When it’s cold, it’s chili

Try this classic, but you can always embellish however you like.

—Dave Plath

As we are finally coming out of the winter thaw, I’m thinking about the perfect winter meal that is good to eat during any season. Chili is cool to make, pun intended. What I like are recipes you can be creative with, and where you don’t have to stick to any set of rules, and chili is perfect for that. 

Another great thing about chili is that there is always plenty for all, and plenty of leftovers. I usually make chili when we have guests over to watch ball games because it’s relatively easy to make and easy to serve. 

There are many variations that you can make (at one point in my life I had to make three chilis at the same time — one for my vegetarian wife, another for my son who didn’t like beans or much spice, and the classic for myself and guests). So it is easy to modify the recipe to your taste. 

The recipe I’m sharing here is my variation of the classic — enough heat to keep you warm on a chilly day, but not so much that you will exclude any family members or guests. Have plenty of single-serve Tupperware containers or Ziploc bags to spoon the leftovers into for quick and easy microwaveable meals in the days to come. My version includes tortilla chips to be used as your utensil and/or for dipping, melted cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and thinly sliced jalapeño pepper with lime wedges for use or garnish. The preparation time is a half-hour or so, and the cooking time can be almost immediate or last all day, as it can remain on simmer for hours as all the flavors condense more and more over time. This recipe easily serves four people; double it up for more people or for leftovers.

Dave’s Classic Chili 

1 chili spice pack (comes in mild, regular, or hot)
3 peppers, chopped (try 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow)
1 whole garlic clove, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1½ cups beef broth
1 large can of red kidney beans, drained (you can use black bean, garbanzo beans, or any combo you like)
1 lb. ground beef
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced or chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges

All of my recipes can be modified to taste or preference. I start with one pack of chili spice mix (I also like to make my own, but this saves a lot of time and money if you do not have all the spices necessary at hand). Each pack is for one pound of ground beef, so you will need more if you double the recipe. I prep by chopping the following: 2 or 3 peppers (I like to use one green, one red, and one yellow for color variation), one large yellow onion, one whole clove of garlic. Combine all the chopped veggies into a pan and cook until almost tender. 

At the same time I already have two large cans of crushed tomato and beef broth simmering in a large pot, add one large can of drained kidney beans (I also like to add one small can of chickpeas). I add one-third of the spice pack to the crushed tomato, beef broth, and bean pot and one-third to the veggies while cooking. Add the veggies to the crushed tomato and bean pot, and stir regularly. 

In the same pan used for the veggies, I then lightly brown the ground beef and gradually add the last third of the spice pack to the beef. Drain the cooked hamburger and add to the chili pot, cover and simmer, stirring regularly until you are ready to serve. Remember, the more time, the more the flavors will condense, and the chili gets better and better. 

I like to serve it in a deep bowl, with tortilla chips to one side (use them as your spoon), covered with grated cheese (the heat of the chili will melt it on its own), one large dollop of sour cream, and thinly sliced jalapeños and a lime wedge for garnish — squeeze it over the top for a real pop in flavor!