If there is one lesson since becoming a parent that seems to be on repeat in my daily life, it’s the striking reality of choice. Do I wash my hair or read the kids an extra bedtime book? Do I work out or spend a half-hour on the project I’ve been wanting to work on? Do I clean the bathroom or catch up on emails? Being a mom to two small boys is just as much about choosing how to spend my time as it is caring for them.
The idea of “doing it all” is a mirage and just isn’t possible. What is possible? A daily opportunity to give myself a break and choose the things that matter as often as I can. I certainly don’t get it right all the time, but it’s a muscle that’s slowly growing. As this muscle develops, I find myself choosing simple things that bring about fun, ease and good memories. This is also why, once fall arrives, my big soup pot stays perched on the back burner of my stove until spring, ready at a moment’s notice to simmer up some kind of warm and nourishing soup or stew. Chili is a perfect example of this. It might take a bit of time to make initially, but boy, does it deliver. It makes the week easier and delicious, which makes it a good choice.
There are two types of chili I love to make when the weather starts to cool. Chili made with homemade chile paste and chili made with New Mexican chile powder, not to be confused with the grocery store “chili powder” spice blend. This chili recipe, made with chile powder, is a bit quicker to make and will ensure your next few dinners will be taken care of. It’s also wonderful served over baked potatoes, rice, quinoa or even pasta. I love to eat it on its own topped with plain Greek yogurt, sliced jalapeños and grated sharp cheddar cheese.
Makes: 6-8 servings;
total time: around 3 hours
2 pieces of bacon
1½ pounds beef stew meat (or elk, bison, etc.)
1 pound ground beef
Salt and black pepper
1 large red onion, diced
1 jalapeño or fire-roasted poblano, seeded and diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
3-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 tablespoons chile power (depending on spice level and preference)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo sauce, sliced
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cans of beans (or 1 cup dried beans)
4 cups beef broth
1 bunch of kale, cut into pieces
Preparation: First let’s talk about beans. If you’re using dried beans, you can either soak them in three cups of cold water overnight in the fridge, or you can toss them in a pot of simmering water for an hour before you drain and use them.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, add the bacon. Let the bacon fat render and remove the crispy bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving for later. Turn up the heat to medium-high, and working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot, season with salt and pepper and sear the stew meat until brown, reserving in a bowl as each batch gets good color on all sides. Do the same with the ground beef, reserving it in the same bowl when done.
Add the onion, jalapeño, bell pepper and garlic, and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the cinnamon, chile powder and oregano, cooking and stirring a few minutes more. Add the chipotle in adobo sauce, the diced tomatoes, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, canned or soaked beans, reserved crispy bacon, seared stew meat, cooked ground beef and beef broth. Let the chili come to a simmer and cook until the stew meat and beans are tender, around two hours. Taste and season with salt, pepper or chile powder as needed. Five minutes before serving, add the kale and cover. Within a few minutes, the kale will wilt its way into the pot and add a healthy dose of hearty greens. Ladle into bowls and top with your favorite chili toppings. Enjoy!