chili’s chili (sort of)

My husband took our oldest daughter to Chili’s for lunch yesterday. She bowled me over by raving about her dad’s order of chili. Since when did she like something as complex as chili?  There are at least six different foods “touching” in any bowl of red, which seems an automatic turnoff for her picky 9-year-old taste buds. Chili also has potential to be nutritious, which should also make it unappealing to her. She usually sticks with kid faves such as mac-and-cheese or pizza when dining out. Which is why her announcement that she LOVED Chili’s chili floored me.

Not one to let a healthy food opportunity pass by, I hopped online and searched “Chili’s chili recipe.” Got a page of hits, one of which led me to a recipe I thought I had a shot with considering my pantry contents. Ironically, this recipe contained no vegetables save one onion and a can of tomato sauce for eight servings. I changed it up a bit (see pepper pots for more on my ability to follow recipes), cutting the beef amount in half, adding bell peppers, and replacing the tomato sauce and soup (!) with canned tomatoes. A bottle of Corona was sitting on the counter, so couldn’t help but add a slug to the pot; a spoonful of cocoa power also made it in. The recipe called for masa flour to be stirred into the chili at the end of the hour-long simmer, but unable to follow a recipe, I threw in a few tablespoons of cornmeal (no masa flour in the house) just after the beef and veggies were browned. Voilà (or olé?), a pot of chili was born. Topped with shredded cheese, olives, sour cream, and sliced green onions, it was a mild and lovely winter warmer.

The best part–my family loved it! My husband is an easy sell as he’s as supportive as they come. But getting it past my girls was huge. I was ecstatic that they loved a dish that was packed with vegetables and out of the realm of foods they normally eat. I include the recipe here, but know that this is an approximation. With all of the slugs and handfuls, I’m only guessing on amounts.

Sort-of Chili’s Chili
Makes 6ish servings

  • 1 pound ground lean beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 small orange bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 or so tablespoons fine cornmeal
  • 2 or so tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 or so tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons beer
  • 1 1/2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In large saucepan, cook beef and onion, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add bell peppers and garlic; sauté until vegetables are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except salt and black pepper; cover. Simmer 40 minutes or until slightly thickened and flavors are blended. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve with favorite toppings.


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