Hearty Midwestern Chili With Vegetables and Coffee

Chili is an American favorite. Cities, towns, churches, and community groups all across the nation hold chili contests. Texans make their chili with beef and pork. Minnesotans make it with ground beef. Recipes vary from family to family as well. In Minnesota, where I live, some recipes are like a thin soup. I don’t use a recipe for my chili so each batch is different.

My husband and I are trying to eat more vegetables and less salt, so when I make chili, these things are paramount in my mind. If I have mushrooms on hand I add them. Sometimes I add a can of chopped green chilies. I never add beans, however, because I’m allergic to them.

Texas-style chili is in a category all its own. The Epicurious website describes this version in an article titled, “True Texas Chili.” This version doesn’t contain beans or tomatoes and is made with homemade chili paste. Locals refer to this recipe as a “Bowl o’ Red.” Flavor comes from a variety of chiles, cumin seed, lard, beef chuck, onion, and garlic. The mixture is thickened with corn flour.

Border recipes may contain chorizo sausage and a variety of fresh or dried chilies. The origin of this dish goes back centuries, according to the International Chili Society website. Texas cattle drivers made the dish popular it was cooked in a cast iron pot over an open fire. The ingredients included wild onions, peppers, oregano, garlic, and fresh-killed beef, buffalo, jack rabbit, or (brace yourself) armadillo.

Though I don’t drive cattle, eat on the trail, or fancy armadillo, I have a cast iron skillet and use it to make chili. Depending on my schedule for the day, I may transfer the cooked meat from the skillet to a soup kettle or slow cooker. This recipe was made in a slow cooker and the flavor combination hit the spot. Adding coffee gave the batch a depth of flavor. Is the weather getting colder where you live? Put on your cowboy hat and stir up a batch of hearty chili!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound 92% lean ground beef

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

28-ounce can low-sodium tomato puree (Use half and save the rest for another recipe.)

1 teaspoon low sodium salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Chili powder to taste

1 cup water

4 tablespoons salt-free beef soup base (or 4 beef bouillon cubes)

1 1/2 cups fresh coffee

Garnishes: Shredded Mexican cheese, fat-free sour cream, chopped green onions

Pour olive oil into skillet. Crumble beef into skillet and cook over medium heat until brown. Add the remaining ingredients with the exception of coffee. Reduce heat and cook mixture until soup base dissolves. Transfer mixture to a slow cooker lined with a cooking bag. Stir in coffee with a wooden spoon. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Serve with corn bread and garnishes. Makes 6 servings.

Copyright 2011 by Harriet Hodgson