Dad's Chili

This is my pick me up at this time of the year. I don't do well with the time in between seasons. The weather's moodiness and inability to make a decision makes me moody and indecisive. I am always overdressed or underdressed and overtired or under focused. I have a hard time keeping up with what needs to be done. A bowl of chili is a bastion of comfort that centers me and makes me feel close to my family. It recalls all those family dinners that were eaten at the table. Every night.

This has always been Dad's chili in my head. I am not really sure why it is Dad's chili. The memories I have of my Dad in the kitchen mostly involve eating cookies for breakfast, mashing potatoes, giving the cat lunchmeat, and standing over me on my cooking expeditions to make sure I didn't sever a finger or set the kitchen on fire. (Dad was always a very willing and supportive assistant.) Maybe he used to make this chili. Maybe not. Maybe he just really likes chili. Maybe I should find that out...

Chili is the kind of thing that is equally comfortable being consumed by yourself out of a mug and topped with as much sour cream as is left in the fridge as it is being passed around to a group of friends out of a big pot or a slow cooker. A fairly quick and simple dish that is easy to tweak with seasonings and ingredients, each individual eater can be attended to. This year I made some tweaks that I am very happy with so far. I've made it spicier by adding chiles, crunchier by adding fresh bell pepper, healthier and more humane by using locally raised elk meat, and more well rounded by serving it up with a side of homemade corn muffins. I like my chili topped with scallions, a large handful of cheese and a generous dollop of sour cream.

Dad's Chili
 makes about 4 servings

1 packet McCormick Original Chili seasoning mix
1lb ground meat of your choice
1 14oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
1 15oz can dark red kidney beans, undrained
1 green bell pepper 2 scallions, chopped, green and white parts
16oz sour cream
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese, mexican cheese blend or your favorite cheese

 Brown meat in a large skillet. Drain fat if necessary. Add seasoning packet, beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer at least 10 minutes, more if you want thicker chili, stirring occasionally. When done mix in bell pepper. Serve with toppings of your choice.

Ina Garten's Corn Muffins
makes about 14 large muffins
 3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar (I cut mine to 2/3 cup)
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk (I use whatever is in the fridge)
1lb butter, melted and cooled
2 extra large eggs

 Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin pan with baking cups. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment blend flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl mix together milk, eggs and butter. With mixer on lowest speed add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for about 30 minutes until tops are slightly golden.

These are also good for breakfast or a snack with some honey butter or jam. Ina fills hers with good raspberry preserves.

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