Chill Chaser: Game Day or any day, chili hits the spot


Chili is a flavorful one-pot meal perfect for Super Bowl, or simply a winter’s day. Get guests in on the action with a self-serve chili bar, with toppings like onion, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Chili is a flavorful one-pot meal perfect for Super Bowl, or simply a winter’s day. Get guests in on the action with a self-serve chili bar, with toppings like onion, shredded cheese and sour cream.
Photo by: Courtesy



Jan Swoope



Chili. Some consider it the ultimate cold-weather fare. And in spite a recent spring teaser, Mother Nature has more winter in store, including Super Bowl Sunday, when Golden Triangle temperatures are expected to dip into the 30s by night.


Hearty and satisfying, chili is a popular choice for feeding football fans. Its mouth-watering marriage of sweet and spicy flavors partner well with the "Right Bites" party starters featured on The Dispatch's Jan. 26 food page and available online at through the lifestyles link.


Good chili is more than just tasty; it can also be a healthy comfort food, thanks to a combination of fiber and protein from beans and meat, plus the low calorie count and high vitamin levels in tomatoes and other veggies. (All bets are off if you smother it with cheese. But then, who can resist?)



Either way, chili is a great one-pot meal that makes for easy self-serve. Pair it with cornbread, taco chips or even rice. Get your guests in the game with a chili bar, with a heaping pot of hot chili, bowls, and toppings like onion, shredded cheese and sour cream. If you have a large crowd, think about making two batches, one with meat, one without.


Because it can be made the day before, chili is particularly Game Day-friendly. In fact, many contend it's is actually best if refrigerated for a day, allowing the flavors to blend, then reheated.



Homemade powder


"Great chili is all about harmony and balance," says food writer John D. Lee for "The secret is using the right ingredients and taking your time. You've got to let that chili bubble away for several hours to get the real chili experience."


Lee says an often-overlooked secret to great chili is homemade powder. "Store-bought chili powder is too aggressive; make your own by combining three spices and see how much better your chili tastes!" His simple powder recipe calls for two tablespoons each of dried oregano, ground cumin seed and hot chile powder or flakes.


"That's it. Just mix it up and you've got a great homemade powder that's going to make a big difference in your next batch of chili," he promises.



Beans or no beans?


While chili connoisseurs accept an assortment of meats, including beef, sausage, deer and the like, many will argue to the wall over the issue of beans.


Legend has it that in some parts of Texas, serving chili with beans in it is considered a near hanging offense, but the fact is adding them (especially black beans) can make chili healthier, not to mention less expensive.


The International Chili Society (ICS) even defines traditional red chili as any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chile peppers, various spices and other ingredients, "with the exception of beans and pasta, which are strictly forbidden."


John Raven, at, is more flexible ... to a point.


"It is just fine with me if you want to put beans in your chili," he says, "as long as they're not white beans. White beans do not belong in chili. That was written on the back of one of the stone slabs Moses brought down off the mountain."



Trail tales


So where did the "beans or no beans" controversy get started? According to the ICS, the exact origin of chili is unknown, although many feel it's a product of the Southwest.


The earliest chili seems to be attributed to a trail drive cook who collected wild chiles and garlic along the cattle trail, to cook up with whatever meat was available at night. The "original" recipe can be traced to the early 19th century; it contained meat, onions, garlic, oregano and salt. No beans. Chili with beans could have evolved during the Great Depression as an inexpensive way to stretch the dish.


Chili is even credited with a role in Wild West lore. It's said Frank and Jesse James favored a little chili parlor in Fort Worth, vowing never to rob their bank because "anyplace that has a chili joint like this just oughta be treated better," according to


Fact is, there are as many chili recipes (and chili stories) as there are Texans. But true buffs are always on the quest for that perfect union of flavors that delivers on all fronts -- aroma, consistency, color, taste and aftertaste.


Several fairly simple recipes are included today, like favorites from Alton Brown and Paula Deen's son, Jamie Deen. Many more --including some cook-off winning classics -- can be found at the websites highlighted. Check them out. Chili just may be the game-winning solution your Super Bowl menu has been scouting for.





Makes five (1 cup) servings


Prep time: Five minutes


Cook time: 20 minutes



1 pound lean ground beef


1 cup chopped onion


One package McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix, Original (or 30 percent Less Sodium Mix)


One can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained


One can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained


One can (8 ounces) tomato sauce



  • Cook ground beef and onion in large skillet on medium-high heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain fat.


  • Stir in seasoning mix and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


  • Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped onion, if desired.



For chili cups:


  • For a variation; measure 2 1/2 cups of the chili. Separate one 12-ounce can of refrigerated biscuits into 10 biscuits. Press each biscuit into the bottom and up the sides of a greased muffin cup.


  • Spoon about 2 tablespoons chili into each cup. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven 10-15 minutes or until edges of biscuits are golden brown. Garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream or salsa.



For chili pizza:


  • Place one prepared 12-inch pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spread with 2 1/2 cups of the chili. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.


  • Bake in preheated 400 degree oven 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with sliced black olives and chopped green onion.







Makes two servings


Prep time: 20 minutes


Bake time: 15 minutes



1/3 pound lean ground beef (90 percent lean)


1/4 cup chopped onion


One can (15 ounces) chili with beans


1/2 cup water


3/4 cup cornbread/muffin mix


3 tablespoons 2 percent milk


2 tablespoons beaten egg


1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese


1/4 cup frozen corn, thawed



  • In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in chili and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into two 2-cup baking dishes.


  • In a small bowl, combine the cornbread mix, milk and egg. Stir in cheese and corn just until combined. Spread batter evenly over chili. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until topping is golden brown.







Serves 8-10


Prep time: 10 minutes


Cook time: Four hours, 20 minutes



Shredded cheddar cheese


Sour cream


Chopped green onions, for garnish


One (14-1/2 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed


One (14 1/2 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed


One (14/1/2 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed


Ground cumin


One (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes


2 cups chopped celery


Chili powder


One package chili seasoning mix


One small can tomato paste


One can chili beans


Two (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes


One green bell pepper, diced


One medium onion, diced


1 pound mixed ground beef and sausage, browned and drained



  • Brown ground beef mix in skillet and drain. Spray a large pot with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper and celery and sauté briefly. Stir in the diced and whole tomatoes.


  • Add cumin and chili powder, to taste, and cook for about eight minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the beans, browned meat and chili seasoning. Partially cov



Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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