• B reviews,  coffee!coffee!coffee!,  domesticity,  Stealthy Spy Cooking

    Chicken Chili Chocolat

    Chili Chocolat

    This is a first for me. I signed up for a cooking contest and I’m entering my recipe here. I thought you guys might enjoy it even though I’m not really a foodie.

    Anyway, “…as part of the launch of new Knorr® Homestyle Stock, an authentic tasting stock in a new concentrated format, 200 bloggers put their culinary talents to the test to become one of the Knorr Four™ – a panel of bloggers who will share their insights and expertise to provide tips and recipes, and participate in other food fun for exciting rewards. And the first reward is a big one – eight finalists from this recipe contest will win a free trip to BlogHer 2011!”

    I already have my ticket to Blogher but I’m hoping I can win this contest and maybe give the ticket to my sister-in-law who is locked away up in Northern California. It includes airfare!

    So here goes:

    There are three things I like a lot: A strong cup of coffee, chocolate and a dry red wine. Not necessarily together of course but when I dreamed up this recipe for Knorr’s new concentrated chicken stock, I decided a little bit of all three might just be delicious. I’m calling it my new holy trinity.

    the holy trinity

    And of course I sampled all three while I slaved away in the kitchen! That’s what good cooks do!! I didn’t sample the unsweetened chocolate though. That would be silly. I have my other stash of 70% dark cacao in my pantry but I did let Bug have a tiny bite so she’d learn just the way I did way back in the day that not everything that looks like delicious chocolate is. It was delicious in the chili, of course—just not so much by itself.

    Yes, this chili with chocolate and coffee and wine is a little rich but I think in small portions it’s very very good, especially if you are big fan of mole like I am. Add a big healthy salad on the side and I don’t think anyone will complain. The chicken and corn and also the lack of anything tomato-based made it work for me but you might want to tweak to your own favorite chili flavors.

    So here is my recipe:

    1 can of black-eyed beans
    1 can of white cannellini beans
    1 can yellow corn (though white would have been fancy)
    1 small can green chilis (I chose mild)
    1 onion
    1 clove of garlic (or 1 tsp of garlic paste if you are like me and HATE the smell of garlic on your fingers for days)
    5 chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces with excess fat removed
    2-3 Tbsp olive oil
    2 oz unsweetened chocolate (shaved with a fine grater)
    1 cup of strong coffee
    1 cup of red wine (I used 2-Buck Chuck Shiraz)
    1 tub of Knorr® Homestyle Chicken Stock
    1 cup water
    3 Tbsp chili powder
    1 Tbsp ground cumin
    1 1/2 tsp ground pepper
    Avocado slices and goat cheese crumbles for garnish

    beans and chilis and corn

    bock bock bock

    don't cry

    First the prep work: Drain and rinse your beans and corn, chop your onion, mince your garlic, cut your chicken.

    adding garlic

    Saute onion and garlic in a generous amount of olive oil until translucent.

    frying the onions until translucent

    Add chicken and cook through until juices run clear. Don’t cook it to death of course. You want your chicken to stay nice and juicy but you don’t want to add your wine and coffee before it’s done because that can change the molecular structure of the chicken and taste nasty.

    1 cup of strong coffee

    When the chicken is done and no pink is showing, add 1 cup of strong coffee (hold the cream and sugar of course), 1 cup of red wine (if you’re like me just slosh a glass-full in, sort of like picking blueberries: one for me, one for the pot) and 1 cup of water. Next add the tub of concentrated Knorr chicken broth (don’t worry about diluting it per the directions on the side of the package—that will just happen in the pot as you cook). Stir and let the gelatin break down into a soup like so:


    Let this simmer for a minute or two and then add your chocolate.

    adding chocolate

    I know! Chocolate in dinner! It’s like dessert, but not! Mmmmmmm…enjoy that heavenly aroma.

    adding spices

    Once the chocolate has been stirred in, add your seasonings. Let that simmer for a bit while you go yell at the kids to bring in their toys from the front yard and you take a few more sips of wine.

    adding beans

    Add your beans, corn, chilis and let simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Just enough time to go check your email and surf around Facebook for a while. It could simmer longer (I know some recipes call for an hour) but I usually just wing it. I’m sure sometimes it simmers for less than 30 minutes and it tastes fine. Just make sure you check it and nothing is burning of course!


    Mmmmmmmm….it’s starting to smell like dinner around here!

    Chili Chocolat

    Serve with some avocado slices and goat cheese crumbles (or sour cream if you’re sensitive to hot spicy chili) and ENJOY!

  • B reviews,  BIG news,  Buddies

    The Growth of Tiny Ideas: A guest post from Rachel Devinish Ford, Author of The Eve Tree

    Rachel's book: The Eve Tree

    As a lot of you know, I’ve been reading Rachel Devinish Ford’s novel, The Eve Tree and I finally completed it last week at the beach. It was such a good read! It took me a bit longer to read than the other bloggers who are reviewing it, not because it wasn’t good but because my life has been a little stuffed to capacity lately. Anyway, I was really captivated by the story and wanted to know more about the characters. So when Rachel offered to do a guest post here on Secret Agent Josephine, I jumped at the chance and asked her to tell us what inspired her. Her drive is contagious. It makes me want to go write a book myself! Or just sit here and illustrate the two books I’m already supposed to be working on.

    So please enjoy these words from Rachel! She’s someone to watch and follow. Her journeys are awakening.

    Brenda asked me to share a little about where I got the inspiration for The Eve Tree, and how I came to write it. And I thought I’d start at the very beginning.

    The book itself is very much like a tree. There was a seed and there were roots, and then the tree grew. I had to chop some branches off, when they were blocking the road or growing into the gutter, and that was hard to do, but in the end, the tree was healthier. It had a lovelier shape.

    Back to the seed. The Eve Tree started with a tiny idea. I was already writing a novel at the time, but I was nervous about it, because the idea was too big and I was a bit distant from it, and I was trying to do too much. I put the novel away, unfinished.

    But then one day some friends and I were sitting down in their living room, talking, and they told me about something that happened to them. There was a fire in their story. And there was a ranch, and somewhere, there was a bathtub. And a glass of wine. And some fire fighters. It was an incredible story. I listened in awe, and when I went away, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This little story that happened to a couple of my friends wouldn’t leave me alone.

    I started to ask myself questions. What would it be like to wait for a fire? What would it be like to not even know for sure if the fire would reach you? What does that do to your marriage? How does that make you see your land?

    I started writing. Characters came to me. The background of the story my friends told me changed. It became fiction. My characters came slowly and developed roots. They dug in. They stopped being ghost-like and became sharp and a little demanding. I went back in my writing and scratched out the places where Molly and Jack and Catherine were doing things that didn’t make sense anymore, now that I knew them better.

    My first questions were leading me to other questions. What happens if a person is already known to struggle and a fire is heading toward them? What happens years after someone has a mental breakdown? Do people ever heal from that? Does their family ever heal? How do people learn to trust each other? And then to really big questions. What is love? What does forgiveness look like?

    I did this for four years, scribbling and scratching and printing out sheets and sheets of words, only to cross through most of them. I was watering. I was pruning. I wrote throughout a lot of travel and crazy circumstances in my own life. I wrote from the beach in India, I wrote from the Himalayas. I kept going, I didn’t get too distant, I didn’t give it up. Sometimes, when I had to, I’d listen to Humboldt County radio to get the cadence of people’s words. I went back to Northern California, and I noticed all the things I’d missed. I went back to my work and put them in.

    At the end of four years, I had this book.

    I don’t have an office. We move a lot, and at best we live in a two-bedroom place with our six-person family. So I write at the kitchen table, first thing in the morning, with headphones in and music on. Or I write in a café with headphones in and music on. I have my dream, of course, the place I’d like to write, the workshop with the sunny window, which is off limits to all the other members of the family. But I learned that I have to shelve that for the time being. We all have to do the best we can with what we have, if we want to get anything done.

    So here’s a question. Do you have a tiny idea? Something that you can’t get out of your mind? Some of the best art and writing starts this way. Andy Goldsworthy’s natural shapes and play with light, Degas and his dancers.

    Is there a house or a hill you’ve noticed, that you want to sketch or photograph in different lights everyday? What is it that interests you that doesn’t interest anyone else? Can you start to ask yourself questions about that thing? (I don’t know anyone else who would remain so obsessed with this one fire for as long as I did, and I’m just glad that the friends who told me the story didn’t find it creepy. Or if they did, it’s only a little creepy, I hope.)

    Take the first step with your tiny idea. That step may take you to another step, and to another step, and another one. Can you find out everything there is to know about it? And when the next step becomes clear, can you take it? Can you nibble away at it until you see the heart of it? Your tiny idea may develop into a whole world: a series of paintings or photographs, an art installation, a book, a new menu, a business, an album, a clothing line.

    I have one more thing to say about my book. Many of what I now consider to be the most important elements of the book didn’t come until after a couple of drafts. They were suggestions from friends. Different friends pointed things out- maybe you could try that? they said. And I shrugged, Sure, okay, I’ll give it a go. And then those things gave new weight to the book. They fitted right into the story and made it all deeper and clearer, and I can’t imagine them not being there.

    Your tiny idea may be yours, but your friends will be able to see things about your tiny idea that you can’t. (You’re too close to it.) Listen to your friends. And then, months or years from now, after you’ve watered and pruned and weeded, take a nice rest in the shade of your tree and congratulate yourself on being a good gardener.

    If you’d like to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment below. I will be organizing a giveaway over the next few days and post more details here.