Americans love chili and we have hundreds of recipes for it. For some, this national dish is a thin soup. For others, it is a thick stew. White chili is made with chicken or pork. Mole chili, which originated in Mexico, contains unsweetened cocoa. Every home cook has his or her twist on the recipe.

Chili is not the same as chile. The word that ends with the letter e signifies a vegetable, whereas the word that ends with the letter i signifies a recipe.

"Southwest Cooking," a Betty Crocker cookbook, says these versatile peppers add flavor to many dishes. "No other vegetable has had a greater effect on a way of cooking--or a way of life--then the chiles of the Southwest," the cookbook notes.

Chili is the state dish of Texas and many think the original recipe came from San Antonio. Legend credits the invention to an Englishman who lived there in the early 19th century, according to Sylvia Windle Humphrey, author of "A Matter of Taste." As she writes, "When the supply of curry ingredients he had brought with him ran out, the ingenious chap devised an American equivalent of curry powder."

I love chili, but the beans don't love me. When I eat them I have severe abdominal pain. So I leave out the beans and add other vegetables. The powder you buy in the grocery store is a combination of chili pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic, and salt. Sometimes I add extra cumin to this powder.

Though fall was delayed this year, it finally came to Minnesota. The leaves changed color, turned brown, and fell from the trees. Night temperatures dropped into the 30s and in the morning there was frost on the ground. Suddenly, I felt like making chili. To avoid another trip to the grocery store, I used available ingredients, and created my own recipe.

There was no crying when I chopped the onions because I used dehydrated onions. I didn't have smelly hands from chopping garlic because I used powdered garlic. I added carrots for sweetness and coffee for an undercurrent of flavor. It was one of the best batches of chili I have ever made. I served it with corn muffins. You may serve it with muffins, too,or crackers. Kids will like this recipe because it isn't too hot.

Ingredients

1 1/4 pounds 93% lean hamburger

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water (I rinsed out the tomato can.)

1/4 cup fresh coffee

1 green or red pepper, chopped

1 cup petite carrots

2 tablespoons dehydrated onions

24.5 can diced green chiles, drained (I used 1/4 of a cup. You can buy a smaller can.)

2 tablespoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon sugar

Method

Put a liner in the slow cooker. Saute meat in a nonstick or cast iron skillet until it turns brown. Transfer meat to slow cooker and add remaining ingredients. Mix well with a rubber scraper. Put on the lid, set the dial on low, and cook for 6 hours. Top with shredded Mexican cheese and fat-free sour cream. Makes 8 generous servings.

Copyright 2010 by Harriet Hodgson


Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 30+ years. Her 24th book, "Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief," written with Lois Krahn, MD is available from Amazon.