Slow-Cooker Chili

It’s not when the leaves change colors. It’s not when the first frost arrives. No, it’s not when the boots and coats come out of the closet. Fall starts when the Crock-Pot makes its first appearance. You can keep your scarecrows and gourds and rakes and harvest moons. Give me my chili, and get it going at 9 a.m. I want to walk in the door with my vegetables nice and soft, my meats tender and juicy and my dinner ready to go.

I get the feeling that Crock-Pots are considered low class in many circles. I notice that some of my friends don’t have one, and when they do, they don’t seem to know what to do with them. To those people, I say, “move your $700 juicer a foot to the right, and make some counter space for the gadget that’s really going to get you eating healthy.”

Crock-Pots usually don’t need oil, don’t need butter, and they don’t need much time or skill. They’re pretty hard to cook unhealthy meals in, although some scalloped potato dishes are up to the task of challenging that premise. (I know this from testing more than a few of them, and I can report they all rise to the challenge).  On this occasion, however, I chose to keep the Crock-Pot meal really healthy and then bring everything down a couple notches with some incredible cornbread. I haven’t yet figured out how to make the cornbread healthy, or to want to eat it without butter, but I’m not trying very hard.

This is my core chili recipe for the slow cooker, then I adjust ingredients based on what I have on hand. It’s very forgiving. For instance, yesterday I didn’t feel like peeling and dicing the garlic, so I added a little bit more garlic powder. I also adjust the chili powder up or down, depending on who is going to be eating the chili and their tolerance for heat, and I use black beans instead of kidney beans if that’s what I have in the house.

makes six servings

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 green pepper, diced

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice

1 can kidney beans

1 12-ounce bag frozen meat crumbles or 1 lb. ground beef or turkey that has been browned in skillet

1 cup water

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 bouillon cube

salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4 hours.

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