There are some people in this world who know how to look after a crowd. My Aunt Marcia IS that person. Growing up, I specifically remember standing in her kitchen watching every move she made so that I could absorb it and with hope be able to replicate this talent some day. Her remarkable expertise extends to a near-magic ability to find space for hangers-on that inevitably show up at her door.
The thing is, when you remove the mythology, her recipes themselves are quite simple (and frugal). Not just that but she knows how to make food that young kids eat, which is no small feat if you’ve been around a picky three-year-old. I was such a kid, and yet there are pictures as proof that at her house I ate until my face was covered with red sauce.
My favorite of her kid-friendly recipes is what we call “toddler chili.” Chili is an excellent equalizer among kids and adults because it’s so easy to make a big pot, then later divide them and kick up the spice a notch in the “grown-up” batch.
feeds 6+ (easily multiplied)
2 tsp. rendered bacon fat or oil
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb. ground beef
3 1/2 c. (about 4 fresh large, or 28 oz. can) tomatoes, petite diced
1c. (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 – 1 c. water
squirt of ketchup
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 c. cooked kidney beans (rehydrated or canned)
2 c. cooked black beans
Brown chopped onions and fat/oil for about five minutes over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add chopped garlic and don’t let garlic burn. Add meat and brown, then drain. Add tomatoes and some tomato sauce and some water, and a big squirt of ketchup (that’s the secret to toddler chili–the sugar in the ketchup). Add chili powder, cumin, salt, and drained/rinsed beans at the end.
Serve with cornbread (recipe in that picture comes from Bob’s Red Mill bag of cornmeal).
This ain’t my first chili rodeo. I’ve made tons of chili and even written about it previously on the blog. I think it’s worth using dried beans if you’re willing to take the time to soak and cook a whole bag, then freeze them in small batches and use at will. It’s a time-saver that makes the extra trouble worth the lovely toothsome bite and much lower cost.