Archive | February 2016

Of Times & Of Tides – February Cooking Challenge

Time and tide wait for no man.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Ain’t that the truth! My poor family certainly seems to be run over by not only time, but so many different tides we can hardly keep up with the ebb and flow. I have read that early Virginians stayed sick a great deal of the time, and if you read their journals this certainly seems to hold true for certain times of the year. But – being sick, or having health emergencies, is not exactly how I wish to “spend time in the past.” I would much prefer to cook or, fiddlesticks, just read or write a book and imagine a sick family.

As for tides – well – I much prefer the forest and singing birds to the ebbing water and the sticky sand.

So it was that as I was preparing to cook and post my Cooking Challenge for February, I found myself not in the kitchen but at the emergency room with my second son. Within six hours he had surgery for a testicular torsion (look it up, it’s not pretty), and needless to say, as much as I love history, this was one time I was grateful for modern medicine.

In taking care of him, my cooking challenge went out with the tide (that pun was totally intended) and that explains my late posting of my February Cooking Challenge which was, despite my dislike for large bodies of water – Tidewater Chili.

I have never been too impressed with my Chili. Neither has my family. Granted, McCormick spice packets make it easy to make, and rice, fritos or tortillas, and cheddar cheese can doctor anything up. So, when I came across the Tidewater Chili recipe on the Williamsburg website, I knew I had to try that this month. If nothing else, the name alone elicits a feeling of nostalgia (and yes, I just proved how shallow I can actually be!)


The dark green region, east of the fall line, is the Tidewater Region. Photo courtesy of


The Tidewater region of Virginia is a term applied to the area lying in the eastern portion of the Commonwealth  of Virginia where the water level is affected by the coming and going of the Atlantic tides. Subject to humid, wet summers but cold winters, the weather was not unlike southeast Texas where I have lived all my life. While Chili probably was not a staple in the summer, no doubt it was a good, warm and filling dish for the winter, when planters and their workers were still required to spend long hours outdoors in the damp, cold weather.

This recipe, my friends, unlike my Indian pudding in January, is one you will want to try. My first clue I had a winner was when both sons came through the kitchen and said, “What’s that smell?” The second was when one child ate it, declared it was delicious, and asked that I make that chili instead of the kind I used to make.

I have picky eaters, so that was the next best thing to a ringing endorsement.

Tidewater Chili
picture from Williamsburg website, link to the left

I did a few things to the recipe itself, the entirety of which is found at the Williamsburg website. First, I had to bring it down to a more manageable level. Not only did these Virginians use a lot of spirits in their recipes (aka alcohol), but they cooked massive amounts of food. The original recipe calls for 5 pounds of ground meat, 4 large onions, 2 pounds sausage, and 84 ounces of tomatoes.

Below is my amended recipe, but you can see the original by clicking the link above.

Secondly, in regards to the ingredients themselves, I  had to use vegetable oil as I have one son allergic to peanuts. I used diced tomatoes as my family sees whole tomatoes and runs the other direction, and since I have no idea what Surry County, Virginia sausage is, I simply used 1/4 of a link. I added the beans about 10 minutes before the hour of simmering was up.

Remember, the cooking challenge goes all year. For more on how it works, go here.

As for me and my family, I am praying for less tides and more peaceful times.

Tidewater Chili (Donna’s Amended Version)



This one turned out looking just like the picture on the website!

  • 3/4 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tablespoon basil
  • 3/4 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable), enough to sautee onion and garlic
  • slightly less than 1/4 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 can (15 ounce) Italian plum tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 pounds link sausage,
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato puree (but I used tomato sauce)
  • 1 pound lean chuck meat
  • slighlty less than 1/4 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (15 ounce) red kidney beans, drained
  • slightly less than 1/4 tablespoon salt


Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat. Stir in the tomatoees, tomato puree, and herbs and spices and simmer while cooking the meats. Cut the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces and brown. Drain and add to the mixture. Brown the chuck in small batches; drain and add to the mixture. Simmer for 1 hour. Add the beans about 10 minutes before the hour is up.