Beef Chili, For Michelle.


Dancers are their own unique tribe.  I have yet to find out if others do the quirky things we do, but I all I know is that when I am not in the presence of such eccentric individuals, I find myself a little more clothed, and a little more manicured.  When dancers are together we play silly little games, like connecting personalities to food, while writing poetry in our underwear, hoodies, and wool socks (maybe that’s just me.)  Or we act out random news articles, and text from dance wear catalogs, in leo’s and high heels.  We even dream up, and talk about creating elaborate dance videos with swedish meatballs.  That sounds bad, and I probably should not advertise that, but it is the truth.  I love the truth. I am 27 years old, and I still consider this a good time, because as goofy as our games, the substance that weaves in and around our conversations is enough to fill me up until the next reunion, even if it is months, or in the instance of this last weekend, years later.

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Motherhood and Wyoming cannot take the dancer out of me, although sometimes I feel them both trying, begging me to conform and become just a little more “normal.”  When I start to wonder if it is possible to remain true to myself, bold and rooted,  growing more fearless, during the ups and downs of motherhood, I think about my friend Michelle.  I am quickly filled with comfort, colors, and hope that fills the space between my boots, and my brains.


Now, I know everyone has a friend they can probably say this about, but really I assure you, there is NO ONE in the world like Michelle!  If you know her, you are smiling ear to ear, and you know exactly what I mean.  For starters, she has three incredible children named Cinnamon Harry, Rhapsody Godiva, and Cherry Blue.  Yep.  She also has her own language, and luckily for me, I can speak the exact same one.  The woman is bold, and she leaves an impression on you that you just can’t shake.  Her children are already following in her footsteps.  I am fortunate to have been shaped and pruned as a young dancer, and impressionable young adult by this woman.  I am even more fortunate to years later work for, and with her, as we grow a deep friendship that will no doubt last a lifetime.

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Many years ago, while playing my favorite personality food game, I named Michelle, “a hearty beef stew.”  While my intentions were pure, as soon as it left my mouth I wasn’t so sure this sounded like a compliment.  But I was so proud of myself, in fact I thought it was genius.  Michelle is warm, nurturing, comforting, robust, bold, earthy, spicy, honest, and full of substance.  I could not think of another meal more fitting.  Unfortunately, she understood it to be “thick, heavy and fatty.”  I spent the rest of the night, and many years trying to explain why such a dish worked so well for her.  Years later I still stand behind it.  Whether Michelle wants to be or not, she is a rich, fall, stew, or maybe even this beef chili.  Raw cacao, dark beer, espresso, and hot sauce are ingredients that are without question, the epitome of this dear friend.  I can’t say for sure, but with those four ingredients I think I may have just redeemed that hearty beef stew.



I love you.



Beef Chili

Serves 6-8

1 lb. ground beef

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/4 cup tomato paste (2 small cans)

28 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 1/4 cups cooked black beans or 28 oz can

2 1/4 cups cooked pinto beans, or 28 oz can

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup dark beer

1/4 cup espresso or strong brewed coffee

2 tbsp. raw cacao

2 tbsp. packed brown sugar

2 tbsp. oregano

1 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp. paprika

2 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

Hot sauce to taste, I used 2 tbsp.


Cheddar Cheese, scallions, fresh parslely, sour cream, or avocado,

Serve with my favorite brown butter orange rosemary cornbread!

In a dutch oven or large pot sautee onions and garlic in olive oil, on medium heat.  Once onions are slightly tender, add in beef,  and break into small chunks, stirring occasionally until it is cooked.  Add tomato paste and diced tomato.  Stir until combined.  Add beans and stir until combined.  Add broth, coffee, and beer, once again, stirring until combined.  Bring to a boil.  Add in spices, mix well, cover with lid and reduce heat to low.  Let simmer for at least 30 minutes, but I usually start during the early afternoon and let is simmer until dinner.  Taste and adjust salt if needed.  (Salts can be so different that it is hard to make consistent when sharing recipes.) Garnish with your favorite toppings and eat up.

Ps. Leftovers just get better!


  1. What a beautiful tribute to your friend! She sounds amazing, and I’m sure she feels the same way about you. 🙂

    Also, that chili looks amazing! It is similar my favorite recipes, but I’ve never tried cloves in mine! Thanks for the inspiration, as always.

  2. Thanks Lauren! In the past I have just used chili powder instead of all the individual spices, but then I realized how different each chili powder can be depending on the brand. It seemed hard to stay consistent and some things I just want consistent:) Cloves are in some of them, so I gave it a go here. It totally worked:)

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