Food bloggers are eternal optimists though. Whatever unpleasantness exists outside, a food blogger will always spin it as inspiration to cook. Is the weather cold and the sky dark? Well that's all the more reason to cook up comfort food. If the only fresh vegetable available is a root vegetable, let's find a creative way to cook it.
As a master cynic who tends to shun the cliches of the season, I'm not immune to the need for comfort food on a cold dark day. I spend my weekends outdoors no matter what the season and I appreciate a warm, heavy, meal at the end of the day.
Since I am out all day on weekends, my slow cooker has been helpful in allowing me to eat more home-cooked meals. It used to be when I would come home from a long day with the horses, I wouldn't feel like cooking. That meant putting on decent clothes and going back out into the cold to a restaurant. My slow cooker makes it possible for me to sit down to a hot meal with no waiting and I can wear what I want and stay warm. It can be challenging coming up with new recipes for it. How many times can I make my standard turkey chili? (Not enough if you're my husband. My standard turkey chili is one of his favorites.)
Chili is such an easy dish to make and it offers so many variations (unless you're a Texas chili purist and I am cool with that). I am so picky about how I like my chili that I don't go too far from my standard formula. When trying to come up with a new chili recipe, I do try to remember what my standards are for chili and how will the recipe follow them.
1. It must be meaty (unless I'm making a vegetarian chili of course).
2. It must have a thick, substantial sauce. I want a stew and not Sloppy Joes.
3. It must be spicy
4 It can't contain vegetables other than tomatoes, onions, garlic, and hot peppers. Most vegetables turn limp, slimy, and unappetizing after long cooking.
There are many regional variations for chili and I doubt I'll ever really know them all. I know Texas chili is made from stew meat cooked in hot peppers with no beans. I know Cincinnati chili is made with ground meat and sweet spices and served over spaghetti. Until recently I never knew Vermont had its own version of chili. It was no surprise it featured Vermont's most famous ingredient - maple syrup.
What chili recipe would scream "Fall Comfort Food" more than one made with maple syrup? (Don't say a chili recipe with pumpkin or butternut squash please.) Even though I say I don't like my chili to be sweet, I became curious about a sweet-spicy chili.
In order to be more health conscious in recent years, I usually double the amount of beans and cut the meat in half (reversing my classic recipe). For this recipe I put a little meat back in. I only used one package of turkey, but I added some sweet sausages. There is a vendor at my local farmers' market who makes the most creative homemade sausages. I used smoky spices to complement the sweetness and did not add my traditional lethal mix of hot peppers. Some dried chili powder and a single jalapeno were sufficient.
I added a bit of Jack cheese (leftover from the tortilla frittata night) and served some necessary homemade cornbread on the side.
Spicy Sweet Maple Chili
- 1 Tbl oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers (according to taste) seeded and chopped
- 1lb ground turkey meat
- 4 links sweet sausage (such as apple breakfast sausage) cut up into chunks (fresh or pre-cooked)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbl chipotle powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 20 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Salt to taste
Mix together maple syrup and tomatoes. Add these to the pan along with the beans.
You can continue to simmer this on the stove top for another hour, or transfer to a slow cooker and let it cook on low for 4 hours. Serve with shredded cheese and a side of cornbread.