And here we are, Wednesday, the first Wednesday of November 2013 in fact. The fall-colored yellow, red and oranges leaves of our trees frame our windows with a canopy of brightness; they cling to gnarled branches before floating to the ground in wispy groupings before turning a caramel-colored brown and are mulched into the lawn for the season. 2013 has been a grand year, albeit travel-heavy, but the work has been rewarding.
We planned on getting bees and chickens to add to our little homestead this spring but somehow March got pushed into April, April into May, May into summer and well, here we are, the first Wednesday of November – anyone else find themselves in a similar pattern? While most of our professional work is from behind a camera, I find it causes me to be more present in my day-to-day life as I’m always looking for those little details to capture at the right moment: a farmer plowing his field, the afternoon sun pouring into the living room from our skylights, the sun flirting with white puffy clouds or simply admiring the glorious blue of the sky. But sometimes I don’t have a camera in hand or I can’t get to my iPhone quick enough . . . and I’m left trying to imprint that image in my brain to recall later. It’s the act of pausing for that moment, being present, that I appreciate most.
And can someone please explain to me why, after a windstorm, there are still leaves in my yard to rake, mulch and sweep off the deck?? Why are they not blown into my neighbors’ yards or even better – down the hill into the now empty corn and soybean fields?? On the bright side – having leaves to rake and mulch means I’m outside and getting a bit of exercise, yes?
Fall almost always has me pulling out my favorite cool-weather recipes, chili being one. And I know people are deeply passionate about their chili – beans or no beans, beef or no beef, beef chunks or ground, chili powder or no chili powder, topped with sour cream, cheese, chives or plain, saltines on the side or not, macaroni added versus no macaroni added . . . seems everyone has something to say about chili.
But all I’m going to say is this is our favorite and is the one single recipe we have made for many years – it also probably breaks all the rules when it comes to chili but my palate loves the addition of cardomom and a bit of dark chocolate which deepens the complex flavors. I toss all ingredients into a slow cooker set on low and about 2 hours later, dinner is ready. And if you have a slow cooker insert that goes into the oven, you can whip up a batch of cornbread, spread the dough on top of the chili, bake for 20-25 minutes and you have a one-pot meal.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some leaves to rake.
3-BEAN SLOW-COOKER CHILI
Slightly Adapted from Nigella Lawson
NOTE: My slow cooker insert is stovetop friendly – if yours isn’t, you can start this in a pan on the stove until the meat is browned – then transfer to slow cooker to finish cooking.
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 teaspoons dried or crushed chili flakes
- 1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
- 5 cardamom pods, bruised (tie these in a small amount of cheesecloth for easy removal before serving)
- 2 red peppers, seeded and finely diced
- 2.5 pounds ground beef
- 5 cups jarred or canned chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 cup tomato ketchup
- 1/2 cup jarred or canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 15oz can pinto beans
- 1 15oz can black beans
- 1 15oz can red kidney beans
- Sour cream
- Grated Cheddar
- Tortilla chips
- Squeeze of Lime
- Heat the oil in a slow cooker insert (see NOTE above) and fry the onion and garlic until it begins to soften
- Add the chili, coriander, cumin, and crushed cardamom pods and stir well
- Add the peppers then break up the ground beef into the pan and continue to turn and separate as the meat browns
- Add the chopped tomatoes, ketchup, tomato puree, and water stirring to make a rich red sauce
- Sprinkle the cocoa over the top and stir well; add the beans, cover and cook on low for about 2 hours
- Serve with your favorite topping
- This chili can be made ahead and freezes well