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It’s Chilly, So Let’s Make Chili!

Do you associate certain recipes with specific times of the year? I sure do! For example, gazpacho made with fresh tomatoes says “Summer” to me. Other recipes feel more like Fall. Chili is one of those dishes that I don’t make in the warmer months. I know folks that make Chili all year ‘round, but I like to say when it gets chilly out, it’s time for Chili!

Warm up with a bowl of Chili after a long walk, or at a football tailgate (not so much this year!) There’s a reason Chili is so warming. According to the Scoville Scale, chili peppers such as the Carolina Reaper, Ghost Chilies and Habanero Peppers are all super high in capsaicin and will really bring the heat! If you are handling chili peppers, remember to handle them with care. Check out these tips to learn how.

The cool thing about making Chili is there is no wrong way. Well, Texans might disagree with me. Texas Chili doesn’t include beans. EVER. Chili originated as a meat stew (not including beans) in Texas. Tomatoes, meat and seasonings were and still are the main ingredients. Over time and in other areas of our country, Chili evolved to include beans and sometimes corn. Essentially it’s an inexpensive dish where ingredients like beans are added to “stretch” the recipe for more servings.

Adding other ingredients to your favorite recipe is fun and can result in delightfully rich and robust flavors. Have your own “Chili Cook Off” at home. Each time you make Chili, try adding one of the ingredients below and keep a tally of your impressions. The whole family can vote on their favorites.

ChIli Cook Off Challenge. For every pot (6-8 servings) try one of these ideas:

Add a Bit of Sweetness

  • Honey: Add a tablespoon for a natural sweetness.
  • Sherry: A couple of splashes will add a richness and depth of flavor.
  • Sugar: Just a pinch will enhance your Chili.
  • Sriracha: Add a quarter-cup (or more depending on your desired level of heat) to your pot of chili for a tangy and sweet taste.

For Robust Flavor

  • Beer: Add a can/bottle of beer for a robust character and flavor. Experiment with beers and find the one you like best.

Bring on the Smokey Flavor

  • Whisky:   Add up to eight ounces straight to the pot. Or, marinate cubes of beef and pork in whiskey for up to 48 hours, then prepare your chili recipe as planned.
  • Brewed Coffee: Swap out a cup of fluid in your Chili with a cup of brewed coffee to add depth and complexity.
  • Chocolate: Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder along with your other spices. Simmer, taste and add more if desired.

For a Bright and Clean Taste

  • Lime Juice: Just a squeeze of lime juice will add a tang to your Chili.
  • Balsamic Vinegar: A couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar stirred in just before you serve will wake up your chili and highlight the flavors.

To Thicken

  • Cornmeal: Mix in a few tablespoons of cornmeal and cook for an additional ten minutes. Cornmeal will also add a polenta flavor.
  • Veggies: Add cut vegetables such as sweet potatoes, zucchini and corn to add bulk and healthy nutrients.

Don’t forget your toppings!

Cool down or heat up the flavor with these various options:

  • Shredded Cheddar
  • Diced Onions
  • Corn Chips
  • Sour Cream
  • Diced Avocado
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Sliced Peppers, Sweet or Hot.
  • Sliced Olives

So many Chili recipes! Which one will be your favorite?

Find more delightful Chili recipes in your DinnerTime Recipe Box.
You can search for an ingredient (e.g. eggplant, etc) the name or part of the name of a recipe (lasagna), a cuisine (Italian), type of dish (e.g. soup), an occasion (Thanksgiving, breakfast, tailgating, etc).

The kids will love this chili recipe!

Try this classic Texas “red” stew. Yum!

Warm up with this slow-cooker chicken chili!