Chili with the Fixin’s!
It’s that time of year again… Chili season!… and personally I couldn’t be happier. I love cool weather, crock-pot meals, homemade soup, and chili.
The more chili, the better.
The only problem one can run into, though, when you frequently make, serve, and eat chili is (if you aren’t careful) it’s easy to fall into a rut. I guess that’s true with any meal you make frequently, but in my experience, chili is the trickiest rut trap.
Below are some ideas I’ve accumulated over the years of being a raging chili fanatic. They’ll keep thing lively, tasty, and colorful while keeping you (and your chili bowl) out of a dreaded rut.
Meat Chopper Tool Getting the Meat Chili-Ready
Chili Tips and Ideas
- If you have chili as often as I do (especially during chili season), consider mixing up your recipe and/or ingredients fairly regularly – even if it’s ingredients you’ve ALWAYS used, try replacing it with something new OR simply add a new ingredient. Celery, bell peppers, onions, jalapenos, red pepper flakes, finely shredded carrot… mix and match. Basically, have fun and get creative.
- Change up your seasoning mix or spices. My personal favorite chili seasoning mix (and the one I use probably 75 percent of the time) is Carroll Shelby’s (link to the mix on Amazon, but they’re in most all stores) but ever so often, I’ll simply use a combination of my own spices or I’ll use a gluten-free packet of seasoning I find in the store. Each gives its own unique flavor to your chili.
- When browning your ground beef (I prefer using ground angus or chuck but will basically use whatever I have on hand), use an inexpensive meat chopper (link to the one I use on Amazon). The one pictured above the Chili Tips is the one I use for soups and chilis and wouldn’t take anything for it! What makes this tool so perfect for chili (and soup for that matter)? My cooking philosophy has always been, “The more flavor combinations that fit on a spoon or fork, the better.” The smaller the meat…. and the smaller the vegetables… the more flavors will fit on your spoon. Simple as that.
- Don’t use water… use beef broth! Another one of my cooking philosophies is, “Water dilutes flavor… broths add flavor.” I use chicken broth (chicken chili, rice, boiling vegetables..) and beef broth almost daily, so we pretty much keep them stockpiled in the pantry. When making your chili, beef broth (or veggie broth when making vegetarian chili) is much better to use than plain old, flavor-diluting water.
- Have you ever set up a “taco bar” – complete with little dishes of tomatoes, cheese, onions, etc? Setting up a “Chili Bar” is every bit as fun and helpful. This way, everyone gets to add whatever floats their particular chili boat. Some ideas I love are: Fritos, freshly shredded cheddar (freshly shredded looks better than store bought, which looks like toy food), onions, green onion, scallions, sautéed onion, jalapenos, pickled jalapenos, rice, pasta noodles, diced chiles, red pepper flakes, sour cream, cornbread croutons (more about them in a minute)…. the options are almost endless. Corn dogs are also a fun, often unexpected item to include on a chili bar.
- Speaking of sour cream – I love it on chili all the time, but especially if it’s a little too spicy for my overly sensitive taste buds. Sour cream cools it down. A lot of people swear by adding a little peanut butter to their chili but, frankly…. well, I’d rather swear at it than by it!
- Using leftover chili for chili dogs is one of our favorite things to do. While warming the leftover chili, I use the meat chopper (link to the one I use on Amazon) mentioned above to give it more of a chili dog topping look. Sounds nuts, but, trust me, it’s darn good. Just be sure not to overdo it – you don’t want it looking like cat food pate.
- Using leftover chili is also perfect for chili burgers – simply top your burger with the chili (using the same technique for the chili dogs).
- Chili freezes very well – just warm it up with a little beef broth and it tastes freshly made.
- Cornbread croutons: Making cornbread, then cutting it into small squares is excellent on chili (especially if you add jalapenos to the cornbread). I also like to make fried cornbread (in the shapes of pancakes) and simply put them into the bottom of the bowl before adding the chili. Of course, you could always simply use regular cornbread to dip into your chili. The combination of chili and cornbread is outstanding – which is another reason corndogs are a perfect dinner guest for chili night.