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Thursday, January 23, 2014

How to make the best chili ever -- with or without beans

Chili is one of my favorite things to eat. And the great thing about chili is you can make it with or without beans and with as many beans as you want.

WARNING! This recipe does make a lot of chili -- enough for at least 4 to 6 people for dinner or 2 people (with decent appetites) to have for dinner, lunch, lunch and lunch again!
Beans make this chili a healthier for you choice and it's budget-friendly
But...if you've never made chili, or you've made chili and it didn't taste right...making chili can feel like an overwhelming task. I've been making chili for years, and let me tell you...the first pot I made I burned and it was so gross!!!

But over the years I've learned how to make an amazing pot of chili. My younger son (he's 20...I have two boys, the other is 24) doesn't care for chili no matter WHAT I do to it, but everyone ELSE likes my chili!

This always tastes even BETTER the 2nd and 3rd day!

You will need a big can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (about 28 ounces)...I like crushed tomatoes because it gives some "chunkiness" to the chili, but if you want a smoother chili, use the tomato sauce.

You'll also need a small to medium sized onion, small red or green bell pepper, a couple of cans (I think 15 ounces each?) of red kidney or light red kidney beans or pink beans or pinto beans. Those are all pretty much the same kind of beans. I don't care for kidney beans because I think they skin them is too tough.

I make my own beans from dried beans, but that's for another time, for now...canned work fine.

You'll need about 2 pounds of ground beef, chicken or turkey. The best ground beef to is a a leaner beef like 85% to 90% lean, but go ahead and use what you have. You may find that you will have to drain off a lot of grease if you're using 73% or 80% lean. That's okay! Just carefully drain off the grease into a large non-plastic container - I save old salsa jars with wide mouths for this kind of thing.
This chili was made with chili spiced TVP which is a soy based meat substitute
I use chili spiced TVP in my chili so it's vegan, but that's for another day!

You'll also need chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt. I can't tell you exact amounts, but we'll try to get it right!

What is CUMIN??? I know....WHAT is CUMIN? Maybe you know, maybe not. It's ground from the coriander seed. The coriander seed makes the herb cilantro, used a lot in Mexican cooking -- sometimes in salsa. Cumin is a spice, cilantro is an herb because it's the actual plant. It isn't spicy or bland, kind of a combo of nutmeg or cinnamon and chili powder. Do you really need it? Probably not, BUT it DOES make the chili taste really good. And you can find it inexpensively at places like Save-A-Lot, Aldi, PriceRite and  think I've even seen it a few times at Dollar General. I buy the ground cumin. People who say, "Oh, buy the whole seed and grind it yourself! It's the only way!" IMHO are pretentious know-it-alls who I want to slap. I've tried the whole "grind your own" and I hate it The only thing I buy whole and grate as I need it is nutmeg, but that's for another time

I dice up the onions and peppers (onions smaller than the peppers, not too big on either one). I saute them in a little olive oil.

Then I dump in the meat and break it all up, I hate clumps of meat. I toss in the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Not much to begin with, I wish I had more definite amounts. You'll just know when you know.

Start with 2 Tbsp. of the chili powder and 1 Tbsp. of the other stuff except the salt...use a teaspoon or two of that. The secret ingredient to my chili is -- unsweetened baking cocoa -- 1 Tbsp. Nope, I'm NOT kidding.

I mix that all in and brown the meat with the seasonings. When it's cooked through I taste the meat and adjust the seasonings if needed. Then I dump in the big can of tomato sauce or you can use crushed tomatoes, I prefer crushed tomatoes and I add a little water.

Add your beans -- however much you want. Bring it all to a slow bubble on medium, reduce to low, cover and let it simmer about 30 minutes. Stir it, taste it, adjust seasonings if needed until you get the flavor you want. Cover it, simmer on low another 30 to 45 minutes until it's "just right."

I use my own beans that I cook from dried but if you're using canned it's your choice to use the liquid or not. I don't like the liquid. Most of those canned beans have corn syrup in them and I don't like corn syrup!

Delicious, hearty budget-friendly chili with baked tortilla chips
Every time I make chili it's different amounts of this or that, it's never exactly the same every time....but every time Bill says "This is the BEST you've ever made!"

If you have any questions, please ask. I love love love chili and I hope I've helped you make a better pot...or try it for the first time!

Enjoy and cheers!
Rachael Monaco