I think almost anyone who spends any time in the kitchen has at least one or two “go-to” meals. This is the meal you cook without ever consulting a recipe book, the meal you prepare when you know you need it to turn out well. My “old faithful” is decidedly low brow, but simple to make, healthy, and (dare I say), delicious. It’s chili.
This recipe is adapted – but still largely based – on my very first cookbook. On a last minute trip to BJ’s Wholesale club the week before I went to college for the first time, my mom bought me The Complete Idiot’s Guide to 20-Minute Meals. This book, with its step by step instructions, reliance on simple ingredients, and helpful hints, first convinced me that I could make something edible. More than ten years later, this cookbook’s pages are falling out; they’re splashed with food stains; they’re dog-eared. The book naturally opens to page 117 – the page marked “Unbelievably Good Chili.”
I will never get rid of it.
Varina’s Go-to Chili
- 1 large can diced tomatoes (you can buy with chilis in them to spice it up!)
- 1 lb ground beef (lean and mean!)
- 1 can refried beans (non-fat works perfectly – this is the secret ingredient!)
- 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- Large red onion, sliced/diced
- Olive oil
- Jalapeno or poblano pepper, diced
- 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
- Chili powder
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
- Feel free to twist it up – I like to add – tomato paste, green peppers, other types of beans
- Toppings: Sour cream, cilantro, green onions, cheddar cheese, raw onions etc.
- In a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, cook the onions down in olive oil until they’re translucent. Pop in a dash of salt and pepper.
- Brown the meat in the onions – making sure not to burn the meat. Especially if the meat is super lean (healthy as possible!), make sure it crumbles all the way (otherwise it gets clumps together and is pretty tasteless.)
- Add the diced tomatoes, corn, kidney beans and then the refried beans. Mix it all the way through. (Note: if you’re using tomato paste, put that in first so it has time to develop flavor).
- Cook down for about 15-20 minutes. (This is a good time to get your cornbread going!)
- I like to add the jalapenos/poblanos/chopped green pepper with a few minutes to go before serving time, so they retain a bit of crunch.
- Add spices – a good handful of chili powder, about half a handful cumin. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix it up and let cook through another couple minutes.
- Serve with toppings!
Doctored cornbread muffins
- 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
- one egg
- splash milk (use slightly less than the back of the box calls for, to make up for the moisture in the creamed corn)
- can creamed corn
- diced jalapeno
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin tray with paper liners (Tip: if you spray them lightly with non-stick spray, your cornbread won’t stick to the liner when it’s done.)
- Mix all of your ingredients together in a small bowl and pour into the muffin tins, until each cup is about 2/3 full.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
See title of blog post. Enough said!
(No, seriously. And the bonus is, you can generally make this from ingredients you can keep for a long, long time – ground beef in the freezer, cans of beans/corn/tomatoes in the cabinet. The fresh ingredients are an added bonus, but don’t make or break the dish. And it makes a TON of leftovers, if you’re feeding only two people.)