chili con carne: no time to sleep

chili-con-carneThis past Tuesday was Election Day, and while I was particularly excited to live through such a history-making election, I was also glad the kids did not have school and I would not have to get up at the crack of dawn to tackle lunches, snacks, breakfast, shoe searches, hair untangling etc. etc. etc.
Little did I count on my wake-up call from my six-year old son, Jonathan.
TAP TAP TAP, a determined finger knocked through my comforter solidly on my forehead.
“Mom…” he insisted, mid-whine, as if we’d been engrossed in this conversation a good half hour or so.
“MOM!!!” more forcefully now (he’d definitely found me and wasn’t going away).
I peeked one bloodshot eye out into the dark world and was met by an inquisitive stare framed by ridiculously long, thick eyelashes.
Standing by my bedside in his favorite tin soldier pajamas was my son.
He seemed irked that my brain hadn’t caught up to his yet; still, it appeared one bloodshot eye would suffice. The minute our gaze locked, he preceded full steam ahead:
“What if Thumbs tied them up because he is good with lassos and THEN caught up with Dink and the others on the horse trail or maybe the magician guy with the handcuffs did it because he was the only one not tied to the chair like the others but then again what was Lulu doing tied up in the office where the safe was if she is the cook?
MOM, what was she doing in the office, huh????”
The only reason he stopped was because he six-year old lungs demanded air, and then, of course, he remembered me and became increasingly frustrated that I still had one eye shut.
His eyes narrowed on me, lip curled in a well-rehearsed scowl and he waited.
I turned to look at my clock whose neon green numbers announced it was 5:35 a.m. Seriously?
My one day to sleep in and I was woken up as lead panelist to an overzealous detective conference determined to crack the code of Ron Roy’s The Ninth Nugget A-Z Mystery series?
I tried to grumble something about needing a cup of coffee but he would have none of that.
He stood his ground, grimace well placed, waiting for me to solve this urgent dilemma.

I didn’t know who did it or why I was even thinking about it without caffeine in me but I did recognize that look on my son’s face as that of wild, vivid imagination that had captured him and woken him at this early hour.
As much as my body ached to sleep, as a writer and a mother I knew I was privileged to be a part of that excitement and I would not let him down.
So I opened my other bloodshot eye and his smirk turned a tad bit hopeful.
“All good theories,” I grumbled, slowly cracking the warm shell of my bed and sitting up.
“Thumbs did stay back at the ranch for most of the time so he could be the one who tied them all up and stole the gold nugget, but then, he is the creepy one so the author might want you to suspect him.
The magician certainly was agile with those handcuffs, and the book tells us the reason Lulu the cook was in the office was to water the plants, but, who knows…we’ll have to keep reading to find out who the real culprit is.”
I didn’t solve much for him.
Really, I didn’t solve anything at all, just rehashed what he had said and put periods in the appropriate places.
But what I did do was jump into his enthusiasm, regardless of the early time, and this seemed to be enough for him.
He crawled into my bed and begged, “mom, can you please read more now???””Not yet, we have to wait for your sister to wake up”, I reminded him.
“Can’t solve the mystery without her.”
We did wait for his sister to wake up to solve the mystery.
I won’t tell you who it was, but I will say it was filled with enough twists and turns to captivate all our imaginations.
Of course, the biggest thrill by far was witnessing the infectious love of reading my son now has.
Already he is begging me to help him solve the next mystery.
I only hope this one lets him sleep through the night.

The story took place in a dude ranch in Montana, and after a novel-full of horses, lassos, and bonfires, a bowl of chili con carne was something we were all craving.


5 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
5 tablespoons tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground basil
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 28-oz. can tomatoes
½ cup red wine
1 can sweet corn
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
½ cup sliced Spanish olives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
juice from one lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
5 tablespoons hot pepper sauce*

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.
Sauté onions until translucent, about five minutes.
Crumble beef and cook fully, stirring often.
Add tomato paste, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, basil and mustard and stir to combine.Add tomatoes, wine, corn, kidney beans and olives, parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper and hot sauce.
Increase heat and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Adjust seasoning.

Serves 6-8
TO SERVE, spoon into bowls and add one or more of the following garnishes:

Chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions, sliced jalapenos, tortilla chips, rice

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chili con carne: no time to sleep

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