If you read my previous post about stew, you might recall my story about “There’s nothing like warm stew on a chilly day, or warm chili on a stewy day…”
Sadly, the fall weather has been rather disappointing out our way. We really want to get out to do some leaf peeping and take some colourful fall photos, but except for one very lovely day of sunshine earlier this week, we’ve had a 2-week long run of gray, dreary, overcast and often rainy days. It’s also been rather chilly in the daytime, and downright cold some nights. Since it’s not really nice outside, it’s a good excuse to stay inside – and to cook up a batch of CHILI.
I only started making chili a few years ago. I am not sure why I didn’t make it before that, although I wonder if it had something to do with a traumatic silly childhood chili making event that happened when I was about 12 years old. I wasn’t cooking any gourmet meals at the time, but I was comfortable enough in the kitchen to make basic things. I had actually been whipping up Kraft Dinner and baking chocolate chip from scratch for a few years already. My mom worked, so I learned to fend for myself (and my sister) and my mom was not the over-protective kind that was afraid I’d burn down the house (besides, I was expected to be the “responsible” one). That being said, my mom never complained when she came home to the house filled with the wonderful smell of fresh-baked cookies… well, and of course the cookies.
As for the chili story… One day my mom called just as she was leaving work and asked me to make chili for dinner, so it would be ready when my parents got home. On a side note, do you remember the days when your mom left the meat out thawing on the counter all day? My mom always took it out in the morning before she went to work. Nowadays, they say that’s a big no-n0 and you have to thaw it in the fridge. Funny thing is, we never got sick or suffered any ill consequences from eating meat back then. I wonder what’s changed? Anyway, the chili. I don’t remember her recipe, but I think it was fairly simple. Only problem was, I could not find the chili powder a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e. I looked in all the usual places she kept spices; spice cabinet, over the stove – I even checked the pantry. Since my mom was already en route, I had to make an executive decision. I found crushed chilis, and not knowing any better, figured “How different can they be?”… so I substituted the same amount the recipe called for. Holy Crow, can you say “SPICY“? I think I almost cried eating that chili, but there was no way it was going to waste. I finished that dinner, and after that night, developed a fond dislike for chili.
Well, it had been many years since the chili incident, and the memories had faded considerably. One day while I was perusing my newly arrived Kraft “What’s Cooking” magazine, I saw an article on interesting chili variations. For those of you who may be interested, here’s the link: http://www.kraftcanada.com/en/recipes/3-step-chili-suppers-84289.aspx
As I have mentioned before, I usually try to follow the recipe as close as possible the first time I make it. Personally, I think this recipe is really reaching, trying to get some Kraft products incorporated into the recipe. I found absolutely no taste benefit to cooking the ground beef in the italian dressing. I think it’s just added fat. I also NEVER add the 3/4 cup of cheese they call for into my chili. I think it’s too much, and if you like cheese on your chili, just sprinkle a bit on top when serving. I am glad to see they have updated the recipe to drain the kidney beans. The original said to use them undrained, and it tasted a bit “chalky” to me (just my opinion).
I don’t use that recipe anymore, but it was a good starting place for someone like me, who did not make chili at all. They have some good suggestions for other versions using different ground meats and even a meatless option too. Now, I am sure almost everyone has their own favourite family recipe for chili. Here is mine. Be prepared to fill your recycling bin, as this recipe would make the canned food alliance VERY happy. Note that this recipe is not very exact, as I tend to use whatever I have in the pantry and/or what was on sale that week. This makes a HUGE batch, as I’ve kept adjusting this recipe to still taste good but stretch my food dollar too.
- 1 LB Ground Beef (you can use chicken, turkey or pork too)
- 4 cans of Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed (I like to use 2 red and 2 white for some variation, or even swap in one can of blacks beans)
- Tomato Paste (2 small or 1 large can)
- Stewed or Diced Tomatoes, undrained (3-4 regular cans, or 2 large; Aylmer chili style or spicy red pepper add some nice extra flavour if you can find them on sale)
- Canned Corn Niblets, drained (1-2 small cans, or 1 large. This is optional, but very tasty and stretches the chili even more).
- Chili Seasoning (1-2 packages; my favourite is President’s Choice, but you can use any brand or add the individual spices. You can search for “Make Your Own” recipes online)
Feel free to add any other veggies you might like, such as onion, peppers, mushrooms, etc. I don’t find it really needs any extra, and we like it just as is. If you use the Aylmer tomatoes I mentioned, they already have onions, peppers and other spices in them.
I use a big stock pot, for easier cleanup. Brown the ground beef right in the pot, over medium heat. Add a bit of oil if it sticks. Once cooked (no longer pink), you can drain off any fat if desired. You can even rinse the meat in a colander under running water if there’s a lot of fat. I find most ground beef these days does not have that much fat though.
While the meat is cooking start opening all of your cans. I do all the beans first and put them in a large colander in the sink, so I can rinse them and let them drain while I am cooking the meat. Once the meat is done, add the seasoning, beans, corn, tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir to mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer over low to medium heat. Make sure to stir often, as it night stick. Once it’s warm enough, it’s ready to eat. If we’re really hungry, that’s what we’ll do, otherwise I let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
You can eat it on its own, sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese on top, or even stir in a spoonful of sour cream. Make your chili go even farther by mixing it in with a bowl of cooked pasta (chili mac is my favourite), or serving over warm natchos. A nice chili taco salad is pretty tasty too. We have yet to try chili dogs, but hubby was considering it the other day (I am not a big fan of hotdogs). I think it would make really good chili sloppy joe’s too. Experiment!
If you don’t have a huge family or you are not serving this at some kind of get-together, you might want to freeze some of your chili. Unless of course you don’t mind it eating it almost every day for a week (like we did, because we had no spare room in the freezer).
I hope this recipe helps to warm you up on a chilly day…