A nice, spicy mouthful of a warm robust chili will be just the thing to warm up the spirit on a cold winter day.
Contributing toward the purchase of new band uniforms for the kids at Saratoga School will make it even better.
From 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, the Saratoga Music Boosters will hold their first-ever Chili Cook-Off fundraiser, and so far there are more than 15 entries. For $5, those who come will be able to sample each chili and then vote for their favorite three.
Don’t come expecting the “same ole, same ole,” though.
“From what I’ve heard, there’s going to be quite a variety,” said Megan Moscato Hoff, Saratoga band director. “There will be mild, medium, hot, one with turkey, and a lot more.”
There may even be venison involved in one, she said she’s heard, and another will have fruit in it. D’Anna Gugerty, whose children Claire (trumpet) and Caite (flute) are in Saratoga’s band program, will be simmering up her legendary “Job’s Chili,” originally made by a Dutch foreign exchange student her family hosted. Over the years, Gugerty has adapted it to make it her own.
“It has a few little twists in it,” she said. “It has a little bit of cocoa and cinnamon, and a little red wine adds some body to it. . . And the secret is pineapple chunks. It adds a nice tang. I can’t even really describe it, but it kind of cuts the spicy. It’s amazingly good.”
Gugerty said she and her husband, Gregg, enjoy experimenting with their cooking and love watching cooking shows together. If Gregg were making the chili, though, she said, he would make it a lot hotter than hers will be.
She plans on bringing a roaster-full for the cook-off Sunday.
Saratoga reading and language arts teacher Sheri Bardash will be making two crock pots of her chili entry. Bardash’s recipe is all about the fresh, she said. She said her kids, Brooke and Luke, and husband, Bob, will likely be chopping up a lot of onions, celery, and green peppers this weekend to lend a hand.
With the added spices – one of which is her special secret ingredient – and the meat and beans, Bardash said the chili is a family favorite.
“It’s something I made up years ago,” she said. “It’s fresh, and it’s thick and a little spicy. When you add the toppings – crackers, cheese, and sour cream – it will be just right.”
Each contestant is supposed to bring five pounds of chili to the event.
Bardash said she’s never given a name to her chili. It’s just “chili” at their home. But since a suitable name is necessary for the occasion, she has decided to let her students choose what to call it. They are very creative, she said.
Bardash said she is happy to help out the band.
“When I saw the e-mail, I thought this was something I could do to help out,” she said.
Her children are not in the band, but it’s a great class and she wholly supports it. And new band uniforms are a good goal, she said.
“This fundraiser is specifically for new band uniforms,” Director Hoff said. “We don’t have enough sizes to fit this next year’s band, especially the middle sizes.”
The uniforms were purchased in the ’80s, and although some are in “OK” shape, many have seen better days. The Junior High Marching Hawks wear the uniforms in parades, such as the ones during the Grundy County Corn Festival, Veteran’s Day and the Queen’s Parade.
She said the band program is a great one for the community to come out and support. Band is a great subject for kids.
“Music is a great way for these kids to express themselves in a non-judgmental way,” she said. “They come together and make music together. . . To some, it’s their most important time of the day. We’re very fortunate to have a good music program at Saratoga and to have such great band parents and staff supporters.”
In addition to the chili cook-off, there will be a 50-50 raffle and a silent auction at the event.