Tuesday, November 9, 2010

slow cooker chili: perfect for chilly days!

ha! that title slays me.

listen, i can't remember if i've talked to you all about this recipe before, and i'll be honest: i'm too lazy to look back in the archives. so, if i have, take this as a reminder to TRY IT IT'S THE EASIEST RECIPE EVER.

and it looks like this when you start the cooking process.




by the end, it fills your house with the delicious aroma of chili powder, meat, and tomato goodness.  it's a delicious smell to arrive home to after a long day.  i find that this recipe works best to save me from the siren song of fast food when my husband and i have a long night (like we do tonight).  it's also a great, filling source of fiber and something that leaves me with leftovers i can eat for days and days.

it's a winner, i tell you, even if that picture doesn't tell the tale.

you'll need the following:
  • about a pound of your favorite ground meat (i have used beef and pork and a combination; haven't used turkey yet, because i think it might be too dry, but i would imagine you could use anything. chicken would definitely work as well)
  • a very large can (or 2 regular cans) of red kidney beans
  • one regular can of white beans (white kidney beans or great northern beans)
  • one regular can of tomato sauce
  • one can of diced tomatoes spiced with jalapenos (often they're described as chili-style)
  • chili powder
  • cayenne
  • oregano
  • sugar (to cut the tomato taste, if necessary)
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • basil
  • hot sauce
all of the spices are to taste, but i use at least 3 or 4 tablespoons of chili powder, at least a teaspoon (when all is said and done) of cayenne, and about 1/2 teaspoon of the rest, other than the hot sauce, which i add to taste.  we like things hot around these parts, so you really just want to flavor it to your family's taste.  you know best.

you will brown the meat first. as it's finishing, put in the spices and let them soak into the meat; then add the tomato sauce and the tomatoes. i try to let the mixture come to a boil so that the spices combine. i almost always add additional spices (here's where the extra chili powder and cayenne come in, and often additional garlic and onion powder) after i taste it.  drain the beans and dump them into an empty slow cooker, then add the meat/tomato mixture on top.

remember: you'll have the chance to add additional spices later, and the heat will build in your chili as it cooks.  don't go too heavy on the spice now, or you might regret it later.

mix the meat mixture into the beans, then turn on low (or high, if you're pressed for time--i find it works equally well, and often turn on low for a while (if i'm home) and then up to high in the few hours before we'll eat).  you can check it, if you're like me, in the hour or two before you eat, to gauge the spiciness and the thickness of the sauce. 

here's a tip: if it's too runny, and you're a fan of thicker chili, add about a tablespoon of flour.  mix it in, and it will thicken your sauce nicely, making a hearty chili that will stand up on a cracker rather than run all over you like a soup.  it's your preference. 

i find it needs at least 4 hours or so in the slow cooker to be best, but you could certainly have it in there longer. watch that it doesn't burn along the edges. if you turn it to high, it likely will, but if your family is like mine, that will be a bonus (we fight over the crispy edges, because they have a great flavor).  stir periodically, especially if you're adding spice, and when it smells and tastes awesome, it's ready.

it's delicious, and one of the things on my constant rotation.  it's also fairly cheap to make: the beans and tomato sauce costs about $5 max, and the meat can vary depending on the sales you can find (my pork was about $2 for a pound).  Considering it makes at least 4 sizable servings (6 if you stretch), that's about $1.75 a serving.  i'm not sure what else i make that is that inexpensive, or that easy!

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