Hearty, Midwest Chili

If you’re from the Midwest, you won’t be surprised to hear that the temperature here has been going up and down like a bouncy ball. The week before Christmas we had six inches of snow and on Christmas day, we were outside in jeans and a t-shirt enjoying nearly 70* weather. Now the week after Christmas, the temps are dropping and the wind is howling, and it’s finally starting to feel like bitter cold winter is settling in. Which means less time to play and work outside, and more time spent in the kitchen.

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My favorite part of winter, besides the two week winter break from work, is that the freezing temps draw you into the kitchen. There’s something about the icy wind cutting through your jacket that makes you want to go inside and cook something warm. After putting on a third pair of pants and slippers, of course.

Despite how much I love the rich, warm foods of winter, there are times I miss just being able to throw burgers on the grill and whip up a salad. But alas – do people say alas anymore? I guess I do – Alas, we press on and enjoy the decadent, soul-warming foods of winter. Such a chore, am I right?

Today I’m sharing with you my recipe for chili. I guess it’s a “Midwest” version of chili, because it’s typical here to enjoy chili with tomatoes and beans (which is something the rest of the country doesn’t do?). Sigh. Y’all are missing out, big time. This chili recipe is hearty. We make it with our homemade canned tomatoes for a taste of summer freshness, some diced bell pepper to add some color and texture, and a jalapeno for an extra kick. Enjoy, y’all.

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Midwest Chili

Prep & Cook Time: 40 minutes    –     Serves: 6, generously

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb of ground beef, or venison
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (I prefer red or yellow, or both)
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 2 pints diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp parsley

Method:

Begin by browning your ground beef (venison) in a large skillet. Once browned, set aside. In a large cast iron dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Saute on medium heat until the onion is translucent and peppers are soft.

Next, add your tomatoes and beans. I use a can of beans from the grocery store. I’ve tried in the past to soak my own dried beans and add them to chili, but it never turns out just right (it makes for a crunchy chili, which no one likes). Make sure that before you add the beans, you drain the can of any syrup and rinse the beans until the water runs mostly clear. You want to enjoy the fresh flavors of this dish, not drown in canned syrup.

After you’ve added the tomatoes and beans, add all of your spices to the chili (chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and parsley). Allow the spices to simmer with your vegetables for 5-10 minutes, so they soak up some of the heat. Then, you can add your previously browned beef (venison).

Allow the chili to simmer in the dutch oven for 20 minutes before serving. This gives the spices plenty of time to settle in and adds a kick to your chili.

Serve hot with a slice of crusty bread or a grilled cheese. Top with sour cream and shredded cheese, if desired.

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The winter nights may be cold, but your kitchen doesn’t have to be.

May your hearts be full.

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