some might wonder, “Could this be possible?” I did. So I bought the finished novel and read his completed work.

To Be Continued….

Overcoming Partitions

Overcoming Partitions

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
By Helen Simonson
Random House, 379 pp., $17.00

Helen Simonson’s debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, became a New York Times and international bestseller. Ms. Simonson, a stay at home mom missing her busy advertising job, joined a “Beginner Fiction” writing class at New York’s 92nd Street Y. She joined a Brooklyn writing critique group, attended the Southampton Writers Conference, the Stony Brook Southampton MFA program, and then worked her tail off. Whereas most writers throw their first novel in the drawer from which they cannibalize as needed; she stayed the course. Her first chapter won the 2005 Bronx Writers Studio award and then it took another five years to write, edit, shop, and publish.

The novel opens with Major Earnest Pettigrew, Royal Sussex, retired discombobulated by a recent phone call informing him of his brother’s death, answering the door wearing a clematis-covered housecoat to see the Pakistani village shop owner standing outside to collect the newspaper money, since the newspaper boy was sick. Embarrassed, his attempts at recovery result in the unorthodox confession to a stranger that his brother just died. The disclosure weakens his knees and he becomes dizzy. Mrs. Jasmina Ali helps him inside, puts a kettle on, and settles in for a good listen.

Widow and widower begin a tentative friendship as Mrs. Ali aides Major Pettigrew through the days leading up to his brother’s funeral. They share books, tea and a few errands. When the Country Club enlists the reluctant Major’s help for the annual dance, Mrs. Ali is brought further into his world, and then an extended family situation requires her to move to Scotland.

It’s a surprised-by-love story amidst modern day remaining social and racial tensions in the United Kingdom, specifically surrounding the dissolution of the British Raj as Pakistan and India partitioned in 1947. Ms. Simonson’s well-executed plot, scenes, history, and subplots work, but it’s the character of Major Pettigrew, the catalyst, who pushes, the Romeo and Juliet aspect of, the story to excellent. He is hilarious!

See his descriptions below:

  • the last year’s Country club party – “They would be hard pressed to exceed the ‘Last Days of Pompeii’” (pg. 72)
  • the staff at the Country club – “the sullen charms of the waitresses who, culled from the pool of unmotivated young women being spat out by the local school, specialized in a mood of suppressed rage. Many seemed to suffer from some disease of holes in the face and it had take the Major some time to work out that club rules required the young women to remove all jewelry and that the holes were piercings bereft of decoration.” (pg. 79)
  • assisting his son in acquiring a property – “ So you would like me to come and kiss the hand of the poor widow like some continental gigolo until she is confused into accepting your meager offer from a property that probably represents her entire nest egg?” (pg. 104)

A few overextensions occurred (without spoilers!): Mrs. Ali’s extended family, the Country Club dinner party main event, Major Pettigrew’s rapidly changing attitudes, the Cabin scene, the ledge scene and a few of the business dealings with Frank Ferguson; all believable, but a bit overdone.

Ms. Simonson created a charming, unique and memorable character with Major Pettigrew. His last stand is a delightful surprise.

More Timeless Writing Advice

More Timeless Writing Advice

Wild Mind: living the writer’s life
By Natalie Goldberg
Bantum, 238 pp., $11.95

Four years after publishing Writing Down the Bones author Natalie Goldberg determined that “a book about writing isn’t enough.” Wild Mind: living the writer’s life reconsiders what it means to be a writer beyond the practice of writing. She presents writing as a holistic approach to experiencing life that produces the byproduct of written word about the experience itself. This book is not about “freeing the writer within” rather it’s sharing answers to the question of how she lives, how she thinks, and how she’s figured out what it means to write.

Read the Writing Down the Bones review here.

As in her first book on writing, the reader engages at will with the mini chapter format. Additionally, Ms. Goldberg added thirty-five concrete writing “Try this” exercises sprinkled through the book in lieu of lose suggestions. These exercises were a surprise, in a book meant to be less concrete, until read. In her encouraging Zen approach, suggestions like “write for 10 minutes about what you’ll miss when you die,” “write about a time you had magical powers,” “make a list of words you really like,” and “write everyday for 10 days in a row; be brave” push the author out of her comfort zone and into uncharted territory.

Ms. Goldberg is insightful as the day is long. Her comments on English majors leave the reader in stitches: “I honor English majors. It’s a dumb thing to major in.” Again, as in Bones, she prods, pulls and cajoles the writer free to write. The encouraging anecdotes, the numerous exercises, and the reflections, on writing her novel Banana Rose, inspire. This book centers far less on her poetry and more on the grueling process of writing, garnering feedback and revising a novel. Even she an award-winning, published author was humbled by the experience of prose.

Ms. Goldberg’s Wild Mind is the fraternal twin of Writing Down the Bones. Both provide unique hope, ideas and comfort to writers at all stages on the journey.