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2011 15 August


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2011 15 August

Chili cookoff administration

onion love
I have a hard time writing about this year’s bocce chili cook off because, well, I wasn’t there.

Driving, flying, delayed, working, etc.
The delay in Chicago (Hey, Chicago, you’ve had 100% delays or cancellations for my last NINE flights through you. WARNING.) caused me to miss the whole dang event.

So, I ain’t done nothing.

This year, the lady behind this chili cook off success was Katie.
Katie ran this mother, she organized, she executed, she crafted, she celebrated.
This was Katie’s party.

Katie and me!
This photo is from the Lobster feed.

I did some half-hearted blog posts and flew out of the country.
I could stand to learn a thing or two about throwing my own parties.
Katie’s the lady.

Also with Katie, was Natalie.
Natalie’s with the Wine Sisterhood, if you’re reading this site, I’m sure you know all about it.

Thanks to The Spit Bucket for the photo.

Natalie decorated, documented and shined this event up with her sleeve.
And then returned to kick some butt on the courts.

I rolled in at 8:45pm, exhausted, stinky and slightly grumpy.
Still, buoyed by the spirits of an electric court, having missed the whole dang party.

There’s always next year.

King Bean

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2011 14 August


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2011 12 August

Chili cook off link

Anne from the Spit Bucket wrote a great post about last night’s chili cook off.

That Anne, she’s a goodie.

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2011 10 August

How to rehydrate dried peppers

If you want award winning chili, you need award winning chiles.
If fresh won’t work due to your location or the heat, consider rehydrating dried peppers for pureeing in the food processor.

Put as many dried chiles as you need for the recipe in a bowl that’s heatproof.
Pour boiling water on top of them. They will try to float, but you can float a heatproof plate on top of the chili water to hold the chili down. Put on a pair of rubber gloves (try to get a pair of surgical gloves)

Wearing the gloves, pull off the stem from each softened pepper and tear open the pepper. Scrape out all the seeds with your fingers or the edge of a spoon.

Then put your pepper pod into a food processor along with some liquid.
Puree on medium speed.

You can then press the puree through a sieve to remove any unwanted seeds or to get a finer texture.

Now you have chile goo that packs a powerful pow.

With this goo, you can also make a potent spicy chili sauce for tacos and enchiladas by pureeing rehydrated chilies with some soaking water, a clove of garlic and salt.

Add oregano and cumin if that’s your inclination.
You’ll end up with a more complex flavor.
Like you.
Complex and flavorful.

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2011 5 August

Chili cookoff week

Yeah, I know I’ve been silent lately.
I started my fancy pants new real job this week.

Don’t worry, it’s a temporary silence.
We have some parties to talk about.

This week is the FIFTH annual bocce chili cookoff.
My co-host Katie made a sweet graphic for the event.

We’re putting together our favorite tips for years past.

A few years ago I put together some of my favorite tips for hosting a chili cookoff.

1. Have plenty of electricity available.
2. Have plenty of table space available.
3. Come prepared with awards for participants to circle and eagerly anticipate.
4. Have a partner or two to help cover all the bases.
5. Make sure there’s a hard tasting cut off time to allow vote counting.
6. Let guests vote via the bean method.
7. Have a prepared space for guests to label their chili.
8. Designate bringing of bowls, spoons and chili fixins.
9. Find someone with a big voice to announce the winners.
10. Don’t forget to photograph the winners.

Chili Queen and King

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2011 25 July

Helen Jane Surprise!

(This week I’ll be posting more slow cooker entertaining ideas, but wanted you to hear about my glorious bocce birthday party first. Glorious.)

Can you believe my team did this for me?
The decor, the food, the styling?

SUPER party!

All this.
They surprised me by changing the bocce theme to
“Foods that remind you of Helen Jane.”

Birthday Bocce


Champagne cake!

They wrapped shrimp in bacon. They made cocktails from Morimoto’s cookbook. They brought pizza and sushi and some flipping amazing egg salad/smoked salmon toasts.

Birthday bacon

We may have lost all three games, but one team member couldn’t stop grinning.

I mean, peppered salami and sliced cucumber?

Best ever.


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2011 18 July

Swiss banner how-to

Close up banner

My friend Bird is headed to Switzerland next year for her Junior year of high school. Her insurance, her flight, her prep, it’s all more expensive than anyone thought. So those of us that love her, help her throw fund raisers, find families to babysit for and projects for her to raise the money herself.

This year, she threw a bocce tournament. We met at the park, made some teams, ate some food provided by Bird’s family and paid for the honor. There was a DJ, there was hugging, there was a megaphone.

And lots of fun.

My contribution was a banner that looked like the Swiss flag to hang at the courts.

1 length 7/8″ grosgrain ribbon – I bought this cream ribbon from Uline and have been very impressed with the quality.
As many pieces card stock as you’d like to make flags out of – I used this card stock from Amazon. It was hearty enough to handle the wind and easy enough to cut
Thread in a complimentary color to your flags
Exacto knife
Sewing machine

Cut the card stock into half.

Cut out the design in the middle that you’d like. I cut out a cross shape to look like the Swiss flag. You could probably handle something more complicated.

Pin the ribbon to the card stock flags all the way down the length. You could measure it, but I just used my eyeballs. I folded the ribbon lengthwise down the length of the flag.

Set your sewing machine to zigzag.
It’s the funnest.

Sew down the length of the ribbon, attaching the ribbon to the paper flags all the way down as far as you’re going.

Hang where it pleases you.
I know we did.

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2011 15 July

Tweet RoundUp

Tweets are in reverse order!
Some day I’ll rectify that.

  • Breakfast for dinner
  • I had a feeling that you needed a go-to Sloppy Joe recipe this month. I was right, wasn’t I?…
  • If your meat (for the slow cooker) is bigger than a few lbs, cut in pieces, so the meat’s middle will reach a safe temperature earlier.
  • This post,, with entertaining recipes for your slow cooker makes the point better than I ever could.
  • Newer models of slow cookers cook hotter than older ones. Double check your cook times depending on the age of your cooker.
  • Some recipes say: cook the meat on high for an hour and then set low. This lets the heat get through the cut of meat to kill any bacteria
  • Don’t get over confident, burning and overcooking can still happen in a slow cooker.
  • This week’s bocce theme is “Super Fancy and Expensive.” I’m not sure how expensive I can go, but Super Fancy I can do.
  • Slow cooker have an insert? Mix ingredients in the insert, chill, and sleep, dreaming of the yay meal you’ll have at the end of the night.
  • Want to see the presentation I did for #EVOConf again? I posted the slides for your enjoyment:…
  • Overcooking and even burning are possible in a slow cooker, so test for doneness close to the time given in the recipe.
  • I’m all about the slow cooker this week, for reasons soon to be made clear. Enjoy my clever little slow cooker tips, why don’t you?
  • @TheCanyons Sure was! He’s a new man. Seriously.
  • This internet conference environment made me realize we’re just babies in all of this, let’s give ourselves a break! (5/5) #evoconf
  • Thanks to a long-ass massage at @thecanyons, @screenburn pledged to take better care of his body. (4/5) #evoconf
  • Meeting Elmo thanks to @sesamestreet made my children listen to me for at 20 minutes more than usual #evoconf
  • At #evoconf, my favorite sponsor was @naturespath, whose snacks I wouldn’t have tried otherwise and my children now eat exclusively. (2/5)
  • I didn’t update much from #evoconf what with the hugging and the meeting. But I wanted to make sure I mentioned a few things (1/5)
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2011 14 July

Helen Jane Makes Sloppy Joes

this is a good sloppy joe

How long has it been since you had a good sloppy joe?
Ten years? Fifteen? Are you telling me you’ve NEVER HAD A GOOD SLOPPY JOE?

Sloppy Joes are good for big groups, they’re semi-customizable and they have a surprisingly complex flavor.

Fire up your slow cooker, buy some processed, whitebread buns, American cheese and enjoy some Lay’s potato chips, utterly unironically.

1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork
(if you don’t feel like buying two meats, just buy 1.5 pounds of ground beef, life is hard enough as it is)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped fine
Couple, two three celery ribs, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
Two 6 ounce or one 12 ounce can of tomato paste
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Hot sauce to taste
American cheese
Hamburger buns

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat, squirt some oil in there too. Put the meat, onion, bell pepper and celery in that previously mentioned skillet.

When the meat is brown and the onions are see-through (seven, eight minutes?), slop it all into your slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients from garlic on down. Stir it until it looks like, well, sloppy joe mixture.

Cover and cook on low for as long as you’re going to need it.

If you’re cooking in a dutch oven or pan, preheat the oven to 300° F. Brown the meat like I told you before, add the rest of the ingredients and stick that ovenproof sloppy joe pan into the oven for three to four hours.

And I can’t stress this strongly enough:

This must be served with those thin, crisp potato chips and white buns. Whole wheat doesn’t work, Kaiser buns won’t work, I’m talking get-squished-behind-your-teeth white buns.

Same thing with potato chips. I’m as big a fan of Kettle Chips as the next guy, but they just don’t go with sloppy joes.

Dig? Good.

It’s great for bocce, great for a party and hasn’t been exploited by those more ironic than me. Make sloppy joes today and the world will be much, much better.

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