I am, mostly, reformed. Partly that’s because opportunities don’t really present themselves anymore in the areas where the cheating monster that lives inside of me is able to rear its ugly head. Luckily for my opponents, sadly for me, impromptu games of “Blind Man’s Bluff” don’t really occur naturally in adulthood.
Mostly, though, it was motherhood that forced me to give up my wicked ways. I even taught my daughter the value of winning honestly. I could very easily have taught her some of my more nefarious “tricks of the trade”. I hope the fact that I chose to put her on the path of the righteous proves that I’m committed to reform. (A few “do-good” credits in the afterlife might be nice, too!)
I do wonder whether or not, if challenged, I would be above reaching into my “bag of tricks” to kick some poor, unsuspecting child’s ass — especially one that thinks I’m a “nice lady” — at “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” or “Musical Chairs”. I’d like to think so, but honestly, there’s no blindfold that I can’t figure out a way to see through, no operator in charge of the musical stops that can’t be outwitted. Yes. I am that good.
Happily, I discovered that the kitchen is the one area in which I can still ply my craft without fear of negative consequences, consequences which could include jail time or the harsh playground taunts that followed me during my misspent youth. Not surprisingly, gems like “Cheater! Cheater! Mushroom Eater!” tend to stick with a person.
I cook like the cheater I was born to be. Cooking like this allows me to satisfy my inner cheater while remaining the fine, upstanding citizen that, against all odds, I grew up to be. As a bonus, no one has felt the need to call me a “mushroom eater” in decades. So, that’s a good thing.
I see no reason to fool with things like fancy sauces when Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup can serve as an adequate and delicious substitute. Sometimes I’ve been known to throw caution to the wind and use BOTH varieties to whip up a fine marsala sauce. Trust me, no one knows the difference. Who am I cooking for, anyway? Jacques Pepin?
That I learned some of these “shortcuts” from my mother-in-law, one of the best cooks on the planet and the most forthright woman I’ve ever known, legitimizes the whole process. It makes me feel better about the cheating. I know it’s a rationalization, but it’s one I’ve learned to live with very comfortably, thank you very much!
Where my mother-in-law was concerned, I think her cooking shortcuts evolved because she always had a boatload of children (and adults) to feed on a limited budget — always having those kids underfoot didn’t leave her a great deal of time to be in the kitchen, either. And, so, she improvised.
My reasons for applying her shortcuts, as well as coming up with few of my own, have more to do with the fact that I have better things to do with my free time than spend it slaving over a hot stove — things like playing computer games, checking Facebook, Tweeting, etc. Basically, I’m just entirely too lazy and have far too short an attention span to devote my afternoons to fooling with difficult culinary tasks. I like to cook and, Lord knows, my family loves to eat, but I don’t find it necessary to get carried away.
I like to crochet, too, but you won’t find me spinning or dyeing my own wool. I’ll just go ahead and buy an inferior product at the local craft store. Who am I making a scarf for, anyway? Ralph Lauren?
With Sunday being “Superbowl Sunday”, I thought I’d share with you my very easy, incredibly quick, and absolutely scrumptious recipe for “Lazy Chili”. Go ahead. Try it. Who are you making chili for, anyway? Rick Bayliss?
This is the chili recipe that I have been making, semi-successfully, for over twenty years. There was that one time when I decided to make it healthier and decided to substitute ground turkey for the ground beef. (I’m sure Fang was behind that change!) Let’s just say that ground turkey doesn’t absorb spices in the same way that ground beef does. There was a lesson learned that day — mostly that lesson involved how quickly one could ingest enough bread to put out the fire that had erupted in their mouth!
You may notice that this recipe doesn’t call for any actual chili peppers. If I recall, the original recipe did, but I modified it for various reasons — reasons that include my resistance to seeding and cutting a zillion chilis. Using your basic chili powder cuts out the unnecessary trip to a specialty market in search of those exotic-sounding peppers — peppers with names like “ancho” or “habanero”. I’m lucky I can spell them, let alone identify them! Also, being altogether unfamiliar with the Scoville scale and because I live with babies who don’t like things “too spicy”, using chili powder and cayenne pepper gives me more control over the spiciness of the finished product. Feel free to substitute actual chilis for chili powder. Go ahead. Make me look bad why don’t ya?
Most recipes call for kidney beans or pinto beans. We’re weird and don’t like either of those beans, which is why this recipe calls for black beans. Feel free to substitute your favorite bean.
Most recipes use some method for thickening the product — usually this requires making some kind of corn starch or flour slurry, which, I think has a negative impact on the taste. Others rely upon long simmers on the stovetop or moving the pot to an oven to thicken the chili. These methods require time and attention — two things I try to avoid at all costs when it comes to cooking! Plus, who wants to be hauling pots from stovetop to oven or flour from the cupboard? Not me! I developed the “add rice at the end” method in order to avoid both the pot relocation and the slurry thing. Also, not waiting for it to thicken means that I can make this dish in about an hour, but it tastes like I cooked it all day!
Approx. 3 tbsp. olive oil (or oil of your choice) — enough to coat the bottom of a large pot
1 Large Yellow Onion, finely chopped
2 lbs. 80% lean Ground Beef (this dish needs the fat!)
½ tsp. Salt (table, kosher, whatever you have on hand)
2 heaping tbsp. Chili powder
1 tsp. Cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
2 Large cans Chopped tomatoes, undrained
2 Medium cans Black beans, undrained (or whatever beans you prefer)
2 cups cooked White rice (or grain of your choice)
In a large pot heat up the oil, add the onions. Cook until softened. To that, add the ground beef, chopping into smaller pieces as it cooks. When the beef is broken up, but not yet fully cooked, add the salt, the chili powder and the cayenne pepper. Finish cooking the beef, stirring occasionally to incorporate the salt and the powders. Once the beef is fully cooked, add the chopped tomatoes — do NOT drain the beef mixture. Simmer this mixture until it’s warm, stirring occasionally. Add the black beans. Stir. Cover and simmer while you cook the rice. Add cooked rice. Simmer for twenty minutes. Congratulations, you now have chili!
You can easily make this dish in a slow cooker. Just brown the meat/onions with the salt, chili powder, and cayenne pepper first. Throw it in the slow cooker, add the tomatoes and the beans. Stir it together and cook it on low for six hours or on high for four. Add the cooked rice to the finished chili. What could be easier? Well, buying it in a can, I guess, but that’s too gross even for me!
I usually serve this dish with some shredded cheese, sour cream, and, if I’m feeling frisky, some green onion on the side. Folks can add these items to their bowl if they so desire.
If I’m trying to pretend to be Julia Child and if someone other than Fang and Fangette will be present to eat the chili like, for example, my father, I usually throw together some kind of cornbread, add some drained Mexican corn to the mix, pop it in the oven, hope it doesn’t burn when I’m not paying attention and, if edible, serve it with the chili. Fifty percent of the time we have cornbread with our chili!
Here’s another tip for you: If you like chili on your nachos, reserve some chili prior to adding the rice. I just use a slotted spoon to leave the liquid behind. Throw this onto some tortilla chips, add some cheese, and pop the whole mess into the oven. I like to top mine with diced jalapenos — the kind that come in a can are just fine — and then finish them off with some sour cream and black olives. Awesome!
Let me know if you make this! Let me know if you liked it! If you change it up, I want to know that, too — unless you use quinoa as the grain, I don’t think I want to hear about my chili being turned into some kind of experiment in healthy or “nouvelle” dining. I think I can go to my grave without knowing that!
photo credit: chili
Link your favorite chili recipe at Midlife Boulevard!