The Chili Experiment

When Darren and I moved in together, we always referred to making chili as “The Chili Experiment,” because no matter if I thought I was making it the exact same way, it never turned out tasting the same.  Chili is one of those things that you can sort of make up as you go along.  I do a lot of my cooking like this, and so for this post, there is not a standard recipe at the end.  Over the years I’ve made many different types of chili like vegetarian chili, chicken chili, and many many many variations of standard chili.  The instructions I’m posting today is pretty much what I do to make a standard chili.  This time I used my crock pot because it was one of those days where we were coming and going all day, and this way I got it going in the morning and it was perfect when we got home at dinnertime.

I started by browning my ground beef in a frying pan.  I used a non-stick pan so I didn’t have to add any extra fat.  I also like to buy extra lean ground beef, but once the beef is browned, I’ll rinse it with cold water and drain it to get all of the fat out.

Browing some extra lean ground beef

Browing some extra lean ground beef

 

After the meat was browned and rinsed, I kept it in the frying pan and added some finely diced onions and continued to cook this mixture over a medium heat.

Adding some onions to the meat

Adding some onions to the meat

 

As the onions started to soften up, I added some diced celery and continued to cook over medium heat.

Adding diced celery

Adding diced celery

 

Next I added about a half teaspoon of minced garlic and continued cooking.

Getting a bit steamy, but minced garlic was added and mixture continued to cook

Getting a bit steamy, but minced garlic was added and mixture continued to cook

 

Once everything was a bit soft and browned, I poured the contents of the frying pan into the crock of my slow cooker, along with a large zucchini that I diced up.  You can add any vegetables you want at this point (often I will add shredded carrots as well).

Into the crockpot it goes

Into the crockpot it goes

 

Next I poured in 2 cans of plain stewed tomatoes.  I then filled both cans with water (to get all of the tomatoey goodness) and added the water to the crockpot and gave everything a stir.

Addition of stewed tomatoes and water

Addition of stewed tomatoes and water

 

Next I added two large cans of red kidney beans and two large cans of black beans.  I like to rinse the beans before I add them to get rid of all of the gross goo that is in the can.  Normally I would replace one of the the cans of red kidney beans with a can of canelli (or white kidney) beans, but I didn’t have any on hand.  You can add as much or as little beans to your chili as you want.  You can also add pretty much any variety that you like.  Beans are so healthy and full of fibre, so I like to load my chili up.  You can also add chickpeas if you want.

Adding the beans

Adding the beans

 

Next it is time to start flavouring the chili.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add chili seasoning to taste.  Sometimes I also add hot sauce or cayenne pepper to really spice things up, but since I was hoping Scarlett would eat some (she didn’t), I kept it fairly mild.  During my many chili experiments, I have also discovered a few additions that really make the chili.  One of these additions is Heinz Chili Sauce.  I usually have a bottle of this in the fridge and another in the cupboard.  It is a really great addition to a lot of things.  It is sort of like a zesty, chunky ketchup and can be found with the ketchup in the grocery store.  For this batch of chili, I added a whole bottle, but again, add to taste.

Chili sauce

Chili sauce

 

The other addition I like to make is one that I came upon by accident and not something that I would normally buy or use.  For some reason we had a can of Heinz Chili Style Beans, so I threw them into a batch of chili, and they added just the perfect flavour, so now I always make a point to use a can or two in my chili.

Chili style beans

Chili style beans

 

Once everything was in the crockpot, I gave it a big stir and then set it to high to start to simmer.  You can’t keep it on high too long, because beans tend to stick to the bottom of the crockpot and start to burn.  I ruined a whole batch of chili once because of this.  Once the chili starts to simmer (it took about an hour), I gave the pot a big stir again, making sure the scrape the bottom of the pot, and then set the crock pot to low.

Cooking away

Cooking away

 

We have a standing rule in our home, that whoever gets home from work, or wherever, first, turns the crockpot to the “keep warm” setting, especially if it has been on for more than 6 hours.  At this point, I also did some tasting (since the flavours had had a few hours to mix), and added any salt, pepper, or spices that I thought it still needed.  I also mixed in about a cup of frozen corn.  This is a new addition to chili for us, but the corn gives the chili just a little bit of sweetness which is a nice touch.

When it’s time to serve the chili, I like to make sure that we have a nice crusty bread to go with it.  My favourite at the moment is the Ace Bakery Harvest Grain Oval which you can get at Zehrs.  I also make sure we have a nice sharp cheddar cheese grated up, and some sour cream to garnish.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

 

The great thing about chili is that it freezes well.  This particular batch of chili made enough that I could freeze two large containers of it, and still have some in the fridge for Darren’s lunches.  We also had just enough to make chili dogs for dinner one night.  I had never tried them before, but they were pretty delicious.  We’ve started buying hotdogs from a local farm store here in Ayr, Oakridge Acres (http://www.oakridgeacres.ca), which I highly recommend you visit if you are in the area.  The hotdogs we get there are nitrate free, which is fantastic because normally hotdogs induce migraines for me, but these ones do not, and made by Stemmler Farms.

So Darren barbecued the hotdogs while I made some fresh french fries and heated the chili.  I wasn’t entirely sure how to garnish these, so I put out shredded cheddar cheese, and regular hot dog condiments and everyone sort of put on what they liked.  I enjoyed the cheese as well as ketchup and mustard on my chili dog.

An added bonus of leftover chili...chili dogs!

An added bonus of leftover chili…chili dogs!

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