Saturday, September 14, 2013

DANIEL'S whole LOT of Chili by Mark Miller

Gather the family for a Sunday lunch. There will be plenty for all! I love writing, but I also love food. I am typically the cook at my house, except when Traci makes lasagna. I have never had a better lasagna. Yummm….

Where was I? Yes, me and food. We have a long, rollercoaster relationship. We won’t dwell on the negatives like weight or blood sugar. Let’s think positive. For me, food is about family. The best meals are the ones shared with the whole family. No TV, no cell phones – good eats and good company.

Sometimes, I look to cook extravagant, detailed recipes. Other times, I like to get it done and get on to other things. A win for me is when I can make something that takes little effort and can cook while I am back to writing. Crock pot recipes are perfect for this.

I adapted this from my original recipe because it seemed to pair well with my book. Daniel’s Lot is about family and following directions. Two simple, but necessary things. The book is a hyperbole of faith – it shows almost instant reward for total devotion. Maybe it’s an exaggeration, but it proves the point in such a limited space as a book can afford. I know that faith is a long term investment and our ultimate reward is waiting for us. Still, it is nice when things go our way and we have Someone we can thank for it.

I imagine this is a recipe that Daniel would make. It makes plenty for the whole family. Plus, as he is not likely to let things go to waste, there is enough for lunch the next day or two.

Here's what you need for this easy recipe:

A Large Crock Pot
2 to 3 pounds of ground meat of your choice (stay close to 2lb unless you have a huge crockpot
3 to 5 cans of beans (Black Bean, White Bean and Dark Red Pinto; two more of your choice - sometimes I like a Black Eyed Pea or a Large Butter Bean)
Smoked Sausage or Kielbasa (optional)
Small Onion (any color)
Half Bell Pepper (any color)
2 Jalapeno peppers (optional)
2 Habanero peppers (optional)
1 can stewed tomatoes (optional)
Chili Powder
Cayenne Pepper
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
Shredded cheese of your choice

Let's get started.

Get out your big pot, but don't turn it on now.

You can adjust the amount of meat and beans to fit your pot and appetite. I don’t want to limit you to one type of ground meat. You can use beef, pork, chicken, turkey or even something exotic like bison or lamb. The choice is yours, so mix and match if you want to. You can even leave out the meat for more beans. First, if you are having it, brown the meat in a skillet. As it cooks, you will want to be generous with the Chili Powder. Add a pinch of Cayenne or a couple dashes depending on how adventurous you are! You are welcome to add any other favorite seasonings too.

While the meat is cooking, dice your veggies. For me, the onion and bell pepper are required. Group the stewed tomatoes with the beans - don't add them here. Depending on how spicy you want it, add the other peppers. Remember, a habanero is at least ten times hotter than a jalapeno! Make sure to get the vegetable pieces smaller than the beans. Then get all of your veggies into the bottom of the pot.

Check your meat, but don't put it in the crock pot yet.

Black, White and Dark Red are my preferred beans. It gives for a real nice mix of color and flavor. You can actually use any bean you like, even a Chili bean. The important thing here is to drain the beans well, but don't rinse them. Canned beans are fine for this, because there is already a long cook time, so no need to wait for soaking dry beans. Add the beans to the pot on top of the veggies. DO NOT STIR. Drain the tomatoes same as the beans and get them in the pot too. Resist the urge to stir.

If your meat is not done at this point, you can cut your sausage or kielbasa. This is not something you have to have, but I think it makes this chili special. Get a couple links. Cut them how you like: chunks, quarters, slivers. Put this in on top of your beans.

Finally, bring on the ground meat. Don't drain it! I know we drained the beans and tomatoes. You might wonder were all the moisture is, but the crock pot will take care of that. With the ground meat on the top of the pile, pour in your BBQ sauce to round out the flavor. Trust me, do not mix or stir the pot.

Put on the lid, turn on the pot. Mine has only two settings: High and Low. For the first hour, put it on High. After an hour, you can stir the ingredients. Yes, mix it up good. The veggies have had time to cook and absorb all the goodness dripping down onto them. Turn the crock pot to low and leave it, with the lid on, for at least 5 more hours. Come back and stir it again about every 90 minutes. Keeping the lid on will really get the juices flowing, so watch it. You can keep it neat or go soupy. If you don't want it to be too wet, leave the lid off for the last hour. Be careful when you sneak that bite after stirring it, it will be HOT!

Once everyone has lined up with their bowls, put the shredded cheese on the table along with some saltine crackers or maybe some crispy bread. Remember to have plenty of Milk nearby if you use all the peppers. Milk will sooth those burning taste buds.

Now you can relax and enjoy a hearty meal with your family!

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