Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tried and True - Chili

Homemade chili

Today I am going to give you my recipe for basic middle of the road Midwestern chili that my kids would eat with enthusiasm.  I also will share the recipe for raspberry salsa that was the result of the team effort at my food demonstration last weekend at the fall harvest party.  We made do with what we had - used all Featherstone produce - and it turned out great.

But before I get to that ...... A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Bluff Country Co-op in Winona yesterday afternoon.  I was driving slowly down Highway 43, which is the main drag in Rushford.  The rain had stopped, there was finally some blue sky showing.   American flags waved in the breeze up and down the street.  The high school homecoming parade had recently ended.  On the front seat next to me - just like Red Riding Hood, I had a big basket.  Resting securely in the deep basket was a covered pot of cream of butternut squash soup- about one and a half gallons.  The soup was cold - I intended to heat it up at the co-op for my Featherstone Farm food sampling session.  I had squash biscuits to share too -- all was right with the world.  The vegetable evangelist was on a mission.

You know what is coming, right?  WHAM.  POW.  THUD.  Somebody drove right into my car.  Out of nowhere.  (A poor teenaged girl driver.  Her fault.  Nobody hurt.) About a gallon of soup flew out of the pot from the force of the impact.  I am sorry I cannot show you what this looked like because I do not have a camera on my cell phone.  (I know, I'm a dinosaur.)   But it was not pretty.  Squash soup was dripping from my entire dashboard and the windshield on the driver's side.  It penetrated all the vents, covered the steering column, my shoes, my pants and more.  I will spare you further details, but suffice it to say that between the disgusting dashboard and the crash itself I think my car is totaled.  I wonder if there has ever been an insurance report that said "Car totaled due to squash soup."    Is this what they mean when they say a car is souped up?

Yesterday in my post on squash I referred to squash as a "coping tool".  I talked about some of my life's complications and said that butternut squash soup made me feel better.  Clearly I tempted the gods and the joke is now on me.  Now I have to cope with one of my coping tools.  So I am sorry, Bluff Country Co-op, that your soup did not make it to its destination.  Half a gallon was left in the pot and we are going to eat it.  Maybe it will make me feel better.

p.s. thanks to Gary Brown and Jeff and Tony (I think that was his name)  at Brown's Tire and Battery in Rushford -- they brought me back to their shop and kind of cleaned up some of the mess and made sure it was safe for me to drive my car back home.   Maybe I should bring them some chili?  I really don't think they want any squash soup.

Chili - You may notice that there is a relatively high vegetable to meat ratio in this recipe.  I think it is still quite meaty.  Editorial comment: I love meat - especially meat raised on grass in Fillmore County.  But we would do our bodies and the planet a favor if we all consumed more vegetables and less meat.  This recipe makes quite a bit.  This freezes well.

2 pounds ground beef (We have switched totally to beef raised in SE Minnesota on grass.  If you can find pastured beef, I encourage you to try it.  More on this big topic another day.) 
1 pound dry beans (will yield about 6 cups cooked) or 6 cups canned beans - about 3 typical sized cans.   Kidney beans are traditional, but black beans or pinto beans work fine too.  You could even mix types of beans.
2 quarts whole or crushed tomatoes (Home canned are best.  Store cans are fine too.  Typical store cans are about 28 ounces, 4 ounces less than a quart.)
2 cups chopped onions
1-2 cups chopped red or green bell peppers
6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
optional - minced fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers.  I never used to add fresh peppers to my chili, but I have become a fan of serrano chilis lately.  If you are okay with extra heat, add about 3 serranos to this recipe. Or more if you really like chili heat.
4 T. chili powder (Add more to taste depending on who is going to eat this chili)
1 T. cumin seeds, crushed
1- 2 t. salt
2 t. cocoa, optional but adds a little depth to the flavor.  Kind of like midwest mole.
1-2 T. olive or other cooking oil

Saute onions, garlic and peppers in oil about 10 minutes or until soft.  Add meat and brown.  Add chili powder, salt and cumin.  Add tomatoes and beans.  Simmer, partly covered, for about one hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with some or all of the following garnishes:  chopped onion, red or green salsa, shredded cheese, yogurt or sour cream, corn kernels, chopped olives, chopped fresh cilantro, wedges of lime  -- you get the idea.  My Mom used to serve chili on top of cooked macaroni and called it chili mac.  We kids liked it.  If you need to stretch dinner, this works. 

2010 Harvest Festival Raspberry Salsa
(Thanks to Letitia (Tish) Kopperud for assisting me with this project.) 
This dish could be served with corn chips for dipping.  It could be served as a side dish with any Mexican type food.  It  would even be good as a side salad with a simple turkey or grilled cheese sandwich or hamburger.

4 c. watermelon, cubed (1/2 inch is nice size)
3 pint cartons of fresh Featherstone Farm raspberries
2 c. chopped fresh tomatillos
1 c. chopped red sweet pepper
1 c. chopped onion (sweet if possible)
2 T. minced fresh garlic
2 - 3 T. minced fresh serrano peppers (jalapeno would work too.)
1-2 T. sugar
choice of:  3 cups chopped fresh cilantro or 1 cup chopped fresh basil
choice of: 3/4 cup rice vinegar or 3/4 cup red wine vinegar 
(NOTE - we thought rice vinegar went well with the cilantro and that red wine vinegar would be best with the basil.  For either approach, you could also substitute some lime juice for some of the vinegar.)



  1. Wow, Peggy! I'm so sorry you were in an accident! I hope you really weren't hurt. Whiplash can take a few days to creep up on you. Make sure you take it seriously, and take care of yourself, if you do start to feel some aches. Have that hubby of yours use your blog to make you some coping soup!

  2. Thanks for the concern Manda. I really do think I am ok - I am still able to cook and eat! Tonight we had the bok choy and rice noodle recipe from today's post. It was great. You could easily substitute diced carrots or another vegetable for the cherry tomatoes. Good luck with all the squash!

  3. That crash sounds really yuck-o. Hope you and your car are ok. Dan made some pureed soup out of the veggies and gravy of our beef pot roast, a few days ago. Tastes great, but I definitely wouldn't want it spilled in my car.
    :) I still haven't eaten my radishes. Can I pickle them? But how long does that take...

  4. Yikes! Hope all is well with you in the transportation department now.

    I have a question about the spoon in the chili picture. Where did you get it? I'd love a set of wooden eating spoons. It's beautiful. Thank you.

  5. Karolyn,

    My wife Peggy asked me to respond to your spoon query. That particular spoon is a rosewood 'personal porridge spoon' for 'those grueling morning starts'. I make them from many different local hardwoods as well as exotics I've collected over the years. Let me know if you would like a list or photo of what's currently available. You can find general info about my spoon making and Lanesboro shop at under the shopping links.
    Frank Wright, Spoonmaker.

  6. Frank, yes please! I'd love a list of your work. My email is: hennasarai26 at gmail dot com. Thank you.