Monday, September 1, 2008

Chillin' With My Chili

Do you like chili? A hearty, steamy bowl of red to warm both your tummy and soul? Seems like there are just as many variations of chili as there are cooks! Some folks insist that chili be served without beans, others insist that beef cubes be used, and still others claim that chili is only chili if made with ground beef. Then there is the whole “do you use chili powder or ground chili, chopped tomatoes or pureed toms, green peppers or just onion, and thick meaty chili or warm soupy chili”. Of course, there’s also the question of what to serve with it. Sour cream? Avocado? Sliced jalapeƱo’s? Shredded cheese? Cilantro? Crushed corn chips? Saltines? There’s a regional factor, too. Depending on where you live, you may crave your chili spooned over pasta, slathered on a baked potato, spooned over a crunchy salad, rolled in a tortilla, or served straight up with some chips. Oh, and let’s not forget the white chili varieties, along with chicken and vegetarian versions. Plus, folks have strong opinions about the cooking vessel. Some swear by the crock pot, others like it slow roasted in the oven, and still others will only make it in a dutch oven on the stove top.

I like chili. Wait, make that LOVE chili. All chili. I’m not picky, although I prefer versions that don’t singe my eyebrows with too much spicy heat. I’ve been an Oregonian for years now, but I grew up in Northwest Indiana, and the chili of choice from that neck of the woods was your classic ground beef, bean, and tomato version.

Now that the cold weather has started to roll in (the house was freezing this morning!), I thought today would be a great day to make a heaping pot of bone warming chili. I wanted to simply hold my steamy bowl and just be chillin’ with my chili. This is one of those dishes that I’ve made for years without really following a recipe; rather, I just used what was in my fridge/pantry. For today’s blog entry, though, I slowed down and paid attention to what I was tossing in here and there. I was a hit with 3 out of 5 in my household. My husband told me to make this as often as I wanted, he liked it so much. My older kids weren’t wild about it, but, you know, the food groups “touch” in chili, so I didn’t expect any different. We did have a break through, though, in that they said they liked how it smelled. Stubborn little beings!

This is a basic MILD chili. Here’s what I did:

1 ¼ lbs ground beef
½ large onion diced
1 green pepper diced (garden!)
3 garlic cloves minced and sprinkled with sea salt
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ generous teaspoon ancho chili powder
½ generous teaspoon pasilla chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 healthy shakes of ground cinnamon
5 large tomatoes, diced (garden!) – you could use a large can of diced toms
3/4 cup tom sauce
½ cup water
Pinch thyme
Pinch oregano

In a large dutch oven, add the ground beef, onion, green pepper, and garlic and heat over high heat. As soon as it starts to sizzle, add the ¼ cup of water, lower the heat to medium high and cook until the water has evaporated out all the while breaking up the beef into small bits.

See how the beef is broken down instead of clumpy? The water helps this process and also helps soften the onion and green pepper. Once the meat has browned, add all the chili powders, cumin, smoked paprika, and cinnamon. Stir. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Lower the heat to med, and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down. The chili will be really thick at this point, so add ½ cup of water along with the thyme and oregano. Let cook for about 10 more minutes. Uh oh, there’s that spoon again! Hey, I’m just checking to make sure the seasoning is correct!

Chili is such an awesome meal, and any leftovers lend themselves very easily to multiple dishes. Plus, this version is gluten free all the way, baby! Check these out.

How do you feel about chili-dogs? Just spoon some chili over a good quality beef hotdog, top with your favorite fixin’s, and you’ve got a quick lunch.

Here it is again spooned over angel hair pasta. Add a dollop of sour cream and mix together for a really filling meal. Or, if you prefer elbows, you can make that famous chili-mac that graces many a bowl during football season.

Or, just spoon into a bowl and serve with Fritos (have you ever scooped up a bite of chili on a Frito? Mark that down as something to try in this lifetime. Yeah, yeah ... you might turn your nose up now, but trust me you'll thank me later!) Good ol' saltine crackers are a nice choice, too. Oh yeah, chillin’ with chili is a goooood thing.

One more thing, check out this lovely purple pepper! That’s so fun to say ... purple pepper, purple pepper! This purple goodie is from my garden and is a variety that I planted on a whim. The above photo shows it on the vine about 2 weeks ago. Here's how it looked when I picked it today!

I'll be tasting this little purple dude tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing if that glorious color stays intact when cooked! Have you ever had a purple pepper? Perhaps we could change the tongue twister to be "Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Purple Peppers". Ok, ok. I'll stop now!


Jan said...

I now want to eat chili and it's only 9.45am! Yours looks so delish!
I will have to make that this week.

Anonymous said...

Yummy! :) Chili is a wonderful meal in the fall & winter.


i love a good chili con carne, especially with rice. purple peppers are somethig i havent seen before. the photos were a treat to look at!

Marjie said...

My mother was a big fan of chili; my dearly beloved, not so much. I haven't had chili other than beanless on a hot dog for over 30 years (sad story, isn't it?). Love your photos!

Aussie Oklahoma said...

It's starting to get cold here too, the last couple of days, we've had to build a fire at night to take off the chill.

Ahhhhhh, that chilly looks delicious, I'm drooling already!

I recognize that pepper! I used to grow it up intil this year, because the seeds were too expencive. Have you ever had the "chocolate" verision of this pepper?

OhioMom said...

First of all love the "purple pepper"!

Now about chili .. we eat ours "hot" (spicy) over cornbread and sprinkled with cheddar cheese.

The food critic is not fond of chili, that is okay because the longer it sits the better it tastes and more for me :)

Dutch oven on the stovetop.

Pam said...

I love chili too. Yours looks perfect (especially today because it's cloudy and rainy). I love making chili dogs, chili quesadillas or eating it just plain with some crackers.

Linda said...

Chili with fresh bread (sigh)!
I've grown those peppers before, they're good but we call them Chocolate Peppers.

Grace said...

i like my chili extremely beany and extremely spicy. :)
meanwhile, i've never seen a purple pepper and didn't know they existed, but now i want one. after all, purple's my favorite color. :)

RecipeGirl said...

Still hot around here, but I do love to make a variety of different chilis. I especially like to have a cup for lunch since it's filling and doesn't have me snacking all day on other things.

I don't know if I've ever seen a purple pepper!

Jeena said...

This looks so good!! I could eat every photo here! Great post Paula it is so drool worthy. :-)

noble pig said...

I love chili. I host chili contests and love it over pasta. I make "real chili" without beans and then one with beans too. I love them all!

Jan said...

Welcome back, Paula. I hope you enjoyed your vacation.

It's still too hot here to contemplate a chili, but I like mine spicy and served over rice.

Love the purple peppers, I will have to grow some of these next year.

Cheryl said...

Deeeelishious~ I love chili, well kinda, my husband loves it, I enjoy it! thanks for sharing!

Pam said...

Oh, I'm ready for some cold weather and some chili! Those peppers are gorgeous!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Hi Paula, First of all I've never had a purple pepper, so You'll have to let us know what it tastes like, it looks beautiful, you must have a green thumb!
I love chili, but I need to kick mine up a notch, I like how you used different chili powders and cinnamon, so I will definitly have to try this once our weather breaks.
Can you believe it was 90 today?
btw, great post, done by a true lover of chili!!

Manggy said...

Ground beef, tomatoes, and beans. You hit all the right notes with me, Paula! (Noooo to beef cubes for me... Please...) I would, however, add plenty of heat in mine ;) That looks just too good, especially as a chili dog! And with the cheese, yummm!!!

Lisa said...

Chili is such a great dish, especially in the fall!

Bridgett said...

I am with you, I LOVE chili and yours looks mouthwatering. My hubby would be at your door if I showed him the chili dog. I love a big pot of chili cooking away on the stove.

Gloria (Canela) said...

Paula, what`s nice picture, look yummy!! Gloria (Did you know Im from Chile)) ji!!!

Bellini Valli said...

Chili is a food group of its own. I love the tuna melt in your previous post as well.Club House sandwiches and hot turkey sandwiches are comforting diner food as well:D

Deborah said...

I love chili, and I love that purple pepper!!