Slow-Cooker Chili

Serving slow-cooker chili to guests (along with chips and salsa and margaritas — what a perfect meal for a 0-degree day!) almost seems like cheating. You throw everything in the pot and, viola! dinner is ready when the guests show up. Just be sure you have cheese and tequila on hand.

Chili is also great for two other reasons. One is that you can make it with ingredients that you almost always have on hand. Cans of beans and tomatoes? Ground meat in the freezer? Dried spices? Onion? You’re pretty much good to go — and it’s a healthy meal to boot. The other benefit is that chili is pretty forgiving – if you don’t have, say, kidney beans, you can throw in the leftover pinto or black beans in your fridge. If you have half of a sweet potato in your fridge that you want to use up, well, toss that in and see how it works. That’s what I did today. I’m convinced that it’s pretty hard to go wrong with chili; and if you do, you have time to fix it since you’re cooking it for hour after hour.

This recipe makes enough for you to have it with friends on a cold Friday night and to bring the leftovers to your in-laws for dinner on Sunday night. Hypothetically speaking.

Slow-Cooker Chili

1 lb Italian sausage
1 lb ground beef
28 oz can tomatoes, undrained
15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion (I usually just use a whole onion; today I reserved enough onion for a half-batch of my favorite salsa)
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 to 1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
15 oz can chili beans, undrained (I often just use kidney beans and add extra chili powder)
15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained

The official instructions are: Brown meat and put in crockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low for 8 hours.  If you’re lazy like me, partially thaw the meat in the microwave for a few minutes (I use deer Italian sausage and ground elk, since I always have that in my freezer), then throw it in the crockpot with all the other ingredients. Stir the meat every hour or so so you don’t get any unusually large chunks.

Eat however you like your chili.