Food by the Book: Nothing mysterious about Obama's chili

Two comfort foods to beat the winter blues, Andrew Shaffer’s Hot and Bothered Hash Browns for breakfast and Barack Obama’s Chili for dinner.

With hope that January’s dreary weather has passed, a couple of interesting mysteries can keep both adults and children entertained through the month of February. First is Andrew Shaffer’s humorous detective thriller, “Hope Never Dies, An Obama and Biden Mystery,” featuring none other than our 44th president and his former VP sidekick. Joe Biden is feeling a little old and lost, trying to find meaning in honey-do’s and a bowl of ice cream. When longtime acquaintance and Amtrak conductor, Finn Donnelly, is found dead of a supposed suicide on the tracks only a year before retirement, something doesn’t ring true to Amtrak Joe, who rode the train from Delaware every day during his Senate years.

Enter Obama under the subterfuge of night in a bullet-proof black Cadillac Escalade with the Secret Service and a map leading to Biden’s house found at the crime scene. With renewed purpose in life, Biden and Obama team up to uncover the truth about Finn’s death. What ensues is a tongue-in-cheek bromance between the former POTUS and VPOTUS. While there is some mention of the current administration, you don’t have to be a liberal to enjoy the liberal amount of laughter in this outlandish thriller. A sequel will be released in July.

For the younger set, “The House of Dies Drear” is a classic 1967 children’s novel by Virginia Hamilton. It follows the excursions of Thomas, a young African American whose professor father has moved the family from North Carolina to Ohio to live in and research a home that housed the Underground Railroad. Full of secret passages and tunnels, the house holds as much intrigue for Thomas as it does for his father. He is convinced the house is haunted and that its caretaker, Mr. Pluto, is the devil. Hamilton was the first African American author to win the prestigious Newbery Medal for children’s literature. With important history and intriguing mystery, “The House of Dies Drear” is a great read for February’s Black History Month. This is a children’s classic, but adults can learn from it, as well.

Fend off the winter blues with some good comfort food. Andrew Shaffer sent us his recipe for hash browns from the fictitious Waffle Depot where Amtrak Joe assuages his feelings with food. You could also try this interesting version of chili originally attributed to Barack Obama from the cookbook, “A White House Garden Cookbook: Healthy Ideas from the First Family for Your Family” by Clara Silverstein (Red Rock Press, 2010), and readily found on the Internet.

Reach Melony Carey at or (918) 683-3694.

Hot and Bothered Hash Browns

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup shredded hash brown

1/4 cup fully-cooked diced ham

1/2 tablespoon diced jalapeno

2 tablespoons diced onions

1 slice American cheese


Ground black pepper

Heat oil in large skillet using medium-high heat. Cook onions, jalapeño, and ham until onions are soft. Add shredded hash brown into skillet evenly. Cover with lid and let brown (approximately 5-10 minutes, to taste). Flip and press with wide spatula. Place cheese on top and let melt (approximately 30 seconds). Season with salt and ground black pepper. Makes one serving. Multiply as needed!

Barack Obama’s Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 slices thick bacon, roughly chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

Several cloves garlic, chopped

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

4 fresh basil leaves, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried

1 tablespoon chili powder

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 14-ounce can red kidney beans, drained

6 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped

Shredded cheddar cheese (for garnish)

Sour cream (for garnish)

Fritos (for garnish)

White or brown rice for serving

Heat oil over medium heat in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Cook bacon until crisp, remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the remaining oil and fat, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add ground meat to pot and brown. Add spices and herbs, toss with meat and vegetables, then add red wine vinegar and tomatoes. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Add kidney beans and cooked bacon, and cook about 5 minutes more until heated through. Serve with white or brown rice, and top with cheese, sour cream, and crumbled Fritos corn chips. Makes 4 – 6 delicious servings.

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