Working full time doesn’t leave a lot of time for cooking, cleaning, or much else. Sometimes though I manage to “do it all,” I ask myself if I spent enough time with my four-year-old. Should I have overlooked taking care of the house in order to spend more time with him? And then the ever present mom guilt sets in and I question if I’m doing the right thing by being go-go-go from morning until night. Will it inhibit my son to grow into a self-confident and successful gentleman? Am I giving him enough love, support, while also providing the tools to become a well developed happy child? Oh… these are the thoughts that plague me late at night. Being a mom means I pretty much second guess myself every step of the way.
During the week, one thing allows me to save time and give that time to my family – my crock pot. With the thousands of slow cooker recipes out there, dinner can be ready by the time I pull into the drive. And on chilly winter evenings, there’s nothing better than coming home to a bowl of spicy, smoky chili, topped with sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese, served with warm cornbread to soak up the tomato-y juices at the bottom of the bowl. Truly a comfort dish.
I don’t have a secret ingredient in my recipe. The only rule I try to stick with is flavor, and a lot of it. The bacon and cumin work to make the dish smoky, and the wine enhances the overall flavor. A couple of years ago I read a chili recipe that called for 1/4 cup of chili powder and I thought that was a crazy amount! But when I thought about how much I use in my recipe, I figured it was near the same. So yes, stay with me – and use 1/4 cup! The chili powder I use is mild – since I have a small one at home who can’t handle too much heat. If I feel it needs more heat, I’ll add a pinch of red pepper flakes, the way my husband loves it. The cumin and the salt, although given measurements below, are really up to your interpretation. Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to salt – some like salty, and others don’t. So don’t take my word for it. I always find myself starting with a bit of salt, and adding more as the dish (not just this dish, but any dish!) progresses.
Chili is one of those dishes that allows forgiveness in experimenting. My recipe is a tried-and-true work of trial and error that works for me. Make it your own. As time goes by, you won’t need my recipe, because it will become your own, with all of the flavors you and your family love.
1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
6 slices thick-cut bacon (or 8 slices of regular bacon), chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small green peppers, chopped
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups beef broth, no salt
½ cup dry red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Set crock pot to low and add the ground beef. Break up the ground beef, and add bacon, salt, onion, and garlic, and tomato paste. Mix, and add the tomatoes with their juice, Worcestershire sauce, and chili powder. Mix, and add beef broth, red wine, cumin and green peppers. Mix and add in black and kidney beans. Keep on low for 7-8 hours.
*Note: the leaner the meat, the better. This saves time because you don’t have to brown it beforehand to drain off the fat. If you cannot find lean ground beef, then brown the meat beforehand in a skillet and drain off the fat. Otherwise you’ll end up with a LOT of grease on top of your chili – EW.