Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.
No, that's not a typo. I awoke this morning feeling a chill in the air. Despite the cherry blossoms on the trees and daffodils in the flowerbeds, it is still winter.
This is exactly the type of day for chili. But it's also a day in which I have, at last count, 101 things to accomplish. So I'm going to rely on my pantry and prepare a casserole for our evening meal that has been a hit with my kids since they were little.
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The Basic Recipe
- 1 lb. dry macaroni (my kids love the kind shaped like wagon wheels, but any kind will do)
- 2 cans chili (use whichever type is your favorite) or see below for my vegetarian chili and the very meaty and prize-winning chili recipes)
- 1 cup salsa
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
- 4 cups crushed tortilla chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well and place in large mixing bowl. Gently stir in chili, salsa, 1 cup of the cheese, and the crushed tortilla chips.
- Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread macaroni/chili mixture in dish; top with remaining 1 cup cheese.
- Bake uncovered about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.
- You can omit the salsa if you prefer a less spicy meal. This is also a great place to "hide" additional vegetables—corn, cooked carrots, or diced zucchini.
Of course, this is a very basic recipe that can be modified to suit your family's preferences. For example:
- Stir in some veggies (corn, grated zucchini, spinach)
- Add chopped tomato or olives
- Substitute one can no-bean chili and one can (drained) black beans for the chili
- Garnish with sour cream and/or guacamole
The Very Meaty, Prize-Winning Chili
I think homemade chili is always better than canned. Canned is quick, but if you make your own, you know exactly what you are eating, and you can control the amount of salt and spice. I won 1st place in a chili contest several years ago with this recipe:
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 lb. Italian sausage
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- * 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- * 1/4-1/2 cup chili powder
- 1 large can kidney beans, drained
- Crumble meats into a large skillet.
- Cook over medium heat until no pink remains. Remove from pan and drain well.
- Return pan to heat. Sauté onions in olive oil until soft--do not allow to brown.
- Return meat to pan. Add tomatoes and spices. Simmer, covered, 2 hours.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Stir in beans and cook an additional hour. Watch carefully—it tends to scorch because it is very thick. Add a bit of water if needed.
* amount you use depends on how hot you want the chili to be
The Equally Fabulous Vegetarian Chili
- 1/2 cup dry pinto beans
- 1/2 cup dry kidney beans
- 1 cup dry black beans
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder, or more if you like it hot
- 1 tsp. dried coriander
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano flakes
- 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
- 1 lb. crimini mushrooms, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Carefully sort through the beans. Rinse well and place in a large stockpot. Add 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.
- Drain the beans and return to the pot. Add water to cover the beans by an inch or so; bring to a boil. Simmer until the beans are very tender, 1 to 2 hours. Drain the beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water. Place the drained beans back in the pot and set aside.
- Place the tomatoes, spices, and jalapenos in a blender container--blend until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large saute pan cook the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until they give off their water, the water evaporates, and they begin to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Next, add the remaining oil to the pan and simmer the carrots, onion, and celery over medium heat until the vegetables are soft--about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and bay leaves and saute one minute more. Add the tomato/spice mixture, the sauteed mushrooms, and the sauteed vegetables to the stockpot of beans. Stir in 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water.
- Simmer over low heat until heated through and the flavors are blended--about 15 minutes. Add more of the reserved cooking water if needed to prevent burning. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly.
© 2013 Linda Lum
Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on March 19, 2013:
I used one cup (and have since updated the recipe). Thanks for asking. I hope you enjoy it.
P. Thorpe Christiansen from Pacific Northwest, USA on March 19, 2013:
Hello. Sounds great. Will try this tomorrow night. How much salsa, as it isn't listed in the ingredients. Thanks.