I hit fall and, along with my desire to run, I discover an overwhelming wish to use my crock pot. It seems to be the source of all things comfort food: my mom’s soup, my mom’s chili, my mom’s meatballs, my mom’s super-chocolatey crock pot cake. When I was in university, I bought a small, 2 quart crock pot, originally designed for dips and warm spreads, but perfect for my single person crock pot desires. There’s something about throwing some meat, broth, veggies, and seasonings in a pot and letting it simmer all day, making your house smell divine, that demands an afghan and a good book.
Now that I’m working full-time and have a husband to feed on top of that, my crock pot uses have become far more practical and, surprisingly, far more infrequent. Getting a good mix into the crock pot, all set for the morning so I can plug it in before I have to leave takes way more energy and forward planning than it ever did when I had class at 11:30 am and didn’t have to leave the house until 10:50. Ideally, if I want a good crock pot meal, I should have everything ready to go the night before. Which means making two meals in one night. I barely have enough time and imagination for one!
But honestly, this chili is, in the end, so worth it. It’s worth making the kitchen dirty again after cleaning up from dinner. It’s worth staying up a little later to get the meat sautéed. It’s definitely worth the two extra minutes it takes to pull the mix from the fridge and plug it in. Walking through the door after work to the welcome smell of chili is one of those small comforts that makes every difficult moment, every imperfection of the day disappear. It’s like a welcome-home hug from M, like Mocha bouncing with excitement in her crate, so happy to see me home.
The truth about this chili is that there isn’t really any recipe. I learned the basics from my mom: tomato sauce, tomato paste, ground beef, beans (pureed in a blender if you hate the beans themselves), chili powder, maybe some salsa if you have it on hand. After that, you can alter as you wish.
Here’s this one:
1 pound ground beef, browned
1 can pasta sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 stalk celery, chopped in reasonably sized pieces
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs chili powder
Throw it all in a crock pot. Cook on low for 8 hours or so.
And that’s about it… I often skip using a spoon with my chili at all, preferring to scoop it up with tortilla chips, or a delicious bit of toasted bread. This will store in the fridge for a number of days, and is easily reheated in the microwave. Since I made it on a Friday, it never made it to work, but it would probably be a delicious portable lunch too. Freeze leftovers if you wish and use it as a base for future chilies.
(Yes, I realize I already posted about chili. It’s awesome enough that I think it deserves two posts. Especially since I didn’t share the recipe in the previous post!)