Chili is an American favorite. Cities, towns, churches, and community groups across the country host chili contests. Texans make their chili with beef and pork. Minnesotans make it with ground beef. Recipes also vary from family to family. In Minnesota, where I live, some recipes are like light soup. I don’t use a recipe for my chili, so each batch is different.

My husband and I are trying to eat more vegetables and less salt, so when I make chili, these things are foremost on my mind. If I have mushrooms on hand I add them. Sometimes I add a can of chopped green chiles. However, I never add beans because I am allergic to them.

Texas-style chili is in a category of its own. The Epicurious website describes this version in an article titled “True Texas Chili”. This version contains no beans or tomatoes and is made with homemade chili paste. Locals refer to this recipe as a “red bowl.” The flavor comes from a variety of chili peppers, cumin seeds, lard, beef, onion, and garlic. The mixture is thickened with corn flour.

Border recipes may contain chorizo ​​and a variety of fresh or dried chiles. The origin of this dish dates back centuries, according to the International Chile Society website. Texas cattle drivers made popular the dish that was cooked in a cast-iron pot over an open fire. Ingredients included wild onions, bell peppers, oregano, garlic, and freshly slaughtered beef, buffalo, rabbit, or (brace yourself) armadillo.

Although I don’t drive cattle, eat on the road or like armadillo, I do have a cast iron skillet and use it to make chili. Depending on my time of day, I can transfer the cooked meat from the skillet to a soup pot or slow cooker. This recipe was made in a slow cooker and the combination of flavors hit the spot. Adding coffee gave the batch a depth of flavor. Is the weather getting colder where you live? Put on your cowboy hat and stir up a batch of hearty chili!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef 92% lean
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
28-ounce can low-sodium tomato puree (use half and save the rest for another recipe).
1 teaspoon low sodium salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
Chili powder to taste
1 cup of water
4 tablespoons salt-free beef soup base (or 4 beef bouillon cubes)
1 1/2 cups of freshly brewed coffee
Garnishes: grated Mexican cheese, fat-free sour cream, chopped green onions

Pour the olive oil into the skillet. Crumble meat into skillet and cook over medium heat until browned. Add the remaining ingredients except for the coffee. Reduce heat and cook mixture until soup base dissolves. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker lined with a cooking bag. Add the coffee with a wooden spoon. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or on high heat for 4 hours. Serve with cornbread and toppings. Makes 6 servings.

Copyright 2011 by Harriet Hodgson

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