It’s Getting Chilly Out There – So Get Chili In Here…

But first, a Haiku:

Foodie conundrum –
Heats us in wintertime, yet
We call it ‘chili’

As the Missus finishes up her second novel (#2 in the Plant Lady Mystery series – quick plug here) I wanted to do something to free up her time. So I looked around for meals that I could do simply and easily (key for me).

The result is what I’m going to call Dave’s Drop Dead Default Chili:

  1. Put equal sized cans of beans and tomatoes in a pot
  2. Add chili powder to taste – level teaspoon per pair of cans is a good start
  3. Bring heat up slowly to a bubbling boil, then turn down and let simmer

I told you it was simple. Want a lot? Combine four cans of tomatoes and four cans of beans (I prefer kidney beans for the first can, but cannellini, pinto, and black beans have all worked so far.) Want a little? one can of each. Thick? Use tomato paste. Thin? Use whole or diced tomatoes.

This is a basic, simple to make chili – and once you have this down pat, there are many ways to enhance it:

  • I’m a vegetarian, but it shouldn’t be too hard to add meat – fry up some ground hamburger and add it, or cook up and slice in hot dogs (or just let them cook in the chili.)
  • I like to add oil to the pot and put in some diced onions first – cook them on medium heat until they just turn translucent, so that they are still a bit crunchy. I use one of those chopper gadgets to make the onion bits very small, cook some, and let the rest be a garnish (this was Gwen’s suggestion.)
  • My current variation is to add a lot of heat. I take a large jar of banana peppers in water, and split it into two portions for two batches, each with half the water and half the peppers. Then I add the 1/2 jar of ‘hot’ water along with the peppers diced into small pieces.
  • You can also add rice. A small amount of white rice added near the end cooks up nicely; you serve when the rice is soft. A big advantage is that rice+beans ends up providing all the protein building blocks your body needs. Called a Complete Protein, it’s useful for vegetarians who look for non-meat sources for protein.
  • Another alternative for rice: As I found out in one batch, rice needs 2X the water by volume to cook. So add too much to the chili and you end up with a a sludge or stew. Not to worry though, since that makes a great filling for tacos – just add a dollop of sour cream each (organic of course). Alternately, you can cook the rice separately, and pour chili over it for that complete protein benefit.
  • You can go all out – I actually got the original recipe from Joe Cross’s site, where the beans are soaked overnight along with many, many steps and ingredients. I really liked the recipe, but the fact is, if it requires too many steps, it won’t get done, so better canned beans and a hearty meal or two a week, than soaking beans and making a fancy dinner only once a month.

So far, I can make big batches that last three days and allow freezing of the extra. For that, it’s two big cans (28oz) of Tomato paste and whole tomatoes, along with 4-5 regular sized (14oz) cans of each type of bean. A 1/2 jar of pickled banana peppers gives it the perfect heat.

Give it a try – something this easy makes for a great last minute meal, and tastes far better than the simplistic recipe suggests. And it gives your other half time to work on her novel…

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