october is for ohio and chili (recipe included)

Living in DC for a little over two months has been an adventure. I never pictured myself living anywhere other than an Ohio suburb, and adjusting to the city life has been an adjustment of the best variety. AB and I have discovered that our lifestyle is well-suited for city living. As much as we love our new home here, many pieces of our hearts are back in Ohio. Thankfully, we’re a manageably short drive away, and we have plans to visit often (and have been back twice already). That doesn’t stop us from missing people, of course.

One of the people we miss most is “our Gary.” It’s weird describing Gary to people who don’t have the background story because, technically, we’re not related, and calling him my late mom’s boyfriend in the past tense is a long and awkward description. But Gary, for me, is the dad I never hadthe father figure everyone deserves. He’s like a second father to AB as well. Gary and AB both love manly things like football, golf, and technology, and they often enjoy long talks full of both laugher and advice. Gary loves cooking and Pottery Barn, and I, too, adore cooking and Pottery Barn. He is like our best friend/might-as-well-be-dad and pretty much the best. Ever. Plain and simple.

This past weekend, AB and I packed up our weekender bags and our dog, Ari, and headed back to Ohio for a long weekend to visit loved ones and celebrate our alma mater’s homecoming. We stayed with Gary, and in exchange for his hospitality, he requested only one thing: my chili.

I’ve been asked for my chili recipe on a couple of occasions, and I’ve never shared it. It’s a recipe that I played with one chili season (chili season is the period of time that spans fall and winter, duh) and eventually perfected with the help of taste testers like AB and Gary. I’ve been making the perfect version for about four years now. Yes, I called it perfect. Disclaimer: I will toot my own horn when it deserves to be tooted.


Bean = good. beans = bad.

I hate beans, so this chili is bean-free. I do love Bean, our cat, though.

Trust me, this chili is so meaty and spicy and PERFECT, that even the beaniest bean-lover won’t miss the beans.

This chili is pretty laborious as far as recipes go, and I use a lot of different peppers and spices to make it. Prep time is maybe an hour or so if you manage your time well, and simmer time is 2-3 hours depending on how long you can wait to eat. So, I will stop guarding this recipe with my life, and share it with all those brave enough to take on the chili-crafting challenge. If you make it, I’d love to hear how it goes for you! It’s worth the time and effort, I promise. I dream of one day entering it in some huge, world-famous chili cook-off and winning millions of dollars and/or bragging rights.

I made this batch at Gary’s house, so I was a little out of the element of my own kitchen, but the batch was as delicious as ever.

Pepper Fest Chili

(I don’t really call it that, but it seems like a fitting name for a chili with lots of peppers.)


  • 2 TBS bacon grease (or olive oil if you don’t want to be awesome)
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter
  • 2 large onions (white or yellow) – chopped
  • 2 large red bell peppers – chopped
  • 3 jalapenos – seeded and minced
  • 3 Poblano peppers – roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 3 Anaheim chiles – roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1-2 habanero chiles (using 2 makes chili VERY spicy) – roasted, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1 whole head of garlic – minced
  • 2 lb. trimmed, cubed boneless chuck (many butchers/meat counters at groceries sell pre-cubed chuck for stews)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. bulk mild Italian sausage (not in links)
  • 2 TBS chili powder
  • 1 TBS Ancho chili powder
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce (I use Contadina brand)
  • 1 12-oz can tomato paste (Contadina, again)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 12-oz bottle of lager beer


To make things easier on yourself later on, I suggest mixing all of the spices together in a small bowl so you can dump them all in together at once when the time is right (chili powder through coriander on the ingredients list).

Next, you’ll want to roast, seed, peel, and chop your Poblanos, Anaheims, and habanero. Be very careful while handling peppers, especially the habanero. Brush any kind of oil on the skin of the chiles, and places them on a baking sheet. Broil on HIGH until skins are charred (black). Be sure to flip chiles.

Once nice and charred, use tongs to place chiles in a sealed plastic bag or tupperware, and let them sweat for about 15 min. Once nice and sweaty (the chiles, not you), peel the skin off the Anaheims and Poblanos under cold water, removing seeds. Use gloves or two forks to peel and remove seeds from habanero. Then, chop those suckers.

Le Creuset stock potNow, melt bacon grease (or olive oil only if you imagine me “booing” you) and butter over HIGH heat in large stock pot. I use a trusty Cherry-red beauty from my favorite French cookware line, Le Creuset, for all my chili needs.

Add onions, red bell pepper, jalapenos, and roasted chiles to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally about 8-10 minutes.

Add your minced garlic (yes, I use a whole head of garlic, and you should too if you love garlic and hate vampires), and cook about a minute longer until fragrant.

Add 2 lbs. of chuck, stir, and let the meat brown. Should take about 5 minutes or so with the lid on.

Turn heat to MEDIUM HIGH, and add bulk Italian sausage and ground beef. Carefully stir to not break it up too much.

Pop the lid back on, and let the meat cook through (10-12 min). (CONFESSION: I first typed “poop” when I meant to type “pop” and strongly considered not even making the correction. This will surprise no one that knows me even a little bit.)

Once all the meat seems browned, add all the dry spices to the pot, and combine. Let cook 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and tomato paste, stir, and let cook about 5 min.

Stir in chicken stock.

Now it’s beer time. In the ingredients, I mentioned one 12-oz bottle of beer. You should really have two here. One for the chili and one for you. You deserve it.

Give the pot a good stir, and reduce heat to let the chili simmer for at least two hours.

I like to serve my chili with freshly-grated extra sharp cheddar, chopped white and green onions, guacamole, and crackers. (I hope when you enjoy cheese at home, you enjoy it the way God intended by grating it yourself.) The guacamole is very cooling and goes great with chili if you’ve never tried it. If I’m making chili for a crowd, I’ll serve up hotdogs and grilled buns as well (AB’s favorite). Below are some shots of a chili dinner I made here in our apartment in DC about a month ago for friends, right at the beginning of chili season. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was still about 80 degrees out when I made my first batch this year, but we were watching football. There’s just something about chili and football. Until next time!

the first of many

Let me start by explaining the name of this blog. Food, Felines, and Formalities. These are a few of my favorite things (alongside alliteration, clearly). I brainstormed countless titles for this blog since I’ve wanted to start one for a long time. I landed on Food, Felines, and Formalities because of the memorable quality alliteration lends AND because so many of my favorite things about life start with the letter ‘f.’ Food, felines, formalities, family, friends, fashion, Frasier, fall, football… I’ll end the list there in the interest of being polite and keeping things PG.

You’ve stumbled upon my inaugural blog post. Chances are, you already know me since I’m guessing only my husband and a handful of kind friends will read this in its entirety. For your time and interest, I thank you! If this post has seeped out into the blogosphere and is being read by a curious stranger, let me tell you a bit about myself.

My name is Ris. It’s actually Marisa, but Ris started as a nickname used primarily by my mother and since has become the single-syllable representation of friendship and closeness for me since nearly all of the people I love most call me Ris. For my late, great mother, Ris was short for Rissy Roo which was far more embarrassing when I was younger, but it’s a nickname that has lived on through several family members to whom I’ll always be Rissy Roo. For that (and for them), I’m grateful.  Plus, people tend to add an extra ‘s’ to Marisa, and the misspelling of my name as MarisSa irrationally makes me want to punch, kick, scream, slap, etc. despite the fact that I know it is in no way meant to offend.

Ari, my KeeshondI am currently 26-years-young [EDIT: 28 now], and I am married to a handsome, brilliant, and humble man named Alex. I’ll call him AB from here on out. He is joy personified. I could gush, but I genuinely want people to keep reading my blog so I’ll save it for later. We are the proud fur parents of three cats named Bean, Lucy, and Tom. Tom is a girl. Our fourth “child” is a beautiful dog named Ari. I do not know much about dog breeds, but Ari is a Keeshond. Keeshond = fur + smiles.

I grew up in a smallish town called Springfield, Ohio. I lived and loved in that town for 24 years. I went to college in that town and experienced my life’s greatest triumphs and tragedies up to this point there. In the most sentimental of senses, it will always be home. I lost my mom to cancer in 2012 and married AB in 2013. I’m no stranger to ups and downs. AB and I built a beautiful house outside of Dayton, Ohio before the wedding, and we lived there blissfully for a little under two years.

Then, we decided to shake things up, packed up our animals, and moved to a fabulous and cozy apartment in Washington, DC. AB had an incredible career opportunity, and I had a mini-epiphany which gave me the courage to recognize that home is wherever he is. It was a difficult decision accompanied by hundreds of discussions, lots of thinking, and the constant weighing of pros and cons. The fact that DC is only a 7-hour drive back to family in Ohio definitely made it easier (we actually love road trips). Ultimately, we decided we have enough confidence in the lasting quality of the relationships that are most important to us, and we made the move. It’s only been a couple of months, but so far the move has treated us very well, indeed. The city life has been suiting us just fine. I recently obtained a new job here as well. My previous professional experience included about a year with a digital marketing company. I enjoyed my time there and met people I will miss working with for a long time. However, I really wanted to get into editing, and somehow, some way, I landed an editorial job here in the city. Yay! [EDIT: LOVED D.C. and our time there so much, but we are now living in Waynesville, Ohio. We built another house, and this one took about a year to build. I still work for the company I joined while living in D.C. and have since grown professionally. We also made two wonderful friends in D.C. who we’re still blessed to have in our lives. We miss D.C. and still enjoy visiting (and always will), but we missed our loved ones in Ohio so much, and we unfortunately lost AB’s mother while we were living in D.C., so we decided Ohio is where we need, want, and love to be for now.]

So that’s some info about me. My blog posts won’t always be me talking about myself, I promise. Just this first one. For a little bit more about me and this blog, click here. To find out why you should come back and read later, click here. To see one of my all-time favorite cat videos ever, click here. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!