If you’re willing to get a jump on chili season before the hooded sweatshirts come out, you can save a mint due to the glut of local tomatoes.  Just walk into any break room across this great land of ours and nab the bag of tomatoes labeled “TAKE…PLEASE!”    Cut them up and dump them into a pot on top of browned meat of your choice and an onion.    Add half a bag of dried beans you soaked overnight.

Congratulations, you’re eating for a week for no money and didn’t get carpal tunnel opening a dozen tin cans.

Puns aside, could you the good reader provide me with a definitive answer as to when chili season begins? I once thought it coincided with flannel and football. I’ve heard it is once temperatures drop below freezing at night.

cheeleeRegardless, we’re clearly mired in the best time of year for the crock pot/stock pot dish. A new book just came out on the subject.

It has infinite possibilities outside the loosely-structured base ingredients. Ever had mushroom chili…white chili? Ever made a pot on Sunday and coasted through the week on the stuff?

While you’re pondering your ingredient list for your next batch, stew (wocka wocka) on these fun chili facts:

1) competition chili does not permit the addition of beans

2) Cedar Rapids, IA has a chili festival every year with hundreds of entries. I’d like a commitment to that as my “Davenport Promise”

New England Soup Factory CookbookJust in case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been having a dozy of a winter with rain, freezing rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures all making headlines. And, I hate to be the one to tell you this but warmer temperatures are still a few weeks away for the Midwest.

What better time for the warmth and comfort of homemade soup? The New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker will provide you with dozens of ideas. Soups as varied as “Wild Mushroom and Barley” and “Curried Crab and Coconut” as well as familiar favorites such as “New England Clam Chowder” will inspire you. Luscious photos may tempt you to chew on the pages (please don’t) and the stories of the restaurant (a long-time favorite located in Boston) will keep you entertained.

It just might be enough to get you through those last few weeks of cold and snow.