I though I’d give you an update about what’s been going on in my world for the past few weeks.

My brother, Bobby Barker, was in visiting for just over three weeks during the month of October. He lives in Arizona, and he only comes in to visit every other year. Needless to say, we always have a lot of catching up to do, and those three weeks were over like a blink of the eye.

Bobby hasn’t lived here since 1967 when he was drafted. Even though time and distance have separated us, our love for each other bonds us as though we’ve never been apart. He spent twenty-five years in the Army before retiring in Arizona.

What did we do for three weeks? Well, we ate, we talked, we laughed, and we visited our mother in the nursing home. Then we repeated the whole thing over and over again.

On his first Saturday here, we drove over to Pressman’s Home to the Friends and Family Reunion that was held in the old dairy barn. We got to meet some family we had never met, visit with old friends that I hadn’t seen for years, and finally pay a visit to the Barker cemetery where our grandfather, great grandfather, and great grandmother are buried. We had tried to find the cemetery on our own but failed. Thanks to good friends Tommy Burton and son Greg for showing us the way. It was a great event, and I hope to attend this event again.

When Bobby is here on my birthday every other year, he always takes me out to eat at the Gosh Ethiopian Restaurant in Knoxville. My son also went with us. We had such a great time, and the food was excellent.

On another day, we all three went to Ridgewood Barbecue in Bluff City. That is right at the top of my list of favorite places to eat. We went on a Wednesday, and it was 1 a.m. I couldn’t believe there was no line, and there were actually plenty of parking spaces.

We ate at the Dairy Dream in Bulls Gap one evening, and ran into my neighbor and friend Harry Burton. Bobby had two bowls of their wilted lettuce, and even got another bowl later to take home!

After our meal at the Dairy Dream, we drove to Greeneville to pick up a computer he had left at a computer shop. Then I got him lost on the back roads of Greene County. Ha! We had to use his GPS to find civilization again!

The place we ate at the most was Church Hill Diner. Although he hasn’t lived here for many years, he has never lost his love for good home-style food. That’s exactly what they offer, and plenty of it. We met the owners Paul and his wife Julia. They are such terrific folks. My brother even proposed to Julia with a ring box with a Life Saver© in it! Julia and Paul both got a real kick out of that. My brother is such a joker, you never know what he’s going to do next.

He also got to eat out with some of his old friends John Wilder, Jim Biggs and his cousin Paul Davis. I know they all had a good time. They always get together when Bobby is here.

We had such a good time, but it is always so hard to see him leave. I went home with him in 1998 when I was laid off from my job. That was the longest we’ve been together since he left home in 1967. We had a ball. We went to one huge estate sale that neither one of us will ever forget.

Since we both share a love for eating, and we both love chili, I’m sharing chili recipes today. I had hoped to share his own chili recipe, but I couldn’t lay my hands on it. He used to attend chili cookoffs in Arizona, and came up with his own recipe. It’s a good one. I will find it some time, and share it with you. Two of the chili recipes are for white chili which uses chicken. If you’ve never tried white chili, it’s something different. I like it for a change occasionally.

As always, enjoy!

Hint: When making any recipe of chili, place a whole jalapeno on top and leave until chili is cooked. This will add a good flavor to any chili without making it too hot. Only the oil from the jalapeno will go into the chili. Remove jalapeno with a spoon before serving. Maybe a brave soul will want to eat it!

Texas Chili

You will notice this recipe doesn’t contain any beans. No self-respecting Texan will put beans in their chili (or at least they won’t own up to it.)

4 pounds chili-ground beef (course ground)

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1 teaspoon cumin seed

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 16-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, crushed or 2 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, diced

2 cups hot water

2 green bell peppers, chopped

3 large red and 3 large yellow sweet peppers, chopped

2-3 jalapenos, to taste

Salt, to taste

Put the chili meat, onion and garlic in a large heavy boiler or skillet. Sear until light colored. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes and hot water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer about an hour. As fat cooks out, skim off. Add the peppers and salt, to taste, and cook for 15 minutes. Makes 9 large bowls of chili.

White Chili

1 pound dried great northern beans–soaked overnight

6 cups chicken broth

2 cloves garlic

1 onion–chopped

4 chicken breasts–cooked and cubed

½ teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

2 cans chopped green chiles

Salt to taste

Drain white beans after soaking, add chicken broth, garlic and onion. Cook until tender (about 1 ½ to 2 hours). Add remaining ingredients. Cook and simmer for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour. Can be served with guacamole, chopped tomatoes, onions, sour cream, tortilla chips or cornbread.

White Chicken Chili

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 4 ounce cans chopped green chiles

16 ounce can great northern beans, rinsed

8 cups chicken broth

1medium jalapeno, sliced

1½ tablespoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

pinch of salt, to taste

small pinch white pepper, to taste

1 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons cornmeal

½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, or to taste

tablespoon sour cream, for garnish

1 sprig chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions

Saute the onions and garlic in a dutch oven over medium-high heat for around 2 minutes.

Add the rinsed beans and chopped green chiles, then pour in the chicken broth.

Add the sliced jalapenos and season with salt, pepper, and cumin.

Cover, turn the heat to low and cook for 2 hours, until the beans are done. Add the 3 cups of cooked chicken halfway through the cooking time.

Once the beans are done, mix the cornmeal with the milk and add it to the chili.

Cook for 10 minutes, until thickened.

Adjust the seasoning to taste, adding cayenne pepper and paprika if required.

Add the desired amount of Monterey Jack cheese to the pot and stir until melted.

Serve in a bowl, garnished with cilantro, sour cream and extra cheese, with rolled up warm corn tortillas on the side. Pico de gallo and guacamole also make great accompaniments, if available.

(PUB. NOTE: Elizabeth loves to hear from readers who have recipes or food-related stories to share. Email her at mammawcas@gmail.com.)