Monday, 2 November 2015

Baking Competitions, Chili Con Carne, and Parties

Now that the Hallowe'en madness has calmed down, and work isn't as manic, I can finally do a full write up of the gingerbread house experience, and the party.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was designing a gingerbread house for a baking competition. I had done all the research, done the sketches, drafted the template myself, and made the whole house, before I found out that the baking competition was for children.

Even though it had a "Big Kids" category for those over 17, I still felt a little odd bringing a super ornate house that I'd spent hours on to a competition designed for children. It felt like turning up to a school sports day in full professional sportswear with isotonic drinks, having trained for weeks beforehand. My decision to withdraw my entry was greeted by my friends and mother by surprise and disappointment, but I still brought it to work for people to look at. There were a few small children who came into the gallery that really liked looking at it.

Also, over the Hallowe'en weekend, I had somewhat of a mini mental breakdown, which may have clouded my judgment. I didn't want people thinking I was a loser for turning up to a kids' baking contest.

Read the full Gingerbread House on Friday! If I'd included it in this entry, it would have been way too long.

I will be keeping my eyes open for another baking contest, though. Or maybe I'll host my own...

The party I hosted on Friday the 30th went very well! Everyone showed up that should have, we played silly party games for a few hours, and then I got to catch up with a friend of mine that had returned from her second yearlong stint of working in Seoul, South Korea. It was lovely to catch up with her.

I made a big ol' vat of chili con carne for everyone to eat, and it didn't last five minutes. I think everyone was pretty hungry by that point in the evening. I cheated big time in my recipe, but it was utterly delicious:


  • I emptied 2¼ pounds (1 kilogramme) of minced beef, one grated medium onion, one chopped red pepper, and a few teaspoons of some leftover fajita spice I had languishing in my spice rack into a jam pot (or very, very large saucepan).
  • Over high heat, I cooked and stirred the mixture until the meat is very fine. If you like the meat a little more chunky, allow the beef to cook for a few minutes in between stirring.
  • Once the meat was mostly brown, I added one carton (500 millilitres) of passata, and filled the empty carton with water and added that too. I also added one jar (325 grammes) of hot salsa dip, and did a similar rinsing and watering process.
  • I stirred in about 2 tablespoons (30 millilitres) of tomato purée for extra thickness, and also a few crunches of my black pepper mill. I then cooked it on a rough simmer for about 45 minutes, until it was nice and thick.
It was fabulous. I served it with some cooked Basmati rice (which I know isn't the usual variety of rice to eat with a South American style meal, but it's the only rice I eat ever), and I had dyed some orange and some black to add some little flecks of Hallowe'en goodness. Unfortunately, I don't have photographs of the meal, but trust me it looked great!

Overall, this batch of chili con carne cost about €7.50 ($8.15 or £5.30) and fed 8 very hungry people, and could have fed 10 normally hungry people. Including the rice, the meal cost about one euro per person. It's a great meal to have up your sleeves for cheap entertaining.

I think the Hallowe'en festivities were a huge success! Apart from a little falter of self-confidence on the competition front.

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