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Creamy chili warms you up

Oct. 25, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

I had a weekend some people can only dream about. Okay, maybe it's just me who spends time blinking back visions of gorgeous fall foliage, perfect temperatures, sun-kissed waters and mountains as far as the eye can see.

I went camping in the hills of West Virginia and I have to tell ya, "Mountain Momma" is now a title I want to wear proudly. I've always said I would travel far and wide just to behold a view, and without a doubt The New River Gorge certainly delivered. But the big surprise for me was the drive was only two hours from home.

It has been my declaration that instead of my usual whining about how bummed I feel facing the impending extreme weather changes, I would get out and enjoy the scene rather than fuss about it. And who am I to fight the seasonal love, if there is such a thing. I mean, I love fall, but it's a precursor to what's coming. Cold. To my surprise, though, "cold" took a back seat to "awestruck."

All along the winding roads, the trees were embracing the sunshine and glowing with the most vivid colors of gold and amber -- I was sure my green eyes turned yellow. The clusters of trees were like bouquets of fall blooms rising and falling as we passed through timeless little towns alongside rivers that seemed to follow the road. I guess you could argue the girl has spun off her "mountain momma" axis and landed squarely on the Appalachian motherlode, because I'm hooked and ready to move to the mountains. These things, they happen. And heading home has left me longing for the hills and wishing for once, time had passed a little slower because this girl has turned the perfect shade of smitten for "Wild Wonderful West Virginia."

Of course we laughed, we marveled and we ate. And nothing was more fitting to fight the chill than by enjoying a bowl of soup. I love chili, but chicken chili was something new to me. And while I would have imagined it being served in the form of a chicken broth, this version had a cream base instead. Of course, my mind was swimming with possibilities and my love of cheese made me think how awesome the chili would be if a little gouda came to join the party. I couldn't help but wonder whether they included cream to insulate the bones of the white water rafters braving the frigid waters of the gorge, since I've never had chili with dairy. It was a perfect little discovery, nonetheless, because this dish rocks.

GOUDA CHICKEN CHILI

1 rotisserie chicken (meat pulled after boiled)

1 cup salsa

1 tsp. chili powder

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 quart water

6 oz. sour cream

8 oz. shredded gouda cheese

2 cans navy beans

In a large stock pan pour in the water, add the chicken (whole), powder, bay leaves, garlic and chili powder. Boil for 8 minutes. Pull the chicken off, add the cream, beans, and gouda. Bring to boil until the cheese melts. Serve with warm pitas.

Janet McCormick is the owner of The Tea Room Cafe in Proctorville, Ohio, and the author of "10-Minute Meals." She can be reached at 304-654-2003 or www.10-minutemeals.com.

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