Chili and Rice, REINVENTED

Chili and Spaghetti SquashHawaii… the land of loco moco, spam musubi, and chili and rice. What?? You didn’t know about the chili and rice? When I lived in Honolulu in the early 90’s, my host family introduced it to me, and I have to admit, I thought it was a bit strange. Come to find out, chili and rice was super popular at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Zippy’s and the local plate lunch icon, Rainbow Drive-In. The health food store near my home called Down to Earth, had a small counter where they served up steamy bowls of chili and rice so I tried it. YUM! I was hooked.

Fast forward to lunchtime yesterday. I made chili the day before and pulled it out of the fridge to have along with the leftover rice. But as I was gathering the ingredients, I spied the spaghetti squash I had roasted sitting in the fridge next to the rice. Hmmm… certainly a healthier option but what would it taste like? Chili and Spaghetti Squash?? It sort of sounded odd. But those colors WOW – just dynamite together!  I had to try it. And am I ever glad because it was just fantastic! Here’s what I did:


1 yellow onion*, chopped

1 green pepper*, chopped

Salt and pepper

1.3 lbs grass fed ground beef*

1 pkg Carol Shelby’s Chili Mix in the brown box (just the spice mix and cayenne, toss the salt and the masa)

1/2 pkg Senator Goldwater’s chili mix

5 cans beans* (I use a combination of pinto, black and kidney)

2 28-oz cans fire roasted tomatoes*

Directions: In large dutch oven, brown onions and pepper with salt and pepper until translucent. Add beef and cook until done.  Add remaining ingredients, stir and cook for an hour or two. Chili is best the next day, so I refrigerate mine and patiently wait.

Spaghetti Squash:

1 medium spaghetti squash*

olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 F. For easy cutting, place the spaghetti squash in the microwave for about 3 minutes on high power. Cut it in half and sprinkle the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place face down on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake about 25 minutes until crisp tender. You don’t want it mushy. Scrape out spaghetti squash with a fork into ribbons.

Here’s how it went in my bowl:

Spaghetti squash


Chipotle flavored Cheddar Cheese, grated

Roasted Salted Pumpkin seeds*

Sour Cream

Salt and Pepper






Is it me, or has the world gone PUMPKIN CRAZY?


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Have you seen the plethora of pumpkin products flooding the market this fall?  It’s overwhelming, right?  They have pumpkin EVERYTHING!  One of my favorite products is the pumpkin butter I found at Central Market here in Houston.  It is made by McCutcheon’s in Frederick, Maryland and is pretty tasty.  But today, in the Houston Chronicle’s Food Section, they had a recipe for Pumpkin Nut Butter, which got me thinking…

Yesterday, I bought kabocha, a Japanese pumpkin.  Have you had Kabocha before?  It is just delicious!  The entire squash is edible, from the dark green outer skin to the brilliant orange flesh, and it is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.  It is also has fewer calories and carbs than most winter squash (sorry, the Registered Dietitian in me is coming out).

Okay… so what if I made Kabocha Butter with it?  Sounds interesting.  Could work.  And this way, I control the sugar content and other ingredients – something I’m not thrilled about with the pumpkin products I see in the stores.  Have you looked at those labels???

So I set my Amazon Prime Music to Uptempo Pop for Work, and hit the kitchen.  I cooked the kabocha the way I always do, which is amazing warm, as a side dish for dinner.  Sometimes I cut it up in a salad, add it to a grilled vegetable panini or just pop it in my mouth cold, right out of the fridge.  Try topping it with a little truffle mayo — oh man!

To prep the Kabocha, I cut it into 1/3 inch slices with my Japanese vegetable knife.  If you don’t have a super sharp knife, then I recommend microwaving the whole squash for a few minutes to soften the skin.  It will cut much easier for you.  Remove the seeds and place the slices in a skillet with a little butter and olive oil (just a tad).  Let the pieces cook until they are soft and also a little charred on the flesh.  You might have to cook them in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan.  Oh, and leave that skin on, it’s good for you!  Taste a piece with a bit of sea salt.  Isn’t it good!?!  When you are done snacking, trim the skin off the pieces you will be using for the kabocha butter.

Kabocha Butter

1 Kabocha, cooked, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces

2 T Maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp allspice

1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice (really just a mixture of the above spices but I threw it in anyway)

1/2 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

Place all ingredients into a VitaMix or food processor and blend until smooth.  The blender had to be stopped many times to push the kabocha down, but eventually it all blended into a nice thick and creamy butter.  If it seems it is too dry, just keep mixing and stirring down.  Eventually it will all come together.  Add more spices and maple syrup to taste.


I immediately tried it on a scoop of 2% Fage Total Greek Yogurt — absolute HEAVEN!


It would also be good on pancakes, toast, muffins, a bagel with cream cheese, any gluten-free product, and even as a topping for an apple.  And truly, it would make a fantastic pie!  That might have to be the pie I make next week for Thanksgiving.

Hope you enjoy!

****FOLLOW-UP: I just grabbed a spoonful as I walked by the fridge, because it is just so darn delicious I can’t stay away. Then I thought I’d do a little taste test with the brand I had on hand from Central Market. Well, folks, there is no comparison. The store bought version tastes awful – it doesn’t even taste like real food. It is super sweet, and looks and tastes like it has thickeners. No, not for me! It’s kung pau chicken, baby!

*The sweet hand made Japanese spoon featured in my post is the last one from a set my dear friend, Amanda, gave to me.  I just found the second to the last one broken in the drawer.  Sadness.  But, fear not, I will turn it into a something good… I decided that the spoon will eventually end up in my sculpture of “Earthquake Girl.”  She was born of the 9.0 earthquake where all of our dishes broken —  and she will be wearing a dress fashioned from the shards.  I picture her carrying the cherry blossom spoon, and although technically not broken in the earthquake, the spoon will serve as a fine remembrance of a friendship that will never break 🙂IMG_5067

#30 Etegami: Warm Memories


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There is nothing like the warmth of a homemade muffin and a cup of coffee pretty much any day of the week – especially if someone else bakes them!  Looking out my daughter’s window on many a day in Stuttgart, I noticed Sam walking to the office with a container of Susan’s yummy muffins to share.  Occasionally, I’d open up the gigantic and fabulously designed German windows we had and Sam would toss a muffin up to me — SCORE!
Susan and Sam were foodies way before the word foodie was ever invented! Dinners at their house were always delicious!  Together, they make a mean pear salad, and, Susan really does make the best muffins!

My last etegami in the 30 days of painting took forever to start.  I procrastinated. I didn’t want my little project to end and I didn’t want to stop painting for Susan.  I enjoyed the connection I felt with her while I was painting, even though she wasn’t with me at all.  In the beginning, when I started the project, I knew that a muffin would be my last painting — it had to be — Susan was FAMOUS for those muffins!  Here is my last painting, an ode to Susan’s Muffins:


#29 Etegami: Where There’s Tea, There’s Hope


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I don’t know about you, but when I sit down with a cup of tea, all seems right with the world. So let there be tea and those moments of stillness. And let there be HOPE and buckets of gold at the end of a rainbow. Hope for the future, hope for a cure, and hope for long lasting love. IMG_3802.JPG

#28 Etegami: Take Chances, Be Brave


Life is all about taking chances and being brave. It’s all easy and good most of the time. But sometimes we have to put on our big girl panties and trudge through even though our stomach is wrenching, our teeth are clenched and our palms are sweaty. And it is there that we find out who we really are, and what we can do.


In this etegami, I used a bamboo stick dipped in ink to make the outline of the vase. Using a stick requires many, many trips to the ink well because the bamboo doesn’t hold much ink. I was able to get fine and rustic lines mimicking the rope handle. I don’t think a brush would have worked as well on that particular detail. The vase came from Kamakura, one of my favorite places in Japan. I purchased it from a Japanese lady who used to have a tiny shop of her handmade pottery on the walking street leading up to the temple. The last time I was there, her shop had been replaced with a waffle shop. I don’t know her story, but I’d like to think she was brave and took a chance and is somewhere else doing something wonderful.

#27 Etegami: I shall not live in vain…


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Our kids were little when we lived in Germany. In those short three years, we acquired many Steiff stuffed animals. The elephant I painted, long tossed from the teenagers rooms, sits in my studio today. As a matter of fact, all but one are in my studio.  

There is an inspiring story behind the creator of these cute animals, too.  Margarete Steiff had polio as an infant and was confined to a wheelchair her entire life.  She began making stuffed animals as a hobby and then, when she realized she would never be cured, she and her sisters turned her hobby into a business.  The very first stuffed animal she created was an elephant 🙂

When I was a little girl, I used to enjoy reading Highlights Magazine at the doctors office. One of my favorite sections (aside from the picture search on the back cover) was the poetry and artwork that accompanied it. Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Shall Not Live In Vain,” must have meant a great deal to me because I still have the clipping to this day.  It seems appropriate with the Steiff elephant, given the history and story behind it.   And, since I lived in Germany with Susan, the recipient of all these etegami post cards, even more relevent.   


#26 Etegami: Cherish Good Things

This past week, I have been blessed with seeing old friends and making some great new friends, too. I love it when there isn’t a moments lapse with a friend I haven’t seen in awhile! And I also really enjoy that rare instant rapport with someone I have just met. A few of those connections made a trip to drop my daughter off at college energizing.
The first one was my daughters dorm roommate’s mom. Wow! If she lived closer, we could really get into trouble!! She is a creative type like me. Oh man, I could learn so much from her!
The second new friend is a gem, too. I actually met her by stalking her husband outside the men’s room. Okay, that sounds really bad… But I overheard him tell someone that he was from Japan just prior to entering the men’s room. It was all I could do not to chase him in, but I refrained. I actually walked away and was out the door to my next event when I stopped myself. I HAD to go back – I couldn’t miss this opportunity. He and his lovely wife were so kind and and gracious. People living overseas tend to bond instantly – I don’t know the psychology of it all, but it’s true. Within two seconds we discovered we had mutual dear friends, sent those friends a selfie, and made plans for dinner so our daughters could meet.


The girls met and mediately connected the dots on other mutual friends, sports and experiences. When I went to Hannah’s dorm later, Mary was sitting at Hannah’s desk. It looks like they are heading down the road to a nice friendship.

While attending the orientation, I had the pleasure of saying near the university at a Tokyo friends home. My sweet friend is like a teddy bear — probably the most kind-hearted and warm person I have ever met. Her smile radiates sunshine, welcoming and love. I enjoyed my time with her so much. We had a blast being creative and coming up with a neat idea for her college daughter’s headboard. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
A week filled with friends, old and new. Definitely cherished time.


#25 Etegami: Life is Short, Live it Well


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This week has been sort of crazy with helping my daughter launch out of the best and into college life. The small private university she choose is quite community oriented and has an intense orientation for the students as well as the parents. As she transitions from our house to the dorm, I have the luxury of staying with a friend who has a home nearby. The view is incredible, the sunshine unlimited, and the genuine kindness overflowing. Last night, after a full day of moving, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond runs, and hundreds of college students screaming their welcomes, I walked into her house to find a bottle of wine, a glass and a sweet note from her. Ahh… treasured friends! In the center of her kitchen island is a huge orchid, the inspiration for this painting. It is so lovely and my artistic rendering hardly does it justice. But the beauty of it is that while I paint, because it is so relaxing and free-form, I retreat into a place in my mind where I solely concentrate on sending good vibrations to Susan.


#24 Etegami: New Beginning


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Ah… There is nothing like waking up in the warmth and beauty of the Southern California sunshine! We are in LA taking our daughter to college, and while she is off surfing, I am painting by the pool in my dear friend’s back yard – and they are off taking their son to college, as well. I’m sad that I won’t see them this trip, but all morning I have been thinking about the wonderful memories and good times we have shared over the last 30 years.

Good friends – really good friends – are a wonderful thing!

And as we both send our children off to college this week, may they meet friends who will look out for them, friends who build them up, friends who are on their side no matter what, friends who will take care of them and support them through thick and thin, and most of all friends who make them laugh! Here is to new beginnings and great friendships!



#23 Etegami: Fall down SEVEN, stand up EIGHT


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Because I missed posting (but not painting) yesterday, there are two posts today…

Proverbs are AWESOME and cut right to the chase.  One of my favorites is “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”  In this proverb (which is a Japanese proverb as well as one from the bible), we learn perseverance.  The daruma is often pictured along with the proverb because it is sometimes referred to as the “Goal Doll.”  In Japan, daurma dolls are often sold without the eyes painted.  Once a person sets a goal, one eye is painted and upon completion of the goal, the other eye is painted.  In this way, one is reminded to finish what they started.  

I have a small collection of daruma on my bookshelf and painted my favorite one today.  He came from the antique market in Yamato City, just outside of Tokyo, where he was hiding at the bottom of a large box.  He was, as we say in Japan, “takai desune,” or expensive, but I just had to have him.  A heavy little guy made of solid wood — love him!  IMG_2354