I used to dislike the coming of fall. It meant the end to summer; I like the warmth and ease and lush green of summer. But something magical has happened to me and I now look forward to autumn, and even the coming winter. Part of that “something magical” is how for a year I was away from my cove, living in Texas where the contrast of seasons isn’t as apparent–I missed what I was away from so acutely that every tiny molecule of this mountain cove delights and amazes me –I am discovering it all over again; I only thought I appreciated it before. And, well, she says with a blush, feeling loved and being in love everything changes and swells up and becomes mystical and magical and new (thank you, Dale).
With the coming cooler weather, chilly mornings and evenings, with the changing leaves, with the sights and sounds (is there no more wonderful sound of autumn than that of leaves beneath one’s feet?) and feel of fall, my mind turns to soups and stews and chili. The other night, I prepared a chili that was so simple but so tasty, I will share it here. Of course, everyone should put their own ‘twist’ on chili–I like to play with food: the seasonings, the way I prepare it.
Now, even though this may look long, it’s super easy. I’m a novelist so I tend to run off at the mouth even when writing recipes *laughing!*
Easy Autumn Chili (this is enough chili for two people for a few nights)
About a pound or so of beef “stew meat” — we bought these small lean “chunks” of beef. You can also “vegetarian” this by not adding meat and substituting more veggies and/or “fake meat crumbles” (I have done this and it’s good).
1 can of stewed tomatoes (or if you have fresh made, use it!)
1 can of tomato sauce (or freshly made if you have it)
(I had a little bit of Rotel tomatoes in the freezer that I also added)
1 onion chopped rough (I like chunky chili!)
1 green bellpepper chopped rough
4-5 small “baby bellpeppers” in orange, yellow, red (we buy them in a bag – they are small and very tasty!) also chopped rough
minced or chopped garlic
Spices: chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and I also added 2 spices I have in my cabinet: ancho chili pepper and chipotle chili pepper, but use these two spices sparingly especially if you add the Rotel tomatoes. I also have some garlic powder that I sprinkled even though I used minced garlic. As well, I poured in about a half cup of Dale’s beer.
I also added a can of black beans since I had that in my pantry: I like very few beans in my chili and sometimes don’t add them at all – pintos in chili are really good, too, by the way.
Whatever oil you like to cook with – just a little.
Whatever “toppings” and “sides” you like: we like sour cream, or cheddar cheese, or both, for toppings. Crackers or tortilla chips are good–or cornbread, for sides.
And very important: add your tastebuds! You must taste as you cook. It’s like when I first began writing–I thought that if I were a Real Writer, whatever came out of my pea-head should be perfect the very first draft and I shouldn’t have to fiddle with it (edit it or rewrite it)–Oh Dear Lawd! That’s crazy talk! Of course writers have to edit and re-write–I edit and re-write til the cows come home! Many many drafts! I “taste” my writing to make sure it is delicious. Do that with your food – layer flavors and taste along the way, y’all.
Put a little oil in a large saucepan and turn up the heat until when a piece of meat is added, it immediately sizzles – you want to sear the meat very quickly – don’t worry about cooking it through because it will cook when you are simmering the chili. I added a little salt to this and nothing else, yet.
It’s up to you whether you sear a little at a time or all the meat at once, but note that if you sear it all at once, the juices of the meat will stop the searing process and it may start to “steam” instead – so, if this happens, just turn up the heat and cook out the juices to keep that sear. When the meat is quickly seared, remove it from the saucepan (be careful! it’s hot!), and place the meat aside.
Turn down the heat so you can start sautéing your veggies: onion and bellpeppers. Don’t add the garlic yet, for garlic will turn bitter if over-cooked. As the onions and bellpeppers cooked, I added some seasonings a little at a time: I like to “layer” flavors. First a little salt, cook a while, then I added just a little of the chili powder and cumin, and some pepper. You’ll be adding more seasonings, so just add a little of whatever seasonings you will be using. I also added just a few pinches of garlic powder (not garlic salt). When your veggies are fairly tender (onions will start to look translucent), add your chopped or minced garlic. Cook and stir this just a few minutes.
Time to add the tomato products (you may need to add a little water later). And the beans (and beer) if you are using them. Just pour them all in. Turn the heat to simmer. Add back the meat to the tomato/veggie mixture. Now start adding in the seasonings. Dale and I like a lot of chili powder, and as well a lot of cumin–decide how you like yours by TASTING! As I said above, tasting as you cook is important. I put a big palmful of chili powder, plus a little more. I put at least a half of palmful of cumin. Just a few pinches of the ancho and chipotle. I didn’t need to add salt since I salted the meat and the veggies.
After you have added everything you want to add, cover the chili, make sure the heat is on low, and simmer that bad boy for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When done, add whatever toppings, if any, you like, and enjoy!
I hope I didn’t forget anything, but that’s the beauty of cooking: make it your own! Unlike baking, where it has to be more exact, we can experiment and have fun with preparing food.
Let me know how yours turned out and what you do differently!
(I hope you will drop by my Kat Magendie’s Amazon page and if you haven’t read one of my books, perhaps think about it whilst they are on sale at Amazon. I appreciate all of the support my readers have given me! Thank you!)