Western Trails Chili

I'm going to be working to post a big back-log of recipes prepared between November and December, which was a busy period of time for me. Many of the recipes I need to post were made while I was still living in Georgia. I've just graduated and am now spending time with my family in Indiana for the holidays.

This chili recipe was made along the theme of the next step in my career, which you know if you've been following Chow Bella on Facebook. If you haven't, then I have some exciting news. After graduation, I moved to Texas to begin a Ph.D. in plant and soil science. I've been anticipating this westward move for several months now, and I got to thinking about the type of trail foods that might have eaten long ago by people succumbing to their manifest destiny. I imagined dried beans, meat, and old coffee going into the pot to make a hearty stew. I modernized the concept and made a chili in the crockpot including some surprising ingredients, including coffee and cocoa powder. Though coffee and cocoa sound odd in a chili, they don't make the chili taste like mocha. Instead, they add subtle richness in flavor and in color. Also, browning the meat before adding it to the crock provides another layer of flavor, so it's worth it to take the time for this extra step.

This chili is great served with your favorite toppings, like cheese, scallions, avocado, cornbread, and/or tortilla chips. It keeps well for days, too, so it's nice to have a batch around in these cold winter months.

Western Trails Chili
Printable Recipe

1.5 lbs lean stew beef
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
14.5 oz water or beef broth (just use the empty tomato can to measure)
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
dried red chili, to taste (optional)
1/2 cup strong, freshly-brewed coffee
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained, or 3/4 cup dried kidney beans, prepared according to package directions
1/4 tsp salt
non-stick cooking spray

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray, then add the beef. Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown on all sides.
2. Transfer the beef to the crock of a crockpot/slow-cooker, then stir in all the remaining ingredients. Cook the chili 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low, or until the flavors are well-blended.

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