Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crock Pot Wednesday--Low Maintenance Chili

I have discovered new-found freedom in cooking ground meat in my crock pot. This week's Low Maintenance Chili is an example of this. While I do not have the exact ingredients for the chili (I usually just throw my chili together), I do have some notes on using the crock pot for the meat AND the soup--and for spending very little time doing so.

This "recipe" takes about 15 mins of work time on the part of the cook and only two dishes--the crock pot insert and a strainer/colander to drain the grease. This is a perfect dish for my Crock Pot Wednesday in which I assemble on Tuesday, stick in the fridge, and cook on Wednesday morning. The fifteen minutes of work is really just stirring the meat some and opening the cans and dumping them in.

Ingredients (sort of)

5 lbs of ground beef, uncooked
3 large cans of tomato juice
2 large cans of chili beans or light red kidney beans
1 lb of tiny pasta (ABCs or Acini di pepe--see note below)
chili powder
beef base
minced onion (or large whole onion, diced finely and cooked until translucent)
garlic powder

1. Put the 5 lbs of ground beef into a huge crock pot and turn on high.
2. Cook for one hour on high; remove lid and break up/stir with potato masher or other implement you usually use to break up ground meat as it cooks.
3. Cook on low for two more hours (stir once or twice).
4. Drain grease from crock pot/meat thoroughly and put meat back in crock pot.
5. Stir in other ingredients. May need water to finish filling it up--just add more beef base if you use water.
6. Spices--I usually use a lot of chili powder and minced onion; a little of the others; and a TBSP or two of beef base. (The beef base takes away the tomato-y taste/bitter taste that chili can sometimes have. If it still has this, I will add a tsp of sugar or Splenda too.)
7. Either cook now on high for an hour and low for three or four hours or stick crock insert in fridge until you are ready and cook for 90 mins on high then three or four hours on low.

Note about pasta: Cooking foods with pasta in them in the crock pot yields two potential problems for me--1. The pasta doesn't get done, so I often precook it; 2. If I precook it, or the dish cooks in the crock pot for a long time, the pasta swells up and gets grainy. My family likes pasta in their chili, so I switched to these tiny pastas that do not require precooking but do not swell up so big either. They were a hit!