Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.

Simple, Classic Chili

Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.
Simple, Classic Chili

Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.

Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.

The Simple Things

This post, originally titled The Simple Things, was first published on January 4, 2011. While the story remains unchanged and one of the most poignant I have shared, the recipe for has been updated from the archives with improved kitchen notes and recipe annotation, and updated photographs. I hope you enjoy this favorite from my kitchen.

Once in while, this journey called life sends us those little (or not so little) reminders of how precious our lives and our loved ones are. Sometimes they come as gentle reminders – that special hug from a child, a knowing look from your spouse, a good deed from a stranger. And sometimes the tap on the shoulder is more like a shake – the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child, a diagnosis. These reminders can come at any time, usually when you least expect.

I’ve been feeling contemplative this past week. Those who know me personally will understand. Between family and dear friends, we have witnessed these reminders of the fragility of life. And though we have all, at one point in our lives, gone through loss, sometimes it’s hard to find the right words of comfort. I found myself struggling this week, trying to convey just how much I care for our friends who are suffering. The hugs never seem tight enough, the words, miserably worse.

When these moments pass, I feel as though they are re-set buttons for life. You appreciate what is truly important. You turn to the simpler things. For all the glamour and glitz, it’s the mundane that can never be replaced. That hug. That hand to hold. Those are the things you return to.

It made me realize that perhaps that is what comfort food is all about. What we associate as comforting is also usually the simplest of foods. For me, it’s my Arroz Caldo (chicken soup). For other’s it’s Macaroni and Cheese. Or a casserole. Maybe even chili.

Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.

Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.

Between you and me, I never appreciated chili until I moved to the Midwest. I was newly transplanted, quite alone, yet found myself invited to a quaint hometown autumn parade in a very small town a few hours outside of Chicago. It was a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting: a tree lined street brilliant with fall foliage, fold out chairs lining the sidewalk, little red wagons carrying the smallest paraders, and open homes filled with buffets of potluck. This is where I tasted the best chili. I have struggled to recreate the flavor. Although I have, time and again, turned to my own mother in law’s chili recipe, it is this potluck Chili that still haunts me and guides my tastebuds every time I cook up a big batch.

I think I’ve come pretty close to achieving that taste. It’s not perfect, but it will have to do for now. And when I do make it, the Sweet Corn Muffins are the requisite side. I like to think they need each other.

Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.

Classic Chili

Serves a crowd. | Prep: 10 minutes | Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes

Classic chili bubbling on the stove calls to mind homespun comfort, the rustling of autumn leaves, and cozy moments with family. Pair it with sweet corn muffins for the classic simple supper.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 small onions, chopped (I like a combination of yellow and red onions)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin to taste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 4 cans of beans (I like to do 1 can each of kidney, black, cannellini, and pinto. If you have time to soak your beans, use dried.)
  • 4-5 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar

Instructions

In a Dutch oven or large pot (or insert of a slow cooker), heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef and ground turkey, stirring often and breaking down the meat with a wooden spoon until evenly crumbled. When browned, add the the onions and garlic, and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook until the onions have wilted, then add cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano and marjoram. Stir in tomato paste, along with the diced tomatoes, beef broth, beans, celery and sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover, and cook slowly and taste often, adjusting seasonings as necessary, for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes (and I do believe it tastes better the next day). If you are using a slow cooker, transfer to a slow cooker and let it bubble for 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.

When serving, garnish with green onions, sour cream, cheddar cheese, red onions, jalapenos, etc. Serve with Sweet Corn Muffins (see notes below).

Notes

If you wish, the chili cooks up wonderfully in a slow cooker – and this is my favorite way to cook it each Halloween, when the family is busy with trick or treaters and running around with friends.

*Do not laugh, but my favorite recipe for Sweet Corn Muffins come straight off the box for Albers Yellow Corn Meal. I just love it, so I figure, why mess with a good thing? The recipe can be found here.

Comments

  1. Tracey@TangledNoodle

    This is such a sweet and thoughtful post. I am sorry to hear of recent loss experienced by your friends and, by extension, you. We can only offer and find comfort wherever we can and though it may seem inadequate, it is often just enough to convey love and support.

    That must have been some bowl of chili to remain so vivid in your memory. Thank you for sharing! 8-)

    Reply
    • Liren

      So true, Tracey. I remember the love and support I received years ago when I lost my mom; it was the company of friends and family that was most important to me, rather than the words. I need to remember that.

      And yes – it still amazes me how much that Chili stands out in my memory. It really was THAT good.

  2. Debi(Table Talk)

    There’s something comforting in just hearing “feeds a crowd” in the recipe. Reminds me of the type of recipe you find in a church or school cookbook, filled with favorite family recipes that are tried and true.
    –You are so very right; it’s the simple things that matter most in life. So important to not lose sight of that.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Yes, Debi! That Chili I tasted was definitely out of a church community and family gathering – it had that comforting taste, something a grandmother could produce. Sometimes I wonder if I’m overthinking the recipe! Either way, I do love how chili can feed a crowd – it speaks to thrift, generosity, and caring!

  3. Amy Bakes Everything

    Love your hearty chili! I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe for chili, I just start dumping stuff in the pot! Love the idea of the bean variety, and those corn muffins look super amazing!

    Reply
    • Liren

      I know, writing down measurements for Chili was hard for me because even my mother in law’s recipe card was just a list of ingredients. I have always just played around with spices and tastes. But the last several batches, I have been really diligent in writing down measurements!

  4. Belinda @zomppa

    I wish all your friends all the best. Your concern and comfort I am sure they feel. Food is such a comfort, too, and this chili looks simply wonderful.

    Reply
    • Liren

      You said it – food is a comfort! So many have shown support for our friends through food, and I do think that is such a lovely show of love.

  5. Kori

    Chili is a favorite in our house, so it’s always fun to see other people’s recipes. I like how you include both turkey and beef and also your choice of spices. Sounds and looks delicious!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Kori! I do like the combination of turkey and beef – when I have tried all turkey, I always missed the flavor (and fat) of the beef, but when I combine the meats, it’s nice because it does lighten up the recipe a bit!

  6. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    Liren – Our weeks sound rather similar. LIfe is very special and we have to appreciate everyday and all of our family and friends. My thoughts are with you. I am sure that this yummy chili helped to comfort. Happy New Year – may it bring you much happiness, joy and success!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Oh Lisa, sad to hear that you have had a similar week. These reminders are sobering and I hope for strength and happiness for the people in your life right now who need it most!

  7. Roxan

    Liren, it sounds like you are going through hard times and I know we know each other very little but I will keep you in my thoughts and send you positive energy.
    this food looks amazing, as always, and I am glad you are able to find some comfort in it.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you, Roxan. My struggles pale in comparison to so many, most especially the friends and family I know who have so much to deal with. I can only hope that I am a true friend to them at all times!

  8. Stephanie @ Per l'Amore del Cibo

    What a sweet, sweet post, Liren. I never quite know what to do or say at such rough times, but what matters most is that those who are stuggling know you’re there for them — even if no words or hugs can heal them. Comfort food helps too, of course! :)

    Reply
    • Liren

      So true! I know their healing will come from within, I can just be there when they need me. And yes, comfort foods will always help :)

  9. Joy

    Collin’s signature dish is chili and I realized that he hasnt cooked for me in over a month. I think it’s time to put his ass back in the kitchen!!! But this time I’ll have him make your recipe :)

    I hope you are doing well — sometimes even though life can be so painful, in many ways feeling these emotions help us grow stronger and build up our experience for the many more bumps that are yet to come. You’re right, that’s the beauty of comfort food. Even on the crappiest of days, you come home and sit down to a meal that has the ability to soothe any troubled heart.

    Happy New Year Liren may 2011 be filled with love, joy and laughter for you.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Well now, it sounds like Collin does need to get back in the kitchen to cook up a batch of chili! I would love to see his recipe!!

  10. Kate @ Diethood.com

    Wonderful post! I adore corn muffins! Especially when they are paired with a bowl of that chili…delicious!

    Best wishes in the new year! Life is very precious and I hope that we can all take the time to appreciate the moment that we are living in.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you Kate – I know, chili without cornbread muffins are just not the same!

    • Liren

      Thank you BriarRose! I absolutely agree :)

  11. Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen

    I love chili and the addition of cornbread makes it a perfect meal! You can’t get really good chili in the midwest because they are afraid of spicy foods :) At least that’s what I discovered when I lived in Wisconsin! Lovely photos as well!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Oh Vicki, thanks for making me laugh! I kinda know what you were alluding to. I’m happy to report that the Midwesterners I met, at least the ones who made the awesome chili, were happily not afraid of spices! That chili was perfectly balanced in seasoning, just perfect.

  12. Tiffany

    I love being reminded of the little things! … sometimes it comes in the form of a food blog post! :)

    Reply
  13. Sara @CaffeIna

    It is a bit sad that sometimes we need bad moments to remind us of what is important in our life but that is how life works I guess. At least we can say that there is something positive coming out from bad moments, which is the fact that we contemplate our lives with different eyes and we re-evaluate our priorities. And yes also that we find confort in certain type of food. I’m glad you were able to re-create an amazing chilli and that you are sharing with us your reflections.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Sara, you’re right – out of sadness comes something good. There is always the good to balance the bad, but life can be harsh sometimes! Thank goodness for the company of others and all the beauty life has to offer.

  14. Monet

    What a touching post. I think that these past few years have brought hard times for so many people in my life. I know that I’ve had to stop myself, again and again, and remember what is truly important in life. Your reflections today were beautiful. I know you convey your love to your friends in more ways than even you know. I’ve been turning to quite a bit of comfort food in these last few months. A bowl of this chili would be perfect. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  15. Liren

    Monet, I know you understand, and I know you have seen your share of these very reminders. I have always appreciated your thoughtful posts on the ones you love – I know you know how cathartic it can be for to write these sentiments :)

    Reply
  16. Jean

    Wow, I’ve been feeling this way this week, too. I’ve actually been wanting to shout to the world (through my posts) how lucky I am to be surrounded by family and friends. I hope the best for your friends–I will hope for some ease in their suffering. I’m sure they feel lucky to have you for those hugs (and support).

    Now this chili and the muffins look absolutely delicious. I have to agree that they seem like they were made for each other. I’ve never made my own chili before–it always seemed so complicated to me but I think I can do this. And I’m not laughing that your corn muffin recipe is out of the box. If you think it’s good, it must be! Enjoy the rest of your week! :-)

    Reply
  17. Trish

    Your chili sounds flavorful and the perfect hearty comfort food. You’re so right about comfort food – there’s nothing quite like it and sometimes it’s simply exactly what we need. Great flavors and I won’t knock the boxed corn muffin recipe – those are often the most tried and true recipes out there. Thanks for sharing. Love your writing, Liren.

    Reply
  18. A Canadian Foodie

    What a beautiful post, Liren, and what beautiful food. There is nothing more gratifying than reading a post that is so personal and heartfelt where the food is also so gorgeous and from the heart. Now, that is comfort food on the screen!
    XO
    Valerie

    Reply
  19. Becky

    In times of stress and sadness, we do turn to comfort food, and memories of good times to get us through the rough periods. As we reflect on the good times, we can appreciate what is important in life, our family,and friends, and our love for them.

    Your chili is the perfect comfort food, hearty and warming t the hear and soul.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  20. Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Yup… this is just the thing one needs to keep warm on such frigid days. And served with sweet corn muffins? Well, just give me a warm pair of socks and a blanket and I’d take a great big nap after eating a bowl of this.

    Reply
  21. norma

    Dear Liren:

    I know what you mean and this post hit my heart.

    I remember September 11th and everyone was in shock. My neighborhood was surrounder by police and firemen. I collected food from supermarkets and water from vendors and went home and cooked our guys the biggest meatloaf and mash potatoes and went to the nearest firehouse and started feeding them all. Comfort food is like a mother’s hug.

    Reply
  22. Magic of Spice

    This is such a lovely post and I am quite sure that your friends feel your support. As for the chili most definitely a great recipe :)

    Reply
  23. Geni

    Such a beautifu post. It’s so true that sometimes the simplest things are so appreciated. Take care and best wishes for your friends.

    Reply
    • Liren Baker

      Thank you so much, dear Dixya. And I couldn’t agree more — some of those recipes on packages are keepers for good reason!

  24. Nancy @ Glass shower enclosures

    Exactly what a beautiful post, Liren, and also exactly what gorgeous food. There is absolutely nothing more gratifying compared to checking out a blog post that is so personal and wholehearted where the food is also so lovely and also from the heart. Currently, that is comfort food on the screen! Love your writing, Liren.

    Reply
  25. Madame Thermomix

    What a lovely, poignant post. And what a gloriously delicious chili recipe ;-) I hadn’t yet discovered Kitchen Confidante when you originally posted yet my heart goes out to you and your loved ones. Thanks for sharing – once again. Love the photos!

    Reply
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