It's that time of the year... Changing leaves, crisp air, entire lines of suede shoes, football games, layers of boots/scarves/trendy coats, festive holidays, Saturdays spent circling toys in the Sears catalog, and of course, the CROCK POT.
In this house the crock pot lives in the pantry much of the year. When fall arrives, it gets a pretty good work out for several months. It might be the one appliance that gets used the most. We love to fill up the crock pot in in the morning, let it simmer all day, and enjoy an easy meal at night. And it's so much fun to have the littles help add ingredients to the pot -- they always seem to enjoy a meal they helped cook. Win-win!
Here's my favorite crock pot chili recipe, which happens to be simmering in the crock pot today. I don't get hung up on precise measurements when I cook. A little of this, a little of that, I cook by instinct and feel. The crock pot lends itself to that style. You really can't mess up. That's probably why we get along. But I've been making iterations of this chili for years ever since I learned the recipe by helping my mom, in her crock pot, when I was a wee Smockingbirdy. Enjoy!
Set the crock pot to high. Add to the crock pot, in this order:
Large can of tomato sauce
Packet of chili seasoning -- hot, mild, whatever you want. I have a big crock pot and often use one of each. Stir it into the tomato sauce. I often also stir in a few shakes of Tajin seasoning, which adds an amazing citrus-y flair.
Can of dark red kidney beans. Can of light red kidney beans. Drain those before adding.
Two cans of chili beans in their sauce. We prefer the "zesty" sauce but anything goes.
One can of diced tomatoes, undrained. It doesn't really matter whether they are diced, petit diced, or whole for that matter. They are going to break down while they cook. I like the ones with chili flavoring. The ones with added japapeno also are good. The Smockingbirdies tend to prefer mainstream tomatoes. Pick a can and toss it in.
Three carrots. Three celery stalks. I slice them into little circles and add to the pot.
At this point the crock pot will be filling up depending on its size. Make a point to stir it well before the it is TOO full.
It's pretty much ready to go. A couple of options from here.
If you enjoy your chili with meat, brown some ground sirloin or turkey in a skillet, drain it well, and add to the pot. A chopped yellow onion pairs well if you add meat. That should get you to the rim.
I prefer to add a little more tomato sauce and veggies to bring it to the rim. If you like it extra chunky, add more beans. Chili is personal. Make it yours.
Carefully stir once more. Taste the sauce and adjust the heat, or not. Cumin, chili powder, tajin, pepper, jalapenos, and green chilis all are great options. Sometimes it's best to leave it mild to medium and let folks add their own heat at the table.
Put the lid on and cook on high for 2 hours. Then reduce to low and let is simmer low and slow all day. Stir occasionally throughout the day, making sure to stir all the way to the bottom. If it's reducing and thickening more than you prefer, you can add more tomato sauce as needed to get it to the right consistency.
Stir and serve! We do a topping bar of shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, chopped onions, scallions, japalenos, and extra seasonings. Customize and enjoy. We love it with a side of cornbread and honey. That might be a southern thing. :)
Chili is so great on a cold day! It's the ultimate comfort food. I seriously can't wait for it to be finished. Please let us know if you have a crock pot recipe to share!! We might do a whole series of crock pot successes. Guest writers are always welcome to the Smockingbird blog! Stay tuned for mojo pork, southwestern vegetable soup, tom yum soup, and other goodies this winter.