Winter Food: Chili

My chili simmering on the stove.

What could be better on a cold winter day than chili? Okay, maybe there is also beef stew and chicken soup. But chili sort of says it all … hot, hearty and spicy. Just the right thing to warm you up from the inside.

So, yes, the calendar says that we are very close to spring. But where we live in Wyoming, spring doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what the calendar says. And March can be the snowiest month.

It snowed over the weekend. We got about four inches or so. Riverton, where we live, is in a river valley (very large) at the confluence of several rivers. So we don’t get as much snow as some other Wyoming cities do. But it’s cold. Our forecast lows for the next few days are in the negative numbers with wind chill temperatures that you don’t really even want to think about.

So I put together a big pot of chili this morning.

I’ve often said to Bernd, my husband, that the herbs and spices that go into my chili are pretty to look at. So today, I actually took a picture of them.

Starting at twelve o’clock with the smallest amount and moving clockwise you have:  celery seed, ground oregano, basil, chipotle powder, ground black pepper, potassium chloride, coconut sugar, ground cumin, ancho chili powder, paprika and in the center, dried parsley flakes.

Many, many years ago, when my sister came for a visit, I prepared some chili (along with a number of other things) ahead of time so that cooking wouldn’t take up visiting time. When I asked my sister how she liked the chili because she was eating it without comment, she said something like, “I don’t think you should call this chili. Maybe call it a spicy meat sauce.”

I was a little hurt by that, but I got over it and it set me on a several decades long path to perfect my chili recipe.

Now to be honest, she has not tried my “perfected” chili and so I don’t really know if it is any closer to “real” chili than that spicy meat sauce from years ago. But my husband and I like it and so I suppose that is all that matters.

I thought I might share my recipe. Since I do not write recipes professionally and actually use very few in my cooking, I will do this in my own fashion. Kind of the way I do most things.

Start by browning one pound of ground beef and one pound of ground turkey in a large pot. I use a six quart Revere Ware Dutch oven that I bought before Bernd and I were married. It’s had a lot of use and is still going strong. You gotta love Revere Ware.

While the meat is browning, coarsely chop one large onion and one or more large bell peppers. I do not use green (unripe) bell peppers because we do not digest them very well. I use red, orange or yellow. Whatever I have on hand. Today I used all of a yellow bell pepper and most of a red one.

I keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge and use about 1.5 teaspoons of that. I add it to the chopped onion and bell pepper and set it aside until the meats is fully browned.

Also while the meat is browning, I measure out the herbs and spices. This is one of the few times I actually measure anything. It goes like this: ¼ tsp. celery seed, ½ tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. basil, 1 tsp. chipotle powder, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 tsp. salt substitute (potassium chloride), 2 tsp. coconut sugar, 1.5 tbsp. ground cumin, ¼ cup ancho chili powder, a whole pile of paprika, and a bigger pile of dried parsley flakes.

You could use real celery if you want. I use the seed because celery has too much sodium for my husband and me. He has sodium sensitive high blood pressure and I have Meniere’s Syndrome. Also, obviously, you could use “real” salt instead of the potassium chloride. I don’t know if the coconut sugar affects the taste significantly. I use it instead of refined white sugar because … well … it’s not refined.

When the meat is fully cooked, I set aside to cool a small taste of it for the dog and the cat (you could skip this step … see me smiling?). Then I add the onion, bell pepper and garlic. I stir that well and let it cook for a bit while I open two six ounce cans of tomato paste.

The tomato paste goes into the pot along with 24 ounces of water. I use the water to clean all the tomato paste out of the cans.

Then I dump in all the herbs and spices and mix thoroughly. Bernd likes a “wetter” sort of chili, so you might need to adjust the amount of water that you use.

I turn the heat down to low and simmer the mess for five hours. It’s edible after three hours, but perfect after five.

If you actually try this recipe, please come back to this post sometime and let me know what you think of it. Margaret Cousins

Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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