Yesterday was cold. Like the windy, damp, cloudy, brrrrr kind of cold. So what’s a Midwestern girl to do? Make some chili and cornbread of course!
I’m one of those people who gravitate to a steaming bowl of comfort food when it’s cold or rainy. On days like that, all I wanna do is curl up with a book and blanket and make soup and bread. Soup and bread, or any of the foods I consider comfort food, warms my soul in a physical way that begins when I decide what to make.
Comfort food is something that I have discovered means different things to people. Sometimes it’s Grandma’s famous recipe. Other times it’s what your mom made every holiday. One person told me their comfort food was Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup from the can because that’s what their mom made every time they were sick. Another said roast with potatoes and carrots because it was his favorite thing his grandma served when the family gathered for Sunday dinner. It’s so much more than the actual food; it’s the emotions, memories, smells, and feelings from your life’s experience that actually season the food. So whatever your comfort food is, savor every morsel and memory.
The chili I make is one of many forms of comfort food to me. Super simple, has only a few ingredients, and requires attention at the beginning, but is mostly self-sufficient after that. You can have this meal on the table in 45 minutes if you need to, and I have needed to, but I prefer a 2 hour chili if possible. You’ll see what I mean…
Easy, Cozy Chili
- 3/4 stalk celery washed and sliced
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 3T dried minced onion or 1/2 onion chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- 1 can tomatoes with green chilis (Rotel)
- 1 can beans rinsed (kidney, pinto, cannellini)
- 1 package chili seasoning
- 1 large can tomato juice
I begin with most of a stalk of celery, washed and chopped. Throw that in my heavy dutch oven with about 1/4 C water, cover, and put on medium-high heat to begin steaming. I let that do its magic for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice and making sure there’s liquid so it doesn’t scorch. Then add ground beef, minced onion, salt and pepper and chop up. I cannot live without my Pampered Chef Mix N Chop. Seriously, I have 2 and I would take more in a heartbeat. It makes cooking ground beef (turkey/chicken/pork) so easy, and there are no huge chunks of meat after this baby does its duty. It also chops the big celery chunks- bonus! Trust me, you NEED this in your kitchen. I drop my heat to medium, cover and let cook for a few minutes, uncover and give a chop and a stir, cover and let cook for a few, uncover and give a chop and stir, you get what I’m doing. **In a hurry? When meat is cooked and celery is tender, drain excess grease and continue adding ingredients. **Have some time before dinner? Drop the heat down to low and let slow simmer and tenderize for an additional 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and being careful to not let meat scorch. Allowing the meat to slow simmer gives your the most tender ground beef and takes the flavor over the top. I could make a meal out of this after the slow simmer, and maybe I have. Me, a bowl of meat, and a spoon. Don’t judge me! After you try it you’ll get me.
After the meat is tenderized to my liking, I drain the excess grease, add the crushed tomatoes, can of beans (rinsed), can of tomatoes with green chilis, and packet of seasoning. Then comes the tomato juice. Stir all of that together and bring back to a low boil/simmer. Turn the heat down to low, give a stir, cover with the lid, and let the flavors marinate and become delicious, cozy and comforting. I like to let mine do this for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing gets stuck on the bottom and burns.
It is at this point that I start my cornbread. This cornbread could get me in a lot of trouble- the eating it all by myself and not sharing kind of trouble. It’s just so flipping good! So what makes it so amazing? 3 little ingredients. I am not a believer in reinventing the wheel for no good reason, so I use the little boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix. They are tried and true, and I bump their goodness up with my additions and create cornbread nirvana.
- 2 boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 Cup milk
- 2T sour cream (optional)
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- Honey or agave syrup
Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400. Add eggs, milk, sour cream, and nutmeg to mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add cornbread mix and stir until incorporated. Pour into 9×13 pan and drizzle honey or agave syrup over the top. Bake 15-20 minutes until just cooked and toothpick comes out clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE! Remove from oven.
My favorite way of eating this is to put cornbread in the bottom of the bowl, add chili and a dollop of sour cream, and stir. Plus a piece (or 5) of cornbread on the side with some butter on top. The nutmeg in the cornbread adds a subtle little flavor that balances nicely with the spice from the chili. And on its own? Oh yikes, you have no idea how addicted you are gonna be to this cornbread! My husband is a chili with cheddar cheese and oyster crackers, with buttered cornbread on the side kind of guy. I’ll allow it cause he’s adorable.
This makes great leftovers for lunch, or even another night of dinner. You may need to make more cornbread though. Ours never lasts longer than the next day. I promise this chili and cornbread will warm your body and soul. Comfort food for the dreary-day win!