Many of us don’t think about making chili until the weather turns chilly, but now is a great time to dig into a hearty bowl, especially if you don’t have to heat up your kitchen in the process.
Why think about chili at the height of summer? Because it goes so well with classic summer dishes and activities. After all, what are the odds you’ll be grilling burgers or hot dogs over the Labor Day weekend? If you’re like me, those odds are good. Ladle some chili over them and top them with diced onion and a generous shower of shredded Cheddar and you turn a basic holiday meal into a memorable one.
Having an end of summer block party or picnic? There’s nothing easier or more fun than tacos in a bag, the iconic, kid-friendly meal consisting of a bag of corn chips, a scoop of taco meat and all the usual taco toppings. Swap out the taco meat for homemade chili and you’ll be the neighborhood culinary rock star.
Don’t forget that preseason football has already started and you’ll be looking for something different to serve at halftime. How about chili-topped nachos? Or better yet (at least according to my sons), chili totchos — think nachos with tater tots standing in for the chips.
Now that you’re committed to the chili concept, here’s the good news. An excellent chili doesn’t have to take a ton of your time, standing at a hot stove. You can make it in a slow cooker, which leaves your kitchen cool and you free to run to the store for a bag of ice, a bottle of margarita mix and maybe a replacement for those squirt guns that broke back in June.
Hey, summer doesn’t last forever, and since dinner is already made, you have time to have a little fun.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.
Easy Slow-Cooker Chili
Serves 8 to 10.
Note: The addition of bacon to this thick and hearty slow-cooker chili gives it a slight smokiness. This version is fairly mild, but if you like your chili on the hot side, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne along with the chili powder. From Meredith Deeds.
• 4 slices bacon, chopped
• 2 lb. lean ground beef
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
• 1 (16-oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 (4.5-oz.) can chopped green chiles
• 2 tbsp. chili powder
• 1 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. pepper
• Toppings, optional: chopped red onion, shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro
Spray a 4-quart or 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
In a 12-inch skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, or until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the slow cooker. Add the beef, onion and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the beef is cooked through. Drain fat and transfer to the slow cooker.
Add tomatoes, beans, chiles, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours, or on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours. Serve with toppings, if desired.
Nutrition information per each of 10 serving:
Calories 240 Fat 11 g Sodium 500 mg
Carbohydrates 14 g Saturated fat 4 g Total sugars 5 g
Protein 21 g Cholesterol 60 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 carb, 3 medium-fat protein.