Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happy Birthday, Chris

Chris Hughes, Sept, 2014. Photo courtesy of Sharyl
Today would have been Chris Hughes' birthday, but sadly, we're celebrating without her this year. She passed away suddenly at the end of July, while on a mini-vacation. She was a very active member of 37 Cooks, both on the blog and in our group where we chat about everything from food to...more food. And other things.

Here's how Chris introduced herself way back in 2013, when she first joined our 37 Cooks.

And here are more thoughts about Chris from some of the people who knew her best:

Sharyl said:
"We called her Chris. Her family, Sean, friends outside Facebook and coworkers, called her Christy. She was one of a kind. She was loving, kind, funny and giving.

She loved working on her recipes for 37 Cooks. We would go back and forth on messenger, throwing out ideas and changing our recipes midstream. She was much better at food pics than I was. Often, I would send her mine and she would send them back to me, improved!

Frito pie, made by Sharyl as a tribute to Chris
This month, September, she would have been 40. She had so much life left to live. On her 39th birthday, Sean and a couple of other friends rented a limo for her and the two of us made a day of it.

We took a Mexican breakfast cooking class at Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Houston. We learned how to make Huevos Rancheros, flour tortillas, corn tortillas, gorditas, chilaquiles, and refried beans.

Then we took off in our limo and made stops at all the fun foodie places on our list. It was the perfect day. One of my favorite photos of her is the one here. I took it at this wonderful chocolate boutique we found. We bought lots of chocolate, of course. Since it was September and hot in Houston, we had ice chests in the back of our limo. We were prepared for food and fun!"

Louise said:
"The outpouring of love for Chris Hughes speaks volumes about how she affected us. I will personally feel her absence because Chris brought positivity, optimism and love to a medium where negative sentiments are bandied about on an hourly basis. Whether she was sharing a recipe, restaurant experience or simply recapping a wonderful "date night".

I always anticipated her posts with a smile. There are so few people who are drama-free and don’t get sucked into the vortex of gossip, and it breaks my heart to lose one. In Chris’ honor, this Yankee made Frito Pie, a favorite of Texans, a badge she wore proudly. She inspired me to make the best chili I have ever made.  I’m grateful for having been in Chris’ circle of friends – and amongst those who will miss her terribly.
Will miss you, kiddo, rest in peace."

Chris loved to travel. She took this photo
while on a trip to Panama.
Linda said:
"Chris and I first met at a Foodie Group meet-up at the Rainbow Lodge in Houston. It was such a fun time for all and since I set right across from Chris, I really learned about her passion for cooking.

Shortly thereafter, I contacted her about becoming a member of 37 Cooks. I wanted to submit her name for consideration. She was very excited, but wanted all the information I could give her regarding the group because she wanted to make sure she could meet any and all expectations.  On April 13th, 2013, our founder, Sandra, officially asked her to join.

Chris went on to be one of our most dedicated members. She worked hard on all the challenges and came up with some amazing, delicious recipes.  She was always willing to help and support others in the group. I am so happy she became a 37 Cook, but more importantly, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to really get to know her and her kind, helpful spirit. The bonus was having her here in Houston, because we were able to get together several other times with other local 37 Cooks. She will be greatly missed."

Tonda said:
Tonda and Chris, 1998
"Sweet, young friendships hardly stand the test of time. People grow and interests change. Oftentimes, distance weakens the bonds that friends make. Sometimes, however, a true gem will come into your life and no matter the distance or time, you pick up where you left off.

Christy and I were college roommates. As it often happens, we lost touch after we graduated and moved. However, we reconnected 10 years later. She was the same genuine gal that I lived with and our friendship didn't skip a beat. As she put it, 'You just don't spend YEARS of your life w/someone, 24-7, & not have a connection of some sort. So, yeah, you're kinda rooked into being my friend. Like forever. But in a good way.'

Her words were always so gentle. She was always genuinely interested and supportive. She was a true friend. A true friend formed from a sisterhood of being college roommates. Perhaps distance still separated us, but our bond reformed.

Our "forever" was cut way too short. I will miss our chats, my dear friend. Your loss is devastating to so many. All we can do is cherish our fond memories of you, your smile, your kindness, and your friendship."

In another group where many of us belonged with Chris, many of us made Frito Pie in Chris's honor. Here's recipe from Louise:

Yankee Frito Pie Chili In Memory of Chris Hughes
By Louise Chiffonade Brescia

1 teaspoon neutral oil
1 red onion, diced (reserve a few dice for garnish)
1 poblano, diced (reserve a few dice for garnish)
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 roasted Hatch chiles (seeds discarded), diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Big splash wine (white or red will work)
1.5 pounds chopmeat (80-85% lean)
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 Tablespoons medium chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon ground green chile
12 ounces water
(Cayenne pepper can be added for heat)

In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, poblano, and garlic and cook (stirring occasionally) until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper and deglaze the pan with the wine. Cook until nearly all the moisture is evaporated. Remove the aromatics to a plate.

Crumble the chopmeat into the sauté pan and cook it until browned, around 5-6 minutes. Drain off most of the fat. Mix in the tomato paste with a rubber spatula until combined. Add the next 5 ingredients (spices and cocoa) and combine well.

Pour in 12 ounces water and stir again to combine. Simmer covered on low heat about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.

Many of us knew Chris through her food. We still have a few of her recipes that are yet to be published (which will be appearing in the next few days). Meanwhile, here is the complete list of the posts that Chris wrote for us.

Lemon Basil Hummus
Roasted Potato and Green Bean Salad
Herbed Goat Cheese Rounds
Gummy Worm Day
Daiquiri Day
Hot Fudge Sundae Day
Sweet Potato Tamales
Carne Guisada Enchiladas
Grilled Meatloaf
Key Lime Parfait
Pumpkin Pie Crunch
Creamy Baharat Vegetable Soup
Beans with Chorizo and Bacon
Conch Fritters
Tropical Traditions Roundup
Duck Quesadillas
Rice Pudding
Cajun Patacones
Adventures in Panama, Part 1
Adventures in Panama, Part 2
Slow-Cooked Chickpeas
When Was the First Time You Had This?
Onion Twists
Jamaican Cheese Muffins
Chocolate and Nutella Squares
Vin Brule
Slow Cooker Chilaquiles
Candied Jalapeno Pineapple Cream Cheese Swirl Buns
Kale Balsamic Chicken Rangoons
Peach Tart
Green Chile Tortilla Stacks
Chocolate Cayenne Ice Cream Sandwiches
Long Boy Burgers

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