Cincinnati-Style Chili Mac

Cincinnati-style chili is a whole different animal than your average American chili.  It was developed by Macedonian and Greek immigrants, so it has a bit of a near-Eastern flavor to it.  It’s fairly mild as far as heat goes, and has a subtle sweetness to it.  I love it for the variety it adds to our typical cold-weather fare.  Best of all, it’s pretty simple to make!

I’m a huge fan of Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen, and this recipe is adapted from their Cincinnati Chili recipe.  Seriously, you never need to adapt any of their recipes, but I have something wrong with me and I can never make a recipe exactly as written.

Cincinnati Chili Mac

I’m not usually one to prep all my ingredients ahead of time, but I find that I really have to with this recipe, or it will burn.   So, the first step is to place the following in a small bowl.  Don’t worry about mixing it–you’ll do that when you add it to the pot later.

2 Tbsp chili powder (I like a smidge less–adjust to your taste)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp allspice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste


In another bowl, combine

2 cups chicken broth
2 cups tomato sauce (I just use use those 15-oz cans…close enough)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar

Chop 2 onions fairly finely…or just hack ’em up.  I don’t mind chunks of onion in my food.

Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions and a dash of salt.  A bit of salt makes veggies cook so much nicer.  Cook until soft and beginning to brown around the edges.

cooking onions

Add seasonings to the pot & stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Then, stir in broth and sauce mixture.

Add 1-1½ lb of (raw) fairly-lean ground beef and stir to break up the meat.  Bring to boil; then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer.

chili simmering

After about 15-20 minutes, the chili should be deep brown, and somewhat  thick.  Season to taste with salt, and serve.


Believe it or not, serving this is actually the most complicated part of the dish…if you want to be authentic.

Here’s a guide to traditional chili-mac toppings and terminology.

One-Way Chili
chili alone in a bowl (it’s generally considered a no-no)

Two-Way Chili
chili served over spaghetti

I used brown rice spaghetti noodles to make this recipe gluten free.  Unless your ingredients are contaminated, this recipe is otherwise gluten free.

Three-Way Chili
chili served over spaghetti and piled high with shredded (yellow) cheese

Four-Way Chili
chili served over spaghetti, piled high with cheese, and topped with onions

Five-Way Chili
chili served over spaghetti, piled high with cheese, and topped with onions and beans

Oyster crackers are often served on the side.

Now, we aren’t that authentic at our house.  We often serve it with diced tomatoes and sometimes sour cream.  I only had (white) monterey jack cheese in the house last night, so we really did it “wrong”!

chili-mac with cheese

It was delicious, though, and my almost two year-old at three helpings!  Can’t argue with that.  🙂

messy boy

Enjoy!  Let me know how it turns out for you, and how you served it.

Printable version: Cincinnati Chili Mac

Linked to:

Gluten-Free Wednesdays


Freedom to Obey

If you read my last post, you can probably tell that we need to work on some practical changes to our daily lives.  The Lord has also been convicting me of some new ways that I can seek to obey Him.

ducks in a row

To be honest, I can sometimes be afraid of “getting it together,” because I tend to idolize having all my ducks in a row.  You know what, though?  My sin isn’t in trying to change, it is in why I want to change.

If I want to reform my life to feel better about myself, or to control my circumstances, or to somehow improve my standing before God…change is worthless.

If I am keenly aware that my righteousness is solely found in Christ, regardless of my failures or successes, I have freedom to change without the burden of being perfect.

When we are rooted in the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ, we can obey the Lord out of love and gratefulness, not begrudging obligation or self-righteous morality.

So, as I make some changes and seek to restructure a few things, I pray that the Lord will help me remember to keep my confidence in Christ, not in myself.  And, if my confidence is in Him, my world won’t come crashing down when I fail.  In fact, those very failures will give me opportunity to point to Him.  “Jesus, all for Jesus.  All I am, and have, and ever hope to be.”

photo credit


Today I have been plagued by the infernal question “when?”.

question markphoto credit

When will I be better, better?

When will I be able to eat dairy (and chocolate) again?

When will our daughter stop coloring on the darn walls?

When will we remember to deposit checks before we really need the money?

When will our son stop breaking things?

When will I get dressed before noon?

When will I get caught up on the laundry?

When will the girl start pooping on the potty?

When will I finish unpacking from our move (that was 8 months ago)?

When will my body get the message that I’m getting nutrients now and I don’t need to keep *ahem* “storing up for winter”?

When will I make the bed before 6 pm?

When will I know what I’m making for dinner before 5?

When will I return the library books on time?

When will my email inbox not be a pit of unread emails?

When will I only have to fold each load of laundry once before it gets put away?

When will I be able to see the surface of my desk?

For that matter…When will I be able to see the floor?


Many experienced mothers will tell me that (most of) these things are temporary, that they come with this season of small children, and that I might even *miss* them one day.  I’m not sure if I believe them, though.  😉

You know what I need to believe, though?

My hope isn’t in any of these things changing.

My hope is in Jesus.

He died for me when I was still a sinner.  When I was in my pajamas, with a gigantic pile of dishes, folding that shirt for the fourth time, cleaning up the shards of a broken lamp, and soaking toddler underwear to get the poop out…Jesus died to pay for my bad attitude.

I absolutely need to keep working on solutions for our daily struggles and problems, and on how I respond to them.  But, I absolutely need to do that remembering that my standing before God is not affected in the least by the state of our house or our lives.

I hope, oh-so sincerely, that many of these things will change.

But you know what?

Even if I am forced to live like this until my dying breath…

God is still faithful.  

The boundary lines have still fallen in pleasant places.  

And, one day, I will still have a beautiful inheritance.

okay…off to reread Psalm 16.

Fakey Maple Syrup

I think we can all agree that real maple syrup is best. Yummy and healthy. BUT, expensive.

Why is it that our options are always two extremes? There’s the best stuff ever, and there’s Mrs. Butterworth’s.

maple sugar buckets

Image courtesy of Julia F.

Anyway, my solution is a halfway maple syrup recipe. Super easy to make, fewer chemicals than store-bought fakey syrup, and way cheaper than the real-deal.

My recipe is based off of this recipe from If it isn’t your speed, look around for others. Not all of the recipes have corn syrup in them–I like using it because it reduces crystallization.

Homemade Pancake Syrup

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp maple flavoring
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix sugars in a heavy-bottomed pot.

sugars in pot

Add corn syrup and water. Mix well

uncooked syrup in pot

Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until thickened.

You will know it’s done when the level has come down like this.

reduced syrup

Remove from heat. Add maple and vanilla. Let cool.

maple and vanilla extracts

Homemade syrup is typically stored in the refrigerator. I have the most recent batch in the cupboard with no problems. Because I reduced the corn syrup and cooked it longer, it resulted in a much thicker syrup (yum!) that gets too thick in the fridge. One less thing in the refrigerator and to heat up for meals is fine by me!

finished syrup

Let me know if this halfway solution works for your family too. 🙂

Own Me

Music for your Monday…

This song is on repeat at my house today.

Such a beautiful prayer, which I identify with so strongly.  I hope it encourages you too!

You can also listen to the song on youtube.

Own Me, by Ginny Owens
Got a stack of books so I could learn how to live;
Many are left half-read, covered by the cobwebs on my shelf.
And I got a list of laws growing longer everyday;
If I keep pluggin’ away, maybe one day I’ll perfect myself.

Oh, but all of my labor seems to be in vain;
And all of my laws just cause me more pain;
So I fall before You in all of my shame;
Ready and willing to be changed

Own me, take all that I am,
and heal me with the blood of the Lamb.
Mold me with Your gracious hand;
Break me till I’m only Yours-
Own me

You call me Daughter,
And You take my blame;
And You run to meet me,
When I cry out Your name,
So I fall before You in all of my shame,
Lord, I am willing to be changed

Own me, take all that I am,
and heal me with the blood of the Lamb.
Mold me with Your gracious hand;
Break me till I’m only Yours-
Own me

After You Behaved Like That?

kid with cake

I took the kids on a few errands one day last week.

If you have (or ever had) small children, you can imagine how that played out.

Screaming, mad dashes through the store, throwing fragile items on the floor, tears, more screaming… And the kids were nuts too. 😉

Anyway, both before and during the trip, I had gone out of my way to carefully instruct my 3 year-old daughter about the behavior that I expected from her. In turn, she had carefully gone out of her way to defy my every direction.

As we left the final store, this is the dialogue that took place.

Daughter: “Now can we go to McDonald’s for a special treat, Mommy?”

Johanna to self: “Ummm…you expect a treat after that?”

Johanna to Daughter: “How can you even ask for a treat when you’ve been disobedient?”

Conscience to Johanna: “Because you never do that, right?” (yes, even my conscience is sarcastic)

Legalist that I am, I was initially condemned that I pray for things even when my ducks aren’t all in row.

But, then the Lord reminded me that He delights to bless and provide for His children, regardless of our sins.

After all, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

When I refuse my children’s requests, may it be because I want to lovingly teach them…not because I’m indignant that they are asking for treats while sinning.

And, when I am enjoying the blessing of the Lord, may I remember that I haven’t earned it. He delights to give me treats–even when I am straight-up sinning.

Celiac Disease

Since today is Celiac Awareness Day, it seemed a fitting time for me to blow the dust off my computer and blog about what’s been going on with me during the last couple of months.

By July, my illness was not improving much, despite a few new treatments and medications. Some days I simply battled exhaustion and minor neurological difficulties. Other days, I could barely walk because of numbness and pain. I had severe insomnia, and my exhaustion worsened.

I began looking into the processes of obtaining a handicap parking permit and a wheelchair. I researched the possibility of a chair lift for the stairs in my home. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I saw very little hope that my health would ever improve significantly. My goal became finding ways to cope and make life as normal as possible for my husband and children.

My neurologist and I eventually came to the conclusion that I had fibromyalgia. I started on yet another prescription medication, and went to a rheumatologist whom a friend had recommended. The rheumatologist agreed that my symptoms fit with fibromyalgia, and also diagnosed me with hypermobility, which was adding strain to my joints and compounding the problem. She ran a bunch of blood tests to make sure that there were no underlying issues, and prescribed a new round of physical therapy to treat the hypermobility.

Two weeks later I went back to get my blood test results and to develop a treatment plan for the fibromyalgia. I just about fell out of my chair when she told me I had Celiac Disease. My recent miscarriage and a few relatively minor digestive issues made her suspicious enough to run the test, even though I don’t fit the (stero)typical symptoms of Celiac.

Celiac Disease causes an auto-immune reaction to gluten–a plant protein in wheat, barley, rye, and most oats. It damages your intestines and, among other things, impairs your ability to absorb nutrients from food. I had become malnourished, and therefore so low in certain vitamins that my neurological system wasn’t able to function properly.

I began a gluten free diet just over a month ago. I still can’t believe what a difference it’s made. I started seeing improvement within a few days. Now, my neurological symptoms are virtually gone, my energy is returning, and I am able to sleep at night. By all indications, I will continue to improve over the next several months.

I am so thankful to God that He revealed the cause of my illness, and is healing me from it. I am very aware that I could have continued to live this way. His mercy is overwhelming.

Almost 5 months ago, I was told I would need surgery on my spinal cord. If that was true, He would have been faithful. If I had multiple sclerosis, He would have been unchanging. If I had brain tumors, He would have been kind. But, I have Celiac Disease, and I can clearly see His mercy and grace.

Since Celiac is genetic, my family is going through testing as well. Two members of my family have already had positive results, and given certain family “traits,” I wouldn’t be surprised if several others are diagnosed as well.

In honor of Celiac Awareness Day, please read the Celiac Symptoms Checklist and see if these symptoms are ones you or a loved one suffer from.

My gastroenterologist said that about 1 in 100 people have Celiac. However, it is grossly under-diagnosed. The treatment is entirely dietary, so pharmaceutical companies don’t develop awareness like many other diseases. If you even wonder if you could have Celiac…get the blood test. I don’t even fit the checklist above, but my result was through the roof.

Thanks for reading. I should be “seeing” you around more now that I’m feeling better.


Dinner Halfway

I’ve written about this before. I love to cook. I am convinced that making meals from scratch using whole foods is the best thing for my family’s health and pocketbook. But, I can’t do it 365 nights a year. Who am I kidding–I can’t do it 7 days a week!

delivery pizza

Sometimes the Lord places us in extended seasons where we can’t keep up with our self-imposed standards. I find myself in one now. I think that God would be most glorified and my family would be best served if I could do it all. Obviously, He knows otherwise. Somehow, His power is being made perfect in my weakness.

So, instead of having a self-condemnation party, I’m trying to figure out how to make the best of this and glorify the Lord where He’s got me.

If I cook the way I want to cook, I end up too exhausted to clean up the dishes or do much of anything for a couple of days. Then we end up heading to the drive-through, and those are not even close to our house!

I’m trying to implement the halfway theory to my meals. If I use semi-prepared foods for some parts of my meal, and make other parts from scratch, it seems to be a pretty good happy medium for us.

Yesterday, I picked up a rotisserie chicken and foccacia from Sam’s club, and roasted fresh asparagus to go with it. It was delicious, relatively inexpensive, and I’m not dead from it today.

Tonight’s dinner is a crockpot chuck roast, instant mashed potatoes, and a microwave veggie pouch. I hate instant mashed potatoes, but real ones are probably too much. …That, and I just opened my potato bin that I stocked before I got sick, and there are quite a few rotten ones in there. Barf.

True story: I just burned the potato buds while writing this post!

I’m finding more and more that I need to bring out the frozen ravioli instead of the bread machine. And you know what? It won’t kill my kids, it won’t make me a bad mother, or a failure as a wife. It may make me a less happy foodie, but if I have the energy to match some of that sock mountain after dinner, it’s worth it.

Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked, come to Thee for dress. Helpless look to Thee for grace. To Thy fountain, Lord I fly. Wash me, Savior, or I die.

What are your favorite “halfway” dinners? Do you have any other “just getting by” suggestions? About anything? I’m flying by the seat of my pants these days. 😉

Social Networking

I’ve recently joined a couple places where you can follow me and this blog if you’re interested.

Facebook — Worth Doing Halfway

Twitter — @JohannaHalfway

My Tweets should also be linked in the sidebar of the blog. Still trying to figure out if WordPress will let me do that for Facebook.

As before, you can subscribe to the blog by email in the sidebar.

Thanks to all of my readers for following along and sharing life with me. “See” you soon!

When Momma Ain’t Healthy…

Please tell me I’m not the only one whose house starts looking like this when you’re ill!

MESSY family room

AND, a close-up of the damage… Yes, those are the remnants of a brand-new box of tissues.

close-up of mess

Incidentally, 3 year-olds can be brilliant…

ice cube tray with beads in it

We recently got an icemaker (YAY!), so the kids have absconded with the old ice trays. They work SO well for sorting beads. We’ve tried egg cartons, but the 18 month old likes to destroy those. :-\ Leave it to a 3 year-old (actually, not even 3) to come up with this great idea!

Happy Tuesday, everybody!