Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cold Weather is Chili Weather

Growing up in South Texas, any time the mercury dropped below 40ยบ, it was officially COLD.  Mom would whip up a big batch of chili and serve with homemade cornbread.  If she was feeling really industrious, she'd make a pan of cheese & onion enchiladas and top with some of the chili, pop in the oven and heat for about 30 mins.  To this day, I still prefer my enchiladas with chili rather than meat sauce or red sauce (or "gravy" if you're old school).  That's a recipe for a different day, though!

Now, something about chili. There's tons of ways to make it!  This is a basic recipe, but it's my favorite recipe. Also, chili isn't chili without beans.  Without beans, it's just meat sauce.  I'm not a fan of flaming hot chili  where all you taste is fire.  I prefer to taste the meat, the beans, and the seasonings.  My mouth thanks me for not setting it on fire, not to mention my intestinal tract!  Also, I have a very gringo husband who doesn't tolerate hot food, so I've had to tame down my original recipe and use "mild" chili powder rather than regular speed chili powder.  This makes an easy, slow-cooked meal that is not only tasty and filling, but fills your house with a lovely aroma throughout the day.

Homemade Chili With Beans

Pinto Beans  (Remember them from this post?   That's the base for this recipe.)
1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey or a mix of turkey/beef
Chili Powder (Gebhardt Chili Powder is the bomb if you can find it)

Start with the pinto beans that have been simmering on your stove or in your crock pot all day.  Add chili powder to taste.  I use about 4 oz.  Crumble your meat into the mixture.  Stir and allow to simmer until the meat is done, about 30 minutes to an hour.  I like to slowly cook my meat so it absorbs all the flavors of the mix and cooks down a bit so the chili is thick, not runny like soup.

Easy peasy! 

The consummate way to eat chili in my family is to take your piece of cornbread and slice it in half horizontally.  Lay it in the bottom of a bowl face up.  Pour the chili on top, add grated cheese and chopped onions to the top and devour.  I don't like soggy cornbread, so I eat my cornbread on the side.  You can also serve over corn chips and have Frito pie.

 I've carted this recipe through 6 moves over the past 25 years.  I treasure this because I had called my mom one day to get the "recipe".  She never used a recipe for anything so while I knew how to make it, I didn't really know how to make it!  I was teaching school at the time n Kerrville, was in my first apartment, and living on my own for the first time.  I need to transfer it to a recipe card & put it in my recipe box so it's on heavier paper and in a more safe place, but when I need the recipe, I just look for this piece of paper, which is from a pad of letter writing paper.  On second thought, considering my husband dropped my recipe box and broke it, maybe this piece of paper is better!  He did repair my recipe box, though and it works great!

Enjoy your chili, and Robin, you don't have to add the onions! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pinto Beans


Or simply, "a pot of beans" or "beans" in my family.  Beans were a standard in my family growing up, especially in colder weather.  We had them at any large family gathering such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I can remember sitting at the kitchen table cleaning beans with my mom and dad.  Mom or Dad would pour the bag of beans on the table and I'd use my little hand to scoop some to my spot at the table.  Mom gave me a big bowl to sit on my lap and taught me to pick out the rocks, pieces of beans, and bean halves.  Everything else got scooped off the table into the bowl.  Pat...pat...pick out a pebble or piece of bean...scoop into the bowl.  It was a fun time of "helping" in the kitchen and training for life. It was also a time to connect with my parents.  Sweet memories of that old gray formica table and cleaning beans! (Today's beans are a lot cleaner, but I still like to clean them just to make sure I get whole beans and no little pebbles in mine.)

I like to slow cook mine over a low flame or in a slow cooker and I start the night prior to when I want to eat them.  This bean recipe is also the base for chili in my family. 

Pinto Beans
3-4 Cups dry pinto beans
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (Can use more)
1/2 t (or more) garlic powder
1/4 t (or more) cumin
Bacon slices (about 1/2 pound) or salt pork

Measure out your beans.  I usually start with 4 cups of beans.  Rinse beans in a colander and then place in a dutch oven, stock pot, or slow cooker.  Pour enough water to cover the beans and allow for expansion. (The last time I cooked beans I had about 4 C of beans and about 12 C of water.) Soak beans overnight in 1/2 t salt per 2 cups of water.  If you're watching your salt, use 1/4 t salt per 2 C of water. Cover with tight fitting lid and let them set overnight.

In the morning, to the water & beans add the remaining ingredients. If you want it spicier, add more garlic and cumin, but don't overdo it on the cumin.  You can also leave out the cumin and just use garlic and bacon or salt pork. If you use bacon, I recommend cutting each slice into fourths. As my mom said, "If it doesn't smell spicy enough, keep adding more garlic."

Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling, turn down to simmer for 6-8 hours, or until tender.  Add warm water as needed throughout cooking process to keep beans from burning.

If you're using a slow cooker, add the onion and spices in the morning, cover and place on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Top with cheese and your choice of toppings and serve over cornbread,or as a side for any meal.  (I don't like soggy cornbread, so I don't do this, but my dad loves to plop his cornbread in his bowl then pour the beans on top.)