The Chili Fail That Was a Win

Happy Friday!

I have a funny story for you guys today. So last night, I had my Sweet Potato Lentil Chili (click for recipe! I just updated it to make it clearer since it was an old one) on the brain. I hadn’t made it in forever — it was time for more.


I had some pre-cooked lentils in the fridge so I decided to use those instead of dry lentils, to make the process faster. The recipe calls for 16 oz. of dried lentils, and I had a 16 oz. cooked lentil package from Trader Joe’s. Perfect, right?! Um… not so much, ha. So I start cooking everything and it’s very… liquidy. In my mind, I’m like:

Wtf?! I don’t remember this looking like soup last time I made it…

But then again, I hadn’t made this recipe in ages. So I forged on. While I’m chopping veggies, I debate getting something to bail some of the liquid out like it’s a sinking ship or something. And then… duh. It hits me. Dry lentils suck up a TON of liquid. And cooked lentils… do not. My food science professor would be so embarrassed for me right now.

Good thing I think quickly on my feet. My train of thought:


Let’s see… what do I have on hand that will soak up a TON of liquid… and also take up some space since I also conveniently forgot that 16 oz. of DRY lentils will = way more ounces once cooked…



I added 2 cups of dry quinoa straight into the pot and 10 minutes later — perfection. I am officially a genius. Or something like that. Let’s disregard that whole lentil debacle. ;)

The chili was ready right when Matt arrived home from work! He was pumped.


I actually really loved this with the quinoa added — something fun and different! If you want to try it yourself, just cook about 3/4 cup dry lentils beforehand, and then add them into the chili already cooked along with 2 cups of dry quinoa.


Yum. We have a ton of leftovers — will definitely be freezing a lot of it for quick and easy dinners later this year!

How to Freeze Chili (or Soup):

  • Portion out one serving and pour into a freezer-safe ziplock bag (I usually just put the chili into a normal sized bowl and then pour that in to the bag so I know it’s about how much I’d want to eat).
  • Repeat until you have as many ziplocks as you want to freeze, then flatten them out and stack them in the freezer on top of each other. This way they won’t take up much space AND it will be easy to defrost since it’s frozen into a thin sheet vs. one large block!


And now, I’m off to biochem! I’m wondering if we’ll get our test back yet… eek.

Also, I have a fun weekend ahead — I’m randomly heading up to DC tomorrow evening to check out some wedding venues with my mom! Super spur of the moment — found a round trip plane ticket for $160 — win. I’m going to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving with Matt as usual this year, so I wasn’t going to be back in DC until Christmas — and apparently if we want to have a fall wedding next year in the DC area we need to book a venue… um… NOW. Yikes! We have appointments to check out about 5 venues this weekend. I’m excited! Any venue-searching tips from those of you who have planned weddings or gotten married? Any specific things we should look for from the venues or questions we should ask? I’m seriously SO clueless. All advice is much appreciated! In case this helps in terms of advice: we want to do an outdoor ceremony and reception, and it’s going to be a big wedding… probably around 300 people. We’ve already confirmed with the places we’re seeing this weekend that they can hold that many people, so that’s not an issue!

And for those of you that could care less about weddings… have you had any recipe/ingredient fails that ended up turning into a win? Those are the best. :)


  1. 1

    Ask what accommodations they have in case of bad weather. Outdoor weddings are awesome, but also scary because of that.
    Enjoy your trip.

  2. 2

    We had chili last night too. What a great cold weather meal.

    I think the important thing when venue shopping is knowing what you want and when a venue does not have what you want. I really wanted an all-inclusive venue. I have found that since my site does a lot of the work for me, I am so much less stressed. Our venue even said all we need is our DJ, photog, officient and flourist. Easy Peasy.

    The other big thing is choose a venue where you like the coordinator or person who books it. The last thing you want is to be chasing someone down who doesn’t respond to your questions in a timely manor.

    Lastly, know your budget. It is so easy to get wrapped up in all they have to offer. Be honest with the venue up front and let them know what you can afford. I have found a few vendors came down in price a little.

    Hope this helps!! Have fun!!!

    • 3

      I definitely want all-inclusive, too. And great advice regarding the coordinator – I’ve already had a few that have taken forever to get back to me just trying to set up an appointment to view the place… not a good sign.

  3. 4

    After being in an outdoor wedding on Oct 1 this year that ended up being 45 degrees, rainy and disgusting…have a back up plan in case the weather sucks! The one I was in did not and we were cold, wet and miserable. Including the bride. Good luck!

  4. 7

    Yes – if you want an outdoor wedding, DEFINITELY have a backup plan (and hopefully something more substantial than “tents over grass”). Fall weddings are lovely – I had a September wedding outdoors and wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Happy planning! Try to avoid getting sucked into the wedding industrial complex, too, if you can. :)

  5. 8

    My reception was at the Omni Shoreham in DC. Beautiful venue and we had cocktails outside. Good luck venue shopping! One benefit of the hotel venue is that guests could just go directly to their rooms afterwards without having to travel.

  6. 9

    Choosing a venue is so much fun! Once you’ve got the place figured out, it makes the whole thing really start to materialize in your mind :) Definitely make sure the venue you choose has a backup plan that you like – for example, we looked at some venues that were beautiful outdoors but in the event of rain, the ceremony would be in the same generic ballroom as the reception. We ended up choosing a mansion in which the indoor option would have been in a beautifully decorated parlor. Also with regard to the outdoor wedding – try not to check the 10-day forecast…it will drive you insane!!

    One other thing I wish we’d thought about was whether or not the person coordinating at the venue would also coordinate the ceremony (unless you are planning to hire an outside wedding planner). Ours did not, which left a lot of the ceremony coordination in our hands. That made things a little stressful, and less than organized. It definitely would’ve been nice to have someone to tell me when to walk :)

  7. 11
    Katherine says:

    Something that I was shocked to learn was that a lot of venues allow you to haggle with the price a little. The venue that my fiance and I wanted was $175 per head (oh, New York prices) which is obviously nuts, so out of nowhere he suggested “$150 and we’ll book right now” and the woman said yes! We were so excited. So if you fall in love with a place that seems too pricey, see if they will compromise with you.

  8. 13

    My husband had a huge lentil stew fail last night too! He used popcorn kernels in lieu of corn, thinking that they’d be the same as dried lentils and would soften after 36 hours in the crockpot. Yeah, no… It was inedible. No turning into a win with that one!

    Wedding venue advice: ask about caterers and alcohol! Ask if they have “preferred” caterers or insist you only use their food…the venue could be gorgeous, but their food could suck! And we all know how much alcohol mark-up can be! Being able to chose your own caterer and provide your own alcohol is key, in my experience!

    Also ask about how many weddings they book a day. Some places are “wedding factories” and pump out multiple weddings a day. This sometimes leads to bad service, disorganization, leftover guests lingering around…

  9. 15

    Exciting! So many great options around here. When we got married, we knew we would have a ton of people from out of town, so ended up choosing a venue where we could have both the wedding and the reception. That way, people only had to find and park at one location, and it was easy for us to hire a couple 15 passenger vans to shuttle people back to the hotel (and it was cheaper since we only had to rent/decorate one place!). Other things we kept in mind–wheelchair accessibility and comfortable chairs for older relatives, nice bathrooms, and some places (particularly historic ones) don’t allow candles or have other restrictions on the kind of decorations you can use, so be sure to ask about that!

  10. 17

    I bet the quinoa really added an awesome texture to the soup! :) I may definitely be looking To incorporate more quinoa into things like this!

  11. 18

    Hahaha love your thought process!
    I will definiely be bookmarking this recipe-as of late I have been eating sweet potatoes like they are on sale!

  12. 19

    I’m a fan of “all-inclusive venues” as in, venue (ceremony and reception), catering and bartending all in one. My friends own a beautiful event space here in Wilmington and they do it all! They coordinate with the vendors (tables, linens, chairs after you pick the ones you like), they cater and they have a great bar. They also work with the florist to set up delivery (of course, you still get to choose the arrangements). I recommend looking for a place that handles all the delivery, set up, decorate part so you can focus on the fun stuff.

    And definitely, have a Plan B (and C) in case of bad weather. Don’t rule out large tents, some of them are simply beautiful. Good luck and try to enjoy it!

  13. 21
    Suzanne C. says:

    My sister had her wedding at the Key Bridge Marriott this past July. It is on the top floor of the hotel and the views of DC are amazing. The staff was also really great. I highly recommend them! Let me know if you have any questions.

  14. 23

    I can’t be too much help on venues because we literally look at one and booked it without even thinking to look at anything else! But that’s because the venue fit us perfectly, had free parking and free use of chairs/tables. Things to think about: lighting, place to take pictures, parking, ease of getting there, back up plan in case of rain and most importantly whether you want to get married there. (rather than just fitting the criteria)

  15. 24

    I second some of the previous references to “all-inclusive” venues…make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. When I was looking at venues, some prices seemed reasonable, but then I realized they included NOTHING: We’d have to rent tables, chairs, linens, glassware, etc. Whereas others included basically everything. My husband and I ended up having our reception at a hotel that just coordinated everything (food, bar, tables/linens, etc.), and it ended up working out well. And we were able to “upgrade” certain areas if we so chose.

    Also keep in mind that many venues only work with certain “preferred” vendors, so if you have your heart set on a specific caterer, for instance, make sure your venue is cool with that. Oh, and here’s my pet peeve…make sure the dance floor is big enough!! And well-placed. I hate when there’s a tiny floor at a really big wedding, or when all the tables have to be moved to clear a dancing space. I gots to get my groove on, yo. :)

    • 25

      Great advice! Totally agree re: dance floor! We really like the idea of an all-inclusive place, too… I kind of just want a place that will deal with everything for me!

  16. 26

    Hmmm… tips?
    Make sure if you plan to get ready at the venue that a room is booked for you. We got married last year in Cape Cod at a swanky resort and had to scramble to find a room in a jam packed hotel to get ready in. We all thought “someone else” was taking care of that detail and our wedding coordinator completely forgot to get us a room. It all worked out but I was worried I would be slipping into my dress in a gas station bathroom down the road….

    Also…have fun…this is the best part of the planning process. As you get closer to the date you find yourself stressing out over some truly ridiculous details. “Ivory napkins?!?! But I wanted eggshell colored ones!”

    Have a fun weekend with your mom!

  17. 30

    This looks great! I definetly want to try this :)

  18. 31

    I love quinoa and lentils, great idea! Have fun in DC and good luck! :)

  19. 32

    This is all so fresh! I just got married in September and looking for the venue was fun, but stressful! Even though your timeline is tight with your travel to DC and selecting a date don’t rush into a venue, we looked at about 10 places and went back to some a few times before we made our final decision.

    This is some of my top advice I give to friends and asked:

    1. How many weddings do you have per day (we didn’t want a venue that was cycling weddings so quickly)
    2. Ask how many hours are included in your venue fee the standard here in California was 4 because most places assumed you would have the ceremony offsite and only included time for the reception. 4 hours is NOT enough time for ceremony and reception.
    3. Get a list of preferred caterers or sample menus if they do the catering, before you sign the contract you should do a food tasting at the places listed, because if you are unhappy with the options they often place a hefty fee to go outside of their preferred vendor list. OR you are shocked to see that none of the places offer a meal under $100 per person.
    4. Have a general idea of what time you’d like your wedding to start and find out how far in advance you can arrive to the facility. I took pictures with some family and my bridesmaids at the venue before the wedding and that really helped cut back some of our photo taking time during cocktail hour.

    I have a lot more advice I can email you if you’d like along with all the questions I asked at each venue. Let me know if you want me to send you anything else!

    • 33

      Thanks, Stacy! I would love to see an actual list of questions – that would be super helpful – may just print and bring with me! anne{at}fannetasticfood{dot}com :)

  20. 34

    I recently got married (10.1.11) and I used to do a lot of my planning. You can search for everything from venues to flowers and they have a lot of q&A stuff to go through. Not to mention a lot of other soon-to-be and past brides go on there and give tips too. They also have a checklist based on your wedding date that will tell you when to do what. They have a lot of info on DIY stuff and you can see slide shows of other people’s weddings to get advice. I couldn’t have done my wedding without it! And I can help if you have any questions as well!

    I really would suggest sitting down before you go and making a tentative list of people you’d want to invite. That way you know what your number looks like and you can better find places, because they’re going to ask. I would also try to suggest finding a place that includes everything. My venue was an inn in Connecticut and it included all rentals, alcohol, cake, table linens, and catering as well as staff. It was so much easier. Plus then I found my florist from the Inn as well and the ceremony musician from the church we got married in.

    As for stationary stuff, I’d really suggest checking out They have a lot of weddingy-type stuff like save the dates, invites, programs, menus, etc. If you sign up for their emails they usually have sales every once in a while as well, which really helps. I used it for my ceremony programs, thank you notes, and return address labels.

    • 35

      Awesome – thank you (and congratulations on your recent wedding!)! We already have made a tentative list – definitely had to do that to figure out #s! Our wedding is going to be very large so that ruled out a lot of venues automatically.

      • 36

        haha sorry about the double reply, I didn’t realize my computer was working today, it seems to have some PMS ;)

        • 37

          It’s all good – both were helpful :) Hehe

          • 38

            Oh a good phrase I learned from a friend too is, “Thank you for the suggestion.” Totally takes the pressure off thinking about it at the moment and definitely keeps you away from a converstation/fight. That way you really can think about it and see whether you really want to include the suggestion or not.

  21. 39

    So fun! I got married in August. Here are some questions:
    1) Know when you want to have the wedding (duh) and have back up dates in mind. What time of day do you want the reception?
    2) Are the reception and ceremony at the same venue? If so, how will the space be differentiated? Will they be in the same space or different? How will the switch between the two go?
    3) Are you having cocktail hour before the reception? Might be good to do if you are taking pictures after the ceremony. If so, would that be in a different area from the actual reception or in the same place? Is there separate cocktail snacks and drinks?
    4) Does the venue offer all of the amenities you want? Dance floor? Chocolate fountain? Grand entrance? Amazing view? Nice bathrooms? Photobooth? Stage for band?
    5) Does the venue do the catering? If so, get a feel for their prices. If not, get their list of approved caterers. What about the cake? What about rentals? Does the venue provide tables and chairs? What about linens? Table wear? Centerpieces? Flowers? If not, get their list of approved vendors?
    6) How many weddings/events do they do during the weekend? Are you one of ten or one of one? How early can your caterer/vendors set up beforehand? If you are one of ten, do you all have to use the same flowers/linens/centerpieces?
    7) How accessible is the venue? How close is it to the nearest metro stop? Will people need to drive a long way from the ceremony (if at a different venue)? If so, does the venue provide transportation? If you are near downtown, some venues might offer shuttles to certain hotels. Also, is your venue up 100 stairs? Will everyone you love be able to get to the space? Is there an elevator Grandma can take?
    8) What is their policy on deposits? How much is due when?
    9) Read through the contract carefully! How long do you have the space? Does everyone have to be out by a certain time? They might charge you $100 per guest still there after 2am.
    10) Does the venue offer a wedding coordinator? How much extra does that cost?
    11) What kind of tables will fit in the space? Do you want lots of little tables? Long rows of tables? Make sure the space will accommodate your vision (if you have one). I adapted my vision to fit our dream space.

    Check out websites like the Knot – they have some great checklists. You also might want to buy a wedding planner notebook. I didn’t use mine 100%, but it was nice to have something to double check whenever I felt antsy. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

  22. 41

    I second Annie ;) I got married October 1st and I used mostly for my planning. They have a great checklist broken down by time based on your expected wedding date. Plus lots of fun stuff to check out and a lot of Q&A stuff if you have questions like what is the etiquitte for invitation wording (or something stupid like that).

    I’d really suggest sitting down before you go look at places and start making a list of potential invites. Ask you families if there’s anyone they’d like you to invite and potentially if they’d be willing to contribute anything (if you need the help). I had some people just paying in the general wedding fund and then others paying for certain things like the photographer and the open bar. That way you know exactly what kind of budget you’re looking at and how many people. We had a bubble list for our guests, so once people started declining we started sending out invites to other people that we wanted there but weren’t completely necessary.

    And make a list of things you’re completely non-negotiable on. I decided I really liked the venue I picked, so when my mother-in-law started criticizing it I told her she could have something else that I didn’t really care about. That way everyone stays happy.

    Definitely have Matt help too. I had my husband pick out the DJ and the transportation (we got a party bus, totally worth looking into cause it seats a lot of people, we used it as a shuttle between our reception and hotel venue ;)) and made him point person on those so that I wasn’t completely overwhelmed, so I took care of the photographer and flowers.

    I know this sounds overwhelming but it was worth it for me when everyone kept telling me this was the best wedding they’ve ever been to!

  23. 42

    Anne (and everyone!) this is GREAT! I just got engaged 3 weeks ago and am going through the same thing now! I am also in the DC area, so any information about venues would be very helpful! Anne, it sounds like we have similar ideas- fall, outside ceremony, venue that does it all…Good luck this weekend and have fun with it! For everyone who commented, I am also copying and pasting your comments into a Word document to bring with me in a few weeks when I do the same thing!

  24. 44

    I’m getting married in DC in 6 months, so I’ve definitely spent quite a bit of time going through this whole process! We wanted an indoor venue, though, since early May can be rainy, so I can’t really help out with the venue search. However, I would HIGHLY recommend making sure they don’t charge you a cake cutting fee if they don’t provide a cake (some places charge $5/slice, which essentially doubles the price/piece of cake!). And if you get to pick a cake from a bakery, I would highly recommend Fancy Cakes by Leslie in Bethesda. It is amazing! One other thing, if you’re doing a fall wedding you NEED to book your photographer ASAP. Fall is a crazy busy wedding time out here, and the really good photographers go fast. We splurged a bit on ours (after all, the photos are the only thing you’ll really have after the wedding is over) and went with Michael Connor from Connor Studios ( We seriously love him and I cannot say enough good things about his work! Have fun this weekend!!!

  25. 45

    Wedding venue shopping! Exciting!

  26. 46

    Mmm I have a ton of ingredients in my cabinet that could be made into chili – totally doing that this weekend!

  27. 47

    I love soupy chili much better than thick chili. It always freaked me out when attending outdoor weddings that it may rain. See if they can enclose it with a tent. I hope your parents have saved up for this big wedding. I bet they are all thrilled.What ever you decide I know it will be beautiful. One of my daughters had a beautiful outdoor wedding up in the North Georgia mountains at a Bed and Breakfast. Out back we had a beautiful alter with an arch and in the background was the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. It was breath taking. Her’s was in the fall, September 29th. It was a gorgeous day. After I graduated high school, (17) I eloped. After a very short honey moon, I went back to school and my husband went to Vietnam. Didn’t see him again for two years. It was a very difficult time. But we lived through it and it made us both stronger and very appreciative.

    • 48

      Wow – that must have been so hard! My grandmother was like that, too – married my grandfather and then he left for WWII for years. Crazy.

      • 49

        He loved the Marines so much he retired in late 2009 as a Ltd.Col. and is now working for Lockheed. So glad he is finally home.

  28. 50

    As a professional event planner and former owner of a wedding coordination company, I can give you a few tips. Not sure if other people have mentioned this already but here goes:

    1. Outdoor weddings can get super pricey so look for a venue that is going to supply tents, portable seating, and PA system as part of their package.

    2. You MUST HAVE TENTS. Never take on mother nature. You will lose. More summer weddings have been ruined by too much sun and no tents than too much rain and no tents! 80-year-old Grandma Edna can’t handle 2 hours in the open sun without suffering major heat stroke and even the fittest/youngest of your guests will be tired, sticky and miserable by the end of your ceremony if the sun comes out to play. This can even be fatal for the elderly.

    3. Email me privately and I’ll send you my professional checklist for planning a wedding. It’s more elaborate than anything you’ll find elsewhere. :)

  29. 52

    I love freezing out portions of food. It’s awesome because you get a home-cooked meal with NO effort later on. The lentil chili looks dee-lish!

  30. 53

    Definitely recommend the book “The Bride’s Book of Lists,” if you haven’t already purchased it. Not only did it help us keep everything in one spot but it has a list of questions for every vendor, many of which we hadn’t ever thought to even ask. The hubby grew to dislike it (Him: “Who says we have to have that done by this week?!?” Me: “The book.” Him: “%#%^ #$^% book.”) but I loved it.

    My husband also says he has advice for Matt as well: “Hang on!” :)

  31. 55

    No wedding advice here.. sorry, all I could say is have a back up plan for mother nature! And make it comfortable for your guests :) That chili looks awesome, I make just a bean chili but throwing in some lentils sounds so much better! thanks for sharing. and I’m all about making a boat load too, and freezing single servings.. it’s worth the extra effort :)

  32. 56

    How exciting to find a venue without much trouble! I got married about a month ago (in Raleigh!) and the fall was perfect. I read a lot of wedding blogs while I was planning the event (once wed, 100 layer cake, snippet & ink, eastsidebride etc etc etc), but found to be especially helpful for a good dose of sanity! Didn’t use much as I felt like it seemed limiting and not creative enough for our taste. Google docs makes a great set of spreadsheets for planning that I used, that way you can share with your parents/fiance/in laws etc and modify the way you want. I used ‘The Wedding Book’ the most as it explains everything in detail. It was easy to look up what I needed to before florist meetings or dress fittings, whatever. Martha Stewart Weddings is the best wedding mag – gorgeous with no cheese! Also…300 people sounds really overwhelming! We ended up with about 100 and I wouldn’t have wanted another person there. Good luck!

  33. 58

    go to for ideas! they also have free save the dates and invites you can use. you get to put your info and choose the colors, you get the template for free, then you just have to pay to print them! lots of cute ideas too!

  34. 60

    I just asked this very same question today on my blog and a reader sent me to this post! Congrats on your engagement and on finding the venue of your dreams! (Just read the follow up post!) I’m definitely going to be combing back through the comments for tips for my upcoming venue viewings.


  1. […] back to the daily grind over here. That means lots of packed lunches! I’m still enjoying my leftover Sweet Potato Lentil Chili (plus quinoa…) — I’ve discovered it’s 1,000 times more delicious with feta on […]

  2. […] eating my way through the leftover Sweet Potato Lentil Chili (plus quinoa)! This was the last installment — I’m officially sick of it. Just froze the last two […]

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