Sunday, October 23, 2011
Slow Cookin' Sunday: Chili
I've been plowing through the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder again and am almost finished with The Long Winter. I forgot how much I loved those books when I was a kid. It's so interesting reading these books as an adult, through adult eyes. It's like a whole new story.
I'm convinced I should have been a frontier woman, living in a cozy little shanty, churning butter, making bread each day and knitting socks. The things I love most about these books are the simplicity of life, the wonderful, strong values and the idea of family unity. I love that Pa played his fiddle every night. I love that even though most Christmas's brought only a meager piece or two of candy or a tin cup, each Ingalls' girl thought it was the most wonderful Christmas ever. They were happy with what they had -- not striving each day to have more, more, more.
I can't wait to read these books together with my daughters and it would be so great if we had the chance to actually see a few of their homesteads.
Food is such a central theme in all of these books and in the middle of Little House in the Big Woods while Laura was describing how her grandpa and grandma tapped maple trees, cooked the syrup and poured it over fresh snow and made little maple cakes for everyone, I thought, oh, I can do this. I want to do this!
Soon after, I stumbled upon the Little House Cookbook and wanted to read it because I was enamored by how they ate what they had around them, drying berries in the summer for winter pies and using honey in place of sugar from honey trees. Pa would go out and hunt when the need for meat arose and cows grazed in grassy pastures instead of being lined up behind fences choking down corn.
I just love these books.
So you can say that I've been inspired by hearty frontier type meals. I've been craving johnnycakes (fried cornbread) and hearty stews and thick hot meals. And it doesn't help that most days have looked like this:
Slow Cooker Chili
Makes approximately 6, 2-cup servings
2 lbs 90% lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans chili beans
4 cups tomato soup (I use Trader Joes, but I used to use Campbell's when gluten wasn't an issue.)
Brown the ground beef in a large pan over medium heat.
When the meat is no longer pink, drain the fat. Off of the heat, add the onion and garlic. Season with salt.
Add the tomato soup and put it all in the bowl of a slow cooker.
Cook on low for 4 hours. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to bowls and serve, or refrigerate for later use. I think the flavor of the chili develops even more when it's allowed to sit for a few hours in the refrigerator.
Serve with cornbread. (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix; it's delicious.) This meal is only gluten-free. There's sugar and milk in the tomato soup; it's hard to find tomato soup that doesn't include all three ingredients, but since I knew our youngest wasn't going to be gnawing on chili, it being gluten-free was most important.
As I was trying to pinpoint just what it is about the Little House books that appeal to me, I realized what it was in an instant: The family has an unselfish loyalty to each other that is rarely seen, especially in popular culture. They all give of themselves to make each other comfortable. They let the youngest have what's left of the milk. They scrounge up their change to buy Pa a pair of suspenders for Christmas. Laura wants to become a teacher (even though she doesn't) so she can send blind Mary to school. They are always giving things up for the betterment of someone else. And that, I think, is just so wonderful in a time where me, me, me seems to be all of the rage.
Nutrition Information per one 2-cup serving: Calories 499; Total Fat 27g; Total Carb 11g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 6g; Protein 37g
*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.