chili blockI know chili is supposed to be one of those comforting dishes on a cold winter night, but truth be told, Dan and I are pretty much always in the mood for chili. Dan gets so happy when he walks in and the apartment smells like chili. I hear the door open, and in the exact same surprised inflection he goes, “Mmmmm! It smells good in here.” It’s a special happy tone reserved only for chili. It doesn’t matter if there is a candle burning, chili smell trumps ALL smells. My mom made this same recipe for my family when I was growing up, and the best part about it is that it’s easy and doesn’t have to be super precise. So feel free to be a little inventive and throw in some beer, horseradish, jalapeno or cocoa. Or if you’re like me, stick to the basics which you’ll quickly be able to cook from memory. I always add a little extra chili powder, cumin, and salt. I also usually find that two cans of beans is enough. Dan tops his with a lot of cheddar cheese, and I throw in slices or diced up avocado if we have it.

1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 green peppers, or a mix of red and green.  Hot peppers can be used.
2 minced cloves garlic
1 pound lean ground beef
1 28 oz. can diced or chopped tomatoes (fire roasted tomatoes can be used).
1 T. chili powder, or more to taste
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. salt
1 T. worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder or square of unsweeted baking chocolate (optional)
2-3 cans of beans–I use a mix of black beans, garbanzos/chick peas, or kidney beans–drained of liquid

1. In a deep pot, brown the ground beef and pour off any juices/fat. Set the meat aside.

2. In the same pot, brown the onion, garlic until they are softened. Add the peppers and continue to cook until they wilt slightly but still have some crispness. As they cook, add the chili powder, cumin, and salt.

3. Return the meat to the pot, stirring it into the softened vegetables.  Add the canned tomatoes, and worcestershire sauce if using.  Allow the mixture to cook for at least half an hour, or up to an hour.  Toward the end of the cooking time, add the optional chocolate or cocoa.  This will lend a deeper color and texture to the chili. If the chili seems too thick as it is cooking, small amount of water can be added as it simmers.

4. At least ten minutes before serving, add the beans to the meat mixture, stir well, and allow the beans to heat through. You don’t want to cook canned beans for too long or they will become mushy.

(Photos from Bev CooksGimme Some OvenKayln’s Kitchen, the Kitchn via Pinterest)