My mother has a few recipes that live in her heart.
Recipes that she never needs to look up in a cookbook full of ingredients she never has to measure. She just knows how to make them, and they always turn out.
Chili, lasagna, chicken a’la king, and chicken noodle soup are some of her favorites. She also makes the most scrumptious holiday spread in the whole world.
When I began to develop an interest in cooking, I sat down with my mom and asked her to write out these recipes for me.
Over the past decade or so, I have made them so many times that they are now written on my heart.
My chili has definitely evolved over the years. I quickly grew tired of the plain chili flavor, so I started experimenting with spices. One time I decided to add cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to the chili powder and cumin that was in my mom’s recipe (I really have NO IDEA why I did it, but I am so glad I did!).
I also began adding a splash of honey or maple syrup to the pot, because those warm spices demanded a subtle sweet background to really stand out in the chili.
But the real secret ingredient to the recipe is the 3-bean salad. Don’t drain off the liquid in the can, it is full of flavor and adds depth to the chili. By mixing the unique spices, subtle sweetness of honey, and the distinctive flavor of the 3-bean salad and you create something truly memorable.
I generally make this chili with ground beef, but it is also well suited to wild game.
Our good friend Derek shot an elk this year, and gifted us a couple pounds of ground elk. I decided to make chili with it, and I only needed to make minor modifications to accommodate the lean meat.
You have to add fat when you are cooking with meats like venison or elk.
So I diced up 4 pieces of thick cut bacon and rendered their fat. I removed the cooked bacon and set it aside for garnish. Then I cooked the ground meat and onions in the approximately 3 TBS of fat. After that I followed the rest of the recipe and our Elk Chili turned out AMAZING!
I hope you enjoy this chili recipe as much as my family has.
My mom and I still fight over whose chili is the best (MINE…..of course!!!), but it truly doesn’t matter. What does matter is the fact that it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare this hearty dish for your loved ones.
I will have to share the recipe for my favorite gluten-free cornbread soon, because it tastes AMAZING when served beside this sweet & spicy chili. This recipe always tastes better the next day, so don’t hesitate to make it ahead of time!