Being from Texas, I’m pretty sure my first baby food was a big, steaming bowl of chili con carne. Not really. But you would think so as much as I love this stuff. I could eat chili in any season and for every meal. I just love the heartiness and the explosive flavor kick that comes from a good blend of spices and quality ingredients. Plus, chili is a great food for adding hidden vegetables into your family’s diet.
If you asked 100 people “How do you make chili?” you would definitely get at least 99 different answers. For me, the key to a good chili is in the careful balance of ingredients that make it nutritious, filling and appealing to many different tastes. Adding extra tomato sauce to a recipe might make a bigger batch, but then it’s also more like slightly spicy vegetable soup. Adding more spices and peppers might seem appealing to some until the kids run from the table crying and asking for a heaping glass of water to cool their mouths.
Let me explain some of the ingredients in case you’re tempted to overlook them. The ground beef is traditional and easy to recognize. But the ground turkey (or bison, if you prefer) gives the chili a more complex texture because it is slightly leaner and will be more chunky to the bite.
I suggest organic ingredients for this chili to be at its best. To find out more check, out Crystal’s eBook: “What Does Organic Mean?”
The carrot adds a sweetness that is delicate and takes away from the acidity of the tomatoes. They also lend a color contrast that is pleasing to the eye and does not diminish after the hours of simmering.
I don’t even like celery, but I would never leave it out of the chili. It really adds something that is indescribable until you forget it at the store and the chili ends up with a more hollow flavor than before. Try it with and without celery. You’ll see what I mean.
Garlic has great flavor. I would personally prefer twice as much garlic in this recipe, but then the entire family wouldn’t enjoy it as much. The four cloves in this recipe allow the garlic to flavor the overall dish without overwhelming it.
I think the cumin, brown sugar, and liquid smoke really make this dish pop. The cumin is a very southwestern spice that is unique and distinctively smoky. The cumin really brings out the brightness of the crushed red pepper flavor. The brown sugar gives a depth to the entire dish and contrasts the power of the liquid smoke. Don’t put more than two drops of the liquid smoke. It gives a flavor I’d rather not describe.
Make sure not to add the salt until the end. If you add it in the beginning, some liquid will evaporate and generally make the overall chili more concentrated, and therefore, more salty than you desired.
You might already have a tried and true chili recipe that goes back generations. But if you don’t, here’s my answer to the question,
“How do you make chili the whole family will love?”
(Remember to choose organic whenever possible.)
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground turkey or bison
- 1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 3 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 drops liquid smoke (hickory or mesquite are great!)
- 1 – 15oz can kidney beans, drained
- 1 – 15oz can pinto beans
- Salt – to taste.
- Beef stock – optional
Brown the meat. Add everything else but the beans and bring to a boil. If you prefer your chili slightly thinner you can add beef stock to desired consistency. Reduce heat and simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add beans. Simmer another 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.
We always top our chili with cheese. Serve your healthy, homemade chili with cornbread, tortillas or a brown rice.
If you have some left over, it freezes very well!
If you like this family-friendly recipe, you might enjoy finishing the meal with a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie! Yum!
So now that you’ve seen my Texan way…How do YOU make chili?