Mama Love’s Crock Pot Chili

Baby it’s cold 59 degrees outside (shut up, don’t laugh.)  And tonight it’s supposed to RAIN!  Woohoo!  Break out the Uggs & the earmuffs, kiddos, cuz I’ve been stalking the weather guy all week for these cloudy skies.

Before we get to the good stuff, I need to just bitch about the weather some more, ok?  I know, I know, you’re snowed & you want to reach through your computer and smack my little suntanned, California girl face with your mittens.  I’m sorry, but even though I’m a Cali girl, I like my seasons – I mean, all 4 of them, not just “summer” and “more summer.”

Anyway, I’ve been waiting until it was cool enough to make my neighborhood-famous Mama Love’s Crock Pot Chili.  Chili just screams football season & crisp fall evenings to me, and I love the way the house smells while this delicious chili simmers in the crockpot all day long.  So, tonight’s the night: Thursday Night Football, baby!

This is some kick-ass chili right here!

This is some kick-ass chili right here!

Now, this one morphed out of a family recipe, and I’m sure you remember my lecture on the subject of sharing secret family recipes last year, right?  Just remember, if my mom asks, we don’t know each other, ok?  This originally started as a “Quick Chili” recipe handed down from my Great Aunt Margie, (cute, little, old lady who could kick back a lot of gin & tonics.) I got my hands on it about 15 years ago, and made some tweaks after I met the love of my life, my first CrockPot. It’s still super easy & super yummy.  Oh, and some people call me Mama Love.  Why?  Well, “The Fairly Good Mother” is a mouthful!  No, I’ve actually had this little nickname since before I was a real mom, and I guess it’s because I’m so motherly & adorable, and I make all my delicious food with love … Love is the secret ingredient.

The Line-Up!  (diced green chilis not pictured :))

The Line-Up! (diced green chilis not pictured :))

(serves 6)

1-1/2 lbs ground beef (85%/15%)
1 green bell pepper – chopped
2 cloves garlic – pressed
1 onion – chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 small can diced green chilis
salt & pepper (not a lot, just a dash of each)
16 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can Ranch Style Beans* – regular flavor
1 can Ranch Style Beans* – with jalepenos

Ranch Style Beans : Essential!

Ranch Style Beans : Essential!

*Now – before I get to the method, I need to school you a little bit.  Do NOT mess around with the beans here, ok?!  Ranch Style Beans are a brand of beans & it is a big deal to use these specific beans if you want to be a chili master.  You do want to be a chili master, right?  Ok, so you’re going to have to go on the hunt for them, (I put an Amazon link in there for you folks out in the sticks,) and if you have to resort to using some inferior type of bean, well, don’t expect your chili to kick ass like Mama Loves.  

Brown ground beef, garlic, onion & green pepper over medium-high heat.  Drain fat, return to burner.
Add cumin, chili powder, diced chills & salt & pepper. (Season your meat first, don’t just dump everything in.)
Add tomatoes and tomato sauce & simmer 1/2 hour uncovered.
Pour in crockpot, & add beans.
Simmer all day on low.
And don’t forget the love 🙂

Let’s say you don’t have all day, no biggie, I’ve dumped that meat concoction in the crockpot right away & everything was hunky dory.
Or what if you don’t have a crockpot.  No worries!  After you simmer the meat & tomatoes for 1/2 hour uncovered, just add the beans to your pot & cover, then simmer for 2 hours or as long as you like.  (I think it tastes better when it simmers all day, but that’s just me.)
You can add more beans if you like a bean-y chili, or more meat if you like a meatier chili.
This is even good without meat if you’re a vegetarian. (I was a vegetarian for almost 12 years, but that’s another story for another day.)
Also, good with turkey meat if you’re looking for a slightly healthier chili.
And, I’ve made it with steak and roast too, if you prefer chunks of meat in your chili.

I serve warm tortillas with butter on them as an accompaniment to this chili – I roll them up and you can just shovel chili into the tortilla if you want.  I don’t like cornbread very much, so I don’t serve it as a side, but feel free to do that if cornbread’s your jam.  And to make it a little fancier, (like if I’m serving this to dinner guests,) I will put out some toppings for people: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream & diced green onions.

You can add more chili power if you want to kick it up a notch, but let me tell you what you should NOT do … You should not open up someone’s crockpot after they got up early to make this chili before going out to ski for the day, and then proceed to screw around with it by adding things like sliced olives, coffee, bay leaves, and crap like that.  First of all, it’s not cool to mess around with someone else’s recipe, especially when she’s hormonal & PMS’d, (true story!)  Also, I gave you the gold here – don’t mess with perfection.  It’s simple for a reason.  Not everything amazing needs to be complicated & time consuming.

And now, a challenge to my sweet bestie & amazing food blogger, The Kitchen Snob.  I challenge her to make this chili & take prettier pictures with her professional camera.  I know she has made this chili before, but they don’t have Ranch Style Beans in Pennsyltucky, so I am sending her the proper beans.  Let’s see if we can get her to make this again & if she has any wonderful insight on kick-ass chili making.


Taco Salad – Easy Weeknight Meal

I know it’s not technically a “week-night,” but I’ve been so busy!  I actually made this on Monday or Tuesday … hell, I can’t remember.  Silly Mommy Brain.  I swear that once I got pregnant my memory got worse.  It was already on shaky ground, but The Boy’s term in my belly set it on full-tilt & then after he was born I couldn’t just blame it on “pregnancy brain”, no, now it was called “mommy brain.”

The Husband has a new gig & that means late nights again. And not to mention the fact that I’m on my own for the end-of-the-day routine.  So, I need quick, easy, healthy + light meals that will satisfy a hungry husband.

easy weeknight meal

taco salad

This is my Grandmother’s recipe tweaked just a little bit.  I follow in her footsteps in many regards, but one in particular is that I go to the grocery store pretty much every day for one thing or another.  I never understood why she did that until I became a mom.  And I’ll never forget the time (my brother was 4 and I was 7,) we were running late & she was speeding and we got pulled over, and my brother cried because we got busted by the po-po & he was scared, poor baby.

Grandma didn’t meal plan & that’s why she went to the store daily: to get the stuff we needed for dinner, whatever she decided at 3:39pm.  Me, I meal plan, (most of the time anyway,)  and still have to run to the store for something … which turns into 3 things, which turns into 5 things, which turns into $20.  Anyway … On with the easy recipe.

Texas Taco Salad

1 lb ground lean ground beef (you can omit if you are a vegetarian & just quickly sautee the garlic in a little olive oil then toss in the tomatoes and beans & the rest of the ingredients.)
1 15 oz can of kidney beans, drained
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 16 0z can of tomatoes, undrained
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt & 1/8 tsp pepper
4 cups bite-sized / torn salad cuttings of green leaf & romaine lettuces
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, sharp (optional)
1 6-8 oz package of corn chips
1 cup chopped green onions
1 medium avocado, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
1 small can of sliced or chopped olives (optional)
1 dollop of sour cream (optional)

Sautee meat & garlic in a saute pan (that has a lid) for 10 minutes or until cooked.  Drain fat.  Add chili powder & cumin powder.  Then add the kidney beans, chiles, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  Mix.  Cook over medium heat uncovered, 30 minutes.  You can make this mixture ahead of time to make it even easier, just heat before serving.  Scatter your corn chips on the plates, top with the lettuce, then the meat/bean mixture, then the cheese, (if using,) then the onion, the diced avocado & the diced tomatoes.

Top with sour cream, the sprinkle some sliced black olives on top.  Add the hot sauce of your choice, (mine is old school:  Crystal, The Husband likes to put his favorite pineapple salsa on all things Mexican.) Delish.  Cap with an ice cold Corona Light or other light beer, or a crisp Sauv Blanc, like Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc 2010.