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The weather teased us with some cooler days this last week. It was a welcome break from the muggy, warm and rainy weather that we have been experiencing lately. Although the shadows are long, the weather has not caught up to the idea that it should be fall here. We are still wearing shorts and t-shirts. We are still walking around with bare feet or sandals. We are still having to use our air conditioning,  as the warm, humid air filtering in our open windows lends the house a fragrance of Eau de Mildew.

However, last week it was actually chilly. We donned long sleeve shirts and long pants. We wore socks, closed shoes and jackets.  We warmed our hands on our coffee mugs as we sat out on our porch in the morning, watching the dogs chase squirrels.  We sat closer to the fire in the evenings and finally, we ate chili for dinner.

Chili is one of my favorite cold weather meals. A steaming bowl of spicy chili takes me back to my childhood. My parents  regularly participated in chili cook-offs, with my sibling and I in tow. They were such fun, and gave us a chance to try something new, like rattlesnake chili. It was quite delicious, even to a picky 10-year-old.

Chili was also a meal my father would regularly fix for us when my mother worked long shifts or went to visit family. Hamburgers with fries, steak and baked potatoes,  chili and crackers were frequent meals at those times, because that was what he liked to eat and liked to cook. We didn’t mind, as we enjoyed them, too.

Now, as an adult, I still enjoy chili. I have been craving the zing of the peppers, the chunky texture of the meat and beans, and the richness of the thick and spicy tomato sauce enveloping it all.  My mouth waters at the thought!  It has just been too warm for it… until last week.

You can bet I jumped at the chance to pull out my ancient  crock-pot and  brew that warming concoction of meat, beans and spices.

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This crock-pot was given to me by my grandfather twenty-five years ago,  and it was used by him  before that. I do have a newer, larger, and prettier crock-pot,  which would probably lend itself better to pictures. It is buried, however, in the black hole that is my storage unit. So we use what we have, and my old, faithful crock-pot has made this recipe many times before. It brings me welcome memories of my beloved Grandpa, who passed away a few years ago, warming my heart even more than the chili warms my belly.

The following recipe can be made in the crock-pot or on the stove top, but for this post I am going with crock-pot.  It can also be made with or without beans. I have heard that true chili has no beans, and while I am a fan of the beans, this brew is just as good without them. I will leave that to your personal tastes.

I am also going to add here that, in my haste, I forgot to take a couple of pictures of my cooking method.  I was also baking cookies and cheesy bread twists while I prepared my chili. I can be a bit absent-minded when I am busy and distracted. I also completely skipped the first step, realizing my mistake once I had all the meat in the pot. I assure you the recipe is sound, though., despite my missteps in demonstrating it for you, my dear readers.

Now on with the yummies.

CHILLY WEATHER CHILI

Ingredients :

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 pound lean pork shoulder,  course chili grind
1-1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, course chili grind (this is also good if you use 1 pound beef round roast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and only 1/2 a pound of the ground beef chuck)
1 (2-1/2 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 tablespoon hot red chili powder
2 tablespoons mild red chili powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1-1/2 cups water
1 (15-1/2 ounce) can pinto beans, drained

Preparation :
In a Dutch oven (or in my case, a big wok), over medium heat, fry the bacon. Once the bacon has rendered most of its fat, remove it with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels

Add the onion to the bacon fat in the pot and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.

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Add pork and beef to the pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, breaking up any large lumps. Cook until evenly browned. Drain the fat.

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Take cooked meat mixture and remaining ingredients, except for bacon and beans, to the crock pot.

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Mix the ingredients together.

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Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Add beans and bacon, mix, then cook on high for 1 hour.

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Serve with your choice of condiments.  I enjoy shredded cheese and sour cream with mine. My husband and father like chopped, raw onions with theirs. I know someone who likes theirs over rice or cooked pasta. I also like to serve it with bread twists or saltine crackers.

This can also be made on the stove top. Just follow instructions up to mixing all ingredients together, but the beans and bacon, in the pot. Add 3 cups water instead of the 1-1/2 cup used in the crock pot method. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 2 hours,  stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Then add bacon and beans and simmer 1/2 an hour longer.

You might have noticed I did not use any black pepper in my recipe.  I have a nasty allergy to black and white pepper, so I omit it from all my recipes. Feel free to add it to your taste, but the recipe truly doesn’t suffer without it.

I hope you enjoy this chilly weather family favorite at your house as much as we enjoy it in ours. It is very filling and sure to keep you toasty as you go about your fall activities.

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