I have been blessed with many wonderful children in my life. Besides my own, there was an ever changing army of faces at my dinner, breakfast and lunch table. They all feel just like my own. As each person has grown and gone on to their lives as wonderful adults, we talk often and fondly about the raucous meals at our home. There were the weekend long “slumber parties” (A.K.A. weekends of endless video and board games.) Twister was a favorite at my home. Sometimes we would have 3 mats going at the same time. I have always enjoyed the candor and enthusiasm that young people bring.
Because there were always a lot of mouths at my table, I learned to cook in big batches. The biggest challenge for supper was usually to find a pot big enough for the meal. Everyone had a role in preparing our meal, which usually led to out and out mayhem in the kitchen. My “sons’ ” all learned to cook meals that they could serve to anyone. My “children” all learned that the table is a place to connect with your family and bring friends closer to their hearts. The memories are dear to all of us, and the source of many laughs when we talk.
In the fall, there would always be the inevitable pot of chili. Sometimes 2, depending how large the first pot was. My son Nick, was always at my elbow helping to put it together. It seemed it always fell to Nick to add the final ingredients. He loved to sneak in the honey, as his “secret” ingredient. As the years have gone on he now has his own table, filled with happy faces and his own chili recipe. Every time I share a bowl of chili with family, or friend, I think of the cool fall nights, bright happy faces, laughter and full tables of our home.
I have included our simple recipe. You can add or subtract, the options can be endless. The bright, warm and happy faces? Well, you will have to add your own. Please enjoy!
1 Large Can Dark Red Kidney beans (15 oz or larger)
1 Large Can Light Red Kidney beans (15 oz or larger)
1 Medium Can of Black Beans
1 Large Can of Chili Beans (40 oz, Brook’s puts out a style my family likes)
1 Lb Cooked and Drained Ground Beef (I use 87/13. You can use what you like)
1 Lb Cooked and Drained Ground Pork (If you prefer to do without pork, just use a fattier beef 73/27)
1 Can of Beef Broth (14.5 oz, low sodium might be good. There is enough salt showing up to this party)
1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes with no added salt (Same reason as above)
1 Large Can Diced Tomatoes
1 Large Sweet Pepper Chopped (Any color will do)
2 Stalks Celery Chopped
1 Large Onion Chopped (You pick what you like)
6 Cloves of Garlic Chopped
¼ Cup Honey
1 or 2 Packets of your Favorite Taco Seasoning
Assorted spices – Hungarian Paprika, Chili Powder, Powdered Mustard, Etc. anything that your family adds to Chili.
Take the first 3 cans of beans, rinse and drain them. In whatever vessel you have chosen for the job add olive oil and start the heat at about medium maybe a touch higher. Once your oil is ready add your onions and celery sprinkle a little salt to get them started. Cook them until softened. Then add Garlic and sweet peppers (If you want spicy peppers you can add them here as well. I am very careful with the heat of my Chili, but if that is what you like, be careful not to make it inedible.). Add your drained meat at this time. The first thing we are going to do is build our sauce. So crushed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and beef broth join the pot. Stir it for a while to let it begin to marry (A term used for when flavors begin to mingle). This is where I add the Brooke’s Chili beans (they have a sauce with some great flavors, so I add that as well) and the honey. Give that a few minutes to heat through and bring some flavors forward. Take your Taco Seasoning and open the packet. Begin to add that to the sauce. Add a little stir give it a few and taste. Repeat as you want. Stop when you think you are just about there. Sometimes I add a little more powdered Garlic and Hungarian Paprika (This has a little heat to it, so taste carefully before you add more.),plus any other spices I think it needs. Sometimes I add a jar of picante or salsa for more vegetables and flavor. Now the beans go in. Turn the heat down low and let it take it’s time to get the party going. You can add anything that makes you think of Chili. Sometimes we add chopped black olives. We like to have shredded Monterrey Jack and Cheddar on the side, with macaroni noodles and soup crackers. There is just no wrong way to enjoy Chili!